Letters 3-5-09

In memoriam

Dear Editor:

In memoriam: Rocky Mountain News 1859-2009.

And so, the Rocky rides into the sunrise one final time. And with it rides a piece of Colorado. Born two years before Lincoln became president, it died just over a month after Bush left office.

Did it support Lincoln? I do not know. Did it support Bush? Yes. Twice. Did it take sides in other frays? Yes.

But really who is this “it” anyway? We think of newspapers as some inanimate object, when really they consist of human beings doing their jobs day after day. When a newspaper supports a candidate or an issue, it’s really the editor(s) doing the supporting. They don’t speak for the employees. They are simply expressing their own opinions, while at the same time hoping to shape the opinions of others. Often those others castigate them for it, and that is a good thing. A debate is sparked within the minds of the readers who then may or may not reassess their positions. Whether they change their position is not important. What does matter though, is that it has caused them to think a little deeper into the matter.

And so when a newspaper dies, it takes a source of information and deeper thought with it. Fire this coach, build that light rail, pass this law, tear down that school, elect this man president. Issues big and small swirl around us in a never-ending maelstrom. Some turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to them all, while others opine on everything. The paper (read editor) picks and chooses which ones to editorialize on and which to simply report.

The newspaper industry today is undergoing a crisis somewhat of its own making. All across the country papers are folding or downsizing. Soon there will only be a fraction of today’s publications still around. Virtually every newspaper now has its own Web site. They have in effect created their killer. It is indeed a form of suicide. People are now getting their information from the Internet in ever increasing numbers. The laptop, for better or worse, has supplanted the folded page. The person sitting next to you on the bus or light rail is more likely to be pointing and clicking than turning the page.

We live in an e-world and want our info fast, and we want it now. If it comes a few hours after the fact, it’s already yesterday’s news. We’ve scooped ourselves into thinking this is good. In some cases it is, but in others speed is not a virtue at all. Think of a newspaper as a fine restaurant like Ruth Chris’ or Galatoire’s and that laptop sitting in your lap as Burger King or KFC. Both fill you up alright, but which really fulfills you?

So have a funeral today. For another piece of the printed page has passed away. It lived long and well. It was a friend to many and will be missed. But I’m wondering something. I wonder, when the last paper falls from the forest, who will be left to tell us about it?

Charles Craig

Eureka Springs, Ark.

Raise some hell

Dear Editor:

Health alert for all career military veterans:

It’s time to gird our loins and go to war again! For at least the past five years, Congress has tried to rid veterans of their Tricare for Life health benefits. The claim is that we overuse those benefits and it costs too much to continue funding same.

I am the wife of a 20-year Navy veteran who served many tours of duty in Vietnam (in country ’65 through the evac) and at sea.

I raised two children without using military healthcare, as it was not competent, and after one mishap, I used and paid for civilian health and dental care with private providers. If I hadn’t had commissary and exchange privileges, I couldn’t have managed.

For several years, I have subscribed to NAUS magazine; it gives all the bills and sponsors of every bill that will come before Congress. It has led the way in fighting reductions to our promised health care.

We now need to be calling and writing or e-mailing our elected officials, both state and federal, and raising good old American hell! These benefits were promised to us, and it is up to us to make sure those promises are kept.

This is a bipartisan issue, so a word to all you retirees — you vote and have power — use it, please! If you would like to sign a petition to Congress, call me at 264-4680, or cell 946-4391.

Hopeful out here,

Kay Grams

Dry reservoir

Dear Editor:

Dry Gulch or dry reservoir?

The recent edition, March 2, 2009, of High Country News, a regional news publication, featured a cover article entitled, “How Low Will It Go,” by Matt Jenkins. In the article concerning water quantity of the Colorado River Basin (of which we are part) and its implications on the Colorado compact, governing the ownership and flow of water in the west, Jenkins cites reports from Eric Kuhn, who runs the Colorado River Water Conservation District, and Randy Seaholm, the Colorado chief of water supply protection. Both report that, once existing and approved water supply projects are completed in Colorado, there will only be about 150,000 acre feet of water left to be utilized throughout the entire Colorado River Drainage Basin.

The current trends of 1) continued climate change from El Nino (surplus) to La Nina (drought) drive water shortages; 2) Colorado Front Range population growth and related water needs; 3) oil shale related water allocations; and 4) most importantly, Colorado compact demand due to increasing population and development in the downstream western states, all forecast a future of less water availability. This increase in demand will essentially put into effect water law related restrictions, restrictions that only allow pre-1922 water rights in Colorado, and any recent rights will be the first to be “called out” and cut off.

The Dry Gulch Reservoir water rights will most likely be one of the earliest to be rescinded, as it entails a very recent allocation. Therefore, why is it that citizens in the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District are being asked to “buy into” the Dry Gulch Reservoir project that, once completed in 10-15 years, may not have usable water rights? That’s right! Even if we somehow manage to get the reservoir built, odds are that there won’t be any water available to fill it.

So, here’s one more reason to halt the Dry Gulch project. One more reason, stacked upon the others, stopping it before it’s too late. There need to be more serious discussions of water conservation measures, new population projects with respect to our recent economic related downturn, etc.

The article in High Country News makes good reading for those interested in water quantity issues in the Western Slope of Colorado, and local ramifications. (The Ruby Sisson Library has a subscription.) It creates a perspective that may easily supercede many of the other “debatable” arguments recently being addressed. It can turn the Dry Gulch initiative into the Dry Reservoir initiative and that’s a harder one to swallow.

Tom McCullough


Dear Editor:

There has been excellent reporting, much discussion and sincere concern expressed about the recent decision of the BoCC to replace all the members of the county planning commission.

There are several of us who see many desirable reasons for combining county and town services, the chief reason given by the BoCC for requesting the resignation of the current planning commission members. The elimination of the duplication of services and the resulting financial savings seem to be a big advantage.

However, there are good ways and bad ways approaching decision making. The most desirable way, generally approved by most citizens in Pagosa, is to make a proposal in a public session, and then provide an open forum and the time where people can voice their opinions, both pro and con. It also seems that it would have been respectful to discuss the issue with the current commission. The BoCC should have then had a public debate before arriving at an informed decision. Instead, at the work session the BoCC asked for the resignation of the entire current planning commission without any conversation with the members.

Apparently, this request was based on a questionable report created by the planning department (two members, Cindy Schultz and Ric Bellis). This report accused the current planning commission of being dysfunctional and thus requiring overhaul. In addition the report claimed that members of the commission did not meet the guidelines concerning who should sit on the planning commission. However it was never clear just what these guidelines were and where these guidelines were published, or who had even read them.

The background of the planning commission members, as published in The SUN, seem to disprove the challenge that they did not meet the guidelines. Several different fields of knowledge useful to planning commission members were listed for the challenged members. In a request to at least delay the decision, the excuse was that the meeting to talk about the issue with town was imminent. This apparently was incorrect as the scheduled meeting with the town was cancelled at the request of the town. Last week’s SUN article indicated that the town was not ready to discuss the option of a combined department.

The charge was made that the reason many of us did not appreciate the proposed change in the planning commission personnel was that we are opposed to change. Through my 15 years as a resident of Pagosa, I have watched many changes. I have supported the changes made with input from and consideration for the citizens of Pagosa.

Change is and has been happening for a long time. But I do express concern when it seems arbitrary and capricious, and mainly for the benefit of the developers.

I had high hopes for the new BoCC starting a new way of dealing with the concerns of the citizens of Pagosa. I now have serious reservations about the start the BoCC has made.


Merilyn Moorhead

American Way

 Dear Editor:

Once again we are at a crossroads as a community and a nation. As a community and as a nation we are finally ready to put aside our childish, self-centered ways and look at issues from a broader, more constructive long term perspective.

 I realize there will always be nay-sayers who, once they are out of power, can only throw stones from what they feel is a safe distance. But I am equally confident, and our history has shown this repeatedly, that when faced with crisis the people of our community and the United States pull together for the common good. Now is one of those times.

 With the election of a new Archuleta Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) my hopes were raised and brighter days seemed possible. Sadly, their first major decision turned into a total fiasco. The public firing of the volunteer planning commission was not only very poorly handled but very questionable in motivation. These citizens, after donating hundreds of hours to our community deserved much better. At the very least, the BoCC owes a public apology and proper recognition to those folks that served our community well for the last few years. 

 Now the BoCC has a chance to begin to redeem itself in the eyes of our community. Our young people should be priority one in Pagosa and our country. Let’s show them the support they deserve, and have earned, by making their dream of a skate park a reality. They should be able to enjoy it this summer if we pull together now. Also, two of our local leaders, Norm Vance and Dick Cole were highlighted in The SUN last week in regards to their many years of service grooming the West Fork Nordic ski area.  The newly formed Pagosa Nordic Club’s request for funding for the equipment to enhance and expand the trail system these men worked so hard to begin, would be a fine expenditure of Ballot Issue 1A funds, and should be approved at this month’s board meeting. Our BoCC needs to show their full support for these two projects now in order to regain the public trust in their judgments.

 I realize there will always be “dittoheads” on both ends of the political spectrum parroting their favorite celebrity blowhard’s mantra de jour. But, I am equally certain that the large majority of Americans are thoughtful and sensible in their decision making process. We realize the ways of our recent past did not work. Tax cuts mainly benefiting the wealthy, and a “buy more than you can afford” philosophy for the rest of us was destined to fail and it did.

 Now we are seeing a shift in priorities at the highest levels of our government. Our nation was built on the sturdy shoulders of working class Americans. The Obama administration’s budget proposal reflects the best in what we hold true as a nation: jobs that pay a decent wage, a quality education for our children, clean energy produced at home, and affordable health care for all Americans. These are moral imperatives that should cut across party lines. In order to accomplish them we all need to do our part, and be willing to pay our fair share.

This indeed is the American Way!

Donovan Porterfield

Change of focus

Dear Editor:

I truly agree with your editorial observations about school sports programs. I coached for seven years. I began as a fifth- and sixth-grade coach, while also teaching a fully self-contained classroom of sixth grade students. I was expected to produce a winning basketball team, but thankfully only at the sixth-grade level.

Nothing made me happier than to watch all my fifth-grade players get an opportunity to play and no one (including the parents) cared whether we won or not.

The sixth-grade team was another story and I was definitely part of the plan to produce the most competitive team at the expense of having half the players sit on the bench.

I then moved to the seventh-grade teaching only science and coaching the seventh-grade team. The new fifth- and sixth-grade coach instituted competition in the fifth grade as well as the sixth grade. As the years progressed I discovered that stars in the sixth grade were now sitting the bench in the seventh and eighth grade largely due to physical changes in development. This created much animosity for those players and their parents. Many of those shining stars in seventh and eighth grade dropped out of high school basketball due to numerous reasons, but mainly due to the fact that they were now riding the bench.

I also discovered that one or two of those bench sitters in the junior high were doing very well on the high school basketball team. At that point, I concluded that we needed to change our conference focus at the lower grades to intramural sports. I encouraged the idea of intramural play throughout the year, with each coach picking his/her best players to compete in a tournament at year’s end. The idea was met with disdain by the parents of the star players and the coaches who were obsessed with the spirit of competition the entire year.

It is easy to get caught up in the need to compete and I attest to that fact, because after being a bench sitter most of my K-12 career (I was the youngest student in my class) I competed fiercely in local intramural sports for the next 20 years and ran circles around many of the high school stars. I also gave up coaching and realized my true love which was facilitating science instruction, encouraging students to compete with their brains on and off the basketball floor.


Michael Schneider

Cancer screening

Dear Editor:

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. It is important to remind everyone that regularly scheduled screenings not only detect cancer at an early stage, when treatable and beatable, but can prevent cancer from developing when precancerous polyps are found and removed.

The American Cancer Society recommends yearly screenings for men and women aged 50 and over, and even earlier for those who are at higher than average risk. Yet studies show only about half of men and women who should be getting screened are doing so.

About half (26,000) deaths a year could be prevented in the U.S. if everyone age 50 and older got screened for colon cancer.

Colon cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death in Hispanic/Latino men and women.

When colon cancer is detected at an early (i.e. localized) stage, the five-year survival rate is approximately 90; however, because screening rates are low, only 39 percent of colon cancers are detected at this stage.

We encourage everyone to make screening a priority; the fewer lives lost to colon cancer, the third leading cause of cancer death among men and women, the more memories to be made.

Kari Slingerland

American Cancer society