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Letters to Editor


Dear Editor:

Clear — we are in an economic downturn. Equally clear — we need an economic development plan for our community. What is less than clear, is the nature of that plan. The county has decided on and the town is considering a blanket fee waiver for all development-related fees, including permit fees and any impact fees, along with sales tax rebates for developers who hire and buy locally. Is this our economic salvation or another bite out of the public wallet?

Now we learn that the town has also decided to repeal Section 2.4.5 of the town’s Land Use and Development Code (LUDC) whose purpose is to put some limitations on large retail stores (see last week’s McQuiggin article and letter to the editor from the Citizen’s Task Force that recommended the limitations).

But you say, “We need another large retailer to provide competition and jobs.” Laudable objectives, but I don’t believe that we have the population numbers to entice another large retailer into the community. We forget that we already have one two-store supermarket and one mega-sized hardware store that sells everything from furniture to toilet paper.

So what is the point of repealing Section 2.4.5? It will make little economic difference in the short term. On the other hand, it will make a big difference to the folks on the Citizen’s Task Force who spent a good deal of time and effort researching the Big Box Question and coming up with a set of reasonable limits that require appropriate size, scale and architecture for any proposed large retailer.

It will also make a big difference in the long term to our community. It leaves us with no protection whatsoever when and if it does become a viable choice to locate another big retailer here. So much for proactive measures! It also means that the developers who own potential locations for such large retailers (try intersection of U.S. 84 and 160 or 160 and So. Pagosa Boulevard) can now advertise their properties as having no restrictions with regard to building large retail structures, thereby increasing the value of those locations

And finally, it should make our citizenry cautious about volunteering time and energy to work on solutions to community problems when they know that, depending upon the political wind, their efforts are subject to total disregard. In fact, we have a trend going here since the last elections. I believe the previous county planning commission suffered this fate when their recommendations no longer satisfied the newly-constituted BoCC … not only disregarded but unfairly discredited.

Another trend? All the decisions under consideration seem to have a common theme — either in the short term or the long term they benefit development and construction and work to the detriment of taxpayers and people who want to live in a small but vital community dedicated to sustainable living where small businesses and reasonable competition can flourish and people can earn a decent living.

We do need an economic plan. And we also need elected leaders who can help devise a plan that would benefit the broader community rather than a specific and narrow segment of the economy, which, I believe, exerts a disproportionate influence on the decision-making process in our town and county.

We also need a citizenry who will put aside private demands on time and participate in public meetings. Not easy. According to the Town Clerk, the second reading of the town’s proposal to revoke our proactive stance on large retail development will take place Aug. 20, at noon.

Pauline Benetti

National Soul

Dear Editor:

Gary Stansbury asks an important question. When faced with a brutal terrorist enemy, why should we honor the Geneva Convention, apply due process for radical Islamists, or agonize over fair treatment? Our enemy is inhumane, brutal, and barbaric — don’t we have to act at their level to avoid us all being killed?

Gary says I’m a moralist, and he is accurate. I cannot wrap my mind around the morality of people who honor our young people sent to defend our nation on foreign battlefields while at the same time advocating that we abandon the American values they die defending.

So let me ask, “Is it necessary to act inhumanely to prevail in our war on terror?” Was barbarism necessary in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, or Desert Storm? Could we really have achieved a better outcome in Vietnam, Lebanon or Somalia by being more brutal to our enemy or their civilian populations?

I’m not advocating a pusillanimous approach in a combat zone. Our soldiers and Marines operate under the Laws of War and are not bound by the “niceties” of Constitutional protections or processes. Instead, I’m concerned about our conduct here in Archuleta County, United States.

The pragmatist in me says, “We win conflicts because our soldiers are brave and dedicated in defending our nation and its way of life — not because they act as unprincipled as our enemy.”

The moralist in me asks, “What does our nation profit by winning a war if we lose our national soul?”

I’m concerned that we teach our children the Pledge of Allegiance, and then teach them through our actions that “one Nation under God” really means “Do unto others anything they might have done to us” or that “justice for all” really means “except true believers in Islam or persons having a name Hussein.”

After the attack on Pearl Harbor we forced over 100,000 people of Japanese descent (over half U.S. citizens) into internment camps. President Ford proclaimed the internment “wrong” in 1976. President Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 apologizing, acknowledging the fundamental injustice, and granting reparations. President George H.W. Bush signed legislation in 1992 granting additional reparations and issued another formal apology.

I don’t consider these Republican presidents to be pusillanimous. Those men were neither lacking in courage nor marked by contemptible timidity in the face of our enemies. They recognized a wrong created by our abandoning our nation’s moral values and accepted responsibility on behalf of our nation.

As a moralist I do indeed seek to apply moral principles to our war on terror. While my son-in-law puts his life on the line in the Middle East, you will not find me pusillanimous in the face of advocates for undermining our Constitution, corrupting our national values, or debasing the values we seek to instill in our young people.

Jay Davison


Dear Editor:

Re: “Dismay,” July 9 Letters to the Editor.

I was not at the Fourth of July Red Ryder Roundup Rodeo, so have held off comment based on the July 9 Letter to the Editor (“Dismay”). The atrocities described sound too specific and detailed to be fabrications or exaggerations, and I have yet to learn otherwise.

Over two weeks have gone by, with no public response from the Red Ryder Roundup Rodeo board of directors. No correction, no apology, not the slightest interest from the Red Ryder Roundup Rodeo nor any of its sponsors, other than a thank you from the Kiwanis Club.

The only rodeo person who has bothered to say anything was local rodeo clown “Wildfire” (Letters to the Editor, July 16), who clarified he does not promote racism, and had nothing to do with the Fourth of July rodeo debacle. I was relieved to learn there are alternatives for local rodeo, but I doubt most locals and visitors to Pagosa are going to know the difference.

Are we all to assume from their silence that the Red Ryder Roundup Rodeo is proud of the show they presented on Independence Day?

Forget attempts to stimulate the economy, visits by Oprah and National Geographic, with such hatred celebrated as part of “our” western heritage. Just close up this town to tourism and forget any ideas of economic or cultural “growth.”


Lisa Jensen

Editor’s note: The Western Heritage Board of Directors contacted the rodeo promoter and made it known the rodeo clown in question was not to work at the Red Ryder Roundup Rodeo in the future.

Conditions change

Dear Editor:

Your editorial indicates that those proposing a waiver of the fees imposed by PAWSD are misguided in their reasoning. I would suggest otherwise.

First, we have a significant downturn in one of the major factors in our economy. The rationale is that this is caused exclusively by the national economy and once the national economy returns so will the local economy. I would argue that the local economy began to decline before the national economy and will not return until PAWSD finds a more equitable method of paying for the Dry Gulch project.

Second, the PAWSD fees have exacerbated the current problem. When the national economy is in decline and the local economy in even worse condition, we should take those steps that are in our control to help solve the problem. The temporary waiver of fees is one method of working to alleviate those conditions adversely affecting our economy. I do not believe that any of the advocates of fee waiver are suggesting that the fees should be permanently waived.

Third, overlooked in your editorial is the method that PAWSD will necessarily have to employ if they do not realize the income from their fees. Clearly, the only solution to that issue is to raise water use fees for all of us utilizing PAWSD for our water. If you carefully review PAWSD financials, it is clear they are not even close to attaining the kind of income from fees they had projected. As a result, on the immediate horizon are significantly higher water use fees because of the failure to achieve the expected revenue from new construction. In fact, I would urge the Sun to carefully and closely examine the PAWSD financials and consider the potential impact of their failed revenue projections.

Those of us who seek a reasonable, well planned growth program for our county believe that we will need more water. It is the method of paying for that water that troubles us. There have been reasonable solutions offered, however the board of directors at PAWSD refuse to consider any alternative. When a board becomes wedded to a position that is unreasonable that is nothing more than bad management.

We cannot have an impact on the national economy, but we have the ability to change those local issues that have contributed to the problems of our economy. I commend those who have decided to take a “new” direction to improve conditions in our control. Good management recognizes when conditions change and the need to change their plans. Unfortunately, clinging to the original plan in this case is nothing more than a formula for disaster, including contributing to the lack of new growth and the potential for dramatically higher water use fees. And, that being the case, the next question would be do we need Dry Gulch if we have no significant growth and the result is higher cost to current users? The answer is, I believe, obvious.


Jan Jorgensen


Dear Editor:

As an employee of Pagosa Mountain Hospital, I had the opportunity to observe our ER and EMS staff in action. I was called at 2:30 a.m. for a person in respiratory distress. The patient quit breathing, and the ER nurses, doctor and EMS personnel stepped right in and performed like a well-oiled machine.

The Air Care helicopter was called. While en route, the EMS personnel did an outstanding job of keeping the patient stable.

As residents and visitors of the county, I feel you can be very proud of your ER and EMS staff. It would be a nice gesture if you see the EMS crew members about town to shake their hand and thank them for the great service they do for you and the other residents of the county.

Once again, thanks to all EMS and PMH employees for all you do for the residents and visitors of the county.

Tom Joy

Bottom line

Dear Editor:

The change of lifestyle engendered by the opacity formerly known as a neighborhood is a tempered animal. When it is publicly stated that self-described LUDC supporters are “… in line with the vision set forth by this community,” and that “design standards” are one of their concerns, this vertical community member will assert that she thinks otherwise.

Reticent surveyors, oversize signage reportedly meeting local specification, second-tier development, egress-ingress blockage, combative, motoring patrons and intrinsic cacophony are the preponderance of the day. Such is the reality of those in the crossfire of the bottom line.

Arlene Marcus

Special aspect

Dear Editor:

Changes again! Reference Pagosa SUN, 7/23/09, “Town considers big box changes.”

A task force was/is formed and has valid reasons why we should not have a big box in Pagosa. Once again, volunteers come together to study facts/reasons on an important issue for this community. It sounds like our town may just put this hard-earned information aside and do what town manager David Mitchem wants. It is another aspect to please development and ruin our town.

We ask why is our community short on volunteers at times? Well, when people work hard to fact-find and then see it not followed through — is that enough of an answer?

We are not Durango — we have a special aspect to Pagosa, and many of us want Pagosa to stay as it is.

A Big Box will not bring good jobs, and it will only destroy our town as it is.

Wal-Mart parking lots are known to be one of the bigger destructions, i.e., water runoff to our watersheds, nationally!

Protect what we have here, i.e., small businesses with the character that most of us want to live with. If we have to develop, how about Trader Joe’s, but not a big box?

Thank you,

Pam Morrow

Ryder redux

Dear Editor,

Does anyone care about “Red Ryder and Little Beaver”? The SUN has been heroically reprinting this iconic strip, which documents and mythologizes our Pagosa heritage. What other newspaper does this? What other obscure little town has its own once nationally syndicated now defunct comic strip? This, citizens, is our claim to fame!

Do we meet in the streets and bars of Pagosa to discuss the issues raised each Thursday in the strip? Do we write letters to the editor? Well, yes, I do.? Where are the rest of you? The SUN might as well save space and expense by just mailing me the strip and running ads where it used to be.

Jim Milstein

Dollars and sense

Dear Editor:

My wife and I are fortunate in many ways. As retired teachers, we have decent health care coverage through the state we taught in. That said, yearly our premiums and/or co-pays rise, as our coverage seems to shrink. At the same time our pensions have not risen in years. Yet we feel lucky compared to some of our neighbors.

Friends down the street nearly lost everything during a life and death struggle with cancer that afflicted their household. After years of struggles they are continuing to have to pay huge amounts of their income for health issues related to his illness and risk losing coverage for any number of reasons. Also, their rates rise and their coverage lessens. Of course they have no options regarding changes in insurers because of “pre-existing conditions.”

Neighbors around the corner, after raising their children here, were forced to move recently because of financial reasons, not the least of which was their sky-rocketing costs for health care. Unable to afford health insurance, their employers did not offer a plan; even minor illnesses or injury devastated their meager savings to the point of near bankruptcy.

We all know of stories like this, playing out all over our country every day. The richest, most powerful nation in history does not seem to have the courage to take care of its citizens’ most basic needs of quality affordable health care. This debate is not truly just about money. It is about doing the right thing morally as a nation.

Finally, we have a president willing to lead in this most important fundamental issue facing the United States. Yet the fear-mongers in Washington seem bent on attempting to stop the efforts underway for reforming a system of health care so dysfunctional that everyone involved recognizes the need for major systemic changes. The primary motivation for opposition seems to be purely political and has nothing to do with what is best for the American people. Allow me to debunk some of the major road blocks currently being used in the attempt to derail the efforts underway to reform our health care system.

It will cost too much to change. This argument does not take into account that the current system is completely unsustainable. This is an area of agreement across the board, regardless of political or economic philosophy. The status quo is not an option.

We cannot trust the government with our health care. This folly assumes the private Insurance Industry is so much more trustworthy and benevolent than our elected officials who must answer to the voters, not Wall Street investors. After all, the system we have now has been so successful ... not!

The government will “ration” health care. Who do you think makes those decisions regarding our health care now? Wall Street, aka, Big Business, is out to maximize profits. Insurance companies are in business to make money for shareholders, not to watch out for the interests of the public. We have in the last couple years seen how this poorly regulated free market system works for taxpayers, and the results!

The private sector could not compete with the so called “public option.” This fear is coming from the “freemarketeers” who are always exclaiming the virtues of unbridled capitalism and the evils of regulation. This, even after our government was forced to bring this badly flawed system back from the brink. The government takes my money in taxes. Should I at least not be able to get the same health care coverage as those people elected to represent me? What about those government workers I employ through my tax dollars? When it comes to my health and the health of those I love, I want as many possible options as I can get. This includes keeping what I have now, if I choose to. If our government can offer me and you the best option, so be it. I can shed a tear in my beer if some of the insurance giants cannot compete with the federal government and have to close their doors.

Change can be scary, but it is also inevitable. As a nation, will we have the courage to stand up to the forces of fear and be willing to say now is the time for all Americans to enjoy the right to affordable quality health care?

This issue goes far beyond dollars, it makes sense.

It is our moral imperative!

Donovan Porterfield