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Letters to Editor

Start over

Dear Editor:

This is a follow-up letter to inform the public what is happening in the planning-building department for the new year. As in my last two letters in December, I spoke of the infamous amendments to the existing Land Use Code and how it was on Nov. 23, 2009, it could have been voted into law. Needless to say, three individuals, including myself, were able to get off work at 1:30 p.m. to protest the document that no one knew about. (Proposed land use changes of six pages, including fee hikes.) The matter was tabled, thank goodness. Not saying some of the matters in the document were not of value to look into further in the future. Anyway, the planning department has decided to entirely scrap this document and start over, with the public making sure input is received properly.

Their plan at the moment is to hold neighborhood meetings over the next couple of months throughout the county, starting in Arboles on Jan. 28, at the Road and Bridge facility. (I do not have the time; hopefully, it will be in the paper.) These meetings are to discuss what the community would like to see as its future regarding zoning, land use and other enforcement and development considerations. This is according to Rick Bellis in an e-mail I received on Dec. 30. Their intent is to notify all landowners by mail (where you get your tax bill), county Web site, and in The Pagosa SUN. Please try and attend when it comes to your neighborhood.

In response to these recent events regarding the planning and building department, our small group of concerned citizens has been asked to form a group. I think this might be maybe the third time over 30 years that I have been involved in a concerned citizens group. At this time, we do not have a name, but we do have a purpose to inform the public about what the county is doing with land rights and code enforcement officer duties. So, hopefully, by next week’s paper, we will have an e-mail address and the name of our group so we can all work together on the future of our county.

It is our group’s intentions to attend each and every neighborhood meeting and all county planning and commissioners’ meetings in the future. The next planning commission meeting is Jan. 14, at 6 p.m. in the commissioners’ meeting room; this is a regular meeting.

See you at the neighborhood meetings!

Debra Brown

IRS changes

Dear Editor:

Monday, the Internal Revenue Service announced a sweeping change to regulations governing paid income tax preparers. It created oversight of the majority of this group, currently unlicensed accountants, bookkeepers and individuals working seasonally, often for national chain tax outlets. Professionals who represent clients before the IRS, including attorneys, certified public accountants (CPAs), and Enrolled Agents (EAs) are already subject to IRS oversight. These individuals are required by their professions to take substantial Continuing Education on tax law every year to maintain their credentials and are subject to ethical standards and disciplinary actions established by the IRS.

This new series of regulations makes an effort to level the playing field among tax preparers (and their clients) and will discourage filing unethical or even fraudulent tax returns. What the IRS has finally come to terms with is that, due to the rarity of being audited — a fact well-known by tax preparers — many taxpayers and tax preparers have submitted inaccurate returns for years. Their undercover investigations and audits show these preparers have failed to perform “due diligence” in obtaining information from their customers, and even take positions on tax return issues that they know are not supportable by the Revenue Code. Not that our convoluted tax code is easy to understand, or even the best system of revenue generation, but it is what we’ve got right now.

What the new regulations mean for legitimate tax preparers, is that we can expect rigorous standards of practice will eventually no longer be undermined by the shop that offers the prospective customer a better refund or lower tax bill based on shady practices. For the taxpaying citizenry, it is one step of many which Congress and the IRS are contemplating to close what is known as “The Tax Gap,” the difference between what the law allows and what is actually collected in taxes. Expect more changes in the form of “payer reporting requirements” down the road.

The Tax Gap is currently way over $300 billion per year. its sources ranging from corporations, to rich people with offshore accounts, to plenty of ordinary people too. In my practice I’ve encountered the eager refunders, the grudgingly willing, the creatively motivated and the perpetual dodgers. (Heck, nobody just loves paying taxes.) The “dodger” is often found in rural areas where income goes unreported because fewer people work as employees receiving W-2s. Whether we agree with how the government uses our money or not, as part of this democracy and pretty darn good place to call home, consider that perhaps we all have a responsibility to do right by our neighbors who are regularly paying their fair share, and covering for those of us who don’t. There are many legitimate tax deductions and tax advantages written by Congress that are really good for your family, your community, the environment and so forth. An educated and thorough tax advisor as well as some advance planning can help you achieve a favorable outcome, without losing any sleep over the 1040 form you are going to sign your name to in the next few months.

Sincerely,

Emily Deitz

Boys and toys

Dear Editor:

The undersheriff says the department spent $16,000 on new radar equipment.

The sheriff says they can’t give tickets because there’s not enough officers or time.

I wonder how much revenue the county could collect by making Pagosa Springs the safest place in the state to drive, by enforcing the existing traffic laws? (Don’t cross double yellow lines, don’t pass on the right in a right turn lane, etc.)

Steffy Hodge

Fact or fiction?

Dear Editor:

Let me see if I understand this? Cheney issues a scathing attack on President Obama and the Democrats for a broken intelligence system that failed to keep the Nigerian terrorist off a Delta flight. Isn’t this the same intelligence system that was under the control of Bush and Cheney until less than a year ago? Isn’t this the same system that under the watch of Bush and Cheney failed to connect the dots before 9/11, costing 3,000 Americans their lives? Isn’t this the same system that Bush and Cheney perverted to justify a war in Iraq that had nothing to do with terrorism or a threat to our nation? Isn’t this the same system that Bush and Cheney promised to fix? I guess they were actually sitting on their hands for seven years, correcting nothing! So, President Obama inherits an inept intelligence system that Bush and Cheney failed to fix and now it is his fault. Oh, I forgot, according to the Republicans everything bad started only after President Obama was inaugurated. The economy and employment were just fine on Jan. 21, 2009. Banks, the auto industry, and the stock market were strong and thriving. Health care was wonderful. I guess we must have had a Federal budget surplus on Jan. 21, 2009. Wow, things sure fell apart in just 11 months! To me, it is deeply troubling that the Republicans will do and say anything, including outright deceit, to smear President Obama and his programs, presumably to regain the Congress. And sadly, much of the public is buying it.

Speaking of deceit, I must take issue with a “fact” that Eugene Witkowski included in his recent letter. We are all used to his right-wing diatribes, often peppered with poll results, statistics, etc. of dubious origin. He rarely, if ever, includes a citation of the source of his information, so his statements can be verified. However, he recently stated only 8 percent of President Obama’s cabinet has any “private sector” experience. Presumably, this shows they don’t live in the real world, as if public service is somehow less valuable and relevant to our lives than toiling in the private sector.

In any case, 20 minutes on the Internet shows that Witkowski’s statistic is wildly erroneous. The president’s cabinet consists of 15 cabinet department secretaries and six other officials who have cabinet rank. Of the 15 secretaries, only five have not had private sector experience. These are Defense Secretary Gates (ironically, the only Republican in the Cabinet and a Bush appointee), Agriculture Secretary Vilsack, Labor Secretary Solis, HHS Secretary Sibelius, and VA Secretary Shinseki. And all of these have distinguished public careers as mayors, state legislators, governors, state officials, etc., making them superbly qualified for their current “public service” positions. Secretary Shinseki is a retired general and chief of staff of the Army, so seems quite competent to lead the VA. Of the six Cabinet-rank officials, only EPA Administrator Jackson has no private sector experience, although she was a highly regarded state environmental official. So, it turns out that over 70 percent of the Cabinet has private sector experience, a bit higher than the 8 percent claimed by Witkowski. It is this kind of propaganda, spouted by partisan ideologues and accepted without scrutiny, that has created much of the political rancor that is infecting our national dialogue. If Mr. Witkowski questions my statistics, I will be happy to provide supporting evidence.

John W. Porco