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Letters to Editor


Dear Editor:

We have loved so many things about living in Pagosa. One thing we won’t miss is Jim Sawicki’s “over the cliff” view of the country we love. His latest letter is a great example. He paints all of the Wall Street Occupiers with the same “toxic nonsense” brush. Occupy Wall Street protesters include veterans of our country’s wars. “You are entitled to your own opinions, but not to your own facts,” as stated by Patrick Moynahan. We will be writing again to The Pagosa SUN when our “community organizer” rightfully wins re-election.

John and Vicki Braklow


Dear Editor:

In as few words as possible, this letter will challenge the fine folk of this community to take action: When? Saturday, Jan. 21, at 4:30 p.m.

Our community is up in arms about a huge corporation planting itself down in our midst. We are concerned about the future of our struggling business community. We worry that as businesses fail, so does the involvement of these leaders in our community. And we mourn the wrenching change in the character of our rural mountain community. Critical issues all.

Now I will tell you that some corporations are even more dangerous … for different reasons … all having to do with their slow insidious assumption of the human rights guaranteed us in our Constitution. So far has it gone that Mitt Romney could say, in total seriousness, as part of his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, “Corporations are people!” Actually, that statement does not go far enough; they are Super-People.

Look at what the Supreme Court of our land has granted these legal structures! Way back in 1868, the 14th amendment, “equal protections under the law.” Until then, the Constitution protected We the people. Fast forward to the 1970s: 1st Amendment guarantee of political speech and commercial speech; 4th Amendment safeguards against warrantless searches; 5th Amendment double jeopardy protection; 6th Amendment right to trial by jury. And in 2010 the Citizens United vs. FCC decision — the end to any limits on corporate spending on elections (including shareholder monies) and the freedom of nondisclosure. Add to all that limited liability, life everlasting and unimaginable wealth. For example, if Wal-Mart were a country, its revenues would make it on par with the GDP of the 25th largest economy in the world, surpassing 157 smaller countries. Indeed, not your ordinary “We the People …”

OK, now what?

Do we all know that there is a rapidly growing movement afoot, from grass-roots to municipalities to state legislatures to our Congress to state Supreme Court rulings … all aimed at stripping corporations of their human rights? Do we know that dozens of organizations and websites are dedicated to that purpose? Montana is the big news as we come upon the second anniversary of the Citizens United decision. That state Supreme Court held that Citizens United does not apply to Montana campaign finance law. This is huge! But we all have a role in this. It is incumbent upon each one of us to tell our representatives that the law of the land must change and the power of corporations must be limited and that reelection is dependent upon this coming to pass.

What do we do? First, we meet to learn what has happened to our human rights, to our nation and what actions are in the making. We meet to become inspired and empowered and determine our actions. We meet on Saturday, Jan. 21, from 4:30 to 6 p.m. If you are interested in action, please send an e-mail to the following address: Details will follow.

Democracy is the collective consciences of its citizens.

Pauline Benetti


Dear Editor

So, Wal-Mart is coming to town and the battle lines are drawn.

Both those who support and oppose Wal-Mart tout statistics supporting their view. Predictions abound suggesting Pagosa’s demise if Wal-Mart comes and Pagosa’s decline if it doesn’t.

Which side should we believe? What is the truth? What should we do about Wal-Mart? How hard should we fight? Is the fight worth demonizing our fellow citizens who see things differently?

Here’s an idea. What if we: 1) Accept that Wal-Mart is coming, and 2) Come together to build a better community.

Most people believe that when Wal-Mart arrives, a town will inevitably lose many of the local businesses that previously defined the town’s character. As those business close, unemployment and social support costs increase.

We don’t have to feel helpless, and making life difficult for Wal-Mart is not productive. Wal-Mart has moved into a large number of small communities; so, there is certainly a lot we can learn about living successfully with a big box.

Some of our local businesses may be able to adapt by changing their product mix or level of customer service to not only survive, but prosper. Perhaps we could organize our retired executives or SCORE volunteers to provide added leadership and mentoring to assist our business owners in making the necessary transitions.

Businesses directly competing with Wal-Mart are at high risk for decline or closure. Perhaps we could provide services to help those businesses move into a new line of offerings with financial assistance and employee training grants. Perhaps our Community Development Corporation might consider that helping existing businesses should be a priority to preserve the uniqueness and economic diversity of our community.

But, how would we fund these efforts? What if we earmarked some of the new, additional tax revenue the town believes will come from Wal-Mart’s reduction in sales leakage? What if our local citizens shifted 10 percent of their out-of-town spending to local businesses. What if we told our local businesses why we don’t buy from them instead of just grousing to our friends?

A community divided cannot stand. We can prosper while retaining our uniqueness if we come together.

Jay Davison


Dear Editor:

I read in the SUN about a mold problem caused by the schools’ leaky roof. A few weeks ago, a retired roofing contractor, Mr. Lyman Allen, wrote a letter to the SUN suggesting a way to fix the roof by building a gable structure. Mr. Allen is absolutely right. The way to fix the roof is to get the snow off from it. The snow load will cause the roof to deflect which will cause the brittle roofing material (baby, it’s cold outside) to crack and the roof will leak. As alternatives to building a gable roof, I suggest a steel canopy, or an umbrella similar to that at D.I.A or a balloon held up by air pressure as used in the Dome in Minneapolis or perhaps a thin-shell structure such as used on the Sidney Opera house in Australia. Even better, put the geo-thermal greenhouse on top of the school. The most important factor for any substantial building built in Pagosa is the roof design. The roof should shed the snow naturally.

Mr. Isberg in a recent editorial suggested that the local school issue will not go away. Mr. Isberg is also absolutely right. I believe a facility with moderate size multipurpose structures located under snow sheds might serve the community as both an education and cultural center. As just one example, the classrooms could be located on the first floor and a cable-stayed pyramid (shades of the Roman Coliseum’s velarium) that could serve as the roof and provide space for a tropical garden, recreation-center, restaurant, museum concert hall; whatever.

I like the idea of solar panels on the school house. Mr. Sawicki has offered me a job as tour guide for solar panel inspection excursions. With solar panels on the school house, I could conduct such tours without ever leaving town. I hope that Mr. Sawicki accompanies me on a tour where he no doubt will be astonished to learn that solar panels produce electricity when the sun shines.

I still believe it feasible to build a new school facility in Pagosa if the cost is reduced and a modern multi-purpose facility warmed with geothermal water, powered by solar energy and designed to appeal to the majority of voters. The design possibilities are limitless. I suggest the teachers ask their students for ideas.

Bob Dungan



Dear Editor:

Job creation or destruction?

We need jobs in our community. I think most if not all would agree with that statement. But will the probable addition of a Wal-Mart actually create them as some town leaders speculate?

In searching for an answer to that question, I found an interesting study by Emek Basker, University of Missouri-Department of Economics which was published in the Review of Economics & Statistics, February 2005, titled, “Job Creation or Destruction? Labor-Market Effects of Wal-Mart Expansion.”

This study examines the impact of the arrival of a Wal-Mart store on retail and wholesale employment. It looks at 1,749 counties that added a Wal-Mart between 1977 and 1998. It finds that Wal-Mart’s arrival boosts retail employment by 100 jobs in the first year — far less than the 175-200 jobs the company says its stores create, because its arrival causes existing retailers to downsize and lay off employees.

Over the next four years this continues with a loss of 40-60 additional retail jobs as more competing retailers downsize and close.

This works out to a net gain of just 40-60 retail jobs. And what will the town/county give away to get them?

According to data provided by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (which lags two years behind the current year), Archuleta County has 831 jobs in wholesale/retail which represents 15 percent of total county employment and 17 percent of county income ($38,596/employee or $18.55/hour). 831 jobs, many now at risk.

Although Wal-Mart may add 40-60 retail jobs, the new jobs will only pay $13/hour according to the information provided at Town Council by Josh Phair.

Can we really afford Wal-Mart?

Muriel Eason

Not positive

Dear Editor:

/Monday morning, Jan. 9, at about 8 a.m., I turned on the radio which happened to be dialed to KWUF AM. What I stumbled onto was an interview of Town Planner James Dickhoff by Thad McKain for his show ”Positive about Pagosa,” aired on KWUF’s “Good Morning Pagosa.”

I stopped what I was doing so I could listen to the interview, during which Mr. Dickhoff was to discuss the current town projects.

I heard lengthy and detailed descriptions of: Lewis Street project, pedestrian crossings, geothermal project, Town to Lakes Trails, San Juan River corridor improvements.

In contrast, Mr. McKain and Mr. Dickhoff spent only 90 seconds of the 30-minute show on the Reservoir Hill Development project — the project I was most interested in.

What did they say in 90 seconds? Mr. McKain, who is on the Reservoir Hill Task Force, took over the interview for a moment because, he said, this was a project near and dear to his heart.

“There’s the tree clearing going on, a lot of that due in part to the beetle protection. The Reservoir Hill Task Force is going to be conducting an open house, Jan. 25, at 6 p.m., at the Ross Aragon Community Center. We really are looking for people to attend. We want to make sure that people are really clear on what our goals are, about what our thoughts are, and getting feedback from the community, and that everybody is happy and comfortable with where we’re going.”

Mr. Dickhoff then said, “Town Council has approved the preliminary concept of some development on Reservoir Hill and the subcommittee is tasked with bringing back a more solid plan to Town Council for their consideration ... Your involvement is very important in this project moving forward and meeting the expectations of our community.”

Alrighty then!

Neither Mr. McKain nor Mr. Dickhoff discussed the details of the impending Reservoir Hill Development, while every other town project was discussed in minute detail. They mentioned only Reservoir Hill tree clearing, and they asked listeners to come to the Jan. 25 open house about Reservoir Hill development. Who wants to go to an open house about tree clearing for beetle protection? Maybe they’re hoping no one does?

What do I infer from this omission of detail? I infer that the impending development of Reservoir Hill touted by the Task Force — which includes a chair lift, an alpine coaster, a zip line, and more — is best left unmentioned and vague on a show called “Positive About Pagosa,” because there is nothing at all positive about it.

Cynda Green


Dear Editor:

I just wanted to mention a couple of things. I noticed some of the lamp post Christmas decorations were new this year and they really spruced up the downtown area. Also, I want to talk about some of the heroes in this community. How many of you know Wanda Rivas? I met her when I accompanied my husband while he was delivering meals on Thursday through Loaves and Fishes. At first, she was making numerous trips weekly to Durango for dialysis because of kidney failure. Then she was equipped with a machine that allowed her to do the treatment at home while asleep. Since that time, she has taught at least 13 other people how they can do this treatment at home. Wanda is one of our quiet heroines in Pagosa Springs.

Cindy Gustafson

No vote

Dear Editor:

I thought the editorial this past week (“What to do when the gate is open”) was spot on, with one exception. As you mentioned the voters of Pagosa Springs (town) voted to remove the guideline on big box, however, the majority of people impacted (the rest of the county) had no vote or say in the matter. It appears that the Mayor and the clown council are holding the county hostage. They are making decisions that have impacts that go beyond the town itself, without allowing any input into the matter from the majority of people affected, especially local business owners. What moves does this group of geniuses have next to raise money for the town? How about selling the naming rights of the town to a major corporation?

Mike Hayward


Dear Editor:

Wal-Mart and you.

It was very synchronistic that I happened to listen to alternative radio (88.1 FM/ 5 p.m.) on Sunday (1/1/12) and heard Paul Cienfuegos being interviewed.

The essence of what Paul Cienfuegos had to relate was that responding to unwanted corporate “muscle” in your hometown is most effective and best served by creating ordinances (not resolutions) at the local level. This can and has curtailed unwanted corporate intrusions. You may want to Google Paul Cienfuegos and check out alternative radio archives. One of the reasons that I would not like to see a Wal-Mart in our hometown area is that I feel Wal-Mart operates on a low level of integrity in its business practices.

Dear neighbors, with heartfulness, let us claim our power of continuity.

P.S. Corporations are not people.

Jai Klarl

Take care

Dear Editor:

Many times I have heard that denizens of a metropolitan area do not look out for one another; hence, life is better in a small town, presumably because the opposite is true. Never have I given credence to said notion, and emphatically not after what my mother of mature years and I experienced during the last season of good will toward men.

The wee hours of Dec. 24 found us in a bad way; we were without heat. At 8:30 a.m., inopportunely yet confidently, Mother called a favored, local furnace technician, a licensed employee of Pagosa’s natural gas provider. When it was clear that push had come to shove, I called another technician who lives out of town I learned. Expecting a telephonic announcement, I subsequently called the toll-free number of the out-of-state home office and was surprised to hear the voice of the weekend dispatcher. She stated that the technician on call (a welder/service installer) would arrive, solely because Mother had been paying an appliance-insurance fee for eons.

At noon Dec. 25, I called the dispatcher again; she referred to the technician’s two-and-a-half-hour stay as a suspended order. Thus, the earliest anyone else could come to repair, she said, was Dec. 27. Essentially, I was read the riot act (“I’ve never heard of reimbursements”) when I asked if the company would pay for our having to spend time — as it turned out: five days and nights — at a motel.

Lessons from personal experience and annual, holiday television coverage underscore the point that metro area residents take care of their own, certainly the elderly, which gives me pause in calling Pagosa home — after 55 years.

Arlene Marcus


Dear Editor:

The True Value Hardware store disappeared after Wal-Mart opened in Avon, down the road from Vail. Too bad, I liked Del and his crew. Always helpful, knowledgeable … nice people.

Johns appliance store closed almost at the same time Wal-Mart open its doors, too. Too bad. John was great. He would match Denver prices on any appliance and pretty much have it the next day for you. Installed everything. Of course, Wal-Mart will do that for you so who needs a local hard working guy to do that.

The paint store disappeared, of course, as well. And the local gun store. I forget his name now, it’s been a few years. But Wal-Mart has guns, ammo hunting, fishing and camping gear, so who needed him anyway.

Mojo’s music store hung in there for a few years but Wal-Mart sells everything he sold … so … see ya Mojo … The bakery in Redcliff disappeared, too. Senor Domesticas, I think they were called. Who can compete against City Market and Wal-Mart, you know.

I guess it makes sense to create jobs by putting in a low end superstore that sells lots of cheap stuff from China, all those local people who have put their time and effort into making Pagosa Springs the cool little town that it is can just close up their shops and go work for the Machine, work is work, right? Pride and joy of ownership don’t mean nearly as much as a low paycheck.

One thing that baffles me is the whole concept of destroying local business in favor of the low end superstore. I’m not sure that looking out my living room window across the golf course at a new Wal-Mart will do much for my property value either. Curious perspective the town leaders have.

Anyhow, you can build a Wal-Mart anywhere and then be just like everyone else. Why one of the most unique places on Earth would endeavor to be just like everyone else is interesting to me as well. Maybe no one has noticed that the nicest hot spring resort in the whole state is in Pagosa. Maybe the locals have become a bit complacent about the fact that the surrounding mountains, the excellent fishing, hiking and the deepest finest powder skiing in the whole world are all assets (that means jobs folks … money makers).

If there’s some logic in choosing the path of least resistance by allowing a big box store to dominate our choices of employment, eliminating the opportunity to be self employed and taking pride in what we do for ourselves and our local friends, then it’s eluding me. Pagosa Springs has the ability, with some mutual focus and effort, to be one of the great outdoor destinations in the country. I see the residents of Pagosa better served by focusing on its real identity as a healing place, a place of meditation, by focusing on health and outdoors instead of surrendering to the ease of 9-5 minimum wage banality that so much of the rest of the world enjoys when we have such an incredibly unique asset right in front of us.

What’s next, a nice open pit mine up on Wolf Creek Pass? That will bring jobs too …

Rally Pagosa, focus and cooperate. Perfect what we have here and do not succumb to the easy way out which, in the end, will do nothing positive for this beautiful place.

Dave Power

Whole picture

Dear Editor:

What has this nation come to?

I read the negative letters regarding “the big box” like it is some lethal weapon containing massive destructive elements that Pagosa cannot withstand.

I was here when the first traffic light was installed and everyone just knew that Pagosa was on a downhill run.

This area has some of the biggest wealth gaps in the nation. See Time Magazine Vol. 179 page 14. and I quote, “Areas with large wealth gaps have more unstable economies.”

The people who make the most noise regarding Wal-Mart are not the people who really need to shop there. Try thinking about the members of our community who live on small fixed incomes, basic wages or unemployment. Why don’t you sit down and work out a budget for your family based on today’s basic wage of $7.64 and tipped wages are $4.62 per hour. The people in the lower economic group need Wal-Mart.

The cost of gas to go to Durango precludes the travel and if one is on low income, usually the vehicles are old, unreliable and not gas efficient. Costs for all basic necessitates of life have risen and for the lower economic group, a small luxury, like a movie, is often out of the question.

Also regard the high school students who decide not to get further education and have to leave the area and most likely never return because there are no jobs. There will be fewer service personnel, fewer persons to clean your home, do your yard, wash your windows, serve you in many ways that you take for granted.

The higher economic group wants all the services that are provided for them by the lower income group, but have no real understanding that families in Pagosa are surviving by doing up to six part-time jobs to be able just to survive and that is not even taking into account the ability to provide health insurance for the family.

Come on people. Look at the whole picture and remember that we are a community of people and not just the rich and “others.” We are an integral group all interwoven to make for a viable community.

Ann Shurtleff


Dear Editor:

We received the news about a Wal-Mart being built in Aspen Village (now I know why all the surveyors were there so much!). From past experience, I know that it is very difficult to influence the town, when we live in the county. However, we live on the border of Alpha and I am sure that my neighbors will agree that we will be the most affected — by parking lights (hope downlighting will be required) — by noise, trash, traffic, etc.

Because we live in the county and not the town, in the past our requests for sufficient tree screening, asking to correct severe backfill (34-foot increase, tree removal — for 30-plus condos — that have not ever been built (but utilities already in place) and so on. Hopefully, this time the town will consider the neighbors, even if they don’t vote in the town, and have many requirements to prevent very severe effects to our property and lifestyle!

Harold and Joan Slavinski


Dear Editor:

Here we go again! If half the time and energy could be redeemed that has been exhausted over the years to fight the ridiculous, and instead, use it to implement the possible ... how amazing our community would be.

I trust most of our local decision makers who are exerting their powers as government representatives strongly criticize similar behavior on a state or federal level; lack of transparency, manipulation of power, various government interventions, and the likes. As local representatives, you know well the overwhelming objection to Wal-Mart in Archuleta County; it has been so apparent over the years and it has not changed. Yet, you persist in forcing the issue with coercive tactics wasting valuable time that could be used for implementing truly progressive growth and change. You were elected to represent the majority; the majority has clearly spoken so many times over the years regarding this issue. Is there such disconnection, disregard and self service?

Just a few discrepancies, community leaders! You decide to aggressively market Pagosa Springs as a “Green and Sustainable Community,” while secretly courting a 93,000-square-foot Wal-Mart and drafting a Reservoir Hill “Amusement Park” plan. You choose to be entertained by big corporation(s) with questionable promises knowing that multiple small businesses ultimately will fail creating dangerous domino effects in our community; you call these sustainable practices? And yet, the simplest amenities like recycling centers, bike paths and sidewalks, river walks and continued restoration, decent road maintenance, etc. are made virtually impossible; simple infrastructure that local municipalities are responsible for providing. You proudly tout geothermal resources and promote The Greenhouse Plan professing to be a community moving ahead with a “green imitative” while laying a foundation county wide which will repel possible incoming green or small businesses. You consider special incentives for some and not all? Please, consult your consultants again; they did not properly advise you. The big picture is missing.

It’s common knowledge that sustainable communities fight hard to keep big boxes out. They choose to fully support local businesses, creating an infrastructure that woos young professionals, families and individuals who wish to live a simpler lifestyle, away from the likes of big box shopping, traffic jams and associated petty crimes. Open community forums replace back room negotiations. Corporations lured are non competitive to [all] existing local markets. Innovative thinking prevails. What is being offered here comes nowhere close!

I trust that again our community will stand up and insist “No!” It’s not too late! Eloquent letters have been written by a variety of professionals, both local and out of area. The reasons to reject Wal-Mart far outweigh the reasons to allow this monstrous development as innumerable writings overwhelmingly prove; our community does not have to sell out.

As lifestyle priorities shift, which they are nationally, the future of community growth and development lies with what Pagosa Springs professes to be, but fails to deliver; if we would only walk our talk.

Nikki Taylor

Gas prices

Dear Editor:

I know there have been letters to the editor on this subject in the past. But, rather than just complain, I would like to direct my letter as a question to a reader who may have knowledge of the gas and oil industry’s marketing and operating policies.

There has been a significant difference when comparing Durango and the rest of the state’s gas prices to Pagosa. Currently, this difference can be as much as 10 to 15 cents per gallon with regular unleaded and 10 to 20 cents a gallon with diesel. Last week I was in Santa Fe and regular was as low $2.73 a gallon compared to $3.16 in Pagosa. I understand there are differences in state taxes and there are transportation and volume issues to consider. But this margin seems to be a little over the top for these issues. I can appreciate these prices may change between the time of this writing and the next publication of The Sun, but I think they will be in the ballpark.

I really don’t have a clue as to why these differences exist today and I was hoping someone in the industry could enlighten us on these variables. As a consumer, I would certainly appreciate it.

Frank Zellner

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