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Letters to Editor

Sea change

Dear Editor:

Unless there is a sea change, this democracy that we are so fond of eulogizing is in serious danger of extinction. No longer is it possible to believe that the individual vote carries weight in the determination of elections or public policy. On the contrary, it is clear that money is the stronger influence. Large majorities of Americans in a variety of polls don’t like it and they want to see the Supreme Court decision allowing unlimited corporate spending on political campaigns overturned, i.e., Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission

What are the chances of a sea change? One thing we have going for us is that we have the structure to bring it about without bloodshed. Our spring can look very different than those past or in progress elsewhere in the world. But it will require something from all of us — involvement and the belief that each one of us can make a difference. That’s a stretch for many ... but how far superior to armed conflict.

Interesting what happened in Vermont , where local governance is done the old fashioned way through the Town Meeting where all citizens vote on just about everything important. Sixty-three Vermont towns out of a possible sixty-five voted in support of a Constitutional amendment challenging corporate personhood on Town Meeting Day. Each town voted by ballot or floor vote on similarly worded resolutions calling for state legislators and Vermont’s congressional delegation to work towards overturning Citizens United. That is the voice of the people as envisioned by the founders.

What’s happening at the state level? Hawaii and New Mexico have the distinction of being the first two states to have passed resolutions calling for Congress to propose a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Several other states are seriously in progress toward the same goal: California, Vermont, New York and Alaska. Many more states have begun legislative activity in this direction.

At the federal level? President Obama support a constitutional amendment — according to him campaign manager. Resolutions have been introduced in the House and Senate and have gone nowhere; however, the administration did introduce major new legislation in the Disclose Act which would force major donors to be named in ads and require that corporations, unions and other groups reveal how they are spending shareholder and member funds.

Citizen activism? Through the Internet, many organizations are moving forward to overturn Citizens United. To name only a few: Move to Amend, Amend 2012, Public Citizen’s Democracy is for People, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Americans United for Change. With a target date of this June, Public Citizen has launched Resolution Week, a campaign designed to get cities and towns throughout the country to pass resolutions. Currently, more than 5,000 people in more than 1,000 towns have signed on.

Sea change? Not yet, but we have the numbers (we are the 99 percent). The structure for citizen intervention exists at all levels — local, state and national. All that must come is the will, the belief that each one of us can make a difference.

Money Out of Politics, our local citizen’s action group, stands ready to help you understand what you can do. Find the full story at or a summary on Then come to our meeting April 21 from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at Greenbriar Plaza, corner North Pagosa Boulevard and Park, Unit B15. If you would rather e-mail us, use Our distribution list tops 60 and we are looking for growth. There is much to do.

Pauline Benetti


Dear Editor:

Most residents and tourists think of Pagosa as a very beautiful place. Now that the snow has melted, it’s obvious that not everyone is interested in keeping it that way.

The amount of trash, either thrown from car widows or allowed to blow out of truck beds, is amazing and depressing. Also, the chemically drenched handwipes at City Market become another eyesore. If you think there is an advantage in their use, please don’t allow them to blow away from your cart in the parking lot.

How does a community change the mindset that trashy behavior is okay? Seeing trash does probably encourage more trashing. So, if you’re inclined, even though it’s not yours, how about picking up a little here and there?

And, speaking of eyesores, how about the acre of trashed vehicles, plus five-six old refrigerators bordering the highway at the top of Put Hill? If a town/county ordinance doesn’t cover this type of property, shouldn’t it be made more relevant?

Phyl Daleske

All our eggs

Dear Editor:

Wal-Mart has continued to be the most dominating brick and mortar force in retail, but, over the past few years, Wal-Mart has not enjoyed the same momentum shared by many of its retail peers. Last year, although Wal-Mart was still the No. 1 destination for holiday shoppers, with 53 percent of U.S. customers visiting its stores, that was down from 59 percent the year before.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s customers were latecomers to online shopping. Now increasingly they’re trolling for deals at — the real online force — which has taken over the e-tail sector. Amazon has moved from being this unusual niche competitor for Wal-Mart to a force that can reinvent the industry. Young people are tech savvy and they’re comparing prices to save money on brand name items, all from the convenience of their own homes. No crowded parking lots, acres of aisles to wander or long checkout lines.

Wal-Mart on the other hand, has never has been a great online force.

Today, half of Wal-Mart customers say they’ve shopped at both merchants. That’s leaving the mega-retailer with a massive online competitor that is too tough to ignore. More importantly, Amazon has moved into merchandise categories that Wal-Mart traditionally has sold, from diapers to vacuum cleaner bags as they have moved more and more to a digital model and as an order processing and fulfillment destination rather than a warehousing company that owns all of the inventory and ships it out and owns brick and mortar storefronts. Amazon’s focus is on online marketing and fulfillment with an agnostic stance on who is ultimately selling the product. In short, Amazon has taken part of the low-price model of Wal-Mart, but avoided the stigma of squeezing wages from employees and pressuring local businesses into bankruptcy.

In fact, Wal-Mart’s physical stores and huge inventory also can work against it. It has become commonplace for shoppers at many retailers to scan items with phones or look them up online and then buy elsewhere. Wal-Mart calls this “scan and scram.”

It’s working. In its last fiscal year, Amazon posted 41 percent revenue growth, vs. a measly 8 percent at Wal-Mart.

And if that isn’t enough, Wal-Mart’s business is slowly being nibbled away by competitors such as Dollar General, Costco, Target, Marshall’s, TJ Maxx, as well as Amazon, just to name a few. Wal-Mart’s problems may be partly tied to the economy, but same store sales are not shrinking at the dollar stores or Costcos.

Do we really want to put our county’s future on the line, risk the livelihood of our small business owners, force people into poverty with Wal-Mart’s low wages and put all our eggs in the Wal-Mart basket?

Muriel Eason


Dear Editor:

This wonderful town certainly has its share of heroes, but one has leap-frogged over others I want to mention in the future. I wonder how many have had the privilege of meeting Darren Garcia. If you don’t know him, you should.

Darren is 13 years old and he lived in the condo next to the car that ignited, burning his home to the ground, along with one other. As soon as he knew his family was safe, he climbed fences so he could knock on the doors of the other condos and warn the occupants of the fire. He carried a 7-year-old girl to safety, and when he got no response at one door, he continued pounding until he aroused the man who later stated that he, meaning Darren, had saved his life.

I felt privileged to meet this young man who was gracious and dignified while I babbled on and on.

Cindy Gustafson

Let’s talk

Dear Editor:

Let’s be honest, “it” is not an easy subject to talk about. Most of us are uncomfortable talking about sex. But let’s take a moment and get past the blushing, because this conversation is so important.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and this April, the Archuleta County Victim Assistance Program joins communities across the state and country to proclaiming, “It’s time … to talk about it!” This year’s campaign encourages everyone to bring healthy sexuality into the conversation on how we connect with and respect one another in order to prevent sexual violence.

By talking about “it,” we are making the connection that promoting healthy behaviors encourages relationships that are consensual and respectful. Relationships where people have the freedom to openly talk about all the issues surrounding sex — the good, the bad and the ugly. That is what healthy sexuality is about. Healthy sexuality is having the knowledge and power to express sexuality in ways that enrich our lives. Healthy sexuality is free from coercion and most definitely free from harassment, sexual bullying and violence.

It is important to understand that sexuality is much more than sex. Healthy sexuality is an emotional topic ... a social topic ... a cultural topic, and, yes, physical too. Healthy sexuality encompasses each of our own personal values, attitudes, feelings, interactions and behaviors. It changes with time and experience.

Everyone needs accurate information about relationships, not just what healthy communication looks like, but healthy communication around sexuality. From educating our young children on ‘Good Touch, Bad Touch’; to talking with our tweens and teens to ensure they make informed choices; and, to our adults on ways to combat a sexually hostile work or other environment.

All of us have a role in building safe and healthy relationships and communities. When we start the conversation, we raise awareness. “It’s time … to talk about it!”

With well-timed sincerity,

Carmen Hubbs


Dear Editor:

Last week’s letters to the editor were inspiring, with many issues we can agree on to improve our lives.

Getting money out of politics and getting disclosure about whose money is buying influence in all levels of government. The local chairs of both political parties agree with good resolutions to make changes. There is also the group here in Pagosa working to provide disclosure and to affirm that people have the rights of the Constitution, not corporations. Meetings of Money Out of Politics are on the third Saturday; information is at or e-mail There are many communities and states that are making resolutions. Together, we the people can restore our democracy.

Also, we can make a difference in diversifying our energy supply, lowering its cost and even creating jobs by voting in the LPEA election. I feel Kirsten Skeehan has the knowledge and dedication to help make it happen as our representative for Archuleta County.

Anna O’Reilly


Dear Editor: brings corporate contributions “Into the Light.” This first report looks at Rep. Scott Tipton’s campaign contributions. Highlights will focus on general data and not-so-easily found sources of contributions. Full details at

1. Total contributions received for the 2012 election cycle: $822,813 (as of 12/31/2011); 26 percent from non-party organizations (e.g., PACs) and 73 percent from individuals.

2. Corporate contributors include: SABMiller and Barclays, both headquartered in London, England.

3. PAC contributors include:

• Every Republican is receiving funding from Credit Suisse Group and UBS AG, both headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland, AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals headquartered in London, England, along with financial firms Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, and 18 other corporations or organizations.

• The Freedom Project is receiving funds from AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals headquartered in London, England, and, among other corporations, Bank of America, CitiGroup, Microsoft, Peabody Energy, 3M, First Energy Corp., Federated Investors.

Next week, Sal Pace.

MOP (Money Out of Politics) is a group of citizens in Pagosa Springs committed to creating awareness on all political levels of the perverse influence of big money in electoral campaigns. We meet every third Saturday from 4:30-6 p.m. All meetings are open to the public and all are welcome. Next meeting is April 21st. Visit us on the Web (, Facebook (MoneyOutofPolitics), or e-mail us at

Terry Pickett


Dear Editor:

I think it’s time that the Republican candidates for president get more aggressive and respond to a kerfuffle about taxes, or any hit for that matter. Instead of being defensive, turn it on ’em! Say, “Look, we live in America, not some failed Soviet satellite. I favor a flat tax. I want to get rid of the IRS, or most of it. I favor denying big-spending Obamacare liberals our income. I favor putting Obama and his reckless spending radicals on a diet. I call it private property rights, I call it limited government, I call it takin our country back!”

Folks, its time to go on offense — with conservatism. This class warfare rubbish might work in Obama campaign circles, but class envy is not our national experience. This is not about “haves” and “have-nots.” It’s about protecting all of us from a bloated, rapacious federal government and never-ending federal spending. It’s about securing our liberty.

If a Republican is attacked on what he’s done in his business, or his past, he needs to unleash:

You can tell ‘em what you haven’t done. “You haven’t played over 90 rounds of golf in three years while everybody is suffering. You haven’t flown all over the world on the federal government’s dime. You haven’t had lavish parties and concerts on the public’s dime. You haven’t lived like a king on other people’s money.”

So, who’s responsible for all this? That would be Barrack Hussein Obama — who pretends to care about the middle class, but lives like a king at the public trough. Here we come wanting to dramatically change course, reverse course. And all we get in the news media is what a bunch of reprobates we are, while the Obamas are pure as the wind-driven snow.

Now, the left and the media want to talk about this, so let’s talk about it. What financial sacrifices have the Obamas made? How have they so entitled themselves to spend other people’s money, in the midst of so much economic suffering? Why, I’d bet that even ma chum, the grizzled primordial in Arboles, who “spent six years in the third grade” could figure it out.

Notwithstanding, Bob Dungan wouldn’t throw taxpayer money down the rat holes of Solyndra and all these other so-called green energy companies. And he wouldn’t take over automobile companies with your money and then demanded they start makin cars that nobody wants.

Every ounce of economic misery in this country is directly traceable to the Oval Office, and Pelosi and Reid, and every other Democrat and staff member on Capitol Hill.

Obama and his czars want to replace the eagle (as our national symbol) with a huge sow that has a lot of nipples and a bunch of fat little piglets hanging on them, all trying ta suckle as much nourishment from them as possible. Of course, the problem is that while the sow is large, she is near death. She’s not fat and flourishing, she’s emaciated! Even the offbeat braying rocker Bruce Springsteen, in his new album “Wrecking Ball,” seemed ta be plunkin a government entitlement teat ditty — very sad.

Jim Sawicki

Vital fuels

Dear Editor:

Toad in a hailstorm.

With resources of fossil fuels believed to be capable of meeting demands for a century or more, why is gasoline so high at the pump? What is the problem?

Part of the problem is that we risk supply disruptions because we are so dependent on foreign oil from countries that are politically unstable or anti-American, or both, Even so, there are obvious steps we should be taking right now to show our resolve as a nation to at least mitigate the problem, if not totally solve it.

Our federal administration in Washington continues to deny access to explore for potentially huge reserves of oil and gas in the Arctic, offshore California, offshore east coast and federal lands onshore, as well as denying imports of heavy crude oil from a friendly Canada by stopping construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. This pipeline, when built, will be capable of supplying nearly one million barrels a day to our Gulf Coast refineries.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of the Interior (DOI), supported by our president, are the principal agencies mandating unmerited rules and regulations that continue to block our oil and gas industry from access to these potentially abundant North American supplies of hydrocarbons.

So, here we sit, “like a toad in a hailstorm,” watching our oil import costs still alarmingly high and over-burdening our fragile economy with rising deficits and weaker dollar. All the while, our federal government, with its myriad of agencies and presidentially-appointed “czars,” continues with policies and regulations that keep fuel costs high in an attempt to force prematurely the use of alternative fuels such as wind, solar and biofuels. None of these fuels can compete with oil and gas in cost, efficiency, or in major volumes of energy required to meet our national needs.

Alternatives? Yes, someday, but not today. Why, then, further bankrupt our weak economy when fossil fuels are available now if government would “get out of the way” and free our industry to “get the job done?” Fossil fuels are the only energy sources that can bridge the gap between now and then allowing time required for orderly commercial development of alternative energy fuels without massive government subsidies.

Remember these two additional facts:

1. Contrary to popular claims, there is no scientific evidence that burning of fossil fuels emits carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere at sufficient levels to influence climate change.

2. Fossil fuels provide the energy that built our great nation and fossil fuels can provide the energy to rescue it from the economic and social morass we are now experiencing.

We must act, and act now, to initiate these steps for the welfare of our society.

Jack C. Threet, geologist

Dick Baile, geophysicist


Dear Editor:

Mired to its axles in political paralysis and hemorrhaging tax dollars, can the Pagosa Springs Community Development Corporation (CDC) be salvaged? Should it be?

The CDC has ignored repeated county requests for basic strategic and financial plans, has abandoned half of its original purposes, and was unilaterally converted to doing emergency business survival training.

The CDC is burning through $144,000 a year largely for small business consulting we were getting at almost no taxpayer expense six months ago. At its current rate of spending and fund-raising, even if town and county funding stays the same, the CDC will run out of decades of built-up reserves and be out of money to operate by June of next year.

All that having been said, I want to make the case to try to salvage the CDC.

In today’s wild economy, we need something like the CDC to be organized and aggressive in going after business development (and attraction) that actually brings good new jobs. We have some unique opportunities to succeed if we are ready to pursue them. But we are paying a lot of money, and still missing most of those opportunities with the current structure of the CDC.

My first three simple recommendations are:

First: Town representative (Ross Aragon) should step down from the CDC board, and the Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) should consider pulling our representative (currently Clifford Lucero) as soon as possible. Having politicians on the board has not increased results, and has not provided responsiveness or accountability to the taxpayers.

But it won’t be enough to just step away and install replacements to act on their behalf. In order for the CDC to have a chance to repair itself, we will have to create some level of certainty among business leaders of meaningful insulation from the political capriciousness that has hindered both the CDC and development in the town in general.

Second: A broad independent business and Chamber of Commerce committee should be established to seek replacement board members. The CDC board should be expanded to at least seven seats. This will diversify input, dilute undue influence and increase fund-raising capacity.

Third: Money is influence. Replacing politicians is not sufficient to remove political interference. So to have a chance of success, the CDC must immediately move to reduce its overwhelming dependence on government subsidies. The CDC should immediately finish the job of building a business plan and fund-raising plan to either reduce its dependence on taxpayer subsidies to less than half of its revenue, or reduce its expenses accordingly. Such plans would actually, finally, bring the CDC into compliance with county funding requirements for what should be a smaller and smaller amount of taxpayer funding.

The CDC costs the taxpayers $9,200 per month. If we are unable or unwilling to stop the bleeding and get the CDC back on track in the next 30 days, we should consider pulling the plug and putting our tax dollars to specific economic projects with tangible, track-able results.

Michael Whiting


Dear Editor:

Those (e.g. President Obama) who believe that the U.S. is not a Christian country and falsely invoke “separation of church and state” (not in the Constitution) to justify the removal of religious objects (e.g. Ten Commandments and the Nativity Scene) from government and school buildings and property need a review of true American history. The ACLU and out of control federal courts are included.

The Constitution, “prohibits any law … prohibiting the free exercise thereof (religion)” and the Declaration assigns to the government the responsibility, “to secure these rights (e.g. life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness) deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed” who have the “right to abolish a government that is destructive of these ends and institute a new government laying its foundation on these principles.” The U.S. was founded on religion, not on atheism or secularism.

In keeping with these religious values or principles, the first act of the Continental Congress was to purchase and distribute 20,000 Bibles. As construction of the capitol, White House and Jefferson and Lincoln memorials ensued, they were laid out in the form of the cross of Jesus. At the axis is the Washington Monument atop of which is the large inscription, “Laus Deo” (praise to God). In the rotunda of the capitol, church services were held until crowds became too large and had to relocate.

What is little known and not taught in our secular schools is that the preambles to the Constitutions of all 50 states contain references to God (verified onTruthorFiction). Some examples follow:

Colorado: “We the people of Colorado with profound reverence for the Supreme Ruler of the Universe …”

Delaware: “Through Divine Goodness all men have, by nature, the rights of worshipping and serving their Creator according to the dictates of their consciences.”

Massachusetts: “We the people of Massachusetts, acknowledging with grateful hearts, the goodness of the Great Legislator of the Universe in the course of His providence, an opportunity, and devoutly imploring His direction …”

Virginia: “... religion or the Duty which we owe our Creator can be directed only by reason and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, Love and Charity towards each other …”

West Virginia: “Since through Divine Providence we enjoy the blessings of civil, political and religious liberty, we, the people of West Virginia, reaffirm our faith in and constant reliance upon God.”

The founder of the state of Pennsylvania, William Penn, said, “Those people who will not be governed by God will be ruled by tyrants.”

Psalm 33:12 teaches: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He has chosen for His own inheritance.”

This year, we must elect a president and congressmen who will restore our nation to the principles on which it was founded.

Eugene Witkowski

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