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Letters to the Editor

Values

Dear Editor:

The poverty we fear that urges us to seek salvation through a Wal-Mart is a poverty we ourselves create as a society where affluence is touted as a virtue. When we teach our children the preeminent value of pursuing wealth we pass on a legacy of want and a poverty of the soul. Why do we let fear of scarcity drive the political will of our community? If we choose self reliance and compassion as primary social values then we thrive because we consider our capability of sharing and helping our neighbors as more important than trying to acquire the most stuff in the cheapest, fastest manner. Por compartir hay un futuro.

As industrial materialists, the faster we grow our economies, the faster we impoverish ourselves and our planet because almost everything we create takes more than it returns. This extraction is what Wal-Mart does best because its business model is designed to speed up the process. Wal-Mart wants us to want. Their price propaganda conditions us to identify with the values of poverty and greed so we continue to want more stuff, more money, more power, faster, cheaper, more competitive lives. But living in want is living in poverty. Una vida avaricio es apocado, lleno de vacio.

Wal-Mart’s value system is purported to respect and serve the individual customer with excellence. But it’s nearly impossible to pursue wealth and compassion simultaneously, so the goal of increasing the corporate bottom line ultimately takes precedence over camouflage public policies and Wal-Mart’s true values are revealed as profiteering and market dominance. La compania de voraz entiende el agarrar, no otro.

Dignity, self reliance, kindness, and cooperation are humane values, not megacorporate values. An example of healthy community cooperation is Old Town Market offering dry goods at cost to help local residents. Although we all need affordable groceries, most of us have forgotten that work is how food is grown and community is how food is shared. Why do we seek corporate dependence to resolve the poverty we create ourselves? Extractive wealth cannot sustain us. We do not live by pretending we are saving money at discount stores. We have life by grace. El regalo de la vida.

Barr Bentley

Win-win-win

Dear Editor:

As Jim McQuiggin reported last week in his article, “Wal-Mart design review draws crowd,” as the meeting drew to a close, the Town Planning Commission Design Review Board recommended several suggestions brought up by the public as items to consider at the next design review hearing. Among other things, Wal-Mart was asked to meet with the Pagosa Springs Community Development Corporation to outline a CBA for review at the next Design Review on 8/14.

Economic development projects are often subsidized by taxpayer dollars, but there is usually no guarantee that a project’s projected benefits or unanticipated “ripple effects” will actually benefit current residents. In addition, big developments such as Wal-Mart do have predictable, verifiable impacts to communities as documented in numerous studies. To be fair to the community, mitigation plans should be required and developed before the project is approved by Town Council and documented in an enforceable contract called a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA).

A CBA is a contract signed by governmental agencies, community groups and a real estate developer like Wal-Mart, which requires the developer to provide specific amenities and/or mitigations to the local community or neighborhood. In exchange, the community groups agree to publicly support the project, or at least not oppose it.

It is a process for the community, Wal-Mart and local officials to create an overall win-win-win scenario.

Since the main purpose of economic development is to bring measurable, permanent improvements to the community and the lives of affected residents, the CBA ensures that these benefits actually accrue to the community, while mitigating the negative impacts of development to those affected.

The main goals of the CBA are:

Inclusiveness: The CBA negotiation process can provide a mechanism to ensure that community concerns are heard and addressed. It provides a forum for all parts of an affected community.

Enforceability: A CBA can ensure that Wal-Mart’s promises regarding community benefits are legally enforceable. A developer “pitching” a project often makes promises that are never written into any project approval documents, and even when they are, they may not be monitored and enforced by the relevant government agencies. By creating an enforcement mechanism or expanding the class of parties who can enforce these promises, CBAs can make enforcement much easier. As a CBA is a legally binding contract, it can be enforced only by the parties that signed it. CBAs that are incorporated into development agreements can be enforced by the government as well as by community groups.

Accountability: CBAs enable citizens to hold governments accountable for the use of tax dollars by giving them a voice in how development subsidies are distributed.

A local example of a similar agreement was done as an Annexation Agreement in Durango for the Wal-Mart there. Durango agreed to annex Wal-Mart and make sewer and water accessible in exchange for community amenities such as the Riverwalk.

Thanks to the Town Planning Commission members for asking for this discussion for the community.

Muriel Eason

Nonprofits

Dear Editor:

Do you know “Mongo?” Well, you should. His real name is Dave Miller. He is the driving force behind the San Juan Shootists LLC, a nonprofit organization. On July 27 and 28, this group will be shooting at Eagle Mountain Mercantile. They will be raising money for a small service organization called Ruritan. Come and see and try your hand. They (the shootists, including Mongo and his wife) will also be appearing at the Fred Harman Museum on July 21. Then there will be their part at the Archuleta County Fair during the first weekend in August. We have some great small new groups in Pagosa. RIPs (the roller derby girls in Pagosa Springs), the “archers” group and Jeff Dysinger who teaches this sport to young people, and the shootists who compete with similar groups all over the place, having a good time, providing fun for others and raising money for other nonprofits.

Cindy Gustafson

Unique

Dear Editor:

While visiting Pagosa Springs recently, I picked up a copy of The SUN and read to my great dismay that a Wal-Mart was being planned. When Wal-Mart arrives, any other stores lose and are soon forced to close.

You will soon be able to say goodbye to your quaint, relaxing, enjoyable, entertaining town. Gone will be the days of enjoying the area for its natural and historic beauty. You will have empty storefronts and fewer jobs. To a lesser extent, other businesses lose when Dollar General, Family Dollar, Dollar Tree and any other of the same type of businesses arrive in your town, including the food chains.

I have seen it happen in several of the small towns in my part of the state of Michigan. Wal-Mart arrives, promising new jobs and a booming economy for the area. Wal-Mart has nothing “unique” to offer. They buy most of their inventory from outside the U.S. and are mostly owned by out-of-the-U.S. investors. They have no true interest in the local communities — only in the money in their own pockets. Soon employees find themselves fired because they are not at work (even though they are not notified that their schedule has been changed by management).

You will have fewer jobs, more social issues and other problems if Wal-Mart arrives in Pagosa Springs. I’m pretty sure that those individuals who wish to shop at Wal-Mart can find one in Durango — approximately an hour away.

While I’m not likely to visit Pagosa Springs again soon, I did greatly enjoy the opportunity to walk around and see stores that are unique and interesting. Best wishes in keeping the unique character of Pagosa Springs alive and well for future generations.

Coral Johnson

East Lansing, Mich.

Improvement

Dear Editor:

I would like to compliment the construction crews from Town and UCAL for the great job they did on replacing the curb, gutter and sidewalk on east 160 in town.

These are the types of improvements that go a long way to improve the look and feel of the downtown area.

If more time, energy and money would be focused on these basic improvements instead of some pie-in-the-sky pipedream amusement park amenities on Reservoir Hill, the town would have a much needed visual and aesthetic appeal to it.

Guiseppe Margiotta

Healthcare

Dear Editor:

Some polls show a majority of Americans oppose the new healthcare act, while others feel it is time to accept it and move on since the Supreme Court ruling. It has been said opposition arises from: 1) an ignorance of the law; 2) Republican propaganda; 3) opposition to anything sponsored by Obama; and 4) lack of concern for the less fortunate. Based on recent letters to The SUN, I would say Jim Sawicki qualifies for 3 and possibly 4 out of 4.

In his latest diatribe, Mr. Sawicki repeatedly asserts the new law will be financed by penalties (taxes) assessed on those who do not comply with the mandate to purchase health insurance, be they individuals or businesses (individuals with incomes up 400 percent of the federal poverty level will receive subsidies to aid in this purchase). In fact, there are myriad revenue enhancements in the legislation including billions of dollars in fees to be paid by pharmaceutical and health insurance companies over the next several years. An informative 13-page summary of the bill can be viewed at www.kff.org/healthreform, typing “summary of health reform law” in the search field. An explanation of the revenue generators is found on pages 3 and 4.

With respect to Republican propaganda, this has certainly been effective as well as misleading with such claims as “death panels,” government takeover of medicine, cutting benefits for Medicare patients, higher premiums (which they undoubtedly will do without this legislation), coverage for abortion, coverage for illegal immigrants, the government deciding what treatments your doctor may provide and many others. These and other false claims are covered by reviewing one of the following: factcheck.org, politifact.com or healthcarereformmyths.org, as well as the summary mentioned above.

The present U.S. healthcare system is unsustainable with premiums consistently outstripping inflation. This has resulted in 50 million uninsured Americans and another 20 to 25 million underinsured — one accident or severe illness away from bankruptcy. Medical expenses are a significant, ever-increasing cause of personal bankruptcies. Included in the 50 million are individuals unable to purchase insurance due to their health histories. Employers have been steadily requiring employees to cover more of the cost of coverage with higher deductibles and increased co-pays, and an increasing number of businesses no longer offer health insurance due to its cost.

We are the only industrialized country in the world that does not provide healthcare for its citizens, yet we spend almost two times more than any other country per capita for this care and, comparing many outcomes, we do worse.

This legislation is far from perfect, but in our governmental system, that would be nearly impossible. Powerful stakeholders such as the pharmaceutical companies, the health insurance industry, hospitals, healthcare providers, unions, businesses, medical device manufacturers, etc., all have a vested and, at times, conflicting interest in such a law. The fact that anything was passed is remarkable.

In assessing this significant issue for the upcoming election, I would hope individuals would take time to understand its major provisions and to be skeptical of various claims either for or against it.

Ronald Sandler

Waste

Dear Editor:

The mayor of Scranton, Pa., recently set off a firestorm when he decided all city employee salaries would be reduced to the minimum wage ($7.25/hour) because the city’s coffers were running out of money. Since then, at least two cities in California have filed for bankruptcy because they could no longer meet their financial obligations. (In one of the cities, San Bernardino, it was determined that one of the reasons they had run out of funds was because of rampant waste and corruption by various of the city officials over the past 10-12 years.) Some of the officials may face criminal prosecution.

While the Pennsylvania mayor’s threat to reduce salaries to minimum wage seems a bit extreme and probably will not happen, it does demonstrate the seriousness of the financial condition of many local and state governments throughout the country. And, as measures are taken to avoid more foreclosures and bankruptcies in homes and businesses, more evidence of corruption and waste of public money, yours and mine, will surface.

With this as background, let’s look at an example of waste of public money by the wife of our illustrious and racist president, Michelle Obama. My source of the information is a well-known and respected organization by the name of “Judicial Watch.” Judicial Watch sued the Obama administration on 19 August 2011 to get this information through the Freedom of Information Act: During the period 21-27 June 2011, Michelle took her two daughters and staff to South Africa and Botswana. The professed purpose of the trip was, “to encourage young people living in the two growing democracies to become involved in national affairs.” The trip ended with the Obama family going on a private safari in a South African game preserve. The cost of this trip? Charges for the aircraft and crew alone amounted to $424,000. Other expenses, meals, ground transportation, security, various services, etc., have not yet been revealed. It is interesting to note the two Obama girls were listed on the flight manifest as “Senior Staff.” (I wonder if they drew per diem for the trip?) Also included were Michelle’s mother, niece and nephew among the total of 212 passengers. (A well-known businessman commented that if he had included his children on a trip like this and claimed they were “senior staff,” he probably would be fired.) I wonder if Michelle got this idea from Nancy Pelosi? This trip, costing close to half a million dollars, can only be classified as taking advantage of one’s position and with total disregard for cost. But you can be sure there will be no criminal prosecution and no reduction of lavish spending on future junkets.

Why did I refer to Barack Obama as a “racist” president? Have you seen the video of Obama on YouTube announcing the “2012 Launch of African Americans for Obama?” If it’s not racially offensive, I don’t know what is. What white candidate running for public office could ever get away with this? But, will Obama? I hope not.

Gary Stansbury

Kindness

Dear Editor:

Arrogance, resentment, lack of appreciation, etc., is destroying our country and our people. The following is taken from a printed sermon given by my grandmother’s Presbyterian minister over 100 years ago. She valued it so much that she saved it throughout her life. I take it out occasionally as a means to “set me straight.” I hope it will be helpful to your readers, who may feel discouraged.

“The ministry of kindness is unceasing. It keeps no Sabbaths — it makes every day a Sabbath. It fills all days and nights.

“Some of us, if we were to try to sum up the total of our usefulness, would name a few large things we have done — the giving of money to some cause, the starting of some good work which has grown to strength, the writing of a book, the winning of some honor for service to our community or our country. But, in every worthy life, that which has left the greatest measure of good is its ministry of kindness. No record of it has been kept, people have not talked about it, it has never been mentioned in newspapers. But, where we have gone, day after day, if we have been kind to everyone, we have left blessings in the world that far exceed all others.

“So far as we know, Jesus never gave any money — he had none to give. There was no life that ever touched his that was not helped in some way. The truest help we can give to anyone is to make them strong so that they will not need help anymore.

“Those who do deeds of kindness are plain people with no thought that anything they do will ever be of special importance or ever be heard of again. Yet, in many of these lovely ministries, Christ sees the beginning of something that will shine in heavenly splendor — a simple word of cheer puts hope in a discouraged heart, saves a life from despair and starts it on a path to a worthy service.”

Patty Tillerson

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