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Letters to Editor


Dear Editor:

The first step in the function of any group is structure. From structure comes security and that always requires strength (dictatorship) to build a hierarchy. Mankind learned in ancient Japan that total freedom is only possible within complete dictatorship. If one accepts the “walls,” then individualism is unbound. This is where dictatorship (conservatism) fails, as the individual is never trusted to make his/her social/political decisions.

The next phase of civilization is communal effort. These two phases remain eternally locked in conflict. The temptation to return to dictatorship, however benevolent, is a result of our animalism, greed, survival instincts, mortal selfishness and lack of social courage. Another way to look at this struggle is that it is between conservatives (structured individuals) and liberals (communalism). With conservatives you know what to expect; with liberals the outcome is uncertain and depends on your involvement — a messy, tedious and time consuming process.

Populism is the first phase of a political awakening within a group. It is never democracy. Populism is also a means to cycle forward and backward between the above struggles. Populism can be a tool for both fanatics (political and religious — Libya, Arab Spring) and progressives.

Pure democracy is the pinnacle of group function. It’s where the citizen accepts the social responsibility of participation in discourse, service and defense. The greater level of individual participation, the smaller the role of government. While a relatively new country, the U.S. is now the oldest continuous form of government. We are currently in an intense period of social, economic and cultural change where conservatism mixed with religion is reemerging. “In times of dislocation and discontent, we cleave to some remembered (or, more likely, imagined) past, some durable myths or a set of simple solutions that tide us over until reality has finished having its way,” T.S. Purdum.

Problem: We don’t have unlimited time, resources or a monopoly on global economic power any longer. To meet these challenges, we will have to have the social courage to cast off the security of the old and be willing to fail at the new.

Dave Blake


Dear Editor:

In the face of the invasion and destruction of the American Embassy in Libya, and the murder of our ambassador, Chris Stevens (the direct representative of our president in that host country), Mr. Obama referred to this atrocity and act of aggression on American soil as a “bump in the road.” While our embassy still smoldered, our president decided to fly to Las Vegas for a campaign fund-raiser. This disgusting deportment is beyond “Carteresque.” It is closer to Nero’s violin concert as Rome burned.

We can only hope, that in the long course of U.S. history, the Obama presidency will be seen as only an aberrant, “bump in the road.”

Duane Branson


Dear Editor:

What the Town of Pagosa Springs is willing to do to shortcut due process to push Wal-Mart through is simply unbelievable!

Since the Land Use and Development Code (LUDC) has no process laid out for appealing a Design Review decision, at the last town council meeting an agreement negotiated by Town Attorney Bob Cole was presented to council to approve. The agreement was described as a “stipulated” agreement, meaning that all parties to be governed by the appeal procedures (Town, Wal-Mart, and Vivian and Steve Rader, who had filed the appeal) agree to it.

What was incredible was that the town attorney had removed the Raders’ notarized signatures from one version of the agreement and placed it on a revised document, as though the Raders had signed and notarized that revised document.

An attorney had actually submitted a fraudulent document to town council. Shouldn’t that put attorney Cole’s license in jeopardy? But, most members of town council were not in the least offended. Unbelievable!

Then, town council, with the exception of Councilman Schanzenbaker, seemed to think it was not a big deal because the changes seemed minor. Unbelievable!

It was not the substance of the changes that is at issue. It is the fraud committed on council and the public that is the concern — the dishonesty of the process. How can we ever trust any document that the town has filed if they are so willing to bend the rules, twist the ethics, and alter documents to suit their purpose?

Worse yet, when Councilman Schanzenbaker recommended a continuance to get a new agreement completed in an honest way, the idea was dismissed. No time to do things the right and honest way when Wal-Mart waits in the wings. Unbelievable!

As if the falsified document isn’t enough, Mayor Aragon shut down any further discussion from Councilman Schanzenbaker by loudly saying, “You are out of order!”

Doesn’t a councilman have a right to ask clarifying questions, make suggestions or express his views? Hasn’t he earned that right by being elected by the voters just like the mayor or the other council members? Not if it might delay getting Wal-Mart through — even if it is to do things the right way. Unbelievable!

And, what did the mayor mean when he admonished Councilman Schanzenbaker that he should simply read his packet to be informed. What was in the packet was the falsified document. Unbelievable!

One citizen dared to speak before town council expressing her disbelief that town government would allow such illegalities. She stated how our trust is shaken and how due process is broken. After attorney Cole responded to her, that it was no big deal (moving the notarized signature page from one original document to a new edited version) because the changes were “minor,” she asked “can I respond?” The mayor said brusquely, “No, you may not!” Unbelievable!

On Thursday, I felt like I was in a foreign country — just who was at the center running these proceedings? If felt more like a dictatorship than a democracy. Unbelievable!

Susi Cochran

Much to offer

Dear Editor:

At 5 a.m. when my alarm went off on Saturday morning, I wanted to roll over and go back to sleep, but I had volunteered to take photos at the Gecko Devil Mountain Ultra trail race, while my husband, Mike Hayward, did music for the Rollergirls’ food bank fund-raiser.

I poured coffee and headed out to Turkey Springs where I found runners gathered around a crackling campfire, sharing their excitement about the coming half-marathon trail race. The 50-mile and 50K runners had departed just a bit earlier while it was still dark, headlamps glowing to light their way.

As I made my way out to the end of E Monument Park Road to take the 1.2 mile uphill hike to the 23.5 mile and 43.5 mile aid station manned by the Trail Riders, one named Ken stopped to offer me a ride to the aid station. There, I found a lively group anxiously awaiting the first of the 50K and 50-mile runners. One had a cow bell to cheer them on and another was taking photos as they ran down the trail leading in to the rest stop. The rest had laid out all kinds of snacks and electrolytes and stood by waiting to quickly refill water bottles to sustain the runners as they continued the race.

I headed back down and drove over to Sally’s Overlook — the turnaround point for the 50-milers. Dickie of the Trail Riders gave me a ride back to my car. I don’t usually think of ATVs as compatible with trail runners, but this club had come out to support the race in a big way.

When I arrived at Sally’s Overlook, the 50-mile runners began to come one and two at a time. The looks on their faces as they were surprised by the incredible view was a treat. Each runner was required to go near the cliffs to pick up a copy of a book and tear out a page to prove that they had been there. After each had done so, I asked them to pose, showing how they felt at that moment. Even though it was 33.5 miles and many difficult climbs into the race, it was clear most were having the adventure of a lifetime.

Very few runners were locals. Runners were from Texas, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, the Front Range and elsewhere. Each brought family or friends and stayed multiple nights. Those who had done the race before often brought other runners to experience the adventure. Even runners who had done events elsewhere said there was no other race like this one.

It occurred to me that the way we promote our town overlooks so much that is here for the active, rather than sedentary tourist. We have so much to offer — Nordic and skate skiing, trail running, biking, hiking, river running, camping, backpacking and hunting. Even motorized sports in the wilderness like snowmobiling and ATVs. Let’s get some of the local groups promoting these athletic adventures more heavily represented in the groups promoting our town.

Muriel Eason


Dear Editor:

What happened to the fountain in Pinon Lake? It stopped just like that. I just read the Aug. 30 letter from Dawn Robel regarding the special swing stolen in Yamaguchi Park. It was the most poignant, well written letter and I would like to know if the swing was every returned.

Pagosa made the big time news, and not because of a new amusement park on Reservoir Hill, not because of a new aggressive type of advertising, not because of any form of politics, but because of a young girl, Sierra Downing, and her miraculous recovery from bubonic plague and the two wonderful Denver doctors who saved her life. This entire community should make the news also because once again, we all came through with outstretched arms showing how much we care for each other. There are so many angels involved in this story, many of who wish to remain anonymous.

This has been an overwhelming experience for this wonderful family and the rest of us are fortunate to have been given the opportunity to help.

Cindy Gustafson


Dear Editor:

If you are a veteran, or you have a family member who is a veteran, this should be of great concern to you. Your VA Healthcare benefits are in jeopardy under a Mitt Romney administration.

Last year on Veteran’s Day, Romney met with a group of veterans in Mauldin, S.C., where he promised to turn VA Healthcare benefits into a voucher system. That means you get a voucher and hope it is enough to buy insurance in the private sector.

Romney’s stump speech always includes a promise to repeal Obamacare. If that happens, then insurance companies will no longer be required to cover pre-existing conditions. So when you take your voucher to buy your new private insurance, you will be told that Agent Orange, traumatic brain injury, PTSD and any other wounds you incurred in battle, are pre-existing conditions. The healthcare you earned putting your life on the line for your country will be gone, compliments of Mr. Romney.

The reason Romney has no empathy for you and the sacrifices you made in combat is because he received four draft deferments during the height of the Vietnam War so he could recruit members for the Mormon Church. While men were dying by the thousands in Vietnam, Romney was strolling the streets of Paris, France.

Following Romney’s lead, the Republicans in Congress blocked President Obama’s Veteran’s Job Bill last week, and a few days later the Senate Republicans blocked a cost-of-living adjustment for disabled veterans. This is shameful.

While Romney degrades our military personnel and disabled veterans, referring to them as part of the 47 percent, a group he thinks doesn’t take responsibility for their lives, the president remains a tireless advocate for veterans and our military personnel.

President Obama has promised, even in a time of fiscal restraint, that veterans’ benefits will not be cut. He recently added 800 VA counselors to help deal with the increasing suicide crisis of returning veterans. President Obama understands that veterans’ healthcare is not an entitlement, but a benefit earned in combat.

When Veteran’s Day 2012 arrives, let’s make sure veterans’ healthcare and benefits are safe. Vote for President Barack Obama.

Sara Hoklotubbe

Deja vu

Dear Editor:

Wow, “It’s deja vu all over again” as Yogi Berra said. There I was at the Farm Bureau Forum for the candidates last Tuesday, 25 September, listening to comments from Mike McLachlan (candidate running against current State Representative for Colorado 59th House District, J. Paul Brown) and I thought I had gone back in time to last year’s forum on Prop 103, which we defeated in 2011. Here was Mike saying that Colorado ranked 49th (or 48th) of 50 states in its funding for K-12 schools and how we had to appropriate more money for our schools to be competitive. I guess he means by raising taxes, since he keeps criticizing J. Paul for cutting programs, which is the only other way to free up more money for the schools. I thought we had laid this bogus argument to rest last year, but it seems like a zombie — it just keeps coming back.

Let’s look at the reality. First, Colorado is not, as Mike McLachlan claimed, 48th or 49th in the nation in funding K-12 schools. Using information from the National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data and Nation’s Report Card, both a March 2006 study by Benjamin DeGrow from the Independence Institute reported on the relationship between spending and test scores. When looking at Per-Pupil Spending vs. Test Score Results, Mr. DeGrow’s study found that, “In 1991-1992, Colorado ranked: 22nd in the nation in total per-pupil education spending and 17th out of 41 participating states and D.C. in average NAEP scores. Ranking states by inflation corrected dollars per student, in 2002-2003, Colorado ranked 26th in the nation in total per-pupil education spending and 15th out of all 50 states and D.C. in average NAEP scores.

Mr. McLachlan claims that yet more money is needed for Colorado’s schools. But research indicates no correlation between school spending and student performance. A 14 August 2011 Denver Post article stated “… Wyoming, for example, spends nearly twice what we do … but their students … are performing at the same level as Colorado.” Colorado budget forecast for 2011/12 shows K-Higher education receiving 48.3 percent — $3.458 of state expenditures — this is even larger when all sources for education funding are included (Federal and property tax). At the national level, a CNN article from 21 September 2011 reports, “SAT reading scores for the high school class of 2011 were the lowest on record, and combined reading and math scores fell to their lowest point since 1995.” Would more money raise them? Not if history, rather than rhetoric, is considered.

Mr. DeGrow’s conclusion: “Adding more dollars in resources provides no guarantee of academic success.” More money has not improved student education as measured by test results. From 1992 to 2003, 27 of 42 states with available testing data increased per-pupil spending more than Colorado: of the 27 states, only Delaware also showed greater gains than Colorado in fourth-grade reading scores — more money has apparently not helped.

So, if you voted against Prop 103 last year, vote against Mike McLachlan this year — he’s carrying the same old message, spend more money — it’s bound to help sooner or later.

Jim Huffman


Dear Editor:

When asked where corruption can be found, Warren Buffet responded, “anywhere there is money.”

I sincerely hope a knowledgable source will refute this article because I do not want to believe that it is true.

Colorado state law requires that voters approve through a local referendum any new debt acquired by a local school board (1992 amendment. Article X, section 20).

However, our local school board borrowed (thereby placing a lien on every piece of real estate in the district) $1.5 million dollars and gave a no bid contract to Honeywell for energy reducing improvements to the school buildings with a 10-year-plus payback (not a good deal by any measure). It has been reported that by calling the payment a lease that the state law does not apply. A case of fundamental deception and financial mismanagement.

The big winners — Honeywell and the bank. Big losers — local taxpayers.

Gil Johnson


Dear Editor:

Money Out of Politics! This is not a left-right issue, it’s a common sense issue. Today, the banks have been bought by big money. Corporations. Why not spend the millions, even billions of political contributions, for the people — on positive change. If we spent all the money being spent on the current political campaign on the people, on positive change, what would that mean?

Right now, the top .07 percent of donors is exerting more influence on the 2012 race than the bottom 85 per cent. The people with more money are getting more speech, so to speak. Is that right?

While people have been distracted by war and personal economic issues, the wider world is bypassing our great country. Think about it: What if we spent all that political campaign money on the people — infrastructure, health, education, the arts and the environment? Wouldn’t we have a better world? Wouldn’t we have a better America? We would inspire the rest of the world. We should be paying attention to chemtrails, GMOs, the cost of health issues, and the cost of war. It is bankrupting us and making us seriously ill. Unfortunately, we are pouring valuable money down the drain. A sad situation. Vote Yes on Proposition 65.

Susan Junta

Real economy

Dear Editor:

Those who criticize the president for failing to improve the economy focus on jobs and jobs alone. But, how about the stock market? In 2008, the Dow Jones Industrial Average bottomed out at 6,547, after losing more than half its value in just two years during the Bush meltdown. Over half of Americans owned stock either directly or through 401K plans, mutual funds and other investments. They were devastated as they saw their retirement plans tank. Today, the DJIA stands at over 13,500, doubling in value during President Obama’s term.

Do we still have economic problems? Is the unemployment rate still too high? Yes, of course. But, according to Bloomberg News, hardly a liberal source, more jobs have now been created than lost since President Barack Obama took office, preliminary revisions to the U.S. payroll count showed. The number of jobs created in the year ended in March was revised upward by 386,000, the Labor Department said in Washington. If that estimate is confirmed in the final report, it would wipe out the 261,000 employment deficit spanning January 2009 to last month that is currently on the books and mean the U.S. has created a net 125,000 jobs since Obama was inaugurated.

The Romney campaign loves to highlight that unemployment has been above 8 percent during the president’s entire term, as if there has been no improvement. But, let’s look at the true picture. When the president took office, unemployment was at 7.8 percent and on a steep upward trajectory from the last two years of Bush’s administration, spiraling upward from 4.6 percent thanks to the Republicans. The rate peaked at about 10 percent in mid-2009 and has been falling ever since. So, the president has reduced unemployment by about 2 percent, which is what Romney promises to do. It is also worthwhile to recognize that unemployment averaged nearly 10 percent over two years of Reagan’s administration (1982-1983) and over 8 percent during one year in Ford’s term (1975). And they were not trying to deal with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

I realize that reason is not part of the political discourse this election. But, let’s try to look at the whole economy, not just the portion that the Republicans want us to focus on.

John Porco

Gas prices

Dear Editor:

Is there anyone else wondering why gasoline prices are 15-19 cents higher here in Pagosa than in Durango, Farmington, Chama and surrounding areas? Have traveled to all these places Sept. 23-27 and was astounded at the difference in prices. Hello Pagosa!

Helen Schneider


Dear Editor:

I stand corrected on some misinformation I provided in the 20 Sept. 2012 issue of The SUN as noted by Ronald Sandler (see the 27 Sept. issue of The SUN). Information I sourced to a Bloomberg Report turned out not to be correct and I regret not having checked it more carefully. That said, I must respond to Mr. Sandler’s comment that, “the political right has made a plethora of false accusations against President Obama during these last four years.”

While there is inevitably a certain amount of half-truths, partially accurate statements and outright lies communicated during political campaigns, it has not been only the political right which has made accusations that have been proven false. And, Mr. Sandler, Obama has certainly not been the sole target of false accusations. One only has to listen to Obama’s close advisor and chief attack dog, David Axelrod, to get a full appreciation of how facts can be twisted and misrepresented until there is little or no resemblance to truth. When Axelrod talks to the press and makes false statements about Mitt Romney, his fellow Democrats don’t object, the mainstream media swallows it without questioning the source or veracity, and gleefully disseminates it far and wide. Obviously the days of responsible reporting by much of the press, especially from liberal instruments like the New York Times and Washington Post are long gone, and the Democrats exploit it very effectively.

I could cite examples of Axelrod and Obama himself stretching the truth and telling outright lies but I don’t think this is necessary in this forum (and The SUN probably would not be willing to allocate the considerable space this would take). I will, however, continue to vent my frustrations, disappointment and sometimes outright anger over the direction the Obama Administration has taken our country. It is my hope that I, like so many others who feel the same way, will convince voters not to make the mistake of giving this incompetent president a second term.

Gary Stansbury


Dear Editor:

A very promising thing is taking place in Afghanistan. I recently read that Brig. Gen. Mohammad Amin Nasib who heads up religious and ideological affairs in the Afghan Defense Ministry has written an 18-page booklet entitled, “Cultural Understanding: A Guide to Understanding Coalition Cultures.” This booklet is being distributed to Afghan military leaders around the country and will be taught in three, one-hour sessions to all their soldiers, as well as new recruits. The book speaks of ways coalition members behave that unknowingly offend and thus are at the root of some of the violence. It defines the true meanings of various “habits” that are insulting to Afghans, but in truth are complimentary. One example given was a “pat on the back,” which is offensive to Afghans, but is meant as a compliment for a job well done. My goodness — what a marvelous effort to promote peace through understanding.

The articles states that the booklet paints a “glowing” picture of the coalition forces, e.g., this statement: “The United States is a little like a lovely carpet. Different colored strands combine to make a beautiful whole.”

As a nation that professes that we are “one under God,” we need to focus on that statement. We need to make every effort to understand every religion and culture represented in our great country — accept our differences, do not try to pass laws that take away freedoms from one to favor another — simple freedom with respect and understanding. That is what the Afghan military is attempting to do, and I certainly applaud them. We need to work on that here at home.

Patty Tillerson


Dear Editor:

Chimney Rock National Monument — it gets the recognition it deserves! There is a link on the Chimney Rock Interpretive Association website ( to pictures from the event at Chimney Rock on Friday, Sept. 21, and to the presidential proclamation itself. CRIA will be working with the Forest Service in preparation for our 2013 season.

Yes, CRIA will still be doing the tours at Chimney Rock National Monument through its special use permit with the San Juan National Forest. The Forest Service has always been the steward of Chimney Rock, with our assistance through our special permit — they need our volunteers. Chimney Rock is not under the National Park Service, it is staying with the National Forest, as it always has been.

Most importantly, national monument status may help CRIA recruit more volunteers. Have you thought about helping at Chimney Rock? Even if you aren’t here for the initial training before we open May 15, we can always do one-on-one training during the season. You can volunteer as much or as little time as fits your schedule. The more volunteers, the easier it is for everyone. Seriously interested in volunteering and getting a head start this winter by reading some of our training materials and curriculum. Call our CRIA office at 731-7133 and leave a message with how to contact you. We’d be happy to give you some of the materials now.

Come join the fun — it’s going the be a rockin’ good time at Chimney Rock National Monument.

Joan Ward

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