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Letters to Editor 10/29/09

Have no fear

Dear Editor:

For those of you who don’t know me, I am a retired lieutenant colonel, Army of the United States. I served more than 20 years on active duty. So, know that I have been around.

In my first deployment to war, I wanted to go. After all, I was young and wanted to help my country. I saw and took part in a lot of horrible things that happen in war. That war was unpopular and did not end well, but we did protect the sovereignty of South Korea. When I came back, there was no welcome. In fact, we were ignored for the most part. I somehow understood. I didn’t want to go to war again, but I was called, and I went to Vietnam. We weren’t allowed to win that war, though it was all but won. And we did not protect the sovereignty of South Vietnam. So I know something of what our army is going through now, though perhaps even more so.

I have been retired for many years. It’s a different world than it was in my time, though not different in many aspects of the horror of war and its effects, physical and mental, on individuals. I have been concerned watching news about how stressed the army is as a result of back-to-back deployments and the trauma of war in general. At times, it almost seemed as though the army was about to collapse if you believe what you see and hear on TV.

When I have the opportunity, I go to military facilities and just look around at what I see, and I form opinions that I like and, of course, there are things I see I don’t like.

Recently, I visited Fort Carson, Colo. I was delighted at what I saw. Have no fear, your army is well. I saw young, well-mannered soldiers physically in good condition. All were in the BDU, battle dress uniforms. Their uniforms were neat and well maintained. This post is home to the 4th Infantry Division, a major contributor of units in our present wars. Regulations are that unit patches of those units you have served with in combat are placed on your right sleeve just below the American flag. Your present unit patch is placed on your left sleeve. Most of the soldiers I saw had 4th Infantry patches on their left and right sleeves. I saw some with patches on their right sleeves of units other than the 4th Infantry Division. I even saw one soldier with my old 25th Division patch that I served with in the Korean War. This means that these soldiers were combat veterans and not recruits. The grades I saw were mostly the lowest enlisted and lowest officer grades. There were some women, as well.

I am home in Pagosa now, with a belief that our army is well, Army strong, and more capable than it was in my time. Our young American soldiers are the finest we have ever produced. Have no fear.

Donald H. Bartlett

Take a quiz

Dear Editor:

I know that just mentioning the name Bill Clinton turns many people off, but he sent me an e-mail quiz today that impressed me. Also, I know that taking e-mail quizzes isn’t the favorite pastime of many, but this one is kind of friendly.

The ten simple questions aren’t designed to tell you how stupid or ignorant you are or to convince you of anything. Instead, they are likely to wake you up somewhat to life in some areas beyond our borders and, I believe, with Thanksgiving approaching may lead us to thinking on a different plane about our affluence. Of course, you can expect the Clinton Foundation to send you “news” from time to time, but you can always unsubscribe if you choose. But spend three minutes to take the test anyway. I thought I knew a lot and scored 60 percent. Now I know a little more. The address is http//www.clinton foundation.org/10questions.

Henry Buslepp

Concern

Dear Editor:

In the October 22 Pagosa SUN way back on page A6 is a very small announcement that the BoCC has scheduled a meeting with the Village at Wolf Creek developers on Oct. 29. I would like to have attended this meeting, but couldn’t due to a prior plan and the short notice.

I would like, however, to notify all public officials involved of my opinions and concern. My concern is not with the development itself as much as the land exchange proposal and process. The developers seem to be pursuing a legislative rather than an administrative process. An administrative process means that the land exchange will be handled through the National Forest Service and require an Environmental Assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act. An EA will identify environmental impacts and establish constraints and mitigation plans. The legislative process seems to be a way to circumvent the NEPA process and transfer the ownership of this public land into private lands with no environmental considerations whatever.

If my understanding is correct, a legislative alternative will transfer this public land into private ownership with no EA and once this occurs the development will be totally the purview of Mineral County. Once this happens there will be no recourse or opportunity for negotiations from anyone else.

I implore all public officials to think about what could go wrong here and do the right thing.

Lal B. Echterhoff

GECKO

Dear Editor:

The GECKO series of trail races was completed with the Mountain Chile Cha Cha race on Sept. 26. This series of three races was founded by Morgan Murri. GECKO is the acronym for, “giving every child knowledge of the outdoors.” It is a non-profit organization that, for lack of a better explanation, helps kids get off their keisters and back outside. The trilogy of foot races is the best kept secret in the Southwest. The first race, a marathon trail race, takes place on the trails of Brockover Mesa in late June. The second race is also run up north of Pagosa on a nonpareil trail course that rises and falls for 31 miles. The last race is in late September and takes place on Reservoir Hill, ending in the park.

For a runner these races give you an incentive to keep training and competing. The races work well as training runs for other races and stand alone as some of the best trail races you will find. Not to mention the message that is sent to kids. Take a look at the stuff kids eat these days, and the amount of passive “activities” they engage in and you are more than happy to pay your race entrance fee.

I can’t say enough about how these races make the summer so much more enjoyable for those of us who love to run. So, thanks to gecko.org, Morgan, his wife, Nancy, the trail crews, Dr. Pruitt, and all the folks who make this happen. I look forward to next year.

Joe Gilbert

Say no

Dear Editor:

On Thursday, Oct. 29 at 6:30 p.m. at the County Extension Building, Red McCombs’ new development team will be trying to convince the public (and the BoCC) why a legislative land exchange is in our best interest, and why this is not just more of the same backroom deal-making that we’ve seen all too much of before. Expect a slick presentation, and a growing list of promises to do this and that to address Archuleta County’s concerns.

McCombs remains unwilling to trust his project to any traditional process of public analysis, disclosure and decision-making, and has therefore hired a new team of lobbyists to attempt to circumvent this review process through a legislative land exchange to gain not only access, but also additional developable property. With a number of well-known and well-respected lobbyists and development firms on board, McCombs is now courting Congressman John Salazar to sponsor a legislative land exchange.

McCombs is giving the public a “choice” between an illegal 10,000-person development plan that they could never build (what they call the “approved plan”), and the new land exchange plan which would result in a slightly smaller development of 8,000 people. How is that for choices? In addition, McCombs’ developer is promising to listen to the concerns of the public in Archuleta County, but only if they get your support up front for a legislative land exchange. I’d call this the “support me now, and I’ll listen to your concerns later” approach.

Although McCombs is currently claiming that they will “try” to get their EIS done before the bill passes Congress, that is one promise they won’t make. Nor is Congress under any obligation to consider the potentially significant impacts that will surface through a thorough EIS process. Who do you think will have greater influence over Congress’ decision, McCombs or you and I?

Like other attempts to circumvent public review that McCombs has attempted over the last decade, the legislative land exchange is just the latest attempt to avoid or otherwise “streamline” scrutiny of this project’s potentially significant adverse impacts. Despite all the promises, we are aware of no public benefit of performing this land exchange legislatively.

Issues to consider:

• The original land use plan was found illegal, and any re-approval is complicated by new easements. The old plan can’t be built, and is not a “fall back” plan.

• Most land exchanges are conducted through a Forest Service Administrative process that involves public input and assessment of pros and cons BEFORE a decision is reached on the exchange. This fall back preserves the public’s right to be involved and is open and transparent.

• All wetlands on public or private land are protected by federal law.

• The public owns an easement on McCombs’ “private” property that goes back to the original land exchange (1986). Any development of McCombs’ land must meet certain criteria, and must be authorized by the Forest Service.

Paul Joyce

Colorado Wild

Interesting

Dear Editor:

The Village at Wolf Creek has not gone away. As you reported, there will be an informational meeting tonight (Thursday) at 6:30 at the County Extension building at the fairgrounds. The developers propose a land exchange with the Forest Service in which the developers would provide roughly 200 nearly inaccessible acres, much of which is unbuildable wetlands or under easement, in return for a site of similar acreage with direct access to Highway 160. Perhaps the presentation will explain why this exchange is in the public interest.

Surely, the developers will describe the traffic concerns resulting from entrance to or exit from the proposed development and the status of necessary approval from the Colorado Division of Highways.

Also, we hope that the presentation will describe the feasibility of hundreds of dwelling units at an elevation of 10,000 feet. Wolf Creek is one of seven ski resorts in Colorado where the base area elevation exceeds 10,000 feet. None of them offer a meaningful amount of lodging for good reason. The diminished amount of oxygen in the air frequently causes altitude sickness and symptoms which make it hard to sleep.

If the development is built and units are sold, is there a plan to establish services on site which can deal with “the most snow in Colorado?” Who would do snow removal, for example, or be on site to restore electricity in the middle of the night? What happens when the pass is closed in both directions? When the first phase is built out and most units sold (if ever) what will keep the developer responsible for services when he can take the money and run?

The economic impact of the proposal must certainly be on the agenda. The benefits and costs need to be identified. Some economic benefit will certainly accrue, particularly sales taxes, but property tax revenue from the development will go to Mineral County while the social needs such as law enforcement, schools, and medical services will be funded locally.

Should be an interesting meeting.

Jim Lincoln

LASSO

Dear Editor:

Having retired from a considerably more stressful line of work, my wife and I’ve settled into a daily regimen of volunteering at LASSO Horse Rescue, an approved 501(C) 3 organization.

You’d expect that after centuries of domestication, man would have long ago trained horses to clean up after themselves. But, no! For almost six months, now, I’ve been involved with the most fundamental aspect of horse ranching - that of equestrian sanitation engineer. Okay, so I “muck” turnouts and stalls twice a day. And, I have observed that pretty much everything that goes in the front end of a horse, sooner or later finds its way out the back. And when you feed them twice a day; well, you get the picture — horses tend to be labor-intensive. Sometimes, I help out feeding, stacking hay bales, and spending a little time getting to know the horses.

LASSO has developed a tradition of providing horse therapy, once a week, for local special needs kids. This giving back to the community escalated in August, when LASSO hosted a three-day riding camp for Special Olympics. Each morning, the nine athletes helped tack their designated steeds in order to learn horsemanship and compete in the arena. The horses were all on their best behavior. Before long, these physically challenged young folks were communicating with their horses, and trotting around barrels, road cones and other objects. Their accomplishments were nothing short of incredible.

Rescue work is the more challenging side of the organization. I’ve seen several rescue horses come and go. Having been neglected and abandoned, they require expensive feeds and medicines, and long-term veterinary and farrier care. The lucky ones that didn’t arrive with more serious maladies are often brought back to health over time, with proper treatment and a caring touch. Some can be ridden once again, and others make suitable companion horses. They’re the success stories. LASSO has several sound and companion horses available, all with engaging personalities. Check them out at www.lassohorserescue.org, or call DiAnn Hitchcox at (970) 264-0095.

Others aren’t so fortunate, arriving with more serious afflictions that may eventually require a difficult quality of life decision to be made in their best interest. When it finally becomes apparent that their lives are too distressing to continue, euthanasia is a hard choice; grim and unforgettable to witness. But as one of their few remaining friends in the world, you choose to be there for them at the end, helping them to a more peaceful place.

Of course, none of this would work without the close support of Pagosa Country’s compassionate equine veterinarians, Archuleta County’s animal control officers, LASSO’s board of directors, volunteers, and donations from our generous community.

These horses need our help, and their care is financially taxing. Please, consider supporting LASSO’s fund-raisers and either volunteering your time at the ranch, with special needs riders, or donating to help support a horse. As Mark Twain reminded us: “Always do right. This will gratify some people, and astonish the rest.”

Dave Linfoot

Muddled

Dear Editor:

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

Anyone who has served in the military is familiar with the phonetic alphabet — Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, meaning A, B, C, etc. The use of the phonetic alphabet by members of the military can become quite imaginative and at the same time, rather irreverent, if not downright profane. Perhaps this is a way of letting off steam or venting frustration, especially when they react to what seem to be questionable orders from above, be they from higher ranking officers or civilian leaders.

An example of this occurred in June when President Obama’s national security advisor, General (Ret.) James Jones, met with General Stanley McChrystal, the senior officer among our troops in Afghanistan. Jones told the general that if he requested more troops for Afghanistan any time soon, Obama would have a “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” moment (meaning a “What the f—! moment”). Since then, as anyone who reads the newspapers or watches TV knows, General McChrystal has requested somewhere between 40,000 and 60,000 more troops for Afghanistan. Having had the audacity (to use one of Obama’s favorite terms) to make this request, it is quite clear that McChrystal has incurred the wrath of Obama. Having earlier declared the war in Afghanistan a “war of necessity,” however, Obama cannot publicly admonish him for this, at least not yet, as much as I’m sure he would like to.

It has been a month since Gen. McChrystal asked for more troops, and as Dick Cheney put it the other day, Obama is still “dithering” over a decision. Some of Obama’s civilian advisors, who know nothing about military strategy, explain this away by telling us Obama is taking his time in order that all options are explored. Is this really what Obama is doing or is he, his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, Nancy Pelosi and numerous other liberal Democrats, looking for an “honorable” way to lose this war just as they tried to do in Iraq? (Remember how Democrat Harry Reid called the war in Iraq “lost” a couple years ago?) I think events will prove the latter to be the case, especially now that Obama’s liberal, left wing base is beginning to show their frustration and displeasure over the war — which no doubt will escalate if he commits more troops to Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, winter is approaching in Afghanistan just as it is here, and our troops must be wondering whether they will get the support they need from Washington. The senators and congressmen who are calling for a quick and clear manifestation of support are being ignored, and it may be weeks or even months before some sort of a decision is made. I fear that when it happens, it will be as muddled and ineffective as the Obama administration’s efforts to come up with a health care plan that is an improvement over what we already have. In reality, I think Obama is more concerned with salvaging Acorn, choosing crooks for czars, and destroying our economy with cap and trade than winning the war in Afghanistan.

Gary Stansbury

Last standing

Dear Editor:

As I watch my beloved Republican Party crash and burn around me, I am determined to stand fast and to stick to our conservative principles. In short, I understand these principles to be to conserve what is good from the past and to adapt to changing times. Ultimately, when I’m the last Republican standing, God willing, I will bring the party of Lincoln to a new rebirth in its founding ideas. Among other things, we will not countenance any expansion of slavery, and the much delayed reconstruction of the South, particularly Texas, will be finished.

Jim Milstein

Mockery

Dear Editor,

With reference to Eugene Witkowski’s recent letter, in which he quotes Anne Graham’s answer to Jane Clayson.

I wonder if Mr. Witkowski ever considered the fact that Anne Graham did not answer the question asked of her. Instead she ignored it, and utilized a ploy, common of those who choose to serve their own purpose.

Before formulating her answer, she translated the question into words with which she felt more comfortable.

The question asked was “How could God allow something like Hurricane Katrina to happen”.

This became re-worded into “Why did God not offer any help to the victims of Hurricane Katrina.”These are two completely different questions, both of which Anne Graham could answer only for herself and her own personal convictions.

To be asked a question, only to give an answer based solely in the light of whatever satisfies our own intentions, does nothing but to make a mockery of the question being asked in the first place.

Anthony Steventon

Call Rush

Dear Editor:

In his letter to The SUN (10/22/09), Mr. Abe Walking Bear Sanchez iterated the staid Democratic party line: “Wall Street, insurance companies, big banks, and other international corporations control both major political parties.” He offered no evidence, so I invite him to consider the following examples as evidence of the opposite of his premise.

The government made financial institutions give 1 percent loans to cause more borrowing than there should have been to people who could not repay the loans. The result is that the government now owns 80 percent of Fannie Mae (founded in 1938) and of Freddie Mac (1970), both now broke. Here are other examples of government-run institutions, all now broke: Postal Service (1775), Social Security (1935), War on Poverty (1964 — $1 trillion cost per year with more demanded), Medicare and Medicaid (1965), Department of Energy (1977 — formed to lessen dependence on foreign oil, but now has 16,000 employees, a $24 million annual budget, and imports more oil than ever), General Motors (which the government took over and appointed the CEO).

The $1 trillion Health Bill will be no different, the government even admitting that after ten years, half of the targeted people would still have no health care. Taxing the rich and corporations is no solution since it would not stimulate the economy, which depends on businesses doing well to be able to create jobs. As one businessman put it, “Reduce my taxes and I will hire 200 people and pay their health benefits.” Where are the millions of jobs Obama promised? In September, unemployment rose in 23 states.

A new bailout bill is now proposed which would give the Executive Branch unlimited lending power. Also, Obama’s new “pay czar” would dictate the salaries of bankers who did not even receive bailout money.

The government is now fighting the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for opposing government-run health care. The Chamber represents 3,000,000 businesses in the free market system, which the government is trying to control. The government is actually now resorting to bribes and threats (especially against segments of the media) to press adoption of a government-run health option. The Democrats also are pressing for health care tax breaks only for government workers.

Here’s a bit of “humor” for Mr. Sanchez to put things in perspective. A lady called the FBI to get information about ACORN, which is being litigated against in 12 states (so far). She was told if she wanted the truth she should call Rush Limbaugh (talk radio) or Glen Beck (Fox News). Incredulous, she called back to see if they were joking. They told her no, that they are the ones the FBI calls.

Eugene Witkowski