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Dear Editor:

I feel compelled to write this letter in support of the CDC Executive Director Steve Vassallo. Steve arrived in Pagosa Springs in August of 2010 in the midst of a deep recession and hit the ground running. He interviewed 130 people of our community in the first 30 days he was here. He plugged himself into the community to gather information regarding our economic vitality and viability for future economic development. He convened a meeting to allow community leaders and members to prioritize 28 ideas/paths/directions to spur economic development in our community. He has since initiated events, attracted conferences and helped to create 30 jobs. There is much more in the pipeline, and his first year in Pagosa Springs is sure to be a major success in economic development. Steve’s fresh ideas and energetic approach is the best thing Pagosa has seen in many years.

Unfortunately, there are those in our community who are opposed to fresh ideas and change and there are those who expect perfection and miracles overnight. Then there is the media, which unlike anywhere I have ever lived, likes to pick apart people and ideas and focus on the negative. People, can you see that we are our own worst enemy? As our little town self-destructs from the inside out, we are pushing away our lifelines. First Dave Brown, now Steve Vassallo. When are we going to wake up and support the efforts of those who can and will make a difference in our economic future? We need to be proactive with our positive input and consider what is best for the community at large, leaving our little selfish agendas at home. Those who cannot or will not support the work of the CDC and other organizations that promote Pagosa Springs’ economic development should be the ones to leave.

Peggy Andrews

Scared

Dear Editor:

I’m getting scared. Before the events in Tunis and Cairo I was worried, but since then I have the scary feeling the whole world, and especially this country, is coming apart.

First, let me say I am delighted with the uprisings in North Africa, and I admire the strong will and courage it took for people who haven’t known freedom but want to be free, to do what they have. What I sense is that America may be like Humpty Dumpty, and there are several things causing the fall, all hitting us about the same time from different directions.

The most immediate is the price of oil, gas jumping 10 percent overnight at the pump. And with Middle East oil production in doubt, pressures from Europe and the rest of the world may cause it to jump higher. On top of that, for two reasons we’ll notice higher food prices. The “sale price” of a gallon of milk two weeks ago in the local chain store was already 40 cents higher than in the same company’s stores in Denver primarily, I suppose, because it was delivered by a diesel truck. Almost everything in the world travels on oil, and that will be actuated into the higher cost. And on top of that, the commodities market in Chicago is swamped by orders from abroad. Severe droughts in Russia, India and China have created near rebellion situations over food costs in those countries and they are coming to America with money to buy, and are bidding against us. We will feel their crisis at our checkout counters.

We’ve weathered inflation before, but was there ever inflation with recession? The rule is that when jobs and income decline, sales drop and so do prices: supply and demand. Our situation appears to be just the opposite and it will take both extraordinary genius and political will to tackle it.

Compounding the problem, though, is the extreme ideology of right wing conservatives in both business and government, such as those we see pitted against the protestors in Madison, what’s beginning to be described as corporatism vs. democracy. Seventy years ago corporatism was known as fascism and mostly associated with Italy, Nazi Germany, Franco Spain and Hungary. It was what our fathers and grandfathers fought against in World War II. Several times in letters to this column I have urged readers to go to their computers, Google in “fascism” and draw up the entry on Dr. Britt’s 14 point description made years ago that describes every fascist regime the world has seen. The comparison will astound you, that we are today becoming what they died for to defeat. Even the recent vote against women’s rights in the House of Representatives is there.

I’m urging you again to do that. Think about each of those fourteen points and, maybe, write a letter to The SUN with your thoughts. Warning: you might get scared, too.

Henry Buslepp

Inexcusable

Dear Editor:

Stupidity is excusable. Meanness combined with stupidity is not. Mr. Bill Hudson’s attacks against Steve Vassallo and his wife Rosie, which I have seen on the Internet, are inexcusable.

I have practiced law in Mississippi for almost 40 years, during which time it has been my honor to represent the capitol city of Jackson, as well as numerous other Mississippi corporate bodies politic, including Madison, Biloxi and other Mississippi municipalities and counties. I am admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of Mississippi, as well as the First, Third, Fifth and Sixth United States Courts of Appeals.

The City of Madison, where Steve and Rosie worked before going to Pagosa Springs, has consistently been voted by Money Magazine and other respected sources as one of the top 50 cities to live in the U.S. It has the highest per capita income of any city in Mississippi and one of the highest in the south. Steve and Rosie both contributed significantly to this success.

It is hard to understand why Mr. Hudson has declared war on Steve and Rosie before Steve has even been in Pagosa Springs for a year. Does he have some financial interest in seeing him fail? Or is he just mean?

Just as importantly, what has Mr. Hudson done to contribute to the economic development of Pagosa Springs and the surrounding community? If the answer is, as I suspect, “nothing,” then why, pray tell, should anyone in your community pay any attention to anything negative he has to say about Steve and Rosie?

The Vassallos are talented Mississippi treasures. If Pagosa Springs doesn’t want them, then please send them home to us.

Very respectfully yours,

James L. Carroll

Oxford, Miss.

Internet

Dear Editor:

While I agree with all the points you made in your last editorial about the economic future of Pagosa Springs being tied to recreation versus commerce, I believe that one major commerce-generating opportunity needs more emphasis by all parties. That opportunity is based on having truly high-speed Internet access. My wife and I first were able to come here full-time in 1999 because of the ability to conduct my business online while enjoying the recreational amenities offered here. After a business absence of a few years, we have returned to Pagosa Springs to find that we are still hamstrung by the broadband limitations we encountered then. Now, though, business use of the Internet requires much greater bandwidth than ten years ago. Phone line DSL simply does not cut it for high speed Internet access when compared to the rest of the country where broadband speeds are as much as ten times what we get here, and with high reliability. I have learned not to try and do business in the late afternoon and evening when folks are trying to stream video over our very bandwidth-limited Internet access. This is a business issue that has solutions. The available technology is way ahead of the Pagosa Springs regional capability. Internet commerce and not manufacturing is a real opportunity given the wonderful recreational opportunities here. Yet, I see no efforts, coupled with comparable issues in La Plata County, to aggressively attack our most obvious commerce generating opportunity.

Tom Cruse

We the people

Dear Editor:

The Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court allowed corporations the right of “free speech,” which permits unlimited corporate spending to influence our elections. Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the dissent, stated that corporations “are not themselves members of ‘We the people’ by whom and for whom the constitution was established.” We all are assailed by election advertising that is often misleading and even offensive. I know that it has been ineffective to notify the TV stations that I turn off their station when I see such ads. And telephone political advertising is exempt from the “do not call” lists. As a registered independent, I am sometimes bombarded by such calls. Many state and local governments are considering legislation to counteract the damage done by the Citizens United decision. Check movetoamend.org to learn more of the efforts to define We the People as human beings and not as corporations.

Norman French

Caring

Dear Editor:

I have mentioned before that we have lots of heroes in this town and heading the list at this time is Tari Woods, who almost single-handedly presented the Heart Beat Ball on Feb. 12. Her partner, Tim Collins, created the posters and beautiful tickets. Of course, there were many others who came to the rescue and bailed Tari out when she found herself flat on her back with the flu just days before the event was to take place. The lodge was the perfect location and the restaurants in this wonderful little village came through with flying colors. The food was elegant. The hospital was the beneficiary of this, and Brad Cochennet, CEO, has already announced that this should be an annual affair. So, if you missed out this year, look forward to February 2012.

Soup for the Soul was yummy again this year and the people of Hospice thank you all for coming.

The Follies were hilarious. Each of these events was a fund-raiser and there are more to come.

The generosity and caring shown by the people and businesses of this community make it the wonderful place that it is.

Cindy Gustafson

Vigorous debate

Dear Editor:

In the February 24 issue of The Pagosa Springs SUN, editor Karl Isberg offered a thoughtful and well-reasoned essay concerning the Pagosa Springs Community Development Corporation.

For that essay, I would like to offer my sincere thanks.

Our community is indeed at a crossroads. We see evidence of that all around us.

As editor myself of a local news website, I believe I understand something about the balancing act a public commentator must perform in times like these. On one side of that precarious tightrope is the temptation to deliver mean-spirited attacks and unsupported accusations against those with whom we disagree. On the other side we find commentators who are unwilling to say what they truly feel, unwilling to challenge the powers that be — for fear of retribution, or perhaps for fear of losing a client, or a friend.

The Feb. 24 editorial walked that delicate line very successfully.

The issues facing our community, and in particular, facing our community’s leaders, are many and daunting. In a situation such as the one in which we currently find ourselves, it is easy for leaders, and commentators, to be seduced by the belief that all criticism and dissent is inappropriate — to believe the community should “pull together as one,” and never question the decisions our leaders are making, as we all struggle to get through these hard times.

I would propose an opposite view: that in situations of economic stress, we must demand the most vigorous and most public debate, the most careful and well-considered decisions, and the very highest ethical standards from our leaders.

We have not been seeing those high standards in evidence lately, much to our dismay.

As Mr. Isberg states in his editorial, the proper function of government is to help create a fertile, welcoming ground in which businesses and families can put down roots and thrive. A private, non-profit corporation dedicated to attracting new businesses and to helping existing businesses survive is a certainly a worthy enterprise — but such a corporation must operate in the most ethical fashion possible. In order to attract the wide-spread community support necessary to weather this current economic storm, such a nonprofit organization must avoid even the appearance of nepotism, corruption and conflicts of interest.

In his editorial, Mr. Isberg chose not to address the issue of ethics violations as they may have been playing out within the Pagosa Springs Community Development Corporation, and I respect his choice. Ethics questions are tricky waters to navigate, and often present a vague, moving target.

Instead, Mr. Isberg chose as his target the very obvious lack of clear economic focus shown thus far by the PSCDC, its executive director Steve Vassallo, and its board of directors. The planning of Nashville music festivals and dog shows is not the proper role for a publicly supported nonprofit community development corporation charged with improving the business climate here in Archuleta County; we already have a Chamber of Commerce and two tax-supported tourism organizations capable of promoting those kinds of events.

I agree with Mr. Isberg. The private, nonprofit PSCDC may very well have a role to play in the Pagosa Springs community, but it must immediately find a way to become self-supporting. The taxpayers of Archuleta County should not be supporting country music festivals and Golden Retriever gatherings, simply because the PSCDC is unwilling or unable to tackle the difficult work of real economic development.

Our taxes deserve much better utilization.

Bill Hudson

Speak out

Dear Editor:

I was greatly moved by Christa Laos’ letter to the editor and appreciate her courage in speaking out. It takes tremendous courage to speak the truth, when one has been a victim of sexual assault or sexual abuse.

The shame that accompanies such violation is often enough to keep a victim quiet. Such shame lives on for years — long after any bruises or broken bones, if such physical injuries are even experienced. It is the emotional damage that perpetuates the silence and allows the cycle of violence (yes, rape isn’t about sex but a crime of violence) to continue. It is the emotional damage that continues to affect the lives of victims and their loved ones for years to come. Unfortunately, I too know first-hand of what I speak. I imagine that there are many women (and men) out there who can say the same. It is unfortunate that too many of them will not say the same, for they are afraid or ashamed to speak out.

The recent bill in the House of Representatives perpetuates that fear and shame. It gives the message that unless you have physical injuries to prove that you were raped (which so many do not), then you might as well keep quiet because you were not really raped — or at least not raped enough that you would deserve to abort any pregnancy that might result from that alleged violation. It sets back years of public education on the issue of date rape and “no means no.” If your perpetrator did not physically abuse you as well as sexually abuse you, well then you are out of luck because what you cannot believe happened did not happen. If some of our elected officials could pass judgment on your experience, then they would say that you were not really raped. As Ms. Laos said, “Please, don’t …” Please don’t allow those whose bodies have been violated to be further violated by legislation that denies their experience and reinforces their shame.

Mara Koch

Oscar?

Dear Editor:

I did not attend Monday’s Pagosa Springs Community Development Corporation meeting because I anticipated it would be charged with personal attacks, scripted speeches and basically a waste of time for this ordinary citizen who has already read and agreed with The Pagosa SUN editor, Karl Isberg’s thoughtfully crafted letter regarding the matter of our controversial PSCDC. Instead, I decided to take our dogs for a long walk per my cardiologist’s instructions and enjoy my day.

I did receive a number of phone calls following this important public summit. One reported the meeting reminded him of the 1986 movie, “Hoosiers,” where coach Norman Dale’s (played by actor Gene Hackman) job was on the line at a heated public meeting in the small town of Hickory, Ind., circa 1954. Jimmy Chitwood (star basketball player in the movie) did not walk into the room to save Steve Vassallo’s job, the four board members of the CDC did. Will this action mark a turning point in the economic development or eventual fate of Pagosa Springs? Probably not. Should someone at Monday’s CDC meeting receive a nomination for the Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Maybe so.

I encourage more people to read Karl Isberg’s Feb. 24, 2011, editorial. Yes. Deeper issues should be considered. No need to take copious notes, but you might want to underline Karl’s specific points. Then, spend five minutes examining the PSCDC’s website for design and content.

Don Long

Work together

Dear Editor:

There is no one “right” path to economic recovery and vitality for Pagosa. As a community, we must work together with focus, commitment, openness to new ideas, passion and compassion to forge a solid future.

A good idea is a good idea. A good idea doesn’t need to be the only idea, or even the best idea. A good idea doesn’t wither in the presence of other good ideas. To the contrary, the synergy of many ideas only gives our community a better chance to build a strong vital future. Champions of good ideas and projects need our support, kindness and respect.

A wise man once said, “United we stand, divided we fall.” Nowhere is this sentiment more apparent then in our small community. On committees, in coffee shops and small offices, at the community center or in boardrooms, fine citizens from within our midst work tirelessly, often without pay or appreciation to make positive contributions to our community.

As is so evident in the world today, the winds of change are often fueled by fear and insecurity thereby destroying communities, cities and countries. However, evidence and examples of positive, thoughtful change exist as well. As individuals and as a community, the choice is ours on how to nurture the seeds that grow and become the change and improvements that bring us economic improvement and stability. Either we can spend energy seeing the flaws in other’s ideas or we can invest our energy in other ideas that resonate more with us. One doesn’t preclude the other.

I urge us all to envision a future in which we work together, understanding that a diverse, tolerant, supportive community is a vibrant community.

A community that our friends and families visit and want to live in. A community that, because of the supportive atmosphere, attracts new businesses and embraces their ideas and potential. A community that accepts and understands that the world is changing at a pace beyond comprehension. And, that without unity we don’t stand a chance. What after all is the most meaningful thing we can offer to people that visit and consider Pagosa as a potential place to live? I suggest that it is exactly that sense of a supportive, open and tolerant community that is most attractive to outsiders. To be economically sound going forward, we need to rethink what future business and our community can and will look like.

As neighbors with a common interest in the best for our community, let’s choose “yes,” “thank you,” “great idea,” “great job,” “way to go,” “how can I help,” “what can I do” and “how can I get involved” more often then we already do. United we stand and divided we fall. The choice is ours. I encourage us to unite.

Morgan Murri

Con game

Dear Editor:

Balanced budgets are not going to solve our economic problems. Tax receipts are going to continue to decline as long as the current fair trade laws are in effect.

That fact has created an unsubtainable economic condition that has created all the other unsubtainable economic conditions.

I would like the Republican/Tea Party to tell me that goods imported into the U.S. pay the same mount of tax as goods made in the U.S.

That fact has escaped the great thinkers of the Republican/Tea Party.

What a con game.

Don Reid

Inspections

Dear Editor:

Jim McQuiggin has recently written two articles regarding the passage of Town of Pagosa Springs Ordinance 759 (Amendments to the International Fire Code-2006), both of which include erroneous information that I would like to correct. McQuiggin wrote that Ordinance 759 allows the town to “side-step” fire code requirements and that it “… waives certain fire code requirements in order to allow for construction that would otherwise be held up due to the code.” Ordinance 759 does not waive any code requirements, but instead defines the minimum standards that must be met in order for an application of a sub-section of the town’s fire code to be considered. That sub-section allows the chief building official to reduce the fire flow requirements (the number of gallons per minute that must flow from a fire hydrant) in rural areas or small communities where the development of full fire-flow requirements is impractical. The ordinance defines when these reductions will be allowed and what minimum standards must still be met. Additionally, Ordinance 759 places the responsibility of the town’s fire code enforcement for new construction, remodels, additions and changes of use under the auspices of the town building department, duties that were previously performed by the Pagosa Fire Protection District. The ordinance also places the final decision making authority regarding interpretations of all of the provisions of the town’s fire code in the hands of the chief building official, thus making the town ultimately responsible for all code enforcement decisions. The adoption of Ordinance 759 will not, as tacitly implied in the article, result in a higher Insurance Services Office (ISO) risk rating. This rating assists in determining community liability risks which in turn aids insurance companies in determining individual property insurance rates. The Pagosa Fire Protection District’s refusal to participate in any capacity in the enforcement of the town’s fire code will definitely have a negative impact on the community ISO risk rating. ISO awards credits to communities that have fire departments which have implemented some type of regular commercial building inspection program (the same type of inspection program the fire district followed for years prior to the passage of Ordinance 759), thus reducing the community’s risk rating. ISO recognizes the importance for a fire department to perform these inspections because the inspections glean important information for the purposes of pre-planning for potential emergencies. Pre-planning allows for the fire department to know ahead of time what type of hazards may be present in a building which will greatly aid in how to handle various emergencies, as well as keeping their volunteer fire fighters safe. Whether these “lost” credits will be enough to increase the overall ISO established risk rating, and hence the individual property insurance rates in the community, will only be determined when ISO performs their next community evaluation.

Scott Pierce

Chin up

Dear Editor:

Regarding last week’s editorial, I have a different opinion. I helped to start the Economic Development Association 20 some years ago, upstairs in the Best Western Oak Ridge Hotel. Since then, there have been many local businessmen to try to figure out how to bring jobs to Pagosa. The success of this organization has been minimal. Not because lack of effort, but in my opinion, lack of expertise. Let’s face it. Our economy is based mainly on tourism, real estate, construction, schools and government jobs.

I first met Steve Vassallo several months ago and have been very impressed with his enthusiasm. He is a real go-getter! It helps that this is not his first rodeo. He is extremely energetic and exudes confidence. He has a “can-do” attitude and he thinks outside the box. An example is the Golden Retriever Convention this summer. Bringing the Songwriter’s Group to town some might say is the job of the Chamber of Commerce or the TTC. Who cares? The bottom line is he is getting it done. Since tourism is our main meal ticket, we all need to do what we can to encourage tourism.

Sometimes in a small town we have a tendency to have turf wars. I hope this is not the case here. We need everyone to work together. I support Steve Vassallo. Although I may not agree with everything he does, in my opinion, it would be a real travesty to lose this ball of fire due to a few negative people whining.

It is my opinion that “Pagosa is the Friendliest Town in Colorado.” Let Steve know you appreciate his hard work. He’s done more in the last six months than has been seen in the past 20 years.

Keep your chin up, Steve!

Respectfully,

Lee Riley

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