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Letters to Editor

Decency

Dear Editor:

Eleanor Roosevelt said: “Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.” A telling barometer of a community is the nature of the media it condones and, through advertising, supports.

Thus, it has been with deep incredulity and visceral repugnance that I have read some of the “opinionews” spewed forth by the Pagosa Daily Post, bringing Pagosa’s barometer to a new low. For years, the Pagosa Springs community has allowed this online/occasional print outfit to run riot over well-intentioned community leaders. This outfit pokes, pokes, pokes fingers whilst hiding behind claims of First Amendment rights, couched in blatantly insincere and ahumorous attempts at humility. From what I can tell, recently it seems some invisible line, called Decency, has been crossed. Shame on this community for allowing this toxic and divisive influence to flourish! Through their advertising, this outfit has been and continues to be supported by local businesses which have thereby promulgated and encouraged the toxin of its writers. Shame on you!

The civil discourse of great minds is based upon mutual respect for differences of opinion. Only in seeking common ground will you as a community be able to implement ideas. Only in moving beyond the small-minded mentality of vicious personal attacks will Pagosa ever become and remain attractive to families, new businesses and investors. Huge potential exists for this community. Stop running off your intellectual and leadership capital, embrace civility and decency; do not allow those insidiously negative influences to prevail. Show the state and the nation how great you can be.

Sheila Berger

Sonoma County, Calif.

Mill levy

Dear Editor:

Again, I must ask what are we taxpayers getting from our tax dollars?

I must say the county is spending money and not making any progress on our county roads.

First, they built up roads that are now dangerous for winter driving. No shoulders.

Second, paid big money to patch County Road 500 from city limits towards transfer station, yet most of road is falling apart. Why didn’t they overlay one mile and be done for a few years? By spring, crews or hired contractors will spend summer patching again.

Third, county laid gravel in nine areas of County Road 700. I call it sprinkled — never even covered road surface. What a waste of time, material, labor and equipment. Foolish thing they did.

Fourth, with all our professional people on the county payroll, why do they hire consultants. This practice has got to stop now. For the last few years, county has been relying on outside experts to come tell them what to do with roads.

Fifth, we need gravel before winter. You are wasting all our money on mag chloride. Winter is coming and no gravel, culverts all plugged.

Vote no on mill levy increase for road and bridge.

C.L. Chavez

3B

Dear Editor:

The proponents of Ballot Measure 3B and the proposed “mega-campus” promise us they will apply for BEST funding — but not until after they get their $98 million tax increase passed.

However, the typical procedure is to apply for BEST (Building Excellent Schools Today) funding first, and then ask voters for matching funds. Our school district is currently eligible for 35 percent matching funds from BEST. On a project the size of the proposed “mega-campus” that would save us — the taxpayers paying for the bond issue — about $34 million in tax increases.

I can’t find one example of a school district whose voters passed a bond initiative that paid for an entire project, and then later applied for and were awarded additional BEST grant funds.

Look at Ignacio School District’s Ballot Issue 3A on our Notice of Election mailed to “All Registered Voters” and see for yourself that Ignacio School District has a standby BEST grant pre-approved, if their bond issue passes. Ignacio followed the proper procedure.

Page 11 of the Colorado Department of Education PowerPoint presentation on BEST funding shows the application period for the next round of funding: Dec. 2, 2011, through March 2, 2012, with grants awarded in August 2012.

Page 14 states that projects “addressing safety hazards or health concerns at existing public school facilities, including public school facility security” qualify for a BEST grant. “Incorporating technology into the educational environment” also qualifies.

Sounds like the BEST grant meets our school district’s needs perfectly.

But it’s a lot of work to apply for a BEST grant, and apparently our school district doesn’t know how to apply for BEST grants, or doesn’t want to, for some reason.

It’s easier to just ask us, the taxpayers, to foot the entire bill.

Certainly the school district’s bond consultants, Stifel Nicolaus, would hate to see their profits decreased, which would occur if we had matching grant funds. And my bet is that a BEST grant would not cover on-campus geothermally-grown food and tilapia fish farms.

When 3B fails, our school district must do its due diligence and apply for BEST funding, and, as other school districts do, spend a year discussing the project with the community, listening to and responding to community feedback and (hopefully) getting the community behind the project.

That’s the grassroots effort that effectively sells a tax increase. But 3B was conceived in CASE and CASB meetings with Stifel Nicolaus and Adolph & Peterson, direct beneficiaries of the proposed 3B tax increase. These big city consultants don’t care how many individuals and businesses can’t afford more taxes. They don’t care how many people leave town because they can no longer support themselves here.

One School Facilities Steering Committee member, when told that the additional tax burden would irreparably harm businesses, replied, “Business owners don’t amount to that many votes.”

It’s the opponents of 3B who are our community’s grassroots effort. They are the ones who care about this community and want to see it flourish.

Vote No on 3B.

Cynda Green

Recycling

Dear Editor:

I frequently take recyclables to the Archuleta County transfer station. Last week, county employee Ely had to apologize yet again for not being able to recycle aluminum and plastic.

The expansion project at the transfer station has sat idle, but nearly complete for almost a month. In the meantime, our landfill clogs up with recyclable materials and the hours that people in this community spend recycling their trash are also wasted. That’s an affront to both taxpayers and the environment.

Now the county would like us to vote yes on a $2.26 million dollar bond issue. It seems that the county struggles even to “take out the trash.”

Jeff Greer

103

Dear Editor:

I should not have been surprised to discover that The SUN’s coverage of my comments at the League of Women Voters forum last week was less than complete. Since there was no Pro-103 to talk up I did not expect much, but I did expect that my three major arguments would at least be mentioned. Instead they only covered my distrust of government promises and bungled the example for my alternative. So, I am once again clarifying my incompletely reported comments in The SUN since they seemed to miss the point.

First, the language in the ballot measure is not just “lacking specified allocation of the money,” the ballot language specifically says they will not cut current funding for education from the general fund and replace it with Prop 103 money for FY 2011-2012 — a clear indication they will do the same ‘bait and switch’ after 2012 as Referendum C did six years ago resulting in no net increase in school funding.

Second, 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 4th-grade reading scores. Since the National Defense Education Act in 1958, which was aimed at beefing up math and science instruction, the Federal Government has spent more than $1.85 trillion on a variety of programs to improve education from pre-school through high school. A CATO Study found that, while funding per pupil almost doubled from the early 1970s until about 2004, math and science test scores remained essentially flat for 17-year-olds. A CNN article from Sept. 21 this year 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.” Currently education gets approximately 50 percent of total Colorado state appropriations — more money has apparently not helped.

Third, I outlined the problem with the current Colorado School Funding formula and suggested an alternative solution for those who still believe more money will fix the problem — in spite of all the evidence to the contrary. I postulated that the average Prop 103 tax hike for a family of 4 in Archuleta would be about $400. With the current school funding formula, the Archuleta School District only receives about 25 percent of the state average. So, when you pay your $400 tax hike to Denver you can only expect about $100 to come back to Archuleta — if all their promises are kept. The alternative is to not pass 103, donate $400 to the school district, and deduct it from your Federal taxes. It costs you less, and our schools receive 400 percent more. If you make that same $400 donation to Seeds of Learning, a certified childcare facility and pre-school, you get the federal deduction and a 50-percent tax credit on your Colorado taxes, saving you an additional $200. So, it only costs you about $100 to give Seeds $400.

The example — 500 local donations of $500 could have covered the recent $252K technology upgrade and the district could have fixed a roof instead.

Jim Huffman

Civility

Dear Editor:

Reasonable people can disagree reasonably.

Unfortunately, that has not been the case with 3B (the school bond issue). Instead, it has become ugly; opponents have launched unfair personal attacks on good, hard-working people who have done nothing to deserve those attacks other than doing their jobs (either paid or volunteer) to the best of their abilities. Rather than presenting their arguments in factual ways and leaving voters to make up their own minds about the issue, prominent opponents have taken on a desperate and sneering tone. This is especially apparent on Bill Hudson’s website, as well as in his recent print edition. Time and again, both Hudson and Glenn Walsh have implied that key supporters of 3B and other members of our community have unscrupulous motives or malevolent intent. They mock 3B supporters, characterizing them as flakes, pie-in-the-sky dreamers, or complete idiots. These insinuations are patently unfair and mean-spirited. This mentality is counter to the small town values that most of us embrace — that we either grew up with as natives or moved our lives here looking for.

I do not wish to suggest that all opponents of 3B are guilty of the childish behavior exhibited by Hudson, Walsh and others. As with any issue of this importance, valid arguments on either side should be heard during a civil, polite and mature dialogue. Sadly, civility and maturity have been glaringly absent from most opponents’ writings. Further, I have read 3B opponents using facts that have been cherry-picked or distorted outright. That tactic seems merely to be a desperate ploy to convince others, if not themselves, that there is no need to support education and our community. It would seem to me that, if opponents of 3B had valid, legitimate arguments, they would not have to stoop to personal attacks, much less characterize supporters in the derisive and mocking attitude that they have taken.

While the most obvious manifestation of this problem comes from the aforementioned, those who advertise or contribute to the Daily Post exacerbate the problem through their support of the caustic rhetoric of both that website and the recent printed material. As long as merchants and other business owners advertise with or distribute that publication, I find it impossible to support them. I would urge those advertisers to consider how this situation reflects on them and their businesses.

I surely hope that anyone who searches the Internet for Pagosa Springs does not stumble across Hudson’s website to see the corrosive and toxic attitude presented there, for surely it would cause them to think twice about visiting or moving here. And I hope that anyone who supports what he does has the maturity to see that it has no place for civil discourse in this town, or anywhere else.

Nicole Kelsheimer

Yes

Dear Editor:

During my 26 years in Pagosa Springs, I have had the opportunity to teach in each of our four buildings. My husband, Captain America, has taught in the three K-8 buildings and these days spends quite a bit of time on the elementary school roof.

Drawing from those experiences, we felt it important to let community members know that the elementary and junior high buildings are in desperate need of replacement or repair. These buildings do not provide students with the safe, healthy learning environments that they need.

As members of a community that cares about children, we have the difficult choice of making extensive and expensive repairs to the elementary and junior high schools, paid for out of our already stretched-thin budget, or approving a bond to build the needed facilities on land next to the high school.

After comparing the costs and benefits of both options, we have decided to support the bond and urge others to do so, as well. We cannot tell our children that this is “not a good time” to provide them with a safe and healthy learning environment. Please vote yes on 3B.

Mary Kurt-Mason

Interest

Dear Editor:

In the next few weeks, voters will decide if taking on a large new debt for a shiny new K-8 school building is the best path to take into the future. There are many great reasons to do it. The old buildings have numerous problems that could cost a substantial sum to renovate. Interest rates are at historic lows. Students, teachers and administrators would likely thrive in a new building. If most of the materials and construction crews are local, which is no sure thing, it could provide a boost to the local economy.

On the other side of the coin, increasing debt in the current economic situation could be a big mistake. Unpayable debt is a major problem for governments here and all over the world. In the past, you may have purchased a new car, convinced by the salesman that you need it, deserve it and because the interest rate on the loan was very low, you sign the papers and proudly drive off the lot in your shiny new vehicle. At the time, you had a decent job, thought you could afford to make the monthly payments and for a year or so, managed to keep the loan current. Then, your boss announces a downsizing and unfortunately, you are a part of it. Now, making that payment is a major headache. After a year of sacrifices, you finally default on the loan.

No one knows the economic future of Archuleta County, the State of Colorado, the United States of America or Planet Earth. We all hope it will get better and soon. What if it doesn’t? Just think about what the citizens of Greece are experiencing right now. No money, no jobs and plenty of anger, due to unpayable debt. Will the payment on the proposed bonds be manageable over the long term? Bonds for school districts and local governments in some hard hit areas have defaulted regularly over the last three to four years when taxes failed to bring in the expected revenues.

To make the bond payments, we voters must approve a tax increase. Is this a wise move? The new taxes will be added to most mortgage payments. Considering the condition of the local real estate market, making mortgage payments higher, regardless of the reason, will further slow sales. Current homeowners who are still paying their mortgage will be making a higher monthly payment. Renters won’t escape it, landlords will boost rents to cover their higher property taxes. Some of these folks are on the edge, barely making it each month. The tax increase, while no big deal to the financially fortunate, will push some lower income people into bankruptcy and foreclosure. Is this the price we might have to pay for progress?

Even though the proposed bonds carry a low interest rate, the amount of interest paid over the life of the bonds is almost as much as the new buildings will cost. Investors are always looking for something to do with their extra money. Burying or stashing their cash may be safe, but produces no return. Buying bonds has traditionally been considered a safe way to get a return. If you need the cash, you just sell the bond to someone else. Interest is one of the primary mechanisms used to transfer wealth from the taxpayer to the rich investor. Much of the interest on the proposed school bond, extracted from local taxpayers, will wind up in the pockets of wealthy New York and California investors.

Ray Larsen

Activities

Dear Editor:

I am writing this on the local crime rate for teenagers. As you can see, the crime rate for teens is pretty high. Why is this? It is because they have nothing better to do.

Yes, it comes down to choices, but they don’t have a wide variety of better choices. First thing for most teens is drugs and alcohol. Local teens figure that they won’t get caught, and if they do, the outcome isn’t that bad. The problem is that drugs and alcohol influence bad decisions.

I’m still a teen, but I’ve already experienced my drug and alcohol stage and the outcome has affected my life in many ways. If I had had something better to do most of these things would not have happened. Need proof? When the paintball place and the bowling alley were here I had little influence to do drugs or alcohol; I had more fun paintballing and bowling. I understand that they have a new skate park coming, but not everyone does those kinds of sports. We need things for the teens to do that we all enjoy. I know the bowling alley/arcade/roller rink definitely brought in a lot of teens. With this written, I hope you take this into consideration; it could help the Town of Pagosa Springs.

D.J. Lien

Death knell

Dear Editor:

The school tax will be Pagosa’s death knell: no matter how well intended the action of the school board in seeking this tax, it will deal a death blow to the already weak local economy. Every tax dollar paid in this school tax will come from the pockets of local workers, property owners and small businesses.

Every citizen will suffer as more businesses close and more people move away when the economy weakens more.

For those who think this project will boost the local economy, think again. Do you think any significant amount of the $40 to $50 million in interest payments will stay in this county?

How many locals will line up to buy the bonds? We know the investment banksters, consultants and engineers will all get a fat slice of the money, but few if any of those dollars will go to locals.

As to the actual construction dollars, there is no certainty that many dollars will stay here.

While the board promises to require bids with significant local providers, what if the realities of the current construction industry dictate otherwise?

Will the school board, if faced with bids which do not meet its lofty goals, still go forward? Of course, it will. Remorseful excuses that it has no choice but to spend the money with outsiders will be heard. If so, most of the $100 million will go elsewhere and the locals will be left holding the bag.

How many times have our taxing authorities done the same thing. Just like the mess created by the establishment bankers and politicians, our local citizens will experience their own version of the national financial crisis: massive spending which we cannot afford, massive new debt which strangles our local economy for years to come.

To spend money which we don’t have and saddle the community with huge debt will be our death knell.

Michael McCrudden

Windows

Dear Editor:

Thirty-five years ago this fall, I excitedly walked my five year old daughter, Blue, into the Pagosa Springs Elementary to start her formal education.

Now, of course, first day tears and jitters are common among kindergarteners and their parents. I deposited my bright, eager, smiling faced child to her windowless classroom located at the far back of a dark hall. As I returned down the long hall toward the exit, I broke into uncontrollable and inconsolable sobs. Did I really have to leave my precious, innocent, inquisitive, happy child to spend the next nine months in a windowless classroom while I was spending my days enjoying the beauty of one of the most beautiful places on earth?

The year was 1976, the elementary school was relatively new. The concept was no distractions (i.e. windows, fresh air — for goodness sake), better concentration. Even as a young mother, I was horrified by this idea. It felt wrong — very, very wrong. I felt I had no viable alternative.

Then, in 1981, we as local tax payers, built a high school (currently the junior high school) without windows, in the center of town. I might add that the beautiful, two-story brick school building (with a plethora of windows) that currently houses the fifth and sixth graders, has always been my favorite and is worth saving.

Are we really capable of building a new elementary, middle and junior high in the proximity of the high school? There is plenty of land for healthy separation within the mega campus concept. The new buildings must be models of sustainability, green building and environmentally compatible with the land (in other words, a school with windows looking out on our majestic San Juans). This will require a committed, conscious, careful plan, a staggering amount of money, a tall order and a tremendous responsibility from our local citizens and our great progressive school board. What an opportunity we have right now to leave a positive legacy for our children.

All three of mine attended kindergarten through 12th grade in the Pagosa school system. Did they survive? Yes. Did they have some wonderful, caring teachers? Yes. Did they get a reasonable education? Yes. Could the facilities have been so very much better? Undeniably, yes!

It is a terrible time to ask taxpayers to pay more taxes, but we have a school board committed and willing to carry out the daunting responsibility. Is asking for a tax increase ever well received? No. Will we have to sacrifice for our children and their future? Yes.

As always, this is a very personal choice. This is why we get to vote. I plan to vote “Yes” on 3B, but I want windows.

Jann C. Pitcher

Investment

Dear Editor:

I think the 3B initiative is the best investment any of us can make in Pagosa. We are becoming known as a community that values health care, based on our new hospital. Now, we need to trumpet that we value public education as well. Let’s create a model, 21st century educational environment for our children that will attract visitors, permanent residents and businesses to Pagosa.

If I were doing PR for Pagosa, I’d be hard put to convey images of dark, windowless spaces and poor ventilation — with schools right on the highway, with no access to nature, while we’re living in the midst of one of the most gorgeous areas in the world. I’d much rather be selling the notion that our community values a safe and enlightened learning environment for our young people, their teachers and families.

We’re living in God’s Country. Our young people should be able to share in that paradise while they are at school, which is where they spend so much of their time. Nature, itself, should be utilized in the educational experience, especially here. A model education program is an enormously powerful selling point for a community that believes the education of our youth is the highest priority of an enlightened society.

In 1997, our community came together to create a magnificent learning environment for our high school students. Now, it’s time to complete the job by providing a healthy, inspiring learning environment for all our kids. Let’s shine an inspiring light on the future of education in Pagosa.

Paul Roberts

Facts

Dear Editor:

As the chairman of the District J50 Facilities Steering Committee, I wanted to comment on some recent distortions that have been put forth by Opponents to the 3B bond initiative.

First, the Steering Committee’s recommendation to the school board was to build a new 21st century K-8 building and not invest taxpayer dollars in a remodel of the existing outdated buildings.

Second, we recommended that a minimum of 25 percent of the project labor budget be written into the final construction RFPs. This will bring a minimum of approximately $5 million of local construction work to our community.

Third, Glenn Walsh in the most recent Pagosa Post paper version, misquotes the actual tax cost to residences and business owners. He quotes that a $250,000 valued home will pay $10,375 for the life of the 25-year loan in new taxes for this bond.

This is not factual, and it really troubles me that the voting public is being majorly mislead about the real tax costs. They are, in reference to his $250,000 residence, approximately $6.70 per month, per $100,000 valuation x 2.5 to meet the $250,000 example = $16.75 per month x 12 = $201 per year x the 25-year bond note = $5,025 — not $10,375 for the life of the loan. This is $200 per year for the average market value home in Pagosa. It is not the price of a latté, but is it a cost you can support for the very future of this community? I sincerely hope so because if you vote no on 3B, the next election you will be asked to pay much more.

Additionally, Glenn went on to quote the tax increase on some local businesses that he pulled pubic data on but did not take the time to actually consult with the business owners. Example, he quoted Farrago’s downtown restaurant as looking at a $3,535 annual increase, it is actually less than half of that at $1,518.40. In fact, every business he projected the tax increase for the 3B bond was over doubled from the real cost.

I firmly believe in every person’s right to vote on either side of an important issue. I also believe that the voters deserve to know the actual costs of their votes. I have been following the local Republican Party chairman Jim Huffman’s numerous negative public comments on this bond, even though the Republican Party voted to not take an official stand on the issue and leave it to the voters. Nan Rowe, the Democratic chair at least had her party’s vote to say no to this bond. But, the common thread of the opponents is that they don’t have the real facts.

So, I guess the deal on 3B is not a Republican, Democratic, Tea Party or Independent vote, but a vote from each of us as individuals. I believe that we have a community responsibility to vote for our children and also vote for the very cornerstone of our community, a 21st century learning campus for today and the future. Oh, it is also the least expensive and highest return of taxpayer dollars we will see over the next many years, so vote “yes” on 3B!

Ken Vickerstaff

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