Soap Box

'Up to state' to vote Gardner out
06/06/2019

To the editor,

First Cory Gardner dodged questions about his party’s uncompromising anti-choice laws aimed at challenging Roe v. Wade and became the face of the GOP’s attempt to run from the issue.

Then Gardner admitted to Politico recently that he believes abortion bans like those passed without exceptions for rape or incest are “up to the states.”

Of course, this is consistent with Gardner’s rigid anti-choice record, despite his efforts to convince Coloradans otherwise. As the Aurora Sentinel wrote in an editorial last week, Gardner “dishonestly tried to assure Colorado voters in 2014 that, if elected, he would not permit erosion of women’s reproductive rights” by throwing up a “smokescreen” and insisting Roe v. Wade was settled law.

But in the Senate, Gardner has consistently voted to confirm Trump’s rigid anti-choice judicial nominees. More of these judges are expected to receive votes this week. He has also voted several times to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides critical health services to more than 25,000 Coloradans annually.

Here’s the good news: Coloradans are fighting back. Anti-choice bills don’t fly in the state Legislature and NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado says it’s seen a surge of volunteers, calls and emails from people wanting to defend

reproductive rights. 2020 can’t come soon enough. Cory Gardner supported the anti-choice judges President Trump selected to stack the courts, which is exactly why states are now passing strict laws with the intent of tearing down Roe v. Wade. This is another example of how what Gardner promised as a candidate isn’t what he’s done in Washington, and Coloradans are ready to hold him accountable in 2020.

– Alyssa Roberts, Colorado Democratic Party

Guzman LPEA offer is good energy
06/06/2019

To the editor,

In recent LPEA Board elections, a rising tide of voters elected a 9-3 majority in favor of pursuing cheaper, cleaner energy. Thank you, LPEA Board, for performing your obligation by diligently researching our options. Here’s context: our local electricity, which currently comes from wholesale provider Tri-State, costs about 40 percent more than open market electricity. We pay premium prices for coal, which is easily the dirtiest fuel source.

Tri-State does purchase renewable energy, which somewhat dilutes its smoky mix. But about 90 percent of Tri-State’s own production is from coal, earning Tri-State generation the awful distinction of “most carbon released per unit energy, of the top 100 U.S. electricity producers.” Coal is poisonous, as anyone can attest who has directly inhaled its toxic, gagging smoke. Our bodies know immediately.

But reading the breakdown of coal emissions gags one even more. Mercury is a highly active neurotoxin that causes birth defects and cancer, even in minute quantities: 1/70th of a teaspoon makes the fish inedible in a 25-acre lake. Domestic electricity generation from coal spreads more than 45,000 pounds of mercury in a very fine mist throughout our atmosphere and environment. No wonder so many of our lakes and rivers are contaminated and so many of our children are displaying abnormal development and health problems.

Coal generation is by far the leading source of particulate matter, which is alone considered to be the fifth leading ambient cause of death (2015 EPA-funded study) due to its role in multiple deadly heart and lung syndromes. The list of coal toxins goes on – arsenic, cadmium, nitrous oxide – confirming coal to be a concentrated poison  awaiting combustion and release to the wind.

Let’s count it up. About 1 pound of coal is burned to generate a kilowatt of electricity. Roughly, LPEA uses .95 billion kilowatts per year, of which 58 percent is coal-generated. That means that we at LPEA are responsible for the burning of about half a billion pounds of coal per year. That’s a lot of poison released into our air.

Here’s good news: Tri-State recently received a major offer from Guzman Energy, an open market provider. Chris Riley, president of Guzman, said they would “finance the early shutdown of (three Tri-State owned) coal plants, giving Tri-State a substantial cash infusion, in the vicinity of a half-billion dollars, and we would replace the (coal-based) portfolio with in excess of 70 percent renewables.” These three coal plants generate about half of Tri-State’s coal generation (roughly 800 megawatts). Guzman would replace that generation with 1.2 gigawatts of new renewable energy projects.

Many Tri-State members are praying that the deal goes through. Besides getting away from toxic coal, here are more reasons. Rocky Mountain Institute reported that if Tri-State shifted from coal to renewables, it could save up to $600 million by 2030. Guzman’s energy is cleaner and its rates are substantially cheaper than Tri-State’s coalbased costs. So Tri-State’s savings with Guzman could be passed on to members.

For those aware of the environmental disaster created by coal plants, here’s more good news. Part of Guzman’s offer would cover the high costs of dismantling and remediating the three coal plants and could even assist communities affected by early retirement of the units. Guzman is able to make such a generous offer and still make a profit because renewable energy has become so amazingly cheap.

Guzman’s deal would also financially strengthen TriState, which owes $3.4 billion, most in endless revolving debts. And it would solve compliance with new renewable energy portfolio laws in Colorado and New Mexico, which dramatically impact 80 percent of Tri-State’s electricity sales. To survive, Tri-State must make rapid, revolutionary changes in its coal-heavy operations.

Here’s reason five – or is it six? – to want the deal. Allen Best’s Energy News article notes that Guzman would “help Tri-State’s member co-ops build smaller but more dispersed electricity generation” which would “help local communities benefit by using local labor and resources.”

This is one of the issues LPEA member-voters overwhelmingly responded to in recent elections. Currently, LPEA sends $70 million per year out of our area to support jobs in Denver and elsewhere. Guzman’s local industry support keep many of those dollars and jobs here. We need that.

Please ask your LPEA director to urge Tri-State to hold its nose and make the jump.

– Kirby MacLaurin, Durango

Pasternak's Artifact
05/30/2019

Near the end of pages,
after the years of yearning,
he sees her in the crowd.
His heart races!
He jumps from the tram,
running toward her.
She melds in the crowd.
He falls.
His heart shatters
like fine crystal on stone,
leaving only shards
to be swept
into the gutter of indifference.

– Burt Baldwin, Ignacio

Donald Trump's endless IRS audit
05/30/2019

To the editor,

Thanks for all who paid taxes in 2018. After reading information on the new proposed tax change, it’s just crazy. Sen. Ted Cruz along with 29 GOP co-sponsors has called to abolish the IRS.

With the audits for the wealthy 1 percent decreasing from 8 percent in 2011 to just 2.5 percent in 2017, I guess it’s a way to make America great again.

Revenue from audits in 2010 were $5.1 billion, and audits in 2017 $1.9 billion. That is not a very good way to pay down the debt. I guess that’s why Trump says he is under audit. By law, he still can show us his taxes even under audit – an audit lasting over two years. Come on, the IRS has dedicated workers.

I hope Trump pays his taxes, and so do his grown children Don Jr., Ivanka and Eric, who are always in the limelight working for daddy in some way.

Read, read, read ... you will see for yourself.

– Bob Battani, Durango

Fruitful season at the state Capitol
05/30/2019

To the editor,

Legislators passed many great bills this session, and I am proud to add several of my own to that lineup, all of which passed with bipartisan support.

• HB19-1262: State Funding for Full-Day Kindergarten - Many districts already offer full-day kindergarten, but at a great expense to either the district or the parents. This bill frees up money for both, while also offering 5,000 more preschool slots for at-risk children.

• HB19-1113: Protect Water Quality Adverse Mining Impacts - Taxpayers will no longer have to pay when a mine files for bankruptcy. This is good for our environment and water, while keeping the mining industry moving forward.

• HB19-1006: Wildfire Mitigation Wildland-Urban Interface Areas - This bill adds funding to help homeowners prepare their property for fire suppression.

• SB19-009: Financial Incentives for Rural Educators - This bill modifies and expands a current law offering stipends of up to $6,000 to educators who agree to teach in a rural school for at least two years.

• HB19-1002: Leadership Professional Development for School Principals - This bill creates a program to identify high-quality principals who can act as mentors and provide leadership development to other principals. Many teachers leave the teaching profession because they want better leadership.

• HB19-1202: Food Systems Advisory Council - The bill matches up food producers with consumers & provides research on food & nutrition assistance, market development, farm-to-school programs & institutional procurement.

• SB19-020-Wildland Fire Airspace Patrol System: This will help ensure airspace is clear above wildfires and give our firefighters the tools they need to keep our homes, communities and themselves safe. This creates a study on methods to monitor airspace above wildfires to ensure they are clear of drones and other civilian aircraft.

• SB19-246: Public School Funding - This bill pays down state school districts’ budget stabilization factor by $100 million; funds rural schools an extra $20 million; increases funds by $20 million for Tier B special education students; and changes funding for English-learning students, focusing on those who need it most.

• SB19-190: Teacher Preparation Program Support - The bill adopts guidelines and best practices for teacher preparation programs, providing stipends for supervising teachers, extending student teaching to one year and requiring all educators be trained in how to teach reading.

• SB19-010: Professional Behavioral Health Services for Schools - This bill, funded with money from the marijuana cash fund, adds mental health services to the list of grants available to educators.

• SB19-007: Prevent Sexual Misconduct at Higher Ed Campuses - Each Colorado institution of higher education is now required to adopt, review and update a policy on sexual misconduct. The bill establishes minimum requirements, including reporting options, procedures and protections. Institutions will promote the policy by posting information on their websites, distributing policy information and providing training on awareness and prevention of sexual misconduct.

• SB19-003: Educator Loan Forgiveness Program - This bill establishes a program to help principals, educators and special service providers pay their college loans. They must contract to work in a rural school or in a subject of high need, such as math, science, special education or foreign languages. Educators may receive up to $5,000 for each year of employment for up to five years.

• HB19-1051: Colorado Department of Public Safety Human Trafficking-Related Training: This bill provides human trafficking training to law enforcement, organizations that provide services to victims, school personnel and parents, and any other entity that may benefit.

• HB19-1186: School Employment Background Check Clarification – Currently in many areas, only private firms offer background checks for employment applicants in school districts. This bill allows checks to be offered by a qualified law enforcement agency, an authorized employee or any third-party vendor within 20 miles of a school.

• SB19-018: Commercial Motor Vehicle Driver Age - This bill decreases the age for obtaining a commercial driver’s license from 21 to 18. This offers good-paying jobs for high school graduates and helps with the drastic truck driver shortage in Colorado.

• HB19-1254: Notice Requirements Employees Sharing Gratuities - This bill clarifies that if a business requires its employees to share gratuities, that each patron be notified of this in writing either on the menu, receipt or table. Customers will have clearer notice of where their money is going.

We stepped up and delivered real results this legislative session and it’s an honor to serve this district.

– Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango