Soap Box

The Winter Birds
01/31/2019

At dawn I set out the seeds.
First to arrive are the juncos, purple finches
and chickadees. They scatter and skip
along the rail in excitement, nudging
each other off a particular feeding area.
They are followed by the nuthatches and flickers that
torpedo their way to the corn and sunflower seeds
and quickly depart to the junipers.
The mourning doves, in pairs, flutter down
and peck away, walking nobly along
the banister. Soon other passerines arrive: blackbirds,
grackles, starlings, magpies and pin?on jays.
They are the bullies of the bunch!
They greedily mop up what is left and quickly depart,
leaving not a seed in the snow!

– Burt Baldwin, Ignacio

Trump hypocrisy business as usual
01/31/2019

To the editor,

As this is written, the new Congress is questioning illegal employees that were just fired from Trump properties. One guy that worked for 14 years as an illegal Trump employee said on a newscast interview that during one of his shifts, Donald Trump gave him a $200 tip and told him to take his wife out to dinner. How nice to get one present but no severance pay or real appreciation once the cat is outta the bag, right?

This kind of Trump treatment is not an isolated case. Many years ago, I watched a congressional hearing on C-Span, where a white attorney was representing several women living in Mexico with armed guards while they worked 12-hour shifts at $10 a day ($10 is what Mexican workers still to this day make as minimum wage) and the garments had a famous American rapper getting $600 for each linen shirt. I followed up to see if anything changed for the underpaid women in Mexico and guess what? Nada.

I can only imagine that Trump will be treated a lot differently than the Hollywood set this time around. Hypocrisy is as alive as ever when the rich think they can get away with it.

Just another Trump-a-bumpa-rag-for 1-percenters in the good ole USA.

– Sally Florence, Durango

Addressing our rural interests
01/31/2019

To the editor,

One of the first things I learned when joining the legislature in 2017 was that the two committees I was most passionate to join, Education and Agriculture, met at the same time. Though I chose Education, I passed several bills through Agriculture and kept an eye on what members were doing.

Times have changed. Our leadership decided that enough of our legislators had experience in both areas, and separated the two.

And now I am a member of the House Rural Affairs and Agriculture Committee, joining three Western Slope representatives, including my colleague from the district next door, Rep. Marc Catlin, of Montrose. Our legislative charge is large and important.

We will, of course, be listening to testimony about agricultural concerns, including water, but we’re extending the scope to include rural broadband, job development, housing, wildlife, recreation, health care costs and forest management. We also have the legislative oversight responsibility for the Departments of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

These issues all affect District 59, so I will have an enhanced voice in matters of specific concern to my constituents.

We are just getting started, but from the bills I see on the horizon, these legislative issues will be addressed:

• We will continue protecting our Western Slope water, discussing the drought contingency plan and demand management proposals. We will seek ways to secure funding for the Colorado Water Plan and water storage, and investigate forest health watershed issues.

• After years of neglect and several years of wildfires, our forests are in danger, so we will be looking at bills addressing a healthy watershed, more mitigation and more resources.

Through the interim Wildfire Matters Review Committee, I am presenting a bill to incentivize homeowners on the Wildland-Urban Interface to create buffers, which should help bring down insurance costs and save firefighters’ lives.

• Our committee will discuss rural broadband speeds, easements, accessibility and infrastructure. Better connectivity will help small businesses and economic development. Job creation in rural Colorado is vitally important, and we want to ensure smaller communities have the economic stability they need.

• Health-care costs on the Western Slope are the highest in the nation, so we are looking at ways to lower them, making health care affordable and accessible to everyone. That will include discussions about uncompensated care in rural hospitals and the out-of-network issues that rural patients face.

• Hemp is a growing economic driver in the agricultural world, so several of us are running bills to help its continued success. We are potentially looking at developing markets, clarifying regulations and incentivizing growers. Sen. Don Coram, a hemp grower on the Senate Agriculture Committee, will be of great help in this area.

• The Young Farmers Coalition and other farming groups are crafting legislation to encourage the growth of agriculture in the state, specifically focusing on affordable land and equipment, sustainable markets and healthy food options. We know this will take a bipartisan, intensive effort, and we are ready for the work ahead.

• Another issue I will be addressing is affordable housing for seasonal workers on the Western Slope. Organizations like Colorado Ski Country USA and more have voiced their frustrations. But this issue doesn’t just concern seasonal workers; affordable housing needs to be addressed at a state-wide level.

Together, we will face many more issues, including maintaining public lands and assuring multiple uses, encouraging a robust tourism industry, sage grouse, examining setback issues for the oil and gas industry, revisiting Parks and Wildlife funding, and providing for rural schools.

We need to educate the rest of Colorado about the different needs of our rural communities and make sure we strive to meet them.

As the committee moves forward, I will continue to provide updates as to what bills are coming down the pipeline. Meanwhile, I am happy to finally be able to join a group that is deeply committed to addressing concerns regarding rural values, rural affairs and agriculture.

– Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango

Searching for straight answers
01/24/2019

To the editor,

Good infrastructure – roads, sidewalks, facilities – is an essential foundation of any great community. And every city has a responsibility to its community members to be transparent, accountable, strategic and forward thinking with its resources. As our City Council considers whether to put another tax measure on the April ballot, I would suggest the following information be provided, preferably in a public forum that is videotaped and shared on Durango’s website. By answering these questions, the Council will get greater buy-in from citizens.

1. How does Durango’s budget compare with other towns of our size? If our budget is higher, explain what additional services we provide that are not covered in other towns’ budgets.

2. Why does our budget not have sufficient funds for infrastructure maintenance? What big ticket items had to be prioritized for funding resulting in this situation?

3. What has been cut from the budget as a means of beginning to address infrastructure needs?

4. If an increase in sales tax is not proposed, or not approved, which City programs and services will be reduced or eliminated to address infrastructure needs?

5. What capital or other significant improvements need to be addressed in the next 10 years and how are we planning for those costs?

Finally, I’d like to recognize the City Council for its service. We all want Durango to be a great place to live, and I appreciate your willingness to engage with us in finding a solution to this budget challenge. Thank you.

– Barbara Noseworthy, Durango

Gov. Polis leads on electric vehicles
01/24/2019

To the editor,

Thank you, Gov. Polis for making one of your first actions as governor to address clean air and climate change in Colorado. Supporting the transition to electric vehicles will save Coloradans money and allow us to breathe easier. The lifetime cost of ownership for electric vehicles is already less than that of internal combustion engine
cars. Electric vehicles provide huge reductions in harmful greenhouse gas emissions, including a 99 percent reduction in volatile organic compounds, compared to a gasoline car. Luckily, all of the world’s major automakers have committed to transitioning to many more EV offerings within the next five to 10 years. Three innovative American companies are currently working to bring electric trucks to market by 2020.

Anyone who doubts the power and road-handling capability of an EV need only drive one. I am very satisfied with the performance of mine. Many think they are expensive, but just like a traditional car, it depends on your choice. Buying a used EV was a great option for me, as they are forecast to last 500,000 to 1 million miles (depending on the model), longer than my life span! Used EV’s don’t qualify for the tax credit (up to $5,000 from the state and $12,500 from the feds), but the price was about one-third the cost of a new EV.

Despite the lack of leadership in Washington, Polis’ leadership will pave the way for more electric vehicles on Colorado roads and move our state closer to a zero-emissions goal.

– Susan Atkinson, Durango