Soap Box

Landlording: not for sissies

To the editor,

Recently, there was a front-page article in the Herald about the 1,220 vacation rentals active in Durango and outskirts. I believe most of them remain empty except during big holidays when the motels/hotels are booked. Most of the purchasers of an expensive one- to four-bedroom place close to the train station, for the purpose of a short-term rental, have it empty for the tax loop holes. What a great write-off for the folks at the top with several unused rentals.

I wanted to turn my house next door to me into a vacation rental after 20 years of renting it to college students, a dentist, doctor and others that all trashed it at the end of the lease. Vacationers spending more time outside of the house means less mess, and I wanted to heavily market this house and keep it full year around. Timing is everything and I was denied the ability to use it as a vacation rental because the powers-that-be and a woman with clout that lives on top of a hill felt more places were needed for year-around rentals.

I am just about to rent my house, which almost sold recently at a screaming bargain, for six months. Hopefully by this summer it will sell, be loved and I won’t be traumatized by this one rental anymore.

For all of the envious locals who think I live the great life, along with other landlords, it’s tougher than yah think to deal with tenants where you have to be available 24/7 and maybe, just maybe, get one 3-day vacation-a-year.

– Sally Florence, Durango

Rando acts of kindness

To the editor,

Last weekend, I was lucky enough to compete in the inaugural Know the Snow Rando Race at Purgatory, and I had a great time! And, I wasn’t the only one. There was a formidable turnout of racers, from skimo greenhorns to a dense pack of practiced-but-not-pro alpinists (like me), both local folk and foreign, and there were a handful of pros – superhuman and humble. It was a brisk, beautiful, alpenglow-bathed morning. The race started with fireworks and ended in smiles, laughter and beer.

I’ve been skiing for 30-odd years (so, I’m 40, but just barely, and even then ... only when I have to be) and I can tell you last weekend’s race had a lot in common with a few that were formative to my youth in Crested Butte: the Al Johnson Uphill/Downhill, the Prater Cup, and the Alley Loop. Yes, you bet there were costumes! But, also, for a handful of hours the morning we raced, this first running of the Know the Snow Rando Race had a firm grip on the ethereal-alpine. You know, that thing you try to tell people about, but it’s hard for them to really get it ... Yeah, that! Morning moonlight illuminating a field of glacier lilies from the snow up. A small group of happy people unabashedly skiing uphill and then down. You’ve seen it, you’ve been there, you know what I’m talking about. Come race with us next time!

The Know the Snow Rando Race was a fundraiser for the Joe Philpott and Peter Carver Avalanche Scholarship Fund. The fund is increasing the accessibility of avalanche awareness and education. A lot of us racing this weekend didn’t get to know Joe and Peter as well as the folk who put on this race. But, we got to learn a little more about those two by watching all the effort and care that was put into holding the race. There was a lot of work and attention put into Sunday, and it felt really well  done; seamless to the competitor.

(Jeremy also didn’t know he had a few stripes of blue snow-dye on his face for about an hour, which was super funny. So, again, fun learning a little more about those two, Joe & Peter :-)

To Jim, Nate, Travis, Jeremy, Erin, Jamie, MJ, Friends  of the San Juans, Pine Needle Mountaineering, Purgatory Resort and everyone else involved in putting on the inaugural Know the Snow Rando Race, thank you for a great ski race!

– Yours with genuine gratitude & admiration, Clint Jacobsen, Durango

The Commander of Chaos

To the editor,

As a former Navy enlisted and officer, I am highly concerned with the Commander-in-Charge of White House Chaos interference in Navy matters.

The Commander-in-Charge of White House Chaos overruled the Navy’s decision to demote Chief Petty Officer and Navy Seal Edward Gallagher. Gallagher was convicted of posing with a dead detainee. Trump’s rationale was that he was standing up for our military. Trump also overruled the peer review ordered by RADM Collin Green, head of the Navy Seals, and by doing this he is undermining the Navy’s chain of command and adversely impacting discipline within the Navy. The peer review would have been conducted by senior Navy enlisted personnel.

The Commander-in-Charge of White House Chaos, who knows nothing about our military, might have Navy personnel in command second guessing their authority, which could be detrimental to Naval operations in the world and could adversely impact our national security.

– Donald Moskowitz, Londonderry, N.H.

Let voters decide on impeachment

To the editor,

After months of hearings, House Democrats have voted two articles of impeachment against Donald Trump, knowing full well that Trumpublicans who control the Senate will reject the charges. Unlike said Trumpublicans, they are unwilling to overlook Trump’s depredations to the Constitution, the rule of law, and anything related to honor, integrity or basic decency.

Since then, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has proclaimed zero chance of conviction since he’s working hand in glove with Trump.

McConnell and House Trumpublicans have gone officially on record that their first loyalty is to Trump, not to our country, the Constitution or the rule of law. Senate Trumpublicans will go officially on record if they get the chance, so that Trump can proclaim complete exoneration and double down on his destructive behavior.

Trumpublicans have declared there are no Trump actions or behaviors that would be dishonest, offensive, authoritarian, racist or unethical enough to be a problem for them.

They have ignored and abetted all of Trump’s efforts to sabotage the Constitution. So they are saying the president has unlimited power and can do anything he wants, and they’ll make sure there will be no accountability. Trump’s authoritarian personality has been on view for years. As president, he’s cozied up with dictators around the world – in Brazil, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Hungary, the Philippines, North Korea, China and of course puppet master Vladimir Putin. The day after the full House approved the articles of impeachment, Putin himself railed against the Dems for hassling his boy.

Given all that, I’m thinking House Speaker Pelosi should sidestep the Senate and refer the articles of impeachment directly to voters, which apparently is what many of them want anyway.

However it turns out, it will be fairer than what McConnell will allow.

– Carole McWilliams, Bayfield

Leading the way on methane rules

To the editor,

Living in the Four Corners Methane Hotspot, hazardous pollution stemming from oil & gas wells is a daily part of our lives. As a physician, I have seen the impacts of methane emissions on our community and recognize their danger. The invisible greenhouse gas endangers our health while amplifying the effects of climate change – methane is 84 times more damaging to our atmosphere, in terms of heat-trapping, than carbon dioxide.

Methane clouds are usually associated with urban areas, but this one, the largest in the country at 2,500 square miles, is rural. With the dramatic increase in fracking and associated fugitive emissions, methane is now a rural health issue in the very communities that are least equipped to deal with its impacts.

Researchers at Colorado State have documented oil and gas industry-caused asthma attacks in children directly related to the number of fracking wells. Colorado ranks third in the nation with upwards of 32,000 such attacks annually. These statistics beg for robust, expanded public protections.

I applaud everyone who supported the effort to enact stronger, statewide methane regulations at the Air Quality Control Commission’s public hearing on methane, held Dec. 11 in Durango. More than 120 people filled the standing-room-only La Plata County Chamber, the overwhelming majority of whom favored increased leak detection and repair standards and more advanced strategies to reduce volatile organic compounds (ozone precursors) in our air. Fifty-four citizens testified in support of enhanced regulations, while only two people, both oil and gas industry employees, spoke in opposition.

It is interesting to me that the term “regulations” is sometimes used negatively by industry and by those who favor “small government.” The term “protections” can, in my opinion, be used instead when, as in this case, enforceable industry standards are necessary to protect public health and the environment.

It is imperative that the rules be applied statewide. New rules were introduced to the Front Range in 2017 as it was chronically out of compliance with ozone standards (as a direct result of fracking activity), yet the Western Slope – to which these rules do not currently apply – has been carved out and treated as a “sacrifice zone.”

In July 2017, I testified before the EPA about the proposed stay on the federal Methane Rule and told them about Colorado’s leadership in drafting common-sense, effective rules that not only curbed methane but also were accepted by industry.

In 2019, we witnessed devastating rollbacks to both the BLM and EPA federal methane rules. The current administration’s commitment to undermining climate policy further underscores the important role Colorado can continue to play as a leader on the national stage.

According to Keating Research, the oil and gas industry in Colorado favors our stricter rules that require them to find and fix methane leaks. These rules improve efficiency and worker safety while decreasing methane pollution, and the costs are minimal if not outweighed by the increased revenue from captured natural gas.

The methane rulemaking being considered by the Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) is a no-nonsense, simple solution that holds oil & gas accountable to increased safety and inspection standards. To opt out of adopting such an easy fix to a proven threat makes no sense. It is also morally indefensible.

Moreover, with the upcoming rulemaking for SB 181 – the new Comprehensive Oil & Gas bill prioritizing public health, wildlife and the environment – it is time for the AQCC to extend regulations to include fracking activity that is done in proximity to homes and schools.

On Nov. 5, there was a benzene level spike next to Bella Romero Academy in Greeley. It was not announced until Nov. 25, and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has not been able to pinpoint the source despite the fact that the school is 1,200 feet from a producing well pad.

As a physician, I find it unacceptable that a school was exposed to high levels of a carcinogen and furthermore that the public was not informed for almost three weeks. I wonder how the parents of these students feel? Certainly they would like protections for their childrens’ health, as any of us would.

Thank you to the AQCC for taking the time to hold a methane hearing in Durango. We appreciate the Commissioners travelling to hear what Western Slope Coloradans have to say. Now is the time for simple, achievable reforms to address a rampant but preventable public health crisis in our state.

– Dr. Lauri Costello, Durango