Soap Box

The 1A benefits are self-evident
03/14/2019

To the editor,

Understanding the truth can be difficult today. Winston Churchill said, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” This got me thinking. Why are people who are against the ballot initiative to maintain our streets telling everyone the City has plenty of money and officials just need to budget better?

Many want to believe it, but I can’t. The City doesn’t have the funds to maintain our roads, it’s the simple truth.

Incredibly, some people don’t want to pay a minimal 1⁄2-cent on a dollar to ensure our streets and sidewalks are in good repair, even though it will have no affect on their standard of living.

Others may feel that voting against the ballot issue is a good way to “get back” at city hall. Maybe they don’t like a certain council member or had a parking ticket they didn’t like. Unfortunately, it’s not city hall that their vote hurts, it’s their neighbors and the community as a whole.

I change the oil in my car as a form of preventive maintenance that will save money in the long run. Funding our street maintenance is the same principle.

I will complain when the streets are crumbling with pot holes and sidewalks are decrepit. Only I won’t complain in clear conscience if I don’t first try to be a responsible citizen and be part of the solution. For that reason I support this ballot issue. The benefits are self-evident.

– Edward Horvat, Durango

Programming a future of failure
03/07/2019

To the editor,

The “hand of god” forced into women’s health care is not religious liberty nor is it constitutional. A question for protestors of women’s health care: Where are your $350,000 trust funds to guarantee bundles of joy access to food, clothing, shelter, health care and access to opportunity for the next 18 years? Our corruption is now teaching Covington boys and others to judge, humiliate, harass, bully and punish women and threaten people who help them. One does not have to die to go to hell, but one does have to be born.

The Republican policy of controlling women’s decisions gives Republicans access to insert the womb-to-prison pipeline for financial gain. Republican deadbeat policy not only creates a corral for human brood mares but programs children for failure as disposable humans after birth. Mick Mulvaney tells Congressional Republicans that school meals are not working and must be dropped. Politicians and ALEC privatize their profit from prisons, yet depend on your socialized tax payments to cover incarceration.

Along with the gag orders of Reagan, George W. Bush, and now the Donald, we have the Kavanaugh gag for women, hands crushing our mouths. Why are we programming failure in our future? Studies show denying women access to health care results in a rise of violence years later. How much more violence, suicide and homelessness will we usher in? We need checks and balances on lust, arrogance and greed. Unless you require it, women’s health care is not your decision.

– Stephanie Johnson, Durango

Planning ahead for our future
03/07/2019

To the editor,

My family has resided in Durango since the early 1930s. Durango has gone through many changes over the years, but none more important than what we are facing right now. I will be the first to say I wince at the sound of someone saying “raising taxes is a good thing.” As a business owner for 15 years in Durango, I have come to realize that the cost of doing business is NOT cheap, and if you choose not to plan ahead, you will lose.

The reason I am in full support of Ballot Initiative 1A is that our city government, in this particular situation, is planning ahead. (Unlike the wastewater sewer plant replacement project.) They realize if we don’t forecast our preferred future and plan for specific projects and future growth, Durango as we know it, will become one of many small communities around our country that is falling apart due to poor maintenance and policing of its businesses and neighborhoods.

The passage of initiative 1A will amount to only half a penny on each dollar spent and will help fund our streets, which are in need of maintenance and repair. It costs nearly eight times more to rebuild a street versus a fraction of the cost to maintain them, and each year that this is deferred will cost us $2 million - $4 million annually. Durango is a unique and beautiful place to live, and we have an obligation to do our part to help take care of all the resources and amenities that Durango currently offers its amazing citizens and the tens of thousands of people who visit this small mountain town every year. Please vote yes on 1A, the investment is worth it.

– Joe Lloyd, Durango

City acts like kid in a candy store
03/07/2019

To the editor,

City officials have abdicated their obligation to the taxpayers of Durango to be fiscally responsible stewards of public monies and take care of the basic needs of our community. After increasing our water and sewer rates to some of the highest in Colorado, if not the nation, the message now is that if we don’t pass the 1A sales tax increase they will simply quit maintaining our streets.

Seriously? Of course we want our streets maintained! City officials are trying to turn this vote into a referendum on street maintenance just like they tried to turn last November’s vote on ballot issue 2A into a referendum on whether you supported the police department or not. Speaking of which, why are our men and women in blue who put their lives on the line for us now being left out in the cold? Is filling potholes more important than a new police station?

We expect our elected officials and city employees to act like responsible adults and live within the budget they have available just like we have to do at home. But it seems that most city projects come in at a much higher cost than anticipated. The city has $12 million to build less than a mile of trail to Oxbow Preserve including a $3.4 million bridge over 32nd Street, but we don’t have any money for the police department? Seriously, who is making these decisions and are they in the best interest of the whole community?

The city manager prioritizes lawn mowing over snow removal in the central business district. Again, seriously? This isn’t just a budget issue, it is also a public safety issue. To say that you’ve run out of money for snow removal for the cash cow downtown business district would be like the firefighters on the 416 Fire last summer saying halfway through the fire fight that we’re sorry,  but we went over budget so we’re packing up and we’re out of here – good luck!

On the April ballot, the city could have at least put the 2005 1⁄4 cent sales tax for open space up to a vote for reallocation to infrastructure to show taxpayers that they are serious about balancing all of the needs of our community while striving to live within their $92 million per year budget.

I love open space but how much more do we need especially if Durango taxpayers are paying for this when there are more pressing needs in our community? We already have the 1.7 million acre San Juan National Forest as well as BLM land like Animas Mountain, and Bodo and Perins Peak state wildlife areas, abundant undeveloped Southern Ute Indian Tribal lands, Horse Gulch, Overend and Dalla mountain parks, and Ewing Mesa.

I believe Barb Bell summed up the sentiment of a lot of Durango voters in her Dec. 8, 2018 op-ed in the Durango Herald regarding the failure of ballot issue 2A last November:

“Why, when General Fund revenue has increased by over $12 million from 2012 to 2019, wasn’t someone planning and saving for needed infrastructure? What kind of management team constantly overlooks the need to prepare for a new sewer plant, a new police station, road maintenance and water line maintenance? These are easily anticipated expenses. It is your job to hire a qualified manager and to oversee the financial well-being of the city. City Council approved annual budgets, determined priorities, and has set this wicked problem in motion.”

Bell personally found it distressing that in 2015, City Council encouraged the extension of the Parks and Rec sales tax while choosing not to share information about the pending increase in water/sewer/recycling and construction of a new sewer plant. People are feeling blindsided and misled she said.

The City is acting like a big-eyed kid in the candy store who can’t believe that his parents won’t give him any more money to buy candy because he needs new shoes to walk to school but he keeps crying for more candy anyway! It is time for our city officials to grow up, act like the responsible adults we thought we elected, and be accountable stewards of taxpayer money rather than always crying for more!

Please Vote NO on ballot issue 1A.

– David McHenry, United for Durango’s Future, Durango

Cleaning up the mining industry
02/28/2019

To the editor,

Growing up, I learned quickly to clean up my room. Or else. It wasn’t always easy. Or pleasant. But I’d made a promise to my parents, and I begrudgingly kept it.

And that is what I expect from others now. If you make a mess, clean it up, and don’t expect others to do it for you.

That is the premise of the bill I sponsored earlier this month with Rep. Dylan Roberts, of Avon, designed to protect our precious water quality from adverse mining activity.

Under HB19-1113, any new mine permit must come with a reclamation plan ensuring pristine water and a cleaned-up surrounding environment. The mine owner will no longer be able to self-bond by submitting the paperwork claiming the owner has the financial ability to tidy up after the mine closes. Instead, the owner must put up the money ahead of time.

Several bond instruments are suggested in the bill. Most operators obtain a corporate surety bond, which is basically an insurance policy where a reputable insurance company promises to make good on the reclamation costs if the operator does not.

Too many mining companies working in Colorado have promised to restore the mine’s environment when the company leaves, but have gone bankrupt, and taxpayers are on the hook for cleanup. That includes, in some cases, paying for a perpetual water treatment plan, forever.

According to reports, owners of the Summitville Mine, Galactic Resources, declared bankruptcy in 1992 after years of polluting the Alamosa River. More than $150 million was spent to clean the site; the company paid a settlement of $30 million, and treatment costs continue to rise. The EPA, through a Superfund declaration, has paid most of the costs, but in 2022, Colorado taxpayers will start paying $2.2 million per year for water treatment.

That should never happen again.

Mining is important to Southwest Colorado, so we did not want to run a bill putting the industry out of business. Our water is just as important, so the bill makes sure both can happen: a thriving mining industry and clean water.

This bill would not have stopped what happened at the Gold King Mine. Though the water we saw in the Animas River was an unforgettable shade of yellow, the incident showed what is often inside the abandoned mines. This bill only affects new permits.

The Ouray Silver Mine has been working on the issue of mining and its relationship with clean water and has been forward-thinking enough to operate in a manner that is both profitable for them and good for the environment.

Rep. Roberts and I ran this bill last year, but it was blocked in the Senate. We listened to our opponents, and we made some changes. The most important change we made was to make the end date more flexible. Mine owners said it was just too difficult to predict exactly how long it would take to restore the clean water and environment. The date now must be “reasonably foreseeable.”

We also added in more clarification about Good Samaritan participation. If a group wants to re-mine a polluting site while it does a bigger cleanup of a historic mine, then a Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety (DRMS) permit is required. This bill would not change the situation or prevent the cleanup from happening.

With these provisions added, the DRMS did not oppose the bill. We have strong support from Western Slope counties and cities, environmental groups, water districts, water providers and many business and community groups. It passed with strong bipartisan support through the House and is now on its way to the Senate.

Colorado can do it both. We can support the mining industry in Colorado, and we can have clean water. When we encourage our mine owners to clean up after themselves, we all win.

– Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango