Soap Box

Protecting industry, not people
03/14/2019

To the editor,

Our Children’s Trust is a group of climate change workers seeking to “elevate the voice of youth to secure the legal right to a stable climate and healthy atmosphere for the benefit of all present and future
generations.” www.ourchildrenstrust.org/colorado OCT has originated an extraordinary set of lawsuits now making their way through federal court and the courts of nine states, including Colorado.

On Jan. 14, in the case of Martinez v. Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), the Colorado Supreme Court denied the plaintiff’s motion to make the COGCC condition oil and gas development on protecting public health, safety and welfare, and the environment. (https://static1.squarespace.com/static/571d109b0442627 0152febe0/t/5c3cbbfaaa4a994017464835/1547484155208 /Colorado+Supreme+Court,+Martinez+Decision.pdf

Consider this ruling. It says that citizens’ rights to life, liberty and property are subordinate to industry’s right to pursue profit – no matter what dangers industry creates in the process, such as global ecosystem collapse.

COGCC claims its hands are tied. Here’s the systemic problem: existing environmental laws do not account for the new development of rising carbon levels causing irreparable climate damage. Instead, our laws “balance interests,” overall protecting the “right” of business to use our common, boundary-less atmosphere as a dumping ground for its waste.

We clearly need a legal paradigm shift. Our state Supreme Court’s narrow, lockstep ruling does not protect us citizens but rather protects indefinite carbon release by industry, no matter how harmful to our Earth – or to future life on it.

– Miriam Barton, Durango

Popular-vote bill needs vetting
03/14/2019

To the editor,

It was the unintended consequences question that affected my vote last week. As one of the most difficult, but researched, votes I have taken this year, I voted no on the National Popular Vote bill, SB19-042.

According to the mail I received, as well as one person who chose to call me at 5:45 in the morning, the vote should be simple, either a yes or no with no discussion. But that isn’t the way I saw it.

Some of my peers at the Legislature argued that they have been advocating for this issue for years. But in all the town halls I have held or attended in District 59, all the mail and email I have received (up to this year) and all the constituents I have met, no one mentioned this issue. Discussions may have been happening elsewhere.

The U.S. Constitution, in Article II, Section 1, gives each state’s Legislature the ability to determine how its  electoral representatives are chosen. This bill basically says that Colorado will join with other states to elect the president and vice president of the United States by an agreement called the National Popular Vote. Currently, if Candidate A receives 60 percent of Colorado’s votes, all electoral votes are delegated for that candidate. The other 40 percent of votes are irrelevant.

With the National Popular Vote, Colorado’s 60 percent would be added to all the other votes in the nation for Candidate A. The 40 percent would be added to all the other votes for Candidate B. One vote. One person. The electoral tally will follow the voters, and the candidate with the most votes wins.

Sounds easy, but it apparently isn’t. I have had many in-depth discussions with Democrats, Republicans and Independents, and they all had strong opinions for both sides of the issue. This issue is all new to me, so my learning curve was steep.

I question what some say is tweaking the Constitution. I question if this new way of delegating electoral delegates will work. I question if this will finally induce candidates to visit every state, not just those with the largest number of electoral votes, as promised.

It feels like we should discuss the issue more. If Colorado votes to join this group, we will join 11 other states and the District of Columbia in the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which will take place once it has 270 electoral votes, the number needed to win the presidency. The Senate passed it 19-16, the House passed it 34-29, and the Governor said he will sign it.

Colorado, with nine electoral votes, will raise the current total to 181.

So, unless several other states join in, this compact won’t take effect until, perhaps, 2024. I would like to see much more discussion before then.

Many opponents said this is a Democrat Party issue, and I can see their point. In the last election, Democrat Hillary Clinton won 3 million more votes nationally than Republican President Trump. In 2000, Democrat Al Gore won the popular vote, but lost to Republican George W. Bush. But, they join winning candidates Democrat-Republican John Quincy Adams in 1824, Republican Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876 and Republican Benjamin Harrison in 1888.

Others say that until the United States has uniform registration and voting rules, we will all be subject to voter fraud. Colorado, as many pointed out during debate, has an excellent record of clean elections, but they feared other states would taint our positive results.

I’d like to list the unintended consequences but, then, they wouldn’t be unintended any more. The premise of SB19-042 is interesting, but I want more discussion, more debate and more data.

– Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango

Knowing the facts about 1A
03/14/2019

To the editor,

The supporters of Ballot Question 1A are backpedaling because “misinformation” came out that refutes the argument that more tax money is needed. The piece of information they are calling “misinformation” is that sales tax revenues have been increasing since 2011. Supporters of 1A have incorrectly been stating sales tax revenues are decreasing. They even had the audacity to include it in the ballot informational booklet that went to every voter. But that isn’t all the misinformation the supporters of 1A are using to try to get more money.

With the revenue argument debunked, supporters of 1A now say that expenses related to capital projects such as asphalt and concrete are increasing too fast. But this year, the City isn’t spending any money on capital projects. Last year they said they didn’t spend any money on capital projects either. Rising construction costs would only be relevant if they spent money on construction projects.

The money the City made from increased sales tax revenue and the savings by foregoing construction projects was largely spent on increasing personnel costs. The City knows that it is easy to hire people, but very difficult to fire people. The City intentionally increased their personnel costs the last few years so that this Council would have the best opportunity to increase taxes. They inflated the Parks and Rec personnel from 24 employees to 36 employees the last eight years because many people consider Parks and Rec sacred. They added five new Parks and Rec employees last year. Couldn’t we have discussed our priorities and that another police officer might be more important than five more Parks and Rec employees?

I believe it is intellectually dishonest that the supporters of 1A use the declining oil and gas revenue problem to support this tax. Voters should know that the City doesn’t directly receive significant revenues from oil and gas like the County. The City is trying to use the County’s problem to garner support for 1A.

This isn’t “strictly streets.” The City admits that if this tax passes, they will be able to replenish general fund reserves to be spent on things other than streets. Replenishing the reserves will be possible because streets already receive millions of dollars, and the new tax money will supplant the money already spent on streets. The beneficiaries of this tax will be other departments like the City Manager, Parks and Rec or Finance. If the City would have taken public comments on the ballot language, we could have limited this tax to only capital projects.

The City Manager recommended three members of the community to serve on the citizen’s budget advisory board. Doesn’t it make more sense to select members of the community who may not agree with the current direction of the City? And have the board report to the Council, not the City Manager? The advisory boards have become support boards. There is rarely a discussion where there is back and forth between people with different opinions. The City is asking you to trust them with your money because after years of delay, they formed a substandard advisory board.

Before you vote on 1A, make sure you know why the City needs the money and what they plan to do with it. I voted to increase taxes back in 2015, but I didn’t know of all the problems that were being created. Vote no on 1A. And be sure to vote; don’t just throw your ballot away because you don’t agree with the tax increase.

– John Simpson, Durango

A well-tailored political hypocrisy
03/14/2019

To the editor,

Cuff links, you ever think about ‘em? Me neither. Not until I see some politician on Youtube preening around like a peacock with a hard-on wearing a custom-made shirt and cuff links, then I go straight to pissed.

Seems to me if politics is supposed to be about “the people,” it should be represented by “the people.” I don’t know anyone who wears custom-made shirts that take cuff links, probably because all the people I know are thrashing out a survival living that requires money be spent on the frivolities of food and shelter.

Now, I know that some of these “burros” had jobs before being elected, and if by careful money management they can afford custom-made shirts, cool. They don’t need their full salary $174,000+. Let’s vote that they donate two-thirds of their salary to feeding, clothing and housing children in this country. It’s funny that these “do-good” sumbitches that want you and me to pay more, more, more out of our seriously over-burdened budgets, will fight like hell, full of righteous indignation, about doing it themselves.

In light of the recent government shut down (which I didn’t know was going on until it was over) I would urge everyone, no matter what race, color, creed, sexual orientation or political party, to get on the internet machine with a calculator handy and do the math on what these cuff link-wearing predators and their staffs are costing the American public in salaries alone.

There is not a senator or congressman/woman that somewhere in their district a child doesn’t go to bed at night hungry and cold while they and their staff cost the people millions.

They should be ashamed, but they’re not.

In the words of Steve Goodman, “It was all that I could do, to keep from cryin,’ sometimes it seemed so useless to remain. You don’t have to call me ‘darlin,’ darlin.’ You never even called me by my name.”

– Tom James, somewhere between Bayfield and Ignacio

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