Soap Box

Trail cooperation & collaboration
10/31/2019

To the editor,

As the summer recreation season comes to an end, San Juan Trail Riders would like to extend a thank you to all user groups who enjoyed the Hermosa drainage this summer. Throughout the season, we enjoyed embracing the multi-user cooperation in the continuous collaboration to keep these trails clear. It is our hope that we can foster this relationship between user groups in the future and collectively enjoy this unique recreational opportunity.

– Heather Hormell, chairwoman, San Juan Trail Riders

'Others will save the Earth'
10/31/2019

To the editor,

Are you clear that climate change is the biggest threat humankind has ever faced? If not, please find out soon. If you are clear, commit now to be personally active in the climate movement.

Only our personal investment can protect the world we love.

Durango can and should be the leader in the Four Corners in embracing renewable energy, conservation and sustainable living. But during the last decade, our progress lagged far behind that of comparable Colorado cities and towns. For a variety of reasons (and despite commendable efforts by some), Durango has not nearly fulfilled the very basic goals of its own 2015 Sustainability Action Plan, nor of earlier similar documents. We need to face the fact that our city has fallen woefully short in addressing the existential threat we all face: climate change.

So whom shall we blame? Who will make climate progress happen here in Durango? There’s only one meaningful answer: I am responsible.

Consider the sign held by a local climate protestor saying “The greatest danger to our planet is the belief that others will save it.” We have been busy working hard and caring for our families, so it’s understandable that we rarely engage with our local government. We leave it to them to figure out priorities. We rarely contact Durango’s City Council, hardly ever show up at a council meeting – we already have plenty on our plate.

But to make progress on the existential threat that faces us, each of us must get personally involved. Are you ready?

We need to first thank our current City Council. On Aug. 20, it passed a climate resolution containing both renewable energy and carbon reduction goals community-wide. Our Council also called for “performance contracting” to upgrade many of our municipal buildings to cheaper, clean solar electricity at no cost to the city. This is the kind of forward progress we need throughout our city – a smart, solid start.

But the Council’s proposed 2020 city budget falls short on climate action, offering only a small, one-year “opportunity fund.” The Council needs input from each of us, for reasons listed below.

Spend one evening showing up for your climate. Join us at the City Council meeting Tues., Nov. 5 at 6:30 p.m. (949 E. 2nd Ave.) to show your support for these vital issues:

1) A new Durango City Manager whose resume reflects true commitment to aggressive progress on climate action. Our previous manager retired, leaving us the opportunity to hand-pick the individual central to our city’s functioning. We need a climate champion, well versed on energy and/or environmental matters, able to navigate and accelerate our future complex path to carbon reduction and renewable energy.

2) A climate advisory board with meaningful input into City sustainability plans and decisions. This group should be composed primarily of consultant stakeholders able to provide pertinent expertise, funded for compensation. Given Durango’s past culture of sustainability disregard (for which we cannot blame our current Council), concerned residents must now ensure a municipal process that creates results. We owe our children our serious, committed vigilance and involvement.

3) A dedicated funding stream for climate action. Solid annual funding can come from several sources, including (in rough numbers): the $1 million generated by the LPEA Franchise Agreement; $3 million from the General Fund usually committed to Parks and Rec (which also has a yearly $8.8 million dedicated funding stream); or new revenue. Currently only $50,000 appears to be committed to actual sustainability work in 2020, a very weak start toward our new 2030 climate goals.

4) A transparent, well-publicized process of climate action efforts by the city. Every resident should be able to quickly locate in one comprehensive data source the city’s: climate progress; accountability for how sustainability funds are spent by each department; and a detailed City goals timeline. Currently, such data is tucked away in multiple places in the maze-like city website, deterring resident involvement.

Please email citycouncil@durangogov.org with your comments.

Also, join us Sat., Nov. 9, 3-5 p.m. at the Durango Public Library for a great free presentation. Local experts will explore Durango’s paths to 100 percent renewable energy in the major energy sectors: electricity, transportation and buildings. For more information about either event, see  “Renewable Energy Durango” on Facebook.

Only our personal investment can protect the world we love. Thanks for caring; now let’s act.

– Kirby MacLaurin, Durango

Don't walk back bridge project
10/31/2019

To the editor,

I am writing in response to Catherine Boyle’s letter (“Using pedestrian funds wisely,” Oct. 24) that only partially described the scope of the 32nd Street Bridge project and pits it against another need to improve safety on the Holly to CR 250 section of 32nd Street.

Ms. Boyle accurately described the plan for a pedestrian bridge “south of the current bridge and its two sidewalks,” but did not mention that this project also includes a second contiguous pedestrian bridge to cross 32nd Street, thus connecting the Animas River Trail (ART) on the east side (south of 32nd) with the ART on the west side (north of 32nd), thus fulfilling the ART’s long-term vision for no at-grade crossings the full length of the trail.

It is a vision advanced by our community, championed by our Parks & Recreation Department and supported by the Parks & Recreation Advisory Board (by a 6-1 vote); Multimodal Advisory Board (unanimously); staff; consultants; and prior city councils to fund the completion of this project from Memorial Park to Oxbow Preserve for public safety (not a claim, a fact), improved connectivity and accessibility. Segregating motorized traffic from all other – bike, pedestrian, families with strollers, seniors, people with disabilities, dogs and kids – is the only way to 100 percent ensure the safety of ART users.

Ms. Boyle accurately stated, “this road is far more heavily used than ever.” Indeed, in a March 2019 engineering report, it was identified as the second busiest street in Durango with an average daily traffic (ADT) count of 10,742 (5,479 eastbound and 5,263 westbound vehicles), second only to College Drive (12,241ADT) and busier than Florida Road (10,604 ADT).

There is a clear need for pedestrian and bicycle safety the extent of 32nd Street from North Main to CR 250, but one decades long-planned project with dedicated sales-tax funding should not be scrapped to fund another. That would be a false dichotomy since improving the Holly to CR 250 section is not currently something the city can do anything about since the land is largely in the county.

As Ms. Boyle urges, the limited funding we have should be used wisely. In this case, that would be demonstrated by City Council putting public safety first and fulfilling the wishes of its constituents by budgeting for the (two) bridges as they simultaneously work with the county to begin planning for improvements to the other end of 32nd street.

Want to add your voice to the budgeting process? Attend the public hearing on the 2020 Budget on Tues., Nov. 5 at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.

– Ellen Stein, Durango

Yes on 6D to keep libraries open
10/31/2019

To the editor,

Dear residents of the Sunnyside and Fort Lewis Mesa elementary school areas, do you know that your rural public libraries will be shut down unless election measure 6D passes? The measure will enable our community to create and operate an independent Southwest La Plata Library District.

The district will be overseen by a board of directors made up of local residents.

This will enable our libraries to tailor and expand programs according to our unique needs and priorities.

For more information please visit our webpage, swlp librarydistrict.org, or facebook.com/swlplibrarydistrict/.

Ballots must in the County Clerk’s Office by the end of Tues., Nov. 5.

– Peter Miesler, Durango

Running with the devil
10/24/2019

To the editor,

As I drove out of the ravine onto the newly paved county road that tempted 20 miles above the posted speed limit, I made out a distant kaleidoscopic
twinkle. Continued down the road it resolved itself into the aggressive red and blue flashers of a state trooper. I thought, yuppers Petie, let that be a reminder, respect that posted speed limit.

I slowed down, then pulled into the traffic-free oncoming lane to give the trooper plenty of room. As I neared, the movement of my passing vehicle created a cinematic swipe as the parallax of the trooper’s large athletic body hinted at, then revealed, something more ominous than a speeding ticket happening here.

Driver outside the vehicle, facing the trooper. Sparkling ruby red hair. No, not hair? What’s that? Horns? Sporting a spiked tail? Oh no! Oh yeah! A full-body sparkly red devil’s costume. Hood and all, with middle-aged padding pressing against this outfit intended for a slinky twenties body.

The gay costume didn’t fit the two hands pawing at her purse, face downturned and intent. Fishing for her driver’s license I assumed. My last memory during that moment of voyeurism was a slight back and forth waver of the devil’s body. Was it observation or imagination, I’ll never know.

I hoped it was imagination, for my musings were already moving forward to imagining this sad devil being taken for that ride down to the country jail and the most embarrassing night and day of this unfortunate’s life.

My final thoughts were, dance with the devil and sooner or later you’re going to have to pay the piper.

– Happy Halloween, Peter Miesler