Soap Box

Don't buy oil & gas' propaganda

To the editor,

After reading Tracy Chamberlain’s article in the Telegraph about Prop 112 I felt I needed to respond. This article at first seems fair and balanced but it left me thinking that Tracy is writing in favor of oil and gas and in opposition to Prop 112. There were no quotes from the proponents of Prop 112 only from Christi Zeller who works for the oil and gas industry. Nor was there any mention of the multiple scientific studies demonstrating the negative health impacts of living or working in close proximity to oil and gas wells. Nor was the fact mentioned that some  of these wells have exploded recently killing and poisoning Coloradans and safer setbacks are needed for a safer evacuation distance. Nor is there any mention that the U.N. just released a report that says fossil fuels are a threat to civilization and that we need to immediately reduce our reliance on these sources if we are going to continue living on this planet. The argument made in this article is that the oil and gas companies won’t have  anywhere to drill in Colorado and they will have to keep poisoning us with the 50,000 wells they already have!

The other argument quoted from the oil and gas industry is that tax revenue will decrease if Prop 112 passes claiming, “La Plata County will lose millions of dollars in tax revenue.” This article fails to mention that the oil and gas industry will continue paying as little taxes as possible, and as the oil and gas industry is phased out and other sources of energy are produced, the tax burden will shift to those industries. Nor does this article mention how we prop up the oil and gas industry with not only our health but with our tax dollars, going to road repair and construction, health care, emergencies, and drill site clean up. As we turn this beautiful planet into a wasteland, I am sure we will be happy with our decision to keep those tax dollars flowing from oil and gas; we couldn’t possibly get tax revenue from anywhere else. This is a false trap created by an insidious industry.

The only reason that the oil and gas companies are able to make such excessive profit is because they externalize their costs. Who pays those costs? Not only the residents of Colorado, who pay with their health, health care costs and tax dollars, but also the employees of the oil and gas industry who risk their health and lives so these companies can make millions, for example the Koch brothers.

Multiple studies in multiple states have confirmed the ill effects of living and working close to oil and gas well sites. Oil and gas production is not only detrimental to our health, it is jeopardizing life on this planet. We have to cut back on fossil fuels in favor of energy sources that will not put our health and the health of future generations at risk. As we shut down the fossil fuel industry, we will have the ability to build a stronger economy with better, safer and more resilient energy and jobs that benefit the whole and not just the few.

Please think critically about this issue and don’t believe the propaganda. Please do some research, look at who is funding both sides, look at the articles about Prop 112 in Reuters and U.S. News and World Report, as well as the U.N.

report on fossil fuels. The oil and gas industry has spent over $20 million trying to fight this while concerned citizens in favor have raised about $1 million. I encourage you to vote against the Koch brothers and this industry that is poisoning us for profit, and vote YES on Prop 112.

– Brian Gaddy, Durango

Who's money is behind Jones?

To the editor,

Paul Jones is a really nice guy who is running as an Independent to replace incumbent Democrat Barbara McLachlan in the Colorado House for our area. Barbara is also a really nice woman – Paul admits he voted for her in 2016! Paul has offered no reason, no policy differences, to what Barbara is already pursuing. He’s for education funding, but Barbara is an ex-teacher and has brought $30 million to our schools last year. He’s for mine clean up, but Barbara passed that bill last year. He wants to be bi-partisan; Barbara would agree. In fact, all her bills are bi-partisan, it’s the only way to get stuff done.

What’s up? Paul says he’s received no outside money, and indeed has only raised $26,000, but Unite Colorado has put $133,000 into his campaign so far. They pay for mailers, TV, radio, door hangers, even canvassers. Who is Unite Colorado? What influence will they have on Paul?

Please don’t believe that Paul Jones is truly Independent. Vote for Barbara McLachlan, who’s doing a great job!

– Douglas Walker, Durango

112 to protect people not profits

To the editor,

Vote yes on Proposition 112, which requires new oil & gas development be located at least 2,500 feet from occupied structures and other areas designated as vulnerable (that means your house, schools & water sources.)

Speaking of fake news and misinformation, check out Protect Colorado. They say to vote no because “Proposition 112 is backed by extreme out-of-state groups and increases energy setbacks to five times the distance of what is currently required, which effectively bans oil and natural gas development in Colorado.”

This is big oil at its most insidious. This PR organization wants to put big money and the lure of jobs ahead of truly protecting our citizen’s health and our environment.

– Ted Ullman, Mancos

Question 2A: show us the money

To the editor,

After reading the recent article about Ballot Initiative 2A, it became apparent that the public needs more information to make a better decision. After checking the “2A Fact Sheet” the details remain fuzzy at best. The article mentions the citizen survey that was circulated this summer. I vividly remember filling out this survey and even adding extra comments at the end to make points more clear than just filling in a 1-5 scale answer. If I remember correctly, the survey mentioned the police requesting about $19 million for a new facility. The roads need about $2.5 million. And parks and rec a similar amount, with some other expenditures thrown in as well.

However, from the fact sheet it is unclear how much the city is asking for and what each expense will be. The costs to fix/maintain roads and other infrastructure is understandable, especially with the increase in traffic. The expansion of parks and rec makes sense as well. And we can see that the police station is like all original Durango buildings, small, inefficient and in need of upgrades.

However, there is a new station in Three Springs. And $19M for a new facility seems like an awful lot of money without a solid plan and another one within city limits. This question seems like a lump of spending without enough details – much like the water treatment plant, fire and rescue, and airport and education initiatives that were thrown at us as must-pass initiatives.

Since our population is growing, there is added use of existing infrastructure and services but it also means there are more people contributing to the coffers. How can these be so far out of balance that we need to keep raising taxes? I did not see any firm sunset clause on the 2A fact sheets, so is this increase with us forever? A vague mention that it might end in 2043 is not clear enough.

After voting “yes” on tax increases for education, fire and rescue, and other services/projects over the last 12 years, I am really starting to question whether I can keep voting to increase taxes. It seems like fair to ask for a tax increases to help share the costs and benefits. However, continuously escalating taxes is a recipe for runaway expenditures with no way to ever decrease costs. Ask anyone who came from another state with high property taxes if they felt like they had any way to rein in ever-increasing costs and taxes. Do we feel we are getting our money’s worth? Like Mayor Sweetie said “we get what we pay for and we get what we don’t pay for.” Helping educators teach our kids sure, increasing parks and rec probably, fixing roads and infrastructure sure; a new police station, more police and police cars for $19 million, not so sure.

I would like to see a better breakdown of this ballot and a separation of the expenditures and to vote on them individually. We would probably see citizens put their money where their values lie. Yes, I like to pick which piece of cake I want to eat when I help pay for the cake. Democracy is having a say in our collective choices. Please vote no matter your leanings. It’s your civic duty.

– Derek Wadsworth, Durango

Kiksuya ... 'remember' in Lakota

To the editor,

On Indigenous Peoples Day, it would be good to remember that 10,000-13,000 years before Columbus arrived, there was a people, a culture with language living, surviving, thriving in what we call the good ole USA.

Today, the Mashpee Wampanaugs of Cape Cod, Mass., are fighting to retain their rights to the reservation land appointed to them by the federal government. They are one of three surviving tribes of the original 69 in the Wampanoag Nation. Their current reservation land is a measly 320 acres, half of 1 percent of their original homeland stretching from Rhode Island up the coast of Eastern Massachusetts to New Hampshire. But the U.S. government wants to remove their rights to it.

On Sept. 7, the Department of the Interior issued a decision for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s reservation to be taken out of trust and disestablished. This is the first time since the dark days of the termination era that the United States acted to disestablish an Indian reservation and make a Tribe landless.

Imagine a foreign power came to our shores, made us subject to their laws, then took away the little remaining property we lived on. After being defeated in King Phillip’s war of 1675, over 40 percent of the Wampanoag were killed, large numbers of healthy males sold off as slaves. The British designated Mashpee a plantation of the Massachusetts Bay colony, later allowing them 16,000 acres. In 1822, the now-United States denominates Mashpee as a tribe in occupation of reservation land.

This current action by the Interior results in the people suffering a massive loss of resources and services due to the uncertainty of reservation trust status. Millions of dollars of funding will be delayed for clean water, education, emergency services, housing and substance-abuse programs. How “great” is America now?

It must be remembered that despite its stated mission “to promote Indian self-determination, enhance the quality of life, promote economic opportunity and carry out the responsibility to protect and improve the trust assets of American Indians,” the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Dept. of Interior have in fact been doing the exact opposite for 150 years. Both grew out of the Dept. of War in the 1800s with the mission to dispossess the Indian in every possible way. Remember the slaughter of millions of buffalo to deprive Indians of their traditional source of food and culture? The forcible removal of Indian children from their homes to be sent to boarding schools? Why? To reconstitute Indians’ minds and personalities by severing children’s physical, cultural and spiritual connections to their tribes. A common punishment for students speaking their tribal language was being made to chew lye soap that burned the inside of their mouths. Congress also authorized the Indian Office to withhold rations, clothing and other annuities from Indian parents who would not send and keep their children in school. It left a legacy of intergenerational trauma and unresolved grieving across Indian country to this day.

This became starkly evident to me during my recent volunteer week on the Pine Ridge reservation of South Dakota, where we made bunk beds for children sleeping on floors exposed to hantavirus in mouse droppings; replaced wheel chair ramps that mimicked sledding hills; and built trailer skirting to ease heating bills by 66 percent. It is not unknown for elderly folks far out on the Rez to freeze to death for lack of heating. Pine Ridge is more like a Third World country, the size of Connecticut, population 40,000 with 1.5 “supermarkets” – the poorest county in the U.S. Most get their groceries at the local gas station convenience store with its soda station, chips and hot dog roller. Fresh produce? In the back corner in a stand the size of my refrig, old, over-priced ad three-quarters empty.

It has run-away rates of diabetes and alcoholism, and teen-age suicide 150percent higher than the national average. There is 90 percent unemployment, practically no jobs, no industry, 33 percent of homes have no electricity or water. We listened to Native speakers daily learning that in this land where the buffalo once roamed, Native kids trying to follow traditional ways are mocked and ostracized by their peers. Some families live out of vans through the winter to occupy their land so they don’t lose their rights to it.

Driving through the Rez, you see big fields of sunflowers, hay, corn, cattle grazing, fairly decent small homes and trailers – not so bad. Yet these fields are farmed by non-Natives who lease the Indian land through the BIA. The Indian “owners” get 3 percent of the lease money. What happens to the other 97 percent? Nobody knows.

Yes, let us remember.

– Florence Gaia, Durango