Durango voters tap Garland and Zink

As final ballots came in and were counted Tuesday night, a Durango High School teacher and a certified public accountant rose to the top. Dale Garland, 45, and Sidny Zink, 51, will take the seats of John Gamble and Amos Cordova when they’re sworn into office April 15.

Garland, who won his new position by a fairly wide margin, pulling in a total of 2,000 votes, said the results were unexpected. “I was very surprised that I received the most votes,” he said.

However, he attributed his success to his tenure in the community and working hard during the campaign. “I think my having been here for a long time and having dealt with a lot of students through the high school probably helped,” Garland said. “I followed some good advice as far as going out door to door and meeting with people.”

In coming weeks and months, Garland said growth and the city’s role in the Animas-La Plata project will be pressing issues. “Obviously, growth and growth in the north end of town will be the big issues,” he said. “Also coming up pretty quickly is the water-storage issue and what the city is going to do with storage rights with the Animas-La Plata project.”

Zink trailed Garland slightly, bringing in 1,728 votes. She said she was pleased with the outcome and that the election was an indication of a call for middle-of-the-road policies.

“I think the vote reflects that people are looking for councilors who are thoughtful and moderate,” Zink said. “Some candidates seemed more extreme, and I think the voters are interested in a more even approach.”

Looking to the future, Zink said that annexations and specifically River Trails Ranch will be the big issues. “I’m sure that River Trails Ranch was the big issue during the campaign and will continue to be one of the bigger issues,” she said. “But it’s only symptomatic of the bigger issue of growth and how do we manage it.”

Reflecting on the campaign, Zink concluded: “It was a terrific experience, and all the candidates had their hearts in the right places. It’s great to see how much the candidates and voters care about this community.”

A total of six candidates were vying for the two vacancies. Michael Rendon took third place with 1,280 votes, and incumbent Mayor John Gamble came in fourth place, garnering 1,093 votes. From there it dropped off with Lee Goddard claiming 645 votes and James Sloan turning in 246 votes.

Both Garland and Zink will serve four-year terms. They begin their time in public office at the city council’s next regularly scheduled meeting April 15.

Tuesday’s election represented Durango’s first mail-in ballot since 1992. The decision to vote by mail was prompted by poor voter turnout in 2001, when a mere 19 percent of Durango’s registered electors went to the polls. During this year’s election, approximately 50 percent of registered voters participated, a number City Clerk Linda Yeager called, “absolutely wonderful.”

“I think this was a team effort between the candidates and myself even though we didn’t know we were a team,” she said. “I put a ballot in every registered elector’s hand. The candidates got people to turn their ballots in. They got the vote in.”

To date, Yeager said she only got four comments on the success of the election. She’s eager to get more feedback in order to determine whether to go the mail-in route in the future.

Finalist for FLC presidency pulls out

Michael B. Levy has withdrawn his name as a candidate for Fort Lewis College’s presidency.

“Dr. Levy has withdrawn his name for consideration as president of Fort Lewis College,” said Board of Trustees Chairman Peter Decker. “We are disappointed with his decision, but we will press on and find just as good a candidate as Dr. Levy. We will not compromise in terms of the kind of person we are looking for.”

Decker said although Levy was the only remaining candidate for the position, the college’s Board of Trustees will keep looking. “There are many candidates attracted to Fort Lewis College,” he said.

Levy, a distinguished professor at Georgetown University and former senior advisor to the secretary of the treasury, was interviewed on campus March 20-21. He cited personal reasons for withdrawing his name from consideration. “After endless discussion and reflection, my wife and I have concluded that personal and family obligations make it impossible for us to relocate at this time,” he said.

Levy was the last remaining finalist in the search. Phillip David Creighton withdrew his name from consideration March 4 to become president of Pacific University in Oregon. The new president will succeed Robert Dolphin Jr., who has served in an interim capacity since July 1, 2002, when Kendall Blanchard resigned as president to return to the classroom as a professor of anthropology.

Fort Lewis makes huge budget cuts

Last week, Fort Lewis College announced dramatic reductions to its budget, which will play out over the next two years. A total of $4 million will be cut from the college’s budget in the form of the elimination of 41 full-time equivalent positions. Of the positions, 17 were not filled upon becoming vacant. The remaining 24 will be reduced or eliminated. The college has already notified those employees who will be affected.

“The most grievous aspect of these budget cuts is the impact on the lives of our colleagues and friends,” said Fort Lewis College President Robert Dolphin, Jr. “Unlike other state colleges and universities, we have avoided layoffs to this point.”

Dolphin said that with a staff reduction of 10BD full-time equivalents, Physical Plant Services will be one segment of Fort Lewis College that is hit hardest. In particular in areas like project management, snow management, custodial services, equipment maintenance and grounds upkeep will see reductions.

The combination of several factors, including drops in state revenues, tax cuts and Amendment 23 which calls for a boost to K-12 education funding, has created a financial crisis for the State of Colorado this fiscal year.

When the magnitude of the state budget crisis became clear after the New Year, Fort Lewis College implemented a hiring freeze. Effective Jan. 6, all unfilled classified and exempt staff positions were frozen without appeal and any temporary appointments required presidential approval. Some faculty searches also were cancelled.

Dolphin commented, “Through these difficult decisions, we remain committed to delivering a quality education to our students, while giving every consideration to the impact on the lives of faculty and staff.”

In addition to budget cuts, the college will try to boost revenues by increasing fund-raising efforts, seeking tuition increases, and better managing enrollment.

Judge tosses lynx reintroduction suit

Last Thursday, a federal district court judge dismissed a lawsuit challenging the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s plan to release more lynx into the San Juan Mountains. The Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF) had sued, charging that the DOW and federal government had not adequately studied the environmental impacts of the plan. MSLF had sought a temporary restraining order, barring the release planned for this spring. However, the court dismissed the case in its entirety after stating that MSLF’s members lack standing and that the federal government was in no way involved in the project.

“We are extremely disappointed with the court’s ruling,” said William Perry Pendley, of MSLF. “We believe the court erred in dismissing the case.”

Pendley added that the MSLF believes that the federal government is involved by listing a species as threatened or endangered, by allowing a state agency to reintroduce the species, and by having the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permit the reintroduction. Pendley went on to say that the lynx reintroduction could endanger local residents.

“After the terrible fires of last summer, the possibility that the presence of the lynx will prevent the Forest Service from managing to prevent more deadly forest fires certainly gives local residents the legal right to question whether such a study should have been done,” he said.

In 1999, the first of 96 lynx were released into the San Juans, beginning what state wildlife biologists hoped would be a restoration of a species. Now, to augment the remaining 34 lynx, the DOW is preparing to release 50 additional lynx in coming months, part of a four-year program to add 180 lynx to aid in the odds of reproduction.






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