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A hard look at last week's letters

Dear Editors:

I religiously read your publication online every week and, although I am not as “liberal” as your target audience, I do enjoy a differing perspective on local news and events. That being said I humbly ask that I be able to respond to each of the letters written to your publication covering Sept. 11 - 17.

In Seriatim:

Mr. Poshard: Although it “pains” you to describe developers as people, it may injure you further to be viewed as a close-minded, one-sided pundit who shakes his fist in the air once he has secured his slice of real estate in Durango and assumes no one else should move there. Would it be more to your liking if the development were inhabited by yurt dwelling, eco-zealots? Or how about building a fence around the county and not allowing in any more future residents. Save those that can decipher the set of regulatory schemes propositioned by a group of ad-hoc, sign-waving folks who also have their slice of property and assume that the county’s full. I am sure that if you look real hard in Durango you might find some who desire the project. I am not referring to the evil, profiteering “Goliath” to whom you and the Telegraph cartoonist do. Rather I am referring to the group of people who may find jobs as a result of: Construction, upgrade of infrastructure, employees of future businesses, etc. However you have your slice of the pie, I guess that’s enough to satisfy you.

Mrs. Dunbar; Refer to the argument supra.

Sierra Club: Ahh, the great champion of environmental rights. Thank you very much for weighing in on this heated debate concerning the evil River Trails Ranch and all of her possible baneful progeny. I am sure that there are throngs of people who are greatly relieved that you are not endorsing such a greedy project. Oh but wait, the Sierra Club is somewhat of a quasi-business entity itself, is it not? The type that relies on tax-exempt status and sells their product wrapped in over-hyped hysteria that the Earth is doomed and would be much better off if all humanity turned to dust. Thank the heavens that you have so carefully opined on this project. I am sure you have all of your law student interns headed for Durango right now, ready to sharpen their litigational skills.

Mr. Lightbearer: Thank you for your heartfelt report on the amorality of local businesses and their attempt to defraud you out of your hard-earned money. Although I would agree with you that the economy is in somewhat of a slump, I think your nomenclature concerning “depression” is somewhat misplaced. I can assure you that the local “landlord barons” (the very same guys you see on the weekend fixing their roofs and various holes in plaster walls due to renters) are feeling the pinch too. As for the $8 sandwich, there is the matter of economics and actually getting the sandwich material to Durango to facilitate the construction of said sandwich. This involves driving over mountain passes, ensuring the means of transportation of said sandwich material to Durango is reputable and insured, this costs money. Once the arrival of the aforementioned raw sandwich material has arrived, it has to be made into a sandwich. From simple sandwich building blocks to the actual sandwich itself involves chefs, waiters, busboys, dishwashers, etc. All of whom earn an hourly wage, not to mention the wage the owner of said sandwich shop pays to the local and state governments for the pleasure of doing business with happy and grateful customers such as yourself.

I thank you for your time and bid you all a good day.

– Scott Mason,

former Durango resident

San Diego, via e-mail

Surf’s Up: Mark Braunstien, of Durango, takes advantage of the run-off
from the recent record-setting rainfall while playing in Smelter Rapid./
Photo by Todd Newcomer.

Buckle up...or else?

Over this past summer, I was rebuked by the management of the radio station where I work for a critical on-air remark that I made regarding the state of Colorado’s “Click-it or Ticket” public-safety campaign.

If you missed it, back in May, Colorado began running a media campaign that commanded Durangotangs to wear their seatbelts – or else! Radio ads featured the stern-sounding voice of a state patrolman threatening motorists with a citation if they didn’t buckle-up, “No excuses, no exceptions,” the ads menaced.

My remarks, concisely summarized, were this: You’re foolish if you don’t wear a seatbelt. However, temerity aside, do we really want to grant the state such authority over the behavior of individual citizens? I say no. The criminalization of acts that do not infringe upon the rights of others is itself an infringement upon our rights as citizens. Implicit in our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is the right to risk that life, freely, in the pursuit of said happiness. Government should restrict itself, as the preamble to the U.S. Constitution suggests, to protecting the rights of its citizens, while promoting their general welfare. The state’s seatbelt law is an example of government’s predilection for usurping powers from the people, at the expense of personal liberty – a point not lost on Thomas Jefferson who wrote, “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.”

Conversely, the La Plata County Injury Prevention Coalition, a cooperative effort of primarily local government agencies and private businesses, seems to have it right with its “La Plata County Clicks” campaign. Grounded in the spirit of promoting general welfare, La Plata County Clicks wisely admonishes motorists to use their safety belts to lessen the risk of personal injury in the event of an accident. Roadside signs remind drivers to buckle-up, and radio ads feature accident survivors singing the praises of seatbelt use.

See the difference?

One tactic unlawfully infringes upon our rights by being coercive; the other is a properly restrained act of government to educate its citizens – while leaving us free to act according to our own conscience.

Similarly, the Durango City Council exemplified the spirit of promoting the general welfare of its residents this summer when it unanimously voted to oppose the so-called Patriot Act passed by Congress following 9/11. The federal government, through this act, granted itself unprecedented powers to trample the rights of the people. For example, right now there are people incarcerated in this country for an indeterminate amount of time, with no charges filed against them and having been given no legal representation. It’s a disgrace – and, it’s unconstitutional. If the City Council had supported Washington’s power grab it would have been complicit, in my opinion, in this shameful governmental conduct.

In these two instances at least, the county and city governments seem to have it right, and the state and federal governments have it all wrong. Together they provide a powerful argument against large, centralized government – and for small, properly restrained government. Unfortunately, 200-plus years of expanding governmental powers, coupled with the resulting incremental loss of individual freedom has taken us far from the liberty envisioned by our founders, and it’ll be a long, bumpy road if we are to get back to that vision 85 better buckle-up, or else.

–Jay Baldwin,

via e-mail





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