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Muddy politics on the La Plata

Dear Editors,

In an interview with Will Sands several weeks ago, I characterized the money grab of more than $15 million in state taxpayer dollars by the La Plata Water Conservancy District as political corruption.

Brice Lee, the District's president, tookexception to my characterization, calling it scurrilous.I think Mr. Lee is guilty of that old political gambit in which private greed is paradeded around as public virtue. Here are the facts as we know them. You decide.

Mr. Lee says that the irrigators in his tiny La Plata Water Conservancy District are water short. It follows from this, at least in his mind, that the rest of us owe this small group of landowners more than $15 million in public handouts so that they can begin to correct the problem. We commoners have to cut back when we find we've overspent. But not this bunch; their solution is more water, not less. And how do they get more? They go to shadowy state agencies and get huge handouts of public money, even in a time of state budget crisis. No apologies from LPWCD there.

Specifically, the sources of their windfall are as follows: $15 million from the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority for reservoir construction and another $440,000 from the ColoradoWater Conservation Board to study the feasibility of building another reservoir on the La Plata River, even though the river isalready over appropriated. Some people might find it odd that $15 million was advanced for construction beforefeasibility was even determined, but perhaps we quibble.

During this same time frame, the LPWCD hasalso received over $30,000 from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, $60,000 from the Southwestern Water Conservation District,and about $22,000 from the Animas La Plata Conservancy District. Working people in Durango and La Plata County ought to begrabbing their wallets, reflexively, becausethey've been taxed numerous times to help support the appetite and designs of the landowners in the LPWCD. The ALPWCDraises about $205,000 in local taxes annually, and the SWWCDraises another $620,000.

How much does the district intend to contribute to helping correct their "problem?" Well, nothing really. It's our responsibility. They tax themselves less than $7,000 a year, a pittance when compared with the operating budgets of most individual families. So how did this tiny district with a lemonade stand operating budget get so lucky? Well, the district's past and present presidents ask us to believe it's Kismet. We think it's self-dealing reaching to the highest levels of state government.

The District's past president and largest individual landowner is State Sen. Jim Isgar. He once professed ignorance on how all this money started landing on the district's doorstep. He must be just as mystified by the federal crop subsidy payments he received over the last four years. They average over $55,000 annually. Compare that to the fact that over 60 percent of the working families in this country have incomes of less than $45,000 annually. Mr. Isgar gets most of his farm-subsidy handouts from the feds for agreeing not to work his land.

Mr. Lee, the current president, is more forthcoming about the district's boodle. He says the biggest chunk is from money that is no longer needed to build ALP. He is quick to add that the district is no longer part of ALP, since the conditions for federal funding of the project exclude that possibility. But that hasn't stopped the district from going to friendly state agencies and getting a huge handout of money that was originally set aside for ALP by the state Legislature, money that we argue should be returned to the State Treasury to offset budget shortfalls.

And who is the lawyer advising the state agencies hell bent on giving our money away to a few large landowners so that they can build another dam on a river that is already over appropriated?

Why, it's none other than Attorney General Ken Salazar. He's already built a record of taking care of water poachers on the Arkansas River. That case has cost Colorado taxpayers over $36 million. Mr. Salazar characterized the Arkansas River outcome as a "significant victory for the people of Colorado." Start celebrating! 4

The situation on the La Plata River is similar. The water users in Colorado have been taking more water than they are entitled to. As a result, New Mexico has been shorted under a mutual interstate agreement, called a compact. Mr. Lee would have us believe that the issues here are minor and can be easily corrected, particularly if they are allowed to develop another reservoir so irrigators in Colorado can use more water. This is tantamount to claiming you can repay the apples you owe your neighbor by eating them all yourself. The neighbor might get a product, but it won't be fresh, and it won't be apples.

The LPWCD withdrew its permit request before the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers in the face of substantial opposition to its building plans. But they will be back, even though Mr. Lee is complaining in private correspondence that the feasibility studies are costing too much and that the district may need more public funding.

Finally, there is the issue of the friendship between Mr. Isgar and Mr. Salazar, and how that friendship may be influencing policy. Both are large landowners, or family members of large landholders. Mr. Isgar, 10-gallon hat on pate, was conspicuous on stage in Pueblo when Mr. Salazar made his U.S. Senate candidacy speech before the Democratic state delegates. Yes, I was there. I'm a falling-away Democrat.

Yep, everything about this deal with LPWCD is just too tidy. In fact, it reeks of privilege and self dealing. Personally, I think Ken Salazar should change his campaign slogan from "Fighting for Colorado's land, water and people" to "Fighting for Colorado's people who own lots of land and water and would like more." It is better supported by the record.

Phil Doe,

chairman, Citizens Progressive Alliance

End loss of liberty

To the editors, The Orwellian-speak of the present campaign is suffocating. It is important to vote, as this is our chance to continue to live in the land of liberty, where citizens conduct their own affairs and efforts to keep our overpopulated masses from overwhelming our nest. The other choice is to go with the guys who influenced the denial of emergency contraception for women, in spite of favorable testing and unanimous approval by scientists. This administration began its first week in office by denying funding for family planning (not funding for abortions), worldwide. This government sees benefits for itself in encouraging submission of women and encouraging overpopulation. This growth provides the president with the cannon fodder he needs. It also gives his "have-mores" a large desperate workforce, willing to work for near slave wages.

Who says that international authorities do not agree with the Bush administration? Osama, the male institutions of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Rome, etc., etc., line up with the Bush boys to require women to bend over so these men can protect their values.

While our hearts are struck with sorrow over the caskets of our friends and loved ones returning home, the casket the Bush administration wants most to hide is the one in which the land of liberty is being carried away.

Kassandra Johnson, Durango

Focus on the real issues

Dear Editors

Oh My God! I cannot believe so many people are still focused on what our presidential candidates did, or did not do in the military! I realize that our nation's defense and protection are important issues these days, and that the president should know what he's doing, as commander-in-chief of the military. But I am very tired of all the back-and-forth attacks on what Bush and Kerry did, or did not do, back when they were kids.

The reason I want a Democrat in the White House (and in every Senate, congressional and governor's seat), is because I want the health and welfare of our citizenry and environment to have a fighting chance. I have no problem forking over some of my hard-earned pay for taxes to fund programs that help people in need, or to keep the environment somewhat healthy for future generations.

I don't see the point of putting all our resources into trying to protect us from real or perceived foreign enemies, when there are so many problems to tackle on our home front. Problems that we can do something about. I realize that we probably can't trust either of our filthy-rich, greedy presidential candidates as far as we can throw them. I am not a Kerry fan (I was rooting for either Dean or Kucinich), but if we care anything for the environment, health care or social equality across all races, genders and sexual orientations, he's our only hope at the moment.

Regardless of how you or I vote, let's please focus on real present issues and let both Bush and Kerry's military experiences be part of the past.

Pamela Marshall, Hesperus

Our Middle Eastern hit man

Dear Editors,

Our national politicians still do not get it. After experiencing the disdain and alienation of many former internationally allied nation colleagues in the wake of our petulance over Iraq, Kyoto, the International War Crimes Commission and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, they have further embittered these and others by refusing to recognize the World Court decision that would restrain Israel's wall of defense against terrorism to her internationally recognized border.

Only Thomas Buergenthal, the American judge, dissented from a 14-1 ruling that orders Israel to disband its present serpentine construction that makes cantons without communication of what had been Palestinian farmland, and provides and protects further settlements by the illegal Israeli occupiers. The Court continues to recognize Israel's right to border protection, as in the case of Gaza, but sides with the Amnesty International Report that the illegal extension and gerrymandering course of the wall having devastating economic and social consequences ... separating families and communities from each other and from their land and water their most crucial assets."

President Bush, Sen. Kerry and an approving Congress have all added support to Israel's denial of the Palestinians' fundamental human rights. Their action echoes the refusal of President Reagan in l986 to obey a World Court order to cease our attacks on Nicaragua and to pay over $2 billion in compensation. Their attitude reinforces our blocking of UN Resolutions 446, 452, 465 and 471, which cite the Geneva Convention interdict against an occupying nation transferring its citizens into any land occupied by force.

Our recent $9 billion guaranteed loan to Israel caps a series of such and iterates our hegemonic craze to control Middle East resources and peoples. We continue to use Israel as our vicar "hit man" for what the area nations rightly see as desire to dominate. It should come as no surprise to us, a federation founded on rejections like the Boston Tea Party and Concord of such similar arrogance, that we are now wound about by the cords of the unwinnable. Desperate people fabricate such, and history attests to the invincibility of their weaving. Witness Napoleon, Charles XII, Cromwell, India..... and, more recently, Cuba. Vietnam, Chile, Venezuela. Witness and weep.

Fr. John Kiernan, Denver




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