Our letters section and your opportunity to weigh in and be heard. Send us your thoughts and profundities. You can contact us here.

Enough big boxes, already

Dear Editors:

It seems unimaginable to envision the La Posta area, Highway 160 and Highway 3 crammed with thousands of square feet of commercial space but that's what the city has planned. How many super retail stores does even the most dedicated shopaholic need? Can't retailers be satisfied with a more modest size like the abandoned Kmart?

Every day, more communities like Taos, Steamboat Springs and Gunnison are imposing size restrictions on big box stores. A few weeks ago, the Pagosa town and county boards adopted a moratorium on big boxes until completion of an impact study. The moratorium was originated and supported by downtown merchants. They are smart to get a step ahead of a growth boom they may never be able to stop once it gets started. As our own downtown merchants contemplate a future of national chains moving in on locally owned businesses, our retailers may belatedly wish they, too, had acted sooner. Instead, Durango's philosophy seems to be, if it's green space that appears to have no purpose, let's dig it up, pave it, build it and develop it.

I didn't move to Durango to have our city urbanized with three and four-story buildings blocking the sky, whether next to your home, which is happening already, or in a commercial area. A future population of 40,000 will change the entire complexion of our small-town, rural character. I've been there, done that, moved twice already to escape poorly or unmanaged growth that was driven by developers and rubber-stamped by politicians.

Just think of Farmington's miles of strip malls and what image Durango will project to tourists. Think about traffic jams and safety, dirty air pollution, and quantity of life vs. quality. The Responsible Growth Initiative lets me vote yay or nay on quality of growth, and I'm all for that.

Sincerely, Jan Holt, Durango

Voters should search their souls

Dear Editors,Watching the Republican Convention, we joked it looked like a Pat Robertson Revival on steroids.Actually, for me, it was even more chilling. Being an ex-German of the baby-boom generation, I remain keenly aware of the bitter lessons of the 1930s. I have an inherent distrust and fear of people who believe in themselves too much. People who are absolutely convinced of their divine insights. People who believe they are so unquestionably right that any means justifies their ends. People whose open contempt and thoughtless dismissal of any and all opposing evidence/opinions is highlighted by their ruthless smear and slander campaigns against all who dare not agree no matter how honorable that person's lifelong service to the USA.

Kerry isn't flawless, but he along with the people he'll bring back into the government will be vastly better than Bush and his single-minded religious fundamentalists. Their plan has been taking us down a path of increasing bloodshed, irreparable destruction, international distrust, tension and violence. What's scariest: they seem ok with that the "Rapture is coming" anyway, why worry about long term stewardship?

Should this letter upset you, write and tell us what Bush's handling of the war on terrorism has achieved. Seems that in the real world, what Bush accomplished was to give Bin Laden the war he craved and the willing recruits to fight and die in it. Every fresh morning the world news adds more support to this truth. By the way "mission accomplished," where is Bin Laden? Tell us again, what was that mission?

Why should anyone vote for the president who willfully played into Bin Laden's hand? Look at the mess we've made of Iraq. Read about the details. Where is the plan for a better future in those experiences?

I'm worried about writing this, but I am even more fearful of Bush's agenda and the future it heralds. An agenda that will ... can, only lead to ever more terror for the entire world, and the USA. Voters, we need to do some serious soul searching, this election will be the most pivotal of our lives choose wisely.

Sincerely, Peter Miesler, Durango

The costs of affordable housing

Dear Editors,

Much ado has been made of affordable housing in Durango. The biggest problem is nobody wants to pay for it. The seller of the land and the project developer both want to maximize their profits, and the buyer of the finished product doesn't want to pay extra for it. Local governments try to negotiate for it in the planning process, but the trade-offs usually benefit the developer more than the city.

Land cost is one of the single highest expenses for developers. The fewer dwellings per acre the higher the land cost per unit. While the city says it encourages developers to include affordable housing in their projects, and it belongs close to the downtown area, there is little evidence to support this statement. In some outlying areas, the city has waived building/infrastructure fees, increased height limitations, allowed additional density and eased parking requirements. In most cases, this just leads to added social problems that come with overcrowding, i.e., limited privacy, added neighborhood noise and parking restrictions. Of the 50 units approved or proposed near the central business district along Main Avenue and East Second Avenue, none fit the "affordable housing" criteria. Most of these luxurious units will be selling in the $500,000 to $1 million price range.

Some people think annexation is the answer to affordable housing and will stop county sprawl. This is not true in either case. Comparing land currently for sale in both the county and the city, some of the most desirable county land sells for $30,000 per acre. By contrast, vacant land within the city limits is selling for $400,000-plus per acre. All annexation does is expand city limits. Instead of county sprawl, we end up with high density, and still unaffordable, city sprawl.Past practices are the best predictor of future conduct. The Citizens for a Sustainable Durango agenda (or business as usual) will not produce any more affordable housing than it has in the past. We do not want to stop growth in Durango, however we do want YOU to have a voice in it. Vote "YES" for the Responsible Growth Initiative!

Bee Attwood, Durango

Give control to the constituents

Dear Editors,

Does anyone else in Durango or La Plata County wonder why our government representatives are so reluctant to relinquish some of the decision making back to the people that elected them in the first place? One would think having a popular vote on an issue as important to everyone as growth and development would take a lot of pressure off our elected officials. Surely some of us out here must be at least as intelligent as our politicians and capable of becoming informed of future development projects. Personally, I resent when people like Bobby Lieb, John Gamble, Joe Colgan and other members of the pro-development group infer that we, the taxpayers, are not smart enough to make a decision that affects our daily quality of life.

Also, the City Council of Durango had an opportunity to have POST (open space referendum) on the November ballot, knowing very well that it was a high priority for most taxpayers in the city. They, however, decided to drag their feet, once again, which could only mean what little land is left could be gobbled up 4

by developers before people have a chance to vote on it. Once again, old, double-talking Joe Colgan's explanation made no sense whatsoever as to the reasons he gave for not putting it on the ballot "money needed for other important items" has nothing to do with POST. POST money would be ear-marked for open space, not anything else.

I hate to give up on Durango as I've always thought of it as one of the best little towns in the country. However, myself and other people are beginning to look for alternatives where perhaps the town would not be controlled by big money developers and our elected representatives would care more about what their constituents think and feel than their own agendas.

W.F. Palmer, Durango

The power of a free press

Dear Telegraph Editors,

At what point is the free speech in news media actively pursued by our news gatekeepers? At what point are actors in local institutions power brokers actively manipulating and "assisting" local community populations in developing distorted positive and negative impressions of local social, political, education and religious power centers? Those who have positions that control or manipulate the information provided to the masses are considered gatekeepers for what is viewed, read or allowed to be seen or read at all on a daily basis. Usually gatekeepers have something to lose or gain if threatening or supportive information is released to the citizenry. Gatekeepers are threatened by a population that is afforded the dignity and freedom to critically evaluate objective information. A threat to gatekeepers, objective information, may provide a citizenry of arriving at accurate conclusions. These accurate conclusions may make visible hidden power within a community. Power hidden behind subjective selection of what information is provided to the community population is undemocratic and demeaning to free individuals, leaving behind less powerful groups comprised ofvarious racial, ethnic, religious andlower socio-economic status characteristics.

The relationship between powerful local institutions including local school districts, dominant corporate-organized news outlets and the public is by nature a triangulation of action that is especially protected with fervor. In essence, information gatekeepers create an impression of local institutions that favor their political, social and economic power. Moreover, gatekeepers can reinforce their arguments and or positions by incorporating fellow gatekeepers in their cause. The result is a distorted view between the positive aspects of local institutions and the hidden power that reeks of inequality, power and distorted accomplishments. Only with a free independent press and open access to editorial printing can thissocial travesty be reversed.

The alternative is a free independent press with an empowered populace that demands respect, dignity and open dialogue. Only then can local institutions and other outlets of information be a contribution to their community with honest, genuine and sincere purposes that favors the community as a whole. Without this, a community is a fragile shell of crepe paper and wire with power brokers pulling the strings of the populace. Keep this in mind as you readother newspapers quoting local group's public relations personnel. After all, do you think public relations people are necessary if everyone openly communicates?

Bruce M. Reid, Durango

Look at the big planning picture

To the Editors:

In response to Linda Burke's letter of Aug. 25, I agree with her comment, that "the county and its municipalities need a cooperative regional planning approach." What Ms. Burke does not know is that a Friends of Animas Valley member has been working with the city, county and CDOT to encourage adoption of a regional traffic plan.Our reason is the same as Ms. Burke's "Understanding how each proposed development would impact that big picture is imperative for making sound regional planning decisions."

After two years of attending meetings, decisions on approvals of subdivisions and building and zoning changes are still being made without the City considering the impact on public infrastructure and "the big picture." This is why an "Adequate Public Infrastructure" requirement is part of the Responsible Growth Initiative. This would require the City have adequate infrastructure before approving annexation.

Ms. Burke is, however, uninformed on other points. If a special election is needed to vote on proposed developments, the cost can be borne by the developer, to be voted on along with municipal elections or once a year on nonelection years. Many communities with responsible growth ordinances have found that it has worked, including more than 30 cities in Oregon.See, www.ocva.org for more information.

Ms. Burke's second point is that the voters will make uninformed decisions. The reality is that the planning process forannexations will remain the same.The current planning process will continue as usual with voters weighing in after the council has approved an annexation. The "Responsible Growth Initiative" actually will give citizens a representative government that makes decisions that support the values of the community it represents.

This is really what this initiative is all about: A representative government that cooperates with other government entities to ensure infrastructure and respects the wishes of the community. For facts, not fiction, log onto our website, www.animasvalley.org.

Vote yes for responsible growth.

Annemarie Nobman,

Friends of the Animas Valley




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