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

Voter annexation success stories

To the Editors:

Oregon Communities For a Voice in Annexations has been following the Durango Responsible Growth Initiative (RGI) with interest. We have much experience with voter annexation, it having been a part of Oregon law for nearly 30 years. Our states are different, but the issues surrounding this matter are virtually identical.

Since 1976, voter annexation ordinances have gone on the ballot in 32 Oregon cities. Thirty of those passed, most by wide margins. None, to our knowledge, has been repealed, contrary to some claims we're hearing from Durango.

The issue driving voter annexation is runaway growth that does not pay its way, thereby forcing ever-increasing taxpayer subsidy. City councils, most of which had close ties to development interests, rubber-stamped nearly every annexation proposal in these communities. The development lobbies got bills passed in the state Legislature strictly limiting the application of system development charges and prohibiting cities from considering the impact of new development on schools. Concerned citizens, feeling ignored, sponsored voter annexation initiatives.

In all cases, opponents predicted dire consequences if the initiatives passed. We are hearing the same arguments from the RGI opposition. Let's examine some of these:

The first argument is that voter annexation raises housing costs. In Oregon, there is no evidence to support this. Some of our state's higher housing costs are in cities that do not have voter annexation.

Another claim is that voter annexation violates state land use law. Oregon's highest courts have repeatedly ruled otherwise.

A third warning is that voter annexation will create another layer of bureaucracy. This has not happened in our member communities. Nor does it typically raise election costs: The annexation votes are usually conducted during the general elections.

Contrary to claims that it is "impractical" and "prohibitive," our history with voter annexation shows that, rather than blocking growth, it promotes growth that is well-planned and a good fit with our member communities' needs and resources. That's why most annexation proposals are approved in these cities. Above all, voter annexation gives Oregon citizens a greater voice in the destinies of their communities. It would do likewise in Colorado.

Respectfully, Jerry Ritter,

Secretary, OCVA

Pennies before people

Dear Editors,

Following is an excerpt from a letter forwarded to Dr. Mary Barter, superintendent of 9-R schools. The letter was prompted by concerns raised by Durango residents that hastiness in the completion of the district construction project may have placed our children and district employees at risk. As Missy Votel pointed out in her Sept. 16 Telegraph article. "School construction taxes labor pool: Accelerated timeline puts workers to the test," a hasty sense of urgency erupted in the construction project driven by what Deborah Urodah, School District 9-R spokeswoman, so economically stated, "We went from a six-year program to a two-year program, and that saved us $5 million in inflation and other costs." Is this statement indicative of a leadership attitude of "pennies before people?" Perhaps, we should recall the old saying, "haste makes waste." I applaud the workers who under extreme pressure delivered their skills and expertise to their work. All of Durango should not forget the hardships many of the workers and skilled crafters experienced while being pushed to the limit of exhaustion. The workers should be applauded while the suits and ties behind their struggles need to provide answers and accountability beyond the simple balance sheet.

Dr. Barter,

Recently there has been considerable discussion in the local newspapers as well as around the dinner tables in many homes in and around Durango regarding howwell the Durango School District is handling safety and health issues related to the current construction efforts. The 9-R administration continually releases their "everything is OK" message that many of us do not agree with. If 9-R is concerned with safety issues why is the high school administration notifying teachers nearly two weeks after classes have started promising emergency evacuation and/or fire alarm instructions to teachers. This should have been in place before students entered the building for the start of the school year.

The other issue involves the removal of asbestos. During the 2003-04 school year, there was an asbestos abatement program under way with the building being closed off to everyone. I believe this was done over a school break. Alarmingly, a week or two later at least one building had to be shut down because, according to reports, the asbestos removal was not done properly. I believe that 9-R owes the patrons and the Durango public an explanation on what precisely was the problem. Were there exposures to students, teachers, administrators and visitors to asbestos material during the time span between the two shutdowns? I would suggest there is the possibility of a major health concern with the whole process. I also believe that there should be a reporting of the breakdown of health-related absences, especially upper respiratory health problems at the 9-R district's schools during the construction process.

Bruce M. Reid,Durango

The march of fundamentalism

Dear Editors,

Evangelical fundamentalists appear to use the patriarchal style of life, straight out of the Old Testament, to model their lives on. Arrogance, vengeance, intimidation, humiliation and ridicule appear to guide their lives. As a Jesus girl, I'm astounded how Christian people can take Biblical history of people's failures and mistakes in God's plan, and use it as a pattern for their lives.

How ironic that so many fundamentalist men use Darwin's theory of "survival of the fittest" to justify the history of oppression of minorities. I suppose that this is as eclectic as they become.The fundamentalists seem to be marching into an Armageddon frenzy. Did God condemn us to Armageddon, or did God warn us that we are capable of condemning ourselves to Armageddon? If these conservatives win (or steal again) the election, perhaps it is time to renew talk of the "secede" word. At least half of Americans want to live in the land of liberty, not in the land of life under control of dogmatic religious members. These members are convinced that God loves them more than others and will bless whatever they do. When will they ever learn?

Bombing thousands of a population to get one bad apple is more absurd than "throwing out the baby with the bath water." Jesus' answer to our world is not the one we have from our present administration. Actually, most of what I see from this group could easily be classified as anti-Christ, yet, I am not the judge.

Kassandra Johnson, Durango

Give power back to the people

Dear Durango,I want to publicly voice my support for the Responsible Growth Initiative on this election's ballot. I have to say that I am surprised at the number of "Vote No" signs around town. I just can't think of a time when it is a bad idea to allow the citizens of a community to be allowed a voice in matters that affect that community. I think that one matter that looms over this community is how can we support the proposed growth in the beautiful city of Durango and still maintain the quality of life that we have come to love. Opponents of the Responsible Growth Initiative talk about how it would undermine our representative government, threaten our quality of life and hinder managed growth. I think that the fact is that these claims just don't hold water.

At times, our representative government has undermined the public. I could possibly believe that they were working for the same ideals that I went to the polls with if it wasn't for the fact that more than 98.3 percent of the developments proposed are approved, including some that I personally went out and lobbied against. Furthermore, the only way that our quality of life is threatened is if you think that providing low-income housing to help those in our community that need it is a degradation of our quality of life.

I don't. Otherwise, maintaining open space, less corporate powerhouse franchises, and more small town, locally-owned business is exactly the quality of life that I signed on for and that the RGI protects. It would require voter approval on all NEW buildings over 40,000 square feet as well as annexation of open space for development.

Opponents of the RGI say that the voters will not properly educate themselves about the impacts of developments and annexations and will therefore make bad decisions. I have to agree with the Friends of the Animas Valley in saying that these people greatly underestimate the voters in this community. It's true that many may not know a lot about feasibility reports or environmental impacts or other things that developers specialize in, but we do know what is best for our community and have a right to a voice in the process. That is what the RGI is all about. As for managed growth, that would be nice but we need to start with providing adequate infrastructure which, because it is not profitable, has been all but ignored. I would love to see some managed growth, but I don't think inflating our population to 40,000 is the way.

Vote YES on the Responsible Growth Initiative to give some power back to the community to decide what is best for itself. Find out more Thursday, Oct. 14, 7 p.m. in the Windom Room at the city rec center.

Respectfully, Kory Samson,


A question of open space

Dear Editors,

If voters ofDurango are concerned about the city's lack of commitment to open space, a "yes" vote for the Responsible Growth Initiative is a positive step. The initiative willallow the city to annex, permanently, dedicated open space withoutvoter approval or election. It will also encourage developers to provide open spaceto gain voter approval. The unfortunate truth is that the city has our open space lands identified for annexation and potential high-density development.

In a telephone survey conducted last May, 72 percent of Durango voters favored a one-quarter of 1 percent sales tax increase to fund Open Space. The City Council has put the proposed sales tax to purchase open space land on the back burner until next spring. At that time, the city may present one combined referendum that will include open space (a yes vote), road improvements (to encourage new development) and a new library (definitely a necessity). But this is not what the citizens in the survey voted on. The clear winner was open space, which was supported by the public overwhelmingly! This is another example of the City Council not listening to the citizens. Why are we paying money for these surveys if the City Council is manipulating them to suit their own agendas?

In a Herald article 9/10/04 our mayor, Joe Colgan, said this sales tax should be rolled into one package and also include a new library and road improvements. This would "water down" the revenue earned with assorted "goodies" giving voters an unhappy choice and limiting money for dedicated open space, which the citizens support.Why does the City Council persistently "rubber stamp" developments yet "drag their feet" on broad-based community-supported programs?

The RGI's opponents, Mr. Gamble's group, which is incidentally a thin veil for the growth industry, proclaims their desire to protect the county's open space. Can we trust these people to care more about open space than fulfilling the gleam in some developer's eye? Isthis merely a ruse to annex land into the city for creation of ultimate massive mega-development? What do you think?

I trust the Durango voters to be smart enough to see through the scam and send a message to our city government with a "yes" vote for the Responsible Growth Initiative, the last item on the Nov. 2 Ballot. Early voting begins Oct. 18. Visit www.animasvalley.org for more facts.

Stephanie Cooper,


A different side of Buena Vista

Dear Editors,

I read with interest the information on the website created by the "Citizens for a Sustainable Durango" concerning Buena Vista and realized I needed to respond to the statements.

First, yes, there is an effort to repeal the annexation code requiring approval by the electorate. A landowner outside the town limits intends to develop a subdivision and wants to annex but also wants to make "deals" with the town, which he knows the voters would not approve. It is for cases like this that the effort to repeal the code is being pushed. Not because it hurts the town, but because it limits the "deals" developers can make.

Second, the website claims that Buena Vista has been unable to annex its own airport and lots partially in the city. This statement is blatantly false! There has been no attempt to annex these properties! If the town or the landowners desired to annex, all they would have to do is follow the appropriate procedures.

Another claim is that tax revenues have fallen and business development has been restricted. This is also false! Tax revenues since the annexation code was changed to require elections are the highest in the history of Buena Vista! There are substantial areas of undeveloped, commercially zoned property in Buena Vista and the potential to annex more exists.

Yes, there is development taking place both within and outside the town limits, and that will always be the case no matter who is granting final approval to annexations. Growth within the town is still at high levels.

I spoke to the Buena Vista Town Administrator and asked him if he had made the referenced comments to anyone. He said he had only talked to a reporter from the Durango Herald and the mayor of Durango and no one else on the issue. He said he did not make the statements reflected on the website as they were simply not true. I wonder who did tell these things to the representatives of the "Citizens for a Sustainable Durango?"

Doesn't it make you wonder how valid someone's position on an issue is when they have to resort to fairytales to defend it?

Paul Ahrens,

Buena Vista

Make your own biodiesel

Dear Editors,

This is a comment regarding the article Amy Maestas wrote about french fries fueling local Ford. Well, I just want to point out that you can make your own biodiesel and run it in any diesel engine without any conversions. That means no needing to switch back and forth between tanks and it also means you don't have to use any petroleum product at all. There is a kit you can buy to make biodiesel as well, and it's cheaper and you can use the same waste oil as before. It's just less hassle and even more environmentally cool. Then you don't have to hire a mechanic to install anything on your vehicle. Thanks for listening.

Reid Tulloch,

via e-mail





News Index Second Index Opinion Index Classifieds Index Contact Index