La Plata County voters weigh in

While last Tuesday's election was tight nationally and in Colorado, it had a definite Democratic flavor in La Plata County. Local voters kept a Democrat on the La Plata County Board of Commissioners and helped propel two Democrats to seats in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives.

In the most significant local race, Democrat Wally White handily beat Republican Roger Phelps for the vacant seat on the La Plata County Commission. White attracted votes from 55 percent of local voters to Phelps' 45 percent.

"I'm extremely happy with the outcome and thank everybody who worked hard on this campaign," White said. "It was definitely a community effort, and the community showed its concern for the future of La Plata County. I'm just really happy to be a part of this process and glad to be working to make this a better place to live."

In the City of Durango, the Responsible Growth Initiative failed by a similar margin. Fifty-four percent of voters went against the measure, which would have required that large annexations and commercial developments go to a public vote.

On the state level, Democrat Ken Salazar took 50.32 percent of the vote statewide, edging out Republican Pete Coors for Ben Nighthorse Campbell's U.S. Senate seat. John Salazar, Ken's brother, won by a similar margin over Republican Greg Walcher, claiming 50.5 percent of the vote statewide to claim Scott McInnis' vacated U.S. House of Representatives seat. In La Plata County, the Salazar brothers won by large margins, with each claiming more than 60 percent of the local vote.

As for statewide amendment issues, Amendment 34, which would do away with limits on contractors' liability, failed by a wide margin, tallying just 23 percent of "yes" votes. On the other hand, Colorado will now have a new tobacco tax, courtesy of the passage of Amendment 35. The push to split the state's electoral votes, Amendment 36, failed early on Nov. 2, with approximately 66 percent of voters in opposition. And Amendment 37 passed by a slight margin, and major utility suppliers will be required to increase their wind power by 2007.

Concerns about election fraud in Colorado were widespread prior to last Tuesday's vote. However, few problems appeared in La Plata County's relatively smooth election, according to County Clerk Linda Daley. "We really haven't had that many problems," she said. "It's been similar to past elections, only busier."

Local turnout was strong as evidenced by the number of people who voted early at the La Plata County Courthouse. "We early voted almost 6,000 people in our office alone," Daley said.

Kick leads to teacher's resignation

It was the kick heard around the world. Stories of how a Fort Lewis College student and Young Republican was assaulted by a petite professor at the college have been carried by the Associated Press, CNN and MSNBC. As a result of the incident, assistant instructor Maria Spero tendered her resignation this week.

On Oct. 27, FLC student Mark O'Donnell was showing off a political T-shirt he was wearing at Gazpacho New Mexican Restaurant. The Republican T-shirt read, "Join us now or work for us later." When he flashed the shirt in front of Spero, he received a kick, an incident that O'Donnell reported to the Durango Police Department.

On Tuesday, Fort Lewis College President Brad Bartel announced Spero's immediate resignation. "Fort Lewis College will not condone any actions by its employees that interfere with a person's free speech whether it occurs on or off the campus," said Bartel. "These rights are inherent in our public liberal arts college. Physical confrontation by any faculty, staff member or student at Fort Lewis College is not tolerated."

Bartel said that the college has started working to fill the teaching position to ensure that no loss of class time will occur for Spero's students.

Tribe pays $2M for road impacts

La Plata County and the Southern Ute Indian Tribe have arrived at an agreement regarding road impacts from the development of the Three Springs project in Grandview. The tribe has proposed building 2,283 new housing units and 864,000 square feet of commercial development centered around a new Mercy Medical Center. In late October, the tribe agreed to pay upwards of $2 million to La Plata County for road impacts from the development just east of Durango.

Bechtolt Engineering performed a study that revealed that the Three Springs project would generate traffic and substantial impacts to surrounding county roads.

Together the county and the tribe estimated that $2,275,892 will be the developer's proportionate share of road impact fees for Phase 1 of the project. The tribe has also agreed to pay $50,000 to offset the impacts to County Road 220 during the major construction on Highway 160.

County Attorney Sheryl Rogers said that the agreement is unprecedented. "Outside the parameters of this agreement, there is no obligation for the developer to pay any mitigation fees to La Plata County," she said. "This is an unprecedented willingness in our county, and it speaks a lot about their responsibility as a developer and their commitment to our community."

Plague found in La Plata County cat

Add plague to the list local health concerns. This week, the San Juan Basin Health Department announced that good, old-fashioned plague joins pertussis and flu as a local health threat.

This week, a domestic cat tested positive for bubonic plague, making for the second case of feline plague in La Plata County this year. The first cat was found at the Junction Creek Campground in July and diagnosed by a local veterinarian. The most recent case also came from the Junction Creek area.

Cats become infected from flea bites or by direct contact with infected rodents. Infected cats frequently exhibit swelling and sores around the mouth, head and neck and appear to be ill.

Bubonic plague in humans begins two to six days after the bite of an infected flea. Typical symptoms include swollen lymph nodes, sudden onset of fever or chills, severe headache, extreme exhaustion and a general feeling of illness. Bubonic plague can be successfully treated if it is diagnosed promptly. For more information on plague, visit San Juan Basin Health Department's website at

- compiled by Will Sands





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