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Tax should fund social needs

To Whom It May Concern:

In April, the City of Durango will be asking us to approve another half-cent sales tax to fund the acquisition of land to be dedicated as open space, parks and trails, as well as capital improvements such as a new library and infrastructure. Per the city's estimates, this tax will raise approximately $125 million over 20 years.

As justification for forwarding this tax, the city cites a recent survey they conducted, that, by their own admission, was "hurried" and "designed to find out what people would tolerate." Perhaps we could consider conducting a well-thought-out survey that asks what voters want.

Most people would agree that the preservation of open space and providing additional recreational amenities to the community is a laudable goal. But, because the Department of Parks and Recreation already has the second largest budget within the city, and our last sales tax went to fund recreational facilities, perhaps we should consider other uses for this money, such as addressing some of the social issues facing our community.

Homelessness, hunger, affordable housing and inadequate public transportation are just some of the items that diminish the quality of life for many people that live in and around Durango. It is widely recognized that this tax is regressive, presenting the greatest burden to the people who can least afford it, the people with the lowest incomes. Ironically, this is also the group that will benefit the least from the efforts. As an example, it has been suggested that additional open space and recreational facilities will enhance property values. I would argue that people in the lowest income brackets have the lowest percentage of homeownership of any demographic group and won't reap these benefits.

Perhaps of all the social issues confronting our community, the one I keep hearing about the most is the concern over affordable housing. In response to this, we (the community) have formed a regional housing authority, yet we have not funded it. Even a portion of the proposed sales tax would provide a good funding mechanism for the RHA. If we are considering acquiring land for open space with some of this tax money, maybe we should also consider purchasing land to be set aside for affordable housing.

I have heard proponents of this tax say that we should act quickly because we will miss opportunities to purchase land, and that it may become unavailable or too expensive. By not addressing some of our social issues with this tax money, we may in fact be missing an even greater opportunity!

- Emil Wanatka,

via e-mail

A less than rosy picture

Dear Editors,

A study was commissioned by the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) and conducted by the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA), a military think tank. In neutral terms, the IDA report detailed a bleak picture at odds with the Bush Administration's rosy scenarios. Not only has Rumsfeld suppressed the report, but the Pentagon has yet to acknowledge it.

In the invasion of Iraq, Rumsfeld applied his doctrine of using a light combat force against the advice of the senior military. Gen. Eric Shinseki, commander of the Army, was publicly ridiculed for suggesting that a larger force would be required. But it was assumed by Rumsfeld and the neocons that there would be no long occupation because democracy would spontaneously flower.

George W. Bush clings to good news and happy talk, such as the number of school openings in Iraq. Those with gloomy (reality-based) assessments are not permitted to appear before him.

Bush orders no meetings on options based on worst-case scenarios. Military strategists and officers are systematically ignored. Suppression of contrary outcomes is done in his name and spirit. Bush makes his decisions from a self-imposed bunker, a situation room of the mind, where ideological fantasies substitute for reality. Does God really speak to him?

As our president so eloquently said last week, "I think elections will be such a hopeful experience for the Iraqi people ... And I look at the elections as a ... as a ... you know, as a ... as ... as a historical marker for our Iraq policy."

Bush speaks of the Iraqi election as though it is the climax of democracy. But by failing to provide for a Sunni presence in the new government - proportional representation would easily have accomplished this - it is as ill-conceived a blunder as invading with a light force, disbanding the Iraqi army, attacking Fallujah, halting the attack and finally destroying the city in order to save it, Vietnam-style. At least we didn't do all that (for Fox News viewers, that's exactly what we did do).

- Bill Vana,


Making it all worthwhile

Dear Editors, I've recently been reminded why it is that we all struggle so hard to live in this truly unique place. After having the nearly prerequisite ACL replacement surgery, I ran into a spot of bad luck. More than a month after surgery I developed a nasty infection in my recently rebuilt knee. It involved a short but unwanted stay in the hospital, two additional surgeries and an extensive antibiotic therapy regime. All told, this detour to my recovery put me out of commission for more than six weeks, and during that time I amassed quite a hefty stack of medical bills.

So in the spirit of helping your neighbor that pervades Durango, my friends and family organized a benefit to help with these new unexpected bills. I was completely humbled that the benefit was a huge success. I was moved not only by the turnout but also by the willingness of the people and businesses in this community to donate items and their time in order to help me. It was an unmistakable reminder of the generosity and concern that each of us in this tight-knit town is capable of. Some may have not known me personally, but they were moved to lend a hand when asked, and this kind of response doesn't happen everywhere.

So I'd like to personally thank everybody who helped organize, attended, donated and wished me well through words and actions. In essence, I'd like to thank everyone in Durango for fostering such a community. The selfless acts that I've been witness to have cemented my belief that all the effort that it takes to live here is more than worth it!

- Erik Maxson,





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