Voters push Ref. C to victory


La Plata County voters played their part in what’s being called a split decision last Tuesday. Voters throughout the state agreed to de-Bruce and give up $3.7 billion in tax refunds over the next five years. Fifty-three percent of Colorado voters supported Referendum C, while its companion measure Referendum D appears to have failed by a slight margin. Referendum D would have enabled the state to borrow an additional $2.1 billion against the tax refunds.

While both proponents and opponents of the measures were declaring victory Tuesday evening, Gov. Bill Owens proclaimed the “vote for fiscal responsibility” a victory.

Locally, the measure was a clear victory with 68 percent of La Plata County votes in favor of Referendum C. Sixty-five percent of local residents favored Referendum D, which failed by less than 1 percent statewide.

Marsha Porter-Norton, co-chair of the La Plata County chapter of the Vote Yes on C and D campaign, commented, “I think the grassroots in La Plata County carried the day. We outpaced all but four other counties including Denver and Boulder. I think that’s a testament to a lot of hard work to educate a lot of people.”

With the victory, Referendum C will reclaim $3.7 billion in taxpayer refunds over the next five years. Those funds will be funneled toward health care, crime prevention, affordable housing, higher education, the arts and other areas that have been wanting for funds. Referendum D would have permitted the state to immediately borrow up to $2.1 billion for roads, school maintenance, pensions and other projects. With such a narrow margin of failure, a recount is possible.

Porter-Norton added that Referendum C will be a big boost for Fort Lewis College and higher education in Colorado along with health care, libraries and grant funding, among other things.

“I really believed in my heart of hearts that the future of Colorado was on the line here,” Porter-Norton said. “Hopefully, we can now restore some of these billions of dollars that have been cut since 2001.”

In other local election news, the Durango School District 9-R board now has a dramatically different composition. The election’s only incumbent, Chris Paulson, was ousted by more than 1,000 votes by Mike Matheson. In another district, Jeffrey Schell beat out Irene Barry by more than 2,000 votes. Melissa Youssef ran unopposed in District C.

At press time, the school district’s property tax measure seemed to have failed by a thin margin of only 43 votes. The transportation override would have raised local property tax slightly to generate approximately $500,000 for school district transportation costs.

Lastly, the newly formed La Plata County Regional Housing Authority got a budget boost courtesy of Referred Measure 1A’s easy victory. Fifty-eight percent of voters were in favor of allowing the authority to expand its budget.


Local lynx poaching investigated


The Colorado Division of Wildlife has its ears up after two radio-telemetry collars cut from lynx have been found locally. The first was left in a mail box at the Silverton Post Office, and the second was discovered about 20 miles northeast of Durango along Missionary Ridge.

DOW officials speculate that with deer and elk hunting seasons now in progress, someone shot both of the lynx. The DOW is currently tracking 110 lynx that have been fitted with radio collars, and it is estimated that about 200 of the cats could be alive in the state since reintroduction began in 1999. The lynx is an endangered species and is protected as a threatened species by federal law.

In response to the killings, nine conservation organizations have banded together to provide a $4,400 reward for information leading to an arrest.

“We are glad to welcome lynx back to the San Juans, and we want to make sure they thrive and survive. Sadly, their main threats come from humans,” said Mark Pearson of San Juan Citizens Alliance, one of the nine groups.


FLC Cycling just misses repeat win


Fort Lewis College narrowly missed a repeat as the national mountain bike champion last weekend. When the USA Cycling Collegiate National Mountain Bike Championships concluded at Pennsylvania’s Seven Springs Resort, the University of Colorado came out on top.

The Fort Lewis team had led the overall standings on Sunday. However, CU victories in both the men’s and women’s downhill event helped contribute just enough points to surpass Fort Lewis College and unseat the defending champions. CU edged Fort Lewis by just 10 points, 695 to 685 in the weekend’s four events: short track, mountain cross, cross country and downhill.

“Everyone raced their hearts out,” said Dave Hagen, FLC Cycling coach. “That’s all we can ask. We aren’t satisfied, but we did finish second, and we gave it our all.”

Despite the second-place ranking in the final team standings, Fort Lewis College managed an overall title as Tina Dominic earned the women’s Division I individual title.


Eight vie for vacant council position


Democracy appears to be working well inside Durango city limits. Eight residents have applied to fill the seat on Durango City Council that Virginia Castro has vacated.

City Manager Bob Ledger commented that the large number of applicants is indicative of continued interest in city politics. “Based on the number of people who run during elections, I think there’s always strong interest in council seats,” Ledger said.

David Burke, Jim Schneider and John Gamble ran for seats on council in last spring’s elections and have again thrown their hats in the ring for Castro’s seat. In addition, Sweetie Marbury, Mary Karraker, Tom Howley, Linda Geer and Stan Crapo are petitioning for the seat.

The Durango City Council will interview each of the candidates in an open session and has until Dec. 6 to appoint one of the eight to the seat. Three of the four sitting council members must agree on the appointment. Otherwise, a special election will be held early next year.


Vallecito thinning project resumes


Work has resumed on a Forest Service project to reduce hazardous fuels along the east side of Vallecito Reservoir. The project involves thinning small-diameter trees on approximately 160 acres to lessen the danger of wildfire.

The project, which began in 2004, has been idle since a contractor defaulted on the contract last winter after completing about one-tenth of the project. The new contractor, Environmental Land Management from Grand Junction, has 70 days to complete the project. Thinning operations will be halted Dec. 1, so as not to disrupt Nordic skiing on the East Vallecito track. If it does not snow by Dec. 1, the Forest Service will consider a possible day-to-day extension until the project is complete or it snows, whichever comes first.

– compiled by Will Sands


In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
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January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows