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Partisan politics land in Durango

Dear Editors,

Current trends created by City Council need reversing. Never in my memory have officials acted so politically partisan.Guarding personal philosophic agendas, some members disregard representing citizens. Here is an example of their Washingtonian antics.

Last week Mike Zgainer, retired wildlife biologist for the Division of Wildlife for 31 years, received notice from City Council that his contributions to the Open Space Committee are no longer needed. The reasons given are particularly onerous.

Council members Zink, Lyons and Howley felt wildlife was represented enough. Interests of outdoor enthusiasts and recreational users needed to be “balanced” with matters of preservation of natural areas. When was the last time these council members read their own documents pertaining to the Open Space Master Plan?

The Open Space Committee was instituted by the city as a separate entity from parks and trails. Resolution No. R-2002-60 states: “WHEREAS, it is in the best interests of the community that a separate advisory board for open space purposes be created.” The objectives of the Open Space Board are, most notably, to ensure consistent application of adopted open space policies.

What are the policies, usage and definitions of open space, according to the Master Plan? It states: Land permanently preserved from development, preserved in a natural or near-natural condition, deemed valuable for wildlife habitat, containing significant natural, visual or cultural features that warrant protection, that may have views or opportunities for passive recreation. Note the words “wildlife habitat”? Note it says “may” not “will” have passive recreation uses?

Public review of the Open Space Plan was held in 2000. Of key public comments number one was: The Durango area has key wildlife habitats, including migration routes for big game that need protection. The plan also acknowledges the public survey wherein 84 percent of us favor open space.

The city already has a Parks and Trails Advisory4 Committee. We don’t need another one. We need expert representation on a committee supporting what the public has stated, over and over, are priorities. Mike Zgainer was that prime representation.

Washington shenanigans and partisan politics have no place in Durango’s politics. The public has spoken clearly what is important to them. We agreed to be taxed to pay for open space, but Zgainer was also denied an interview for the committee that will oversee how those tax dollars are spent. Council members should be adhering to the responsibilities of representing the public, not their personal political philosophies. They have an obligation to abide by open space priorities in the city’s own documents.

It may not be too late to reverse actions against Zgainer, if there is public outcry. And it’s time the city pay for mediation to improve relations between council members, teaching some of them how to behave like professional adults and informing them on how to adhere to civic policy and procedure. If some refuse to improve, perhaps it’s time for a recall.

– Nancy C. Jacques, Durango

Politics vs. integrity

Dear Eds,

From time to time, one has to take a step back and recognize the difference between attacking a person’s political stands vs. their personal integrity.

While I have no intention of apologizing for my comments regarding the politics of Shan Wells and Maureen May, I am extending a personal apology to both of them for attacking their personal integrity in various letters to theTelegraph.

– Dennis Pierce, via e-mail