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

Our county’s tax dollars at work

To the editors:

Here is a look at how La Plata County’s tax dollars are being spent per the county’s 2006 budget:

Revenues: $62.7 million – Expenditures: $70.2 million (page 59). $23.5 million goes to salaries, compensation and health and dental benefits for 418.6 county employees. 87.16 percent of property taxes go into the General Fund (page 84). Only 8.38 percent goes to roads and bridges, something we all use (bicyclists, tourists, farmers and ranchers, people going to work, and oil and gas). Road and Bridge has declined since 2002 while General Fund expenditures have grown steadily and attorney fees have risen exponentially.

The La Plata County Board of Commissioners’ operating expenditures have increased 66.4 percent, while legal services for the BOCC are up 97.1 percent (page 96). Administrative services increased by 48.1 percent  over 2005. Operating expenses are up78.3 percent. Consultant costs increased 100 percent over 2005 estimates (page 133).

$55,000 is slated to be spent by the Finance and Central Services Department to “help analyze document storage requirements.” Another $55,000 is slated to be spent by the Building Inspection Department to upgrade their old furniture.

S.O. Detention spent $300,000 for design work for the jail expansion and updated and replaced the drive mechanisms for 20 sliding doors; estimated cost $160,000 or approximately $8,000 per door (page 250). $8.1 million is slated to expand the jail. America currently has approximately 6.1 million people incarcerated. Why can’t we spend more on youth programs?

The Community Development Department expenditures increased 34.4 percent due mainly to consultant expenditures and expenditures for furniture. Consultant expenditures increased 101 percent over 2005 at a cost of $201,000. Operating supplies increased 66.7 percent plus $40,000 for furniture (page 296).

The La Plata County taxpayer has 240 vehicles in inventory, 32 are “take home” vehicles. Last year, the 32 vehicles drove 603,000 miles (that’s 24 times around the earth). We only have 658 miles of county roads. Think of gas, tires, oil changes and maintenance costs. The Road and Bridge Department is/has spent $250,000 on consultant services (page 210).

Done and Adopted in Durango, La Plata County, Colorado this 21st day of November, 2005. Signed by4 Sheryl D. Ayers, Chair, and your current county commissioners (Doing what’s best for La Plata County???)

Ms. Ayers says “taxpayers’ dollars should be spent responsibly.” Are they? Ayers has “experience” … experience spending your tax dollars.

Ms. Ayers also stated, when asked about affordable housing in La Plata County, that if the people who work at Wal-Mart want to afford housing in La Plata County, they should get an education and get a better job. I was there at station #5 and heard her say it. I have more secondary education than either of the other two candidates for county commissioner and the leadership skills and common sense to go with it.

There are currently 35 boards and commissions having meetings with a “bold vision” for “grow smart” in La Plata County. Joelle Riddle’s clichés aren’t novel.

Do you want higher taxes to spend on more furniture and jails? Vote Ayers. Do you want higher taxes to spend on consultants, meetings and code enforcement officers to restrict your property rights? Vote Riddle. If you are ready for change, and cherish your money, liberty and freedoms, vote Lynch.

If you are ready for change.

– Padraig Lynch, La Plata County commissioner candidate

Diving into immigration

Dear Editors, 

I was pondering the reason why I always see the same divers in your “Ask the Diver” section every week. I came to the conclusion that the reason is because there are probably only about five or so Caucasian dishwashers in our little town. The Mexican population is being grossly underrepresented by your newspaper. They make up the bulk of the kitchen staffs of Durango, and I’m sure they would appreciate a little spotlight every now and then. Instead of sarcasm and bawdy jokes about hippies and such, you could interview them about where they’re from, what circumstances brought them to the U.S., etc. Just an idea that would shed a little light on a growing issue in our country and a part of our community/workforce that is severely overlooked.

–Amor y Paz, Maria Stalcup, Durango

A grizzly error

Dear Telegraph,

Regarding the recent report of a possible grizzly citing near Aspen – while I appreciate your mention of my book Ghost Grizzlies: Does the Great Bear Still Haunt Colorado?, neither the 1990s Colorado grizzly search nor my book came anywhere near Independence Pass, as your writer erroneously reported. In fact, as I’ve been telling the media, it strikes me as exceedingly unlikely a grizzly sow with two cubs could be in that particular place. Where I did cite credible evidence for a few grizzly survivors as of the mid-1990s, was the South San Juan Wilderness. Also, the CDOW press release says only that the hunters watched the bears through binoculars. Since it was archery and black powder seasons, the rifle scopes Allen Best mentions would have been illegal. Allen: please check your facts! Thanks again for an important and entertaining paper.

– David Petersen, Durango

Vote down blank check for city

Dear Editor: 

A few questions for city residents concerning the Durango Fire Protection District: Should we vote ourselves a NEW tax to fund a service at the same level with no change to our insurance rates or the distance to our houses from a fire station? Should we give our city $2.2 million to spend without any direction from the citizens? Should we put any credence to the current City Council vaguely implying that the City’s 2.5 percent property tax could be temporarily suspended by a future City Council composed of different counselors (despite the statement from the city finance director that the city needs $95 million for capital improvements over the next 10 years)? Should we create a new taxing authority that is not regulated by the TABOR amendment and has no limits on the amount of money it collects as our property values increase (26 percent for mine at the last reassessment in 2005)? Should we vote in a Board of Directors about whom we know virtually nothing, most of whom appear to live in the county, and who have not presented any platforms or ideas on how to run the district (especially if the funding-4C-fails)?

Maybe, just maybe – the current combined fire district can find a way to survive and be funded without the citizens who cost it the least (city residents who are closest to each other and the fire station), paying a NEW and ever-increasing tax.

According to the Blue Ribbon Panel, who studied the formation and funding of the Durango Fire Protection District, there are other ways to fund the district, including to “require capital funds from the three funding partners.” Perhaps the district could use current funding methods for operating expenses and ask for additional money for capital funding (as the School Districts do). This is not the only alternative for funding.

Vote for 4A if you feel the combination is a good idea, but vote NO to NEW taxes, NO to a blank check for the city, NO to excessive spending, NO on 4C.

– Sandy Burke, Durango

Women Voters weigh in

Dear Editors,

The League of Women Voters of Colorado is taking positions on several of the 14 state and the two local ballot issues. In this role we are wearing our advocacy hat, which allows us to express support or opposition for these issues based on studies and positions taken by our grass roots membership. Please note that the league never supports or opposes a specific party or candidate.

Our local La Plata League urges support of the “Library Bond,” referred measure 2A. A YES vote will lead to a new state-of-the-art library building on the old Mercy site and will not increase taxes. We have decided not to take a position on the “Durango Fire Protection District” questions but will host a pro/con forum on Oct. 20.

At the state level, the league opposes Amendment 39, “Petitions,” which would inundate the state with initiatives, cost taxpayer dollars to support, and undermine the Colorado initiative process. We are also opposed to Amendment 40, “Term Limits for Judges.” Colorado is one of a few states using the Judicial Merit Selection system, a process system that serves us well. This amendment would penalize good judges, cause a destabilizing sweeping of the deck, and add an ill-advised political element to the selection. The League is also recommending a NO vote on Initiative 41, “Ethics in Government.” This well-intentioned Amendment adds detail to the Colorado Constitution that is best left in state law and creates a state ethics commission with unprecedented and practically unlimited powers reaching down to local levels, raising a danger of the unintended consequence of establishing a “big brother is watching you” atmosphere in the relationship between state and local governments.

A list of league positions on 2006 ballot issues can be found on our web site at www.lwvlaplata.org.

When we wear our voter education hat we host candidate, ballot issue and speaker forums, where arguments for and against are equally presented, and questions from the audience help define the position of candidates and issues. Our web site lists these forums.

– Ellen Park, president, League of Women Voters of La Plata County

The economics of fire and rescue

Dear Editors,

If voters approve the Durango Fire and Rescue Authority’s (DFRA) request to establish a new taxing district, city taxpayers will assume a new, higher property tax with no increase in emergency services. Voter approval would also exempt DFRA from Tabor’s spending limits and voter oversight.    

If the 2002 organizational and operational consolidation that created DFRA has achieved necessary efficiencies and economies, why the need to change?

Since dissolution of one of the oldest paid fire departments in Colorado, Durango has contributed $2 million annually to DFRA. With city fire infrastructure in place for years, why would city residents adopt an increased property tax for that very same service? With city neighborhoods more accessible to emergency equipment than the county, are city taxpayers subsidizing fire protection for county residents who live in more remote, fire-prone areas?

Even reducing DFRA’s original 7.1 mill levy to 6.3, voter approval was still not assured. The City Council took the unprecedented and long-term fiscally irresponsible step of adopting (4-1) a nonbinding resolution recommending elimination of the City’s 2.5 mill property tax to ease DFRA’s passage.

Despite the finagling of public funds on DFRA’s behalf and even if the 2007 Council eliminates the 2.5, city property taxpayers will still see a 4 mill levy increase. Small businesses, seniors on fixed income, residents with more than one job, renters, families still raising kids, consumers and tourists will experience the economic impacts of an increased tax with no increase in services.

If the DFRA vote fails, the city could continue to provide the current $2 million. Any future city emergency needs could be paid out of the quarter-cent dedicated to capital projects from the 2A sales tax, a special fire district at Three Springs or a three-fourth of a $.01 mil for ambulance service.

Consultants hired in 2000 to examine the feasibility of this proposed merger recommended against DFRA’s current proposal as politically untenable. Their recommendation to merge the Animas and Hermosa districts into one district with the City participating via an Intergovernmental Agreement is still a viable alternative.

I will vote NO on 4A and 4C.

– Renee Parsons, via e-mail

Vision to guide La Plata County

Dear Editors,

When I imagine what Durango and La Plata County will look like in 10, 20, even 30 years, it can be disheartening. At the rapid pace Western Colorado is growing, land use and infrastructure changes are ever-present.

When I imagine who I can trust to lead this county in the right direction, thinking and planning with vision and thoughtfulness, I know I will vote for Joelle Riddle for La Plata County commissioner.

Joelle Riddle has forward thinking plans for open space, the environment and jobs in La Plata County. Her campaign tagline is “Grow Smart,” and that is exactly what La Plata County needs.

– Monique DiGiorgio

Standing by the civility pledge

Dear Editors,

As a candidate for the race for House District 59, I have been very proud of the civil manner and tone of my campaign, including through the time in which I had a primary opponent. A recent television ad regarding my general election opponent, Joe Colgan, was created by a committee not connected in any way with my campaign and is not consistent with the civil and respectful nature that I hope and expect of all candidates, including myself. After talking with Joe Colgan about this situation so that he clearly now knows this is not my doing, it appears that while the ad is not factually inaccurate, it is misleading and the tone of the ad is what is unacceptable to both Joe and me. I therefore stand by the civility pledge that I signed earlier in the campaign and renounce such tactics and ask the group responsible for this ad to stop airing it and to engage in no further campaigning of this type in my race. I and my opponent want others to know that we have no hard feelings toward each other and we would like to return the focus of this race to the issues important to the district and the candidates’ abilities to perform the duties of the office of state representative.

– Ellen Roberts, candidate for House District 59


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