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The Aspen Effect

Respected editors:

While I am new to Durango and La Plata County, it feels like home in a way I have never experienced before. In a depth that defies my description, I feel a desire to contribute to the future of the place that will surely be my home until I leave this world. The natural beauty of our home speaks for itself, a land of color and texture rarely matched on this planet.  Similar to the feeling one gets while experiencing a new love, of a partner or even a puppy, I find comfort in giving of myself to benefit that love. Some may think that newcomers cannot share the passion expressed by others who have been here for many moons. This may often be the case in a country that is dominated by tourism, but passion can be ignited instantaneously as we all know.

Being new to the Animas Valley, and having a mind thirsting for knowledge, I have attempted to go to those who represent the well of information. I attempt to volunteer for efforts that contribute to the long term sustainability of a land that has a future that extends at least as far forward, as history records its past. Furthermore, in attending public meetings, I have listened to concerned citizens, organizers of social organizations such as shelters for those abused, historical preservation, sovereign nations, business owners, oil and gas companies, gold miners and of course our elected officials. These many hours of time have reaped me a great harvest, not the least of which is the diversity of viewpoints represented, all of which have inherent value. One’s ability to freely speak, be heard and respected is the key to building a true community so revered in the United States. While we all do not always get our way all the time, the opportunity for equity still exists.

I have been blessed with the opportunity to live in many communities with unique cultural qualities. I grew up in a small river town in Minnesota, Marine on St. Croix (the actual model for MPR’s fabled Lake Wobegon); Vail, Colo.; Miami, Fla.; and most recently post-hurricane Katrina Biloxi, Miss. This has shown me many things that work well for nurturing a community, and much that undermines a sense of pride in one’s community. For what it is worth, I see the La Plata County region on the cusp of experiencing a trend described by Professor Robert H. Frank of Cornell University as the “Aspen Effect”.

As outlined in an article about “Sustainable Planning for Tourist Destinations,” the Aspen Effect is the result when “communities outprice their own workforce by4 building economies around high-priced tourism.” According to the Institute for Sustainable Communities, truly progressive “sustainable communities (SC) are defined as cities and towns that have taken steps to remain healthy over the long term. SC’s have a strong sense of place. They have a vision that is embraced and actively promoted by all of the key sectors of society, including businesses, disadvantaged groups, environmentalists, civic organizations, government agencies and religious organizations. They are places that build on their assets and dare to be innovative. These communities value healthy ecosystems, use resources efficiently, and actively seek to retrain and enhance a locally based economy. There is a persuasive volunteer spirit that is rewarded by concrete results. Partnerships between and among government, the business sector, and nonprofit organizations are common. Public debate in these communities is engaging, inclusive, and constructive. Unlike traditional community development approaches, sustainability strategies emphasize the whole community (not just disadvantaged neighborhoods), ecosystem protection, meaningful and broad based citizen participation and an economic self reliance.”

As evidenced by the La Plata County Compass program, Inter Governmental Agreements (IGA’s), and citizen involvement, we are well on our way to achieving a community that will be recognized as a truly world class place to live, work and visit. We are in a prime position to ensure our place, and thereby encouraging further economic growth, while maintaining a community where our kids can still afford to live and exhibit the civic pride so rare in many societies.

In this time of economic unrest, I encourage our local government to consider adding Sustainability Planning to their budget restructuring. If you agree, talk to your elected officials. I have had the honor of talking with many of these folks personally, while we may not agree on all things, they are truly nice people doing their best. I personally hold them in high regard for their service. Thank you.

– Paul Reeves, Hermosa

People like Palin

Dear Missy Votel,

Frankly, I find the way you juggle your political views a bit troubling, too. As far as the 1950s are concerned, I was there. I may know more about it than you?

We can thank the sixties generation for the mess they have done and, left for others to clean up. They would not listen to us; went on their merry way with fun and love. We are partly at fault for allowing that. Two wars and we were just too tired to fight anymore.

The Democrats as well as the Republicans are at fault for our present mess. Our “do nothing” Congress should be thrown out, both parties. Quite frankly, People like Palin might be a better risk than they are?

– Respectfully, Howard DeShazo, Santa Fe

A managed approach to growth

To the Editors:

I am running for La Plata County commissioner because I want to change the way the county is developing. Yes, La Plata County will grow, but HOW it grows is a choice for voters this election. I want to be your county commissioner in order to focus on three areas of concern: 1) managing growth and its impacts; 2) attention to community health and well being (which includes keeping land, air and water clean, affordable housing, and health care); and 3) building a transportation system designed to minimize future energy price shocks.

In this letter, I want to focus on growth. Decisions made today by county commissioners will be part of our day-to-day experience for decades to come. I ask that voters take a moment to think local.

I knock on a lot of doors these days. Managing growth is the number one concern of county residents, including independents. Since the current real estate boom took off in the early 1990s, La Plata County government, with a few exceptions, has allowed land own

ers and developers to take full advantage of this boom. This is an old story in the West. Once it was mining; now it’s real estate (and gas extraction). Money from the outside is driving how we grow.

I’m running because I want local policies to reflect not external market priorities, but local priorities. I think it’s clear that this is what voters want, too. I’ve heard it in public meetings and letters to the editor for years. I’ve also heard something else: people want to know, “Why is it taking so long?” (The new County Land Use Code has been in the works since 2002!) My answer to this question is simple: based on results, it has not been a top priority. If I’m elected, I would make it my top priority.

A week ago, my opponent was quoted as saying that she disavows partisan politics. This certainly appeals to voters turned off by petty bickering and dumbed-down TV political ads (from New Mexico!) But let’s be real. This is an election. Just to express concern about growth is not enough. Putting it into a strategic plan is not enough. Even policies stated in the County’s area land use plans are not enough. (For details, visit www.tregillus.com. ) County commissioners vote the rules of the game through the County’s land use code.

Bayfield and Ignacio have different circumstances, but Durango is the hub. Durango’s leadership is seeking to change the rules of the game. They are moving to have development pay more of its own way. They are moving on an affordable housing ordinance that would be a true step forward to addressing a problem that has attracted more lip service than action over the years. But if the County fails to match strategies with the City, the playing field is less level. County inaction creates an incentive for development to leapfrog outside the city limits. Then growth impacts drive back into the city, daily, and we get sprawl and not-smart energy development.

La Plata County government has been controlled by county commissioners who have followed the market and tilted in favor of not-smart growth for at least 15 years. The results are apparent to anyone sitting in traffic, trying to find a home to rent or buy, or to anyone who just looks around. If you are ready for a change, I ask for your vote for La Plata County commissioner.

– Peter Tregillus, candidate for La Plata County commissioner

Still in search of child care

Dear Editors,

The recent article, “Closing the gap on early education” in the 09/18/08 edition took me by surprise. In the article, Nicole Tracy of the EAC states, “The good news is that we have met our child care needs in La Plata County.” The article further indicates that “La Plata County management, along with the Board of County Commissioners, has been instrumental in spear-heading the early child-care effort and closing the supply and demand gap, which was highlighted as a Master Plan objective.”

To the best of my knowledge we are far from meeting our early childcare requirements in Durango! I am a part of a citizen task force focused on providing quality early child care throughout La Plata County. Presently there are not sufficient slots to serve most of our working families. Waiting lists in Durango remain at the two-year mark for all age groups of early child care.

The Child, Youth and Family Master Plan did not address the shortage of availability of quality, affordable child care in the county. The two goals in the Early Childhood component were to (1) increase the number of home health care visits to families with children under age 2 and (2) to provide subsidy for middle income families for affordable child care.

The Early Childhood Council has indeed taken significant ground in increasing the number of quality child care providers in La Plata County. They have upgraded the eligibility requirements for low-income families to receive financial assistance for affordable child care. The Family Home Provider Recruitment Project increased the number of infant and toddler slots by 12 in Bayfield and Hesperus.

From my perspective it will take the combined efforts of public agencies, local business and private sector to close the gap. We must not lose focus on providing affordable, quality early child care throughout the county. We have a long way to go and there remains much to be accomplished before the child care shortage in La Plata County is met!

– Marty J. Palecki, Durango

Don’t miss out

Dear Editors, Registered to vote? At your current address? Oct. 6 is the last day to register – if you live in Colorado, you can vote in Colorado. You can register, verify and update your registration online at a site sponsored by the Obama campaign: www.VoteForChange.com

Don’t miss out on this exciting and important election. Colorado is a swing state this year – every vote counts!

– Doug Fults, Durango

A glimmer of hope

Dear Editors,

I’ve talked with people who don’t vote. Some are friends I respect and understand their reasons. In fact, I’ve almost made that decision myself in the past or have voted for “third” party candidates. But not this time. I see a glimmer of hope in the Obama campaign – a movement that defines America’s freedom as not just being about the ability to amass fortunes and toys.  A freedom that includes responsibility, caring and earns the respect of the world. If you feel that it doesn’t matter if you vote; then it follows that it doesn’t matter if you DO vote. Why not register and vote for Obama, who is, right now, the best possibility for change in America?

– Louise Teal, Durango



In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

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