Leveling campaign finance field
 (Editors note: The following is one in a series of op-ed pieces written by Animas High School students that will run over the next few weeks.)
To the editor,
During every election, billions of dollars are spent on ads supporting or attacking a certain candidate. However, many of these are not actually distributed by the candidates themselves.  Since these advertisements may significantly affect election outcomes, it is important for the electorate to understand their source and motivations.

Before 2010, it was not legal for any corporation to distribute a communication supporting a candidate for public office. These requirements were meant to prevent the corrupting influence of money on the political system. Because large amounts of money can have an adverse and disproportionate effect on elections, an amendment to the Constitution restricting corporate political spending and speech is the most just course of action.

In January 2008, a nonprofit corporation, Citizens United, produced a film called “Hilary,” which was critical of former Sen. Hilary Clinton, who at the time, was a Democratic candidate for president. Citizens United distributed the film using On Demand Cable television within 30 days of the primaries. Fearing possible legal action, Citizens United sought protection through the judicial system. The case was eventually brought before the Supreme Court of the United States.

 In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to restrict corporate funding of political communications because it violated the First Amendment right to free speech. Much controversy has been raised following this ruling. President Obama condemned it saying, “this ruling gives the special interests and their lobbyists even more power in Washington – while undermining the influence of average Americans who make small contributions to support their preferred candidates.”

On the contrary, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ken., stated, “any proponent of free speech should applaud this decision. Citizens United is and will be a First Amendment triumph of enduring significance.”

Many argue that restricting corporate funding is a  direct violation of First Amendment rights. As the Constitution is currently written, this is true since the First Amendment makes no reference to corporations. However, the Constitution is a live document and can be changed with changing times. If the Constitution remained as it was written more than 200 years ago, women could not vote and slavery would still be legal.

 It can be argued that restricting a corporation’s right to free speech could eventually extend to all Americans. This would only happen if the American people let it. Howard Zinn writes in his book The Zinn Reader, “We take our rights, as thinking, acting citizens.” As the Amendment should be written, it would only restrict the rights of corporations and not apply to ordinary Americans … unless they allow it to. If it did eventually affect ordinary citizens, then it would be their responsibility to take their rights back.
Two of the founding principles of this nation are liberty and equality. However, at times, they can contradict each other. One notable example is slavery, where liberty to own slaves was weighed against the equality of blacks. Since then, almost every dispute of civil rights has been based on a tension between certain liberties and the inequalities they may create.

The issue of a corporation’s role in our democratic process is no different. On one hand, we have an inequality of speech. A corporation can reach hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people with one ad. At the same time, it is unlikely an average person could reach even a thousand viewers. In this case, it can be said that creating such inequalities can be harmful because it interferes with our basic democratic processes. While it may not seem like people are directly hurt, the effects upon our democratic system could be catastrophic.

If corporations are allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money on ads, what is to ensure that the interests of ordinary citizens like you and I are fairly represented? The sole interest of a corporation is profit; while the common interest of the American people tends to be “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” In a democracy like ours, the welfare of citizens should be considered more important than that of its corporations. We need to ensure all people have an equal opportunity to have their voices heard, and the voice of the masses must not be overwhelmed by that of corporate interests.
– Elijah Gutt, Animas High School

Give resident deer population a brake
To the editor,
I love living in Durango for many reasons, but the multitude of deer in the area are the icing on the cake. I travel Florida Road daily and smile with amusement when deer calmly graze by the roadside and sometimes blindly walk out in front of oncoming traffic.
For months now, four beautiful does have been grazing on my lawn with no fear. Recently, I found one of them dead on the road by my house on Florida. The next day, another one and a third has a broken leg.
Everyone who drives in and around Durango must know the deer are there and everywhere! Please slow down folks. Watch for deer. They trust us – we must respect their trust!
– Diann Sandlin, Durango

WolfWood event a howling success
To the editor,
Please accept our heartfelt appreciation for supporting our first public style fund-raiser for the WolfWood Refuge. The community support and generosity made sure that our fencing projects and veterinary bills are covered for the rest of the year.

We are impressed and truly honored by the response we received. Everyone we asked for help said yes. People who weren’t asked approached us at the event and offered their help next year. We hope that you visit our website for updates and feel free to contact us for a tour or let us know if you’d like to be involved next year: http://www.wolfwoodrefuge.org, 970-946-9606 or email: wolfwood1995@hotmail.com.

Our thanks to our hard-working volunteers, the creative talent of our participating artists as well as our local sponsors, who came together to make this an enjoyable and successful event.
– Paula, Craig & the wolves

The Woodcarver
An orphan of wood,
Nothing more,
He mends the old elm rocker,
Bent brown from the autumn
Of dreams.
He inspects the ancient veins,
Which fed the blossom,
And works with the patience
Found in winter’s
Shadowed branch.
His shavings fall unnoticed
Into the boy cuffs
Of curiosity.
And then,
He sighs silently,
Like the old oak table
That hosts
The ageless
Broken bread of faith.
– Burt Baldwin, Ignacio