League says yes to schools, pot tax

To the editor:
The League of Women Voters urges all La Plata County voters to support Amendment 66, Funding for Public Schools, by voting yes. The amendment satisfies criteria noted in the state LWV’s long standing position on fiscal policy, adopted in 1979-81, which states support for “adequate and flexible funding of state government programs through an equitable tax system that is progressive and which incorporates social, environmental and economic goals.” The amendment also satisfies our state LWV School Finance position, adopted in 1969, updated in 1985, which supports a “state school finance system which includes equity for students, taxpayers and school districts; adequate sources of revenue; and support for high-cost programs for students with special needs.”

Our state president, Bobbie Heisterkamp, has written the following: “Amendment 66 successfully addresses many education needs in Colorado. It will fix many of the shortfalls embedded in our public school system. It will guarantee full-day kindergarten to every 5-year-old. It will add funding for special education and gifted students. It will set up an innovation fund to help schools implement best and proven practices to raise student achievement levels. And most importantly, it will change the way per-pupil spending is calculated to make that funding more equitable throughout Colorado. The proposed new counting method makes this possible with a minimal tax increase.

“Our state is woefully behind most of the nation in how much we invest in public schools, yet we value education as a means to prepare students to be as productive and thoughtful as their abilities allow. The League of Women Voters of Colorado urges every voter to vote “yes” on Amendment 66.”

The League also urges support for Proposition AA, Taxes on Marijuana and Marijuana Products, based as well on the same provisions of our state fiscal policy position.

Take the time to read carefully the state blue book (2013 State Ballot Information Booklet), which arrived at your home, and the LWVCO Ballot Issue pamphlet, available at the LWV table at the Durango Library for4 nonpartisan information on these two issues.

– Nadine Ancel, treasurer, League of Women Voters of La Plata County


5 bags a week only cost a pittance

To the editor,
I am a cat lover, having two precious kitties. When I first heard about the plastic bag ordinance, I thought, “What will I do with the litter?” I use the bags from the market to dispose of the litter.

After giving it serious thought, I decided I could buy plastic bags from the market. This makes sense. I would spend about $26 a year on bags, purchasing, on average, five bags a week. Seems a pittance when compared with the money I spend on litter, cat food and especially the veterinarian each year. 

A small price to pay to be able to walk the river trail and not see plastic bags stuck on trees and bushes. Or in street gutters in town.

– Marilyn Sandstrom, Durango


Martin, Souder bring great ideas

To the editor,
With years of involvement in Durango schools, I can knowledgeably and enthusiastically recommend my two favorite candidates for the 9-R board, Kim Martin and Mick Souder. I know how the board works (very hard, long hours) at providing oversight of the district. I see Martin and Souder each supplying qualities that otherwise might be missing from the team. With extensive business, IT, law and public service careers, they are equally knowledgeable in the education world from both sides of the equation: as developers of innovative programs; in the training of teachers and the teaching of students in multi-cultural settings; and as family members of public school teachers (Mick’s wife; Kim’s three adult children). They will be committed to ensuring that every family (across our wide socioeconomic spectrum) has access to excellent educational choices that meet every child’s learning needs. 

They bring great ideas for convening the public and strong listening skills to match. Mick has been a key board member of the national “E-Democracy.org” online public engagement project in addition to his current IT position for the Southern Ute Tribe. Kim is a former ELL teacher on the Navajo Reservation, a program developer for children with extreme special needs, and locally has been a board member of Tri-State Head Start. She retired in 2011 from teaching at FLC and recently demonstrated her global vision with a multi-media project connecting Durango women with Middle Eastern counterparts, something rare and much needed in the 21st Century. We are lucky indeed to have them step up to the plate.

– Bliss Bruen, Durango


Vote ‘yes’ on Amendment 66

To the editor,
Amendment 66 asks the voters to approve a modest increase in the state income tax for the specific purpose of funding educational reform in Colorado.

K-12 education lays the foundation for economic success. In my experience, sound educational fundamentals opened the door to a successful career as a scientist and educator, as well as an unexpected second career as a sustainability advocate and public servant. I care passionately about education, which is one of the pillars of community sustainability.

I have viewed with alarm the statistics that 25-30 percent of Colorado students drop out without completing high school and the truly dismal prospects they face in the 21st century economy. Likewise, I have been dismayed by the slow degradation of our school systems by TABOR constraints on state funding. While the federal government is promoting an educational Race to the Top, Colorado continues its distinctive drift to the bottom. Our state now ranks 46th of the 50 states in funding for K-12 education, relative to personal income. While our educators, especially in School District 9-R, have made heroic and largely successful efforts to preserve the quality of education, they need more resources.

Amendment 66 would provide some of those resources, in particular for students who are most at risk today. In many instances, educational failure now for these young people will divert tax revenue for decades into the future into social services and criminal justice. Conversely, their success would help propel Colorado to greater prosperity. The future of our community and our state depends on the investments we make in our children.   

Please join me in supporting passage of Amendment 66.

– Dick White, private citizen, Durango


Fee means individual responsibility

Dear editor,
I became involved with the Bag It! campaign, the many people who are FOR keeping the ordinance, for several reasons. 1) I am among those who support the ordinance as an easy way to encourage reducing our use of disposable goods; 2) I believe in people being informed before making decisions; 3) I believe in letting those we elected to office by a majority vote do their job; and 4) I believe in personal and community responsibility. 

Over the past two years, the ordinance has continuously evolved and come to the public in bits and spurts. It has not been easy to keep up. The Herald editorials and reporting have consistently advanced opinion vs. facts, and been misleading or wrong. The City, not having information available on its website until last month, also has done the public a disservice. And most recently, the anti-camp unleashed a fear-mongering campaign based in more misinformation and downright lies.

I believe that our community is sadly being overtaken by the same loud and angry rhetoric we hear at the state and national level about individual rights, freedom and government intrusion in our lives, advanced by a well-funded minority interest. The two Colorado recalls come to mind, and we must push back. This is not the Durango community I know and love. 

The most recent Herald editorial on the issue cited the “against” camp as opposing the ordinance believing it “a limitation of individual choice.” The ordinance in its final form is a compromise policy crafted expressly to retain consumer choice and encourage personal responsibility. Since when did freedom come without responsibility?! 

The only thing extreme about this well-written, compromise policy is the opposition’s reaction to it. Read it yourself at durangogov.org/hot topics or durangobagit.org. Then look your child or grandchild in the eye and tell them you cannot manage to change your personal habits because your individual right to waste is more important than their future on a planet of finite resources. Get informed and vote FOR the ordinance.

– Ellen Stein, Durango


Tax will drive pot underground

Dear Editor,
This election, Colorado voters will consider Proposition AA, a 15 percent sales tax plus a 15 percent excise tax on marijuana sales. Colorado has never taxed a particular industry or product at this high of a rate. These taxes would be in addition to the federal, state and local taxes already in place on marijuana. Federal taxes on marijuana businesses and consumers are already higher than any other industry due to the inability of these businesses to take full deductions. 

Proposition AA would be the highest tax increase in Colorado history, a reckless experiment that would create a dysfunctional market for marijuana, undermining the goal of the “Alcohol-Marijuana Equalization Initiative” (Amendment 64). As a framer and supporter of Amendment 64, the purpose of the measure was to bring marijuana out of Prohibition and regulate it like alcohol. Colorado’s alcohol industry pays less than 1 percent in state excise taxes. Prohibition does not work. Excessive taxes are another form of Prohibition.

The Pro-Tax campaign is supported by what Jacob Sullum of Reason Magazine has accurately labeled “The Marijuana Cartel,” i.e. large dispensaries and drug dealers that use burdensome and expensive government regulation and taxation to suppress fair competition from smaller businesses. 

The Pro-Tax campaign is running a campaign of fear, alleging that the U.S. Department of Justice wants high taxes on marijuana. I recently asked U.S. Attorney for Colorado John Walsh whether he supported Colorado Proposition AA, and he responded that the U.S. Department of Justice did not endorse Proposition AA.  An Aug. 29 memo from the Dept. of Justice providing official guidance regarding marijuana does not even mention local or state taxes on marijuana, but does mention an enforcement system that is “effective in practice.” Excessive taxes create a dysfunctional system that is “ineffective in practice” and creates a marijuana market ripe for takeover by the unregulated, untaxed, underground market.

Proposition AA would re-establish Prohibition and drive marijuana back underground, to the detriment of all Coloradans. Please vote “No” on Proposition AA.

–  Robert J. Corry Jr., “No on Proposition AA” Campaign

Beware Sack Transmitted Disease

To the editor,
Plastic bags are the future; they are a hidden gift from above! Let me explain: it is evident that our use and discard of plastic bags has proved to be a catalyst for the evolution of other species, specifically cetaceans! Hear me out now (and Google the definition of “cetacean” right quick). While research is obviously lacking, most likely due to the government shutdown, which was necessary to try and stop Obama Care, because let’s be honest, the Affordable Care Act was a much better option!

Anyways back to cetacean evolution, our underwater ocean dwelling inferiors have actually begun to utilize plastic bags to transfer goods! Some studies on Wikipedia show that they may have actually established super markets that recycle discarded human plastic bags. I’m a realist though; it’s my belief that they are merely transporting goods (aka fish, kelp, conch shells) in the plastic bags. The proof lies in multiple Google image search results, though. One picture I found showed a bottle nose dolphin with a plastic bag slung around its dorsal fin. Another was a sea turtle with a Wal-Mart bag around the little feller’s flipper! Finally there was a picture of a hammer head shark towing two bags from either side of his oblong head, and get this: his pet seal in tow had a six-pack holder tightly secured around its muzzle to prevent it from biting others! Talk about a creative and effective (not to mention green/recyclable use of a six-pack holder) to restrain that beast, we should do that to pit bulls in America!

For the sake of furthering our fellow species, we must continue to pollute their environments with our excess, it is our duty as humans. Oh, and in regard to the hype about these “reusable” bags, I read you can get an “STD” (sack transmitted disease) pretty easy from them things! Ignorance is bliss.

– Rick Rister, Mancos