LPEA: stick with the mission

Dear LPEA Board Members,

I would like to remind each of you of your responsibilities in your elected position. I will point out to you the mission statement of the LPEA: “To provide our members safe, reliable electricity at the lowest reasonable cost while being environmentally responsible”

And here is the mission statement of Tri-State Generation: “to provide our member systems a reliable, cost-based supply of electricity while maintaining a sound financial position through effective utilization of human, capital and physical resources in accordance with cooperative principles.”

There is a discussion taking place as to whether the LPEA Board of Directors should abdicate its responsibility to negotiate for our electric needs, which is a blanket waiver to give Tri-State the right to be the primary negotiator of ALL our renewable energy projects going forward. It appears to not support, and even directly contradict, your mission statement. This waiver does not appear to reduce rates for members or have any beneficial impacts. Conversely, most if not all LPEA members would take “being environmentally responsible” to mean moving toward a cleaner energy future. Tri-State Generation is under no such mandate in its mission statement. No one can make the argument that a coal-fired generation facility is environmentally responsible.

My question: How can LPEA Board members ignore their very mission – to provide electricity to members in an environmentally responsible manner – by turning over all powers of negotiation to another entity that is without such a mandate? How will LPEA achieve its mission statement when it has given its right to negotiate all renewable energy projects to an entity that is apparently, per its mission statement, most (or arguably only) concerned with cost?

Of course everyone wants cheap electricity, but at what cost to our environment? I can tell you that Tri-State is leveraged to the hilt in dirty coal-fired generation plants – ones that spew toxins directly into our fair locale. It doesn’t require much foresight to figure out that Tri-State will not be a tough negotiator and proponent for renewables when it is committed to burning coal for the long term.

As a co-op member, I vociferously demand the LPEA Board of Directors acts in compliance with its mission and not give away our right to negotiate for a cleaner energy future. This is what you signed up for when you ran for the board: to fulfill the mission of the co-operative. A mission statement exists for a reason. It is to always be looked to for clarification in making decisions concerning our co-op. And allowing a multi-state entity to negotiate against that mission, solely putting costs ahead of said mission, is an absolute wrong. Please do not shrink from the duty and responsibility you were elected to perform. There is absolutely no way abdicating your responsibility to negotiate “while being environmentally responsible” by allowing a coal behemoth to negotiate for you is within your mandate. Don’t do it.

– Tim Pankowski, LPEA District 2

Champagne has skills and heart

To the editor,

I am writing to wholeheartedly recommend voting for Christian Champagne as Durango’s next district attorney. No words exist that can convey the gratitude and admiration I feel for him. My hope is that this can at least shed some light on what it was like to have him pursue justice on behalf of my family.

One of our children was assaulted. The perpetrator admitted to it, but a shoddy investigation by the sheriff’s department weakened the case so much that Risberg considered dropping it. Champagne sat with us for over two hours and talked us through our options. He listened as we expressed outrage. He showed that he understood where we were coming from and cared about doing everything possible to ensure justice. He promised to advocate for us and succeeded.

The legal process was painstakingly slow. We got updates from Champagne every few weeks. With each update, the trauma returned in full force. I came to depend on subtle aspects of Champagne’s personality, like his kind tone, patience and compassion. In all the uncertainty, I knew I could trust him and that he was doing everything possible to bring us closure.   

Champagne not only prosecutes effectively but also has the skills and heart to stand side by side with victims as they struggle through the complex emotions of fear, doubt, grief and anger that inevitably come with traumatic assaults. A district attorney’s ability to establish a trusting relationship with victims cannot be underestimated. Champagne is one of those rare individuals who can inspire strength, compassion and courage in others during the darkest times. His very presence instills hope. Christian Champagne is one of our community’s greatest assets and will be an excellent district attorney.

– Emily Thompson, Durango


(Editor’s note: This week, both district attorney candidates for the Sixth Judicial District, Ben Lammons and Christian Champagne, weigh in on their bid for office. The  Democratic Primary for district attorney is Tues., June 28. Since there is no Republican candidate, the winner will replace outgoing DA, Todd Risberg. Nonaffiliated voters wishing to weigh in can vote by affiliating at the La Plata County Clerk’s Office in Bodo, the Bayfield Town Hall or next week at the La Plata County Fairgrounds. There are 24-hour drop boxes for mail-in ballots at the Clerk’s Office, Bayfield Town Hall or La Plata County Admin Building, 1101 E. 2nd Ave. For more info., go to: www.co.laplata.co.us.

DA needs a change in leadership

To the editor,

I, Ben Lammons, am running for district attorney because of my conviction that we need a change in leadership. The current DA office has not improved outcomes for victims of sexual and physical violence. Without change, lenient offers to child molesters, serial rapists and other violent offenders will continue.

For 21 years, I have worked hard to secure justice for crime victims. Working in all three criminal justice systems in Southwest Colorado has provided me with a good sense of the strengths and weaknesses of each system. Tribal courts are better at restorative justice. Federal courts are best at incarceration. State courts, handling the bulk of criminal cases, fall somewhere in the middle.

It is essential that the district attorney strike the right balance between restorative justice and protection of the community. The district attorney plays a major role in shaping consequences for each defendant who commits a crime. I believe my experience as a prosecutor places me between the two extremes.

I have worked with law enforcement in many parts of Colorado. Fourteen of my 21 years as a prosecutor have been spent in state courts. Members of the local Fraternal Order of Police have recognized my accomplishments and endorsed me. The quality of the district attorney has a measurable impact on the life and safety of our community. Experience matters.

For the past eight years, I have served as the Southern Ute tribal prosecutor on a reservation that spans 1,100 square miles and extends into three counties. I handle 500 cases per year and make all budget and personnel decisions. I have the largest caseload of any prosecutor in the region. As the only prosecutor on the reservation, the outcome in every case is my responsibility. During my tenure, the Tribal Prosecutor’s Office has gone from winning less than 10 percent of its jury trials to winning more than 60 percent of its jury trials.

We have restored the tribal community’s faith in the criminal justice system by showing fairness for defendants and compassion for victims and their families. This was accomplished by reaching out to tribal elders, tribal youth, certified addiction counselors and community members, and listening to them. Our Wellness Court is the best drug court in the region, offering the most extensive support to clients. We have helped many addicts get into recovery and remain sober. When the offender takes responsibility for his actions, restorative justice is most likely to succeed. But non?repentant serious offenders must be dealt with rigorously to protect our community.

I am running for district attorney to achieve the same kind of turnaround. I will work to expand services in the drug court and the mental health courts. I will follow court orders so important cases do not have to be retried, adding costs to the taxpayer and re?traumatizing victims. I will not turn away from prosecuting serious cases. I will engage with community members to be certain our plea offers are fair to the defendants and protect the community.

Nationally, a recent case involving a Stanford student who raped an unconscious woman and received only six months in jail has sparked public outrage – and rightly so. By comparison, our DA office offered a man who raped an unconscious woman a plea bargain for 90 days in jail and probation. As your district attorney, I pledge to protect the community from such violent serious offenders.

I encourage you to examine the records of both candidates and vote your conscience in the current primary election. If you are a registered Republican or Independent, you can still re?register and vote your convictions.

– Ben Lammons, DA candidate, Sixth Judicial District

A community-based approach

To the editor,
My name is Christian Champagne, and I am a candidate for district attorney. I am running because I love this community and want more than anything to be of service to this wonderful place we call home. I believe I am the best candidate for the job because I have the best vision for the future; the best, most relevant experience; and the best leadership skills to get the job done.
I have been your assistant district attorney, the No. 2 prosecutor in the district, since 2009. During that time, crime is down by 6.5 percent. We have made amazing strides in making our community both safer and stronger, and we need to build on that momentum.

My vision for the District Attorney’s Office is a victim-centered, community-based approach to prosecution that focuses first and foremost on community safety, as well as on building a stronger community by using our criminal justice resources to reintegrate appropriate offenders safely back into the community.  

I believe that most people in the criminal justice system are good people who have made mistakes.  We need to focus on addressing the root causes of people’s criminal behavior, such as drug and alcohol addiction and mental health issues, to help them return to being productive members of society. I have experience in creating and implementing real-world, concrete solutions to criminal behavior that really work, including our Drug Court program, Mental Health court, restorative justice programs, diversion program for low-risk offenders, and our new DUI court. Incarceration is not an effective solution for most criminal behavior, and instead creates more criminals and long-term problems for all of us. Instead, we need to treat appropriate offenders here in the community and help them get their lives back on track. This is how we have reduced crime by 6.5 percent and built a safer and stronger community.

Unfortunately, there are dangerous offenders out there, and the DA must be able to handle those difficult cases and take them out of the community. During my time as a prosecutor, I have handled many of the toughest cases in our district, including homicides, sexual assaults, domestic violence and violent crime. I have a proven track record of winning the toughest trials, achieving convictions, getting high-level sentences for those who harm others, and winning justice for victims. Dangerous offenders have no place here, and I have the experience and ability to get them off the streets.

I have been a leader in our community, both in the District Attorney’s Office and as a concerned community member.  I have been a leader in the District Attorney’s office, handling budgetary issues, hiring, training, and supervising the staff, addressing the long-term strategic issues facing our office, and creating and implementing effective, new restorative justice programs. I have been a leader in the community as well, working on diverse issues such as addressing homelessness, raising awareness about sexual assault and domestic violence, implementing juvenile justice reform, and protecting our elders and at-risk population.

We need a leader who will move us forward into the future, not backwards into an old, broken style of prosecution that has led to mass incarceration, chronic criminality, and long-term problems for our community. I have proven that I am a positive, forward-thinking leader; I have the necessary experience to get the job done; and that I have the best vision for our future, backed up by concrete results. I am asking for your vote in the June 28 Democratic Primary.  

See ChampagneForDA.com for more information.

– Christian Champagne, DA candidate, Sixth Judicial District