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Opinion

Cortez Journal Saturday March 31, 2012

The combined Montezuma Journal (Established 1888), the Cortez Herald (Established 1908), and the Cortez Sentinel (Established 1929). Suzy Meyer, Publisher

Russ Smyth, Managing Editor

editorial

City council election Don’t squander opportunity to weigh in on local government

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ortez voters who haven’t received a municipal ballot in the mail go to the polls on Tuesday to pick city council members. Aside from occasional controversies like the recent recall, city politics generally are low key, which is the sign of a municipality run well. Because the police come when we call them, our streets are in good repair, our taps produce clean water and our garbage is hauled away, Cortez residents assume that all is well with the city government. That’s a local benefit well worth working to preserve. Council members receive solid information from the city manager and department heads and make sound decisions based on data rather than on politics. Their constituents are usually willing to let them perform their duties without a great deal of supervision or interference. That doesn’t mean citizens shouldn’t choose council members wisely and interact with them during their terms. Not everyone can be a good elected The issue: official. Those jobs involve timeMunicipal consuming hard work, often withelections. out thanks, and the decisions that must be made sometimes are chess moves in a plan that won’t play out Our opinion: fully for many years. The skills and of the people making Good local lead- motivations such decisions determine the fuers make a big ture of Cortez. With that in mind, consider these difference in a qualities: community. Council members must be able to organize, understand and process information in a way that informs their decisions. They must be willing to read thick packets, research complex issues, and recognize the multiple factors involved in each issue. They must be willing to seek information from constituents, then separate it from the emotions involved in current events and make decisions based on facts. They must not be susceptible to the pressure to treat family members, friends, neighbors and business associates differently than other constituents. They must be able to accept legitimate criticism without internalizing the viciousness that so often characterizes 21st century politics. They must be able to understand the way their decisions work with other forces, including other local governing bodies like the county and special districts, state and federal laws, the economy, the environment, community values and social change. They must be able to create policies that are sustainable but not immutable, to serve the community well now and into an unknowable future. Most of the time, they must bring those skills to bear on esoteric issues that aren’t particularly interesting to the general public until something goes wrong. Choose carefully, vote wisely, and stay involved after the election. Local politics may not be as entertaining or as upsetting as the national show, but the actions of city government have a greater effect on the everyday lives of the people who live and work in Cortez, as they do for those in Mancos and Dolores.

readerS write Prioritize teacher salaries, senior tax exemption Editor: After reading your editorial in the March 29 Journal, it is apparent you are not of senior citizen age nor have a member of your family trying to make ends meet when gasoline, food costs, insurance (or lack of), medicines, home heating costs, water, (forget watering your lawn) or when something breaks down

how to pay for repairs, when all of the above have increased drastically. The average senior citizen home owner has paid school taxes for numerous years after their children have left the nest only to see teachers’ salaries below the state average and the desire of a few to build new and larger schools (with my taxes) when the student enrollment has declined remarkably, surely gives us some

rights for the return of a homestead tax benefit Students learn from good teachers, not a new building. The Joint Budget Committee put the money where it will help the most: teacher salaries and the senior citizen. Jeanette Hammons Cortez Via e-mail

I don’t care what party the DA belongs to Editor: I want to thank Heather Lewis, Patricia Robbins and Don Etnier for revealing the hysteria of the Republican Party elite over the results of their county assembly. They fear losing political power and favors as rank and file Republicans reclaim their party and choose competent candidates who represent a broader constituency. Ms. Lewis, Larrie and Pat Rule’s daughter, rightly acknowledged Jim Wilson’s hard work on her sister’s case and his excellent results. You’re right: No other DA would have, or should have, directed so many resources into a single post conviction motion. Rather than assigning the case to a deputy, Jim spent countless hours working on

that case, while neglecting his primary responsibilities. An independent DA guarantees cronyism will be minimized. I have never criticized Jim’s legal abilities, but I have criticized the cronyism that evolved over his first years in office and the detrimental effects to the evenhanded administration of justice within the office as a result of that cronyism. Jim knew exactly how I felt about this. We were friends for 18 years; he worked for me off and on for 12 years; and Jim Wilson always had a job with me when he needed it. And, yes, I worked for Jim until I resigned in 2007. Ms. Robbins thought a police officer’s refusal to sign Wasley’s petition intimidation, not an informed decision. No one works more closely with the DA than law enforcement. That of-

ficer’s actions speak volumes about the opinions of those who know Wasley’s work best. Mr. Etnier, a precinct captain, continues to spew vitriol about his party’s duly nominated DA candidate as well as at anyone who disagrees with him. What ever happened to Reagan’s 11th Commandment? Finally, my criticism of Wasley is not partisan or personal. I don’t care what party the DA belongs to and I don’t need a job. Montezuma County is my home. I want a competent DA for our district. We deserve one and Wasley is not that man. Mac Myers Mancos Via e-mail

Wasley supporters are grasping at weak straws Editor: In response to James Davies’ letter, I’d like to clarify a few misconceptions. First, out of 141 delegates, only seven were law enforcement. They were there of their own choosing, not commanded by the sheriff. We are not and never have been in control of the DA’s office. That can be seen in the history of decisions not to pursue certain prosecutions against criminals who repeatedly fail to comply with statute and court orders. We, as citizens of this county, pay bills and taxes, just like the rest of our community. Our voice is just as important as every citizen’s. Again, it was our voice along with the entire voting populace of Montezuma County that chose Sheriff Spruell

and will choose our next DA. Sheriff Spruell supports the people of Montezuma County, first and foremost. He has opened his conference room to each candidate for us to hear what they have to say and to ask questions on issues that concern us, both personally and professionally. I am a registered Republican; I want what’s best for the whole of the county, the state and the country. These childish games of half- truths are insulting to me as a private citizen. To insinuate that I am incapable of having my own opinion in any elective matter is offensive. I am voting for Furse based on his professionalism and knowledge of the law. I’ve been in court and personally witnessed the resulting chaos under the current

leadership of the DA’s office. I know several people who have witnessed Mr. Furse in court and noted how well prepared and knowledgeable of the law he was. As for Mr. Furse’s “jail time,” it was a dumb mistake made in his youth, absolutely. A life-defining mistake, certainly not. There is not a soul amongst us or who has ever held office that has an error-free life. To grasp at such weak straws only demonstrates the desperation of the opposing candidate. Thanks for your consideration. Donna Kennell Cortez Via CortezJournal.com

See lEttErS on Page 5A

coMMentary

Saying goodbye to the ranch All my childhood memories take me back to my family’s guest ranch in a remote area of northwest Colorado. Without this place, what would I have to remember? There are the good memories of riding through uncut hay meadows and racing toy boats down our backyard stream, all set beneath the looming peaks of the Mount Zirkel Wilderness near Steamboat Springs. Then there are the hard-knock memories that every ranch kid shares, like catching the school bus at 6 a.m. for the long ride into town, the mud seasons that left our truck stuck for days, the fact that we could never take a family vacation because relentless work weighed us down. But memories are all I have left; my family sold our ranch when I was in high school. And this is not just my experience. Every day, other kids in the West have to say good-bye to the family ranch. It’s a separation much like losing a loved one or having the roots that once grounded you yanked up. These days, keeping a ranch go-

ing is a lot more difficult than working one, and that’s saying a lot, because to my mind, nothing’s harder than ranch work. Eventually, many cash-strapped landowners struggling to make ends meet have little choice but to sell. Faced with daunting property taxes, escalating debt and the prospect of never getting out with your boots still on, the decision almost becomes easy. A ranch sale means retirement money, sendyour-kids-to college money. What’s left behind when the ranch sells? In the West, it’s often residential subdivisions split into 10-, 20- or 40-acre parcels. Gone forever is the family ranch, along with a lot of the wildlife habitat and open space that benefit all of us. In my case, I think I’m lucky. The buyers of our ranch not only kept it as a working guest and agricultural operation, they also safeguarded it from future development by securing a conservation easement, one of the most powerful tools in the West for ranchers who want to stay put without selling off their land in par-

Writers on the Range Kerry Brophy-Lloyd cels. That said, I’ve learned that conservation easements aren’t for everyone. Delicate negotiations go into making these deals. After countless cups of coffee in kitchen meetings, sometimes it just doesn’t work out. But I’ve seen a lot of conservation agreements that do happen -- sometimes against enormous odds -- and it gives me hope. One project in eastern Colorado’s grasslands reveals that ranching families don’t have to give up what they love, and that strength in numbers counts when it comes to conservation. Here’s the example: A rancher named Harold Yoder got to thinking that one way to lure back his

older son, who had moved to Oklahoma, was to acquire the nearby Winship Ranch, a 37,000-acre spread that had been for sale since 2008. The place, he thought, was solid country for someone like his son to ranch. A few of Harold’s neighbors were interested in the Winship, too, but nobody on his own could swing the asking price. That’s when they all sat down with The Nature Conservancy and asked, “Can we do this together?” That first discussion led to a new model for private-lands conservation in Colorado, one in which four families placed easements on their home ranches and then used the associated out-of-pocket savings to purchase portions of the Winship Ranch, enabling each family to expand their operations. The Nature Conservancy negotiated the easements and facilitated the transaction. The resulting deal safeguards 48,500 acres of shortgrass prairie, land essential for providing habitat for pronghorn, swift fox and the less-

er prairie chicken. It also catches and purifies water, while simultaneously protecting several historic ranching operations. Sure enough, Harold’s son, Sid Yoder, returned with his young family after the complex project took shape. “It’s been a pleasure and a joy to come home,” says Sid. “It’s where I grew up, it’s a place that I love, and I was glad to have an opportunity to bring my kids back here.” While I will never get the chance to return to my own family’s ranch, there is comfort in knowing that, given new tools, people who want to do so can keep their ranches alive. And though the ranch of my childhood is no longer mine, the last time I visited, I saw my little blue tricycle was still stashed in a corner of the old barn. It looked just the way I remembered it. Kerry Brophy-Lloyd is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News (hcn.org). She lives in Idaho with her husband and young son.

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