April 2007

Throwing down the gauntlet in Telluride

By Art Goodtimes

GAUNTLET … The legal system has thrown down the gauntlet. The entire economic and political structure of the country mitigates against what Telluride is trying to do to preserve its gateway Valley Floor entrance from rampant development … While the decision from Judge Greenacre’s Delta court is disappointing, it wasn’t unexpected. The people of Telluride are going against the grain of private property rights, big money and the biases of the legal and legislative infrastructure in this state … If they were trying to make money for themselves, instead of seeking to protect the environment for their children, everyone would understand. And the laws and process would have run their way … But they aren’t. And the way isn’t easy … If Telluride folks want this dream of a Valley Floor free of luxury development, it’s going to take twice the effort already expended, twice the valuation folks believed fair … Will Telluride prove the world wrong and do the impossible? Stay tuned.

THE TALKING GOURD

Dolores Greenwell LaChapelle
(1927-2007)

You left us in winter. Snow on the ground.
And only your ashes now in the window

looking out on Sultan & Grand Turk.
Your southern eye on the aspen tree

that grew in your yard at Silverton.
Thanks to the secret life of rhizomes.

And your love of earth chants. Drumming
Hiroshige. Golden leaves. ukiyo-e

And so many mountain ways – climbing.
Powder skiing. Tai chi. Gathering gifts

of information like some wise women
gather herbs. Hunting ideas

too big to fit inside books & boxes.
Yet bringing them back to the tribe.

Sparrow in the bamboo.Singing spring’s thaw.
Still stained crimson with fall’s raw maple.

CHUPADERO … Got down to New Mexico recently for a poetry reading outside Tesuque, which is outside Santa Fe. The little residential area where Paul White and Therese lived was called Chupadero, and for several years they’ve hosted poetry readings there that are well-attended and fun … My good friend Judyth Hill and I got to perform together – something we hadn’t done in years. She’s a marvelous poet, chocolate maven, essayist, teacher and performer, and we do a mighty gripping one-two … Plus, there was a potluck and open reading. And I had the good fortune to spend the night in good conversation and impromptu drumming – nothing better after enjoying a romp with the lyric valuables.

TALKING GOURDS … April is the month to explore Telluride in the offseason, when most folks are gone, and the high mountains are changelings – going from snow bunnies to mud bears, occasionally several times in the same day. Over the Earth Day weekend, April 20-22, the Telluride Writers Guild is sponsoring its annual poetry festival, with the winners of the 2006 National Slam competition, the Denver Slam Team All- Stars directed by Ted Vaca, along with last year’s smash attraction Roc’em Soc’em – Day Acoli, Bianca Mikahn, and Oracle Speaks. Behind the headliners will be Tres Chicas from the Santa Fe area – the incomparable Joan Logghe, Renee Gregorio and Mirian Sagan, as well as zoEy bEnally of Shiprock, David Feela of Cortez and Aaron Abeyta of the San Luis Valley with his Grizzly Growlers Poetry Troupe … Tickets are $100 for the whole weekend, or come for a day and get individual tickets for the walks, installations, interactive workshops, open readings and performances, as well as this year’s awarding of the Tellus Prize for the best poetry video of the year, “Committing Poetry in a Time of War” from the New Mexico-based Poetic Justice. All events take place at the historic Sheridan Opera House in Telluride. For tickets, go to www.tellurideticket. com and for info on the festival, www.ahhaa.org/writers_guild.

SPEAKING OF VALUABLES … A breakthrough, announced in London three months ago, is shaking the very foundations of the pharmaceutical industry. British journalist Chris Floyd has called it “one of the most transformative developments ever seen in global affairs.” … The approach, released under the rubric of “ethical pharmaceuticals,” was unveiled Jan. 2 by Sunil Shaunak, professor of infectious diseases at Imperial College, and Steve Brocchini of the London School of Pharmacy. In short, teams of scientists in India and the UK have developed a method of making small but significant changes to the molecular structure of existing drugs, thereby transforming them into new products, circumventing the long-term patents used by the corporate drug barons. If it’s successful, this breakthrough will give the world's poorest people access to life-saving medicines currently priced out of their reach … But the change is not merely biochemical. Shaunak's team is proposing a new model for pharmaceuticals. The patent for the transformed drug they have developed is held by non-profit Imperial University. And because their methods are vastly cheaper than the mammoth development costs of the big pharmaceutical companies, Shaunak and his colleagues can market their medicines at near-giveaway levels, yet still stay in business. “People in academic medicine have a choice,” Shaunak told an Imperial College journal. “They can use their ideas and creativity to make large sums of money for small numbers of people, or they can look outwards to the global community and make affordable treatments for common diseases.” … The first drug developed by the team is a new version of interferon, the main treatment for Hepatitis C, a debilitating disease that afflicts 200 million people worldwide. Yet only 30 million can afford the medicine. That leaves the rest to face chronic liver disease and premature death. The cost of Hepatitis C treatment in the UK is approximately $13,000 per patient per year, New Scientist reports. Nor can a cheaper version of the existing interferon be made, because drug giants Hoffman-La Roche and Schering Plough hold patents not only on the drug but also on the standard way of adding the special molecules needed to enhance its performance. So Shaunak and Brocchini invented a new way of attaching the molecules that circumvents patent restrictions and produces a medicine that “appears to be as effective as the existing product,” according to Nature, the leading scientific journal. Their methods might also be adapted to extend the effectiveness of “drugs for other conditions such as HIV,” Shaunak told New Scientist. On average, it costs drug corporations $800 million to create a new drug; but by focusing on efficient production rather than expanding profits for shareholders, or financing glitzy worldwide ad campaigns, or expending the vast lobbying dollars to maintain a favorable regulatory climate, Shaunak says his team can now develop essential medicines for only a few million dollars each … Affordable medicines. What a concept!

WEEKLY QUOTA … This gem from my buddy Kenn Amdahl of Denver: “Learned yesterday that Queen Elizabeth actually drove a vehicle during one of the big wars, so there is a tradition of the royal family serving in combat. Made me think, geez: The queen of England has more military experience than our president, vice president, secretary of state and past secretary of defense COMBINED. Like I say, geez.”

ON THE ROAD … The end of February to the beginning of March was one of those busy times for me … Things started out with a special threeday conference on forest collaboration sponsored by the Forest Restoration Institute of Colorado State University, held in Glenwood Springs ... As chair of the Burn Canyon Salvage Logging Monitoring Task Force and a member of the executive committee of the Public Lands Partnership (Delta, Montrose, Ouray and San Miguel counties), a statewide meeting on collaboration was not to miss. There were presentations of collaborations all over the state, and lots of scientific reports. Courtney White of the Quivira Coalition gave a tremendous presentation on the stream-restoration work under way in New Mexico using simple, inexpensive materials … Then I rushed to Grand Junction just in time to attend Club 20’s Public Lands Steering Committee meeting, where Dr. Bill Romme of Colorado State University explained that the bark-beetle situation in the lodgepole pine forests of the Front Range was not outside the range of normal variability. He also explained that once bark-beetle-kill trees dropped their needles, the forest was actually less susceptible to catastrophic fire than in its pre-beetle condition … And then I caught a flight to D.C. for the National Association of Counties legislative meeting, where the agenda included battling for the Payment-In-Lieu-of-Taxes (PILT) program, creating policy opposed to public land sales or acquisition without consultation with the counties affected, and visiting our congressional delegation.

NACO … One thing I learned about at the National Association of Counties meeting was a new prescription-drug program that counties can set up through NACo that will significantly cut prescription-drug costs. I’m asking our staff to look into it. Other Colorado counties such as La Plata have already joined this program. Ask your commissioner about bringing it to your county.

Art Goodtimes is a San Miguel County commissioner.