June 2011

A son's graduation, Forest Service planning, and more

By Art Goodtimes

RIO COYOTL … Okay, so what’s the big deal? Lots of sons graduate from college. But not all kids graduate summa cum laude (Latin> “with highest praise”). I sure didn’t. And not many kids do. But Rio did … And (I have to brag) this boy who was homeschooled, attended public schools in Norwood and Paonia, as well as parentorganized private schools in Norwood and Ridgway, managed to be appointed Student Marshal at the commencement ceremonies in Durango. There were four marshals in total – the four students with the highest GPA in the graduating class this year … Majoring in accounting, Rio took an extra year of study and managed a 3.999 GPA for all five years of classes… As a paleohippie-turnedpol, I’m not only proud and impressed by my son but delighted to see a local boy excel in a completely different field than his dad. Our children are such amazing spirits, and to see them come into their own is one of life’s blessings, particular to parents, if never guaranteed … But then his best friend since childhood has been Norwood’s Mesa Hollinbeck, another Ft. Lewis alumnus, now working as a rocket scientist!

NOT WHAT IT SEEMS … Did all of you get that self-congratulatory flyer in your mailbox from the 60 Plus Association telling you to call Scott Tipton and thank him for “improving and protecting Medicare”? According to the big format glossy, Scott’s vote in favor of the new federal budget plan 1) reduced Medicare waste, 2) protected current Medicare recipients, 3) targets more money for sick and poor seniors, and 4) will provide better choices for future generations. Sounds great … And 60 Plus Association characterizes itself on the flyer as ”a non-partisan national seniors advocacy group.” Clearly, a group to be trusted, right? Well, maybe not … According to Source- Watch -- “Your guide to the names behind the news” -- www.sourcewatch.org – The 60 Plus Association is described in an article in the AARP Bulletin (AARP truly being a national seniors advocacy group) as a front group for the pharmaceutical industry. The author, Bill Hogan, writes that 60 Plus, along with Senior Coalition and United Seniors Association, claim to speak for millions of older Americans, but that their membership does not come from membership dues. In fact, adds Hogan, “virtually all of their largest contributions in recent years have come from the same source – the nation’s pharmaceutical industry.” … This is the same group that targeted former U.S. Rep. John Salazar with a dozen inflammatory out-of-state mailings in the last election – all because Salazar championed a bill to let the government negotiate with pharmaceutical companies over drug prices for seniors – a provision of the Obama health-care bill that Republicans fought successfully to kill … So, don’t be fooled. If you want to call Rep. Tipton at 719-587-5105, do so and suggest to his aides that he ought to be truly representing senior citizens in his district, not carrying water for the pharmaceutical companies

CLEAN ENERGY PARK … If you think that’s a term for an alternative energy development you’d want to have in your community, think again. This is the name a developer on the other side of the range gave to a development with a $5 billion nuclear power plant as its centerpiece … Luckily, the Pueblo County commissioners weren’t fooled (including my hero, Commissioner John Sandoval) and they turned the proposed Planned Unit Development down on a unanimous vote. Thank you, John, and the other commissioners … Watch out for names. Clearly unscrupulous developers are trying to snooker folks by proposing bad projects with appealing names. Just like the 60 Plus Association above.

PLANNING RULE … It’s deeply disappointing to just begin to understand the Forest Service’s new planning rule from all the various perspectives of multiple user groups and be forced to comment without the time to really sift through the changes to see how things on the ground will be affected … County governments came to the table late. And while we have been working to understand things, we needed more time to figure out exactly what the new rule will do to local communities and the environment. We, along with many folks, asked for an extension of time to consider the new planning rule and how best to comment on it … But Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said no extension. Which sounds like “no collaboration” to me. Unfortunate, as many of us were supportive of trying to get a new rule in place. But when the center doesn’t listen to the grassroots in calling for more time to analyze and comment intelligently, it’s a good sign that everything they say about collaboration plays second fiddle to politics. And that makes us all losers.

ASHAMED? … I had my doubts about the wisdom of building a noisy, polluting airport in the Telluride area 30 years ago. And I still do. I think I was quoted back in the early ’80s on KOTO radio that Telluride was becoming a county sacrifice area to industrial tourism. The airport is certainly a part of that … But in a down economy, with our tourist-dependent community airport teetering on the verge of losing all future FAA funding and maybe even its commercial status, it’s hard not to look sympathetically at the Airport Authority’s attempts to find a new way to lure more airline flights into TEX. Especially as the issue of the FAA’s pre-emption of county (state) authority in all matters of flight operations (if not land-use impacts) seems pretty well established in federal court cases … But this is a social hot potato. Citizens have been led to believe for years that no night flights would happen. For some it is a clear case of doublespeak. Others see foreclosures, declining revenues, and loss of jobs and think making Telluride a little bit more accessible to visitors and second-home commuters is a no-brainer. So, I understand strong feelings on both sides … But there was absolutely no excuse for No Night Flights Attorney Erin Johnson, who practices law in Montezuma County and lives in Dolores County, to say she was “ashamed” of the San Miguel County Board of Commissioners for not upholding her understanding of our county land-use rules. That comment was unprofessional, inappropriate and insulting. Ms. Johnson can make her case in court, as she’s threatened to do in public several times now, and we’ll see what happens. But an ad hominem attack from an officer of the court in a public meeting was uncalled for … Personally, although I’m not happy to see night flights, and if the county had the authority to say no, I would seriously consider not allowing them, it seems increasingly clear that it’s out of our board’s control, legally. And as such, I think the Airport Authority is acting in good faith and with the economic health of our community in mind in moving in the direction of approving night flights in the winter ... We beat each other up pretty bad over our local issues in To-Hell-U-Ride, but by giving a thorough airing of all the issues, impacts and concerns, I’m proud of our county for looking at a controversial change from all perspectives, giving folks multiple meetings to express their views, and then for the board with legal authority to make the decision to give us their best guess. I see no shame in that at all.

Art Goodtimes is a San Miguel County commissioner.