March 2005

Readers weigh in on the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The bad news is only 14 readers took the time to respond to our survey on “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Our Area” in our January issue. The good news is the responses were all
interesting and thought-provoking. It should be noted, by the way, that we staff members at the FCFP resisted the urge to fill out surveys ourselves, so these came from readers. Below is a roundup of answers. Not everyone answered all questions, and some people gave more than one
answer. Where one answer predominated, we listed it in boldface. Otherwise, we just said “no consensus.”

1. The worst thing about living in your county:

(Readers were asked to fill in the county where they lived. All our replies came from Montezuma County except for one from San Juan County, Utah.)


There was a variety of answers:
• The meth problem “and the child neglect and crime that go with it.”
• Alcohol-related problems.
• Lack of shopping choices. “Wal-Mart is the only game in town which is affordable (awful place to shop),” said one respondent. “Not enough clothing stores,” said another.
• “Muriel Sluyter’s poisonous, hate-filled commentary in the Cortez Journal.”
• Pollution from the New Mexico power plants.
• “I can’t get an ungarbled reception of National Public Radio.”
• “Limited choices for air flights and the horrendous cost of airfare to get out of here.”
• Potholes in streets.
Other readers criticized attitudes and local views:
• Politics: “council and newspaper.”
• “The pervasive lack of progressive thought and action.”
• “Good-old-boy and -girl attitudes.”
• “Lack of respect for others, property, and the law, as demonstrated by violence and vandalism.”
• “People’s willingness to accept mediocrity in education, business, health care, etc.”
• “The unfriendly attitude toward newcomers; negative thinking.”

2. The best thing about living in your county:


Nearly everyone mentioned the views, weather, and access to a variety of recreational opportunities. Other answers:
• Friendly people.
• Major landscapes with no lights (Mesa Verde and Sleeping Ute).
• Low crime.
• Little traffic.
• The Dolores Public Library.
• Cortez City Park; Parks and Recreation.

3. The most over-rated attraction in the Four Corners area:


This was the hands-down winner, with half of the votes. One reader called it “a joke.” Other answers:
• The Ute Mountain Casino and casinos in general, which received several votes.
• Churches.
• Cortez itself.
• The Cortez Rec Center.

4. The public official (local or regional) you believe is doing the best job in office:


The Republican from Cortez received 7 votes and many favorable comments. Sheriff Joey Chavez came in second with 3 votes. Others getting a single vote apiece:
• Canyons of the Ancients Manager LouAnn Jacobson.
• Mancos Mayor Greg Rath.
• Montezuma County Judge Todd Plewe.
• San Juan County Commissioner Manuel Morgan.

5. The public official you believe is doing the worst job in office:


No one received more than one or two votes. Those mentioned:
• Gov. Bill Owens.
• Sheriff Joey Chavez.
• County Commissioner Dewayne Findley.
• County Administrator Tom Weaver.
• Cortez economic-development specialist Bruce Johnson.
• District Judge Sharon Hansen.
• Sanitation District Chairman Bob Diederich.
• Former District Attorney Joe Olt.

6. What is the worst road or highway in the area and why?


Both received many votes. Among the comments:
• “Highway 666 north of Cortez, because of the high speeds at which many vehicles travel; too many people passing over double yellow lines at intersections; center lanes allowing vehicles to pass below the crests of hills (which they do without knowing what is in that lane over the hill); frequent very slippery and dangerous winter road conditions combined with reckless drivers.”
• “A toss-up between highways 491 and 145, with poor road conditions and careless drivers.”
• “Highway 491 south from Cortez to Towaoc. Too many drunks. Should be four lanes!”
• “Highway 491 – alcohol and drug-related accidents and some really amazing potholes.”
• “East/west Highway 160 between Cortez and Durango during sunrise and sunset.”
• “The stretch of 666 that is a bit north of Arriola – it’s coming apart.”
• “Highway 160 south to Towaoc, congested and very dangerous.”
• “666 south of Cortez. People drive much too fast.”
Other choices:
• McElmo Canyon road — “narrow, icy, no speed control.”
• “Cortez’s Main Street – potholes.”
• “Many roads are in poor condition, especially the gravel ones.”
• “No opinion. I think all roads are amazing.”

7. What is the most dangerous intersection in the area, and why?


• South Broadway and Seventh St. This received two votes, with one adding, “Someone is going to be killed. Needs a light.”
• The four-way stop at the school-house on Lebanon Road. “Many run the stop sign from the north and south.”
• Main St. and Sligo in Cortez – “awful. Lights are set bad and the sun is awful both morning and evening.”
• Highway 491 (666) and CR M near the sale barn.
• 491 and Main Street – “confusing.”
• 491 and Road L — “Northbound traffic in a small vehicle cannot see southbound traffic coming over a hill.”
• Montezuma and Mildred – “confusing and dangerous.”
• Main Street to 666 by the Ute Café.
• “Any intersection in Cortez, if you are a pedestrian. This area is definitely not pedestrian-friendly.”
• 160 and Totten Lake Road, “Even with improvements, it’s still in a high-speed zone where drivers don’t anticipate others turning on or off the side road.”
• “All intersections with yield signs.”

8. What is the ugliest thing in the Four Corners?


The thoughts about the pollution were fairly similar, with several readers referring to it as either a yellow-brown or a blue cloud hanging in the sky.

Comments about trash were more varied:
• “A number of private properties with appalling accumulations of trash – junk vehicle parts, junk construction material, etc. (vehicles with flat tires parked on the streets).”
• “Shacks in Cortez residential areas.”
• A specific trailer on Highway 160 that a reader called “a sad introduction to Cortez.”
• Sandy’s Trash & Treasures on Main Street. “What does this show to people going through town?”
• “The whole area by the M&M – not a very welcoming sight for visitors.”
• The South Broadway industrial area, which received several votes. “The industrial wasteland look of Cortez as one approaches from the south,” one reader called it.

9. What is the most beautiful thing in the Four Corners?


Readers described the crisp colors and blue sky in autumn, the beauty of canyons and mountains, sunsets, sage-brush and wildflowers, and the view from the lookout at Mesa Verde. One reader cited Hovenweep, and another Cortez’s City Park.

10. What problem is most in need of attention by your county or town officials?


Montezuma County readers commented, “LIZ (Landowner-Initiated Zoning) won’t stand up to any challenges” and, “Need zoning code.” But there were many other answers:
• “The county really needs a Lady Bird Johnson-style ‘Keep Our County Beautiful’ program to keep trash-dumping and litter under control.”
• “Methamphetamine and the children who are neglected and abused because of it.”
• “Dogs barking, pooping, running on other people’s property. Dogs, dogs, dogs!”
• “There’s a sense of embracing ignorance and distrust that could be countered by local officials, if they would be so inclined.”
• “Short-sighted decision-making with an inspired vision for our area for the future, especially in land use, social services, and education.”
• “Change local attitudes toward preservation so the economy might be boosted by attracting tourists.”
• “The entire sheriff’s department and its turnover. Roads are second.”
• “Updating Colorado’s outdated laws that protect ranchers from taking responsibility for their livestock.”
• “We need tenants for all these empty storefronts and businesses.”
• “More streetlights throughout the town. It’s sad that our side streets are so dark.”
• “Bolster the local economy with existing resources.”