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Pam Zubeck's excellent coverage ("Another black eye," News, Dec. 29) on allegations of "pay for play" in the county's handling of the Arrowswest building negotiations brings forth key points:
• Reporters with a nose for what needs deep investigation are the primary safeguard in bringing to light potential ineptitude or corruption. The true details of Arrowswest may never be fully known, with one-party control over county government, but having the matter investigated greatly enhances public and voter awareness.
• The public needs independent, non-political legal counsel working with elected officials, able to withstand the possibility of unemployment if the legal advice doesn't meet agenda needs. The public will lose an advocate for adherence to the law with Bill Louis departing as county attorney.
• At a time when the complexity of government and fiscal challenges increase, we have more people elected to office who don't have the education or experience to deal with the nuances and long-term effects of ill-advised fiscal policy decisions. The county's elimination of the business personal property tax is a prime example of short-sighted policy crafted to benefit a few Chamber of Commerce members that harms the community due to the revenue reduction. The policy appears to have failed to bring new companies and jobs to the region, but we don't even know.
While those who may replace Sallie Clark, Amy Lathen and Dennis Hisey will have no greater expertise, there will be a chance to build a true economic advisory team and work with fresh elected officials not quite so tainted with the number of issues that have kept Ms. Zubeck so busy in the past.
— Rick Wehner
Losing our rights
The mere consideration of "free-speech zones" by municipal governments around the country ("Not in our downtown," News, Dec. 29) can have a chilling effect on freedom of speech, because it tends to support the mistaken beliefs by many citizens that they can be sheltered from free-speech messages in a public environment.
Contrary to the beliefs and wishes of some, citizens have no right to be insulated from seeing signs about the war, the economy, abortion, or prayer when attending a public entertainment event like a sporting event or music concert.
When the city of Colorado Springs considers an aggressive panhandling ordinance that is carefully worded, it may be able to pass constitutional muster. But City Attorney Chris Melcher should understand that the mere discussion of free-speech zones represents a severe curtailment of First Amendment rights.
There are no good free-speech-zone ordinances, only ones that violate civil rights to a greater or lesser degree.
— Loring Wirbel
Pikes Peak Region ACLU
Give! keeps on giving
El Paso County has 2,000-plus nonprofits. All rely on the generosity of the people in this region.
To be included in the Independent's Give! campaign is an amazing opportunity for smaller nonprofits like ours, The Trails and Open Space Coalition. Not only does it give us a platform to tell readers about what we do and why we matter, but it also brings us potential volunteers willing to help meet the needs in our local open spaces, regional parks and on our trails. And it provides much-appreciated revenue for advocacy. Give! 2011 means we spend more time on our mission and less time fundraising in 2012.
In addition, everyone who participates — whether nonprofit or donor — has so much fun with the "friendly competitions" and "donor rewards."
Thank you to John Weiss, your tireless staff and all the partners who made Give! 2011 such a big success for all of the participating nonprofits. And thanks to you, the readers, who generously contributed to the campaign.
Denver, Boulder — eat your heart out. We have Give!
— Susan Davies
Trails and Open Space Coalition
Editor's note: The final numbers won't be available until later, but the most up-to-date Give! tally puts the total at $516,048, with $180,000 more in matching and challenge grants still to be included. That means the campaign will far exceed the goal of $555,555.55 and perhaps reach $700,000. Checks will be presented to participating nonprofits at a Jan. 31 celebration.
I am shocked, SHOCKED, that El Paso County GOP vice-chair David Williams states that he has tried to cooperate with party leaders but has found them unwilling to the point of saying, "I am not doing this anymore" ("County GOP still divided," Noted, Dec. 29). Who does he think he is? Barack Obama?
— Joel B. Klein
Anatomy of waste
Fort Carson expects to receive the Combat Aviation Brigade lobbied for by politicians and contractors with cheerleading by politicians and most local media. Corporations building the CAB's arsenal will get a bigger slice of Pentagon pie: $700 million comes here for buildings and roads; but at least $3.5 billion will go to build the machines.
Politicians and contractors in Stratford, Conn., where they make Blackhawk helicopters, are the big winners. Close behind are lobbyists for the Apache plant in Mesa, Ariz., and Ridley, Pa., where they build the Chinook. Finally, there's General Atomics in Poway, Calif., which makes the Gray Eagle drone killer planes coming to Colorado for the first time.
Yes, according to the outline plan, a dozen or so attack drones will be stationed here with the CAB. Local opposition has been behind the curve, focusing on choppers.
Why do we call this waste? The Army is cutting as many as 50,000 troops. If Air Combat resources stay at current levels, they would be a greater percentage of the overall force. Army elements insist on having their own Air Force. The Air Force counters by expanding its role in Special Forces ground warfare. They're fighting the image of being labeled a "chair force" that takes part in war from afar. There will soon be low-level flights in our mountains of C-130s and Ospreys as part of Air Force ground operations.
The Army will have a public meeting in late January for their third environmental assessment of the CAB project, just a rehash of what they've said twice: "It's all good to go." But it's not too late to ask questions and insist on new priorities in our city and country. An Occupy-style gathering would be awesome.
— Bill Sulzman
Our city's present
What a marvelous Christmas gift the jury in Denver gave to the citizens of Colorado Springs two weeks ago.
It is very gratifying to know that Doug Bruce could not simply bulldoze his way around in Denver as he has been so accustomed to doing in our village. In February, hopefully he will pack his bags for an "extended stay" courtesy of the Colorado Department of Corrections.
— W.B. Listul
Leaving the parties
I am a believer in voting. I will do so in 2012, and I will be changing my party affiliation to Unaffiliated.
I am neither conservative nor liberal; I am simply a regular American working Joe who knows bullhockey when he sees it. Call me what you want, but I believe anyone who gets elected or wants my vote needs to earn it first.
— Ed Billings
Save our rivers
Standing ankle deep with the hot summer sun on my back and the cold, crisp water rushing past, I cast my fly line into a deep pool and watch it float for an instant before lifting it up again and repeating. I am fully focused and determined on the challenge of hooking my first trout. It wasn't just about catching a trout in that moment — it felt like a rite of passage to be a Coloradan.
That's why it's so important that the Obama administration restore protections that safeguard Colorado's prized rivers of the South Platte and the Colorado River from unlimited pollution.
Lawsuits brought before the Supreme Court by big polluters ended three decades of Clean Water Act protections for thousands of streams and millions of acres of wetlands nationwide. Here in Colorado, waters that are at risk of losing their protections feed and replenish the South Platte River. And nearly 3.7 million Coloradans get their drinking water from public supplies fed by streams currently at risk.
President Obama and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have the chance to stand up for the South Platte River by restoring the Clean Water Act. I urge the Obama administration to see this essential effort through, bringing us closer to the day when all our waters are safe for swimming, fishing and drinking.
— Virginia Shannon
Animal rescue agencies and organizations have taken the stance that to adopt an abandoned, beaten, abused, lost, neglected mutt, one must have a presidential security clearance with a full background check, all necessary documents, prior residential check, a secure facility, photos of all aspects of your property, plus full references from a veterinarian and (being facetious again) your priest.
Think I am kidding? I recently walked into the animal shelter in Divide, simply to look at dogs and see if one would be suitable for my family, especially my son as his constant companion.
I was handed a two-page document to fill out. I was told it was policy that everyone must fill out the paperwork to see the animals. I began filling the paperwork out and became incensed at the audacity of personal questions including address, phone number, my family structure, all aspects of my residence and my intent for the dog, If I did not find a suitable dog, I would have to fill out the same paperwork every 30 days to keep looking.
I believe some rescue organizations are rescuing animals to make a living at it despite the 501(c)(3) status. Why else would they ask $165 up to $400 for an animal that often has zero social skills, never felt loving human hands, has been abused and has no pedigree? I don't mind filling out a form or two and paying $75 or so, but the buck and personal invasion stop here!
I'm not adopting a child! I'm intelligent and honest!
Shelters are really asking if you are honest, but the answer doesn't come from documentation, paperwork, home evaluations or outrageous fees!
Due to the outrageous demands by rescue organizations, my best option is to give up. Instead, I am now choosing to buy a dog!
— Denay Horn
View from afar
Christo and Jeanne-Claude's Over the River project will be a memorable and iconic site-specific piece of artwork that will inevitably be world-famous and a brilliant part of Colorado's history.
The artists leave no trace and only temporarily intrude and enhance the natural beauty of the landscape. The environment and natural world around them is their canvas, so of course Christo, as a land artist, would respect it, leaving no damage, just a memory.
Such ambitious ideas like this show how we, as artists, have developed and evolved to achieve such complex visions. They did it before, and I know they can do it again!
— Flora Scott, art student
University College of Falmouth
We are a great nation. And we are greatly f***ed up as well.
— Michael Augenstein