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Lots of problems

Some of my best memories growing up and later with my children, are going to parks, running, playing sports, flying kites, playing on playground equipment. Even when you did not have a dime in your pocket, you could go to the parks.

Beautiful green islands of grass, trees, flowers, for all to enjoy. Sometimes, we were blessed with lakes for ducks and geese, sometimes fishing, too! We learned that there was a place in city life to just take a break.

Why is our city government turning our parks into vacant lots? Don't water the grass and trees and they will die. Take the trash cans away; get rid of the playground equipment and what do you have left? Vacant lots.

It seems like the city government is punishing the most vulnerable: children, teens, seniors, people who rely on buses for jobs, church and school. Now, rec centers are on the chopping block.

The city did not have many street lights to begin with; now it seems dark and dangerous at night. Some of my friends are too afraid to go out at night. If we have a city-owned utility, why are the lights out?

Come on city government, have a heart and bring our city back, we are still here. Or, just hang a sign at the city limits, "closed for lack of interest."

— Molly Romano

Colorado Springs

Y not? Bad timing

Regarding "A challenging split" (News, Feb. 11): In 1996, Woodland Park voters rejected a full-up recreation center 62 to 38 percent, due to projected high construction and operations cost and poor revenue mechanisms. Given today's economy, prudence demands that constructing a similar center at a total cost of $25 million (to be repaid over 20 years with a 1 percent sales tax increase), be deferred.

Sales tax provides 37 percent of total city revenues, including an unpopular tax on food. Last year's city deficit was $345K. This deficit would have been much higher had the city not deferred major maintenance projects. 2010 looks no better, and with a 20-year payback period, future city councils may not have the flexibility to fund high-priority projects or emergency repairs, or to purchase additional water.

Other issues with sales tax:

• It has deceptive appeal because a portion is paid by non-Woodland Park citizens, but it is a highly regressive tax that hurts those on lower/fixed incomes.

• Raising the tax will hurt the already hemorrhaging business community, and ultimately will lower total sales revenue in the city.

• Predicting sales tax revenue is problematic. Initial projections for the local Wal-Mart have been disappointingly low.

• Current or even contemplated major sources of sales tax revenue may not be durable over 20 years. The city would have to make up the loss by either cutting services or raising property taxes, since a bond default would be catastrophic.

The YMCA thinks it can sell up to 4,000 memberships in year one, but that may prove impossible. And according to the YMCA Regional Director, if a facility loses money, the YMCA has only a 5 percent cash reserve. Then it turns to financial partners to cover any revenue shortfall, i.e. the City of Woodland Park.

This project is economically counterintuitive. Big government spending in tiny Woodland Park at this time would be a grave mistake.

— John Schenk

Former Mayor Pro Tem, city of Woodland Park

Old tires, new fuel

Studies show that the best solution for spent tires is to use them as a fuel source. One ton of shredded rubber can replace one and a half tons of coal. Or every tire can be converted to two gallons of fuel oil.

In the Feb. 4 article regarding tire recycling ("A tiring business," News) Chris Houtchens, who runs American Tire Exchange, said he is nervous about the future of his business. He does not understand that burying tires, using shredded rubber as mulch and covering landfills is not helping the environment. A smaller tire recycling business should not be afraid of the market being saturated with recycled tire products. The demand is there for fuel. The businesses hauling waste tires need to pool their tires with larger companies and recycling will be a reality.

— Bernadine Bonfadini

Colorado Springs

Pension protection

Bipartisan legislation is currently pending in the Colorado Legislature to modify and strengthen PERA, the defined-benefit pension plan available to many state and local public employees.

A defined-benefit pension is an element of compensation, not a mere alternative to Social Security. It is particularly useful for government, which functions best, in my experience, with a career workforce with institutional knowledge and memory. The promise of a decent pension often helps keep people in necessary jobs that may be unfulfilling, uncomfortable or dangerous. I doubt, for instance, that a sufficient number of people would be attracted to the sometimes thankless, often-scapegoated teaching profession without the promise of an early retirement and decent pension.

In addition, some jobs, like those of police officer or firefighter, or the military, require an earlier retirement because of the physical demands of the job. Should these people be thrown into the workforce at 55 or 60 without a pension?

Right-wing pundit Mike Rosen recently opined that "economic necessity" mandated the ultimate elimination of public employees' defined-benefit pensions. But "economic necessity" is in the eye of the beholder. It has been the excuse for 30 years of union-busting, job outsourcing, hostile corporate takeovers, raiding of company pension funds and payment of grandiose compensation and bonuses to corporate CEOs and Wall Street traders, which has led much of the private sector to claim that it must abandon defined-benefit pension plans.

The inquiry ought not to be how to deprive another group of American workers of a decent retirement pension, but how to restore defined-benefit pensions or their equivalent to all American workers. In any event, a nation that can afford to pay billions to corporate CEOs and to Wall Street can afford to give its public employees a decent pension.

— N. Bangeman

Pueblo

Get your beer here!

Rep. Larry Liston of Colorado Springs has previously backed liquor stores when bills were introduced to allow grocery stores to sell full-strength beer. Mr. Liston has now found it in his heart to introduce HB1186, which would allow convenience stores to sell full-strength beer. Buffie McFayden of Pueblo has introduced another bill to allow full-strength beer sales and wine in grocery stores.

I wonder if Mr. Liston's flip has any correlation to the Supreme Court decision that allows corporations to purchase politicians? Convenience stores have deeper pockets and a more powerful lobbying arm than do liquor stores.

My local liquor store was started in 1986 and had many years of prosperity. Nobody will get rich in the liquor business, but you can make a decent living and contribute to the local economy. It started with a grocery store anchor; the grocery store closed in spring 2007, and it has been a struggle since. Several other businesses in our center have closed recently. I believe that HB1186 will make us and many other small liquor stores next.

Small business is supposedly the cornerstone of our economy. But the pursuit of happiness is being replaced by campaign contributions.

I don't think you will stay and talk sports with a 7-Eleven clerk for a half hour, but our politicians don't think that is important. I don't think a Safeway clerk will be able to speak coherently about choosing a wine for your dinner, but that's not important.

For some reason, what has become important to Larry Liston and others is more than doubling the places that you can buy beer. Empty storefronts are also going to double. Unemployment is going to stay in double digits. I am going to double my efforts to remove all politicians that vote in favor of these bills.

— Steve Stewart

Colorado Springs

The supreme error

Confusion about the roles of corporations and government seems rampant these days, with one or the other being blamed for the mess we are in today.

The purpose of a corporation is to amass wealth. Their core operating value is profitability, over and above other human values that take into consideration the well-being of people and whether or not harm is done. There is nothing wrong with making a profit. Furthermore, it is the ability to make a profit and get ahead that motivates the people who form the corporation. This is not "good" or "evil." It is simply fact.

The responsibility of the government (We, The People in our republican democracy) is to use human values to set parameters for the operation of corporations, in order to assure that they do not harm us or put our well-being at risk.

Both have a reason to exist. Corporations do lots of good, with limited harm, as long as they are monitored and regulated fairly by an unbiased government that is accountable to We The People. The problem occurs when corporations are allowed unfair advantage through tax loopholes, monopolies and mergers. When government becomes corrupted through the undue influence of tremendous amounts of money that drown out the voice of "one person, one vote," the regulatory function breaks down and corporations can, indeed, become "evil."

I submit that the underlying responsibility accrues to humans — We The People — not to any massive authority, be it government or corporations. The Supreme Court decision robs us of "one person, one vote." People who make up corporations already have their one vote! We The People must override the Supreme Court by amending the constitution to end the doctrine of corporate personhood.

— Cara Koch

Colorado Springs

 

Ugly prognosis

If we don't pass health care reform now, it will mean more lost jobs, more families facing bankruptcy, and more horrific debt for our country.

Health care spending rose to $2.5 trillion in 2009. That equates to $8,047 per person and is projected to nearly double that by 2019.

Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats are working hard to delay or stop health care reform for their own political agendas, but this is something most of us cannot afford to let happen. We all need to speak up, call and write our representatives and do whatever we can to stand by the president and fight for our lives and our economy.

We need health care reform and we need it now. Even a year down the road will be too late.

— Sharlene White

Santa Fe, N.M.

You find this amusing?

Some things just aren't funny, Rich, and you crossed a big red line with your ridicule of Native Americans and their hatred of Indian mascots ("Ranger Rich," Jan. 28).

There was a genocide right here in America that killed off 90 percent of the Indian population — one that rivaled the Holocaust in Germany — a brutal, murderous slaughter of men, women and children that involved rape, torture and the merciless and horrific killing of countless innocents, and this trauma lives on in the collective consciousness of every Native American. Evidently, this is funny?

Native Americans have been decimated, exploited and abused beyond belief, not to mention being disregarded and having every treaty broken that was ever agreed upon by the U.S. government. They are treated as non-people by those in power, and by those that enjoy the benefits of that power — and this column seems right in step with them.

The native people have suffered a systematic and brutal genocide that continues today through every means possible: physical, cultural and spiritual. They suffer from displacement, extreme poverty and hopelessness, have the lowest life expectancy in the nation, and basically still live under the merciless oppression of the dominant culture.

Then, to add insult to injury, the nation's athletic organizations, etc., use these degrading mascots that pour ridicule on their heads.

So, Rich, think you'd get a kick out of Germany having teams like "the Munich Judens" or the "Berlin Capos"? Maybe with a smokestack and barbed wire for a logo, with a cartoon figure with a big nose in striped pajamas? Funny, huh? Would you tell the Jews to quit whining and come up with some real smug smart-ass zingers to put them in their place, just like you did those whiny Native Americans — the ones whose throat you're standing on?

— Lance Green

Colorado Springs

Come together

Are we, as American citizens, sick of being played like a cheap fiddle? We are not getting news of our government's doings. Instead, we are nightly being propagandized. We are being treated like utterly ignorant, gullible peasants who are to be manipulated into acquiescing to whomever has the loudest mouth with the most convincing scary face.

Are you terrified of the vile liberal monsters who want to put Hitler's reincarnated soul at the head of state? Or hiding in the closet from the right wing nut jobs who are praying for our planet to be destroyed so they can go to heaven while the rest of us burn in hell? I hope not, but that is what the polarized political system would have us believe of one another. We have dipped so far into the absurd that we no longer recognize our own shadows.

We have to snap out of the various enchantments that have us seeing each other, our own countrymen and women, as the enemy and refind the middle ground out of which our common good will flow.

— Lisa Smith-Ruffin

Colorado Springs

Clarification

Our Jan. 28 news story "Off-roader blasts Lamborn" suggested that U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn had not contacted the U.S. Forest Service or other federal officials on behalf of constituent Dan Wagman, who asked for his help in getting Forest Road 371 reopened. In fact, Lamborn's records indicate that he sent multiple letters to this effect, and his office reports that he also brought up the matter in person with Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell. It was in spite of such efforts that the congressman failed to change the Forest Service's position.

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