A roundup of some of the more unusual items that crossed our desk recently.
No to CDOT's high speed rail
I attended an Open House on Monday, July 16, at Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG) where CDOT presented an Interregional Connectivity Study (ICS). The ICS is examining options for a high speed rail along the Front Range between Pueblo and Fort Collins.
They presented three options: 1. Along the I-25 corridor; 2. Share the rails; 3. Through Black Forest (The Greenfield alignment). First of all, I don't believe a high-speed rail system will pay for itself. FREX (Front Range Express) bus service between Colorado Springs and Denver is being terminated at the end of August by Mayor Steve Bach as it has proven uneconomical. The Ski Train (formerly running from downtown Denver to Winter Park) has already been ended due to little demand. The Denver Light Rail System development is already behind schedule due to low ridership. AMTRAK discontinued train service from Denver to Cheyenne years ago. California has been talking about a rail system for years; however, they only received a portion of the money from the federal government to build the system; the rest will come from the taxpayers. Do we really want that to happen in Colorado?
The report says all communities along the Front Range are experiencing growth. Colorado Springs is heavily dependent on the military. DoD is currently expecting to see budget cuts in the coming years. Any severe budget cuts and reduction in military personnel and programs would drastically reduce the population in the Colorado Springs area. Fort Carson currently has a freeze on hiring and Peterson AFB has a RIF (reduction-in-force) underway.
And, to even consider running it through Black Forest is absolutely absurd. Those of us who live in the Black Forest moved here to get away from the city. A rail system would displace families and destroy thousands of Ponderosa Pines. Sparks from train wheels and equipment could easily ignite the forest, causing a horrific fire like Waldo Canyon. Overhead power lines to support the train might arc, causing a forest fire, as recently experienced in Utah. Deer are abundant in the Black Forest, and a high speed rail would very possibly kill the deer. The rail plan is not in accordance with the Black Forest Preservation Plan. The peace and serenity of the Black Forest will be destroyed by the noise of a high speed rail.
Please voice your opposition to CDOT for any high-speed rail. And, please do not let them destroy our beautiful Black Forest!
Parking lot for a tractor
So after two months it appears the extensive (and expensive) investment in citizen's time, taxes, inconvenience and frustration in the sidewalk construction along Colorado Ave. between Cascade and Tejon has resulted in a nice designated parking space for a big yellow tractor.
So please help us understand this, all you 'fiscally conservative' city political leaders. Explain your oversight and performance, and perhaps also your contract award process. Lenin could have done better for less.
A bullet through the Forest
The Black Forest north of Colorado Springs is a large mature forest of Ponderosa Pines and a long-developed family-oriented community of 10,000 people. People move here for space, peace and quiet, safety and the ambient environment. CDOT is planning a bullet train through the Forest. The only Open House in the region for the High Speed Rail Project was held June 16. I was gone when it was noticed and missed it. Talking with attendees, I apparently didn't miss much, details were few, maps were primitive, and comments and questions from the floor were not allowed. The consensus was that destruction of a natural environment, lifestyle, and the taking of millions in private property were not of interest to CDOT.
The takeaway was that the "Greenfield" route was clearly the preferred CDOT alternative. This alternative is at-grade parallel tracks in a straight-line through the middle of the Black Forest, regardless of existing homes, roads, and the Black Forest Preservation Plan. (So much for the value of local planning)
As a professional engineer with 43 years experience, I have some initial questions: Why is the Greenfield through one of the last forests on the Front Range and a developed and vibrant residential community preferred over one along the I-25 corridor where the commuter population centers and destination nodes are, or one further east through sparsely populated open plains? While we can bet the money for this is coming from the bottomless well of taxpayer funds, is this project economically viable at all? Given that the Frex bus between the Springs and Denver is terminating this August due to insufficient patronage, and the ski train to Winter Park is gone, this is a very relevant question.
How does CDOT plan to safely operate an at grade bullet train through a forest community with numerous cross roads, thousands of daily vehicle trips, including school buses, family vehicles, and trucks, many pedestrians, horse-back riders, bikers, children, and wild deer in a safe manner without slowing down substantially? If the train blocks streets and roads, how will fire trucks and other emergency vehicles, as well as residents move? Trains generate sparks. The proposed train would cut through a forest community adjacent to a growing city. How will people safely and quickly evacuate in the event of a wild fire? How will firefighters access the forest if the train has cut the road network? Does CDOT really want to "set up" conditions for a Waldo Canyon or High Park Fire? What elected officials would want this as part of their legacy?
The Forest is one of the few remaining refuges of the Aberts Squirrel. Thousands of trees will be mowed down. What are the real environmental impacts of this route? Homes will be taken and razed and futures will be destroyed. What are the real socio-economic and health impacts of this route?
Just the open-house on July 16 caused property values to crash for Forest residents, and for those in the direct path of this route to become unmarketable. Should the assessed values for real estate taxes be lowered to reflect this for all Black Forest property owners?
A much better and less costly eastern route has been submitted to CDOT as part of the Connectivity Study Public Comment Form. CDOT needs to take very seriously all the public comment from the people who will pay the dearest for this political project and rethink what they are proposing.
Which begs one more question. Where are our elected officials on this? My neighbors and I would like to know before November.
Take the gloves off
It seems that Obama can say bad things about Mitt Romney, but why don't the Republicans start attacking the many awful things the president and Mrs. Obama have done?
I think the giving of millions to Oregon State University to save his brother-in-law's coaching job is worth mentioning. The many Czars and their office staffs and their cost are never mentioned.
How about the wasting of tax payers dollars sending their oldest daughter on spring break to Mexico? Mrs. Obama has twenty some secretaries and assistants at her disposal and some are making huge salaries. Millions going to a company drilling for oil off South America largely owned by George Soros. The wasted millions to the company in California that gave out big bonuses and filed for bankruptcy.
These are just a few things that should be mentioned in anti- Obama ads. It seems to me that the Republican Party leaders need to "Take off the gloves and go after this impostor!"
Donald G. Worley
Romney's not in office
Recent political ads by the president recite Romney's business activities are the "problem". But Romney's not in office: for the past three and one-half years, President Obama has occupied the position. If Romney was the "problem", would (should) it not be "our fearless leader", with a majority of both houses of Congress for two years, to lead us out of that problem?
Talk about "whining"! Exactly what has been done to put wage- earning jobs back in the market?? Whose fault is it, now? C'mon, sir, lying about shipping jobs overseas is one thing (freedom of speech?); now tell us what you did about it?
Paul V. Evans
Be an informed voter
I love reading the Opinion page of The Gazette. With a cup of coffee, it's how I start my day. Sometimes I heartily agree, sometimes I say to myself "whaaat?" and sometimes I just shake my head and laugh. Lately though I've been noticing that all the opinions and letters seem to be on one subject and going in one direction and that is anti-President Obama.
I usually vote Democratic, sometimes Republican, it depends on the person running, so I guess I'm an independent. This year and in the coming few years I know who I am going to vote for. This year I will vote for the candidate of President of my choice, but make no mistake, I will vote against any yahoo in Congress who sabotaged what was good for the citizens of this country over what his political views, his party, some church, or someone with a load of cash could do for him.
A Congress that will vote against anything a president suggests because of who he is, is horrendous and an insult to the people who voted for that lawmaker.
I wish The Gazette would spend more time on its opinions of the Congress we now have in session, than what's wrong with President Obama. The last vote of the House against the Affordable Health Plan was silly. It wasn't going to go anywhere, but oh yes, they did have time to make sure they voted in the continuation of their health care benefits. Oh yes, and the opinion on assailing a Justice on the Supreme Court for not voting the way of the GOP was insulting. When a Justice is sworn in he swears he will uphold the Constitution of the United States, not the Republican Party. When a Justice rules, he rules with his knowledge, research, the Constitution and the law.
The Affordable Healthcare Act is a beginning not the end-all-be- all. Right now it assists with people who are middle class with no insurance or the poor get quality health care, mainly using prevention. Having been in the health insurance industry for over 25 years, this is not a bad thing. I read an article, in the Gazette, about 80 percent of doctors planning to leave if the Affordable Health Care goes through. What a laugh, from one of the strongest lobbyists on Capitol Hill. Doctors are still one of the highest- paid professions in the country. If a doctor puts how much he makes before the good of his patients, then that's a doctor I don't want to see.
I guess what I am saying to everyone out there is don't believe everything you read. If you are interested in the Affordable Health Care Act, read up on it. Don't rely on the Internet or newspapers to give you an unbiased view.
If you are worried about the economy, learn more about it. Make your own decisions based on fact, not innuendo, not TV commercials, churches, the Internet, or what your neighbors think. But remember this - only you can change things, so vote. Your vote does count.
Creating truth from fiction
Once again our politicians are spending mega-dollars creating truth from fiction. When President Obama said "you didn't make that...", he was referring to the building of roads, bridges, and any number of systems that help maintain the foundation of this country. His point was and is to clarify that our success as individuals is not accomplished in isolation, but with help from all sorts of private and public services.
The Romney campaign has conveniently edited out the truth and left us with sound bites that portray our president as someone who doesn't believe in the power of the private sector, and believes that government is the answer to all problems. Citizen David Gardner, in his July 20 letter, demonstrates his willingness to believe the fiction.
My husband and I own a business. He has worked 60-plus hours a week for a very long time to build our business, take care of our employees, and provide quality goods to our customers. Have we done this all on our own? No. We rely on the services of the U.S. Postal Service, UPS, FedEx, and various transport companies to ship our goods. They, in turn, count on the federal highway system and airways to move their goods. We use the Internet to order supplies, sell and buy goods. I could go on and give many more examples of how the government and private sector support our business.
For candidate Romney to cut and paste our president's words to paint him as anti-business is inflammatory and false, and that Gardner would buy this as truth is just plain sad.
Big business failed them
Business owners built the country? Oh, heck no. They aren't even what made/makes this country great. Obama got it right: the American system built this country. Hillary Clinton got it right too: it takes a village.
The good, honest, hardworking citizens of this country built it; the blood, sweat and tears of all of us make it great. Don't think I don't appreciate everything business owners have contributed, but all they've done is to contribute to the whole.
All successful businesses require, i.e. must have, two things: employees and customers. Don't agree? Do businesses suffer from walkouts and boycotts? You bet they do. Big business is at the top of the food chain right now, but nothing lasts forever.
Power is not bad in itself. It is the abuse - the arrogance and greed, the attitude that "We can make you; we can break you. We can hire you; we can fire you. We can outsource your job." Don't talk to me about job creation when so many jobs have left this country. Pat yourselves on the back when they come back where they belong.
Suggesting that business owners built this country is just a rationalization - let's call it what it is - for giving them more financial breaks, or at least not taking them away. If that's so good for this country, why is the U.S. in such dire economic straits? Maybe because "...we can break you" is making a few people very wealthy.
To say that Obama believes "people who produce should be charged for those who do not." is putting a spin on what he says. "Distribution of wealth" is also spin art, a pat phrase for dismissing the real issues.
It's not about robbing the rich with taxes to give to the poor in entitlements. It's about not robbing the poor - or middle class - to give to the rich. It's about, for instance, average citizens who have lost their mortgages not because their businesses failed but because Big business failed them.
I sincerely admire the moral businessman and businesswoman, but let's not forget who keeps their businesses viable. We all deserve a break; we're all in this together.
No more free rides
In the state of Colorado, you are required to purchase insurance if you own and operate a motor vehicle. If you do not purchase insurance, you are subject to penalties such as license and registration suspension and paying fines.
Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that the mandate to buy health insurance, which is part of the Affordable Care Act, is constitutional. Eventually you will be required to purchase health insurance or be subject to a fine.
There are many right wing pundits claiming that the Affordable Care Act is a government takeover of health insurance. They also claim it is socialism. I do not remember hearing those claims when motor vehicle insurance became mandatory. Was the state of Colorado taking over car insurance? Was the state of Colorado becoming a socialistic state?
The purchase of car insurance and health insurance from the free market system is what capitalism is. It's hard to listen to those who spew out words like "government takeover" and "socialism" when they really have no idea what they are talking about.
In a perfect world, all of us would have health insurance. Since we all do not, the burden of the cost is put on those of us who do have it. It's about time we all started paying for it. No more free rides.
Rich Van Manen