Email letters, February 17, 2014

Congress must increase Social Security benefits

It’s time for Congress to act so that Social Security benefits can finally start to keep pace with the cost of living. The average monthly benefit for retirees is $1,269, or about the same as a worker earning minimum wage.

In Mesa County the average benefit is only $1,179. With pensions disappearing and cost of living adjustments not keeping pace with our expenses, now is the time to boost Social Security benefits.

As a volunteer with the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, I believe bills in Congress to phase in an increase of $70 per month will be a big help to seniors and our economy as a whole. Eliminating the $117,000 FICA tax cap on earnings will pay for the increase and will bring us closer to tax fairness at the same time.

As things stand now, someone earning $50,000 per year pays more as a percentage of income in taxes than someone earning $200,000. That’s terribly unfair. It’s time to boost Social Security now!

MARY KAY KISSEBERTH
Denver

Many, including government officials, do not know how to respect woods

I grew up in Grand Junction. Since then I have lived in other states where national lands, parks, BLM and the rest are managed by keeping people off the land. That would be the land they own, yet they can’t drive on it. Walk — oh, sure, walking is fine. We can carry as much trash into the woods walking as driving.

Then they said they were concerned about “erosion” from motor vehicles. Of course, bicycles don’t cause as much, but they still do their due in erosion, and then there are the folks that use logs and take plywood into the woods to make tracks.

There are folks that have families then couldn’t take young ones into the woods until they could outrun bear and cougars. Ha, ha! I have to laugh every time I think of my Indian, (yes, we think of ourselves as Indian blood, not Native American) grandfather or my Natan taking me hunting and worrying about what Uncle Sam says we can’t do in the woods.

I worry more about running over a bicyclist, of which there are way too many on a narrow road on a ridge, when I go over the monument. It’s as though I need air bags on the outside of the truck. A whole lot of folks don’t know how to respect the woods. That includes government officials sticking their noses into my special times in the woods. Some things should have to be legislated. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Semper fi, America!

RICHARD BRIGHT
Grand Junction

Many local efforts to address homeless problem are ineffectual or heart-hearted

My first knowledge of the Coalition for the Homeless came from seeing signs that read, “Don’t give to the homeless. Spare change won’t make a change.”

They were bought and paid for by the coalition. Interfering with a person’s free speech rights and intervening to take that money themselves, they could hopefully make money on “serving the homeless.” Since the shelter charges money to stay, this low-rent diversion of funds was a double whammy.

I began to attend coalition meetings. Many wonderful groups, including the V.A., Kairos, District 51 and others came. One group that was noticeably absent was a regular rep from the city. Ultimately, the GJPD began to attend with its new Homeless Outreach Team (Hot Cops.) Contrary to the spirit of the burgeoning 10-year plan to end homelessness, the police’ were there largely to help criminalize homelessness.

With little effort, you can hear from them their story. Public relations in the city was one of their biggest expenses. They infiltrated the homeless, innocently asking to be brought to camps. In reality, this made it easier for them to use a GPS to mark the camps for imminent destruction. Again not following the finalized 10-year plan, they began evicting every single camp they surveyed.

As I predicted, this diaspora of homelessness spread farther afield in the city. All of a sudden, it seemed like there were Panhandlers everywhere. With no public denunciation of this disregard for our consensus work, I quit the meetings and began to work with a direct action, zero-budget group, Solidarity, Not Charity.

The Homeward Bound Shelter is inadequate to accommodate the population of homeless in the city. If people had little or no money, or if they simply didn’t want to sleep on a mattress on the floor in a grossly bed bug-infested facility, they continued with covert camping.

As with the first sweep, there was another one, in which the police confiscated property and made onerous conditions for its return. Again, the city wants to ban panhandling. The last attempt was sausage-like, and really only made it more difficult for high school cheerleaders to draw people for their carwashes. This time around, the state leader of the ACLU bluntly stated that the bill was too broad, unconstitutional, and would be challenged in court.

Where is all this money for a xenophobic adventure coming from, do you suppose? What’s the current status of the fractured 10-year plan? Thoreau said that for every problem, there are thousands hacking at the branches to one who is striking at the root. Case in point: Look up “Housing First” on Google. It might surprise you that the entire state of Utah is more progressive than Grand Junction.

ERIC L. NIEDERKRUGER
Grand Junction

Law sets up wilderness areas, not whim of a federal agency

This land is your land … this land is my land. Yet somehow we are locked out of more of it every day. Thank you, Brandon Siegfried, for showing us we actually can fight back.

I grew up in Paonia and left at 17 when I joined the Army. Coming back home every few years, I discovered the jeep roads we traveled on had become ATV roads. Time to buy an ATV so I could still hunt. I retired two years ago and moved back for good.

Those ATV roads? They are now closed by the Forest Service or BLM. Turns out they were never roads, despite the sawmill and cabin that sat at the end of the road, or the ditch rider’s cabin. Access roads through BLM to the West Elk Wilderness Area were closed this fall. So, by the erection of a gate and placement of a lock, the size of the wilderness area has greatly increased.

While it is imperative we have wilderness areas, they are established by law, not from the whim of a federal agency. Oh, by the way, when I joined the Army, we had 25 wilderness areas in Colorado; we now have 40. Now older folks, handicapped folks and people who can’t afford horses are locked out of more and more of “our land.”

Where will this stop? When we are all limited to reservations called “towns” or “cities”? Strangely, it seems those who want access limited are very seldom the folks that actually spend time on the land. I’m with Brandon. It’s time to push back; we should have the say about which roads are closed, not the feds.

What nincompoop would call a road closed to you or me or everyone else except a special interest group, an open road? Thanks, BLM; you make it easy to make my point.

JOHN TAYLOR
Grand Junction

Siegfried, Martin merit praise for championing local control

First of all, I would like to start by thanking the editors of The Daily Sentinel for bringing the BLM land grab back into the news. As it gets closer to the elusive deadline for closing 67 percent of our public access to our public lands, it is important for this discussion to begin again.

My congratulations to Brandon Siegfried and John Martin for championing the real issue surrounding these lands, local control. The control of public lands, their access and development should be the responsibility of the state and local governments, not the federal government.

All the users of these public lands need to get behind Siegfried and Martin as a coalition to protect our rights to our public lands. If you will take a little time to research other states that have already experienced the government taking total control of our lands, you will find that this is solely a political attack on our rights as U.S. citizens and the rights of states. The people of Colorado, through their respective counties, should be taking the lead on how our public lands will be used and developed. This is what RS 2477 allows and supports.

RS 2477 is the law of the land and must not be ignored by the government. Even though the current administration chooses to ignore the basic foundation of our country, the Constitution, on a routine basis, that does not mean we should allow the BLM to follow that example.

The majority of our economic structure in this region is based in recreation and development. Everyone has a stake in making sure his or her public lands are not impacted by a politically motivated over-zealous public agency trying to take control of our public lands.

By the way, my one criticism of your article is the reference to RS 2477 as apparently some antiquated law that is “almost a century and a half old” that they are “reaching back to” in order to stop this land grab. I need to remind you that our entire country is based on a Constitution that is well over a century and a half old. It is still the law of the land.

JAMES O’MALLEY
Grand Junction

HB 14-1275 will boost revenue for state

I’d like to voice my support for House Bill 14-1275 that was recently introduced to the state Legislature.  With the growing popularity of long-range competitive shooting, development of a 1,000-yard shooting range with more than 60 stations will allow our region to stage competitive shooting events and generate business year-round. 

This one-of-a-kind facility will not only be a shooting range, but also an education center that will ensure we continue the western tradition of hunting and responsible gun use. 

I’m running for District 54 on a platform of economic development for the Western Slope, which, along with agriculture and energy, includes tourism.  Tourism is a major economic driver in Mesa County, and this shooting range will increase local revenues and contribute to our ongoing economic recovery. 

Hunting and outdoor sports contribute $2.9 billion every year for conservation federally, along with nearly $3 billion in revenue and more than 30,000 jobs in Colorado alone.  With broad bipartisan support from both local and state government, this is the type of common-sense approach to lawmaking we need. 

BRAD WEBB
Palisade

Retired military man questions Marcus’ math

If I read Ruth Marcus’ column of Feb. 13 correctly, she is castigating those who restored a cut to military pensions. She goes on to say that the “current system is extraordinarily generous compared to private sector programs.”  She later states that the “average enlisted person” has a lifetime benefit “of $1.73 million” and the “average officer” has a lifetime benefit of “$3.83 million.” 

Well, I guess — or hope — that I would fall into the average or better category during my 30 years of wearing the uniform of my country.  However, I would have to live well over 400 years to even come close to her $3.83 million figure.  Or did I misread her words?


CREIGHTON BRICKER
Grand Junction

Wolke’s op-ed revealed lack of mountain biking knowledge

Were it not littered with ridiculous anecdotes (“mountain bikers inadvertently ‘troll for grizzlies’”), laughable stereotypes (“Lycra-clad speedsters”), factual errors (“the place for mountain bikes is on roads”) and even apocalyptic musings (“unimagined future contraptions”), I might be inclined to give more than a few seconds of consideration to Howie Wolke’s Sunday treatise on the relation of mountain bikes to wild lands, “Mountain bikes shouldn’t be allowed in fragile wild areas.”

I instead reject it for what it is:  the rambling invective of a man who really knows nothing about the culture of mountain biking and who would love to lock up more wilderness that is off-limits to mountain bikers — but not to the commercial pack trains run by his business.  “Self-indulgent?”  “Myopic worldview?”  Uh, yeah.

JOE CRUZ
Grand Junction

Our culture must once again emphasize personal responsibility

Who could be surprised that the dropout rates across the country and in Mesa County are on the rise?

Why go to school? The message these dropouts are getting is “What’s in it for them?” Chances are many of these youths’ parent/parents did not finish school themselves. They do not see their parents suffering any consequences.

They are being fed and housed at the taxpayers’ expense. They are not denied cell phones, transportation or TV. Just try to take away a free lunch from a student for truancy as was suggested by school administration and see just how quickly a politician jumps in to make that illegal.

Achievement is being ridiculed by our culture. One example, and there are plenty: A Maryland middle school rewarded its straight-A students with an after-school pizza party. An obviously agenda-driven TV reporter interviewing some of these students asked if they felt bad about the other students not getting to attend. The tone was obvious to anyone watching that they should feel bad.

There is no longer a stigma attached to grown children living with their parents. Democratic elites are telling us that unemployment is a good thing. It gives you an opportunity to spend more time with your family and pursue hobbies you might not otherwise.

The 45 states pushing the Common Core Curriculum, which is nothing more than government indoctrination; its aim is to educate to the lowest level and thwart individuality.

In no way do I excuse the actions taken by a local substitute teacher, a former principal, for striking a student in frustration, but, as a former educator, I saw many times the disrespectful and unruly behavior of students directed at school staff.

Is it no wonder that drug use is once again on the increase after a decade of decline? The new message our culture is touting: Cigarettes are bad, but pot is cool.

Until personal responsibility is encouraged by our culture, our schools and parents who could be surprised about the very real crisis we have on our hands.

GAIL WEST
Grand Junction

Josh Penry failed to see irony in column on Sochi Olympics

Josh Penry had a few interesting observations in his column Friday regarding what the Olympics has revealed about Russia’s economy.  He refers to the “suffering Russian middle class, little opportunity for economic mobility and massive disparity between the rich and the poor” and goes on to extol the virtues of a free market.

I thought for a moment he was writing tongue-in-cheek, as the same might be said of our own middle class and the ever-widening gap between the super-rich and the poverty-stricken classes right here in the U.S., including a recent column by David Brooks regarding our own loss of mobility. But then I realized that Penry was entirely serious, and I had to wonder that he didn’t recognize the irony of his own words.

SHARI VANDERVELDE

Grand Junction

People must stop blaming energy industry for pollution

I’m missing something here. People still are blaming the oil and gas industry for polluting the air when there aren’t any drilling operations going on in Mesa County and maybe five rigs running in the surrounding area

So, all the people who keep blaming the oil and gas industry should also find other sources of pollution to blame. When they pass these new air quality measures, we won’t be able to see the results, but I’ll bet that come next winter we’ll still see bad air quality when the valley gets inverted, and I’m sure it’s still going to be the energy industry’s fault whether there is drilling or not. Go figure!

CURT CLAUSSEN
Grand Junction

Antiquated RS 2477 simply raises dust, noise, pollution

It is disheartening to see the RS 2477 issue being thrown about again and especially annoying to see it getting space on page one above the fold. Most of these routes are not “historical” in any sense other than the fact that at one time a uranium prospector drove his jeep down a canyon or a cowboy herded a few cattle through pristine plateau country and left an impacted trail.

Why can’t Brandon Siegfried and his ilk just be honest about their intentions and say that despite the fact that thousands of miles of motor vehicle trails are already available on public lands, they would rather not walk anywhere if they can ride instead? It is a matter of convenience, not a “crisis situation.”

The antiquated RS 2477 statute is just another excuse to raise more dust, more noise, more pollution and more hell in general on our public lands. If we truly want to reduce our carbon emissions, tackle the inversion layer problem and avoid having to deal with federal clean-air regulations being imposed upon us, we can start by reducing motorized travel, not encouraging it.

GREG GNESIOS
Grand Junction



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