Email letters, October 17,  2013

Oversight committee should look into implementation glitches of ACA

   
With the current “shutdown” and “debt -limit” crises apparently (but only temporarily) winding down, the Sentinel deserves kudos for its timely, objective and appropriate editorial (“Obamacare rollout is reason for worry”), which properly redirects popular focus onto what seems to be the “excruciatingly embarrassing” debut of the Affordable Care Act’s long-awaited online health insurance exchanges.


As a former executive charged with overseeing the development and implementation of complex computer software for an international business – and as an ardent supporter of the public policy underlying “Obamacare” – I am both mystified and chagrined by the mounting evidence of abject incompetence (or, possibly, deliberate sabotage).


Unfortunately, this inexcusable experience is not unique. Coloradans should remember the long-running problems with the “Colorado Benefits Management System” and may recall similar defects in Census 2010’s information technology systems—which required reversion to paper-based “enumeration.”  A common denominator is failure to finalize specifications soon enough to permit coherent software design and rigorous code testing.


The ACA also fell victim to the Obama administration’s reluctance to employ the same whiz kids who contributed to his re-election success – fearing charges of cronyism and its decision to divvy up the work between “lowest bid” contractors and in-house staff.


However, the fact that state-run exchanges are doing better than federal exchanges lends credibility to the conservative philosophy underlying Obamacare – which sought to apply principles of “federalism” to makes states responsible for their own citizens’ health insurance options.


Undoubtedly, the fact that 26 “red” states refused to cooperate with the ACA — and Secretary Sebelius’ Department of Health and Human Services unexpectedly became responsible for 36 state exchanges – was also a contributing factor. Nevertheless, Massachusetts’ systems have operated well for years and should have afforded a replicable template.


Therefore, it’s time for congressional oversight committees to investigate problems with ACA’s federally designed insurance exchanges.


BILL HUGENBERG

Grand Junction

MVEA efforts are similar to those of other professional organizations
 
It is too bad that the only thing Rick Wagner and Josh Penry can do to advance their cause is wave the specter of the heavy-handed union thugs flush with money. I doubt this would match the image of your child’s favorite teacher who is most likely a member of the education association.

Indeed, they never question the motives of out-of-town billionaires donating large sums in a local “nonpartisan” race.

Perhaps an honest perspective would be more helpful. The educators of Mesa County join the association for many different reasons: bargaining representation, legal protection, professional development and/or access to discounted professional education materials. The vast majority of members give a minimum optional contribution for political activity. It is a drop in the bucket compared to spending of millionaires and their corporations.

The efforts of the education association are very much like that of other professional organizations representing doctors, lawyers, realtors and others. Our organizations are formed to represent our professional interests by lobbying, providing information and advocating for our members.

Those of us in the education association have spent years working for high quality, pre-service education, fair and thorough evaluation, continued professional development and high standards for professional educators.

Speaking up for our professional career is the right thing to do. We join our organization because we have education and experience to add to the decision-making about our schools.

Our leaders are classroom teachers who can speak knowledgably for us while we are busy in our classrooms. We care deeply about the difference we can make for our children and our community.

CAROLYN SANDEEN-HALL

Retired Teacher
Grand Junction

Small-business owners support new carbon pollution standard

As a business owner, I know that limiting dirty air pollution from power plants will have a positive impact on my community, productivity and the success of my business. That’s why I support EPA’s recently issued and updated carbon pollution standard for new power plants.

A recent letter you published referenced the Grand Valley’s seeming apathy on addressing climate change because of oil and gas jobs here. I, and many folks I know, care about climate change and realize that it is not something that will hurt the economy, especially the natural gas industry. Since coal-fired power plants produce 40 percent of the carbon pollution in the U.S., any plan to address climate change must start with limiting that pollution from those plants first.

In 2012 more than 125,000 small business owners (http://asbcouncil.org/node/540) put their support behind the standard, because of the clear market signals it sends, while also encouraging investments in cleaner, safer technologies. These kinds of investments lead to more jobs and economic growth, while also limiting the health risks from dirty industrial carbon pollution. Coloradans deserve cleaner air, healthier children and more jobs.

HEIDI IHRKE
Grand Junction

Opposition to Amendment 66 by candidates is good news

With school board ballots being mailed this week and with The Daily Sentinel doing a good job with candidates’ answers to appropriate questions, it is fascinating for this retired Colorado educator to note that all the candidates will vote “NO” on Amendment #66 – that is good news, for sure.

We hear over and over that “money will not solve the problem.” That is an accurate assessment, but it heavily implies that there “is a problem.” By the teachers’ union strong support of Amendment 66, one can assume that it believes that one exists. There is absolutely no correlation with more money to improving teaching effectiveness and student learning. If only the bureaucrats at the U. S. Department of Education in Washington would acknowledge this fact, what a great place to start in reducing the federal deficit.

It is the sincere hope of this writer that the new school board once in office will resist any effort or desire to accept federal money with its liberal strings and that it will turn away any effort to lengthen the school year and that it will sit down immediately with the superintendent and top-echelon instructional leaders, map out a specific plan to improve test scores and remember that tests should not be written at the federal level and, most importantly of all, remember that the education of our youth is a state and local responsibility, not that of the federal government. And, as a vital footnote, our district MUST turn away any federal effort to require schooling for prekindergarten youngsters.

FRANK ROGER LITTLE
Grand Junction

Douglas County’s voucher system simply a tax rebate for wealthy

We in the Save Our Students group were concerned to learn that three of the school board candidates received an unprecedented $15,000 from Ed McVaney, a Front Range billionaire who in his retirement years has taken to building expensive private religious schools.

McVaney’s donations make up 83 percent of their campaign cash. Our concern turned to alarm, however, when we learned that McVaney has supported an entire slate of school board candidates at least once before — in 2011 he successfully funded a takeover of the Douglas County School Board by a slate of political extremists.

Those extremists, once elected, created a controversial voucher program that stripped tax dollars from the public school system and sent them to private schools. Here’s where it’s important to follow the money: The largest single recipient of that taxpayer money was McVaney’s private religious school. It looks as if he bought the board and its members created a system that funneled taxpayer money back to his school.

Vouchers and “choice” sound great in the abstract, but in the future that McVaney is trying to buy they are only available to the wealthy. For example, tuition at McVaney’s school this year is $15,400, plus classroom fees of up to $250 for each class taken.

By contrast, the vouchers from Douglas County amounted to less than $5,000, meaning that only the wealthy could afford to take advantage of the vouchers, because they still had to pay the remaining tuition of $10,000-$12,000 per child.

In the end, the voucher system that was touted as bringing choice to public schools amounted to nothing more than a tax rebate for the wealthy, allowing them to pull their tax money out of the public school system to help send their kids to an expensive private school that ordinary people still couldn’t afford.

But it gets worse. The voucher program took the most advantaged kids from the public schools — the least costly kids to educate – as well as the full per-pupil funding for each of those students. The public schools were left with the more expensive students to educate and with reduced funding with which to do it.

Public education has been the foundation of our merit-driven culture in the U.S for years. Unlike in some other countries, in the U.S. it hasn’t mattered whether your parents were rich, famous or powerful – as a child in America you could get a quality education and your success and failure as an adult depended largely on your willingness to work hard. The approach being pushed by McVaney and possibly supported by the candidates he has bankrolled will turn that American system on its head by giving the children of the wealthy all the advantages and leaving the rest of our society’s children to make due with the scraps.

Fortunately though, Douglas County’s problems have not come to District 51 … yet. The candidates who will be getting our votes — Greg Mikolai, John Williams and Tom Parrish – have raised 89 percent of their campaign donations locally and aren’t beholden to McVaney’s agenda. They are committed to fighting for our public schools and for our kids.

For the sake of all our children, we at Save our Schools hope that you will take the time to get informed and that you will exercise your right to vote in this election.

ROB PIERCE
Grand Junction

Outsiders’ money shouldn’t sway school board election

How heartbreaking to learn that candidates vying for positions at the core of our education system, candidates who are supposed to stand up for and expect nothing less than what is best for our local school children, feel it’s appropriate to allow nonlocal money to infect this critical school board election. Perhaps if a candidate is unable to gain support from local residents, there is a reason and that person should not be in a position that local residents must trust in and depend on.

It is one thing to look to other communities and school districts for examples of innovation, potential or qualities we might emulate, but it is not OK to look to them for money for a local position, allowing someone who doesn’t know us, our neighbors, our teachers or our community to play a role in deciding what is best for our community.

Personally, I don’t feel it’s OK for people who are not members of our community and/or don’t have kids, grandkids or perhaps even friends’ kids in our community’s schools to have the loudest voice of support for people who may take on a significant role in our school district.

This is one more reason I will be voting for Greg Mikolai, John Williams and Tom Parrish. Collectively, coming from 273 individual sources, 80 to 90 percent of donations to Mikolai, Williams and Parrish were locally obtained.

JESSICA MULVEY
Grand Junction

Oil shale companies making fine progress on using safe technology

Following Shell’s announcement to discontinue oil shell R&D operations in western Colorado in response to federal program changes and as part of a larger corporate restructuring, it was gratifying to read about how a Colorado-based company, Independent Energy Partners, is still moving forward on technologies to develop this tremendous resource.

It is amazing to see just how rapidly oil shale technology is progressing and how it is being done in ways that are increasingly environmentally friendly. For all of the talk from oil shale opponents about how the industry will use enormous amounts of water, here is a company that has developed a process that is water neutral – generating as much as is being used. On top of that, because it does not use combustion, the process is emission-free. All of this and it looks to be a promising technique for producing the more than 1 ½ trillion barrels of oil lying underneath public lands in Colorado.

Can you imagine what technologies could come out of oil shale R & D if the current administration would incentivize privately funded research efforts on federal land, where most of our oil shale is located? Instead, the Department of Interior keeps changing the rules, yanking leasable land from the industry and basically telling these companies that they are not welcome.

If the department would take a more reasonable approach to oil shale research and development, level the playing field and stop changing the rules on a whim, we could see the same sort of technological advances that have unlocked shale gas and oil on private lands around the country applied to oil shale resources on public lands.

Instead we have armchair political naysayers and so-called policy “experts” moving the goalposts for companies that are spending their own dollars to create R&D jobs on the Western Slope. I’m sure George Mitchell received the same treatment from a cadre of know-nothings that wanted to stop the Department of Energy from aiding his research efforts to unlock the Barnett Shale in Texas.

Lucky for all of us, Mitchell ignored them and hopefully Independent Energy Partners and other oil shale entrepreneurs seeking research opportunities on public lands will continue to do the same. 

MIKE FOSTER
Grand Junction

Obamacare is a product forced on unwilling consumers

To Mike Bambino, yup!  To the rest of the community, if we continue to let the government force the buying of a product on us, against our constitutional rights, then we become part of the problem rather than the solution.

I look at Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, John Boehner, Paul Ryan and others and think them reasonable men. I take one look at Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Barbara Boxer, Maxine Waters, Henry Waxman, Charles Schumer and think OMG! What a pack of loons. What group of nutcups got together and elected these social parasites to become a pox on this great nation?

Work hard, be a good parent, teach your kids to fend for themselves so the government can take over half what YOU EARN to compensate for social parasites too lazy or smart to work so they can pimp their vote. No, sir, not on my watch.

It’s not a damn tax. It’s a travesty I will not support.

RICHARD BRIGHT
Grand Junction

Education reporter should be asking some specific questions

I must write as I cannot believe Emily Shockley is still writing under the byline as the “education” reporter.

Last week she managed to write an article about the local teachers’ union contract without using the words
“union” or “contract” in the article. Her other articles seem to suggest there is a stealth Republican campaign afoot in the current school board campaign. No, Emily, the “big elephant” in the room is the union and its contract with the district, not the Republican Party.

The association’s agreement with the district is akin to a labor contract with pay, benefits, days off, break time (so-called planning time; away from the classroom etc.), seniority, etc. A real professional contract would include specific performance goals, measurement thereof, as well as pay.

I am a 75-tear-old District 51 graduate (GJHS ‘56). My father was a locally elected union (railroad) leader. After joining three different unions, my father advised getting into management since I was getting the good education he
never had. The major change in my schooling and today: the unionization of teaching groups. By using off-year, low turnout elections, union activists work to quietly gain union-compliant school boards.

Here’s some important questions Shockley should be asking and writing about: 1) If the Republican reformers are such a threat, why is the most liberal Colorado newspaper (Denver Post) endorsing all the reform candidates
in the Douglas County district school board election?

2) How much local union money goes to the state and national (NEA) union groups and how much of the state/national rules are mandatory on the local union?

3) Why does the national NEA president in his July annual convention speech say the union’s main priority is to organize against the reform movement?

4) The Colorado teachers’ union headquarters is known to host efforts by liberal multi-millionaire donors to fund support for Democrats running for statehouse offices. With the national NEA providing large campaign donations
to Democrats nationally, what does this say about teacher union politics?

Shockley should show some balance and ask some questions that really get to the real stealth campaign that goes on now for decades and has lead to dumbing down our educational system.

ROLAND REYNOLDS

Grand Junction

Judge Easton’s character by his decades of caring

I don’t condone the hitting of anyone to solve a problem, least of all a child. Having said that, I also believe one act carried out because of frustration should not define the character of a man nor his career.

I met Harry Easton almost 40 years ago when I attended Fruita Junior High. He was a great basketball coach, and our team was fortunate to have him follow us as an assistant coach throughout high school. As all junior and senior high school students, my teammates and I would goof off a lot, and all of our coaches, including Easton, dealt with us with great respect.

I know we learned many lessons we thought were strictly used while playing sports, but later learned were in fact lessons of how we should live our lives.

After I chose education as a profession, I came in contact with Easton again. In fact, it was my pleasure to do my student teaching in his second-grade classroom. He taught me many skills that I carry into my own classroom
today. One of those skills is how to treat each child as an individual.

For fifteen years I taught at Broadway Elementary with Easton as my principal. Although we didn’t always see eye to eye, I never had any reason to question his discipline of students. I would bet there wasn’t a child who went through Broadway that wouldn’t call Easton his or her friend.

He worked hard to bring out everyone’s talents so they could excel. I’m sure many adults today remember being in the yearly plays he put on at our school, believing everyone should have a chance to shine. I’ll always remember him leading our school and staff in “Don’t Laugh At Me,” a song about bullying and “The Greatest,” a song about finding your true potential, and, of course, taking us on his famous bear hunts.

Easton dedicated his life to education. He has positively touched hundreds of lives in this valley. Reading about this incident saddened me to know his career was ending on this note. Judging his character by this incident would be wrong. Instead, judging his character should be evidenced by his years of guiding students and teachers.

KEVIN HARDY
Grand Junction

BLM did not receive $1,000 for Rabbit Valley Trail Ride

In Tuesday’s letters, Sherlynn Crawford wrote her thoughts about the cancellation of Rabbit Valley Competitive Trail Ride by the BLM. While I appreciated her personal thoughts on the subject, it is important to note an error conveyed:  The BLM was not paid $1,000 for a permit for this ride.

I am not sure how this got misinterpreted, but the permits for special events annually are $50, along with a pre-event fee of $100. After the event, that $100 is applied to the total due, which is figured at $5 per person per day. With 60 riders competing, this would total $600. I think Crawford was trying to show that the BLM actually stood to make money on this event.

While we can’t blame the BLM for cancelling our event due to the government shutdown, it is truly disappointing that the permit for use of our public lands, which they manage, couldn’t be honored when everything was in place for the event. It cost our group a great deal of money, time and energy with no way to negotiate.

Thank you for setting the record straight.

SHARON ROPER
Ride Manager, Rabbit Valley Competitive Trail Ride
Grand Junction


Partisanship is a natural aspect of any election, including board’s

Partisan is the most used and abused word in the 2013 school board election.

The unions and their cohorts have painted a slate of candidates as partisan, while calling the election “non-partisan.” Let’s look at the definition of partisan.

Partisan (n)- an adherent or supporter of a person group party or cause, especially who shows a biased emotional allegiance.

Judging from the strained arguments from the unions and their supporters, I would say there are partisans on both sides of this election.

This is the way our election process is supposed to work, two sides arguing in a vigorous debate. “Nonpartisan” elections do not exist. There are always two sides to every issue.

Memo to those groups only supporting one slate in the election: You are partisans. SOS, the MVEA, Ken Henry’s group and, yes, the Mesa County Republican Women are all partisans, supporting one side and one side only.

The sides in this election are sharply divided.

On the left you have partisans of the status quo. They believe: Keep the board and the schools the way they are. Pay no attention to the 33.8 percent math proficiency, 49 percent reading proficiency or the fact that 50 percent of CMU enrollees have to take remedial classes. Third grade test scores are up, give us more money and we will fix things. Backed by the union, they are John Williams, Tom Parrish and Greg Mikolai.

On the right you have partisans of change. They believe: The results we are getting are unacceptable. We need to look where schools are successful and implement some of their ideas. Nine years is too long to wait for success. They are John Sluder, Mike Lowenstein and Pat Kanda.

Proud to be a partisan, I am voting for Sluder, Lowenstein and Kanda.

KEVIN MCCARNEY
Clifton

Letter writer should realize that America values individual human beings
 
Reading Mike Bambino’s letters is always an eye-opener, in the sense that he represents someone who is totally lacking in perspective (or at least with a very narrow and shallow one). His last one about Democrats is a case in point.

In his world everyone is a “bum” but him, that Democrats don’t pay taxes, that they leave their wives, etc. Perhaps he should cool this fevered mind, as he does not at all impress those who choose to do their own thinking instead of allowing others to do it for them.

The words he uses are also quite interesting in his claim that he “gives” people jobs. Now, if he is “giving” those away, this Democrat will be right over. This Democrat was never “given” any job. He was hired to do a job and did what he was paid to do and to the best of his ability. That fulfilled any and all obligations to that employer.

Anything beyond that was none of the employer’s business, although many employers have convinced themselves that they actually “own” their employees.

As to the “taxes” he pays, Bambino may write the checks, but the money actually comes from his employees and customers, not out of his personal pocket. So, those in business who keep harping about the taxes they pay should take the time to figure that out. Some of us have.

Instead of living in a state of self-adulation and self-pity (concurrently), Bambino should, as should many, take the time and make the effort to remind himself that he is a just a human being, just like everyone else. If he did that, then perhaps he could come to the realization and acceptance of what some of us did many years ago.

It is that this country is (or at least should be) what any truly civilized country and/or society has always been about. It is about the individual person as a human being.

ROBERT I. LAITRES

Delta

Teachers’ union also tries to buy school board election

The furor over “Outsider spends in school races,” a front-page article by Emily Shockley in The Daily Sentinel Wednesday, would be humorous were it not so pathetic.

The conservative candidates have stated they were in favor of vouchers, along with other educational reforms, which will provide parents and students more educational choices. People who support these kinds of reforms have contributed money to their campaigns.

The opposing candidates are in favor of union-directed education and the unions have demonstrated their support by contributing large sums of money to them. There is nothing sinister about contributing money to support candidates with shared viewpoints.

What is disingenuous is when Greg Mikolai says, “I’m disturbed that we have somebody coming in and for all intents and purposes trying to buy our education.” What does he think the teachers’ union is trying to do by contributing large amounts of money into all the union-backed candidates?

Why are we mincing words? The District 51 School Board election is between those candidates who would empower the parents and teachers to reform education and those candidates who would empower the teachers’ union to continue opposing educational reforms.

PHYLLIS HUNSINGER
Grand Junction

Who is beholden to the teachers union?

An outside individual named C. Edward McVaney gives $5,000 to each Republican candidate (Pat Kanda, Mike Lowenstein, and John Sluder) and it is front-page news on The Daily Sentinel. None of them solicited this money.

Democrat John Williams said he wouldn’t be comfortable taking $5,000 from someone he didn’t know from out of town. Democrat Greg Mikolai thinks that McVaney, “for all intents and purposes is trying to buy our public education system.” He thinks a voucher system would strip funding from the public school system.

However, all three Democrats, John Williams, Tom Parrish and Greg Mikolai, have taken money from either the MVEA or the Denver based Public Education Committee or both and have more money than their opponent.

From the article in The Daily Sentinel you can see Democrat Williams has received $500 from the Denver based Public Education Committee (must know someone there).
Democrat Parrish has received $3,000 from the MVEA and $1,000 from the Denver-based Public Education Committee. Democrat Mikolai has received $3,000 from the MVEA and $1000 from the Denver-based Public Education Committee which, of course, is an arm of the state of Colorado teachers’ union.

One of the jobs of the school board is to negotiate with the teachers’ union. Am I the only one that can see a possible conflict here?

The teachers’ union represents its members, the teachers, not necessarily what is best for the students. Will these three feel beholden to the teachers’ union?

I believe what this school district needs are people who are going to look out for the best interests of the students and not feel beholden to the teachers’ union. Vote for Pat Kanda, Mike Lowenstein and John Sluder.

MICHAEL HIGGINS
Grand Junction



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