Printed letters, Sept. 7, 2010

Rep. John Salazar is sponsoring an excellent bill that will promote conservation, access and good public lands management. The bill will give a narrow, barely used strip of BLM land above Paonia Reservoir to a cattle ranch, in exchange for two threatened parcels of private land, long desired by the National Park Service.

Unfortunately, a small group of people with personal grudges against the owner of the ranch are trying to kill this good bill by spreading rumors and falsehoods. Here’s the truth:

The Park Service will receive a parcel of land near Blue Mesa Reservoir. It has some of the best views of the Dillon Needles and contains vital habitat for deer, elk and sage grouse. Unfortunately, up to five trophy homes could be built on this property, ruining its character forever.

In addition, the Park Service will receive a private in-holding within Dinosaur National Monument. This is the ranch where the original dinosaur fossil discoveries were made, an important paleontological resource.

Contrary to the claims of opponents, the BLM strip going into private ownership accesses nothing. There used to be a trail onto the Gunnison National Forest, but the Forest Service wants to close it. There is an old road on the quarter-mile strip of BLM land, but it dead-ends about two miles above Paonia Reservoir. And, due to its narrowness, as a recent Gunnison Country Times editorial says “if you hunt that (BLM strip) now, you’re road hunting.” Plus, Bear Ranch is giving $250,000 to the Forest Service to improve other accesses to this same forest land.

The Salazar bill is a good deal for the public. We cannot let the petty tactics of a few malcontents threaten this valuable legislation.


Grand Junction

Writer was wrong about Tipton’s motives on bill

I am writing in response to Roger Fulks’ Aug. 29 letter to the editor regarding my vote on the Senate Bill 1, a piece of legislation intended to address the shortfalls of the Public Employees Retirement Association’s pension fund. In particular, I would like to correct some inaccuracies in Mr. Fulks’ letter.

While it’s certainly understandable that Mr. Fulks, in his capacity as PERA president, would be disappointed with my vote against SB 1, he’s overstepping more than a little to suggest that I hadn’t read the bill and, further, that I was ordered by party leadership to vote against the bill. Both accusations are completely false.

Without going into a lot of detail, there are several reasons I voted against the PERA bill. A “Yes” vote on this bill would not nearly have gone far enough to accomplish what the bill intended. Our public employees work as hard as everyone else and they deserve able stewardship of their pensions.

But I will never commit taxpayer money for a taxpayer-supported pension plan that’s out-of-step with the best practices we see in the private sector — especially when we’re facing uncertain economic times.

I believe that government pension plans should be subject to the same market conditions as those for private sector employees. SB 1 was a boon for government retirees, but a bad deal for the taxpayers.

Mr. Fulks has every right to disagree with my perspective on the challenges PERA faces — and my vote on SB 1. But in the interest of a fair exchange, he should limit his criticism to the facts and leave his inferences about my motivations for voting the way I did out of the debate.



Salazar must answer queries on Rangel money

When Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., appeared to be in hot water over his various dealings, Colorado 3rd District Rep. John Salazar, also a Democrat, was quick to distance himself from Rangel. Salazar admitted accepting $4,000 from Rangel and said he was going to donate it to Boys Clubs throughout his 3rd District — a noble gesture. End of story? Not so.

First, the Boys Clubs should be thanking Charlie Rangel for the donation (or whomever Rangel got the money from) as Salazar serves only as a pass-through and should not be getting any recognition for his part.

More importantly, Salazar should tell the “rest of the story.” What did he give Rangel in return for the $4,000? Was it a vote or other favor? What could a junior representative from Colorado possibly have that would benefit the much more senior Rangel? Was it a vote that was not in the best interest of Salazar’s constituents or the people of Colorado?

What other favors has Salazar received (or given) that he has not told us about and what value do those have? Is trading votes or favors among colleagues for money a standard way they do business? If so, how much money changes hands each year in this underground for votes? Did Salazar show the $4,000 on his campaign finance report for the year received? Will he claim it as a personal donation for 2010?

The Club 20 meeting will be an excellent forum for Salazar to tell “the rest of the story.” We can only hope someone will question him on this. Not that the amount of money in this instance is significant, but that he accepted it in the first place. And for what? Is this the way we want our elected representatives to conduct business?

I think not and I hope Salazar will fully answer the above so we can make a much more informed decision on whether it’s appropriate to return him to Congress.  His failure to adequately address this would be another reason not to.




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