Wednesday letters: Readers respond to superintendent housing proposal; Glenwood city council candidate endorsements roll in

Lack of school district transparency

It appears that the Roaring Fork School District is once again not being transparent with its constituents in regard to funding. At the most recent school board meeting, the school district proposed”exploring a down payment assistance program for its “leaders.” No details have been given yet for this plan except that the district wants to be able to hold on to good leaders so they are thinking about helping administrative staff with housing down payments.

The last RFSD Re-1 mill levy issue was specifically to be used for increasing teacher salaries, which it has and that is why I voted for it. The school district has recently proposed utilizing some district funds to attract the hiring of administrative staff to assist the applicants by giving them money towards their housing. This is definitely not what this mill levy increase was intended for and if it was, I would never have voted for it. 

Let me understand the logic behind the school district’s proposal: you plan to hire staff, other than teachers, and pay them salaries that could amount to $100,000-$200,000, plus and want the taxpayers to foot the bill towards their housing while there are still teachers, new and tenured, without good housing options and even working second jobs?

Unfortunately, your past decisions in hiring administrative candidates is far from stellar; time and time again you have dismissed the hiring of extremely capable candidates from within your own district (who might already have local housing) and have chosen to hire incompetent individuals who, in turn, have even gone on to hire their incompetent cronies. 

You have no right to use our tax dollars for what we didn’t vote for. Administrative staff are important, but not more important than teachers.

Joe Infascelli, Glenwood Springs

Not far enough

In response to Lori Knaus’ letter (3/13) re: Re-1’s “Down Payment Assistance Program,” which, in its current form, seeks to provide up to $500,000 in down payment assistance to one single employee, the superintendent.

I’m concerned we aren’t going far enough.

1. Make sure if real estate prices go down (that never happens, right?) and that equity is wiped out, the taxpayers will be on the hook, not the superintendent or Re-1.

2. Add in paying off any remaining student loans for the superintendent.

3. The $220,000 salary should be directly tied to inflation. If we continue to see CPI prints in the high single digits range, I think it is only fair that each month we include a bonus to keep up. If we see inflation come down, don’t adjust.

And most importantly, do not have any compensation tied to performance. Should Re-1 stagnate or fall behind, we need to remember that only private businesses and their employees must show a level of performance to justify compensation. Government and bureaucracies are different. They negotiate with other people’s money.

Chase McWhorter, Carbondale

Opposed to superintendent housing assistance

As a taxpayer I am 100% against the school board’s decision to approve down payment assistance of $500,000 to the superintendent, who has a salary of over $220,000. 

This opportunity should be spread equally among all school district employees, not just one individual. I thought the current plan was all about equity. 

This is a slap in the face of all school district employees and poor stewardship of public funds.

Shelley Fishbein, Glenwood Springs

Bad policy

A down payment assistance program for the Roaring Fork Schools superintendent is bad policy.

In order to make mortgage payments “affordable,” a program would require a massive outlay of capital. This is money that cannot be spent on other critical projects that directly benefit students and teachers. 

Down payment assistance is a real estate investment, which involves risk and no guarantee of a return. This money would be better spent funding the construction of additional affordable housing. Adding more housing would provide tangible assets for the district, while down payment assistance only offers a speculative return.

Thankfully, housing is an issue the district has been working to address. The school board should consider a simple rule change that would allow high earners to qualify for the staff housing program.

If the school board is worried that housing is a barrier to hiring quality, well-compensated district leaders, they should put themselves in the shoes of a principal trying to hire quality math and special education teachers. To create a brand new program that solely benefits an employee who makes 353% more than the median teacher and 440% more than a first year teacher is unjust.

Howard Kuhn, Carbondale

Supporting Zalinski

We urge that you vote in the April election for Erin Zalinski for the at-large position on the Glenwood Springs City Council. 

Erin has lived in our community for many years, actively run a business downtown, and would make thoughtful and balanced decisions. She is articulate and level-headed and she would be a great addition to council.

Glenn and Kris Chadwick, Glenwood Springs

Another for Zalinski

I am so excited Erin Zalinski is running for City Council. As an advocate for the “heart of our city,” the downtown area, as well as an avid outdoor enthusiast, she is such a valuable and supportive part of our community. 

She listens with kindness and intelligence and is interested in helping to make our little city even more vibrant and current. Her opponent mentioned in his letter to the editor over and over that he likes to “fight,” and if you have ever spent time at one of our City Council meetings, that is quite apparent. 

Going in front of Council can be an intimidating experience and I would like to see our representatives show kindness and respect when “we” take the time out of our busy lives to try to advocate for issues that are important to us.

Laura Speck, Glenwood Springs

Backing Schachter

Who are you voting for in the upcoming City Council elections for Ward 3? My vote is behind Sumner Schachter 100% without any hesitation. 

I’ve never met a community member who is so invested in visiting local businesses and getting to know the local general public, while also still wanting to join the political community. Do you want someone who connects with people in our town in an attempt to make it a better place to live, enjoy, and recreate? Sumner’s main desire is to improve the quality of life of our local citizens. 

In that effort, he hopes to do things for the community that will also attract tourists — but with the benefit of our beautiful valley and residents in mind. This can’t happen without building trusting relationships equally among community members, local businesses, and tourist establishments. 

Although his list of qualifications can go on for pages, I would like to point out his appreciation for diversity and inclusion in our valley, with an emphasis on literacy and service. He is a longtime, vibrant community member who has not only already made change, but is ready to keep change coming to our valley. Sumner’s qualifications are above and beyond what is expected from a person with extended service and leadership in our community for decades. If you are ready to see a positive change in local interests, diversity, inclusion, community relationships, and successful tourism benefits, please consider voting for Sumner Schachtner for Ward 3 Councilman. 

Ricky Rodriguez, Glenwood Springs

Several more for Schachter

I’m urging Ward 3 voters to vote for Sumner Schachter for Glenwood City Council. Sumner was one of the first people I met when I moved to Glenwood. How did I meet him? He was helping a mutual friend navigate the procedural maze of the Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council. 

I soon came to realize that is what Sumner does — he helps people. His contributions to the community are many — from service on the Roaring Fork District School Board, to long-time service on the Planning and Zoning Commission, to co-founding Imagine Glenwood, to recently joining the Housing Commission. 

I know Sumner to be a kind, competent and thoughtful man. He is visible in the community and is approachable. He listens. He has an abundance of common sense. He seeks consensus. Most importantly, I have observed that he continually helps people understand and utilize their city government to reach solutions that benefit all of us. 

For these reasons, Sumner will make an excellent and responsive Council member. Please cast your vote for Sumner Schachter for Glenwood City Council on April 4.

Joyce L. Jenkins, Glenwood Springs

Dear Editor:

I enthusiastically encourage you to vote for Sumner Schachter as the next City Council representative for Ward 3. 

Sumner is a long-time Glenwood Springs resident who has shown his commitment to the future of our community through his numerous volunteer activities, including service on the Planning and Zoning Commission, the Glenwood Springs Housing Commission, Imagine Glenwood and the 2C Workforce Housing Initiative. 

It has been my privilege and pleasure to collaborate with Sumner on a variety of volunteer programs. His focus on achieving solutions through building trust, demonstrating commitment and exhibiting civility and cooperation is without equal. 

If you vote for him to join the Glenwood City Council you will provide us with a compassionate leader who will work tirelessly, listen carefully, ask the important questions, identify the critical goals for our community and develop solutions of benefit to us all.

Ellen Dole, Glenwood Springs

Dear Editor:

We’re supporting Sumner Schachter’s candidacy for Glenwood City Council. 

We know him to be thoughtful, informed, involved and passionate about our community. His public service history to Glenwood is lengthy and includes many school, city and volunteer organizations. His financial expertise is extensive and will be extremely helpful to our city. He is a listener who sincerely wants to hear and understand diverse points of view before making informed decisions and seeking solutions.

It’s time for a change in our elected city officials. A majority of the current council has clearly not respected the wishes of the voters.

A petition to require that the airport be maintained unless its use was changed by a vote of the residents was circulated. It was signed by more than 800 residents, many more than were required. The petition was disallowed ostensibly because a sufficient number of the signatures did not include the state of Colorado in the address portion. It later turned out that there were enough correct signatures to certify the petition but it was too late for the election.

The right thing to have done would have been for the council to then place an item on that ballot with the same language as the petition. Instead, they added a very significant increase in property taxes in order to fund South Bridge causing it to be soundly defeated.

Another example was the Donegan development in which the annexation was overturned in a successful recall election. One of the things that especially enraged the voters was the unilateral addition of density by the council at the last minute.

In contrast to these actions by the current council a volunteer group of citizens undertook the task of proposing a program to add workforce housing to our city. By working with, rather than against the citizens, it was successful at the polls. 

Sumner was one of the most active volunteers in this effort demonstrating once again his commitment to our community.

Ted and Ruth Edmonds, Glenwood Springs

Hershey represents the whole

When I first ran for the Pitkin County Board of County Commissioners in 1998 I was contacted by Tony Hershey. He wanted to publicly support my campaign but before doing so he felt it was important to talk to me first and foremost. 

What impressed me then about Tony and what has impressed me ever since is his passion for public service and his persistence in making sure the other side(s) of the issue(s) have a voice.

I supported Tony’s successful first campaign for election to the Glenwood Springs City Council and I am now (again) supporting his campaign for re-election. If anything, Tony Hershey has always made and he will continue to make every effort to make decisions that support, defend, and represent his community — your community as a whole.

A vote for Tony Hershey for the Glenwood Springs City Council at large seat is a vote for all of the people who live and/or work in Glenwood Springs.

Patti Clapper, Aspen

Tony listened

Tony Hershey has proven he will listen and respond to the concerns of the residents and not make the usual assumptions other City Council members do about knowing better what is good for Glenwood Springs.

Last year during our battle to prevent a mammoth housing development from being built on land to be annexed for the purpose, known as 480 Donegan, Tony listened and took seriously our concern for safety, and the dishonest presentation of the development as a boon for workforce housing. Then he went to bat for us when the rest of city government tried to call our objections NIMBYism and blind opposition to all development. Today, there is a land-use proposal on the table which fits the location and community much better and avoids exacerbating the inadequate fire evacuation situation.

Tony listens, uses independent judgment and works for the good of the whole community, even when he’s the lone official advocate for the people. We need him, and he richly deserves to be reelected to this at-large position representing us all, not just the money interests. I say this as a 20-year resident and small business owner in Glenwood Springs.

Laurie Raymond, Glenwood Springs

Consider Hershey, Schachter, smaller council and term limits

The COGS has an exceptional problem. They have excellent candidates for all council positions. Charlie Willman and Erin Zalinski are quality candidates that are dedicated to the success of our community. However, I would ask that you consider voting for Sumner Schachter and Tony Hershey due to their unique qualifications and diligent service.

Sumner is an exceptional candidate and has impeccable credentials in his professional and civilian lives. He has spearheaded numerous important projects for the community as well. He has also served on planning and zoning, which is the backbone of any community. His credentials and extensive background in finances will assist our town in a critical need. Protecting the integrity of the financial success of a small community is difficult and complex. Sumner would be an exceptional asset to serve the best interest of our city.

Tony is also exceptional and has an extensive legal background. He has already put in the work to keep our city focused on essential and quality governance. He ran prior elections focusing our city on the basics and critical needs as well as delivering results. Unlike many politicians Tony is focused on the promises of his platform. Despite many challenges and consistently being in the minority he has held strong and forced the council towards balance. Tony is not a group thinker — he is a critical thinker and strong willed and any community is best served with healthy debates and reasonable solutions on very complicated topics.

On another topic is the balance of power for both the city of Glenwood Springs and Garfield County. The county has just three commissioners that serve a massive and diverse population. The city has seven council members. I would ask that this be changed to five members each and that these positions be term-limited and part-time positions. Three cooks in the county kitchen using the same recipes are not enough to serve our diversified and unique community. On the city of Glenwood Springs side, seven council members is just too many to get results.

Craig Amichaux, Glenwood Springs

Commissioners crying wolf

Apocryphal fear-mongering is a disservice to the community and to wolves. In “Garfield County Commission urges wolf hunting season to manage population (3/3 PI),” several statements are clearly off base.

While community-minded folks and CPW’s draft wolf plan agree that compensation should be generous for those who lose animals to wolves, random killing of wolves is counterproductive to everyone’s interest.

We see in the commissioner’s letter, re: wolf restoration, “It will cause great destruction to livestock and big game.” As a member of the Yellowstone Center for Resources team that restored wolves to the park in 1995, I have watched the results of their return very intensively for 27 years, both in the park and in the states of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.

Livestock losses have been minuscule. In Montana, wolves take an annual average of 60 cattle out of 2,500,000 present. All confirmed losses are compensated. The principal prey of wolves, elk, have increased in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. In Montana, for example, the 1995 elk population was 109,500. In 2021, it was 141,785. That’s in the presence of 1,150 wolves, 5,000 cougars, 15,000 black bears, and 1,054 grizzly bears.

Long-term studies of wolves, like the one at Isle Royale which has been in progress for 65 years, offer insights into the value of wolves to the places they inhabit. Lead wolf researcher and author of Restoring the Balance (2021) John A. Vucetich observes: “The health of ecosystems inhabited by large herbivores depends on the cascading trophic effects of predation.” We depend on healthy forests and grasslands that can be degraded with over browsing and overgrazing.

A recent research article from Alberta is instructive. Tyler Trump et al. (2022) wrote Sustainable elk harvests in Alberta with increasing predator populations. In their abstract, we read: “In Alberta, predators of elk, including grizzly bear (Ursus arctos), cougar (Puma concolor), and wolf (Canis lupus), have increased in recent years…Over a 26-yr period, average harvest of elk increased by 5.46% per year.

Norman Bishop, Bozeman, Montana

Bypass that bad idea

Recently, the Post Independent has published two commentaries suggesting revival of the tired, old, ineffective, destructive notion of building a highway bypass along the eastern edge of the Roaring Fork River through Glenwood Springs.

In a January letter to the editor, and in a candidate interview in recent days, this misguided and long-since discredited idea was pulled from the public policy dustbin where it belongs.

If our community’s priority were moving more cars through town, building a second noisy, dusty, divisive motorway might seem sensible (especially if we had the 200 million dollars such an intrusion likely would cost).

If instead, our community’s priorities are to remain, well, a community and to preserve special natural amenities like our river corridors and quiet neighborhoods, we must instead turn to solutions that reduce the number of individual cars used for traveling through and within town.

Let us pool our imaginations and innovative structural solutions to address heavy morning and afternoon traffic, rather than merely accommodating more of it. Let us put aside, once and for all, talk of building a bypass.

Steven Smith, Glenwood Springs

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