Our Readers Write

-A A +A

Band leader has praise for Jazz Fest
I’ve been to the Evergreen Jazz Festival with my trio many times, and the friendly and appreciative audiences that attend this event make it a pleasure to perform there. We are always thrilled to get the invite to return.
The folks who make the festival run have become my good friends, and I always look forward to seeing Jeannie and Ted Mann, Jim Reiners, Sterling Nelson and all the gang.
Also, the Evergreen Jazz Festival is the only event of its kind where you can rub shoulders (or horns) with a herd of elk.
All the best!
Carl Sonny Leyland

Pick an alternative location for fire training building
An open letter to the directors of Evergreen FireRescue:
From the day your plan to put a four-story “burn building” on the main campus of the district’s headquarters and fire house on Bergen Parkway went — as the kids put it — “viral,” there has been opposition. And it hasn’t just come from people screaming “NIMBY” ­— “Not In My Back Yard.” You have heard from citizens all over Evergreen who never lay eyes on Bergen Parkway who just think, as I do, that when you propose to build something that will impact the backyards of your neighbors, and those neighbors now are screaming about it, you should rethink your plan and put the burn building someplace else where it won’t be in anyone’s backyard. Although this half-million-dollar outlay wasn’t specifically listed last time you asked for money, it is still our tax dollars at work.
I’ve had lengthy and good-spirited debates about this with burn-building proponents. I respect their points of view but can’t help but believe they are minimizing the impact. For example, one longtime firefighter told me the smoke that comes from the burn building would be less than he generates when grilling steaks on his barbecue. Evidently he hasn’t watched the video that one opponent posted online (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cyo9mEudPso). If he had, he’d see that training exercises generate long, wide plumes of smoke.
When I argued to another that however small the odds, a burn building so close to so many houses could spark a fire in a private home — remember, the tragic fire last spring near Conifer started with a “controlled burn” that was fine until something unpredictable happened — he told me, “I will stake my reputation that there is no chance that these fires (in the burn building) can produce an ember that will start fires anywhere.” The trouble is, when he went on to tell me why seven other pieces of district property around Evergreen are unsuitable for a burn building, he argued that two of them have “moderate” fire potential, one has “strong” potential, one “heavy,” and one “extreme.” Somehow, putting the burn building somewhere else increases the chance of a fire, but at the original site so close to so many homes, apparently there’s not a ghost of a chance. Hello?!
Another community member — who, like me, doesn’t even live within sight or sound of the original proposed site — did some homework and checked on the roughly 60 burn buildings in other fire districts around Colorado. What he learned was, none is as close to private homes as ours would be. He even called three other district chiefs, who told him they wouldn’t dream of building such a structure so close to private neighborhoods. So why does a majority of our directors still seem to be dreaming of doing just that?
I’ve been told that the main objection to rethinking the location of the burn building is that the firefighters shouldn’t have to drive five or 10 minutes from district headquarters to train. But for years they’ve driven nearly 60 minutes down the hill to train at a burn building north of Stapleton. You’d think they’d be thrilled to have that trip shortened, and to have the facility so close that they could train more often and ultimately be safer when fighting fires. If the majority of directors are opposed even to that, then I wish they hadn’t wasted everyone’s time with a moratorium to consider alternatives. If they’re not opposed, then the solution is simple: Choose one! No alternative location is perfect, but the flaws of other potential sites pale next to the irreparable flaw at Bergen Park: neighbors’ houses nearby. You can add or remove some characteristics at alternate locations; your neighbors at Bergen Park are there for good.
A solution with almost universal support is out there.
Greg Dobbs

A win-win solution exists to location for burn building
I attended the fire district board meeting on Aug. 14 and made the following observations from the facts presented:
1. No other fire department in Colorado has built a fire building in very close proximity to both an operating school and nearby residences — none.
2. Both the Boulder and Longmont fire departments elected to tear down and relocate their burn buildings when they faced residential encroachment. These burn-building teardowns were not the result of court orders following successful lawsuits but instead voluntary actions taken by the managements of those fire departments to protect their “customers” from possible dangers. For them, burn buildings in close proximity to residences was an unacceptable risk.
3. An acknowledged expert in the construction of burn buidlings was contacted by the president of a local HOA, and that expert said that under no circumstances should a burn building be built close to a school or residences. Why? Again, the answer was  safety.
As someone who was involved in management safety issues for more than 30 years, it is clear to me at this point that, at a minimum, the proposed four-story burn building’s location should be changed in the interest of safety alone. It is certainly true that it is the responsibility of the Evergreen Fire Protection District board to ensure that our volunteer fire personnel receive the best possible training, but it should not be at the expense of safety. Although my home is not directly impacted(out of sight) by this proposed training building in Bergen Park, I think it would be unwise at best to impose this burn-building location on the residents of Bergen Park/Evergreen given the undeniable safety issue.
In the best interests of the entire community and the firefighters, we need to find a safe location away from schools and residences. Failing that, I would suggest that we consider continuing the training at the current “down the hill” location but provide off-sight training incentive pay for the volunteer firefighters, with the amount to be determined by the district board. I am convinced that there continues to be a win-win solution to this problem that will not compromise safety. It is in the best interests of everyone that we find that solution.
Daniel J Murphy

Tax increase for schools is not about employee compensation
Let’s be clear. The 3A/3B mill-bond election is about our civic responsibility to deliver outstanding education results for our kids. It’s about having resources to provide a 21st-century education for our kids.
It’s about the moral decision to secure music instruction, librarians, Outdoor Lab, 600 jobs, and return two more school days for our kids. It’s about the ethical business decision to keep 12 million square feet of facilities safe and secure for our kids.
3A/3B is not about increasing compensation. For four years, the school board has limited or decreased compensation. The only compensation change our employees have seen lately is the downward type.
Even so, the district is rethinking compensation to assure accountability and opportunity for employees. Twenty schools currently participate in a performance pay program to see what supports getting the best outcomes for kids.
Here are some compensation questions that need answers:
• What criteria should be used for compensation?
• Should performance pay be in addition to regular salary, as in Douglas County and Denver, or integrated into total compensation?
• How will changing compensation affect new employees and experienced employees?
• How do we pay teachers for whom standardized testing does not yet exist — e.g., music, art, civics, shop, etc. And classified workers?
• How large a role should standardized testing play in compensation?
• How much will it all cost?
The notion that performance pay will be less expensive than what we have now is glib and specious. Compensation must be competitive to attract and retain gifted teachers and other staff. Board decisions around compensation will be founded on one imperative: results for kids.
I’m laying out the truth for citizens about the challenges. So far, all we’ve had from opponents are shallow claims and outlandish assertions.
Paula Noonan, Ph.D.
Jeffco school board member

States attempting to undermine Voting Rights Act
This month marks the 47th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act, which outlawed discrimination in voting and has been instrumental in ensuring that citizens’ voting rights are protected from nefarious state election laws. Instead of celebrating, we have watched attempts to undermine this vital law in states across the country.
Voter photo-ID laws were considered in 34 states in 2011 alone, and it is estimated that 11 percent of the population does not have the type of identification required by many of these laws. Especially impacted are the elderly, people with disabilities, low-income voters and young people.
These new voting laws and requirements are unnecessary and costly. Numerous studies have found that of the rare examples of voting irregularities, almost none are the kind that could be prevented by a photo-identification law. And putting new voting laws and requirements in place is expensive. Is this really how we want to spend our already-stretched-too-thin state budget?
This election is really important. We’re not just voting for the president, we’re voting for education, health care and our community. Everyone else is voting, and so should you. Be sure to visit www.Vote411.org for all the election information you need and share it with family and friends so that everyone votes in November.
Ann Taylor Roux, president
Jeffco League of Women Voters