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An elitist attack on rural Coloradans

Clint Talbott's column in the Feb. 22 edition of the Daily Camera takes issue with those who oppose Rep. Mark Udall's efforts to protect wilderness around James Peak against use by motorized vehicles. In this columnl, Talbott refers to Rep. Scott McInnis' constituents as "rednecks," "hayseeds," "cowboys" and "gearheads."

Like Mr. Talbott, I prefer to hike in wilderness rather than use a jeep or snowmobile. Nonetheless, this is still a free country, the efforts of "progressives" notwithstanding. Through the democratic process, the wishes of untold thousands of Coloradans have been heard, and Rep. Udall's bill has not been enacted. Mr. Talbott is free to express his views about this matter, but he should be able to do this without the use of such pejoratives when referring to rural Coloradoans.

The Camera would no doubt prohibit the n-word to be used in reference to African-Americans, or the f-word in reference to gays, or the b-word in reference to feminists. Why, then, did it allow the above language to be used indiscriminately? This elitist nose-thumbing at rural and small-town residents is bigotry, no less than is racist behavior.

Both Mr. Talbott and the Camera owe a written apology to the residents of Grand County, the constituents of Rep. McInnis, and to the millions of Americans everywhere who choose to live their lives unrestricted by city ordinances.




Successful trails enhance preservation

We appreciate the Daily Camera editorial of Jan. 28 pointing out growing dissatisfaction with the amount of Boulder open space that is inaccessible to the public. While the land managed by city of Boulder Open Space has doubled in the past ten years, most of the new acquisitions are closed to public access. Only one significant new trail of less than three-miles in length has been constructed despite an increasing number of trail users.

Much of city open space is either officially closed, as noted in the Feb. 17 Open Space Board of Trustees' letter to the Open Forum, or is de facto closed by fences and locked gates. The latter category is of particular concern because the public is either physically unable to visit this land (e.g. equestrians and bicyclists) or encouraged to climb fences (e.g. hikers). We would be happy to discuss our findings with the Open Space and Mountain Parks board, staff, and the public. We have specific recommendations to alleviate some access issues.

Environmentalists, hikers, equestrians, and bicyclists created the Boulder Area Trails Coalition (BATCO) over six years ago. Our vision is an interconnected system of environmentally sound, user-friendly, multi-purpose trails in Boulder County. We are committed to working with land management agencies to design and maintain trails that minimize environmental impacts and maximize appreciation of nature.

Successful trails create an ethic of stewardship among users and enhance preservation by preventing a maze of social trails. Access to public land generates taxpayer support for additional preservation. However, continued acquisition of inaccessible open space may create a voter backlash. If that happens, funding will decrease, and the outcome will be counterproductive for native species, environmentalists and recreationists alike.

BATCO was recently successful in convincing the board to consider five new short trail connections. We are looking forward to the new Open Space and Mountain Parks Department providing additional environmentally responsible access to Boulder's public lands.


Board of Directors, BATCO


Problems galore at Jay and Diagonal

Anyone who regularly uses the intersection of the Diagonal and Jay Road knows there are problems there. Every morning a large number of cars and buses line up on westbound Jay to head through or turn on to the Diagonal. Although there are two lanes on the east side of the Diagonal, the vast majority of the traffic turns left. Instead of waiting in line in the left lane to go through the intersection, many cars use the right lane to get ahead of the line of traffic, and then cut over at the last moment to make their turn.

I see two problems with this behavior. The people who are cutting in line are causing the people further back to miss their chance of making it through the light. I have witnessed several close calls and incidents of road rage that have resulted from this type of action.

The second and more serious problem is the danger involved. The railroad tracks that cross Jay right before this intersection present a hazard that could one day result in someone getting seriously hurt. Most cars and busses stop before the tracks so that if a train were to come, they would not be caught between the barriers. Many cars use this gap in the line to squeeze into the left lane, resulting in cars that are sitting on the tracks as they wait for the light to turn.

This intersection could be redesigned to make it much safer and less aggravating. Currently, only the left lane of Jay feeds in to two left turn lanes in the middle of the Diagonal, where the right lane is for through traffic. If both westbound lanes of Jay could feed in to both of the left turn lanes, with the option of going straight being given to those in the right lane, then the intersection would better accommodate the majority of traffic and there would no longer be a need for cutting in line.




Critique science, not political correctness

Mesa Elementary School's removal of a science experiment recalls unpleasant high-school memories. My hard-wrought first year history research paper was rubbished, merely for reaching a politically incorrect conclusion. No scholarly critique whatsoever. That destroyed my respect for the teacher.

Mesa's cowardly action is not an issue of legal "rights," but discouraging youthful intellectual curiosity. If science proceeded in this way, we would still believe in a flat earth. A better approach is required.

First, respect this student's work. Critique the science, not political correctness. Try asking useful questions: What question was to be answered, are the methods effective, can it be improved? If it's seriously flawed, help her understand why, and how to improve it. If it gives a scientifically defensible result, discuss it honestly.

Our society is enthralled by a technology dependent on good science. But science depends on intellectual curiosity, which sometimes leads to embarrassing questions. We won't get good science by teaching kids to ask questions only on special days in prescribed settings. We mustn't let uncomfortable topics, such as racism, suspend rational thought. This experiment, for example, taken as a whole, allows several interpretations. Instead of racism, it may show that childhood's restricted tastes broaden with maturity.

Now, however, Mesa students will miss the chance to learn how to explore their peers' observations. Yet, being aware, they will learn something else — that adults in authority fear and avoid exploration of hard questions.

Rather than cower, Mesa should have put a competent adult at the exhibit to help with questions, and placed a sign informing that this important subject will soon be discussed in appropriate science and social studies classes.

Since high school I've seen much so-called progress — for example, computers and commercial-laden Channel One have infested our schools. However, educational opportunity is still passed in favor of safe mediocrity. Has anything changed for the better in the last 50 years?




Drug-sniffing dogs: a really bad idea

I was absolutely stunned when I read the article about some parents wanting drug-sniffing dogs in schools. One parent even espoused the classic Big-Brother line, "If you've got nothing to hide, then what is there to lose?"

Instead of teaching our kids trust, we are telling them that no one is above suspicion. They will learn that there is no reason to be good, only reasons to hide. It will be a very dark day indeed when people believe that they are safer when there is no privacy.



March 5, 2001

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