Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The World Through the Eyes And Lens of a Photographer


This is a piece I have been thinking about for a very long time. The initial premise is really quite simple: Once you become a serious photographer, your perspective about almost everything in the world around you is altered. I would go so far as to suggest the world would be a better place if more people actually took meaningful pictures regularly. And yes, I am aware that, with the advent of the smart phone camera, there are more pictures being taken than ever before in human history. That said, selfies are the antithesis of the kind of photography about which I am speaking. 

The type of photography for which I am advocating requires that the person who is taking the picture is looking to capture something specifically in their environment.  It can be as simple as trying to capture beauty in nature. It can be as complex as trying to isolate and capture an emotion. It can be the attempt to chronicle history for those who understand that time moves inexorably forward and that memories can be sharpened with photographs. Loved ones will not always be with us and to capture them in the present might just provide comfort in the distant future.

Photographers are historians. What is captured is at first new and then becomes increasingly older. Everything that reflected light onto the sensor or film in the camera reveals the norms of the day. Clothing, furniture, hairstyles, vehicles and anything else seen with the human eye are pretty much guaranteed to change, but the  captured images will remain  accurate depictions of  moments in time. Photographs become a metric with which change is measured.

It goes even deeper than point and shoot. A good photographer looks into his or her camera and unlike the human eye there is the ability to frame what will go onto the photograph. I cannot begin to tell you just how many of the photographs that I have taken over the years are what I call an extraction.  By that I mean, if you were to open the field of vision too much in any direction there will be something that completely ruins the intention of the photographer.  It might be a pile of junk, a wrecked car, a mountain of manure or a herd of curious yet uncomely cows.  You see, it is framing in such a way as to extract a particular view.  Much of the time it is for pure aesthetics.  You want to find only the beauty.  Sometimes you want the wrecked car with a baby goat proudly dancing on the hood.  You  are in charge of the message.

It is not uncommon for people who otherwise are shy and unable to verbally express themselves are extremely good at photography.  Words are one way to send a message, but you will notice that those who practice the nearsighted walk through an art museum generally leave filled to the psychological brim with an enriched understanding of the world.  The painter, sculptor and photographer are nowhere to be found, but every visitor leaves with the artists’ creative messages bouncing around in their brains...even if it is pure disgust.

For me, it is a simple message.  Of all the things that I encounter, this is what I saw.  These are the things that jumped out at me.  These are the animals that I wouldn't see if I sped by at sixty-five miles per hour. These are the buildings that have stood for so very long and make me want to know who built and used them.  There are as many questions as there are statements.  But all of them are saturated with my desire to learn and share, to shoot and capture.  


We would all be better off if we approached life like a photographer approaches his craft.  There is something worthwhile in every landscape but sometimes it’s necessary to overlook the flaws for the beauty.  There is no perfect sunset, no perfect mountain lake.  The photographer must extract that beauty.  In these times of polarization wouldn’t we all be better off to frame each picture of life for the value it presents rather than focusing on the flaws?


Monday, January 1, 2018

The Older I Get, the More I Realize I will never be Andres Segovia.



I am not generally a person who gets too wound up with the notion of my own mortality.  We are all faced with the realization that we will not live forever. 

And, I recently celebrated another birthday. It was my sixty-seventh revolution around the sun. I was sitting down watching a video of a young man playing the guitar. He was gifted. His music was flawlessly played. His technique was unique and it made his performance all the more engaging. I found myself dealing with a nagging and increasingly anxious feeling. In essence, as silly as it sounds, I realized at that moment, I was never going to be as good at any craft as that young man was at his. In short, I caught a glimpse of the inevitable fact that I am growing older. For a brief fifteen minutes or so, I found myself wondering exactly why this little video clip had struck such a worrisome chord with me.  

There was a little German woman, who along with her husband ran a boot store on Colfax Avenue down by East High School in Denver when I was young. I was an avid hiker, climber and mountaineer in my youth and that boot shop had the best boots in town. The woman's mantra, (which she would oft repeat as she helped customers find their perfect fitting pairs of boots) was, “Life is what you make it...okay?!” It stuck with me. If you want a good life, one where you feel you have given as much as you have taken, it has to be an ongoing process of forging your own desired path. 

I was raised in a somewhat dysfunctional setting where excesses were a way of life. Everyone in my family dealt with anxiety in one form or another and hard living and alcohol were considered viable coping strategies.  However, at a certain point along the path I decided that life did not have to be that way. I decided the little German woman was correct.  You could make your own life and forge your own path. I gave up the notion of being a contractor (the family business) and with the help of my dear sister, chose teaching over construction. 

Teaching was never going to make me an economic powerhouse. But teaching is learning. I decided very early on in my teaching career that the best thing you can give a student is not some chunk of wisdom that they can set on a shelf like a shiny trophy.   No, the best thing that you can show a student is how to love learning.  Life and education is not about winning on a television game show like Jeopardy. The one who amasses the most trivia in life is not always the happiest person.  Life is about following your passions.  Life is most fulfilling when you master the ability to learn what you need to know to get the job you enjoy, master the skill that brings you joy, or demonstrate to those whom you love how to become the best they can be.


Where am I going with this? After taking a few minutes to reflect about the young, gifted guitarist who brought me some unexpected anxiety, I came upon the realization that even at sixty-seven, life is still what I  make of it.  You cannot make yourself live one day longer than what your genetics will allow. If you are honest with yourself you will probably realize that you cannot become a virtuoso at the guitar overnight, especially if your earlier experiences took you in a direction away from music. You can learn and enjoy how to play the guitar if you so desire. You might even want to try your hand at something else.  But remember that you are the one who determines what is worthwhile in this life.

If you want to take pictures of mountain goats like I do, you are probably going to need to stay healthy and exercise daily. If you want to create a painting for your grandchild, you are going to have to buy brushes and choose a color medium and start practicing or taking lessons.  Likewise, if you want to be happy and appreciated, then it is incumbent upon you to be pleasant, engage and spread a sense of wanting to be useful.  It will pay off, I guarantee it... because life is what you make it. Okay? Okay.


"Come, fill the Cup, and in the Fire of Spring
The Winter Garment of Repentance fling:
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To fly - and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing."

Omar Khayyam

Thursday, December 21, 2017

I like my milk homogenized and my schemes as pure as the driven snow.

Purity works in gold processing, homogenized milk, and separation of colors in laundry. Watch this short news piece on Elbert County government and ask yourself the following questions:

1. Where do you go if you find yourself on the opposite side of an issue than the current Elbert County government?
2. Does winning an election mean you govern only those who see things your way?
3. Should we remove the term “representative government “ from all of Elbert County documents and replace it with “hand-picked government?”
4. Would Chris Richardson be satisfied with this logic, if he found himself at odds with a sitting BOCC or if he felt his government was not listening to him?
5. Does being  marginalized and disregarded merely because you hold an opposing view to a sitting BOCC mean you should have no voice?

You will notice, I did not use the name of any political party.  Let me assure you that many of  the voices whom this BOCC is trying to silence belong to the historically dominant party here  in Elbert County and they are being ignored as well.  Welcome to the concept of authoritarianism in our own backyard. 

View the Channel 9 News Video

The Elbert County BOCC policy
The Elbert County Board of Commissioners is all "you can't sit with us" (literally) if you don't meet the very specific guidelines.
Posted by Next with Kyle Clark on Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Heart of the Vote


As some of you know, I have been actively involved in helping to administrate the elections process here in Elbert County for many years.  From being an election watcher, to a poll volunteer, to an election judge, I have tried to do my part to help Elbert County have fair and accurate elections.  I do this, knowing full good and well, that there isn't a snowball's chance in Tampa that someone from the Democrats of Elbert County will be elected.  Yes, I am a Democrat.  It is okay. Elections in Colorado require participation by paired teams of both Democrats and Republicans in order to fulfill election laws in the state.

For the last couple of election cycles here in Colorado, we have moved over to a mail-in ballot system.  It is inevitable that when you change any kind of bureaucratic process in a state, especially  one that involves an election, eyebrows will go up and trust levels will go down.  It is human nature.  The immediate question becomes, "What was wrong with the old way?"  Like an old pair of boots, you just expect that when you put 'em on, they're incredibly comfortable, and that is the way your feet are supposed to feel.   But what if I told you that those old clodhoppers that you have been sporting for so many years might actually not be as good for your feet as you always believed?  Heresy you say!  Maybe not.

Before we adopted the mail ballot system here in Colorado, our election integrity rating in Colorado was somewhere in the the middle of the fifty states.  Today we are in the top ten for election integrity.  For those of you who believe the election system is rigged and that the best candidates are getting cheated at the ballot box, think again.  (I am not saying anything about how candidates get on the ticket or survive the selection process by the local political parties.  That is just as big of a hot mess as it has always been on both sides of the political aisle.)  All I am saying, is that if you are looking for a boogeyman in the election offices in your county, our county in particular, the chances here in Colorado are becoming very slim that a cabal of corrupt political pirates are flipping elections.

There is a tremendous amount of accountability in Colorado's election system.  Every voter sends in a ballot with his signature.  Every registered voter has a signature sample (or multiple signature samples) on file with the state.  Every ballot signature is verified by a trained, bipartisan team for authenticity.  If the signature does not cut the mustard, it is put through a system to get to the bottom of why that signature failed to pass. Without a verified signature, the vote won't count, but the ballot at that point undergoes a rigorous "procedure to correct" process.  The voter is contacted and instructed on just how to remedy the situation.  Every vote matters in this system.  And while I cannot speak for every election office in every county in the Colorado, I can tell you with 100% certainty, the Elbert County Election Office takes pride in not only its efficiency, accuracy and adherence to state standards, but more importantly that when they complete an election, they know in their hearts that without bias every vote was treated equally.  I believe that.


I will not go into the minutiae of every step of this system.  Suffice it to say, it takes training from the state and you must pass coursework.  Every year, all judges, election officers, judges, watchers, etc. undergo testing to stay up with the changes (if any) since the last election.  It is important that, if you still have questions about the veracity of our current system, you go online to the Secretary of State's website and peruse the information provided to you on the topic of elections.  

Furthermore, I would encourage you to consider taking the training to become an election watcher so that you can observe first hand, just how thorough our process is here in Colorado.  Consider becoming involved with your political party's election team and volunteer to take the training and work an election. It will not only serve to reassure you about the integrity of the vote here in Colorado, but it will also leave you with a sense of community pride knowing that you performed an honest act of civic duty.

Why did I write this?  Who does it serve?  Let me be crystal clear on a couple of facts before I bring this to a close:  It takes energy to complain about a voting system that is not corrupt.  Do your homework and stop looking for the problems with our political maladies in the election office. If you do not trust this system, at least go to the state and learn how it actually works.  Please do not spread baseless political falsehoods garnered from social media.  As a retired educator I can tell you that intellectual curiosity that leads you to fact check these troubling notions will ultimately save you time and avoid ulcers.  
Now take that energy you saved and put it toward becoming a positive force, involved in the political process.  Pick a party, any party (kind of like a magic deck of cards), and be the person who helps to put candidates up for elections who will actually serve your needs.  It is only important that they serve your needs and also your neighbor's needs.  Stop picking candidates that only campaign on vanquishing the evils of their opponents.  Tell them that you will hold them accountable!  Mean it when you tell them they must deliver on their promises.  Stop believing that those who hold opposing political views are evil.  

Take an opposing party member out for coffee once in a while and talk about what would make your city or county a better place to raise a family.  Let's come together as a community.  If you love your country, remember that it is diversity that made us great, not divisiveness.



Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Tarantula Sex

Tarantula Sex

With apologies to George Benson

(Sung to the tune "On Broadway")

They say the women treat you right in Ordway
But looking at them just gives me the blues
'Cause how you gonna make some time
When all you got is one thin dime
And one thin dime won't even shine your shoes 
In Ordway
-----------------------------------------
"On Broadway "
Written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil in collaboration with the team of

Last Thursday I couldn't sleep so I fired up my iPad and found an article that absolutely blew my mind.  It was from the La Junta Tribune-Democrat and was entitled, Tarantulas on the Move This Weekend.  People who know me understand that I have an interest in science, photography, history and politics.  If you count the name of the newspaper, this article covered every one of those bases and I was immediately hooked.  The article outlined the annual migration and "sexcapades" of Colorado's most abundant species of tarantulas.  Yes, Colorado has tarantulas!  Yes, those big hairy spiders. And yes, they are close to where we live!  I must admit, I had never been aware of this annual migration and as a result, I immediately planned a road trip.

The Arkansas River Basin in Southern Colorado is home to literally millions of tarantulas.  The species of which I am referring to is the Oklahoma Brown Tarantula (Aphonopelma hentzi) a.k.a. "The Texas Brown Tarantula, The Missouri Tarantula."  Every year, just about this time, the sexually mature males of this species head out to find themselves a mate.  Love is in the air and spiders are on the move in places and towns with swell names like Swink, La Junta, Ordway, Kim, Timpas, Rocky Ford and Fowler.  No place is as swank as a place like Swink to a Brown Tarantula.



I mistakenly thought the notion of heading out with my cameras to capture the ecstasy and grandeur of tarantula sex would have my friends begging to come along. I imagined this would be such an a popular idea that we might just have to rent a bus. Okay, no one was interested except for my wife, and that may have only been to dial 911 because she could imagine I probably would be attacked by hoards of horny spiders. In support of her reasoning, I admit that I have a history...I can be a klutz.

I need to back up for a moment.  You may have found yourself wondering just how spiders tell the locals that they are about to celebrate this annual event.  After all, this is the only time of year when all of these gallant males of a certain age and drive are going to go out in public and they want people to be aware of their presence, right?  Wrong.  They don't care about a damned thing except for those comely lasses hiding in their underground dirt hidey-holes playing hard-to-get.  

However, It is not the spiders that are the harbingers of arachnosexcapades at all. It is, in fact, the giant wasps known as Tarantula Hawks (Pompilidae, Pepsis sp.). 
 
These beauties are the ones that definitely have the most interest in tarantula migrations.  When the Tarantula Hawks start hanging around, the people who are attune to such occurrences call the local newspapers because they know that the short migration of Oklahoma Brown Tarantulas has begun.  You see, the Tarantula Hawks need tarantulas for laying their eggs.  If a Tarantula Hawk stings you and you happen to be a tarantula, you are in for an excruciating death.  When the Tarantula Hawk strikes, her venom paralyzes the spider.  Then this wasp proceeds to lay her eggs. Unfortunately, the venom does not immediately kill the tarantula;  the slow agonizing death comes from the larvae leisurely eating the paralyzed, very alive spider right there on the spot. 
In a bit of irony, the venom from an Oklahoma Brown Tarantula is no more dangerous to humans than the sting from your average honey bee. In fact, some experts say they have no venom whatsoever. The Tarantula Hawk, on the other hand, has one of the most vicious stings in terms of pain that a human being can endure.   
 

'The sting of the Hawkwasp is likened to being electrocuted, or having your blood replaced by fire.' 

Sting researcher

 

People are pretty casual about dispatching a single wasp. Without too much fear they are quick to grab a flyswatter to kill any irritating flying critter.  I am reminded of my father who was deathly afraid of snakes.  Once as a child, I caught a small harmless garden snake and wanted to keep it as a pet. My dad nixed that plan even though I assured him it would not harm him.  He very carefully explained to me that it is not the snake that would kill you;  it is running into a low pipe while trying to flee what you are afraid of that will kill you. Wisdom I think we should all consider. 

That is the way it is with Oklahoma Brown Tarantulas.  They really are quite harmless, but if you jump into the path of an oncoming bus to avoid one, you are a goner.  However, if  that Tarantula Hawk stings you, it will be excruciating and something you will never forget. Few people know about the Tarantula Hawk sting but they become experts once it tags them.  Just something to keep in mind...
 
My wife and I headed out early and were in the Arkansas River Basin within a few hours.  I decided to take the matter of how to find the tarantulas by the horns...ask the locals.  We pulled into a few convenience stores and I would casually wander up to the counter and ask, "Do you know where the spiders are, erm... you know, migrating to have sex?"  With almost no exception, people were quick to point out that while they knew the Basin was a hotbed for the big hairy spiders, nobody seemed to realize that the migration was in progress or where one would find some wild, risqué spider action. I think a couple of people thought I was pulling their legs. One woman seemed flattered that I thought she looked like a person who might be in command of such information. I was getting nowhere fast. I knew that if this were going to be a successful expedition then I was going to have to be smarter about my exploratory methods.

My next move proved to be a lot more productive. While in line at a convenience store, I tried talking only to those who looked like people who were interested in spiders. (I personally know two people who are really into spiders. Both are attractive, highly intelligent, fun-loving people and both females. However, neither of them were with us to help with our spider quest.) Nobody seemed to be on top of the subject until one man approached me in line.  He said, “I noticed you were talking to all of the attractive, highly intelligent, fun-loving women in line here about spider sex.” He followed up with, “ While I am not female or particularly attractive, I did read an article in the local paper last Friday.  Find that paper and you will find the information for which you seek.”  He then vanished in a puff of smoke.  Did I mention he was smoking a cigar?  

I told Gaye about the incident and she immediately looked up the article online that I referenced above.  It was a very informative piece that gave actual details on where sightings might in fact be possible.  Eureka! We had an actual lead.
 
We headed out toward Kim, CO from La Junta to look in the recommended areas and drove for what seemed to be an eternity.  While I cannot be certain of this, I believe that temperature is crucial to the art of tarantula spotting. As the afternoon got a little warmer, those determined, hairy boys started heading out onto the roads. And one by one, they started their journey across the asphalt.  It was awesome.

I must digress for a moment to mention that the likelihood of you seeing a tarantula from a speeding car is greatly enhanced when they actually step out on to the pavement. Despite their large size, (up to five inches in diameter), they are virtually impossible to see in the grasses and weeds on the soft shoulders. They are camouflage geniuses. 

And, I contend that all of the jokes you have heard for your entire life about why the chicken crossed the road actually originated with big hairy spiders. Why did the chicken cross the road?  Well, it was a damned chicken, and if you know chickens, you are probably aware that they are both flighty and a tad scatter-brained.  They might not even give you the same answer twice in a week about their motives regarding getting from one side of the street to the other.  

Compare that to the answer you might get from an Oklahoma Brown Tarantula if you asked him why he was crossing the road.  The sturdy spider will, without hesitation, tell you that he was crossing the road to get laid.  We tend to be a bit puritanical here in the USA, so it is just easier to make fun of chickens than it is to answer questions about sex.  I am sure that made sense to someone reading this, but as I said a few paragraphs back in this article, “I digress.”

Both the male and female of the Oklahoma Brown Tarantula species molt every year to allow for growth.  Until he becomes sexually mature, the male is slower, chubbier, less attractive and certainly less buff than when he finishes his final molt.  That final molt is like a super makeover.  He is leaner, faster and so much better equipped to meet the ladies.  If I am not mistaken, he even develops tibial hooks on his legs to keep his amorous, yet bite-happy partner from nipping the crap out of him with her ample fangs as they go about the process of making wee baby spiders. He is often successful dodging her "love bites"  and if he is, he just may live long enough to find a few more partners before he dies.  Yep, this is a once in a lifetime migration for him. He is gonna die.   Period.   Done.  Last hurrah.

Those female Oklahoma Browns, on the other hand, may have many partners over the course of their lifetimes. These lovely creatures can live up to 30 years in the wild.  Go figure.  Where is the justice?

It was a fascinating day, and I know enough now to look for the event each Fall, and I definitely will. The spiders are actually pretty easy to photograph and even though they are not particularly enamored by the attention, they really just want to get about their business. I am certain that kids would just go wild at the opportunity to meet spiders this large in the wild.  Of course, they should not be picked up or taken home to become "pets."  Remember, the spider that you pick up is more than likely to be a sexually mature male and, sadly for him, at the end of his life cycle. He needs to spend the remainder of his time here left on Earth doing his spider business. His destiny. 

Look for an article next year, around this time in October, from me. Perhaps a tour bus with scores of tarantula sex enthusiasts can be arranged. Okay, not every idea is a good idea.
 




 

Monday, September 11, 2017

Chris Richardson and the Denver Basin

So a friend of mine, who just happens to be a Republican, sent me the following Chris Richardson diatribe from the Elbert County Republicans Page: 

"In terms of water, this is very well thought out project. The developer has a strong conservation component to the community. A CAT III (treated to almost drinkable levels) water plant will capture and treat all the water used in the homes of the community and reuse it for irrigation of open spaces and individual lawns - through this method, the amount of water allocated to the project by the state (only water that exists under the boundaries of the property itself) will provide for over 500 years of supply. This is far in excess of the 300 years we require in Elbert County (we and El Paso County require 300 years - all other counties only require 100 years supply).
Additionally, during the hearings we made the developer change his plan to ensure that there could be no shipment of water outside of the county from this property. Additionally, any shipment of water to support any individual or entity outside of the property (but within the county) would have to be requested by those that would receive the water and could only be approved after a publicly noticed hearing so no changes could be made secretly in the future. Again - any changes considered would have to meet our 300 water requirement." 
Ever the comedian, Chris started his post with a deep pun: "...this is a very WELL thought out project."  Now, that right there is some funny stuff on several different levels, five different levels, as a matter of fact...one for each aquifer in the Denver Basin.  Was this project carefully thought through as much as Chris describes?  Yes, it was! I have no doubt that the lawyers, water district officials, and investors would not have settled for less.  They have poured a ton of money into this project. I am sure the orders came down from the very top of the water chamber of command,  "Think of a way we can get that water out from under Elbert County!" someone hollered.  And with that...the stage was set.  

In capital letters Chris Richardson defines the water treatment as a "CAT III!"  Damned if that does not sound as serious as a heart attack or at least a hurricane bearing down on Florida.  At one point Hurricane Irma  was designated a CAT III! You have captured our attention now, Commissioner Richardson.  Richardson then quickly lets you know just how serious this whole thing is by saying the water will be treated to near drinkable levels!  Wow. Here's a fact for Commissioner Richardson: Urine is near drinkable! Was this treatment process thing designed by NASA?  I find myself now thinking (tongue firmly in cheek) that I would be damned lucky to have near-drinking  water running out of a tap at my house.  Oh, and by the way, I hope I am spelling this correctly. Should this new term be hyphenated?  Merriam-Webster failed to cue me in on the proper spelling of "near-drinking." Maybe the taps will be color coded.  Clear PVC is potable water while yellow PVC is near-drinkable.  I am feeling a little sorry for my colorblind friends right now.

The good commissioner then goes on to show how the 300 year water rule protects us from running out of water in Elbert County.  What could possibly go wrong there? I mean, Douglas County didn't want to wait 300 to 500 years to run out of water.  They did it in a matter of a mere couple of decades. As a result, we now  have people  just like former commissioner Kurt Schlegel running around trying to purchase water for places like Falcon, Castle Rock and Franktown. What?  You thought Kurt was at the BOCC meeting because he wants to grow Elbert County?  It was more likely he was there as the head of the Cherokee Water District, which is trying to purchase water for El Paso County residents.  

With a population of less than 30,000 people in Elbert County, near-drinkable water standards, and a 300 year water rule, we must be in great shape.  And with an expected price for an acre foot of water from the Denver Basin to top $30K, nobody can make any money on a resource that experts are calling the new gold.  Does that make sense to you?  Oh well, you can can trust Kurt and Chris.  They were elected after all.
As for building in protections from transferring  water to another water district by saying they would have to have a hearing,  they just voted unanimously to okay a project on a flawed PUD.  That is not me saying that;  that is a law firm ready to go to court against Elbert County saying that. The BOCC would okay making declaring water skiing the official sport of the county if Independence developer Tim Craft's attorneys were requesting it. 

I would also like to remind Mr. Richardson that you can say anything you want to your lawyer.  Craft can sell his water no matter what you do to coerce him with your highfalutin lawyer.  Mr. Craft was agitated that Mr. Richardson made approval of the proposed development, contingent upon not transferring water to another water district without first gaining permission from the BOCC.  That said, the water rights are his, adjudicated, a personal asset and if he wants to sell them?  Well, let's just say that you, Mr. Richardson, do not have any say-so in that regard.  All you did was make his payout a one time event instead of a regular paycheck.  Look it up.
Now, in a more serious tone:  Unlike Mr. Richardson, I do not profess to be a water expert but I have been working on water issues since the mid-1990's.  I sat on a couple of very important Restoration Advisory Boards (RAB's).  There were some very serious issues of contamination to the Denver Bedrock Aquifers from the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, the Denver Waste Management Super Fund site on Gun Club Road, and the Former Bombing and Gunnery Range for Lowry Air Force Base.  In order to be on any RAB and make a difference, you have to keep up with a host of experts provided to you nonstop from the Army Corps of Engineers.  You have to do your homework.  You have to learn about how aquifers work, what their designations mean and who stands to make or lose money when it comes to selling, buying, polluting or making false claims about water in an aquifer system.  That is how my wife and I came to be somewhat knowledgeable about water.  Not experts, but I am confident in my claims.

I am not exactly sure what would prompt Mr. Richardson to boast that there impenetrable layers of rock exist between the five layers of the Denver Basin, but I have a lot of research that would indicate that while that might be true in areas of the Basin, it certainly is not true for the entire basin.   
He goes on to say, 
"The wells that will support this community will pull water primarily from the deep Denver and Arapahoe aquifers, not from the more shallow Upper and Lower Dawson Aquifers that people with individual wells use. There is no communication between the 5 aquifers (Upper and Lower Dawsons, Denver, Arapahoe, and Laramie-Fox Hills) that fall under the property. So usage of water from one aquifer doesn't effect water levels in another. (NOTE: Some usage of Dawson wells already permitted on the property is envisioned until the reuse/irrigation system is online - this usage is approved by the state and the allocation is minimal). Bottom line - the water used by this community will not affect local existing wells. I know that people are concerned but, the facts should minimize those concerns."
Mr. Richardson likes terms like "communication" when speaking about aquifers.  Of course it is a nonsensical use of terminology because water is not sentient and only seeks to find its level.  The Denver Basin and its five aquifers were formed by the breaking down of our Rocky Mountains, which actually used to be very much larger than they are today.  As a result, there are a lot of different kinds of layers of rock.  There is a great deal of conglomerate rock that is very porous.  There are some vast and very dense areas of expansive clays.  There is a great deal of sand, which is why our aquifers have given many the impression that there is lots and lots of water below our feet.  Not so fast, cowboy.

But if you sit down with the geologists who specialize in aquifers and the formations in which they reside, you soon learn that there are plenty of mathematical calculations that present educated guesses at the amounts of water in the Denver Basin.  None of them are necessarily accurate.  Those geologists just do not know how much water is in the Basin.  They cannot know because the formation is comprised of so many different kinds of features that they have no way of knowing, when they do a core sample, just what it will reveal.  

Talk to any well digger along the Front Range.  Talk to anyone that has to do percolation tests to see if your ground is suitable for a septic field.  Those people will tell you about clays, sandstone, sand lenses, and thick slabs of conglomerate rock.  Look up at the escarpments next to Kiowa and Cherry Creek.  Does that rock appear to be solid granite?  Even the most impenetrable layers of bentonite clay hide lenses of sand.  

I am reminded of a geologist from the Army Corps of Engineers who wanted to dig a seventy-five foot deep trench around the Denver Waste Management Super Fund Site in Aurora off of Gun Club Road and Quincy over twenty years ago.  He insisted that, if you fill the trench with expansive clay, it would make an impenetrable wall around the cesspool of Benzene and other deadly toxins in the groundwater because the landfill sat squarely on a layer of what was said to be solid rock.  Of course, we looked at it but did not allow them to build the trench barrier without test wells outside the proposed wall's perimeter.  Within a few months of completion of the clay wall,  toxins were found in the test wells.  After doing more bores, it was determined that there were significant sand lenses in the rock.  One scientist said that those lenses might be as wide as seventy-five feet.
When Chris Richardson tells you he knows what the Denver Basin looks like and whether it will or will not allow for water to migrate from one aquifer to another, he is just spouting half-truths.  If I had a dollar for every time Grant Thayer has announced publicly that he had a prosperous career as an engineer and knows a thing or two about oil, gas and water,  I wouldn't need to stop by the ATM for a month of Sundays.  What I never hear either one of them ask the people (who they are about to school in Aquifers 101) is if  they just might have a background that might shed a bit more light on the subject.  Never was that so apparent as it was during the testimony on the Independence development.   

The commissioners in this county, for as far back as I can remember, act as if they are anointed to the high station of Elbert County Commissioner by their Maker and that they are the font of all wisdom.  They are not, and neither am I, but at least I am willing to do my homework and learn.  

I have been active in the fight for people to take charge of their property rights for many years.  There is some irony in the fact that a Democrat has to remind a Republican BOCC that water districts are a bane to the water rights of the average homeowner in this county.  It goes without saying, these three commissioners have been on board with the Independence development since they began their campaigns over a year ago.  There were and still are conflicts of interest and most definitely intellectual dishonesty.  

The citizens  were ignored and the Central Committee of the Elbert County Republicans are responsible for the future outcome of this project, not the rank and file Republicans who only wanted their elected officials to demand a reset on this project.

Friday, September 1, 2017

A Pertinent Complaint on the Independence Matter


The following is a letter shared with me by Jackie Tugwell.  She gave me permission to post.  This is very important complaint to be aware of as we head into the September 5th. meeting of the BOCC at the Elbert County Fairgrounds.

Letter from Folkestad, Fazekas, Barrick, & Patoile, P.C. regarding Independence Specials Districts non-compliance with Elbert County Zoning Regulations. A HUGE thank you to Tony Corrado for your knowledge and helping to bring attention to this issue.
Sent via email to:
Elbert County Assistant County Attorney:
Bart Greet
P.O. Box 924 Kiowa, CO 80117
Bart.Greer@elbertcounty-co.gov
Board of County Commissioners:
Chris Richardson, District 1
Chris.Richardson@elbertcounty-co.gov
Danny Willcox, District 2
Danny.Willcox@elbertcounty-co.gov
Grant Thayer, District 3
Grant.Thayer@elbertcounty-co.gov
August 31, 2017
Re: Independence Special Districts/Incomplete Applications
This firm represents Jackie Tugwell and Shelly Rodie, as property owners within ¼ mile of the proposed Independence Subdivision and related proposed Special Districts. This letter shall serve as notice to the Board of County Commissioners that the Applicant’s Special District pre- and final applications are incomplete and must be rejected for failure to comply with applicable County regulations.
The Special Districts that are the subject of this letter are:
1. Case # SR-17-0020 The Independence Water & Sanitation District;
2. Case # SR-17-0021 The Independence Overlay Metropolitan District;
3. Case # SR-17-0022 The Independence Metropolitan District No. 1;
4. Case # SR-17-0023 The Independence Metropolitan District No. 2;
5. Case # SR-17-0024 The Independence Metropolitan District No. 3;
6. Case # SR-17-0025 The Independence Metropolitan District No. 4.
Pursuant to Resolution 13-13, as recorded in the real property records of Elbert County SR-17-0021 (the “Resolution”), the County has adopted local regulations governing the approval of Special Districts. These regulations were incorporated into Part II, Section 26 of the Elbert County Zoning Regulations, effective April 24, 2013.
As detailed below, the Developer’s pre-applications and final applications are incomplete in various areas. Pursuant to Section C(3) of the Resolution: “If/when either a pre- or final application is found to be incomplete, Community & Development Services shall inform the Applicant, return the Application, and restart the timeline clock only after a completed application has been received.”
Pursuant to Section C. (2)(b)(i) of the Resolution, both the Pre-application and Final Application are required to include certain information specified in Appendices A and B of the Resolution. In this regard, the Developer’s Pre-applications (and final applications) were incomplete in the following regards:
• Appendix A failed to include a list of all parties, individuals and entities providing funding and/or receiving revenue [Resolution, Appendix A, Section A(2)]
• Appendix A failed to include a list of all parties, individuals and entities that are part of the Special District delineating their roles and responsibilities. [Resolution, Appendix A, Section A(3)].
• Appendix A failed to include a report delineating the success of failure of related endeavors in which the same parties, individuals and entities have been associated, including bankruptcies or turn over of Special Districts to other entities for operation. [Resolution, Appendix A, Section A(4)].
• Appendix A of the Independence Water & Sanitation District failed to include an analysis regarding the cost and source of replacement water should the primary water source prove inadequate. [Resolution, Appendix A, Section E(2)].
• Appendix B (and referenced exhibits) apparently fails to provide for 50% funding in excess of the projected 10 year costs to provide for cost overruns. [Resolution, Appendix B, Section B(4)].
The apparent shortfall is exacerbated in light of the Developer’s use of an overstated and illegal residential assessment ratio. See Anderson Analytics Review of Financing Plans prepared for Elbert County Community & Development Services, June 19,2017 (“Anderson Review”) at 7, attached to Addendum to June 16, 2017 Staff Report Document. The Anderson Review further stated that “the residential assessment ratio correction should be made to the Finance Plans (which lowers the amount of debt that can be supported)”. Anderson Review at 8. The County apparently failed to direct the Developer to correct and resubmit the Financial Plan and Service Plans to correct the identified error. As a result, numerous financial conclusions and predictions within the various pre- and final applications are erroneous.
The Resolution clearly mandates that in the event a pre or final application is deemed to be incomplete, the County must return the application and shall restart the “timeline clock” once a completed application is received. Accordingly, based upon the omissions identified above, the Pre-Applications were incomplete and the BOCC is required to direct Community & Development Services to return the applications to the Developer and vacate the September 5, 2017 agenda items regarding Case Nos. SR- 17-0020, SR-17-0021, SR-17-0022, SR-17-0023, SR-17-0024, and SR-17-0025 (The Independence Water &
Sanitation District, The Independence Overlay Metropolitan District, and The Independence Metropolitan District Nos. 1-4, respectively).
The Board of County Commissioners is required to adhere to the unambiguous language of the Resolution, and a failure to do so would constitute an abuse of discretion by the Elbert County Board of County Commissioners. See Friends of the Black Forest Preservation Plan Inc. v. Bd. of Cty. Comm’rs of El Paso County and Black Forest Mission, LLC, 381 P.3d 396, 400 (Colo. App., 2016) (“A governmental body abuses its discretion if its decision is not reasonably supported by any competent evidence in the record or if the governmental body has misconstrued or misapplied applicable law.”).
Please feel free to contact my office with any questions.

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