It has been a great honor to serve Marfa as a councilmember for the past two years. My personal and professional obligations have grown considerably in recent months and as a result I have decided not to run for re-election. I would like to extend heartfelt thanks to the City’s officers and employees. I’ve gained a far greater appreciation of their tireless (and at times thankless) efforts to keep our town running. Recent events have ushered in a renewed interest in political action at all levels. In this new spirit I encourage anyone who may be so inclined to seriously consider running for office. I have found it to be a profound and humbling experience, and one that more citizens should embrace.
About 200 individuals marched on the Sul Ross Campus last Saturday, January 21st in windy, frigid and wet conditions. “The Women’s March” nationwide is one of the largest in US history, notable not only for its size and diversity, but its lack of arrests.
While the election may have been part of the reason for the timing of the march, the reasons women (and men and children) marched (all over the world) go beyond being unhappy about the election. We marched because we want to ensure our elected representatives hear our collective peaceful voices and that they are held accountable in the face of threats to our personal, civic and religious freedoms.
I marched because I don’t want a wall built to keep people out of our country. I believe our country was built on immigrants and is part of what makes it great. I marched because I believe in Social Justice that goes beyond attending to the impoverished and the stranger. Social Justice is about advocating for them. I marched because I believe in environmental responsibility. I marched because “Women’s Rights are Human Rights” and together, our voice resonates peacefully and strongly. I marched because it is my right and am grateful we live in a country where we can.
So it took Mayor Dunlap 10 years as our mayor to figure out he was not going to be paid. Then he thinks of a rouse: I’ll put a salary in the budget to pay a treasurer, then get the city council to approve the treasurer position, then be unable to find a qualified applicant, of course, the Mayor knows that he will be doing the job interviews, and then with feigned resignation, the mayor will say he’ll do it since we cannot find anyone else.
This charade came unglued when the word got out that this rouse was in play and everyone figured out that the Mayor really only wanted the treasurer job for himself. The Mayor wants a career path fat paycheck. Que lastima! The best laid plans . . .
What is so disgusting about all of this is the fact that Marfa has dire problems with maintaining our infrastructure. Marfa needs every dollar it can find to put into maintaining our streets. But at the city council meeting last Thursday, our city attorney said, “we have lots of money.” I think she was referring to the one million dollars the city borrowed in 2014 to spend on our streets and as of this date we are still waiting for that money to be spent. Marfa has been waiting for three years! “Begone, vile insect! Or rather stay, that I may trample you to dust.”
No, we do not have lots of money to spend on overhead. City resources are finite. Money spent on a city treasurer is money not spent on our streets. Every small town needs to be lean in its operations and focused on its infrastructure. Marfa is no different.
A year ago when the Dunlaps were still speaking to me, the mayor’s wife told me of the mayor’s plan to not seek re-election and to move to a paid position within city administration. I told her then that the mayor needed to let go. The mayor has not spoken to me since that day. It is easy to make light of these developments, but this charade is sad because the Dunlaps have done so much that deserves our appreciation, but what we will remember is how hard it was to get them to let go.
Lineaus Hooper Lorette
Marfa and Fort Davis
I attended the city council meeting on January 26th. It was my first experience with the council and the mayor since buying a home here in 2011. Around 50 other residents were present, which friends told me was an unusually large turnout. It seems the agenda item about creating the position of city treasurer was the driver for so many to attend.
Without getting into the pros and cons of the proposed position, I simply want to comment on the disrespect and arrogance shown by the Mayor in preventing those present from making comments. He took one question and then moved to table the resolution until the next meeting, effectively ending the citizens’ rights to be heard. I’ll certainly attend the next meeting and hope an even larger number will as well.
Is there no one on the council willing to speak for residents and challenge his autocratic style and insist this important proposal be openly discussed?
We are fortunate to have two well-qualified candidates running in the May election to replace Mr. Dunlap. I hope all voters will question the candidates about the city treasurer position and vote accordingly.
Is it too much to ask that if the city treasurer is necessary that no current office holder who voted to create the position may be hired to fill that position?
Two Presidio County sheriff’s deputies walked out of the jail lobby Sunday and offered the Society of Native Nations a deal. “We’ll release her if you close down Two Rivers Camp.” The peaceful 16-year-old protester who at Standing Rock was maced, gassed, and shot at with rubber bullets, had been arrested earlier in the day peacefully protesting the pipeline north of Shafter.
The leaders, including the minor’s mother, refused the deal.
In many ways it is the youth of our world who are being cheated out of their future. Destiny, the young protester, is aware of that. Many youth today are not. Caught up in the Cloud and American consumerism, their fates lie outside present reality. They may wake up someday and find democracy gone, wilderness destroyed, water short, extreme pollution, a changed climate and a life fit perhaps only for robots – the worse science fiction can offer.
At our Two Rivers Camp we resist these forces. Not only the digging of a pipeline, but the hegemony of a government that allows corporations to destroy wilderness, condemn land for private gain, deny environmental impact studies, and fill the pockets of billionaires who in turn buy off sick-hearts.
We will continue to resist.
Two Rivers Camp is a drug-free, alcohol-free, firearms-free, native-led open experiment with a vision for a better world now and for the future.
Two Rivers Camp
My friends, it’s time: Alpine needs a new high school, plain and simple. As a member of the school board for about 8 years, I have watched us put dollar after dollar in a decrepit building, just to get by. Folks, we have put Band-Aids on a building that continues to hemorrhage; and this is where we send our children to get educated.
It’s time . . . to think about what our kids need now to compete for their place in college and in the workplace. Our high school no longer functions the way it did 20 years ago when the typing classroom was the only that needed more than one outlet. Back then, wiring was for bells and that’s it! Now, our kids need intercoms, safety equipment, and technology resources like computers and Wi-Fi. Our school was designed to give students more space but now we need to think about how to give our kids protection so that they can get a quality education in a safe environment.
It’s time . . . yes, our taxes are high in Alpine, we all know that, but shouldn’t our taxes go to something that we choose, to raise up our kids, our education levels, and our economy. I don’t want higher taxes but I want what is best for our kids and the future of Alpine for generations to come. We can’t continue to put duct tape on a problem and hope for the best, we can’t continue to let our kids fall behind the rest of the state because we aren’t providing for them, we can’t let the next generation continue to put Band-Aids when we all know good and well that they aren’t doing the job.
It’s time . . . our teachers and administrators do an amazing job with what they have and show this in the high test scores across the area, but can you imagine what they could do if they had updated equipment, a safe learning/working environment, and knew how much the community supported their investment in our kids. They need our help. Our kids deserve the best that we can do and our teachers need our help giving it to them.
It’s time . . . work with us for a solution and not a Band-Aid. Let’s stop waiting and do something.
Now is the time!
Marfa, Austin, Washington, DC; our government at all levels is out of line.
Washington is becoming as bizarre as I thought it would.
Austin is re-running the Abbot and Costello shows of my youth.
And, Marfa is showing signs of a government takeover.
All of which is unacceptable to me. We are now living in The Divided States of America rather than the USA.
Austin has been bought and the favors returned.
Marfa is showing signs of a government assuming control that is not its to assume.
The ground is shifting in unsettling ways. And I will never accept any of it at any level.
Response: Big Bend Conservation Alliance story “No safety testing evident for Trans-Pecos Pipeline” that was “thoroughly vetted by experts and reviewed by our attorney.”
Mr. Trey Gerfers, just one question. Have any of your experts ever built a pipeline? Here is a related story. When I was in my thirties, a private contractor bought one of the first laser-equipped road graders, and used it to expand a roadbed for Highway 97 in Central Oregon. I was assigned to work with the state survey crew to inspect his work. After two days of following him, checking the coordinates of everything he did, his work was found to be so perfect that the need for our inspection ended.
Your organization has been inspecting the TPP and Energy Transfer Partners for two years, not two days.
You are right. I have never visited the virtual website you have built and never will. When I lauded Ana Valer Clark’s “painstaking attention to natural processes” that allowed her to reclaim the soil on her ranch, it was in part because scientists, each with a virtual website, each an expert, came to learn from her. (Pilar Pedersen, “Journey into Grasslands”)
When to philosophize about a pipeline was discussed two thousand years ago by Epictetus, who said a carpenter does not philosophize about a house. He makes a contract, and he builds it.
South Brewster County
An editorial published last week by the publisher of the Alpine Avalanche, Presidio County Republican Chair Todd Beckett’s letter in the Big Bend Sentinel, comments from the general public on social media and the new White House directed criticism at the protests following President Trump’s January 20th inauguration and the Women’s March on Saturday, January 21st. My reply follows in two parts and condemns acts of violence where they occurred on Inauguration Day:
Part I – Opposition to President Trump:
Notwithstanding a few generalizations and fallacies of reason, we find a publisher upset to the depth of his inkwell. The Avalanche’s editorial included “he is now the leader of the free world, and that’s that” and “It sickens me to see protesters and rioters, along with terrorist threats from so-called celebrities – all encouraged and glorified by a mainstream media that seems determined to promote anarchy.”
There’s a difference in the nature and integrity of the post-inauguration opposition to Trump – a big difference – than faced by President Obama. Numerous Democratic representatives and senators talk of working with him where interests converge, such as repairing our crumbling infrastructure or maintaining the integrity of Social Security.
At the start of Obama’s first term Republicans met to make sure he was a one-term president to the extent of opposing legislation they once favored. That’s as close to the definition of “treason”; short of plunging the knife and twisting, as could be.
Where was the vociferous conservative/right-wing outcry when President Obama’s election and right to hold office were the subject of bigoted cartoons depicting apes or monkeys, signs calling for his lynching or Trump’s discredited “Birther” claims? Once eight years of his efforts to delegitimize the Obama presidency nonsense paid dividends, it was casually dropped telling us to move on … case closed. Excuse me?
Did I miss the disgust and outrage while away from Alpine between early July/late December? Were there any Avalanche editorials describing elements of then-candidate Trump’s misogyny (i.e. taped on a bus describing his approach to a female reporter, entering the dressing room of his Miss Teenage America competition or overtures to women using his power as his idea of an aphrodisiac musk); Trump University’s shady business practices, defrauding creditors and contractors or using the tax codes for spurious deductions and more?
Did anyone fail to notice the misgivings of Tony Schwartz, ghost writer of Trump’s book “Art of the Deal”? Schwartz stated: “… it’s impossible to keep him focused on any topic, other than his own self-aggrandizement, for more than a few minutes”. He noted: Trump’s short attention span has left him with “a stunning level of superficial knowledge and plain ignorance.” That’s why he prefers TV as his first news source – information comes in easily digestible sound bites.” That has to be worrisome in a nation and world as dark and troubled as described during the campaign and his inaugural address.
I’m “shocked” and so, too, millions of Americans disparaged in editorialized crosshairs. For example, “What sort of example are these people for our youth.” Substitute “Trump” for “these people” and perhaps there will be an epiphany. Many protesting have a standard, too, for what it means to be sickened and disappointed.
Many Americans wonder if Trump’s supporters didn’t wince, even once given his mocking words or gestures demeaning others. The list includes Mexicans, immigrants, Muslims, women, Republican primary opponents, the disabled reporter and media covering his campaign or Megyn Kelly asking sincere questions, but thereafter having her menstrual cycle duly noted. Where and what were the values that accepted mean-spirited, grade school playground tactics and grifter credentials?
Most parents raised their children better than his mistreatment of women or people struggling due to no fault of their own based upon race or national origin portends. We took our lessons from home, school and religious upbringing to heart applying them in a diverse world! As a retired career prosecutor am I proud to have Trump’s photo in every Federal Building when it just belongs in the Post Office?
The Office of the President is respected. Its present occupant isn’t by many protesting, marching, demonstrating and writing letters to newspapers and legislators! Respect is earned, even as presidential power must be respected. The right to react publicly to Trump’s character failings and proven managerial incompetence is legitimate, more so now that his hands are on the wheel of awesome power.
Please, understand that opposition to the Trump presidency is very much a matter of being a patriotic American, members in good standing of the loyal opposition in a proud tradition of speaking uncensored truth to power. A citizen may seek to vocalize concern with the issues facing the country in an activist manner – or not. That’s an enduring measure of the freedoms our democratic institutions foster and protect. Therefore, consider the following and act as conscience dictates:
I believe it to be a moral and spiritual responsibility to communicate ones feelings given most of which Trump presents both as a very disturbed human being and his policy positions. For example, his endorsement by the KKK or other white supremacist groups and bringing Steve Bannon on-board during the campaign and now, as Chief Policy Strategist.
Isn’t it abhorrent giving hate-mongers a ‘respectable’ voice in American political discourse? Didn’t the Allies defeat that sort of mindset in WWII and free nations learn any lessons from the rise of fascism in the 1930s?
Bannon recently expressed his feelings that “The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while.” Sharing a tidbit of his misbegotten wisdom, he also said: “I want you to quote me on this. The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.”
While preparing this material, Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to the President weighed-in on the subject of the media during Sunday morning’s interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News. She said: “Not one network person has been let go. Not one silly political analyst and pundit who talked smack all day long about Donald Trump has been let go. They are on panels every Sunday. They’re on cable news every day. Who’s the first editorial — the first blogger that will be left out that embarrassed his or her outlet? We know all their names. I’m too polite to call them by name. But they know who they are, and they’re all wondering, will I be the first to go?”
The website invited watching where she suggests that “only favorable coverage of the Trump administration should be reported”. Is Peter Zenger still face-up in his grave?
“No democracy has existed in the modern world without the existence of a free press. Newspapers and pamphlets allow for the exchange of ideas and for the voicing of dissent. When a corrupt government holds power, the press becomes a critical weapon. It organizes opposition and can help revolutionary ideas spread. The 1733 libel trial of John Peter Zenger, a New York printer, was an important step toward this most precious freedom for American colonists.”, http://www.ushistory.org/us/7c.asp. Do we have a right to be concerned about “alternative facts”? If not now, when?
As for the oft stated claim Trump has a mandate, about 3,000,000 more Americans voted against him than for him. The loyal opposition already has the advantage in the arena of public opinion. Witness the Conference vote of House Republicans seeking to render toothless the House ethics watchdog agency. This sordid affair; nipped in the bud by a vigilant press and active citizenry, highlighted the importance of transparency in conducting the people’s business – yet the Trump Administration wants a more pliant media.
Sir, are you prepared – in the spirit of Zenger and our first amendment – to cap your inkwell and just listen, too? What if Trump says so? Where do you stand? Is the United States about to usher in an era of Big Brother-speak, authoritarian clap-trap?
Your editorial voice ought to be heard concerning the media’s responsibility vis-a-vis the first amendment and its professional ethics in regard to Bannon’s and Conway’s notion of things. They may not appreciate it, but need to be instructed about being subject to the same constitutional limitations as their employer, the Chief Executive.
Remember, they are two people with access to a fellow with “a stunning level of superficial knowledge and plain ignorance.” That doubles-down on the dangers confronting the nation with two authoritarian personalities, one near and the other at the helm.
Nixon’s G. Gordon Liddy (Watergate Scandal) and Reagan’s Lt. Col. Oliver North (Iran-Contra Scandal) had a misplaced political ideology about “loyalty” that ‘if’ the President said so, it was legal. Bending to authoritarian impulses is quite another.
Ask King George III about exercising arbitrary, authoritarian despotism on this side of the Pond. Hasn’t that been sufficiently repudiated? If not, we should have remained with royalist England.
Nothing Trump or his surrogates said or did during the campaign or since his Electoral College victory has mellowed him. Rather, it has raised numerous concerns about his narcissistic, authoritarian ways. A profound sense of “what to do about our country’s clear and present danger” has only grown.
Those who share many or some of my views love our country, too. We honor, venerate, hold-dear and respect, seek to up-hold the nation’s highest values. One among them is that “The Nation” is not “The President”. The term-limited office is one of three co-equal branches created to minimize the ability of any one exercising unfettered power, such as restraining constitutionally inappropriate presidential impulses.
That Trump has a thin skin and weaker ego is his problem, though quickly flowing downhill becoming ours, either recklessly or negligently, a matter of world-wide concern. Our constitution allows assembling to say so. That’s “Basic American As Apple Pie 101” as can be!
Rev. Barry Zavah
Part two of this letter, addressing the Women’s March, will appear in next week’s edition. – the editor.