<CENTER><B>Letters to the Editor</B></CENTER>

Barbarians at the gate with a six-pack and the Bill of Rights

Editor:

I read with some curiosity the ranting of still another Verde Valley voter who is either misinformed about, or pretends to be skilled at manipulating, the workings of local government. The subject is the parcel of land on Long Rifle Road. The important facts that were omitted from last Friday's (3/9) letter are that the site is immediately adjacent to Interstate 17, has a suspect natural water quality and has neighbors that include several thousand square feet of outdoor storage, a church, Mobile Home Park and an RV campground. Where are we to find the pristine "white picket fence" country home that the writer would have us believe is nestled in some secluded Shangri La?

Curious too, since the issue of land value was brought up. When polled for their opinions, few of the neighbors objected t the new land use. However, one of the neighbors took time off during objections to negotiate the sale of his properties. Only when he couldn't sell for thee times what his land was worth did he really decide that planning and zoning procedures were being ignored.

Local government is a thankless job because "you can't be a hero in your hometown," but Planning officials played this one by the book. They were willing to support the vision of a property owner who was able to maximize the use of a site and add value to the community. They retained control of the plan by proposing a three-year trial run on the new use. Noise levels, traffic patterns, pedestrian safety, water consumption, visual aesthetics, etc., etc. were all repeatedly addressed during the hearings process. We expect planning professionals to have a good working concept of what the future may bring; in this case they were right on target.

Curious how often we hear complaints from these staunchly independent souls who enjoy better jobs, new medical centers, police and fire protection, and modern shopping facilities thanks to the imagination and investment of their neighbors (who have rights too!) Curious how your perspective changes once your vision moves beyond the path to your pickup. Yes, there are barbarians at the gate; but this time they're inside … with a six-pack and the Bill of Rights.

D.W. Clarke

Clarkdale

NEPA process a must on Ruskin land swap

Editor:

Do you think you live in a democracy where all citizens are guaranteed input into decisions which will impact their lives?

Think again ...

The Cottonwood City Council wrote a letter in April 2000 to private developer Fred Ruskin. The letter expressed support for the Forest Service land trade that Ruskin initiated. It stated:

"The Cottonwood City Council has directed that this letter be drafted in support of this potential trade moving forward through the formal trade process. The council understands that they will have additional opportunity to comment and seek public input throughout the trade process prior to finalize a trade agreement."

The fatal flaw with this letter is that it is addressed to Ruskin and has been used by his lobbyist group as an endorsement of the legislative land trade bill. If the land trade is legislated, there is absolutely no guarantee of local public input in the process.

The "environmental evaluations" will be conducted in Washington, DC. This extremely abbreviated process will be a tiny fraction of what the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process would involve.

Doesn't the Verde Valley deserve all the consideration that the NEPA process would provide in decisions concerning this land trade? The trade would be conducted much more fairly through the NEPA process. Local opportunities for public input and enforceable standards for land appraisals would be guaranteed. This Forest Service Administrative (NEPA) process is already set in motion.

So why has Ruskin sought the help of a lobbyist group to get a bill introduced through Bob Stump's office? The only purpose of the bill is to rush the trade through without public input. The U.S. taxpayers stand to lose a lot of money to Ruskin since he will control the appraisal process through the legislative route and appraisal information is not readily available to the public

Besides losing money, we will also lose over seven square miles of our forest lands in the Verde Valley. This trade will have a huge impact on our lives. Water studies are just now beginning. Only the NEPA process will guarantee a full environmental analysis of our water situation and other ecological impacts of the trade.

I approached the Cottonwood mayor and council at their Feb. 20 and March 6 meetings, asking for this issue to be placed on their agenda for discussion. Our group, Citizens for Public Review (CPR) asked them to write a letter to the Arizona delegation and the House Resources Committee requesting that the trade proceed along the Forest Service administrative (NEPA) process, and not by legislation.

I was told that "the council has already discussed the matter and taken a position regarding the trade, we do not feel there is any need to place this item on an agenda to discuss it further."

Is this how they "seek public input" concerning the land exchange? They are not even willing to take this small but important step to ensure that citizens have the opportunity for local input in decisions concerning the land trade. Cottonwood citizens need to let their mayor and council know that they want to keep their rights that the NEPA process guarantees — local participation and input into this exchange process. Concerned citizens should also contact the Arizona delegation, especially Bob Stump, asking them not to support any bill legislating this land trade. For more information call CPR member Sally Davidson (634-2527) or David Leibforth (649-1480).

Sally Davidson

Cottonwood

Farewell Rex, keep the bad guys out of Heaven

Editor:

The City of Cottonwood's police canine Rex lost his battle with cancer March 9.

Rex had a long and happy life. He loved going to work and to our Valley's schools, retirement homes and club meetings.

As a substitute teacher, I told my students "Rex Stories." Their favorite is how this big, brave police dog was scared of thunderstorms, so he would come in the house, jump up on the couch and watch T.V. He loved Godzilla movies.

Never allowed people food as a working dog, retirement found him gobbling up scrambled eggs, tuna sandwiches, leftovers and, his favorite, cat food!

I would like to thank all our neighbors and local businesses who have been making donations toward the purchase and training of the new police canine. About two-thirds of the necessary funds have been raised and we are praying for a few more donations.

A new canine, Vendo, has been purchased, and Officer Ekholm tells us he is top dog at their training academy – putting the DPS dogs to shame.

Farewell Rex. Keep the bad guys out of Heaven.

Kathleen Ekholm

Cottonwood

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