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Publish Date: 6/29/2007

Choosing Mayer’s successor

The committee choosing a replacement for Commissioner Tom Mayer should search for fresh points of view when making their pick.

In the wake of Mayer’s death Friday of complications from cancer, the Boulder County Democratic Party must choose someone to hold the District 3 post on the county board until the November 2008 general election. The District 3 commissioner represents southeast Boulder County, including Erie, Lafayette, Louisville, Superior and part of Boulder.

At least six candidates are vying for the seat. In keeping with state law, the county Democrats’ 101-person vacancy committee will meet Monday to choose the new commissioner.

When we endorsed Mayer for a second term last fall, we praised the Louisville resident’s dedication to creating a county drug court that would help provide a more stable environment for addicts’ children. The Boulder County Democrats should find a candidate that shares Mayer’s passion for child welfare when making their choice.

And we always appreciated Mayer’s willingness to speak bluntly and ask tough questions about an issue.

But some policies of Commissioners Mayer, Will Toor of Boulder and Ben Pearlman of Lyons are tougher to swallow.

In recent elections, several candidates raised valid points about sitting commissioners’ willingness to step on private property owners’ rights using an overbearing land-use code.

A self-respecting Democrat could support preserving rural Boulder County without eroding individual rights.

Selecting a District 3 representative who will push back against overbearing land-use regulations would be a wise choice and a refreshing one.


Publish Date: 6/28/2007

Motorists have reason to be hot about fuel

It’s colder in Canada.

Oil companies know that, so fuel pumps in Canada are equipped with devices that adjust the volume of gasoline so that it meets the industry standard for 60 degrees Fahrenheit. You see, colder gasoline is more dense, and there is more gasoline in a gallon at 30 degrees Fahrenheit than there is at 90. Without the adjustment, consumers would be getting more gas than they are paying for.

It’s interesting, then, how the farther south you go (say, in the United States), retail fuel pumps do not make adjustments for temperature. When gasoline is dispensed in 90-degree weather in a place such as Florida, the consumer gets less.

It’s tempting to think that differences of air temperature at a gasoline station don’t matter. After all, the gasoline is stored underground, insulated from temperature extremes. But the oil industry’s own practices in Canada make it clear that temperature differences matter. And the practices in each country favor whom? The oil companies.

If consumers are to expect anything, it is honest weights and measures from those who want to sell them something. Now, the current sales practices are not illegal, and the fuel expansion might cost only a few extra pennies at the pump, but the hidden cost to motorists across the nation amounts to more than a billion dollars during summer months.

Might motorists make up some of this cost in the winter? Certainly, especially for motorists in colder climates. But it’s irrational to believe that those who are selling us fuel are losing more money in the winter than they are gaining in the summer (see Canada).

Coloradans might benefit on the whole from the 60-degree standard, as much of the state has an average annual temperature that’s beneath that mark.

But the goal is honest weights and measures, and the solution is pumps that make an allowance for seasonal temperature differences.


Publish Date: 6/27/2007

Quiet train crossings worth discussing

Those darn trains that lurch through town and blast their horns at ear-splitting levels only do so because the law requires it.

Longmont leaders can, and should, find the money to silence them. Making Longmont a “quiet zone,” with safer crossings that allow locomotives to come and go without trumpeting their presence, seems pricey but feasible.

Under a 2006 federal law, train engineers must sound their horns for at least 15 seconds while approaching a level railroad crossing. Longmont has 17 of them. Any law-abiding conductor must sporadically blare their train’s horn more than a dozen times while passing through town.

But trains could pass through the city without a peep if the city paid to upgrade the 17 crossings. City workers would likely close some of them. They’d build special gates at a few crossings. They’d construct underpasses or overpasses at busier crossings.

City transportation planners estimate the improvements could cost $6 million. At that price, the project is doable.

Last fall, voters approved a five-year extension on a 0.75-cent city sales and use tax that drums up about $10.3 million annually for street construction and other transportation improvements. Voters could extend the tax for less than a year and fund the quiet crossings.

The project would be ambitious. Longmont would be the first city in the state to make itself a quiet zone.

Trains do provide reasonable transportation for a lot of goods and related services to the public.

Passing trains thrill the kiddies and make for charming symbols of the American West. The difference between a noisy train and a quiet one is the difference between novelty and nuisance.

The presence of trains in Longmont will only grow over the next 15 years. The $4.7 billion FasTracks rail initiative is set to bring commuter train service in a decade.

A more sophisticated network of rail crossings that lets the community coexist more placidly with trains that pass through it is worth investigating.

Residents should support the project in an upcoming survey being commissioned by the city. Quiet zones could be worth the cost.


Publish Date: 6/26/2007

Goods need to be inspected

Recalls of tainted pet food, toxic toothpaste and now lead-painted wooden Thomas the Tank Engine toys have raised public concern over the safety of products imported from China.

China promised reforms to the country’s food-safety system in the months since dogs and cats fell ill after eating pet food contaminated with melamine, but as yet has not suggested greater regulation of goods, such as painted toys.

The United States, which imported $95.6 billion worth of goods from China from January to April this year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, should push for China to closely inspect its manufacturers and food producers.

But even if the country does pledge to monitor all exported foods and goods more closely, there’s no guarantee that tainted Chinese goods won’t still make it onto shelves.

That’s why it is incumbent upon the United States to adequately inspect imported goods for poisons, unsafe ingredients, pesticides, bacteria that can cause food-borne illnesses and other contaminants. Unfortunately, the current system isn’t meeting that minimal requirement.

According to The New York Times, “Last year, (Food and Drug Administration) inspectors sampled just 20,662 shipments out of more than 8.9 million that arrived at American ports.”

The FDA regulates food; dietary supplements; prescription drugs; medical devices; vaccines; blood products; animal feed and drugs; cosmetics; and radiation-emitting products, including cell phones, lasers and microwaves, according to its Web site. All of those products need proper inspection, and if the current system isn’t working, then we need to change it.


Publish Date: 6/25/2007

Exercise caution when in the wilderness

It’s unfortunate that a boy’s death in Utah has to serve as a reminder that living near the wilderness brings risks as well as opportunities.

On June 17, 11-year-old Sam Ives was camping with his family in American Fork Canyon in the wilderness southeast of Salt Lake City. A bear that had been menacing other campers that day sliced open Ives’ tent, dragging him away to his death. The bear was later found by authorities and killed.

The Father’s Day outing was like countless held by families who live in the Intermountain West. A short drive from the city allowed a family the opportunity to get out of the heat and back to nature.

But all residents of this region should know that bears are a part of the wilderness that is valued so highly.

According to the Colorado Division of Wildlife, every year campers — even those in designated Forest Service and National Park Service campsites — have encounters with bears.

The reason: Bears emerge from winter hibernation as eating machines, looking far and wide for whatever they can consume before finding a mate and going back into hibernation for the next winter. They can travel for miles when they catch the scent of food, according to wildlife officials.

The good news for humans is that most bears really don’t want to have anything to do with us. If you stow your food inside a locked vehicle when you’re not eating, keep a clean campsite at all times and make sure your children are aware of bear hazards in the area, you should be safe.

Authorities have not said whether the family of the boy who was killed didn’t follow some of the guidelines, or whether previous campers had allowed the bear to associate the presence of humans with food. But the events of Father’s Day in Utah should serve as a reminder to those of us who choose to live near the wilderness that dangers may lurk. With the right precautions, however, they should not cause campers to lose out on a wilderness experience.


Publish Date: 6/24/2007

Televise work of Colorado legislators

Colorado’s Legislature soon will join the majority of states that televise floor sessions of the House and Senate.

Televising anything political raises fears of unnecessary grandstanding by politicians who love to play to the camera.

But in this case the benefits outweigh the potential negatives of this move.

Governments at all levels have the challenge of engaging the public — so that the public can understand issues and so that the public can influence outcomes.

Without public access, government could just as well be secret.

Local governments in Colorado in many jurisdictions have televised their sessions for a couple of decades, particularly if deals could be included in cable television franchises. And local governments, it could be argued, are closer to the public than state and federal and thus easier for people to attend.

Denver isn’t too far for most of the state’s population, but given work schedules, potential winter storms, and other issues, it is far enough to prevent most state residents from popping in to see what is happening.

Even if a bill before the body is of particular interest to an individual, it is difficult to make the trip to the Capitol to watch debate, only to have action delayed by parliamentary procedure.

With the Legislature on television, state residents will have the opportunity to watch what they want, when they want.

And the grandstanding? Politicians may be surprised to learn that Colorado voters can figure that out quickly enough. There will be no gain in it for representatives come election time. They might even be asked to be accountable for each of the 120 days that they spent there.


The Daily Times-Call
350 Terry Street, Longmont, Colorado 80501
Telephone 303-776-2244
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Edward Lehman,
 
Publisher
Dean G. Lehman,
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Lauren R. Lehman,
Vice President
Ben F. Weir,
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John Vahlenkamp,
Managing Editor
Dale L. Carr,
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Maurice Elhart,
Circulation Director
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Letters welcome

The Daily Times-Call encourages its readers to share their views on matters of importance in our communities, state, nation and world. Short letters, about one typewritten, double-spaced page, on timely topics are given preference. The Times-Call will print as many letters as space allows. They should be addressed to Open Forum, P.O. Box 299, Longmont, CO 80502; or e-mailed to opinion@times-call.com

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