Gossman-Steeves and I have been writing about the Pinon Canyon expansion for quite some time. These writings have been in the form of articles, and as opinion pieces. Early on, both of us expressed the view that the use of eminent domain to take not only the ranchlands down in Las Animas County, but any lands, anywhere, is wrong.
That wasn't good enough. I expressed the view that it should be possible for some kind of compromise could be reached. After that, it was Katy-bar-the-door, as we saw from a series of nearly incoherent letters to the editor from some of our "neighbors" to the south. Several things did filter out, though.
First, it is apparent that ranchers, and perhaps to a lesser extent farmers, hold townspeople pretty much in contempt. Never mind that we provide the infrastructure that allows them to market their goods, to ship their goods, and that we form the customer base that uses their goods. I don't understand how you can insult your customer base and then expect them to support you. It is analogous to the Republican party and its base over the last couple of elections; we see how well that worked. And, did you know that between 1995 and 2006 We the Taxpayers gave Las Animas County "agriculturalists" $18,495,000 in subsidies? You can add a few hundred thousand more for 2007 and 2008. Check the EWG Subsidies Database online. I'll wager that subsidy recipients sound a lot like other welfare recipients when it comes down to justifying sucking up that Free Federal Money. Then we have the Rocky Mountain News, which is apparently of the impression that everybody in La Junta is a rancher or farmer. Of the 7500 people who live in The Smile Hi City, how many are absolutely dependent upon the few ranchers down there in the Pinon Canyon area?
Second, it is apparent that the ranchers are not interested in simply keeping the Army from using eminent domain. They want to bar the Army completely. The ranchers don't care if eminent domain is used somewhere else, such as Nevada. Take the land of the ranchers in Nevada. Go anywhere but here. Our neighbors to the south are NIMBY's. Not In My Back Yard. They claim that they are True Patriots, and that they support the Army...as long as the Army is somewhere else. Every time I hear this particular pitch, I think of Rudyard Kipling's great poem, "Tommy".
Third, it is apparent that the ranchers in question have no respect for the private property rights of others. They want to deny property owners the right to sell their land if they wish. They talk about the intimidation that the Army can bring to bear, that there is no such thing as a "willing seller" when eminent domain is hanging over your head...and they are right. The other side of that coin is the intimidation that one's "friends" and neighbors can bring to bear if they don't like what one is going to do with one's private property. I think if I lived down there and was considering selling, I'd be checking under the truck every day. Or checking the distant slopes for a glint off a rifle barrel. The irrationality of some of the thinking down there puts a grain or two of truth in that viewpoint.
Fourth, while our "friends" to the south raise some very good points about how the Army has screwed them in the past, we are talking about now, not 25 years ago. Even so, I don't think either side has a good track record for "shootin' straight" with anyone. Our so-called representatives in the Colorado Congressional delegation are also part and parcel of the foolishness. Our senators and Congresscritters speak with forked tongue all too often. They know full well that their "ban" on funding is very limited, yet they continue to posture and pander as though they really accomplished something truly significant. As for the ranchers...talk about revisionist history. Does Mack Louden really believe that Las Animas County has been agricultural land since Columbus wandered ashore somewhere around San Salvador Island? Wow. I have visions of vast herds of domesticated bison, overseen by Arapahoe and Ute and Cheyenne and Comanche, all wearing cowboy hats, while even vaster fields of corn and alfalfa are tended by more Native Americans, who apparently, in a gesture of unprecedented good will, freely handed over their lands to Mr. Louden's ancestors.
So now the Army is talking about leasing the land, and a hundred or so jobs for locals, Federal jobs, at Federal government pay scale, with Federal government-type benefits. Eastin's talking about making purchases for construction locally rather than shipping it down from Fort Carson and vendors in Colorado Springs. Lessors keep title to the land. The land stays on the tax rolls and we don't have a PILT deficit. Lessors get to graze cattle on the land when it isn't being used by the Army. Well. That's a different ball game, don't you think? But nope, the ranchers don't even want to think about it. Well...some of them don't. After all, it would most likely be "townspeople" who got those jobs, and we townspeople know where we fit in (hey ... whose fingers are those, in my wallet, sifting out those subsidies).
Time to take a new tack, boys. Your rhetoric is wearing about as thin as is Barak Obama's.