Letters: 4/11/19

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On student debt

Growing up, I was privileged to know that higher education would always be an option for me and I had a support system to help me navigate financial aid and student loans should I need them. Others are not nearly as fortunate as I am, and there are nearly $19 billion of student debt in Colorado alone. Our state is in crisis under this burden. 

Currently, Senate Bill 002 is moving through the Colorado legislature. This bill would protect students in the process of paying back their student loans by holding student loan servicers accountable. Under current legislation, a student loan is the only type of consumer loan that doesn’t require the people servicing them to be licensed or to follow the same regulations that mortgages, credit cards and car loans do. The burden of student debt is felt just as heavy as that of credit card debt or car loans so why shouldn’t it face the same regulations?

This bill would ensure regulation of loan servicers that are mishandling payments and misleading borrowers on their best option for repayment. Not only does student debt weigh heavily on borrowers’ financial security, but it prevents us from contributing to our local economies by starting businesses, buying property and otherwise investing in Colorado’s economy. Not only would this bill ease interactions with servicers but would help ensure the Colorado economy doesn’t suffer from a generation who simply can’t afford to contribute to it. After a major youth vote surge in the 2018 election, it is well-deserved to see issues like these prioritized in our legislature. I hope all Coloradans will contact their legislator and urge a yes vote on this bill. It is a common-sense piece of legislation that will help college-age Coloradans to be “Higher Ed with Lower Debt.” 

Stephanie Morita/Boulder

Accountability needed for City, police

We have seen this headline before: “Disproportionate police presence responds to innocent African-American male minding own business on own property.” On March 1, Zayd Atkinson of Naropa University — after he defended himself for nearly 20 minutes to a group of officers, hands perched diligently on their guns — was left traumatized by this incident. Thankfully, he was able to withdraw from the situation before it ended with gunfire, as countless similar ones do. This incident sent shockwaves through Boulder, a city allegedly committed to diligently cultivating a welcoming, inclusive atmosphere for all. In the spirit of these ideals, City Council communed for a special hearing on racism in the community.

Boulder City Council’s willingness to address the incident in a collaborative, public forum speaks promisingly to its stated dedication to inclusivity. But how can we guarantee this is not just another tactic to diffuse the situation and avoid action? The City’s follow-through will speak volumes higher than even the most inspired press release could. In an effort to streamline the process, the Boulder County NAACP proposed four imperatives. The proposal calls for the institution of several resources geared toward preventative action, including a community oversight board made up of at least 50 percent people of color, a know-your-rights training for community members, regular community-police dialogues, and lasting policy and practice changes at the Boulder Police Department. 

Change cannot happen overnight. Continued accountability and commitment to the cause moving forward is the difference between promises made and promises kept. Contextually, this could represent the difference between an incident and a homicide. Zayd Atkinson’s headline could have read very differently. How the City of Boulder responds to its calls to action will set the precedent for navigating future incidents and, if the NAACP’s plans are implemented, prevent them before they can occur.

Danielle Grimm/Boulder

Shocked to agree with Danish

I cannot believe this. For perhaps the second time in the current century I agree with Paul Danish, who wrote of water supply (Re: “How to increase Colorado’s (and Arizona’s) water supply,” The Danish Plan, Jan. 3, 2019.) He is so spot-on here. I have often mused over state and local governments imposing building moratoria until water can be assured over the life of the mortgages at the least. Fat chance. Out here in Marlboro country, property rights are way more important than property wrongs.

So, working on the growth (demand) side could make a good deal of sense. I was trained at the graduate level in urban and regional planning. I can entirely relate to intelligent control. Think “1,000 friends of Portland.” I have occasionally observed and thought about a parcel at the northwestern corner of the town of Firestone, where a realtor’s “for sale” sign was up with the onset of the great subprime crash. That sign’s paint wore off (to windward); now there is another. This parcel, roughly 40 acres, is flat as a billiards table. But, the water taps are reportedly $70,000 a pop. That’s right. Good and bad news here. Demand and supply push prices up. But tap prices may have little to do with water, per se. They have everything to do with policy, or the lack thereof.

Imagine if the land, selling (I haven’t checked on the current ask) for $250,000 a building lot, accounts fully for the assured domestic water supply. “Domestic” is the water use accorded the highest priority in the Colorado hierarchy of appropriations, other factors being equal. But there is a “rule of thumb,” wherein the lot price works out to 5-20 percent of the total “value” of the property once built. How many $1,250,000 homes do you think Firestone can swallow? What does that do to “affordability?” I use quotes here because that’s a pipe dream, in Firestone and nearly everywhere. Unless wages rise to $60 or even $90 per hour. Go ahead and wait for that.

We in the northern Front Range have heard of a “fix” for the water compact conundrum faced by the Colorado River Basin. Really! Good luck, gamers. Too bad our negotiators got rolled back in the 1870s. Or perhaps Nebraska, Utah, Wyoming, Kansas, New Mexico (Territory) and Arizona (Territory) simply saw us coming. It’s a little bit late to allocate scarcity. No one wants any of it.

That leaves growth management as our way to a sustainable [dream on!] future. If you have confidence in that, I have this bridge in New York I need to show. It’s for sale. Cheap. Hey; they moved the London Bridge to Arizona; why not?

Gregory Iwan/Longmont