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In Costilla County, Tempers Flare In A Fight Over...

Op-Ed: Community Torn over Zoning and Code Changes

September 22, 2015 Comments (0) Views: 4105 Colorado, San Luis Valley, US News

‘LA SIERRA’ Newspaper Slanders Off Grid Movement in Southern Colorado

LA SIERRA newspaper in San Luis, Colorado has recently published one of the most startled disinformation reports that I have ever seen. It openly character assassinates and generalizes an entire group of residents as violent, racist criminals among a very long list of other allegations.  It was hand delivered throughout the county but the hit piece was not published online for the world to see. We have transcribed it from the photos taken of the newspaper (seen at the bottom of the page).

It has also been reported that the wife of a man targeted and photoed in the publication was denied a copy of the paper when she asked for one from the person delivering it to the store she works at.  This venomous hit piece contains little truth other than the fact that the issues relate to the new policies and changes within Costilla county itself. It was written to convince the readers in San Luis that the people living off the grid in Costilla county are law breakers, racists and possibly crazy. The author quotes herself in one of the two articles which is not standard in journalism. For accuracy’s sake, we have transcribed the article as it was published without correcting any grammatical errors. To address each lie, misquote or slander would take a great deal of time and headache.

BEGIN ARTICLE 1 of 2 by Maria Martinez of LA SIERRA – September 16th, 2015

September 15, 2015 BOCC Meeting

The meeting was standing room only.  Many people from the subdivisions in the Costilla County prarie’s were in attendance, apparently in a show of force regarding their opposition to the current Land Use Codes.

After the meeting was called to order people stood to recite the Pledge of Allegiance Commissioner Delores Burnes announced at the onset that the BOCC would not hear any public comments regarding the Land Use Code.  She explained that the planning commission needs to meet and recommend any changes to the code before the BOCC can make changes.  She explained that if the BOCC were to hear comments regarding the land use code at this meeting it would be considered “ex parte” and would not be allowed.  (Ex parte is a bedrock feature of due process. Fair notice needs to be given to parties who may be affected by legal proceedings). She stated that the date of Planning Commission meetings will be published.  Ben Doon stated that the Free Press and La Sierra are the newspapers of record and public notices are published there.

The meeting was open to public comments.  I was unable to record the names of mane of the people who spoke during this period. I will name only the speakers that I know personally.

A man , whose name I did not capture on tape stood up and stated that “My rights come from the constitution”. “Nothing you (BOCC) vote on will change my rights”. “We just want to be left alone”. He then stated that if left alone they would take care of themselves and not at the point of a gun.

Joe Ortiz asked the BOCC about the status of the sign that will be erected on Colorado 159 for the veterans of Costilla County.

Shirley Romero Otero explained that she was saddened when she went to get water from a local artesian well and found that it had been fenced and locked in, unavailable for public use as it had been in the past.  The land owners apparently shut it down because of abuse by the subdivion people who were using it.  She also expressed concern with the toll the influx of people is taking on local programs. on the stress on the welfare rolls, on the schools, and the environment, by the influx of people from out of state who are buying cheap lots with no water, sewer, electrical, etc.

She stated that people are actually taking water from the acequias, and the land is being trashed with illegal dumping.  Move Mountains, a group that she heads, will no longer clean up their trash. She stated that the county needs to enforce the TANF laws. People who receive aid should be out there volunteering.  Our rights to the mountain are being abused also. She emphasized that she will fight to keep her community culturally intact.

A man whose name sounded like William Rosetti stated that “a lot of people want to be part of the community, but officials want to contol peoples lives, “look what you are doing, we don’t need authorities telling us how to manage ourselves.  Editors note: I think this same was concerned by denial of his rights to film a public meeting such as the planning commission meetings.

Maria Martinez stated that “what seems to be the problem is that people don’t want to abide by the land use code.” “I have to abide by them, so should everybody else.”

A man stated that he has received reports from residents that a particular code enforcement officer (who is in this room) is trying to enforce code laws that haven’t been passed yet. He explained that they haven’t gone to the “state department” yet.

Public comment period was closed. Undersheriff Andrew Espinoza came before the BOCC and presented 2016 budget items for review. He is concerned with the difference between Costilla County law enforcement salaries and what other counties are paying and the fact that they cannot retain officers because of the disparity in pay. He explained that there is an increase in crime, drugs, and in essence, eventually the force and the budget will have to be increased.

Ken Clark, representative of a public safety software company presenting his product for consideration by the BOCC. He explained that currently the Sheriff’s department has to do all reports be and, they do not have a searchable database that can be easily accessed, and browser based.  The proposed software would solve many of those problems, including software would solve many of those problems, including records management, tracking records management, tracking sex offenders, and warrants, etc.

Tommy Vigil, Director of the Department of Social Services presented his reports and certifications.

The BOCC discussed the SLC Council of Governments grant for energy audit and Innersol Solar Company energy audit and solar projects.

The meeting was adjourned at approximately 10:45 a. m.

 ARTICLE 2 of 2 by Maria Martinez of LA SIERRA

The facebook page is called San Luis Valley Just Us and consists of the writings and rantings of many residents of the prairies surrounding San Luis.  Many of the postings are common sense proposals for creating change in county processes.  But other postings are way out in left field, bizarre even.

Some postings propose disarming Costilla County law enforcement personnel and call for subpoenas to prove that county employees “are corrupt.” One writer proposes that people who live in those “off the grid” areas watch their backs, travel in pairs, and post no trespassing signs every where so as to keep a wary eye on locals who, in his opinion, seem to be violent and ready to attack their way of life.

Many of those contributors to this facebook page were also at the BOCC meeting on September 15 to present a united front in opposition to Costilla County Lans Use regulations. At this meeting they suggested that they just want to be left alone, “off the grid” – without electricity or water or sewer or trash collection; and are seemingly opposed to getting permits for any of those.  Some are lucky enough to have generators or porta potties but must do not.

They do not seem to feel that they need to get county permits for septic or water wells or abide with garbage removal policies.  They do, however, want state and local monies in the form of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), child care benefits, and Food Stamps.  They also don’t seem to have a problem taking water from artesian wells and firewood located on private property — yet they want to be left alone. They seem to want their children in school yet don’t want to pay into the local system for the privilege.

The concern is obvious: what will these families do this winter when the temperatures fall to 40 degrees below zero at night?  Most likely, if history repeats itself, these people will end up in public housing and at the La Puente Homeless Shelter in Alamosa.  That is what happened to many families on te San Pedro Mesa when the tents and campers they were living in become completely inadequate.

After the September 15 BOCC mmeeting opposing sides milled in front of the meeting room. The “desert dwellers” proposed talking about Colleen Romero, one of two code enforement officers who appears menacing because she never takes her hand off her gun when she goes about her job. “Locals”, who were derisively called “Mexicans” by the “desert dwellers”, defended Colleen’s work and her actions.  The desert dwellers (derisively called “garrero”) insisted that they are a part of the local community.  This claim was opposed by locals.

The whole scenario reminds me of an Anglo woman who moved into our San Luis community and declared that she would be our spokesperson, write our letters, etc, because she thought “Mexicans” couldn’t write their own letters!! Bizarre at best, deeply offensive at worst, but being the good souls that we are, we put up with her. She ended up home schooling her because she couldn’t help calling the kids at school “dirty mexicans”.

If I am correct, the beginning of all the chaos was caused by a couple in the prairie subdivision who were cited for not aving the proper building permits, and having trash and rubbish on their property. they chose to take the case to court and lost, whereby they were ordered to clean up the property or face a day in jail.  On 15 Sep in a court review of their sentence they were given an extension to clean up the property..

Apparently other subdivision residents were rallied to the couple’s support and helped them dismantle the buildings and clean up the trash.  Wat do we make of the whole thing?  Is it a race war, as one of the men said, after the meeting today? is it perceived as “the haves and the have not’s”, because if it is, we the old timers surely aren’t the “haves”, but we try to abide by the local laws; or is it just a bunch who think that the laws do not apply to them and are willing to cause disruption in everybody’s life to prove it.. How many of these people are squatters, as is one of the rabble rousers posting to Youtube, who admits he hasn’t been able to buy land ?

The couple in the picture below (who attended the BOCC meeting) were featured in a Denver Post story on rural and urban poverty in May of 2015.  They are, according to the Post, rakeing in a cool $880 in food stamps, and paying for their property with Aid to Families with Dependent Children, which amounts to another $787 dollars.  Money left over for marijuana, which the gentleman stated (to the Post) he came for? or for required permits?

 – END OF LA SIERRA ARTICLE –

Conclusion: The authors not only misreported the facts of that day, they did not bother to properly attribute who said what and in what context. The report has left us concerned that Costilla County’s intentions towards us may be worse than we  thought granted the amount of lies within this report that it’s author choose to not make available online. As far as LA SIERRA goes, we have little information about the company online and what direct ties that it has to the local power structure. The only information we have on the paper is their address and phone number. Perhaps our readers may want to write to the paper with their concerns.

(Publicly available) LA SIERRA Newspaper information:

404 W Church Pl, San Luis, Colorado 81152
(719) 672-3356

(Please be polite when contacting them and be aware they and the local sheriff’s department have labeled peaceful land owners as potentially voilent. This is of great concern to us all as well as all those with investments in Costilla County and those with hopes of relocating here at a point later in time.)

CLICK HERE TO READ A MORE FAIR AND BALANCED REPORT FROM COLORADO PUBLIC RADIO

DOCUMENTATION (in order):

ARTICLE 1

article 1

 

article 2

article 3

ARTICLE 2

article 4

article 5

article 6

(VIDEO: Meet the man La Sierra photographed and labeled a dangerous trouble maker without even talking to him, judging him solely on his very Anglo features.)

 

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