Small towns once complained that children were their biggest export. "You can't keep them home once they've seen bright lights," residents would lament as their towns shrank.
People in small towns still complain -
it's their nature. But today they complain because not only their
kids, but everyone else's kids, are moving to their dimly lit
towns. Here's what the Glenwood Springs, Colo., mayor said upon
hearing that his town had rocketed into fourth place in the latest
edition of The 100 Best Small Towns in
"I want to know how
we can doctor the criteria so we drop to 87th next year," Marc
Adler told the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.
When the newcomers that Mayor Adler fears hit
Glenwood Springs, they will do three things: build themselves a
bigger house than he lives in; buy a four-wheel-drive to keep them
safe on mountain roads; and, finally, total that new Bronco or
Subaru or Range Rover.
Those "safe" four-wheel
drives smack into other vehicles and roll off roads at almost twice
the rate of conventional vehicles. Forty percent of accidents on
Colorado's Interstate 70 involved four-wheel drives. But only 25
percent of all vehicles on the road are four-wheel drives, wrote
The Denver Post.
What's happening? Drivers may
be forgetting that while their four-wheel drives are awfully good
at getting going on ice and snow, they don't stop any better than
your grandmother's sedan. All vehicles come with the same stopping
power: one set of brakes per wheel.
While Glenwood Springs worries about growth,
Los Alamos, N.M., worries about decline. Now that the atomic age is
ending with whines and whimpers, the Los Alamos Lab, which built
the first nuclear bomb, faces a loss of federal
Will Los Alamos, with more Ph.D.s per
capita than anywhere else in the United States, do better than
busted logging and mining towns? The New York Times reports that
Los Alamos has already put its brainpower to work and come up with
a startling idea: tourism.
We gather from a four-part series in the Spokesman-Review out of
Spokane, Wash., that the Northwest is not just being flooded - it's
also being buffeted by high winds of political wackiness. Although
the problem is serious, many of the tax protestors come across as
members of the Gang That Can't Shoot Straight.
Take Gordon Ormesher Sr., who refuses to pay a $16,532 property tax
bill he doesn't believe in. What does the Coeur d'Alene, Idaho,
resident believe in? A post office box in Boone, Ind., for a group
called the North American Freedom Council. He sent in $300 to the
Freedom Council's post office box, and back came a "certified"
money order to clear his tax debt. The result: He's out $300 and
still owes the county $16,532.
In the world of
tax protesting, there's no problem. Should the county foreclose, he
can buy a $250 "foreclosure defense package" from the same council
at the same address. Should he face eviction, it will sell Ormesher
a "Defend Against Eviction" package for $600. Ormesher is
disappointed with the post office box, but still loyal: "They just
didn't have (the) proper procedure."
who has the proper procedure is Randy Glessner of Omak, Wash. The
former certified public accountant recently went to jail rather
than tell Uncle Sam about the tax returns he helps clients
Glessner's specialty is to demand that the
IRS send back the taxes his clients have paid over the past three
years. His 40 clients paid the taxes because they hadn't yet met
Glessner, and so they didn't know that wages are compensation for
labor, and therefore not taxable. Now that they know the proper
procedure, Glessner's clients expect to collect, collectively, up
to $400,000 from the IRS.
The protesters and constitutionalists are a bubble off, you say?
Take a look at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its
half-completed Elk Creek Dam in Oregon. A decade of lawsuits has
convinced the Corps to stop building the dam, $70 million short of
completion. But the Corps won't spend $10 million to tear it down
So, the Oregonian reports, the
half-done thing sits athwart the river, blocking salmon migration
and generating money for the people who cart surviving salmon
around it. The demi-dam has also been a cash cow for the Oregon
Natural Resources Council, which the courts have rewarded with
$240,000 in legal fees for stopping the illegal
If you think
your tax money would be better spent by, let's say, Idaho than by
the feds, think again. Investigators from three states say the
Idaho Agriculture Department's Quality Assurance Laboratory has a
total lack of quality. That's bad for people who eat french fries
and baked Idaho potatoes, since the lab certifies that the state's
commodities are uncontaminated.
The lab is also
on shaky financial ground. Farmers were supposed to pay for it. But
farmers are thrifty, and the Idaho Falls Post Register wrote that
"since it was completed in 1993, ... the facility's supporters,
particularly otherwise frugal Republicans from the Magic Valley,
have cajoled their colleagues into pumping hundreds of thousands of
tax dollars into the lab to keep it running."
Is World War II veteran and U.S. Sen. Bob Dole
soft on military preparedness? Students in Cori Scott's sixth grade
class in Navajo, N.M., think so. They say he's forgotten that
diversity wins wars.
Several chiding letters
they wrote Dole about his opposition to bilingual education
appeared in the Nov. 30 Navajo Times. Dakota Jim's went right to
the point: "The Navajo language contributed greatly to the win over
the Japanese during WW II."
Donovan Begaye went
further in his praise of the Navajo Code Talkers, whose language
the Japanese never cracked: "During WW II, our language was used,
and that's how the United States won the war. So why are you trying
to deny us from using our language?"
Colleen Hunt wrote: "How would you feel if we took English from
you, and you could only speak a language that comes second to you?"
If a school superintendent
in most of the United States had chased terrified employees out of
a building with a snake, there would have been administrative
hearings, lawsuits and firings. But another Navajo Times story
showed that Navajos not only speak a different language, they also
follow a different social code.
Superintendent Matthew Levario wielded a live gopher snake against
his staff in Sanders, Ariz., Navajo medicine men explained to the
school board and to Levario that he had "spiritually desecrated"
the employees and "frightened and may have harmed the protected
wildlife and sacred creatures."
the medicine men, Levario replied that he was ignorant of Navajo
custom. He apologized for his "practical joke," and he promised to
pay for cleansing and reblessing ceremonies for both the building
and the staff so that harmony would be restored.
And that was
Heard Around the
West invites readers to get involved in the column. Send any
tidbits that merit sharing - small-town newspaper clips, personal
anecdotes, relevant bumpersticker slogans. The definition remains
loose. Heard, HCN, Box 1090, Paonia, CO 81428 or