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Vail Daily letters to the editor

Fact about PERAVince Emmer should have checked his facts before he wrote about the state’s largest retirement plan, the Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association. (Vail Valley Voices: “Tax Increases to deplete family budgets,” Oct. 22). If he had, he might have learned that legislative changes made in 2010 to Colorado PERA resulted in PERA members and retirees – not their employers or “taxpayers” – shouldering 90 percent of the costs of returning the system to long-term sustainability.The 478,000 members of PERA – who are taxpayers, too, of course – stepped up to ensure the retirement security of their fellow current and former public employees, including teachers, snowplow drivers, judges and state patrol officers.The claim that Colorado PERA investments are somehow “aggressive” also ignores reality. PERA invests $40 billion in member assets based on prudent, long-term strategies where success is measured over many years.No losses are being made up for by “shooting out the lights in the stock market,” as Mr. Emmer suggests. Sorry, that’s wrong, too. PERA has, instead, relied on solid investment strategies created under the direction of the Board of Trustees with the help of highly experienced staff and consultants. PERA’s investment strategies match its mission, with an investment horizon of decades and a focus on maintaining the stability of the fund.PERA’s investment portfolio is broadly diversified, including a range of investment classes (not just the stock market). Since PERA adopted a benchmark for comparison purposes in April 2004, PERA’s actual investment returns have exceeded it by more than $1 billion, according to the most recent annual financial report.Over the quarter century ending in 2008, 21 percent of money in the PERA trust funds came from employees’ own contributions, while 19 percent came from public employers who are supported by taxpayers. The rest (60 percent) comes from investing these contributions.For every $1 that public employers in Colorado contributed to their employees’ PERA retirement, $3.64 was paid out in the form of earned benefits to retirees, who live in every county in the state. And since many retirees aren’t in the savings mode, this retirement income is spent supporting local businesses all across Colorado.In Eagle County alone, PERA pays $8 million each year to former public servants, including, most likely, some of your neighbors and friends.This steady stream of revenue flowing to businesses in Colorado is especially important during an economic downturn. The $3 billion paid annually to retirees statewide creates more than 20,000 jobs in Colorado and generates $180 million in tax revenue to state and local governments.Investment returns allow PERA to provide modest but reasonable benefits ($2,900 per month on average) for public servants without placing an excessive burden on taxpayers. In fact, employer contributions to pensions account for just 2.16 percent of all Colorado state and local government spending, according to 2008 U.S. Census Bureau data.It is unfortunate that Mr. Emmer did not seek to provide factual information about Colorado PERA. That public employees and the benefits they earn have been vilified so much in public discourse of late is no excuse for ignoring the facts. I invite Mr. Emmer and all Coloradans to learn more at http://www.copera.org.Carole Wright Chair, Colorado PERA Board of TrusteesShould be basic physics”ClimateGate” principal Michael Mann’s rant against physics Ph.D. Martin Hertzberg’s self-defense against Scott Glasser’s earlier diatribe would be a total hoot if it were not that humanity’s very welfare were so at stake in this battle of state “science” against the independent analysis of tens of thousands of independent quantitatively educated fellow citizens. To me, Dr. Mann’s most personally offensive howler is that we realists are bought in some manner by the energy industry.I only got involved in this luddite stupidity because I could not find anywhere on the Web a coherent explication of the most basic physics of planetary temperature. Instead, I found mathematically amateurish, maximally biased impossibility being accepted by both sides of the dispute. It’s my observation that you can have a well-paid career in “climate science” never having learned how to calculate the temperature of a radiantly heated gray ball, much less a varicolored ball like our Earth. I challenge Mann to show me the handful of equations which would prove me wrong.I’ve spent my adult life working and living in the most advanced array programming languages. Rather than just bloviating about the pathetic state of physical understanding I saw, I implemented the calculation of the equilibrium temperature of arbitrarily irradiated, arbitrarily shaded gray balls in a handful of definitions in APL. These computations and a great deal about the basic science of planetary temperature are presented at my website, CoSy.com.What makes this particularly relevant is that I calculate a temperature of about 279 Kelvin for a gray ball in our orbit, about 9 Celsius (or Kelvin) less than the generally asserted 288 Kelvin mean temperature of our Earth. It turns out Dr. Hertzberg calculated about the same 279K by a totally different, more traditional, method as the appropriate value against which to judge any “warming” effect of our atmosphere. The alarmists (and too many “climate scientists”) make the indefensible (and mathematically intractable) assertion that without the “greenhouse effect,” the Earth would be 33 Kelvin colder than it is. This field seems to have become pathetically retarded compared to other fields of applied physics as it has become so politically charged.Consider a couple of basic facts putting the lie to this manufactured war against our most affordable energy:• Life only exists on Earth because the original atmosphere was CO2 instead of O2. All life is built from CO2 combined with H2O by sunlight. Only when photosynthesis evolved did the green life that surrounds us explode, replacing the CO2 with O2, allowing us animals to exist and driving the CO2 levels down to the few molecules per 10,000 (less than argon) in today’s atmosphere.It is criminal that now children leave grade school fearing the very molecule out of which every bite of food they eat and, therefore, they themselves are made. • The entire change in our mean temperature since before the industrial revolution, from whatever causes, is perhaps 0.8 Celsius, a change from perhaps 288 to 288.8 Kelvin. We are lucky the sun is that stable.Bob Armstrong Woodland ParkThanks for the pizzaThe Golden Eagle seniors would like to extend our thanks and gratitude to Blue Moose Pizza in Beaver Creek for providing a wonderful lunch for us. The pizza buffet was wonderful, the food was terrific, and the staff treated us like family. Thank you, Blue Moose Pizza.The Golden Eagle SeniorsBest use of propertyIn the middle of winter and on occasion I would return from Vail to my town. In approaching, I would view snow-laden fields just to the east of Eagle. There would be cow elk gathered at the Eagle River Station property for refuge from the travails of higher climes.Where else would this sylvan scene exist? Not the environs of Los Angeles, New York, Denver or other metropolises throughout the country. These observations revealed a truth that we humans can co-exist with all things wild if only we respect and protect their home, too. The lower valleys (such as Eagle River Station) are the historic wintering grounds for elk and deer and should be recognized as such and then preserved for future generations of wildlife to survive and our children to also bear witness.What sets our town apart from other boroughs is this co-existence factor between humanity and other forms of life in the wilds. This is a unique characteristic and makes Eagle’s historic lifestyle worth protecting. Were it possible for RED to grasp the meaning of what I say in this respect, and then incorporate this factor into its plans for profit, I would be the first to say that its property rights have substantive integrity and are in keeping with the spirit of the Eagle Area Community Plan – that being to preserve the historical significance of our very unique community. Property rights are a part of the fabric of a free market and of liberty itself. However, is the protection of those human rights worth the sacrifice of other creatures, great and small, to co-exist in harmony with us? Do the property rights of RED to develop its lands trump the rights of nature itself? That is a philosophical question worth considering when there comes a time to end it all for the wild things in our backyard.We humans, yes all 7 billion of us, have an obligation to preserve nature in our time, even to the extent of self-sacrifice. This is an altruism, rather than a mandate from an authority. I would propose that RED revisit its “lifestyle” that it wishes to bring to our hamlet and the effect it would have on Eagle’s residents and the wards under their protection – the children and the wildlife that we enjoy. In my opinion, the RED plan subserves the constitutional entitlement of its investors and it plays upon the extravagance of the consumer. But it is deleterious to the natural rights of all life that frequent this valley. I really cannot envision my herd of elk congregating on an asphalt parking lot amid the bustle of shoppers and the fumes of fossil fuels. For whom does the Eagle Area Community Plan serve – RED or for the denizens of Eagle, including those with whom we co-exist in harmony? As stated, RED’s projected plan is speculative at most regarding its success and supposed benefits to Eagle, but for a certainty, it would be the end-game for a historical way of life as we know it.Fredric Butler Eagle Coffee with a CopThe Vail Police Department would like to thank Amy, Joel and Susan at the Sapphire Restaurant & Oyster Bar for hosting the October Coffee with a Cop. The program was formed to give the citizens of Vail a place to come and talk one on one with a police officer or code enforcement officer on any issue and, of course, enjoy a good cup of coffee. You are very good hosts, and next time, I will grab a paint brush! The next Coffee with a Cop will be Nov. 16, from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m., at Joe’s Famous Deli on Bridge Street. You may even register your new skis or snowboard. Bring your questions.Moses Gonzales Vail Police