| VailDaily.com

Letter: Let’s be clear about the Rittenhouse verdict

The jury in the Kyle Rittenhouse murder trial did not find Rittenhouse innocent, the jury members just found that there was reasonable doubt as to whether he was guilty.

Our criminal justice system is based on the premise that we’d rather free a guilty person than imprison an innocent one. Thus, in a criminal case the prosecution must prove quilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In a criminal case a jury may find that a person is “not guilty” because they have some reasonable doubt about guilt, even if jurors think the person probably was guilty. In a criminal case, a jury never finds a person innocent. Thus, Rittenhouse’s victory does not mean he was innocent of murder, it just means that the prosecution failed to prove he was guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

In a civil case, the standard of proof is much different. A plaintiff only needs to prove by a “preponderance of the evidence” (i.e., greater than 50%) that the person was guilty of the acts alleged.Thus, it is quite possible that the jury that found Rittenhouse not guilty in the criminal case would find him guilty in a civil case. In fact, a civil case is the only forum in which Rittenhouse could possibly prove his innocence. A failure to convict in a criminal case does not establish innocence.

I hope that the victims families will sue and I believe that the Department of Justice should bring suit. Any time a 17-year-old kid or anyone else walks into a demonstration of any type with a loaded AR-15-style rifle, they are acting as a vigilante and provoking violence. Furthermore, when Terry Quinn in his letter on the Rittenhouse verdict refers to “lefty lawyers,” he is referring to the people who are trying to uphold the rule of law, not lawless vigilantes like Rittenhouse.

James C. Ruh

Edwards

Letter: Thanks to Alpine Bank from veterans

Once again, in honor of Veterans Day, Alpine Bank has reached out to the Veterans of Eagle County and offered them each a gift card to a restaurant. This is such a generous and thoughtful gift and such a meaningful way to thank our veterans for their service. Each and every veteran (and their families) sends a heartfelt thank you and a message of gratitude to Alpine Bank for this service to our community.

With sincere appreciation.

Patricia Hammon, Eagle County Veteran Service Officer

Eagle County

Letter: New tax measures

From Fox News: “The Build Back Better Act’s investments in the IRS include $80 billion to hire some 87,000 more IRS agents, which would result in an estimated 1.2 million additional audits each year. Nearly half of the audits would impact families earning less than $75,000 a year. One quarter of the audits would affect Americans earning $25,000 or more per year.”

Reminds one of what the Declaration Of Independence said about King George III:

“He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our People, and eat out their substance.”

Terry Quinn

Eagle

Letter: Support Eagle River Watershed Council on Colorado Gives Day

As a longtime resident of Eagle County, a kayaker, fisherman, and skier, all of which requires water in the river — (oh and as a Watershed Council Board member!) — I urge you to schedule a donation to Eagle River Watershed Council via the CO Gives Day platform. Giving support through the Colorado Gives Day website boosts your donation through an incentive fund, increasing your help to the river.

The nonprofit Watershed Council is your science-based advocate for the river and needs your support. During this 20-year drought we are in, Eagle River Watershed Council is working to maintain the quality and quantity of water in the Eagle, the Upper C, and the tributaries of both, manage road and river cleanups, provide educational opportunities, and monitor and respond to current and future threats to the watershed. We need your support.

Once again, I urge you to schedule a donation to Eagle River Watershed Council for Colorado Gives Day, by Dec.r 7, through the Colorado Gives Day website. We provide easy access at ERWC.org.

It’s your home, and your river.

Tom Allender, President Eagle River Watershed Council

Eagle

 

Howard: Collaborating on creative housing solutions

We’ve all read the headlines and know about the effects of the worker shortage. Like with many things, until it happens to us, it doesn’t feel real.

The ski areas are opening, and employees are returning to work … if they can find housing. There are endless social media posts where people who want to work in Vail and be part of this lively, active community are close to begging for housing — or unable to show up for work because living in a car is an unrealistic situation.

Elyse Howard

The worker shortage, due in large part to the impossibility of finding affordable housing, has long-reaching consequences and impacts us all. It’s more than the inconvenience of finding Starbucks closed at two, the grocery story operating on reduced hours and restaurants without waitstaff.

When people who provide services — from doctors to housekeepers, grocery workers to chefs — can’t find a place to live, it negatively impacts our community. The crisis touches all of us: People are priced out of buying a safe, secure home and can’t afford rent. Because of rising building costs, developers can’t build. The shortage increases and crisis deepens.

Finally, we are moving beyond conversations as the community works towards creative solutions for affordable housing. We applaud the voters of Vail and Avon who in November, passed initiatives to increase access to affordable housing. Avon voters approved a tax on short-term rentals in the town. This revenue will go towards a dedicated community housing fund. In Vail, voters approved a .5% sales tax increase. This tax could raise more than $4 million in its first year for housing.

Creative thinking and partnerships at the higher level are the key to finding solutions. State lawmakers set aside $400 million for housing via HB21-1329 from the American Rescue Plan Act. I’ve been excited to participate in coalition with other affordable home ownership developers across the state including land trusts and modular developers to advocate to the State Affordable Housing Transformational Task Force and Subpanel for solutions that will increase affordable home ownership opportunities for Coloradans.

We’ve worked for months to provide insight and suggestions as they evaluate how to direct these funds and invest in Colorado’s housing infrastructure. State Rep. Dylan Roberts and Summit County Commissioner Tamara Pogue have been key voices representing rural Colorado. I am grateful for their willingness to dive into the details of the housing needs across the state. Their keen understanding of the housing issues facing our mountain communities has allowed them to respond to the need to spread funds across the entire housing continuum.

ARPA represents a historic opportunity to begin to balance unequal access to home ownership. Developing and preserving affordable home ownership opportunities for Coloradans is the best and most impactful investment of these funds. The shared-equity home ownership model used by HFH and community land trusts is proven to be one Colorado can use to expand homeownership opportunities.

A national study of deed-restricted type home ownership programs found that homeowners benefit from the program. When they sold their homes, they accumulated, on average, $14,000 in earned equity — opening a path for new homeowners to buy a house as one family moves up the housing ladder. We’ve seen this firsthand when a Habitat homeowner sells their home and moves on, able to put a significant down payment on a new home with their equity and having a new family settle into the Habitat home.

Specifically, our coalition is advocating for rapid production of for-sale housing to address inequities in the market exacerbated by COVID-19. We are advocating for grants of $75,000 per unit to affordable home ownership developers to create new affordable housing stock accessible to households up to 120% AMI. This investment would yield 2,500 new units by the end of 2024 for hardworking Coloradans.

Affordable home ownership creates transformational change for the homeowner, for the community and the state. It’s time to fully and equally fund the housing continuum. By creating affordable home ownership opportunities, Colorado will increase community wealth while fueling the economic engine of new home development.

Many Coloradans need safe, affordable homes. The task force is charged with determining the best way to invest these arguably once-in-a-lifetime dollars to create transformational change in the state’s housing infrastructure. We believe funding should be balanced across the housing continuum, that ownership is a transformational investment, and to maintain affordable prices for families, subsidy is required.

With investment, affordable home construction can increase across the state. The per unit construction cost to build a unit for home ownership is the same as to build a rental unit, however, the ownership unit yields a greater ROI: families build wealth, put down permanent roots and are key members of the community.

The value in building affordable homes is obvious. It’s more than a need — without housing within reach, we will lose valuable members of our community. I am excited that I testified at the state Capitol on Tuesday and and spoke in favor of the plan we have been working on. I believe in our work. I believe in the power of community and the strength of our collective voices to make a better world for everyone.

Goldberg: The hypocrisy of Democrats’ ‘Build Back Better’ bill

For the first five years, the single most expensive item in the House version of the Democrats’ Build Back Better, or “human” infrastructure, bill is a gigantic tax cut for millionaires and billionaires. This provision would lift the cap from $10,000 to $80,000 on income tax deductions for state and local taxes (commonly referred to among budget nerds as “SALT”).

Given how inconvenient this is for a party that for years has been campaigning against millionaires and billionaires, some Democrats prefer the claim that it’s merely the second-most-costly provision. They do this by merging the childcare and pre-K programs into a single item.

But no matter how you slice it, giving a huge tax cut to the super rich is a weird thing to do when you’ve been claiming that the solution to our problems is simply getting the rich to “pay their fair share.” It’s even weirder when you consider that this tax break would be even bigger and more regressive than former President Trump’s tax “giveaway” that was so reviled by progressives — which the House version would keep. Benefits from the Democrats’ regressive giveaway would largely go to taxpayers in the top 20% of the income scale and would overwhelmingly benefit the top 0.1% of earners, specifically in high-tax states like New York, New Jersey, Illinois and California.

Obviously, this is all justly ripe for accusations of hypocrisy. But what explains the hypocrisy? I can see three mutually reinforcing reasons.

First, and most obvious, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi needed every vote she could get to pass this thing in the House, since no Republican would vote for it, and Democrats from high-tax states insisted on restoring the SALT deduction greatly reduced by Republicans under Trump.

Second, for all their soak-the-rich rhetoric, Democrats rely on wealthy donors, too. In 2020, 24 of the top 50 individual donors gave to Democrats. Liberal billionaires are a thing, too. As in 2008, Wall Street money went disproportionately to Biden and other Democrats in 2020.

The rule of thumb is that culture-war issues help Republicans with voters and help Democrats with donors. But sometimes, wealthy liberals want their financial interests protected, too.

But I think the biggest reason for the SALT giveaway has less to do with Democrats carrying water for the 1% and more to do with protecting what Walter Russell Mead has dubbed the “blue social model” of politics. The Democratic Party is heavily — and increasingly — dependent on college-educated, urban (often white) voters clustered in big cities and very wealthy suburbs.

These high-tax states and localities need rich people to pay for everything from generous benefits to public-sector unions, unfunded pensions and bloated bureaucracies. The SALT deduction reduces the incentives for the wealthy to vote with their feet. But it doesn’t eliminate them, which is why so many people are fleeing high-tax states like California and New York for low-tax ones like Florida and Texas. Of course, they’re not all tax fugitives; some are leaving because of issues like affordability and business regulation, which are also problems for blue-model jurisdictions.

On another level, the SALT deduction also helps mask and subsidize bad state and local taxation and spending decisions.

Indeed, much of Build Back Better is made to appeal to the blue-model coalition. A massive tax credit for electric cars can be rationalized in the context of climate change, but it also serves blue-state voters, who own the lion’s share of electric vehicles. Likewise, the child-care provisions in the bill could disqualify many religious institutions from receiving federal subsidies because of federal nondiscrimination statutes — despite the fact that more than half (53%) of families that rely on such services do so through religiously affiliated institutions. This reflects another example of favoring Democratic interest groups.

At this point, it’s unclear if the SALT provision in the House version will survive in the Senate. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont — unlike his progressive counterparts in the House — remains opposed, because he rightly sees it as a gift to the millionaires and billionaires he excoriates. He’s working with Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey on a less regressive version of the SALT provision.

But tinkering can’t hide the fact that the Democrats’ agenda is as much about investing in their own party’s infrastructure as it is about investing in the country’s.

Robbins: Complaint and answer

Lawyers are a bunch of complainers.

Allow me to explain.

You see, it all starts with a “complaint,” a lawsuit that is, which I have always found a curious word when applied to what is usually the dignity and erudition of the law. That said, however, I’m not sure what would be a better word: A gripe? A grouse? A grumble, whine or carp?

But here we are — in the lottery of legal history, “complaint” was the clear winner. And so, “complaint” it is.

What, then, is one, and how does one work?

A complaint is a kind of “pleading,” so let’s define that first. Although the term itself sounds a little mealy-mouthed — to “plead,” after all, is not a far cry from beggary — “pleadings” are formal written statement of a party’s claims or defenses. There are as many kinds of pleadings as there are short hairs on the back of a Chihuahua. And the first one, the one that kicks off the whole shootin’ match of litigation, is called a “complaint.” In it, the kicker-offer, known more formally as the “plaintiff,” must state their gripes against the party known as the defendant. Think of the complaint as a spelled-out bag of woes.

A “plaintiff” is a person who brings a case against another in a court of law and is not a far cry from the word “plaintive,” which means to sound a sad and mournful cry. But I digress.

All of the plaintiff’s claims against the defendant are laid out in the complaint. Not only are all the plaintiff’s slights, maligns and beefs against the defendant stated, but the complaint must also state the legal theories under which “relief” should be granted. The plaintiff must specify the remedy she or he wants. However, under generally accepted rules of pleading (known as “notice pleading”), the complaint does not need to be overly specific; it merely has to lay out enough to advise the defendant of what she or he is accused.

Let’s take a step aside and dash quickly down the two rabbit holes of relief and remedies.

“Relief” at law is — whew! — exactly what it sounds like. With the aid of the court, what the plaintiff hopes for is a respite from (or liberation from) the defendant’s wrongful harm or conduct. What the plaintiff spells out in his or her complaint is all they ways they have been injured or aggrieved at the hands of the defendant and what they want the court to do about it.

In law school, whole semesters and textbooks as thick as cored concrete blocks are devoted to the subject of “remedies.” In its simplest terms, a remedy is a form of court enforcement of a legal right resulting from a successful civil lawsuit. Remedies fall into three general categories: damages (monetary compensation for the plaintiff’s losses), coercive remedies requiring a party to do or omit doing a specific act through injunctive relief (a court order to do this or that specific thing) or a court order of specific performance (in contracts, specific performance may be an award of the thing itself that is in dispute rather than its monetary equivalent); and declaratory judgment where the court determines (or “declares”) individual rights in a specific situation without awarding damages or ordering particular action.

Because of their historical origins, monetary damages are often referred to as a “legal” remedy, while coercive and declaratory remedies are termed “equitable” remedies.

Another way to imagine a complaint is to think of it as a fuse that ignites the fireworks of litigation. Once the girandola of the lawsuit is launched skyward, the usual response is for the defendant to file their “answer.”

In Sluggo cartoon character terms, what the answer says is “Oh yeah?! Well, that ain’t so!” The answer details how and why the complaint fails to hold together. There are generally three parts. First, the defendant will admit, deny or deny “on information and belief” each of the plaintiff’s allegations. The first two of these — admit or deny — are pretty intuitive. What the third — denial on information and belief — consist of is a statement to the effect that the defendant lacks sufficient information about the specific allegation and, on that ground, denies it.

The allegations thus disposed of, what comes next are “affirmative defenses.” An “affirmative defense” is a defense that introduces evidence, which, if found to be credible, will negate the defendant’s liability. Even if it is proven that the defendant committed the alleged acts, if the affirmative defense or defenses are found applicable, they will escape culpability.

Sometimes — but certainly not always — the defendant will articulate their own “counterclaims” against the plaintiff. A counterclaim is a claim for relief filed against an opposing party after the original claim is filed. What it says is, “While we’re at it — and now that the plaintiff has kicked this whole thing off — I’ve got some gripes of my own that I need the court’s help in resolving.”

Lastly, the defendant will express their own “prayer” for relief — “this is what the court should do.”

Complaint and answer; however equivocating the language of the tiff may be, thus starts the dance, tactics and strategy of litigation.

Haims: Tips for adult children of aging parents

Providing care for aging parents is complicated and stressful. It can put tension in every relationship, especially between siblings who often have decades of complex dynamics with each other — sibling rivalry doesn’t go away because a parent’s sick. Even in the most supportive families, there is baggage and differences of opinion. That’s normal.

Sibling rivalries can reappear. Wishes for parental approval and love, whether you realize it or not, may become an issue. And certainly, there will be disagreements about the kind of care, who will provide it and how much it will cost.

There is no single playbook when the tables turn and a child becomes a parent’s caregiver. But there are a few things you can do to help alleviate tension and disagreements as you navigate the emotional, physical and financial stressors to help get back to enjoying each other and your mom or dad — including respite care when caregiving becomes overwhelming.

Communication is key in all phases of caring for your parent.

Recognize and discuss how family dynamics play out with each other. Be honest with yourself and each other about the roles you all had as children and may continue to have as adults. Make sure to listen to the needs and concerns of your siblings. Be mindful of the language you use and steer clear of accusatory comments.

Plan family meetings monthly or weekly to keep up with important decisions. Let technology help with these. You can chat via video calling, using various apps, or internet-based programs. Share all information with each other, including care plans, financial outlooks, and other important information.

If these meetings become contentious, consider reaching out to a professional facilitator, friend or third-party to help mitigate and help keep these essential touch-base meetings positive and productive.

It is easy to revert to the roles you each had as children, even though you are now adults — the bully, the shy one, the overachiever. But you have all matured with age and working together for your aging parent is the most important goal to keep in mind.

Studies have repeatedly demonstrated that daughters default to becoming the primary family caregivers to aging parents; however, there is no reason brothers should expect their sisters will handle all of this alone. That’s an unfair expectation.

You don’t have to wait to be asked either. As an adult, you can raise your hand and offer help, especially if you see one or two siblings shouldering much of the work. Look for places where your unique talents or abilities can be applied.

Indeed, the roles each of you had as kids will resurface, despite your best intentions. These don’t always have to be negative.

Maybe the oldest is the natural leader and an organizational whiz. These skills can be of tremendous help now when attention to financial and medical detail can make a tremendous difference for your parent. Perhaps the middle brother was the aggressive one, whose modern-day tenacity is now needed to navigate insurance companies or the maze of medical information and decisions.

Maybe the youngest was the family clown who still, as an adult, cracks jokes. You most certainly will need humor in the weeks, months and maybe even years ahead.

Recognize that true equality will be as unrealistic just as it was when you were kids growing up together. One sister may live closer to your parent, another may have a more flexible job, while another may earn more and can contribute financially.

Caregiving is demanding and taking a break is often good for everyone. It is also important to frequently reassess the needs and demands on family caregivers. A caregiver who is consistently stressed or overwhelmed is at an increased risk for physical and emotional issues.

Writers on the Range: A backroad journey through time

The Car Forest in Goldfield Nevada, 30 miles south of Tonopah, Nevada.
Dennis Hinkamp/Writers on the Range

Moab on a mid-fall weeknight was full. All the motels, RV parks and tents sites had “no vacancy” notices. Every food provider from Denny’s to the organic, locally-sourced artisan places had limited hours and limited menus due to lack of staff or food shortages.

Dennis Hinkamp

On the southernmost tip of Utah, things got worse. There was no avocado toast left at the Kanab Creek Bakery. At the news, vegans and foodies looked visibly wan. The staff feigned patience. I settled for coffee that oddly came from being roasted at the extreme north end of the state, in Logan, Utah.

This felt like what travel has become these days — lots of tourists, strained services, and everywhere, Help Wanted signs. And weekdays didn’t seem mainly for retired people. We got to Chaco Canyon National Park on a Tuesday afternoon, and the campground there was sold out.

Fall used to be shoulder, or at least elbow season; kids were back in school, people commuting to work, some campgrounds closed, and some attractions boarded up. In the few all-season campgrounds, you had your pick of sites. The pandemic problematic abnormal has changed that, and now there are rearrangements of everything everywhere.

Tanja, who spells it that way, let us in the Circleville, Utah, RV Park and Kountry Store for free. “It’s my campground and I can do what I want,” she said before making her rounds on her ATV.

The Cottonwood RV Park in Bluff, Utah, was not free and ready to close for the season. It’s near the Navaho Nation and many people were wearing masks. Nancy, the manager, tells us from a safe distance that she personally knew 40 people who died of COVID-19 in the in the last two years. She also gave us directions to the semi-secret petroglyph panels in Bears Ears National Monument; the same panels that the Friends of Cedar Mesa group would not mention.

Other things seemed normal. By the sounds of the accents on the sidewalks complaining about Utah coffee and liquor laws, European, Asian and Florida tourists appear to be back. Canadians were also back in their massive RVs, taking all our prime campsites and feasting on the cheap American electrical hook-ups at the RV resorts.

A lot of people bought a lot of decked-out adventure vans and pricey travel trailers during the pandemic, probably so they could have their own bathrooms. Whether they will be a passing pandemic fancy remains to be seen, but more people were taking to the back roads.

Travelers through the rural West could still find quirky or sacred things of more recent history than petroglyphs. I wanted us to visit the former mining town of Tonopah, Nevada, not least because it was the terminus of the country song “Willin’” — “Tucson to Tucumcari, Tehachapi to Tonopah” is one of its memorable lines.

Wandering among headstones, we realized that the current pandemic’s death toll had historic echoes of loss. Unlike most cemeteries, the one in Tonopah lists not just the year but also the cause of death. Historical society volunteers told us that although the tintype epitaphs are relatively new, they were reasonably accurate, based on death certificate records and the way death was described in the early twentieth century.

Cemeteries often tell fascinating stories; this one seemed to specialize in blunt facts about sudden deaths: A father died in a mine fire. His daughter, born two months later, died after one day. I can’t imagine the grief of the widow and mother.

I don’t believe in ghosts, just the bits of untold stories that leave you wanting more information. In another graveyard epitaph, “Life became a burden” was the only explanation for a woman’s death, the wording a euphemism for suicide a century or so ago. She was 30 and had come to the remote town from France. What was she doing in Tonopah and how did life become so brutal? Only ghosts know the true tale of these lives so quickly lived, just as quickly gone.

We moved on to another small town, wanderers through the West and its ever-repeating history.

Carnes: Birds of Prey need to be prayin’

The Lake Louise men’s downhill and super-G got canceled because of warm temperatures and too much snow.

The 2021 Xfinity Birds of Prey Audi FIS Ski World Cup Downhill race (quite the mouthful) is now two downhills because of warm temperatures and too little snow.

This winter is already extremely weird.

What we need is an inside track to the outside gods responsible for determining temperatures and snow totals each season. Sure, just like all deities, the snow gods are mankind constructs incapable of anything, much less something tangible, but the superstitious act of prayer itself does indeed help a few around here sleep a little better at night.

Happy sleep makes for happy people in Happy Valley, so although prayers, Ute tribe snow dances or even putting on studded snow tires will not help our snowfall totals, it can’t hurt either.

Before the next snowflake falls (sadly at least a week or two away) racers of mainly European descent with names like Beat, Kjetil, Aleksander and Smiseth Sejersted (try to pronounce that in front of a mirror) will be propelling themselves at velocities worthy of a speeding ticket on I-70 down a giant icicle marked with five to six dozen gates.

Although it comes in short anticipatory spurts akin to pushing the refresh button on election night, the incremental excitement is hard to match as racers — especially those with green numbers up on the screen — become airborne over Harrier Jump followed by the Red Tail Jump where they immediately come into direct view of a few thousand screaming and waving cowbells.

And it’s worth seeing live every single time.

I anticipate the crowd to be filled with the usual gangs of shirtless goofballs (regardless of the temperatures) with spray painted letters on their chests, hopefully standing in proper horizontal order to correctly spell words for TV cameras and the throngs of giant waving international flags of pride that helps us stupid Americans understand the superficial differences between Liechtenstein and Slovakia.

Canceled in 2001, 2016 and 2020 for multiple reasons (politics, lack of snow, more politics), we should thank our collective lucky stars that we can have fans in the stands and, although we can’t ski to the race course this year, at least the proverbial powers that be finally decided to open part of the mountain.

A small part, sure, but to paraphrase the late Donald Rumsfeld, you ski on the snow you have, not the snow you wish you had.

I don’t know of any other multiday sporting events that can simply add an extra day up front with barely a few days’ notice, and although it does make the pre-printed programs a tad less relevant, a round of applause for the Vail Valley Foundation and all of the workers and over 500 volunteers who were just asked, “Um, hey, would you mind doing it all for one extra day … please?”

After watching Michaela Shiffrin – the Kween of Killington — kicking some booty last weekend and in anticipation of the Olympics in barely two months, this week’s four races should be more than enough to hopefully sway the snow gods our direction soon.

But if not, well, there’s always Saturday’s “Beers of Prey” after the race, where we can all pray and commiserate together.

It can’t hurt.