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Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Peggy McCracken

Squarely Pegged

By Peggy McCracken

River runs dry
south of the lake

Flooding didn’t make much more than a ripple on the Pecos River as it crosses under the I-20 bridge between Pecos and Barstow. Rancid pools trapped by rocks and debris in the riverbed are all that remain of a once-healthy flow of water.

Back before irrigated farming siphoned off most of the river flow, the mighty Pecos flowed bank full from its headwaters above Pecos, New Mexico, to its intersection with the Rio Grande.

Some water flowed down the salt-cedar choked stream until recent years. Now it’s just dead. Cecil Lee told me that new valves in the Red Bluff Dam account for the current dry conditions.

Before the steel valves were installed, water could not be contained in the lake 40 miles north of Pecos, and there was a constant flow, even with the gates closed. Not so now. It is depressing to slip under the bridge and see tires, clothes, beer bottles and other junk where water should be.

I used to see kids carrying a string of fish they caught in the river, but I’ll bet there hasn’t been a fish under that bridge in years.

It is still a popular hangout, though, judging by the graffiti on every concrete or steel surface. Boys and girls are still declaring their love by painting initials or their full names for all to see. Artists leave their mark with colorful murals.

New Mexico still is not allowing enough water to pass across the border into Texas to supply irrigation for farms along the river’s banks, despite years of courtroom battles and a Supreme Court decision that mandates adequate flows.

“High and Dry,” a book by G. Emlen Hall about the Texas-New Mexico struggle for the Pecos River, pretty much describes the situation. While he dwells primarily on the lawsuit, Texas v. New Mexico, Hall does include some personal profiles of farmers along the river. In New Mexico. Eric Biderman, 28, is a college-educated farmer who bought 15 acres in the ancient San Miguel del Bado grant in the upper reaches of the Pecos River.

Biderman learned about raising crops with small amounts of water while working on a kibbutz in Israel. Now he hopes to make his “Fat Duck Farm” blossom with produce, though he has little idea where to sell it.

Pecos River water is cool and clear that far north, free of the salt and debris we are used to in Texas. It must seem like heaven to be able to divert all you want of it onto fertile soil.

“Irrigated agriculture has been a way of life up here for more than two centuries,” Biderman said. “It dropped off a lot after the Second World War when the local subsistence economies collapsed. But things are coming back. Hope springs eternal and there’s a new generation of idealists every ten years or so.”

Texas has some of those idealists, but hope is not springing too eternal along the Pecos right now, despite this promise:

“Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.” Isaiah 35:6b, NIV

EDITOR’S NOTE: Peggy McCracken is Enterprise business manager and webmaster. Contact her at


By Smokey Briggs

Fixing a mistake and a few
more words on education in Pecos

Our policy at the Enterprise is to correct mistakes in a similar fashion and placement as the mistake originally appeared. I am changing that policy slightly in this instance so that it is clear who made the mistake - me.

Last week’s Our View concerned the suggestion to the school board that the Enhanced Program be ended.

Generally I write Our View. I wrote the one in question.

In doing so I substituted Gifted and Talented Program for the Enhanced Program. That was the literal mistake. Here I am correcting it.

But, there is a little more to the story.

The following day I got a call from Robert Garrett, the principal at Pecos Kindergarten where my oldest daughter is enrolled.

He pointed out my mistake.

He also took credit for the proposed move to axe the Enhanced Program.

Now, that surprised me. In the past school year Mr. Garrett and his teaching staff at Pecos Kindergarten have earned a fair amount of respect in my eyes.

For him to advocate the chopping block for what sounds like a program that enhances the academic experience for the fast learners in grades K-6 seemed odd.

After explaining to me that the Enhanced Program was a locally created program and that the Gifted and Talented Program was state mandated he told me that it was his view that the Enhanced Program had outlived its usefulness.

In the interest of time and space I am going to paraphrase what he said. Hopefully I have not twisted his thoughts.

Mr. Garrett explained to me that the defining difference between the Enhanced Program and any other classroom is instructional method rather than curriculum. The Enhanced Program was conceived when the status quo for an elementary classroom was for the teacher to teach the entire class at the same time.

I remember those days very well. I remember being bored to tears as we went over the same things we went over the day before, and the day before that as we waited for the stragglers to catch up.

Mr. Garrett pointed out that such a system retards the kids catching on quickly, and tends to leave the kids having the most trouble behind.

According to Mr. Garrett that has changed. At Pecos Kindergarten and in the elementary grades the usual structure is for the teacher to divide the kids up into groups of similarly situated kids so that the pace better suits the needs.

That sounds good to me.

He also pointed out that the teachers in the elementary grades were receiving copious amounts of training to enhance their abilities and that in his mind all of the teachers were capable of teaching along the lines outlined by the Enhanced Program.

Which would make the Enhanced Program redundant.

He also pointed out that rather than requesting the Program, most parents were requesting specific teachers in the lower grades.

What that said to him is that it is the teacher that makes the difference, not the Program.

Well, I cannot argue with that.

As far as I am concerned, the only fix to our educational system that makes sense is to fire the state and all state mandates and return absolute control of the classroom to individual districts and more importantly, individual teachers.

So, as to the Enhanced Program, if the reason behind killing the program is to enhance the academic experience I won’t argue against it.

If nothing else, I trust Principal Garrett and his motives.

As to the real point of last week’s Our View, however, I will hold my ground.

In the five years I have worked for the Enterprise my perception is that this school district cares a lot more about sports and new buildings than it does about academics.

School is about education and education is about teachers. Although there are exceptions, you get what you pay for. Our emphasis, every year, ought to be on paying better salaries to teachers. Our emphasis ought to be on attracting the best and keeping them once they are here.

Air conditioning, football fields, computers, coaches’ salaries, and everything else ought to take a back seat to that one thing.

A good teacher can teach math in the middle of a pasture with a stick.

All the bells and whistles in the world won’t help the kids saddled with a crummy teacher.

Neither will artificial turf.

Your View

Local citizen disappointed with Pete Gallegos

I was really disappointed to see Pete Gallegos' name on the list of speakers at the Pecos Hospital's Open House. I had looked forward to enjoying with everyone else an important event for our community. The unpleasant thought of having to listen to Pete Gallegos' talk finally convinced me that I had other things to do and I left.

The reason I find Pete Gallegos intolerable is not the fact that he is a professional politician , although with any effort at all that could justify contempt. At the last Odessa College Police Academy's graduation here in Pecos Pete Gallegos was the speaker. Remember that the graduation is the celebration of a group of men and women that had dedicated six long months attending an academy that is physically and mentally difficult. They were determined to enter the field of Law Enforcement in the service of others. Finally the day of graduation arrived and all their families and friends had gathered to share the event with them.

Then Pete Gallegos speaks. While all sat with their mouth's agape, perplexed and insulted with the words being spoken, Pete Gallegos began to denounce the integrity and lack of intelligence that, apparently to him, apply to those in Law Enforcement. I looked around to see if I was the only person wondering what he was doing. I was not. Can you imagine a speaker giving an anti-Law Enforcement speech at a Police Academy graduation ceremony? I checked on the story he made reference to and found he had taken it out of context and was speaking on that subject trying to justify a bill that he was introducing into legislature.

Either Pete Gallegos is anti-Law Enforcement or he is one stupid person. I choose to believe he is both.

Kelly Davis

Recent letter was a compare and contrast exercise

Dear Editor:

The Pecos Enterprise is read outside of its distribution market.

I have proof…really!

The Odessa American took editorial notice of a recent letter I wrote to the Enterprise commending its young helmsman, Smokey, on his journalistic impartiality. I offered the OA's lack of same as a contrasting illustration.

Mr. Kerr, the EE of the OA, is PO'd. Although Kerr denies "wanting the last word", he devoted an awful large amount of ink Sunday to take it. He was puzzled why I "didn't send a letter about the OA to the OA".

I didn't, because it wasn't. It was a "compare and contrast" exercise. The letter's purpose was to praise Briggs' objectivity in news reporting and on his opinion page. The OA is a fine paper, but it has sacred cows. The Enterprise and her editor do not.

Unless you count the Marine Corps; and I admit that I lack the sand to challenge the young jarhead on this. I'm opinionated ... not stupid. My tastes run to the IDF Armored Corps with their big clanking things that chase errant Arabs and have a 120mm main gun loud enough to shake the diaper off of Arafat's head. But I digress...

Anyway, Mr. Kerr has been sent a letter, unlikely to remain published, defining “contrast” for him and pointing out that the sun does not orbit the executive offices of the OA. Because I used his paper as an example of sacred cow journalism, it wasn't "about" his paper.

The point is; bigger isn't better and the expert doesn't always live out of town. I'm impressed with Briggs' work. Maybe Kerr can intern at the Enterprise?

I hope my pandering earned me some ink, allowing me to ask a question about litter. Who, in the name of Allah's undies, made the mess at the local pistol range? I'm a new member of our rifle and pistol club. Sunday, I went out to the range to work on a pistol and I thought I had blundered into the town landfill.

Being an astute former cop, I dug through the mess looking for evidence as to the identity(ies) of the offender(s). I found a lot of incriminating empty cartons with the local prison's address plastered on them. People with so little discipline should be forbidden to look at weapons, let alone fire them. Their firearms "instructors" tolerate a messy range? Back in "the day", if I left so much as an empty casing in my AO, I'd be doing pushups until my sergeant, who's memory still evokes a shiver, was tired. Angry as I am, I have faith that prison officials will reclaim their trash. I hope, due to dignity, rather than to hide the evidence.

I don't care if your shooting prowess won you the Silver Slurpee with the Three Donut Cluster. In the words of Sgt. Leonard Anthos, "If G-d didn't put it there, pick it up."

Dr. John C. Libbie, DPM

School needs fundings

Dear Editor:

Children's education is too important to leave to taxes raised by alcohol and tobacco consumption, and gambling. What is the message sent to children when politicians plan to pay for their education by those vices? Schools need sure, dedicated funding that cannot be siphoned off by politicians. The entire effort of state funding for education should be to finance education that will raise the standard of living for children when they become adults.

The most distasteful and un-American aspect of the Robin Hood plan is the apparent restriction prohibiting an area from excelling if they had the initiative to work harder for their children.

The governor's plan will still allow abatements or unfair low taxes for big wealthy businesses, many of which take profits out of our state. His plan will still burden homeowners and small businessmen with most of the tax bill. Stop discrimination in property taxes. A sales tax will not repeal your school property taxes, and it will either generate too much or not enough money. Big business still will not pay a fair share, and politicians will waste any excess. Resolution of the problem of school funding only requires straightforward simple arithmetic. While doing your arithmetic, remember that property taxes are federal tax deductions, but sales taxes are not deductible.

1) Repeal all of the current school property tax laws.

2) Establish a uniform statewide school property tax with no business abatements. The tax should be the exact amount necessary to equal the current median expenditures per student.

3) Distribute the funds to local school districts on a per child basis.

4) Districts may vote to have any level of additional local school taxes for local use, with no business abatements.

5) Make tuition free through two years of state junior colleges and technical schools.

6) Adjust the financial data yearly on July 1 by recalculating each base.

I We need dependable, straightforward, dedicated funding for schools collected on a moral basis with integrity. If you are interested in schools and your taxes, do not put off contacting your senator, representative, and governor. Your regrets will not matter.

Richard and Susan Swint

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