January 29, 2020 254 PM
Thank you for your comprehensive coverage of the January 18 Climate Change program in Alpine. Your coverage, both Stephen Paulsen’s pre-event story and Abbie Perrault’s post event report, are examples of the excellent journalism we in the tri-counties have come to expect from The Sentinel. While other papers refuse to step up and engage this issue, your coverage has raised public awareness and underscored the importance of each person’s need to recognize and take action for the future of planet Earth. A recording of the presentation is available. See the link at npsot.org/bigbend.
Dallas Baxter, President, Big Bend Chapter, Native Plant Society of Texas
A letter addressed to Richard Anderson, President and Co-Chief Executive Officer of AMTRAK
This letter is on the subject of my recommendation to you for AMTRAK to move the Sanderson, TX station stop for your “Sunset Limited” train to Marfa, TX. I first wrote to you on this subject on November 23, 2017. You referred this recommendation to Mr. Bob Dorsch, your vice president, Long Distance Service Line. He first responded the next January that this recommendation would become part of a “next two to five years” capital project study. My reply on January 16, 2018 expressed my concern that this recommendation was only single station relocation. The current Sanderson station was not ADA compliant, has low usage and now has no support facilities. The station building was torn down in 2012. Marfa is willing to meet AMTRAK requirements. Mr. Dorsch responded that his fleet and network planning would “wrap up this summer…we can turn our attention to more localized proposals such as yours,” in a January 29, 2018 letter.
As of the date of this writing, nothing has changed concerning the movement of the Sanderson, TX station stop to Marfa, TX. Nor has there been any statement from AMTRAK concerning the situation. This is the reason I am writing directly to you, so as to better understand and then respond to the apparent decision not to make any change. I again offer to you the following situations for your staff to consider:
1) Reason for AMTRAK stopping at Sanderson, TX – Sanderson, TX was originally made an AMTRAK crew change point in 1971 when Southern Pacific Railroad also had a crew change point at Sanderson. I was division superintendent of this section of Southern Pacific at that time. Several years later, the new operator, Union Pacific, moved their freight crew change point to Alpine, TX. AMTRAK later also moved your crew change point to Alpine. However, the “Sunset Limited” still stops in Sanderson.
2) Lowest station loadings in Texas is Sanderson – In FY2017, Sanderson, TX had 193 loadings, the lowest in Texas, and possibly the lowest in the whole AMTRAK system. The second lowest was Del Rio, TX (120 miles to the east) at 1,764. All other loadings in Texas are over 3,000. The station stop time at Sanderson is “under 30 seconds” according to the AMTRAK conductor during my last train ride through Sanderson. “You can get off the train for a smoke at our next stop, Alpine.”
3) Marfa, TX has much greater loading potential than Sanderson, TX – Marfa, TX is a vibrant community with an international reputation for contemporary art. With a population of 1,772 (2017) it is over twice the size of Sanderson. Of more importance, Marfa has many tourist visitors who have options of staying in a new four story Hotel Saint George or the historic Paisano Hotel, where the “Giant” film actors stayed when filming that movie. Each of these hotels is within walking distance of the proposed stop location for the “Sunset Limited.” Sanderson does not have any hotels within walking distance of the AMTRAK station. The only economy for Sanderson, once the railroad crews moved to Alpine, is a Border Patrol District Headquarters. At Marfa, the Border Patrol has a Regional Headquarters. The economy is built around local ranching and its contemporary art mecca status. By indications of loadings, Sanderson has no reason to attract riders. Marfa is a very popular destination for tourists, as indicated by the number of quality hotels.
Because of the above information, and the previous correspondence sent to your staff (that included a number of photographs), I am concerned that it appears my recommendation has been ignored. So that I can better respond to your rationale for not acting IN ANY WAY on my recommendation, please supply to me the reasoning why your staff has not analyzed this issue. Then I will be able to counter any apparent concerns of your staff in resisting moving the Sanderson, TX station stop to Marfa. Your leadership is necessary to overcome the reluctance of AMTRAK to making the change.
Bruce M. Flohr
I read about the possible transmigration issue that may be coming soon to the Big Bend area. Excuse me if I am a little “confused,” since I have not heard of this before now. But, last I knew, this is the United States AND the state of Texas. We don’t have to let anybody or anything come into our home that we don’t want to.
Call me selfish, but I don’t see letting anyone come here unless there is a definite benefit to US. If there is such a benefit, please enlighten me so I can understand better.
In response to the article “The Battle to Save the Soul of Marfa” in the February issue of Texas Monthly:
As the article mentions, I came to Marfa in 1997, trying to outrun my devastating diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.
To outsiders, Marfa may seem an improbable retreat, yet it worked well for my needs. Marfa was spellbinding. With the mercurial sky and the arresting views, there was plenty to love about the town.
The town, and the many outstanding people who lived there, are among my most endearing and enduring memories. Planning and opening the The Marfa Book Co. and co-creating the then Goode-Crowley Theater, along with the programs I initiated outside of these entities, are part of my spirit and my very personhood.
While I have gone on to live a full and meaningful life beyond Marfa, no one can erase my memories of the eleven years I lived there. The invaluable friendships, along with the sheer joy of interacting with both locals and visitors, remain indelibly in my heart and within the pages of the memoir I’m in the process of writing.
Writing of these rich experiences will be but one more of the many stories written about Marfa (and of my experience while living there). Yet, I’m writing my own story.
In truth, Marfa did work for me.
In the end, It was the marriage that didn’t work.
RE: January 16, 2020 edition: “Some landowners diversify as Texas working land declines.”
In Abbie Perrault’s otherwise terrific article regarding the diversity of working lands declining, she refers to agricultural and wildlife “exemptions.” In the article, a couple of others quoted also make the same mistake.
In Texas, the ag/wildlife/timber valuation is not a property tax “exemption.” In reality, it is a special valuation, constitutionally afforded to the owners of open space, regardless whether they farm, manage for livestock, wildlife or timber. (Our Texas Tax Code gives “exemptions” to churches and charitable organizations, for example. But, the ag/wildlife/timber valuation is referred to as just that: a valuation.)
Furthermore, all of us citizens using this tax valuation pay exactly the same taxes on our homes, garages, barns, wells and other improvements, as do the citizens who don’t have rural acreage. It’s only the wide, open spaces that receive the special valuation.
Those open spaces receive this valuation because they require no services. Those cows don’t go to school, and the trees, crops, and songbirds don’t require “medivac” helicopters or the “jaws of life” after Saturday night traffic accidents or barroom shoot-outs.
Moreover, as noted in the article, lands receiving such valuations provide the societal benefits of open space, more plentiful and cleaner aquifer infiltration, oxygen, wildlife habitat, cleaner runoff into our creeks/streams/rivers, food, fiber, shelter, carbon sequestration, streambank stabilization, springs protection, scenic views, aesthetics and recreation –– in addition to not requiring any services.
Farmers, ranchers, and other rural Texans who receive this special valuation are cost-efficient, and certainly not exempt from taxes. As a matter of fact, as proven by the American Farmland Trust’s “Costs of Community Services” studies all around the United States, it’s the people in the sprawling subdivisions who require more services than their tax dollars pay for.
David K. Langford
Thank you Marfa Big Bend Sentinel for stories on Alpine’s Women’s March, (with information of the event including quotes from those opposed to it), Alpine’s Climatology Symposium, and for the more complete description of the arrest of Michael Barends as a local Border Patrol agent who was accused of assaulting a child repeatedly from age 12 up.
I would hope, Alpine Avalanche, that you would do as good a job at informing residents about important events that happen in town, but neither the Women’s March, nor the Climate Symposium were mentioned. In addition, the fact that Michael Barends was a Border Patrol agent was not mentioned, while on the opposite page an article emphasized the Border Patrol’s prowess in keeping out dangerous criminals by arresting an immigrant who was accused of having had sex with an underage prostitute. Our wonderful democracy requires an educated public. We rely on news sources to tell us the whole story, from which we can make decisions, and not to edit out information that is to the publisher’s disliking. I believe that dishonesty is not only when one tells a lie, but when one does not tell that which others should know.
Our Constitution teeters on the brink. Republicans dance in contradiction between a sworn oath and protecting a divisive, authoritarian president.*
Contradiction: Team Trump sings Fox tuned-in disinformation. Blessed that 71% of Americans know it’s not a fair trial, jurors in on the fix.
Contradiction: Won’t allow witnesses, yet pander “No new evidence.” My (retired) prosecutor’s cases never involved proof confined to the grand jury. Information develops when interviewing witnesses.
Contradiction: Defense ignores overwhelming evidence, 16,000+ (un)presidential lies and criminal associates convicted and/or awaiting sentencing. Trump’s the “Corruption fighter”? Please, don’t insult our intelligence!
Contradiction: Trump on tape “Take her (our Ukrainian Ambassador) out.” Common sense informs it wasn’t about a romantic date!
Contradiction: Colonists rebelled against British arbitrary authoritarian despotism. However, homegrown despots treat us worse than the English. It’s dysfunctional condoning abuse and protecting abusers!
Contradiction: Fireworks, military parades and patriotic speeches celebrate July 4th, too many Americans unfamiliar with the Constitution’s due process principles. Conservative politicians claim to want “Strict constructionist judges follow the original intent of the Founding Fathers.” Impeachment proceedings demonstrate otherwise. Fair comment recommends taking a fireworks rocket ride.
GOP “patriots” had their true grit moment and punted! History will record the number among 53 Senators’ unimaginable stroll down Contradiction Highway with “45.”
*“When the foundation is unstable, the entire structure collapses.” – Sai Baba
Rev. Barry Abraham Zavah