June 06: Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor,

Considerations on Representative Government

Neither you nor I need the brilliance of John Stuart Mill shown in his 1861 essay by the above title to grasp at least the crude notion of what he, you and I believe to be the best form of government possible. We prefer it to the one-man rule of a monarch or the direct rule by the people, plebiscitary democracy –– radical rule directly by the people. Representative government is what we were given by the Framers in the Constitution of the U.S. and the Home Rule Charter of the City of Alpine.

The idea is that we elect individuals to REPRESENT us, to speak for us in government, to represent our views and preferences on matters of legislation and public policy. Certainly we have reason to hope that they will perform as more than just transmitters of what surveys might show to be the preference of their constituents, providing some leavening judgment to what can be temporary “mob rule” outbursts from a part of the public.

I watched (via Zoom) the disastrous city council meeting of May 18 at which the council terminated the very effective city manager and city secretary, intending the same for the city attorney, who resigned in the face of dismissals without any discussion or provision of reasons.

When I called my Ward 5 representative on the council, Jerry Johnson (for whom I had voted because of his prior experience with the city), to ask why he made no effort to stop this lunacy and demand reasons, he claimed to not be at liberty to discuss it. I was only asking about what was and wasn’t done in the public meeting, not executive session. His final response to me as a constituent was “no comment.” Intolerable!

Clearly a majority of the council had plotted prior to this meeting to take this unwarranted action ahead of the meeting in order to execute this slam-bang-1-2-3 set of firings with no public discussion nor provision of reasons for the terminations. The Texas Open Meetings Act is intended to prevent or punish such secret machinations.

Johnson’s refusal to respond to my questions –– and a similar stance being taken by other council members –– is a gross rejection of the whole idea of representative government. I hope the community finds such behavior totally unacceptable and demands a public explanation.

Athens had, for a short time, Thirty Tyrants. We appear to have four or five of our own.

Dale Christophersen


Dear Editor,

Thanks to The Big Bend Sentinel for its recent article on the Blackwell School coloring book project. This has truly been a team effort, and I want to sing the praises of our volunteer team: Mike Wallens, who serves on our board and is the instigator and champion of our education projects; Carolyn Pfeiffer, who has long worked to tell the stories of the Blackwell School to a wider audience and worked closely with writer Febi Brimhall and artist Aubrie Aguilar to produce a powerful book; Jim Fissel, who lent his professional eye (and heart) to designing our coloring book and accompanying materials; and all the teachers and friends who provided input along the way. This is just the beginning as we look forward to teacher workshops to share the coloring book and lesson-plan with local educators. And as always, so much love to our former Blackwell students who fought to keep this history alive. Your stories matter.

Gretel Enck

President, The Blackwell School Alliance


Dear Editor,

City Council and Parks and Rec Board:

Please, please, please can we please have a functional pool in Marfa?

How about some hooks on the walls so that people don’t have to leave piles of wet towels on the tables there? How about some cubbies for people to put their belongings in instead of on the wet floor or lockers?

There is so little for kids to do in the town, having a functioning pool should be a priority.

We live in the desert, there is a pool here, let’s get it working for most of the year!

Why is it not? I don’t get it. I’ve been asking for 10 years. Most cities have a year-round pool.

Imagine what that would do for the community of Marfa?! Year-round swimming, exercising for kids, teens, seniors, all ages! Swim lessons, aerobics, swim team!

If the city can landscape the USO building and Parks and Rec can get a sign made for the dog park and water fountains for the dogs, it seems like it should be a priority to get the pool happening.

And for hiring lifeguards, pay a real hourly wage — $15/hour.

Thank you,

Meghan Gerety


Dear Editor,

Before it was Buck and Camp’s Wrong store, 110 North Highland Avenue in downtown Marfa was the headquarters for The Big Bend Sentinel newspaper and our family publishing business for 30 years.

Our building, constructed in 1914, still stands today thanks to the heroic effort last week of the Marfa Volunteer Fire Department, with assistance from the Fort Davis Fire Department, when a devastating fire consumed the Judd Foundation Architecture Building, our next-door neighbor.

The fire departments specifically dedicated firefighters and resources to make sure the blaze didn’t spread to our 107-year-old building.

You never know when you may need our area volunteer firefighters, as last week’s conflagration showed. It is so very important to keep these departments in top shape with the latest firefighting equipment and training.

Please consider a donation to our dedicated volunteers:

The Marfa Volunteer Fire Department

PO Box 846

Marfa, TX 79843

and the

Fort Davis Fire Department

PO Box 811

Fort Davis, TX 79734

Thank you, Marfa and Fort Davis firefighters, for your amazing and professional work, you saved our building and a piece of Marfa’s architectural history.

We are so thankful that no one was hurt, and we hope that the Judd Foundation structure can be rebuilt.

Thank you again, volunteer firefighters.

Robert and Rosario Halpern


Dear Editor,

Thank you to the Marfa Volunteer Fire Department. Y’all are Marfa jewels, and we are forever grateful and thankful.

Buck Johnston

Camp Bosworth

To all our friends and neighbors,

This has been a hard week for all of us. So much effort over the last two years has been spent towards the restoration of the building that was Don’s Architecture Office –– not just our efforts at Judd Foundation, but those of many of you in the community who helped with the painstaking work of bringing this historic building back to life. To see the project burn was heartbreaking, especially since we were just weeks from completion.

In the last few days, hearing from so many of you has reminded us of the generosity and kindness only a town like Marfa can give. Thank you.

We owe immense gratitude to all of the members of the Marfa Volunteer Fire Department and PJ Serrano; our building would not be standing without their efforts. We are thankful there were no injuries. We are grateful to the first responders from the Marfa Police Department and all of those on the ground throughout the day and night. Thank you to our neighbors in the surrounding buildings — we appreciate your kind patience and understanding. And thank you to our community for their steadfast support throughout this process: Mayor Baeza and the City of Marfa, TxDOT, AEP Marfa, The Chinati Foundation, J&J Steel Company, Tallent Roofing, The Sentinel, Stellina, El Cosmico, Hotel Paisano and Jett’s Grill, The Water Stop, Yoseff Ben-Yehuda, Joe Cashiola and Mac White.

Thank you to Kyle Melgaard, Creighton Weidner, Jimmy Maggliozi, Paul Ritacco, Luci Bockelie, Matt Scobey, James Rosinbaum, Lester King, Faith Melgaard, Chelsea Millikan and the whole team at Method Building Company, who feel this loss closely with us. Thank you to SCHAUM/SHIEH, our partners throughout the restoration, you have helped us realize Don’s work most fully: Troy Schaum, Rosalyne Shieh, Ian Searcy, Tucker Douglas, Ane Gonzalez Lara, Tsvetelina Zdraveva, Ryan Botts, Anneli Rice, Andrea Brennan, Zhiyi Chen and Ekin Erar. And thank you to all our collaborators in this work: Sotirios Kotoulas, Kostas Kotoulas and Antonio Guerreiro of Alpha Masonry; Jon Antonides of High Desert Woodworks; Juan Martinez and Jose Martinez of RC Concepts; Ken Caldwell of Caldwell Electrical Contractors; Pat Arnett of Silman Structural Engineers; Nathaniel Smith and James Parker of Simpson, Gumpertz, & Heger; and so many other friends and supporters who have been integral to this building. And as always, we are grateful every day for our Judd Foundation Board, Staff and Guides.

This is just one part of the building’s history. What the fire took we can rebuild. And we will rebuild it — from the floorboards to the bannisters to the door handles.

We are proud to be from Marfa, and we look forward to serving this community as best we can.

Rainer Judd and Flavin Judd and all of us at Judd Foundation

Dear Editor,

We would like to convey our utmost respect and gratitude to the brave men and women of the Marfa and Fort Davis Volunteer Fire Departments who fought and contained the fire at the Judd Architecture Office in the early morning hours last Friday. Method Building Company’s very own project manager is on the Marfa VFD and bravely fought a fire that ravaged the building that he along with the Method crew put their heart and soul into for the past year.

We are deeply saddened by this tragedy and are working closely with fire department officials and the Judd Foundation to determine the path forward. We continue extensive efforts to shore up the building and keep the area around it safe for the public.

We have been humbled by the outpouring of support received over the last days from this community. Thanks to each of you who have contacted us with kind words and encouragement, hugged our necks and provided nourishment in this difficult time.

We are committed to this community and project, and will move forward with resolve to face the challenges ahead for this restoration.

With gratitude,

Kyle Melgaard

Method Building Company


Dear Editor,

Republicans and Democrats in Congress refuse to work together to solve our immigration crisis. Unforgivable.

The requirements are straightforward –– enact a legitimate guest-worker program that includes background checks and photo IDs, more agents at the ports of entry, security barriers in strategic high-traffic areas and utilization of the latest surveillance technology to detect crossings all along the border. Reformed asylum laws, a comprehensive Central American immigration policy and the passing of the Dreamers Act complete the plan.

Unfortunately, serving in Congress has become a career instead of a path of public service. Until we have term limits and get the big money out of politics, the primary goal of congressional members will continue to focus on getting re-elected, not solving tough social and economic issues.

David Marwitz


Dear Editor,

The Rotary Club of Marfa would like to say thank you to everyone in our community who helped support our golf tournament last Sunday. Your support makes it possible for us to provide college and leadership camp scholarships to our high school students and to serve our community in every way that we can.

In particular we want to thank our sponsors: Marfa National Bank, Livingston Insurance Agency, Big Bend Coffee Roasters, Marfa Realty, The Sentinel Marfa, Skiles Properties LLC, Aster Marfa, Surber Ade, The Hotel Paisano, Livingston Ranch Supplies, Marfa Country Clinic, Boquillas and Beyond Mexico Missions, Cactus Liquors, Mayor Manny Baeza, Silla, Fowlkes Cattle Co., Action Heating & Cooling, Frontier Refrigeration, Lilliana Fields Architect,  El Muerto Springs Ranch, 6 Whiskey, Marfa Burrito, Eddie Pallarez, Marfa Chamber of Commerce, West Texas Pest Control, Verena Zbinden, H.E. & Christina Mendez, The Wrong Hole, Triangle Quarter Horses, Frances & Eugenia Wright, The Austinite Guest House, Carmen’s Boutique Hotel, Ranch Candy and Planet Marfa.

Thank you also to the folks who donated prizes for our raffle: Livingston Insurance, Celebration Liquor, International Women’s Foundation, Lajitas Golf Course, Joe Williams for the Cloudcroft Lodge golf package, Dan and Virginia Platt, Marfa Realty, Big Bend Coffee Roasters, Marjo Skiles, Genevieve Bassham, Moonlight Gemstones, The Sentinel Marfa, Pronghorn Marfa, The Get Go, Mira Marfa and Dairy Queen. Last but certainly not least, all the golfers who entered the tournament, purchased lots of raffle tickets and came out to play a little golf and have a lot of fun.

Marjo Skiles, President

The Rotary Club of Marfa