February 16 Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor:

I just read the article in Texas Monthly about the horrific way David Keller was fired from Sul Ross State University in Alpine without explanation and was watched by campus police, like a common criminal, as he recovered his personal belongings. Certainly, Mr. Keller at the very least deserves a justifiable explanation, if not full re-installation as the valued professional he has been all these years at the Center for Big Bend Studies (CBBS). And, most certainly, his level of professionalism deserves more respect and dignity than the abrupt manner of his firing.

David Keller and I have been involved in several projects together over the years, involving the Center for Big Bend Studies. To me, Keller was, as well as to many others, “THE FACE OF THE CENTER FOR BIG BEND STUDIES” for years. Our relationship goes back at least 10 years, when then director of CBBS, Andy Cloud, assigned him to me for a donation of a short story I had written, “Chinati Mountain Moonshine.” I was like a gift from heaven for David, as that short story named all the central figures whom he had been trying to locate for years, and I was still in touch with the descendants of Jose Prieto, the central figure to the history of Pinto Canyon. Our interaction led to his being able to finish his acclaimed award-winning book, In the Shadow of the Chinatis: A History of Pinto Canyon. Since then, several other projects come to mind; one in which I was with Oscar Rodriguez when he met David Keller in Presidio and handed over to him a trunk full of the records of the irrigation association of El Mulato going back to colonial times.  

A deceased cousin, Elisa Lujan Perez, affectionately known to us as La Prima Elisa, who conducted extensive genealogical research in La Junta (Presidio/Ojinaga/Marfa/Redford/Ruidosa and Shafter), left 10 boxes of archives of her research to the CBBS. Those boxes are in L.A., and we invited David Keller to help us index those archives before we hand them over to Sul Ross and the CBBS; among the contents of those boxes are a database containing over 20,000 names of persons born in La Junta from the late 1700s to the 1950s. The indexing will take place in the summer of 2023. Drs. Andy Cloud, Bob Malouf and archeologist J. Charles Kelly all knew La Prima Elisa well. She always told us what a great resource the CBBS was.

In closing, not having David Keller as a staff member of the CBBS will highly impact our groups’ further relationship with the CBBS and Sul Ross State University. It is hoped that his case will be reopened, and that Mr. Keller be returned to his post with the respect and dignity he deserves. To my understanding, the CBBS is devoid of staff, and seems to be adrift, awash in a sea of personnel problems. It is the job of the Powers That Be to get it back on track to fulfill its valuable mission. The credibility and funding sources for the Center for Big Bend Studies are at stake.

Respectfully submitted,

Jerry Lujan

Albuquerque, New Mexico


Dear Editor,

Thank you for a well researched and thoughtful piece on regulating STRs in Marfa in last week’s Big Bend Sentinel

In order to figure out a fair approach, we really need to start looking at the difference between homesteads, second homes and properties that were purchased for the sole reason of turning them into STRs. Not all STRs are the enemy of affordable housing. High property taxes are too, for example. Regulating STRs is a complex and interconnected issue.

What I do take issue with aren’t so much the proposed regulations, it is Marfa’s aggressive new permit fee structure, charging $500 per permit, plus $100 per unit. That amount is almost double than Alpine’s ($350 permit, without a per unit fee), and three times more than Fredericksburg’s ($150 permit, plus a $100 per bedroom fee). Why are we being penalized with such high fees here? What is even more infuriating is that the city decided (over our heads), to include a $175 membership to the Texas Hotelier and Lodging Association THLA in each of the $500 STR permit fees. Am I the only one that finds this incredibly overreaching? I have no use for this “membership.” How about letting me pay a permit fee of $325 and make the membership my decision?

Let’s also remember the steep hike in garbage rates for all STRs that snuck up on STR owners/operators. Please show me that I produce more garbage than my neighbors and I will happily pay the extra fees.

In closing, I can get behind fair and well-thought out STR regulations, including the Health & Safety Self-Inspection Report for my Airbnb spaces. In turn, I would like to see a more balanced and welcoming approach from the City of Marfa, and our Chamber of Commerce. And speaking of health and safety –– how about you finally repair the broken fire hydrant closest to my home, City of Marfa? The one that I have repeatedly asked you about for well over a year now. 

Thank you!

Nina Dietzel

Photographer, Dog Rescuer and STR owner