DOWN -- Politicians continue to debate who is to blame for the government shutdown as the impacts on real people begin to bubble to the surface. Despite the abysmal lack of cooperation and communication on Capitol Hill, which has closed national parks and monuments nationwide, the Four Corners Monument still was open this week providing tourists, some of whom had planned their vacations years in advance, an opportunity to experience the beauty of this region. That's because it's operated by the Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation Department. Thanks to the Nation for ensuring some tourists -- particularly those arriving here from other countries -- did not go home with only memories of barred entryways and closure signs.
UP -- The Shiprock Chapter was ahead of the curve when it comes to dealing with the Navajo Nation's (and the region's) feral horse problem. Navajo Nation officials this week announced they were ending the horse roundups and reversing their public support for horse slaughter. This, apparently, followed talks with New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. Weeks ago, the Shiprock Chapter announced it was going its own way. Its members rejected roundups employing all-terrain-vehicles that terrify the horses and they rejected sending the captured horses to slaughter. But they didn't elect to ignore the problem. They are looking at gentler capture methods and the possibility of displaying the horses' skills to ranchers who often pay top dollar for quality horses. We said it before, we don't know whether the plan will work, but we support the chapter's efforts to find more humane approaches.
DOWN -- Unfortunately we'll be revisiting this story in the coming months. A shootout on Hopi Street involving at least three armed people left only one person dead, 40-year-old Christopher Valdez, who reportedly ran toward the incident intending to help. The two men who started the deadly incident pleaded "not guilty" this week to murder, attempted murder, consiracy to commit murder and other charges. But prosecutors say they will have to drop the murder charge if there is not enough evidence to prove one of the two fired the fatal shot. It's possible the man they were shooting at killed Valdez when shot back in self defense. In some states, people who start a confrontation that turns deadly can be charged with homicide whether a member of that group directly caused the death or not. That's not the law in New Mexico. We think that law should be reexamined.
DOWN -- Tweeti and Linn Blancett have been fighting a battle over industrial pollution for more than a decade. They say leaks from gasoline storage tanks at a nearby filling station have poisoned the ground under their property, which is where they operate the Step Back Inn in Aztec. The contamination apparently started in 1992 when the site was owned by the Dial Oil Company. It was purchased by Western Refining in 2007. The state stepped in, but only did a partial cleanup. Western Refining officials met with the Blancetts to discuss a settlement. One of their conditions, according to an email provided by Tweeti Blancett to The Daily Times, was that the couple would not speak publicly about the case. That kind of behavior always makes us suspicious. Western Refining wouldn't comment for our story because of pending legal actions. We understand Western Refining inherited this problem, but that doesn't make it any less their responsibility. We hope the company does the right thing.
UP -- We are happy to see a Microtel Inn & Suites opening in Aztec. The hotel is positioned to take advantage of traffic coming up from Albuquerque and down from Durango. Some of the first guests at the hotel might have been attending the Aztec Highland Games and Celtic Music Festival or the Northern Navajo Nation Fair. The hotel offers easy access to historic downtown Aztec and to the Aztec Ruins National Monument. Hotel guests also are expected to find some of the fine restaurants in the area and make use of other services. We are hopeful the potential boost to a depressed regional economy will be part of a soon-to-come revival.