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City action draws response PDF Print E-mail
Written by Luke Goldenstein   

Dear Editor,

Moving back to Holyoke has been a great experience for my family. Of course we had many reasons for coming back to our hometown (closer to family, lifestyle, community, etc. ), and one of the things we looked forward to most was the character of the region and people within it.

We have lived our fair share of places over the past 10 years or so, and although some were quite nice, we have never real-ly found another place with similar community that we experienced growing up here in Holyoke.

People have a vested interest in one another here, success or failure, and that is something that makes small-town living unique.

That being said, it saddens us to read about the recent actions of the City of Holyoke and their dealings with Donna Lutze.

Isn’t integrity the courage to do what is right even when circumstances give us the opportunity not to? When did we start to let the integrity and character of the community be defined by lawyer’s opinions and insurance company claim denials?

Have you not put yourself in the position of Mrs. Lutze and wondered how you would handle the situation if the shoe were on the other foot? Would the outcome be the same if it were Mr. Wall’s or a council member’s vehicle that was damaged? (I hope so, but who knows???)

While I understand that the City claims sovereign immunity, the heart of the matter does not lie in whether or not the City can hide behind the law; it is in the fact that the City feels it is OK to hide behind the law when obviously at fault.

I expected more from the City of Holyoke, but maybe it is no longer the same community that I remember. Maybe it is turning into just another one of those cities I have lived in over the past 10 years.

Legally, the City is correct in their claim. By Colorado law, the loader that was being used is not a “motor vehicle,” meaning that they are immune from being responsible for damages on that count.

However, in my opinion (and of course I am not a lawyer, so it is just an opinion), the City is still responsible for the damages.

The Colorado Governmental Immunity Act outlines the principles of sovereign immunity in our state and also outlines waivers to governmental immunity on actions which lie in tort (issues in which a person’s behavior caused loss or harm to another, legal or illegal).

The act states, as I understand, that these waivers are to be broadly construed. The first waiver is the waiver for operation of a “motor vehicle,” and thanks to the definition of that term, the City is not liable. But farther down the list of “Seven Areas of Sovereign Immunity for Injuries ‘Resulting From’ Circumstances for Which the Waiver Applies” is the following: “6. Operation and maintenance of any public water, gas, sanitation, electrical, power, or swimming facility.”

Seeing that the grass dump is a City-run sanitation facility (and most cities’ websites show that the ‘sanitation department’ handles grass dumps), I think that this can be “broadly construed” to show that the City can be held liable for their actions according to The Colorado Governmental Immunity Act!


Thanks for reading,

Luke Goldenstein

Holyoke Enterprise Aug. 2, 2012