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Letters to the Editor

From the week of May 3, 2001

Heavy Traffic

Road to nowhere:T.R. Witcher's "Collision Course," in the April 19 issue, confirms what I have thought for a long time: Motorists are a greater threat to public safety than are murderers. Last year, car accidents claimed a total of 84 lives. Motorists killed 37 pedestrians. By contrast, there were only 34 homicides in Denver.

So what do Colorado's right-wing politicians do about the carnage on the roads? They increase spending on roads and highways in order to generate even more traffic. At the same time, Colorado is among only five states that refuse to spend any money on public transit.

While their main priority seems to be promoting the use of cars and trucks, in their spare time the highwaymen in the Colorado Legislature do everything possible to maximize the number of people in jail, thereby putting this state in the lead in growth of the prison population.

Mark Itkonen
Littleton

There auto be a law:Thanks for a story about stupid people who don't know how to drive and don't know how to watch carefully before crossing the street, among other things.

And how much you want to bet that Bronco had no car insurance?

Nick Werle
Colorado Springs

Concrete dreams:This letter is in response to some readers in the April 19 Letters section complaining about light rail and "enviros" wanting to take away their cars. One does not need to be an environmentalist to see the folly inherent in our car-focused transportation system. In fact, fiscal conservatives should be appalled at the tax dollars squandered on automobile travel, not to mention the impact of car travel on human health and welfare.

There are a few key facts (source: Natural Capitalismand references therein) about automobile travel that these "caros" might consider. 1) Road maintenance alone costs U.S. taxpayers $200 million every single day, a figure that does not include costs of new road construction. Talk about a corporate subsidy: GM and Exxon do not pay for roads even though their businesses depend on us building them. 2) 250 million Americans have been killed or maimed as a result of automobile accidents over the last century. More people have died in car crashes than in all the wars our country has ever fought. T.R. Witcher's terrific article on local automotive tragedies in the same issue was a stark reminder of this toll. And you can imagine the tremendous cost to society of the hospital bills that result from these deaths and injuries. 3) Our reliance on automobiles has made us increasingly dependent on foreign oil, to the tune of $60 billion a year. This dependency compelled us to fight the Gulf War and forces us to pay big bucks for overseas military activity. 4) The average American driver spends 100 to 200 more hours in his car than just ten years ago. This is time not spent with family, among other things.

These are just a few of the many reasons we ought to be rethinking our transportation system here in Colorado and around the country. The Union Station plan may be a mess, and I am all in favor of cheap and effective solutions, but our transportation problems are very real and affect everyone whether we admit it or not. Any investment we might make in public transportation pales in comparison to the ridiculous sums we squander in money and lives for our cars and roads. So wake up and smell the asphalt: Let's do something before this place turns into Los Angeles.

Scott T. Kelley
Arvada


The White Stuff

Happy trailers to you:How come a self-respecting "liberal" publication, which would see red to no end if someone used the N-word or some other sort of racial epithet, has no problem labeling an entire trailer-park community "trailer trash" in T.R. Witcher's April 26 "Mobile Savages"? Would black people in the inner city therefore be "ghetto trash"?

Sorry, but I've become a little uncomfortable with all of the recent "white trash"-bashing that seems to (still) be in vogue these days. Please do everyone a favor and don't give in to the unhealthy American tendency to find a national scapegoat in the form of trailer-park residents -- not everyone in this country is given anything close to a level playing field, and the need to use words like "trailer trash" is indicative of some psychological issues that don't need to be addressed here (dust off Fromm's Escape From Freedom if you get the chance). At the end of the day, I don't think anyone grows up wanting to live in a trailer park, and using words like this displays a crass class prejudice that gives fuel (and rightly so) to those who disdain the paint-by-numbers liberalism that many feel your magazine represents. (At least Michael Roberts hasn't shown us all how "hip" he is by making self-deprecating comments about his own European ancestry lately -- but then again, it's always been obvious that Michael has some "issues.")

I write this because I feel like I used to engage in the typical routine of watching Jerry Springer with a detached sense of superiority: I grew up in a neighborhood somewhere between working-class and lower-middle to straight-up middle class. The "hessians" proved to be a good scapegoat, providing fuel for my adolescent sense of superiority by easily identifying themselves with the typical gray-primered Novas loudly blaring AC/DC in the parking lot. Now we have awful movies like Joe Dirtthat have taken "white trash"-bashing to a new level, and sometimes I can't help but feel I'm watching the equivalent of a minstrel show for the new millennium.

Jonathan Armstrong
via the Internet


A Bitter Pill

Bad drug reaction: I want to commend Westword and Laura Bond for the continuing coverage (including the April 26 Backwash) of the city's crackdown on raves and all-ages clubs. Denver's overreaction to a few random incidents and a mountain of media hype is pathetic. Unfortunately, music lovers are the people who will wind up paying the price.

Jay Ridder
Denver

A real pain:I have never seen a statistically meaningful comparison between a "medical" drug (such as Tylenol) and a "recreational" drug (such as Ecstasy). What are the numbers? If you compare how many people use the substance to how many specimens are harmed, which is the more dangerous substance? We all know that Tylenol can cause liver failure and even death; however, it is sold over the counter and prescribed by doctors in hospitals. What is the true statistical comparison for lethality between Tylenol and Ecstasy? If there is something resembling parity, or statistical similarity, why does the law jump on Ecstasy and not on Tylenol? What is the rationale behind frightened, almost hysterical attempts to control or prevent the use of recreational drugs? In fact, what is the war on drugs?

Harold Macdonald
Denver


This Place Is a Dump!

Law and odor: Congratulations on "Dirty Secrets," the well-written and important articles about the Lowry Landfill that ran in the last three April issues. If you do a postscript, you might mention two heroines who probably were responsible for the federal government actions in 1984.

They are Bonnie Exner and Maryann Raines. Both were alerted to what was happening at the landfill by a full-page column I wrote in the Rocky Mountain News in 1980, and they formed Citizens Against Lowry Landfill in response. I made Lowry an issue in the 1980 legislative campaign, and Colorado did pass two hazardous-waste laws in 1981: SB 519, by Senator Ralph Cole, who represented Arapahoe County, was the major bill; the second bill was HB 1558, by Representative Greg Rogers, who represented southeast Denver. Bonnie and Maryann played important roles in the passage of the bills.

Jerry Kopel, former state legislator
Denver

The plot sickens:In the Master Composter class offered last year through the City and County of Denver, they took us on a field trip to Metro Wastewater, where the class was told that "nothing bad ever goes into the sewer." It later turned out that there is a watchdog group that says radioactive material has gone into the sewers; it calls the sludge-composting program Metro Glo instead of Metro Gro.

The class was also taken on a field trip to A-1 Organics' "Lost Antlers" composting facility in Golden. This facility's representative told the class that they use sludge from the Metro Wastewater plant as an ingredient in their compost. So it isn't just fields in eastern Colorado that Metro Wastewater's sludge ends up on, but also on suburban lawns and gardens all over the metro area.

The class and the public are and were being lied to about these things by Metro Wastewater and Denver Urban Gardens and Denver Recycles, the two agencies that run the Master Composter class.

Burton Wheeler
via the Internet

Boys' town: Eileen Welsome's three-part series on the Lowry Landfill is an impressive job. And the public owes a deep debt of gratitude to Adrienne Anderson -- truly a heroine in this dirty war, a war that, shockingly, is primarily between government officials and the very public whose health they are supposed to protect. I have had it with officials who think their job is to hide the truth from the public and endanger its health, and their duty is to protect the pocketbooks of private corporations -- especially real-estate developers.

On that note, I have my own snippets of information about the functioning of the Metro Wastewater Reclamation District -- which used to be called Metro Denver Sewage Disposal District #1 -- since I, too, was on the board of directors, as an appointee of then-mayor Federico Peña, from 1984 to 1988. There was a small knot of Peña appointees concerned about the activities of the district but, with a fifty-member board, we didn't stand a chance. We were routinely ignored. All information about the Superfund lawsuit, for instance, was kept under wraps by the powerful executive committee, which included not only Ted Hackworth and Bob Hite -- who later engineered the removal of the manager, in order that he could take that job -- but also the president of the Colorado Homebuilders' Association and a bank president.

Like Adrienne, I, too, was censured by this board, for having the audacity to question a conflict of interest of one Alan Canter, a former planning director for Denver. Canter chaired the district's Future Programs Committee, of which I was a member, when a contract for a $100,000 "change order" to a just-completed $100,000 contract with engineering company Camp, Dresser, McKee came up for approval. Canter worked for Camp, Dresser, McKee as a consultant; his role was to "develop work opportunities" for the company. When I questioned and criticized Canter's involvement in pushing this "change order" through for the benefit of his employer -- which had CDM redo the work it had just completed, but inputting new population projections -- he reacted not by quitting his $35/month Metro director position, but by quitting his employment with CDM! And the Metro District's executive committee then censured me for "making Alan have to quit his job"!

I agree with Adrienne's assessment that this district is very much a good ol' boys club. Woe to all uppity women who enter here.

Alison Maynard
Denver

Deep trouble:The membership of the National Sludge Alliance (NSA) commends Westword and Eileen Welsome for exposing the attempt by government and industry to cover up rather than clean up the toxic mess at Lowry that includes radioactive waste. The "Dirty Secrets" series is an outstanding example of the free press acting in the public interest.

The precedent-setting permit in Denver will open floodgates around the country for the cheap disposal of radionuclides that will transfer the liability from the polluters to the public; it displays a callous disregard for public health and safety. We say no to the addition of plutonium or any other insoluble radionuclides that will concentrate in the sludge and end up in the food chain, water supplies and the environment. Every toxic chemical in tomorrow's headlines can be found in today's sludge. The standards in the U.S. are already more permissive than those in any other industrialized country in the world.

NSA has joined in support of members in Colorado, whistle-blower Adrienne Anderson and the union workers and farmers in opposition to this latest outrageous attempt by government agencies, in collusion with industry, to dispose of toxic wastes and radioactivity cheaply. Not only will this policy contaminate our food and water, but the public is expected to pay for the privilege with the shift of liability from polluters to us. This insanity must stop here in Colorado.

Charlotte Hartman
Copake, NY


The Churl Next Door

Wild-bull hicktown:I have read with amusement the recent spate of letters regarding Denver's "hick" image, most recently in the April 26 issue. I have "lived" here for several years and can understand completely why people get so defensive. I know "real" Coloradans get upset when Denver is referred to as "cowtown," "hicktown" or "jocksville." I know they get angry because, in fact, Denver is a hicktown full of cowtowners; repressed, insulated conservatives; and frat-boy, jock-mentality morons.

Sorry, Denver, but having a bunch of sports teams does not a "world-class" city make. The local radio is the worst in the country, the local media is third-rate and amateurish at best, and the state is full of isolationists with the energy and humor of a gang of churlish trolls. As for the Colorado "mentality" of "get the hell out, if ya don't like it," I will definitely abide by it, as will many others who came here expecting a progressive, upbeat city and instead got sports, trucks, SUVs, snow and buffoons crawling out of the woodwork on every side.

John E. Turner
Denver

I'll take Manhattan:Thanks for printing Jerhome Windecker's letter asking those of us who think Denver is "just a boring, dirty cowtown" to "take your asses back to whatever fucked-up state you came from." If I may, I'd like to tell Jerhome exactly why some of us in Denver, myself particularly, would rather be anywhere else but in this boring, dirty cowtown.

I was living happily in New York City until January; I moved back to Denver because of a family crisis, and I wasn't too thrilled with the idea of returning. My friends in New York who had never been to Denver asked me what Denver is like and why I didn't want to move back. So for you, Jerhome, and the rest of you who share his feelings, here is a quick rundown of why I lacked enthusiasm for returning:

• As a gay man, I'm surrounded by Fred Phelps to the east; the horrendous beating and eventual death of Matthew Shepard to the north; Focus on the Family and Exodus Ministries to the south; and the Mormons to the west.

• My friends who are teachers in Denver Public Schools must kowtow to taxpayers who value professional sports over the education and future of their own children.

• Radio-station personalities can walk into an Islamic mosque and defile worshipers' beliefs live on the radio, all the while calling it entertainment.

• Cars and SUVs are purchased and driven at an alarming rate, completely negating the possibility of public transportation for a cleaner environment. Suburban communities fear that a public transportation system running along their streets would bring an "unwelcome" element from the minority communities of urban Denver. We all know the suburbs house only the most pure and innocent people, who could never manufacture methamphetamines or kill another person.

• The opening of a Krispy Kreme actually warrants media coverage and continuous traffic reports on both radio and television stations.

Of course, my friends in New York contact me every day, begging me to return and get the hell out of Colorado.

You're so on the money, Jerhome. Why should people like myself, who can't tolerate the asinine logic and mentality of people in Denver, stay here? I can't argue with that question, and my only answer is to move the fuck out of this town and go somewhere that makes me feel that I am at home and where I belong. And I'm not talking about this dirty, boring cowtown.

The moment New York should sink into the coastal waters of the Atlantic, be sure to light a candle in my memory at the Krispy Kreme.

James Elliott
Denver


Pitch, Pitch, Pitch

Arms and the man:Bill Gallo's "Stay the Coors," in the April 5 issue, was right on. Having followed the franchise since its inception (I have been to over 550 games), I see that Gallo seems to be hip to what is likely to happen again this season, despite our passion and love (if not obsession) for the game. "Buddy Ball" is interesting and minimally refreshing, but when the owners are high-level execs of a former trucking company, an animal slaughterhouse and a brewery, you have to wonder if this franchise is in the right hands.

This all speaks for itself.

J. Matthew Dietz
Denver


Power Trip

Settle down:Michael Roberts's "Power Age," in the April 5 issue, was a great interview with Brian Johnson! I went to the show and had a great time. I am 41 and have seen AC/DC 63 times, the first being at the Old Waldorf in San Francisco in 1977; I also hated the VH1 special.

This is the most fun, straightforward band around. They laugh at themselves and have a good time without taking things too seriously. That is the attraction of AC/DC. How many bands with their success and longevity stay out of the spotlight? You never hear anything bad about them. Most of them are settled down, and, aside from Angus, they are a T-shirt-and-jeans-wearing bunch.

Mike Giorgi
via the Internet

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