Letters to the Editor

From the week of June 17, 2004

The Gang's All Here

Street smarts: Wow. I just finished reading Laura Bond's "Street Wise" article about Robert Duran in the June 3 issue of Westword. The story of this young man was incredible -- how he got out of his situation and is now working on his doctorate. It's one of the most inspirational stories I have heard in a long time.

Van Head
Denver

A class act: I wanted to compliment Laura Bond on the article she wrote on Robert Duran. I go to school with Robert at the University of Colorado, and I can honestly say he is the most intelligent, admirable and kind person I may ever have known. Thank you for so accurately capturing his character and the importance of his work.

Lori Peek
Boulder

Wed alert: If Robert Duran was truly concerned about the Chicano community, one would think that the first step that he would take would be to marry the mother of his two children, thereby providing a more stable and secure home life for at least two young Hispanics in this town.

Jay Bloomfield
Parker

Learn as you go: Great article by Laura Bond. I'm an educator, and I'm really impressed with what Robert Duran has been able to accomplish at such a relatively young age: leaving gangs, a family, doctoral work, etc.

Anthony E. Rodriguez
via the Internet

Numbers racket: If I correctly understood Laura Bond's article, Sergeant Lombard of the Denver Police Department Gang Bureau told the Denver Post in November that Denver had 17,000 gang members, an increase from the July 2003 total of 11,000. By February, DPD officials recanted and admitted that an estimated 9,000 was the accurate total. The DPD was only wrong 8,000 times. Although DPD Patrol Division Chief Cooper was questioned about the inflated 17,000 figure and admitted that some DPD personnel "tend to let their imaginations run wild when it comes to the number" of gang members in Denver, gang bureau Sergeant Padilla still firmly asserts "that there's a whole criteria that has to be met before young people's names are added" to the DPD gang list.

Bullshit.

News articles and city documents I have read over the past two years showed that gang estimates of 7,000 in November 2002 jumped to 11,000 in July 2003, then to 17,000 in November, then fell to 9,000 in February-- all during Padilla's reign at the gang bureau. And the best excuse the Boyz 'n Blue can come up with is that they have outmoded computer systems (which giving them more money will remedy). With enough loot, they'll eventually get it right. Trust them.

It is not comforting to know that the DPD had to chop the gang list in half in 1994 when its data was last subjected to scrutiny. If the gang bureau can't do basic math (and can't get its story straight), they shouldn't snivel when their data (or integrity) is questioned.

It is appalling when more than 90 percent of all gang members are reputed to be young people of color, then city officials admit that nearly half the data is false, no one in any official position can give any hard data, and yet police officials in the gang bureau go about rattling their tin cups and begging alms from the taxpayers and Denver City Council.

Trust them? Ni modo! No way!

Ernesto B. Vigil
Denver


Breeding Is Fundamental

The war against terrierism: Regarding Amy Haimerl's "Breed Between the Lines," in the June 10 issue:

I'm the owner of Buddy. We achieved notoriety when Denver wanted to kill our family's Staffordshire Bull Terrier for no other reason than being one. Thankfully, Debbie Stafford's legislation passed due to her hard work to educate the legislature on the real issue of irresponsible owners. We now have good legislation on the books that tackles the problem head-on. I hope that Denver follows suit.

Staffies are quite uncommon in the U.S., and the lack of knowledge of the breed has contributed to their being misunderstood. They are somewhat fearsome in appearance but hams at heart, and the facts speak for themselves.

Fact: In the U.K., the Staffie is one of the ten most popular breeds. They are known as the "nanny dog" and are one of only two dogs whose pronounced love of children is written into their breed standard.

Fact: There is no documented case of a Staffordshire Bull Terrier attacking a human in the U.S., much less killing one. The same cannot be said for countless breeds that have killed people. These include pomeranians, German shepherds, great Danes, St. Bernards, huskies, malamutes and various types of mixes.

Needless to say, I find Denver's breed ban in need of serious consideration as this plays out. I trust that our elected officials on the Denver City Council will use their intellectual capacity and collective energy to carefully and diligently review the legislation on their citizens' behalf. We need to deal with irresponsible owners of any type of dog. A breed ban simply does not stop unsavory people from getting dogs of any breed to intimidate, hurt or be aggressive in any capacity. We still have 4,500 "pit bulls" (whatever that means) in Denver, and it's just a matter of time before one of "them" hurts somebody again. Meanwhile, German shepherds and many other breeds will continue to attack as well. Where has the breed ban left us? Have we solved anything?

Ben Wilson
Denver

Bully for her: Amy Haimerl, you should move! Move! Move! Do not let the stupidity of a few dictate what kind of dog you can own. As long as the dog is loved and well cared for, your ownership is your business, and anything else is in direct conflict with your rights as an American.

And whether you move or not, please vow to fight this perverse view of pit bulls that deems that only gangbangers and criminals would want them. Little old ladies such as myself own, love and care for pit bulls -- in my case, for twenty years. Before that, being a dog lover, I had many other breeds. I find the bully breeds (American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers, American pit-bull terriers and bull terriers) to be the most loving, loyal, comedic and gentle of all -- sometimes to the point where I even had to defend them against a bear at Valley View Hot Springs. They have rescued lost kittens and have had no problems with other dogs unless attacked by a dog off-leash, something that should have been the responsibility of the other dog's owner. (Ironically, these dogs have usually been black labs, considered by many to be the most docile and lovable of all breeds.) My children and grandchildren have loved, cared for and survived living with all my bullies. Even Helen Keller, not exactly a threat to society, owned a pit bull.

That animal control's Doug Kelly would make a statement like "We only consider appearance" truly makes Denver the dog-Nazi capital of the U.S. The man has no shame. He shouldn't be allowed anywhere near any animal. Hitler thought he was saving Germany, too. May he spend eternity surrounded by vicious cocker spaniels. In my book, that would be hell!

If they want a fight, they will have to pry my pit bull from my cold, dead hands!

Mary Edwards
Arvada

Heaving petting: I liked Amy Haimerl's article on her boxer puppy. I think she is really doing a good job of being a responsible dog owner by trying not to let her dog get nabbed because of her pit-bull-like exterior. As a Libertarian, I believe that most government regulation should be administered at the local level, so as to involve the people in what matters to them most and provide quality code of law that is both practical and fair. Haimerl's challenge on what is acceptable dog ownership is something that will make lives better for both other dog owners and dogs. I commend her lovingkindness in giving this dog a home and providing responsible dog ownership in an area that probably has such little providence toward man's best friend. Or woman's best friend, in this case.

I am concerned about the procedures in place involving pit-bull terriers in Denver. They are a desired, exploited and feared breed. I don't think Haimerl's dog is a threat to anyone; must she put a sign on her that says" I am not a pit bull"? Please keep fighting to create acceptable and logical procedures in dealing with these situations.

Peter Cohen
Golden


Make Them Stop!

Beg control: Regarding Michael Roberts's "Pledge of Allegiance," in the June 10 issue:

Count me as number 51 or 101 of those who believe the begging is excessive, both every day and during pledge drives. I am a donor who switches to KUVO when I am denied Morning Edition and All Things Considered due to begging; I just hope they are not begging at the same time. Because then I am forced to listen to commercial radio, which I just about cannot tolerate.

Mary Lyn Pike
Denver

Crap music: Michael Roberts moaned about Colorado Public Radio's on-air fundraising. He could have compared funding schemes in U.S. public broadcasting to similar (often better) services funded by taxes, such as the United Kingdom's BBC. But he just complained about this reality of American public broadcasting.

If he wanted to criticize CPR, he could have found a number of things that they have some control over. Like their "News and Information Station" that inflicts barfy, new-age music upon this great state every Saturday and Sunday night. Why don't they put the new-age music on the classical station? Perhaps because classical listeners have taste and would never stand for Zamfir pan-flute crap any more than the listeners of the "News and Information Station" should.

More important, the only "News and Information" program produced by CPR is substandard. Its interview format doesn't allow any slack when the host and his producers don't know much about the guest or the topic of the interview, as they so often do not. Since the show is nothing but the host, his often shoddy questions and a single guest, it becomes a long, intolerable hour (without opposing guests or callers to inject intelligent comments or correct the slanted spin of biased guests).

This leaves CPR's only locally produced program of questionable worthiness -- especially for all the money they beg for in those on-air drives that drive Michael Roberts nuts.

Andy Bosselman
Denver


Something's Funny

Ad nauseam: In "Stripped," his June 3 column, Michael Roberts reports that "by mid-week, fewer than fifty readers had registered their displeasure with the DNA" over the comics purge at the Post/News. Hardly surprising, considering the obvious editorial contempt being heaped on the section by management. The funnies are a cluttered mess -- horizontal, vertical, square, huge, tiny, and the whole thing hidden in some half-page wrapper with a carpet-cleaning advertisement concealing the first page. It's pretty obvious the only reason they bother with a comics section at all is to force the reader to search through all the department-store and big-box supplements to see where they hid it this week. Why complain when it's obviously part of the plan?

If this was really about saving newsprint, you would suppose they would look for some way to send out, say, one Kohl's flier per issue rather than a half-dozen. On the other hand, maybe that's part of the circulation spin and there to fluff up the distribution numbers.

J.W. Likes
Aurora


Pleas and Thank You

An unfinished sentence: Regarding Patricia Calhoun's "Greatest Hits," in the May 27 issue:

I continue to appreciate Westword's coverage of Lisl Auman's case over the past six and a half years that she has been imprisoned for a crime she did not commit. Thank you for citing "Prisoner of Denver," Dr. Hunter S. Thompson and Mark Seal's June 2004 Vanity Fair article.

Lisl Auman's case is very complex, to be sure. Certainly, no one would confuse Thompson's "figurative" rape metaphor with anything but the symbolism it represents -- in this case, reprehensible acts of cruelty -- but the irony is not lost on those who would agree. I do, however, feel compelled to respond to some misinformation that has emanated from the mainstream Denver press. Take, for example, Calhoun's belief that Lisl refused "...a plea that would have removed the felony-murder charge and likely had her out on the streets today."

Lisl's attorneys were approached on one occasion with a plea-bargain offer. That proposal would have required Lisl to plead guilty to three counts: first-degree assault on a police officer, first-degree burglary, and accessory to murder after the fact, all of which are crimes of violence that add aggravating factors to the mandatory-sentencing guidelines.

It was only after the highly publicized May 15, 2001, Free Lisl rally that rumors began to circulate that Lisl was offered a plea bargain of a substantially reduced prison term. It is common practice in Colorado to deny parole to all violent offenders until they have served a minimum of 75 percent of their prison sentences. Being granted parole would certainly have proven to be an arduous task in Lisl's case, but under no practical or factual outcomes would she have been granted parole by now or for years to come.

Maybe with Vanity Fair moving Lisl's story to the national spotlight, it will allow the more critical aspects of her case to be seriously re-examined, and the masses will no longer be obliged to ponder such matters as the degree to which Denver is or is not civilized, or what official grotesque displays of indecency must take place before they can legitimately, even if metaphorically, be referred to as violent rape. Thank you for continuing to follow my daughter's story and allowing me to comment.

Don M. Auman
Englewood

Editor's note: To read Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter's letter to Vanity Fair in response to Hunter Thompson's story, go to www.denverda.org.

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