Letters to the Editor

From the week of March 17, 2005

Center of the Storm

The soft cell: Michael Paglia, as people who frequently read and very much enjoy your columns (although we may not always agree with you), there was something almost vitriolic about your March 3 "Blind Justice" piece concerning the proposed jail/Justice Center. You sounded unreasonably angry.

As boardmembers of the Golden Triangle Association and members of the Justice Center Task Force, we were intensely involved in the mayor's decision-making process. We respectfully disagree with your analysis of the process. We live in the neighborhood and walk the streets every day. The reason so many people and groups came out in support of the process was because it was ably conducted by James Mejia and the mayor's staff in an open, transparent fashion, with everyone's ideas given careful consideration. Nobody wants a jail in their neighborhood, but a jail and new courtrooms are desperately needed. One logical place is the Civic Center -- in keeping with an old American tradition of courthouses, and even jails, downtown.

I don't know if you're aware that the Golden Triangle Association: 1) submitted 22 design guidelines for the facility to assure that it would be a quality addition to the Civic Center, and all were accepted; 2) requested that a Civic Center master plan be prepared in advance of any decisions, and it was, with major input from our neighborhood; and 3) worked out an agreement that no new criminal-justice facilities be constructed south of 14th Avenue and no additions be made to the prisoner beds in the future (this will be assured through Planned Unit Development zoning).

Can you be serious about "new/old urbanism"? We don't think that's the issue here. The city needs the facility, and it can be built at this location, creating a better situation for the Golden Triangle than present conditions; each morning as we walk to work or to activities downtown, sheriff's officers with guns poised stand by while shackled prisoners shuffle across our sidewalks. Not good -- for us or the sheriffs or the prisoners!

We believe the proposed Justice Center can be a facility the city can be proud of; it can offer a safer environment for the prisoners, the sheriffs, the attorneys, the witnesses, the judges and the neighbors. Thank you to the mayor's staff for a thoughtful, inclusive process to arrive at this solution.

Billie Bramhall, Eric Boyd and Dennis Humphries

Michael Paglia responds: Guidelines can be dispensed with at will, because they're only suggestions. I do not believe that an enormous jail should be built at the Civic Center, even if the people who thought it up -- including the authors of the letter above -- do.

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