Drive, He Said
Thank you, Patricia Calhoun, for your two wonderful columns on Greg Lopez. They said things that badly needed saying. In the first, "Good People" (March 21), you made an eloquent case for what an extraordinary writer he was and what a loss his death will be for us all. And in the most recent piece, "Life in the Fast Lane" (April 4), the ironies indeed "piled up." Compare the life Lopez lived so well with that of Spicer Breeden, and you cannot help but share the sadness.
Truth is surely stranger than fiction.
We had only known Greg Lopez for two weeks; during that time, Greg spent two hours with us in our townhome and two very enjoyable hours walking with us. It certainly did not take that long for both of us to fully appreciate and fall in love with him. Greg gave us, and the entire brain-injury community, two enormous gifts: public recognition of brain injury and lifelong remembrance of a beautiful man.
Patricia Calhoun, your words are appreciated because you not only captured Greg's essence, but you also gave your readers some insights into the brain-injured world.
Barbara J. Butler and Ted Lesser
I don't care what Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter says: I don't believe that his office would take an ordinary hit-and-run case to a grand jury. That said, I hope they get to the bottom of this story.
The Spicer Breeden/Greg Lopez story is a real tragedy. If Breeden had taken responsibility like an adult, not an overindulged teenager, perhaps this whole senseless tragedy never would have occurred.
Even worse than the Lopez case, though, is what happened to Jeffrey Truax. There are more unanswered questions concerning the Truax case than in the Lopez case. Jeffrey Truax's blood-alcohol content, as well as Greg Lopez's and Spicer Breeden's, were made public; what about the officers who shot Truax? Were they even tested? I don't believe the officers set out to kill Jeffrey Truax that night, but I do believe they totally misread the situation and used deadly force when it was not close to being warranted--and that's what they must be held accountable for.
Jeffrey Truax was shot in the back. How much courage does it take for two cops to shoot an unarmed man in the back?
Body of Evidence
Thanks for Steve Jackson's articles on Thomas Luther, who was recently found guilty of murder in one case, but suspected in several. It was excellent reporting. It reminded me to remind women (especially young women) to be aware out there.
Editor's note: For the most recent installment in the Luther saga, see page 10.
Karen Bowers's March 28 article, "Social Insecurity," on discrimination complaints against the Social Security Administration (where I work in the Denver regional office), was a timely expose of political turmoil in the eight-state Denver region. Because of continuing media coverage, SSA headquarters immediately dispatched an executive-level fact-gathering team to investigate the following issues:
In the Denver regional and field offices, for example, instead of teamwork and cooperation we find morale severely damaged. We're experiencing an explosion of union grievances, of favoritism, nepotism and hostile work environments. Many employees believe it's largely because SSA executives refuse to practice what they preach.
Lupe Salinas, our regional commissioner, began his tenure with the philosophy of "dignity, excellence and service." But he brought along a rumor mill in overdrive with speculation of numerous romantic involvements with subordinates over the years.
Mr. Salinas has removed field officer managers recently--male and female--who allegedly made unwanted sexual advances toward their subordinates. Yet he himself has been cavalier about avoiding the appearance of sexual impropriety and preferential treatment. The result: lawsuits from supervisors and employees alike charging him with illegal employment discrimination.
Mr. Salinas is obliged to support the concept of partnership with the employees' union, yet his closest advisers and negotiators have vowed to bury the union leadership in this region. Dignity indeed!
The Denver regional office has spent close to $50,000 on cultural-change training based on Steven Covey's best-selling book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. "Seek first to understand before being understood," a Covey principle, is the basis for effective listening. But then SSA carries this idea a little too far by eavesdropping on the personal calls of at least one of its service representatives, resulting in still another suit against the agency!
And after an anonymous survey of SSA leadership sponsored by Covey, certain managers were appalled at low ratings that were assigned. They finagled the Covey Institute into cooperating to match ratings with unsigned comments these managers might reasonably associate with certain employees--a blatant attempt to breach confidentiality!
Such unprofessional conduct underscores a tragic state of affairs as SSA regional offices endure painful cutbacks under the guise of "streamlining." Mr. Salinas only exacerbates an already tense atmosphere when he charges that criticism originates from Hispanic employees and others who are unwilling to change. He is wrong. It's the Hispanics who've found the courage to protest hypocrisy in high places.
What about the rest of us?
An employee of the Denver regional office
By the Book
I just finished reading Karen Bowers's "Death Sentences," in the March 21 issue. Even though I sympathize with the survivors of such a cruel and senseless crime, I think the lawyers are taking liability and responsibility to the extreme.
Denver recently lost one of its best, brightest newswriters. Does this mean that Greg Lopez's survivors have the right to sue the car lot where Spicer Breeden bought his car? Who buys a car that will go 100 to go 55? Or perhaps BMW manufacturers should be sued because they made a car that would go over 100 miles per hour and did not include a disclaimer about learning to drive and taking responsible actions when behind the wheel. Of course, that would leave all car manufacturers open, because they build high-speed, large-velocity weapons with no disclaimers or warning labels about the deadly possibilities.
But why stop there? What about all the car dealers who sell those cars without disclosing that they could be deadly? When a person uses a car for a weapon instead of its intended purpose, can the survivors then sue the car manufacturer because the auto was used in a way not intended?
If the publisher of Hit Man is liable for the deaths, does that mean cigarette companies should be held liable for all deaths from lung cancer, throat cancer, emphysema, heart disease and other such diseases, even though there has been a warning on the package for over twenty years that such might occur if people continue to smoke? After all, that warning is just for informational purposes. And because someone took information available in other forms and consolidated it into one written piece, does that mean he is responsible when someone uses it for a purpose other than that for which it was written?
A win for the plaintiff in this case is a loss for free speech, a loss of freedom of movement, a loss of new discoveries, a loss for America. But then, that such a suit is even being filed is an indication of how far from the Constitution America has drifted.
Ronda Jan Lietz
Carpentry Made Easy:
Oh, my thumb!
How to Make Your Flowers Grow:
Nary a one!
Sue me? Sue me?
I'm the one?
I publish all this drivel
I'm the one...
Blame me? Blame me?
Who reads this stuff?
The reader! That's who!
What happens if after reading Bowers's story about Hit Man, someone goes and and kills someone? Could Westword and Bowers be held responsible? That seems the ludicrous extension of the current case against Paladin Press.
Comp and Circumstances
I wanted to thank Stuart Steers for "Still Hurting," his March 28 report on the workers' comp system in Colorado. I, too, have been "thrown away" by the system. At the age of 23 I incurred a severe and permanent back injury that greatly limited my ability to work. I was given a $5,000 cash settlement and refused any further medical treatment, even though I was in constant pain. I have spent a lot of time since then wondering how this can be allowed to continue happening. Isn't anybody paying attention? Trying to get help, phone call after phone call, I finally realized the answer was no. To see the problem at least acknowledged in the press was heartening to me.
Something must be done to change the current system. If you want an extreme opinion, let's file a class-action suit on behalf of injured workers against the workers' comp department, the State of Colorado and the insurance companies that have manipulated the system. This is not about money for me; it's about giving back some justice and dignity to the hardworking people in this state who have been used and abused.
During the recent shakeups in the Denver radio market, I have used Westword to stay in tune to changes on the air. But with all the deals, mergers and format changes, one question still remains: When will Denver launch an urban contemporary station? Denver is one of the few major markets in the United States that does not have an urban contemporary station.
Wake up, Denver! Those of us who love hip-hop, R&B and reggae are deprived. I recently attended the sold-out Fugees concert in Boulder that Michael Roberts previewed March 21. It's a good thing I made it, because I can't hear "Fu-Gee-La" or "Killing Me Softly" on the radio. No one will play it!
Although a multitude of cultures have learned to love and embrace the sounds of hip-hop and R&B, these art forms have traditionally expounded from the creativity of the African-American community. Like everything else that comes from the black community, Denver pretends it does not exist (just ask the kids at George Washington High School).
Wake up, Denver! It's time that you own up to your commitment to "diversity" and give your citizens an avenue to enjoy the music they love.
Regarding Eric Dexheimer's "Time Out," in the March 28 issue:
It might be some people's dream to open a family business (although not mine, not in my wildest dreams), but the Lewis saga illustrates perfectly why familiarity breeds contempt.
Editor's note: In "Time Out," we reported that a jury acquitted Sherron Lewis, Jr., of charges of assaulting his brother Blaine with a flashlight on the night of October 15, 1991. In fact, there were two separate incidents that night. Sherron was found not guilty of allegedly assaulting Blaine earlier in the evening but pleaded guilty to hitting his brother with a flashlight several hours later. Our apologies for the confusion.
Building for the Future
T.R. Witcher's article on the Evans School ("Edifice Wreck," March 21) was very interesting. I remember the building as a school in which Lois Field, the principal, ran one of the best educational programs for the near-deaf in the United States.
I would like to suggest that the building be made into an historical museum for education. There is no such institution in the West with which I am familiar. There must be a wealth of artifacts available to make it a real showcase. In addition to artifacts, historical educational documents could be stored there, and that portion could become a combination archive and research library. This could be a great project for Westword to undertake.
John A. Ogden
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