Witness for the Prosecution
Andy Van De Voorde's October 17 story about the Denver DA's race, "Trial by Ire," was excellent but may have missed a couple of the real issues. First, the financial necessities and politics of Denver and Colorado predicate a plea-bargain rate that is at a rock-bottom minimum of 95 percent. Anything else gets into cost overruns and packs the jails and prisons. The problem with that is that it does not address the need for targeting of the 5 percent of criminal felons responsible for 85 percent of all significant felonies.

Denver, with the highest proportion of these felons in the state, also has the lowest proportion of prosecuting them as habitual criminals. If it did, it might lead to weighing in the question of which is more important--higher costs for imprisoning predators, or the more unquantifiable cost of what they do to people and society?

The other issue is that of the character of the Denver DA. Ritter is clearly a good human being with good intentions and "social consciousness." But should that be the requisite for a major city prosecutor? Or does it possibly require an SOB who will gleefully go after the predators with evident pleasure? Ritter may clearly have the heart for people, but Silverman clearly has the fire in the belly for this sort of work. And that may be the real choice for picking a candidate for the Denver DA.

Max Winkler-Wang

Craig Silverman looks like Saddam Hussein. Put their pictures side by side and--without captions--you can't tell them apart.

The similarities go beyond the physical. Both are totally ruthless, with no respect for anyone's rights but their own. Both believe no law is bigger than they are. Both lust after power.

Is that an unfair characterization? No question. To wrap one man in another's villainy--especially an animal like Saddam--is dishonest, unscrupulous and depraved. But Craig Silverman can't complain. That's what he did to a young black defendant, LaShawn Harris.

With no regard for the rules of law that govern lawyers, Silverman compared Harris--charged with first-degree assault--to Saddam Hussein. The rules of law prohibiting such flagrantly unfair argument made no difference to him. The conviction was reversed for prosecutorial misconduct (Harris v. People, 888 P2nd 259, 1995). And Harris? Instead of doing the time he should have done, Silverman plea-bargained it down. Harris is out now.

We know this much about Silverman: He won't follow the rules of law. Do we applaud him for toughness? It put Harris back on the streets. More important: Do we trust such a man with the power of the DA's office?

Warwick Downing (former district attorney,
22nd judicial district)

Bill Ritter reminds me a little of Jack Johnson, a huge, tough, no-bull cop who was warden of Cook County Jail in Chicago in the early Sixties. Like Ritter, Johnson had principled, informed objections to the death penalty. But Johnson presided at several state-sponsored killings of killers. Just as Ritter will work for more such killings if the crime "is heinous enough"--which translates to "might endanger my political career."

And yet Ritter is obviously the lesser evil, I say. Even if he does not dare say aloud that to surround a nineteen-year-old scared, stupid, sick killer with the same hatred he has gushing inside of him--to punish and punish and punish him some more, decade after decade-- does nothing whatsoever for his victim's relatives, but guarantees that whatever chance there ever was of this kid reforming himself is permanently crushed.

Warden Johnson initiated the revolutionary policy that condemned killers could mingle with the prison population except for a couple of weeks before their scheduled executions. The result was that some of these killers became something closer to human beings. Two of them had their death sentences set aside. But Jack Johnson was a bit much for Sixties Chicago; he soon lost his job.

Craig Silverman has the kind of mentality that heartily approves of the sadism of locking up men in death-row cells for years under the most repressive and punitive of confinements.

In a community with a pretty high educational level, Ritter simply lacks the guts or idealism to voice (what I hope are) his deepest convictions.

But Silverman is the real killer animal--killing with words.
Felix Singer

Plastic Oh-No Band
I just read Tony Perez-Giese's October 17 article, "The Boston Chicken Party," about Frank Erickson's war against the overuse of plastic by Boston Chicken, or Boston Market, or whatever they're calling themselves this week.

It's a shame that more consumers don't take such a stand.
Ever been to Starbuck's? They serve all in-house cold drinks in plastic throwaway cups with lids. I guess their employees get paid by how much plastic they dispense.  

At least they provide postage-paid complaint cards.
Jerry Conner

Charity Begins at Home
Let's say that I'm an angry taxpayer. After reading Eric Dexheimer's October 10 article, "Due Unto Others," my fired-up synapses are going to pulse their electronic messages into one idea: I' crap...happen...anymore. Flip that lever. Yes! on Amendment 11. Given the examples in the article, that would be a resoundingly positive choice.

But my question--not as an angry taxpayer but as a reader looking for a bit of light in reactionary darkness--is why on earth would any intelligent person approach this subject in this way? Westword makes no bones about treating its subjects with a touch of cynicism here and a pinch of righteousness there--I would probably not read it otherwise--but this is usually founded on strong investigative reporting. Dexheimer's piece comes across as pandering to a simplistic and reactionary anger. There's no question that the law as it currently stands is being abused by many groups. But do we throw the baby out with the bathwater? We heard nothing of the effects this would have on organizations that live legitimately (and might not live at all if Amendment 11 were to pass) under the law.

Is there a way that we might change the process under which organizations are reviewed for exemption? Like Dexheimer's article, instead of going through the time and trouble to find what the problem really is and how it might be positively remedied, we'd just as soon rush to "expose the truth" on how we're all unwittingly being taken advantage of and promptly flip the lever without understanding the full repercussions of our actions.

Greg Heartman

While your story quite justifiably bashes the abuse of the nonprofit system, your reporter utterly failed to even mention the most serious impacts of the proposed Amendment 11: its effect on local volunteer emergency service organizations, including volunteer fire departments and volunteer search-and-rescue organizations such as Colorado Rescue Dogs, Rocky Mountain Rescue and the Colorado Civil Air Patrol--all of which are "nonprofits" that would be subject to personal property taxes on their fire and rescue trucks, airplanes, equipment and supplies, as well as being forced to pay property taxes on the land and improvements upon which their fire stations, garages and hangars are located.

This is fundamentally unfair and extremely shortsighted, since these organizations provide essential emergency services that would cost taxpayers millions upon millions of dollars to provide if the government had to do it. Indeed, the amendment may well serve to increase property taxes on others in order to compensate these organizations for their increased operating costs. Of course, such agencies are at the mercy of their local governments, and if the county commissioners don't choose to reimburse them for these substantial costs, then many of them face bankruptcy and closure.

The proponents of the measure, and Westword itself, have been quite effective at limiting the analysis of the impacts of the amendment to "abusers" such as the ones Dexheimer mentions while completely ignoring the much more real impact on the vast majority of nonprofit organizations that give more than full value to their communities.

I hope you will be honest enough to admit that not every single nonprofit organization among those 9,500-plus you tar with the brush of fraud and deceit is actually guilty of the offenses you describe. Are you up to doing some legitimate investigative journalism and analyzing the real impacts of this shortsighted, self-serving measure before the damage is irrevocably done?

Scott Weiser
via the Internet

While attending a Christian Management Association meeting in July with VIPs from Focus on the Family, The Navigators, Christian & Missionary Alliance, Compassion International, Every Home for Christ and KVOR, to name a few, I heard a couple of interesting statements made by speakers. One was that Amendment 11 is constitutional.

The other statement: "Folks, the system is not broken." Of course it is not broken for them--they have a total tax-free ride (with the help of legislators and attorneys). But it sure is broken for taxpayers who have to subsidize them and get hit for more and more taxes all the time.

For the taxpayers' sake, vote "Yes" on Amendment 11. Stop the abuses.
Carla Velders
Colorado Springs

Westword has done a good job in writing about charitable organizations that have questionable reasons for deserving exemption from property tax. Some charities do have big budgets and give their employees generous salaries. These are few and far between. Most nonprofit organizations have lean budgets and provide invaluable services with a small percentage of their budget going to overhead. Passing Amendment 11 will hurt both those organizations that should get tax exemptions and those that shouldn't. We should figure out a way to make charitable organizations accountable for the services they provide and, therefore, legitimately eligible to avoid paying Colorado property taxes.  

Charles G. Cannon

As a former gubernatorial candidate in 1994, I remain vitally interested in the health and welfare of Colorado and her citizens.

I am gravely concerned about the ballot proposal Amendment 11 to tax churches and nonprofit organizations. I believe this is a direct tax on charity and a direct attack on volunteerism.

Today charitable organizations already pay property taxes on "unrelated business income" and "undeveloped property"; they are not subsidized by government but only by adherents to the organizations' specific missions; they are the causes that attract the vast majority of Colorado's volunteerism.

As churches and nonprofits' property will be classified as "commercial," only commercial property can receive any tax relief. However, if this results in increased commercial property-tax revenue, the Gallagher Amendment mandates residential property-tax increases! Too, as a single example, this proposal will tax hospitals millions of dollars. This proposal is guaranteed to raise medical costs on everyone--proponents and opponents alike!

It is my personal belief that the negative impact of the passage of this proposal makes this the most important issue on the ballot this November.

Dick Sargent

Ramshackle Tough
Stuart Steers's well-researched October 3 article, "Down in the Hole," truly captured the spirit of Leyden's history.

Unlike the residents Mr. Steers interviewed, we moved to Leyden within the last 25 years. When we moved here, we found ourselves embraced by a generous small-town community where neighbors know and take care of each other.

We take offense at the use of the word "ramshackle" (likely to fall apart, rickety) when describing our homes. For your information, these "small square boxes" are sturdy little houses that have, over the years, withstood the infamous gale-strength winds that have blasted the Front Range and damaged less well-built structures. They represent hardworking and proud homeowners; each home and yard reflects the character and self-reliance of its occupant(s).

No one could come in here and buy these homes for $40,000 to $50,000. Those amounts would not cover the mortgages of those of us who have purchased our homes in recent years or who have obtained second mortgages to improve our "matchbox" houses. Neither do the tax assessments of our properties support those figures.

Think what you will. We agree with our neighbor, Mr. Sandusky; we like it here, and we're not leaving.

Mr. and Mrs. Harry Bullock, Mr. and Mrs.
Terry Wiebeck, Mr. and Mrs. Estel Snyder

The town of Leyden is not a chip for land developers or city or county government to bargain with in their respective comprehensive development plans. For Westword to assert that development would appear "inevitable on the north and south sides of Leyden" and for the realtor to propose that construction is in any way desirable to the immediate east of Leyden flies in the face of reason.

Common sense should warn against new development in areas that contain all of the following environmental factors: flood plain, mine subsidence, a fuel-storage reservoir containing 3 billion cubic feet of "deadly" natural gas, nearby industrial and nuclear contamination, and close proximity to a landfill.

Leyden existed long before the gas plant, Rocky Flats or the landfill. You're right in saying this small town has always had to struggle to survive, but we want your readers to know that we live in Leyden by choice. The safety and comfort of personally knowing our neighbors fortifies our resolve to make a stand to preserve our current lifestyles. We are protective of, and will continue to protect, our homes against environmental contamination as well as encroaching development. And we are not for sale.

S. Trujillo and M. Sieben

Two Horrible
Regarding Karen Bowers's "Whipping Boy," in the October 10 issue: In this day and age, it seems that everyone has a scapegoat. Blame it on that "unattached, crazy kid"--he was the one at fault.

I feel sorry for Renee Polreis. She let those "doctors" tell her that her child was a hopeless discipline case and predestined to sit on death row. At the age of two? I have a three-year-old son. I know that a two-year-old is far from set in his ways. I believe that many people take their children's intelligence for granted. If Renee talked to people close to her about David's problems and how she felt about him, he picked up on it. He knew how she felt by the way she treated him. Why do we give our pets more credit for sensing our feelings than we give our children? Plus, Renee's carefully planned nuclear family wasn't turning out as planned. Perhaps she didn't pray quite hard enough. When a higher power didn't respond, she decided that it would be more socially acceptable to kill her adopted son than to admit defeat and just give him up.  

Maybe she was taking pointers from the woman who strapped both her sons in a car and pushed it into a lake, then blamed it on a black man. Who cares what the actual reasons were? The fact is, no one knows but Renee. Whatever the reason she killed him--insanity, the influence of therapists or an overdose of Twinkies--Renee certainly has her scapegoat.

Berri Moffett
via the Internet

The tragic death of David Polreis is shocking. It is too easy to blame the mother who was unable to cope with a problem child such as David.

Whatever authorities, therapist and social workers call the condition, early childhood abuse and neglect has seriously impacted our society. The children of broken homes and early childhood abuse and neglect are packing our prisons. The problem must be addressed. Once the condition unfolds, it's like a Pandora's box, and all the king's horses and all the king's men will never put David together again.

Despite the best parenting, a child such as David may never overcome the loss of bonding and trust so necessary for growth and development. And it is foolish to think therapists are miracle workers who can always solve problems with troubled children. They cannot.

I don't have all the answers. I don't know it all. But I've lived with a "David," and I know there is a need for better understanding of such conditions. I want to thank Karen Bowers for her efforts to present a story that has made people, including last week's letter-writers, think.

Richard Turner
Wheat Ridge

Both as human beings and as the board president and executive director of Adoption Alliance in Aurora, we are at a loss to adequately express the fullness of the horror and heartache we experienced while reading Karen Bowers's story. Her recounting of the tragic death of David Polreis in Greeley this past February nevertheless demands more of us in the adoption community than just anguished and awkward silence. Instead of answering all pertinent questions about how this little boy's life came to such a cruel end, her story poses yet unasked questions that must be addressed legally and professionally.

Legally, the degree to which a diagnosis of attachment disorder can be used to justify and dismiss the brutal taking of this two-year-old child's life will be played out in Weld County District Court. We are not lawyers. However, we believe we must speak out professionally regarding certain quotes attributed by Westword to Ms. Julie Haralson of the Colorado Adoption Center in Fort Collins, identified as "an old friend of Renee's." If quoted accurately and in context by Westword, Ms. Haralson's repeated characterization of David Polreis as "that unattached, crazy kid" during a conversation with police and her assertion that the victim could somehow be at fault since "sometimes these crazy kids just up and die" are utterly unworthy of our profession. Further, we believe her apparent lack of concern, as recounted from the official police report by Westword, about the possibility of further adoptive placement with Ms. Polreis is cause for the appropriate state licensing agency to conduct a formal inquiry.

Undoubtedly, issues surrounding attachment disorder are complex and just now coming to light with the general public. We have seen nothing yet that would relieve us or anyone in our profession of our professional and moral responsibility for the welfare of the children placed in our care.

David LaHoda and Virginia Appel
Adoption Alliance, Aurora

Nothing in Common
Regarding Stuart Steers's "Money and Other Greenery," in the October 10 issue:

As a longtime resident of, and worker in, downtown Denver, I was delighted to hear the news about the proposed new park in the Platte Valley. It will doubtless be a wonderful amenity for the entire area, particularly for us downtowners and the Trillium Corporation, which proposes to build a major high-rise residential development nearby called "The Commons."

I submit, however, a modest proposal concerning the name of the new park, which, according to the article, is to be "Commons Park." The article points out that "the famous Boston Commons is an example of what Trillium's development could be." Not exactly. All of us former Bostonians know, doubtless due to the superior educations received in that center of culture and learning, that the actual downtown grassy and tree-lined area is, and always has been, the Boston Common. There is not now, and never has been, a park there called the Boston Commons.  

That's because a "commons" (plural in form, but a singular word) is a communal dining place, often located in a monastery or school. A "common," on the other hand, is a piece of property, typically unenclosed, owned by a government and set aside for a public purpose, such as a park. That, of course, is why it has for the past 300 years or so been the Boston Common, rather than the Boston Commons.

Let's not commit civic bad grammar, thereby revealing Denver to be a cowtown of slack-jawed, jean-clad, unlettered Western yokels with limited knowledge of proper English nomenclature. My proposal: Let it be christened and forever known as the Denver Common. After a few hundred years of lawn-mowing and tree growth, it may well rank with the Boston Common as a magnificent urban amenity. If Trillium indeed builds an adjacent public dining place, it could stick with "The Commons" or, perhaps, "The Denver Common Commons."

Peter J. Adolph

Bound and Determined
I find Bill Gallo's even considering reviewing the movie Bound ("Moll World," October 10) to be offensive. As if there is not enough propaganda about homosexuality in our world already. Tacky.

Jodi Griggs
via the Internet

Letters policy: Westword wants to hear from you, whether you have a complaint or compliment about what we write from week to week. Letters should be no more than 200 words; we reserve the right to edit for libel, length and clarity. Although we'll occasionally withhold an author's name on request, all letters must include your name, address and telephone number. Write to:

Letters Editor
PO Box 5970
Denver, CO 80217
or e-mail to:

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