Letters to the Editor

Blowing Hot and Cold

Feel the burn: Our thanks to Westword and Eileen Welsome for bringing the dirty and disturbing history of Rocky Flats to a whole new audience in the current series "From Cold War to Hot Property." She does her homework, and it shows.

In 1986, my sister Susan Hurst learned of the radiotoxic spray irrigation at Rocky Flats that was running off into tributaries that flowed into our public drinking supplies, and it alarmed her. She took these concerns to the City of Westminster and was promptly threatened by the city council with public censure and jail time for trying to "incite the public to panic." Sue then contacted FBI Special Agent Jon Lipsky, who was very interested in the Clean Water Act violations that Rockwell International pleaded guilty to in 1991, after the unprecedented FBI raid on June 6, 1989, and the subsequent grand jury.

In the fall of 1988, Standley Lake made the Superfund list because of plutonium held up in the sediments -- but not wanting to alarm the public, it continues to allow and encourage recreational boating, swimming and fishing activities. The Superfund recreational area has been written off as "okay" because the agencies and cities decided that it would be more hazardous to disrupt the sediments than it would be to just leave them alone.

Nothing has changed, except more people have moved in that don't know the local area's history, political climate and aggressive developers.With the many documented and undocumented incidents of clandestine dumping and burial of nuclear waste in the Rocky Flats buffer zone (the one-mile area surrounding the industrial area), many consider it to be a high-risk area that should have permanently restricted access status.

On April 6, 2000, Rocky Flats conducted a very controversial burn of fifty acres of buffer-zone vegetation, and the plant wants to continue this practice until it has burned off all sections of the zone. Our radiation monitor captured alarmingly high readings that persisted for about a week from this blaze. We urge members of the public to express their concern that further prescribed burns not be allowed at this site. Too many millions of lives are at stake in the Denver metro area, and there is no escape from breathing this contaminated smoke.

We look forward to the rest of Eileen's series.
Paula Elofson-Gardine, executive director
Environmental Information Network

Toxic shock: "You handle plutonium; you die." So states my brother-in-law, a scientist at Ball Aerospace who has a doctorate in physics from the University of Colorado at Boulder. It may be now, it may be twenty to thirty years from now, but the end is inescapable. I am appalled that Rocky Flats's management appeared to be so callous that they began causing American deaths to protect Americans.
John Rasmussen

Panned Parenthood

Bird brains: Regarding Karen Bowers's "Suffer the Children," in the July 27 issue:

Do you suppose the bio-parents who so horribly abused these RAD kids are still out there breeding? I say we need a mandatory neutering policy for "parents" who have proven that they are incapable of caring for a parakeet, never mind a baby human being.
Anne Lambert

A Radical Notion

Fire when ready: Michael Roberts's July 13 "Failure to Communicate," on the arrest of Brian Hansen, was insightful, but I take exception to the use of the word "eco-terrorist." The burning of Vail's Two Elks Lodge was not an act of terrorism, but vandalism.

The distinction is fine, but very important. Detectives arrest vandals, while SWAT sharpshooters assassinate terrorists. "Terrorist" is a label used to dehumanize the enemy before elimination. Most ecological activists are compassionate people who wish to protect the environment from the real "eco-terrorists": extractive industrial corporations. Even the most radical groups attempt only to disrupt activities that are disruptive to nature, not to terrorize the general population. The only eco- terrorist, violent revolutionary I know of is Ted Kaczynski, and he is in prison. Otherwise, the word "eco-terrorist" is a bit of counter-environmental propaganda coined to discredit and add a sinister element to the activities of some of the most concerned, serious and responsible citizens of this nation. Say what you will about the criminal arson of the lodge, but don't call it "terrorism." (Keep in mind that corporations also commit destructive crimes in their pursuit of resources, and -- far worse -- they corrupt our political system to make their unethical predations "legal.")

As an alternative newspaper, I hope you can find an alternative term that more accurately describes what's going on instead of latching onto the buzzword of the day. A few suggestions: monkey-wrenching, eco-vandalism, eco-arson (there's a nice irony), eco-action, eco-demolition...
Mike Patterson

Moral twerpitude: Roberts's excellent, even-handed "Failure to Communicate" clearly unmasked the real news of the events -- that being the epic dumbness that permeates both the journalism of the Colorado Daily and the news management of the U.S. Forest Service.

As both a former Colorado Daily reporter and editor (1991-94) and a former media official (assistant director of university media relations, University of Colorado system, 1996-2000), it is my humble contention that not just Hansen, but Daily editor Pam White, Daily publisher Chris Harburg and the entire media management team of the Forest Service ought to be jailed as a First Amendment education project. Hansen for letting his zeal get the better of his reportorial judgment (he has a proud tradition of this); editor White for letting Hansen get out of control early on in his coverage of this and a good many other stories; Harburg for allowing this combined dumbness to put her newspaper in the newspapers; and the Forest Service flacks for taking a ham-fisted, dim-witted, Bull Connor approach to clearing the area of protesters, a questionable act in itself and one executed with skill reminiscent of, say, the Boulder Police.

The whole incident highlights the manifest lack of talent and judgment that too often defines contemporary journalism (especially advocacy journalism, which, despite Hansen's protests to the contrary, he and the Daily are dedicated practitioners of) and public-agency news management. Precisely because public officials are known for often being thick-witted, obstructionist tyrants, it's wise for reporters to use sensibility in dealing with them. Hansen didn't -- but then, he isn't known for his sensibility. I learned this firsthand during the "Buechner-Raudenbush" brouhaha (I was a media official in the CU president's office at the time), and I can say with complete confidence that the Daily's success with that story was more related to its having an exclusive, deep-background source than to Hansen's newshound instincts.

In truth, I hope the judge in question does not add to this orgy of dumbness by sentencing Hansen to jail time, unless the reporter is accompanied by the aforementioned other culprits. For even with his colossal twerpitude, it's important to remember that whether or not we like what even inept, self-important reporters do, they have a right to do it, as long as they can back it up with evidence. Every so often, after all, this results in our becoming informed.

Not in this case, however. In the end, the only torturers that were unmasked were not protesters, but this rogues' gallery of agenda-driven clowns, who tortured innocent readers with a story that could, quite easily, have been prevented.
Bronson R. Hilliard


A homer's odyssey: In his July 27 article, "Fox on the Run," how did Michael Roberts come up with the notion that Ron Zappolo's departure from KUSA could lend KDVR "instant credibility"? In most instances, an unwanted employee is not seen as an asset, but a liability.

Ron Zappolo was the worst type of sportscaster there is in the industry: He was a "homer." He consistently avoided the hard-hitting questions and issues with the Denver sports teams. Instead, he chose to suck up to local sports figures, reporting more as a fan instead of having his coverage remain neutral.

His delivery style now that he has moved one seat over at the anchor desk is laughable. He can be telling you about the well-known problems with United Airlines at DIA, but it still sounds like he is informing his viewers of a Todd Helton home run or the latest dirt out of the Broncos' training camp. He will forever be pigeonholed as a sportscaster (second-rate, at that), and his "crossover appeal" will quickly diminish.
Keith Martin
via the Internet

Credit Check

Too little, too late: What took the Denver Post so long to report the mean, money-saving closure of the Laboratory School at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley? Craven wet-finger checking of the political winds?

The Post's bland July 11 story made no mention of Julie Jargon's gutsy, July 6 "An Expensive Education," an i's-dotted-and-t's-crossed story of how honchos at "higher" education UNC teacher-training programs value commitment, promises, innovative education and original missions.

What was once dubbed University of No Credit is University of No Credibility, indeed.
David A. Anthony

Editor's note: During a meeting of the UNC Board of Trustees on July 12, the university agreed to give the lab school three years to move off campus. Parents and school staff have already found three potential locations in which to construct another school, and they hope to vacate the UNC building after two years. UNC, which currently holds the lab school's charter, will be transferred to Greeley-Evans School District 6. A newly formed governing committee made up of school staff and parents will oversee how the school is run.

Guilty as Charged

Lying Lisl: Enough is enough! I have read with frustration your newspaper's articles (most recently, Juliet Wittman's July 6 "A Question of Intent"), and the subsequent letters to the editor that support the innocence of Lisl Auman. She is guilty of the crime and is where she needs to be. I encourage your readers to take the time to read the Colorado state statutes; then they will clearly see that justice has prevailed. At least Lisl Auman's family can visit her in prison; that is more than you can say for Anna and Hayley VanderJagt, who lost husband and father. Has anyone ever thought about what they must endure for the rest of their lives?

Name withheld on request

You have the right to remain violent: I would like to concur with the letter written by Patrick Murphy titled "Murder, She Wrote." The individual involved in the Safeway killing was not prosecuted because the man who was killed was not a cop. On the other hand, Lisl Auman was charged and convicted of felony murder because the man who was killed in her situation was.

There is an unspoken yet predictable philosophy of criminal justice that prevails at the DPD and the Denver District Attorney's Office. It goes as follows: A police officer's life has much more value than a citizen's does. If a citizen is killed by a police officer, then that police officer will be exonerated. If a citizen kills a police officer, then someone will "go down"; someone will pay, even if that someone had little to do with the killing.

I suppose that the illustrious officers who make up the Denver Police Department never had poor judgment or hung out with the wrong crowd when they were 21. No, not the holier-than-thou police. They can never do any wrong. I've wondered how the police and District Attorney Ritter can sleep at night knowing that they sent an innocent young woman to prison. I suspect that they sleep just fine, though. After all, a police officer's life is worth more than a citizen's, and someone had to pay. In their minds, whether or not Lisl is responsible for the killing is beside the point.
Trish Robertson
via the Internet

Crime Slays

Men in uniform: Recently an anonymous police officer wrote to Westword, stating that he had resigned from his position because he did not agree with the way the Columbine massacre had been handled (Letters, July 20).

Whoever this officer is, he has my utmost respect. There are few people in law enforcement -- or in the human race in general, for that matter-- who have the guts to stand up for what they believe in.

We have seen so much negative publicity regarding the police lately. Is it any surprise that the police frequently act like cowards and/or criminals themselves? Most cops have a chip on their shoulder. They are mad at the world. They get into law enforcement because they want the power, not because they care about people. The police are rough and tough when it suits their egos, but when they are put in a situation where they have to do what they were hired to do -- i.e., "serve and protect" -- then they often run off and hide with their tails between their legs. The cops at Columbine didn't even have the guts to stand off against two teenagers, which is downright disgusting.

There are exceptions to everything in life, and the officer who sacrificed his career because he wasn't a coward and didn't appreciate the lack of courage exhibited at Columbine is a rare gem. I admire and respect this gentleman greatly and would love to make his acquaintance.
Karen Johnson
via the Internet

The Penis Mightier Than the Sword

Hung jury: This letter is in response to "Hanging Out," Michael Paglia's July 20 review of Horse: the male as sexual entity. As Paglia indicates, the show's use of the word "horse" comes from the term "hung like a horse," a derogatory expression for men; it is clear that the purpose of the exhibition had less to do with art and everything to do with testing the public's reaction to the explicit expression of male genitalia. As part of this experiment, Westword chose to publish one of the explicit photographs that showed a man with his genitals exposed.

I have a question for Westword: Would you have published a photograph of a woman with her genitals explicitly shown? What's fair is fair. If you are going to embarrass men with a photograph displaying a man's genitals, I think you should embarrass women by publishing a photograph displaying women's genitals. Treat the genders equally.

Name withheld on requestEditor's note: Had the show at Ron Judish Fine Arts included a photograph of a naked woman, we might well have published that photo; we've published both photographs and paintings of female nudes to illustrate art reviews in the past. In this case, though, we only had naked men to work with -- and if the models aren't embarrassed, why should you be?

Near Beer

Northern lights: As a longtime patron of the Wynkoop, where I have seen Patricia Calhoun tip a few also, I am a purist on brewpubs. Just as a restaurant that serves excellent breads and pastries that have been made at another site owned by the proprietors cannot be called a bakery/restaurant, neither can Great Northern at DTC be a brewpub. Can Old Chicago be considered a brewpub if it serves beers made by Rockies Brewing, Walnut, Rock Bottom or the ChopHouse, which are all businesses owned by Old Chicago's parent company? No. A few years ago, El Rancho tried to pass itself off as a brewpub when its beers were actually made off site, to their specs, by One Keg Brewery. That was a sham, too. One of the really marvelous things about a real brewpub is that the beers are unique to that location and are different from beers served at other locations of the same chain. So Kyle was wrong in the Best of Denver, and she was wrong in the July 13 Bite. Great Northern is a beautiful facility. The beers are good and clean. But it is a bar. Period. It serves excellent beers. But it is not a brewpub. Please reserve the title of Best Brewpub for a facility that has earned the title by brewing its wonderful beers where they are served.
Brian Kelly
via the Internet

Dazed and confused: Sometimes I wonder if Kyle Wagner is following me around town. Her reviews are so uncannily similar to my own experiences that I can often guess which place she'll cover -- and what she'll say about it -- before I open Westword. But Kyle must have missed me on the half-dozen visits I made to Denver's Heavenly Daze Brewery last year. I not only found the "cavernous space" to be comfortable, relaxed and a great place to watch a game, but the food is what kept me going back. I'm glad to welcome back the Daze (The Bite, July 13). The shortcoming of this friendly joint, in my opinion, has never been the food; the real problem is anonymity. Just because the place is big and sits on I-25 doesn't mean people will come. If you're reading, guys, make some noise, advertise in Westword, do something -- anything. Oh, and get Kyle to come back.
Jill Slager

Fusion Confusion

Das ist lo mein: Regarding Bill Gallo's July 13 review of the Sunset Lounge:

What sort of idea is a German-Chinese restaurant? An hour later, you're hungry for power!
Earl Noe
via the Internet

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.