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Clarity, fairness, balance

To the Editor:

First, I must say compliments are in order, regarding the Independent's decision to delve so deeply into the issues surrounding the crisis at the Health Department.

Two recent issues of the Independent ("Medical Alert" I and II, March 14-20 and March 21-27), concerning the El Paso County Health Department, piqued my interest and attention.

Well done and bravo to the authors, Cara DeGette and Terje Langeland. Together they stated the facts with clarity, fairness, balance and seriousness on an issue vital to our whole community.

In addition, they exhibited sensitivity to the people in the Health Department and a profound understanding of the county government processes, together with the flaws.

The situation is serious, due mostly to the effect it is having and will continue to have on the services that a large number of people depend on.

The present chaos, if not resolved for the good of all the people, can be a disaster for county health; as we all know trust once threatened is difficult to re-establish.

As an activist of old and ongoing, it is gratifying to know that investigative reporting is still alive and thriving in our community.

-- Jeanne M. Sauer

Colorado Springs

No mercy

To the Editor:

I am actually nauseated after reading the actions of Judge Plotz in the Isaac Grimes case ["Isaac Grimes' Crime and Punishment," March 28]. Judge Plotz had the ability to really rehabilitate Isaac Grimes, but instead he sentenced him to a life of certain prison rape and mistreatment, and very likely death.

Plotz's statement, "You've destroyed yourself and it's very painful for me to sit here and watch that," makes me ill. Isaac Grimes' life is destroyed because of Judge Plotz. Isaac's life was perfectly salvageable before being given a 60-year sentence with adults.

Isaac is so young that his features are still very boyish. What chance does he have in life now? Is this really the kind of society that we want to have? One that shows no mercy?

Isaac Grimes was clearly in a no-win situation. His choices were to kill the Dutchers or have his family killed. Whether or not we, as adults, see that as a credible choice, it's quite obvious that Isaac did, and that is all that should matter.

Shame on you, Judge Plotz. My heart goes out to the Dutchers and the Grimes. Thank you for telling this story, Indy.

-- Sally Brookins

Via the Internet

Charity for the rich

To the Editor:

I have a personal reason to be against vouchers. I think my father would have loved them. When my parents' marriage was breaking up in 1966, he sent me to a small and, to me, miserable boarding school in Steamboat Springs in order to make my mother miserable. He also complained a lot about the amount of money he had to pay in taxes.

He died in 1984, after I had reached adulthood and before the current controversy over vouchers, but I feel certain he would be leading the charge for them had they appeared 20 years earlier. Don't be misled. Vouchers are charity for the rich, and an increased temptation for a divorcing parent to deny access to a minor child by the other parent.

I resent having been used as a pawn.

-- Donald Pelton

Colorado Springs

Schultheis: Fiscal liberal

To the Editor:

The following is an open letter to Republican state Sen. Dave Schultheis:

As a lifelong fiscally conservative Republican, I am concerned about your committee's "no" vote on HB 1159, which would create the Office of Homeless Youth.

Apparently you believe that creating the Office of Homeless Youth and making already existing mental health and medical services more available to these potentially productive members of society will be a burden to existing agencies, forcing them to increase their budgets.

This kind of shortsighted thinking in the name of fiscal conservatism is not saving me tax dollars. If we do not move these kids off the streets and help them to become productive tax-paying citizens, it will cost us much more to support them as homeless throughout their lives. In some cases we will end up incarcerating them at a cost of $53,000 per year.

Can you not see the long-term economic sense of doing whatever we can to help get these kids off the streets permanently? Additionally, what is it worth to turn around the life of a child in need? Please reconsider the way that you look at saving my tax dollars.

Your concerned constituent,

-- Pete C. Frech

Colorado Springs

Noble cause no more

To the Editor:

Colorado's forfeiture statutes were designed to take assets from drug kingpins and use the proceeds to fight crime. Initially this was a noble cause, but the statutes have created very negative and unintended consequences. They allow courts to take property from people who have not been convicted or even charged with a crime.

When law enforcement does not have enough evidence to obtain a criminal conviction, it is much easier to proceed with a civil asset seizure. Civil matters are easier to prosecute because they do not risk incarceration of the property owner.

Our constitutional Bill of Rights protections apply only to the individual, not his property. In civil asset forfeiture, the property itself, rather than its owner, is charged with the offense of being involved in an illegal activity.

Under current civil forfeiture laws there is no presumption of innocence until proven guilty; no right to a trial by jury; no right to appointment of an attorney for indigent owners and no protections against double jeopardy.

Colorado's House Bill 1404 will assure property owners a greater degree of protection and will require clear and convincing evidence before forfeiture can proceed. Money and property seized will be used to support substance abuse treatment and prevention programs with a 25 percent bounty going to the seizing agency.

The current system allows law enforcement to keep all of the money and some agencies are not even required to report what they have seized!

Property ownership is a fundamental condition of our free society. Let's not sacrifice any more of our constitutional protections to the misdirected and counterproductive war on drugs.

-- Robert Wiley

Colorado Springs

A great resource lost

To the Editor:

Because of the recent arson fire at Pikes Peak Gay and Lesbian Community Center, the gay community has temporarily lost a great resource here in Colorado Springs. I know when I was a troubled gay adult, I wished I had a safe place to go to like PPGLCC to find out more about what I was going through. I can only hope the whole Colorado Springs community will pull together to help PPGLCC to get back onto its feet and to let the public know that such an outrageously hurtful act will not be tolerated -- intentionally hateful or not.

I can only hope that the citizens here will speak out against violence and intolerance of any organization, religion, race, gender or sexual orientation. Let's not become the "Hate State" again.

-- Dorian Beth Wenzel

Colorado Springs

Editor's note: There is currently no evidence indicating that the arson fire at PPGLCC was a hate crime.

A dynamic force

To the Editor:

In a recent response in opposition to Paul Dougan's article, "Driving While Hippie" [Feb. 28], former peace officer Steve Fowler stated flatly that the "hippie culture made no contribution to mankind and no long-term effect on society."

The '60s culture was a dynamic force that forever changed the American scene, responding to the urge of an advancing people to balance their needs with that of their planet.

It was a massive grass-roots movement that ultimately embraced the key issues of awareness in a Cold War climate, where the state of our environment and our personal health (health foods, yoga, spirituality, and those contributions to an overall organic lifestyle) took precedence and were not allowed to be overshadowed by our country's extensive military buildup.

In addition, the movement of human rights, which contributed greatly to the realization of women as spiritual, mental and emotional equals in a male-dominated society, was itself fueled by a culture that our news media at the time pegged the "hippie movement."

And there is no disputing the lasting effect the imagination of this culture has had through its music and art globally and its distinct contribution to the spreading of Eastern science and philosophy in the West.

It is worth remembering that, for at least 5,000 years of human history prior to the Roman Empire, long hair was the rule and not the exception. From Sumeria to the Andes, great civilizations and culture existed in this manner.

Myself being a longhair, I personally understand the social stigma associated with the length of my hair and its connection to a person's presumed narcotic dependency.

"Driving While Hippie" dealt with a basic human rights violation perpetrated against those who are generally no threat to the public, those being the smokers of marijuana. Ignorance will always breed hypocrisy.

It is unfortunate that so many urban professionals perjure themselves when their latent prejudices ooze from the pores of their so-called open minds. Our corporate and political leaders on Capitol Hill are themselves addicted to a pharmaceutical/ alcohol habit, and are willing to allow the American voters to be, also. Huh!

-- Jimm Davis

Colorado Springs

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