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Get dirty!
Overjoyed to read about School in the Woods ("Making tracks," cover story, Nov. 29). I am reminded of Thomas Jefferson's remark: "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."

The opening of a creaking door in a century-old public educational system illustrates what citizens can do and what great educators can create as well.

We need to revamp our ancient, creaky schoolhouse we've allowed to stifle the kids, and breathe new thoughts and dreams into the system so our kids can join in this new world. Yes, the politics will cry out to halt this, and some have gone so far as to eliminate music, arts and sports programs in the name of budget restraints.

Who are they kidding? Does the school system belong to the entrenched "j-o-b" holders clinging to their selfish interests, or to the citizens and their children?

School in the Woods revealed the truth. School can be exciting, fun and stimulating once again.

Sybil F. Ford
Colorado Springs

Rapid response
I find it ironic that it took less than three days to prove the folly of Dwayne Schultz' comments ("Too much morality," Letters, Dec. 6) that there are no absolute morals in life. While Dwayne was commenting on an issue wholly different and not as grave, he made a concrete statement that nevertheless speaks into the tragedy last week.

Moral relativism poses a great danger when actually applied in the minds of madmen like that of the New Life Church shooter. When all morals are relative, there is no higher authority or reason that can be given to a nutcase with a gun to try to dissuade him from carrying out his anger and idea of justice. Any arguments would simply not be effective because they wouldn't override the gunman's own understanding of what is morally wrong and just.

Obviously there are absolute morals, essential in society and the only grounds to prevent one party from carrying out his own idea of "justice" upon another.

Jay Haddix
Colorado Springs

Gifts from God
In response to the killings at New Life:

How are we using God's gift life on this precious earth? To murder young people? To murder innocent people? To poison our air and water?

God's unique gift to us humans is the ability to imagine, to reason, to hope, to discuss, to understand.

These are the gifts of God's love for us to use on this Earth our sweet home.

Janet F. Chappell
Colorado Springs

Red carpet, red ink
A hearty Colorado Springs welcome to our new city manager ("City's hire passes early test," Between the Lines, Nov. 15). She has a golden opportunity for new beginnings. Citizen taxpayers are fortunate to have "an agent of change and expert in financial management." Both talents will be needed to deal with challenges such as the city budget and improved City Council oversight of city enterprises.

There are two reasons for a city enterprise: To provide useful services obtainable only in the public sector (e.g., Utilities), or to provide useful services and make a profit for the city's general fund (ostensibly Memorial Hospital).

Of current taxpayer-owned enterprises, Memorial Health System has the most autonomy and least Council oversight. That self-governance has evolved from a mutual agreement with City Council. In retrospect, it appears that Council was trying to rid itself of headaches from three generations of association with the hospital. The city had subsidized a financially distressed, moribund health facility for many years from its acquisition during World War II.

When the hospital's red ink finally turned black, it is unclear whether the city's general fund ever received proceeds. We know many millions have been spent on new and renovated buildings, equipment and land to expand.

Who knew about a $200 million cash reserve fund? If City Council is called upon to grant Memorial an appropriation of $23.5 million to cover its budget shortfall, why can't the city tap the reserve fund for its No. 1 priority, Southern Delivery System, and to cover its own budget shortfall?

In 2000, then-City Manager Jim Mullen told me changing Memorial's autonomy would require a vote of the people or a majority of City Council expressing change by fiat. Perhaps the time has come for citizens to state their views.

Our new city manager has her work cut out for her.

John A. Daly
Colorado Springs

The Pueblo Chieftain (Dec. 5) says federal lawmakers who thought they had stopped the Army from doing any planning next year on expanding the Pion Canyon Maneuver Site might be surprised at how little the Army planners feel constrained by the congressional ban.

For example, the story says, the Army currently has a $500,000-a-year contract with an international consulting firm to persuade the public and Southern Colorado ranchers in particular that the Army needs to nearly triple the size of the training area northeast of Trinidad. This contract has been in effect for several years.

Do you know of anyone who has been "persuaded" the training site needs tripling? Not any historical groups aware of the rich heritage hidden here. No archeologists concerned about preserving prehistory. No geologists who read the detailed records in the rocks, and certainly no resident whose home is threatened. What a poor performance from this consulting firm.

Lt. Col. Jim Rice has the job of overseeing the effort to expand PCMS. He met with us in Trinidad to get public input. Someone asked if he had been through our land and he said, "No, but I flew over it." This exhibited the kind of brash ignorance we find so common and infuriating in our dealings with the Army.

If the Army planners do not feel considerable constraint in view of the overwhelming passage of the Musgrave-Salazar amendment and the intensity of the opposition, from the grassroots to the top, we must realize that reality is escaping them.

John H. Robertson

Stodgy Starbucks
On my way back into town last Thursday, I thought I'd stop by the west-side Starbucks (31st and Colorado) for a cup of java and, while there, pick up the new issue of the Independent. Surprise, surprise, there was no Indy to be found, only that nasty Gag-zette.

Knowing that I had gotten the Indy there many times before, I asked the sales people about it. They told me that this Starbucks decided to discontinue carrying the Independent because "a customer complained"!

Let me get this straight: One person doesn't like the Independent, and I, a regular reader, am denied the publication? Shouldn't the complainer just stop reading it? And what right does Starbucks have to limit customers' reading material based on a complaint?

One customer may not like it, but hundreds of others do. I don't care for the Gazette, but I don't go around town demanding that stores stop carrying it! I just don't subscribe to it.

So, if you needed one more reason to avoid the west-side Starbucks, now you have it. The Independent is the best local paper we have in Colorado Springs, so demand it at any business where you spend your precious dollars. Don't patronize those that want to play "big brother" and won't offer free choice to their customers.

Cyndy Kulp
Colorado Springs

Publisher's note: More than 1,000 Starbucks customers every week used to pick up their Independent along with a cup of joe. But after a single customer complained, Starbucks corporate banned the Indy from its Pikes Peak region locations.

We are now working with several local store managers to convince Starbucks corporate to allow the Indy back into their shops. If we have no luck, we most likely will launch another unboycott campaign, urging those readers patronizing Starbucks to communicate their desire to lift the ban.

When we ran a similar unboycott against King Soopers about eight years ago, the supermarket saw the light after 10 days, having received almost 1,000 complaints. My favorite letter came from an Air Force lieutenant colonel who wrote: "I disagree with the Independent almost 100 percent of the time, but I am outraged that you have banned this misguided publication from your stores. Here is my King Soopers card. I will be shopping at Safeway until you bring the Independent back."

We will keep readers posted on Starbucks' response to our request.

Dick-tatorship, anyone?
Does anyone else find it disconcerting that a civilian organization, the Central Intelligence Agency, is headed by a military person, Gen. Michael Hayden?

This situation, coupled with the Cheney/Rumsfeld defense restructuring since 9/11, making the Department of Defense the lead agency for U.S. intelligence gathering, was perpetrated to influence American policies to a pro-war attitude. Cheney berated the CIA under two previous directors, strengthening Rummy's intelligence agencies.

The reasoning behind having civilians control war functions was to hold some sense of control over the "world destroyers."

Does anyone have a feeling "GeeDubYa" may not leave office in January 2009? Or that V-P Cheney will claim dictatorship in January 2009, especially if Hillary wins?!

Robert A. Kalkowski
Colorado Springs

Real questions
We sent the following questions to all presidential candidates. We heard only from Barack Obama, and that was a "canned" reply.

What is your position on the continuing dismantling of our human rights and civil liberties under this administration (including citizens, aliens and so-called "enemy combatants")? Are you in favor or opposed? What is your alternative, if any?

What is your position on the 40-year Israeli military occupation (or effective control) of Palestinian territory, including elements of illegal settlement and ethnic cleansing of indigenous peoples and lands? Are you in favor or opposed? What is your alternative, if any?

What is your position on globalization, "free trade," NAFTA, CAFTA and free-market capitalism theories of Milton Friedman imposed by the U.S. on U.S. citizens and vulnerable developing countries? Are you in favor or opposed? What is your alternative, if any?

What number of U.S. troops and "independent" contractors would you retain in the Iraq and Afghanistan military occupations for any reason after January 2009? Be specific and categorical, not conditional or vague in your answer.

What is your position on global warming, if any? If you believe it is a significant and urgent problem for humankind, what specific remedies would you propose? Please include a timeline.

Do you favor a single-payer healthcare plan for all Americans? If not, why?

Any candidate who leaves open the options of pre-emptive strikes, i.e. terrorism or "enhanced" interrogations (torture), is a war criminal in violation of the Nuremberg and U.N. charters and the Geneva Conventions and should be disqualified from that party's nomination and our election. Several have made such declarations.

Bill and Genie Durland
Colorado Springs

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