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What about PERA?

Pam Zubeck's excellent article ("Let's have a look at that," Aug 8.) does not fully explain the PERA issue.

First, the City/Memorial is saying it doesn't owe PERA anything only because it characterizes the proposed lease as a "layoff" of employees, not a termination of the city's operation of Memorial, which would require the City/Memorial to make PERA financially whole for the underfunding of PERA pensions for Memorial employees leaving the system.

However, the lease proposal clearly provides that Memorial employees currently under PERA would automatically become employees of UCH at the same salary and equivalent benefits if the voters approve the proposal.

The current Memorial employees would have the same jobs the day after the lease becomes effective; they aren't being laid off. The city is simply getting out of the hospital business and another entity is taking over while the city gains a financial benefit.

Second, if the city does not pay their share of the underfunding of PERA from proceeds of the hospital transaction, that burden will fall on other employers and employees remaining in the PERA pension fund. Two of the largest employers and groups of employees that would be affected are the City of Colorado Springs and Colorado Springs Utilities.

Simply stated, if Memorial does not pay its fair share of its liability for the underfunding of its employees' pensions, that liability will fall in large part to city taxpayers and utility ratepayers and to City and Utilities employees.

— Greg Johnson

Colorado Springs

UCH and Medicare

Local voters are deciding whether to accept the offer to lease the city's Memorial Hospital to a University of Colorado nonprofit entity, but relinquishing local control means there is no guarantee that community health needs will continue to be met; for example, that Memorial will still accept Medicare.

At present, Memorial provides more care to indigents than any other hospital in the state, while the University of Colorado Denver facility ranks very low for offering indigent care. Apparently teaching hospitals prefer teachable cases and excuse themselves from patients who cannot pay because "it's not their mission." Alas, the prestige of becoming a teaching hospital is how politicians are selling the Memorial deal, now obviously dubious. Ordinarily the privatization of medical facilities in Colorado is safeguarded by what's called the "conversion statute," but that protects communities when hospitals are sold, not leased! While a 40-year "lease" sounds less of a commitment, it circumvents Colorado's conversion protections.

Could Memorial's private operators close their doors to Medicare patients? Anyone who thinks "they wouldn't do that" has not felt the business end of a phone call with a health insurance adjuster.

— Eric Verlo

Colorado Springs

Editor's note: University claims it provided $300 million in indigent care in the last year. The conversion statute cited applies to hospitals sold or leased to for-profit hospitals, not nonprofits like University.

Kicked the habit

Gina Douglas wrote an excellent article for smokers in the Independent ("Giving up the goat," Letters, Aug. 15):

But as well-written and articulate as it was, she's not looking at the big picture. She may as well have said, "We all should get to kill the planet and everything on it as much as we want, because "corporate jet(s), and coal-fired power plant(s)' do it anyway."

Think of how much money tobacco companies put into advertising (who needs ads to buy cigarettes?) that they could be slinging toward improving humanity instead (and clearing their karma). As for what corporations/media, banksters and politicians all can do to detoxify the planet, and thus us, is only up to them. We each have a battle of our own — I may be still journeying, but I've mastered the smoking distraction.

— J.T. Welch

Colorado Springs

Today's Minutemen?

In his letter (“Job for the NRA," Aug. 15) Bob Wheeler states, "Our history does not indicate that our society requires individual gun ownership to protect our rights in this country."

Does Bob Wheeler remember that our country, with the help of gun-owning Minutemen, saved this country from the tyranny of England during our Revolutionary War? The silence he hears may come from the vacuum between his ears.

— Dennis Specht

Colorado Springs

Uncontrolled gun use

As an NRA member I have been doing the job (“Job for the NRA," Letters, Aug. 15)! I have been fighting to limit "uncontrolled use of guns" by alerting people to the fact that in the '70s the ACLU went to court and obtained a ruling that made it almost impossible to have dangerously mentally ill people committed.

That is why you never heard of these types of mass shootings like in Aurora before the '70s, because most of them have been done by the people the ACLU has protected from being institutionalized. Also because the NRA pushed for stricter laws to punish criminals (like three-strikes legislation) in the last three decades, the homicide rate has been cut in about half at a time when millions more guns are owned by citizens.

I will keep fighting against "uncontrolled use of guns," but the only question is: Will letter-writer Bob Wheeler join me in the battle?

— Ron Coleman

Colorado Springs

It's the taxes, stupid!

Willard M. Romney does not need to release any more income tax returns. The 2010 return that he did release clearly shows what he has in mind, if he and Paul Ryan have their way.

They both want to drop the tax rate on interest, dividends and capital gains to zero. They have said this repeatedly. I am not an expert on taxes, but let's look at just a few items from Mitt's 2010 tax return: $3.3 million in interest, $5 million in dividends and $12.5 million in capital gains. Gee, how about that? All taxed at 15 percent. Ordinary income of $500,000 from speaking fees, probably taxed at the 35-percent level. His charitable giving was $1.5 million in cash and $1.5 million in non-cash. His taxable rate is said to be 13.9 percent for this year. If Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan get their wish, Mr. Romney would have a tax rate of less than 1 percent.

Would you trust someone to run this country, a person who uses every means possible to avoid paying taxes to the federal and state governments, has numerous off-shore accounts and will not release even five years of his tax returns? Who has said many times, in so many words, that he wanted to drop the tax rates to zero on 95 percent of his income, should he become president and has lied about his tax returns before, while running for governor? And took a $77 thousand business deduction for his wife's dancing horse?

Or would you want a person who has released 12 years of tax returns, wants to raise very slightly the top marginal tax rate for the very wealthiest people and leave the tax rate the same for 95 percent of the taxpayers? Is that really a tough question?

Not for me. I am voting for Barack Obama, a man of the people, by the people and for the people.

— David M. Justice

Colorado Springs

A peaceable debate

The recent shooting at the Family Research Council has many in pro-life/pro-traditional marriage groups ready to blame gay and lesbian groups for causing this person to act the way he did. I have been blamed and named as responsible for shootings at the abortion clinics for my very public stand against abortion. I will not respond in kind. I do not blame anyone in the gay rights movement for what happened. I have been so impressed by every pro-gay group disavowing the shooting at the Family Research Council. Let's all agree that people on both sides of this issue are passionate about their positions, yet this passion does not mean any of us support violence. I know 99 percent of people in gay and lesbian groups are devastated by what happened. Please those of us who are pro-life/pro-traditional marriage, do not respond with vengence and/or blame, respond in love.

— Fr. Bill Carmody

Respect Life Director

Diocese of Colorado Springs

Ryan, Rand and logic

Romney's choice of Paul Ryan for vice president presents an interesting (or perhaps, "illogical" is a better word) juxtaposition. Ryan's plans embrace Ayn Rand, an avowed atheist (stating "reason" and "self-interest" as our model for laissez-faire capitalism), while running on a right-wing, religion-based, ideological ticket. Logic seems to elude the New Republicans. But I suppose if one has a narrow agenda and even narrower frame of reference, it destroys all logic. I say, give them more tea ...

— Sharlene White

Oceanside, Calif.

Obama's 1-percenters

Mr. Hightower: How one-sided you are to call out Mitt Romney for holding a $25,000-to-$75,000 fundraising event ("Mitt slums it with fish and chips," LowDown, Aug. 8), when President Obama is closing public beaches in Connecticut to hold fundraisers thrown by his own "1 percenters."

Don't fool yourself into thinking that only Republicans and bankers make up the so called "1 percent"; from Obama's lavish fundraisers held in the White House to the Hollywood, blow-hard crowd rallies, these are all part of the "1 percent" you claim is all in Mitt's court.

— Paul Langford

Colorado Springs

Root for Team USA

In response to Gina Douglas ("Everybody's Olympics," Letters, Aug. 8) we all know the Olympics are a world competition, but we cheer for the home team.

Every two years we come together as a nation and cheer our American team. We want to be the best and we want to win. Not because we're greedy, but because we want our Olympians to pursue glory and honor for themselves and their country. Never berate our team for winning. We are a beacon of hope for the rest of the world, and they tune in to watch not just for their country, but to watch the USA and the hope that comes with such country.

I'm a Steelers fan living in Colorado, but you don't see my crying "jingoism" because there are more Broncos games on than Steelers games. The USA is my team, and I want to see them win. If you want to cheer for Canada, then move there and cheer for them, but in America we cheer for our team and share in the glory with our athletes.

— Rob Annese

Colorado Springs

Editor's note: In Douglas' letter, Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will was referred to as Hitler's "paean to the 1936 Berlin Olympics." It was actually Riefenstahl's Olympia.


Not just a sandwich

Phil Hosmer's letter ("Playing chicken," Letters, Aug. 8) misses entirely the devastating assault on the dignity and lives of LGBT people fostered by people like Mr. Cathy and organizations like Chick-fil-A. Let's not forget that profits from the fast food restaurant have gone to the American Family Association, Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council (designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center because they spread lies about the lives of LGBT people), and similar organizations who have petitioned Congress not to oppose Uganda's anti-gay bill.

And the organizations that Cathy and Chick-fil-A support teach those who listen to them about how bad homosexuality is, how sinful, how much of an abomination, and how God hates gay people (the line about loving the sinner but hating the sin doesn't work when we're talking about a natural, loving desire that is experienced at one's very core; faced with that experience, the outcome among LGBT youth in particular is to believe that God hates them completely). Is it any wonder that GLBT kids are up to four times more likely to commit suicide than straight kids, and that up to four times as many GLBT teenagers as straight teenagers are homeless, thrown out by religious parents who can't accept them because of the lies they've been fed by Focus, AFA and these other organizations?

The "irrational and intolerant" behavior of the kiss-in protestors is nothing compared with the irrational behavior of individuals and groups who devalue people because of who they love.

— Amanda Udis-Kessler

Colorado Springs


• In "Is 8 enough?" (7 Days to Live, Aug. 15), the Indy mistakenly named Sammie Joe Kinnett as a cast member in the play, instead of Sammy Gleason.

• In "The hot seat" (Appetite, Aug. 8), Sandra Vanderstoep was referred to as "co-owner" of Garden of the Gods Gourmet; Lynn Schlemeyer and Mike Cookson own the business.

We regret the errors.

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