Email letters, March 19, 2013

Schools reflect the communities they serve

I’ve followed with interest the continuing debate and developments concerning school safety, security, and bullying in Mesa County and elsewhere. As a District 51 taxpayer and one with a working knowledge of the issues, I’d like to offer the following.

Communication is nearly always identified as a key improvement issue in the planning or functional exercise of safety or emergency plans, or when reviewing actual incidents in an attempt to improve response.

Communication is not aided or embellished when affronts to transparency, accountability, and citizen awareness exist because of the operating philosophies of school district administrations. It is made even more difficult when public safety and other government stakeholders are complicit in those efforts to keep the daily, seemingly ‘routine’ problems quiet and hidden.

Recent media coverage of bullying in District 51 schools is evidence of this. Threats and outright violence go unaddressed, and the district’s response to parents is dismissive or non-existent. The problem must come to light via social media and viral video.

Even after that, the response to media inquiries is minimalist replies, if not outright stonewalling behind the excuses afforded by nebulous privacy laws and other policies. The end result is the feeling that managing the reputation of the school is more important than managing the problems at hand.

I have personally witnessed multiple attempts to convey information to police and others about potential emergency situations in schools in such a way as to prevent students, parents, and especially the media from finding out about them. I fear that this has of late become the rule and not the exception.

Recent commentary in the Orange and Black, Grand Junction High School’s award-winning student newspaper, lamented the school administration’s refusal to communicate the reason for a lockdown to those students being locked down. How does this type of operating paradigm create an atmosphere of trust and accountability that is not only a benchmark of effective management, but of the educational process itself?

While it’s laudable that an advisory panel has been assembled to provide recommendations for improving school safety, it remains to be seen if these recommendations will pass muster in the top-heavy, rarefied atmosphere of superiority, if not hubris, that exists in many school district administrations. Their elected overseers need timely reminders from We The People of whom they are charged to serve.

Gun-toting personnel and locked doors may be useful, topical deterrents, but a culture of secrecy and subterfuge infects the body and soul of an institution in a way like nothing else can. In a place where learning is supposed to be the main thing, the prognosis is grim in such an environment. I am reminded of the Supreme Court justice who wrote about sunshine being the best of disinfectants, and electric light being the best policeman.

It must be fairly admitted and confronted that schools are a full part, parcel and reflection of the communities they serve. A community that refuses to honestly and openly confront the deep-seated issues facing it, including how they affect our youth and by default their schools, is and will be in continued denial over how to deal with them. Anything else is, as Shakespeare coined it, “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

JOHN L. LINKO

Leetsdale, Penn.

Wiggins’ assessment of lawsuit ‘spot-on’

Mike Wiggins’ column regarding the importance of a transparent government is spot-on.

Nine years ago, the misconceptions about the board of trustees lawsuit often overshadowed the bigger picture, but Wiggins said it best: It was always about the process and never about the person.

It wasn’t about what Tim Foster could do for CMU or the community. I (and others) just wanted the process to be open and honest. Now, as a Grand Junction native and proud CMU alumna, I am always thrilled to return to the valley and see the university thriving.

Requiring our government officials to conduct the public’s business “in the sunshine” is not just good practice—it’s also the law in Colorado. And holding our elected officials to that standard is journalism’s highest calling, not a personal attack.

Doing so simply means we are doing our jobs — and complying with Sunshine Laws means officials are doing theirs.

MEGAN FROMM

Mesa State College Class of 2005
Ramstein, Germany

Business owners also contribute to quality of life in valley

Thank you, Daily Sentinel, for pointing out the support for the challengers for City Council.  It is no accident that the silent majority is awakening to the consequences of elections.

Business owners have been busy working, making payroll, raising their families and trusting that government will do the right thing. In the past year, more than 1,500 properties would have been down-zoned if property owners had not stood up. One property owner was held up for six months in an effort to use his property at a cost of $250,000, which he could have used in his business.

We worry about the feds in Washington, but private property rights start right here where it is grand. We are tired of over-regulation, fees on business that are passed on to the consumer and a decrease in high-paying jobs that affects our families and children.

We are tired of not being heard, as in testifying at hearings to deaf ears and hearing good intentions on over-lays, zoning plans and neighborhood centers which are then passed anyway – for the “common good,” which then deprive owners the use of their properties. Jobs are quality of life, too, besides the wonderful amenities we enjoy.

We don’t want our city to go broke, like other cities. It is not called a recovery when sales tax revenues continue to decline.

Our intention is to continue to be the most livable city, and we will with the right leadership and participation from each of us.

LOIS DUNN
Grand Junction

Proponents of park status for monument fail to understand key aspects of a national park system

This letter is in reference to the Sentinel’s story on “Park Status” March 15, especially to the quote from the boosters’’ group, “ensuring our community’s quality of life for generations to come.”
Now, really; will simply changing the name of the monument to “park” do THAT? Do the local boosters have any idea how childish and cloistered they sound—as they greedily invent or endorse every possible opportunity to prostitute themselves in the name of “economic development”? 

They appear puzzled by the fact that the National Park Service is not sufficiently fiscally motivated to want to market the people’s treasures, for whatever they have the potential to bring in—here and now—with a name change, with non-conforming, high-impact events, etc.

The degree of hubris characterized by their view of the monument as OURS—to use as best suits OUR needs—- is exceeded only by their lack of understanding of the national significance of each of the 398 units of the National Park System, and the necessity of managing them as a system, with a degree of uniform coordination.

On the one hand, the boosters tout Colorado National Monument as a “hidden gem,” absent the crowds of such attractions elsewhere, while simultaneously calling for park status and staged events, which they reassure us are sure to increase local tourism—- and crowds—- with money to spend. Apparently the chamber and the Visitors Convention Bureau are (conveniently) unfamiliar with the difficulty of “having it both ways.”


Is it not sufficient “local celebrity” that Colorado National Monument is one of only three national monuments to carry the name of its state of residence within its own? No, I suppose not.


In a more austere economy than ours, John Otto loved it for what it was, not for what it could be made to produce.


“H” K. HANCOCK 
Grand Junction

Zoning must reflect healthy community values

The issue of Referred Measure A reflects community values. We must vote “No” to placing industrial zoning on the riverbank in downtown Grand Junction.

We have a very strong community value to continue to clean up our riverfront as witnessed by the millions of dollars put into this effort by many people. We have zoning which advocates compatible zoning, a community value in the city charter.

Brady Trucking proposed zoning that is industrial, and this is incompatible to the location. It allows hazardous waste, junkyards, loud noise, outdoor storage of heavy equipment and more. Clearly, this is not compatible with residential zoning. Would the Chamber of Commerce be agreeable to allow any company to have those incompatible uses in their neighborhoods?

People do not want industrial zoning in parks and next to neighborhoods. The longstanding property rights of the residential neighborhood on the south side of the Brady property adjacent to the narrow river supersede any property rights of new owners of the area that is being newly zoned.

Another community value respects and protects the bank of the Colorado River for the 85 percent of bird species that depend on the shore and the bank area. There had been a pond that had provided habitat for hundreds of geese. Brady Trucking filled in the pond. Abundant wildlife such as herons, kingfishers, songbirds and deer had lived on this bank.

Leaving something for birds and animals is a community value. Most species do not adapt to industrial racket any better than human homeowners or park users. This community attempted many times to help Brady find an appropriate area.

Another value is providing a nice area for our visitors. It would be better to have shops and restaurants that provide jobs. Vote “No” on Referred Measure A.

PENNY HEUSCHER
Grand Junction

Community should consider nonlethal options for school safety

I thoroughly enjoyed your article this Sunday regarding safer schools. I would like to present an option that seems to be missing from all of the discussion regarding allowing firearms in our schools. I hope you will consider passing it along.

Why has there been no mention of nonlethal ammunition? There are many low recoil nonlethal ammunition choices available that make an otherwise unwieldy (for many people) 12-gauge shotgun into an effective method to subdue criminals. Why is the use of a firearm automatically considered lethal? A tool is adaptable to many purposes. This must be included in any debate in this issue.

The shotgun, as noted by Joe Biden, can be very effective as a deterrent to crime. The mere knowledge of someone armed with a shotgun is, in and of itself, very foreboding.

To credit Hollywood, everyone’s less apt to get nervy if Doc’s on the street with a howitzer. That comment, although scripted, overstates the presence of someone trained, armed and willing with a shotgun. I’m certain that if a semiautomatic 8-round version had been available at that time in history, it would have been featured instead of Old Joe’s double barrel.

Nonlethal options do not automatically preclude injury to the intended target but greatly reduce the mortality of the issue. This should help to ease the conscience in the decision to utilize force to deter a potential disaster, as well as limit potential collateral damage to innocent bystanders. While the possibility of an accident still exists the consequences are drastically reduced. This addresses some concerns of both sides of this unfortunate issue.

As always with firearms, safety comes first. Since concealment of a shotgun is not an issue, proper storage, dispersal and access would have to be implemented in a way to minimize risk of theft and misuse while providing for the best rapid response.

Professionally supervised instructive drills could be implemented after school hours when the students will not be present, thereby allowing the guards better familiarity with the situational environment. Continuous improvement policies could work through any unrecognized safety concerns discovered by these practice sessions. These issues should be discussed along with all other options.

The fact that most of these criminals commit suicide rather than face the consequences of their desperate actions cannot be ignored. Allowing introduction of the idea that they don’t have the option of not being fired upon, may survive their assault and be held accountable, might deter many from acting on violent thoughts. This is another reason to have quick access by proper personnel to firearms.

Didn’t someone once say, “Speak softly and carry a big stick”? We provide and tolerate armed security in many more environments that are less important than our most precious assets! It truly is time for appropriate sensible action.

Thank you for the opportunity for a voice.

TOM SMITH
Montrose

Obama’s charm offensive seems to sway Boehner

Is there “absolute truth” that Speaker of the House John Boehner and President Barack Obama are bringing our two major political parties closer together?

If there is, it might be further documented by the fact that Boehner and Vice President Joe Biden are thinking more and more alike. Here’s the proof:

Back on Jan. 11, 2011, when Jim Lehrer on PBS NewsHour interviewed Biden regarding the 2012 campaign and more specifically his relationship with Obama, Biden expressed his “absolute trust” in the president.

Fast forward…...  On Sunday, March 17, when Martha Raddatz interviewed Boehner on ABC’s “This Week,” she inquired about his “trust level” with Obama and asked directly “Do you trust Obama?” Without hesitation Boehner responded, not once, but twice, “absolutely!”

Does Obama need any more proof that his so-called “charm offensive” is working?

That’s not all.  Boehner further disclosed his agreement with the president by declaring, “We do not have an immediate debt crisis, But we all know that we have one looming.”

Without benefit of an opinion poll or a focus group, one has to wonder how many Republicans can claim “absolute trust” in the competence of Boehner’s leadership.

RICHARD DORAN
Parachute

 



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