Email letters, March 26, 2014

Coroner article based on gross misrepresentation

A death certificate is an official document that is used by the state to report and track deaths for statistical purposes, and the information is readily available at the Colorado State Health Department website. In every case that I have performed since arriving in Mesa County in 1992, as the community’s first forensic pathologist, I provided a death certificate without exception.

Sunday’s front-page article titled “Files Not Found” is based on a gross and conveniently timed political misrepresentation. It claims that the lack of a written autopsy report in some cases has hindered the county’s ability to track and report death in our community.

Yes, all reports should have been completed; however, all information regarding cases that have been performed since 1992 is available in written or electronic format. I have continued to perform work for the coroner’s office since 2007 at the end of my term as coroner.

Quoting Dr. Havlik, “he’s (Kurtzman) good at the autopsy part of it.”  Over seven years ago I made a commitment to improve autopsy reporting and have 100 percent completion of my records. In fact, over 60 percent of the 100 percent completed cases cited by the current coroner are cases that I performed. Because of my experience, a deliberate effort was made to ensure that I was available for most forensic cases in Mesa County and surrounding communities, and since then I have performed over 1,550 postmortem examinations compared to approximately 550 performed by Havlik.

Before and during my term as coroner, working alone from 1992 until 2001 and with Havlik until 2006 when my term ended, I always made myself available to assist law enforcement at scenes, served as a reference and expert to the legal community (typically without fees), provided community education and maintained high autopsy rates. Mesa County received full value while I served the county.

In contrast, over the last seven years, with two years exception, autopsy rates have declined, yet the coroner budget has increased. Pathologist assistance at scenes has greatly diminished or has been absent, even in notable instances, and coroner investigator turnover has been common.

Calendar year 2013 saw the lowest number of autopsies performed in many years, despite a growing population. A declining autopsy rate means some cases, generally “presumed natural” are not autopsied. The lack of an autopsy diminishes our opportunity to detect, monitor and respond to disease in our community. Subtle cases of abuse, neglect and, although exceptionally rare, homicide cases can be overlooked. Reports are important, but vital information cannot be discovered or a report prepared if an autopsy was never performed.

So, as a relatively small community, with two board-certified forensic pathologists with 27 and 14 years of experience, we are now struggling to elect one as coroner. I have always maintained that we both possess different attributes that benefit the community. What are the qualities you seek in a forensic physician for the community?  I personally believe the answer is experience, communication, philosophy and passion for the work.

DR. ROB KURTZMAN

Forensic pathologist and former Mesa County coroner
Grand Junction

CMU’s CFO sets record on construction funding straight

In a recent letter to the editor, Bill Conrod of Grand Junction suggested that it’s time for The Daily Sentinel to do in-depth reporting on the federal stimulus bill.  Unfortunately, he threw Colorado Mesa University in to this conversation by suggesting that construction on our campus during the recent recession must have been funded by the federal government. 

As the chief financial officer at CMU, I want to correct this assertion for the record.  CMU has been able to grow its physical campus through conservative budgeting and strategic investments in quality and by recruiting great students. We have not asked for or received federal money to pay for construction projects, and we have no plans to do so.
 
PATRICK DOYLE

Chief Financial Officer
Colorado Mesa University
Grand Junction

Caprock student’s act should have been lauded

Now that Caprock’s rigid dress-code policy has attracted national attention, the school should please fire the administrator who expelled Kamryn Renfro for shaving her head in support of her school chum undergoing chemothrapy.  And that’s to be in effect for the months required for Kamryn’s hair to grow out, no less.  So, there goes this school year.
 
In most circumstances such an act of support is lauded, not punished.
 
I am a solid supporter of charter schools, and it comes as a great shock to me to learn that charter school administrators are no smarter than public school administrators.
 
RICHARD RININGER
Grand Junction

Caprock, other schools could send ‘shavees’ to St. Baldrick’s

I believe the recent decision by Caprock Academy to punish a young student for shaving her head in support of her friend battling cancer can be a learning experience in many ways. As a “shavee” and photographer for the last two St. Baldrick’s events in Grand Junction, I firmly believe this negative can be turned into a huge positive.

Members of the Jim Hamlin family of Mesa have been the organizers for these two events. They are also doing so for this year’s event June 28 at the Edgewater Brewery. Here are my suggestions: I challenge the staff and students at Caprock to form their own team of “shavees” and then challenge other schools to do the same.

I also suggest asking the Hamlin family, as well as wonderful Delaney Clements, her friends and family, to talk with the entire student body at an assembly. So much can be learned and gained from this approach, making the entire community more aware of children’s cancer and St. Baldrick’s efforts across the nation to raise funds for children’s cancer research. I sincerely hope to see the Caprock community at this year’s event.

JIM COX
Palisade

Palmer is best candidate for Mesa County Board of Commissioners

During this election year, it is common for folks to ask themselves again, “Is my vote important?” It has been said that all politics begin at the local level and – yes — it is vital that eligible citizens are registered and vote.

This writer’s purpose is to focus on the upcoming election to fill a seat on the Board of Mesa County commissioners. As usual, I never determine my vote because of political party affiliation. There are few but vital characteristics that must affect a voter’s choice. Some are a candidate’s character, performance and success in previous endeavors, communication skills, commitment to community and county, true belief in our system of government, an American at heart, and a true love for Grand Junction and Mesa County.

Furthermore, my vote will go to a candidate who will devote needed time to study county issues, have his/her homework done prior to each meeting, knows full well the ins-and-outs of a successful business and has a clear vision of where our county should go in the future.

I will also vote for a candidate who will listen to county constituents, look at the larger picture of each and every issue and truly be a fiscal conservative — yet do his best to meet county needs that are appropriate.

I have worked with my candidate on a previous board. He was always knowledgeable about the current issues, and he was always thoroughly prepared. There is no doubt that he meets all the qualifications described in this letter. Gregg Palmer is truly a candidate that stands heads and shoulders above any other contender. He will be a tremendous asset to the current board and our county.

FRANK ROGER LITTLE
Grand Junction

New climate policy would ‘rule them all’

Congratulations to Scott Ely, Sunsense Solar and the Wayne N. Aspinall Federal Building and US. Courthouse in Grand Junction for winning the prestigious Intelegant Award for Excellence from SunPower.

Thank you to the Sentinel for sharing this win-win: the first historic net-zero energy building in the country and a project completed by a thriving locally-owned business. This project is an example of what is possible when we combine preserving our history with pricing mechanisms that allow regional, alternative energy entrepreneurs to thrive.

Your article mentioned that this project was funded with federal stimulus dollars. Some people may object to using government dollars to pay for a solar project, even if it cuts taxpayer-funded energy bills on the building to zero. Those people may take heart in a new proposal called carbon fee and dividend.

Currently being championed by Citizen’s Climate Lobby, it is a free-market, revenue-neutral mechanism that corrects for the negative externalities of carbon-based fuels and allows all energy sources to compete on a level playing field. Best of all, it means American households would receive an equal share of the fees collected from fossil fuel producers.

Though prices on carbon-intensive goods would be higher, it would give savvy citizens a strong incentive to actually save money through energy
conservation and buying locally. Conservative economists agree that this is the climate policy “to rule them all,” and it fits the steadily increasing, predictable tax that oil companies want.

Readers who want to learn more or help communicate this idea to Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall and Rep. Scott Tipton should contact .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

AMELIA POTVIN
Carbondale

Kurtzman doesn’t deserve negative press

Paul Shockley’s story on the coroner’s race candidates is a hatchet job, pure and simple, to discredit a very fine man, Rob Kurtzman. Why were none of Dean Havlik’s known mistakes also brought to the public’s attention?

It is obvious from this and past articles that The Daily Sentinel doesn’t like Republicans and so has sided with Havlik, a Democrat turned Republican (for the purpose of getting votes). Will the Sentinel ever mention Kurtzman’s worthwhile vision of developing the coroner’s office into a first-class, regional organization for the betterment of our public health? Probably not.

Perhaps Kurtzman should have paid more attention to details than he did, but he has broken no laws and has caused no problems, and doesn’t deserve to be treated the way the Sentinel is treating him. This kind of story didn’t need to be sensationalized the way Shockley and his editors did it.

The Sentinel seems to have a stable of reporters who can’t write unbiased articles when it comes to politics. It also shows how far down the ladder the Sentinel has dropped in quality reporting. There is no real news value in Shockley’s article, and it could have been printed at the bottom of page 8 for what it is worth.

Come on, Sentinel, get your act together and become a fair and balanced news organization. Stop the yellow journalism when it comes to politics.

SUE BENJAMIN
Grand Junction

WCAF members intolerant of choices different than theirs

I have concerns about The Daily Sentinel article Friday expressing the Western Colorado Atheist and Freethinkers’ protest of a video shown at a midde school which offered activities for youth, which happened to be at a local church.

First, the First Amendment to the Constitution has two clauses: 1) forbidding the extablishment of religion, e.g., the government cannot require religion 2) free exercise of religious belief, meaning the government cannot forbid individual expression of religious belief.  In the referenced article there is no indication that anyone coerced or suggested anyone attend a church, merely offered an option for healthy activities.

Students could choose to, or not to, participate. Also, for a school to discourage students from individual prayer at lunch is a clear violation of the “free exercise” clause.
 
Secondly, if individuals need assistance, would the WCAF not refer them to Catholic Outreach because they might come in contact with religion, or to the Salvation Army, because it’s a church? I think a referral for youth to be involved in healthy activities is great, even if it may be at a (gasp!) church.

Additionally, I think members of the WCAT should remove the “Freethinker” from their title —  they certainly don’t encourage “freethinking” when that allows someone to make a choice with which they don’t agree.  How is that “freethinking”?

BOB DEAL
Grand Junction

With a strong record of dependability, Kurtzman is the right choice

I am one of the elected delegates to the Republican Assembly on March 29.  I have worked with both Dr. Rob Kurtzman and Dr. Dean Havlik.  There is only one right choice, and that is Kurtzman.  I have worked in law enforcement in Mesa County for 19 years and know that we could always depend on Kurtzman for support. Regardless of the time of day, or conditions, he was always available if we requested him at a scene.

In response to the letter in The Daily Sentinel March 14 by coroners near Mesa County, I noticed these coroners and deputy Coroners are in counties that don’t use the Mesa County coroner’s office except on a rare occasion.  Dr. Michael Benzinger is the pathologist for these coroners. The letter also stated Havlik had been involved in thousands of death investigations. I have rarely seen Havlik show up at any scene.  When it comes to major crimes in Mesa County and the surrounding areas, Kurtzman has testified in almost all cases.

The letter also spoke about a multiple casualty incident and working together.  Mesa County and the surrounding counties would be very fortunate to have Kurtzman’s experience.  Kurtzman’s resume includes Flight 255 in Detroit and the Storm King fire in Glenwood Springs as some of his work with multiple casualties.  When it comes to working together with other counties, I have never known Kurtzman to turn anyone down.

Havlik changed political parties for this race. The only reason I have heard for this change is so people will vote for him.  The doctor did not do his homework.  He would have discovered there have been several great leaders in Mesa County that were not Republicans.  I feel Havlik not only slapped the Democrats and the unaffiliated in their faces, but also the Republicans. 

Even though this is a strong Republican county, the Republicans can make the right choice no know matter what party the candidate belongs to.  In the Mesa County coroner’s race there is only one right choice, and that is Kurtzman.       

GARY FOSS

Grand Junction

Acqufresca’s attributes show he’s a strong fit for Statehouse

I have known Steve Acquafresca since he first ran for public office. Over the years, I’ve known him as a commissioner and as a committed individual involved in our community at various functions I have attended.

Acquafresca is now running for the Statehouse seat, and I believe he has the knowledge and understanding one needs to accomplish what that position demands. I have seen over the years how well informed he is about current issues, political or not; he has a realistic point of view.

Acquafresca is sincere and wants to be aware of what people are trying to tell him. Even when people are long-winded and don’t know when to stop talking, Steve listens to them.

When it comes to conversations, he always shows kindness, charm and courtesy. When needed, he can still get his evaluation of the subject heard based on his knowledge, understanding and commitment.

JAN CURTIS
Grand Junction

With a record of dependability, Kurtzman is right choice for coroner

I am one of the elected delegates to the Republican assembly March 29. I’ve worked with both Dr. Rob Kurtzman and Dr. Dean Havlik. There is only one right choice, and that is Kurtzman. I’ve worked in law enforcement in Mesa County for 19 years and know we could always depend on Kurtzman for support. Regardless of the time of day or conditions, he was always available if we requested him at a scene.

In response to the March 14 letter by coroners near Mesa County, I noticed these coroners and deputy coroners work in counties that don’t use the Mesa County coroner’s office except on a rare occasion. Dr. Michael Benzinger is the pathologist for these coroners. The letter also stated Havlik had been involved in thousands of death investigations. I have rarely seen Havlik show up at any scene. When it comes to major crimes in Mesa County and the surrounding areas, Kurtzman has testified in almost all cases.

The letter also spoke about a multiple casualty incident and working together. Mesa County and surrounding counties would be fortunate to have Kurtzman’s experience. His resume includes Flight 255 in Detroit and the Storm King fire in Glenwood Springs. When it comes to working together with other counties, I have never known Kurtzman to turn anyone down.

Havlik changed political parties for this coroner’s race. The only reason I have heard for this change is so people will vote for him. The doctor didn’t do his homework. He’d have discovered several great Mesa County leaders were not Republicans. Havlik not only slapped Democrats and the unaffiliated in their faces, but also Republicans.

Even though this is a strong Republican county, Republicans can make the right choice no matter what party the candidate belongs to. In the coroner’s race there’s only one right choice: Kurtzman.     

GARY FOSS
Grand Junction

De Beque citizens must study all ramifications of gaming

I wouuld like to comment on Glenn Brown’s letter of March 23 concerning DeBeque’s citizens contemplating limited stakes gaming as a way to rescue their city from economic difficulties.

Although I can agree with is comments, I think the point is missed for the real task at hand. He focuses on the social ills as opposed to anything else it may bring. My qualifications for the following expressions come as a former Mayor of Cripple Creek and having been in on the ground floor of the casino movement in that community.

He says arrests in the other mountain communites rose by 287 percent. While this is true, you have to understand that any increase in population is going to bring higher statistics. This goes for all calls, crime, death rates etc. If you only have two people in a community and one is a criminal, you project a 50 percent crime rate. These types of arguements are not realistic arguements for or against something.

The real questions I would pose to the DeBeque community are: Is your town infrastructure to the point that it cannot sustain itself? Do you have a tax base that you can rely on to keep your basic protections of fire, police or sheriff, and ambulance intact? Are you ready to give up your town as you know it for a benefit that may or may not be good for your populace?
Where is your draw for customers coming from and is it equivalant to a continuous flow of revenue?

Those questions are by far more important to be answered by that community as it will change that landscape for better or worse with no turning back. Very few local people will benefit because they have no real stake in the transactions. Social ills exist and will continue to exist with or without it. Those that have any kind of addiction will find a way to partake in it.

I am not for or against it coming to DeBeque, I only have first-hand experience of the whole process.

CHIP PAGE
Former Mayor Cripple Creek
Grand Junction

ACLU stands up for rights of everyone, even those of Penry

I applaud Josh Penry’s avid use of his freedom of speech and civil rights to say he pleases through his column. The ACLU has always taken up these rights for him and all people, regardless of how unpopular such rights might be with various other groups.

The GOP platform states, “We The People: A Restoration of Constitutional Government.” It also states, “All security measures and police actions should be viewed through the lens of the Fourth Amendment; for if we trade liberty for security, we shall have neither.”

Perhaps Penry, former minority leader, is not familiar with his party’s platform, or once again his willingness to honor that mission statement and the Constitution surfaces only when both conform to the city’s and his purposes.

We have all the laws and ordinances we need to discourage what the council and Penry consider harassment. Except one: complete removal of the homeless and undesirables from downtown. Is the panhandler ordinance another way to allow police to remove obvious uncomfortable signs of classism, poverty, alcoholism and mental illness that walk daily on our streets?

Penry asserts that “they just can’t harass the elderly or the disabled” that the ordinance defines as “at risk.” The fact is that the homeless and panhandlers are at risk, are disabled and most often afflicted with mental illness and ill-equipped to represent themselves — thus the ACLU.

Our city financially supports the Avalon for a minority of affluent citizens but not the outreach housing project for those in need. They want the downtown park for use by families shopping on Main Street that have homes, in effect removing the homeless.

I sincerely hope none of Penry’s children develop mental illness or suffer wartime trauma like many homeless veterans that come from homes like his and mine. The ACLU is extreme; it stands up for the rights of everyone, even the unpopular. A perfect world would not need the ACLU.

PATRICIA SUSMAN
Grand Junction

 


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