Printed letters, September 25, 2013

The recent comments of some prospective school board candidates should provoke a response in a number of serious-minded citizens across the valley.

Candidate John Sluder wonders “if we throw another billion dollars at our education system (is it) going to improve overnight?” His supporters and he claim “No!”

As a 14-year teacher in School District 51, I take that comment personally because the real answer is a most emphatic “Yes.” As a matter of fact, it has already happened right here in our own school district.

Clifton Elementary received a federal grant in the amount of some $866,000 a year, for three years, to improve educational results as a “turnaround school.” Those who find high-stakes testing to be the most valid measure of school success might be surprised to learn of as much as a 40 percentage point boost in reading test scores, 35 percentage point boost in writing test scores and a 54 percentage point boost in math test scores attributable to this funding, (considerably short of the billion Sluder suggests will fail).

Sluder also suggests spending the “bare minimum” to comply with unfunded federal mandates. With special education being a major “underfunded mandate,” is it Sluder’s contention that the education of students with special needs doesn’t deserve the equitable attention (money) set aside for the education of all other students?

Sluder’s comments betray a cynical point of view, playing to the fears of taxpayers while schools prove every day to be worthy of all the support they can muster. Virtually every school in this valley receives high marks from the parents of its students. Virtually every individual teacher, as well.

Sluder might want to rethink his approach to education and decide if he intends to serve both students and his constituents as a member of the school board. Will he use a critical eye or more platitudes to achieve his goals?

JOE ZENI

Grand Junction

Federal influence has led
to poorer education system

I believe in good public education as I received a long time ago, not the national embarrassment it has become.

Federal involvement, with its costly and worthless mandates and standards, has generally dumbed down our children and left many of them ill-prepared for college and the real world.

States, and especially local communities, should be running education and setting standards as they see fit. When this was the case, before President Jimmy Carter established the Department of Education, children received better educations than today. They learned the basic subjects well, patriotism and good morals were encouraged and they were not plagued with social programs.

Then it started changing as more and more progressive or Democratic ideas were incorporated into our educational system. More and more money from taxes was demanded to “make our schools better,” which it never did. Now we have a real mess on our hands.

Two years ago, Mesa County elected Jeff Leany and Ann Tissue to our school board. Their hands have been tied when they wanted to make real and meaningful reforms in our schools to benefit the children and the teachers.

The highly partisan school board and teachers’ union have seen to this. (Yes, politics is very obvious in how our local schools are run and the board votes; just attend a school board meeting.)

Consider three District 51 school board candidates running in Districts C,D, and E: Pat Kanda, Mike Lowenstein and John Sluder. They all want education to progress to a high standard of excellence for all Mesa County students. They have the educational experience and background to achieve this.

My advice: go hear all the candidates speak and listen with your intellect. Kanda, Lowenstein and Sluder will impress you. Then vote for them in November. You will be doing something really positive “for the children.”

SUE BENJAMIN

Grand Junction

 

Feds missed warning signs 
shown by Navy Yard gunman

Leave it to Bill Grant to blame guns rather than blame the people who failed to see that a person was a danger to himself and others through his confessions of hearing voices and noises.

I’ve known Grant was a left-wing liberal for a long time, but I was unaware that he was also an anti-gun, anti-Second Amendment foe. He must have started writing his column before the last shell left the shooter’s gun at the Navy Yards. His facts are not facts at all.

The shooter was carrying a shotgun that he purchased legally after a background check at a gun store in Virginia. His record was clean enough that the sale was not blocked. According to reports, he had no pistols or assault rifles with him, only the shotgun (which Vice President Joe Biden said people should own instead of a rifle or pistol).

He also had special clearance to enter the yards as well as being an ex-reservist. The feds should have stopped him long before the shootings because of his behavior of hearing voices and believing someone was after him, But to again blame the gun as Grant does is strictly political. The two Colorado state senators would still be out even if the shootings had happened before the recall.

Grant would rather blame the GOP for everything than state facts, and he may well be surprised if Gov. John Hickenlooper (who I really thought would be a great governor) is also ousted because of his stand on guns and blocking the execution of a mass murderer at that restaurant. Grant really showed his stripes this time.

JOHN A. HOTCHKISS

Hotchkiss

 

Founding Fathers worried 
about citizens being disarmed

I thank Bill Grant for his Sept. 18 example of the best way not to realistically solve any problem, — carefully consider and present only one side.

I’m sure Grant is very aware that the Second Amendment was second, when the Founding Fathers began considering the Bill Of Rights in 1789, for good reason.

I’d expect that a substantial portion of the population, at the time, depended on wild game for some part of their food source, but, even way back then, a favorite initial tactic of evildoers planning take-over of a country, was to first disarm the citizenry. The Founding Fathers intended that this not be excessively easy in our country. So the Second Amendment was the No. 2 consideration, right behind freedom of speech, including religion, the press, assemble, and petitioning the government.

Grant obviously made the strongest case he could imagine — that there ain’t no good in guns, period. The truth is that the gun, like the knife, the automobile, the airplane, like sports and many other items or activities, can well be good or bad, depending on the application and situation. We probably owe the gun more than any other device or the very existence of our dear country.

Each month, for at least the last 10 years, the NRA has published seven or eight accounts in its journal of citizens saved from harm, violence and death by guns in the hands of citizens — just people like we all know. At only seven per month, for Grant’s referenced period 1999 to now (or about 14 years), that comes out to something over a thousand lives saved by guns in the same period. And I’m told the seven-per-month represents only a part of the reports received by the NRA.

RAY LASHLEY

Grand Junction

 

Pork N Hops’ extreme noise 
unpleasant for neighbors

It is time to shut down the Pork N Hops venue at Lincoln Park. I listened, unwillingly, to the extreme noise coming from the recent event. I was in my house with the windows shut. I live about five blocks away from the event.

No one was available to complain to. The police couldn’t do anything, and no one answered the Parks and Recreation office telephone number. It was closed until Monday. The noise was not moderated, as promised in the letter to the neighbors. It was unbelievably horrible.

I don’t know where this event should go, but I have some ideas that are not printable.

SHEILA JOHNSON

Grand Junction



COMMENTS

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Contrary to and John Hotchkiss’s letter (“Feds missed warning signs shown by Navy Yard gunman”) andRick Wagner’s column (“Anti-gun crowd uses incorrect news to push extreme gun-control agenda”), Bill Grant’s column (“Navy Yard shooting should send a message to Colorado legislators”) was essentially accurate.

Reportedly, the Naval Yard shooter attempted to purchase (or at least test-fired) an AR-15 at the same gun shop where he purchased the shotgun actually used in the slaughter.

Also reportedly, Alexis was unable to purchase the AR-15 because a Virginia statute limits sales of assault weapons to in-state residents.  If true, then Virginia’s common sense law – a limited “assault weapons ban” – may have prevented even more carnage.

Moreover, if any “assault weapons ban” were unconstitutional – as extreme gun rights advocates insist – then Virginia’s law would also be unconstitutional under both the Second Amendment and the Privileges and Immunities Clause in Article IV, Section 2 (which prohibits a state’s denial of equal rights to U.S. citizens residing in another state).

Recalling that both Republicans and the NRA once supported the 1994 assault weapons ban (until such weapons became big money-makers for gun manufacturers and the NRA), the incident actually supports the proposition that a nationwide assault weapons ban – coupled with closing the “gun show loophole” and limiting magazine capacity—could indeed prevent mentally unstable purchasers from legally acquiring such weapons.

Likewise, contrary to Kathleen Parker’s column (“Mental illness, not gun access, biggest problem in shooting sprees”) and Newt Burkhalter’s on-line letter (“Navy Yard violence exemplifies lapses in nation’s security measures”), mental illness is not the only or “real” contributor to mass shootings, and addressing that component is complicated by medical privacy laws.  Rather, the element common to all incidents of “gun violence” is a gun – whether or not “mental illness” is also involved – and guns can be legally regulated.

However, all those writers are correct in pointing to woefully inadequate background checks as another contributing factor – which is the direct result of Republican-backed (but accepted by Democrats) out-sourcing of traditional personnel security functions to private entities paid based on volume and completion rates rather than thoroughness.

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