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A New Convention Center Won't Cure Downtown's Ills

As Gertrude Stein once said about her hometown, "The trouble with Oakland is that when you get there, there isn't any there there." We all say the same about downtown Tucson. Unfortunately, the people in a position to do something, our supposedly progressive Democratic City Council, seem to be buying the same tired ideas about new convention centers ("Expenses Up; Revenues Down," Currents, May 1).

In a city built on the banks of a river that goes nowhere, Rio Nuevo was a particularly appropriate name for the various crackpot schemes put forth for downtown Tucson. They, too, lead into a wilderness of sand and evaporation, just like the intermittently mighty Santa Cruz.

Are sufficient numbers of people to support a vibrant downtown not coming because we don't have a better convention center? Anyone who believes this has to have an IQ that's smaller than their shoe size. There are two reasons why we don't have a vibrant downtown: 1) There is an insufficient number of people who live and/or work there to support the kind of businesses typical of a thriving downtown. 2) It is too inconvenient for people living in the surrounding metro area to get there.

After all these years of paying high-priced managers and consultants, all the city can come up with is "new convention center"? Has anyone even considered trying to tackle the underlying reasons why downtown Tucson is only slightly more interesting than downtown Eloy? We can spend every last dime we have on feel-good projects like convention centers, but ultimately, this will be just like someone having a nervous breakdown taking a pill and not seeing a shrink.

David Kohn


Banks Needs to Take a Couple of Years Off

"Nature Vs. Security" by Leo W. Banks (May 1) was not up to your standards: 5,000-word articles should include fair and balanced reporting, demonstrating that the writer not only understands the topic but actively listened to people on both sides of the issue. That did not happen here, and it is too bad.

Sensationalized journalism does not compensate for one-sided reporting. Please ask Mr. Banks to wait another two years before he again contributes to your newspaper.

Bud Haynes


Banks Didn't Include My Opinion Regarding Wilderness

It was disappointing to read Leo W. Banks' very biased article, especially when he didn't say anything about the wonders of the highlands and why the area deserves wilderness designation.

He interviewed me by phone for 30 minutes or so, and I recommended others who lived by or hiked in the area frequently to be interviewed. None of our comments or points of view were included. Banks' case against wilderness relies solely on the ranchers' opinions and does not include those of any other residents of the area.

We have lived at the north end of the Tumacacoris for 32 years. We hike and ride horses there and know how very rugged the proposed wilderness area is. It is not an area one would choose to migrate through on foot.

The Coronado National Forest is public land. The grazing permits are just that: leases granted to ranchers, not bills of sale to private ownership. There are a number of uses that can be granted within the forest, and grazing is but one of them. It is a privilege, not a right.

Thousands of signatures have been gathered and forwarded to Congress from citizens all over the country who can appreciate the need for this wilderness designation. Presenting the case against wilderness by representing only seven permitees seems skewed. Many ranchers in other areas and states have actively sought wilderness designation because of the damage being done to their stock tanks and buildings, not to say to their livestock because of off-road vehicles.

Ellen L. Kurtz


Banks Guilty of Fear-Mongering, Half-Truths

Leo W. Banks' article was "amazing" for its bias, fear-mongering, half-truths and pandering to a few ranchers whose opposition is a matter of record, but not for reasons implied.

These ranchers represent a small but vocal opposition to the proposed wilderness versus the hundreds of area businesses, organizations and individuals who have voiced their support. In fact, none of their ranches include land within the proposed wilderness. Rather, the acreage of their concern is publicly owned land on which they are permitted to graze cattle. Since continuation of grazing on lands subsequently designated as wilderness is already provided for in federal law, their opposition is, at best, misplaced.

I, too, was interviewed by Banks. My home is on the east flank of the Tumacacori Mountains in the area where a majority of shooting incidents noted in his article have occurred. As relayed to Banks, I continue to spend time in the mountains here by myself and with others. I do not share his fear for personal safety, and assured him that one is more likely to encounter interesting wildlife and striking landscapes than smugglers or other illegal migrants, particularly during daylight hours. Yes, signs of the latter are occasionally apparent, but as any outdoor enthusiast knows, it is important to be smart, cautious and informed about local conditions anywhere.

It is telling that Banks included no statements from the Border Patrol or the Department of Homeland Security. It is common knowledge that Secretary Michael Chertoff has authority to set aside or subjugate any law which impedes DHS' ability to "get the job done." Apparently, Banks is uninformed about how this is being applied in Arizona.

A no brainer: Illegal migrants--drug-smuggling or otherwise--need to connect with vehicle transport as soon after border-crossing as feasible, which means road access. That is why most illegal trafficking in the Tumacacori Mountains takes place along the east and west flanks of, and not within, the proposed wilderness area. Interdiction efforts might conceivably benefit from the wilderness designation due to attendant prohibitions regarding new roads and motorized access.

Regrettably, Banks' article suffers from a myopic and fearful preoccupation with illegal migration. The result does not do justice to the intrinsic values of wilderness designation, or to the complex issue of illegal migration.

Pat Phelan


Banks' Piece Was Factual; Responses Are Not

I have read Leo W. Banks' article twice now. I find it thorough, well-reasoned, well-written, logical and factual.

I have also read several of the responses in the Mailbag. Obviously, the article has touched a raw nerve in the sensibilities of some readers. For these readers, this is an emotional rather than a logical issue. It is not unusual for a person or organization who wishes to minimize the effect of a factual presentation to attack the person presenting the facts rather than the facts presented.

From my readings in the local paper and from talking to law-enforcement officers and hunters in the area, I have found out that armed men in groups as large as 12 roam that area. I learned that there have been at least 30 shooting incidents in that area in the last 2 1/2 years. I have read of large groups of illegal aliens being robbed at gunpoint in that area.

There is also another emotion that people exhibit as a reaction to facts or situations: denial.

Zack Taylor
U.S. Border Patrol, retired

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