Firing Squad

To the Editor,

G.J. Sagi's "Range War" (Tucson Weekly, April 24) left me with yet another unresolved paradox so typical of the times, particularly here in the Military Southwest, where the lines between public domain and the subsidy of Big Capital interests are so often blurred: Who do I find more contemptible, the utterly corrupt big-money-serving National Forest Service or the freakishly-phallic-self-interested-exclusionist-proto-fascist gun club?

Mailbag Whatever the case, your sophistic reasoning in the main article was not in the least mitigated by your editorial disclaimer. "The lack of due process" which you so nobly assert "should inflame the conscience of anybody who has one" has never occurred in this circumstance. If the public at large had experienced due process (recall this is a "National" Forest Service facility, not a Gun Club Forest facility), does anyone suppose they would have elected to take the risk of water pollution, noise pollution (disturbing all other activities and wildlife in the area) and flying bullets in exchange for a relatively nominal lease gain? The old "sweetheart deal," which the Forest Service was forced into by local self-interests (namely the gun club) in order to gain support for the protection of this phenomenally important, rare and valuable riparian area, has long since been paid off. The gun club lease represents exactly the kind of self-serving sell-out people have come to loathe the NFS for. And regarding the hiring of the incompetent, uneducated consultant--what do you expect from an organization that would lease a sensitive wildlife area to a gun club?

Despite the NFS's general incompetence and lack of regard for public interests (including bowing to the gun club demands for 45 years), they have had moderate success in protecting Sabino Canyon from the developers and other earth-wreckers. In the case of the gun club versus the National Forest Service, I have no sympathy for the former. Even if they were an archery club, the issue of exclusivity within the boundaries of a national trust should be enough to bar them from leasing public lands.

I, for one, reject your apparent support of the gun club and challenge you to defend yourselves against the accusation that you're acting as stooges for the club and its attorney.

--J.L. Dildine

To the Editor,

G. J. Sagi's "Range War" (Tucson Weekly, April 24) distorts the Sabino Canyon conflict between the Forest Service and the Tucson Rod and Gun Club.

Deputy Regional Forester Zane Grey Smith in 1965 concluded the government "erred when it authorized the rifle range adjacent to private land." The club--which operated the range from 1952 until March 1997 under a special-use permit renewed annually--has agreed since 1964 to the following condition:

"This permit is accepted with the understanding that the land involved will eventually be needed for general public use. It is understood and agreed that the permit will terminate and any improvements shall be removed at the expense of the permitee. In the event of such termination, no damages will be claimed or allowed."

The April hearings at which the club asked a judge to lift the closure included testimony by:

• A club board member who blamed illegal shooting alongside the range for the bullets found on private property by investigators;

• Homeowners who saw illegal shooting and stray bullets go by;

• A National Rifle Association official who estimated it would take years and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix the range; and,

• A forensic investigator who confirmed that stray black-powder rounds easily reach two miles to the Esperero Trail at Cardiac Gap.

Sagi errs in comparing mortality rates among Sabino hikers and swimmers, victims of their own activities, to the shooting-death rate (zero, so far) among bystanders, who would be crime victims.

Sagi ignores significant lead contamination, and cleanup costs and penalties.

--Neal Savage

To the Editor,

G. J. Sagi's "Range War" (Tucson Weekly, April 24) does not inflame my conscience, as the author suggests it might, simply because the closure comes as no surprise. It is completely obvious to everyone in Tucson that developers rule this town top to bottom. The predictable closure of the range (I suspect Tucson Tallow will soon follow) because homeowners did not want it does not surprise me one bit.

Developers are going to ruin every square inch of this place with housing and retail stores, and it's going to spread out much farther than we suspect now. But what's the news here? It's the Tucson way, in the desert too beautiful for it's own good. I watched, beer in hand, as crews dynamited new roads into the pristine cliff faces above Ventana Canyon this year, and note with morbid fascination that indeed, our leaders approved the new 5,000 home Redhawk development in Marana. Good lord. I don't think we need a lesson in the realities of life here. We can see it for ourselves.

--Perry L. Norton

Screen Test

To the Editor,

Regarding Rick Emrich's "Bad Reception" (Tucson Weekly, April 24): If the City of Tucson allows corporate welfare to take priority over the needs of its citizens, the people of Tucson may be denied one of their greatest assets: public television.

TCI, the world's largest cable company, seeks to grasp totalitarian control over every single channel on the Tucson cable system by grinding under its heel the four channels that belong to the citizens of Tucson. TCI has promoted additional commercial and pay-for-video channels in a blatantly rigged "customer survey' which pretends to prove that people really prefer to "rent" TCI's channels rather than to own their own channel.

What TCI is actually doing is looking for another handout from the citizens of Tucson. Every cable operator must pay for the use of public property--the "rights of way"--used to string their cable. Part of the payment is to allow the citizens to produce and cablecast their own programming about community issues. Allowing TCI to cut back on this responsibility is a blatant form of corporate welfare--granting the telecommunications giant use of public property for private gain.

Access Tucson, the steward of public access in Tucson, has twice been honored with the highest awards from the Alliance for Community Media, a national membership organization dedicated to ensuring everyone's access to electronic media. In 1991, Access Tucson was recognized with a Community Communications Award for Public Access and last year was honored with a Hometown Video Festival award for Overall Excellence In Public Access Programming. This recognition ranks Tucson's public access highest among over 500 communities in the United States and Canada.

TCI's attack on Access Tucson is contrary to the intent of the United States Congress when it conformed that "Public Access channels are often the video equivalent of the speakers soap box or the electronic parallel to the printed leaflet." Public access to media is at the core of a democratic "marketplace of ideas."

The people of Tucson should not be fooled by TCI's phony surveys, legal maneuvering and attempts to eliminate public access. TCI's attack on citizen access to media is an attack on American democracy itself--and must not be tolerated.

--Barry Forbes, Executive Director

Alliance for Community Media

Flow Job

To the Editor,

Regarding Paula Huff's "Trust Us" (Tucson Weekly, April 10): In attempting to describe the backflow problem that can exists within potable water systems, Huff states, "...cross connections exist between the sewage system and the potable water supply." It further states that such "...cross connections are a cheap and easy way to plumb a building." Huff then goes on to attribute the presence of fecal and coliform bacteria and the need for chlorination of potable water to such cross connection-related "backflow." Ultimately, continuing to pursue this interesting chain of logic, Huff deduces that the motivation of the City of Tucson in exploring potential privatization of Tucson Water is to conceal from the public information about health risks related to water.

The author's statements about cross connections are inaccurate, and the resulting implication that disinfection (by chlorine or other means) is required because of such cross connections is also incorrect. Disinfection is required because potable water systems are vulnerable to contamination by bacteria and other disease-causing organisms. Many potential sources of contamination exist, but plumbed cross connections between potable and sewer systems are not among them.

Backflow is a genuine concern and a potential source of contamination, but the problem does not result from plumbing cross connections between potable supply systems and sewer plumbing. Potable and drainage plumbing must, by necessity be in close proximity to each other. Our kitchen faucets would be of limited utility without sink drains, for example, and we have all seen the messy results when toilet drains get clogged while the potable systems keep putting more water into the toilet tank. However, modern building codes and health codes prohibit any direct cross connections between potable and drainage/sewer plumbing. Valves (for example, faucets or toilet float valves) and air gaps are required wherever potable plumbing is in close proximity to drainage plumbing. Further, because the potable system is pressurized and, in the vast majority of cases, drainage systems are unpressurized gravity flow, any plumbed cross connections without valves would result in large amounts of water flowing constantly from the potable system into the sewer system.

Historically, according to Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, valves and piping were once installed in some locations to permit flushing of sewer lines by running potable water at pressure through the sewer lines. A direct connection without an air gap could occur when the valves were opened. These flushing systems are no longer in use and have mostly been removed. As long as the valves for any such remaining systems remain closed, sewage cannot enter the water lines.

So what is the backflow problem? Essentially, any water in the pressurized potable system or directly connected to the pressurized potable system without a closed valve or an air gap in between (for example, a hose left on with its end immersed in a swimming pool) can be sucked back into the potable lines if a sudden reversal in pressurization occurs. In order to avoid this problem, new commercial construction has incorporated backflow prevention devices for many years, and many older commercial buildings have been retrofitted with such devices. Backflow prevention devices are still optional for single-family residential construction. Unless someone out there without a backflow prevention device has turned his/her water on and stuck the end of the hose into a septic tank or beneath the effluent sewer line, sewer waste will not be sucked into the potable system by a backflow event.

While I do not presume to understand all of the motives of those in favor of exploring the privatization of Tucson Water, I must question whether the author's conclusions, based as they are on factual error and erroneous assumptions, have any validity. One thing I am sure of is that Tucson Weekly readers do not have to worry that Tucson Water employees and management are party to or attempting to conceal a conspiracy to put sewage in the potable water supply. Tucson Water has had major problems, but this isn't one of them.

The possible privatization of Tucson Water is a serious issue, and the problems, merits, risks and potential alternatives to such a course of action should be thoroughly and publicly aired before any decision is made. Backflow management is immaterial to that debate, however, and plumbed cross connections (i.e. no valves and air gaps) between potable and sewage systems are prohibited. Homes and other buildings are simply not being built with such cross connections. An article like "Trust Us," with severe factual errors and flawed conclusions based on those errors, contributes nothing to the public understanding of the privatization issue and harms the credibility of your publication. With article like this one, how can your readers trust you?

--Mark H. Myers

Boy Trouble

To the Editor,

Stacey Richter's review of Chasing Amy ("Straight And Narrow-Minded," Tucson Weekly, April 24) is not only far off the mark, but dangerously guilty of the narrow-mindedness it strives to expose.

At this point I envision Richter glancing to the bottom of this letter, only to discover my identity as a male, assume a few things about my ethnicity and orientation--and throw the letter in the trash. Richter would like to dismiss director Kevin Smith's film as quickly, but since when is an artist required to become other than what he is in part, a hetero white male, to produce a work?

Smith explores feminine sexuality through Holden, a character as handicapped in the area as himself. The result is a justifiably critical look at men's difficulties regarding that sexuality, not distrust of it, and anything but Richter's unfounded notion of an "essential misogyny." (The misogynist sat across from Holden in the diner and was rightly ignored). In fact, the female lead, Alyssa, possesses numerous vital qualities obviously absent in Holden, the true subject of the film's title.

Holden becomes so stuck on Alyssa's past, her choices and his own conception of what is normal that love cannot "prevail," as Richter somehow believes. Holden is alone in the end, undoubtedly "loathsome" to viewers, as he should be. His limited scope causes him to fail with both a woman lover and a male friend. Along the way all human sexuality is shown as highly complex and in need of exploration.

What I find offensive and disturbing are Richter's silence about the presence of, and the issues raised by, the black male gay and the white, possibly gay, male roommate. No one's sexuality is a "cute little obstacle" in this context, and Alyssa reminds that she fell in love with a person first, not just a man. Finally, anyone who wants examples of "obsession" and politically correct tunnel-vision should re-read Richter's constant probing and prodding of director Smith. Incidentally, I loved Richter's haiku review of Liar, Liar. And your latest Media Mix on malls is some of the stuff we need to be reminded of.

--David Seibert

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