I Shop at Both AJ's and 99-Cent Stores

I must take exception to Connie Tuttle's column (Jan. 20) on grocery stores being the ultimate litmus test of an economically divided Tucson.

Following Tuttle's line of reasoning, I must be a Tucson anomaly--someone who regularly shops at both AJ's and the 99-cent stores.

When I actually figure out the number of meals gotten from a weekly shopping trip to AJ's, the cost is really no more than that of many a fast-food combo. On the other hand, I love 99-cent stores. They are a treasure chest when it comes to my favorite trail mix, bottled water and many other edibles and non-edibles.

So maybe I'm not such an anomaly after all ... just someone who enjoys the best of both worlds. Thank you for letting me put in my two cents ... er should I say 99 cents worth.

Barbara Russek

An Unequal Society Is Not News

Thanks for the pointer to AJ's in La Encantada, Connie: It was a flourescent-free shopping experience, as described. To my surprise, the shoppers seemed to be spending their money unashamedly. AJ's outdoor patio seemed charming, though since we hadn't stressed our debit card enough to require sustenance, we walked on by.

I would ask you what the point of this column is, except "News Flash! There's inequities in the system!" and "I did actual 'research' and visited TWO entire stores; here are some prices!" A subtext here is that there is something wrong when the rich can spend $7.95 on six ounces of imported blueberry-flavored horseradish, while many of us have to bum bus fare to get to the 99-cent store.

I ask: When and where existed an inequality-free society, and how long did it last?

The rich and the poor have always been there at opposite ends of the societal spectrum, Connie, and they, or at least those with means, inexplicably choose to live where they want, and to choose their shopping venues accordingly. If AJ's prices are so obscene, those items will not be purchased or carried any longer, and if the overall "package" of decor, stock and pricing proves unmanageable, AJ's will go out of business, and you can dance on its grave.

Of course, this wasn't an actual OPINION column, because saying "being poor sucks" and "those with means can be self-indulgent" are such obvious positions to take as to be meaningless. Tell us how the oppressed poor can rise, Connie Tuttle. Or how an economy based on continued real estate exploitation can survive when the water's gone and no one can afford the homes. Or a little reminder how Colorado and Oregon have controlled growth by limiting water permits. That would be worth reading.

In the end, all I got out of this column was, "Damn. I had 15 column inches to fill," and "I am Writer, watch me write!"

Karl Moeller

Kyl's Homie Has His Back, Yo

It's hard to recall anything in recent memory as outright bizarre as Tim Vanderpool's "Senator Strangelove" (Currents, Jan. 6), in which he purports to find a link between my friend Sen. Jon Kyl's social conservatism and his vote ranking by a single environmental advocacy group.

"Apocalyptic cowboy" is not a phrase that anyone who actually knows Jon Kyl would ever use to describe him. Ironically, it does accurately summarize Vanderpool, who appears to allege--it's hard to know for sure--a conspiracy to purposely destroy the Earth, perpetrated by a movement so vast it includes nearly half of Congress and millions of Americans who consider themselves conservative Christians. And to think there was a time when they called us paranoid!

Quibbling over mere facts will never dampen such feverish obsession. It would be a disservice to readers of the Weekly not to point out that Sen. Kyl was not the only member of Congress to receive a low rating from the League of Conservation Voters (LCV). A quick check of their Web site reveals that Arizona's own Trent Franks, John Shadegg and J.D. Hayworth also got zeros. Jeff Flake and that notorious right-winger Jim Kolbe each got a nine (out of 100). Rick Renzi got a whopping 18. All, obviously, are Republicans. Arizona's two Democrats, Ed Pastor and Raul Grijalva, each received the top score of 100. If the pattern isn't yet apparent, let me use their complete study to show it. Nationally, the study states that the combined average ranking for House and Senate Republicans was nine. For Democrats, it was 85.5.

Meanwhile, Jon Kyl has been busy pushing the landmark Arizona Water Settlement Act, capping 15 years of hard work by dozens of groups and amicably resolving a long list of disputes on an issue that could hardly be more central to the environment. He was also the key sponsor of legislation to establish the Ecological Restoration Institute at Northern Arizona University, and another bill that expanded Arizona's Petrified Forest National Park by 120,000 acres.

Vanderpool might have uncovered more of this positive record if he'd done a little research. However, he doesn't even appear to understand the basics of the legislative process, as he purports to quote a Kyl spokesman to the effect that the senator "recently signed a huge water settlement"! Only the president signs legislation into law. His article was a disgrace.

Duff C. Hearon

Ted Downing's Homie Has His Back, Too

I applaud Rep. Ted Downing for the law he will introduce seeking to strip the AIMS test of its status as a graduation requirement ("Your Preview of the 2005 Legislative Session," Jan. 13). With close to half of the states moving towards adoption of "high-stakes" tests, we are overlooking the human train wreck that will occur when thousands of kids, often poor, minority or enrolled in special education programs, are denied high-school diplomas. We have no idea what sort of life they will face without passing AIMS, but we can certainly predict the hardships they will endure entering the world without a high-school diploma.

AIMS should be used to inform instruction, to indicate needs for teacher professional development and to point to successful methods for restructuring schools, especially high schools. Its main appeal is as a diagnostic tool, not as a weapon wielded in ignorance of its own questionable validity and reliability, which must be addressed before its value and fairness can be truly judged.

Educators support accountability and we are in this profession to foster student achievement, but what is about to happen in Arizona in 2006 promotes neither goal. AIMS is not the "Holy Grail," but it is sure to be a bitter cup from which to drink for thousands of students who have worked hard to attain a goal that we are proposing to deny them.

Rex Scott

A Brief Letter on Atheism, War and the Alternative Press

I agree with Don Copler ("Atheists Are in foxholes, Tom," Mailbag, Jan. 20) that the "no atheists in the foxholes" cliche is hyperbolic in the extreme.

But will even he not concede that there are proportionately fewer atheists in foxholes than, for example, on the campuses of most state universities--or than among the readers, writers to, and staff of "alternative" papers?

One gets in touch with one's real beliefs when something is riding on the outcome.

Bill Foltz

James Reel, Meet Jayson Blair

Maybe your reviewer, James Reel should see the play Chicago before writing about it. Case in point is his article "Killer Performer" (Performing Arts, Jan. 20).

To set the record striaght, Velma Kelly, played by Brenda Braxton, killed her husband and sister after she returned from getting ice before a show, only to find them engaged in No. 17 (The Spread Eagle). It was Velma's cellmate, Roxie Hart, who killed her lover, Fred the furniture salesman. Has Mr. Reel been in touch with Jayson Blair lately? Just wondering ...

Yours for more accuracy in journalism,

Bill Hilser

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