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Want Competence? Then Support ... Latas and Antenori?

If the special-interest panderers Gabrielle Giffords and Randy Graf are in the lead for Congress ("Poll Positions," Currents, Aug. 24), Congressional District 8 voters need to look at the competence issue. Neither of these two can hold a candle to the training and experience of Frank Antenori or Jeff Latas on issues such as oil independence, violence in the Middle East, border security and the numerous technical issues essential to our economy.

Let's stop sending incompetents to Washington.

Leon S. Robertson

Aboud's Fine, But Downing Has Paid His Dues

The Tucson Weekly got it right by endorsing District 28 Representative Ted Downing for the open Senate seat vacated by Gabrielle Giffords ("Our Picks in Primary '06," Aug. 10), but voters should know the rest of the story.

I was one of the candidates when the Democratic Party assembled last fall to choose a replacement senator for Giffords. It was the overwhelming first and second choice of the district precinct committee members to select Ted Downing and David Bradley (49 votes apiece on the first ballot). Both have served the district with distinction for the last four years.

It was only after numerous ballots that Paula Aboud was selected as a distant third choice presented to the Board of Supervisors for their final appointment. Paula is a friend and a comrade in arms in the Pima County Democratic Party, but my prediction and my hope is that voters will reward Downing for his courage in defending his constituents' interests before the Republican Maricopa-dominated Legislature by electing him state senator.

Aboud was appointed by the supervisors, but the obvious choice of the precinct committee members and the voters has always been their loyal representatives. Let's not forget who was voted into office and has been paying his dues by bravely and intelligently opposing the Republican majority for years.

Tim Sultan

Nielsen's Commentary: Spot On

Gretchen Nielsen wrote a Guest Commentary (Aug. 24) on the violence which pro-war demonstrators bring to the sidewalk of the Armed Forces Recruitment Center.

Her commentary is spot on. I'm really thankful that the Weekly published this, as not many people get to hear the stories of how pro-war demonstrators threaten others.

While I rode my bike past said demonstrators one day about four months ago, I shouted to them, "No more war!" The pro-war propagandists proceeded to parade forward and plunge the poles holding their flags right into my path, forcing me to either clothesline myself on a flagpole or to careen into traffic.

These demonstrators need to be watched closely before they hurt someone.

Edward Arriola

Nielsen's Commentary: Frustrating

Gretchen Nielsen's article left me frustrated.

First, she complains that the officer who has been stationed at the balcony disappeared when she needed him. Who knows why he disappeared--is it a plot? I would have thanked him for spending his time and our valuable resources to try to ensure her civil rights. When he does show up and offers help, even siding with her, she refuses to press charges. Her time is too valuable for such trite things as helping an officer put a bully in jail.

Madam, put yourself in the officer's shoes: Would you be more or less inclined to help the next time that person cries "POLICE!"? Despite what his personal feelings might be, he will be there for you.

I think you are arrogant to think that the military is interested in you, that your time is more valuable than the officer's and are remiss in your duty as a citizen by not pressing charges. Peace.

Bob Rodriguez

Nielsen's Commentary: She Needs to Be More Tolerant

I am amazed at Gretchen Nielsen's comments. First, groups of people who support the actions of the current administration have equal rights of free speech and assembly. This is not just the prerogative or right of the anti-war movement. Everyone is entitled to them.

You claim your peaceful protesters have been pushed and bullied. When you told a police officer, you were asked if you wanted to pursue the matter, and you declined to make a formal complaint. If you elect to do nothing, what do you expect the police to do? Now you ask for police protection. Surely you have witnesses. You seem like an intelligent group; surely, if these bullies were physically assaulting folks on a regular basis, that could be proved merely by videotaping these incidents from a distance.

I have driven by these protests on both sides every week on the way to work. I have stopped and watched from the sidelines a couple of times. I see no jostling, no pushing and no harassment from one group to another. You exaggerate. It seems to me their purpose is to show support for something they believe in, not just to try and silence you.

Then you say they were tricked into sacrificing their children. Correct me if I am wrong, but those who join the armed forces are adults, not children tricked by their parents. Accusing the mayor, chief of police and even the whole police force of tormenting you at the behest of the military borders on insanity and delusion.

Your rights have not been infringed; you are trying to infringe on their rights. Freedom is for everybody. Be tolerant.

Paul Demsky

'World Trade Center': Grimm Doesn't Get It

I hope my positive viewing of Oliver Stone's World Trade Center--from a survivor's viewpoint--doesn't mean that folks who weren't there won't "get it," but Bob Grimm didn't get it ("Too Important," Cinema, Aug, 17).

Grimm says the movie is "underwhelming." It's hard for me to conceive of what he expected. The movie I saw took me back to that beautiful September morning in a way I didn't think was possible: the reconstructed WTC concourse, to the WTC 2 lobby with the Ben and Jerry's on the side, to the clear blue sky and the complete lack of information we had that day.

Stone absolutely redeemed himself in my eyes, after having disappointed me for many, many years. The movie is quiet and painfully true. It's claustrophobic. It has to be.

Those of us holed up in New York City on those dark days remember all too clearly what we saw on TV after the national news stopped playing the repeats of the attacks and collapse for the rest of the country. It was a little different than what you saw here. New York City became a very small town there for a few days. You see the beginning of it in this film.

Stone shows you that, and more. With precision and restraint.

Particularly when he shows the true--if unbelievable--story of former Marine David Karnes. You can question the quality of the movie, I suppose, but you can't question its veracity. It's like the people who laughed at James Cameron for having the quartet play while the Titanic sank. It may be unbelievable, but it happened. History is weird sometimes.

Most important to me was the portrayal of the rescuers. I was honored to represent the New York City Department of Education in the pit on the one-year anniversary of the attacks. I stood in the honor guard for the families, shoulder to shoulder with the brave men who crawled over the pile, breathing benzene, trying desperately to save friends, colleagues and strangers. I met men like the ones who eventually wound up in the film, replacing actors, being given a second chance, as it were, to save someone's life.

They approved of the movie? Then so do I.

Heather Ordover

School Voucher Debate: Follow the Money

Tom Danehy is right on concerning opposition to school vouchers (Danehy, July 27, and Guest Commentary, Aug. 17). Not only do they fly in the face of our state Constitution; it is another attempt by those who seem to feel our school system is beyond redemption.

Baptists have fought for a separation of state and church, that is until Baptists south of God have recently embraced school vouchers. For one good reason: They now have private schools and would like to get their hands on tax money.

Keep up the good fight.

The Rev. James Logan

Goldwater Institute's School Arguments: Tired, Misleading

I'm no "limousine liberal." Still, as a public school teacher, I feel compelled to reply.

First, I wonder if the Goldwater Institute's Matthew Ladner has seen the studies that list classroom and school-wide overcrowding as a major contributing factor to substandard student performance. It's been more than 30 years since Tucson Unified School District last built a new high school, and my high school is so crowded that teachers have to share classrooms.

And speaking of "tired" arguments: the claim that competition between public, private and charter schools forces public schools to improve. Really? Many charter schools are located within strip malls, employing underqualified teachers, paying wages comparable to what one would earn supervising children at a day care. I've also yet to see a charter school offer programs in music, sports and other extracurricular activities comparable to those of a public high school--also cited in numerous studies as strong predictors of student success.

Another thing these comparisons miss is that while charter and private schools reserve the right to deny admission to any student, public schools are required by law to accept anyone who lives within the district's boundaries--including students with special needs for whom federal and state laws mandate specific services that are quite expensive.

Ladner asserts that we spend "$8,000 per pupil," but following his own instructions to access the National Assessment of Education Progress statistics, you'll find that Arizona's per-capita student expenditure is listed at $6,388, not $8,000. Gov. Janet Napolitano said recently that next year's budget could boost Arizona's nationwide ranking from 49th to 46th--maybe even 45th! Should we really expect Top 10 results from a Bottom 10 investment?

People like Ladner and his friends in the Arizona Legislature will tell you that our public schools are full of waste and inefficiency, with classes taught by lazy, unqualified idiots who can't be fired because of tenure and the National Education Association--once described by former Secretary of Education Rod Paige as a "terrorist organization."

Instead of listening to people like Ladner, whose agenda is to starve public schools out of existence, volunteer at your local public school (we could use the help!), and see for yourself how hard we work to create an atmosphere where your children can succeed.

I'll even give you five bonus points for each "limousine liberal" and/or "country club conservative" you find while you're there.

Bill Greenberg

Goldwater Institute Has One Goal: Supporting Big Business

Surprise, surprise, the Goldwater's Institute's "research" indicates that public schools are failing. If the papers insist on printing stuff from these "think tanks," they ought to explain to readers what these "think tanks" really are: corporate-funded, right-wing propaganda mills. They exist solely to push the corporate agenda, in this case, the dismantling of public education. They are confusion merchants whose task is to spin the data, as best they can, to support the goals of big business.

Privatization of public schools has been on the conservative wish list since Reagan; it's one of the few things they haven't yet managed to accomplish. Public, nonprofit education was good enough for me, and it's good enough for my son. If it ticks you off that $300 billion dollars a year are being spent on education, and Wall Street's not making a dime off it, then vote for candidates who favor vouchers.

This much is guaranteed: Once the profit motive kicks in, it's going to cost a lot more. Look at health care.

Bill Miller

Danehy Deserves Kudos for Graffiti Idea

Kudos to Tom Danehy (Aug. 10) for taking on a tough subject. Toleration of the widespread presence of taggings implies a lack of concern for one's surroundings and sends a message that a community has given up.

When we were in Eastern Europe and Rome, we were appalled to see beautiful old buildings marred by ubiquitous graffiti--even on ancient carved church doors. Responses to our inquiries ranged from, "It's public art," to, "Cleaning it up is a pretty low priority when we have so many other problems."

Danehy is right: Erasing vandalism within hours is key to prevention. In fact, in Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point, he says one key to New York's comeback was the newly appointed head of the subway system insisting that no train leave the yard until all of the graffiti had been removed--no matter how exhausting the task.

Whether it's Danehy's suggestion to portion out grids of the city to volunteer groups, or finding a place for taggers to turn themselves into public artists, or assigning the task to private companies, or letting the city see if they can manage the task, we'd be wise to heed New York's example of determination--unless we want to advertise that we really don't care.

Denice Blake and John Blackwell

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