TUSD Needs to Open Tucson High Changes to Competitive Selection Recently, you published "Badger Bickering," about the Tucson Unified School District's outrageous proposal to build a $2.5 million parking garage on the campus of Tucson High Magnet School (THMS). But TUSD is about to make a greater mistake by not changing its course in renovating the historically significant Roy Place Gym at THMS.

During 2007, TUSD conducted a feasibility study for the physical-education facility and parking garage. Because the cost (which included an aquatic center, handball courts and exercise rooms with community access) was estimated at about $21 million, the study eliminated these items and recommended that a practice gym be integrated with the historic gym, and that the integrated structure have seating for all 3,000 students.

The study also recommended abandoning 9,000 square feet of usable lower level space in the historic gym. This space has a construction value of $2.7 million. No proposals for the adaptive reuse of this space were prepared.

The architects came to this conclusion: "It is our assessment of the project cost provided by Compusult that ... working through the schematic design, design development and construction document phase with a construction manager at risk to be selected in the fall of 2007 will allow us to bring the project comfortably within the $15 million budget."

After the study was submitted, the same architects were hired as project architects without the usual competitive-selection process. After a construction manager at risk examined the study, THMS was notified in May 2008 that the cost of the project had escalated to $20.9 million. THMS is now being told that the wood floor in the historic gym could not be replaced, and insulated windows, roofing, sports flooring, fire sprinklers and an elevator that would have made the second floor of the historic gym handicap accessible would be not be included.

Since construction is not scheduled to begin until May 2009, there is still time to open the project to the competitive-selection process.

John S. O'Dowd

Nah ... Danehy's Just Irked in General Wow. Tom Danehy's column on BASIS charter school seems so blatantly sour grapes that I almost feel sorry for him (June 26).

True, the Newsweek ranking of high schools is of dubious value. (BASIS was ranked 16th in the country by Danehy's esteemed US News and World Report.) True, BASIS is hardly the first choice of jocks. But as far as providing an exceptional education for kids who would be bored stiff in public schools, BASIS is unique and invaluable. I know this, because my kid is a student there.

Danehy's comments about the school being a haven for nerds shows that he has never spent time with the kids there. Some are into odd, quirky things. Others are into typical teenage activities. The less-conventional kids are able to pursue their interests without being run into the ground by the pressure to conform. Students receive the education most Americans probably wish the public school system would provide for all kids. Maybe it's disconcerting to see that such an education can be provided.

The public schools are what they are. The success of BASIS shines a light though on what they're not. And I think that's what irks Danehy.

J.M. Martin

Reel Is a Snob Who Doesn't See TSO Thriving James Reel's flaunting of his apathy as a Tucson Symphony Orchestra concert-goer and his presentation of his opinion, as if it were a well-supported consensus, speak to me more about his journalistic irresponsibility to the community than to his strength as a reliable reviewer of the TSO ("Not a Social Duty," Performing Arts, July 3). As a professional critic, he owes his readership more than negative and sweeping generalizations about the orchestra, such as its "spotty to dismal" attendance the past few years from his "vantage point in the balcony."

Did he purposefully fail to mention that the Lord of the Rings and Joshua Bell concerts sold out? Or that these concerts were targeted for a younger audience? Or that the TSO online newsletter often offers lower ticket prices or other promotional deals as the concert dates near? These omissions constitute infractions from a reporting standpoint. In addition, Reel's pervasively negative tone overrides the impact of the back-handed compliments he pays to the TSO.

Reel links the acoustical limitations of the Tucson Convention Center Music Hall directly to the performance of the orchestra, as if the TSO were to blame for the venue. Is the inherent value of these artistic organizations to the community somehow lowered because "anything downstage, stage left, must struggle to be heard"?

TSO needs committed concert-goers and consistent community support. And, yes, the orchestra may need to create inventive fundraising campaigns. The programming committee may need to take more risks in selecting "more unusual repertory," which it did last season. The TSO advertising must continue to target younger attendees. But don't paint a dismal portrait of a still-thriving organization.

Hopefully, in Reel's absence, the TSO has lost nothing more than a burnt-out, self-proclaimed "middle-aged classical music snob."

Nan Philipp

Claim: TSO Selections Are Just as Adventurous as Reel's Morning Show The Tucson Symphony Orchestra is doing a decent job at attracting younger audiences through concerts such as The Lord of the Rings. Give them a break. Of course the programming is not very adventurous, but neither is your radio show on KUAT FM 90.5. How do you call the compositions you play adventurous? How about a symphony or a concerto composed after 1990 as a regular addition to the morning show?

Tom Todd

Editor's Note: James Reel does not program his own music at KUAT; that's the responsibility of music director Steve Hahn.

Scalia Understands the Second Amendment; Danehy Does Not Once again, Tom Danehy proves that he knows nothing about the Second Amendment (June 3). Back when the Bill of Rights was written, "the militia" did not mean the National Guard. "The militia," broadly defined, encompassed both the "organized militia" (the ancestor of the National Guard) and the "unorganized militia" (all the law-abiding citizens who had guns). The best-known affirmation of this came from George Mason of Virginia, who said, "What is the militia? Why, it is all of the people."

While the Second Amendment is less than clear in modern terms, its meaning was much clearer to the writers, who operated under the assumption that most any household was going to have a gun, and that said gun would be used both for collective and individual self-defense. The term "a well-regulated militia" includes both the organized and unorganized militia, and "the right of the people ... shall not be infringed" means exactly what it says. Note that the right is said to reside with the people, not the states, and note especially that the formulation "shall not be infringed" is actually stronger than "Congress shall make no law" as in the First Amendment. The term "a well-regulated militia" is not exclusive to the organized militia; "well-regulated" might, for instance, be construed to suggest that gun ownership, i.e., membership in the unorganized militia, could be denied to criminals and lunatics.

Justice Antonin Scalia has got it exactly right, and the handgun-ban crowd has got it exactly wrong.

Bob Benzinger

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