To the Editor:
The errors and distortions made by Cara DeGette in her Oct. 26 Public Eye column are egregious and without defense -- the result of purposeful twisting of facts and mockery of journalistic standards.
In this case, Ms. DeGette took her cheap shot at Gazette reporter Ovetta Sampson. Given Ms. DeGette's record of inaccuracies and unfairness, it is tempting to ignore her. But when her fantasy serves to disparage a valued professional such as Ovetta Sampson, well, that demands a response.
As journalists, we value strong, pointed opinion even when it comes at our expense. Of course, opinion should be based on fact to give readers a fair chance to evaluate the writer's point of view. To suggest that Ovetta Sampson and the Gazette are insensitive to the evils of hate speech and intolerance is wrong and offensive.
Ms. DeGette's assertion that Ovetta Sampson ignored an incident after the Oct. 19 Centennial Hall election forum is false. In keeping with Ms. DeGette's cowardly mix of fiction and fact, she did not contact Ovetta before maligning her reputation in print. Had she done so, she would have learned that Ovetta did not witness the distasteful exchange between a Pat Buchanan supporter and Arnie Grossman. And she would have learned that Mr. Grossman did not urge Ovetta to write a story. In effect, Ms. DeGette suggested Ovetta was obligated to report something she knew nothing about, which might be the standard used at the Independent, but not at the Gazette.
That an ugly incident was twisted into spiteful bludgeon upon Ovetta Sampson is particularly outrageous because Ovetta is no stranger to injustice. Ovetta has stood personally and professionally for diversity and tolerance.
In the last paragraph of her column, Ms. DeGette suggests the Gazette owes Mr. Grossman an apology. Ms. DeGette got it wrong again. It is Ms. DeGette who owes the apology. But considering her record on fairness, we don't expect one.
-- Terri Fleming
Editor and Vice President
Ms. Fleming's letter attempts to disparage DeGette and serves to cover up the Gazette's continuing refusal to condemn -- or even report on -- a brutal, public anti-Semitic attack on Mr. Grossman at the Oct. 19 election forum. DeGette's column was not designed to be a "spiteful bludgeon" against Ms. Sampson. That brutish description belies what DeGette matter-of-factly noted in Grossman's own words: that the hate incident occurred, that the president of SAFE Colorado said he told Sampson what had just happened to him, and that the daily newspaper never mentioned it.
By calling DeGette a liar, Ms. Fleming is also calling Grossman a liar. Additionally, the Independent has learned that Frank Whitworth, a longtime Colorado Springs gay activist whom the daily considers a credible source, was among the small group who listened in disgust as Grossman described how he had just been accosted. Whitworth said he personally observed Grossman talking with Ms. Sampson. Local activist Dave Therault also witnessed the exchange between the reporter and Grossman, and wrote of his frustration that the Gazette ignored the story in a letter to the editor published in last week's Independent. (That letter and DeGette's original column can be reviewed online at www.csindy.com.)
Finally, in the past, Gazette higher-ups have prohibited their reporters from speaking on the record to the Independent. Had we been notified that the policy (or the unofficial ban) had changed, we would have contacted Ms. Sampson to ask her why the story was not pursued. Now that the editor has apparently lifted that ban, we will contact Gazette staffers in the future when we have questions about their coverage, or their non-coverage, of pertinent local issues.
Grossman attack revolting
To the Editor:
I just read Cara DeGette's Oct. 26 Public Eye column about the treatment Mr. Arnie Grossman received at the Citizens Project initiative forum. I was very disturbed to read this account.
As a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment, several months ago I debated Mr. Tom Mauser, the lobbyist for SAFE (Sane Alternatives to the Firearms Epidemic) at a forum at the CU-Boulder campus. The debate itself was a civil one. However, several members of the audience showed up wearing "Tyranny Response Team" T-shirts and began heckling Mr. Mauser.
I responded to the crowd with the statement: "We are here tonight to speak about your Second Amendment rights. I ask all of you to respect Mr. Mauser's First Amendment rights." Fortunately, the heckling stopped.
While the issue stirs heated debate on both sides, those who resort to personal attacks and spew hateful, bigoted insults lose all credibility. They do much harm to their own cause, and I personally repudiate the attacks on Mr. Grossman and apologize to him on behalf of the vast majority of Second Amendment supporters who do not condone this type of behavior.
-- Doug Dean
Colorado House of Representatives
Guilt by association
To the Editor:
Cara DeGette was right, that was a truly nauseating story (Public Eye, Oct. 26). I am a libertarian and I am not sure I support Amendment 22, but any American should be outraged by that kind of behavior. As a Springs resident and uncertain supporter of gun rights I apologize to Mr. Grossman, and I hope that kind of thing never happens again without someone opening up a can of ass whoop on the perpetrator.
What comes to mind is a quote by Frank Zappa that is just too good to paraphrase: "I'm not black, but there's a lot of times I wish I could say I'm not white."
-- Steve Crabtree
Intolerance is not tolerable
To the Editor:
I was quite sorry to read about Mr. Grossman's experience at the local forum as reported by the Independent. Both the heckling and the verbal assault on Mr. Grossman were totally reprehensible behavior. As one who supports gun ownership, I'm always very bothered when I witness such uncivilized behavior by fellow supporters.
Of course, on the flip side, I've seen plenty of poor behavior from those who support gun control. I've been called an NRA moron and a boldfaced liar, neither of which were deserved. I've also seen anti-gun people make numerous nasty sexual references about gun owners and their guns. And there was the head of a gun control group who physically assaulted a pro-gun demonstrator some months ago in Boulder.
Finally, there's the Independent's own tendency to use terms such as "gun nut," "gun lover" or "pistol fondling," all of which does the paper a disservice.
Bottom line, there are intolerant and rude people on both sides of the issue. Hopefully some day these people will realize they are only hurting their cause and will shape up.
-- Paul Weissler
Colorado Springs, CO
Give back the ice
To the Editor:
I am writing this letter to try to save the Pueblo Ice Arena. The Pueblo Ice Arena is one of the most beautiful resources that Pueblo has. A part of the Parks and Recreations for Pueblo, the ice rink is enjoyed by all age groups. Funded by tax dollars and lotto dollars, the ice rink is paid for by the community.
Why do I feel that the ice rink needs to be saved? When I moved to the area in 1994, the ice rink had public sessions every night of the week except Sunday and Tuesday. Since that time the hours have decreased yearly. Between 1996 and 1998, the hours were decreased from Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights to just a Friday night session. No more family night sessions or adult-only sessions are available.
As a working adult, I can skate only Friday nights. As my preferred form of exercise and enjoyment, this has affected the quality of my life. Unfortunately, this also affects the people of Pueblo. As a city/lotto-funded facility, I am uncertain how this has occurred. Often the Friday night sessions are cancelled unexpectedly for hockey events without establishing another open session. Every summer during the State Fair the ice rink is closed. I would believe that many people would use the facilities during that time with the influx of visitors to the area.
The ice rink offers many lessons and hockey sessions. However, there seems to be a priority on the hockey leagues that pay high money to play there. Also, there aren't any pickup games for the average person who cannot afford the leagues or wants to play for fun. The city rink is not focusing on the city. It is focusing on the money at the expense of the citizens that use the rink for exercise and enjoyment.
Where are these city and lotto dollars going? It certainly isn't going to ensure there are public sessions for the general populace! It also isn't being allocated to sufficient parking for the rink.
How has this continued to happen? One of the most beautiful ice skating facilities in the nation and one of the best assets of Pueblo -- why isn't it available to the public but one night a week? Where is this funding going? Is this a private business or an institution funded by the people for the people?
I hope that this letter will somehow raise awareness to the quiet demise of the Pueblo Ice Arena. I don't believe it necessarily needs more funding, but better management of funding. I want to see the Pueblo Ice Arena given back to the people of Pueblo, made available to the taxpayers to enjoy. A beautiful aspect of Pueblo such as this, should be open to visitors of Pueblo and its people to appreciate.
-- Rebecca Ditimar