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Breeding hate

I deplore the hate speech and hate religion of the Westboro cult, but then, most everybody recognizes the Phelps family for the crazies they are. The biggest problem they cause for Colorado Springs is that they make the anti-gay message relentlessly conveyed by many of our own political and religious leaders look harmless by comparison.

It's great that local politicians and conservative Christian churches finally were mobilized to oppose the Phelps's vile demonstrations last week -- especially when the family declared, "God hates Colorado Springs."

But the persistent realities of our city's institutionalized discrimination against gays, and the culture of the religious right that characterizes gay people as either sinful or sick, are much more powerful statements to the world and to our children.

Even when the Phelps group isn't in town, Colorado Springs families absorb anti-gay beliefs and attitudes from homophobic political leaders and churches every single day. This is what breeds the culture of hate that spawns violence and characterizes our city to the rest of the world as a center for intolerant, self-righteous, anti-gay rhetoric.

And if God doesn't actually hate Colorado Springs for that, I'll bet She's at least a little angry.

-- Bobby Vincent

Colorado Springs

Scary marriage

In light of the protests from Fred Phelps' church and the constructive religious dialogue hosted by Citizens Project, I wanted to comment on the prevalent intermingling of religion and politics in America.

If we analyze much of the large-scale human-on-human violence in our world, it seems to revolve around religion. Think about Israel, Chechnya, Bosnia, Sudan and the 9/11 attacks. If we consider the war in Iraq a reaction to 9/11, it belongs in the same category as well.

Fortunately, America does not have much religious conflict, relatively speaking. Our country was founded as a haven for persecuted believers and the Constitution contains specific language about freedom of religion and its separation from the state.

If we look at President Bush's political strategies objectively, it is painfully obvious that he wants to blur those separation lines and use religion to solidify his base of power. I realize that politics is a contact sport and few tactics are out of bounds, but this tact worries me.

Are we, as a nation, ready to bring religion into our politics? We have seen domestic terrorism at Oklahoma City, Littleton, and now Red Lake. I see the common thread amongst those attacks to be disenchantment with society and a feeling of betrayal by the establishment.

Can we imagine our same society with the amount of religious zeal we see in the Middle East? I hope liberals, conservatives and libertarians alike resist President Bush's push toward theocracy.

-- Jeremy Van Hoy

Colorado Springs

Nearing crisis stage

I want to commend you on the excellent article on substance abuse in the March 17 Independent by Kathryn Eastburn. It was filled with useful information and insights into a local issue that is nearing crisis stage. I can see how it has been building in the history she lays out, and, in my personal experience in working directly with some of the people most impacted, it is visibly worse in just the last year.

The article was especially effective in showing how ineffective we are in Colorado by focusing resources in the wrong areas. It is likely that if 25 percent of what is being spent in emergency rooms and the criminal justice system could be focused on prevention and earlier treatment, it would be of great savings to the community in money spent and in lives transformed into productive living.

One of the few encouraging signs during a year of much negative news is the development of Harbor House, which was mentioned in the article. They are getting some amazing results with the most difficult clients in the community. With the success of the first year, they are expanding this month to double their capacity.

Thank you for a great contribution in communicating an urgent community need.

-- Bill Sisterson

Director of Housing

New Hope Center of The Salvation Army

Colorado Springs

Twisted priorities

I find it interesting that 14 of the advertisements in the March 24 issue either directly or indirectly promote alcohol -- one being a full pull-out sale paper for Cheers Liquor Mart. How much money do alcohol distributors, alcohol retailers and bars spend on advertising in one year? What is their responsibility to alcohol treatment programs?

I am not surprised that Colorado ranks so low as far as spending for alcohol and substance abuse treatment. Colorado ranks low in spending for education, mental health and services for people with developmental disabilities. Fetal alcohol syndrome is considered a developmental disability -- children are being hurt by the lack of funding because our state's priorities are elsewhere.

When will taxpayers wake up and realize that we live in the Doug Bruce era and until TABOR is changed there will be no funding for education, mental health, services for people with developmental disabilities, and alcohol and substance abuse treatment? Our state leaders obviously do not see these entities as priorities, so we taxpayers need to see them as priorities. If our government can get involved with steroid use in professional athletics, then they can hold liquor manufactures more accountable for funding for alcohol treatment programs.

-- Christina Butero

Colorado Springs

No self-control

Disgust. I honestly don't think I can find a word to better describe my sentiments as I read the March 17 article, "Smashed."

In speculation I could guess the reasoning behind running this article was to make the community aware that we live with a bunch of people that have no self-control and that the state should spend money to help them. Or perhaps it was to let us know that these people can afford to go out and spend their money on "substance abuse" but then cannot afford to get their own treatment?

Oh, let's all take pity on the poor people who have some underlying problem that they seek "treatment" with through alcohol or drugs. I think it is awful that we as a community are looking to the hospitals to help fund this problem. These people are not suffering from a heart attack; they didn't cut their hand off with a lawn mower; they didn't take a tackle wrong in a football game. They knowingly went out, drank consciously, and now we should fund their recovery? I think not.

As for "Alex," the anonymous woman featured in the story, I have no sympathy. Last time I checked, driving while under the influence was against the law. That's right, we have a checks-and-balance idea called the police and prison.

Why should Colorado spend our tax dollars to help people who can't control themselves? Poor, poor Alex -- she could afford the $5,000 DUI, but couldn't afford to get herself a counselor and take the initiative to follow up with that counselor on a weekly basis?

Perhaps we should set up the "Alex" foundation in North Dakota. We can relocate the needy there, and then after they receive "compassionate, tough, accountable treatment" they can come back clean and sober, and ready to contribute to our community.

Much like your subject "Alex," I to would like to remain anonymous to honor my own "step" program: to work, pay taxes, vote and raise my children. We'll call me "Responsible Adult."

-- Name withheld upon request

Colorado Springs

Sticking to principles

Continued stories of Air Force Academy student misconduct have appalled and bemused me. Maybe I'm naive. Maybe our military academy cadets are not chosen from among the top high school students. Maybe military service, including the officer corps, has sunk so low in esteem that it has become a place of opportunity for the lower elements of society, those to whom our laws are merely something for the nerds. Maybe. But alas, after recent news reports detailing sexual misconduct, drunken parties, drug use and cheating on tests there comes a new problem: religion.

And it's not just the moral elements of religion, but [it's also] that religion is being dictated by some in positions of leadership. Do West Point and Annapolis have these problems?

One of the things that bother is how seldom we read about any substantive punishment, other than that meted out to the rape victims that were brave enough to complain. In my opinion, if there is a problem with religion in the Academy, it's that the principles are not being observed.

-- Ray Begin

Colorado Springs

Community policing

City Councilman Tom Gallagher was chastised by the rest of Council because he pushed for more investigation of an alternative to the Southern Delivery System. Amazing! Not the fact that Mr. Gallagher was chastised for this action but the fact that another City Council member, Scott Hente, has on several occasions voted for items that had a direct impact on the profits of the real estate and construction industry of which he is a part.

Why has he been allowed to vote on issues that have, at the very least, an appearance of conflict of interest?

Mr. Hente is seeking re-election to his District 1 City Council seat this April. If City Council will not fully police its own members, it is up to the voters to do so. I think it is time to lessen the influence of the real estate development and construction industry on City Council and Utilities.

Al Brody is running in opposition to Scott Hente as representative for District 1 on the City Council. Mr. Brody has declined to accept large campaign contributions that could give an appearance of conflict of interest. This, of course, places his election campaign at a financial disadvantage. But it is a clear indication of his beliefs and the type of representation one can expect of him.

-- Ralph E. Kelly

Colorado Springs

No pulse

Developers handing out big tips to politicians, the city handing out new-build permits (water taps included) by the bucketful and we, the public, are already being told the water rations are in force this year.

Somebody call EMS! The public is dead!

-- Phyllis Walls

Colorado Springs

Disaster ahead

Gratitude to Dave Miller of Energy Resources Company and to City Councilman Tom Gallagher for offering options other than the Pueblo Dam and the Southern Delivery System for provision of water to the Front Range.

For years Miller has been a "water prophet" for the area, alerting officials and the public to a legitimate and unused source and storage place -- Union Park. Tom Gallagher seeks an alternative at Brush Hollow Reservoir. Both men have ties to water firms, fortunately or unfortunately, which caused raised eyebrows about "conflicts of interest." This has distracted us from the needs of a growing populace for water and impending drought.

Very alarming was the Feb. 25 report to the governor, published in the news media, predicting the failure threat of the Pueblo Dam, which was termed "potentially one of the nation's worst disasters." The immediate effect of the failure could result in disaster for 17,000 lives and property prospectively.

This dire warning was made to the Bureau of Reclamation by Horst Ueblacher Associates, internationally acclaimed dam engineering experts. The warning and reminder has been overlooked, ominous as it appears.

A secondary effect of a Pueblo Dam failure would endanger Taylor Dam and Mesa Dam and an additional 3,600 lives and property between Taylor Park and Fruita.

Why has Ueblacher been overlooked for five years? What has been done to repair and remedy the Pueblo Dam and prevent likely disaster? How is it that a plan to provide water storage and conservation in the high mountains is not being pursued by politicians and legislators?

Hopefully the media will help educate us on the less-popular, and less-reported options while considering their environmental potentials.

-- Flora M. Holmes

Colorado Springs

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