SLAPP suits a slap in the face of environmental justice

To the Editor:

The February 24 cover story "South of the Border" raises some serious issues.

While I am concerned over the plight of the Mexican Spotted Owl, I am more concerned over the plight of Ms. McBride, Ms. Weiland and Mr. and Mrs. Heck. I cannot believe that it is legal to stifle a person's first amendment rights with a so-called SLAPP suit. These people were within their rights to make complaints and inquiries concerning the effects of the quarry operating in their backyard. And yet, they are faced with lawsuits for exercising their rights.

What purpose does the first amendment serve if we have to defend ourselves when we use it? This country was founded on the rights of the common man, not the rich and powerful. If we allow large companies with seemingly limitless resources, to sue individuals for exercising their constitutional rights, then we are essentially requiring people to purchase their rights. As long as SLAPP suits are legal, the only people with freedom of speech are those who are both able to afford to pay a lawyer and willing to risk all they have.

I find it insulting that Mr. Ricci would deny that the suits filed against these people are anything other than SLAPP suits, claiming that the quarry hadn't had any other concerns. It appears that Mr. Stack has suppressed complaints by either paving a road or filing a lawsuit.

In reality, Mr. Stack had nothing to fear from the complaints of his neighbors. The county gives him plenty of warning to cover any infractions and would take his word over anyone else's word. It is clear that someone is lying, but why does the county assume that it isn't Mr. Stack?

Perhaps the residents of Fremont County are unconcerned that there has never been an unannounced inspection of the quarry following a complaint. Perhaps they are unconcerned that the quarry may be expanding beyond its legal limits. Perhaps Ms. McBride and Ms. Weiland should have kept their mouths shut and moved out of the county. Perhaps Mr. and Mrs. Heck should have accepted in silence the adverse effect the quarry had on their business. Perhaps we should all sit back in silence while large corporations suppress our freedom of speech.

But I can't accept that. It's time to stop allowing SLAPP suits to squelch our rights. It's also time for the state and county departments and agencies to straighten out their mess and start to oversee the mining industry in Colorado, before there are no habitats left to protect.

-- Rebecca Wickert
Colorado Springs

Hoodoos a natural treasure

To the Editor:

Thanks to Pat Musick for her article on Woodmen Valley (You Are Here, "Umbrella Rocks," March 9). Twenty-two years ago, when my children were young, we would go for a drive up Woodmen Valley every Sunday after church. It was nothing but country roads, pastures and the hoodoos. My children remember one Sunday when we watched a newborn colt take his first steps in the pastures that surround the umbrella rocks.

As the city grows we need to preserve these special places that we take for granted until it is too late and they are gone. If we don't, we just become another strip mall city. Members of the Union Meadow Park Project are trying to save another special place that has hoodoos, forested hillsides and wetlands. Hopefully, it also doesn't become another "out of sight, out of mind" natural treasure.

For more information on the Union Meadow Park project, see our website at: http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/hume/.

-- Steve Castle and Scot Hume
Union Meadow Park Project Co-Chairmen



From the horse's mouth

Dear Independent:

This e-mail announcement is to inform you of my organization's activities and attempt to boycott your newspaper, the businesses that advertise in your paper, and the business (sic) where you place your papers.

I don't want you to find out second-hand from a source other than myself. This is not a clandestine or stealth effort. It will be a massive, visible attempt to motivate many in Colorado Springs to take action against those who support your ever-increasingly immoral and offensive newspaper.

Nothing personal against any one person of the Independent. Corporately, your social direction and philosophies will be attacked. Whether my effort will have any effect on your distribution or corporate financial support will be unknown for a period of time. But, many of American Family Association of Colorado's supporters in Colorado Springs will voice their distaste.

-- Tom Pedigo, Director
American Family Association

Mr. Pedigo has launched the above-mentioned campaign, targeting businesses that advertise in the Independent. Please see the editorial on page 4 for our response. -- Ed.

That's Congressman Hyde

To the Editor:

You'd think if Richard Baker was going to take the trouble trying to tell El Paso County Republicans who they should, and should not, invite as a speaker for our annual Lincoln Day dinner ("Hyde doesn't represent local Republican values," Letters, March 2) that he'd at least know who he was talking about.

Henry Hyde is a representative from Illinois, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. He is not a senator. By the way, I, for one, enjoyed Representative Hyde's talk.

-- Bernie Herpin
Colorado Springs

And how many deaths by children driving cars?

To the Editor:

To those who ask how many innocents must die before new gun control laws or bans are passed (over 14,000 murders and accidental deaths involving guns in 1997), I ask the following: How many innocents must die every year to allow you to drive your car anywhere you want, anytime you want, at any speed you want? (There were over 43,000 car deaths in 1997.) How many innocents must die to allow you to have that glass of wine with dinner? (There were over 16,000 deaths caused by drunk driving in 1997.) How many innocents must die before there is national outrage over non-gun violence? (More children 14 years and younger were murdered in 1997 without the use of a gun than died from guns for any reason.)

Do these questions suggest nothing can be done about preventing the death of innocents? Absolutely not. Do they justify the abridging of people's rights and freedoms? Also, absolutely not. If we wish to remain a free and just country, and protect the innocent, we need to look at helping people to act responsibly and to treat themselves and others with respect, not at removing or limiting people's freedoms. Doing so will not only save innocents but will also make this country a better place for all to live in.

These statistics are from the Centers for Disease Control (http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/ osp/usmort.htm).

-- Paul Weissler
Colorado Springs

Gov. Owens' immodest proposal

To the Editor:

I read all 114 pages of Governor Owens' "School Reform" Bill 186. Here's a small fraction of what I learned.

The Annual School Grade Card will be based on a bell curve (as the "F" schools are made into charters, the public schools above them will drop to the bottom of the curve).

State funds will be spent rewarding "A" schools rather than helping those with lower scores and/or greater needs.

Curriculum will change in the following ways: health education in grades 6 through 12 only; subjects like child development, parenting, the role of law in American society, and alternative dispute resolution such as mediation and conflict resolution will no longer be mandated.

The requirement that public schools teach the "effect of use of alcohol and controlled substances" will be repealed.

The state board will no longer make "recommendations for future use of technology in education" or "...analyze whether the educational system addresses the diverse learning needs of various student populations."

Annually, up to 10 percent of tax supported schools will move from public to non-public control. "F" schools (2 percent or 32 schools in the first year) must be put up for charter bids from non-public school agencies. "A" schools (eight percent or 128 schools) will be encouraged to convert to independent charters. Charter schools will pay no rent for the public school buildings they acquire. And charter schools "may operate free from specified school district policies and state regulations."

Governor Owens has demanded that this bill be passed before he'll approve next year's funding for public schools. Think about it.

-- Scottie Pedersen
Black Forest

The agenda of the "reptilian right"

To the Editor:

Thanks for the wonderful column in the Indy today by John Hazlehurst (The Outsider, March 9). Well written and very truthful. When "dubya" (whom I call "Bush Lite," but dudya would also do) appeared on the scene as a serious Republican candidate, I wondered why people were not questioning where he got all of the financial backing that he was reported to have. Did anyone think that the money was given "just because," and that there would be no strings attached?

I loved the part about Bush Lite being the "beneficiary of an unholy alliance between special interest moneybags and the Republician fringe," the "reptilian right" -- another good one that hits dead center. It's constantly amazing to see how far this group will go to legislate their agenda into our lives.

-- Stuart Atkinson
Colorado Springs


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