Letters

Letters from the week of August 28, 2003

 Fire Alarm

Promises, promises: My compliments on your recent column regarding Rural/Metro ("Deadly Politics," Robert Nelson, August 14). I experienced a 13-minute response time. My child of 11 months did not survive. Rural/Metro mismanaged the call, sent the wrong station.

I was a major part of the "yes" vote in the election. The "no" vote managed to successfully run a campaign of misinformation. After the election, these points remain: A promise of automatic vehicle locators on the trucks has not been done. Additional firemen on the trucks as other cities do, not done. Changing the methods of tracking response times, not done. The list goes on.

After the election, nothing has been done to better our fire services. I don't want anyone to suffer the agony of slow response times like I did. I think there should be a citizens committee to monitor Rural/Metro's every move to ensure we citizens get what we deserve. You can't tell me that when you pay for the same services that exist now, with the same staff, identical if you will, then remove the profit, it would cost more. This is elementary. It would cost taxpayers less, and we'd get the automatic aid. For profit is not the way to go.

Rural/Metro cares about one thing: profit. Firefighters care about saving lives. They have a servant's heart.

Nick Barbisan
Scottsdale

On the cheap: I wanted to compliment you on your column "Deadly Politics." I was the only member of the Scottsdale City Council to support the creation of a municipal fire department and I actively campaigned for the initiative to do so. You hit the nail right on the head when you pointed out that Scottsdale voters went for cheap rather than good fire service and that the indirect subsidy that Rural/Metro receives from the municipal fire departments surrounding Scottsdale has helped them keep their costs down.

In a further irony, the dedication and professionalism of the Rural/Metro firefighters (who supported a municipal fire department 100 percent) have prevented the sort of tragedy that would demonstrate clearly to Scottsdale residents the risk that they are taking by staying with Rural/Metro. I hope that such a tragedy never occurs and that the residents of Scottsdale never have to find out the hard way what is wrong with Rural/Metro's fire service.

Bob Littlefield
Scottsdale City Councilman

System Failure

Fostering neglect: I am concerned, as a former Arizona foster child, by the way that the whole issue of abuse of children is being handled ("Gentle Exit," Amy Silverman, August 21).

I am startled to find that the people assigned to review and upgrade the system are the very ones who are being reviewed. It is similar to leaving the fox in the chicken house. I was also a little perturbed to find that there are no former foster children involved in real change in the Arizona system.

What I am hearing is that the general public is assuming that all abuse is coming from abusive home situations. Not so. In fact, there are studies, funded by the United States government, that state something entirely different. The report said that children who are placed in foster care are four times more likely to be abused in care than if left in the homes they started in. It also states that more than 50 percent of those in our jails and prisons are people who spent some time in foster care.

Another report states that more than 180 children died in foster care, either by neglect or abuse by foster parents or social workers, in Washington, D.C., alone in the two-year period 1999-2000. None of these deaths were caused by the "offending" families.

I have to wonder if we aren't failing to find a real answer, but instead are using the time-honored answer that everyone is well aware does not work. Can we not find another way?

I think that I would, as a taxpayer, prefer to pay for an aide to teach parents things like housekeeping, budgeting, good hygiene, etc., than to remove children who are happy and bonded from a home purely for issues that can be easily solved. Also, I would prefer that children remain with their biological family if at all possible. It allows them continuity and does not force a child into a situation for which the child is not prepared. Also, it does not push the child into a different socioeconomic standard for which they are ill-equipped to fit in, thus causing even more issues with self-esteem.

When is the governor, and all the people who have known these truths, going to realize that real change has to start from the ground up? As it is, they are simply stacking more blocks on a crumbling foundation.

Lori Trevino
Via e-mail

What a Crock

Misery loves company: That "Death Be Not Profitable" (Dave Maass, August 14) should have been obvious to both the greedy old fool who purchased the viaticals and the ghoulish crocks who sold them to him. There are admonishments against profiting on other folks' misery in just about all of the world's various religious teachings, except maybe Mormonism.

Humanitarian investment? I don't think so. If these had been cancer patients, no one would have dared profit by betting they would die within a year. Tarring and feathering and maybe the rack would have been resurrected as legal punishments had that happened.

Don Elliott and the Hilands are richly deserving of a heaping dose of bad karma, if not the rack and drawing and quartering, as well as legal persecution in the Hilands' case.

Pat Beck
Tempe

Budget Constraints

Strip search: The Arizona Strip! In these times of tight state budget considerations, our elected representatives are working hard to reduce the spending across the board ("Eyes Wide Shut," John Dougherty, August 7). Some of the hardest proposed areas of cuts include educational funding and child welfare. As taxpayers, many of the citizens of Arizona realize that this version of the "Arizona Strip" can be very painful and, in some cases, counterproductive to the future of our children. I think we can all agree, though, that the tax dollar can only go so far and we need to seriously consider how and where it is doled out.

Now let's take a look at another variation of the "Arizona Strip" and see if we can discover any innovative methods of using Arizona tax dollars. The "Arizona Strip" that I am referring to is the geological region located north of the Grand Canyon and south of Utah. This is a very isolated area and thus avails itself perfectly to the inhabitants of Colorado City and their budgetary crafts.

Colorado City has, according to Jon Krakauer in his book Under the Banner of Heaven, published this year by Random House, a population of about 9,000 and is the home to at least three Mormon Fundamentalist sects, not to be confused with the worldwide Mormon church (LDS). All but a handful of the town inhabitants are members of these sects.

The FLDS (as they are known) practice plural marriage as part of their religion. As an Arizona native, I have heard many times about the "plural marriage/polygamy" that exists in Colorado City and even remember reading about the unsuccessful attempt that Governor Howard Pyle made in 1953 to stop the then "illegal" practice of polygamy, which happens to still be a felony in Arizona.

Krakauer mentions that upon driving through Colorado City, the unusually large homes are quickly noticed. These are needed to house the extremely large families that are the result of the above-mentioned religious practice. Given that determining before a court of law that plural marriage is indeed being practiced when only the first marriage is legally recorded and all the subsequent "wives" are church-sealed without legal record, I doubt that the state of Arizona will be able to enforce the anti-polygamy law. As much as this situation pains me and I believe that many young girls are being brainwashed, this sets the stage for the financial issue to be discussed.

Each year, even though the FLDS believes that the governments of Arizona and the United States are evil, their community receives more than $6 million in state and federal funding. More than $4 million in funding goes into the public school budget which seems to also benefit the FLDS leaders who purchased a $220,000 Cessna 210 airplane in December 2000 to "aid" district personnel in their travels throughout the state ("The Wages of Sin," John Dougherty, April 10). Thirty-three percent of the town is on food stamps compared to 4.7 percent across the state. It appears that the school district has no effective teen pregnancy program to help educate the extremely large population of junior-high-aged "unwed mothers" in Colorado City. These young, unwed mothers happen to live in the large houses with the large families that need the welfare checks.

Currently, the people of Colorado City receive eight dollars of funding for every dollar they pay in tax. The rest of the taxpayers in Mohave County get a little more than a dollar for each tax dollar paid.

In interviews with the fundamentalists recorded by Krakauer in his book, they refer to this creative budgeting as "bleeding the beast" and "regard it as a virtuous act."

It is time for the leadership of Arizona to look hard and long at where our tax dollars go. We need to start by not funding illegal activities, even if they are thinly veiled as religious rights!

So which "Arizona Strip" will it be? Or should I say "Arizona Rape"? That's in more ways than one.

Ed Moriarity
Phoenix

Writers Anonymous

Withhold this: The unsigned letters to the editor of July 17 responding to Paul Rubin's "Off With Their Heads" (June 26) made Eleanor L. Miller from Phoenix so "sad" that she has "double-dared" those who were "too cowardly to have their names printed" to "let the world know who they are" (Letters, August 7). Last time I checked, "having sufficient conviction in [one's] beliefs" was not contingent upon publicizing one's own identity.

Personally, I've never even noticed whether letters are signed or not; and to realize someone would use threats to find out the names of otherwise anonymous letter-writers is a bit unsettling. Why does Ms. Miller yearn so badly for these names, and does she really expect folks to come forward after daring them to "make themselves known"?

Yikes! Thanks to Ms. Miller, we are all reminded that the neighborhood bully lives on. Omitting their full names from their letters may or may not have been a "cowardly" act, but it turned out to be smart. I would not blame anyone with opinions on such topics as the death penalty to choose to withhold their name.

There are many reasonable ways to use our right to privacy. Think anonymous tip, undercover agent, secret ballot, first-name-only radio talk show callers, secure Web sites, blurred-out faces and voice-changing devices for witnesses.

It may or may not be a safety issue, but the person who demands info about me is the last person I want to have it.

Gina Fontechia
Phoenix

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