What, Phil Worry?

Mayor McGruff: You make some very good points regarding the crime rate in Maricopa County ("Murder City," The Bird, Stephen Lemons, December 14). I agree that it's a laugh that Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon goes around scoffing at the crime statistics showing Phoenix is a dangerous place when there were two serial killers roaming our streets. (Actually, there were three, I think, but two of them were the Serial Shooter.)

The cartoon you ran with the story was hilarious! When I first arrived in Phoenix a few years ago, I noticed Mayor Goober (as you call him) on TV talking about his front-porch campaign. It just said to me that Phoenix is a small town. But, you know, it really isn't. Once you've been here for a while, you realize that Phoenix is a big city with big-city crime problems. I hadn't been here a year when I was robbed at gunpoint going into a convenience store.

Now we find out that Phoenix's murder rate is nearly three times the national average, and Gordon's solution is to continue harping about his Block Watch program. Wonder why he didn't mention that when I saw him on Channel 3 practically taking credit for solving the Baseline Killer case? Guess he wasn't dumb enough to offer that up as a solution under the circumstances, though he's offered it up every other time the subject of crime has come up.

I'm picturing Gordon as your McGruff the Crime Dog. Can't you just see him with big, floppy ears? What a pitiful excuse for a big-city mayor.
Elizabeth Smith, Phoenix

We can police ourselves: Loved your take on Mayor Phil in The Bird. You're right, the guy is such a goober. He's an embarrassment when you come from somewhere else and are used to real big-city mayors. How this guy and his nervous twitches ever got elected (even in Phoenix) is beyond me.

The reality, despite what he would have us believe, is that we have some serious crime problems in our city, problems that will never be addressed by a mayor who stresses a front-porch crime-watcher's campaign. What we really need are more cops on the street, but Phil spends all his time telling us citizens to take care of ourselves — it's not the city's damn problem!

Anyway, thanks, New Times, for having some insight that is missing in the rest of the sorry-ass media in this town.
Richard Samuel, via the Internet

Special Kids

Maintaining a balance: I am the mother of a 3-and-a-half-year-old son with autism. I read your article ("The Scarlet Letter," Amy Silverman, December 7) with emotions that ran the gamut from sadness to "thank you for helping others understand."

I'm grateful that you are getting the word out. Before our son was diagnosed, I didn't know a single person with autism, or a child with autism. Now autism is our whole world much of the time.

The balance of autism and normal life is very difficult to maintain. No matter how much you don't want it to affect your entire life, it has a way of sneaking into all parts of your existence: your interactions with your extended family and friends, your marriage, your finances, your time spent with other children who need you as well.

I'm just thankful that you're bringing awareness and that others might be able to better understand our children because of what you've written. I love my son so very much, and I long for others to know him, and not just his autism. Sometimes it's difficult to separate the two, even for me.
Jennifer Harman, Peoria

Difficult adjustment: I am a single mom with three children, and my youngest (my only boy) was only recently diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome/high-functioning autism. He is 9 years old and in fourth grade.

I can absolutely identify with the frustrations with the schools, as well as with the emotional upheaval of having a "special" child who doesn't seem to have a problem at first glance. For years, even close friends considered my son to be "the most heinous brat they'd ever known." (That's really what someone told me.)

I myself thought I was a terrible parent, despite evidence to the contrary with my older children. After all, it's just me and my one income — I can't give my kids the time or the stuff other parents can sometimes give. I felt guilty, and I often felt (still feel) that I was walking through a store surrounded by a bubble of noise. All along, however, my boy has been just having sensory overload and difficulty adjusting to change and social situations.

Things aren't fixed now because I have a diagnosis, but the diagnosis certainly has made things make more sense. I'm learning, and so are my son and his sisters. With his intelligence, his imagination and his love, my son is a gift. I just have to keep "unwrapping" him.
Suzanne Jacobson, Mesa

A shift in attitude: Thank you for the beautiful article titled "The Scarlet Letter." It is written so honestly, and it shows a clear shift that is occurring in young mothers today versus even five years ago. I have worked with various challenged children and adults, and one of the most difficult challenges is getting parents to see a child for who she or he is.
Len Young, via the Internet

Teaching tolerance: I have a 5-year-old daughter with mild autism. She performs perfectly when it comes to academics, though socially she's a little off. We have been through so much as a family and unfortunately have had to endure comments from an unknowing/uneducated public. What we have learned from having an autistic child is valuable. We can teach parents with regular children how to cope, understand and be tolerant of others.
Anne Stone, Glendale

Help and understanding: Thank you for letting people know how important it is not to live in denial. I have a son with Asperger's, and it is a daily challenge and a daily reward. He is bright, loving and a generally good kid. But the schools don't "get" him, and the teachers want me to "fix" him so he can fit in.

Don't get me wrong, I am doing everything I can, as a single mother who does not receive any services. He gets speech and social skills therapy that I pay for.

I cry probably four or five times a week just out of frustration and loneliness in this. My marriage of 10 years ended over a difference in understanding of how to handle this child. Lots of parents in this situation divorce. That is sad, and it's largely because of a lack of information out there for parents and professionals.

My son has had diagnoses of attention deficit disorder, Tourette's syndrome and Asperger's. He has also been labeled, incorrectly, as bipolar and neurotypical. Thank you for shedding light; our kids need and deserve help and understanding.
Name withheld by request

Not in the genes: Yes, there are cases of Fragile X, but that is not what causes autism. Genetics is not the cause of most cases of autism. Anyone who thinks that autism is genetic doesn't understand math. It is a statistical impossibility.

This is not to insult Cheryl Fisher, who's mentioned in your story, in any way. She and my wife are friends. She has what she thinks to be true, and I have what math says is true. If someone thinks 2 plus 2 equals 3 and math says 2 plus 2 equals 4, is the person or the math right?

I wish autism were uncomplicated. I do think that damaged genes could play a part in why some kids get it, but my question would be: What is damaging the genes of these kids?
Eric Archer, Phoenix

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