My hat is off to David Holthouse, again, on his near-suicidal venture into Agua Prieta reporting on the departure gate of the illegal immigrant underground railway that ends in Garfield, Wilson, Balsz, Grant Park and the other "communities of first arrival" in downtown Phoenix ("Fresh Game," February 3). You ought to do a "follow the money" story on the essential exploitation of cheap illegal labor to the buoyant U.S. economy.
Totally unrelated, I was completely engrossed by Edward Lebow's "Letter in a Battle" story, which for this early baby boomer is "the story of our fathers."
A True PIOneer
As long as you've saddled me with the "honest to a fault" description in writing about my pending departure from the Arizona Department of Health Services ("Sack-A-Flack," Paul Rubin, February 3), I suppose I should offer a couple points of clarification.
First, you have given me entirely too much credit for the "Smelly, Puking Habit" campaign against youth tobacco use. Kudos for those wonderful television and radio spots belong to an incredibly talented and creative advertising firm, Riester-Robb of Phoenix. What I did was help gain public and media acceptance of the campaign through a series of press conferences and news releases that explained the strategy of the gross and in-your-face spots and that revealed the amazing scope of the youth tobacco problem.
Second, I am not limiting my job search to the "public-health sector," but am exploring all public-relations/communications opportunities.
Thanks for the story you did on my good friend and respected colleague Brad Christensen. I, too, am an early career journalist who became a public-health public information officer -- long ago. Brad has put Arizona on the public-health map, with class and integrity. He excelled as president of the National Public Health Information Coalition, an organization I helped found in 1989. From the time he took that public-health PIO post, he generated energy nationwide for the Arizona public-health system. He set a standard anyone else will be hard-pressed to achieve, much less surpass.
Nancy Kay Sullivan Wessman
Director, Communications and Public Relations
Mississippi State Department of Health
I read with interest and was disheartened by your article about the firing of Brad Christensen from ADHS. I worked at the department for only five months but came to know Brad as a true professional. Your quote from Mr. Dillenberg regarding Brad's reputation for honesty is exactly how I would describe my dealings with him. Somehow I wonder if this trait was his Achilles' heel at ADHS. I struggled with the management of the department for five months, attempting to use my talents and skills to better the area in which I worked. I only wish there was a way to wake up the public to the poor management in the department.
Thanks for the great piece about Brad Christensen. I know Brad through his fine work with the National Public Health Information Coalition. As many of my colleagues do, I know Brad to be a creative spokesperson for public health who does not whitewash what the public should know with politically motivated rhetoric and obfuscations. On sensitive issues such as smoking prevention, he is not afraid to take risks in speaking out for the public's welfare, a characteristic sadly lacking in many public "servants" who look the other way when it comes to having to deliver bad news, but grab the spotlight for themselves pitching any good news they think will benefit themselves personally. Brad leaves with his honesty intact, and Arizona loses a lot of credibility.
Public Information Officer
Rhode Island Department of Health
Ah, yes, ummm, Phoenix is the best-managed city in America (Flashes, February 3). Certainly, by that, Governing magazine is speaking in the corporate-downsizing, just-in-time-efficiency, cubicled-workplace sense of the phrase. Was Governing also speaking about how Phoenix manages the 10,000 people who sleep homeless in the city in any given night? Perhaps it was speaking about how the city manages to continue a 50-year-old deprivation of basic infrastructure and tacit support of redlining in south Phoenix. It is truly award-winning that Phoenix has managed to convince the general public that sports and large golf courses in the desert are more important than these issues.
I find myself moved to respond to Tom Burns of Tucson (Letters, February 3) regarding his statement that "equating 'guns' with 'gun violence' is like equating the sale of cars with drunken driving." It seems hardly necessary to point out that cars have a variety of nonviolent applications. Beyond the most obvious, the transportation of human and other cargo from point A to point B, one may eat lunch in one's car, one may live in one's car for brief or even protracted periods, one may even get laid in one's car. Guns, on the other hand, have pretty much one application -- to kill or maim someone or something.
Bad Hair Day
I wasn't going to bother writing my opinion on the Mullet column ("Shout at the Mullet," David Holthouse, January 27) until I saw the only response letters printed were supporting it. I am annoyed that this column was printed, as it is pointing out a detail of physical appearance and then suggesting that the public judge everyone with this physical trait in a certain way. Similar examples of this include: 1) Black people are intellectually inferior because their skull's shape is more similar to primates. 2) Women with short haircuts must be dykes. 3) High schoolers with dyed hair or goth clothing or skateboards must be dope-smoking punks. 4) Mexicans with poor English skills are probably illegal wetbacks.
These are all distasteful statements for me to read and write. What made it so easy for you to write and print something similar? Because the target is a majority? This is not journalism, reporting or public interest. It is propaganda. No matter how cute or humorous or innocent this column may have seemed at first, it is your responsibility to think more about what you write and print. Now people are running around going on Mullet hunts. Would you like to go on a Jeri-Curl or Afro hunt? Don't forget to bring your white hoods.
Richard W. Gilbert
A memorial service for Deborah Laake -- former New Times reporter, columnist and editor -- will be held Wednesday, February 16, at 5 p.m. at the New Times Building, 1201 East Jefferson. Laake died on February 6 in Charleston, South Carolina.
I remember reading what Deborah Laake wrote for New Times back in the 80s and being so amazed that this was what journalism could be like. Her prose was a major reason I became a writer. My only regret is that I was never able to tell her this. Thank you for your life and words, Deborah. You will be missed.
I'll never forget laughing myself to tears reading Deborah Laake's "Worm Boys" story! The book she wrote about her upbringing reminded me of my Catholic-styled upbringing. Writing at its best is personal, and she made you laugh with her. I'm very saddened to hear of her passing.
My condolences to all who knew and loved Deborah. I didn't know her, except through her writing, which was clean, sharp as a tack, and utterly memorable. I have missed her byline, and am sorry to see her go. Maybe it's lucky she got to pick her time. Maybe not. Who knows? It's not up to any of us to judge.
I'm going to spend a few wistful days rereading Secret Ceremonies. Then I'll move on, happy to have the memory of her words in the storehouse of my knowledge.
Peace and grace to Deborah and to all who knew her.
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Deborah Laake's story "Worm Boys" was one of the best stories I have ever read, in New Times or anywhere.