Lady of the Rings
Dewey Webb's "Lourdes of the Rings" (February 8) was most interesting, even and well-done, except that it gave a misleading, two-dimensional profile of Kay Torrez. For a half-century, Torrez has been an ardent, effective, respected neighborhood and community activist, much of it in the cause of public education, in a racially mixed, high-crime, mostly impoverished area that desperately needed voices at the Legislature and City Hall.

Torrez has been most active in creating an upscale enterprise and chooses to keep the business in the inner city where it began. She personally designed Azteca Plaza, which, along with the New Times building and Immaculate Heart cathedral, is a neighborhood point of pride.

Webb calls Torrez a 73-year-old grandmother, although she's several times a great-grandmother. Her burgeoning clan, collectively and individually, is worthy of great pride to her and to the community. She could flee the presidential streets for LaJolla or Paradise Valley, but lives on, by and for East Washington, working to make it a better place.

Torrez knows controversy when she sees it and must be respected for opening her ranch, her resources and her heart to New Times and to the public to let us explore labyrinths for ourselves.

Virgil F. Carson

Maricopa County Attorney's Office spokesman Bill FitzGerald believes "100percent" that Justice of the Peace John Barclay's dismissal of marijuana possession charges against me is wrong, and will be overturned on appeal ("Hemp, Hemp, Hooray," David Holthouse, February 1). Then perhaps Maricopa will become the first county in America to prosecute someone for complying with state licensing laws and paying state taxes. More than $1,500 worth, so far.

As a spokesman for Arizonans for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, let me say this: Anyone who buys marijuana should pay the tax; anyone who sells marijuana should be a licensed dealer. AZ4NORML believes 100percent that no jury in the state of Arizona will convict anybody for marijuana possession who has paid the tax on it.

Since Barclay's November 1 ruling, there has been no public hue and cry for repeal of the cannabis tax. No bill to repeal the tax has been introduced into the Legislature. Perhaps the Maricopa County Attorney's Office will be the last corner from which we hear the tired refrain, "Wolf in hemp clothing! Assassin of youth! Marijuana? My God, the sky is falling!"

Peter Wilson, chairman

Thirst Aid
Getting a safe glass of water to drink should not be something anyone has to worry about. However, "Tale of the Crypto" (Michael Kiefer, January 25) reveals that the threat of drinking contaminated water in Phoenix gives us reason to think twice before filling that glass from our tap.

Every year nearly one million people in America get sick from drinking contaminated water, and almost 100 people die, according to the Centers for Disease Control. As Kiefer pointed out, in Milwaukee in 1993, 400,000 people got sick, and 100 died, from an outbreak of cryptosporidiosis.

The City of Phoenix seems to be in denial about the potential health effects that dumping raw "sludge" into the water supply may have. Moreover, it is only now starting to develop the technology to test for contaminants like cryptosporidium. As in many cities, we don't figure it's time to do something about the problem until people get sick or even die from a waterborne illness. Sounds like bacterial Russian roulette.

Despite these many problems, the U.S. Senate recently unanimously passed a bill that would significantly weaken the Safe Drinking Water Act. This bill would create exemptions from testing requirements for many water systems, slash budgets for small communities to improve their water and sewer systems, and delay or weaken standards for known carcinogens such as arsenic and radioactive radon.

We should not be fearful of our own tap water. We need a stronger Safe Drinking Water Act, not a weaker one. We need to put our health and safety first, not allow large loopholes in the law carved out by big-business lobbyists. As this bill moves on to the House of Representatives, it is imperative that we call on our legislators to keep our water safe enough to drink.

Dyana Mason

Hot-Air Quality
I am writing this letter in response to "The Center of the Warm" (Dave Plank, January 25). I could only shake my head and sigh, "Only in Arizona." The article was, ah--er--interesting.

The tobacco lobbyist's insight to tobacco's link--or lack thereof--to health problems could be seen as interesting. My alcoholic grandfather's creative rationalizations for drinking beer were both humorously and sadly interesting. Robert Balling's insight into global warming is definitely interesting. I wonder if he consulted the Arizona Legislature regarding its interesting plans for Arizona to produce Freon, too.

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