Letters From the Issue of Thursday, December 22, 2005

State of Emergency

Better late than never: Thank you for the opportunity to respond to your recent "Ambulance Chasers" article (Sarah Fenske, October 27). Ms. Fenske's story appears, in large part, to be based on innuendoes, half-truths and distortions coming from Southwest Ambulance's management and union.

Until now, Rural-Metro/Southwest has had a monopolistic stranglehold on the private 911 ambulance business in Maricopa County. In January of this year, Bob Ramsey and I purchased majority interest in Professional Medical Transport ambulance company (PMT). We are competing head-to-head with Rural-Metro/Southwest, and they have resorted to smear campaigns against us and our company.

Competing in Scottsdale, PMT was rated superior to Southwest in 31 of 35 categories and unanimously awarded the 911 ambulance contract. We will begin providing 911 ambulance service for half of Chandler this month.

The numerous inaccuracies and misinterpretations in Fenske's article must be clarified. Among them, Southwest Ambulance employees represented by Local I-60 are not now, never have been and never will be members of the union of which I was president for more than 20 years, United Phoenix Fire Fighters Association, Local 493, IAFF.

In 1994, I served as a paid trustee for Southwest Ambulance's Employee Stock Ownership Program. (I was also a fund manager for three of the state's largest pension funds.) During my tenure, employees made significant gains in their plan.

In 1995, Ramsey and I began efforts to start a billing company for the Dallas Fire Department's emergency ambulance service. This was done with full knowledge of my union's executive board, the Phoenix and Dallas fire chiefs, and with full support from Dallas Fire Fighters Association President Ray Reed and his officers. We increased ambulance billing revenue to the Dallas Fire Department and City of Dallas by more than 80 percent.

In June 1997, Ramsey sold Southwest Ambulance, his Phoenix billing company and our Dallas billing company to Rural Metro Corporation. At no time did I have ownership in Southwest Ambulance or the billing company that performed billing for either Southwest or the City of Phoenix.

I stepped down as president of the firefighters' union in 1998 and retired from the Phoenix Fire Department in January 1999.

Right after Bob Ramsey and I purchased PMT, Professional Fire Fighters of Arizona President Brian Tobin arranged a meeting between me and I-60's union officers. I expressed my desire for them to organize our company, guaranteeing the jobs of their members and agreeing to recognize their union as the bargaining agent for our employees. Unfortunately, they refused. I made another request in June. Again, they refused. In each case, the union leadership turned their backs on my offer. Their priorities were focused on protecting their employer instead of making sure their members' jobs would be secure.

I am a former president of the United Phoenix Fire Fighters Association. I have dedicated my life to helping the working men and women of Arizona. That has not changed now that I am an owner in PMT, nor will it ever. Our competition against Rural-Metro's Southwest Ambulance will result in a higher level of emergency transportation service to the citizens in the cities where we compete.
Pat Cantelme, CEO, PMT 911 Emergency Services

Editor's note: New Times stands by the facts in Sarah Fenske's "Ambulance Chasers" story.

This Just In

Internal fortitude: I wanted to tell you that I enjoyed your latest article on the fiasco in Colorado City ("Crash Course," John Dougherty, December 8). It's funny how we never hear about this issue on local TV news.

The news channels must be too busy with animal stories or the ever-so-important "Dirty Dining" reports. Why aren't they covering this issue regarding Mormon polygamists? Do Mormons have high connections at the news stations?

This is big news, and it should be reported by all the media! My only source on this topic has been your paper, so I just wanted to say thanks for having the internal fortitude to cover it so well.
Johnny Parsons, Tempe

The Meth Plague

Behind the times: The main thing I took away from your methamphetamine series "The Perfect Drug" -- especially "Bad Medicine" (Sarah Fenske, December 8) -- was that the authorities in this state are a bunch of dumb-asses.

It's just like the kind of fools we elect in Arizona to be so drastically behind the times. That is, to think that putting cold remedies behind the counters is going to solve the meth problem. End of story. Problem solved.

Aren't these law enforcement experts supposed to know what's going on?! I find it funny that Governor Janet Napolitano, the former state Attorney General of Arizona, thinks she has been on top of the problem all along ("Methology Redux," December 15) when she apparently had to read it in New Times that supplies of meth are coming in from Mexico ("The New Boss," Joe Watson and Robert Nelson, November 3).

Heaven help us when the governor of our state is so clueless!
Josh Metcalf, via the Internet

The Attorney General feels your pain: Regarding the "Bad Medicine" story, Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard is showing himself more incompetent at every turn.

I have literally been to hell and back with my boyfriend because of meth. Through all the abuse I endured with him, the only reason I stayed is because he was being controlled by his addiction and he desperately wanted to quit. He just didn't know how.

While Mr. Goddard was wasting time, energy and money restricting the sale of Tylenol, I was being put through the wringer -- sexually, physically and mentally. Not because my boyfriend was cooking dope, but because he was smoking it.

He's been clean for a little more than three weeks now, and it's been a huge uphill struggle. We both know he's defying dismal odds with each day he stays clean, and the lack of treatment options for him means he's left to treat himself. Every day, I wonder if this is the day he will slip up.

Let's all raise our glasses to the Attorney General, though; at least Tylenol will be safely behind drugstore counters now! The public can breathe easy -- except me, my boyfriend and the countless others who're in the same situation as we are. There's just not enough treatment available, no matter what good programs exist.
Angel Cordaro, Tempe

The family that tweaks together . . . : As a recovering meth addict, I was kind of wondering why Narcotics Anonymous wasn't considered a viable solution in any of the articles in your series. I can testify that it worked for me, my wife and my two best friends. We all used meth together. We all are more than two years clean now.

Our success suggests that the odds are pretty good that a person can get clean through NA. It has a program that many treatment centers send their patients to, and it is free. It does not stress religion, which made it more conducive for me to go there.

It would lighten my heart to see a mention of this program in New Times, a paper for which I have the utmost regard. I think that people should know that a community of recovering meth addicts exists, and that this community is reaching out to help as many others as it can.
Name withheld by request

Speed demon: I'm a 31-year-old, female closet tweaker. By first impression/appearance, I don't look or carry myself like I'm high on speed, though I've been smoking meth regularly for three years now.

I want to say thanks to New Times for bringing the series on meth to the attention of the public. These important articles have been honest, informative and sometimes disturbing in their truthfulness. These stories, especially "Ice, Ice, Baby" (Robert Nelson, November 24), have given me hope, because I know that -- though it's difficult to find in Arizona -- help is available.

When I do get out of my apartment, or isolation chamber, in Ahwatukee, it's almost always only to go re-up my drug supply.

The tweak world is a sub-society. We keep going while the rest of you are asleep. We are also the loneliest people. We all eventually build walls between ourselves and the rest of the world.

It is time the walls are broken down. All of us who suffer in darkness, shame, fear and isolation need to find relief. I'm almost certain there are many others who desperately wish someone understood the painful reality of meth addiction and how tweakers desperately wish to permanently stop doing this drug.

Your stories have shed light on what it's like inside the life of the glass dick. I imagine that the more the public hears the truth about methamphetamine addiction -- and the high degree to which Arizona is suffering -- the better the chances are for those of us caught in the vicious cycle of meth to come out of hiding and find help.
Name withheld by request

A Visit From Sheriff Joe

'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the jail,
No one was happy, we could not make our bail.
The inmates were nestled all snug in their beds,
As visions of freedom danced in their heads.
I on my cot, my cellmate on his, too,
Had just settled in to try some home brew.
When out in the hall there arose such a clatter,
I jumped from my bunk to see what was the matter.
What to my wondering eyes should appear?
It was Sheriff Joe, so I'd best drop this beer.
He said not a word (unusual) but went straight to his work,
Not a duty nor chore did he shirk.
He dyed the shorts pink, the baloney quite green.
Eat long in this place and you'll become mighty lean.
He called up TV to ask, "When am I on?
"I've not been seen lately busting a con."
Then laying his hands across his vast belly,
He shouted once more, "You get no more telly."
He called to his officers of impeccable repute,
"Hold down the fort while I go count my loot."
Then I heard him exclaim as he roared out of sight,
"I answer to no one; are you looking for a fight?"
Dee Cork, Phoenix

P.S. I'm not an inmate, but a 61-year-old grandma. This is for Dave.

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