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Military takeover of Southeast Colorado

It was a disappointment to read about a potential betrayal of the rural folk who cherish their family farms and ranches and don’t wish to sell to the Army at Fort Carson, and again last week in Colorado Springs when only pro-military leaders and the Chamber of Commerce expounded on the need for expansion. What a terrible hoax to think anything connected with war business could be considered a “crown jewel” and “national security keystone.” It is ironic that an area in Colorado, one of the most scenic and naturally beautiful states in the U.S., is being taken over by the military-industrial complex. Even though there was no chance to be heard last week, there are many folks, including former military, who question why a Fort Carson expansion should be considered necessary at all, much less for the health of our local and state economy. What happened to tourism, health, fitness and agribusiness for which Colorado is a natural, and the great potential for jobs in the needed alternative-energy fields? A moratorium on military expansion makes sense because of the growing sentiment that U.S. involvement in the Iraq war needs to end. With more taxpayers and legislators agreeing that we need to pull out of Iraq, isn’t there a possibility Fort Carson could be reduced in size, rather than enlarged? Instead of more battleground experience, we need to have people trained in renovation, rehabilitation of infrastructure and individuals, health and human services and educational endeavors. If fear of terrorism is predominate, have you thought of telling the war-machine lobbyists in Washington that you don’t want your state to become a terrorist target by having so many of our strategic war components in such close proximity? (Printed in Letters to the Editor in The Independent, Sept. 6)

More on the St Patricks Day parade

Why did a group of people with the non-confrontational message of "PEACE" deserve to be kicked out of a local parade and then blamed for the disruption? We were gathering with the same green shirts, some peace flags and a few banners for an hour before the parade began. Parade organizers had time to advise us if we were not welcome. We—thought a peace message would—fit well with the "child-like mentality" of the event, and the message did receive support from onlookers. There was no intention to be disorderly, or children would not have been involved as they were last year. We were shocked by the police's rude actions and lack of prior notice. Much has happened since Bookman's "Let there be PEACE on earth" message in last year's Old Colorado City parade: America's continued escalation (surges) in Iraq against the advice of many military experts while other nations were pulling out of that country's civil war. Our country was seen by the rest of the world as at least indirectly supporting Israeli incursion into—Lebanon and—Israel's taking of Palestinian land on the West Bank. The November election was a loud and clear message from U.S. citizens to end the Middle East conflicts, which have been strengthening the terrorists' resolve. Wouldn't an inquiring mind find one of those reasons alone enough to support a banner suggesting getting out of an endless war? Members of the local Justice and Peace Commission have been in this area for years trying to raise local consciousness about dangers of greed leading to injustices and war, and how peace will only come if it begins within ourselves. (Printed in Letters to the Editor, The Independent, April 12)

Racetrack video slots a big scam

Proponents of video slots at racetracks have avoided any mention of gambling. Instead they say we'll have more jobs, more money for tourism and no tax increase. Let's examine the idea of increased jobs: Dog and horse trainers and handlers will eventually lose jobs as people will be going to the "racinos" to play the slots, not watch races. At least this is what happened in other states with racinos. Food services will increase at these gambling locations in order to keep people playing the slots, but that will take business from already established restaurants and taverns nearby. As far as tourism, people who are interested in gambling will continue to go to Las Vegas for the variety and excitement. Most of the players frequenting racinos will be from our neighborhoods and small towns within a 100-mile radius, which is why other businesses will suffer. Expanding gambling will in reality tax us more by our having to pay for the safety and social services that addictive and criminal behavior reap on society and by the need to maintain the historic and natural environment that attract visitors in the first place. Let us be firm in our resolve to stop any expansion of gambling in our beautiful state. If enough of us vote NO this time, as over 90 percent of the voters did in 1994, maybe the proponents of 33 will think twice about presenting us with a variation on the gambling theme in the next election. (Printed in Letters to the Editor, THE INDEPENDENT, Oct 30 )

Bigger jails or bigger hearts

Nearly half a million people are now behind bars in the United States for nonviolent drug law violations, which is more than all of Western Europe -- with a larger population -- incarcerates for everything! Our country also has the most religious denominations and has one of the highest rates for church attendance outside of the Muslim world. What is wrong with this picture? In the late 1980s the University of Colorado sponsored a survey seeking public opinion regarding building more prisons as a safety measure. The majority of respondents did not think more prisons would make them feel safer. Many who reported they would feel safer with more prisons were employees or families of the police, sheriff and corrections departments. A conclusion could be that those working in criminal justice fields may have the most reasons to be fearful. Are they afraid of traffic violators or DUI offenders, many of whom fill our jails, or is the fear predominately about nonviolent inmates who, upon release, may become violent? Another conclusion could be one expressed by a local deputy sheriff who, several years ago, made this quip at a County Task Force meeting on Alternatives to Incarceration: "We are the only ones with job security around here!" My El Paso County Criminal Justice education began at those meetings, where I learned: · Various groups were protecting their turf and were adverse to using alternatives if someone else was providing them. · No one in the task force seemed to know if there were any local use of electronic monitoring. · Illegal drug use and mandatory minimum sentences were the main reasons prison expansion was accelerating. This year my experience as a representative on the Justice Advisory Council has reinforced earlier observations. I have also learned there is an overcrowding situation because of increased numbers of women behind bars (many for drug-related offenses), unfortunately indicating more children become social service statistics and likely future juvenile detainees. There is general agreement, at least in one subcommittee, that jail alternatives such as PR bond release and electronic monitoring, along with behavioral and addiction counseling, could be utilized to a much greater degree for nonviolent offenders. Such modalities have proven successful and very cost effective in other jurisdictions. And judges need to be better informed about available sentencing alternatives. Common sense dictates that other solutions be tried if the $40 billion we have been spending annually in the United States to solve the drug problem remains unsuccessful. We need to stop protecting and enhancing a system that has failed over and over again. It is time to bring about change. To do so, we must all become informed about city and county budgets and the percentage of our tax dollars being spent on criminal justice issues compared to quality of life matters that provide the following: Health and wellness assistance for those unable to afford health insurance; free recreational opportunities in public parks and trails for residents and visitors; public transit to help our youth, elderly and disabled get to these important destinations and to help ex-inmates get to their jobs;

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