With respect to the Herold/Horn debate concerning the future of SIRTI, the matter of "opportunity costs" should not go unnoticed.

There are those, for example, who have argued that public investment in the U.S. space program has paid off with advances like Teflon and Tang. But such observations beg the question as to whether the billions spent was the best way to get non-stick frying pans and fake orange juice.

By the same token, the investment in SIRTI, as Horn points out, has yielded some promising results. On the other hand, what has been the cost and how might the money otherwise have been spent?

Clearly, the state and federal investment in SIRTI was not spent on the development of a quality research university in the Spokane area. In fact, it detracted from funding that might have been available for such a purpose. And whether one looks at the Route 128 corridor in Massachusetts or the Silicon Valley in California, high quality research faculty is crucial to regional economic development.

In my opinion, Herold is entirely right to regard SIRTI as a serious and even predictable failure. However, his Utah "solution" is, on the face of it, not viable here. For this area lacks the ongoing university research that is essential.

Both SIRTI and the Utah approach are what can be termed "directed development," which has proven unable to encourage the kind of unpredictable research initiatives we need.

Thus, we are back to the need for the intellectual community that comes with a genuine research university. Unfortunately, distance matters -- as does the culture and history of the institutions involved. While Steve Simmons' terabyte triangle is an important contribution with regard to professional linkage capabilities, a multifaceted, local research community remains the missing component.

In this regard, it is worth noting that WSU is a research university, but its limited presence has proven insufficient to spark the necessary research initiatives. Eastern, however, remains a potentially powerful but undeveloped participant that is already in the area.

Shane E. Mahoney

Professor of Government, EWU

Thank you for the recent article on the problems in Libby, Mont. ("Choking on lies in Libby," 3/1/01).There is one other issue that was brought forth at the Libby City Council meeting on March 5 this year. This letter is an attempt to alert people to the dangers of allowing Libby's mayor to enter into business with W.R. Grace while trying to represent the citizens of Libby. Grace has put up two buildings, mandated by the EPA, as part of their work plan. Grace valued the buildings at $400,000 at the council meeting. The problem I have with this is that the buildings ended up on property owned by the mayor of Libby.

Our questions have been met with a lot of rhetoric, but no answers. There are quite a number of business people in Libby who would have loved to receive such a huge gift from Grace, but none had the political influence our mayor possesses. I fear we are being sold down the river again. The asphalt plant is also located on the mayor's property, adjacent to City Hall.

A quick look at history shows where this is leading: In 1982, Grace notified the county that the school running tracks posed a health risk. We now know the EPA was aware of the problems in Libby in 1985. Federal, state and local governments -- our "safety net" -- failed to respond to these questions. Why? Because Grace was a driving force in this community. No one wanted to rock the boat by asking them the hard questions about asbestos. We were all making a lot of money off the opportunities Grace provided us, so we just went along.

People here have not traditionally sought a handout; the miners and loggers who built this town sought only opportunity. We are on the brink of losing that facet of our character; we are fast becoming a community of victims. We became asbestos victims when business and government got into bed together, now here we go again.

There is an old quote: "To sin by silence when we should protest makes cowards of men." Because of the courage of Gayla Benefield and a few survivors in Libby, we are revisiting the failures of our past. Because we have not learned from history, we are about to repeat those mistakes.

D.C. Orr

Libby, Mont.

The proof is there, and once again we see how corporate America chooses profit over the health and well-being of people and the environment. In "Choking on Lies in Libby," (3/1/01) Gayla Benefield remarks that she never was an environmentalist, but this experience with W.R. Grace & amp; Company has changed her perspective. I am sorry for her loss. She joins, in fact, leads, the ranks of those aware of this sort of ongoing crime -- crimes as certain and premeditated as any cold-blooded killing. My hat is off to her for the action she has taken.

I wonder when Americans will stand en masse and demand prison time punishment for the specific individuals in charge at the time such atrocities are permitted, those who hide behind lies and the bloody curtain of the claim that they somehow did not know. They knew. In countless cases across our great land -- they knew... and they know now.

Pat Murphy

Spokane, Wash.

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