TOTHEEDITOR@INLANDER.COM & r & & r & High Timing

I enjoyed Robert Herold's column on the arrests of Gonzaga basketball players Josh Heytvelt and Theo Davis ("Reefer Madness," 2/15/07), and I agree with his position that the episode needs to be kept in perspective.

However, in singling out the Spokesman-Review as an example of news organizations engaging in "sensationalism" in covering the story, Herold makes a false assertion that I'd like to clarify.

The Feb. 13 Today cover story on marijuana that Herold characterizes as a sequel to "Reefer Madness" was not written in reaction to Heytvelt's and Davis' arrests. The story, which was originally published in USA Today a week earlier and distributed to us via the Gannett wire service, was budgeted for publication in the S-R well before the arrests took place.

The Today section is printed early in the afternoon, so in order to have the Tuesday cover edited and ready to go to press by noon on Monday, we design it the Friday before -- in this case, a full day before news first broke of the students' arrests.

It did occur to me that the timing of the story might cause some critics to accuse us of "piling on," so to speak, but that didn't strike me as a very good reason to call in the staff on their day off to tear up the section and remove a story that had suddenly become quite topical.

The story was, in my opinion, a well-written and balanced look at the scientific debate over the physiological and social effects of marijuana. It was not, as Herold seems to suggest, a cynical attempt to hype the GU story by conflating the dangers of the drug. Now that he has had a chance to actually read the story, I hope he will reconsider his conclusion.

Thanks for the opportunity to clear the air (no pun intended).

Ken Paulman, Features Editor

The Spokesman-Review

In a T.I.F.

[Spokane County Treasurer Skip] Chilberg's assertion [in the Spokesman-Review], that tax increment funding for Kendall Yards is "giving public money to rich people," is overly simplistic and a return to the old days of keeping Spokane the way it was. This financing is commonplace throughout the country in public/private partnerships. There is negligible risk, particularly with the developer's requirement to possess a letter of credit, which has been committed by Black Rock. Why should the developer be expected to fully fund public improvements for a project that has the potential to eliminate an eyesore that has stood contaminated and empty for several years, and benefit the city and county with large future tax revenues? Kendall Yards is the most exciting urban development project ever in Spokane. It will look spectacular on the bluff above the gorge, create jobs, clean up the West Central neighborhood and eliminate urban sprawl that has already plagued much of the county.

Don't let the county treasurer's obstructionist politics get in the way.

Jim Kirkland

Seattle, Wash.

Happy Homeless

Your article "Seeing the Invisible" (2/8/07) seemed to endorse the false assumption that all the homeless are uncomfortable with their situation. Not true.

Many people prefer to be homeless to the extent that homelessness is not as complex as the rest of society. It is the complexities of modern society that lead many into that lifestyle. Can you say "hobo"?

I know it is hard for the socially well-adjusted to envision being content in the open air, but consider the freedom of the experience. No rent or house payments, always an open schedule, never having to step from a warm house into the freezing cold to have a cigarette, not having to spend a week's wages for a frantic visit with nature, not having the feeling of constant scrutiny from expectant or opinionated peers. I'm kidding a bit, yet to some these and other assumed discomforts are some solace in contrast to certain situations in their social orientation.

There is also a growing population who lack -- or are uncomfortable with -- the social skills necessary to hold down a steady job within the structure of today's employment market. I think you would have to admit that most unskilled and industry-related jobs these days offer a relatively low level of self-fulfillment. In the course of certain research I have come to know some of the "happy homeless." I've camped with them and gone alley surfing. These unwitting indeterminists would have made excellent business owners or self-employed tradesmen in simpler times. Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to start a legal business today without capital backing and at least an excellent grasp of economics if not a business degree -- either that, or an almost criminal talent for BS.

[One] of the problems with being homeless is you are always basically hiding, whether you are in a car or on the street. Comfortable parking and camping spots are hard to come by. Public sanitary and garbage facilities are virtually nonexistent. One can't sell small crafts or otherwise openly solicit on the street. This makes life hard, but it is the overriding sense of ostracism that can take a mental toll in self-respect and sometimes blurs the perception of ethical behavior.

I'm not trying to be socially contentious here. I realize that we Americans in general hold each other to a high standard of cultural achievement. It's a broad brush and, for whatever reason, has no historic basis in reality. There have always been those who exercise the ultimate expression of free will.

There have always been those mentally or physically incapable of dealing with social complexities. It would be far more productive if we were to accept that fact and make a less demeaning place in society for those folks, a place rooted in common respect for individualism rather than pity or angst. Who knows, maybe 20 years down the road, the wanderer could be another symbol of our confidence and ingenuity -- even an educational right of passage for some. Far preferable to a stain on our streets.

Roger Aschenbrener

Deer Lake, Wash.

Golden Harvest: Flour Sacks from the Permanent Collection @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

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