Letters to the editor for Sunday, Oct. 26

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For the past four years, it has been my privilege and my heartbreak to be the attorney for Victor Cordova Jr. I do not think I have ever known a finer, nicer, sweeter young man. Your readers will have heard of Victor from the Oct. 22 news story about his guardianship case. Although your reporter did not misrepresent what was in the court file, the court file does not tell the whole story.

In late 1998, Victor's mother became sick. Victor and his family traveled to Grand Junction to seek medical care. Because the English-speaking doctors were unable to communicate with Mrs. Cordova, 11-year-old Victor had to translate for them and tell his mother that she had only weeks to live.

After his mother's death, Victor became very depressed. His father, unable to cope himself, made things worse by not allowing Victor to talk about his feelings. Victor's grades plummeted from A's and B's to F's. He talked about suicide. School authorities considered getting counseling for Victor, yet none was provided.

By November 1999, when Victor was 12, his downward spiral deepened. In desperation, he brought his father's gun to school, intending to kill himself. He pulled the gun out in a crowded hallway, put it to his head, changed his mind, and lowered the gun. Panicked children scattered every which way. One of them bumped Victor as he was lowering the gun, and it went off. (A firearms expert confirmed that the pistol, when cocked, would go off when jarred.)

The bullet hit 13-year-old Aracely Tena in the head. (She later died.) Victor did not know her, did not aim at her, did not intend any harm to her or anyone (other than himself). In panic and confusion Victor swung the gun around wildly, scared, not knowing what to do. He called out again and again for someone to help Aracely. When no one did, Victor took her arm and tried to pull her down the hall to the nurse's office.

To resolve his case, Victor agreed to plead guilty to second-degree murder and several other counts involving pointing the gun at others. He was sentenced to two years in the custody of New Mexico juvenile authorities with the provision that the commitment could be extended in one-year increments until he reaches the age of 21.

Victor is now finishing the third year of his sentence. He spent most of the first two years in a treatment facility and the last year in a more traditional incarceration where he received somewhat less intensive treatment and graduated from high school. A year ago, Victor's treatment providers told the court that Victor was not dangerous to others and was ready to be released to a good home. Even experts hired by the prosecution agreed. Because there was no guarantee that Victor would not end up back with his father, the court extended the sentence by a year.

This year, we can provide Victor a home with his aunt and uncle in Routt County, who love him and whom he loves. A professional home study has assured that his aunt and uncle can care for him and give him all that he needs to thrive. This month, the New Mexico Children's Court ruled that Victor and the public are better served by giving Victor the loving home that every child deserves than by keeping him locked up.

I know that Victor will make Routt County proud to have him as a resident. I hope and pray the court will give him the chance to show you.

Alan Wagman,

Silver City, N.M.Red Ribbon Week

October 23-31 is Red Ribbon Week, the national substance abuse prevention and awareness week.

Grand Futures Prevention Coalition, a local nonprofit substance abuse prevention agency, is collaborating with area schools and the community to promote awareness regarding the dangers of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Red Ribbon Week was founded upon the death of a Drug Enforcement Agent, Enrique "Kiki" Camarena, who was murdered by a Colombian drug cartel in Mexico in 1985. At his funeral, mourners wore red ribbons. Grass-roots community organizations then adopted the red ribbon as a symbol of their commitment to reduce the demand for drugs and to support prevention efforts.

Red Ribbon Week is an excellent time to reflect on our personal values and beliefs about drugs and the effects they have locally. Drug and alcohol abuse is a serious issue affecting the Steamboat Springs and Routt County community. Because of the resort nature of our community, drugs are readily available and at times extremely accessible to adults and youth. Our children observe "vacation behaviors" such as excessive drinking, partying and drug use on a regular basis; much more than they might observe this type of activity in a community that is not based on tourism. There is a "community norm" that is accepting of alcohol and drug use, as well as drinking and driving. Drinking and driving also is widely accepted, and the rates of DUI arrests for our small community are astonishing.

Children begin experimenting with alcohol, tobacco and other drugs as early as fifth and sixth grades. Therefore, it is integral that parents talk to their children about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. The Partnership for a Drug-free America recently released a study that shows children who receive drug information from their parents are 54 percent less likely to use drugs. It is also very important that parents model responsible choices and behaviors for their children. Many children witness their own parents abusing drugs and alcohol, or drinking and driving and come to view this as acceptable behavior.

Red Ribbon Week is an annual event, but the ideas that accompany it can be perpetuated throughout the year. If you are a parent, spend time with your child every day and continue to reinforce anti-drug messages as they grow older and become more susceptible to these substances. With your help, we can keep the youths of our community healthy, safe, and drug-free.

Angela Kimmes,

Director,

Grand Futures Prevention Coalition

A forward thinker

During a recent visit to Mount St. Helens, the narrator of the interpretive video we were watching closed by saying that we are no longer walking on the same ground we tread in the past and that we will be traversing as yet unknown terrain in the future. It struck me that he was speaking of more than just geologic time.

Eight years ago when I was elected to the Board of Trustees of Colorado Mountain College, the world was a different place. Without question, changes around the globe have affected our local communities. CMC has felt that change, as well, and has had to reposition itself to adapt to changing demands. One of the great things about community colleges is that they have the flexibility to make the move when necessary.

As I step down from my position on the Board of Trustees, I want to ensure that the college continues to assess the environment and deliver services to meet determined need. In order to do this, it is imperative that board members understand their role in this rapidly changing environment.

Chet Gaede is such a person. As the mayor of Leadville for the past eight years, he has dealt with myriad changes. He possesses a realist's eye of the present while holding a visionary outlook of the future. Gaede realizes the significance of a community college not only in this community but also throughout the entire college district. Having been the mayor, he has shown his ability to work effectively with disparate viewpoints in decision making, collaboration and teamwork being his forte. He understands the synergy of people and agencies working together.

One other attribute stands foremost in my mind. Gaede has stated, in no uncertain terms, that his intent as a member of the Board of Trustees is to govern the college, not to run it. Ultimately, his goal is to ensure the continued viability of Colorado Mountain College as an integral part of our communities. Therefore, without reservation, I ask that you vote for Chet Gaede for the Colorado Mountain College Board of Trustees. A vote for Gaede is a vote to strengthen your community.

Dr. John C. Giardino

Chairman, Board of Trustees,

Colorado Mountain College

Yampa diversion

I am writing to express my support of the Steamboat Springs City Council continuing to push for recreational in-channel diversion water rights for the Yampa River, in particular for its decision in last Tuesday's session to retain the services of water attorney Glenn Porzak to file for those rights.

I'd also like to thank Ken Brenner, the Rivers and Trails Commission, Parks and Recreation Department, Friends of the Yampa and all other parties that helped lobby for such an important decision.

I moved Paddler magazine here in 1992 for one primary reason: the Yampa River. It's an incredible amenity for the town and one that I feel often gets taken for granted. We are truly lucky to have it in our back and front yards. Without such protection, it, like our hopes for future river users -- including fishermen, swimmers, tubers and paddlers -- could well run dry.

Eugene Buchanan

Steamboat Springs

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