Letters to the Editor - Skate on the park June 03 2004

I was intrigued by "Paving Piedmont Park" (News & Views, May 27). Not because I have an opinion on the parking deck itself, but because it offers an opportunity to pave the park even more.

Michael Wall mentions that the deal would give the park 50 acres of land that is flat and suitable for a playground or soccer field. Instead, I propose that Atlanta finally get with the times and use the land to build a public "extreme sports" facility for skateboards, inline skates and BMX enthusiasts.

Almost every other major city offers at least one such facility and they are a great way to provide a safe environment to get skaters off the streets. So instead of spending thousands of dollars on yet another soccer field or playground, it would be great if the city could finally build just one skate park.

-- John Naismith, Atlanta

br>?Breathe deeply
I read a lot of bullshit every day in the paper and I just want to thank you for the "refreshing breath of air" I get from reading Fishwrapper. In America, where journalism is a total embarrassing joke, it's nice to know we still have people who can tell the truth.

-- Cole Tolbert, Mableton

br>?Different degrees
First of all, I personally do not condone the actions of the very few servicemen and servicewomen who took part in these acts, but you look like an idiot, Ted (News & Views, "Behold the torture apologists," May 20). There are different degrees of crimes. For example, a parking ticket is not as severe as a carjacking, or a speeding ticket isn't as severe as a home invasion. Just wanted to let you know these things, Ted, so you won't look like an idiot again. Anyone who could mention the WTC disaster and a flashlight in someone's rectum in the same article has possibly smoked too much crack. Maybe the "other half" of your brain isn't functioning (see "crack" in previous sentence). I'm just surprised someone published what you wrote, even in a free mag.

-- Steve Titshaw, Dacula


Learning a lesson
I was concerned about Scott Henry's use of Narvie Harris' statement that sitting next to white children won't make black children smarter (which was likely taken out of context) ("Still separate — finally equal?" May 13). To place a statement like that at the close of a piece, the conclusion conveys Henry's feelings about black people.

It presumes that black children are inferior — they are not.

A more true statement (based on an accurate premise) would be white children won't learn to be adults who are humane and respectful of other racial/cultural groups by sitting next to black children.

-- Lylah Salahuddin, Atlanta

He wouldn't approve

In many ways, "The poor are always with us" rings true (Fishwrapper, May 20). It rightly places much of the blame for homelessness at the doorstep of commercial greed and government corruption, and you are right when you say that there are proven ways that could reduce homelessness, if we were only willing to foot the bill.

But when you start quoting Jesus about the futility of trying to end poverty, it is obvious that you "detest writing about homelessness." Well, maybe the goal of completely abolishing poverty is unrealistic, but we do have the means to end homelessness. When I was growing up in the '50s and '60s, "homeless" wasn't even in the vocabulary. Until Reagan started shutting down mental hospitals and throwing sick people out on the streets, there were few people that we would call "homeless" today.

The notion of "homeless mentally ill" was once abhorrently unthinkable, and public services for alcohol and drug addiction were well funded and abundant. When I worked on the Alcohol and Drug Unit of Georgia Regional Hospital back in 1979, police would routinely bring in addicted people to be detoxed, and a social worker on the staff would make sure they had a place to live before they were discharged. That's not the way it is now. The A&D unit at Regional is gone, and the only other state mental hospital once serving Atlanta, Georgia Mental Health Institute, was shut down in 1998.

But "the story," you say, "never changes." You're wrong. There are far more homeless people these days than there used to be. And psychiatric researchers like E. Fuller Torrey of the Harvard Medical School document that one-third of the national homeless population is mentally ill. That's how the homeless epidemic got its start: with the "deinstitutionalization" of the mentally ill and the abandonment of those with addictive disease. Try going out on the street again, Mr. Sugg, and this time keep your eyes open. You'll see people not only with mental illness and addictive diseases, but with AIDS, cancer, diabetes, arthritis and a host of other diseases. About half of the homeless are permanently disabled, and many of these will never be able to work again. Should they be left out to die on the streets? Do you think there is nothing we can do about this?

You call the homeless mentally ill "the people whose reality is not quite real." Would the senior editor of Creative Loafing describe people with cancer in such a cutesy, puerile way? How would you feel about it if people with Alzheimer's or Parkinson's made up a third of the homeless population? Nobody chooses to be mentally ill, and once people become addicted to alcohol or other drugs, they risk death if they try to stop their addiction without medical supervision.

Your article shows sympathy only for those who are the easiest to help. Homelessness is a terrible hardship for people who have lost their jobs, but economic victims are the strong ones, the walking wounded. When you ignore all those other homeless people who are bleeding in a ditch, I don't think the Jesus you casually quoted would approve of the way you abused his teachings about the poor. The right thing to do would be to re-open public mental health hospitals and detoxification centers, and to provide the community group homes that the Department of Human Resources promised but failed to deliver. Shame on you, John Sugg! Take the crisis of homelessness more seriously and stop being so cynical and cute. If you really detest writing about homelessness, let somebody else on your staff do it instead.

-- Bob Darby,

co-founder, Atlanta Food Not Bombs

?Department of corrections
The exhibition location of Transit: Abstracting the System curated by Melissa Messina was misidentified in Felicia Feaster's column For Art's Sake (May 27). The show runs through June 25 at City Gallery Chastain, 135 W. Wieuca Road. 404-252-2927. www.bcaatlanta.com.