Jeffrey Anderson’s story “The Black Avenger” [July 23–29] exposes racism, harassment and intimidation at the Department of Water and Power but unfortunately leaves out retaliation, abuse and overworking custodial employees.

As a custodial employee for the utility, I have been working above my city job-classification description since 1995, performing the duties of a custodian supervisor without appropriate compensation. When I filed a grievance, I encountered a bombardment of retaliation to which my union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, has not been responsive. Moreover, the IBEW has not ensured that my grievance was filed properly and will be handled in a timely manner.

I have been fighting for more than two years. Even though I have written to many city offices, including the DWP Equal Employment Opportunity Section, the Employee Relations Board, the Civil Service Commission and others, there has been no resolution. If anything, I have been called a liar and made to look as if my complaints are all part of hallucinations. My co-workers have made my fight much harder since they are all afraid of retaliation and therefore afraid to speak up. Racial discrimination is extremely hard to prove, and it becomes worse when no one wants to help.

I am pissed! DWP custodians are treated unfairly, and the worst part of it is that we see other employees being given special treatment in the form of promotions while we are abused. It is my belief that in the eyes of DWP management we are nothing but a bunch of blacks, houseboys and runaway Negroes. Our health and needs are not considered, while white people go home with their pockets full. It would be nice if Mr. Milton Crawford came and helped DWP custodians resolve this situation.

—Deborah Engel Los Angeles


While I’m glad a whistle is being blown on the DWP, I’d sure hate to see this become a rallying cry for proponents of water privatization in Los Angeles. When all of our water bills are in the triple digits, should we remind L.A. Weekly of its journalistic bravery?

—James Reitano Los Angeles


It is amazing that organizations such as the DWP and LAPD are allowed to act like idiots, and we the taxpayers get stuck with the tab for their behavior. Idea: When a guilty party is brought to light, they will be responsible for the tab, not us. I assure you this will halt the good-ole-boy-club nonsense!

—Waraire Boswell Los Angeles


During last week’s slick media coverage of the Democratic National Convention, I slipped further and further into hopelessness and defeatism, wondering where the real Democratic Party had disappeared to. It was, therefore, serendipitous to discover L.A. Weekly’s “Patriotism in the Time of Bush” issue [July 2–8]. Reading the several articles about patriotism, values and Democracy 101, particularly “Give Us Back Our Damn Flag,” “Bush’s Purgatorio,” “Of Patriots and Scandals” and “Dissing the Republic To Save It,” gave me a much needed spiritual kick in the pants.

—Eileen McCabe-Olsen West Jordan, Utah


Under no circumstances lose Nikki Finke. The word for her is brilliant.

—Basil Thomas Williams Sherman Oaks


Doug Ireland’s article “Teaching Torture” [July 23–29] is full of errors and outrageously impugns the reputation of the U.S. military and the brave men and women who defend the nations of this hemisphere. Mr. Ireland talks about the School of the Americas (SOA) but completely ignores the fact that the U.S. Congress passed Public Law 106-398, which withdrew authority for SOA and established the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), a Department of Defense (DOD) institute with a new mission, in its place. Using one comment from one former U.S. senator as evidence, he falsely equates two separate schools, and uses disproved allegations to attack the WHINSEC. Furthermore, Mr. Ireland does not offer any new evidence about the old SOA, but instead repeats disproved rumors and inflammatory rhetoric about U.S.-sanctioned torture. The manuals in question are certainly not used at the WHINSEC, a school with one of the best-developed human-rights instruction programs in the DOD.

Open since January 2001, WHINSEC is watched over by the Board of Visitors, a congressionally mandated federal advisory board that meets at the Institute semiannually, and has reported to Congress that the Institute is doing exactly what the administration asked it to do — provide up-to-date U.S. doctrines to students from around this hemisphere, while fostering cooperation and respect. On this board are the chairmen and ranking members of both the Senate and House Armed Services Committees. Perhaps this is why Congress has remained silent — it is overseeing its activities and trusts its own members to provide honest feedback and recommendations on the Institute. I recommend that Mr. Ireland visit this outstanding education and training facility located in Fort Benning, Georgia, and see for himself if what he has written is factual.

—John C. Speedy III Deputy Director, Army International Affairs and Executive Secretary to the Board of Visitors, WHINSEC Washington, D.C.


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