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Thursday, June 17, 2004 12:59 pm

Quicktakes 6-17-04

TRIBUTES AND TRIBULATIONS

Visitors to the Capitol last week had the opportunity to sign a commemorative book for Ronald Reagan. Rick Garcia, political director of Equality Illinois, was among those who signed.

Here's what Garcia wrote: "Thousands of American men, women, and children were dying from HIV and AIDS during his administration. He said nothing. He did nothing. Not until the end of his second term did he even utter the word 'AIDS.' His policies contributed to the suffering and dying of thousands of men, women, and children. I mourn the president's death the way he mourned these men, women, and children. With silence. May God forgive him. I can't."

Way Garcia figured, he had the right, if not the duty, to say what he truly thought of Reagan. "This isn't China, where we all have to praise Mao," he says.

If Garcia hoped to be provocative, he succeeded - in an unusual way. Behind him in line to sign the book was WICS, Channel 20, news reporter Julie Staley, who was at the Capitol to do a story on the Reagan tribute. Garcia says Staley read his comment, and visibly angry, called him "classless and tasteless" and "a loser, such a pathetic loser."

Garcia, a gay activist who is used to getting his share of invective, says he wouldn't have been surprised if somebody else was upset with his comments. But a news reporter? "What kind of objective reporter is she? There's a story there - not everybody thinks President Reagan is a god."

Staley was contacted by the Chicago Reader about the incident. She told the newspaper she signed the book and responded to Garcia as a private individual, not as a journalist. After that interview, Staley says WICS management instructed her not to respond to any other media inquiries, and she declined our request for comment.

Her news report last Friday on the Reagan tribute did not mention Garcia.

 

HAIL, CHIEF

Springfield Police Chief Don Kliment is the scheduled guest speaker at the monthly meeting of the Springfield branch of the NAACP.

Kliment will talk about efforts to recruit black police officers and other issues facing SPD. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 22,

at Zion Missionary Baptist Church,

1601 E. Laurel St.

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