A study in corruption

Buying influence is legal, but that doesn’t make it right

Our cover story this week (“Money to burn,” by Liza Gross) is a case study in how corporate money corrupts lawmakers in a way that is harmful to the body politic. The product of a five-month investigation by the online Environmental Health News, it reveals in vivid detail how a number of highly profitable chemical companies have used their wealth to squelch a series of bills in the California Legislature that have sought to regulate the use of flame retardants in furniture.

California has a unique flammability law that does far more to fatten the wallets of the chemical industry than it does to protect the people. Flame retardants are toxic, and there is a growing body of evidence that they build up in our bodies and in breast milk. But, as the story suggests, California’s flammability law is worth big bucks to the chemical industry, which is willing to spend millions to keep it in place. Buying influence is legal, but that doesn’t make it right.

The foundation-funded Environmental Health News is a terrific outfit that not only aggregates environmental-health news from around the world, but also does important original work of its own, Check it out at www.environmentalhealthnews.org.

We get lotsa letters: More than we have room for in the print edition, unfortunately. So we put those that don’t fit on our website (www.newsreview.com). This week they include two letters regarding the Chico school board’s recent decision to reverse an earlier decision prohibiting the sale of high-calorie foods such as pizza and cookie dough at school fundraising functions.

One of them is from CUSD Trustee Eileen Robinson, who writes that, while she was opposed to lifting the ban, she supports the district’s new policy, which is to encourage the sale of healthful products and creative approaches to food and cooking at fundraisers. One result of the debate over the policy, she believes, was to make people more aware of how both needs—good health and fundraising for the schools—could be met. It’s a wise observation.

Adios, Christine: Christine LaPado, who has gone from being an occasional jazz reviewer to a consummate full-time reporter, columnist, critic and editor during her nine-year tenure with the CN&R, is moving on.

That’s bad news for us—she’s as close to irreplaceable as anyone who’s worked here—and for the Chico community, which relies on her for outstanding work in every area of this publication. But it’s good news for her and her fiancé, David Breglia. They’ve accepted an offer to manage a 400-acre ranch in the Catskills Mountains in New York state, a dream job for both of them. Friday, Dec. 2, is Christine’s last day here, but she will continue to produce her Greenhouse column and write other stories and even, if it all works out, do some long-distance editing from the ranch.

We wish her, David and her daughter, Lydia, all the good fortune in the world. We’ll miss them dearly.

Robert Speer is editor of the CN&R.