Letters for January 29, 2009

How do vacant spaces make sense?
Re: “Despite closures, Chico goes about business” (Newslines, by Meredith J. Cooper, CN&R, Jan. 22):

I liked your story and, as a business owner, am very concerned with the economics of Chico. However, I am also concerned that property/commercial owners in Chico are raising leasing rates with full knowledge of the crisis we are in.

I was inquiring about the disappearance of Baja Fresh, the haircutting place next to it, and Quiznos, and was informed that their rents were raised and they could not afford to stay. What were the property owners thinking? We all like to make money, but in the situation we are in, wouldn’t it be more prudent to weather the storm and keep businesses alive than to keep raising rents?

Cathleen Moyer

Ramsey and others take Ek to task
Re: “Using court to send a message” (Guest Comment, by Richard Ek, CN&R, Jan. 22):

The readers of the News & Review would’ve been better served by Richard Ek if he had bothered to check the facts and the law before appointing himself as water carrier for the defense in the most recent Chico State hazing case. He fails to grasp, and thus confuses and misrepresents, two key points about the case: whether the prosecution is required to name victims, and whether the case should be subject to a civil compromise.

The “victim” argument was never whether there was anyone who may have been affected by the acts of the fraternity members, but, rather, whether the law created a pleading requirement that a specific “victim” be named in the charging document. Our position has always been that no such requirement exists at the misdemeanor level as the law is written, and the courts have agreed with us.

Dr. Ek compounds his mistake by conflating the “victim” argument with the defense attempt to affect a civil compromise in the case. The documents signed “under oath” by the pledges were prepared for their signatures by the defense attorneys and signed under pressure from their fellow fraternity members. Had one been presented to him at the time, I have no doubt that Matt Carrington [after whom Matt’s Law is named] would have signed such an affidavit, had he survived his hazing.

Does the case send a message? We hope that every prosecution sends a message, since one of the reasons we have our open system of justice is to provide deterrence to future criminal acts.

Mike Ramsey
District Attorney

So, in essence, what you are saying is that we should not prosecute these young men because they were lucky that no one was seriously injured? That it’s OK to put someone’s life in danger as long as they don’t get hurt? So, we wait until someone is seriously injured or killed and then put Matt’s Law into effect? Because that is what it sounds like you are saying. And that is bull.

Matt’s Law was created to work as a deterrent to hazing, to help put a stop to it. If those who abuse Matt’s Law, no matter how lucky they are, are not prosecuted, Matt’s Law will not be effective.

I think if your child had been hazed, you might think differently. But, being someone who has never endured the pain of having his child tortured and humiliated by these “Greek hijinks,” you cannot speak on their behalf.

Here’s the deal I think they should make: Plead guilty because that is what they are (we know this to be true because, as you said in your article, they have sworn affidavits from the pledges stating so, for a $1 [settlement]) and let the court decide their punishment. Or, go to trial and let the jury decide.

Thank you, DA Ramsey, for seeing that justice is served on behalf of the people of the state of California.

Debbie Smith
Pleasant Hill

Editor’s note: Ms. Smith is Matthew Carrington’s mother.

The issue is not whether the university tolerates a blatant disregard for the law, it’s whether society does. Well, we don’t. We won’t.

We prosecute drunk drivers whether or not someone was injured because it’s a crime. Hazing is a crime, and just because someone does not get killed every time doesn’t mean the chance is not there for it to happen.

Hazing needs not to be tolerated nor accepted at any level. We as a people need to say no more. The legal process may help teach a lesson; it certainly has to make an attempt.

These young men need to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. They all knew hazing was illegal, especially since they attend [school in] Chico, where every February the family of Matt Carrington holds a vigil. I am glad that there is an honorable man like DA Ramsey who will do the right thing regardless of the whining of students, parents and defense attorneys.

Anyone who agrees that hazing needs to stop, feel free to stop by the house at Fourth and Chestnut on Sunday, Feb. 1, after 10:30 p.m. and light a candle to remember Matt.

Frankie Dickinson
Discovery Bay

Message for teens
Re: “The ‘savior’ “ (Fifteen Minutes, by Meredith J. Cooper, CN&R, Jan. 22):

Brianna Pebley mentioned that some students [at Orland High] were “cutting” for relief. Don’t do it! You can get ugly scars, infections, etc.

All cutting does is release endorphins to the opium receptors in the brain. You can achieve the same result by eating chocolate or hot chili peppers, doing long-distance running, listening to your favorite music, having sex, etc.

As for suicide, boys commit suicide at a rate four to seven times that of girls. White males aged 14 to 20 are the most likely to commit suicide in the U.S. Alcoholic adolescents commit suicide at a rate 58 times the national average, and cocaine addicts are 60 times more likely to commit suicide.

Thoughts of suicide in high school students are often prompted by emotionally unstable parents. This is why a loving, stable family environment is a must.

Michael M. Peters

Editor’s note: A physician who confirmed the physiological response to cutting described by Mr. Peters added that there is a psychological component related to feelings of control.

Poor response
Re: “Firefighter layoffs” (Newslines, by Evan Tuchinsky, CN&R, Jan. 15):

I am concerned about the recent decision to lay off a number of firefighters and reducing daily staffing levels. I have an extensive background in firefighter negotiations representing the employer and developing standards for fire service response.

Normally, employee groups are reluctant to give up pay and benefits that have previously been, in good faith, negotiated and agreed upon. The fact that the leaders of the firefighters’ union were able to get significant concessions from its membership was remarkable. I give my kudos to the union leadership and to the rank and file for being a team player in a time of need.

The city is not in compliance with federal staffing and response standards. In the alternative to those nationally recognized standards, the city has not formally adopted its own “local” standards of coverage policy (minimum staffing being a part of that).

Reductions in staffing levels as a result of the layoffs would further exacerbate this problem and would increase the risk and danger to the citizens of this community as well as increasing the risk to firefighter safety.

The minimum staffing commitment that the firefighters are looking for should not be a deal breaker for the city. It just doesn’t rise to that level. Most agencies have established minimum staffing levels, and it is something the city should have in place anyway.

The layoff notices were a poor decision. I urge the City Council to direct the city manager to reverse that decision and settle this matter expeditiously.

Jim Johnston

Editor’s note: Mr. Johnston is a retired fire chief from the Bay Area. The settlement he calls for apparently is happening—see Newslines.

‘A positive change’
As a 44-year-old U.S. citizen, I can honestly say this is the first time in my lifetime that a president has spoken to me, the common person. A friend told me he enjoys seeing the care that the new first family shows toward each other; after all, peace begins at home, in our own families.

I traveled the world extensively in my early 20s and was welcomed with kindness as an American. I dream one day my children will experience world travels. Now that we have a new president speaking about creating a smarter cooperative government, I hope our world neighbors will once again receive American travelers with open kindness.

As I watched the inauguration with my daughters, I expressed that they may also see a woman become president in their lifetimes. It was uplifting to see the Native Americans in the inauguration parade, as they are our true founding fathers and mothers. America is a melting pot of people—a mix of religions, races and cultures—so it is about time we all got together and voted in someone to represent [all of] us.

I believe most of America is ready for a positive change in government. It is time to say goodbye to the “good ol’ boy” leaders; maybe Butte County will follow the direction of our nation. We need to keep communications on-going to have our voices heard and to insist that our representatives work toward improving the lives of all of us, we the people.

Kathy Brazil

Editor’s note: For other takes on the inauguration of President Obama, please see Editorial and Guest Comment.