Letters for July 17, 2008

Budget-watchers stick up for Wahl
Re: “Horse pucky” (In My Eyes, by Evan Tuchinsky, CN&R, July 10):

Tuchinsky’s column and Dan Carter’s letter [“Council’s odd man out,” July 10] regarding city finances appear to be the opening gambits in November’s election process.

Mr. Carter is misguided in giving the City Council credit for “leadership and courage” for “balancing” the budget. City staff, with minimal guidance from the council, developed a compromise budget that does little to address the long-term deficit. Addressing the long-term deficit will require leadership and courage.

Tuchinsky “chides” Larry Wahl for not expressing his ideas in Finance Committee meetings and because of his statement that some ideas were glossed over or inadequately researched. It appears that Tuchinsky based his comments on statements by liberal committee members Mary Flynn and Scott (Horse Pucky) Gruendl.

I don’t always agree with Wahl but, in the 17 committee work sessions that I attended, he did ask tough questions and suggested at least two major options that Gruendl, Flynn and staff were reluctant to explore. To date, no status has been made public.

In a “pot calling the kettle black” mode, Gruendl’s and Flynn’s contributions were questionable. Gruendl is one of two councilmembers who has a basic grasp of city finances (Wahl is the other), but rather than lead, he chooses to “tap dance” and hide behind surveys. Flynn’s main contribution has been to claim that the crisis is not her fault and ask what other cities were doing.

Advice to Carter and CN&R: Attend more Finance Committee meetings; and to Tuchinsky: Methinks you protest too much based on a liberal bias.

Bob Best

Press space has been given to the comments Councilwoman Flynn made at the July 1 council meeting specifically regarding the criticism Councilman Wahl leveled at the proposed budget [including Newslines, July 3]. Flynn asked: “Where was the financial stewardship that allowed us to get to this point? This didn’t just appear overnight.”

Maybe Flynn ought to re-examine her own “financial stewardship.” Where did she come down on the IAFF labor agreement approved in July 2007? That not only gave the International Association of Fire Fighters a 25 percent wage increase over a six-year period but also a $250 to $350 per month, per member retiree medical allowance; an increase in vacation time, and a 5 percent reimbursement of increases in health-insurance premiums for 2005 and ‘06.

A look at the record indicates Flynn, along with all the rest of the councilmembers, approved this outrageous raid on our city budget.

Flynn sits on the Budget Committee. Knowing the problems the city was facing, she could have asked for a detailed financial impact the IAFF Agreement would have. There is no record that she did.

Wahl has suggested a “transparency in government” discussion for consideration by the full council. Specifically, it would lay bare the proposed pay and benefit changes for all negotiating groups, and allow sufficient time for public review and comment. When finally voted on, it will be interesting to see who is a part of the problem and who is a part of the solution.

Stephanie L. Taber

Speaking of Flynn and firefighters …
In the past few weeks, Chico firefighters have had their second opportunity this year to show exactly how vital they are to our community. During the January storms, we were given a glimpse of how our local firefighters go above and beyond to provide the community with service and support regardless of the conditions.

Chico firefighters are recognized across the state for their expertise in dealing with emergency situations like the series of fires we’ve recently seen impact Butte County. You can bet that Butte County Fire and CalFire were happy to have experts on hand as they dealt with the devastating events in our surrounding communities.

We’ve all experienced poor air quality the past few weeks. Imagine for a moment the quality of air that firefighters deal with out on the fire line. Combine this with long hours in constantly shifting conditions, away from family and home for days at a time—"firefighter” takes on a whole new meaning.

I’ve heard over and over that our local firefighters have gone above and beyond to do whatever it takes to help. This level of professionalism and dedication makes me really proud. Every firefighter I’ve spoken with has accepted my thanks graciously and told me that they are proud to be serving the community.

I can’t let another day go by without publicly acknowledging their efforts. I encourage you to do the same. If you have the opportunity to stop a firefighter, take the time to shake their hand or pat them on the back and thank them for what they provide to our community.

Mary Flynn
Chico City Council

A tragic refrain
Re: “Chico’s bill for the Iraq War” (Sifter, CN&R, July 10):

The CN&R reminds all thinking adults that, while our schools are holding bake sales and fund-raisers just to remain afloat, our government is blowing 3 to 5 billion dollars weekly in Iraq.

The powers that be know that your kids don’t have to be very educated to get themselves killed in Iraq, Iran or wherever else our masters decide your kids will fight and die in vain. So why waste money on schools? The ruling class also knows that an educated and enlightened populace is a certain detriment to glorious dreams of hegemony and empire. The more dumbed-down the people are, the better for the rulers.

The American public’s gullibility knows no bounds. A demagogue jumps on stage, waves the American flag to the tune of “Stars and Stripes Forever,” and after a few strains of Aram Katchaturian’s “Dueling Sabers,” most bozos are ready to sacrifice their first born just to further the plutocrats’ agenda. If you disagree, ask yourself: Was that not how we got suckered into Vietnam and Iraq?

Listen carefully and you will hear the same old songs of homeland über alles and the vaguely familiar drumbeats leading us into a ruinous war with Iran.

Jorge Smirnoff

[Looks up] ‘Blamer!!!’
Re: Mongol (Film Shorts, by Craig Blamer, CN&R, July 10):

“One doesn’t exactly associate the name Genghis Khan with a good guy (unless you’re predisposed to eat babies and kittens)"—that’s rather insulting to the millions of people who consider him a national hero, don’t you think?

Luigi Kapaj
New York

Windfall has caveats
Re: “$8.4 million? Wow!” (Editorial, CN&R, June 26):

Chico Country Day School appreciates the community support we have received in the application process and award of $8.4 million in Proposition 1D funds to rehabilitate and improve our school site. The Chico News & Review expressed “delight” that Chico Country Day School has been approved to receive these funds.

Some clarification is in order, however. The $8.4 million is half grant and half loan. Chico Country Day School is responsible for $4.2 million (if we accept full distribution). So the taxpayers will only pay half the costs of much-needed improvements to a charter school that is open, free of cost, for any child who wishes to attend.

The editorial expressed distress that this funding is “inefficient and unbalanced.” The fact is that charter schools receive no money from the state for facilities, unlike traditional public schools. In addition, charter schools receive, on average, approximately $350 less per pupil in annual state funding. Proposition 1D, approved by voters in 2006, is an attempt to correct the imbalance that currently exists and gives charter schools equal access to public funds for facilities.

One can argue whether the money would be better spent spread out over several schools. It’s the age-old dilemma: Do you concentrate the money on one project to do something really significant, or do you spread the money out over small projects? Remember, Proposition 1D is one-time funding that will have to last for many years for the charter-school recipients.

Paul Weber
Principal, Chico Country Day School

Denny, not Lenny?
Re: “Taking on marriage rulings” (Letters, CN&R, June 26):

I do not understand all this concern about gay marriages. Isn’t every marriage ceremony a happy and gay event?

Denny Bruce

Unhealthy closures
The recent decisions by the Downtown Chico Business Association to cancel two of its Thursday Night Markets due to smoke illustrates a chronic community disconnect and wreaks significant public havoc.

Access to healthy food is vital to the hundreds of families that come to depend on those sources for their weekly nutrition. To cut them off—especially in times of general environmental stress—is irresponsible. Sure, cancel the party, but make provisions for the service of the market to carry on.

This snowballs to other markets, in that now customers look out the window, see smoke, and assume that other markets are closed. When was the last time the hardware stores were closed because of smoke?

Most farmers markets in the Butte County area are not like this. The Chico Certified Farmers Markets, for example, come hell or high water, respect that some of their farmers will show up for all the scheduled markets and their loyal customers will come to buy from them.

Farmers labor in their fields—planting, harvesting, packing their trucks—while decisions from some self-centered community myopic turns their produce, labor and great service to our community into so much mush.

This practice does damage and, if not quickly addressed, is worthy of whatever [recourse] it takes: lawsuits, protests, quick local policy and legislative action. It is time to cry foul.

As a final note: Last Thursday, the downtown was packed with people.

Farmers markets are not toys.

Richard Roth
Editor’s note: Mr. Roth is the manager of farmers markets run by the cChaos organization.

Refining the issue
An Associated Press release printed in our local daily newspaper June 27 stated in part that “Republicans blocked Democrats from requiring oil and gas companies to drill on the millions of acres of government land and water on which they already own federal leases.” The oil lease proposal was an effort by Democrats to counter “a push by Republicans to lift a long-standing drilling ban on most offshore U.S. waters.”

This week, Bush issued an executive order lifting a ban on offshore drilling.

If, miraculously, Niagara Falls were to spew oil instead of water, lack of refinery capacity would do little to ease gas shortage and prices. Big Oil has consistently used lack of refinery capacity to explain the cyclical price increases, during periods of high driving demand and periods of high heating-oil requirements. There has not been an oil refinery built in this country for 25 years.

Seems like the conservatives are conserving nothing but huge profits and their money. Soon, our elected representatives will enact a bill for us taxpayers to subsidize building new oil refineries for further profits by big oil. They should be summarily voted out of office. It’s the people’s land, oil and money at stake!

Stan Oman

Re: “Two cities fall silent” (Cover story sidebar, by Meredith J. Cooper, CN&R, July 10):

George Huang’s wife, Linda, was misidentified. Her name has been corrected online.