Letters for July 23, 2009

Renovation and more

Re: “California renovation” (cover story, by Cosmo Garvin, July 16):

I would like to offer one solution that was left out. That would be to abolish the initiative process that has given this state countless pointless elections over the years.

The reason this is such a big problem is because it puts decision-making power into the hands of special-interest groups that are attempting to gain politically. These initiatives usually cause budgetary problems because they call for the transferring of state funds from one group to another, while not dealing with the real issues of how to raise state revenue and split it evenly.

Initiatives such as Proposition 13 (on property tax), Proposition 4 (which put limits on state growth spending), and Proposition 98 (which mandated 40 percent of the general fund be spent on schools) were all created not by elected politicians, but by people who claimed they were doing the people’s work. Budgeting should be done only by those who have experience, are well trained, and are able to figure out how best to budget money and taxes, not by people who just think they know.

Elvert Richardson

A new constitution sounds like a pipe dream. A handful of reforms would ensure representative, responsive government. Maybe we could focus on what is doable instead, like instant-runoff balloting; giving all candidates free air time on public-access TV so they wouldn’t have to whore themselves to get elected; limiting donations.

We could outlaw paid lobbyists. We could impose term limits on staffers. Tossing these two groups would save tens of billions itself by breaking the cycle of “you wash my back, and I’ll wash yours.”

There are but a few fundamental flaws that allow the pols to game the system. We need to fix those and nothing more. We don’t need to focus on the impossible.

Quentin Colgan
Chico, CA

Long ago psychologists studied the effects of shock on dogs enclosed in a cage. At first when the scientists shocked the metal cages the dogs jumped around and tried to escape. After a while when the scientists shocked the cages the dogs just lay there and took it.

This is sort of how state workers must be feeling right about now. First the state is in horrible shape. Then two furlough days. Now three. And if Gov. Schwarzenegger has his way the state employees will lose another 5 percent of their pay.

I have a girlfriend with three kids. She has worked for California for many years. Recently her husband was laid off from his job. They have been getting by on her wages. Now she has lost almost 15 percent of her pay. They may lose their home. My friend has retirement in a few years but wonders whether she should quit her job and find work in the private sector.

People keep telling her to be “glad she has a job.” It is insulting to her dedication to the families she works with. Many of her clients have mental-health problems. Those families are in even worse shape then my friend.

I support loyal state workers who are getting screwed by Arnold Schwarzenegger by reducing their wages. Why single out your employees? Why not raise taxes so all Californians share the burden of our debt?

It is time to stop making scapegoats out of people who have served our state, frequently at lower salaries than similar jobs in the private sector. The proposed budget and furlough days for state workers are further crippling California’s budget. Don’t let the governor and elected officials punish state workers. Speak out against these outrageous budgetary tactics.

Mary Jones

Walmart: three views

Re: “Planning Commission to hear [Walmart] expansion plans” (Newslines, by Meredith J. Cooper, July 16):

Tens of millions of dollars will be lost from local grocers, which means hundreds of jobs will be lost from these grocery stores as well.

Why are we even considering allowing a multibillion-dollar corporation to come into our town and extract local currency for the pocketbooks of billionaires not even living in Chico? It would make sense, after viewing the results of corporations’ mismanagement of money that brought our economy down in the first place, not to continue the same habits of looking to short-term results and ignoring long-term detrimental effects.

It would also make sense that the most powerful retail super-corporation would have more power than the people of this beloved town, and thus have more influence over our city officials than we do.

Over 70 percent of all products sold at Walmart are made in China. China is a censored country, not a free one. The Chinese government has been responsible for murdering nearly 50,000 of its own people in order to sell their vital organs on the world market. Canadian Secretary of State David Kilgour and international human-rights lawyer David Matas broke the story a couple years back after an extensive investigation. Morally, ethically, financially, a Walmart expansion is a terrible idea.

Caspin Lange

I for one—and many others like me—support a supercenter Walmart. What does Heather Schlaff have against a supercenter? It seems like Mrs. Schlaff isn’t getting the whole picture here.

With today’s economy, who can afford the prices at grocery stores? It takes two paychecks to support a family. If the DEIR is so concerned about traffic, paint the roads at East Park Avenue all the way to Notre Dame Boulevard.

The only abundance we have here in Chico is NO JOBS.

Why does CARE feel the need to tell the city of chico it doesn’t need a supercenter Walmart? CARE doesn’t speak for me, and I bet some of the CARE supporters secretly shop at Walmart.

Shirlee Whipple

Kudos to citizens who are actively engaged in the discussion about what kinds of businesses belong in our community, and about what constitutes a healthy economy.

The Chico community has been very active in discussing the costs and benefits of the Walmart supercenter expansion. While we have reservations about the value of adding yet more non-local retail space in Chico, we believe in putting our energy toward growing what we do want—a “living economy”—rather than opposing what we don’t.

Instead we run campaigns like “10% Shift Chico,” in partnership with other community groups who believe in the powerful impact of 1,000 citizens shifting 10 percent of our annual spending to local independents. We do this as an official member of a nationwide movement led by BALLE, the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies.

We know that in time the real benefits of buying locally—receiving more personalized service, keeping more money circulating to improve our community, and retaining character in our town—will outweigh the perceived benefits of buying at big boxes.

Jessica Rios
BOD member,
Think Local, Chico!

Barbara vs. the board

Re: “Vlamis booted from BEC” (Newslines, by Leslie Layton, July 2):

After attending the special meeting [Monday, July 20] called by some members of BEC to review the termination of Executive Director Barbara Vlamis by the Board of Directors, it became very clear that the board made the right decision.

As a former board member, I had first-hand experience of how difficult and adversarial the environment had become between Vlamis and the board and BEC employees. A change is needed. I came on to the BEC board with enthusiasm and energy and quit disllusioned and bitter. I saw this happen to many others as well.

No one questions Vlamis’ contribution to BEC, but I firmly believe that an organization runs best when there is an environment of respect and cooperation. Further, the board is an elected group that is the decision-making body of the organization. The attempt to discredit them by some will only serve to undermine the very core of BEC.

I feel that BEC is headed in the right direction and should be vigorously supported by the community.

Rex Stromness

Editor’s note: For a report on the special BEC membership meeting held Monday, July 20, see News.

I was shocked to read that Barbara Vlamis was let go from her job after nearly 20 years of service. From what I can see, she has done an outstanding job protecting the environment in our county.

The BOD needs to reconsider their decision. Why don’t they give the public a good reason for their decision to fire her? Come on, let’s hear it.

Sue Eissinger

What kind of mafia-like thinking reduces Butte Environmental Council’s top executive’s workload by giving her “an offer (they thought) she could not refuse”? An offer that constituted a demotion, a salary reduction—that she cannot live on—and destroys the integrity of the management structure, all with no consultation with its membership? Great work!

What BEC needed is what it had: a strong, committed, hardworking leader in the person of Barbara Vlamis. Placing someone competent under her to do other administrative and fundraising functions would make sense.

Board members did their best, but got it wrong. They now need to be less defensive and recognize that BEC and many of its 900 members need them to rethink their decision, before Barbara is snapped up by other environmental organizations more appreciative of her abilities.

Words of appreciation and a letter-writing campaign after having bungled the negotiations and firing her don’t cut it.

Alan G. Gair

A national online tax?

Re: “Collecting online taxes” (editorial, July 16):

There are 7,000 different tax jurisdictions in the nation. The work a national e-commerce business would have to take to make sure it is collecting taxes properly for each jurisdiction would be insurmountable. Plus, these Internet businesses have no physical presence in the state. Which, according to the Constitution, does not require them to collect taxes. (Taxation without representation comes to mind.)

I suggest a flat, federal Internet sales tax. The sales tax should be half of the nation’s average state sales tax, since the online businesses do not require the services of the local government (e.g., roads, police, water, sewer, etc).

John Warden
West Jordan, Utah

Editor’s note: The constitutionality of collecting taxes on Internet purchases has not been tested in court.

Herger and health insurance

I recently called my representative, Wally Herger, asking him to support a public option in the health-care legislation that is currently being crafted in Congress. Although 76 percent of Americans want a health-care option provided by the federal government, Wally Herger opposes making such a choice available.

Instead, as he informs me in his written reply, he supports leaving health care in the hands of private insurance companies.

Those companies routinely deny coverage for pre-existing conditions and deny benefits to consumers. The No. 1 priority of the health-insurance industry is to make profits, which is why they have a business model that denies health-care benefits to consumers. Their allegiance is to shareholders, not consumers.

The Congressional Budget Office’s latest report states that the House bill will not add to the deficit and will provide a $6 billion surplus. It’s time for a not-for-profit public option, operating alongside private insurance plans, that will give consumers a choice, that will protect the public interest, that will be available nationwide from day one, and that will be accountable to Congress and the public.

Helena Kay