Letters for July 24, 2008

Passing buck costs millions of ’em
Re: “Cost to settle: $9.5 million plus council pride” (Newslines, by Robert Speer, CN&R, July 17):

Remember the Humboldt Burn Dump? It was an unknown danger to everyone for 30 to 40 years, leaching poisons into creeks and the air we breathed when it rained or the wind blew. Lethal stuff: asbestos, toxic metal wastes, lead from batteries, anything that the ignorant (which was just about everyone then) thoughtlessly threw into the dump.

Nobody wanted to be responsible for cleaning it up, least of all the main polluters. When the state threw the book at the city, with their new awareness of this poisonous contamination, they forced the local councilors to see to it for us, and we happily passed the buck.

In the tortuous process, big developers tried to rip off the city (that is us) for inflated estimates of $45 million in lost profits and cleanup costs, as though they hadn’t created the problem in the first place.

Now we have a golden hill of grass, safely fenced off and sealed, where before there was an eyesore and ever-present danger.

It cost us each a little money—just to pacify a rapacious developer—but what else could the council do? We still get some extra housing, infrastructure and roads for that, and it was worth it to me. Of course, hindsight is 20/20, and politicians who backed the developers back then are claiming it wasn’t their fault.

Let’s see if these same developers can help the young people who would like to live here but can’t afford the $300,000 houses they usually build.

Alan Gair

Subplot: Dump one project for other
Re: “Burn-dump lessons” (Editorial, CN&R, July 17):

“The charge that liberal members of the council came up with a new policy on the dump clean-up to satisfy campaign contributors is especially loathsome.” Sorry, but it’s true.

I and other concerned citizens got used like tools by Scott Gruendl, Dan Nguyen-Tan and Maureen Kirk. Scott used the burn dump issue as a central point of his campaign, stirring up people with promises that there would not be residential development on that toxin-infested property. We weren’t against the clean-up; we just wanted it done right and we didn’t want residential development on a toxic-waste site.

Well, we got Scott in there, and he immediately turned into the biggest developer lapdog this town has ever seen. And here we have residential development all over that spot, and more coming. And now we know why he fought Fogarty, at the city’s expense: New Urban Builders had plans for that area—Meriam Park—and Fogarty’s thing would ruin their viewshed. They wanted to get their permits in first, so all Scott had to do was keep people drummed up about that burn dump long enough to get Meriam Park through the chute.

Mission accomplished.

Juanita Sumner

Re: “Personal enlightenment” (UnCommon Sense, by Evan Tuchinsky, CN&R, July 17):

I only use incandescent bulbs, and my electric bill is only $10 a month because I use low-wattage bulbs and don’t leave them on all the time. Incandescents are 8 percent efficient, while fluorescents are 15 percent efficient—an increase of only 7 percent, but the spinmeisters say it’s double.

CFLs are poisonous. They contain mercury. If you have children, do not—I repeat, do not—have them in your home. CFLs vibrate light at 60 cycles per second and can cause headaches, eye strain, etc.

Incandescents burn out when you turn them on because a “spike” of electricity surges through. Just put in dimmer switches and turn your lights on slowly to warm up the filaments and they won’t burn out.

I imagine people will be going to Canada and Mexico to get their incandescents soon. I personally hate CFLs; but, then, I’ve been a professional lighting designer and know what I’m talking about.

Hey, Al Gore, switch on the light in your head! Billions of CFLs in landfills will create a toxic problem that will overwhelm the EPA.

Michael M. Peters
Editor’s note: As a call to the Chico State math department confirmed, 15 percent is nearly a two-fold increase from 8 percent. So, while Mr. Peters’ subtraction is correct, the doubling is also correct.

Tide is turning
Re: “Chico Chamber says ‘lower development fees'” (Newslines, by Meredith J. Cooper, CN&R, July 10):

I moved to Oroville from San Francisco in 1990 because I wanted to get out of the city and acquire a large Victorian I could afford to make my long-term home. Unfortunately, Oroville had 45 percent unemployment then, hardly any employers, few stores and both a City Council and Planning Commission that had blocked every reasonable improvement for countless years.

Chico was pro-development then and, thus, added to its population and stores very greatly (even though Chico is a much less desirable city to live in than Oroville otherwise). One of the downsides to Oroville then was having to drive 27 miles each way to get to a cinema, a live theater, an inexpensive quality food market, a shopping center or Costco.

But then we recalled most of the Oroville City Council and elected better members who also appointed a pro-improvement Planning Commission on which I’ve served for a number of years. And since then Chico has become very anti-improvement.

So Oroville has attracted a major population growth rate, much lower unemployment, much better city services, many new employers and a major cinema. Super Wal-Mart will open here soon, while Chico has fought two such stores. Shopping centers will follow even before Oroville’s population passes that of Chico in about 15 years.

I agree with your Chamber that as long as Chico’s government remains firmly in the hands of people who never advanced beyond the Middle Ages, its sales tax and other revenues will continue to decrease while Oroville’s greatly advance.

Dr. Dan Gordon

A sisterly gesture
Re: “A tale of two towns” (Cover story, by Brian Kennedy and Elizabeth Guo, CN&R, July 10):

Both cities [Chico and Tamsui, Taiwan] share some similarities in their origins, growth and backgrounds; all things that led to their “sister city” status being declared back in the early ‘80s. Nothing came of this because neither city offered anything to the other that could be reciprocated—nothing that would truly foster exchange and mutual understanding.

Both cities possess within their boundaries universities. What better places within which to develop mutual appreciation of each city, the local area, the country and the overall culture of the host country than each city’s university?

Why not sponsor one Chico State student, on a full scholarship, to Oxford in Taiwan and offer to receive one, on a similar scholarship, to Chico State? They pay for ours and we pay for theirs. The cost would be less than we pay to fund the arts or to steam-clean the gum from the front of the bars.

Wouldn’t this be a great way—and an economically reasonable way—to reach out, across the ocean, to our sister city?

Given the cost of university education for out-of-state students or foreigners, this would be a special bonus for at least one person from each city/country and would go far in developing future relations between each municipality.

Samuel Handley

Progress past labels
“Progressive.” Now what the heck does that term mean?

I’ll admit, I use the word “progressive” as a silly catch-all substitute for “positive change that merges economic parity with biological health in an effort to facilitate a society that is culturally diverse, educated, and which actively seeks alternatives to violence.”

Labels, schmabels, I could have it all wrong.

Jim Walker and the Park Commission have not done a good job of preserving Bidwell Park, despite opportunities to relocate developments—cell towers and disc golf—or respond to future developments when given the chance. Walker, when asked by Parcel 9 owner Bill Brouhard what the Park Commission would like to see in terms of development overlooking Upper Park, had nothing to say in defense of the park.

Walker also voted with a very self-inflated commission majority to abandon the terms of the Bidwell Deed as a primary consideration in decision-making affecting the park and approved a list of permissible intensive uses for Lower and Middle Park that could easily allow new, large, habitat-displacing developments.

While I can’t predict the future, I will wager a guess that most of those who are labeled and self-labeled “progressive” will not prove to be so, at least in my book.

Here’s hoping our local media will avoid labels and dig deeper. Let’s hear just where City Council members and candidates stand on specific issues, and decide for ourselves if these politicians deserve a label so charming as “progressive.”

Randy Abbott

Habeas courtus
We are in the midst of one of the great Constitutional clashes of our age. On one side, the Supreme Court and the spirit of our Founding Fathers; on the other, King John, among others, and fewer civil rights.

Surely, no one can miss the effect of the U.S. Constitution: to bring more civil rights into the world. We have been blessed by a great legacy.

What will our legacy be?

It is being defined now by our response to the Supreme Court ruling for habeas corpus for Guantanamo detainees. What could we fear? The ruling is only for hearings, to see if the government has reasonable evidence to hold the detainees. If they are found innocent, what’s the harm in releasing innocent people?

The harm I fear is in holding them without hearings. How does that make us look to their families and friends? How do we look to ourselves? Are we a nation of laws and civil rights, or an imperialist state that ignores its own laws at its ruler’s whim?

Let’s talk and write about this until they get hearings. “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.)

Charles Withuhn

Dalai Lama’s Lala Land
Kings and queens are as much figments of human imagination as His Holiness the Dalai Lama. This patriarch was appointed by a select bunch of orthodox Buddhist monks, who, if we have to take their word for it, were able to recognize him from a former life. For thinking individuals, there is absolutely no difference between ancient reincarnation tricks or a king’s divine right to rule.

I was astounded by a documentary about Tibetan refugees. In spite of the danger of freezing to death, these people had fled Tibet by walking across the Himalayas. Their arrival at the Dalai Lama’s residence in India was filmed. While looking away, he said in a stern voice that he could not accommodate them. He insisted they should go back, that they should never have fled in the first place.

Regardless of whether he will eventually be able to return to Tibet, the Dalai Lama continues to live in Lala Land.

According to him [as quoted on www.dalailama.com], “the essence of all major religions is compassion, forgiveness, self-discipline, brotherhood, and charity. All religions have the potential to strengthen human values and to develop general harmony. But individuals twist religious beliefs for their own ends.” The Dalai Lama blames individuals for taking their lives into their own hands.

His call for nonviolence is half-hearted: “If our motivation is sincere and positive, but circumstances require harsh behavior, essentially we are practicing nonviolence.” When push comes to shove, the Dalai Lama’s imagined end justifies his means.

Maximus Peperkamp

Re: “Optimistic Dems unveil fancy digs” (Newslines, by Bryce Benson, CN&R, July 17): The building at 600 Main St. was incorrectly identified as a former office of the Chico Chamber of Commerce; the Chamber previously was at 500 Main St. The error, inserted during the editing process, has been corrected online.