Letters for July 9, 2009

Readers weigh in on firing

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

The BEC board’s offer to Barbara Vlamis of a position of advocacy director with pay shared with an executive director was disingenuous. Perceptions, if not actual actions, raise questions that must be considered. BEC positions have always been underpaid, and after 17 years of service Barbara deserves better treatment.

Is the board avoiding severance activities because they claim Barbara refused to accept this offer? These actions were compounded by executing them at a time when Barbara was struggling with the death of her mother.

Barbara’s organizational abilities go beyond a simple advocacy role. I serve on a BEC committee on the conservation of vernal-pool landscapes ably chaired by Barbara Vlamis. This committee should have been consulted before the BEC board made such a major decision.

I am impressed with the success of legal actions supported by Barbara’s executive and advocacy abilities that have resulted in the preservation of vernal pools throughout California. Does the board realize the national position of BEC on the biology, conservation and management of vernal pools? This committee ran a two-day conference in March 2006 and is planning a second conference for March 2010.

It appears that individuals objecting to BEC’s legal activities requesting a proper study of the removal of regional groundwater have achieved Barbara’s dismissal by offering her a revised role in the organization.

These concerns are difficult to address because of my long support of local environmental groups and my respect and friendship with some individuals on the BEC board.

Douglas Alexander

As a former BEC board member, I felt compelled to respond to your article “Vlamis booted from BEC.” First, she wasn’t “booted”—she was offered the very important advocacy position and refused it.

The previous board came to the same conclusion: The executive director position was too much for one person and would best be divided into two positions.

I take issue with Roy Ekland’s reckless accusations that the present board acted deviously in its decision-making and had “backpedaled” and “put her in an untenable position so she would resign.” Simply not true. No one has ever questioned Vlamis’ grit, determination, grasp of the law, passion for the environment and enormous contribution to BEC. But BEC is and must be more than Barbara Vlamis.

I commend the present board for doing its job well, and I urge BEC members to remain united in this critical time for the organization.

Rex Stromness

As a former employee of the Butte Environmental Council, I support the BEC Board of Directors’ decision to create a separate advocacy position, while maintaining the executive-director position, for a co-directorship of the organization. This transition has been needed for quite some time, and I believe that it will strengthen the organization and allow for sustainable workloads for the dedicated staff.

It is sad to me that Barbara Vlamis, the former executive director, has not accepted the new advocacy position. Along with many others in our community, I appreciate her years of advocacy for the environment, but I see the acute need for BEC to have balance between the daily management, education and advocacy aspects of the organization’s functions.

I would like to thank the current BEC BOD for making a difficult decision on behalf of the environment. Change is often hard, and I have responded to their courageous actions by renewing my family’s membership at BEC and offering support for the organization at this critical time.

Jennifer Oman-Payne

There are rumblings of public hysteria regarding the administrative upset at BEC, and I am writing in full support of the board’s decision. I have great respect for the powerful advocacy work of Barbara Vlamis and also consider her a friend.

I am a longtime BEC member and one of the signers of the letter that was written two years ago, which suggested basically the change that the current board has now proposed. The overload of Barbara’s position has threatened to undermine the smooth functioning of the organization for many years, and the two-position solution makes sense. I am extremely sorry Barbara turned down the board’s offer.

Emily Alma

Grad art space happening

Re: “The wrong message” (cover story, by Meredith J. Cooper, July 2):

That building on Nord is not abandoned! Most of my fellow M.F.A. candidates and I have been busy during our summer break traveling on vacations or to see family, having a baby, or moving out to other cities, now that some of us have graduated. That’s probably why you didn’t see much when you peeked in the lobby window at our grad art space on Nord Avenue.

We are, however, really excited about the new crop of grad students who will be joining our ranks in the fall, and we invite you to visit our space then to see what we’re up to.

While I’m writing, [re: “Art exports,” by Christine G.K. LaPado, Scene, July 2] I’d like to also mention Lynn Criswell, another Chico artist doing public work in Sacramento. Her work is great and worth checking out.

Megan Moore

I go by the “abandoned strip mall” on an almost daily basis. The front building isn’t (and I have never seen it) “boarded up.” Should the hookah business that’s there be informed their shop is boarded up?

It is true that front building had a “for lease” sign on the windows after a bicycle shop, then an office business of some sort went out of business and had been vacant for months (like a lot of other buildings throughout Chico), but again I never saw it “boarded up.”

I’m surprised the News & Review would send a feature story to press without first looking a little closer and not making things up. And in case you are wondering, I am not the building owner, property manager or renter.

Johnny Opinion

Editor’s note: The building housing the hookah smoke shop is next door to but separate from the building described in our feature.

Memo to CSU: ‘Just do it’

Re: “Not much development” (cover story sidebar, by Meredith J. Cooper, July 2):

Glad your story [last year] on Chico eyesores prompted a response from the Big U that they might be interested in getting a mural painted on the blank side of their Performing Arts Center. I’ve wondered for decades why they haven’t done it. The seven panels are already framed.

The point is, it can easily be done. When I was teaching at Cal Arts I had my students paint a huge 30-by-60-foot mural on the scene shop wall every year for the Christmas party. One year we painted Picasso’s “Guernica.” It took them half a day, using old paint from the scene shop. It cost us nothing.

The university has art students. This can be their project … paint, mosaic or bas relief … whatever is done will add a tremendous amount of prestige to the campus, and to the town. Just do it.

Michael M. Peters

Drilling down on the poor

Re: “The tooth of the matter” (Newslines, by Ginger McGuire, July 2):

This is a very disturbing story as I, too, have been cut from dental services. I have had an eye tooth in which the primary work was started eight months ago. Now, with no coverage, this tooth will abscess and have to be pulled.

I do not have $1,000 to finish the needed two-step procedure. Medi-Cal will cover treatment if it is a continuation of work already started (which mine was), but this clinic said no, and I must pay. With the SSI cuts, how am I supposed to save my teeth?

The entire Legislature needs to be replaced. They are arguing like children at $173 a day in Sacramento. Shame on all the California lawmakers.

Janice Laine
San Diego

Blame it on the pro-aborts

Re: “Anti-abortion activist attacked” (Downstroke, July 2):

Contrary to what the writer stated, it is usually the pro-lifers who are attacked. One only has to go to an abortion mill and hold a pro-life sign, when the hatred and viciousness of the pro-aborts will manifest.

As with your story, the media perpetuate the lie that it’s the pro-lifers who are at fault, as was subtly indicated in this story by the only quote being from the abortion mill worker.

Rev. Donald Spitz
Chesapeake, Va.

What’s a teacher to do?

Re: “California meltdown” (Newslines, July 2):

So, as a teacher—er, former teacher, since my position is one of the thousands eliminated—where does that leave me? Will I be able to renew my license when it expires, since I’m not “in the classroom”? Will I receive my June paycheck, or will I have to feed my kids with IOUs? Are my nine years of post-secondary education to be wasted?

At a time when, more than ever, students need highly qualified educators, will I have to abandon education and look for an employable profession? Or is it time to again try to reverse some of the damage done by Proposition 13 and get us back on our feet?

Cathi LeFleur

More on baby Jacob

Re: “Where is my baby?” (Newslines, by Christine G.K. LaPado, June 25):

My daughter and Dorothy were in Brownies and Girl Scouts together. We thought highly of Dorothy’s energy and enthusiasm to be “part of the group.” Her mother, Rita, assisted in scouting events for years. I have nothing but praise for this family.

CPS should be ashamed! They should work with this family to reunite Dorothy’s baby with her and her parents.

Jonathan Mulder

Infant bonding and attachment is critical. How disruptive to take a baby away from his family. If the authorities are concerned about his weight gain, send in a visiting nurse to consult with the family rather than spend the people’s money on foster care and separate mother and baby.

I can see removing a child if he’s being abused, but there’s no implication that abuse was occurring in this loving family.

Gayle Kimball

I am Dorothy’s aunt, and I agree with a lot of you that she is capable of taking care of her child, Jacob. I have not met my great-nephew because they took him away too soon. I do not live close by, so I am always praying for my brother and his daughter and wife to get their baby back home where he belongs. Jacob will always be loved by his mother, my niece Dorothy.

Ruth Moore

Homeless and heartfelt

Re: “I was homeless” (cover story, by Serena Cervantes, June 25):

I stumbled upon this article and I just could not stop reading it. I found this woman’s article heartfelt.

I ride the city bus system with a lot of the homeless and talk to them, but, from what I have read from this woman’s article, I had no clue what they did on a daily basis to eat, sleep and find comfort, when I can walk from room to room in my home. Their home is from corner to corner and building to building, from town to town, with an occasional shelter to shelter where people are kind, loving and giving in their own way, so that those without will have a little of home on the streets.

It makes you think about that girl in the movie Homeless to Harvard. Reading what Serena Cervantes has written and experienced is an eye opener to me, and I will be more apt to pay attention to those around me and do my part to give what I can. And for Serena Cervantes, prayers of abundance so she may write those stories and give those a voice so they may prosper in their lives.

Debbie Goodman