Letters for June 6, 2013

Market talk

Re “Market instability” (Cover story, by Christine G.K. LaPado-Breglia, May 30):

I found your latest issue on the farmers’ market to be one-sided. As a business owner who does enjoy the market, I wonder how I became the bad guy. The market does bring people downtown, I will not dispute that fact. Even if they don’t shop that day, patrons of the market will see our stores and I am glad for that exposure.

Our business has been in our current location for 35 years. We have owned it for 25 years. Imagine my surprise to find the opinions of students and homeless people telling me, as a business owner, that I am not affected by the parking situation with the market.

I am surprised that you would devote an issue of your paper to this topic and not walk across the street and find out how the merchants feel. I would like to think that my advertising dollars counted for something. Why do people think the merchants are against the market? Maybe because your paper, and other media, paint a picture that is not accurate and does not in any way include all the facts!

Lesli Montague
Zot’s Hot Dogs and Deli

Editor’s note: The author of the story did in fact talk to two merchants in the Garden Walk Mall, home of Zot’s, as well another downtown business owner and two of the three City Council members who voted down the market’s request for an extended lease of the municipal parking lot.

The farmers’ market was one of the reasons that we fell in love with Chico and moved here 18 years ago. We are not in favor of making any changes to the market that would cause it to lose any of its vibrancy.

Some downtown business owners feel that they suffer lower sales on Saturdays as a result of impacted parking or competition from vendors with similar products. However, Lyon Books is in a unique position to measure the impact of the market. We operated for nine years on Fifth Street, and then on March 1, we moved to 135 Main St., which is one block from the market. For the three months we’ve been in our new location, Saturday sales have been, on average, 33 percent higher than the weekdays. At our old location, Saturdays were 3 percent higher than weekdays. It looks like the market is helping us quite a bit.

There has been some discussion about having the market on Sundays instead of Saturdays. We’re afraid this will cause some of the vendors to have to choose between worship and their livelihoods, and the market would lose church-going customers as well.

Our “vote” is to keep the farmers’ market on Saturdays at its present location.

Heather and Aaron Lyon
Owners of Lyon Books

I have only lived in the area for three years, but for me the Saturday farmers’ market represents much more than just a place to go hang out or do my groceries. Our farmers’ market is the heart of our local food movement, and our local economy.

Ask yourself, where do the goods that a lot of downtown stores are selling come from? To what level does imported merchandise support a local economy? What about things that are made right here in Chico? And what if those things were made following sound principles of environmental and social consciousness, versus sweatshop labor in third-world countries?

I think as a consumer I ought to put my dollar where my conscience is, especially if the product in question will end up circulating through my whole system, as food happens to do. Putting the needs of hundreds of local farmers after the ones of a handful of retailers does not seem like the wisest decision to me.

Vivica Menegaz
Forest Ranch

Every Saturday, I relax and reflect on what a blessing our farmers’ market is, and what a beautiful city we have. I see people leaving the farmers’ market and going into businesses. I do. I think, “Well, since I am downtown I will make a day of it and find a treasure or two.”

Certain businesses near the market haven’t done well in recent years, and they blame it on the market. I guess they all need a scapegoat. I am sad that there is this cloud hanging over the market, and I hope this can all be resolved in a functional manner.

Mary Ellen Smith

The market is a draw

Re “Birds-eye view” (Letters, by Brenda Bergland, May 30):

I find it ludicrous that we continue to have this discussion. Many would not bother to venture downtown Saturday, were it not for the farmers’ market.

Afterward, they continue to socialize, shop and dine. Local merchants profit, our sense of community blooms. It is among the many beautiful features that make Chico so unique and magnetic.

Buffy Franco

Bob’s a big boy

Re “Ode to Bob” (Second & Flume, by Melissa Daugherty, May 30):

I don’t think that Bob Speer, the retired editor of the CN&R, needs any defending from the new editor. His years of working with the paper show that he is a big boy now. Between living here and spending much time in my San Francisco sculpture studio, I have great respect for Bob. Even when we have disagreed, I have found him to be a fair journalist. I look forward to some articles from his life in semi-retirement.

Jerry Harris
San Francisco/Chico

Two views on sit/lie law

Re “City’s cash crunch” (Newslines, by Robert Speer, May 23):

To the City Council: I must write to you about the sit/lie ordinance that has been suggested for the city of Chico. We desperately need this ordinance! Past councils have recklessly spent more than $4 million on the City Plaza, only to have it become the haven of the homeless and others.

I know we need services for homeless families with children, and the mentally ill, and we should provide them. However, that does not mean that any slacker who wants to take advantage of our town and these services should be allowed carte blanche. They should not be able to lay around the plaza with impunity, intimidating the average citizen with their attitude and presence. They should not be able to sleep, urinate and vomit in front of businesses that struggle to keep going in this economy.

I have voted for liberal City Council candidates for years, but my mind is being rapidly changed about this. It is one thing to act on your social conscience, it is another to just hand our town over to those who would take every advantage of our largesse that they can.

Claudia B. Schwartz

The recent City Council decision to pursue a sit/lie ordinance is a shallow solution, coming off as an attempt to pick the low-hanging fruit—a fruit so low that it’s rotting on the ground. I sympathize with those who are harassed, but there are deeper issues at work here and they are not addressed in this decision.

Attempts to frame the issue as a behavioral one, and not a homeless one, is ridiculous. What’s more ridiculous is the willingness to proceed with this ordinance without any scientific data linking those people who sit and lie on the sidewalks to the decline in the economy.

There are those of us out there who are afraid of those less fortunate than others, who treat them like less of a person because they are sitting on a sidewalk. How would you react if you thought you had nothing to lose, only to realize that the city can take away your right to experience a public space?

Hassling the homeless is not the right direction to go if you want to improve the business economy of Chico. What about an economy of compassion? What about turning the other cheek? What about being nice to someone even though they aren’t as privileged?

Mark Herrera

Stop demonizing GMOs

As a scientist, I have been disappointed by the bad press that genetically modified organisms (GMO) have recently received. What bothers me is the constant labeling of GMO as dangerous to people, despite the absence of scientific evidence for this.

All of our food is genetically modified. Domestication itself causes genetic changes. Some organisms, such as corn, have undergone prehistoric human-caused shifts that boggle the mind. For example, the changes made to corn by ancient Native Americans have been called “catastrophic sexual transmutation.” The organisms that we use for food have always been the subject of drastic genetic experiments by mankind, whether through selective breeding or transgenics.

GMO are not dangerous. These organisms represent the best hope we have to adequately feed the human population. These organisms provide food security in the face of climate change, which threatens to cause the largest mass-migration in the history of our species.

Dylan Orion Burge, Ph.D.
NSF IRFP post-doctoral fellow

Chico/San Francisco/Vancouver, B.C.

Good luck, Bob

Aloha! I’m writing in as a ’90s CN&R staffer who served as arts editor and associate editor—it’s been a while, but I think Bob had that luxurious beard back in my day, too, and was being called “Greybeard” by the infamous Kevin Jeys.

Thank you, Bob, for all these years of thoughtful journalism and commitment to Chico. And thanks for believing in me and helping me along the way in my career—you were a key figure in my professional life, honest and fair, and I’m truly grateful. (Almost as important: Thanks for selling me that awesome ‘80s Datsun hatchback shortly after I started working at the CN&R, too! That car took me back and forth between Ashland and Seattle/Sacramento and San Francisco, many a time.)

Your writing and the standards set by the News & Review in its earliest years gave local journalists who followed a high bar to reach for. That continues. I’ve taken note of your latest articles about your relationship and home life. They take me back to the ‘80s, when I was just getting started. While you’ve contributed much to the community, those stories linger in my memory, highlighting your graceful writing and humane nature. Enjoy your next chapter, Bob. I look forward to seeing what you do next.

Elizabeth Kieszkowski
Honolulu, Hawaii