Letters for March 13, 2014
Hooray for child writers
Re “Making the cuts” (Fiction 59 Cover feature, March 6):
The youngsters’ stories leapt off the page like crickets on hot pavement. A shout-out to fellow Poe fan Aeia Peterson for her two pieces. Although Poe wrote many fine strings of 59 words, I’m certain he never wrote them with thumbs. Sadly ignorant of this contest prior to its conclusion, I’ll now stain the page with a thumbed piece I would have submitted as “Fecklessness Run Amok”:
Shop owners sit littered on the sidewalk plying for respect and dignity. They barter this honor by letting homeless people run their businesses all morning. Many bring dogs to increase their odds of eye contact and the occasional bone. The begging starts at noon, “Oh please, may I sit a bit longer? The humility is invigorating—ya know?”
Editor’s note: Mr. Mash’s 58-word write-up shows it’s not easy putting stories into exactly 59 words.
Beware of script thieves
Re “One script, two movies” (Reel World, by Robert Speer, March 6):
The case of the Barefoot movie script is typical. I’ve had at least half a dozen scripts stolen from me and made into movies, stage plays, books, etc.
Copyright theft is pandemic in the United States right now because there is no copyright protection. I talked to the FBI and they told me they were supposed to go after script thieves but that they hadn’t been given a budget to do so. Then on top of that, copyright law is filled with loopholes. Courts in the 9th Circuit consider plot, theme, characters, dialogue and settings in determining copyright theft—all a script thief has to do is make cosmetic changes to wiggle past copyright law.
FYI: For all you aspiring writers, you have to register your script with the Copyright Office in Washington, D.C., otherwise lawyers can’t collect their fees even if they win for you, so they won’t even take your case.
The downside of all this is that we have witnessed The Rape of American Literature. When up-and-coming writers have their original work stolen from them, they are unable to earn a living as writers and fade from view. It’s been a long time since we had an Ernest Hemingway or John Steinbeck.
Why no investigation?
Re “Chronic trouble” (Newslines, by Howard Hardee, March 6):
I thought the CN&R prided itself on investigative journalism, but seeing as how no one bothered to investigate any of the false allegations and outright lies disseminated by the District Attorney’s Office, nor those put forth by the San Francisco Chronicle, it seems I was severely mistaken.
I’m not sure who Howard Hardee is, but his name appears to be a pseudonym for Jeff Greeson from the DA’s office.
For clarity, I have been labeled many things in my life, but “informant” is a new one. If I was an informant back in 2008, when I had no kids and nothing to lose, you can believe I would’ve done the same when my house was raided and my kids were taken, twice.
Hardee’s story ends with, “The CN&R was unable to contact Bram for this story as of press time.” Really? Did you try Facebook?
Jayme J. Walsh
City compensation cont’d
Re “Response to the cover” (Letters, by Robert Main, March 6):
Dr. Main may pay a plumber $90 an hour, if he has the money. Chico shouldn’t pay 60 plumbers $55 an hour to listen to Rush Limbaugh, work out at the gym, or observe cadets at the Fire Academy, all while standing by in case Chico develops a leaky faucet.
Rick Clements never lets facts cloud his preconceived notions. Conservative council members’ votes are bought and paid for by the police and firefighter unions. When an independent council member tries to negotiate a reasonable contract, he is ridiculed by police. Firefighters claimed more than 31,000 hours of overtime in 2012. That’s equivalent to 10 full-time jobs; if paid at regular wages, that would be a more than $450,000 savings to Chico in one year.
If David Main has an altruistic work ethic, let him volunteer at other needful jobs in Chico where we’re not paying him $55 an hour.
It’s time to get rid of these unions. They’ll strike, set fires, vandalize, and obstruct other firefighting efforts, but Chico can’t afford these arrogant, elitist thieves.
Robert Main’s letter in support of his son’s exorbitant compensation compares his son’s normal hourly wage of $37.33 to a plumber charging $90 per hour to unstop a toilet.
His comparison is disingenuous for at least the following reasons: 1) It completely ignores his fringe benefits of $85,912 per year, making his normal hourly wage $68.21 an hour, not $37.33; 2) plumbers typically charge by the job via flat rate or bid, not by the hour; 3) assuming the job took one hour and the charge was $90, that money is not the plumber’s take-home pay—it is revenue to the plumbing company before direct and overhead expenses.
The average salary for a plumber in Chico is $45,000 with more experienced plumbers making $72,000, which equates to $21.63 an hour and $34.62 an hour, respectively. Robert Main’s inaccurate comparisons don’t help justify David Main’s total compensation of $286,000 per year.
Stop this madness. Our city cannot afford to pay these people up to five times what we make.
Speaking of city money
Re “Strong-arming the budget” (Cover feature, by Dave Waddell, Feb. 27):
The police-firefighter article was a fine piece of investigative reporting. But of necessity, it is only one-third of the story. The other pieces are elected officials and us as citizens.
Employee proposals for pay-pension increases are recommended by city administrators and approved by City Council members. One problem is that council members can approve increases during their terms that are not sustainable in the longer run. So, future members and citizens, as taxpayers, have to deal with shortfalls.
One solution might be to require an analysis that shows real costs in the next few years compared with likely revenues (taxes) to meet those costs. This before approving pay-pension contracts.
Since it appears we now have in place legally binding contracts, then as citizens we need to vote to pay taxes to meet those expenses while maintaining other services. Or we need to vote those tax increases down and live with fewer nonemergency city services.
When the City Council decides not to hire new people and instead work the current employees on overtime to make up staffing levels, you don’t get to criticize them when they step up. Grow some cojones. If you don’t want to pay for services, don’t staff them.
Let’s compare apples to apples: Mr. Nakamura would make $296,864 if he worked just the 2,912 hours per year that Dave Main works, at his stated base pay of $102 per hour (40-hour week opposed to 56-hour week). Toss in the overtime and he would be grossing about $657,862 for driving a desk, which I think may not be as “demanding” as picking up pieces of children or saving your house from a fire.
Given current unemployment figures, wouldn’t it be better to have four firefighters earning about $70,000 a year than one earning $285,000?
When someone gets paid for a 48-hour shift, do they get paid for sleeping? When an employer colludes with soon-to-retire employees by jacking up their work hours the last year to inflate their pensions for life, isn’t that actually a scheme to screw the taxpayers (us)?
Retirement was originally a sound concept—take care of older people so they could have a decent life after their working years. It was not intended to pay for McMansions. It sounds really nice to retire at age 50 on $170,000 paid for by current workers. Who signed on to these deals? Do people earning hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for not working (retired) really expect the young workers and households of the future to pay for their luxurious lifestyles?
Just to compare, teachers who retire in their late 50s after 21 years of teaching gross $24,000 a year from STRS. What a bunch of suckers! Actually, that is a pretty fair wage for not working. Given the current circumstances, it might even be sustainable.
Upon reading that only 20 city of Chico employees were paid more than $4.5 million last year, I looked at another line of public service for comparison: the U.S. Army. According to its website, the base pay for a staff sergeant with six years’ experience is only about $36,000; a captain of six years’ experience receives a base pay of about $65,000.
Butte County volunteer firefighters, who train and serve alongside regular staff, sharing the same hazards, to the best of my knowledge, aren’t paid at all. I would challenge the city employees listed in the article to stand before a room full of veterans and fire and police volunteers to justify their high salaries, especially given the economic realities of the past several years. I also don’t know of any other class of workers that expect a 90 percent pension.
Camp will attract homeless
Re “Tent city” (Newslines, by Tom Gascoyne, Feb. 27):
I recently read that a local group is proposing a homeless encampment in Chico. I support agencies such as the Salvation Army that make a concerted effort to help the truly needy who are not on the streets by choice. I willingly pay taxes for government social-service programs. What I do not support is a misguided attempt to create a “tent city” that may help a few individuals but would further exacerbate an influx of “travelers” with a sense of entitlement and no concept of responsibility.
I would refer any proponents of such a campground to Placerville’s “social experiment,” which they closed after 16 months because, while the campground itself was self-regulating, it attracted even more homeless.
According to a Sacramento Bee article (“Placerville homeless ‘Haven’ closes in response to neighbor complaints” Nov. 15, 2013), “the campground also drew an influx of transients, still more illegal campgrounds and increased litter and property crime.” Additionally, police contact with transients elsewhere went up 100 percent, burglaries increased by 25 percent, and theft by 60 percent. Placerville did build it and they did come. We know where this road paved with good intentions leads.
Thanks, CUSD board
Re “Parents sour on plans for school” (Downstroke, Feb. 6):
The children, families, friends and staff of Citrus School are grateful to the Chico Unified School District’s board members, who voted March 5 to keep our school open.
Citrus has undergone a profound transformation in recent years, making the fastest growth in Academic Performance Index standardized test scores of any CUSD elementary school. Citrus is one of only two CUSD schools to offer a pre-K program, Transitional Kindergarten.
An array of programs involve families in the daily life of our school. We’re experiencing rapid growth in the number of parent volunteers, and have a dynamic principal and outstanding new teachers, with tremendous support from CUSD administrators.
Thanks to our community partners at Bidwell Presbyterian Church, we have two computer labs with 64 stations. These were added without curtailing space in our library, to which we have added more than 2,000 new books.
While most families walk or bike to school, more than 80 families from all over Chico have chosen to join Citrus even though it’s outside their attendance area. We’re no longer the elementary school most families opt out of. Thank you to everyone who spoke on our behalf. We will make you proud!
‘Restore the research’
Re “Ecological restrictions” (Newslines, by Tom Gascoyne, Feb. 20):
I was deeply concerned to read about the recent cutbacks at the Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve. It has taken years to build relationships with donors and raise support funds for the reserve, for students to accumulate important research data and to create and provide programs for schoolchildren. The safety investigation for a collapsed deck seems to have little to do with these important community, financial and program benefits.
It will take a long time to rebuild these aspects of the reserve that have now been demolished in one moment’s decision. The university’s education mission has been lost in an overemphasis on an investigation that is not even completed.
Big Chico Creek Canyon and Bidwell Park are community cornerstones where we recreate, learn and come together. The reserve is an important part of this watershed that provides accessibility to a more pristine world, and I consider the reserve an invaluable connection to that watershed.
I believe our reach for a more sustainable future will be better served through experiences at the reserve than through another LEED building designation on campus. Please support the reserve management, bring the community into this discussion and restore the research and school programs sooner than later.
It is curious to me that businesses complain about raising the minimum wage, yet they also complain about social services like welfare or food stamps. If, as a business owner, I do not pay wages that will allow the self-sufficiency of my employees, then they will find another way to fill the gap. That likely will be through social services like welfare, food stamps and medical insurance.
In essence, I as a business owner am allowing the taxpayers to supplement my business profits with social services paid by the taxpayers. From a purely financial viewpoint, the taxpayers are paying that part of my profit that I do not pay by providing a living wage. I know that the world is not fair, but what happened to the concept of “total cost involved”?
Guns and Ukraine
I think a lot of people would agree with me that life, or God, reveals to us the answers we seek if we look to learn from the “life lessons” we encounter. The idea is put forth that to fight against the tyranny of governments the populace needs to be armed, and the NRA would lead you to believe that the bigger the gun, the more rounds it can hold to be effective in a revolutionary situation, the better.
The interim government of the Ukraine is saying they are not contemplating military action against the Soviets because that is a “dead end” idea. The Ukraine cannot stand up militarily against the tyranny of the Soviets.
So let’s watch. Which philosophy will win this conflict? Will it be the most compelling and empowering idea nonviolently defended, or the biggest gun? Then we can decide if we need guns to hunt with and to protect our families from a home invasion, or whether we need to arm ourselves with guns that will be effective in a military action against “government tyranny.”
The idea, I think, is that we are the government, and compelling, empowering ideas always end up winning over forced compliance.
Question for congressman
By the end of this year, the U.S. will have fewer than 10,000 troops left in Afghanistan. Technically, they say we won. I was disturbed to learn there was a budget request [from President Obama] posted on March 4 asking Congress for $80 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations. Where does Congressman Doug LaMalfa stand on this issue? I want to think Congress is just as tired of these constant wars as the public is. Mr. LaMalfa, where do you stand?
Why the lights?
Chico Public Library: Please turn off your lights at night. I, like many, am a huge fan of the library and the service it provides. However, I think you are doing the community a disservice by leaving your lights on all night, almost every night. I work at night and I consistently see the entire library lit up as I drive by. It’s wasteful, and it pains me to consider what services are being cut out of the library’s budget so the lights can be kept on when no one is in the building.
An ‘amazing cooperation’
The Chico Grocery Outlet, the Crystal Room and, of course, our very own Chico News & Review have come together and created a monthly opportunity for local nonprofits and service clubs to earn some much-needed funds. This amazing cooperation between the three businesses has resulted in local groups receiving $10,000 over the past year.
These businesses have made this a seamless activity for the participants. This is what makes Chico such a wonderful place to live—businesses, community members and nonprofits working together to help improve the lives of those who live in Butte County.
If you have not come out to one of the third Thursday events held from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Crystal Room (968 East Ave.), you have been missing out. The Chico Grocery Outlet provides numerous red and white wine selections for attendees to sample, plus delicious appetizers of cheese, chocolate and other treats are available for all to try.
They can accommodate around 170 attendees for the event. The ticket price is extremely reasonable: only $5. The Child Abuse Prevention Council and their partner agencies were so happy with the outreach from the event.