Letters for November 1, 2007

Before ax or tax, revisit city deals
Re: “Budget 101 night draws inquiring minds” (Newsline) and “Economics class” (In My Eyes; both by Evan Tuchinsky, CN&R, Oct. 25):

Thank you for your report of the city’s financial crisis. We keep reading about a $56 million “structural deficit,” loosely defined as current debt projected for 10 years. This figure does not, however, include future needs, such as additional city staff, increases in services and necessary street maintenance.

Public safety projections alone are $54 million, so the total 10-year deficit should easily exceed $125 million.

There are a number of reasons for the deficit, some outside of our control (e.g. the economy), but past City Councils must take the responsibility. Questionable financial decisions, combined with the inability to recognize warning signs and take corrective action, contributed to the crisis.

Financial agreements with the county, the Redevelopment Agency and the employee unions have adversely impacted and contributed to decreased revenue and increased costs that are no longer sustainable. The combined effects of these agreements are an estimated annual loss of approximately $10+ million, which would almost cover the “real life” projected 10-year deficit.

Can we renegotiate some of these agreements either on the revenue side or on the cost side? If we can’t, the alternatives are either substantial tax increases or significant cost reductions. The media, public and council should all be asking this question.

The public must be informed; please monitor this issue carefully.

Bob Best

Renewables could bridge power gap
Re: “State of shock” (Cover story, by R.V. Scheide, CN&R, Oct. 25):

Thanks to the CN&R for the articles on energy. It really needs to be focused on—and now!

Mr. Scheide’s article was very interesting, and his figures were all accurate, to my knowledge. California politicians have once again “mandated” us into a corner, which will be very difficult to get out of—maybe impossible. However, I disagree with the idea that coal, nukes and natural gas are the only possible solutions.

California power usage is divided into two components: about 36 gigawatts of “base power” and 13 gigawatts of “peak power"—mostly used on hot days, almost exclusively for compressive air-conditioning with power from natural-gas plants.

Base power needs will certainly increase but could be met by geothermal power. The PEAK report identified four gigawatts of undeveloped capacity in California and Western Nevada.

Peak power needs will also increase but could easily be met with power from massive solar-power installations in the Southern California desert. Actually, 20 times the peak-power need falls on California in the form of insolation [incoming solar radiation]—and solar radiation tracks one-to-one with peak-load requirements.

Just with these two technologies, the need could be met; that’s not even considering wind, tides, etc. Direct (non-electrical) use of solar energy for heating and cooling of commercial properties, which make up about half the peak load, is very possible today, and it’s both cost-efficient and cost-effective.

All the above notwithstanding, minor conservation measures, such as new light bulbs, improved evaporative air-conditioning, etc., are still the biggest part of the solution to our fixed energy problems.

Gene Lucas

Editor’s note: Mr. Lucas responded to the previous week’s cover story about energy, “Driving under the influence,” in last week’s Letters.

‘A Convenient Lie’
Re: “Eyes on the prize” (Editorial, CN&R, Oct. 25):

Despite Al Gore’s fascistic claim that the debate is over on global warming, it is not over. Right-wing conspiracy? Gore’s old family money and reactionary ideas qualify him as the right-wing conspirator—not his critics.

Is it getting warmer? Sure, as it did twice before in recorded history, not counting 15 million cubic miles of ice that melted off North America and Europe 12,000 years ago without human industrial activity.

From 900 to 1300 A.D., Labrador was warm enough to grow wine grapes, but “A Convenient Lie” doesn’t show the old Norse farmsteads uncovered as glaciers retreat in Greenland. From 100 B.C. to 300 A.D., Imperial Rome’s harbor at Ostia flourished—today it’s three miles inland, 15 feet above present sea level, but again, “A Convenient Lie” ignores this.

“A Convenient Lie” misplaces the curves purporting to show that increases in CO2 cause hotter temperatures. In fact, the curves show that CO2 levels rise after, not before, temperatures increase. Not to mention that the atmosphere contains 60 times as much heat-trapping water vapor as CO2.

Gore’s spiel is propaganda, not science. Renewable energy? You bet, but let’s do it to wean ourselves from dependence on stoners and beheaders of women, not further Gore’s extremist ambitions.

Chad Wozniak

Unhealthy system
Re: “'Health care is a right'” (Newslines, by Bryce Benson, CN&R, Oct. 18):

Our health-care system is terrible! Something needs to be done about it.

I was dismayed over Bush’s veto against increased care for mid-income families’ children. Our politicians are out of touch with the needs of the people in this country. Gov. Schwarzenegger’s plan of forcing people to pay for health care sounds awful, and I hope that the people in California garner support for a realistic universal health-care plan to counter the governor’s plan.

It would be wonderful if we gave up spending billions of dollars on developing our “missile defense” system in outer space and spent our money instead on defending the people from money-grubbing insurance companies.

Hillary Tellesen

Issues of trust
Re: “Events ordinance moves on” (Downstroke, CN&R, Oct. 18):

In supporting the “disorderly events ordinance” as written, the City Council asks that we trust the police. A police force is made of unique human beings. Some people are more trustworthy than others, depending on their experience and the situation.

Supporting police means backing them with laws that the community supports. Many Chicoans support an ordinance, but they want to ensure that it respects constitutional standards.

How about writing a new ordinance that uses “reasonable cause” instead of “circumstantial evidence” as the basis for police action? How about using the term “unruly assembly” instead of “disorderly events"? This avoids the need to specify types of events and their locations. Many citizens object that police could act on “adjacent property.” Many peace rallies may not be perfectly orderly, yet they have a right to exist even if a different group of unruly people crashes in.

Writing a new ordinance with these terms would preserve this tool for police while incorporating citizens’ concerns, so that most Chicoans can unite in support of law enforcement.

Irene Cardenas

Editor’s note: The ordinance will come back to the City Council for a final reading and vote Tuesday (Nov. 6). It passed 6-1 at a special meeting Oct. 15, which the next letter references.

At the end of the disorderly events discussion, one city councilwoman said, “We trust the police.” Well, I don’t. Incorrect reasons for rising crime and mere explanations are not resulting in solutions. Correct investigative procedures are not being applied, or justice is being used for some other purpose than public safety (such as maintaining a privileged group or indulging in fixed ideas).

A man under the influence crashed into my neighbor’s fence, then sped away. This is the second hit-and-run incident the homeowner experienced in one year. Both times, no report was taken, no investigation took place, and he was told it was an insurance matter. Does this mean a crime did not occur?

Criminals know which laws are, and are not, being enforced. The very least city officials should do is investigate and publish all laws that the Chico Police Department is not currently enforcing, so that the public may know in what ways they are not being protected.

Ann Ashley

Quick kudos
Re: “Cinematic standards, anyone?” (Guest Comment, by Jamie Hollomon, CN&R, Oct. 11):

The movie reviews are fine and usually right on the money for us non-Buddhists.

By the way, Anthony Porter is provocative and entertaining.

Art Bennett

Daring to care
Re: “Mutual rehabilitation” (Cover story, by Kat Kerlin, CN&R, Oct. 11):

I’m grateful there are programs like Pups on Parole. The program takes dogs that are destined to be destroyed because of behavior problems, but are otherwise adoptable, out of the local animal shelter and into the care of an inmate who teaches the dog basic commands and social skills.

What a refreshing change to read about a prison program that is mutually beneficial to our society and the inmates. I know this sentiment will probably prompt some to label me a “bleeding heart.” I gladly accept this label as opposed to being apathetic or “tough on crime.” If the goal of these prevailing attitudes is to put as many people in jail as possible, then this goal can be crossed off our collective task list, because America is No. 1 in the world at incarcerating its citizens.

I’m not suggesting we let all the rapists, murderers, child molesters and others go unpunished or free. What I am saying is something is out of whack and too many of us don’t care.

Eileen L. Lahey

In recent ads, Baldwin Contracting claims that allowing the company to mine gravel on the M&T Ranch west of Chico would be the sustainable thing to do. That’s a little hard to understand since the term “sustainable” generally means “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.”

If this project is approved, Baldwin would have to dig through 15 feet of topsoil just to get to the gravel deposit they want to mine—and in 30 years, when they are done mining, they plan to leave a 70-foot-deep hole in the ground, destroying almost 200 acres of prime farmland in the process. This would, of course, forever preclude the possibility of this land being available to meet the ever-increasing needs of a growing population.

So which option would be the most genuinely sustainable use of this land: to mine gravel for 30 years or to farm it for the next thousand years or more?

Ron Jones

Editor’s note: The Butte County Board of Supervisors will hold a hearing on this project Tuesday (Nov. 6), as the following letter mentions.

I had an opportunity to travel through Chico by way of Fifth Street, taking a right turn onto Highway 32, a right off Ninth Street onto Park Avenue and eventually to the Skyway. What I experienced was a tremendous amount of traffic and gridlock. During this travel, I was able to muse about what it would be like if the M&T Gravel Mine on River Road were approved.

According to Baldwin’s own traffic plan, a large percentage of the gravel trucks will be taking this route to get to their facilities on the Skyway. It would be approximately one truck every five minutes, five to six days a week, for 30 years. What a nightmare!

They would be driving through heavily impacted college-student housing areas, besides businesses and private residences already impacted by heavy vehicular traffic. Some of their trucks will be going through Durham, right past the schools and residences that are already experiencing heavy traffic.

Baldwin’s general manager has stated, “We already have plenty of gravel"—so why the push to mine gravel on River Road?

Please contact your county supervisors and let them know you are not in favor of this project. Better yet, show up at the Nov. 6 meeting at the Administration Building in Oroville at 1:30 p.m. There is strength in numbers.

Lila Prentice