Letters for November 11, 2010


The EarthWatch item “Super-sized solar project” in last week’s issue had the cost of the proposed Mojave Desert solar project wrong. The correct figure is $6 billion. The facility is expected to produce sufficient electricity to power 300,000 homes. Our apologies for the error.—ed.

Women’s suffering trivialized

Re “Take your medicine” (Scene, by Jason Cassidy, Nov. 4):

I was appalled by some of the choices made by the CN&R last week regarding Chico State’s drama, Chamber Music. The flippant headline and photo trivialized the suffering of countless women, including suffragists who were force-fed in their 72-year struggle for the vote.

Unlike your reviewer, I was mesmerized from the start by the power of every line, as well as the physicality of the acting. For my money, this show was in the top echelon of plays in Chico in more than a decade. This was profound theater, locally crafted with new material researched by the actors.

Ms. Whitlock’s class must have learned a great deal, not just about acting, writing and staging, but also about oppression and the abuse of power. Quotations from Aristotle, Freud and other authorities incorporated into the show demonstrate how deep the prejudice against women goes and how unjust incarceration and torture were society’s routine response to women who did not conform.

Rosemary Quinn

Smarter next year?

Re “Holiday nightmare” (Downstroke, Nov. 4):

It seems every year on the Halloween weekend arrests jump off the radar. This year was no different, as was reported—116 arrests made between Friday night and Monday morning, excluding two stabbings where the suspects weren’t found.

The good news is that it seems the overwhelming crimes have stopped. There were no riots this year. At least we’ve gotten it down to petty crimes like DUIs and drunk in public.

After all the stories of the Halloween weekends in the past, I would think people would be more intelligent and know that police would be on extreme guard. Maybe next year people will think and not stop having fun, but do it in a way where you don’t get arrested.

Amber Harrelson

Is ‘commercial’ a dirty word?

Re: “Open public-art debate” (Letters, by Jennifer Oman-Payne, Nov. 4):

It seems to me a large part of the problem with “participation” is that, while the Arts Commission itself is appointed, in reality a tremendous amount of the final decision-making and control are placed in the hands of an unelected and essentially unaccountable public official, Mary Gardner, the city’s art-projects coordinator.

One example of this was the selection committee that met last year to decide the artists to be included on the city’s Resource List of Pre-Qualified Artists. This list lasts for three years (thru 2012) and decides which artists may participate in future capital-improvement projects. Included on the committee (chosen by Ms. Gardner) were five local citizens, along with Arts Commissioner Gary Baugh, Ms. Gardner, and her colleague, Shelly Willis, the arts administrator for the Sacramento Arts Commission.

Of note was the fact that of every artist who applied, Ms. Gardner and Ms. Willis both seemed to have a propensity for selecting artists involved in “high-dollar” projects (>$100K). And they both vigorously objected to all those résumés and work that featured experience in the “commercial arts.” This included several artists with substantial experience in large corporate art projects, including one responsible for the design and fabrication of the signage for Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Even if another selection committee member spoke in favor of any of these “commercial artists,” Ms. Gardner and Ms. Willis would both strongly argue against them. And not because they didn’t like their art, but because their experience was simply considered “too commercial,” which then seemed to remove those artists from further consideration. It was obvious that among the unofficial selection criteria was: “No commercial artists or designers need apply.”

This invisible criterion eliminates many of the very artists most experienced with such practical considerations as cross-collaboration, deadlines, designing for a wide public audience and, of course, successfully working within (increasingly) tight budgets.

Mat DelFave

District-elections discussion

Editor’s note: The following two letters are in response to my invitation to discuss switching to district elections of members of the Chico City Council. Readers are invited to continue the discussion.

Re “Déjà vu all over again” (From This Corner, by Robert Speer, Nov. 4):

I really like the idea of district elections if [candidates] are able to change the rigid positions people seem to take in order to be considered liberal or conservative to guarantee a sizable following.

When my husband and I moved here 12 years ago, one of the first things we noticed was that many Chicoans would ask our opinion about a local matter, then let us know which side we were on, left/right, good/bad. If our answers placed us on the “wrong” side, according to the individual asking, they were pretty much done discussing anything else.

At first we found it amusing, then bewildering and, finally, downright annoying. Issues are generally much more complex than the simple good/bad category that generally seems to be on the table.

Marsha Cohen

Sure, Bob, I’m interested in a conversation and believe either district-based or strong-mayor models would work better than what we have if we elected people who are strong enough to really be leaders. Not bargainers, not short-term survey takers, not block or party-based loyalists; real leaders who can understand complexity, see beyond the next election, and double-check that the folks who are taxpayers, and other citizens legally entitled to service, are getting just that: service. Service that is comprehensible, timely, and professionally delivered in a civil, honest manner.

I just love such conversations, especially when I’m told I just don’t understand how complex it all is.

Abe Baily

No racism in Chico? Ha!

Once again I contacted the 911 police line. “What’s your problem, sir?”

“I was riding my bike past the Chico News & Review when four white youths between the ages of 14 and 16 said, ‘Nigger, if you don’t get off the road we will throw acid in your face.’”

“Oh sir, why would they do that?” asked the policewoman. Good question.

A month ago I received a polite letter from the chief of the Chico Police Department stating that his Internal Affairs Division could find no merit to my questioning of racism in his police force.

I have been verbally attacked in my apartment building by white terrorists. The owners think nothing of this. The News & Review thinks that my comments only merit their online letters.

When I am finally killed, I guess that there will be something said, but if it is like the police shooting of Oscar Grant in Oakland, maybe it might produce some national headlines. I try to live here part time as a decent and law-abiding citizen like most African Americans, but in the age of the Tea Party, Chico has arrived too.

If I were a drug dealer or a pimp, I would be more than welcomed in the “system” of American justice that has more black prisoners than any country in the world.

Jerry Harris
San Francisco/Chico

Small but ‘magnificent’

Re “Netting the Saw-whet” (Greenways, by Christine G.K. LaPado, Nov. 4):

I must say Anthony and I were truly the lucky ones to experience the brave endeavors of Dawn Garcia and her devoted crew researching this magnificent bird. We were fortunate to see three NSWO’s on Friday evening last.

The detail to measuring every aspect of the NSWO’s physical detail and habitudes was quite impressive. I will continue to support the Altacal Audubon Society with confidence and heartfelt thanks for a wonderful organization and meeting people like Dawn Garcia.

Danielle Cossu-Ferrara

Test diesel for yourself

Re “CARB’S fabricated science” (Letters, by Frank Cook, Nov 4):

Mr. Cook claims “It has been proven that there is no connection between diesel exhaust and lung damage.” If Mr. Cook believes this ridiculous falsehood, I recommend he conduct a simple science experiment of enclosing himself in a sealed garage with a diesel engine running for an hour and advise us of his results, if he survives.

Of course it would be much easier and safer to check the American Lung Association’s Facts about Diesel Exhaust, which states, “Diesel exhaust is a major source of air pollution, which contributes to lung and other types of cancer, respiratory tract infections and lung diseases such as asthma, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis.”

The EPA, the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences have similar conclusions.

Dave Garcia

Water: the great unknown

As a retired and recovering bureaucrat, I have difficulty thinking back on many really good meetings, but I attended one the other evening.

The meeting was called because a group of county residents who live around Butte College is concerned that development under the new county general plan could overdraft their groundwater and force them to extend their wells many hundreds of feet deeper than they now are. The initial cost to current residents would be great, and the continuing cost of pumping from a much deeper level could be budget-busting for many—and this could be just the “tip of the iceberg.” About 70 percent of us in Butte County—and 100 percent of us in Chico—depend on groundwater too.

The focus of the issue was captured in a question by one of the attendees: “Can the county assure Butte Valley residents that there is sufficient groundwater for them and the potential development from General Plan 2030?” The response, which rambled on for nearly an hour, including an off-point lesson in geology, never directly answered the question. In other words, the real answer was, “No, the county can’t.”

But even more important than the Butte Valley focus is that the same question remains unanswered for the rest of the county, too. The general plan’s environmental-impact report fails to examine whether we have enough groundwater to support all of the development proposed in the plan, even though exactly such an analysis is required by state law!

Tony St. Amant

Making leaf pick-up work

The city of Chico offers a free leaf pick-up program for city residents. According to the city’s website, the purpose of the program is to keep the storm drainage system working and to help avoid clogged systems and potential flooding.

Yet these problems are still occurring due to the fact the city has no designated time schedule for picking up the leaves, thus causing them to be left out for days and days waiting for crews to come by. Since it is fall, the wind is blowing and it has begun to rain more frequently, and the process isn’t really preventing the drain systems from becoming clogged.

The city should create some sort of schedule like the trash pickup so you know when to pile your leaves and they don’t have time to get taken away by the wind.

Rebecca Sutton

Beck’s brokedown book

Although it was intended to be used as a helpful handbook (according to the author) before voters visited their local polling place, I’m still reluctant to make a belated investment in Glenn Beck’s latest political publication, Broke, in fear the society savior’s written scoops won’t be much different than the daily blather he delivers in front of the camera.

After taking in the Fox News televangelist’s cable sermons from time to time. I’m fairly certain that Beck is incapable of making a point, then moving on to his next point, and so on and so forth, without leaving most viewers somewhat frustrated by the rambling and almost tortuous rant that kept him busy while he was making his first point.

If I was obligated to choose one over the other, I would just as soon negotiate a flea-market purchase of the garden-variety bestsellers authored by Beck’s faithful lickspittle, Bill O’Reilly, and read about how the egotistical loudmouth plays such an important role in everyone’s life, which I expect to find in each and every chapter.

Leaving aside their lofty viewer ratings, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why both Beck and O’Reilly would come out with brand new-books on a regular basis.

Rodina Turner
Los Molinos

Mr. Bird makes his case

On Friday, Feb. 29, 2008, I witnessed Assemblymen Jim Nielsen and Doug LaMalfa and [Tehama County] Sheriff Clay Parker chatting at the entrance to the Tehama County Elections Office. I returned to that Elections Office and requested a copy of Nielsen’s candidacy form. I knew this was his final day to file.

After reviewing the form, I knew he’d failed to qualify to be a candidate, because he did not live in the Second Assembly District, nor did he live at the stated address: 22475 Pomona Ave., Gerber.

I was twice denied my writ of mandamus petition to present my argument to a jury. Of all the so-called investigations, no one ever contacted me. Every public official from Robbie Anderson (state of California Elections Fraud Unit) to our Tehama County district attorney, sheriff, two judges and the 2009 grand jury has protected Jim Nielsen. I have a calendar log since March 15, 2008, stating in detail 108 drive-by checks of the “trailer” where Nielsen supposedly lives.

Here’s what investigative reporter Barry Clausen writes about it:

“When I went to the Gerber home Nielsen listed with the Elections Office in Tehama County, a lady met me at the door. As the neighbors to the residents in question had told me the inhabitants were named Van Dyke, I asked her if she was Ms. Van Dyke. Her answer was ‘No.’ I then asked her if the residents were named Van Dyke. Her response was, ‘No, the property belongs to the Nielsens.’ When I asked the next obvious question, were the Nielsens home, once again, ‘No.’ My next question was, ‘Do the Nielsens reside here?’ Once more, ‘No.’ Without my asking, the mystery woman at the door then stated, ‘I can probably reach Jim on his cell phone. He’s hardly ever here.’”

The Van Dykes vacated 22475 Pomona Ave. in December 2008 and moved to Corning. The trailer was then offered for rent. Later, the Van Dykes applied for a construction permit and began to build a house (not Nielsen’s) on the adjacent five acres. During construction, I occasionally asked anyone working on the house if they ever noticed any activity at the trailer. Several workers said it looked empty to them.

Nielsen’s people have vigorously attempted to bury the truth. His spin isn’t going to protect him much longer. When he filed, he lied and he cheated to win the Assembly seat. Then he did it again and was elected. I and the many others want justice—no one is above the law.”

Don Bird
Red Bluff

Down with academic authority

Re “Young entrepreneur gets business lesson” (Newsline, by Tyler Harbaugh, Oct. 21):

What a great idea this individual presents! Our (college-aged) generation is realizing a primary virtue of the information age—that information “wants” to be free; something that alarms the elitist academics and corresponding bureaucrats who pin their livelihoods channeling knowledge only to those whom they deem qualified and who subsequently pay the fees they determine.

Everywhere, academic professionals frantically defend the class/lecture/test format that is currently the only legitimate avenue to becoming a certified “smart person.” As a recent graduate of Chico State, I present this challenge to anyone who wishes to learn a certain subject: attend a CSU-provided lecture on given subject matter, then spend an equal amount of time googling, “wikipedia-ing,” or otherwise independently researching the subject using the technology that is available to us today.

What do you learn? Or, more important, what do you now know that you didn’t know before? Certainly, the proprietary academic value that teachers provide is no longer related to the knowledge they convey, but rather the traditional, albeit authoritarian, format that measures persistence and conformity instead of intellectual capacity.

Although this note-sharing system requires payment, it ultimately provides a bypass to traditional lecture formats and threatens the credibility of teachers convinced that they are “priming” our youth for the “real-world” workplace.

As the information age continues to break down barriers of intellectual elitism, academia is finding itself less and less relevant to the capability of our citizenry. These authoritarian and tyrannical efforts by the CSU legal personnel to stop these pesky kids from outsmarting their teachers is laughable; our progressive generation will reject these notions of academic authority that are rooted in social conservatism, and ultimately pursue the most effective ways of accommodating liberty and reversing the legacy of environmental and social obstructionism that past generations have left for us.

John Lawless
San Ramon

No time to roll over

As we progressives lick our wounds (and celebrate the election of Jerry Brown!), remember: The Republican takeover was only made possible by huge financial interests using the Republican-caused economic meltdown to promulgate fear, anger and blame at Democrats. This was not a grassroots revolution; it was a massive successful brainwashing campaign.

Democrats in Congress, the president, and the media must make that clear to the public—citing dollar amounts and the number of TV ads, billboards, robocalls, etc. the billionaire corporate fear-mongers bought to further their cynical cause. Let’s have some investigative reporting!

Their goal is not to create jobs for the unemployed or keep people from losing their homes. Their goal is to take power for their greedy interests. It is likely that poverty will continue unabated, global warming will not be restrained, and immigrants will continue to be treated like criminals, so it makes sense that this takeover will implode on itself as Americans continue to struggle under the new regime.

I am hopeful that concerns for human and life needs will eventually win the day—but we can’t roll over and hope for a better time. We must work for it.

Emily Alma

From democracy to plutocracy

U.S. Supreme Court Justices Roberts, Scalia, Alito, Thomas and Kennedy have converted our democracy into a plutocracy ruled by the rich. These justices are intelligent men and must have known what the result of their decision allowing unlimited contributions by corporations to political candidates would be.

Of course, their illogical, unprecedented decision (Citizens United v. The F.E.C.) resulted in a flood of hundreds of millions of dollars into the 2010 elections in support of those candidates favoring big-money interests, including gigantic oil and financial companies opposed to any regulation to protect the environment or the public.

Every Republican senator compounded the felony by voting against any requirement for disclosure of the source of contributions. As a result, hundreds of millions of dollars secretly flowed into Republican and Tea Party coffers, and the GOP took control of the House of Representatives.

Big money and interests inimical to the globe and the common man now rule, and the situation will undoubtedly get worse. Perhaps some senators knew not what they were doing, but the justices had to know, and it is impossible to forgive them for the destruction of our democracy.

Victor M. Corbett

Charter school ‘smeared’

Re “Another charter, another crisis” (Newslines, by Leslie Layton, Oct. 28):

As a parent in the Sherwood Montessori community, I am disappointed with this article. The author seems intent to draw out a controversy with Sherwood though none truly exists.

It is true that a handful of families expressed dissatisfaction with the classroom management style of a Sherwood teacher. The school’s director and board subsequently engaged in efforts to reconcile the situation with all parties. While the conclusion has not pleased all parties, and one family approached Chico Unified with their complaint, such circumstances are hardly unique to our school.

Why did the author delve from there into an unrelated question of school conversion and legitimacy of the Sherwood charter, a topic that was never the basis of these parents joint concern? Individuals from Chico Unified and the Sherwood board confirm the concern over private to public school conversion was thoroughly vetted and concluded before the Sherwood charter was granted, and the parents acknowledge it is not the subject of their collective complaint.

Any visitor to Sherwood Montessori can see from the engagement and enthusiasm of the children that a very special learning environment is taking root in our community. I hope the next time Sherwood comes up in a CN&R story, it doesn’t amount to an(other) effort to gain print space by smearing charter schools.

Danielle Cresswell