Letters for October 22, 2009

Light on the problem

Re “Generation Rx” (Cover story, by Shannon Rooney, Oct. 15):

As a member of the Butte County Meth Strike Force as well as a supporter of Butte County schools’ alcohol and drug prevention programs, I appreciate this article regarding this emerging issue. I have had the privilege to observe Dr. Stalcup’s work with teens. Butte County Public Health Department should be recognized for its efforts in bringing this amazing resource to our county.

This is a complex problem requiring communities, schools and agencies to work together. We are fortunate to have such partnerships addressing this issue. We look forward to obtaining local data from Butte County youth regarding this trend as we get the final results this spring from the California Healthy Kids survey that is currently under way in our schools. We’ll compare that data with statewide data that reflect an increasing trend. Our last survey results were from 2007.

Thank you again for bringing more awareness to this problem facing our youth.

Marian Gage

Editor’s note: Since our story appeared, we’ve obtained additional information about addiction treatment options. Patients can find a doctor who understands medication-assisted treatment for addiction near them by going to the nonprofit Web sites www.TreatmentMatch.org (for opioid addiction) and www.AlcoholAnswers.org/local (for alcohol addiction), or talk with other patients who utilize medication-assisted treatment as part of their overall treatment plan at www.AddicationSurvivors.org. People don’t need to suffer through repeated, painful, ineffective detoxes anymore: www.NAABT.org.

Another man’s medicine

Re “What’s in Your Medicine Cabinet?” (Sifter, Oct. 15):

You forgot about the rest of us. Here are the medicines I keep at home and travel with:

Goldenseal powder; ginger root; licorice root; hops flowers; citrus; aspirin; Tien Chi; grapefruit-seed extract; vitamin C; vitamin B.

Old saying:
“Let your food be as medicine,
let your medicine be as food.”

Gordy Ohliger

A ‘win-win’ for schools

Re “School pleas for funds” (Downstroke, Oct. 15):

Are there really any “win-wins” for the local education situation in this devastating climate of budget cutbacks? There is one: Proposition 1D, an $8.4 million rehabilitation project for Chico Country Day School. The money is half grant from the state and half low-interest loan, which will be the full responsibility of the charter school.

Chico Unified will be relieved of all maintenance and upkeep costs on the oldest and most in-need-of-repair school site in Chico. Chico Country Day will pay the full cost, and in the process beautify the southwest Chico neighborhood and the Park Avenue corridor, and stimulate the local economy with a sizeable construction project.

It’s a “win-win,” won’t cost the district a penny, and it can be a reality if the CUSD Board of Trustees gives its approval.

Paul Weber, principal
Chico Country Day School

Editor’s note: Under terms of SB 592, recently signed by the governor, the CUSD will no longer be held responsible, under any circumstances, for repaying the loan part of the Prop 1D allocation to Chico Country Day School. In any event, Mr. Weber tells the CN&R, CCDS is more than capable of repaying the loan itself.

The entire community should be behind the Prop 1D funds, as they will bring $8.4 million into the community through contractors, suppliers, labor and other miscellaneous expenses. I am shocked that there isn’t more of an uproar from the citizens for this to be finalized so CCDS can move forward. It’s a win-win …

Brian Teal

Another view of charters

The charter-school option is a parasite on the public-schools system. Though the people involved may be sincere and hard working, they have signed on to a process that was designed to drain the sustenance from our public schools to the advantage of a few.

The public schools are the great idea inspired by democracy that all children should have the opportunity for an education. What benefits do the charter schools provide toward this goal? Charter schools are not required to have diverse, special-needs or poor children.

I have no argument with a private school acting this way, but the goal of public education is not served by exclusivity. Currently the public schools are in crisis, with increasing class sizes and losing quality teachers and staff. Why would the local school board consider cosigning an uncollateralized loan only to advance the cause of an option designed to destroy the dream of universal education?

John Lavezzi

Editor’s note: As mentioned above, the district is no longer required to cosign on the loan.

Overall, wood is better

Re “Burning desire” (Guest Comment, by Emily Brennan, Oct. 15):

There are no “non-polluting” stoves, as your guest commentator suggests. Almost all space heating results in the production of the most devastating pollutant in human history: carbon dioxide.

While wood burning certainly releases carbon dioxide, wood growing collects an equivalent quantity of carbon through photosynthesis and, hence, wood is a carbon-neutral fuel. By switching on the natural gas (as most will do, if they cease heating with wood), we relieve ourselves of a small fraction of our local and transitory (particulate) pollution load, while contributing to a long-term global climate crisis caused primarily by the burning of fossil fuels, such as “clean” natural gas.

No doubt, medical costs and human suffering are associated with pollution. Nevertheless, the ultimate health issue of our time is the survival of the life-supporting systems of the planet—systems upon which all health ultimately depends. When the catastrophic health impacts of global climate disruption are considered, they dwarf local health concerns associated with wood stoves.

I continue to include responsible wood heating in the same category with localizing food production, minimizing auto use, reducing or eliminating recreational travel, building smaller/greener structures and many other sound environmental practices.

Patrick Newman

Wood smoke is dangerous

Re “Why I voted no on wood-smoke ban” (Guest Comment, by Angela Thompson, Oct. 8):

What does Chico’s failure to meet federal air-pollution standards every winter actually mean? According to public comments made to the Air Quality Management District’s board by more than 20 Chico medical professionals, high levels of particulate pollution are known to cause and aggravate cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, strokes, cancer, respiratory infections, asthma attacks, and other lung problems including abnormal lung development in children.

According to one study referenced by air-district staff, wood smoke was found to be 12 times more carcinogenic than an equal quantity of cigarette smoke.

In her guest comment in last week’s CNR, Biggs Councilwoman [and AQMD Governor] Angela Thompson dismissed these public-health concerns, including the testimony of Butte County’s medical director, as “opinion devoid of facts.” Ms. Thompson is of the opinion that more public education is needed on the wood-smoke issue. Seeing as she’s on a board mandated to protect the public health in Butte County from the impacts of air pollution, perhaps this educational program should start with her.

Luke Anderson

The air quality in Chico should be of ongoing concern to all of us who live here, and especially those of us concerned for our children’s health. Butte County AQMD board member Angela Thompson’s remarks against restrictions on household wood burning on the most polluted days downplay the health hazards posed by wood smoke. Such hazards, counter to Ms. Thompson’s argument, are scientifically accepted facts.

Of course we should be concerned when governments impose limits on the personal freedom of citizens, but more important is a government’s responsibility to make sure that a few people’s freedoms do not infringe on everyone else’s health.

My daughter has suffered from asthma for many years, and the negative effects of wood smoke on her breathing are obvious. The air board is mandated to protect public health and should be urged to enforce whatever regulations are necessary to improve our abysmal air quality.

Dr. Sarah M. Pike

‘That’s it’ for Greg

I appreciate those of you readers who wrote a letter to the judge. Court records show that at least five of you were mentioned by name. Sadly, Judge [Kristen] Lucena denied Gregory Wright’s petition for a new hearing. Practically speaking, that’s it for the young man.

The judge’s remarks were extremely critical: “The vague, unsupported and conclusory allegations contained in the petition are insufficient to allow intelligent consideration.” The local ruling will be challenged at the appellate level, but it would take very motivated appellate judges to overrule such a strongly worded negative opinion.

There is a biblical admonition, “for he beareth not the sword in vain.” I interpret this to mean earthly magistrates are there for a purpose and have a function that is to be respected. I tried to be mindful of this in several communications. There is also this: “For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.” Shakespeare also spoke of tempering justice with mercy. On balance, I don’t envy their responsibility.

Jim Adams

Editor’s note: Gregory Wright is the young man sentenced to 22 years in state prison for taking a gun to Las Plumas High School and engaging in a standoff before surrendering. Mr. Adams believes the sentence was disproportionate and has been trying to get it reduced or a new trial for Wright.

Meeting place for moms

Re “Mommy and me” (15 Minutes, by Serena Cervantes, Oct. 8):

Thank you for doing an article on this wonderful woman [Valerie Patton] and her commitment to the community. Stroller Strides is a fantastic way for mothers to raise their self-esteem through networking and fitness.

I’ve recently started the class and find it to be such a great way to start my day with fresh air and friendly faces. Valerie understands that being pregnant or having recently had a child can create physical challenges for the women in her class. She is very patient and offers alternate ways to work out so that everyone can take advantage of the routine. The kids love it, too!

I highly recommend this to any new mother who is looking for a way to get back in shape, as well as meet other wonderful mothers with the same goal in mind.

Sarah Lowe

More on wood burning

Enloe Hospital’s respiratory staff is overworked most of the year, and during the smoke season the situation becomes even worse. Too many people come into the emergency room unable to breathe and must wait for hours, gasping for air, only to be treated and released back into the toxic cloud that covers the town.

It is the specifically stated duty of the BCAQMD board members to protect the air quality here, and by grossly failing in that duty, people are liable for suit. I encourage anyone who feels their health is compromised by the smoke to file a nuisance suit against these individuals for $5,000. It is our responsibility to make our chosen leaders take the higher path.

Marne Bass

In her self-serving defense of her vote against the proposed wood-smoke ban, Butte County Air Quality Management District Governor Angela Thompson is blowing smoke. If she wants to claim she’s against limiting freedom, then let her demonstrate how limiting the ability of residents to breathe advances the cause of individual freedom. And tradition per se is not a valid defense of anything. Segregation too was a grand old American tradition.

I’m weary of this flimsy rant against governmental intrusion from those who hold positions at all levels of government, federal to state to county, on every major issue of public significance. Aren’t they the government they rail against? Or is it just “intrusion” when government acts in the public interest?

In the face of statistics from health agencies and workers around the world regarding the hazards of particulate matter in the air, can Ms. Thompson offer equivalent evidence that particulates in the air do not cause respiratory illness and death?

One of her points I can agree with: Further education on air-quality issues is essential in our communities across the country. Why doesn’t Ms. Thompson begin with herself, and get the facts so that she can both vote with them in mind, and share them with her constituents?

Carole Oles

One of the main problems with wood smoke is that it contains many very small particles, usually measured as PM2.5, particles measuring 2.5 microns in diameter or smaller. These tiny particles are too small to be trapped effectively by the mucus membranes in the upper airways, so they penetrate deep into the lungs. The smaller particulates, and the toxins they carry, can even pass through lung cells directly into the bloodstream.

Aside from the mechanisms of airborne particle transport in human airways, do we know that exposure to wood smoke makes people sick? We do. There are mountains of studies linking exposure to the fine particulates found in wood smoke to health problems. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency summarizes the public-health reasons for monitoring particulates on its Web site:

“Health studies have shown a significant association between exposure to fine particles and premature mortality. Other important effects include aggravation of respiratory and cardiovascular disease … lung disease, decreased lung function, asthma attacks, and certain cardiovascular problems such as heart attacks and cardiac arrhythmia. Individuals particularly sensitive to fine particle exposure include older adults, people with heart and lung disease, and children.”

That someone who dismisses science should sit on the Board of Governors of the Butte County Air Quality Management District is pathetic and dangerous.

Roger B. Trent

I was astounded to read Ms. Angela Thompson’s opinion piece in the CN&R. Ms. Thompson serves as a member of the governing board of the Butte County Air Quality Management District, yet she had the temerity to write: “As a council member of the city of Biggs, I could not in good conscience vote to limit the freedom of those who live in Chico.” She was referring, of course, to her vote against the proposed wood-burning ban for the Chico area.

How can this be? Ms. Thompson is a representative who was supposed to be working on behalf of the entire Air Quality Management District. It seems to me that her position is an abdication of power or, at very least, a renunciation of the job she was appointed to do. Is she implying that she should vote only on items that affect Biggs (and perhaps East Biggs)?

I doubt whether she remembers the days when people were allowed to smoke in restaurants and bars. Just watch the popular TV series Mad Men sometime; it will remind you how a mere 40 years ago pregnant women would jeopardize the life of an unborn by constantly sticking cigarettes in their mouths. It seems crazy today.

Everyone, not just Ms. Thompson, enjoys a beautiful open fireplace, but I’m convinced that until a better way is found, we will think of those fireplaces in much the same way as we look at pregnant women of the ’60s puffing away.

Peter Straus

Now, more on Walmart

Re “Council wants retailer to ‘step up’ “(Newslines, by Robert Speer, Oct. 1):

When I was a young mother with three children under the age of 9, my husband decided there was more to life than a wife and three kids. He moved out, and I was left to support my children alone. I shopped Walmart many times and was most grateful for the low prices. I could not have shopped at Costco because I could not have afforded the membership card, let alone the prices I would have paid for shopping once monthly rather than weekly.

I am curious why there did not appear to be any negative feedback from the City Council when Costco requested their expansion. Why were they not requested to fund a project for Chico?

I have to admit, I do not shop Walmart now because I do not have to. I can afford Costco’s membership card. I don’t live payday to payday any longer. However, the more I hear and read regarding Walmart’s expansion, the more I realize it really still is about the haves and the have-nots. That is most unfortunate.

Loretta Martin

Are you worried our council may be blackmailing the poor billionaire Walmart owners by suggesting they help Chico solve our severe air pollution problems—use solar, construct roads for their increased traffic, reduce global-warming impact and help cut air particulates by removing a few wood-burning stoves?

Walmart owners are doing us a favor, right? Wrong! Walmart executives are sophisticated retailers and use loss leaders, powerful advertising and underpaid employees to launch the store. They need us but cannot help Chico. Why? Available money in Chico is capped. You can only spend what you have, and what you have is fixed, with this economy still falling.

Here in Chico, shops share what there is. If Walmart takes a larger share with its one-stop-shopping superstore, every other retailer gets less. Many will go broke, losing jobs, reducing choice.

Walmart shoppers need to see what is happening. Shopping there is helping to destroy Chico, its tax base and jobs. Don’t fall for this monster’s sales pitch that they’re better for you than, say, Winco or Costco. They are not—check it out.

Alan Gair