Letters for December 25, 2008

Free food?
Two hundred men, women and sombre children form a ragged food line under the frozen gray sky. Those who stand shivering and miserable at the front of this line arrived at 6:30 a.m. to be certain of receiving some food at the 10 a.m. distribution. Those who joined the food line after 8 a.m. will be turned away, as supplies, purchased by this church from Northern Nevada Food Bank, run out.

About distribution time, a cameraman appears and, seeing the equipment he carries, someone asks, “What are you doing?” He replies “Making a promotional film.” Those within earshot ask him not to film them because of shame and stigmas ascribed to their poverty. One says potential employers consider him unfit to work or offer sub-standard wages when aware of his desperate state. Another says her teenage daughter will be shunned at school if her mother is recognized in the film. Another suggests asking people in line permission to film. Hearing this, the cameraman exclaims, “It’s a promotional film … no one’s going to see it!” Someone quips, “Then why make it?” The cameraman musters a contemptuous glower at the food line and, addressing no one in particular, says “Well, if you don’t want to help …”

Within minutes, he’s filming people farther down the line and while a few enjoy the attention, most rapidly hide their or their children’s faces by turning toward the stuccoed wall of the church now distributing food.

Inside the food distribution room private and personal information is collected before two paper bags containing food will be given. When asked why the information is collected, the kind folk at this church say Northern Nevada Food Bank requires they record ethno-racial descriptions along with other personally identifying data about the poor who receive food. They tell me their church must share this data with the food bank to remain eligible to make purchases from it. The gal maintaining a drawer full of files containing the collected information tells me it was her idea to have the poor hand over their identification documents—to facilitate correct spelling of names. She offers this information as the man sitting next to her transcribes federal Social Security and state identification numbers to a file card and asks, “What ethnicity are you?” Someone responds “Irish,” the man at the desk says, “You look white to me” and writes that down. I’m hoping someone will answer “American.”

A third volunteer parishioner arrives behind the two collecting information. Her arms are laden with samples of choice donated foodstuffs. She asks, “We get to keep all these, right?” and the gal who showed concern over correct spelling of names of the poor turns to whisper furtively, “YES, don’t bring those out here where they can see!”

If you became desperately poor—enough to wait outdoors in a food line for three and a half hours in your meager clothes, on frozen concrete, to gratefully accept 15 retail dollars or so worth of random foodstuffs (many outdated, mostly of the poorest nutrition, and often spoiled) would you disclose your credit data and race affiliation to an unknown series of corrupt, inaccessible strangers as payment? I think you would. I think you’d feel obliged and want to help.

Name withheld

Criminal coddling
Re “Thanks but no thanks” (Letters to the editor, Dec. 4):

I simply would like to say, if the Reno Police Department were a business, they would have no customers and would be out of business and bankrupt! The system seems to be set up for the criminal rather than the victim. I’m tired of not getting anywhere with my case.

Dawn Overbay

Remove lesser used routes
Re “Bus service to shut down” (Upfront, Dec. 18):

You mentioned that the two lines being considered for elimination (Sierra Spirit and the intercity line) were “popular” and “heavily used.” I will assume that is true. Why, then, would they be considered for the chopping block instead of the many, many routes I see that are serviced by empty buses? I can understand eliminating a free service, popular as it may be, or better yet, charging a small fee for it to continue, but the Reno-Carson connector seems to be a valuable asset. Seems the criteria for downsizing should be ridership, and the little-used routes should be cut first. And if the public refused to vote to pay for the service, perhaps the people who use it could be asked to pony up a little, rather than let it die.

Also, with regard to the news story, “Don’t call it deceptive,” you forgot my favorite name change: Sierra Pacific becoming the unpronounceable NVEnergy.

Michael Morgan

Dangerous reporting
Re “Back to basics” (Feature story, Dec. 18):

Lighten up? This is people’s lives we’re talking about. Do you know how much effort ski patrol puts into the resorts on a daily basis to keep people safe? They’re out there before it’s even light to do avy control so that people don’t get killed inbounds. There hasn’t been an inbounds avy death in decades … until just this last week at Snowbird. People simply don’t appreciate the danger because patrollers generally mitigate it. The article is irresponsible because there are more than two basic pieces of gear necessary. It’s more like five. A beacon, shovel and probe (and the knowledge of how to use them) are absolutely mandatory pieces of gear. And as Avy Savy mentioned, avalanche awareness is paramount. I am by no means an experienced backcountry traveler, but I’ve been introduced to it the right way: with a healthy amount of fear and a deep respect for the power that the mountains hold. The print version of this article is even worse. The entire first page is dedicated merely to how fun and cheap this is, but avy awareness is relegated to a brief mention on page two. It should be the first thing mentioned. Skiing in the backcountry is an amazing experience. By no means should it be exclusive or anything stupid like that. But it needs to be approached in a careful and responsible manner.

Simply telling people that all they really need are skins and Trekkers/AT/tele bindings is dangerous at best. You have to remember that there are other people out there also. So it’s not just about getting yourself in a slide, but getting others trapped also. Legendary snowboarder Craig Kelly was killed by another group traveling above him. If you’re going to explore the backcountry, do so with friends who have some experience, learn as much as you can about avalanches, and have a healthy respect for the mountains.

Some basic links that should have been included in this article: Daily local avalanche report: http://www.sierraavalanchecenter.org/advisory.php Link to avalanche reports across the country: http://www.avalanche.org/ Great avalanche course (I am not affiliated with them at all other than the fact I’ve taken their Avy I class): http://www.alpineskills.com/cat_avalanche.html A great book on the subject is Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain by Bruce Tremper. Please educate yourself and then go have some fun out there.

Michael Artukovich