Letters for April 29, 2004

Heads in the clouds— of pollution

Re “The Dirty Dozen” by Cosmo Garvin and Melinda Welsh (SN&R Cover, April 22):

What really appalls me, aside from the fact that these companies are polluting in the first place, is the fact that people think it doesn’t affect them.

The people who own and operate these companies that dispense toxins into the air and water seem to forget that we are all on the same planet. We all breathe the same air and drink the same water. When these companies pollute, they are not only doing harm to the millions of people that have to deal with the after-effects of the pollutants, but they are also doing harm to themselves.

When they walk out of the door at the end of a day of releasing carcinogens, methanol, or [chlorofluorocarbons], do these people put on a gas mask before they step outside? No, they probably think they are breathing “fresh air,” because they do not realize that the air they pollute is the same air they breathe.

It’s the same in Sacramento on bad-air days during the hot summer. They advise people to drive less because the combination of heat and emissions from vehicles makes the air quality extremely poor. On these days, you see people driving their cars with their air conditioner on and the windows rolled up. They aren’t breathing the air they are helping to pollute. Meanwhile, the people who choose to walk or ride bikes are the ones left breathing that bad air.

People need to pull their heads out of the clouds and realize that everything we do in this world has an impact on our own lives, and on others. They wonder why so many of us are dying from cancer and other diseases. Face up to reality.

If you care about yourself, your family and your friends, then you need to care about the planet. It’s the only place we have to live, and it should be the best and the healthiest that we can make it.

Jennifer Stevens

Both sides now

Re “Correctional action plan” by Jill Stewart (SN&R Capitol punishment, April 15):

In 40 years in labor relations, I’ve gone from shop steward to union president. Governor Jerry Brown appointed me to be the first head of the Department of Personnel Administration (DPA), and later to the Public Employment Relations Board. Then I was chair of the Center for Labor Research and Education at the University of California, Berkeley. I came out of retirement when Governor Davis asked me to again direct DPA.

Now, columnist Jill Stewart calls me a “do-nothing bureaucrat” who replaced a “crack negotiator” with “someone far less aware” during contract negotiations with the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA).

Such is life; you accept a gubernatorial appointment, you’re fair game for criticism. Still, it would have been only fair if Stewart had talked with me, or to at least some people who actually worked with me, or DPA, on this matter. Before attacking, she might have at least tried to see if there wasn’t another view of the events she describes.

Richard Steffen, a respected legislative aide and corrections expert, is quoted. But Richard is not in labor relations and, like anyone else, has his own ax to grind. He hardly represents another view.

As to the “crack negotiator” (who is indeed highly competent) that Stewart claims I replaced because of union complaints, he actually asked for a new assignment. It was his professional judgment that conflicts between him and CCPOA’s negotiator had become too personal and were interfering with progress at the bargaining table, hardly a unique occurrence in this business. His request was granted, and he was replaced by an equally competent negotiator, one of the best and most experienced in the state. Both of these individuals are hard working, highly competent and absolutely honest in serving the public. In any case, the final decisions were made by me, not the negotiators. An honest, competent reporter could have at least tried to talk to me before “reporting.”

There is more misinformation in the article than I have the inclination or space to bitch about. However, in an earlier piece, Stewart alleged that the state has an overabundance of overpaid workers [“First cut’s the deepest,” SN&R Capitol punishment, April 1]. They must have snuck aboard while I was doing nothing. In fact, California’s number of employees per capita is one of the lowest in the nation, and they are generally paid considerably less than local government employees here. Indeed, the Corrections Department salary increases could be considerable only because they eventually match the average salaries paid by some of our state’s larger local police and sheriff’s departments.

Marty Morgenstern

Stewart’s not Republican—just right

Re “Jill Limbaugh” (SN&R Letters, April 15):

I get such a kick from the lefties who complain about Stewart’s columns. They can’t stand it when she exposes outrageous overspending by our Legislature. They seethe when she describes the legislative pandering to corrupt special interests, like the prison guards’ union, that goes on in Sacramento. The Stewart-haters even go so far as to demand that her column be removed from the pages of SN&R.

It would be one thing if Stewart was a right-wing Republican, but she’s not. She’s a centrist Democrat and an outstanding investigative journalist. Now, where does that put her critics?

Most Californians believe in fiscal discipline and low taxes but are also pro-choice and moderate on social issues. Apparently, this makes the lefties go bonkers. I hope they keep writing in. It’s almost funny.

Gregg Wardrip

Who’s hidden truth?

Re “History lessens” by Bill Forman (SN&R News, April 15):

Why do all those “survivors” always say that when they are no longer here to talk about it, the “Holocaust” will be forgotten? We can tell what a site was used for even after several thousand years, which means that it would be very easy to prove that gas chambers were used to kill people, even once the “survivors” are all dead.

But there is a problem. For the slightest crime—for instance, a crime made with a simple kitchen knife—you usually ask for an expert’s report of the weapon. Whereas no expert’s report was ever made of the gas chambers in Auschwitz, except by revisionists, who found out that those killing gas chambers were an impossibility.

Why don’t you ask in your paper for an international assessment of the site of Auschwitz, instead of always criticizing what revisionists are saying? What if they are right? Do you believe the truth should be told or hidden?

Y. Schleiter
via e-mail

Insulting the Holocaust

Re “History lessens” by Bill Forman (SN&R News, April 15):

Once again, Walter Mueller and his little band of Holocaust deniers are stamping their feet, insisting that the ovens at Dachau, Buchenwald, Auschwitz and the other death camps were not built until after the war, when history has shown, time and again, that they were built during World War II.

I would strongly suggest that Mueller talk to people who were actually in the death camps, those with the tattoos on their arms or skulls. Have him ask them, personally, when the ovens were built and how big they were. Or, is he so sure of his version of history that he actually believes that they were (a) not built until after the war and (b) that they were too small to hold bodies?

He does those who died in the camps, and the survivors, a great injustice by spouting this nonsense. He says that Schwarzenegger “insulted his dad” when asked last year about his father’s role in World War II.

One would think that denying the true fact that the Holocaust did indeed happen is the greater insult.

Alex Brown

Enduring invasion of racism

Re “Home invasion” (SN&R Guest comment, April 15):

My heart went out to Beatrice Hogg, the writer of this article. I feel so bad that she had to experience such a hateful event. I completely agree with the fact that, for many people, it does not matter whether or not an African-American has all the education and credentials in the world. The first thought that will come across their minds is that this is a black person. It is awful to know that so many people have not changed their viewpoints on such a topic.

I congratulate Ms. Hogg for being the strong woman she is and hope she continues this, despite what awful actions take place around her. As a college student myself, I am ashamed to know that others are so close-minded. Hopefully, this article will open up some minds.

Stephanie Jensen
via e-mail