Letters for April 7, 2011

Letter of the week

Methyl iodide action agenda

Re “Strawberry jam” by Sara Rubin and David Schmalz (SN&R Frontlines, March 24):

Thank you for publishing this piece. While the authors’ summation of the dangers of methyl iodide was well-written, I’d like to bring a couple opportunities for action to your readers’ attention.

The [Environmental Protection Agency] approved methyl iodide nationally in 2007. It is not only toxic and carcinogenic, but it interferes with thyroid function. They claim methyl iodide is not an ozone depleter, like the methyl bromide it is replacing per the Montreal Protocol, but that doesn’t offset the other problems. I did see a source claiming it was an ozone depleter, but can’t verify that right at this moment.

Here’s what’s most important:

First, the chemical’s use in California was signed into law by [former Gov. Arnold] Schwarzenegger in his final days, meaning Gov. [Jerry] Brown can reverse it if he acts in time. Jerry Brown has apparently decided to review the matter, and could use all the encouragement the public can muster.

Second, the EPA has opened a public comment period until late April, and they should also hear as many objecting voices as the public can muster.

Bruce Duncan

His spiritual moment

Re “God and jokes” by Todd Walton (SN&R Feature, March 31):

No doubt Goody is still proud of you, Todd, and waiting for you to join the show.

I, too, neither expect anyone else to believe this nor need that validation.

I am a Unitarian, and though I believe in a Higher Power and a Creative Force, it is not necessarily synonymous with “God,” and I didn’t believe in personal experience with this Power. One night a few months back, after a long period of tossing and turning, I was awoken one night by the shaking of my bed. Home alone, I, too, thought “earthquake,” but the night light in my bath (visible from the bed), with a filament that wavers when bumped, never flickered. A voice I did not “hear” but nonetheless understood began speaking inside of me, and the awareness came that I was in the presence of something of much greater power than myself; that it was not the bed shaking but my body; and that this must be the feeling one might get as a chaser in the presence of a tornado, or standing on the edge of the precipice at Niagara. The voice began to reassure and still me, calming my fears and speaking of Its understanding and acceptance not of my failures, my strikeouts, which didn’t count, but of my willingness over and over again to step up to the plate and swing at life’s curves, sliders and change-ups. It’s just a game, and it’s not about winning but playing.

I will stop shy of revealing what was further said to me, but I soon drifted off into a comfortable dreamless sleep and am grateful for that experience and the no longer still, not so small Voice.

Back to the story: I loved the slow revelations by which Todd revealed some shocking details from his life, and that the jokes were gentle. Before this story, I had never heard of Todd, but I look forward to discovering more of his writings.

Robert Ludgate
Citrus Heights

SN&R’s good (accidental) planning

Re “God and jokes” by Todd Walton (SN&R Feature, March 31) and “True funny things” by Kel Munger (SN&R Stage, March 31):

This was funny, touching, sentimental article, and the drawings complimented the story. I particularly appreciate the gentle way Todd Walton linked joke-telling with having a difficult family history and finding his spiritual path.

It’s funny, but it’s also sad. The humor makes it easier to deal with the sadness.

That’s why I was pleasantly surprised to see the article about Katie Rubin’s recovery comedy show further on in the magazine. The two pieces together make a very important point about how people need to laugh about the “big” things in order to make life worth living.

I don’t know if you planned that, but it worked.

Jan Kline

Taxpayer’s challenge

Re “Contract killing” by Cosmo Garvin (SN&R Frontlines March 31):

Thank you for the great article about contracts and consultants with [the Sacramento City Unified School District]. As a taxpayer, I am hoping you follow up with this article to tell your readers what finally was cut and how money was saved. We face difficult times. We all need to tighten our belts, even this large school district.

Nancy Cornelius
via email

Riskier than we realize

Re “River of risk” by Cosmo Garvin (SN&R Bites, March 31):

This column brings to mind several suggestions for SN&R follow-up articles or special reports.

For instance, the recent experience with the Japanese tsunami showed very clearly that the elderly and homebound were the least likely to escape to safety in time. The experience with [Hurricane] Katrina in New Orleans showed the same—for whole neighborhoods, hospitals and nursing homes.

The depth and evacuation maps at the [Sacramento County Municipal Services Agency] website for Natomas (www.msa.saccounty.net/waterresources/stormready and search maps) are woefully outdated and lacking in meaningful data for specific rescue or evacuation sites related to vulnerable populations. Scenarios involving a levee break on the southern levees of Natomas show that escape times could be as little as 30 to 90 minutes—or less—before water got too deep. In all cases, within six to 12 hours, the majority would be flooded.

Another map [from the same source] shows in green all areas that would be 15-25 [feet] deep—too deep to even survive in an attic of any one-story structure. It also shows in blue that the road surface of several of the evacuation routes would eventually be at least 25 feet underwater.

Could the Eskaton facility, for example, evacuate or safeguard their residents in two hours or less? Does Sacramento have a Reverse 911 system in place to notify everyone if a levee breaks at 11 p.m. some rainy night? Wouldn’t it be helpful to know in advance the name/address of everybody in Natomas receiving Social Security or Medicare, or otherwise a possible candidate for special evacuation consideration? Should there at least be some realistic evacuation drills or exercises every now and then? People caught in the arena could at least “go up,” as a last resort.

Could a whole series of at least 30-foot-high “flood escape towers of last resort” be located at strategic distances apart in the most at-risk neighborhoods, or near all schools or other key locations?

Name withheld by request

Watch the law with those Best Buds

Re “Better than HBO” by Tokie Bowles (SN&R Best Buds, March 31):

I hate to be “that guy,” but people should know that butane hash oil is against California law and not included in the Compassionate Use Act (Proposition 215).

The California Supreme Court ruled on this in 2008, and subsequently the following was put into law: Section 11379.6(a) states: “Except as otherwise provided by law, every person who compounds, converts, produces, derives, processes, or prepares, either directly or indirectly by chemical extraction or independently by means of chemical synthesis, any controlled substance shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for three, five, or seven years and by a fine up to $50,000.”

Suggesting patients use this product is putting them at risk for legal problems, and they should be aware of this.

Ron Mullins

Public health needs engineering

Re “Capture the drizzle” by Lovelle Harris (SN&R Green Days, March 24):

The problem with the legislation as currently written is that it allows landscape contractors and building contractors (class B license) and general engineering contractors (class A license) and some class C contractor license holders to design these rainwater-capture systems.

As a professional engineer, this is fine if someone wants to capture water coming off the roof and use it outside. But nothing is precluding using this for toilet flushing and other approved uses. Now we have a cross-connection possibility between the public water system and the rainwater system, which is a health concern. It is imperative that a licensed civil engineer design these systems due to the public health and welfare concerns.

The American Society of Civil Engineers is working with the bill’s author to see if the appropriate amendments can be made. The drinking-water industry is also very concerned. The bill is well-intentioned, but there can be unintended consequences if not carefully crafted.

Joseph Reichenberger
Monterey Park

Too many paid too much?

Re “Budget karma” by Cosmo Garvin (SN&R Frontlines, March 3):

Do you notice the common thread of our governors here? For the last almost 50 years, they all have sought tax increases which are beyond the normal increases already received due to inflation, tax indexing, population growth, etc. And a rather similar tax-increase situation occurs at the local and federal levels as well.

When will this constant increasing of tax rates—more than the normal increases of income—by every government agency stop? In any tax-increase election, virtually all the recipients of the increases are going to vote for the increase, and they now represent a large percentage of the voters. That leaves those private sector taxpayers who are actually doing the paying of the increases with the undue burden to make their position prevail if they oppose the increases. What incentive is there for those who actually are the core payers of the tax increases to support having votes for them? The odds are definitely against them.

For decades we’ve been able to have our parks operate, our roads built and operated, and our libraries open. Today, with the highest percent of taxes ever, we struggle to do the basics.

There are two basic problems: One is way too much bureaucracy, and the other is way too generous government wages which now far exceed private industry in similar jobs. Most other problems we have pale in comparison to these two key issues in trying to solve our government financial problems. Eliminating the state’s purchase of kewpie dolls, while symbolically good, will never get to the roots of the problem. There is very little desire to solve the real problems we have because the indirect redistribution of wealth is our forgone socialistic direction even at the middle-class level.

It’s time we bite the tax-increase bullet and truly solve our taxing problems by reducing our government expenses, rather than constantly trying to solve the problems with another unending tax increase.

Jim Chakedis