Letters for January 23, 2003

For whom the road tolls

Re “Eye in the Sky” by Jeff Kearns ( SN&R Cover, January 9 ):

Your article gave a great picture of what you labeled as “the increasing traffic crisis in Sacramento.”

Of course, as you indicate, the crisis will only get much worse as the region continues to sprawl outward. Since developers and land speculators donate huge sums to local politicians to buy approval of more sprawl, it will continue for many years.

At the same time, most experts agree that you can’t build your way out of traffic congestion—even if money is available, which it isn’t now, with the budget crunch. For instance, San Diego has political clout with its military and defense installations to build more freeways, bridges and clover leafs than Sacramento politicians could dream of. Yet, their traffic congestion is much worse than ours.

However, there is a strategy, piloted in Holland, that offers substantial help. They electronically converted their major roadways in and out of town into toll roads. Roadways were wired, and all vehicles were issued transponders. The system’s computers record the amount and time of use. People are billed at modest rates for off-peak use and a higher rate for peak use. This gives drivers motivation to modify their habits—to seek alternatives, carpool, use public transit, bicycle, telecommute, etc. It worked.

When you think about it, this idea is good old American-style capitalism; it uses demand and supply to allocate use of scarce resources. Free use of scarce public roadway space is really a socialistic idea.

However, there is some resistance to this idea here; some people seem to prefer a socialized system for highway use. But, at some point, hopefully short of complete gridlock, we’ll become more willing to change. In the meantime, people should be made aware that there is a more effective way to help deal with traffic congestion. The sooner the idea is made part of public discussion, the sooner it can be seriously considered for implementation here. Considering how fast traffic congestion is growing, the sooner, the better.

Merick Chaffee

Fan of pop confection

Re “O+ Brings Hella Smiles to the Garage” by Christian Kiefer ( SN&R Clubber, January 9 ):

Even the most banal and ignorant music reviewer would not resort to claiming any one song by any band sounds the same as the next, unless he wants to be considered a clueless schmuck not worth his salt in evaluating live or recorded music. Yet Christian Kiefer did so with aplomb when he insisted about Electro Group that “if you’ve heard one song, you’ve heard the whole set.”

It has become increasingly obvious over the course of reading Mr. Kiefer’s articles that his opinion isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on (and last time I checked, the SN&R was a free publication). Maybe Mr. Kiefer should stick to kissing the ass of the True Love Coffeehouse set, not only to maintain the recommended fiber intake of boring American idolized pap, but also to ensure that he will never again be disappointed by bands like Electro Group.

It is really a shame to see that Mr. Kiefer gets paid to bash bands in this town that do not feel the need to make labored, “wacky,” acoustic punk-jock for the light-beer thug contingency. Even sadder still is it to read this reviewer’s potshots at indie bands outside of the big-fish-small-pond arena.

Electro Group produces uncompromising walls of beautifully distorted pop confection that have earned the band accolades and praise in indie and mainstream magazines (and far better alternative weeklies, I should add) the world over. Referring to this band’s vocals as “emo-core” is simply an insult. Had Mr. Kiefer actually listened to Electro Group live or even on any of its records, he would know this not to be the case. Apparently, he has done neither.

Why anyone who actually listens to independent music in this town should continue taking Christian Kiefer’s opinion seriously (if anyone ever did in the first place) is beyond me. I suppose that the old adage is still relevant today: “Those that can, do. Those that can’t, review.”

Clark Nova

Christian Kiefer responds:

My column is a review of live music. It is meant to be critical, even of bands and artists that I enjoy. I understand that you don’t appreciate this aspect of what I do, but that’s the short of it.

Home invasion

Re “Piano Man” by Chrisanne Beckner ( SN&R Cover, January 2 ):

Maybe this was Ms. Beckner’s first experience with retirement homes and assisted-living facilities; I surely hope it’s her last article regarding them.

Though the story itself is well worth being written, she took a very novel yet disingenuous approach to writing it.

Since when is it acceptable to be invited into someone’s home (don’t be mistaken here, these are the residents’ homes) and “publicly” write satirical comments regarding their actions and physical presence? There are incidents that happen daily in these homes, and if you did not know the individual yourself, you might say, “What’s the problem?” The problem is that this article was written without regard to the individuals named and their privacy. Regardless of the intent, feelings have been hurt and confidences betrayed.

Ms. Beckner did not take into consideration some of the wording of her article; otherwise, she would have used a little discretion and class.

Apparently, I was mistaken in thinking this was going to be a “feel-good” article regarding the “Piano Man’s” contribution to these people’s lives. I’m still trying to figure out if she was trying to compliment or ridicule him.

Margret Terra

No chuckling over biosafety

Re “Is It Safe?” by Jeff Kearns ( SN&R News, January 2 ):

Though the January 2 story on the proposed biosafety laboratory on the whole quoted me accurately, I dispute the reporter’s assertion that I “chuckled when asked about safety concerns.” Such a characterization suggests I treat issues of safety lightly. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, in order to see firsthand how issues of safety and security are handled at a similar facility in Canada, I am leading a fact-finding delegation of UC Davis, city of Davis and Yolo County representatives to Winnipeg this week.

The campus and I clearly are committed to ensuring the highest safety standards and to addressing accurately and respectfully any concerns that the proposed public-health-related research laboratory may raise. I look forward to a continued dialogue with my fellow Davis residents and with the broader regional community.

Virginia S. Hinshaw
provost and executive vice chancellor

University of California at Davis

Surrounded by pyramids

Re “Inside the Pyramid” by Heidi Kriz ( SN&R Cover, December 19 ):

Heidi Kriz’s naiveté was a chuckle fest. “Pyramid scheme activity … which is illegal in California”—what a laugh! If pyramid schemes were illegal in California, there wouldn’t be any Internet access, there wouldn’t be a lottery, there wouldn’t be any multi-level marketing companies, there wouldn’t be corporate control of everything from soup to nuts, and there wouldn’t be any office of the district attorney with all of its henchmen wiping their asses with the Constitution.

Pyramid schemes are only illegal when the politicos aren’t controlling them and getting the lion’s share of the profits at the top of the heap. They should stop calling this the USA and call it what it really is: the USED—Union of Social Emperors and Dictators.

Mike Jackson