Letters for July 26, 2001

Petitioning for props

Re “Robert Downey Jr. and Drug Legalization” by Wayne Roques (SN&R Guest Comment, July 12):

Mr. Roques made so many points that wanted refutation that I barely knew where to begin. First of all, Mr. Roques spoke about the costly campaigns that Mr. Soros et al financed. The $20 million spent is really not much money considering that a single California initiative costs several million dollars to run and Mr. Soros has passed two in California and many in other states. It struck me as funny that Mr. Roques complained about out-of-state petitioners. I worked on the campaigns for both props. 215 and 36, and was among the many Californian petitioners taken to other states to work on initiatives.

Mr. Roques asserts that the petitions were “packaged,” and that petitioners targeted college students and the elderly. Neither Prop. 215 nor Prop. 36 contained extra effects aside from those clearly summarized by the secretary of state on each petition. As to targeting, no initiative would ever qualify with support from just two small portions of the public. We campaigned for these in the way every Californian is familiar with: by standing in front of grocery stores. Ultimately, who worked on our campaigns and how much we were paid is extraneous because the 61 percent majority that passed Prop. 215 wasn’t paid a dime.

It is difficult to refute the long list of ills that Mr. Roques attributes to marijuana since he sites no sources, and very little research has been done due to federal Schedule 1 classification. I can say this for sure, however: marijuana has never broken up any families. The only thing that can break up families is the behavior of family members.

If, as Mr. Roques believes, the one who controls the media controls the public mind, then it is the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Partnership for a Drug Free America that is our true master. There simply is no comparison between what has been spent on advertising by the opposing sides in the “drug war.”

Noah Wilkinson
via e-mail

Schindler’s list

Re “Blacking out Green Power” by Elizabeth McCarthy (SN&R Power, July 5):

Some points in the total picture have been missed. When alternative and green energy finally became competitive, the state stopped payments. They should have had a larger payback than those using non-renewable sources to encourage development. The cost will go down as usage increases.

Sid Shniad, research director of the Canadian Telecommunication Union, warned us in 1988 of what deregulation had done starting in England in 1990. It has not worked so far.

Rates can encourage any conservation if they increase sharply just below last year’s use of energy. This could cause efficiency changes among consumers as well as for the energy producers. It would be a small change for PG&E to vary rates near last year’s usage. Changing rates at a fixed energy usage only encourages conservation if your usage is close to the borderline.

Conservation begins at home. Fans increase the effectiveness of perspiration. A Whole House Fan with open windows can cool the whole house. Before energy became cheap, high arches and thick insulating walls in some Near East buildings allowed convection to freeze water by convection. Arabs use black tents in winter. Insulation helps in summer and winter.

The Lakota say to plan for seven generations. Ours change with board members, or with the small but significant change from Republican to Democrat. We lost Canadian Atlantic cod, have the Mississippi Delta dead zone and are in trouble with salmon because of lack of understanding and waiting for proof. Organic farming is becoming impossible because winds can spread the effect of genetically engineered plants. It took 100 years to find out that Sequoia trees need fire to propagate. Native Americans used to do controlled burns.

The high-voltage lines between the L.A. area and Washington, Hoover Dam and power grids make this an interstate problem.

Mark Schindler

Thomas vs. Edgar

Re “Do You Know the Most Powerful Man in Sacramento” by Cosmo Garvin (SN&R Cover, July 5):

Your Bob Thomas city manager article clearly reveals that Lincoln’s “government of the people, by the people,” is more of a reality under Mayor Fargo and former city manager Edgar than Thomas’ “management style,” which is a governance more aptly described as “of the people, by certain people for select people.”

Former deputy city manager Crist’s comment about Thomas emphasizing “results” implies that Edgar had no such emphasis. Wrong! Edgar did focus on results but used an inclusive process that invited all affected parties to the table, including the councilperson, where participants were directed to work out their differences. The resulting agreements minimized acrimony, haggling and fighting later in council chambers. The late Mayor Serna often expressed pleasant surprise that a known controversy had engendered so little battle at a council meeting.

Thomas’ quote, “would like to see community members work more closely with council members,” translates into: (1) exempting him and his staff from dealing with the “unwashed masses,” and enables staff to work unimpeded with certain people to make decisions reflecting select people’s views. Hence the glowing approval from Oates and Hammer but serious conflicts on Natomas, rail depot, etc., and (2) muddies issues by tossing them into the political arena which usually distracts council members and divides affected parties.

Lest we forget, Edgar’s legacy is Sacramento’s renaissance that mushroomed under his management in spite of the city’s fiscal crisis. How will Thomas fare? Only history will judge.

Dale Kooyman

Bob and me

Re “Do You Know the Most Powerful Man in Sacramento” by Cosmo Garvin (SN&R Cover, July 5):

It is more than a little curious that Sacramento City manager Bob Thomas wistfully yearns for his former post as Parks Director. His legacy there is a permanent abomination upon the city’s parks and its people. Like a good soldier, he pillaged the lighting and landscape fees to purchase real estate for golf courses. His incorrect claim that they paid for themselves via greens fees was an empty solace to kids like mine who had to suffer with downright dangerous playground equipment. These same golf courses are now losing money as they are spurned for private courses by the very wealthy elites who, ironically, are some of his newfound developer and chamber friends. Meanwhile, the minimal recent improvement in the city parks occurred in his brief absence, where, as county executive, he created an unnecessary layer of expensive executive bureaucracy, huge raises for management, plans for privatization and severe wage cuts from which labor still suffers.

Sacramento’s common folk who know, utter the name of Bob Thomas with somewhat the same disdain as fired GM auto workers sputter the despised name of Roger Smith.

A place for Bob Thomas?—perhaps at the armory, the Back-Nine Café or watching MetroCable re-runs—but certainly not a seat at the people’s common table.

Michael Monasky
Elk Grove

Criticizing the critic

Re “Foster’s Schlager” by Jeff Hudson (SN&R Theater, June 28):

I read with some agreement Jeff Hudson’s review of the B Street Theatre’s production of Norm Foster’s Drinking Alone, or rather his brief review of the play and his lengthy indictment of the B Street’s play selection in the recent past.

I want to point out that the B Street has been a success story not just for the past six seasons as Jeff Hudson states, but for the past nine seasons. The company’s “considerable reputation” rests in no small measure on the fact that its actors are far and away better than 98 percent of the actors in or coming into town. Hudson acknowledges the show is beautifully cast but goes on to state that the actors are in rolls that “fit them like gloves,” giving credit to the great transformational skills these actors possess.

It is disturbing that Hudson can praise the acting and directing and yet give it the second lowest rating he could give (the “fair face”) simply because the play is a comedy with a romantic twist and a happy ending. He equates “artistic terms” solely with playwriting and separates acting and directing from it. Acting and directing are art forms. For years I have been worn out reading reviews replete with happy faces and sublime faces and gobs and heaps of stars that have gone on and on about plays with good scripts but whose productions are rife with overblown, one-dimensional, superficial acting and intrusive, heavy-handed direction. It takes great skill to present work that possesses a spark of life. It is rarely done, no matter what the play. In fact, the cultural quality of great works of art can bring out the very best or worst. The greater the work, the greater the dreariness if the execution and interpretation is not of the same level.

Far from resting on their laurels, the people at B Street work very hard to apply their formidable skills to whatever material they present. I agree they should try harder to find better material, but I think that the local critics should give more credit to their fine acting and directing—the audiences sure do.

Edward Claudio