Letters for June 23, 2005

Stewart’s spinning

Re “You flunked!” by Jill Stewart (SN&R Capitol punishment, June 9):

In her rant, Stewart, like other critics from the right, uses tortured logic and tortured data.

Her reasoning for using the median cost per pupil rather than the average cost per pupil as a measure is that three states and the District of Columbia allocate so much money that averages are distorted. That makes no sense. There are far more than three states that provide totally inadequate funding (try Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee) to balance the high-per-pupil-funding states.

If you use average per-pupil expenditures, Stewart says California is $489 per student behind. Each class lacks $489 per student; with 30 students, that’s $14,670 per class. An average elementary school might have 30 classes, making the average California school $440,100 below the national average. That difference is why California children rank so low in reading and math.

Political leaders could do a great deal to improve California schools. Mandate smaller, safer schools. Provide enough counselors and librarians (California ranks 49th out of 50 states in counselors, librarians and books). Provide quality, stable school leadership, rather than the current revolving-door system. Provide support and time for new teachers to learn from more experienced teachers. Practical steps to reduce the new-teacher attrition rate in difficult schools will do more than the governor’s proposals for merit pay to improve teaching conditions.

Stewart continues her campaign to support the governor’s educational follies, but there are things that can be done in this year’s budget that do not require a $70 million special election, such as using that money to improve the schools. Instead, the governor chooses to pick a fight with the unions and to impose a $70 million special election on us. This decision reveals political spin, and Stewart is a spin doctor.

Duane Campbell

‘Here come da judge’

Re “Keep diversity in the district” (SN&R Guest comment, June 9):

This gave me a good laugh: Protect California’s redistricting process, the sacred guarantor of our political freedoms. The reality is it should be tossed for the guaranteed fraud it visits on us every time we open our voter pamphlets.

Currently, our state Legislature retools the districting map after every census. It and other state legislatures (Texas, y’all) are doing such a good job at this that congressional turnover is now less than in the old Soviet Politburo. But better that than having bad ol’ retired judges drawing districts, right?

After census 2000, our freedom-loving Sacramento friends totally redrew my congressional district in the East Bay. The new 11th now miraculously wends its way, snakelike, from Lodi, Tracy and other Central Valley points up to Altamont and westward into ridiculously noncontiguous parts of the South Bay and East Bay. In exchange for a similarly tortured (but safe) Democratic district (hello, Representative Ellen Tauscher), my interests were whisked to the hands of Representative Richard Pombo, the Tracy Republican whose political views coincide with mine about, well, never. The chance that Representative Pombo will ever feel the need to attend to my views as a registered independent is exactly zilch.

Gerrymandering is as old as the republic, but it’s become a bipartisan Tammany Hall on steroids. Both “major” parties use thousands of megabytes and oodles of cash to crunch voter records into laughably drawn but precise districts. The only thing this model guarantees is collusion between both parties to finally achieve their common Holy Grail—permanently noncompetitive elections across the state.

When it comes to redistricting, I’m up for change. Stop letting the wolves design henhouse security and start singing “Here come da judge.” The only thing we have to lose is nothing. We already lost it.

Tom Zengel

Good advice from Joey

Re “Advice for the betrothed” by Joey Garcia (SN&R Ask Joey, June 9):

Thanks for a great column. I wish it could have been placed under my nose and that of my ex-husband many years ago. Please continue to write on this subject for the benefit of couples and their future plans. You would be doing them such a big favor by opening their eyes to real life and perhaps saving them a great deal of heartache.

Mary Drain
via e-mail

Visualize hot, sweaty Boy Scouts

Re “Sex and the facts” (SN&R Editorial, June 2):

According to SN&R’s editorial, loads of scientific evidence shows that homosexuals are hardwired and that it “directs” their lives. As an example, the editorial summarized a Swedish study that showed gay males reacted with arousal to the “odor of testosterone in men’s sweat.”

I visualized a young, sexually active homosexual male Scout leader taking a group of young, naive teenage boys on a backpacking trip high up in the Sierras. They’re all sweating like crazy. Suddenly caught in a violent thunderstorm, the sweaty Scouts, brimming with testosterone, hastily set up shelters, where they are confined along with their sexually active homosexual leader until the next day, two to a shelter. The smell of sweat, the hardwiring, the young homosexual, the tendency to be aroused, the naive Scouts, the close quarters—what a volatile combination.

Your enlightening editorial made it so obvious to me why it would be such a tragedy to ever knowingly allow a homosexual to become a Boy Scout leader. Way to go, SN&R!

Don Stewart

Crap! It’s not offensive.

Re “Homestar Runner” by Alex Baca (SN&R In the mix, June 2):

I’m genuinely curious as to what Alex Baca was referring to when he claimed that the Homestar Runner Web site should be checked out if “you don’t get offended easily.” I’m intricately familiar with the site’s content, and I can’t begin to imagine what it features that Mr. Baca feels would be perceived as offensive, even to those who are extremely sensitive.

The material, characters and humor are quite conspicuously devoid of any ribald or inappropriate elements. It was consciously conceived by its creators as an antidote to all the raunchy South Park-inspired Net toons that were so pervasive in cyberspace in the early aughts.

Homestar Runner is almost downright wholesome. It contains absolutely no swearing harsher than the word “crap,” no sexual humor of any sort and no controversial topics, and the Poopsmith character is its sole concession to scatological humor. The inserted caveat seems unnecessary, since the fact that he shovels crap is never dwelled upon or mined for gross-out jokes.

Also, it has never been stated, nor inferred, that Homestar or Strong Mad (the cartoon’s resident buffoons) are developmentally disabled so much as garden-variety morons, the likes of which you can find on every sitcom ever made.

I understand that you guys need to cover all your bases with regard to potentially offending your readers. I just feel that people who would be offended by Homestar Runner would likely be offended by virtually anything and shouldn’t be coddled.

Brandon Wolfe

Try living here for a while

Re “This property condemned” by Chrisanne Beckner (SN&R Cover, May 26):

The cover story about the Washington Market makes great reading but doesn’t convey the depth or the breadth of the real problems that homeowners and renters experience daily in Oak Park.

Beckner focused on one individual and his plight while failing to critically examine the larger context that surrounds this market and others like it. These markets profit off of the misery of the people who buy, sell and use street drugs. They profit off of the sexual exploitation of women and girls who go into the markets to buy alcohol to dull the pain of working the streets. The majority of the people who use these markets buy alcohol and other high-sugar, high-fat foods so that they can continue to engage in activities on the streets that in turn disrupt life for the dozens of people who live in and around the market. Eliminating the market will not solve the entrenched problems of Oak Park, but it can dramatically improve the quality of people’s lives in and around the market.

Beckner could have provided a more critical examination of the deeply entrenched problems in Oak Park, many of which stem from the use and abuse of substances, including alcohol, which, ironically, is one of the main items sold in this market.

Like our neighbors across Sacramento, we really just want some peace and quiet. We want to take for granted that we can walk safely in our neighborhood, that we can sleep through the night without interruption and that we don’t have to make daily calls to the police to deal with some disturbance on our streets.

I invite Beckner to stay in our neighborhood for a month and write a story that examines the shame of this city—the entrenched problems of poverty, racism, substance abuse, sexual exploitation of women, illegal dumping, code violations and more. Only then might the negative impact of the Washington Market be understood by those whose only exposure to Oak Park is through a sensational banner headline on the cover of SN&R.

Beth D. Kivel