Letters for June 30, 2011

The elephant in the high school

Re “High-school shuffle” by Cosmo Garvin (SN&R Frontlines, June 2):

So what we’re saying is there is a large majority of students and families from the wealthy and well-educated East Sac area who want to go to a “comprehensive” high school and take non-college-prep classes?

That is not what’s happening here. There is a school in the East Sac area: It’s called Sacramento Charter [High School]. East Sac families are not “not sending” their kids there because they desperately want “non-college-prep” classes to be offered (which is the key difference in a comprehensive school). They are not sending them there because they will be sharing “college-prep classes” with black and brown students.

This is the elephant in the room that is being hinted at regularly, but no one wants to say it. Sac Charter is eliminating the achievement gap on their campus. If the [Sacramento City Unified School District] attempts to disrupt this, it will quickly become a national issue.

Charles I. Brown

It’s hard to figure out who owns this highway

Re “I want my Internet” by Carly Carioli (SN&R Feature, June 23):

It may be that certain pundits on both sides of this debate, whether intentional or not, keep missing the crucial factor surrounding the “economics” for delivering quality Internet streams across the globe.

For the Internet to remain “The Great Liberator,” a vehicle for bringing all peoples around Mother Earth together in the hopes of establishing world peace and prosperity for many, its infrastructure must be sustained. This will require an intelligent third party, objective engineering view of where expenses exist and where they do not vs. arbitrarily adding costs by incumbents when and where they do not exist.

For example, as this article points to the Level 3 /Comcast dispute, it overlooks the fact that Comcast is attempting to burden consumers with unnecessary expenses (indirectly) by establishing a toll charge in discrimination of competing content its subscribers are requesting from cyberspace. At the core of Level 3’s argument is the fact that their network extends far deeper into Comcast’s territories than Comcast is willing to let them take Netflix’s traffic. At the same time, much of Comcast’s own intercity network is derived from leased fiber it had previously purchased from Level 3 back in 2004.

I suggest that, if the Internet infrastructure owners are going to be able to deliver their services under an arcane regulatory scheme which never contemplated the “size” of traffic which IP video would bring vs. vestigial copper voice, some sharing relationship between content and infrastructure owners (including their advertisers) might need to take place. The use of this term “free” or “free and open Internet,” when tying it to free peer-to-peer (P2P) Internet traffic under arcane laws, along with “free speech,” is also misleading for the minds of more casual readers attempting to follow this important issue.

Content owners must look to partner with network owners who are providing the most comprehensive, quality low-cost services based upon economics, which is at the core of the Level 3/Comcast dispute. As a hybrid Internet distributor (or ISP), which also owns content, Comcast is acting against the best interests of the consumers it believes it controls.

Finally, AT&T is a tier-one backbone provider in addition to being a local ISP inside the last mile, the last time I checked.

Carl Kiefer
via email

Bravo, Kiefer!

Re “The evolution of pity” by Jonathan Kiefer (SN&R Film, June 23):

This review by Jonathan Kiefer is a great review. I saw this film a few days ago and am still thinking it over.

Thanks for putting it in words that helped me feel better about understanding what was going on in that beautiful but perplexing film. “Beautiful mist-shrouded shipwreck” says a lot. I saw the film to see Jessica (Howard) Chastain, who is from Sacramento (Antelope) and was a student at Sacramento City College.

De Brooks

Park closures more complicated

Re “Hit the North” by Cosmo Garvin (SN&R Bites, June 16):

Thanks for covering the state park closures, and by the way, sorry about closing your favorite campground for summer frolicking. This whole idea of closing any parks is troubling, at best. Your column got a lot of things right.

But I need to set you straight on the notion of collecting another quarter from every visitor to close the budget gap. If it were really that simple, don’t ya think we’d do it?

We have heard that same 25 cent myth passionately propounded by others (even some who control our budget). Maybe if I can explain it to you, we can get others to understand.

When you drive in to a beach parking lot or pass through the gate at the [California State] Railroad Museum or Sutter’s Fort, you get counted. But there’s more than that. Think about strolling Old Town San Diego and stopping in for a frosty margarita, or getting dragged by my 6-year-old into every candy shop in Old Sacramento. Those are state park visits, too. They get counted. But there is no entrance fee paid.

Have you ever seen all those big yellow buses parked outside Sutter’s Fort or driving fourth graders out to a California Mission? Sure, there are a lot fewer field trips these days, but still hundreds of thousands of school kids visit state parks every year at no charge (as required by legislation). School kids show up in the total visitation numbers, too. About 40 percent of all state park visits are unpaid admission. That leaves us a few quarters short.

You generally pay one fee to get the Bitesmobile into the park. We collect as much as $15 for your day-use ticket. But how many little Bites are in the back seats? Let’s see, eight more quarters on top of your 15 bucks makes 17 bucks to drive-in today. Is that what you have in mind?

Every time we raise fees, fewer people come to parks. We may still be able to earn more revenue with a higher fee, but we’ll have fewer visitors. If we were just in the business of making money that could be a good thing; keep raising rates to find that sweet spot where fewer visitors come (meaning less work for us) and we keep making money. Did you really want poor people to use parks, too?

But state parks are in the heritage business, not the moneymaking business. Californians have a long and proud tradition of protecting these treasures for everyone and for the future. Remember that Econ 101 class and the whole idea of “public good”? Parks were never conceived to be moneymakers. The essential public-policy decisions made nearly 100 years ago were to protect California’s heritage for the future, and that was seen as a legitimate government expense. Policy has not changed, but the general fund has dried up.

And now we are faced with closing your favorite park—a sad day indeed.

Brian Cahill
Fair Oaks

Blame SoCal for water meters!

Re “Make water users pay” (SN&R Letters, June 16):

The most precious resource in California is not gold, but water. Nature herself has dictated that Northern California has rain and snow enough to provide water for those living here.

Profiteering developers and corporate farmers, however, have invested in the cheap arid lands of Southern California and the western San Joaquin Valley, and to turn a profit they need to bring water to their developments. To do this, they have plans to turn the Delta, as well as our streams and rivers, into rock-lined drainage ditches and pipes to make water shipment more “efficient.” They have and continue to decimate our fisheries, driving fish populations to historic lows, and they don’t care.

What do we Northern Californians get in return for giving away our precious water? We get water meters so we can pay for the destruction of our environment. Sharing of resources is all right, as long as you don’t decimate and tax one region that has resources to benefit another that lacks them simply because the votes are there. This isn’t good planning; this is pandering to the profit whores exploiting Northern California just as they did the Owens Valley.

Roger Thibault
West Sacramento

It is our business

Re “Their money is not our business” (SN&R Letters, June 16).

In this letter, written in response to Seth Sandronsky’s essay “Hey, billionaires” of June 2, Ethan James apparently accepts the lie that we still live in a society not totally dominated and manipulated by large, corporate interests, and we should not question their means to wealth. It should be clear by now that Republicans and Democrats care less about the rights, interests and economic well-being of U.S. citizens than about supporting the rich and their right to concentrate and accumulate wealth, at any cost to our country.

To quote from Bill Moyers’ latest book [Bill Moyers Journal: The Conversation Continues], “We have been bought off by the might and will of organized wealth.” And speaking of the 2008 financial crisis, “When the day of reckoning arrived, the emperors of Wall Street—as shameless as they are soulless—threw themselves on the mercy of the taxpayers they had so royally fleeced. But then they picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and resumed business as usual.”

Given this, Americans now have every right to ask how the rich made their money.

John McCormack

Bad advice, Joey

Re “How young is too young?” by Joey Garcia (SN&R Ask Joey, June 16):

This advice is terrible on two levels. First, the kid is obviously a minor being intimate with an adult. This is a crime in California. Second, and more importantly, the kid is still a child and as such cannot give consent to sexual relations.

This girl needs protection from someone; why shouldn’t it be Grandma? Additionally, the parent’s consent will not save this young man (if he is over 18 years of age) from being charged, prosecuted, convicted and labeled a sex offender for life. Silence serves neither party.

I say speak up, Grandma. Speak up loud and clear.

Ben Bannister

The season of pointy fingers

Re “Falling down (with laughter)” by Patti Roberts (SN&R Stage, June 16):

I loved the photographs on the theater review pages that echoed the gentlemen’s pointy digits. It recalled to mind long past seasons and actor actions that swept the theatrical world, like the “chewing gum season,” when every production’s protagonist masticated. Next season was grapes, I believe.

And then there was the regrettably memorable Richard III, who strode onstage carrying an anachronistic red delicious apple and declaimed, “Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this son of York.” (Chomp.) And who could forget the season of roller skates! I wish I could.

Vada Russell