Letters for March 14, 2002

Kloss works

Kudos to Kloss for his very truthful cartoon (February 28, SN&R) regarding the 369 evictions of the tenants of Sonoma, Sacramento and Placer apartment complexes owned by landowner Kawamoto.

I recently worked as a resident manager at an apartment complex in Citrus Heights. I witnessed daily the owners plotting how to screw over the tenants for more rent, but they never spent the money on upgrading the tenants’ apartments.

There are many senior citizens on fixed incomes that have lived at this complex for years. The owners have raised the rent so high that one senior tenant told me she couldn’t afford to buy groceries. There is a tenant that had a massive heart attack and is responsible for her mentally disabled daughter. This woman is terrified that she will get another rent increase and won’t be able to pay the rent and become homeless.

If you contact the agencies that are responsible to help these people/ tenants to stand up for their rights, you get the old run around. There needs to be a California tenants rights involvement and protest.

Vera Farris
Citrus Heights

No, he doesn’t

The cartoon drawn by Kloss and published in your paper on February 28 unnecessarily racialized an already unfortunate situation.

The impending sale of Santa Rosa and Sacramento area homes by businessman Genshiro Kawamoto has understandably caused turmoil in the lives of many home renters. Kloss lost an opportunity to highlight the lack of affordable housing in the larger Northern California Bay Area, precluding home ownership for hundreds of thousands. Instead, Kloss chose to make Kawamoto’s Japanese ethnicity the issue.

With imagery evoking the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, the cartoon perpetuates stereotypes of all Japanese as enemies of the United States. History shows that this type of racialization fans the flames of suspicion and hatred towards Americans of Asian descent. Indeed, shortly after Pearl Harbor, in one of our nation’s ugliest moments, 120,000 Japanese Americans were rounded up and sent off to internment camps.

Even today, Asian Americans continue to fight the effects of racial and ethnic profiling based on society’s perception of them as perennial foreigners. In 2000, we saw the federal government prosecute former Los Alamos Lab scientist Wen Ho Lee simply because he was ethnically Chinese. Thousands of Americans of South Asian descent have been arbitrarily questioned by law enforcement authorities and pulled off airplanes without cause following the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Your paper exercised extremely poor judgment in printing a racist cartoon attributing the notices of eviction in Santa Rosa and Sacramento to the nationality of Mr. Kawamoto.

Vivek K. Malhotra
San Francisco

Black on white

Re “American Original” by Dan Wick (SN&R Book, February 28):

President Lincoln was many things.

One of them was a white man, a non-slave. As such, Lincoln found time to attend performances of minstrelsy, featuring white performers “blacking up,” as the Civil War raged. Minstrels made up to resemble black people mocked them to white-only audiences. They soaked up this psychic outlet of white superiority partly as a result of the harm done to them by an emerging capitalism.

In Lincoln’s time, whiteness was measured against blackness in a complex way related to how Americans lived and worked. This tendency continues today. The meaning of being a white person in the U.S. still requires its counterpart. The popular idea of white supremacy could not survive and thrive alone.

Seth Sandronsky

Presumed guilty

Re “Trial by Internet” by David Kulczyk (SN&R News, February 7):

I wish to thank your publication for paying attention to this issue. The constitutional right to freedom of speech is a fundamental element of our democracy. Equally critical is the constitutional right to a presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

The rush to judgment by some observers of this criminal court case is very appalling and creates a dangerous situation for the California Youth Authority employee accused of these allegations. This employee has served the public as a valued member of the CYA for more than 14 years and has no blemishes on his service record. Any administrative investigation on our part must follow the conclusion of the criminal trial.

The employee is not a public figure and no defendant should be the subject of defamatory and inflammatory remarks prior to adjudication of his case. He should not be tried in the court of public opinion. A judge or jury will review the evidence and make a determination as to the employee’s responsibility or innocence in this matter.

Jerry L. Harper
Director, California Youth Authority

via e-mail

Editor’s note:

The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office last week dropped all charges against James Lacy, the CYA employee accused of this crime. For more see Capital Bites.

Toxic void

Re “When Good Mold Goes Bad” by Stephen James (SN&R Cover, February 7):

I was deeply troubled to read the Sacramento News & Review characterization of SB 732. Senate Bill 732 is the first bill in the United States to provide genuine redress to the victims of toxic mold. Your characterization of a law which requires the establishment of scientifically based standards and empowers government to enforce such standards as a mere taskforce is a disservice to your readers and the public.

Two years ago, dozens of constituents shared with me their health-care troubles and their frustration with an utter void in the public policy. They were victims of toxic mold. Mold in their homes and workplaces made them seriously ill and significantly disrupted their lives. In addition to confronting health problems, they faced a system that provided few remedies and offered limited alternatives to seek redress.

I introduced SB 732 to fill this public policy void. This bill provides an accessible solution to people suffering from toxic mold. With immense efforts we brought the insurance, real estate and building industry to address the very serious problem of toxic mold. Our bill is a comprehensive solution to California’s toxic mold problem. It requires the Department of Health Services to develop assessment standards for mold and standards for identification and remediation. It requires that landlords and sellers across the state disclose the presence of mold to potential tenants and buyers. The bill provides a solid framework. Its implementation will bring meaningful relief to millions of Californians facing toxic mold problems.

Governor Gray Davis did the right thing when he signed SB 732. He approved the most comprehensive mold law in the nation which will protect both landlords and tenants from the harmful effects of toxic mold. Governor Gray Davis and the Legislature recognize that the current deficit threatens immediate implementation of this cutting-edge legislation. I will ensure that SB 732 is implemented the moment the state escapes this severe budget crisis.

Deborah V. Ortiz
Senator, 6th District

Stephen James replies:

As my article noted, the California Toxic Mold Protection Act (SB 732) is indeed more than a task force. The Act will, among other things, require landlords and homeowners to disclose the presence of excessive mold when selling or renting property. But, as a result of modifications made by Senator Ortiz to the original version of the bill, this disclosure is not required until at least six months after the Department of Health Services task force specifies permissible exposure limits for toxic mold, adopts standards to assess mold threats, and adopts guidelines for the identification and remediation of toxic mold. (The progression and alteration of SB 732 is instructive and can be found on the Web at www.leginfo.ca.gov.) Without taking the first step of convening the task force, the other requirements of the Act are essentially neutered. Landlords and sellers can continue to rent and sell mold-infested housing without disclosing the presence of toxic mold to tenants and buyers.

And since the Act requires that all “task force members shall serve on a voluntary basis and shall be responsible for any costs associated with their participation in the task force,” it would seem fair to question why the state’s “severe budget crises,” cited by Senator Ortiz, is obstructing implementation of the crucial task force provision of the Act. The enactment of SB 732 may well “bring meaningful relief to millions of Californians facing toxic mold problems,” but that relief appears to be a long way off. At present, only the owners and managers of mold-contaminated property are getting relief from the important disclosure aspects of the Act.