Letters for March 25, 2004

We should be turning Japanese

Re “Riding a new rail” by Jeff Kearns (SN&R Cover, March 18):

I thoroughly enjoyed Jeff Kearns’ discussion of the possibilities of transit-oriented development around our area’s light-rail stations. As a former resident of Portland, I appreciated the comparison of some of the failings of Sacramento’s light-rail development with Portland’s successes. We would do well to learn from our neighbors to the north on this issue.

We might also look to another example of a society that has learned how to build its cities around mass transit: Japan. Unlike the United States, Japan has spent over 100 years building its cities around rail, and it has never stopped expanding and modernizing its public-transit systems. Train stations are often the centers of towns and neighborhoods; they are vibrant hubs of commercial and social activity.

When I was in Tokyo, trains would run along the central line about every three minutes; even in outlying cities, I never had to wait more than an hour for a train. Commuters are greeted with pleasant chimes and a friendly voice informing them when and where a train is about to arrive. The entire system was extraordinarily efficient and on time.

Sacramento’s mass-transit system could learn from Japan in the following ways: (1) Make the train schedules more efficient by eliminating competition with traffic. This could be done by raising the rail line above ground or moving it underground, at least through the central city, and by reconstructing messy intersections such as Folsom/Watt. (2) Build enclosed stations with turnstiles, which will make stations safer and so increase ridership. This will also increase revenues because riders will always have to pay to get on. (3) Commercial space could be sold or rented in and around stations, which would help to pay for improvements and maintenance. In 20 or 30 years, changes like these will have our transit stations bustling with life and energy. (4) Finally, a residential transit-oriented development needs to be made available to a wide range of people and incomes. We shouldn’t just focus on expensive lofts that nobody with an average income can afford; rather, the city should encourage development that’s affordable and will benefit everyone.

Dairl Helmer

I can’t feel his pain

Re “Three strikes, he’s in” by Eugene Alexander Dey (SN&R Essay, March 11):

While I generally agree with Eugene Alexander Dey that the third strike should be for a violent crime, I can’t help but notice he is in denial about his crimes.

In recounting his first two strikes, he asserts that “no one was injured” and that “again, no one was harmed.”

While it may be true that no one was physically harmed during his crimes, he fails to recognize the psychological harm to victims of robbery and burglary. Yet he speaks of his own psychological pain at passing through his hometown on the way to a new prison.

Although it must be difficult to experience that pain, he chose to commit the crimes, which put him in this position. His victims never had a choice yet undoubtedly suffered the same pain. If he wants his pain recognized, he should at least recognize theirs.

Judith Anshin

Drug offenders need treatment, not life terms

Re “Three strikes, he’s in” by Eugene Alexander Dey (SN&R Essay, March 11):

I, like the gentleman who wrote this article, was in my active addiction for many years of my life. I spent some time behind the walls in places like Folsom. I know firsthand what it is like to hear that iron door slam shut behind me, erasing all the memories of my former life in the real world.

Thank God, I was able to turn my life around and go back to college, and now I work as a drug and alcohol counselor. I never had any strikes, because I committed crimes that were not deemed to be violent. I truly believe that this law was enacted to incarcerate the worst of the worst, not to give 25 to life [sentences] for possession of a small amount of meth.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case. There are many men like Dey who are doing “all day” for petty crimes, such as a petty theft with a prior (a felony) and other crimes that were never set out to be violent offenses.

Is meth legal? Of course not. Is it violent to possess a small amount? I don’t think so. There needs to be an addendum to the law that can make sure that small-time drug offenders with a disease get their just punishment: help for their addiction.

David Husid

Stewart’s cute but misses the point

Re “It’s gonna hit the fan,” by Jill Stewart (SN&R Capitol punishment, March 4):

Jill Stewart’s column is “insider cute” but misses the point. The point is that we have elected the same governor we recalled, and we don’t seem to care, as long as the new version is more entertaining.

From groper to smoker, our new Governor Schwarzenegger never fails to entertain. But he raises obscene amounts of campaign money and puts forth flawed public policies, both familiar Davis traits.

He begins by rolling back vehicle-license fees, thereby adding $4 billion to the current fiscal crisis and encouraging Californians to drive more-expensive and less-fuel- efficient vehicles. Great policy!

Next, he raises a reported $8 million in about two months (Davis never did so well) in order to “turn around” the electorate’s thinking and refinance the operating budget with debt (bond) financing.

Meanwhile, he neglects Proposition 56, and it loses, thereby ensuring that the minority party will continue to hold the budget hostage and virtually eliminating a reasonable budget solution—one that would include program cuts and tax increases as well as some deficit financing. So, we are faced with an ongoing structural state-budget deficit of $7 billion and no plan to resolve it. Some policy!

Even former Governor Pete Wilson, in crafting a successful cut-and-tax solution to a similar fiscal crisis in the early 1990s, understood that effective public-finance policy uses current revenues to fund current operations and deficit (bond) finance for capital outlays.

Do we care? Evidently not, as long as we’re entertained. The governor’s approval ratings go through the roof—seven of every 10 men and six of every 10 women approve of his performance. Never mind that only one of every four eligible voters bothered to vote in the recent primary. Guess we were too busy sampling cigars and shopping for new vehicles with our license-fee cuts. Is it too soon for another recall?

Chuck McIntyre

It’s a lefty wedgie

Re “A Bush wedgie” (SN&R Editorial, March 4):

SN&R’s editorial asks, “How can gay and lesbian people possibly damage the institution of marriage more than it has been damaged by heterosexuals already?” Your answer—“They can’t”—is sheer posturing.

[Same-sex marriage] is not about expanding human rights; it is about pushing the envelope in order to legally silence objections to the radical left, which detests religion and finds any moral tenets reactionary and repressive. In short, it is the first “wedge” among many that will attempt to redefine the meaning of “family” for the purpose of socialistic-secular conformity. It points us toward social reengineering, whereby that which derives from morality will be considered a “hate crime.”

That is a reality which is starting to take shape when judges and officials deem themselves above the law—as when Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco ignores a law enacted by the people of California 2-to-1 in a referendum and starts handing out marriage licenses to homosexuals. The next “wedge” may be the man-boy preference activists wanting to change the definition to fit their sexual agenda.

I do agree, regrettably so, that this issue will be a “wedge” in the coming election campaign, but only because the radical homosexual special-interest groups and the left-wing media will milk it for all it’s worth, thereby forcing the conservative camp to keep it in their line of fire. So, in that regard, the left is playing reverse psychology.

Don Price

Dancing machines

Re “Dance dance revolution” by Becca Costello (SN&R Arts&culture, February 26):

Thank you for writing the article on the Sacramento DanceSport Project. It was great!

You really captured them and what they’re doing.

Dell Richards