Letters for November 20, 2003

Free enterprise, the American way …

Re “Gulp!” by Cosmo Garvin (SN&R Cover, November 6):

Thank you for highlighting California American Water’s operations in Sacramento. The article opens some important dialogue for the area.

For nearly 70 years, our investor-owned utilities have been part of this community, which enjoys the benefits of a competitive blend of municipal, special districts, investor-owned and private water utilities. What is not said in the article is that California American’s rates are subject to intense scrutiny by the California Public Utilities Commission, as opposed to some public special districts where as few as two people determine rates.

It also fails to answer how an investor-owned utility, such as California American, can pay property taxes, sales taxes and franchise fees to local jurisdictions and still offer competitive water rates without other public subsidies enjoyed by the public-sector utilities.

Finally, California American is a part of a publicly traded corporation; our ratepayers can and may already participate in ownership of their water utility. Competition and selection benefit the consumer. Would the people of Sacramento want to give up choice and provide government a monopoly on this part of their life, too?

Mitch Dion
manager, Northern Division, California American Water

… or maybe that enterprise isn’t free

Re “Gulp!” by Cosmo Garvin (SN&R Cover, November 6):

As Cosmo Garvin points out, the privatization of water, once relegated to Third World countries, has finally arrived in California.

How? In February 1997, at the encouragement of an organization of more than 50 investor-owned water companies, Steve Peace, chairman of the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee, introduced the Public Water System Investment and Consolidation Act of 1997.

Designed to “help” municipalities unable to make necessary capital improvements to water systems, the act allowed investor-owned utilities to buy them—not at book value but at a legal definition of fair market value. That shortsighted law undervalues publicly owned and financed water systems and blatantly disregards the public good.

For example, citizens don’t buy water. They pay for the construction, operation and maintenance of the delivery facilities necessary to get water. Public administrators and officials need to be educated about the purpose of water-service payments. The Legislature should be helping to upgrade that infrastructure rather than giving it away.

Second, municipal water systems represent many years of public investment. Their existence makes them valuable to private companies, who could not build those systems today. Through privatization, the Legislature ignored legal, financial and economic aspects of its actions and helped to create the problem it said made privatization necessary: lack of capital. Governments stand to lose millions in tax revenues through valuation methods of deregulated utilities.

Peace, California’s director of finance, also brought us energy deregulation. Based on the success of that legislation, do we have any need to question the effect of this legislation on our water service and rates?

Marie McLean
via e-mail

Reverting to the pre-McCarthy variant

Re “Dump the pledge” by Kel Munger (SN&R Essay, November 6):

I enjoyed the article—and, predictably, I agree with it. I was particularly dismayed by the all-too-apropos comparison to Nazi Germany. The necessary implications of the “value” and uses of compulsory displays of patriotism at the point of Thought Police bayonets are double-plus ungood.

When this most recent controversy erupted, it made me re-examine what I had been playing back from the ROM chip programmed and installed during my (Vietnam-era) grade-school indoctrination. As a result, I have gone back to the pre-McCarthy variant, pledging my allegiance to America and all that makes her great—“liberty and justice for all”—lest I even appear to give lip service to supporting theocracy, like the terrorists who have so plagued us in recent years.

Walt Livingston

Your right to dissent isn’t ‘invisible’

Re “Dump the pledge” by Kel Munger (SN&R Essay, November 6):

Ms. Munger, only in America can you openly protest the removal of our pledge from our schools without incarceration, torture and incineration, unlike those who didn’t believe in Hitler’s Reich, which you alluded to as a not-so-subtle comparison to Jehovah’s Witnesses’ plight to avoid saying the Pledge of Allegiance.

You forgot to mention that Pledge of Allegiance-spewing Americans liberated those poor souls, who were rotting away in killing camps like Buchenwald and Dachau.

Once again, another generation of Americans who grew up repeating the Pledge of Allegiance are risking and losing their lives for the Iraqi people. American lives are being lost so that some day, an Iraqi citizen will enjoy the freedom of writing a letter to a town paper, disagreeing with the fundamental principles of her country’s pledge, without being tied to a post and decapitated. It’s possible she will be a Jehovah’s Witness.

Meanwhile, 250 million Americans, to the dismay of those who see America in a different light, will continue to teach their kids the Pledge of Allegiance and smile with pride when the little ones mutter “invisible” instead of “indivisible.”

Mick Malaney
via e-mail

One letter, under God

Re “Dump the pledge” by Kel Munger (SN&R Essay, November 6):

I would like to add more explanation to Kel Munger’s unbiased essay on the Pledge of Allegiance and Jehovah’s Witnesses’ refusal, as she notes, “to pledge their allegiance to anything other than their God.”

Allegiance is the obligation of support, loyalty and devotion. God’s command regarding images says, “You must not bow down to them nor be induced to serve them, because I … am a God exacting exclusive devotion” (Exodus 20:4-5). Since Jehovah commands—and deserves—“exclusive devotion,” how can one pledge his allegiance also to the symbol of a human nation?

Witnesses worldwide share a common allegiance to a heavenly government, the kingdom of God, which Jesus taught will cause the will of God to be done “on Earth” as in heaven (Matthew 6:10). The nationalistic pride that has so divided our world is not found among Jehovah’s Witnesses. Everywhere, they are at peace with all men, regardless of their race, ethnic background, nationality or religion.

Not offering allegiance to the flag does not mean it is disrespected. Jesus commanded, “Pay back Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.” Paul instructed Christians in Rome and Crete to pay their taxes and to respectfully “be obedient to governments and authorities as rulers” (Mark 12:17, Romans 13:7, and Titus 1:5 and 3:1). This is how we show regard for what national flags stand for.

Obeying “God as ruler rather than men,” we do not forget Jesus’ admonition to pay “God’s things to God” (Acts 5:29).

Diane Church

His gripe’s with the world

Re “Hot or not” by Zanab Hussain (SN&R News, November 6):

I was excited to see a familiar face in the latest edition of SN&R, that of professor Scott Suneson. I was not surprised to see that, as usual, he was stirring up controversy.

I am a graduate of the University of California, Davis. In the summer of my freshman year, I took an introductory sociology course at Sacramento City College in hope of saving a few dollars on the cheaper tuition fees. What I didn’t expect was to partake in one of the most memorable classes of my college experience, complete with a protest field trip.

Suneson and his extreme views were a shock to my innocent, immature and underdeveloped brain. After having spent one year listening to my sociology professors drone on about the social injustices in the world today, Suneson was pointing them out in our surroundings. After the first class, I thought he was the most insane, obnoxious and unreasonable individual I had ever met in my whole life. But by the end of the quarter, I understood his point of view, even though I did not completely agree with him.

Suneson does not brainwash his students—he never once told us what to think. But he does ask students to step out of their comfort zone and address issues head on, encouraging student action and involvement. Considering that college students are one of the most nonpolitical groups in the nation, I think it’s quite an accomplishment that he was able to get his Sierra College class excited about this issue.

Sierra Outlook editor Erik Fritts-Davis is quoted in the article as saying he’s “under the impression that the professor who is spearheading this has a personal gripe with the college and the administration.” I laughed out loud when I read this quote, because if Mr. Fritts-Davis had ever met Suneson, he would understand that Suneson has a personal gripe with the world.

Maria Mercado