Letters for September 23, 2004

Bring back the towers

Re “Advice and dissent” (SN&R Cover, September 9):

Your article wanted to ask questions about “the way civilized people should behave in the face of uncivilized evil.” Here is my response.

The richest part of my identity was working in the World Trade Center, because of what the towers stood for: peace, courage, strength and individual dignity. A look in the mirror tells us all that hypocrisy visits both houses, in what America has done with 9/11. Rather than rebuild what terror drove to the ground, the blame, greed and pity games begin. In these acts, terror has triumphed.

I was appalled when the president asked us to send a dollar to Afghanistan—is this so some kid could attend bin Laden’s school of slaughter? What would happen if, instead, every American gave a dollar to rebuild the “Twin Towers of Peace”?

To the 9/11 families who say the towers “killed” your loved ones, I remind you that buildings don’t fall unless people push them on each other. Get your facts straight. As role models, you are a national disgrace, with your lawsuits and demands for pity. A better model was the way Jacqueline Kennedy rebuilt her life and her children’s lives with self-respect, dignity and uncommon grace.

Governor Pataki’s terror tribute is no symbol of freedom, and 90 percent of New York’s population knows it. They want their towers back. I want to stand tall again. I want the twin towers back. Let me work in the “Twin Towers of Peace,” on the highest floor.

Regan MacBannon

‘Drive-in’ at the airport

Re “Fares unbalanced” by Gary Webb (SN&R News, September 9):

This article explained that the cabbies aren’t making money, but the fares are some of the highest in the country. What?

Economics dictates by supply and demand. If you knew fares before entering a cab, you could make a choice. If fares are high, send them away.

After a while, they will get the point. The high-service companies with competitive rates will prevail.

As for the airport, damn right, open it up. This is a public facility. I would suggest that the cabbies do a “drive-in.”

Jeff Cain

The tipping point toward pedal power

Re “How much are you willing to pay for a gallon of gas?” (SN&R Streetalk, September 9):

That was a great question that provided some interesting answers. It looks like $2.50 per gallon may be a tipping point.

As a longtime bicycle commuter, I’ve always wondered why more people don’t take up the bicycle as a primary way of getting around Sacramento. Here’s to the rising costs of gasoline. At $2.50 per gallon, maybe lots more people will explore walking, the bus, carpooling or the bicycle for transportation.

Even better, more of us might dust off the bikes now, as the price of a gallon of gas hovers at $2 per gallon. The simplicity of two-wheeled transportation awaits you.

Cathy Haagen-Smith

Metaphysical speed bump

Re “A Call for Unity” (SN&R Events, September 9):

Did anyone else hit a metaphysical speed bump when reading the phrase “Celebrating diversity” in the top corner of the cover of SN&R? I did, especially since that phrase was misapplied to a spiritually ecumenical songfest entitled “A Call for Unity.”

For one thing, diversity and unity are opposing concepts. For another, the very word “diversity” has come to imply cultural polarity. It’s the kind of word used by annoying social engineers who wear Birkenstocks and shop for whirled peas in food co-ops.

You know the type: people who love humanity, but hate the neighbors; the kind who inflict their racial guilt on the rest of us by promoting hiring quotas and bilingual education. In short, the entire population of Davis.

I, for one, see the current idea of “diversity” as being separatist to the point of being politically correct apartheid. Not much unity there, and just how does one celebrate diversity, anyway? With bottle rockets that fire rainbows?

My idea of celebrating diversity is enjoying a Dutch apple pie with a cup of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee. I wish I could find some whirled peas, too, but I can’t. Guess the harvest was killed off by desert winds.

Mike Browne

Props to 36

Re “Behind the prop” by Stephen James (SN&R Cover, September 2):

Your story asserts that Californians voted for Proposition 36 on the promise that it would save money. In fact, having managed the campaign, I can report what I saw: For most voters, the savings generally were seen as a nice benefit that came along with a fundamentally just reform of state policy. Bottom line: People voted for Proposition 36 because they thought treating, not jailing, drug offenders was the better approach.

But money matters. So, has Proposition 36 saved $550 million on prison construction, or not? Your story says no, relying on a Department of Corrections employee’s memory of the Legislative Analyst’s Office projections for Proposition 36. He recalls that the analyst said we would not build any more prisons in California. But we have built one, so the savings must not be there.

In reality, throughout the campaign for Proposition 36 in 2000, supporters, including me, frequently noted that California was then planning to build two new prisons. We cited the Legislative Analyst’s Office to argue that one of those two planned prisons would not be needed. This prediction has come true. The state built one prison (North Kern), and there will be no more prisons. Just last month, the head of the state correctional agency, Rod Hickman, said, “The era of building prisons is essentially over.” Proposition 36 helped end that era, and it has, in fact, made unnecessary the $550 million cost of another new prison.

Under Proposition 36, thousands of nonviolent drug offenders have stayed out of prison, have begun a lifelong process of recovery, and have even completed treatment and cleared their criminal records. The law is delivering far better than your story suggests—in tens of thousands of lives all across California, every day.

Dave Fratello
Campaign for New Drug Policies

(Fratello was co-author of Proposition 36 and campaign manager for the effort in 2000.)

Change 36, don’t abandon it

Re “Behind the prop” by Stephen James (SN&R Cover, September 2):

There are many reasons why Proposition 36 hasn’t met the expectations that people had for it in its inception. One of the biggest reasons is that the funds were pillaged to prop up other county agencies that were being hit by the budget cuts. Many of the counties turned over Proposition 36 to the probation departments instead of substance-abuse professionals. The county by which I’m employed hired three more staff in its Substance Abuse Department and added nine new employees to its Probation Department using Proposition 36 funds.

Another reason for the poor performance is that in many counties, the money is spent on treatment centers that have untrained, or partially trained, counseling staff. In essence, these treatment providers are those who can bid the lowest to provide services. Many of these centers do not conform to “best practices” in chemical-dependency treatment. Some are counting education classes with 50 or more participants as “group counseling.” Any educated and well-trained counselor will tell you that this is impossible. Many do not provide the basic services stated in their brochures. At some, individual counseling may consist of 10 or 15 minutes every other week, and most of that is taken up with paperwork.

Proposition 36 is in serious need of change but doesn’t necessarily need to be scrapped. It needs to be turned over to treatment specialists. The true savings in treatment is in lives changed and the benefits to the community. These are hard to determine. If one in 10 addicts stays clean, gets a job, stops his or her criminal activity and becomes a better parent, the savings down the road in reduced social services are tremendous. Also, if Proposition 36 was turned over to treatment professionals, instead of probation, the success rate would climb. Proposition 36, as it stands, is mostly benefiting probation departments and substandard treatment providers.

Jerry Rhodd
West Sacramento