Letters for September 28, 2006

Bubbles? Blame the buyers!

Re “Has the bubble burst?” by Sasha Abramsky (SN&R Feature Story, September 21):

I would not dare to support mortgage-loan companies, brokers or banks, but the Philbrooks and others need to control what kind of loan products they are willing to accept.

The choice is always up to the buyer. Just say no. You have the control.

If your tolerance for risk is low, then you should not assume the risk. For instance, I will never sign a loan with a prepayment penalty. It is a rule I established some time ago. I think such a penalty is ridiculous.

I researched all kinds of loans and talked to lots of brokers and found out what I could tolerate (or not). I used to think I could not tolerate an interest-only loan, but now I know that this type of loan serves a vital purpose (e.g., short-term residency).

Each type of loan serves a purpose. If you don’t educate yourself about the loans available to you (given your credit rating), then you will get what you get.

Caveat emptor!

Barbara Griswold
Citrus Heights

No, blame the lenders!

Re “Has the bubble burst?” by Sasha Abramsky (SN&R Feature Story, September 21):

First of all, let’s put things in perspective: Lower housing prices are good. They allow people who can’t now afford a home the hope that maybe they will be able to afford one someday if prices continue to drop.

Second, higher rates are not the cause of the housing bubble bursting. Mortgage rates are on average only about 1 percent, or, at most, 1.5 percent, above their recent lows. I never even saw a conventional mortgage below 7 percent until a few years ago.

Predatory lenders, in cahoots with appraisers and greedy real-estate agents who take no responsibility for their enthusiastic and aggressive sales techniques, buried unknowledgeable Americans in overpriced real estate, just as auto manufacturers buried Americans in overpriced SUVs and trucks—with smoke and mirrors, no down and zero-interest loans.

“Truth in lending” laws are a joke. A person who really can’t afford to buy a house is encouraged to use ridiculous leverage and dubious financing techniques, while the real-estate agent, the lender and the appraiser all walk away wealthier.

Commission-hungry, uncaring sales people in both the real-estate and lending industries fanned the flames of greed by making people believe they could afford housing that was beyond their means. Now the consequences of their actions are being felt by American families, while the agents drive new BMW SUVs and try to blame interest rates.

Please, let’s place the blame where it belongs. Had either lenders or agents had a conscience, they would have been more prudent and circumspect in their frenzy to bury mostly unsuspecting Americans in overvalued real estate with loans that benefited no one but the lenders.

Luckily, as we’ve seen in the past, many of these lenders will soon own some of the homes they zealously lent money on, and then poor Americans can perhaps afford to buy some of these same homes in a few years—for less than what the banks had to repossess them for!

Harlan Malfar

People, flowers—there’s a difference?

Re “Vocations and their correlative clinical conditions” by Jonathan Kiefer (SN&R Scene&Heard, September 21):

I found No. 7 on Kiefer’s list quite hilarious.

I have a degree in anthROpology, and I think I may have anthROphobia. (I jest. There is no such thing, but if one were to have it, then it would mean they fear humankind.)

Actually, what I believe he meant to write was the word “anthophobia,” which is, in fact, a fear of flowers.

Skye Bergen
via e-mail

This has been corrected on the Web site.

Veto’s only good for insurance companies

Re “Class in session” (SN&R Editorial, September 14):

Fighting for health insurance, public-employee unions represent the interest of the vast majority of us. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger represents the interests of insurance companies. Access to health care is a basic human right. In every developed country except the United States, that right is guaranteed by the government.

Americans spend more per capita for health care than do people in any other country. But health statistics, including longevity and infant-mortality rates, show that we are not getting a very good return on our investment. A recent Boston University study found that up to 50 percent of current health-care spending is wasted, much of it on insurance-company overhead. Senate Bill 840’s single-payer health plan would reduce this inefficient use of health-care dollars.

Streamlining the administrative functions now performed by thousands of insurance companies would free up billions for a universal-health-care program. Timely access to preventive care would save billions more. The state could shift additional billions into direct health care by using California’s huge purchasing power for pharmaceutical purchases.

Under S.B. 840, every Californian would have medical, dental, vision and prescription-drug coverage, including hospitalization, laboratory work, skilled nursing care, mental-health care, rehabilitation and chiropractic care.

Schwarzenegger has promised to veto S.B. 840, but he can’t block health-care reform forever. Unions are the way working people in this country can balance the power of great wealth, and public-employee unions are leading the struggle for universal health care.

George Sheridan
Garden Valley

Editor’s note: The governor vetoed S.B. 840 last week.

She wants to ask about “magic tigers”

Re “Earth 101” by Jaime O’Neill (SN&R Essay, September 14):

I love the Tom Tomorrow cartoon and most of your articles, give or take a few.

I wanted to write and tell you how much I loved Jaime O’Neill’s essay. It was hilarious and made me laugh first thing in the morning!

It reminds me of when I was a kid watching a magic show on TV, and there were disappearing tigers—so I wanted to ask God how they’d do that. And while I’m not sure now about asking of magical tigers—whither?—I still appreciate the question ideas.

I didn’t know that about men’s accoutrements. Bizarre!

Thanks for the laugh.

Kathy Evans

More cosmo for Sacto

Re “Sacto goes cosmo” by Kate Washington (SN&R Feature Story, September 7):

Loved the article! It’s always good to see what we’re doing right.

Now, for my two cents’ worth:

The Chantarelle Restaurant in the Sterling Hotel at 13th and H streets is a small and romantic venue. Jim Turknett, who’s been the chef there for 16 years, takes Mondrian and Gauguin as his artistic inspiration for his artistic presentations.

At the corner of 12th and K streets is the Broiler Steakhouse, which has been in business for 57 years. Yes! 57 years. They are a real steakhouse—and doing it right.

A recent addition is Chops at 11th and L streets. They’ve got dry-aged steaks, and they’ll let you take a look at the dry-aging locker. I also appreciate the patio, with its great view of the Capitol and a passing scene that includes politicians, lobbyists and tourists—the famous and infamous.

Patrick Powers

Stop the killing with education

Re “The killing year” (SN&R Editorial, September 7):

So, now SN&R wants to speak out against the root causes of youth violence and disengagement. When the highly successful Mathematics, Engineering, Science and Liberal Arts (MESL) Honors Academy sought editorial support in the effort to become a stand-alone academic site, there was “no hope” from the editorial pages of SN&R.

Even though a news article on the MESL Honors Academy was run, there was even more supportive news space, including a front-page photo, of the Sacramento Charter High School under St. Hope. It took a private organization, the prestigious Frank and Eva Buck Foundation, to recognize the opportunity that the MESL Honors Academy provided to students and, with a matching grant, maintain the financial and academic support for the MESL Honors Academy.

While many of the MESL Honors Academy students were from the high-achieving Sutter Middle School, the balance of the students lived in the Oak Park and surrounding areas, including many from the Meadowview community. These

\students came from homes and neighborhoods that were fractured with problems, yet, through the MESL Honors Academy, all of these students graduated from high school and were admitted to four-year colleges and universities. Most graduates were the first in their family to achieve this and not end up in jail or the grave.

So, “at the end of the day,” the sure way to “address the poverty” issue and to end the violence is to make sure that all students have an equal opportunity for a quality public education as provided by the MESL Honors Academy—which is still not funded by the Sacramento City Unified School District.

Jean Crowder
director/coordinator, MESL Honors Academy