I ride the Ventura County Transportation Commission's VISTA bus, commuting between Ventura and UC Santa Barbara in Goleta several times a week.
Though there are problems, the VISTA bus is generally acceptable. The latest challenge, however, has made me and other commuters feel marginalized and threatened.
The city of Ventura demanded that VISTA move its downtown stop at California and Santa Clara streets to Thompson Boulevard and Oak Street. This move was put into effect on Jan. 12.
I cannot park in the safe and enclosed structure at California and Santa Clara streets. Now that the stop has been moved a block and a half from the structure, I would be forced to walk through the empty, dark streets alone. Now, I must park in a nearer, open-air lot, which I feel is a riskier place for my car.
The northbound stop is in a foreboding part of town, in front of an empty lot, and it faces the cars speeding along Thompson Boulevard.
My main concern, however, is the new southbound drop-off point, located across Thompson Boulevard at the onramp to Highway 101. Once off the stop, we must wait for the light there. More than once, an impatient driver has swerved around the bus to make a right onto the onramp. A couple of my fellow riders have already experienced close calls.
This stop, the northbound and southbound, is a menace. It is only a matter of time until one of the bus commuters is hit by a vehicle. There are other potential dangers in that area for us as well -- car break-ins and muggings come to mind.
Communications with representatives of VISTA have not gotten anywhere. They encourage us to contact Ventura's City Transit Enforcement Program about the crosswalk safety issue, but otherwise give us a bland "I am sorry that the change in location is causing you a problem." I don't believe any of my fellow commuters have gotten a response from the city of Ventura about our concerns.
I would hope that the VCTC and the city of Ventura would accommodate their commuters using alternate transportation and strive to keep them safe.
-- Becky Haycox, Ventura
January 2009 Archives
I ride the Ventura County Transportation Commission's VISTA bus, commuting between Ventura and UC Santa Barbara in Goleta several times a week.
Re: Timm Herdt's Jan. 28 essay, "A way to stabilize California":
There is a problem with Herdt's statement regarding a split tax roll under Proposition 13 in regards to commercial property.
Herdt states there is no sound reason to freeze taxes on commercial property, as they are not owned by senior citizens on fixed incomes and no one would be forced onto the streets if commercial property taxes were allowed to rise and fall (fall?) with the value of the property.
Well, I am a senior citizen and now on an unfixed income because of the stock market, and I own commercial property in downtown Ventura. I have kept the rent I charge below what others are charging in order to keep my tenant so he can make a living.
If Herdt gets his way and the property taxes are raised, who does he think will pay them? My tenant will, and if he can't afford the increase and closes and lets his employees go, they -- the employees -- are on the street.
If our leaders in Sacramento can mess with Proposition 13 and increase taxes on commercial property, what's next? You can be sure the homeowner is next.
-- Ed Lee, Ojai
Re: your Jan. 29 article, "Woman takes U-Haul on a 2-hour pursuit":
When are the police going to take a more aggressive stand on getting these irresponsible individuals off the road? A chase from Palmdale to the outskirts of Ventura County for two hours is totally unacceptable.
I support the California Highway Patrol and the police and sheriff's departments in doing whatever it takes to make a fast and efficient removal of these stupid individuals from the road. Do they really think they are going to escape with helicopters overhead and police cars in pursuit? What about the sentences they receive? Unfortunately, most of them get a slap on the wrist.
-- Carol Conte, Westlake Village
Re: your Jan. 29 article, "Lesbian ex-union organizer set to lead turbulent Iceland":
I was shocked and offended by this headline. Just what does a person's sexual orientation have to do with an article about that person? Had the woman mentioned not been lesbian, would the headline have read, "Heterosexual ex-union organizer?" I think not. If the same person were obese, would the headline have read, "Obese ex-union leader?" Again, I think not.
The only reason I can think of for beginning the headline with the woman's sexual orientation is to sensationalize the article and to fan the flames of anti-gay readers.
The Star should know better, and I certainly expect more of the newspaper that represents our county.
-- Patricia Jacobs, Westlake Village
We've reached an "iconic" pinnacle of the English language. The occurrence of the word "iconic" in newspaper articles and headlines has reached "iconic" proportions.
Actually, an icon is a symbol, and iconic means in the nature of an icon. More commonly, it means conventional or of a fixed style. It does not mean superlative, unique, extreme or anything out of the ordinary.
Journalists who toss the word iconic about so freely haven't the slightest understanding of its meaning. They should apply the Cut-it Test. Look at the adjective in the sentence, such as "iconic," and cut it out of the sentence. If the sentence meaning remains unchanged, the word was unnecessary.
Now that's iconic.
-- Vince Nowell Sr., Simi Valley
The governor has proposed "borrowing" $90 million from the Green Sticker Off-Highway Vehicle Trust Fund in order to make up for budget shortfalls. This is money that was paid in OHV Green Sticker fees.
While the governor has been a staunch supporter of the environment and has even gone so far as to create the Sierra Nevada Conservancy to help protect the environment at an estimated taxpayer cost of perhaps $40 million since 2005, he now proposes "borrowing" $90 million in Green sticker funds, thereby eliminating environmental projects that would reduce erosion on public lands and maintain recreation opportunities while preserving critical habitat and protecting endangered species. Those projects need to be done now. They cannot wait until those funds are paid back years from now, if ever.
Please call 916-445-2841 and tell the governor that borrowing is not an answer to budget shortfalls and that taking money from self-funded programs, especially environmental projects like Green Sticker, is totally inappropriate.
-- Jonathan Fisher, Moorpark
Re: Bill O'Reilly's Jan. 24 commentary, "Witnessing the collapse of the left-wing media":
In this commentary, O'Reilly does a fine job of reiterating why The Star ought to give his space to another writer.
Check out the circulation numbers of the Wall Street Journal, the Orange County Register, the Chicago Tribune -- just about any right-leaning publication. They're all in "plummet mode," just like the left-leaning papers. The Tribune Company is in bankruptcy!
The Star is, in my view, pretty even-handed in its coverage of the news, and its numbers are suffering just like nearly everyone else's. I hope it will do its best to save this fine newspaper. One step in that direction would be to find someone who prepares his opinion pieces thoughtfully instead of O'Reilly.
I once heard O'Reilly say on his TV show, when a caller disputed his facts, that he provides analysis and leaves the facts to reporters. His disdain for pertinent details and basic logic in his apparently hastily written articles ought to get him fired.
There are many fine writers who can represent the right wing better than O'Reilly. The Star should hire one.
-- Bob Hillman, Thousand Oaks
The Star has taken an overt and obvious turn to the hard right in recent weeks, featuring fact-free screeds from the likes of Bill O'Reilly and Clifford May and hyperventilating letters to the editor from county conservatives whose wholesale lifting of talking points from the Rush Limbaugh radio show and Sean Hannity television show would have them expelled from any school in the nation for plagiarism.
It's time for The Star to come clean. A simple, short editorial will suffice that says exactly what the editorial board's politics are. No more hedging, no more token "liberal" letters to the editor buried at the bottom of page columns. There are fewer letters to the editor on fewer days, and more op-eds from more conservatives on the days that remain.
The Star owes it to the county, to the readers and to its advertisers to state in plain English exactly just how conservative the board is and how conservative it intends to become.
-- Russell Burgos, Thousand Oaks
I applaud The Star for its daily entry on the budget logjam in Sacramento. With public services being cut and the state running out of money, it has come down to us, the citizenry of California, to take matters into our own hands. Remember your high school government classes -- we are a government of the people by the people and for the people.
That is why I am so disappointed that each person interviewed by The Star over the past three weeks has declined the offer to call his or her legislator in California on the spot to express an opinion.
Maybe you think it is the Democrats who just want higher taxes so they can spend more on us. Or maybe you think it is the handful of Republicans who are putting silly no-tax pledges in front of the public's welfare, resulting in teachers, firefighters and nurses being laid off. It really doesn't matter. What does matter is that you stop complaining to your neighbors and the occasional news reporter who asks your opinion and do something about it. If you don't want to call, take literally two minutes and write them an e-mail. Here's the link: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/
Our founders intended this democracy to be participatory. Men and women have fought over two centuries in the effort to spread that democracy to women, African-Americans and young people, and many more have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect and defend it. It is unpatriotic to not use those rights.
-- Gary E. Murphy, Simi Valley
Re: Benedict Lucchese's Jan. 27 letter, "Conventions' exceptions":
Lucchese claims that "liberals" show their "ignorance" by referring to the Geneva Conventions in connection with the prisoners at Guantanamo. Lucchese claims that the conventions do not protect "guerillas" who "can be summarily executed."
Lucchese could not be more wrong. Far from allowing summary execution, the Geneva Conventions provide that even if a prisoner is found to be an "unlawful combatant" by a "competent tribunal," the prisoner retains the right "to be treated with humanity and, in case of trial, shall not be deprived of the rights of fair and regular trial prescribed by the present Convention."
They also provide that, if after "fair and regular trial," the "unlawful combatant" is found guilty of a crime, then the "unlawful combatant" can be punished by whatever lawful methods are available to country holding the prisoner.
Even if the Geneva Conventions did not provide such protections, I would expect our government to uphold the principles of our Constitution and Bill of Rights with respect to anyone held by our military or law enforcement agencies.
The ugly truth about Gitmo and other U.S. detention facilities is just now starting to become known. Once upon a time, Americans opposed governments that arrested people without probable cause, held them without charges, denied them counsel, tortured them and denied them fair trials. In a moment of crisis, our government abandoned our principles of justice and fairness, ignoring the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
I am thankful that President Barack Obama has taken prompt action to stop the illegal internments and interrogations at Gitmo and similar facilities. I am thankful because I believe in a pledge of allegiance that ends "with liberty and justice for all."
-- Paul Bauducco, Moorpark
Re: your Jan. 25 article, "Obama signals big changes, but he moves cautiously":
I guess the honeymoon is not yet over, as the press is still enraptured with the rhetoric of his majesty Barack Obama and still not a peep from the press about the looming doom of the alleged "Freedom of Choice Act" that elminates the freedom to choose not to perform abortions by those opposed to it.
The Star reports that Obama will "move cautiously ... to build consensus rather than adopt a my-way-or-the-highway style and reach out to the right," blah, blah, blah. He also promised transparency.
Neither seem to be evident when he signed an order (his way) lifting a ban on taxpayer-financed abortion counseling. Transparency was lacking when, claiming to be considerate by postponing the signing of that order until after the highly visible (although not in the Star) Roe v. Wade anniversary, in favor of the less visible (no press coverage) day after. He claimed it would have been a slap in the face a day earlier, but not so a day later. A slap in the face is a slap in the face. An executive order is an executive order.
He showed mercy to the terrorists at Guantanamo but none for the unborn abroad or the taxpayers who have to pay for something they do not believe in. If we do not exercise our responsibilities and demand our representatives reflect our values, it will indeed be his way or the highway, an Obamanation.
-- Dorothy Hage, Newbury Park
Re: Timm Herdt's Jan. 28 essay, "A way to stabilize California":
Herdt's three-quarter-page essay on stabilizing the California budget proves once again that anyone connected with the Sacramento Capitol are incompetent money managers -- even those who don't hold office!
Herdt took three columns of print to rearrange the deck chairs by recommending increased property taxes on business and eliminating current new equipment sales tax.
Herdt and our elected legislators in Sacramento need to take a night class in basic general elementary mathematics to refresh their budget skills -- and perhaps a few hours of logic, too.
-- Ray Holm, Westlake Village
Re: Harold Edwards' Pulse page commentary, "History teaches us these hard times, too, shall pass":
History is a great teacher, if we remember. I thank Edwards for the lesson. The economy is in a valley and will climb to the top, with or without the help of our government. The people of the U.S. will make it. We always do.
-- Michelle Kregel, Simi Valley
I would like to thank The Star and Brian Dennert for allowing me to blog my experience at the 44th inaugural on their Web site. Had Brian not been cracking the whip on me, I would not have myself a personal history of this fantastic experience.
Kudos to The Star as well for having such great coverage of all Venturans who were in attendance.
I would also like to thank U.S. Rep. Elton Gallegly for helping me orchestrate my trip and being such a gracious host. Not only did he provide us with two tickets into the inauguration, but also, when I found myself in a two-hour line for the House office building, he personally walked out to get them to me. He and his staff could not have been more accommodating.
-- Jason Hodge, Oxnard
As former President George W. Bush's presidency entered the final year and the 2008 election period progressed, the polls showed that politicians with costly program plans would quite likely be in office. Businesses were being told that their taxes and other financial obligations would increase for various programs. Many people were convinced that businesses don't pay enough taxes and their owners are all rich and should pay higher taxes than the rest of us.
When it came closer to the election, more people may have realized how the connection between businesses and taxes actually affects them. If businesses were going to have less money to spend to keep operating, they would not make the same profit. They would have to increase income by charging more for their goods and services or decrease spending by trimming their workforce. Businesses that get their capital by selling stock would take a hit as stock owners saw business prospects decreasing. Those stock owners sold stocks to invest their money in things that make money.
Obviously, the stock market went down. Obviously, many people are out of work as businesses raised prices and people cut back their spending, leading to a need for fewer employees. Businesses may also be getting ready for increased financial obligations.
We've seen a huge increase in voter registration, and this must be accompanied by a huge increase in voter knowledge.
People need to understand how the market works. Whether it's the whatever-size-business, the stock market or you buying a widget at the corner store, decisions are made about the value of choices. Your home is your business and you're free to make decisions affecting it. Businesses should have that same freedom. Consumers decide what businesses will thrive by where they spend their money.
Please make your decisions consciously and responsibly and be aware of how government leaders at every level can cause changes in markets, leading to changes in your life circumstances.
-- Barbara Kronewitter, Ventura
Re: John Edwards' Jan. 27 letter, "Sensationalism thrives":
Edwards could benefit from doing a bit of research on abortion. He makes so many statements that are incorrect that he appears foolish.
I am not going to argue whether abortion equates to the Jewish Holocaust. However, it is an act that takes the lives of at least 1 million unborn babies each year in the U.S.
He is very flippant in his description of the unborn baby, calling it a collection of unknowing, unfeeling, unconscious cells. He is also unaware of the reason for the majority of abortions. So, I will attempt to give him a bit of information that he can easily find through the Internet, if he has a computer.
Unfortunately, 95 percent of all abortions are used as birth control. Rape and incest cases make up 1 percent. Abortions given in cases involving mothers' health are 3 percent, and it's 1 percent for cases involving an unhealthy unborn baby. That means 950,000 occur each year for birth control.
There are at least three different types of abortions, because not all abortions happen in the first part of the baby's development. The first type, RU486, is a pill taken immediately after conception. It can cause bleeding and death in some cases. The vacuum abortion can cause bleeding and death in more frequent cases. The third, dilation and evacuation, is brutal for the baby, and all will conclude that the viable baby is killed.
In extreme cases, abortionists have been charged with letting babies die, and in the case of an abortionist in Los Angeles, killing a baby that was born alive. The last to suffer is the mother. She is left with many consequences due to a decision that could have been altered to adoption.
Yes, I do believe in protecting the lives of unborn babies. I would hardly call my belief pious or ludicrous. And, with more than 35 million abortions since 1975, I would consider a holocaust is still occurring.
-- Carla Bonney, Ventura
Last week, a 6-year-old boy was at the crime scene of a homicide where an 18-year-old was the victim. The boy was watching as police investigators and the photographer worked the scene and collected evidence.
One of our officers asked the boy why he was there. The boy told the officer that the victim was his friend. The boy added that he knew the victim was a gang member and that he thought that was cool. The officer was taken aback by the boy's comment and told him that being in a gang was not cool and that he should not think that way. The boy again said that it was cool that his friend was in a gang and died in a gang. This was the comment of a 6-year-old boy!
When I learned of this boy's comments, I could not help but feel a sense of despair. Even after 31 years in law enforcement, I believe I am an eternal optimist and believe that as our community works together, we can help all children grow into responsible, caring adults who reject gangs and violence. Our work to save these kids must and, with a community effort, will prevail. But the little boy's words left me with a deep feeling of sadness.
Today his comments still ring in my head, and we, as a society, suffer the loss of another victim of violence. Many remain to be saved. We have a lot of work to do. We cannot give up on these kids and that 6-year-old. They are all our children and our future. We need to embrace them and engage with them as people who care, so they won't look to gangs for fellowship.
As we work together as a community, I know we can break this chain of violence. We didn't come this far to quit, and we certainly will not fail.
- John Crombach, Oxnard
(The writer is the Oxnard police chief and a board member of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Oxnard and Port Hueneme. -- Editor)
Re: Rose Mary Dallman's Jan. 27 letter, "No time for hoops":
The president needs to take time for hoops. It is a much-needed healthy outlet for a person with burdens that Dallman and I know nothing about. Give him a break!
And when he comes home, the White House should be decorated to his family's tastes, not the 8-year-old decor of the Bush family. Remember, the basketball court and decorating is for four years and maybe longer.
Now if it were me, I'd want a swimming pool.
-- Fran Mender, Camarillo
The recent huge anti-abortion rally in San Francisco -- of all places! -- proves that there is still much good in Americans. Apparently, not everyone has succumbed to evil, immorality and the low life.
Since 1973, some 45 million babies have been murdered in America. The Romans had their gladiators fight to the death for spectator amusement. The Nazis had their extermination camps for Jews. The Soviets had their gulags (prisons) for the political opposition. America has its abortuaries where unborn children meet a violent and sickening death. Their screams are not heard.
May God have mercy on those women and their doctors who assist in making this American holocaust. May God have mercy on those who will not defend the sanctity of life. Their silence is deafening.
-- John K. Carter, Camarillo
Re: James Terry's Jan. 25 letter, "Furlough's snowball effect":
I agree with this letter, but let me add something else.
Though I don't work for the State of California, I do work in an Economic Development Department office that is partnered with the Workforce Investment Act program in the Los Angeles area. Every day, I see probably a hundred people come in to apply for unemployment, or to find out what happened to their unemployment check, etc. Many want to talk to a live person, which means they have to call the unemployment office, since there are no unemployment offices anyone can physically walk into.
We have four telephones that automatically dial the unemployment office when the receiver is picked up, but it goes to the same line as it would have had they called from home. For many who use these phones, it takes an hour or two just to get a message that somebody will be with them in so many minutes. Plus, there are those trying to get through from home.
Now, if the furlough goes through, all EDD personnel will have to take two days off a month -- all on the same days. There's no staggering of their days off. This means two days out of month the unemployment office is closed, as well as the other EDD offices, which means the telephone lines are going to be backed up even worse come the following Monday.
If the other EDD offices close down during these days, it could affect the WIA programs that are partnered with the EDD in the same office -- and their employees.
During this time of high unemployment and poor economy, why does the state wish to punish these people who lost their jobs, lost their homes, etc., when the state Senate, Assembly and governor wish to act so childish and refuse to compromise on the budget?
-- Richard Ryans, Newbury Park
Re: Colleen Cason's Jan. 25 column, "T.O. residents rally 'round a struggling restaurateur":
What a well-written column about Mama Rita's restaurant in Newbury Park.
My husband and I went for dinner on Sunday and not only was the food excellent, but service was terrific! Not living in that area, we didn't know it was there. I will go back and also recommend it to friends.
I hope everyone remembers we need to "shop" local and try to frequent "non-chain" businesses.
-- Diane Hunn, Thousand Oaks
Re: Jason Spadaro's Jan. 25 letter, "Praise for Republicans":
Spadaro thanks "the Republican legislators from Ventura County who are representing the interests of the taxpayer." Which taxpayers? The wealthiest taxpayers in the state?
These same Republicans staunchly support a loophole that allows those who can afford private planes and yachts to bring them into the state without paying taxes on them if they wait 90 days after purchase in a no-tax state.
While Spadaro thinks that "our most vital public services ... are at risk of being cut" he doesn't make the connection that taxes pay for those services.
-- Sheila Suarez, Newbury Park
Re: your Jan. 26 article, "Insurers now must provide interpreters for patients":
I am amazed once again at how my immigrant parents got through life without signs in Hungarian or Portuguese. They somehow mastered the tongue of the land and were forced to succeed.
I bring this up after reading the article about interpreters being needed in medical situations. Why stop there? I think multilingual interpreters should be at every place they sell cigarettes to read the warning, at every railroad crossing to read the sign that says "Do not stop on tracks," at every dairy counter to read the labels that say low-fat or buttermilk, at every pharmacy counter (self-explanatory) and then at bookstores to explain ... get it?
Enabling is disabling.
-- Jim Barros, Simi Valley
With great precision, Congress has divided the stimulus package into three equal parts: $275 billion to tax cuts, $275 billion to short-term infrastructure spending and $275 billion to pet projects and pork barrel spending of a magnitude never before imagined.
How will this be paid for? By later raising taxes and interest rates and by inflation, which will undo whatever short-term benefit this package brings us.
Meanwhile, the Barack Obama administration is ready with new and improved environmental restrictions and regulations on our ailing auto industry.
Here in California, after the Gray Davis recall, business went on as usual, with continued spending without regards to consequence. Now they will give us additional taxes to fix the situation.
Spend first, tax later. A storm is coming!
-- Diego Cruz, Newbury Park
Re: Terry Paulson's Jan. 19 essay, "Let free enterprise work":
After reading this essay, I feel Paulson has forfeited his right to give advice to anyone, let alone President Barack Obama.
He writes about letting our government step aside and "let our free enterprise system work." We just tried that for eight long years, and look where it left us! We have just lived through possibly the most corrupt "free enterprise" system in our country's history. Unchecked corporate greed left a wake of mass unemployment and unimaginable losses of homes and healthcare while those responsible in the private sectors walked away with obscene golden parachute deals.
And to compare our Social Security system to Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme is totally irresponsible. Social Security is not a government handout, but a safety net that we all pay into to protect us when we reach the age where we can no longer work and earn income to support our families. That's the reason it's called a safety net.
Can you imagine if we took our former president and his party's advice and invested our Social Security money in the stock market as was suggested? Talk about bad advice!
-- Steve Binder, Oxnard
Re: Raymond Beaulieu's Jan. 19 letter, "Digital's bad reception":
Yes, it is annoying to "lose the picture for a second or two or for the picture to break up while you're watching the program." However, I can go one better.
Closed captioning on many of the stations has deteriorated into considerably more frequent garbled words and sentences with the introduction of digital TV.
CC is vital to the deaf and hard of hearing -- as I am -- in understanding the dialogue on TV. There have always been problems with spelling or garbling of the words, but it is far worse with digital TV. The deterioration doesn't last for a second or so; it often lasts throughout the show. It's extremely frustrating for those of us who need CC.
Since it doesn't seem to always involve every show at the same time, I suspect it is perhaps the signal sent out by the individual stations at different times. And, perhaps that also is the cause of the momentary loss or digitalized breakup of the picture.
Also, I thought it was a law, or something like that, that TV shows were supposed to transmit the CC signal as of a few years ago. But CNN frequently reruns the same shows -- one example, "Larry King" -- previously broadcast the same day with CC and later without CC. I have written to various networks when there was no CC on their shows, as advertised in the program guide, and only one bothered to reply back, and they corrected their problem immediately. I don't know whom else to contact regarding the absence of CC on a show.
-- Pat Frantom, Ventura
It is with a great deal of gratitude that I write this letter.
The Church of the Living Christ, located in Meiners Oaks, recently voted not to allow the County of Ventura to deposit the sediment from behind Matilija Dam onto their property in the Ventura River bottom. This is significant because it saves a very sizable portion of the river bottom and the lower portion of Cozy Dell Creek from being permanently damaged with a huge amount of sediment that should be allowed to wash down to the ocean.
In a cost-saving effort, the county had proposed to dump more than 2 million cubic yards of dam sediments that have accumulated over a 60-year period behind the dam on lands adjacent to the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy's Ventura River Preserve. This action would have necessitated removing two feet of topsoil and all the bushes and oak trees from the site prior to dumping the sediment there.
Even though the 35-foot-high pile of sediment would have been replanted, it is uncertain whether oak trees and plants would be able to grow on the enormous pile. The dumping of the sediment in this location would permanently impact the public trail system of the Ventura River Preserve and also likely have a negative impact on the wells operated by the Meiners Oaks Water District.
In its public presentations and environmental documents describing the Matilija Dam removal, the county had previously indicated that two other locations further down river would be used for the sediment disposal. These sites are closer to the active river channels and would be much more likely to allow the sediment to wash down to the ocean during heavy winter flows, thereby fulfilling one of the most important reasons for removing the dam in the first place.
I congratulate the Church of the Living Christ for having the foresight to not allow their property to be permanently damaged.
-- Rich Handley, Ojai
Re: Sharon Schumann's Jan. 16 letter, "Who'll buy these homes?"
Well, here we go again. The Oxnard City Council of Cement has just approved 344 homes at the corner of Vineyard Avenue and Ventura Road, even though the Planning Commission turned it down. I don't know why we even have a Planning Commission. They have no teeth. They turn down developments and the council turns around and approves them.
As Schumann's letter states, who is going to buy these homes with all the foreclosures the city of Oxnard now has?
Some of these homes will be three-story condos. Supposedly these homes are compatible to the surrounding area. Really? I do not see any condos anywhere near this area. If they mean RiverPark, which is about a mile down the road, it's already saturated with ugly two- to three-story condos. Wow, these people really want Oxnard to look like Los Angeles!
Some of the council people approved this development even though they had concerns about the density and small backyards. Then why did they approve it?
This is what the city of Oxnard gets for voting these bozos in. With Tim Flynn gone, these coyotes are in the chicken pen with no one stopping them. There's no one to question them except the citizens who come before them at the City Council meetings, and they're ignored too.
They always use the excuse that the areas they develop are vacant lots in the city. Then build parks on these lots! That is what we really need, not more unchecked development!
-- Art Padilla, Oxnard
Re: Fran Jansen's Jan. 15 letter, "Bush bias evident":
I am in shock at the letter written by Jansen, who blames the economic, political and international crises on the negative reporting of the media.
The term delusional doesn't even suffice, as Jansen seems to have forgotten 9/11, Iraq, Katrina, torture and the media's failing to accurately report to the American people. The media failed the American public by lying to them, subverting the truth and denying American citizens the basic fundamental rights of a free press under the guise of patriotism.
Where has this gotten us? Well, Iraq is doing well at $10 billion a month, an economic crisis is costing us upwards of $1 trillion, New Orleans is still in shambles and we tortured people, but Jansen thinks that if the media had been nicer to President Bush, everything would be all right. The failure of the educational system to produce critical thinkers has never been more evident.
But, yes, the Bill Clinton years were terrible. I hate surpluses.
-- Brett Yorke, Ventura
Re: your Jan. 27 edition:
The newspaper media are also influencing further cause of the recession. The bold headline reads, "Recession kills thousands more jobs," while at the bottom of the page there was a small blurb on Amgen reporting $15 billion in revenue with the article continuing in the business section with the headline, "Amgen reports 'slight' rebound in '08." That's about as boring of a headline as it could be, and most likely very few will read the article.
Why not have written, "Amgen is hiring; potential blockbuster drug going on market"? The power of the pen can also create optimism.
There are many people who have good jobs and have money to buy big-ticket items, but with all the bad press they are afraid to buy and even go out to dinner, thus creating further degradation to the economy. Why not write about a glass of water being half full, instead of being half empty? The perception and positive attitudes can have amazing results and have a positive domino affect on the economy.
-- Richard E. Heath, Camarillo
-- Jail the CEOs and boards of the financial institutions that gambled their assets on easy, fast money without regard to the future. If they're not jailed, make attendance at Gamblers Anonymous required for the rest of their lives.
-- Don't blame homeowners, although many made stupid mistakes with their mortgages. Any good business checks to see if their client has the means to pay back loans. Greed motivated the financial markets, not strong business sense.
-- Let's support the manufacturing base of this country rather than tear it down with misinformation. Contrary to what some senators want us to believe, American cars do exist that get great fuel economy, five-star safety ratings and excellent quality scores.
-- Make Congress act on an energy policy for the U.S. Pick a clean source of energy for our autos -- hydrogen works for all sizes of vehicles -- and develop and implement the policy with the cooperation of the auto industry, energy producers and government agencies. What good does it do a car company to produce a fuel-efficient car if the fuel is not readily available?
-- Develop solar and wind technologies and put them in place. Manufacturing and installation would provide jobs for many.
-- Speak out. Tell your legislators at both federal and state levels what you want done. Let them know they are replaceable if they do not perform the tasks they were elected to carry out. Silence only allows them to continue their inaction.
-- Remove all car allowances from any government employee making more than $100,000 a year. Let our legislators live in the real world.
-- Go back to the days when serving as a legislator was a form of public service, not a career. Ten to 12 years should be the most time spent in state or federal elected jobs.
-- Remind our legislatures that government is not in the business of making money. They only spend the money that taxpayers produce and turn in to the government in taxes, fees and fines. Government needs to be a better caretaker of our public funds.
-- Our thoughts and actions must move from me to we. What can we do to help our fellow citizens? Now that our government regulators and legislatures have allowed this downturn to spiral out of control, it will take each and every one of us to make some sacrifices so that our friends, neighbors and co-workers can survive this mess.
-- Sue Smith, Ventura
Re: Michael Jamison's Jan. 13 commentary, "Hospitalists: Fad or future?"
After reading this commentary, I thought I needed to "clear the air."
I would agree that cutting costs and decreasing reimbursement is part of the medical landscape.
Physicians spending five minutes with a patient and billing for 30 minutes is a gross exaggeration. So is ordering tests for no obvious reasons. Jamison should be ashamed of himself for putting "all doctors" in these categories.
Health maintenance organizations may change prescriptions within the same pharmaceutical category, when possible, for the best value to the patient with the same results.
Hospitals need to run their facilities more efficiently and cost-effectively; an aspirin need not cost $5 in the hospital. Cost shifting -- those with insurance paying for services for those who are uninsured -- needs to stop. The states, and for that matter the federal government, need to once and for all face the uninsured issue.
With the changes that have occurred over the years, hospitalists are the best thing that has happened since Medicare. Why? They devote their care only to the hospitalized patient in an efficient, cost-effective, timely manner. They see the patient in the hospital, if necessary more than once a day. They are "quarterbacks" in the patient care, using specialists only when they are needed. They also monitor the specialists' care, releasing them when they are no longer needed, therefore decreasing medical costs.
Continuity of the hospitalized patient starts at the time of admission. The patient's physician is notified upon the patient's admittance to the hospital, kept informed of the patient's progress and included in a patient discharge. The patient's family physician is always welcome to visit the hospitalized patient to show a "familiar face."
Hospitalists are screened and credentialed by the company they are employed by and also credentialed by the hospitals where they work. They are qualified and well trained.
As Jamison stated, most primary physicians prefer to run their office practices. Over time they lose their acute skills in the hospital setting.
In regards to SeaView, primary care physicians can see their patients in the hospital, but most prefer not to and welcome the hospitalist to see their HMO patients and non-HMO patients.
I agree: "Consumer beware." There is no reason for potential healthcare needs to be feared or avoided. The future of medicine is always changing, but one thing is certain: You will continue to receive good medical care no matter who provides it -- private physicians or hospitalists, be it under private insurance, Medicare or an HMO.
-- Gary J. Proffett, M.D., Oxnard
(The writer is the medical director at the SeaView Independent Physician Association. -- Editor)
It is with heartfelt gratitude that I wish to thank the many people who helped to make our recent fundraiser such a huge success. The purpose of our home tour was to benefit 16-year-old Christian Kingsley, the grandson of Freethinkers of Ventura County member Stuart Kingsley, who was recently left paralyzed during a family motorbike outing.
The more than 250 visitors who drove to my home in Somis were graciously greeted by our 14 volunteer docents, each responsible for a different area of the home, shop and guest house. Traffic was directed and parking spaces were assigned by my hard-working son, daughter and friends.
I would like to especially thank my dear friend, Jeanean Hollen, for all her hard work as my "right-hand woman." Jeanean compiled a wonderful four-minute video of young Christian's life, which she continuously presented to groups of visitors in the home theater.
Through the generous donations of all who attended and others who mailed their checks of support, we were able to raise a substantial amount of money to help Christian and his family. All proceeds will go to the National Transplant Assistance Fund, Catastrophic Injury Program, which has set up a tax-exempt account, specifically in Christian's name.
-- Charlotte Poe, Somis
(The writer is president and founder of the Freethinkers of Ventura County. -- Editor)
Re: Richard E. Brown's Jan. 26 letter, "Giving proper credit":
It would be unworthy for him to be sarcastic on a serious matter, so I'm going to assume Brown is sincere in chiding the news media for not reporting "one acknowledgment" of God's "divine and benevolent intervention" in the saving of the passengers and crew of the US Airways plane that successfully crash-landed in the Hudson River.
The news media should not bring God into such discussions because these discussions would then require theological nuance, and U.S. news media aren't good at theology or nuance.
If God's intervention saved the lives of the passengers and crew, there's the question of why those lives were in danger to start with. If "There's a special Providence in the fall of a sparrow," there'd definitely be "special Providence" -- divine will, narrowly focused -- in a couple or more geese flying into a plane's engines.
If we credit God with the good, we must also credit God with the evil, and especially for Christians, that gets tricky.
We run into a parallel issue if we imagine seriously teaching in the schools intelligent design. If "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork," we can see the hand of an intelligent, benevolent and very talented creator in, say, the eyes of vertebrates and squid. But what of the life cycle of the alien-like varieties of the ichneumon wasp -- the ones where mama ichneumon wasps paralyze victims and inject eggs into them? When the eggs hatch, the larvae eat their way out through the fresh meat of the living insects.
If you want to think seriously about such issues, try reading as a matched pair the biblical books of Ecclesiastes and Job. Or, if you want a friendlier God, consider a Christian afterlife of heaven or hell as an answer to the problems of evil and injustice in this life -- but then read the Book of Revelation ending the Christian Bible and note that faith is also tough for Christians.
You don't want the schools or the media fooling around with such questions? Then don't invite the schools to do so with intelligent design or chide the media for avoiding them when there are plane crashes.
-- Richard D. Erlich, Port Hueneme
Recently a vendor came down our street dropping off fliers. They didn't bother placing them at our door or porches. They dropped the fliers by the curb in the street in front of each house. The wind was blowing, and they went all over the place. I picked up 40 of these fliers from the street and lawns.
I called the company to complain. I talked to three different people there. All I got was the runaround. I then e-mailed the vendor and got no reply.
I called Ventura Code Enforcement the next day and left a message on their machine. As of two days later, they hadn't replied.
I thought it was against the law to litter. You get fined. I thought the city of Ventura wanted to be a nice clean place. I was wrong. It doesn't look like they care.
If other cities get word that Ventura doesn't respond to litter, their trash trucks will be arriving here to unload their trash. It is pretty bad when no one responds from the city.
-- Harry Harshbarger, Ventura
My loving thoughts are with the courageous young woman who 26 years ago gave birth to my beautiful granddaughter.
-- Jane Meredith, Camarillo
The Amtrak train pulling the then-president-elect's car from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., would have been much more beautiful and historic had it been Southern Pacific's old Daylight 4449 that use to make the run from Los Angeles to San Francisco in the 1940s and 1950s and pulled the Freedom Train in 1976.
Another point of interest was when President Barack Obama took the oath of office from Chief Justice John Roberts, had President Abraham Lincoln been alive to witness this historic event, he would have thought, "Yes, this is the culmination of my Emancipation Proclamation."
-- Jim Elwell Martinez, Oak View
In the 1750s, it was the common sense of informed opinion that no nation of consequence could persist without the guiding hand of a hereditary king. Yet in 1776, America abandoned the common conviction of the wise in an experiment with elective democracy, to the pervasive scorn of the worldly and sophisticated. And we have flourished, without a monarch, ever since.
Since we can thus not know the future, and can scarcely comprehend the totality of the complex present, it is sometimes wise to suspend the convictions of disbelief and dwell for a moment in the chartless possibilities of the unforeseen.
I listened, with half the world, to the president's inaugural address, and I heard a man speak with dignity, intelligence, discernment and grace. I saw a man convey a sense of gravity, equanimity, reflectiveness and decency. I heard a man say things both fitting and needful, in words both appropriate and admirable, both poetic and clear. I witnessed, in a word, a statesman.
I reflected that we have, after long decades, elevated a true statesman to the highest office, and I felt a deep gratitude toward the American people. I reflected further that this true statesman is also a black American, and I felt then a deepening awe toward the American people. In this one moment we have set behind us the scars and horrors of the malignant past of racism. We at last perceive, not the category, but the individual.
One envisions great things for the United States of America.
-- Paul Mattson, Oxnard
(The writer is a professor of anthropology at Moorpark College. -- Editor)
Re: your Jan. 23 article, "Oxnard's graffiti fine is criticized":
While reading this article, I am struck by many things, and none are related to the validity of the city's tagging ordinance. So many questions beg asking.
Where was the attention of the parent(s) when these children were impressionable 4-year-olds? Actually, pick any age.
Where were these parents at the time of that first offense, before the fines became $7,000 to $12,000, or even $80,000? The article refers to fine amounts "based on each tagging incident, no matter how small." Which illegal tagging incident was too small? How many illegal tagging incidents are too many? Where were these parents at each of the additional illegal tagging incidents?
Who is teaching these children to stop breaking the law?
Why does it take a monetary fine to get the attention of the parents?
The article quotes attorney Barbara Macri-Ortiz as saying too many kids "are ignored at school" and unless they are a star in sports or some other activity, "they're just a statistic." By categorizing children as either a "star" or a "statistic," and thus minimizing all students, she tries to bolster the argument for the ordinance being "fatally flawed" based on a person's "ability to pay."
But for every "statistic" (pronounced "child") that is caught tagging or otherwise breaking the law, there are thousands of "stars" and nonstar "statistics" whose parents have taught and continue to teach them right from wrong. There are consequences for actions.
Negative consequences sting. This is a fact. But if these parents are unwilling to "pay" the price of teaching their children right from wrong, then arguing about their "ability to pay" punitive dollar amounts is senseless (pronounced "fatally flawed").
-- Robert Crawford Jr., Oxnard
As I look around Ventura County, I see "For sale," "For lease" and "Bank-owned" properties. I see beautiful homes and businesses closing their doors. So I ask myself: Is this the life that we will leave for our children?
Does it matter who was elected president? What matters is the local government and local cities that will be hit harder and harder.
How can one person resolve loss of property value, higher property taxes, vacant buildings and storefronts and restaurants closing?
How can one person stop the hundreds of homeless families that will be living in their cars and RVs?
How can a parent tell a young teenager that he or she will not be able to go to college because they're using the college fund to live on because there are no jobs?
How can anyone plan for retirement or even find a place to retire? Do we all move out of the county?
How do you tell all the hundreds of people that they have to give up their companion pet because they cannot afford them and have to move? Check out the local shelters. They have the most "owner turned in" animals in years.
What do you tell your daughter when she cannot afford to go to the prom or buy a dress? Yet, you see all the shows about fashion and the Hollywood dream world.
Let's get back to reality. Will Christmas 2009 be a time when we will feel safe and secure with just what we have -- a rented house, a sofa and maybe a TV? Is this what our fathers, brothers, uncles, sisters and moms are fighting for? Is this what the generation of men of World War I and II gave their lives for -- a rented house, no value, no money in the bank?
This is America, land of the free. The flag flies high, yet all I see are signs that read, "For sale, bank-owned."
-- Nancy Mauthe, Ph.D., Camarillo
(The writer adds that she had a business in 2008 and lost it. -- Editor)
Re: Betsy Hart's Jan. 23 essay, "Be realistic about kids":
I hope that parents will not heed Hart's advice and decide that they are the ones best suited to cross talents off their children's lists. It may well be that Hart's child does not possess a lovely singing voice, but at the tender age of 7, how could she possibly know? What training and background give her the ability to discern the musical ability of a child of 7? Furthermore, how could she possibly know what the other 6- to 10-year-olds would consider good singing? At that age, my son won accolades from his classmates by burping.
For the record, most 7-year-olds don't have a very accurate sense of pitch. They also are not able to keep a steady rhythm. This has nothing to do with their musical ability. It has to do with ordinary human development and the amount of time they spend at these tasks.
I don't want to be too hard on Hart. Our kids ask us questions and we respond with our best intentions, but it is important to determine whether we are really looking out for our child's best interest -- or our own. Hart would have us think that she is protecting her child from possible failure in life by being unrealistically encouraged by her mother. I think Hart is unrealistically and prematurely discouraging her child with a very public proclamation that she can "cross singing off her list."
So at the tender age of 7, her daughter will decide that singing is not one of her talents, well before she has had the time to develop pitch or rhythm and years before her voice will even begin to mature. This will not matter because we have forgotten the joy of singing in the shower or gathering around a piano at a party. Many of us also don't dance for the same reason -- because we "can't." The standards of our culture have determined how much of our own humanity we will allow ourselves to experience.
Instead, we will watch American Idol and feel pity and shame for those who "can't sing." We will forget to feel any shame or pity for ourselves, who, with our superiority, have become couch potatoes.
No, not everyone is cut out to be on "American Idol," but there are a hundred places to take the lessons learned from trying. And in the meantime, the world could use a little more song, especially from lovely, enthusiastic, blissfully unaware 7-year-olds.
-- Reta Tyree, Ventura
Re: Andy Killion's Dec. 4 letter, "Where's a helpful bank?":
I want to thank The Star for publishing my letter in December regarding small business and banking in today's environment. I actually received a few calls in response from some local bankers, including a higher-level person from my own bank.
The Star recently published an article announcing that my bank had accepted $15 million in federal Troubled Asset Relief Program funds. Prior to accepting the TARP funds, my banker informed me that their loan criteria had tightened up significantly. In fact, the bank's criteria is so tight, the only way they would loan me $100,000 was if we were to deposit $100,000 in the bank.
Let me clarify this for those who missed it: We would deposit $100,000 in the bank and receive a low rate of interest, and the bank would loan us back our $100,000 and charge us a higher rate of interest -- all with zero risk to the bank and their borrowed funds.
After a very brief review of our options, we decided to go it alone. As of the new year, we have doubled our staffing and have taken on a new facility to better serve our customers.
Following my late mentor's advice, we are continuing to grow our business in adverse times. After all, isn't that what business is all about?
As all of us are watching our new presidential leadership move into action, let us hope he sees where Wall Street actually crosses Main Street. This is our government, and these are our monies and our government has certainly printed ample supplies of it. All that is required are clear guidelines for our banks that accept these federal funds on what is possible and what is not.
Clearly, buying out competitors was not the original intent of TARP.
Our little company is only one of millions of other little companies that weave the fabric of our American economy. We provide for a dozen families in our community and serve hundreds of customers. As we prosper, so will our employees and our communities.
Should this economy continue to sputter and our banks continue to remain tight, there will be no other option than to stop and fight. Employees will become statistics and customers will disappear.
These are trying times, and it is time for clarity and pragmatism.
-- Andy Killion, Ventura
Re: your Jan. 25 article, "Their last hope for healthcare":
The intellectual dishonesty constantly on display in the pages of The Star is positively mind-boggling. The lengthy Page 1 story on the county's healthcare virtually ignores the impact that illegal immigration has had on our free clinics, hospitals and emergency rooms long before the current economic turndown. When is The Star going to cover this problem in such detail? My guess is never.
-- Denis Higgins, Ventura
Re: your Jan. 24 article, "Obama reverses Bush's foreign abortion-funds policy":
This article points out that the "Mexico City policy," also known as the "global gag rule," withheld federal funds from family planning agencies that offer abortion information to their clients. Not mentioned in the article is the fact that the gag rule has most likely had the opposite effect of its intent.
World health authorities have often pointed out that when international family planning organizations have less access to U.S. financial aid, they must cut back on the contraceptive information and materials they provide their clients. Without this help, many women in developing countries become pregnant and end up undergoing abortions.
The gag rule instituted by President George W. Bush -- and President Ronald Reagan before him -- has probably been responsible for more abortions than the policies of the Democratic presidents who followed them.
-- Richard E. Goodman, Camarillo
Re: David LaBelle's Jan. 25 "Hard Times" commentary, "Ray Thomas: 'Phone stopped ringing'":
My apologies as well as a heartfelt thanks to Thomas, the out-of-work painter. Thomas hit the nail on the head when he was asked what it would take to turn things around for him and he replied, "For people to stop being afraid to spend money."
I apologize, but I am one of the millions of Americans who are afraid to spend any money, as Thomas so eloquently put it. I am fortunate to have a safe and secure job that pays very well, but I've lost thousands from my retirement accounts and foresee only higher taxes in the future.
Yes, I'm hunkered down and not spending while millions of folks lose their jobs across the nation. But the fact remains that there is no light at the end of the tunnel, and this economy will surely get far worse before it gets any better.
All the best to Thomas as he makes his way through these hard times. Hopefully one day, when more confidence in this economy is gained, I'll be able to contract him for a job of painting work.
-- Korbin Turchot, Ventura
Poor fellow. Only a week in office and already he's looking older.
-- Brian White, Ventura
I love when liberals quote the Geneva Conventions and show their ignorance of it. The rules of that agreement only apply to uniformed soldiers of recognized nations. According to the Geneva Conventions, irregulars, guerrillas, etc., can be summarily executed. I wish we had followed that rule.
We are at war with Islamic fascists. They started it. They murdered Robert F. Kennedy, killed Americans in foreign countries, bombed our embassies in Africa, bombed the USS Cole and carried out 9/11. Did we release German or Japanese soldiers before the end of World War II?
-- Benedict Lucchese, Camarillo
Re: Clifford May's Jan. 23 commentary, "And the winner of the Battle of Gaza is ...":
One has to wonder who would try to declare a winner in the devastation that took place over the last three weeks in Gaza.
If you can call a winner to violence that killed hundreds of innocent children, the answer is clear: It was the fundamentalists. They are people with primitive narrow religious beliefs like, "God will supply you with 72 virgins for killing his children." Or another group that would act on the belief that God gave their select group a mystical grant deed to land that other people have been living on for more than 1,000 years. Then there is the group that would form government policy and stake the survival of millions on a primitive "end days" interpretation of the Bible.
As it stands now, these are the winners. Who the losers are is just as clear. The losers are the people who want peace. They are the people who just want to watch their children grow in a secure, free environment and those who want to go to work and support their families. These are the losers, just as they have been in the Middle East for 60 years.
Where does May get the nerve to make such a ridiculous declaration? His neoconservative approach has been an utter failure for generations. When will these people stop beating this same old drum?
It's important for our young people to know there is another way.
-- Marten Harder, Ojai
The Star's choice of letters from readers exhibits a sorry picture of our area's citizens, many with snide, mean-spirited comments on political matters rather than civil discourse. It disappoints me.
-- Sylvia Sailer, Ventura
I am curious as to how long it will take this country to rip the flesh off President Barack Obama. The minute he does something that we, the American people, don't agree with -- you wait, it will happen. We are a country of spoiled brats who only want to share in highs and are so eager to place blame in the lows.
President Bush is gone. Let him be. Save your energy. You have a new dog to kick around.
-- Doreen Lynch, Westlake Village
Re: your Jan. 22 article, "Mothers for Peace fight nuclear waste":
Mothers for Peace should win the "Anachronistic Group of the Century Award" for their foolhardy effort to stop nuclear power in the United States and particularly to shut down the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in San Luis Obispo.
How many millions (billions?) of barrels of oil or equivalent in natural gas have been saved over the years via the use of just the nuclear power at Diablo Canyon? How many dollars have stayed in the United States rather than funding despotic regimes?
Of course nuclear power must be approached with caution, along with disposal of nuclear waste. The U.S. Navy has safely and successfully operated nuclear powered submarines and aircraft carriers for five decades now with nary an incident. France has a constellation of more than 60 nuclear power plants providing more than 80 percent of its power needs, and now Sweden derives nearly 50 percent of its power from nuclear plants. Many other countries are switching to clean, safe, reliable and cost-effective nuclear power, but groups such as MFP are attempting to keep us in the nuclear dark ages as they cannot differentiate between nuclear weapons and nuclear power.
These are not your father's nuclear power plants. New plants have 80 percent fewer parts and have standardized passive safety systems. Even the co-founder and former member of Greenpeace, nuclear scientist Patrick Moore, is now a strong nuclear power advocate, and he believes that nuclear waste processing techniques involving existing technology can reduce waste volume by more than 90 percent.
MFP is only delaying the inevitable rise of nuclear power in the United States and just adding costs to PG&E and all of us through harassment based on outdated thinking.
-- Tom Reilly, Thousand Oaks
Question: What do you get when you cross the Great Charter with the Magna Carta? Answer, according to The Star's Jan. 24 front page: The Magna Carter! Who fell asleep on that watch?
-- Ria Levine, Oak Park
Re: Paul Krugman's Jan. 24 essay, "We're stuck in a 'muddle'":
Once again, Krugman faults deregulation and points to the need for a massive fiscal stimulus package, yet he ignores the issue that has, along with deregulation, driven this nation to the edge of an economic abyss: so-called "free trade" agreements that are the product of a greed-driven fixation on the short-term profits to be found in the outsourcing of America's manufacturing base in search of cheap foreign labor.
In the long term, the so-called global "free trade" system, entailing sweatshop labor abroad and an end to decent-paying manufacturing jobs at home, is not sustainable. With their middle-class aspirations destroyed, working Americans can no longer afford to buy cheaply made foreign products and pay for mortgages and higher education -- a basic economic fact that creative financing could only temporarily obscure and for which a massive, deficit-inflating stimulus can provide but a temporary respite.
A second Great Depression can be averted only by a restoration of the American middle class. To accomplish that, America must tackle the full panoply of right-wing policies designed to service the greed of the few at the expense of the needs of the many, even as it was destructive of both the environment and our sense of community.
-- Ernest A. Canning, Thousand Oaks
Putting another Home Depot at the old Kmart location on Hampshire Road will be a mistake. We already have one in Thousand Oaks.
The proposed traffic mitigation seems inadequate: simply painting new lines on Thousand Oaks Boulevard and ignoring recommendations by the California Department of Transportation?
That land is currently zoned for a neighborhood shopping center, but Home Depot took over all of Kmart's old leases when they went bankrupt. That's why the building has sat empty for five years.
Everyone is aware of what happens to small, local businesses when a big-box store moves in. The argument in favor of having both options is valid, but we already have a Home Depot, and I would hate to see any smaller businesses suffer along the boulevard due to adding yet another giant.
-- Holly LaRue, Thousand Oaks
Re: your Jan. 22 editorial, "Letting go of an albatross":
President Barack Obama signs the order to close Guantanamo -- and then what? Signing the executive order is one thing; actually closing the base is another. What is the exit strategy?
The Star is in favor of this executive order, but it has no idea of the end results. Which of the terrorists will be held for trial, and under which authority will they be tried?
What does The Star propose for the terrorists who will be released? As The Star correctly pointed out, many countries don't want them as residents. Would The Star welcome these terrorists if they were "resettled" in Ventura County? If The Star isn't comfortable with that, then it should not be supporting the executive order.
As an addendum, since California overwhelmingly supported Obama, I think these same folks should welcome with open arms any terrorists who want to relocate here. People who voted for Obama did so in part because he promised to close Guantanamo. So it's only fair to also accept the terrorist for resettlement. In fact, the bluer the county, the more terrorists they should get.
-- Jerre Reimers, Simi Valley
Re: your Jan. 23 article, "Manager says T.O. revenue down, city otherwise OK":
Let me get this straight. City Manager Scott Mitnick is quoted as stating that:
-- Thousand Oaks is feeling the punch of the recession.
-- For awhile, we thought we were exempt, but now it's hitting us.
-- Our investments are in pretty good shape, but our revenues are down in the general fund.
So I once again ask Mitnick to explain to us taxpayers at what point he and the Thousand Oaks City Council will finally pull the plug on the city's illegal and improper $100,000-plus annual expenditure to operate and maintain a day labor site? Or is this site considered by Mitnick and council members Andy Fox, Dennis Gillette, Jacqui Irwin and Tom Glancy to be a "vital municipal service" and an example of how they're doing "a good job of managing public finances and resources?"
-- Dawn Williams, Thousand Oaks
President Barack Obama is now implementing the closure of Guantanamo Bay within one year. Although there is debate about whether or not all of the detainees at Gitmo represent a danger to our nation, no one, globally, is stepping forward to accept them into their detention system or onto their soil.
In our nation, the "not in my back yard" approach -- NIMBY -- surfaces among the people. The new administration has no plan where to house them. Nations that criticized our detention of these individuals do not want them, and, apparently, if they were sent back to their nations of origin, some would be killed.
We will all need to make moral decisions. First, why do some attempt to insure rights of Gitmo detainees? Many of the detainees either did or sought to harm our military personnel and would be more than happy to take the lives of U.S. citizens if given the chance. Yet, by comparison, few speak for the rights of the unborn, as mentioned in recent Star editiorials.
The next four years and the response and decisions of our people -- that is, you and I -- will be interesting in that it will lay the roadwork or demise of our future.
-- Richard W. Hurst, Ph.D., Thousand Oaks
Re: Jan. 22 commentaries by Christina Wilson, "Abortion can be compared to the Holocaust" and Maryanne Leonard, "Time to stop killing the inconvenient child":
These commentaries are typical of the ongoing sensationalist attacks leveled against the right of all women to choose.
Abortion the same as the Holocaust? Really? A woman choosing what's best for her own body and taking action to safeguard her health and her future are the same as the brutal slaughter of 6 million Jews? What an abhorrent statement. What an insult to our Jewish community.
And to say the necessary termination of a one-week-old collection of unknowing, unfeeling, unconscious cells -- cells that are part of the mother's body and hers alone to decide how to deal with -- is the same as killing a young "child" is ludicrous. Abortions aren't conveniences; mostly they're a matter of life or death -- that of the mother's.
Go ahead, anti-choice people. Continue to punish women everywhere for the sake of your pious beliefs.
-- John Edwards, Newbury Park
So the government sends you a stimulus check. The stimulus check came from taxes you've paid, if you pay taxes. Now you have to treat your stimulus check as income and pay taxes on money that came from your taxes; that is, if you paid taxes.
The only winners in this scheme are politicians who buy votes and people who don't pay taxes.
The worst of it all is that this first run at a stimulus package didn't stimulate the economy, and the current president wants to double the ante.
Which category do you belong to: politician, person who doesn't pay taxes or taxpayer?
-- William Hicks, Newbury Park
I am so sick of Republicans blaming former President Bill Clinton for our economic woes.
In his last year, Clinton did sign a bill that repealed the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which had been designed to regulate banking investments and protect investors. As early as 1980, Republican legislators were itching to repeal this act; however, they didn't have a majority in both houses of Congress until 1994, which they held until 2006. The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act was sponsored by three Republicans, and its passage in November 1999 was guaranteed veto-proof.
Bush immediately removed all responsible oversight in federal regulatory positions when he appointed friends of big business to oversee the interests of the American people. The fox in the henhouse would now be regulating itself. The Environmental Protection Agency became a misnomer, instead protecting the interests of oil, energy and logging companies. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, in place from 1986 till 2006, turned a blind eye to banks abusing subprime loans by packaging them up as assets to be used as collateral for loans with other banks. And finally, the Securities and Exchange Commission failed at its job to regulate stocks and trading by removing disclosure requirements.
Subprime loans may have started with good intentions for the less fortunate, but after Bush removed all responsible regulation for eight tortuous years, our retirements were left empty at the hands of the wealthy few.
Greed ran amok at the expense of our economy, environment, foreign relations, scientific advancements and, most of all, our own humanity toward our fellow man, as torture for prisoners was promoted, in complete disregard for the Geneva Conventions.
I put the blame on those who voted for Bush -- not once, but twice -- as the real source for our economic turmoil today!
-- Priscilla Thompson, Simi Valley
Whatever happened to the saying, "Our customers are our most important asset?" Sadly, Time Warner Cable seems to be headed down the same path as the majority of other service-oriented companies.
Approximately two months ago, we began to experience problems with many of our cable channels continuously "freezing," with both the picture and sound, followed by the TV screen going dark before the program and sound resumed. We contacted Time Warner Cable to make an appointment with a service rep. The service rep showed us a copy of an e-mail sent to all Time Warner employees several months ago, informing them that Time Warner was well aware of this "ongoing problem, and they were working on it." The service rep told us there was nothing he could do about this problem.
This frustrating and irritating interruption continues on a daily basis. However, what is most frustrating is that we recently received our monthly Time Warner Cable statement, which, by the way, contained yet another increase in the monthly cable charge. Our bill increased from $112.39 to $116.61.
No doubt we are expected to pay our bill on time and continue to pay yet another increase, even though we are not receiving the service we pay for and expect.
Is it too much to expect Time Warner Cable to provide quality service to their customers and correct problems immediately rather than having their service reps display an e-mail that intimates an overtone of "we already know about this, and we're working on it" for months?
Why are their customers expected to pay more and more for poor and substandard service? Time Warner seems to be adapting to the same attitude as several other corporations and companies: "I would love my job if it weren't for all these customers!"
-- Janet Swarts, Thousand Oaks
Our son, Taylor LaBoy, passed away Dec. 27. We would like to thank everyone for all of their thoughts and prayers during this unfathomable time. We were so consoled by all of you who were able to attend the service we had for Taylor. We are blessed by all the lives that he touched.
-- Terri and Ralph LaBoy, Cody and Dallas, Thousand Oaks
I keep hearing the right wing pundits such as Bill O'Reilly, Dennis Miller and Rush Limbaugh thanking George Bush for keeping them safe and saving American lives.
The truth is that thousands of American lives and many more thousands of innocent Iraqi men, women and children's lives have been lost as a direct result of Bush's ill-conceived, ill-advised and illegal war. This blunder has resulted in inflaming terrorists throughout the world and contributing to a less stable global environment.
The same pundits point out that the approximately $150 million cost of Barack Obama's inaugural bash could have been better spent on humanitarian purposes. I agree, but that figure is like a grain of sand compared to the billions -- or is it trillions? -- spent in Iraq. That money could have gone a long way in creating not only a more stable and safer America, but a more stable and safer world.
-- Rick McGrath, Ventura
What has happened to this country's guts? Since when do we even have to think about prosecuting such a corrupt administration? George Bush and Dick Cheney have blatantly admitted they used torture. Why has this become a laughing matter?
If this country expects the world to respect us, then we as a nation must respect the rule of law or we will remain a laughingstock to the rest of the world.
-- Ken Green, Ventura
Re: your Jan. 11 obituary, "Patrick Rooney: Hall of Fame educator, 82":
I was saddened to hear of the recent death of Dr. Patrick Rooney. I believe Dr. Rooney was regarded as one of the most outstanding educators in our time. I know how influential he was in my life, and this began in 1960 in the Alameda School District in Downey.
I had recently been hired to work part-time in this district as an office worker, and Dr. Rooney was the assistant superintendent of this district. As a young, new employee I was in awe to be working with school teachers and administrators and, frankly, I was pretty scared also. Dr. Rooney made a special attempt to make the new employees, including myself, comfortable in our new surroundings. I soon learned that he was a fellow Nebraskan, which he readily admitted, and we had many things in common regarding growing up on a small farm in rural Nebraska.
When the Alameda district unified, Dr. Rooney went on to other districts. However, I never forgot his warmth, his smile and the always positive remarks that were given during the brief time in the Alameda district.
I myself continued working with the Downey Unified District for many years.
After moving to Camarillo, I noticed an article written by Dr. Rooney telling about his book he had published, "A Nebraskan's Memoirs: Life and Times in Brownville, Nebraska." I sent Dr. Rooney a note re-acquainting myself, and he immediately remembered me from the Alameda district. I ordered his book, he signed it and sent me a wonderful, short note telling me how nice it was to hear from me and briefly reminiscing about the Alameda schools.
Dr. Rooney make a huge impact on my life in 1960, as he has done so for many others throughout his life. I was deeply moved when I read he was being honored at the Educational Hall of Fame last October. I did call him and sent my congratulations.
I feel some type of permanent memorial should be established in his name to keep this wonderful man's memory in the educational field alive. He truly was a remarkable man, and I am extremely proud to have known him, if only for a brief time in 1960.
-- Helen Tanquary, Camarillo
The current state budget crisis is the worst I have ever seen.
Tax revenues have increased in the last several years. Unfortunately, the current Democratic majority in the state Legislature continued to spend more money than the state was taking in, and now, after several years, the folly of that type of reasoning has made California virtually ungovernable.
Poorly crafted budgets and lack of restraint with spending are now causing a fiscal crisis that would have been unthinkable a generation ago. It is scary to think that our most vital services, like public education and law enforcement, are at risk of being cut while our taxes will go up.
In the current economy, a tax increase is the last thing we need.
The only thing I can take comfort in is knowing that our Republican legislators from Ventura County are representing the interests of the taxpayer. I would like to thank Sens. Tony Strickland of Moorpark and George Runner of Lancaster and Assembly members Audra Strickland of Moorpark and Cameron Smyth of Santa Clarita for holding firm against tax increases.
-- Jason Spadaro, Thousand Oaks
As the California budget stalemate threatens to cripple our economy, it is time we looked at our state as the business it is, rather than as a government entity.
In terms of revenues, California's projected revenues are quite similar to those of Home Depot, one of the Fortune Top 25 companies. Home Depot is certainly not a public entity, but it deals in products and services, as does the state of California.
Is it difficult to imagine what steps the managers of Home Depot might take were they to find themselves mired with enormous operating deficits equal to approximately 50 percent of their projected revenues? I'm no financial guru, but I will tell you they will not double their prices in hopes of doubling their revenues, knowing full well that will drive business to neighboring venues. They will not look at exorbitant pay raises for hundreds of corporate fat cats as "protected at all costs."
They will, instead, look to see where the fat lies and expunge it, be it their employees, property, inventory or service contracts. Right here in Moorpark, they stopped development of a new store because the time wasn't right for that particular growth. They might even decrease prices in order to stimulate their business. In fact, stimulating their business is the only way to really protect their future. Should California be any different?
California needs to cut the fat. Cut the increase in personnel costs that have risen far faster than the growth of our state over the past six years. Cut the fat-cat pensions and contract employee double-dipping allowed today. Go back to the budget that was in place when Arnold Schwarzenegger took office, increase those numbers by the consumer price index during the ensuing six years and throw out the excess.
I'll tell you what they shouldn't do -- and that is the one thing they can do only because they are a government of power -- and that is to demand you pay more for the product, state services, through a tax increase! What they must do is run the state like the business it is.
-- Bud Bockoven, Moorpark
Re: your Jan. 23 article, "Citing U.S. values, Obama signs order to shut down Guantanamo":
This article was good news indeed. The new Barack Obama administration has circulated a draft executive order that calls for shutting down the facility within a year.
The myriad media reports in print, radio and television leave me with a burning question: Have we taken immediate action to ensure that our fellow human beings imprisoned at Guantanamo and in secret locations around the globe are receiving humane treatment?
Whether guilty or among the hundreds of innocents mistakenly caught in the wide nets cast, what are we doing to ensure that the torture ends now? Is there ample oversight? The article references nothing to ensure us that this is taking place.
The American people deserve assurances that the Geneva Conventions are now being adhered to. Are immediate steps being taken to ensure that, innocent or guilty, prisoners are being supplied roofs over their heads; beds on which to sleep, sit, or pray; and clothing and food appropriate to their human needs?
-- Marjorie Loring Gauley, Newbury Park
Re: your Jan. 21 article, "Official wants 7,000 inmates moved":
Federal receiver J. Clark Kelso should consider using an already-available prison. I understand that Guantanamo Bay will be empty soon. That could save the state lots of money!
-- Rick Esler, Newbury Park
Re: Cheryl Rollings' Jan. 22 commentary, "Planned Parenthood takes aim at bad laws":
Rollings criticized the Bush administration for "putting ideology before science." If science is the criteria, as it should be, for determining the beginning of human life, then why do pro-choice advocates ignore the science of embryology, which clearly establishes that a living organism, uniquely human, exists from the completion of conception? This is the scientific fact that is routinely ignored in pro-choice argument. Abortion terminates an innocent human life.
We do not allow laws to favor one class of humans over another, regardless of status. Those laws that do so are "bad laws." Laws need to work effectively to protect the well-being of all members of our human community. Rollings herself emphasized "the importance of ensuring that all women, men and teens around the world have access to the information and services they need to make responsible choices about their lives, health and fertility."
Yes, as long as their choices do not affect the lives and health of other humans, especially pre-born babies, both female and male.
-- Chris Redondo, Simi Valley
Re: Audra Strickland's Jan. 18 Pulse page commentary, "State of state budget":
Strickland, having run out of platitudes, now invents a long-winded, bizarre analogy to illuminate the cause of the state budget problem. The message: The Democrats are endlessly guilty of waste, fraud and abuse.
If this is true, Strickland owes us a list, billion by billion, of what is to be immediately eliminated from the budget.
This budget disaster will not go away by her rewriting a Star editorial she does not like. Show us numbers, not platitudes and analogies. She should work on solving the budget problem, not writing long diatribes. She still does not get it.
-- Sherman N. Mullin, Oxnard
Regarding the governor's State of the State message and his list of proposed cuts, he simply has no shame. As usual, none of the people we sent to Sacramento, including the governor, are being asked to make sacrifices. As usual, most of the people who will bear the brunt of this escalating financial crisis will be those who are already hurting the most: young children, old people and disabled people -- in other words, people who cannot defend themselves and whose fate has no political consequences for the governor or our elected officials.
-- Karen Murphy, Oxnard
Re: Audra Strickland's Jan. 18 Pulse page commentary, "State of state budget":
Strickland's laughably simplistic commentary is merely an anti-Democratic screed that offers no solutions whatsoever to California's budget crisis.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger campaigned on the same tired "waste, fraud and abuse" meme when he won the gubernatorial race in 2003. With a lot of fanfare, he brought in Donna Arduin, the superhero of Republican budget cutting, from Florida amongst much fanfare. How'd that work out, Arnold?
This pledge among the Republicans against any new taxes is making compromise toward progress in Sacramento pretty tough. The Democrats aren't faultless -- the state certainly wasn't very careful with its money when real estate appreciation and booming business sweetened state coffers in 2004 and 2005 -- but refusing any compromise in the Bush mold ("I'll reach across the aisle and work with anyone -- who agrees with me!") makes stalemate almost certain.
There's plenty of pain from this throughout the state, but the biggest loser is our erstwhile world-class education system. It is being whittled -- nay, hacked -- into an unrecognizably weak shadow of its former self.
Maybe Strickland and her friends don't care that much. After all, the great unwashed hordes only need to learn enough to serve them, the rich, privately educated elite, and that can be accomplished on a much cheaper scale. Does that sound good to you, your Ladyship?
-- Bob Rust, Camarillo
These are challenging times, socially and economically. Education is the greatest asset we can give our young people today.
A survey recently found that California has the nation's highest adult illiteracy rate. Some movies illustrate how exploited some children are. I'm saddened by the violence in communities. We need to eradicate the violence and poverty that is occurring day after day.
We need to bring compassion back to our daily lives. I think our country really needs a change. Hopefully, our new president will make things better, even if it takes awhile. Why should taxpayers provide mentally ill and aged criminals care when other elderly or mentally ill persons who have committed no crimes go homeless and live on the streets, getting little or no care?
Our spendthrift Legislature must learn budget control, the same as those of us in the real world exercise daily.
-- Amelia Hadfield, Port Hueneme
Recently I received a 13-page study titled, "Racing Backwards: The Fiscal Impact of Illegal Immigration in California, Revisited," by Philip J. Romero. This study was sent to me by Richard Mereu, counsel to U.S. Rep. Elton Gallegly.
This is a very complete study that provides costs and other detailed information that California spends on illegal immigrants. The study states that up to 20 percent of the entire yearly state budget is spent on illegal immigrants.
Recently, The Star had an article stating that $141 million is spent each year on college tuition for illegal immigrants in California.
It is no wonder California is suffering a financial crisis.
-- Russ Whitmeyer, Ojai
Re: Bill O'Reilly's Jan. 17 commentary, "Bush leaves us safe, but in a wobbly economic state":
The illogic of Bill O'Reilly's positions astounds me more and more each day.
President George W. Bush kept us safe? Certainly not on Sept. 11, 2001. And why is 9/11 regarded by conservative pundits as a "freebie" or a "mulligan?" Maybe the banner on the aircraft carrier should have read, "Oops, my bad."
The anthrax killings immediately following the Sept. 11 attacks definitely interrupts this "safe and unscathed" timeline. So does the murder of 4,225 American GIs in the corporate rat hole and psychological wood chipper flippantly known as the "Iraq war."
O'Reilly also makes the assertion that historians will look favorably upon Bush. I doubt it. Once we peel away all the layers of the war crime onion, hard factual analysis will reveal that anti-intellectualism, anti-rationalism, ideology and unwavering hubris powered the past eight years.
Thank goodness for those liberal, elitist history professors.
If it is true that a "double bird strike" brought down the US Airways plane in the Hudson River, I expect Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Secretary of State Condi Rice to recommend invading the Amazon rain forest basin.
O'Reilly wouldn't argue this military adventure either.
-- Ethan Orloff, Simi Valley
Re: your Jan. 17 article, "U.S. proposes new offshore oil and gas drilling":
It was with absolute amazement that I read Sen. Barbara Boxer's comments regarding the new U.S. proposal for oil and gas drilling along the coasts of this country. Her comment, "During the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression," begs me to ask a few questions:
-- Does she remember Jimmy Carter?
-- Does she remember 10 percent unemployment?
-- Does she remember 14 percent inflation?
-- Does she remember 21 percent interest rates?
Obviously, she doesn't, or she chooses to ignore history. She and her ilk are truly clueless.
-- Ken Davis, Moorpark
On the heels of the economic downturn comes the news of Circuit City seeking bankruptcy protection and closing all stores.
My question, as well as that of many others who purchased warranties or extended warranties for products from Circuit City, is: Who do we, as consumers, contact regarding whether these warranties shall still be valid and honored and our products protected?
Recently, a renewal card was received for the item purchased. Should this be paid, or will this be the equivalent to throwing money away?
Shall we contact the manufacturer directly?
Many thanks for addressing this concern.
-- Natasha L. Jones, Newbury Park
Can east Thousand Oaks support two hardware stores? I think so.
The population has grown, and many of our homes are older and need regular maintenance. Having two local hardware stores that are completely different is a good for the community.
Home Depot will bring about 150 new jobs and at the same time bring much-needed revenue to the city government. Most of all, I will like the convenience of having Home Depot nearby, instead of driving to the San Fernando Valley or Newbury Park.
-- Ray Holm, Westlake Village
Re: Raymond Beaulieu's Jan. 19 letter, "Digital's bad reception":
I and, I would venture, all local cable subscribers feel Beaulieu's pain. The problem is not with the networks but with the cable companies. I have yet to talk with any cable subscriber who does not experience the dropouts of sound and frozen picture.
I recently purchased a high-definition TV and, once connected, had a terrible picture, both in high definition and regular broadcast. Over a period of 10 days I had five visits from "technicians," only one of whom was able to solve the problem. I heard every imaginable excuse for the problem, with one tech suggesting that the entire house had to be rewired.
Add to that the absence of competition for cable providers in some areas and the Federal Communications Commission's refusal to allow a la carte programming, and one can see why the TV problem is so scrambled.
-- Lou Pupich, Newbury Park
Reward and punishment: These power most of the decisions most of us make. But it is not so for the California state legislators and the governor. They are paid rather well even when derelict in their duties.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if the people could vote on a proposition to withhold or discontinue their pay the moment the budget becomes overdue? We could withhold their pay and let it not be reimbursed when a budget is finally agreed upon. Who among them would be willing to work (?) 58 days for absolutely nothing? We might even require an act of the Legislature to reinstate their pay.
-- Hal Wilder, Camarillo
Re: Timm Herdt's Jan. 21 essay, "Hope in D.C., fear in CA":
So Timm Herdt thinks that one way to solve California's budget problem is for state employees to gladly accept a two-day-per-month furlough? Sounds good doesn't it?
As a state employee, I want to do my share to help the state's economy. A two-day furlough equals a cut in pay of approximately 10 percent.
Because my wife and I bought our house just three years ago, we pay a lot more tax than most Venturans. But hey, when we default on our loan, the bank will just have to come up with the back taxes, so that shouldn't hurt the state too much. Of course, the bank may not be that happy.
On the bright side, our federal government can just give the banks more bailout money. This may not keep the banks afloat for very long, but at least the top executives can continue to get their lavish salaries and bonuses. Of course, this may cut into any possible federal bailout money for California.
Another home foreclosure will surely add to the decline in value of Ventura property, so the savvy investor who buys my home from the bank will pay far less than I did and the state won't collect as much property tax. This money will have to be raised somewhere, so why don't we make state employees take a four-day furlough? Of course, with the cut in pay, I will no longer be able to support local restaurants, and shopping for all but essentials will be taboo. I will no longer be able to give to local and national charities, and, hey, I'm sure Herdt will be happy to explain to the young boy we sponsor in India why we are turning our backs on him.
While he is at it, maybe Herdt can explain to my 11-year-old son why he can't go to Disneyland with his fellow band members at his school, or why his parents can no longer self-fund their seven-year musical ministry to three local senior facilities.
I challenge Herdt to check the facts about state employment. I have worked for the state for 18 years and have received a tiny cost of living raise in only one-third of those years. If it weren't for my wife's regular cost of living raises, we would have already lost our home.
We rank-and-file state employees are told every year that there is little or nothing left in the budget for us. We have already accepted more than our share of the fiscal pain.
I'm told that The Star is having its own budget problems. Is Herdt volunteering to take a 10 percent (or more) pay cut and accept his share of the pain? I can't help but wonder.
-- James Terry, Ventura
Re: Audra Strickland's Jan. 18 Pulse page commentary, "State of state budget":
Strickland could not have provided a more quintessential example of why there continues to be no budget agreement in Sacramento. Her finger-pointing exercise clearly illustrates that the dilemma is no longer a case of being of, by and for the people. It is an exercise in childish recalcitrance emanating out of a stance that is of, by and for the party.
The only satisfaction to take from this is the knowledge that if California tumbles into bankruptcy, its schools become last in the nation in per-pupil funding and its citizens are handed IOUs instead of tax refunds, the political future for Strickland, and for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as well, will be severely limited.
-- Bill Waxman, Simi Valley
California continues to suffer as the Legislature, driven by party ideology instead of the best interests of California, fails to create a budget that meets any degree of credibility. A credible budget will involve increased taxes and reduced expenditures. While most seem to agree, the debate rages as to which cuts and what taxes.
The fact that this debate continues with no end in sight begs the question of how we got here. It seems that the bizarre district boundaries, specifically designed by the Legislature to assure continued "ownership" of the districts by one or another of the political parties has dramatically reduced the power of the electorate. The voters are no longer in charge.
Members of the Legislature now are far more beholden to the party leadership that more or less is able to arrange for the outcome of each election, perhaps not so much for a specific individual, but to assure that whoever wins to totally beholden to the party direction and ideology.
It appears that we, as voters very tolerant of the legislative misbehavior in the redistricting process, have allowed gerrymandering to bring to power two political parties very disconnected from what is in the best interest of the state and the voters.
This sad state of affairs will continue until the first election after the 2010 census, and if the Proposition 11 plan is somehow subverted, indefinitely after that. We have allowed California to be severely damaged by tolerating for decades this power shift from the polls to the party elite.
-- Michael J. Sander, Thousand Oaks
Re: your Jan. 16 editorial, "Legislature burns state":
Editor Joe Howry recently wrote to inform readers of the Star that the paper is balanced and fair. The Jan. 16 editorial stands in stark contrast to that vain hope.
It is hard to imagine a piece more egregiously and blatantly partisan. The piece is not an aberration. I've yet to see The Star attempt to expose or cover the crisis in spending that has brought the state to these dire straits.
The state budget has grown each and every year since Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was sworn in. The budget has grown $34 billion -- 30 percent -- more than the rate of inflation. The school portion of the budget has grown by $11 billion -- 24 percent -- more than the rate of inflation.
So, I ask that you imagine your house is on fire. Imagine that Audra Strickland is screaming "Stop!" at the Democrats holding the fire hoses pointed at the fire. At first, you can't believe what you are seeing. The Star repeatedly reports that Strickland is trying to stop those "who have the solution." However, you finally hear all the words that Audra and the rest of the Republicans are screaming: "Stop, you are pouring gasoline on the fire!"
We don't need more spending. Cutting spending to levels indicated by the rate of inflation would balance the budget and preserve each and every service that was in place when Schwarzenegger took office. To say it in a way that even The Star's editorial board would understand: There would be no cuts in services available since 2004, and the budget would be balanced.
Finally, it is Strickland and the rest of the Republicans who are protecting California taxpayers by refusing to pour more gas on The Star's fire. The editorial was correct on one and only one point: Strickland and the Republicans have the key. Now we just need the Democrats to understand that and to curb their insatiable appetite for taxpayers' earnings.
-- William Burke, Thousand Oaks
A new White House interior decorator and a new basketball court?
As people suffer jobs and savings losses, as taxpayers are billed many billions for a bailout, is such spending by Barack Obama appropriate now? No big deal? But it is the wrong message at the wrong time!
-- Rose Mary Dallman, Thousand Oaks
Re: your Jan. 16 editorial, "Legislature burns state":
As usual for a Star editorial, they got it about half right.
Clearly, our state budget is on fire, and as we all know, this fire started from a single match -- the match of overspending. This fire continues to rage on as legislators adopt newer and newer ways to spend scarcer and scarcer tax revenues sent to Sacramento.
The Star portrays our legislators as oblivious; they are far, far from it. They are passionately engaged.
The forever majority Democrat members of Julia Brownley's party are strongly engaged in various attempts and schemes to increase our tax burden and add novel programs -- programs that ensure their continued majority.
Members of Audra Strickland's party, and some others -- the barely heard minority -- are striving to ensure that California lives within its increasingly meager means.
The Star gets the fire part right, but it's not a one-house fire. It's a classic zero percent-contained raging California wildfire. And Strickland and her associates do indeed hold a key, if you will -- it's the same key we all hold. It's the key that breaks the glass to the fire extinguishers and fire hoses we all have to hold as we help the few professional firefighters wage their battle against the many flames of the overspenders.
We'll have some heroes, some will end up all wet, and there's sure to be devastation everywhere when it's all over.
Too bad the Star is caught up in that one home and hasn't chosen to report on the cause of the fire in the first place.
Half right is too generous for The Star in this case. They missed the cause of the fire, they're missing the solution, and they don't even have the extent of the fire correct. Try again, Star.
-- Mike Vrchota, Thousand Oaks
Do not let library and Ventura city officials pit E.P. Foster Library against H.P. Wright Library. It's like asking, "Do you want to lose your arm or your leg?"
Why do officials keep talking about three libraries being funded by the county when Avenue Library is actually supported by federal money?
Why even suggest Ventura College Library as an alternative for people to use as a family library? There is almost no parking available to the public. It is not a library for general use. It is a college library.
What are the actual savings achieved by closing Wright Library?
Why should Wright be consolidated with Foster when, at the present time, there is seriously inadequate parking available?
Why was there only three weeks' notice for the public to hear about the proposed closing of Wright Library?
Please come to the City Council meeting on Monday to get some answers to these questions and others you may have.
-- Laura Gulovsen, Ventura
Re: Chuck Thomas' Jan. 17 commentary, "Closing a neighborhood's library":
I have no sympathy for anyone or anything in the closure of Ventura County libraries, especially those in the city of Ventura area.
Ventura dropped the golden egg when it lost Todd Ranch as a college site. Just think of how a college would have turned that place around. And to the victor go the spoils. The city of Camarillo gets California State University Channel Islands and -- guess what? -- a brand spanking new 10,000-square-foot library!
I bet the city of Camarillo would love all you Ventura residents to come over to Lewis Road and use it too! Make sure to stop at their premium outlet mall on the way, though. Then do them a favor and go back home to support the river bottom homeless and artists.
Eat your heart out, Ventura.
-- Tisha Korbett, Oxnard
At 35, I realize that I am a product of the 1980s -- "Everything, all the time," to quote the Eagles. I am a consumer, a collector and a spender. But as the economy takes a dive, I have come to realize that there is more to life than stuff.
I quickly realized that I was spending upwards of $200 a month on books! I know I am a voracious reader, but $200? Typically, I only read these books once and then they're off to collect dust on a bookshelf, be sold at a yard sale or be donated to Friends of the Library -- not to mention how much paper I alone was wasting.
A couple of months ago, I got my first library card since I graduated from college in 1995. I was excited. I had missed the sereneness of the library, the mystery of the library, the mere system of the library. The library has rules, and I'm a sucker for a good rule. I have no idea how I could have stayed away so long.
The best part of my library experience was learning just how up to date the libraries of Ventura County have become in my absence. Before my adventure at H.P. Wright Library in Ventura, I didn't know that I could open an account on www.vencolibrary.org and search, renew and reserve books, as well as be notified by email when my selected books are ready for pick-up at the library of my choice. Suddenly, every book in the Ventura County library system was a keystroke away.
I immediately updated my impression of the library. It is now much more than a card catalog, microfiche and a date stamp. The library is part of the 21st century, and I am elated that we are reacquainted.
-- Julie Scorsatto Weyers, Ventura
I just found out H.P. Wright Library is closing on July 1. Some people may not care, but those who are affected are the schools and the communities on the east end of Ventura.
Wright Library provides a service for three high schools, two middle schools and numerous elementary schools. Let's not forget the two retirement communities that are within walking distance of the Wright Library. And the students at Ventura College certainly use the Wright Library when the campus library does not have the resources available. I certainly spent many hours studying for exams in that library.
Let's not have a good thing become a part of the past. Keep Wright Library open.
-- Louis Olachea, Ventura
"What are the people saying?"
This line from the film "Dances With Wolves" shows how important it is that there be an agreement from the people when a decision is made that affects the whole community.
Wright Library has the third largest circulation in the county. This shows lots of bang for very little bucks.
In these difficult economic times it seems most prudent to work with what we have, since Wright Library is already serving many people and serving them well. That's not to mention the special feeling at Wright Library that is unique and irreplaceable. This feeling is generated by the cross-generational mixing, the helpful staff and the personal and intimate atmosphere of a library that is felt to be the heart and soul of east Ventura.
It has been stated that the city might have $1 million for planning and design for a new library at Ventura Community Park. I have two questions here: If there is $1 million available for future planning of a library that may never come to fruition, how is it there can't be money found to keep Wright Library, which has already proven its value? And, if the new library should somehow manage to be built, what is to stop the county library system from trying to close E.P. Foster Library when funds are still unavailable (their argument) to sustain three libraries within the city?
This plan was presented as a "fait accompli." The last time I checked, we live in a democracy, a system of government that depends absolutely on the participation of the people. So "what are the people saying?" And is anyone listening?
The City Council, as our elected representative, has the authority to deny -- or at least delay -- this request from the county library system. Let's hope they are responsive to the needs of the people.
-- Carol Ann Rose, Ventura
I am writing on behalf of the "Save the Wright Library" campaign. Here are some pertinent numbers the public should know about before the Jan. 26 Ventura City Council meeting. The Avenue Library is operating under a grant and therefore does not currently impact Ventura County's budget. These numbers are from the California Library Report for Fiscal Year 2007-2008:
-- People serviced by Ventura libraries per year: Foster, 30,281; Wright, 67,921. Wright serves more than double the number of people.
-- Books in circulation: Foster, 127,281; Wright, 202,754.
-- Full-time staff salaries paid: Foster, 11.5; Wright, 5.5. Wright has less than half the staff of Foster.
-- Operational cost of facility per year: Foster, $990,720; Wright: $577,273.
-- Local high schools serviced: Foster, 1; Wright, 5.
-- Ventura population located near library facilities: Foster, one-third; Wright, two-thirds.
Just from these numbers alone, regardless of any impassioned speeches, closing the Wright Library does not seem to make sense when talking about the needs of the community.
The lease for the Wright Library's land is not up until 2015. Can this lease be extended if we choose to find a different use for the Foster Library building, perhaps as a community arts center and centerpiece for ArtWalk?
Please come to the Jan. 26 City Council meeting at City Hall to support our library!
-- Mark Urwick, Ventura
I'm in agreement with all those who object to the closing of the H.P. Wright Library in Ventura.
I use both libraries frequently -- I do extractions of obituaries for the Ventura County Genealogical Society from the Star films at E.P. Foster Library. But I find access to the Wright Library much better for older persons.
The parking lot at Foster is up two flights of stairs from the main floor and up a steep slope from the upper floor, making it very difficult for disabled and elderly people to get into the library. Parking on the street is almost impossible to find.
It is also hard for anyone with young children to take them to Foster Library for the same reasons. The programs held at Wright for children would undoubtedly have to be curtailed because of space considerations, which would be a great shame. There are hundreds of youngsters who attend these programs, and many are reading well because of them. The great number of readers of all ages who live in the east end of town must be recognized as valuable customers.
I see no way that all the materials from Wright could be added to those at Foster without sacrificing some of the conveniences the patrons have at present. The seating areas on both floors could be filled with shelves, I suppose, and the computer area made smaller. But I suspect that one area would be up for grabs -- namely, the genealogical section on the main floor, with books owned by the Genealogical Society. This would be a huge loss to all genealogical researchers, as the society has no other suitable place for these thousands of books and periodicals. We have been very grateful to the library for giving us this space, and would hope the staff and Library Director Jackie Griffin realize what an attraction this collection is.
Volunteer Berta Steele has an excellent idea for a way to cover the costs of keeping Wright open another year, and I would gladly write a check for $50 as my share in lieu of having to make the trek downtown every week -- and having to climb those stairs, if the parking lot isn't full, of course!
-- Margo Stapleton, Ventura
As our president of the past eight years rides off into the sunset with his approval rating in the mid to upper 30s, I am very sensitive to the ratings President Harry Truman received when he left the presidential office. Truman's rating at his departure was at an all-time low of 22 percent, according to most polls at that time.
My personal comfort was remembering that The New York Herald referred in their headlines to then-President Abraham Lincoln as "that Ape in the White House."
The media may not always report the wisdom that history and cooler heads can bring in time.
-- W. Lee Truman, Camarillo
Now that change is on the horizon, here are some easy things for Congress and our new president to do:
-- No more bailouts, period. And if corporate greed eliminates jobs, pensions and health plans, make the guilty parties pay!
-- Limit terms to two in the Senate and four in the House. Make them contribute to the Social Security system, eliminate the congressional pension plan -- a full 100 percent salary after serving only one term makes no sense -- and drop the high-priced insurance the taxpayer provides. An elected post should not be a career position.
-- Remove all lobbyists from Washington, D.C., eliminate all political action committees, and provide absolutely no "pork-belly" projects for anyone!
-- Develop national software for identification purposes -- Social Security, voter registration, Medicare, welfare, etc. -- utilizing today's technology in photo identification, fingerprinting and DNA. This will be very cost effective in the long term and can help prevent fraud.
-- Secure the borders. Stop more aid for illegals, as that money can be better used for U.S. citizens, and stop allowing automatic U.S. citizenship for babies born to illegals in the United States. Available jobs should be for U.S. citizens only. And, stop sending money to foreign countries. We need it here. End the wars, and bring our troops home to defend our borders.
-- Nationalize healthcare with cost control. Freeze all prices now!
-- To save a lot of money immediately, reduce the size of government by 10 percent at all levels. Eliminate unnecessary positions that do "nothing but push paper." Eliminate most of the travel and the expense. Establish strict controls on all government credit cards.
-- Make everyone accountable. Be a good American!
Change is on the horizon, as is the American dream. We must support those we have elected, and if they don't get the job done, we can vote them out next election. Throw politics out the window, as tough times demand tough decisions.
Some of the above can be applied at the state level.
-- Larry Gieseking, Ventura
Re: your Jan. 15 chart, "Legislators offer their thoughts on state's budget problems":
Not surprisingly, The Star's questions to state legislators elicited the usual self-aggrandizement and finger-pointing as they blamed "state leaders," "rhetoric" and "ideologies" -- a curious self-indictment.
Notably, none of these stellar individuals discussed the real reasons why they sit in Sacramento doing nothing. But we do know there are no penalties for their inaction and that they are held in thrall to the state's most influential special interest group -- the public employee system, which has applied pressure and threats to preserve union jobs and pay.
California is under water and sinking fast from decades of supporting an outmoded, paternalistic, unionized employment system based solely on seniority and guaranteed employment -- not pay for performance, nor a day's work for a day's pay.
Who knows how much is lost to fraud and waste associated with worker's compensation, whistleblowers and unjustified lawsuits? State budget cuts never impact unionized state employees -- just critical public services and education.
Our tax dollars subsidize the state's excellent healthcare, retirement and other benefits, all of which are unavailable to struggling workers and retirees burdened with this ever-increasing bill. True state labor costs are not publicly disclosed; increased taxes and fees never reveal how much is attributable to labor. Heavily subsidized public employee pay raises, bargain-price benefits and other entitlements effectively refund and reduce their taxes. Does this not represent double taxation on the rest of us?
New fees and increased taxes merely perpetuate a bloated system that we simply cannot afford. California public employment is a sweet ride for some but an inequitable economic burden for the majority.
Solution: Change the system and require full disclosure. Recall the entire Legislature, impose statutory salary, pension and benefit reductions for failing their fiduciary responsibilities, and require full disclosure of their annual budgets and expenditures.
-- Sarrah Terry, Moorpark
I would like to ask that no matter who you supported in the presidential election, try to have compassion for military families.
We support the commander in chief with our lives or the lives of our loved ones every day of the year regardless of whether we voted for him or not. Our service members ask for very little in return for the sacrifices they make on behalf of our great nation.
However, if I have another person tell me how excited I should be because Barack Obama is president and my son will come home, I am going to burst into tears. Learn to read, people! Yes, he said in campaign rhetoric that he would bring the troops home from Iraq and made it sound like this would happen immediately, but I guess from all the comments I have been on the receiving end of lately, you all checked out after that because he then said he believes we need to move troops and increase the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan in order to go after the Taliban. So no one is coming home, we are just changing theaters.
My son was scheduled to go to Iraq, which, by the way, is a lot safer place to be than Afghanistan, but he is now on his way to Afghanistan in anticipation of the build-up of troops there.
When I try to explain to people that while it does seem that the president is committed to bringing our troops home from Iraq -- and that doesn't mean they will be coming home, as many will be headed to Afghanistan, or, let's face it, other areas of the world where our military is stationed that are daily hot spots as well -- I am treated as if I am ignorant or told I must not be a believer in the change that is coming.
Trust a military mom here: There is nothing more we would like to see than a world at peace.
So please, people, think a little before you make comments to military family members. Their burdens are many and, for the most part, are endured in silence.
-- Donna Edwards-Villanueva, Fillmore
I have two certified therapy dogs. For the past four years, we have been involved with the Paws For Reading program at the H.P. Wright Library in Ventura. We have logged many volunteer hours working with children who have difficulty with reading. More than 400 children have used this program just at the Wright Library alone to help them improve this basic skill so important to their learning abilities in the classroom. I have witnessed children gain confidence in their reading skills in all areas and move up to a higher level of reading capability within a three- to six-month period due to this program. Parents and teachers love this program. It's wonderful to see a child gain confidence in their abilities.
The best part of the program is the love of reading these children develop once they have the confidence they need. They proudly come in to the Wright Library, pick out a book, sit down and read to the dogs for about 20 to 30 minutes. What a difference from the first time they tried the program and were so shy and self-conscious about their reading skills.
Every time we go to "work" on a Saturday at 12:30 p.m., the library is crowded with people of all ages and ethnicities. The program is especially helpful to children who have moved here from other countries whose primary language at home is not English. Kids sign up months in advance. I already have our "work" schedule through March.
All the members of the Poinsettia Chapter of Love On A Leash and Therapy Dogs International plan to write letters and attend the Library Commission, City Council and County Board of Supervisors meetings to discuss the decision to close Wright Library.
This is the only county library that is centrally located to kids, seniors and everyone in between. All other cities in the county provide funding to their library to keep it open. The only Ventura County library in the city of Ventura that gets funding is the one on Ventura Avenue, and the city charges 10 percent to administer these Community Development Block Grant funds.
-- Pamela Schuman, Ventura
Re: The Rev. Leslie R. Lanier's Jan. 21 letter, "Support good, not evil":
Lanier suggests we pray for our president. Did the reverend and his flock fail to pray for the previous president? What did his prayers accomplish exactly? I must have missed it.
I believe it was President Bush who stated he got his orders from his "father in the sky." Believing in imaginary beings in the sky does not accomplish anything other than waste time and resources.
I realize praying is the reverend's bread and butter, but it is time for a reality check. Statistically, the success rate of praying stands at 0.0 percent. It's time to think of a better approach.
-- George Pohoski, Camarillo
Who is President Barack Obama?
On Jan. 20, Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States of America. It was a historic event. There were speeches, parties, concerts and parades leading up to the final inauguration. The price tag for all of this was record-setting. Was this excessive spending inappropriate while our nation is facing hard economic times and is fighting two wars? I believe so.
As America's next president, I hope he succeeds. However, who is Obama? So far, he is pretending to be Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln. The media acts like Obama is a god. So much for honest journalism.
As an American, I wonder whether Obama can govern. Will he keep us safe from another terrorist attack? Will he be strong enough to stand up to Iran and prevent them from getting nuclear weapons?
Can America ever become energy independent under the Obama administration? Stopping drilling for oil, nuclear power and getting rid of clean coal won't cut it.
Finally, how will he turn our economy around? Promoting socialism has always failed. Government, more taxes, excessive regulations and redistribution of wealth will destroy our capitalistic system.
It is time for Obama to face reality. Enough of the flowery speeches, the train rides, the secret meetings with Republicans, the excuses for flawed cabinet nominees. He must do what is right for America, our national security, our jobs and our military.
-- Diana Thorn, Carpinteria
I read with interest the articles on all the folks and churches that are praying for our new president.
It ought to be mentioned as well that there are a tremendous number of us who not long ago were praying that Barack Obama would not be elected who are now sincerely praying for President Obama's success and safety.
We wish him the utmost success in effecting meaningful change and significant improvement in our country. We need it now more than ever.
God bless our new president and all who serve. They will surely need it.
-- Doug Crosse, Simi Valley
As I watched President Barack Obama and his wife say farewell to President George Bush and his wife, I reflected on what a tremendous and respectful presidential transition this has been. It made me proud to be an American.
By all accounts, the Bushes afforded the incoming first family a gracious transition, unlike the one afforded them by the Bill Clinton administration. You may disagree with or dislike Bush, but he and Laura Bush are decent people who have a deep respect for the office and the White House.
Unfortunately, there were more than a few in the inauguration crowd who displayed indecent, inappropriate behavior towards Bush in his final hour as our leader. It was truly a lack of class but similar to that the president received eight years earlier.
I wish both presidents and their families well in the coming years.
-- Joe Huisenga, Moorpark
President Barack Obama mentioned in his inaugural address the long-held American ideal that "all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness." This raises the question, then, if this "God-given promise" will apply to the unborn as well, since Obama campaigned on a staunchly pro-choice platform.
Obama pledged that "we will restore science to its rightful place," which is all well and good. However, medical science indicates that the unborn child is a living human being, as an ultrasound clearly demonstrates. So, should Obama and the Democrats pursued a pro-abortion agenda, they will, in effect, be ignoring the medical science they seek to restore and ignoring the freedom and equality of the unborn.
Hopefully, they will instead recognize the humanity of the unborn and protect their rights like those of all other Americans.
-- Noel D'Angelo, Thousand Oaks
Booing reverberated in front of the Capitol when President George W. Bush and Laura Bush were introduced. Again, the boo birds were at it when Vice President Richard Cheney and Lynne Chaney were introduced.
Now House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants to investigate Bush for alleged crimes that she thinks he may have committed while in office. It appears that the Democrats just can't let go. President Barack Obama is preaching unity, hope and bipartisan cooperation, and the rest of his clan wants to tear this nation apart.
There were 2 million very partisan, rude, mean-spirited people who chose to voice their displeasure in such a manner. It resembled an angry crowd in the Roman Coliseum when the emperor sought to spare or condemn the brave gladiator.
When the Clinton administration left the White House, his staffers committed $20,000 in vandalism. When President Bush was pushed to seek a criminal complaint against these mean-spirited Democrats, he declined -- again in spirit of unity.
Bush is a class act. The Democrats who booed -- well, that speaks for itself. How about dignity and respect for the office, no matter who's in it? As a Republican, I am willing to give Obama a chance -- for unity and for country.
-- Chris Biller, Moorpark
Re: Steven William Thrasher's Jan. 21 commentary, "Oxnard native views historic moment -- barely":
"As President Obama referenced from the Scripture, the time has come to give up childish things." Yet, after hearing that, Thrasher shows his childish behavior and complete disrespect for the outgoing president of our country, calling him a "crook" and "shouting something" at Marine One "that I can't print here."
On a day when the country is celebrating change, Thrasher's hatred has not changed at all. Everything he and his family have gone through was not President George Bush's fault. And he claims to have howled "deep and earned pride in my country?"
I did not vote for Barack Obama, but you can bet I will show this man, the president of our country, the respect he deserves and the hope that he can better America for everyone.
The entitlement days are over. It's "time to get to work" and be part of the positive, not the negative.
-- Laura Cartier, Moorpark
Reading about the proposal to close the H.P. Wright Library in Ventura due to lack of funds, why not spend the proposed $89,000 for the Thousand Oaks public relations campaign on the library instead? Wouldn't that say more about Thousand Oaks than the PR campaign?
-- Donald Dupont, Simi Valley
Re: your Jan. 18 article, "'Think of how far we've come'"
Willie Claytor of Oxnard celebrated his chance to travel to Washington, D.C., to witness the inauguration of Barack Obama. Mr. Claytor, whom I have never met, and, as a white man, in whose steps I have never walked, relates that he is age 61 and attended all segregated schools in West Virginia, where he was raised. I have the deepest respect for Mr. Claytor, who also served his country in Vietnam, but I must take issue with him about the segregated schools in West Virginia.
In school year 1953-54, my father was transferred by Monsanto from Illinois to West Virginia. I am now 67 and was then in the seventh grade. I was initially shocked to find that West Virginia was segregated. When I entered the 10th grade in school year 1956-57, West Virginia was mandatorily integrated. Mr. Claytor would have been 9 years of age.
There were just a few incidents statewide, isolated for the most part in the rural coal mining areas of southwest West Virginia. At my high school, in the suburbs of Charleston, there was hardly any notice that things had changed, and the black students were readily accepted, of which I was very proud. Unless his age was misstated, there should have been no way Mr. Claytor could have attended a segregated school in West Virginia after the age of 9.
West Virginia and Missouri are mentioned on the Internet as the only segregated states prior to 1956 that funded their black schools equally or with more funds than the "white" schools.
As an aside, I was stationed at Craig Air Force Base in Selma, Ala., in 1965, where I was going through U.S. Air Force pilot school. There, I witnessed real racism firsthand. My wife and I visited Selma a couple of years ago and found that black families were moving back there because they would rather raise their children there than in the big cities of the north.
I hope Mr. Claytor got a view of the great event in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. We've come a long way.
-- Gerald A. Harman, Thousand Oaks
Dear President Bush: Thanks for all you have done. Please don't let the door hit you on the way out of the White House.
-- Stephen Irshay, Thousand Oaks
He' s let us in. We've been shut out for too long. It's now our business, responsibility and our rewards, not Washington D.C.'s. God bless Barack Obama.
-- Elinor Gustafson, Thousand Oaks
Re: your Jan. 15 article, "Report urges cooperation to protect coastal zones":
This article about the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative report, "One Coast, One Future," correctly highlights fragmented governance as one of the primary threats to our coasts and ocean.
This report also highlights Ventura as one of the West Coast communities actively working to put integrated, ecosystem-based approaches into practice in the management of ocean and coastal resources they depend on for high quality of life and a vibrant coastal economy.
In early 2008, the Ventura chapter of the Surfrider Foundation published, "Solving the Urban Runoff Problem - A Vision for the City of Ventura." In this document, we outlined a strategy for retrofit of the storm drain infrastructure in Ventura to improve coastal water quality and make better use of our limited rainfall. In July, the city of Ventura passed a "green streets" ordinance as a first step in implementing this plan. This is one part of the Surfrider Foundation's integrated strategy for the restoration of the Ventura River watershed, which also includes beach restoration at Surfers' Point and removal of Matilija Dam.
Each of these projects requires coordinating the multiple jurisdictions of local, state and federal government agencies and engaging the affected communities -- no easy task in a society with so many competing interests. However, despite state budget woes, there is now a great opportunity to construct these "green infrastructure" projects with the federal economic stimulus package.
Restoring the function of our coastal ecosystems by implementing "ecosystem-based management" in Ventura will serve as a real world demonstration of the principles outlined in the Joint Ocean Commission report. Support for these projects is one way our elected officials can provide critical leadership for securing the health of coastal ecosystems and economies.
More information on the Ventura ecosystem project may be found at http://venturaecosystem.blogspot.com/
-- Paul Jenkin, Ventura
California having the highest illiteracy rate in the nation proves that illegal immigration is another drain on this state. Close the borders and repeal the "anchor baby" laws.
-- Dave McDonald, Oak Park
There has been a lot of talk lately about President George Bush's "legacy," with the subject in question implying that history will be left to define him. Anyone who believes that is in a serious state of denial, such as Bush is.
No one has to wait to for history to define the wreckage that Bush has caused. One needs only to read the papers each day to evidence the shambles he has made of everything -- and I do mean everything, from his failed "war on terror" to the recession he has created by being a leader in absentia as he let his cronies loot the country. Though it is true that he had many foot soldiers in his ranks -- such as U.S. Rep. Elton Gallegly, who helped him create the grievous state we are in -- he was supposedly the person running the show, and from the day he leaves office, history will note whose hand was at the tiller when America ran aground.
In his rambling, nearly incoherent, last news conference, Bush had the audacity to admit to some "setbacks." That was gracious of him, while showing that he has no idea what a setback really is.
A setback is a child growing up without a mother or father because they were killed in Bush's war of no meaning in Iraq. A setback is being given a pink slip after you worked for a company for years, only to see the company ship your job overseas. A setback is ending up homeless as a carnivorous bank forecloses on your house and puts you on the street.
I can only hope that President Barack Obama has the intelligence and will to put what is left of the country back together and that someday, when our children are older, they will be able to look back at the past eight years and note that America went though a temporary "setback" on its continued march to greatness.
-- John Darling, Ventura
The math formula used to pass the state budget does not compute!
The state budget is in crisis, and it is obvious that the system for passing budgets in this state is broken. Unfortunately, both budget cuts and tax increases will be required to solve our current budget woes. Any plan that does not include both will not close the gaping budget gap of $42 billion that is currently projected for the state over the next 18 months.
For the long term, we need to rethink the two-thirds (66.6 percent) supermajority vote required of both houses of the Legislature to pass a state budget. This requirement makes it possible for as little as one-third (33.3 percent) of legislators, from either the Assembly or Senate, to hold hostage the entire state budget.
Under the current system, the vote of one member voting "no" is worth two members voting "yes." One "no" vote should not be twice as important as one "yes" vote. Likewise, one "yes" vote should not be half as important as one "no" vote.
A slightly reduced three-fifths (60 percent) supermajority vote would still provide significant protection against runaway tax increases, while providing just enough of a change to break the gridlock in Sacramento.
The practical effect of this change would mean that 24 votes instead of the current 27 would be required to pass a budget in the 40-member Senate, and 48 votes instead of the current 54 would be required to pass a budget in the 80-member Assembly. This change would make it possible for the Legislature to pass a budget on time, or at the very least make it substantially more likely to do so.
The governor would still retain the constitutional authority to veto the entire budget, which requires a two-thirds vote of both houses of the Legislature to override. Also, the governor would retain the constitutional authority to make line-item vetoes, which also require a two-thirds legislative override vote.
An initiative constitutional amendment by the citizens of California will be required to make this change to the three-fifths (60 percent) supermajority vote of the Legislature to pass a state budget. Let's change the formula so that we can finally solve the problem.
-- Mark Abbe, Ventura
Re: your Jan. 15 chart, "Legislators offer their thoughts on state's budget problems":
The Star's five questions were very insightful. The most important one in my mind was the "dysfunctional" one: "If you and your colleagues fail to act by Feb. 1, and the state is forced to issue IOUs to cover some of its obligations, the public is likely to view that as the failure of a dysfunctional Legislature. Would they be correct in that assessment?"
The reason it was so interesting was that it, in effect, summed up the other four. The only direct answers came from Audra Strickland and Cameron Smyth, who answered with a simple "yes." The rest of these weasels -- my apologies to the furry ones -- answered with the usual soft shoe.
The voters who keep electing these dolts whose worlds do not extend beyond Sacramento are the real boneheads. So all the voters who elected these incompetents got what they asked for -- nothing. These people wouldn't survive in any commercial enterprise.
-- Chuck Woomer, Camarillo
Being as the whole country is being told that we have to go digital, has anyone told the networks? Since the digital phenomenon began, it seems that the reception and the clarity of television has gone by the wayside. It's nothing to lose the picture for a second, or for the picture to break up while you're watching the program, and it does absolutely no good to complain because all the cable company wants to do is push buttons at the desk. And believe me, that doesn't work.
I have never seen so many bloopers on TV in my whole life. I wonder if I'm the only one with this problem. In the middle of a newscast, the story will have a blank spot and you have to guess to fill it in. I hope it's not just me because I like the TV I have and don't want to buy a new one. I'm on cable so I can't see the problem. Is it happening to satellite too? I know this never happened with my old-fashioned antenna. What's the story?
-- Raymond Beaulieu, Oxnard
The notion that more time is needed before historians can judge the corrupt and lawless George Bush and Dick Cheney regime is flat-out wrong.
The regime's very rise to power was cloaked in illegality -- the illicit purging of more than 90,000 mostly African-American Democratic voters from Florida's computerized eligible voter rolls.
This regime ignored dire warnings about al-Qaida threats, facilitating the worst attack on U.S. soil since Pearl Harbor. It then parlayed our grief and played to our fears, fixing the intelligence to deceptively launch a $3 trillion war against a nation that had nothing to do with 9/11, did not possess weapons of mass destruction and was not a threat to our security.
This regime erected an endless Orwellian "war on terror" as cover for its quest to obtain unlimited power, targeting the very liberties they claimed they were protecting. Its transgressions have been so commonplace that only single words or phrases call them to mind -- Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, Katrina, extraordinary rendition, waterboarding, a politicized Justice Department, National Security Administration eavesdropping, no-bid contracts, denial of the science of global climate change.
We study history to prevent a repetition of past mistakes. When the wrong lessons are drawn from history, we compound them. Gerald Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon spawned the belief held by the ruthless Cheney that, while in office, he could commit crimes with impunity so long as they were cloaked under the guise of national security. One can only shudder to think what lessons a future would-be tyrant would draw from a failure to prosecute members of this regime for their crimes.
The foundational principle that we are a government of laws cannot be restored unless the next administration is prepared to prosecute crimes committed over the past eight years, irrespective of the office held by the perpetrator. It is not historians but a jury of their peers that must judge them.
-- Ernest A. Canning, Thousand Oaks
Re: Tom Worthington's Jan. 9 letter, "Tired of liberal slant":
Worthington's judgment is clouded by his anger at the so-called liberal media, in particular The Star, because they "buried" an article about troop reduction in Iraq "in the dusty back pages of the paper" on Page A6.
Those of us who have been paying attention know that A6 is commonly where we find national news in the paper these days. Worthington needs to keep in mind that The Star is primarily a local-oriented newspaper that does a good job of reporting state, national and world news in an abbreviated format.
I doubt the conservative Orange County Register or any other newspaper had this story front and center like Worthington expected. This was merely an excuse for Worthington to spew anti-liberal venom on a non-issue.
There are times I question why The Star prints seemingly unreasonable, over-the-top letters like Worthington's, but it does clearly demonstrate that some of our neighbors are very angry people and that we may have become a divided nation. May calmer, more reasonable heads attempt to reconcile the apparent profound differences that exist in our country today.
-- Dave Dolnick, Thousand Oaks
Re: your Jan. 15 article, "T.O. delays branding, promotion plan":
I want to add my two cents' worth in the objection to the Thousand Oaks farce of seeking a city logo. I'm happy to see that I have lots of company regarding how foolish the city is in even thinking of such a thing. I wonder about the kind of mindset that would lead the City Council to consider this proposal. Even a child can come up with a good name for a brand for the city, if we even need one. I do hope City Council will use that money instead for the kinds of helpful programs that are always needed.
-- Hazel V. Munger, Newbury Park
Re: your Jan. 11 article, "Rep. Elton Gallegly: An extremely capable leader was seen in private meetings":
Gallegly tells us that the real George Bush wasn't anything like the one see saw in public, and oh, yes, elected. Twice. If only we could meet privately with the president as Gallegly has, then we, too, could be singing a verse or two of "Georgie, we hardly knew ye."
We would appreciate that not finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq -- the chief justification for the war -- was, in the president's words, a "significant disappointment." Certainly, he had other, better reasons for the invasion.
We could show more empathy for his actions -- or initial lack thereof -- in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. While Bush points to the rescue of 30,000 as evidence of a quick federal response, who are we then to question the remaining population of New Orleans or the horrible conditions in the New Orleans Superdome?
We might better grasp the president's claim that the world has become safer since Sept. 11, 2001. And, surely, we'd need to inform the citizens of Gaza, Lebanon, Bali and countless other places about that.
And the administration's record on environment and science issues -- from blocking promising stem cell research, to dismissing actions to curb global warming, to giving important positions in science-related agencies to people who put their faith over public policy -- would all make sense.
Too bad public statements and actions from public officials just aren't enough anymore.
-- Andrew M. Porterfield, Camarillo
I would like to send a heartfelt thank you to President George W. Bush for keeping us safe from terrorist attacks for the past seven years. In addition, he has brought democracy to Iraq, which will serve as a beacon to other Arab nations in the Middle East to follow suit. A despot, Saddam Hussein was brought down, freeing millions from torture and murder.
I was privileged to visit the White House the last four years for tea and a photo op as a guest of Mrs. Laura Bush. I noted on the mantel in the main dining room an inscription from John Adams, the first resident of the White House. To paraphrase, it said, "May only just, moral men ever abide in this House." I firmly believe George W. Bush brought morality and dignity once again to that home for all the world to see.
Again, thank you, President Bush, for all you have done selflessly for your nation. History will vindicate you for your endeavors.
-- Lois D. Glab, Camarillo
Re: Jim Emanuel's Jan. 15 commentary, "Driving safety a mind-set":
Emanuel is right on. My father began teaching me to drive in 1931, when I was 13 years old. After three months, I was quite capable of operating the machine, but he persisted for nine more months, focusing on driver rules, courtesy and safety in general.
Then in 1941, I was employed in an ammunition plant before serving for two years as a pilot in B-24 bombers over Germany. So much of my life has been spent focused on safety.
The reason I never turn on my cell phone in the car is that I know I am unable to carry on an intelligent conversation while I drive. I would concentrate on my driving, rather than the phone call. I'm terrified I would agree to do something I wouldn't want to do because I wouldn't be listening carefully. But then, I haven't had a moving violation in the last 240,000 miles, either.
Talking and texting are for spoiled juveniles. Please keep them off the road.
-- Hal Wilder, Camarillo
Re: your Jan. 15 chart, "Legislators offer their thoughts on state's budget problems":
The barrage of vague platitudes these seven elected officials have put forth makes clear why the California budget debacle exists and persists. Not one concrete recommendation, with specific dollar amounts, is included. It is difficult to find one original, practical thought. As the younger generation would say immediately, their vague responses demonstrate conclusively that they still do not get it.
-- Sherman N. Mullin, Oxnard
Re: your Jan. 13 article, "Injection complication" and the accompanying photo:
Tell me why, oh why, The Star has a picture of a nurse, who is not wearing gloves, giving an injection. With all the blood-borne diseases today she is certainly setting a bad example for the public. I wish The Star would use caution when displaying healthcare topics.
-- Peggy Brown, Ojai
(The writer is a registered nurse. -- Editor)
Re: Jackie Griffin's Jan. 11 commentary, "Library consolidation will preserve quality":
I disagree with the decision to close the Wright Library. It makes no sense at all.
With two libraries on the west side of town, why would Griffin think the library on the east side of town should be the one to close? Ventura does not need another beautiful building to remain empty, especially on a main thoroughfare, next to a beautiful college campus.
The Wright Library has ample, close, available parking. The parking at the Foster Library is horrible, especially for seniors. The Wright Library is located on a very accessible street, with several senior living complexes within walking distance of the library.
As far as a driving distance of four miles to the Foster Library for east-end residents, Griffin must not be aware of the many apartments and new homes beyond Wells Road at a considerable longer distance than four miles.
I have lived in Ventura for more than 30 years, and there have been tough financial times before when maximizing resources had to be done. The solution then was to cut the hours at each of the libraries so they could all remain open and maintain quality service for everyone, not just a few.
For all of you concerned about keeping the Wright Library open, please write to the Ventura County Library Commission at 646 County Square Drive #150, the City Council and the Board of Supervisors.
-- Marian Parker, Ventura
Re: Michael Jamison's Jan. 13 commentary, "Hospitalists: Fad or future?"
Jamison really shouldn't generalize on how all physicians run their practice. I have worked for a great group of physicians for more than 30 years. They do not spend 5 minutes with a patient and bill them for 30 minutes. They do not order tests for no obvious reasons. They return all phone calls.
I myself see a primary care physician, oncologist, radiology oncologist and surgeon, and they do not fit his profile either.
Maybe Jamison should find himself a new doctor if he is experiencing these types of problems.
-- Connie Gajefski, Ventura
Re: your Jan. 15 articles, "Oxnard council approves 344 homes" and "Job losses fuel foreclosures":
Isn't it ironic that on the same day The Star publishes the result of the Oxnard City Council vote in favor of development of 344 new homes, the featured article, "Job losses fuel foreclosures," states that December 2008 foreclosure filings surged 37 percent from November 2008 and 97 percent from a year ago for Ventura County.
This article also states that we aren't at the bottom of the cycle, so there's more to come.
For 2008, Ventura County ranked 20th in Realtytrac's top 100 metropolitan foreclosure markets. This equates to one foreclosure for every 32 Ventura County households.
Who is going to buy the new homes? I know: At least 344 families that recently lost their homes will be standing in line to buy one of the new homes. This only makes sense to the City Council. But then again, if they didn't approve the development, the city would have to pay back the $10 million it accepted from the developer for surplus city land adjacent to the developments.
-- Sharon Schumann, Oxnard
Re: Jackie Griffin's Jan. 11 commentary, "Library consolidation will preserve quality":
"Quality" can hardly apply to the closing of the Helen P. Wright library, an important cultural venue. Once a library is closed, it's gone. There's no quality there whatsoever.
"Consolidation" is a poor excuse for depriving a large number of families and individuals of this facility where children have a very special niche. There are wonderful programs for them. Every time I visit this welcoming place I see numerous kids of many ages piling up books to read at home. At a time when TV, video games and movies threaten the ability of children to care for the written word, this library is heart-warming and offers hope that a tradition of reading, learning and writing will be preserved.
"Convenience" is not what E.P. Foster, the central library, would offer. Nestled amidst numerous downtown buildings, with limited parking, it is dangerous to the little ones and the elderly. Additional traffic could become nightmarish in an area that is already jam-packed with vehicles.
We're trying to eliminate pollution and also survive a financial crisis. "Four extra miles," as Griffin states, becomes a significant figure if you consider the number of patrons who would have to drive downtown. Many of them are on restricted budgets -- thus, four miles multiplies and translates into more dollars added to an already stretched budget.
It's unfair to deprive the taxpayers of a service to which they are entitled. And this service should be provided as free of risks as possible.
I strongly encourage the Ventura County library system as well as the County Library Commission to do everything in their power to prevent the closing of H.P. Wright Library. Remember, once you close a library, you're limiting the ability of people to read, dream and create.
-- Maricarmen Ohara, Ph.D., Ventura
At a time when this state is in such financial crisis, there are some easy ways to generate substantial revenue. One way is to not waste money by writing laws that are not enforced, i.e. driving and cell phones. Every day I witness 10 to 20 drivers per hour distracted by using their cell phones while driving.
Here's a simple solution:
Establish a mobile task force, unarmed and equipped with economical, perhaps hybrid, unmarked cars that have cameras mounted above the rear window glass, looking rearward. This system would simultaneously take a picture of the license plate and the phone in use by the driver. Attached to the picture would be a time and date stamp as well as a GPS location. Mail a ticket as is done with the intersection camera system. There would be no confrontation and no wasted time by the officer having to stop a car. The system can operate 24/7, and there is no question as to the violation.
If I individually see this at the rate I do, imagine what the fiscal impact would be from many of these mobile units on the road.
At the rate this law is being violated, I have no doubt the revenue from this would soon repay the initial cost and start to show a huge amount of money coming into the state on a regular basis.
-- Mark Stivers, Simi Valley
Re: your Jan. 13 article, "Marmonte may have choices for makeover":
I loved the article from Derry Eads in The Star sports section about our local high school realignment proposals in Ventura County. It's an exciting opportunity to help our student athletes by aligning our leagues so we can raise more funds and have more fun!
I am a longtime booster club member at Camarillo High, so I am a little biased toward the proposal as I believe it helps our school in fund-raising but also in raising the level of competition each week in all sports. Some of our own coaches may disagree with me, so this is only my opinion.
Specifically, the proposal the Northern Area athletic directors are considering is placing Hueneme, Calabasas and Channel Islands in the Tri-Valley Association. What a great opportunity for those three schools to compete at a higher level and contend for league titles once again. It's better for the gate money, and it creates new fan bases and rivalries.
This proposal moves Calabasas out and Camarillo back into the Marmonte League, where they competed very successfully for 23 years. Camarillo is a natural rival of most schools in the Marmonte. We travel well with a lot of fans and bring a wealth of great student athletes and a very strong booster club. Newbury Park and Thousand Oaks are historical rivals, and Moorpark would be a new one only a few miles away from our campus.
The rest of the proposal moves Pacifica, Oxnard and Rio Mesa into the Channel League, where they regularly play Channel schools in non-league games. It elevates the Channel League to a higher level in all sports and gives everyone a chance at a football title. It would eliminate the odd number of schools relative to scheduling.
St. Bonaventure and Oaks Christian would be set free to compete at a much higher level and really enhance their schools' elite status in the state by playing stronger teams in all sports as freelance schools or by competing in some other Los Angeles-area private school league.
To me, it's a win-win for our kids in the public schools. Sure, there are some holes in the idea, but there will be problems with any proposal.
I hope the California Interscholastic Federation and our local principals and athletic directors seriously consider this great opportunity to improve our chances to help our student athletes in the middle of a challenging economic situation.
-- Jeff Hahn, Camarillo
(The writer is president of the Camarillo High School Athletic Booster Club. -- Editor)
Albert Einstein famously observed that the essence of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly while expecting a different result. And yet The Star and others in the press continue to propound the idea that our endless budget woes can be solved by simply taxing the populace further and sending the money to Sacramento.
The fact is that we simply cannot continue spending money at the rate at which the Legislature has grown accustomed. We already pay far more income tax than states that fund their entire budgets solely from income tax. We pay far more sales tax than states that fund their entire budgets solely from sales tax.
Our spendthrift Legislature must now learn the same budget control those of us in the real world must exercise daily. There is an endless supply of projects that could benefit from state funds, but we cannot afford to pay for all of them.
Unfortunately, in the real world, you can't simply legislate yourself a pay raise. Sometimes you have to cancel the cable service and continue driving your old jalopy so that you can afford the rent.
-- Brent Fulgham, Ventura
Re: your Jan. 13 article, "Injection complication":
I thank The Star for its well-written, informative article about childhood diabetes and the problem of providing safe access to medication during the school day.
As a retired school nurse, I want to reiterate the quote by Sheila Raives, a registered nurse, that "diabetes is a complicated condition" and therefore requires more than just giving a shot. It requires ongoing knowledge in the assessment of the student as well as of the disease.
Because asthma, leukemia and many other serious conditions in addition to diabetes are seen in today's school population, a highly educated health professional needs to be a vital part of the educational team.
-- Anne Rubin, Ventura
Re: Jackie Griffin's Jan. 11 commentary, "Library consolidation will preserve quality":
The library director makes the point that closing H.P. Wright Library entails a drive of four more miles for east end library patrons. And conversely, I would add, if Foster were to close, west end patrons of Foster would have the four-mile trip.
Either way, someone is inconvenienced. But we will still have a library, and that's what counts.
Yes, we need to reduce library services in the city of Ventura. But in deciding what to cut, I would hope that the choice would be the one that impacts the majority of library patrons the least.
The majority of the city population lives east of Seaward Avenue, and Wright Library is the busiest library in the city. As a matter of fact, Wright Library is the third busiest library in the county. Wright has adequate parking. Foster does not. Wright has much easier access for seniors -- a significant segment of library patrons -- and Foster has limited access. Why close the library with the most usage and the best access and leave open the library with the least usage and limited access?
-- Kathleen Diermier, Ventura
Looking back, there is a striking difference in the method of reporting that the media embrace.
In 2000, when George Bush was elected, the media never attempted to present Bush as he was. Instead, everything he said was challenged by the media. Not one article written by the media was positive regarding Laura or the two daughters. The media never wrote about what bedroom the daughters were going to have or what school they were going to attend. In fact the media constantly hounded them and pounced on every minor misstep -- for example, drinking beer at age 20.
Now fast forward to 2008 and observe the media reporting on Barack Obama. The media will only report pleasant things about Obama. Michelle, Obama's wife, is such a star. The media will state, "Is it not great the way she wears her shawl over her left shoulder?" Obama's daughters? What school are they going to? What bedrooms will be theirs? What dog will Obama pick? What a terrific staff Obama is gathering to solve all our problems!
Bush was constantly harassed by the media. From the media's view, with Obama as president, all will be great. Just give him time. After all, Obama is putting together a team of Bill Clinton's people, and we all know how great that was. So much for the change we were promised.
Hopefully, the media's about-face from reporting on Bush to the reporting on Obama is the result of some soul-searching by the media. Perhaps they realize that the mess we are in is partially the result of eight years of negative reporting. Also, perhaps the media have come to understand the prolonged war in Iraq is partially their cause. And finally, perhaps they will own up that some of the American casualties in Iraq is of their doing.
-- Fran Jansen, Oxnard
In the past I have heard many remarks regarding the post office and postal service -- remarks such as "snail mail" and so forth. It has always amazed me how I can drop an envelope into a mailbox and, in approximately three days, it will arrive at its proper destination anywhere in the U.S.
The people working at the post offices work very hard and long hours at a difficult job that can be very tedious. It as amazing that every day thousands and thousands of small envelopes make it to their exact location 99 percent of the time. In the past 10 years I have had one envelope that was lost or misplaced out of thousands.
So when you're talking or thinking about the postal service, give it a break and appreciate what you have.
-- Steve Cisco, Oxnard
Goodbye, President George Bush.
Bush's inability to recognize his failures as president has left America economically shattered, its citizens without effective healthcare, two ongoing wars that he initiated and a deficit that he turned from a surplus to an unimaginable shortage. He leaves a government as dysfunctional as we have had in all our history.
No, Americans will not miss his presidency or his administration, that's for sure!
-- Marjorie E. Grate, Camarillo
My name is Maya Tamang. I am 11 years old. I've been going to the Wright Library as long as I can remember. I've gotten many school ideas, lots of books for reports and leisurely reading materials. I remember doing a reading program called Paws for Reading. I went to Paws for Reading every chance I got. It helped me to be more comfortable with my reading when I was just beginning. They have many special programs for children that I participated in.
I also made friends with the children's librarian. Throughout the years, she advised me on many books she thought I would like. This year, I performed my community service at the library, volunteering to tag, cleanse and shelve books.
I personally feel that if the Wright Library was closed for an amount of time that many people would not be very happy. Some people can but will not go downtown to get one book. Since I am only 11 the college library most likely does not have books for other kids my age or younger.
Please save the Wright Library! I hope I can have more future memories.
-- Maya Tamang, Ventura
Re: your Jan. 9 article, "Library may fall victim to budget":
I have lived and voted in Ventura since 1991. The H.P. Wright Library has been my regular source for reading materials, $1 movie rentals, children's story hours and other children's activities and research for my small business and hobbies.
It is not convenient for me to go to E.P. Foster Library or the Avenue branch. Parking at Foster is difficult, with rare open spaces available. Why will there be two libraries serving the downtown and west side and nothing for midtown and the sprawling east end?
To throw the bone of the Ventura College library means nothing to me. It is a huge campus that necessitates a parking permit and long walks to get to it, and I cannot imagine that they have much in the way of children's books or materials or general interest books for those of us not taking college-level courses.
What is accomplished by the closing? If all of the staff is redistributed, along with their salaries, and all the materials are redistributed -- meaning new storage will have to be provided, as well as the moving expenses -- where is the money coming from that will be saved? The library building -- which is a beauty, by the way -- would still need to be maintained and the landscaping maintained. So turning off the building utilities is about all that will be saved.
The story says a new building will be built in the near future, costing potentially $20 million. Why? Keep the current library and revisit the idea of a new east end library in a few years when the money starts flowing again.
A few years ago, when funds were tight, the libraries closed on a rotating basis, one day a week. This would certainly save a bit of the money the City Council seems to want to save, and it would be a minimal disruption to the citizens of Ventura.
Please do what makes the most sense and do not close down the Wright Library.
-- Karen Tamang, Ventura
Re: your Jan. 12 article, "T.O. officials to consider $89,000 deal for city logo":
If the Thousand Oaks City Council spends $89,000 on "insight" to "brand" their city in this kind of economy, I'd like to encourage the population to vote them all out of office!
Obviously there must not be any homeless or hungry people in the city, or children whose schools need funds to stay functional, or programs that could better use that money to actually make a difference in a lot of lives on the edge.
I am astounded that the council would even entertain hiring that service! How about using one of the universities in the area for the research needed? This would accomplish several goals -- getting the city "brand" by giving students an experience that could be turned into a paying job! That $89,000 might actually buy something of tangible value, such as food or clothing for needy families, a roof over another's head and funding for a program that benefits children for years to come! Think about it!
-- Jenna Parker, Camarillo
My thanks to my friends and neighbors who helped me celebrate my 87th birthday. Marty Albert, one of my guests, celebrated his birthday on the same day, only Marty was 10 years younger. Nevertheless, candles were lit for both of us. We both blew out the candles in unison.
Since the party was a Pete Seeger sing-along, I'm grateful to my neighbor, Jeff Plaut, who played his banjo and led us in a number of Seeger songs. Lisa Sloan provided a banjo backdrop.
I'm grateful to Gene West, Ventura County's veteran wood carver, who presented me with a wooden Star of David sundial.
Howard Rosenberg, a former Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, presented me with a copy of his recent book, "No Time to Think," a book he collaborated on with Charles S. Feldman, an investigative television and print journalist with many years of experience across all media platforms. Their book was hailed by Bill Moyers, Ray Bradbury and many others for bringing to our attention "the half truths, misconstrued truths and outright lies that permeate the 24-hour news cycle," as described by Dr. Judith Marlane, professor emeritus of cinema and television arts at CSU Northridge.
A great time was had by all.
-- Samuel M. Rosen, Newbury Park
Re: your Jan. 12 article, "Rally against Gaza incursion draws 80" and the accompanying photo:
In the photograph, there are signs demanding an end to the "occupation" by Israel. Implicit in the signs is the claim that but for the "occupation," there would be no Hamas terror attacks on Israel.
What foolish nonsense!
In July or August of 1962, long before the Six-Day War of June 1967 which resulted in the "occupation," I had occasion to visit Kibbutz Nahal Oz, which was situated right at the northeast corner of what is referred to as the Gaza Strip. Within a couple of hours of arrival, my classmates and I were forced into shelters during a mortar and machine gun attack on the farmers of Kibbutz Nahal Oz whose efforts at making the desert bloom we had come to observe. There was no "occupation" to precipitate that attack.
That same summer, I was again forced to seek shelter from gunfire from the Golan Heights as my class approached Kibbutz Ein Gev on the Kinnerret -- the Sea of Galilee -- for a concert by Pablo Casals.
NPR recently reported a BBC story that a news broadcast from Hamas' TV station in Gaza had issued a warning to "the Zionists." The warning was to leave Israel or be annihilated. That message is more than adequate justification for the use of overwhelming military force by Israel against those who would destroy Israel and against the population that foolishly empowered Hamas in the first instance.
The foremost public goal of Hamas is to destroy Israel. It has long maintained it is in a perpetual unrelenting state of war with Israel. The not-so-innocent population of Gaza knew that when they voted overwhelmingly for Hamas over the Palestine Authority that had reconciled itself to achieving peace with Israel. In doing so, the population of Gaza signed on for Hamas' war and all its consequences. They really have no one to blame but themselves.
Some have complained that Israel's current military operations are "disproportionate" to the attacks by Hamas on Israel's citizens. One reader actually postulated that if Hamas killed only 11 Israelis, the "proportionate" acceptable response would be to kill 11 residents of Gaza!
War has its consequences to those who empowered Hamas to conduct a self-professed war of annihilation on their behalf. I submit that the only proper "proportionate" response to the daily rocket attacks by Hamas on Israel over the last years is that proportion of deadly force necessary to end those attacks. Anything less would be immoral.
-- Ira Cohen, Thousand Oaks
In this time of financial need, lack of food in food banks, cuts for all levels of government services, lack of funds for education and more and more homelessness, how in the world can the city of Thousand Oaks justify spending just under $100,000 to develop a "brand/logo?" This is the height of folly in time of need.
I and many others urge the city to reconsider this unnecessary expenditure. Even in a time of surplus, why would Thousand Oaks need a "brand" and what is it selling?
I look forward to future articles on this and an explanation from our city leaders.
-- Betty Rouse, Thousand Oaks
Re: your Jan. 13 editorial, "Look before backing up":
My deepest condolences to the family of the victim.
The Star correctly labeled this incident as a "tragedy." Yet it begs the question: Was this mishap avoidable or preventable? Sadly, it was. What can be done to avert recurrence?
First, we must realize that safety cannot be legislated or mandated or built into or installed on any motor vehicle. Even with such devices as back-up cameras and sensors, there is no guarantee that an episode like this won't happen again. Back-up video displays are not and should never be allowed for use in driver training or as part of a driver's license road test.
Today's motor vehicle is advertised with such human traits as "sexy," "cool," "hot," "tough," even "smart." Still the fact remains that these same vehicles are nothing more than very sophisticated, albeit very stupid, machines. They can't do anything contrary to the influences that affect it, and the biggest influence on a motor vehicle is the operator. The motor vehicle is such an integral part of our society, and, the way we do things, something we can't live without.
Driving a motor vehicle requires maybe 5 to 10 percent physical effort, but it demands 100 percent mental focus and awareness. If I am not giving full attention to what I am doing and what is going on around me, then trouble will likely visit me, often in a manner that is overwhelming.
Safety is a mindset that requires each of us to use every bit of our intelligence, discipline, training, attitude and ability to keep us out of harm's way. Anything less is unacceptable. Safety is me!
-- Jim Emanuel, Thousand Oaks
(The writer is a driver safety consultant with the Advanced Driver Safety Institute. -- Editor)
Re: your Jan. 10 article, "Local projects may benefit from Obama economic stimulus plan":
The list of projects vying for money from the federal government's pending stimulus plan is an example of how "pork" creeps into these programs. Most of the projects have merit and will benefit a significant portion of the local population. Extending the Calleguas Bike Trail and rehabilitating tennis and baseball courts in Port Hueneme benefit only a few. If there is sufficient interest, these two projects should be financed by local funds and private donations, not federal funds.
-- Richard B. Winchester, Thousand Oaks
Re: Maya Teague's Jan. 12 letter, "Profiling OK":
Since Teague considers Muslim profiling to be paramount to airline safety, I recommend that she also add the following groups to her list: Africans, Asians, Native Americans, Filipinos, Pacific Islanders and Caucasians, especially Christians.
With respect to equality, I apologize to any group I may have failed to insult.
-- Andy Prokopow, Ventura
Re: your Jan. 11 obituary, "Patrick Rooney: Hall of Fame educator, 82":
The announcement of Dr. Patrick Rooney's passing is received with considerable sadness. As a volunteer and former member of the Ventura Unified School District board, it was my privilege to work with Dr. Rooney for about 10 years from the early 1970s into the 1980s.
While the announcement noted the recognition he received for his achievements as the superintendent of the Ventura Unified School District, it did not detail many of the leadership initiatives undertaken by Dr. Rooney to bring the district successfully through a period of significant change.
Around 1965 the multiple school districts in Ventura serving the kindergarten to 12th-grade students were unified into the Ventura Unified School District. This was no easy task, since each district had staffs of administrators, certificated and classified employees; different policies, curriculum and staffing arrangements; and separate budgetary priorities. Pat Rooney very deftly dealt with the many competing interests and created the unified district we see today.
In following years, issues such as school desegregation, school closures and openings, the shift from junior high schools to middle schools, collective bargaining with the Ventura Unified Teachers Association and the American Federation of Teachers, the shift from local taxation base funding to state funding as a result of Proposition 13, curriculum development for major subjects and contentious boundary changes all represented major challenges to the district leadership. Pat Rooney had a good sense for the educational values of the community and took extra pains to hear from parents and other constituents.
The turnover of superintendents in California school districts was very high during these years of change. Yet Pat Rooney maintained the integrity of Ventura schools and survived all the challenges and occasional brickbats through dedication, professionalism and a sense of respect for all stakeholders, especially the children of Ventura. He was most worthy of all commendations that came his way and will be deeply missed by his fellow educators.
-- Robert Warnagieris, Ed.D., Ventura
Our parks preserve our cultural and natural landscapes, bring to life our history and provide us with accessible green spaces that are key to our quality of life. And although it is not their primary purpose, parks play a significant role in the economies of many communities.
Research has shown, for instance, that every federal dollar invested in national parks generates at least four dollars of economic value to the public. By investing in parks, the millions of us who visit these places every day will see and enjoy the fruits of our collective labor and monitor the expenditures laid out to improve them.
Notably too, investing in parks will leave something lasting and important behind for our children and grandchildren to enjoy.
As Congress and the incoming administration develop an economic stimulus package, it is important to note that an investment in our local and national parks can greatly help our economy.
-- Brandon M. Bean, Thousand Oaks
In this present economy, or even in a great economy, I could hardly believe that the city manager and staff would propose spending $89,000 for an out-of-state consulting firm to produce a city logo.
If Thousand Oaks needs a logo, which I doubt, I'm sure one of our local students, grade school through college, in a contest could come up with something creative in return for a $5,000 scholarship.
"Santa Rosa: California Cornucopia." "Sebastopol: Local Flavor. Global Vision." Wow! I guess $89,000 doesn't buy much anymore.
How about this for a starter -- "Thousand Oaks: Where $89,000 in taxpayer funds are routinely squandered."
I think we already have a unifying image. It's called the City of Thousand Oaks.
I would rather have my street swept more often than once a month than blow $89,000 on this nonsense.
-- David Mueller, Thousand Oaks
Re: Patricia Moorhead's Jan. 13 letter, "What will you say?"
I just want to let readers know why Israel has to bomb the school. It's because Hamas has members there.
Israel has let the United Nations bring in food and aid to the children and the people there. Maybe Moorhead should be asking where it goes once Israel has let it go through.
How about the children and women who are bombed daily in Israel from the rocket attacks? The U.N. should condemn Hamas when they bomb because Hamas does not care where their bombs head. They just want to make damage.
-- Andy Leaven, Newbury Park
Re: your Jan. 12 article, "T.O. officials to consider $89,000 deal for city logo":
This article informs us that the Thousand Oaks City Council will be asked to approve an $89,000 contract with a Nashville-based company to develop a Thousand Oaks city logo.
In the article, city spokesman Andrew Powers stated, "The purpose of developing a brand for the city is to provide a unifying image for an organization that has 11 departments."
Am I the only one who thinks it is wrong for our city, which is named after oak trees, to waste $89,000 of our citizens' money to pay an out-of-state company to draw up a logo of what will surely become an oak tree with 11 branches? Surely this money can be put to better use locally. What about holding a design contest among our city's deserving schools, awarding the money as first-, second- and third-place prizes?
-- Gary Anderson, Thousand Oaks
I'm going to jump the gun here and give my take on President George Bush's "legacy" before The Star runs the obligatory stories.
Basically all items that the "Bushies" are going to put up fall into the category of "Even a broke clock is right twice a day."
In detail, they are:
-- Bush's stand against the "man-made global warming" hysteria, which is appearing to actually have been solar sun-spot cycle. Just because the whole basis for Bush's obstinancy was because he was protecting the insane profit margins of his Big Oil buddies -- and would have protected them until hell froze over -- is beside the point.
-- Bush's stand in favor of the surge in Iraq. Actually having a plan for what to do with the country once he'd conquered it, or actually providing enough manpower to get the job done from the beginning, would have prevented the situation from degenerating to the point where a surge was needed, but that seems to be beside the point.
-- Rationalizing that his response to Katrina "could have been worst." Honest, that's the line they're running.
-- Rationalizing that torture, the suspension of habeus corpus and legal rights, mass electronic eavesdropping on U.S. citizens, rendition and all the other abuses under the auspices of the "war on terror" have kept us safe, based on the negative evidence that "there hasn't been another 9/11." That's akin to arguing the equally plausible argument that not doing all those things kept us safe from 9/11s for more than 200 years.
I'd say they should stick to "He managed to make the Clinton administration look competent" as his greatest legacy.
And, let us pray that the new president's sole legacy isn't "He made the Bush administration look competent."
-- Stephen J. Schrader, Thousand Oaks
Re: your Jan. 10 article, "Oakland shooting again fuels anger over actions by police":
Regarding the execution-style murder of Oscar Grant, it would appear the people of this country are in need of one gigantic wake-up!
We are approaching the start of the second decade of the 21st century, with a black man preparing to take the oath of office for president, and the police throughout this land continue to use young black men for target practice! When are we going to wake up and realize that black folks are just like anybody else, not some gigantic threatening menace?
People all over essentially want the same things from life: to live in peace, raise their families and prosper as best they can. That's it.
As someone who has interacted with and lived among black people for the better part of three decades, trust me: There is no giant conspiracy, with brothers sitting under a dim light talking in hushed and clipped tones, plotting to overthrow the white man. It just isn't happening. It's been 400 years! I think if it was gonna happen, it would have by now.
This isn't to say crime doesn't exist. Of course it does. But disproportionately, black men and women in this nation are incarcerated or are in the system in some form, either on probation or parole. Not only are they caught up in the system, but they're blamed many times over for things they did not do, with an all-too willing public convinced prematurely of their guilt.
We in this country are ready to equate evil deeds with imaginary boogeymen that in turn leads to the death of young brothers like Grant, who apparently was doing nothing more than trying to quell a disturbance that had broken out on New Year's Day. He was handcuffed and cooperative but was still shot and killed. The guy had a 4-year-old daughter, parents, friends. He was somebody -- somebody who deserves to be remembered.
-- William Brennan, Ventura
Leaf blowers are hazardous to your health. Here are four reasons why these ozone offenders should be banned.
-- Air pollution. A gasoline-powered leaf blower generates as much tailpipe emissions in one hour as an automobile does over 350 miles.
-- Dangerous chemicals. Leaf blowers spread dust, dirt, animal droppings, herbicides and pesticides.
-- Noise. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration considers noise above 85 decibels dangerous. Leaf blowers register at 90 decibels and above.
-- Airborne particulates. The machine stirs up dangerous dust, including airborne feces and allergens, such as molds and pollens. In addition to dust, the blowers emit other particulates. The American Lung Association says that blowers account for 1.4 tons a day of smog-forming compounds and 15 tons of carbon monoxide.
The use of blowers currently is illegal in 20 major California cities, including Los Angeles, Hermosa Beach, Lawndale, Lomita, Santa Monica, Malibu, Beverly Hills, Claremont, South Pasadena and Santa Barbara for one simple reason: They are hazardous to our health.
Call Ventura government officials and stop this foolishness!
-- Paula Dion, Ventura
Re: your Jan. 11 article, "Homeownership help":
I can't help but wonder: If I promise to lose a few nights sleep over my mortgage payment, can I, too, get a two-story house in Ojai, complete with the $50,000 BMW convertible in the driveway? Heck, I'd even promise to run my small business in a more efficient manner if it will help seal the deal. Where do I sign up?
-- Connie Thirston, Oxnard
Workers of America have no money. The $750 billion bailout plan did nothing for us.
The news gets worse every day. Children in California have no access to healthcare, and their parents have no jobs. Workers across America lack a decent living wage. Rich white kids (yuppies) voted for Barack Obama and will attend his inauguration. What a party for the Republicrats!
Here in the unincorporated region of the Ojai Valley, we have no county clinic, and public transit is a joke. I saw camel caravans in the Sahara of North Africa that were more efficient!
The Ventura County Board of Supervisors has traditionally neglected and ignored the thousands of residents living along Ventura Avenue from the Pepsi plant to downtown Ojai. Ordinance 4088 was never implemented, and vicious gang crime has increased. Do we have a right to arm and defend ourseleves? We have never had a county social services agency or sheriff's substation. Senior citizens without a car are out of luck. There are very few markets near to their mobile home parks.
Young parents with children see the local school district go underfunded as the wealthy elite of Ojai (Democrats) applaud their new president.
What a country! I hope all of you yuppies are happy. Happy New Year!
Remember The Clash? "I'm so bored with the USA!"
-- Jeffrey Ketelsen, Ojai
Re: Maya Teague's Jan. 12 letter, "Profiling OK":
The biblical formula "Be of good courage" should be read as a commandment; courage is necessary for ethical behavior.
A recent reminder is the minor one of the treatment of the Irfan family by AirTran.
As their extended family entered the plane, Atif Irfan and his sister-in-law were discussing what the safest seats might be. The conversation was reported by some fellow passengers, and the family was taken off the plane, detained and questioned. See the article at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=98964887. The family missed their flight, and AirTran refused a request from the FBI to put them on a later flight.
Teague sensibly sees prejudice working against the Muslim Irfan family, and, correctly, thinks prejudice is inevitable. But she thinks that it was right to remove the family from the plane: "We are captives of our own rational and justified fears" but should act on those fears for security.
Not necessarily -- not when a specific fear is pretty irrational, not when fear undermines decency.
For survival as a decent society, courage is also necessary. One should feel the fear -- "No Fear!" has to be one of the dumbest slogans ever -- then think it through and exercise judgment and sometimes take some risks.
Delaying the flight by a couple of minutes while a flight attendant questioned passengers involved -- that would be justified. Removing a family from the flight is overreacting and the sort of behavior that leads to a habit of timidity.
Come on, America! Let's regrow some figurative backbone, guts and gonads. To avoid discourtesy on a small scale -- and evils like the Japanese internment during World War II on a large scale -- "Be of good courage."
-- Richard D. Erlich, Port Hueneme
As a longtime Ventura resident, I would like to say that I have never seen the city look better. I especially enjoy the landscaping on Main Street -- the parkway trees and plants.
I do have one suggestion: an ornate, freestanding, four-faced clock, 10 to 12 feet high, at the intersection of California and Main streets. Lots of prosperous old towns have them. If it is interesting enough, people will come just to see it.
-- Clark David Brown, Ventura
Thank you to Star readers who participated in the Ojai Valley Green Coalition's first annual E-Waste Recycling Event. We partnered with the Ojai Community Bank, Ojai Valley Directory and Gold Coast Recycling & Transfer Station to bring this service to the Ojai Valley community, and Trader Joe's donated refreshments.
We were, in a word, mobbed. We unloaded electronics, household batteries and ink/toner cartridges, among other items, as fast as we could for four hours. We literally stuffed a full-size semi truck with the electronics going to Gold Coast, and the coalition will be recycling the rest to other sources. We aren't sure whether to be excited about the turnout or dismayed by the amount of electronics we use and dispose of within such a small population, and no doubt we put only a dent in the potential.
We apologize to those who came after 1 p.m. due to a misprint in the newspaper and were turned away. We needed the rest of the afternoon just to process everything and could not have fit one more thing in the truck. We'll be back next January, but in the meantime, please use your city and county household hazardous waste programs to dispose of all electronics. It's illegal to throw them into the trash because of toxic materials, and there's just no room in the landfills. Visit www.wasteless.org for more information on countywide recycling programs and businesses that refurbish electronics to sell or donate.
Wherever we can, we need to reduce, reuse and recycle -- in that order. The Zero Waste Commission in Berkeley has a great tagline: If it can't be reduced, reused, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, refinished, resold, recycled or composted, then it should be restricted, redesigned or removed from production.
-- Deborah Pendrey, Oak View
(The writer is with the Ojai Valley Green Coalition. -- Editor)
Re: John G. Stanton's Jan. 4 letter, "Pedestrians or bikes?"
In the interest of greater safety, the sidewalks and trails of Camarillo, unless otherwise posted, have been widened to accommodate pedestrians and bike riders. A recent letter by one of our elder citizens, who suffered a broken wrist in a collision with a bike rider, inferred that a reversal of the city's decision to include bike riders on the wider sidewalks would be most welcome. I, as a bike rider, strongly disagree.
Bike riders have used historically provided bike lanes on city streets juxtaposed to larger and heavier vehicles traveling at higher rates of speed. The exposure to fatalities or serious injuries has been ever present. The number of fatalities for bike riders using the wider sidewalks has, undoubtedly, diminished. The wider sidewalks and protective curbing do not totally eliminate accidents; the severity of these accidents, however, is undeniably reduced. A broken wrist will usually heal. Bike riders using street-provided bike lanes may not be as fortunate.
A few safety tips for bike riders and pedestrians or hikers:
-- Give a wider berth to pedestrians, hikers and bike riders.
-- Slow down or stop, if necessary, to avoid a possible accident.
-- Always warn the users of the wider sidewalks and trails vocally of your intentions, i.e., "I am passing on your left," prior to the maneuver.
-- Bike riders and hikers or pedestrians should be constantly aware of their surroundings -- a dog on the sidewalk or a trail may see you as a threat to itself or its master.
Bless the citizens of Camarillo for protecting our pedestrians, hikers and bikers due to the availability of our wider sidewalks and trails. A little common sense and a whole lot of courtesy will make our wider sidewalks and trails more of a joy for us all.
-- Sal Terrusa, Camarillo
Re: your Jan. 8 article, "PBS chief calls for digital TV fix":
There's been much talk about delaying this conversion to allow those who have yet to secure a converter box or a digital TV to do so.
Why would we want to reward those who have ignored the constant notices on all over-the-air channels -- the only ones affected -- and in the print media for the past three years or so?
If we delay this much-needed and long-planned conversion, we punish all those who have acted responsibly and reward those who haven't. And anyone who says they watch over-the-air TV by antenna and hasn't seen or heard about this issue is almost certain to be "fibbing" -- another behavior I wonder why we'd want to reward. If this conversion were to be delayed for five, 10 or 15 years, there would still be some who say, "But I don't have a converter box or digital TV!"
Let's move on with this and let the irresponsible few accept the results of their inaction. That's what separates adults from children, isn't it -- accepting responsibility for the consequences of one actions?
-- Todd Terres, Camarillo
Re: your Jan. 11 article, "Homeownership help":
While it is no secret that many Ventura County residents, such as Linda Chapman, are experiencing great difficulties in paying their mortgage, I have three major issues with this article:
1) How many times is The Star going to regurgitate the same tired information about the mortgage mess? Every week, The Star prints a minimum of two to three pieces on Ventura County residents' inability to make ends meet, and it is starting to become extremely tedious and depressing. Why? Because many of the individuals that the paper chooses to profile have been negligent, irresponsible and reckless with the decisions they have made, and as a result, it is quite difficult for reasonable, rational readers such as myself to identify or empathize with these people. There are only so many angles on this that may be taken, and The Star exhausted them all about 90 days ago.
2) Case in point: Chapman. While I share Chapman's frustration in dealing with her lender, she should know better. Under California law, all matters pertaining to real estate, including refinancing a mortgage, must be in writing. After her first contact with the company on this matter, she should have aggressively followed up to obtain written confirmation.
Furthermore, are we really supposed to feel sorry for Chapman because she cannot pay her mortgage when she continues to live in one of the most affluent areas of the county and she has a brand new BMW Z4 Roadster convertible sitting in the driveway, as seen clearly in the photo accompanying the article? Unbelievable! So Chapman can afford to own and maintain a luxury vehicle but not her home? Cry me a river.
3) Finally, the sympathy meter can only go so high in this case. According to Chapman, she purchased her residence five years ago, at the very height of the market, which means she probably paid a premium of 30 percent to 60 percent over the property's real value. There is no wonder that her mortgage is oppressive. Again, are we supposed to feel sorry for Chapman when she so irresponsibly chose the wrong time to buy? If the conversation were about a stockbroker who purchased shares in a company at its 52-week high, we would characterize that decision as a poor investment. The same should be done here.
Come on, Star. Please wake up, smell the coffee, and give us more meaningful stories with more intelligent, responsible and prudent interview subjects that more of us can identify with.
-- Keith R. Pillow, Camarillo
When is it going to end? The opt-out didn't work. I'm still being charged $1.49 by AT&T.
-- James Francis Gray, Ventura
Re: Doris Vernon's Jan. 9 letter, "Define 'sacred'":
Vernon complains that "large, prosperous churches contributed huge sums of money to help Proposition 8." If she wonders why, it is because we are a large group of people who believe the definition of marriage should remain as it has always been. And, yes, it is an example of "the people" having spoken. In this matter, we happen to be the majority, which is how it works in a democracy. As a matter of fact, the anti-8 forces outspent the pro-8 by more than $2 million.
The fact that more than 50 percent of marriages end in divorce is no reason the tradition should be so drastically altered. It is we who are flawed, not the institution. Do we ban the practice of medicine because there are unlicensed quacks out there who wear white coats and hang out shingles?
If Vernon doesn't wish to call marriage "sacred," she doesn't have to. There is nothing unfair about the measure. It simply maintains that all marrying couples must be gender-mixed. Same-sex couples may still cohabitate, but the rest of us should not be forced into calling it a real marriage when, in all the history of civilization, that has never been the case.
-- John Gentry, Ventura
The state is facing a $40 billion deficit, and if you read The Star's daily interviews with local residents, most are willing to pay more in taxes and fees to cover the gap. Where is the outcry to cut spending? Is The Star selectively printing interviews, or do people really not care how their money is spent?
The state budget has increased approximately 40 percent over the past four years. This increase is close to the $40 billion shortfall, so the solution seams straightforward: Roll spending levels back to what they were four years ago. The public has to raise its voice and say, "No more taxes, we must cut spending."
Most of the people I talk to want spending brought into line with revenue, so again I have to ask: Is the Star being honest in its reporting?
The Star needs to report the facts fairly. Give us a press we can trust, and people will buy the paper. The Star can start by reporting the facts behind the state budget. Give us all the information, report the abuses, the waste and help get us fired up to bring change to Sacramento.
-- Paul Taylor, Simi Valley
Re: George Will's Jan. 9 essay, "Overseeing bailout money":
Will's criticism of General Motors and the Troubled Asset Relief Program misses the three 800-pound elephants in the room.
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson invested $10 billion in Goldman Sachs, twice as much as Warren Buffett did, yet gained warrants worth only a quarter as much as Buffett's.
These lousy terms were repeated time and again. The government has received warrants valued at $13.8 billion in the 25 biggest TARP injections. Under the same terms Buffett negotiated for his $5 billion stake in Goldman, the TARP certificates would have been worth 10 times more.
"If Paulson was still an employee of Goldman Sachs and he'd done this deal, he would have been fired," said Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize winner in economics. Will is silent on this.
It gets worse. The Treasury has no strategy for stabilizing the financial system, has not answered watchdogs' questions and has done nothing to help distressed homeowners. A congressional oversight panel said there appear to be "significant gaps" in the Treasury's ability to track hundreds of billions of dollars. Of course, Paulson and President George Bush wanted the whole TARP exercise to be conducted in secrecy without accountability. Will is silent again.
Clearly, GM needs some oversight. But let's not throw the baby out with the bath water. So what if a few GM car loans go bad? Will wants Americans to be just tin-bashers for the Japanese. The collapse of Detroit would be unthinkable. Even the Japanese say this. America's industrial base is dwindling, and once gone, it's gone for good.
We can be thankful that Bush and Paulson will soon be gone. Will won't, sadly, so there'll still be the Problem of Free Will. The Star's readers should exercise their free will and simply ignore his ramblings.
-- Alexander Freeman, Thousand Oaks
As of Jan. 12, we are now at day 68 without passage of a budget.
Disappointment and outright anger are mounting across the state. But from Sacramento we get complete intransigence, hot air and finger-pointing. We get deeper into a hole every day.
I don't know what the perfect budget for California looks like, and I sincerely doubt that those in Sacramento know either. But what we need is not the perfect budget, just a workable one, a realistic one that acknowledges our financial situation and its frailty. Lawmakers can adjust as we go along. We need this now -- as in yesterday.
I'm going to point a finger of my own back at Sacramento. In the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, one of the definitions of the word "incompetent" is: "lacking the qualities needed for effective action" or "unable to function properly." Does the shoe fit?
Good intentions don't count. Principles don't count. Partisan bickering doesn't count. Complaints and excuses don't count. What counts is accomplishment. And lawmakers don't have it.
I'm truly sorry to have to say this, but our lawmakers are incompetent right down to the very last member of the Assembly, the Senate and the governor! They must either perform or get out of Sacramento and make room for someone who will. Recall is starting to get serious discussion. They must live with the requirements the people have wisely put on them to curb their ability to tax and spend abusively, swallow their pride, admit that they've been wrong and get their job done.
On the right, I will live with any tax that can pass the required majority vote. The left had better be willing to live with some honest spending cuts.
-- Roy W. Hogue, Newbury Park
Re: Russell E. Spencer Sr.'s Jan. 9 letter, "Our national language":
Periodically, someone restates a proposal to make English our national language. It is worth mentioning some of the reasons why this is a very bad idea.
First, English is not "our" native language. We learned it as colonists of the British Empire.
Second, English is de facto the unofficial language of science and much of the commerce that takes place around the world. Nationalizing English may lead other countries to reject such international roles, making it more difficult for U.S. companies and citizens to conduct business and travel internationally.
Presumably making English our official language would result in removal of other languages from our government-supported documents, such as ballots, signs and instructions to visitors. It would reduce tourism to the U.S. and reduce overseas sales of U.S. products with English-only labels and instructions. It would limit our allies in time of war to English-speaking nations, as all our official communications could only be in English.
Spencer's assertion that this change would solve our illegal immigration problems denies that many such immigrants communicate well in English.
Finally, making English our national language would require an official version of English and a new government bureaucracy to determine which words are accepted as part of that version. Otherwise, we would continue to dilute the purity of our language with words such as "taco" and "sushi."
-- Nick Fotheringham, Thousand Oaks
Based on recent reports in The Star, we are in the worst economy since the Great Depression -- and most experts think things will get a lot worse before they get better. Millions are losing their jobs and their homes, and millions of additional foreclosures are likely to be on the way. The auto industry is tanking, retail sales are pathetic and companies that once were household names are going bankrupt. The banking system is falling apart, people are losing their 401(k)s to a sinking stock market, and consumer confidence is at an all-time low.
And with all of this, with the American public anxiously awaiting word from Washington, D.C., on an economic recovery plan, some members of Congress want to slow things down?
These so-called leaders, like U.S. Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., need to step out of the Capitol and get in touch with reality. They need to talk with some real people who are facing real suffering and are looking to Congress for some real answers -- not six weeks from now, not later in the spring, but now.
-- Letty Alvarez, Ventura
Re: your Jan. 7 article, "'We need action, and we need action now'; Local leaders set to tackle economy, other projects":
This article discusses a Lois Capps report that "something must be done to fix the ailing economy" because "it's the No. 1 priority." Wrong!
This constituent believes that our national and personal security are the No. 1 priority! If we don't have those two elements, the economy won't matter.
The aggressive attacks by Hezbollah and Hamas, as well as al-Qaida, and the Taliban, will not stop in the Mideast. They want to destroy Israel and America. Without continued aggressive action by the U.S. government, they will be on our shores again!
Recent actions by Barack Obama indicate he is going to destroy the national security leadership -- note his appointment of Leon Panetta to CIA director. The No. 1 priority of government is the security of our America!
Common-sense thinkers realize that more government spending without controls will only add to our terrible deficit, result in high inflation such as in the Jimmy Carter years, and burden taxpayers today and our children's lives with the cost. Then again, that's part of the grand plan by the Obama Nation! Continued government intervention will not resolve the economic crisis; it will only spread the pain and ruin the future American economy.
Take a close look at how the government has bungled our Social Security system! Who's going to jail over that Ponzi scheme? The Congress failed to monitor and control the financial system and allowed gross fraud and schemes by money-hungry thieves, many of whom have contributed large sums to Democrat-controlled committee leaders.
I urge you to contact the office of Lois Capps and let her know how you feel before she and her ilk drag us into an economic pit that will forever change the American way!
-- Ted Hetherington, Oxnard
Re: Liz Campos' Jan. 8 letter, "Violence must stop":
The writer's "self-defense" analogy regarding Israel is absurd. She claims that seeking out and attacking someone who had previously entered her home and assaulted her family would not be self-defense. She claims that self-defense only applies if it is in "the heat of the moment." This supposedly means that Israel is not defending itself when it goes after Hamas but is participating in revenge or retaliation.
First, if the same person continually and repeatedly entered her home and assaulted her, going after the perpetrator would not only be called "self-defense," it would also be called "intelligent."
Second, if someone had assaulted her, she would not need to attack the perpetrator because there is a justice system working on her behalf. This is a blessing Israel lacks.
Third, she states that 11 Israelis were killed during the cease-fire, so Israel should have killed only 11 Palestinians, particularly those involved in rocket firing. How would that help? Hamas has no problem with their own people being killed and would continue firing rockets at innocent Israelis indefinitely.
Finally, Israel is not attacking Hamas "in the name of God." It is attacking Hamas in the name of "survival," since Hamas has vowed to wipe it out of existence.
-- Diane Kelley, Ventura
I want to send a big thanks to a young man named German Gomez who is an employee at Fry's Electronics in Oxnard.
I accidentally left my $2,000 laptop with all my precious photos and work documents in a cart in the parking lot. Within 15 minutes he turned it in, and a call was made to me to immediately. He could have easily kept it and sold it.
German's honesty just shows how most people are good. We just don't publicize it as much as the bad. I will pay forward the kindness!
-- Michele Craft, Camarillo
Sen. Tony Strickland is right. Why should Californians pony up more tax money to cover the resulting damage of a spending-addicted Legislature?
When you consider the rapid growth of government over the past five to 10 years, how can our state Legislature honestly tell us there's not enough money due to a "revenue" problem. Would you buy a house that was 40 percent larger and more expensive if your income and the size of your family hadn't changed? If you did, would you feel entitled to financial aid when the debt started piling up while repeatedly explaining that there's simply "nowhere to cut?"
Our state government relies on the size and many facets of our budget to confuse people into believing that all they need is a little more from our paychecks. It's an old, tired song and dance. It's time to buckle down and do what's right so that we're not paying a heavier price down the road.
-- James Riske, Simi Valley
As a lifelong Ventura library patron, I was shocked to learn that the County of Ventura Library Services has officially told the staff at the Wright Public Library in East Ventura that the county is closing this popular library branch on July 1.
I cannot believe that this well-used library would even be considered for closure. It is a well-established and very well-used neighborhood library. It has a great and helpful staff. In these trying economic times, the free use of public libraries is more important than ever.
Stop in the Wright Library at any time and you will find exciting children's programs, college students using the computers and senior citizens and families using the many useful books and other services.
Libraries are about community, and Ventura has always been about supporting the needs of its citizens. Our Wright Library is a very important part of community.
It is important for all who care about out community libraries to contact the Ventura City Council and County Board of Supervisors and let them know that closing an important community library like the Wright Public Library is not acceptable in a city where families come together in reading and learning.
-- Jim Hines, Ventura
Say what you will about Tony Strickland, but it's hard to argue with his common-sense approach to our budget fiasco. When it comes to fair, common-sense economic solutions, his proposals are spot on -- for instance, growing government "population plus inflation."
If government truly is representative of the people, why should it not grow at the same pace as our population? Democratic legislators try to spin this way and that to get us to understand why raising taxes is the cure for what ails us when government has doubled in size in the last decade. I can tell you two things that haven't doubled in the past decade: inflation or our state's population -- not even close.
The next time you hear a debate over our state budget, consider just how bloated government has become and ask yourself how we even functioned a decade ago when we survived a budget half its current size. It will make you realize how ridiculous it is to hear someone say there's no waste and absolutely no room to make cuts.
-- Alex See, Camarillo
I have an idea. Why not allow the general public to come up with ideas to help solve the budget problem? If people with ideas that were genuine and not meant in a malicious way were to submit their ideas to The Star, perhaps one or two of them might be enough to generate some budget solutions.
The only thing we'd have to do next is convince the state lawmakers to read the good ones.
As far as being paid by an IOU from the state, will the Department of Motor Vehicles take an IOU from me for my vehicle registration, or will they suspend my driving privileges? If I were to win the lottery, would I receive an IOU? These are just a few things that come to mind.
If they came up with a lottery ticket where you would win nothing but the money would go to help the budget, would people buy one? If you bought five tickets to win the lottery, why not spend an extra buck for a ticket that would go straight to the budget? If this were done every day for a few months, I wonder how much relief it would muster.
-- Kevin Sheahan, Oxnard
Re: John M. Crisp's Jan. 7 commentary, "Chance for enlightened thinking about homosexuality":
This commentary certainly enlightened me as to the activities of heterosexuals as opposed to committed gays. Had I been aware that "infidelity, divorce, materialism, spousal abuse, child abuse, selfishness, excessive reliance on credit, TV, apathy and so on" were the exclusive property of heterosexuals, I might have had a different attitude toward homosexuals in the past. Realizing the superior qualities of "committed gays" over committed heterosexuals is certainly an eye-opener for me. Just imagine what a wonderful society we would have if everyone were gay.
Actually, the article makes me wonder where this man has been. Gay couples I have been acquainted with have just as many problems as heterosexual couples I have known.
I think Crisp is clueless.
Homosexuals and heterosexuals share all the good attributes and all the bad ones, too.
Support gay marriage if you must, but support it with facts, not fancy.
-- Cynthia A. Mullins, Ojai
Read the fine print in all your transactions.
I thought I was pretty careful until I got a package in the mail that I didn't order. Upon investigation, I discovered that by hitting the "I accept the terms" button before submitting an online order, I had accepted, along with my modest order, a "free VIP Rewards Program" that basically entitled the company to send me product every three months and charge my credit card $99. This was in the fine-print, legalese-type declaration that we often have to hit as a matter of policy to complete online transactions.
I am attempting to return the product now.
Another "trojan horse" we received in the mail was a check from the "California Processing Center." Since we were expecting rebates, we almost cashed it. A closer look at the fine print showed that by endorsing this check, we would be allowing $104.99 to be billed every six months for some kind of membership.
Invest in a good magnifying glass this year and be prepared to use it or lose it.
-- Audrey Albert, Port Hueneme
The economic downturn is hitting middle-class and working families hard. We're the ones losing our jobs, our healthcare and hope for our children's future.
Every day, we hear about bailouts for big banks and insurance companies. We don't hear much about average working people.
It's a good thing that help really is on the way. President-elect Barack Obama has made it clear that he's going to be president for Main Street too. His commitment was reconfirmed with his appointment of U.S. Rep. Hilda L. Solis for secretary of labor.
Obama is standing strong on the Employee Free Choice Act, which will rebuild the middle class and restore opportunity to ordinary working people and let ordinary workers make their own choice about union representation.
Obama gets it. He was a co-sponsor of the original Employee Free Choice Act. When the new Congress meets next year to take up employee free choice, we hope we can count on Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer to stand with us too.
-- Antony Hodges, Santa Barbara
Re: your Jan. 4 editorial, "FDA action smells fishy":
This editorial was excellent, but I have to disagree with your conclusion that "the fish industry is not doing itself any favors lobbying to reverse health advisories."
The fish industry has done nothing but help itself over the past 30 years by influencing the Food and Drug Administration to de-emphasize the significance of mercury levels in U.S. fish sales.
This influence over the FDA by the fish industry started in earnest in the late 1970s when the mercury content guideline in the U.S. was 0.5 parts per million, as in much of the developed world, including Canada and Europe. U.S. commercial fishing interests were afraid they would not be able to market all their fish in the U.S. with a 0.5 ppm mercury limit, so the U.S. fishing industry successfully lobbied the FDA t