Re: your April 30 article, "Prop. 1B tries to defuse school funding disputes:
I thank The Star for its very fair article. I'm always pleased to see articles that give both sides of an issue and are even-handed. I am one of those older conservative voters, and I'd like to explain why my knee-jerk approach to these propositions is to vote no.
I'm currently supporting my 94-year-old mother-in-law at an assisted living home. She's completely out of funds and obviously unable to work. I'm looking at the strong possibility of my two children coming back home. One of them lost her job, and the other is in foreclosure and is likely to lose her home. These people I will do my best to take care of because I am obligated, by love, to do so.
California politicians, on a spending spree, I do not have any love fest with. There are so many tax-supported programs that I'm philosophically opposed to that I won't list but two of them: a costly, totaling failing public education system; and a virtual amnesty state that refuses to consider the percentage of the state budget illegals represent.
-- William Hicks, Newbury Park
April 2009 Archives
Re: your April 30 article, "Prop. 1B tries to defuse school funding disputes:
Wednesday started the layoff downward spiral of my company.
So far, it has laid off 25 people, with an additional 50 to go -- lots of people I know and work with every day and care for.
Seeing them being escorted out by security more than sucks. A lot of these people have been working here for more than 20 or 25 years -- longer than any relationship and longer than their oldest child has lived.
It's sad to see them go in this fashion -- such loyalty thanked by a little white box to fill with their personal belongings, with a security guard holding the door for you as you leave and making sure to slam it shut as soon as you step through the threshold.
It's hard to say goodbye to so many people at once, and most don't even get to say goodbye to a soul. They just disappear like ghosts. I can't handle having to say goodbye to another person -- at least today. I know there will be plenty more of them to come.
I have seen grown men yell, start fights, walk out without saying a word, and just breaking down, falling to their knees to cry -- all the time security pushing them closer to the door.
I wish them all well on their journey, and I hope they have the ability to overcome this terrible time that they face as they walk toward and out that door.
-- Christopher Ray Detamore, Simi Valley
Whether it's principle or politics that drove Sen. Arlen Specter into the arms of giddy Democrats matters little in this game of partisan cannibalism. Every acquisition earns tremendous bragging rights, given the tight wiggle room in Congress for filibuster and other obstructive tactics.
A pariah in his own party, Specter made it known that his political future was a major consideration in his decampment. After all, self-preservation is the most primitive of human instincts. It became clear that he would not be endorsed by the Republican Party, nor would he win if he ran as an Independent. Further, Specter's decision to vote for the stimulus package was more than his colleagues could take.
Republicans must now reflect, repent and regroup if they are to survive in an America that embraces its moderates. It is to their utmost detriment to be excluding anyone who is not in total lockstep with their exacting ideology.
With Specter gone, can Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both of Maine, be far behind?
-- Maya Teague, Camarillo
In looking at Propositions 1B and 1C, it appears that they should have been collapsed into one. Why not modernize the lottery and use the extra money to fund the schools? That seems like a pretty obvious solution, and it keeps the lottery true to its original charter.
If you voters remember, the lottery -- also known as gambling -- was sold to us as a way to fund schools. However, I have to see any audits or performance reports on the results.
With Proposition 1B, it appears that the politicians are hijacking funds from one dedicated source to pay for another project. Sound familiar?
The other scary part is that the nasty four-letter word, "cost," appears frequently in both propositions.
-- Ralph J. Coolman, Ventura
We're supposed to vote yes on Propositions 1A through 1F to help the Legislature with its budget mess. This is kind of like when a guy borrows your car, wrecks it and then asks you to loan him your other car.
-- Nelson Wallace, Ventura
Can the Ventura City Council explain to the residents of this city why it is reasonable to spend $300,000, plus thousands more in the future, on "consultants" regarding a plan to change the Victoria Avenue corridor, and, on the other hand, only "lend" $130,000 to keep the Wright Library open? It seems that our local government has a strange set of priorities -- or maybe there is something going on here that needs fuller explanation, much fuller explanation.
-- Shirley Clement, Ventura
(The writer adds that her home is part of the projected Victoria Avenue plan, "and I have yet to be given an understandable explanation of how my property is to be affected, if the plan is ever put into effect." -- Editor)
Re: Beverly Kelley's April 29 commentary, "Is California a state of grasshoppers or ants?"
Kelley seems unaware of California law when it comes to the Official Voter Information Guide for the May 19 statewide special election.
State election laws are very specific about what must go in the voter guide, which is mailed to every voter's home and is online at http://www.voterguide.sos.ca.gov. As California's chief elections officer, I follow every one of those laws.
The secretary of state does not write the official titles and summaries for ballot measures. When the Legislature and the governor place measures on the ballot, members of the Legislature may write the ballot titles and summaries for the measures. That is what happened with Propositions 1A through 1F.
Without a court order, the secretary of state is prohibited from changing anything the Legislature, the attorney general, the Legislative Analyst's Office, or proposition proponents and opponents submit for the Official Voter Information Guide.
So that voters may make fully informed decisions, the statewide special election voter guide also includes the full text of every proposed law and more than 25 pages of expert nonpartisan analysis of possible effects on the state budget and public policy. In addition, arguments from initiative proponents and opponents appear on 12 of the 62 pages of the voter guide.
I encourage every voter to consult many different sources before deciding how to vote on each of the six statewide measures on the May 19 ballot.
-- Debra Bowen, Sacramento
(The writer is the California secretary of state. -- Editor)
This is not the first time a politician has examined his options and decided that the most expedient measure would be to change political parties. There is a virtual compendium of senators and congressmen who have deemed such switches in allegiance appropriate, even the most vaunted Ronald Reagan, who began his political career as a California Democrat.
Hats off to Pennsylvania's Sen. Arlen Specter for his decision to realign with the Democratic Party! In his impromptu news conference, he averred, "Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans."
With this defection and the impending seating of Minnesota's Al Franken, the Democrats will be in position to create a balance in the Senate that will become a 60-40 filibuster-proof coalition, allowing President Barack Obama's initiatives a clearer sailing through the senatorial process.
With the massive engagement Obama has exhibited in domestic policy, economic recovery and foreign relations during his first 100 days in office, Democrats around the country welcome Specter's intelligence, perspective and leadership during these most trying times.
-- Charles Williams, Oxnard
Much is being reported about U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania joining the Democrat Party midterm. Nothing is reported about his former constituents who gave him support for multiple terms. I would think a simple thank you is in order.
-- John E. Gary Jr., Camarillo
On April 26, the Friends of Oak Park Schools hosted the Harlem Ambassadors, a professional show basketball team, for a night of high-flying slam dunks, hilarious comedy and feel-good family entertainment.
The Harlem Ambassadors would like to extend a special thank-you to event organizers Lori Yacobian and Lori Byer, who planned and promoted the game. The Oak Park Dream Team II proved to be an energetic and enthusiastic challenging team, and we thank all of the players for their good sportsmanship.
The event would not have been possible without the support and generosity of local community sponsors, the Friends of Oak Park Schools members and the event volunteers.
The Harlem Ambassadors thank the community of Oak Park for its warm hospitality and look forward to returning to Oak Park in the future!
-- Dale Moss, Fort Collins, Colo.
Daily we read of the immense amount of money our government is spending, but does anyone really know what it looks like?
The average residential block street measures 400 feet long and 40 feet wide. Take one of the worn dollar bills out of your pocket and place it in the street, imagining the entire street surface covered. Now visualize that bill stacked to a height of 565 feet. It's an awesome sight, but that only represents $1 billion.
Government is talking trillions of dollars, which is 1,000 times more.
One of our former state politicians once stated it is easy to balance the budget: "Just move the decimal point." And that form of thinking still exists in our government.
Do we really need this, or do we start cleaning house?
-- Don Davidson, Port Hueneme
America was founded as a social democracy. Our Constitution specifically states (in the preamble and, for taxes, in Article 1, section 8) that one of its purposes is to "promote the general Welfare."
Few seem to understand that "real-world" capitalism is a combined economic-social-political system. Capitalism requires that both the markets and the government promote and ensure the health of the society in order for the economic system (the selling and purchasing of goods and services) to function at even a sufficient, much less optimal, level.
Individuals, including corporations, cannot be relied upon to self-govern. When the government fails to regulate the individual through lack or intentional neglect -- often through political partisanship -- it fails to "promote the general Welfare," and it fails capitalism.
America's "money-focused" culture breeds greed. The Forbes magazine lists of the wealthiest are seen as recognition of accomplishment instead of "lists of greed." Yet at least one of every eight Americans lived in poverty in 2007 -- up to one of six under National Academy of Sciences assessments -- and likely higher in 2009.
The "social" is a necessary component of society, of human beings, of the American form of government and of capitalism. Yet, it is often lacking or thought of only in a derisive form of Marxist Socialism. A doctrine (an "-ism") of the social -- a new "social -ism" -- is in the best interests of the human race.
Perhaps it is time we explained Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" not just to the business community, but to the entire population. When the spirits move us, then we will learn.
Let's stop valuing greed. It is an abhorrent trait and one which neither society nor capitalism needs to thrive.
-- Douglas Perron, Santa Paula
Re: your April 23 article, "Rice's role in torture detailed":
This is not front-page news.
Everybody knows that former President George Bush and Congress were well aware of the waterboarding. The senior Bush administration officials authorized the tough interrogations of a handful of al-Qaida operatives. Congress was fully informed of both the interrogations and the intelligence gathered. This is no mystery.
These enhanced interrogations occurred within 24 months of a surprise attack that resulted in the terrifying deaths of 2,974 innocent victims on American soil.
Let's be clear about this: The blame for the surprise attacks on American soil and the subsequent enhanced interrogation techniques falls squarely on the shoulders of former President Bill Clinton's negligence. Clinton's administration fell asleep at the switch, and America suffered a massive intelligence failure resulting in the horrific loss of American lives.
The interrogations of a few al-Qaida operatives provided the valuable intelligence we desperately needed after being blindsided by an al-Qaida attack on Sept. 11, 2001.
Now, suddenly, within 100 days of the Obama administration, America is shocked and squeamish! Really?
Let the witch hunt and phony "show-trial" begin! This is pure politics, plain and simple. It's left-wing gamesmanship at its finest.
-- Sean Ragan, Camarillo
Re: Peter Foy's April 23 commentary, "Let's celebrate U.S. successes in Iraq":
According to Foy's logic, do we also "celebrate" the recent news out of Baghdad from Reuters: "Two suicide bombers wearing vests full of explosives blew themselves up in separate attacks on Thursday, killing 76 people, including many Iranian pilgrims, in what appeared to be Iraq's bloodiest day in over a year. A year-end election also threatens to stir a resurgence in violence just as the sectarian bloodshed and insurgency triggered by the 2003 U.S.-led invasion appeared to be receding."
-- Steve Binder, Oxnard
American journalists seem particularly squeamish about dealing with waterboarding. They often describe it as a "simulated form of drowning," whereas the victims of waterboarding actually experience real drowning, and some of them eventually drown.
Waterboarding -- or what the Japanese called water torture -- is one of the worst forms of torture ever devised. Listen to the words of 86-year-old Henri Alleg, an independent French journalist who was subjected to water torture by the French in Algeria in 1957:
"And no one can say, having passed through it [waterboarding] that this was not torture, especially when he has endured other types of torture -- burning, electricity and beating, and so on."
What makes waterboarding, in which the victim is subjected to the terrifying experience of drowning, particularly diabolical?
"It is a terrible way of torturing a man, because you're bringing -- you bring him next to death and then back to life. And sometimes he doesn't come back to life" (Democracy Now, Nov. 5, 2007).
Just as we are now being forced to face the reality of torture in this country, so we can no longer fool ourselves that waterboarding is only a pretend form of drowning. It is not.
-- Clive Leeman, Ojai
Re: your April 21 article, "Animal cruelty video law heading to high court":
I read with great interest and enthusiastic approval about the U.S. Supreme Court agreeing to consider the constitutionality of U.S. Rep. Elton Gallegly's animal cruelty video law. Kudos to our congressman for having the knowledge, determination and moral fiber to stop such brutal, immoral and disgraceful conduct. The deliberate maiming and killing of rabbits, hamsters and other small animals is truly shameful.
What causes me great concern was the deafening silence of the good congressman relative to the United States' policy of actually engaging in torture and knowingly outsourcing such conduct to other countries whose behavior was even more unconscionable than our own. If he was sufficiently concerned about the welfare of our four-legged friends to have passed his legislation, why then did he fail to use the power and considerable influence of his office to help prevent the United States from gaining the worldwide reputation of being a nation that regarded the rules of the Geneva Convention as being merely "quaint?" Electric shock, simulated drownings, sleep deprivation and such other "aggressive interrogation" techniques are OK for human beings, but do not dare do such things to rabbits or Elton most certainly will become outraged.
-- Richard S. Diamond, Camarillo
Re: Hal Wilder's April 22 letter, "Illegals undeserving":
Wilder may be falling prey to a well-known phenomenon in stressful times: scapegoating, or blaming the victim.
I suspect that Wilder's animus is fear-based, which is not only not helpful, but can make a bad situation worse. Most of the people Wilder accuses are not here on a whim. Their own county suffers from the aftereffects of NAFTA, and they are subsequently unable to feed their families. We would unquestionably make the same decisions if we were in that situation.
It's unfortunate that our draconian federal laws now make legal immigration nearly impossible in the face of severe hunger and deprivation right across our southern border. My own grandmother emigrated from Ireland in the very early 1900s due to extreme poverty. In those days, no visas were required -- only a brief stop on Ellis Island, and then they were on their way. People from western and northern Europe were considered welcome, especially the Irish, who already spoke English and worked very hard for very little money.
The next time we drive by our local Ventura County farm fields, or have a fresh green salad or some luscious Oxnard strawberries, or in some other way benefit from the difficult, dangerous and often painful work done by people in our midst willing to do this work for very little money, we might even consider saying thank you! They certainly do not deserve our scorn.
Even better, we can work in support of much-needed humane and comprehensive immigration reform.
-- Theadora Davitt-Cornyn, Oxnard
My wife and I recently enjoyed a Sunday of Art Walk browsing and shopping downtown. Becoming tired and thinking I'd enjoy watching the beach, I drove to the small beach lot behind the Ventura Fairgrounds. Although full, as usual, a couple was loading their SUV with surfboards. I pulled to the side, as many do, and, with engine running and windows rolled down to enjoy the breeze, waited the two minutes for them leave.
Before "surf couple" could pull out, one of Ventura's finest -- to be honest, the officer was nice about it -- gave me a $72 ticket for parking in a red zone. I told him why I was there, but showing him the car pulling out didn't accomplish anything, naturally. I'd like to think I met his quota.
Along with the ticket, I got the message from the city fathers loud and clear: "Tourists: We want your money, not you!"
As scams go, this is quite minor. I'll live, the city got my $72 and life goes on.
Sure, Ventura is cash-strapped like most cities, but what the city fathers snickering in their hallowed halls as the money comes in should realize is that people are not stupid, and we recognize these little money-grabbing schemes when we see it. Ventura gets $72 and loses two downtown shoppers. Myself, my friends and others post on every travel-vacation-scam Web site we find, so scams peter out in the end. Ventura loses more than it gains.
On the plus side, for me, I save what would have been spent on lunches at our favorite bistro, picking up knickknacks at the children's thrift store and "bargains" my wife says I don't need at the used book store -- not to mention the "junk" she buys -- so things work out.
-- Mark Pincus, Encino
Re: your April 28 article, "Slain teen remembered as 'a great kid'":
Another tragedy involving youth. Two more families permanently devastated and forever changed.
We live in a society of an increasingly violent youth culture. We have more than 2,000 children currently serving life with out parole sentences in this country. The rest of the world combined has 10.
This is a downward spiral, and the number of death and life sentences will only increase if we do not step back and take a good look at this crisis.
This is not about racism, gangs and drugs. Those are the symptoms.
This is about hurting and wounded children: children who are most likely exposed to large doses of media violence, children who lack strong-positive role models in their lives, children whose parents lack the appropriate tools to successfully guide a challenging child through these teenage years or children whose home environment is just too chaotic.
This crisis won't go away by itself.
We all must step back and take a good look at our youth.
We need to have early identification and intervention of at-risk youth. Many signs of at-risk youth are present between fifth and seventh grades. Schools, law enforcement and pastors are in an excellent position to identify these children.
Then, we need to have in place programs that mentor and heal these kids, give support to the families and positively impact the home environment.
Organizations such as the Boys and Girls Clubs are doing an excellent job at mentoring our youth. We need more of these organizations.
I know this seems lofty and expensive.
But housing 2,000-plus juveniles for 60 or 70 years, and having that number increase on a daily basis, is much, much more costly, in more ways than just monetary ones.
We need to invest in the future of America's children because this will soon reach epidemic proportions.
-- Bettyanne Sessing, Ojai
I read the May 19 Statewide Special Election Sample Ballot and Voter Information Guide, which is an Orwellian name and anything but.
After checking around, I learned that the propositions, except 1F, are designed to increase taxes or reallocate (steal) other monies. The right solution is to cut spending, not raise taxes and steal more of our money.
California legislators: You are trying to spend $50 billion more than you are collecting in already too-high taxes, and now your solution is to keep raising taxes, borrowing more money and lying about it.
May 19 is "Tax, Borrow or Steal Day," unless we vote them down. Vote no. The tea parties were a far too mild answer to this nonsense. Pitchforks are coming sooner than you think.
-- George Miller, Oxnard
So Bank of America has renamed Countrywide. What was that saying? Oh yeah, "You can put lipstick on a pig and it's still a pig."
Both Countrywide and Bank of America were storm troopers from the evil empire that was the main proximate cause that started the economic meltdown we all are now paying dearly for.
How transparent! Do they really think we are dumb enough to believe they will change their ways without us forcing them to?
-- Glen Adkins, Thousand Oaks
Re: John Gentry's April 28 commentary, "Ode to rhyme & meter during Poetry Month":
This article was liberating and inspiring.
John's position, that a wide range of people appreciate this style of poetry, acted like a tonic on my beleaguered senses.
I have been renewed and refreshed. The chains of ennui are off; I may now soar among the poetic immortals of past centuries.
And, in that flight catch a glimpse of Byron, Keats, Poe and Shelley as beacons in the world of poetic thought.
No longer will the current rash of Existential free verse and other verbal meanderings hold my attention as I struggle to extract their meanings.
I would rather a poem's sentiments and universal ideas flow in rhyme and meter, and enthrall rather than berate.
As a basis for my future poetic enlightenment I will rely on Alexander Pope, who admonishes:
"True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
As those move easiest who have learned to dance.
'Tis not enough no harshness gives offense,
The sound must seem an echo to the sense"
-- Ronald L. Lyons, Thousand Oaks
We must do something to stop the continuing demise of the public education system in California. Our refusal to properly fund our schools is a disgrace.
I graduated from a high school in the Central Valley in 1966. We had comfortable velvet-covered seats in our auditorium. The auditorium had a proper stage with curtains and wings. We had a swimming pool, we had tennis courts, we had auto shop classes. We had small classes. We had dedicated and diligent teachers. Our community cared.
Now I teach in a suburban high school in a Southern California valley. Here, we have uncomfortable folding metal chairs on a cement slab in the so-called multi-purpose room -- a giant box with a raised platform at one end that serves as a primitive stage. We have no swimming pool. We have no auto shop, and our classes are overcrowded. This community seems unconcerned.
The only similarity I see in my two California school experiences is in the dedicated teachers. Now, these people are going the way of the facilities, treated as expendable fixtures. My heart breaks to see the sorrow and disbelief on the faces of so many young teachers who had been so full of joy and faith in their ability to make a difference in the lives of their students. More and more of these children are living in broken homes, and we teachers are expected to somehow compensate for their academic and emotional deficiencies without the proper resources.
For shame. The citizens and legislators of our state have allowed education to become less important than a trip to Disneyland or a new flat-screen television set. Everyone is accountable for the future of this beautiful state. All are being punished by the short-sighted selfishness of misguided people who cannot see the cause-effect connection between the quality of our schools and the quantity of our prisons.
Children need individual attention. Our children are being left behind.
-- Virginia Donohue, Thousand Oaks
I have seen recessions and irresponsible presidencies in my lifetime but never to this extreme. I could not have imagined in my wildest nightmares that we the people of the United States of America would elect a man to the highest office who, through all of his words and actions, absolutely loathes the basis and foundation of this great nation. Furthermore it is apparent that he has no respect or reverence for the people who do love this country.
This is not a party issue or a political opinion. This is an American issue and the opinion of millions of true Americans who love this country.
So wake up Americans and raise your voice and show your love and pride and American spirit. Don't be fooled by the propaganda being fed through the "network media." Do your due diligence and find the truth for yourselves. Listen to what President Barack Obama and his cohorts are really saying and not saying.
I will leave you with this question: After the tragic and horrific terror attacks of 9/11 and the evil that was forced upon this great nation and its people, what kind of mindset must a person have to thoughtlessly and carelessly order a low-air flyover at Ground Zero in New York, especially without any communication to the people ahead of time?
Think what you will, but this man has no regard for the great country he is lucky to be leading.
-- Christi McBride, Newbury Park
Re: your April 19 article, "On the economic edge":
I cannot believe The Star would write about people who claim to be struggling, like that woman who turned down a $15-an-hour job. Why not write about people who are working for less yet are managing to keep a roof over their head? I know people who are paying so much rent that they pay it and then stay broke until the next check. Those are the ones who deserve all the credit.
In this world, we can all make it if we try. Some people just want nothing but the best, and instead of taking a minimum-wage job, they would rather go around moping. Why not go to work in the fields or at a fast food restaurant? Oh, I forgot, that would be beneath them.
I feel for the ones who are paying so much rent and are making the landlords richer every month.
-- Rose Enriquez, Ventura
If the Centers for Disease Control or any other top medical group could guarantee that no one in the United States will die from swine flu like they have in Mexico, then wouldn't they tell us? At this point, I don't think they can.
If this is the case, don't let this swine flu end up like Hurricane Katrina -- too little too late.
-- Karen McKelvey, Oxnard
Re: Mick Kaufman's April 26 commentary, "Government officials kill joy in Cemetery Park":
My dog, Cooper, and I love to go to the park and romp and play with the other dogs there, and yes, dare I say it, off leash. Aside from the occasional exception, for the most part, the dog owners pick up after their dogs and are responsible enough to know what dogs can go off leash and what dogs can't, so what's the problem?
I live at a Ventura beach and can't bring my dog to the beach, so I'd love to have a nearby park I can take him to. I know Cesar Milan touts the importance of walking with your dog on leash, and I subscribe to that activity daily, but sometimes I just want to let the little guy run, you know?
Come on, Ventura. Let's lighten up on our leash laws and let the dogs have some fun.
-- Norma Cunningham, Ventura
A long time ago a man fought to have Proposition 13 placed on the ballot for the voters' consideration. Property taxes were rising so quickly that retired seniors were being taxed out of their homes.
There were the usual cries from the elected politicians that firefighters would not respond, rapes would take place and no one would come to take the report and libraries would close. None of that happened. More new police stations were built. More fire stations were built and staffed. As I recall, Oxnard has a state-of-the-art library. None of the politicians' predictions came true.
Proposition 13 passed because the idiots in Sacramento would not do what they were told to do: Fix the problem. The people took this into their own hands and corrected the problem. Kudos to the taxpayers.
That was the only time in my 62 years I ever had a chance to vote yes or no to increased taxes. Needless to say, I voted for Proposition 13 and would do the same today if presented with the same circumstances.
Fast forward to today. We are again facing another financial mess with a governor who hasn't a clue of what to do. On the left, they want more money to spend! On the right, they want to slash the budget to bare bones, and nothing gets done. Prison workers are living high on the hog. Not one politician is addressing the next looming crisis: state pensions. Worst of all, the little guys will have their car taxes doubled, along with a variety of other increased taxes. What is enough? Again, the little guys get killed in the process.
History repeats itself. We are now faced with a moment of truth in California. This will be one of the only times when you have a direct say to this continued tax.
Vote no on all the propositions.
-- Gary L. Parker, Ventura
Let's face it, the fox is in charge of the henhouse.
This May election to pass Propositions 1A through 1F was set up by the legislators in Sacramento with backing from the public employees union and the teachers unions. They are the ones that really run this state and also the ones that will get out the vote for these propositions, figuring the general populous won't go out and vote anyway.
Watch the TV ads and see who is backing these propositions. Firefighters, police officers, teachers and other public employee unions are spending millions of their members' dollars to get these propositions passed. They only understand one thing, and that is to tax and spend. Never cut back for hard times, but just keep increasing their spending no matter what -- until the people have had enough and we pass another Proposition 13 to rein in our state government.
-- Bob Moeller, Oxnard
I know that many Republicans are still bitter about losing the White House, but enough already!
The Republican Party held the office for the last two terms, and look where we are today. The people who hope for failure in these times show their true colors. Those who take more pleasure in seeing President Barack Obama fail than in seeing America get back on its feet are just plain selfish, childish and very un-American, in my opinion.
We need unity in these times, not more of the division brought on by the arrogance of the last administration.
-- Mark Ray, Moorpark
Beginning Monday, we will have a new county director of Animal Control. This is an encouraging sign for the county of Ventura.
I intend to address the Simi Valley City Council on May 11 on the issue of constantly barking dogs. I invite all people to attend this meeting and lend their voices and complaints to the City Council in regards to this serious issue.
I would like to personally invite Tina Allegra, senior code enforcement officer of Simi, to attend, since she has been so helpful in this matter. Also, I extend this invitation to the new director, Monica Nolan, as well as to Supervisor Peter Foy. I have been unable to reach Foy.
I am urging all citizens who have a barking dog problem to attend the City Council meeting on May 11 at City Hall, 2929 Tapo Canyon Road, across from the library. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m., so I urge you to be a little early to sign up to speak or just turn in a note on this issue.
-- Jules Rabalais, Simi Valley
I believe it is important to use all our resources responsibly, but let's be clear about the direction that Rep. Henry Waxman and his fellow creodonts want to take our country with regard to energy policy.
The idea of a cap and trade policy (read tax and tax policy) is ridiculous considering that the government is trying to promote the ludicrous notion that carbon dioxide is a pollutant.
Carbon dioxide is essential to life.
I have no standing to claim expertise on the dynamics of terrestrial climate, but I have reason to question arguments citing humans as the primary culprits of global warming. Everyone points fingers at fossil fuel producers as the entities fighting cap and trade schemes. Is anyone bothering to ask who benefits most from such policies? It won't be the taxpayers!
Why are some energy producers covering their bets by purchasing carbon offsets before government policies are in place? In other words, why are they buying commodities that will only be marketable after the government mandates carbon is a commodity? Proponents of man-made global warming devised an ingenious money-making strategy by defining a method to tax a molecule that is vital to our existence. The ranks of the "green" party may be growing, but in this case, the green may have a picture of George Washington on it.
Hundreds of scientists question the validity of man-made global warming models. I know, every one of them is in bed with the oil companies. I'm sure no one pushing the global-warming agenda benefits materially from companies waiting to trade carbon offsets.
For me the debate is far from over. For the time being I choose not to feel guilty about exhaling. My houseplants need feeding. I also won't be losing sleep over carbon dioxide released by the next soda I pop. Oh, the humanity!
-- Jim O'Brien, Simi Valley
Moorpark voters will have an opportunity to choose a new City Council member on May 19. In a field of many candidates, there is only one that remarkably stands out: David Pollock.
Pollock is a leader to our community, having served on the school board for 14 years. His dedication as a public servant is proven. He is a team player, a good listener and an intelligent decision maker. He is credited for developing one of the best school districts in our nation.
Pollock cares deeply about the community we live in. He understands the importance of preserving our city's character, as well as protecting the open spaces that most cherish.
I am confident that Pollock will provide his expertise in governing the finances of our city, as he and the school board have managed the district's budget that is historically three times larger than the city's budget.
It will be my extreme pleasure to vote for David Pollock on May 19.
-- Janet Murphy, Moorpark
Re: your April 27 article, "Strickland to challenge Obama ... to a friendly game of basketball":
It must have been a very slow news day, or was it The Star's intent to give state Sen. Tony Strickland lots of free press?
Like President Barack Obama even knows who Strickland is, let alone would accept a challenge for a one-on-one basketball ball game from a state senator.
Hopefully the president knows he has more important issues to take up his time -- like the recession and all that change and reform he promised.
Just saying, front-page news really ought to be news.
-- Doug Crosse, Simi Valley
I would like to ask Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, a few questions about her motorcycle smog check bill, SB435. What proof or data does she have that warrants motorcycles need to be smog checked? Does she know what percentage of motorcycles on the road is used for an everyday commute versus recreational use? What is the percentage of pollution they're creating?
Pavley has not provided us with any proof, scientific or otherwise, that proves her point that motorcycles are harming the environment.
This looks to me like another attempt to get their hands in the pockets of motorcyclists.
-- Marco Ortega, Moorpark
To all who are in disagreement with the Department of Homeland Security and Secretary Janet Napolitano, I urge you to call Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and demand that Napolitano be fired now. Call your representative in the House of Representatives, too.
Napolitano released a report that discriminates against returning veterans, Christians, one-issue people and others. If you take Bible prophesy seriously, you are a possible domestic terrorist. This is unacceptable.
Make your voice heard, and please do it now. It is our duty to be actively involved in our government. Even if you have not been a dutiful voter, speak out now on this.
-- Lois Shefflette, Oxnard
Re: your April 4 article, "Stiffer penalties for VC basketball sought":
In this article, Ventura College President Robin Calote was quoted as saying, "All of the individuals who were associated with the violations are no longer associated with the program."
Considering that the violations have to do with student-athletes being admitted into Ventura College as in-state students when they are actually from out of state, Calote's statement is not true. If then-Athletic Director Greg Winslow was helping athletes to fill out applications, there would have to be employees in the Admissions and Records Office who processed the applications without verifying the information. Why are all applications not verified?
Calote is wrong. Not all individuals associated with violations are gone from Ventura College. Is she trying to make people believe that all the problems are solved when in actuality they are not? No one from Admissions and Records has been put on leave or terminated. Susan Bricker is in charge of the Admissions and Records Office. Is she making sure that all applications are verified so that no one can ever do this again, athlete or non-athlete? If policies were followed, how could it have happened to begin with? Is Calote making sure that Bricker is doing her job? Is Chancellor James Meznek making sure Calote is doing her job? Is the Board of Trustees making sure Meznek is doing his job?
We as taxpayers and voters need to get answers to these questions. It is our money they are spending.
In November 2007, The Star wrote an article about fraudulent applications. Have any students in the Ventura County Community College District been admitted without providing verification of residency since this practice was exposed in the newspaper? Ask Bricker, Calote, Meznek and the Board of Trustees. Maybe they know.
-- Michael Foster, Ventura
I read where the publishing of pictures of our so-called torture of enemy combatants -- such as pointing a gun at a prisoner -- might be viewed in other parts of the world as "inciting backlash." What? I remember very well the pictures, video and sounds of many actual beheadings of our people and would bet my life that those that performed and recorded those events for our viewing pleasure were not in the least bit worried about such a "backlash."
It may be too late, but I think it's high time we realize the nature of this enemy and that we'd better start to fight fire with fire or we will be defeated by ruthless pirates who have no conscience and know how to take full advantage of our moral compass that the president has said we have abandoned. It is the fight of our generation, and the sooner we recognize this, the better chance we have to keep our republic intact.
God bless America!
-- Burt Smith, Camarillo
Proposition 1C,"Authorizing $5 billion of borrowing from future lottery profits to help balance the 2009-2010 state budget" will clearly be a referendum on whether California voters are rational or totally irrational.
Proposition 1C is the ultimate in risk-taking: no schedule on when the $5 billion will be repaid and no mention of how much interest will be paid to the happy lenders. Obviously any rational voter who feels Wall Street executives and bank CEOs are the cause of our current financial debacle by taking lots of big risks will vote no on Proposition 1C, since the risks are big and Proposition 1C ignores them. Of course, all voters are free to be irrational and vote yes on Proposition 1C.
-- Sherman N. Mullin, Oxnard
Re: Neal Andrews' April 24 letter, "Send a strong message":
When I read this letter excoriating leaders of both parties in Sacramento, calling them irresponsible bandits who blow up programs and hijack money, I said to myself "Whoa, Nellie! The nut jobs with pitchforks are on the loose!"
Jumping to the end, I was surprised to see the author of that screed was Ventura Councilman Neal Andrews. With that in mind, I reread the letter with full attention. Certainly an elected official understands the difficulty of matching revenues with expenses, especially here in California where such choices are hobbled by mandates and restrictions adopted years earlier -- and even more especially at this time, when public revenues are plummeting while public service needs are skyrocketing.
All choices are hard choices in such an economic climate. That's a reality I suspect Andrews faces each week in city budget meetings.
Sadly, when I reached the end of the letter I was no more enlightened about the banditry, irresponsibility and gross incompetence that Andrews attributes wholesale to Sacramento officeholders than I was before I began my read. Considering the inflammatory language, I would have expected the councilman to give his readers some brief listing of the actions and inactions that motivated his public outrage. In light of his assertion that incompetence and banditry have been exhibited in just about every aspect of state governance, that should not have been a difficult task.
-- Rick Scott, Ventura
President Barack Obama often quotes the Holy Scriptures to support his proposals, an action I strongly endorse.
He would do well to study the meaning of Proverbs 14:12: "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death."
-- Richard E. Brown Jr., Ojai
Why is it that voters are not given the full text of Propositions 1A through 1F? Is it because they are written in such a way that the average voter cannot understand what changes they will create?
Why is it that our sample ballots do not provide the full text of these propositions? All we are given is someone's opinion of what changes may or may not result. And that is from someone we do not know and do not trust.
Proposition 1A says, "Changes the budget process. Could limit future deficits." But it doesn't say how it changes the process or that it also could not limit future deficits.
How can a voter possibly cast an informed vote if the state will not inform the voter? What a state our state is in!
-- Wallace Schaefle, Fillmore
Congratulations to the Camarillo Premium Outlets for adding new stores. My wife is especially pleased with the expansion. However, I feel they missed an opportunity to accommodate "us guys" by not adding a bookstore or coffee house. Furthermore, my wife would like a place to "park" her husband. Will there ever be a major bookstore in Camarillo?
-- Edward Stephens, Camarillo
Re: your April 27 article, "Strickland to challenge Obama ... to a friendly game of basketball":
Stop the presses! Hold everything! Clear Page 1! State Sen. Tony Strickland challenges President Barack Obama to a basketball game! What nonsense! The Star, a newspaper I have subscribed to for nearly 40 years, is becoming more of a joke by the week.
-- Denis Higgins, Ventura
Re: Sylvia Bayley's April 24 letter, "British system works":
I am glad that Bayley's relatives have received a good standard of care from the United Kingdom health service, but I think they may have been lucky and perhaps do not have the high expectations we have here.
I, too, am from the UK and have lived here for many years, but I doubt that my relatives and friends in England would agree with her opinion that their health service "has thrived and grown in popularity for 60 years." My brother-in-law, who was all prepped for open heart surgery only to be put back to wait another six months, would certainly not agree. My friend in her 50s who has never been offered a mammogram, even when her mother died of breast cancer, would also not agree. My cousin who paid privately for her son's routine tonsillectomy because the wait time was over two years, my sister who suffered too many years before her hysterectomy: "There is sometimes waiting" -- yes, but for how long?
My own experience here is of a system that is certainly not perfect, but the level of preventative care, even in a very basic health maintenance organization, far outweighs anything I experienced in the UK. The routine yearly wellness exams, tests and thorough follow-up are simply not available to my family and peers in England, and many will admit to paying for private insurance that is extra to their national health contributions. It is true there are "no medical bills" as we know them, but everyone still pays. It is not free.
Obviously, there is no easy answer, and, of course, it is helpful to look at other countries' systems. It is important to see them clearly though, with all their problems and disadvantages. We have very high standards in this country of what we expect from our healthcare providers and would probably not tolerate the level of care offered in other places.
Surely we can combine the best of all possible systems and make it work?
-- Carole McCourt, Newbury Park
Re: April 24 letters by Gary Hoover, "Credit SEALs, not Obama" and Steve Hunt, "Don't thank Obama":
My, my, my. I see from these letters that the right-wing goose-steppers are alive and well. If they didn't hate President Barack Obama so much, maybe they would appreciate the fact that he gave his support to the SEALs in order to protect another brave American. Oh, but they aren't happy.
Yes, the SEALs do deserve credit and our thanks. But please, give the president some credit for being on the same page. Maybe the righties would be happier if Obama were on a carrier, wearing a jumpsuit, claiming "Mission accomplished." Oh, but that would mean that he and his advisers would have had to lie to start an illegal war that has claimed more than 87,000 Iraqis and 4,000-plus American soldiers.
Selective memory is so important to those who neither remember nor understand the reasons this country was founded. May I suggest that the "Obama haters" find another country where they can be happy and rile against whomever and whatever. There, I'm sure, their "poison" won't spoil the atmosphere for those of us who have more kindness, patience and faith in our beloved America.
-- Jim Shahan, Oak Park
Re: Peter Foy's April 23 commentary, "Let's celebrate U.S. successes in Iraq":
I was reading Foy's proclamation of success in Iraq when my attention was diverted by the breaking news of another car bomb in Iraq that killed 80 people.
Foy lamented President Barack Obama's lack of acknowledgement of success in Iraq and the media's lack of coverage. It's because Iraq is a powder keg waiting to explode. Iraq will most likely tear itself apart once we leave. Even if 30 years from now Iraq is a self-governing country, the blood and treasure we spent will never be worth it.
The fact remains we went there for strategic military reasons. It had nothing to do with democracy. There is a lot more to democracy than voting in your local warlord. The most successful part of the surge was giving money and weapons to the local warlords to be on our side for awhile.
Not one American's life should have been or was originally intended to be shed for Iraqi democracy. This is an afterthought to cover the mistaken reasoning of why we went there in the first place and the blundering that followed. We cannot ever celebrate Iraq because it was and is a giant blunder, and trying to put a happy face on it will only cause us to repeat it.
We can, however, do a much better job taking care of the people we sent into harm's way. I doubt they want the celebration Foy wants. Maybe just a job with a future and not having to beg for healthcare for their kids would be a good way to welcome them back!
Foy's attempt to raise the "Mission accomplished" banner once again was not only stupid but a felonious attempt to whitewash his party's blundering incompetence that will forever haunt the United States.
-- Tom Ion, Moorpark
Re: your April 25 Opinion page cartoon:
This was a despicable, misleading and naive comment. The Star shows its absolute liberal biased hatred for the administration and the people who have prevented it from a terrorist attack since 9/11. How about I send The Star a cartoon depicting the clownish Vice President Joe Biden? Would The Star print it? Let me know, but I will not be holding my breath.
-- Ken Davis, Moorpark
Re: your April 26 editorial, "Elderly need a watchdog":
The Star deserves special praise for this editorial, which advocated on behalf of an important segment of our Ventura County community: frail and vulnerable elderly persons.
The Star's support of AB935 and its recognition of the untiring humanitarian work of Long Term Care Ombudsman Services of Ventura and their volunteers under the untiring leadership of Sylvia Stein Taylor is an example of the role the press plays in community service. It is also an urgent call to action for our elected officials to serve the critical needs of their electorate. Yes, "deeds speak louder than words."
The Ventura County Area Agency on Aging, directed by Victoria Jump and her able staff and its volunteer 30-plus member advisory council, continues to proudly support the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program through one of its many grant programs for the elderly. During one of the VCAAA's annual visits to our grantees to assess program effectiveness, I was privileged to review the ombudsman program with Taylor. During this visit I was especially impressed with the outstanding management and cost-effectiveness of the program. Much of this success is a result of the highly leveraged efforts of 50 dedicated volunteers, Taylor and her devoted staff.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, "A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members." This also applies to our cities, counties and states, and it is also one of those times.
Thanks again to The Star for its support of programs for the elderly.
-- Mel Silberberg, Thousand Oaks
(The writer chairs the advisory council of the Ventura County Area Agency on Aging. -- Editor)
Re: Chuck Thomas' April 25 commentary, "Some more bad bets on gambling":
Benjamin Franklin was reportedly asked what form of government we had from our new Constitution, a republic or a monarchy. To this he replied, "A republic, if you can keep it." I once thought his answer was arrogant, but he was wise far beyond my understanding as a young student.
Thomas gives Proposition 1C his unqualified disapproval. Justly so! But the entire lineup, Propositions 1A through 1F, is just more smoke and mirrors, another attempt to put off until tomorrow what should be dealt with today. If these measures were people, they would be judged vagrant, having no visible means of support. And every time we put off the inevitable reckoning, the fix will become more difficult.
Are we now incapable of self-government as Franklin foresaw? So far it looks like yes. It's time to change that. On May 19, just vote no. Make the Legislature and the governor cope with their own mess.
-- Roy W. Hogue, Newbury Park
Re: Joe Howry's April 26 essay, "A total lack of leadership":
Howry's essay about the lack of political leadership in California was right on the mark.
The inability of our governor, our legislators and other state officials to reach some resolution of the state's fundamental problems is a disgrace. While the initiative/proposition process is a necessary safeguard, it is absolutely no substitute for the orderly legislative procedures under the state constitution, designed to produce thorough and meaningful policies and laws for the benefit of the whole state.
The current line-up of propositions is a prime example of the use, abuse and deception that can easily infect the initiative process. And what a convenient way to sidestep leadership and responsibility! Where are the committee hearings, the testimony, the public debates on these most important issues? What do we get instead? Sound bites and fliers -- everyone pushing their own narrow agenda.
What's actually required for the good of California seems to have no relevance.
Incidentally, with regard to Proposition 1A, why should we voters believe that our state government would honor a spending cap or actually contribute to a rainy day fund? Haven't our elected representatives consistently ignored and violated the mandate to have the all-important state budget in place by July 1 of each year? Won't they likely take the same attitude toward anything that doesn't suit them in these propositions?
-- Allan C. Strayer, Westlake Village
Re: your April 20 article, "Homeland Security leaders defend memo":
It was news to me, but if the secretary of Homeland Security says so in a release to law enforcement folks, it must be so. Right? As a Christian, a veteran and a conservative, that makes me a suspect in her eyes, she says. I've always considered myself a moderate of the Republican type, but somebody shifted the political spectrum way off to the left, so now I become an "extremist." Amazing.
Although I am a World War II veteran, I have never had a weapon since those combat days. I would guess that I am like most returning veterans, from the past or even now, in that when we get home, we want peace, not more violence.
It seems to me that our secretary of Homeland Security knows nothing about veterans, conservatives or prospective terrorists.
Another dubious choice by President Barack Obama, it would seem.
-- Robert W. Dingman, Thousand Oaks
Re: your April 26 article, "Who's the fairest?"
"You can't judge a book by its cover" is just one of many cliches that I heard my Mom say when I was growing up.
Susan Boyle is a classic example.
People were shocked when she had an angelic voice because they had already judged her by her appearance.
We'll never know how many people have been shunned and heartbroken because they weren't given the opportunity to express their real beauty and talent because they were judged by their cover.
I say hooray for Susan Boyle. Perhaps she has opened the door for others.
-- Theresa Schultz, Thousand Oaks
Did you know there could be a new reality TV show filmed in Thousand Oaks called, "Keeping Up With The City Council Members?"
In its quest for more revenue and to help their Hollywood friends, the City Council may significantly revamp the longstanding commercial filming permit restrictions on June 9. If you have come to enjoy the peacefulness of the current restrictions, which protect next-door neighbors' rights, then you may be in for a complete shock.
Residents may wake up only when dozens of film trucks and workers are scurrying about, creating havoc and mayhem in their neighborhood day and night. Lights, camera, action? Don't wait until it's too late. Act now. Write, call or e-mail City Council and tell them that a next-door neighbor's right to peace and quiet should not be ignored and that filming at any hour of the day or night is inappropriate. Better yet, go to the council meeting and tell them in person. If not, then many of us may be living "The Simple Life" in Thousand Oaks.
-- John Fonti, Newbury Park
Re: Dan K. Thomasson's April 23 essay, "Global-warming caution":
Thomasson's essay is a mish-mash of innuendo and politics.
Not terribly long ago, everything bad was blamed on communism and rock and roll and comic books and demon rum and.... Well, you get the idea.
If you look back, it's easy to cite stuff that was blamed inappropriately. But what does that have to do with global warming? It's just a generic "Don't trust them. They've been wrong before." But those who said "Do nothing till we're sure" and "Everything will work out by itself" have been wrong before, too. Remember smog and Naziism.
At least Thomasson admits that the overwhelming evidence, accepted by those more expert than he, is that global warming is a problem, although he goes on to confuse it with the depletion just to show how little he understands.
He asserts that the rising second-world nations, China and India, are not in a position to use green power technologies. That's where he's dead wrong. Historically, whenever an agricultural nation has industrialized, it has leap-frogged the older industrial nations, and that's exactly what will happen in India and China -- if there is international agreement on the seriousness of global warming. China and India aren't already deeply invested in fossil fuel the way the U.S. is. They are already being more innovative in building green cars.
Thomasson should be urging implementation of President Barack Obama's energy plans instead of urging caution and recommending foot-dragging. Otherwise, we'll be buying our wind turbines and solar panels from Jakarta and Bejing.
-- Brent Meeker, Camarillo
I have lived a few years and have seen several wars and various "catastrophes," including the nuclear freeze in the 1980s -- "We are all going to be under a sheet of ice by 2010" -- Y2K and now, global warming.
I know three things about global warming:
-- This is the biggest propaganda blitz I have ever seen, brooking absolutely no discussion.
-- I would love to know what companies Al Gore is invested in. I'd like to make some of that upcoming money.
-- 41,000 scientists disagree with this, and that is being swept under the rug (see No. 1)
Since the global warming people are predicting this by 2100, none of us will be alive to see whether or not it is true. That makes it much better than the global freeze predicted in the 1980s.
-- Barbara Baxter, Simi Valley
Re: the April 19 commentary, "School superintendents' open letter to voters," signed by 22 local school superintendents":
I would like to ask my fellow voters to first read what Propositions 1A through 1F are really about. Please, do not be swayed by the cry of "let's raise more taxes for the sake of the children" as a noble and necessary course of action.
These measures are there because our legislators won't cut back on our state government.
Six years ago, we had a surplus of funds in the California coffers, and our legislators decided that the money could be better spent on more government services and jobs. Now, when the surplus has become a deficit, with less revenue coming in, instead of cutting those extra services and projects, our legislators are telling us that it is necessary for us to pay more out of our pockets instead.
The superintendents' letter also makes an attempt to tug at our heartstrings because the poor little elementary-school girl might not be able to go on a field trip and her playground is in need of repair. I was in Mexico over the spring break, watching little children laughing and playing on the most pathetic playground I have ever seen -- broken glass, trash and crumbling concrete and rocks all around, yet did they know any better? Our children can play on old equipment, and parents can volunteer to teach elective courses and sponsor clubs. We do not need to throw more of our money at the education system.
Our legislators need to cut back on the ponderous and inefficient government we have in Sacramento and put the "savings" where it is needed most.
Next year, we can start voting some of these "non-representatives" out of office and perhaps replace them with people who can honestly represent us.
Next month, vote no on these costly and dishonest measures.
-- Benjamin Griffes, Thousand Oaks
Re: Peter Foy's April 23 commentary, "Let's celebrate U.S. successes in Iraq":
Foy conflated what should be two separate concepts: honoring our soldiers and celebrating successes in Iraq.
I disagree with Foy's opinion that "our returning heroes deserve more than silent omission of the victories they have thus far achieved." On the contrary, we should be silent about their victories and losses and instead be vocal about their service. No soldier should be made to feel that his heroism is measured by his scorecard.
-- Chris Habecker, Thousand Oaks
The law to require a 25-cent charge on paper and plastic bags used by stores is poorly conceived. It is so poorly conceived that it appears to be just another tax.
Plastic bags greatly harm the environment and are made from a limited resource, petroleum. Their use should be banned, not taxed. Paper bags are made from a renewable resource, trees. Unlike plastic bags, paper bags are biodegradable. The continued harvesting and replanting of trees to make paper takes carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. If the trees were allowed to grow old and die, they would decompose and return carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. If the paper is not recycled, but instead finds its way to a landfill, the paper will never decompose and the carbon will be sequestered. The sequestering of carbon is the goal of those who erroneously believe carbon dioxide is a pollutant.
A much better law would just ban plastic bags and not tax.
-- David J. Ameling, Newbury Park
Re: the April 19 commentary, "School superintendents' open letter to voters," signed by 22 local school superintendents":
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, California ranked 29th in K-12 per pupil spending in 2005-06, the latest year that statistics are available. Here is the link: http://ftp2.census.gov/govs/school/06f33pub.pdf
Please, superintendents, quit misleading the public with the false statement that California ranks 47th in per pupil spending.
It may be possible that superintendents were referring to California's academic rankings of 49th in reading and 46th in math: http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/
Here are simple facts from state of California Web sites regarding actual spending by the state of California for K-12 education: In 2004, enrollment was 6.3 million and spending was $29 billion. In 2008, enrollment was 6.28 million and spending was $45 billion. Original figures for 2009 show enrollment at 6.23 million and spending at $46 billion, although revised figures drop spending down to $40 billion.
If K-12 education spending had held to the rate of inflation, 2009 expenditures would be budgeted at $34 billion. The newly revised budget is still $6 billion (17 percent) more than that inflation-adjusted number and is greater than annual expenditures for all previous years except 2008.
Also, enrollment has steadily dropped since 2005.
In sum, superintendents have enjoyed increased spending on fewer students each and every year until this year.
Given the information above, it is understandable why superintendents did not wish to "rehash this public policy embarrassment in dollars and cents." If they had, it would have been clear that the embarrassment is that the state received an ever-increasing amount of money to educate a steadily declining number of students and still managed to provide an inferior education.
It seems they were exercising their creative writing skills in their open letter to voters. And I do mean creative.
In light of these facts, I feel I must ask: How much will be enough?
I encourage my fellow citizens to vote against measures 1A, 1B and 1C on the May ballot. Failure to defeat these measures means we continue the tax-and-spend policies that brought us to this crisis. Ever-increasing government spending; ever increasing government debt; being taxed more and receiving less -- it all begs the superintendents' question, "What will happen to our children?"
-- William Burke, Thousand Oaks
Re: your April 23 article, "Rice's role in torture detailed":
I couldn't help but be both amused and disgusted with the front-page article by The Associated Press about Condoleezza Rice's role in approving waterboarding for known terrorists.
What the AP left out was that Congress also approved it, according to Admiral Dennis Blair, President Barack Obama's national intelligence director. Congress from 2002 to 2006 repeatedly signed off on enhanced interrogation methods such as waterboarding. Blair also said that the coercive interrogation methods produced highly valuable information.
So Congress is just as deep in the mire as the CIA is in the mud. But they have to distract the country some way so we will not see what Obama and his Chicago thugs are doing to the United States of Europe.
It's going to take another 9/11 for this president and his swineherd to realize just what a vulnerable situation they are setting us up for -- and that goes for the whiners in Congress, too.
George Bush is out! Obama is in, unfortunately, and he is screwing up the country! Why are we going backwards?
-- Judy Patton, Moorpark
Re: your April 23 article, "Fewer people moving amid economic woes":
This article bases its conclusions on the data for 2007 and 2008. However, if you observe the U.S. Census Bureau chart on that page, the number of Americans moving has been dropping at a relatively constant rate since 1986 -- well before the economic woes started.
Granted, the slope of the drop appears to get a bit steeper last year, but whatever is causing this change started long before the economic crisis. The economic crisis effect is much smaller than the long-term cause.
-- Doug Hardie, Newbury Park
I wonder if the shipping firms involved in sea traffic in the Gulf of Aden and off the Somali coast might gain some help against the pirates by revisiting the history of the lend-lease transport of goods across the Atlantic ocean during World War II. At that time, the use of convoys seemed to be effective in thwarting submarine attacks on merchant vessels.
-- Charles Dart, Ventura
Judging from the response to my April 10 letter, "The problem with guns," the gun community, incredibly, is still having trouble understanding the absolute fallacy of attempting to equate vehicular deaths with those by firearm.
Let me rephrase, then:
The automobile was not designed and manufactured for the express purpose of killing or maiming, regardless of who is operating it. The firearm is designed for the express purpose of killing or maiming, regardless of who is operating it. Now, do they understand? Can anything be more simple?
And, oh, by the way: In every state of the union, driving a motor vehicle is considered a "privilege," not a "right." A privilege is revocable and is revoked when the vehicle is misused.
The gun community's intransigent insistence that every citizen have the inalienable "right" to "bear arms" opens the Pandora's Box for which the phrase was invented, forcing it to live with who, how and when people use their weapons -- or, for the unfortunate 29,000-plus U.S. citizens killed by firearms last year alone, die.
-- Bob Jackson, Simi Valley
Two things happen in May: postal rates go up and the rain season comes to an end.
My rain gauge readings for the 2008-2009 season to date show that central Simi Valley had 10.74 inches of rain, not counting merely drizzly, misty days. Of that amount, 6.71 inches fell just in 2009 (up to April 8).
That puts us at least 4 inches shy of "normal." We could still pick up more rain before the season ends officially on June 30, but it is highly unlikely we'll come anywhere near the annual average.
In the 2007-2008 season we had 15.575 inches, a decent total. That was a welcome change from the previous season when all we got was 4.66 inches.
As to the postal rates, I will repeat the suggestion I've made for many years: The U.S. Postal Service should sell advertising on its stamps. I'd buy cheaper stamps touting Coca Cola, Ford cars, Best Foods Real Mayonnaise or Hoffy hot dogs! I care little what the text or artwork on a stamp is.
Selling ads for stamps could offset postal costs, preserve Saturday deliveries and help the postal delivery person meet his or her appointed rounds without fear of layoffs.
-- Vince Nowell Sr., Simi Valley
We now see the Republican neoconservatives screeching like stuck pigs as the truth comes out about CIA torture that our U.S. representative, Elton Gallegy, firmly supported. Maybe he really was and still is George Bush and Dick Cheney's lap dog.
President Barack Obama has aired our dirty laundry -- as no other country does. And it is because of this willingness to admit we screwed up and that we are human that the rest of the world looks up to the good old USA.
Now, wonder of wonders, Obama has several times said, "I screwed up." I, for the life of me, have never seen anything like an admission of a screw-up -- except the famous banner on the ship -- from our last president, and Lord knows his screw-ups were numerous.
And now we have the wonderful Cheney screaming we will be in deep you-know-what since we told the truth. Well, the truth is what makes this country so special and what will assure that history will judge him, Bush and his lackeys like Gallegy to be the trolls they surely are.
-- David LaTourette, Simi Valley
Re: your April 19 articles "Vietnam POWs reunite for hero" and "USS Stockdale commissioned":
I commend Star staff writers Brett Johnson and Anna Bakalis for their reportage -- skillfully presented as front-page pieces on both the A and B sections -- on the commissioning of the USS Stockdale.
Just when I thought objective journalism was, agonizingly, going south, I read these two reports with pleasure. It's not always easy when you read the daily "stuff."
As a Navy vet and erstwhile news reporter myself, I say good for Johnson and Bakalis -- and their editors, too.
I don't know about you, but I feel a lot more comfortable when I know such naval assets as the USS Stockdale (and USS Pinckney, also commissioned at Port Hueneme) are right off our coast, capable of sailing anywhere, protecting our beloved country.
-- John Millrany, Westlake Village
Re: your April 7 editorial, "It's not just a U.S. problem":
It appears The Star believes that Red China has control over its errand child, North Korea. The Star also expects or expresses hope that the spineless United Nations Security Council has authority over North Korea or that North Korea will submit to this clawless world body.
The United Nations is in the same spineless and inept world body as was the League of Nations, and it will have the same result: dismal failure.
The young Barack Obama administration's foreign policy, led by Hillary Clinton, has the same touchy-feely approach as did Neville Chamberlain when he attempted to deal with Adolf Hitler. The end result? It was war.
Nations such as North Korea, Iran and Russia -- yes, Russia -- respect and fear one thing: power. Failure to confront these totalitarian thugs will lead to failure, as evidenced in the past.
Great world leaders are students of world history. Repetitive and weak foreign policies eventually lead to world conflict. If, for example, this country fails to control Iran's nuclear development and Israel acts unilaterally, destroying that country's nuclear sites, the result will be world conflict. The fault of that conflict will fall at the feet of Obama, and he won't be able to blame George W. Bush.
And those of you who think Israel won't act, just remember Iraq and Syria.
-- Chris Biller, Moorpark
Re: John R. Mundy's April 21 commentary, "Local water manager backs governor":
This article by the manager of the Las Virgenes Metropolitan Water District gives a correct statement pertaining to the water situation in California. Many so-called experts who have hidden agendas, such as Rep. David Nunes, R-Visalia, have given a far-off-base-reasoning telling of the water programs in California.
Mundy tells of the governor's task forces he established with goals in mind.
If anyone takes a look back to how we got to where we are, there are plenty of legislators who have issued wordy statements but have done little, if anything, to move this state towards a more realistic goal of giving this state an action plan. We cannot afford lip service. We need action to keep this state what it is: a vibrant agriculture state and one that many wish to live in. Without leadership, which we have lacked in this area for 30 years, nothing will be accomplished.
I thank Mundy for giving us an insight into what is needed and the leadership in place to move forward.
-- John Adams, Camarillo
I am helping the Friends of the Library raise money to keep Ventura's Wright Library open. We want everyone, especially little children and students, to come and speak at the City Council meeting on April 27.
The lease ends in six years, and we understand the contract has an option to invoke eminent domain, limiting payment to the fair market value. Councilman Jim Monahan mentioned the city has land it could sell to buy the Wright property.
The council discussed building one large library at the Aquatic Park. Many are upset because they feel the money raised for that site was intended for sports activities, not a library. Others feel the city has not kept its promise of a community dialog to decide the future vision for our libraries.
Ventura does not allocate monies to support its libraries. Why? With the evaporation of state public library funding, libraries need a permanent source of funding. Ojai has a parcel tax that preserves its library services.
Councilman Neal Andrews has mentioned many times that he supports our libraries. Yet he does not support the temporary one-half-cent tax measure that would provide some interim funding to preserve our city library services. We need to hear his vision for preserving library services during the current economic crisis.
Our city manager has said the library budget shortfall is a county library problem, not a city problem. Yet if Ventura allocated monies to library services as other cities do, we would not be at the mercy of the county library budget.
We need a community vision for our libraries and a keen understanding of our options. Please ask our council to do "the Wright thing" and protect our library services.
-- Marianne Coffey, Ventura
A heartfelt thank you to India Friends Association for a most beautiful, entertaining and educational cultural program on April 18 at Archana 09.
Over the last 15 years, Archana leaves me feeling inspired.
I am inspired by the hard work and dedication of volunteers, performers and audience members whose support has allowed Archana to blossom to 1,500 audience members and hundreds of performers.
I am inspired by the stories from the projects in India, people's courage and perseverance in the face of unimaginable hardship, the beauty of the human spirit.
I am inspired by the fast-paced, multimedia, colorful program that captivates audiences year after year, including that of my very active son who usually can't sit still for 10 minutes.
I am inspired by the participants, most of whom are community members, learning a new art to support a cause they dearly believe in. The children's items have warmed my heart and brought tears to my eyes as I imagined my son stepping on the Archana stage. Archana provides an awesome vehicle to teach our youth about service and compassion while building their self-esteem and cultural pride.
This year, not only did my 5-year-old son step on the stage, but so did my husband and father and so many aunties and uncles and friends. This experience has been deeply fulfilling as we have learned new talents and made new friends while knowing we are helping to create change in India.
Our family is inspired to make a difference!
To learn more about IFA's ground-breaking work and to get involved, go to http://www.indiafriendsassociation.org.
-- Madhu Bajaj, Ventura
I just received my Sample Ballot and Voter Information Pamphlet. Or is that "misinformation" or "lack of information?"
Proposition 1A extends the sales tax, car tax and income tax increases for an additional two years, but this "information" pamphlet doesn't mention this. I have to assume that whoever made up this pamphlet thinks that if the tax information is omitted, we won't know about it. It makes me afraid of what else they are hiding.
-- Gary Kellogg, Newbury Park
So everyone who knows me even just a little bit knows that I love the Obamas. And in the spirit of full disclosure, I will admit that I didn't always root for the Obamas. In the beginning I was more of a Hillary Clinton supporter, but Michelle Obama grew on me --especially after "Today for the first time I was proud of my country," because while everybody was scalding her, I totally understood what she meant and didn't think she did anything wrong other than being honest and down to earth and real.
And then her husband swept me off my brains.
And I'm not even talking about the Obama girls, who are just too cute and well adjusted and smart and funny.
So what's not to love, right?
So now that we've established the premise, let's talk about Bo.
When it comes to Bo and his very well-covered homecoming, I have two bones to pick (yep, little pun here) and we can call them the First Bones.
The first First Bone is this: What happened to the "We are going to find a hypoallergenic dog in a shelter" thing? And please don't tell me that because Teddy Kennedy "surprised you with the Portuguese Water Dog present" you had to skip the shelter thing because sorry, Dear Obamas, I ain't gonna buy it. And I would like to know at what point in time they knew that Kennedy had the dog they wanted and arranged for the pup? Was that before they were "going to search the shelters" or after? Just wondering.
And my second First Bone is this: I want one too! I want a black and white cute Bo (no ribbon for me) and it had better come from Teddy Kennedy.
-- Breeze Zuckerman, Moorpark
Re: Fran Jansen's April 20 letter, "Bag bill useless":
This letter dealt with AB68, a proposed bill to charge customers for disposable plastic bags. I would like to dispel some of the concerns the reader brought up.
I have been bringing my own bags to the grocery store for a couple of years now. It took a few weeks to get into the habit, but now it's second nature, just like remembering to bring my purse.
After I bring my groceries home, I take my bags back out to the car so that I always have them with me. I have never witnessed any "angst" from the baggers at the grocery store. If anything, it makes their jobs easier because my bags are sturdier than plastic film bags so they don't need to worry about cereal box edges cutting through the bag.
Americans use billions of plastic shopping bags every year, the vast majority of which are not recycled. These bags end up in landfills, waterways and in the digestive systems of marine mammals. Plastic bags are made from petroleum, which increases our reliance on foreign oil. The production of paper bags contributes to deforestation and acid rain. These are all some pretty good reasons to get in the habit of bringing your own bags with you when you shop.
Just as it took the risk of a fine to get people used to the idea of wearing their seatbelts and not talking on handheld cell phones when they drive, charging shoppers a nominal fee for disposable bags should help people remember to bring their reusable bags with them when they shop.
Far from being useless, this bill is a sign that our elected officials are looking for long-term solutions to some of our country's biggest problems. I can't think of any better use of their time.
-- Wendy Worman, Newbury Park
I have been waiting to hear about Thousand Oaks city staffers getting their layoff notices. Their supportive opinions were rejected by the City Council when it disapproved the Home Depot store on Hampshire Road, so why do we need them? We probably don't need the Planning Commision either, since their opinion was also rejected.
Come to think of it, I guess citizens don't matter. I would have sworn that our rejection of Measure B last year was a clue that most of us supported a competitor for Do It Center.
-- Don Harris, Thousand Oaks
It took 38 years to get Neville Chamberlain last century. This century, it only took nine years to get Neville Chamberlain 2 -- Barack Obama.
-- Thurlow Partridge, Simi Valley
Hopefully, President Barack Obama's trip to Mexico is not to aid and abet Mexico's disastrous war on drugs.
President Felipe Calderon instituted a harsh law-and-order war on drugs in 2007. More than 6,000 people have died. The result: Today, drug prices are at record lows, available as ever. Mexico's drug laws are doing more harm than good.
As long as there is a demand for drugs, the demand will be met, whether the drugs are legal or not. There are not enough jails, not enough police officers and not enough courts to enforce a law not supported by the people.
The drug cartels, drug pushers, police, courts, prisons, paranoids and gravediggers all want drug use to remain illegal.
Legal and illegal use of drugs is not a law-and-order issue. It a medical problem, an addiction, and until we treat it that way, it will not go away.
-- Lou Bilandzija, Thousand Oaks
Re: your April 15 article, "Strickland's religion in schools bill shot down":
This article concerning Assemblywoman Audra Strickland, R-Moorpark, and her bill to have religious essays and religious exercises in the school system gave me chills.
Listening to the recent news of teachers being laid off, putting more burdens on those remaining, it just does not make any sense. With the state in dire financial crisis, homes being foreclosed and unemployment rising at an unprecedented rate, our assemblywoman is worrying about having teachers grade students' papers on whether they have a religious theme and then having religious exercises in the school.
Strickland is not aware there are other religions besides Christianity, including some she may not approve of, such as Wiccans and atheists. How does the teacher grade a paper when she has no background in all religions? There is no prohibition against having these activities after school, as ruled by the Supreme Court. Strickland should have known this!
I think Strickland is trying to circumvent the First Amendment of the Constitution by establishing religious teaching in school. The religious beliefs of a teacher will not always be in consonance with the students' religious beliefs. There are churches, synagogues and mosques that will do a much better job of teaching the children their respective religions without costing the taxpayers a penny.
Strickland voted against any tax increase, and now she is trying to impose more mandates on schools. Strickland was not elected to set up religious programs in the California public school system.
-- Donald J. Katz, Newbury Park
Re: your April 21 article, "Animal cruelty video law heading to high court":
Elton Gallegy, a conservative, Republican congressman, has pushed through a bill protecting animals from being tortured and killed by barbaric, vicious morons. How can this be? By reading any local newspapers, or by watching most major news channels, it appears out of the question that a conservative could be this troubled by the killing of other living creatures.
Gallegy is in fact an animal rights advocate and the co-chairman of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus. It makes you want to ask, what is this world coming to?
-- Rick Freeman, Simi Valley
Having created a financial shambles in Sacramento, the governor and the Legislature are asking voters on May 19 to rip off more than $2 billion from programs previously approved by the voters.
These programs benefit young children and the mentally ill, two populations that were seriously underserved by the state for years and years until the voters finally stepped up to the plate.
In 1998, voters approved the California Children and Families First Act by adding a 50-cent-a-pack tax on cigarettes to fund early education development programs. Brain research clearly shows that the first five years of life are absolutely critical to a person's ability to learn and achieve his or her potential. Money invested in early childhood programs will more than pay for itself in the long haul by reducing educational failure, crime and wasted lives.
In 2004, California voters approved an extra 1 percent tax on personal income over $1 million in order to rectify the state's broken promise to provide funding for mental health service to local communities -- a promise that had been unfulfilled since the state closed mental health facilities and forced the mentally ill literally into the streets.
Both programs have been well run and, by all accounts, have been delivering on their promises to the voters. Why then have these two successful and badly needed programs become a target for Sacramento politicians?
Well, it turns out that each of these programs has been so well managed that each has been able to accumulate a surplus -- a surplus needed for long-term planning and for a rainy day reserve in case of hard times -- the very feats Sacramento has not been able to achieve. In other words, the plan is to blow up programs that should be models for fiscal management by hijacking their money and giving it to the same folks who have allowed California to fall into the blackest of black financial holes.
This is irony worthy of a Greek tragedian.
On May 19, vote to stop this act of piracy by the governor and the Legislature. Vote No on Propositions 1D and 1E.
-- Edward J. & Susan K. Lacey, Ventura
Re: your April 21 advertising wrap:
Covering up the front page headlines and Star logo with an ad insert is a bad idea. It makes The Star in the newspaper rack look like a freebie rag or apartment rental magazine, for which I'm not willing to pay 75 cents. Consequently, I won't buy!
The first thing one reads while passing a newspaper rack is the headlines. Please think of a better way to generate additional revenues.
-- Mark Stehrenberger, Ventura
Re: your April 20 article, "State Republicans vote to oppose ballot measures":
Congratulations to the California Republican Party for following the lead of the Libertarian Party in standing up for California taxpayers.
The Democrats have shown their hand. They have made it clear that these car license, sales taxes and other regressive taxes on the poor and middle class are needed to support state employees in the manner to which they have grown accustomed. Taxing just the rich will not suffice.
Thousands of people participated in tea parties on April 15 to protest such increased taxes. When thousands of people are being laid off, it is high time to cut the tens of thousands of state employees hired by former Gov. Gray Davis and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
I urge everyone to vote against the ballot propositions, especially 1A, on May 19. The governor and the Legislature will then be forced to deal with the state's out-of-control spending.
-- Bruce K. Bell, Moorpark
As a pediatrician in Thousand Oaks, and as an advocate for pediatric patients who can't vote and are often overlooked by legislators, I am strongly opposed to Proposition 1D in the special election to be held May 19.
California voters granted money from tobacco taxes to the California First Five Commission to develop a system of support and services for children during the crucial years from birth to 5 years old. Under Proposition 1D, the money will instead be used by our legislators to reduce the budget deficit by less than 1 percent over each of the next five years, ostensibly to help pay for children's programs established by the state.
An indication of what the politicians are considering for these children's programs is noted in a front-page article in the April 18 Star, headlined "Changes coming to programs for developmentally disabled."
This article discussed cuts in California children's programs now being considered in Sacramento. Thousands of toddlers would be excluded from an early intervention program for developmental issues that has provided tremendous benefits to enrollees in the past. These cuts would save $15 million now at a cost of at least $150 million later, as well as causing much harm to the children who could have been helped. The tobacco tax money is certainly not being considered for the benefit of these infants and toddlers. Would you entrust your children to these politicians in Sacramento?
First Five has much more expertise and direct awareness of the needs of children from birth to 5 years than do the politicians. The First Five programs now in place result in significant, measurable improvement in physical and mental health, literacy and family strengthening. Tobacco tax money is being well used to benefit children from birth to 5 years.
I do not expect the Legislature to improve on these results. The long-term expense of reducing or eliminating these First Five programs will be much costlier to the state than could be overridden by any short-term savings.
I prefer the option of making the legislators re-address and solve the budget problem in a manner that doesn't impair the well-being of children and their families. Children don't vote; we need to represent them, stand up for them and protect them.
Please vote no on Proposition 1D. Support our children.
-- Michael Gollub, M.D., Thousand Oaks
Re: Susan Goodkin's April 14 commentary, "Math opportunities add up for talented students":
Goodkin lists many resourceful tips on how parents can assist their advanced math child outside the elementary classroom when the child is not adequately challenged. My experience in raising such a child is that they are sometimes capable, even at a young age, of finding ways on their own to enhance their innate mathematical abilities.
For instance, my son, who is now a third-year engineering student at UCLA, used to make up his own division problems in the second grade because he found the concept of dividing big numbers "fun." He endlessly played with Legos and then designed and built Lego train tracks down our hall, which created walking hazards but were left in place due to the important "lessons" he was learning.
He attended public school and did not have an advanced math class until middle school. He may have been bored during math before then, but he never lost interest in it. In high school, he tutored his peers in math and physics and took advanced math classes at Ventura College when he ran out of math classes at his school.
While it is helpful and sound advice that parents "must take the initiative to find appropriately challenging substitute assignments for their child" it is also beneficial to give the self-directed child the space and time to find challenging activities on their own, as this engages problem-solving skills and promotes independence as well.
-- Susan Brown, Ventura
(The writer is an English instructor at Oxnard College. -- Editor)
On a recent visit to my husband's grave at Santa Clara Cemetery, I ran into a problem. While cleaning around the marker, I was on my one knee and after awhile I couldn't get up. So thankfully I saw a young Mexican couple coming across the field, and I kindly asked the young man if he could help me to get up.
He smiled and came over and helped me to stand up, then he finished my work of getting the vase out of the ground, cutting my flowers and putting them in the vase with water. After he was finished, I gave him and his wife a hug and thanks for helping an old lady. It's great to see the young have compassion, and I thank them with all my heart.
-- Mary E. Janicik, Port Hueneme
I was absolutely blown away the first time I saw someone's automatic sprinklers come on at 2 p.m. on a hot afternoon.
You see, I recently moved here from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Vancouver's a pretty wet place. But even there, we had restrictions on when we could water our lawns in the summer. We could only water the lawn two days a week -- Wednesday and Saturday for us because we had an even-numbered address -- and only between 4 and 9 a.m. or 7 and 10 p.m. That's in a place that gets three times as much rain as our new home of Camarillo.
Another Canadian town where I served on City Council charged about a penny a gallon for household water, about four times as much as I now pay Camrosa Water District.
I would have thought that similar water rates and watering restrictions here where there's such a water shortage would be a no-brainer. Better late than never, I suppose. Bring 'em on!
-- Robert Slaven, Camarillo
Re: your April 17 political cartoon:
This cartoon was humorous, but maybe for a different reason than intended.
In this cartoon we see what appears to be a commentator with a large mouth exclaiming, "I hope Obama fails." In the background there is a person identified as Capt. Richard Phillips who is thinking, "I'm glad he didn't."
This is humorous to me because indicating this mission was a success because of President Barack Obama is like saying the American hostages in Iran were freed because of President Jimmy Carter. While this incident was taking place, the Obama administration downplayed there involvement. It was only after the success of the mission that they stepped forward to take the bows. Bowing is something in which this administration has a great deal of experience and expertise.
I think the real reason this mission was a success was because of some highly skilled and brave Navy SEALs and other Navy personnel. This mission was not a success because of Obama, but in spite of Obama.
In his short time in office, the president and his administration have taken some large steps to transform this country into what can only be described as a socialist state. In that regard, I think there is a large percentage of Americans who "hope Obama fails."
-- Steve Hunt, Ventura
Re: Alex Magdaleno's April 12 letter, "Devolving letter," a response to Bob Moeller's April 8 letter, "Careless pedestrians":
First, I would like to make apologies if I offended any Latinos. That was not my intention. Some of my best friends are Latinos. I have lived in Southern California all my life and have dear friends who live in Mexico, and I have stayed with them many times and they stay with us when they come to this country.
I love the Mexican people. They are hard-working and love their families. But one of my pet peeves is watching people cross busy intersections and not bothering to look right or left before stepping off the curb.
We hire crossing guards to guard our children during the school hours. The problem is they can't be there all the time, so parents need to teach their children to be responsible and look both ways before stepping off the curb to cross the street.
I don't believe any intelligent person would actually step in front of a car to collect the insurance. I don't know anyone that stupid. I was just wondering out loud! At least I got people to talk about it.
-- Bob Moeller, Oxnard
Since taking office in January, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has prioritized renewable energy, put the brakes on the George Bush administration's full-steam-ahead approach to destructive oil shale development and canceled oil and gas leases on the edge of Utah national parks and historic sites on nearby public land.
Yet Salazar's measured approach has provoked a backlash by the oil and gas industry that had enjoyed a privileged status during the eight years of the Bush administration.
With the Barack Obama administration placing conservation and renewable energy issues high on its agenda, these first steps should be the first of many more towards the reforms needed to make sure the oil and gas industry doesn't wreck more of our fragile western landscapes.
Salazar should continue the agency's shift from giving the oil industry what it wants to insisting on balance on lands that belong to everyone.
-- Russ Bishop, Ventura
Kudos to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar! He has the integrity and principles to follow through with what he said he'd do: protect public lands from the rapacious, greedy oil companies whose only interest is in adding to their coffers. They don't care how much of our precious land they destroy to get what they want -- control and money!
I sit and listen to their CEOs speak of how their outrageous profits are used to finance alternatives, and I know they're laughing all the way to the bank at the people who believe that they and Congress are doing what's best for our country.
The people need to stand up and say, "We've had enough of this greed!" We also need to keep bombarding the new president's Web site when we disagree with what he's planning for our country. He told us to keep him alerted when we feel his decisions are wrong and to send a thank you when his decisions are right. Salazar was a right decision.
-- Linda Ferland, Ventura
Re: Carolyn Crandall's April 16 letter, "Keep religion out of schools":
Crandall has raised an excellent question that deserves an honest answer. She says she can't understand why people who espouse such religious furor, like Assemblywoman Audra Strickland, aren't happy and secure with their beliefs and want to push them on everyone else.
Knowing Strickland personally, I can assure Crandall that Audra is very happy and secure with her beliefs and those of her husband, Tony, and she has no desire to push those beliefs on everyone else.
Those of us who espouse Judeo-Christian values do not need "numbers" to quantify our beliefs, but we do feel a "divine compulsion" to share and stand up for what we believe. We have experienced a "new birth" (born again) and we believe our Creator commands us to speak out. We furthermore believe he only requires us to be faithful and not necessarily successful.
During Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, as recorded in Luke 19:28-44, Jesus' enemies decry the vocal support of his followers. Jesus' response was, "the stones would cry out if his followers kept quiet." We who claim Jesus Christ as lord and savior are compelled to speak out, and we'll continue to do so, regardless of the outcome!
-- Richard Ewing Brown Jr., Ojai
We must remember that the first thing those people who sneaked across our borders did when they got here was to break our laws. Every single one of them broke our immigration law. The law-abiding American citizens don't owe them any consideration at all. Our recession hurts worse because they are here.
-- Hal Wilder, Camarillo
Re: Fayrose Gordon's April 17 letter, "Try bond instead of bailout":
Congratulations to Gordon for a wonderful letter and great idea that I believe should be considered by the Barack Obama administration.
As a small investor living on a fixed income in Leisure Village, I would welcome the 7 percent return, even at 30 years. This is not the first time I or other small investors have purchased long-term bonds from General Motors at 7 percent. Those bonds will be almost worthless unless GM survives. If the government backs the new bond, GM would survive, the small conservative investor would reappear and America would be on its way again to prosperity.
The answer to Gordon is yes, I would buy GM again, with government-backed bonds, just as I bought them when the government did not guarantee. I had confidence in GM then, and I have confidence that with the government backing and Gordon's future thinking, it will survive and thrive.
GM was not the cause of the financial meltdown. It was an unsympathetic victim. It did not deserve any sympathy. But the workers of GM and buyers of GM, past and present, need help, as much if not more than the banks.
Thank you, Fayrose Gordon, for a terrific idea.
-- Jay Balter, Camarillo
Re: Raymond Freeman's April 17 letter, "Aristocracy dupes peasants":
Freeman was upset that the tax day tea party attendees were duped by "aristocrats" because they are mere "peasants" who are also "stupid." I find it interesting that proponents of the left seem to need to personally denigrate their opponents to prove their point. The facts are never enough to assuage their premise that anyone who disagrees with them must be on the lower end of the intelligence meter and certainly not as smart as they are. People who resort to character assassination do so at the expense of their argument.
There are several Nobel Prize winners among the 300 economists who disagree with the bailout. Most people I have talked with are upset about the massive debt incurred since the first of the year. The lack of oversight has been astonishing. The money may as well be tossed into the wind. We feel our country is in jeopardy. Because we don't see corrections being made, we will continue to attend these demonstrations.
-- Consuelo Yznaga Davis, Camarillo
Re: Fayrose Gordon's April 17 letter, "Try bond instead of bailout":
I applaud Gordon's creativity and efforts. In my opinion, job creation and retention needs to be our main focus. Without jobs, or during the current phase of the lack of confidence relating to retaining jobs, consumer confidence is lost. Without confidence, Americans don't buy autos or homes.
It's been said that small businesses are the main source of new jobs. Currently, access to capital is a major challenge for our small business community. The type of bond Gordon mentioned may be better utilized providing capital to small businesses.
There are programs available that provide an access to capital for small businesses. One example is Small Business Administration loans. An SBA loan is provided by a commercial bank or credit union and is partially guaranteed by the federal government, via SBA.
One important part of the SBA process for many banks includes the sale of the guaranteed portion of the loan to secondary market investors. Like the bond Gordon mentioned, the portion of the SBA loan purchased by investors is fully guaranteed by the federal government. However, SBA has established limits on the interest rate that banks can charge on SBA loans. On SBA loans over $50,000, the maximum rate that a bank can charge to a borrower is prime plus 2.75 percent. The prime rate today is 3.25 percent, which equates to an interest rate on the loan of 6 percent, less than the 7 percent rate Gordon mentioned. Herein lies the challenge of attracting secondary market investors, which can also include individuals, in case Gordon is interested.
My thought is to appeal to President Barack Obama to temporarily either increase or eliminate the limits on SBA loans, allowing banks to charge a higher interest rate, and make the government-guaranteed portion of SBA loans more attractive to investors. I believe this will have a strong positive effect on the access to capital for small businesses and start to retain and create jobs.
-- Frank Lomeli, Oxnard
Re: the April 19 commentary, "School superintendents' open letter to voters," endorsing Propositions 1A, 1B and 1C and signed by 22 local school superintendents:
It is amazing that the superintendents of these school districts would write in favor of more tax increases by telling "stories" of children who might be affected by the current economic challenges facing our schools if we don't vote for more taxes.
How dare they think that using kids in this appeal to steal more of my hard-earned money, and that of every other tax-paying citizen, would get us to vote to raise our taxes to support their continued failures and those of our state representatives.
The blame on the way things are is not in the lack of funds for education but in the bloated bureaucracies of our state and school districts. Why, for example, are there so many school districts -- 22 in the case of this letter to voters -- in a county the size of Ventura? Each school district has a superintendent, assistant superintendents, secretaries, financial staff and other administrative positions, classified employees, union employees, aides, janitors, etc., that it's no wonder there is no money for teachers.
If there were one, maybe two, school districts in Ventura County, more money would be available for teachers, books and other needed materials to teach our children. Yet, these 22 superintendents feel it's my fault because I don't support more money for them. They make three to five times more than the average teacher in annual salaries as well as healthcare, pensions, expense accounts, car allowances and who knows what else that should be spent on our kids.
Yet, where is the outrage in the number of children dropping out? Last I heard, it was one every 30 seconds in our nation.
The superintendents ask at the end of their letter what will happen to our children if we don't pass the upcoming propositions. Probably the same things that are happening now: Teachers will teach, parents will blame, superintendents will complain and the taxpayer will be taxed, taxed and taxed.
-- William Douglas, Ventura
Re: Robert Merrilees' April 15 letter, "How to deal with pirates":
I find Merrilees' viewpoint quite naive. There is a definite reason for the existence of pirates on the high seas. Fighting fire with fire, just as is the case with the terrorist, will only empower the pirates.
U.S. imperialism in the world has led to failed states -- states that cannot handle their own internal affairs. Recall that the Bill Clinton administration tried to interfere in the internal affairs of Somalia back in the early 1990s. Recently, under the George Bush government, the U.S. enlisted Ethiopia to carry out the toppling of the Somalia government.
Today there is chaos in this region as well as other areas. The arms exporters around the world are just all-too-willing to up the ante for profit and to provide more and more powerful arms to the pirates.
Pirates, like some investment bankers, rob from hard-working taxpayers. Our system here must be modified. Rather than providing billions of dollars in direct government handouts to private manufacturers of arms and military weapons, why not use our precious resources to provide economic help to our own workers and also to failed states such as Somalia and Afghanistan? The world will cooperate, and we shall no longer have to fear the effects of pirates and terrorists.
-- Norman E. Bauer, Camarillo
Re: the April 19 commentary, "School superintendents' open letter to voters," endorsing Propositions 1A, 1B and 1C and signed by 22 local school superintendents:
I hope voters will have the common sense of investigating the dire need for voting this scam down!
Foremost on the voters' minds should be whether or not they want to continue the additional tax burden for an additional two years that was shoved down our throats by corrupt politicians, both Democrat and Republican alike. All along, the governor, the Democrats and the Republicans were in cahoots. They passed the budget and shoved the tax burden onto us. This tax hike should have been voted on by all the voters in California, not the legislators.
But now is our golden opportunity to let these clowns have our revenge. On April 15, I witnessed Americans coming together -- Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians and Independents -- at the Ventura County Government Center to let the politicians and the corrupt journalists know that we taxpayers are fighting back and that if this latest phenomenon comes to fruition, these bozos will be at the end of California's 11.2 percent unemployment line!
Do you really want to pay an additional 1 percent sales tax on all future purchases, whether it's a refrigerator, automobile or a new house? Do you really want to pay a higher car tax? Do you really want to pay a higher state income tax? Do you really want your tax credit for dependent (per child) reduced by $200?
Don't fall for what these bozos feed us with "it's for the children." Do you as a taxpayer want to throw additional good money into the hands of wasteful politicians? School spending has dramatically risen, but student achievement remains relatively stagnant. What is wrong with this picture? We should ask our local school boards!
If these propositions are not defeated on May 19, hold onto your wallets and life savings because they're coming after those too!
-- Andrew F. Castaneda, Santa Paula
I just had to give accolades to the delightful performance by the cast of "Brighton Beach Memoirs" at the Camarillo Community Theatre. We attended this performance Saturday night and were totally entertained by this lively, energetic group of actors. "Eugene" was a standout, to say the least!
Theater lovers will not want to miss this performance. See it before it goes away! Thanks to all of the actors for making it a very memorable evening!
-- Linda Forsyth, Ventura
A few weeks ago we decided to upgrade our bathrooms and, among other things, install low-flush toilets. After examining several models we ended up buying three TECSON low-consumption siphon jet units.
These toilets are truly remarkable in that they, because of their unique flushing action, require only 1.6 gallons of water per flush.
When you compare this with the four-plus gallons the older toilets require, the savings in water consumption is such that these units will literally pay for themselves.
What a great saving in water consumption there would be if we could convert all of the old toilets to this new technology.
-- Larry Kirkpatrick, Ventura
There have been many things going on in our city and in the world that I've considered writing about, but this is something that is personal.
We've got a college-aged daughter who will graduate from Ventura College this spring after two years with her associate degree. We are so proud of her for finishing her degree in two years with the help of the Ventura Promise program, and we are equally proud of the fact that she is transferring to a California state university in the fall to continue on to her undergraduate degree.
Now comes the issue: We are in that elite group of people who make too much money to qualify for any financial aid but not enough money to be able to send our children to college. I know I should stop whining because there are many people worse off than us, but then they have a better chance of getting their children to college because they do qualify for financial aid and scholarships and grants that we can't.
Of course we qualify to borrow money to pay for college, which is what we'll probably end up doing because this is her time and we don't want her to miss this opportunity.
It's just not fair is all I'm saying.
-- Bonnie Bowsman, Ventura
What a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon! The Ventura County Concert Band puts on marvelous concerts periodically, and the one this past Sunday left me feeling so upbeat and happy that I wanted to let people know about it.
The concert was held at the Ventura High School auditorium and was very well attended. The new conductor, Bruce Colell, kept thanking both the band and the audience, and I want to say that the pleasure was all ours. Larry Weiss was the former conductor, and he did the job very well for more than 30 years!
The next concert is June 14 and, imagine this, it is free! Donations are accepted.
I hope more people can come and see what treats are in store for us all.
-- Dolores Strickland, Oxnard
It came to our attention one morning several weeks ago that the theme and color scheme of our wonderful working fishing village and shops at Ventura Harbor Village was rapidly changing from the Southern California/Spanish (whites, blues, and turquoises) to a Tuscany vineyard (dark browns, olive greens, etc).
It is not only the colors that are being changed but also the overall "look and feel" of the buildings by subtle removal and changes to the basic architecture.
One of the poor building occupants has had their building nicknamed "baby poop" as a way to find them in the marina.
I have spoken to many of the residents who live on their boats in the harbor as well as several shop, restaurant and business owners in the harbor, and not a one likes the new scheme and would like to see a reversal of Ventura Port District General Manager Oscar Pane's decision to change the "look and feel" of our village from basic Mexican/Spanish to Italian/Tuscany.
I question Pane's authority to change the "look and feel" of our village.
I am under the impression that the California Coastal Commission has to approve any changes of this magnitude. The Coastal Commission has a rule that roughly states that the theme or style of a coastal property cannot be changed from it original style.
-- Phillip J. Seaman, Ventura
I believe that public school spending per child in California is capped at about $7,500.
When my three children went to public school on the East Coast from 1991 to 1998, our school district outside of Philadelphia was then spending about $8,500 per student in a district with approximately 7,500 children. That is what it took in the 1990s to provide a quality education for all children.
Adults must understand and appreciate that something is very wrong in California vis-à-vis public school education spending. There must be reforms so an environment in every school allows for a quality education for every child.
I know this sounds like I am dreaming, but California is so far away from coming close to providing a quality education for all youngsters today that politicians need to rethink the mess we now find ourselves in and begin a process to correct this unfortunate situation. Passing Propositions 1A, 1B and 1C on May 19 can begin a process that never should have happened.
If you think your school superintendents do not understand how important this election is to help them guide their districts in the future, begin to learn what will happen if California funding continues at 47th out of 50 states in America or gets worse. In 30-plus years, California went from first to almost last.
If these propositions fail, the outcome will not help California's job situation. More people earning minimum wage will be just one unfortunate outcome.
All of our futures are at stake. If you believe in presenting all children a future that provides quality jobs and incomes, you need to act now. Send the only message that makes sense: Listen to your superintendents and pass the propositions.
-- Warren Potash, Moorpark
(The writer is an athletics operations assistant at California Lutheran University. -- Editor)
Re: your April 17 political cartoon:
I'm really starting to question the quality of political cartoons that The Star chooses to publish. The cartoon depicting Rush Limbaugh screaming,"I hope Obama fails!!!" with former hostage Capt. Richard Phillips off to the side thinking, "I'm glad he didn't" is the latest example.
This is just another blatant effort by the liberal media to give President Barack Obama as much credit as possible regardless of whether he deserves it or not.
In the case of Phillips' rescue from the Somali pirates, Obama deserves none! The U.S. military does not need presidential approval to take lethal action in a case of piracy on the high seas when one of our citizens has been taken hostage. The only thing Obama did was basically say "OK" when the military informed him of what they needed to do. He signed off on a couple of routine documents, and that was it. What he did do right was not interfere with what obviously needed to be done to save Phillips' life.
As Phillips so accurately stated, the true heroes were the Navy SEALs who so expertly took down the three pirates.
-- Gary Hoover, Simi Valley
Re: Pa Ventura's April 18 item, "To taxpayers":
Pa says to taxpayers, "It seems incredibly ironic that so many tax protests were staged across the country during a time when government -- at every level -- is claiming a dearth of tax revenue."
Since Pa doesn't seem to know, the protests were not about taxes, but about profligate spending and borrowing -- borrowing so egregious that if carried to the extent the president wants, it will have severe bad consequences for the country, and borrowing so ill-advised that members of his own party are doubting the wisdom of it.
There is no one so blind as the one who can see, yet refuses to see. If Pa was an ignorant fool, I could understand this comment. But he is educated, and he claims knowledge and wisdom. Where is it? I feel insulted.
-- Roy W. Hogue, Newbury Park
There are currently about 245 terrorists/freedom fighters being held at Guantanamo while the administration tries to figure out what to do with them. I have done considerable research and believe I have the solution.
Located about 275 miles west of Fairbanks, Alaska, is the town of Galena. It has a former Air Force base airport nearby that could easily handle the delivery of the 245 terrorists by C-130s. We could build a prison there that would contribute greatly to the economy of that area of Alaska. Because of the sparse population, we could bring in support personnel such as construction workers, teachers, medical personnel, caregivers for the children of the various personnel assigned there, experienced guards -- all with incentive pay and benefits necessitated by the move, weather, etc.
I would keep the inside temperature at a constant 58 degrees except on those days when the ambient temperature rose above that so no one would freeze.
The terrorists would receive a nutritious diet, three squares a day, at a cost of no more than $1.25 per day. They would be allowed exercise at least two hours a day, shoveling snow, etc. Reading material would consist of the Koran. There would be no TV and no radio. Escape attempts would be futile. Anti-aircraft guns could be necessary in case of attempted "rescues." Any attorney who wanted to donate services to any of these terrorists would be provided with cold weather tents and cots free of charge and could either buy their meals locally or cook them themselves over Sterno.
I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Watch them beg to return to balmy Gitmo.
-- Gerald A. Harman, Thousand Oaks
There is a group called Freedom from Religion that is trying to ban the National Day of Prayer on May 7. This is absurd! Christians are not forcing them to pray, so why are they forbidding us from praying?
The Constitution states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." It was adopted June 15, 1790.
It is sad that these people, whose first name is freedom, are trying to take away my freedom! The first Continental Congress in 1775 prayed; in 1863, President Lincoln urged us to pray; and since 1952, our presidents proclaimed and urged all citizens to take part in a National Day of Prayer.
What are these people afraid of? They claim we are hostile? They need to take a good look at our nation. If they don't think we need to pray to God for protection and provision, then they are living in a dream world. The moral, financial and ecological systems are failing, and only God can help us repair and rebuild. Man has destroyed the very foundations that this great country was founded on.
Our money states, "In God we trust," but do we?
I urge all sane people, everywhere, to pray daily for our country and to pray collectively on May 7.
-- Dorothy Campagna, Newbury Park
I have a suggestion for resolving the apparent problem of the use of the existing Kmart facility on Hampshire Road.
Why not convert the existing building into affordable senior housing? The location lends itself ideally to the situation. The interior of the building can be gutted, and one- and two-bedroom units can be designed around the interior perimeter walls with windows cut into the exterior walls where required. The center of the existing store can be built into a garden with fountains and walkways, with a large skylight in the roof over the garden area to provide daylight.
This would provide a pleasant, secure area for the residents to enjoy year-round. There is ample parking for the seniors with cars and for visitors. The new use would be compatible with the other uses in the immediate area.
We have several local architectural firms that can design and plan the facility and oversee the construction. A project such as this would provide low-cost housing for senior citizens and would be an asset to our fair city.
-- Bob Berry, Thousand Oaks
Re: Tom Magdaleno's April 17 letter, "Sense of entitlement":
Magdaleno is way off base when he criticizes the "partygoers" for having a sense of entitlement. Since when is it improper for the public to drive on public streets and assemble in public parks to protest injustice? And, by the way, Magdaleno is correct in noting that they were driving their own cars, not buses like Acorn -- the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now -- uses to gather up the masses and incite liberal rallies.
-- Marshall Nathanson, Thousand Oaks
Somalia is a downright mean country.
-- David St. Clair, Moorpark
The slick politicians are at it again. Proposition 1A is labeled in the Sample Ballot as a "Rainy Day" Budget Stabilization Fund. Sounds benign, doesn't it? Let's not be tricked again.
Our legislators just imposed three tax increases for Californians: a higher sales tax, a higher vehicle registration tax that's nearly double the current tax and a higher state income tax, one that's supposedly temporary for a couple of years. There went the stimulus package. Now, they want to make it worse and dig deeper into our pockets.
Proposition 1A is a giant tax increase disguised as a "spending cap" and "budget reform." That's the trickery. The truth is that Proposition 1A, if passed, would extend the higher sales tax hike for an additional full year. Californians already pay the highest sales tax in the country. Proposition 1A would extend the higher car tax, and it would extend the higher state income tax for an additional two years. On top of all that, it would cut the tax credit for dependents for an extra two years.
Many of us remember the taxpayer revolt that resulted in passage of Proposition 13, which helps keep long-term homeowners from being property-taxed out of their homes. It was led by Howard Jarvis, now deceased. It's time to revolt again, and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association is still alive and well, again at the forefront. Check it out at http://www.hjta.org.
-- Bill Gourlay, Westlake Village
Is the Environmental Protection Agency under President Barack Obama's administration out of control or just out of its mind in proposing to control carbon dioxide emissions? Next they'll want to ban dihydrogen monoxide -- water.
-- Jefferson C. Romney, Westlake Village
I was so pleased to find out that one of the best people for the job is running for the interim position of City Council of Moorpark.
Having worked with David Pollock with the Moorpark school board and admiring his tenacity to get the job done fairly and with integrity, I know that one could not find a better person with integrity to take care of our fine city of Moorpark.
I have found that David Pollock listens to all points of view, from the people who are on the board to everyday citizens like you and me. He weighs the pros and cons for each situation and always charters toward the right course. He is not a man to waver on his beliefs or your typical politician who changes his or her mind. He sticks to his convictions and fights for what is right for the children, citizens and schools of Moorpark. He holds no secret agendas, and I find him to be completely trustworthy.
I am honored to stand behind David Pollock and his proven leadership abilities and will be casting my vote for a man who represents what Moorpark needs and I believe truly wants.
Please join me and many others in voting for David Pollock in the special election for City Council of Moorpark.
-- Lisa Padilla, Moorpark
Re: Tobi Ruth Love's April 15 letter, "A political issue?"
Love is justifiably outraged with the unforgivable situation in Darfur. However, she is mistaken about the causes and should read what the Jewish American writer, Stephen Lendman, says when he pinpoints the causes as "intertribal fighting over increasingly scarce water and grazing rights." He goes on to say that the conflict "is falsely portrayed in Western media reports as atrocities committed by Arab Jan jawid militias supported by the Khartoum government against black African people." In fact, all parties involved are indigenous Arabic-speaking Muslims. He also says that the U.S. involvement only guarantees greater strife. No surprise there!
I am more concerned that I see no commensurate outrage regarding ethnic cleansing and acts of war against an occupied people in Palestine over the last 60 years. Far more Palestinians have been forced from their homes than the 5 million in Darfur and at least as many killed in that period.
Also, I hear no outrage at the 600,000 Iraqis who have died and the over 4 million who are now refugees as a result of unwarranted aggressive war made upon them by the U.S.
The people of Afghanistan must be really confused, since when facing a Soviet invasion they were armed and trained by the U.S., and now they are facing invasion by their former supporters. No doubt it was outrageous for the Soviets to invade and kill Afghanis, but not for us.
Personally I am outraged by all acts of war and terrorism no matter who carries them out, but I doubt the sincerity of anyone who picks and chooses on the basis of whether Muslims are the perpetrators or victims.
Let us all get together and stop the killing and oppression wherever it is, whether it is a political issue or not.
-- Yahya Merchant, Simi Valley
Re: your April 16 article, "GOP criticizes report on terrorism and vets":
Once again, the Republican Party has taken a serious assessment and attempted to turn it into an "us v. them" political issue.
It has long been known that soldiers returning from a war are susceptible to recruitment. It matters not whether they could be recruited by the radical right or the radical left.
What the report really speaks to is that our vets need to be treated fairly as the heroes they are and given the opportunities they have fought for, for all of us. If that doesn't happen, they will be fair game for whatever faction convinces them that their way is the American way.
I am a Democrat, not a Republican. But I don't consider this issue a political one. It is one of fairness to our vets.
Our veterans are a precious resource in this country, and to simply criticize a report that addresses what may happen to them, without suggesting a solution to the problem, is irresponsible and, sadly, the style of the Republican leadership of late. If they want to be called "leaders," they should lead and not snipe. It's unseemly and reinforces what most Americans have come to believe of late: that the Republican Party is a ship with no rudder. No wonder the Democrats won.
-- Burton Weinstein, Simi Valley
Re: Pedro Nava and Carl Pope's April 15 commentary, "State's future is clean energy, not dirty oil":
Once again, we are treated to another one of Pedro Nava's anti-local oil lectures.
I'm glad Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar is coming to our state to hear our concerns. However, how does he plan to travel here? Can he roll into town powered by solar, wind or any of these other so-called job-creating renewables we never really see? No. He will either fly or drive here, using the dreaded "smoggy, oil-stained fossil fuel." The question is: Whose oil will he burn?
I think we can all agree another big spill would be devastating. I would be particularly affected as a local commercial fisherman. I can't, however, stand by and let a fellow industry get trashed by our politicians. We can't continue to plunder all the rest of the world's resources while preserving our own "aesthetics." Converting our nation's energy use to renewables is a very admirable and noble goal, but it must come at the pace of technology, not at the pace of legislation.
The recent local food movement should be a lesson we can apply to all local industries. If you burn oil (and you do), don't you wish you could have access to your own, contributing to your local economy? I, for one, don't want my carbon footprint to be on the soil of the Third World or an oil-rich country that hates us.
The kind of thinking Nava and Pope exhibit in this letter is the same kind of symbolic, hypocritical environmental action that has all our jobs, and America's real environmental legacy, overseas.
-- Jason Woods, Oak View
On a bright and beautiful Easter afternoon, on a ride back down the bike path between Ojai and Foster Park, my life took a detour that, due to a head injury, I have no memory of, yet I have multitudes of people to thank from the bottom of my heart for coming to my aid as I lay injured, helmet intact, along a particularly treacherous stretch of path.
Gratitude is hardly enough to offer to the unnamed woman who came upon me and offered aid as my husband waited ahead of me on the trail. As he then returned for me, there was a couple who knew enough about medicine to offer timely advise and call 911.
Then came our county's early responders: men and women at Oak View Fire Station No. 23, a team with rescue vehicle, ambulance and helicopter that flew me to Ventura County Medical Center for assessment and treatment. All these ordinary citizens and county employees did what had to be done, no matter how it disrupted their holiday or how difficult it was to navigate a bike path with a fire truck! I am eternally grateful to them and the to team of nurses and residents at the VCMC emergency room and second floor staff who skillfully and compassionately cared for me. Most of our ordinary days we don't know they are there, but let me tell you, they are, and we need to keep them there with gratitude! I do!
-- Joyce Lombard, Ventura
The bill in Sacramento to have stores charge 25 cents for each plastic bag used in a store sale is another example of politicians being out of touch with reality.
We know that every year California politicians pass an average of 2,000 new laws, most of which are useless. We understand that the reason for this "government playing" by politicians in Sacramento is because they do not have anything else to do, and therefore "make-work" techniques are used. The other reason is that each politician wants something with their name on it, similar to an inventor wanting a design patent. However, a patent has substance, meaning and a purpose.
This useless bill, if passed, will cause the shopper to have a set of cloth bags in each car, a supply large enough for usual shopping chores, from one bag to 10, depending on your own circumstances.
The store will need to enforce this law, but can you imagine the angst of the bagging clerk when customers demand proper filling of each bag by weight, fragility and fullness to ensure minimum bag count coupled with ease of carrying and proper handling of goods?
The conclusion will be that the store will not charge the customer, to ensure that no debate will occur regarding the performance of the store personnel. Instead, the store will place the cost of the bags into the cost operation of the store. That will result in increased cost for food, more (tax) money for the politicians to spend and the same number of bags as before.
-- Fran Jansen, Oxnard
The mission of the California Coastal Commission is to "protect, conserve, restore and enhance environmental and human-based resources of the California coast and ocean for environmentally sustainable and prudent use by current and future generations."
In a recent public hearing, the Coastal Commission failed the people of the State of California and once again chose to burden the small city of Oxnard, the gateway to California's Galapagos, with a third power plant.
It was apparent to everyone in attendance that the votes in favor of Southern California Edison's proposed peaker plant were already secured despite pleas from local area residents -- more than two to one -- to ban the plant and a unanimous denial by the Oxnard City Council.
I say it is time to take action where the Coastal Commission has failed. Here's what we can do:
The city of Oxnard has 60 days in which to appeal the commission's 7-4 decision. Residents and business owners opposed to another industrial facility on our beaches need to make their voices heard to the Oxnard City Council and our state and federal representatives.
Know that even among commission members, there was great debate as to the "environmental justice" of a small California city being forced to accommodate yet another power plant, the fact that the "need" for yet another peaker had not been qualified or quantified by the Public Utilities Commission and the fact that the city's own "negative declaration" had not yet been certified.
The grass roots has 60 days in which to mobilize against a giant corporation that has been able to always pay for its legislation. Given the volume of communications and lobbying efforts by SCE in this last round, it is obvious we are in for a long and intractable fight.
Our representatives in government need to hear from us. Don't be coy or shy; now is the time to act. Write that letter!
-- Rick Conrad, Oxnard
Much has been said about the bonuses -- bonuses that go into the millions of dollars -- that the CEOs of banks, corporations, conglomerates and savings and loans have been given, and I suppose they got to where they are with some high-level credentials. However, I think they have all missed the mark.
If they were really smart, they would pool their resources, which are in the billions of dollars, and create a bank, aptly called The First Scandalous Bank. Then the bank could make a loan to the federal government, from whence it came, to "stimulate the economy." I believe that with the present regulatory guidelines, they would have no problem in obtaining a charter.
-- Peggy Bell, Camarillo
The Ventura City Council will be making decisions Monday at 6 p.m. that have the potential to change the character of our city and impact local small and mid-sized businesses.
Will council members grant concessions to Wal-Mart that would allow them to develop the Kmart site into a bigger big-box store with the traffic and parking problems that would bring? Those variances could be the tipping point as to whether Wal-Mart is successful in pushing its way into Ventura after four years of opposition from most in the community.
Small businesses provide about 50 percent of the private sector jobs in the United States. Our City Council should be doing everything possible to aid in the survival of existing small enterprises and to make Ventura attractive to new small businesses when the economy turns around. Our representatives need to think of their constituents who would be sacrificed if Ventura becomes a "Wal-Mart town."
If you care about our wonderful city, please attend this crucial meeting on Monday at City Hall and voice your concerns.
-- Ruth Schwartz, Ventura
I find it amazing that state legislators find it very easy to take 1 or 2 percent away from the taxpayer's family budget in the form of increased taxes and "fees," yet when asked to cut the state budget by 1 or 2 percent, they squeal like stuck pigs. Even in the face of bankruptcy, they failed to even hold spending flat year to year.
I wholly support the tea party concept. I will be voting no on 1A. Passing yet another bill to require legislators to do what they should be doing in the first place, coupled with an extension of higher taxes, is ridiculous.
-- Lowell Martinson, Ojai
These people drive on public streets to protest in a public park about some of the lowest taxes in the developed world. Talk about a sense of entitlement!
-- Tom Magdaleno, Camarillo
In the last two national elections, American voters firmly rejected the Republican agenda. Democrats have the residency and majorities in the Senate and the House of Representatives. Republicans have outrage and teabags.
And so it goes.
-- John Mondy, Camarillo
The sample ballot received in the mail is cleverly written by very, very cunning people we elected in Sacramento.
I'm voting no on everything. Why? Because each ballot measure increases my taxes.
The governor and our elected representative had four years and last year to eliminate government's free dinners, fancy cars, bloated paperwork and unlimited expense accounts, and they refused to do it. We haven't seen one single reduction to state operations.
Tea parties don't work; not paying taxes will. Vote no May19.
-- Ray Holm, Westlake Village
The people, including me, are mad about the bailouts and how they are being handled. We the people are speaking our minds and expect some action. When is President Barack Obama going to stop blaming former President George Bush? We all are quite aware of the mess Bush got us into, and that's why we voted for Obama.
This is what we want:
-- Let the companies fail. Why are they are laying us off like wildfire and still getting their huge bonuses? Why is this allowed?
-- Stop the big companies like IBM from bringing in foreigners to do our work. They have laid off more than 10,000 people this year alone and have replaced them with foreigners, and they boldly speak of it like it is OK. So why, again, are they allowed to do this?
-- Let retired people on Social Security earn what they want. They have paid into this tax for more than 30 years and now they are getting the shaft. There is no 401(k) for them. There is no pension for them. All was lost in just less than a year. What are they and I in the near future going to do?
-- If you enter into this country without permission, then out you go. I don't want to hear about their mishaps. The law is the law. Stop protecting the businesses that hire them. If they had children here, then they can take them with them. They had the babies and it is their responsibility, not mine -- and don't make it mine. This may sound hard, but think about all the people who obey the law and came after they received their green cards. They are the only honest hard-working immigrants.
-- Mary Aquino, Moorpark
The tax day tea party was loonier than the Mad Hatter's tea party.
They cried about increased taxes, even though President Barack Obama has reduced taxes for the 95 percent of Americans who earn less than $250,000.
They griped about the $787 billion economic stimulus for 3.5 million jobs, even though the alternative was a global depression.
And they railed against the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program bailout of Wall Street -- which was authorized by former President George Bush. Why were there no anti-Bush signs? In eight years, he almost doubled the national debt, from $5.7 trillion to $10.7 trillion.
These "party" attendees may be stupid, but the organizers are not. Their agenda is on a Web site called "American Solutions." These wonderful "solutions" are all to cut taxes to benefit the super-rich.
In short, the whole madcap scheme duped the peasants into supporting the aristocracy. Go figure.
-- Raymond Freeman, Thousand Oaks
I challenge President Barack Obama to tackle these issues and stop the bleeding:
-- Save Social Security for our children. Our morally bankrupt Congress is borrowing trillions from our Social Security fund to buy votes through earmark funding. The IOUs are only as good as our nation's ability to pay them off. The administration is printing valueless paper dollars. Our Congress is seriously considering extending Social Security to illegal immigrants who have not paid their fair share. Many are working under the table. Many are only accepting cash for their labor from employers who are cheating them and us.
-- Save Medicare with transparent claim practice. Insurers and the medical profession are bypassing us and spending our Medicare dollars as they see fit. We, the patients, really can't object before the money has changed hands. We're out of the loop. Put us back in. Require providers to copy their claims to us. We can help to control overcharging because we were present on the operating table and in the labs. Insurers operate blind from desks. We operate in the fields.
-- Adopt the fair tax and close down the Internal Revenue Service. Collect at the cash registers. Put millions of IRS employees out to find real jobs in our economy. The government could save billions of dollars by reducing this bureaucracy, as well as many other useless bureaucrats in our bloated government administration.
-- Weed out the bureaucratic deadwood.
Finally, Obama promised change when elected. This would be real change and would greatly reduce the multitrillion-dollar budget. Also, Obama must remember transparency and fair partisanship.
-- Robert Butz, Port Hueneme
Re: Bob Moeller's April 8 letter, "Careless pedestrians":
It happens not only in Oxnard, but also in Camarillo. It does not matter what time of the day or night, it also happens in my area. I have to be extra careful driving around our local streets.
Some people use the streets to do their walking or jogging regardless of the time of day or night. I have had to wait for people to give me the right of way so I can continue to drive. I see people walking and talking, and sometimes two or more people are side by side while others are listening to their iPods. I see parents pulling baby buggies and others pushing their baby buggies, all using the streets. I believe that some have no regard for their safety or the safety of their children.
I still believe that streets are for cars, and sidewalks are for people.
We have several local parks that people can use to walk, jog and/or play with their children.
Yes, we were taught to look in both directions, but it is still up to the adults to teach their children.
It happens here in Camarillo, not only in Oxnard.
-- Vel James, Camarillo
Re: Joe R. Howry's April 5 essay, "A road best untraveled":
I couldn't disagree more with Howry's essay. He protests President Barack Obama's dismissal of CEO Rick Wagoner from General Motors and says, "It raises the question of how much control, if any, the federal government should have over private industry."
If a company's poor leadership leads it to the point of bankruptcy, and then the company asks the American public to put up its tax dollars to save the company, doesn't that suggest, and even perhaps demand, that responsible action calls for some new leadership?
But aside from the appropriateness of the action in regard to this CEO, the important principle of responsibility has been lacking in the upper echelons of private industry for some years now. Corporate leaders have felt no compunction about granting themselves huge multimillion-dollar bonuses whether or not their leadership led to success or failure on the profit statement.
Perhaps this action in regard to Wagoner will remind leaders throughout private industry that responsibility is one of the critical underpinnings for the functioning of free enterprise in a capitalistic system.
-- William Merit True II, Port Hueneme
Re: your April 15 article, "Port of Hueneme requires special ID to enter":
I must dispute the statement by Port of Hueneme Executive Director Anthony Taormina that, "It's one of those things that you sit there for 10 months and tell everybody you have to have a TWIC, and the day you go active somebody says, 'What's a TWIC?'"
About 10 days ago, one of our employees told me that we were going to need a transportation worker identification card, or TWIC, and I said, "What's a TWIC?"
Contrary to Taormina's comment, I am not aware that our company was ever notified of this requirement even though we perform work at the Port of Hueneme on a regular, though infrequent, basis. It was simple happenstance that we learned of this requirement. I would love to know how we were informed, since he says that for 10 months they "told everybody."
It seems yet another instance of implementation of a plan that is made expensive and unruly at the hands of bureaucracy. With about 60 employees, and the cost of each TWIC being $132.50 plus lost productivity, we have to decide how to implement yet another costly government program.
This program has already driven Port Hueneme Sportfishing out of the port.
Our bureaucracy grows ever more bloated by the day, putting undue pressure on businesses during an economic time that is already trying enough. Will it ever improve? I fear that I already know the answer.
-- Alan D. Fletcher, Ojai
(The writer is president of Oilfield Electric & Motor in Ventura. -- Editor)
Are you aware that every time you use a debit or credit card to make a purchase at a business, that business is paying some bank to process that card transaction?
Even worse, when you return a purchase that was made with a debit or credit card, and the purchase is refunded back to that card, the business is charged a second time for that transaction.
Are you aware that a small mom-and-pop business can be paying upwards of $500 and more per month for your "convenience" of using your debit and credit cards?
Why do we make them do that? Why do we allow banks to rip us off this way? What is wrong with cash, when it served us so well for so many hundreds of years? What could you as an individual do with an extra $500 in your wallet every month? I imagine a small business could do a better job of restocking their shelves with that extra revenue.
What do you think the loss of this revenue does to a business? It drives prices up to compensate! Since it is illegal to actually charge a fee for debit or credit card usage -- unfortunately -- businesses must recover their losses somehow.
Why do we do this? Why is plastic so much more convenient than cash? Why do I get one apology after another from customers because they have no cash? I only carry cash myself, and it isn't hard to do. What plastic I have stays at home, and I've never experienced any problems with that practice, nor am I taking hard-earned money out of the pockets of business owners every time I walk into a store. Why are you?
-- Tim Walden, Oak View
I think in regards to piracy on the high seas, those pirates who are captured should stand trial on board ship. When found guilty, they should be made to, in true pirate tradition, walk the plank. It might save the taxpayers some money.
-- Douglas Dole, Ventura
I've been meaning to publicly thank Brad Minkoff, owner of Brad's Automotive in Ventura. Brad has been the behind-the-scenes guru that has saved me many, many thousands of dollars, I feel, going on 29 years.
I read a book about the 300,000-mile car and thought, "Now that certainly would be nice." I wondered if my car could make it that far. I was recently with Brad as he was changing the oil and checking out the fluid levels, lights, etc., as is his habit. I realized that this Toyota Camry, which I had bought new with 11 miles on it, now had more than 309,000 actual miles on the odometer.
I'm certain that I owe that kind of automotive practical performance in part to the special abilities, generous attitude and complete honesty of Brad Minkoff, my mechanic.
-- Larry B. Lieberson, Camarillo
Re: your April 15 article, "Strickland's religion in schools bill shot down":
What I cannot understand is why people who espouse such religious furor aren't happy and secure with their beliefs. They want to push it on everyone else, and that tells me that they really don't have as strong a faith as they would like us to believe. If all you need are numbers to quantify your belief, then there is something about your faith that is missing in your heart. How do those numbers make their religion any more credible than another?
I have never been approached by a Jew begging me to join their temple. I have never been approached by a Muslim begging me to join their mosque. I have never been approached by a Hindu, Buddhist or a Scientologist. The only ones that come knocking are the Jehovah's Witness, the Mormons and the Christians.
Public school is not the place for any religion. There are many private Christian schools in our county, and that is the place for the children of families whose religion is more important than a well-rounded education based and taught on facts.
A huge thank you to the six Assembly panel members for their intelligence.
-- Carolyn Crandall, Camarillo
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger told those "girly men" to fix the mess they, not taxpayers, made. Instead, state legislators sabotaged California's educational system! But our children need their education, we need our children educated and our teachers need their jobs!
State legislators are using our children as weapons against the governor. Do they really think we are so stupid we will blame the governor? Do they believe us so uniformed we are unaware they, not the governor, caused this educational budget cut? Do they expect the backlash to hit the governor without a drop falling on them? Wow!
State legislators have not kept up with the times. Legislators are unfamiliar with their constituents. Here is a mind-blowing update for legislators: We have entered a new era. It is not important whether a Democrat or Republican has a solution to a problem. What is important is a solution! Quit playing political war with our governor! Take care of business, and take care of Californians.
That should not be difficult. At election time, state legislators assured us the needs of California's residents came first. Yet, almost every time Schwarzenegger offered a solution to California's problems, legislators elected to "serve" vetoed it. They were more interested in furthering political agendas or in proving a point to Schwarzenegger regardless of who was hurt -- namely us.
Furthermore, this is not just about California. The United States of America is in trouble! Intelligence and education will meet this challenge. Our children must be educated to help our country avoid or overcome future difficulties! Our governor is trying. State legislators are not!
Californians, remember: If legislators don't pay attention to business, vote the incompetents back to where they came: out of office!
-- Naomi Fisher, Camarillo
On Nov. 4, 2008, Californians across the state passed Proposition 8, which disallowed simple freedoms to equal Californians. The passage of Proposition 8 allows bigotry to be written into the state constitution.
Wikipedia defines bigot as: "A person who is intolerant of or takes offence to the opinions, lifestyles or identities differing from his or her own, and bigotry is the corresponding attitude or mindset."
By allowing Proposition 8 to pass, we as a state have allowed bigotry to be acceptable and to be thought of by our children as such. Adolf Hitler murdered many people, some of them gay or bisexual.
Today we have Assembly Bill 103 by Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles. Here is at least one assemblyman who is not filled with hate and bigotry, but instead is looking out for the freedoms of all people of California.
I've sent e-mails to our state representatives -- Audra and Tony Strickland and George Runner -- asking them to support AB103.
It is no surprise that I have yet to hear from either Strickland. It is disgusting and shameful that they support such bigotry with their silence of support for Proposition 8.
Runner's e-mail reply said, "He can only support the will of the people." Hitler said the very same thing -- that it's the will of the people to create a stronger, cleaner race without homosexuals.
Shame on California for teaching bigotry and intolerance to our children. The state has failed in so many ways by allowing passage of Proposition 8.
-- Christopher J. Grant, Ojai
My husband, Joe, and I moved from Ventura in 1992 with our three children to Green River, Wyo. My sister, Connie, is married to Officer Skip Young, who will be retiring Friday from the Ventura Police Department after 29 years of service. He was honored Wednesday night, and we were unable to make the trip back to congratulate him on the many years of service that he has given to the people of Ventura.
Skip has loved every minute of his job. Our middle son, Josh, was so impressed by his Uncle Skip that he became an officer in Green River. Skip even flew out and dressed in his own uniform for Josh's graduation. It was a great day for our family.
I remember the times when Skip had his police dog and came to our kids' school when they were little and how proud he was of what he stood for and the uniform that he wore.
I could go on and on, but we just wanted Skip to know how proud we are of him and that we wish him all the best. We look forward to him coming to Wyoming and doing more fishing and possibly some hunting. We love you, Skipper.
-- Becky & Joe Mozley, Green River, Wyo.
We are within a hairsbreadth, for the first time in America's modern era, of taking climate change and the need for alternative fuels and travel technologies seriously.
So many average citizens, for so many years, have avidly wished for more efficient energy technologies, but all efforts in that direction have been stymied by the interests of the petroleum industry. See the DVD, "Who Killed the Electric Car?" for a poignant example of how a perfectly usable solution for American fuel independence was killed in its tracks, so to speak.
We can hope, wish and dream for the elegant solution for a clean-energy society, but there has to be a first step, or we'll never achieve our goal. The current draft of energy legislation sponsored by U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., with its proposed cap on carbon pollution, is that first step. Please encourage your representatives to support this measure and promote accurate energy information in the media.
-- Adrienne Prince, Camarillo
I recently noticed articles and letters about the Moorpark City Council election of May 19, and I was very happy to see that David Bagwell has decided to step up to further serve this community.
I have known David for some time and know he is always running somewhere to volunteer his time. It seems like every Saturday he's doing something for the Rotary Club or cleaning up the Arroyo Simi or volunteering time for his girls' softball teams.
It's inspiring when someone is so passionate about their community. I know that running for office is not quite the same as volunteering for nonprofit endeavors, but it still is very time-consuming and one must be commended for trying.
I commend David for putting his name on the line to try to help the city. I have spoken with him about his ideas for the city, which include support for stronger police, fire and emergency response services and making sure the city's budget is in line during these difficult financial times. I truly believe he would do a fine job.
I know who I am voting for on May 19.
-- Debbie DeCarolis, Moorpark
I'm writing to voice my opinion on the Thousand Oaks City Council's unjust firing of Assistant City Manager Linda Papas Diaz from the city manager's office. As a citizen, my opinion is that the city manager and council should be called on the carpet, and the truth needs to be told and questions need to be answered.
-- Mary Harris, Thousand Oaks
On April 14, Finance Director Barbara Smith forwarded to me and City Attorney Ted Schneider by e-mail her notice of retirement. Ms. Smith indicated in her notice that she has been advised by the pension representative that her remaining until July 1 would bring no additional retirement benefit to her. As a result, May 14 will be her final day with the city.
Ms. Smith has also indicated that she values her privacy and has requested that there not be any public honor or acknowledgment of her 23 years of service.
As mayor, and on behalf of the City Council, well wishes and heartfelt thanks are extended to Barbara for her work, service and support she has extended to the council and community of Fillmore.
-- Patti Walker, Fillmore
(The writer is mayor of Fillmore. -- Editor)
Re: your April 15 article, "Some development frozen":
I was a speaker at the Ventura County Board of Supervisors meeting, and this was my observation:
Eleven people spoke against the urgency ordinance/interim moratorium and five spoke for it. Then the supervisors overruled the majority and got their four-fifths vote for it.
This was a big win for open space and a slap in the face for individuals whose livelihood will negatively be affected by this ordinance. All this came at a time when the economy is in the tank. No supervisor could come up with specific organizations that were ready to make a land grab on open space, but they were fearful of something that was unlikely to happen.
We will see if Supervisor Kathy Long is a person of her word. She proposed that the moratorium not go longer than 45 days before a firm vote of action. Supervisor Peter Foy, to his credit, stood his ground and voted against the ordinance. Unfortunately, the required four-fifths vote was achieved.
-- William Hicks, Newbury Park
What is truly sad in the heroic effort for the safe return of Capt. Richard Phillips is the ages of the "pirates." They were 17 years to 19 years of age -- just kids. That's not to say the rescue was any less dangerous, but we need to look at what leads to this. Think of your own children and this truly becomes a bittersweet story.
-- William F. Klepper, Simi Valley
It's time to expose the hypocrisy rampant in our state Legislature.
How many of our budget-slashing legislators have children in public schools? If we could get the statistics, they'd probably show that most legislators' children go to private schools (please, somebody prove me wrong). So? It's inconceivable that state legislators are not required to share in the fortunes of the public education system for which they're accountable.
All over our country, labor and management are looking at ways to control costs and save jobs, including California's teachers unions and district offices. What has our distinguished Legislature done to share the pain? They've agreed not to vote themselves pay increases in budget deficit years.
So, at a time when no one else's job is safe from the faltering economy, our legislators maintain full pay and job security until the next election. Then they walk away with taxpayer-funded medical, pension and other benefits for life. Our government "by the people" has apparently become a government "on the backs of the people." Our leaders should accept the responsibility of leadership and be among the first to take voluntary pay cuts; they can afford it.
The starting salary of a legislator is in the $100,000-plus range. In addition, legislators get a travel allowance that adds up to more than $30,000 in their pockets, an amount almost equaling the starting salary of a teacher. We're supposed to believe there's no money to spend on our children? The only children being taken care of are the ones we elected in Sacramento.
Please write and call your state and local representatives to tell them educating our children is our top priority. A society with smart kids will find a way to solve any problem that comes its way.
-- Marc Lion, Westlake Village
(The writer is an English teacher at Newbury Park High School. Teaching is his second career. -- Editor)
In view of the opening day violence at Dodgers and Angels stadiums, perhaps the lyrics to "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" should be changed to:
Take me out to the ball game.
Take me out with the crowd.
Buy me some ammo and a knife or two.
I have a right to protect myself too.
Let me root, root, root for the home team.
If they don't win it's a shame.
For it's punch, slash, stab you way out
At the old ball game.
-- Lou Pupich, Newbury Park
Several decades ago, President Gerald Ford came up with the idea of creating the now fabled WIN button.
WIN stood for "Whip Inflation Now." The buttons were passed around the House and Senate to remind our congressional leaders that inflation was getting the best of the country. It was not long after these buttons were distributed that a few wags turned them upside down so they were NIM buttons: "No Immediate Miracles." Now would be a good time to revive these NIM buttons and pass them out to all Republicans leaders who are complaining that President Barack Obama has not yet turned the country around.
These buttons would stand as a reminder to them that you cannot have the country raped and looted for eight years by their party and their big business cronies and then expect anyone to repair the kind of damage that was caused in just a matter of weeks.
The fact that there is now a glimmer of recovery should give everyone hope. The fact that we now have a hard-working, intelligent and erudite man leading the country should be change enough for everyone.
People like Rush Limbaugh, Elton Gallegly and Tony Strickland, who fight every move the president makes, even when it is in the best interests of their listeners and constituents, clearly want him to fail in every way, and since it is clear that Obama wants America to succeed and thrive once more, these men undoubtedly want America to fail.
As leaders of their parties, they need to understand that the only way America will get out of the hole they have put the country in is if we all work together.
America is a shovel-ready project. All they have to do is pick one up and get to work.
-- John Darling, Ventura
If the City Council allows Wal-Mart to move into Ventura on the old Kmart site without requiring improvements to mitigate the increased traffic, noise and pollution to the area, they are doing a huge disservice to the people of Ventura and to our economy.
Assuming it is not a "done deal" already, the roads in and around the site could be widened and strengthened to accommodate the increased truck traffic to the area. In particular, Walker Street, which runs parallel to Highway 101, could be widened and strengthened to have truck traffic only access the site from the back of the lot. This would keep truck traffic off Victoria Avenue altogether.
Sound walls could be installed along the "truck route" to keep the noise and pollution level down for existing neighborhoods. In the alternative, the city could require Wal-Mart to make deliveries only during certain hours.
The existing parking lot desperately needs a parking structure that can accommodate the increase of vehicles. The lot could also act as a noise barrier to the neighborhood behind the main structure if it is built with that feature.
If Wal-Mart is now requesting variances, the city should get something meaningful in return for them. Requiring mitigation improvements is the best way if tax revenues to the city are questionable.
-- Jill A. Singer, Esq., Ventura
Re: Patricia Sentianin's April 10 letter, "Animals versus kids":
Sentianin's assertion that efforts made on behalf of animals somehow translate into a theory that we value animals over children is not only ridiculous but incredibly ironic in the timing of her letter.
In the paper that very day was a lovely story about a community of people who banded together to help a distraught woman find her trio of dogs lost in the aftermath of a coyote attack. Happily, there was a happy ending, but even if the outcome had been different, I seriously doubt any of those people were helping those animals because they value children less. The two values are not mutually exclusive.
-- Karen Murphy, Oxnard
The last place I thought I would be confronted by spam was The Star, but with the April 13 issue, there it was, right on the front page. And not just one instance of spam, but two! There was a big piece covering most of the front page, and then there was a Post-it spam on the upper right corner. I didn't bother to see whose ads they were because I didn't care!
I buy The Star to get caught up with the news, and if I see spam like this again, then I will simply not buy the paper. It's that simple, and I hope others follow suit.
-- Roy Hooper, Ojai
Re: your April 12 Pa Ventura item, "To the Navy":
The Ventura County Air Pollution Control District would like to correct Pa Ventura's comment regarding Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu. The comment referred to the base as "among the top three contributors to the county's air pollution, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data." EPA's rankings from its Toxic Release Inventory database include disposal or releases of solid, liquid and air contaminants. It is our understanding that the majority of the contaminants from NBVC Point Mugu is solid lead from the base's shooting ranges.
-- Michael Villegas, executive officer, Ventura County Air Pollution Control District, Ventura
Re: your April 13 article, "TEA Parties planned in county to protest taxes":
Ronald Reagan was right: "Republicans believe every day is July 4; Democrats believe every day is April 15."
Reading The Star's article regarding the "taxed enough already" parties, I find it interesting that only conservatives oppose the astronomical taxes being forced upon the citizenry. It's not just the taxes, it's the spending. If spending is cut, then taxes will follow.
The article also proclaimed that the tax parties began when a stock trader "railed from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange floor about what he called federal mismanagement of taxpayer dollars." Yep, one crazy guy started a whole national event. How novel.
For me, it started when I saw former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson on TV saying that AIG is "too big to fail" and we need a bailout to "prevent a crisis" and then pledged billions of taxpayer money. Who elected Paulson? Is that taxation with representation?
Now I wish the amount was in the billions. Will they ever stop the spending?
Then there's Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who said "American taxpayers don't care" about the "little porky amendments" quietly inserted into the Troubled Asset Relief Program spending bill.
So all of you "progressives" stay home on Tax Day and just be happy that all of 4 cents of every dollar you are sending to Washington, D.C., will actually be used efficiently.
-- DeAnna Brown, Camarillo
Ventura can't afford Wal-Mart.
We can't afford the kind of jobs Wal-Mart might provide. Wal-Mart jobs that pay poverty level wages will replace jobs that support families at existing businesses. This leaves Ventura families with less money to spend, further eroding Ventura's economy.
Wal-Mart will depress property values, further impoverishing Venturans. Most of the low-wage workers Wal-Mart will hire can't afford to live in Ventura and will have to travel to Ventura from outside the city, leading to more traffic.
Some people have pointed to a potential increase in sales tax revenue that Wal-Mart might bring to Ventura, but sales tax money isn't generated out of thin air. Any "new" revenue will be taken from existing businesses, including locally owned businesses, in Ventura. Locally owned stores provide more benefit to the community than chain stores. Local stores keep money circulating in the community instead of exporting it to out-of-state corporate headquarters. In this economy, total consumer spending won't increase.
Ventura can't afford the increased cost of city services that Wal-Mart will require. The proposed Wal-Mart store on Victoria Avenue will increase crime at a time when the city is hard-pressed to maintain our current police staffing levels. Wal-Mart stores are known to be crime hot spots. A study showed that Wal-Mart stores have an average of four times the total crime and six times the "serious or violent" crime of Target stores in the same area. Ventura can't afford the additional police resources that would be needed to combat the crime brought by Wal-Mart.
Wal-Mart will cost the city of Ventura in infrastructure and services such as police and will increase poverty without providing any increase in tax revenues.
In this economy, Ventura just can't afford Wal-Mart.
-- Terri Thomas, Ventura
Elected officials in Washington spend much time raising money from lobbyists and industries. In return, the industries receive exemptions from laws that seem inconvenient, even when the laws would save lives.
The Fair Elections Now Act would allow candidates to spend more time focusing on the people they represent and addressing challenges, rather than on raising money. It would create a voluntary system through which participating candidates would collect small-scale contributions matched on a four-to-one basis, up to a limit. This would enable the cultivation of more donors, and therefore a larger extension of contact between Congress and the public. Once in office, Fair Elections candidates are free to legislate without regard to who helped pay for their campaign.
Where the principle of Fair Elections has been implemented, it has been successful. In 2008, nearly 400 people in six states and two municipalities were elected to serve in legislative, judicial and statewide offices. Such people have been raised through a sustainable means of funding and are more likely to fulfill their purpose.
-- Siddharth Mehrotra, Camarillo
Re: Tom Reilly's April 14 letter, "Peaker plant vote correct":
Reilly and all the rest of the people for the peaker plant do not live in Oxnard. We are not environmental ecoterrorists. We have two very ugly power plants on our beaches, and we took everyone else's trash for a long time in the now-closed dump. We have had enough.
Why don't we put the peaker plant in Thousand Oaks, right next to the freeway? This way, Reilly could see it every day!
-- Arthur L. Padilla, Oxnard
Re: your April 12 article, "'We can't pay for jury duty'":
My jury duty began by frustrating me and ended by fascinating me. Yes, my few days as a juror interrupted my daily schedule and, years later, affected my earnings for a few days as an eventually-excused prospective juror, but they were worth the small sacrifice.
Superior Court Deputy Executive Officer Cheryl Kanatzar could have been describing me: "Those who never make it out of the jury assembly room grumble a lot, but when you actually see the process firsthand as a juror, you appreciate and value the right to a jury trial."
I had grumbled as I left my two young children and headed for the courthouse that first morning, but I returned home with a new perspective as a paneled juror. In that trial, I felt grateful to serve on a case involving a schizophrenic young-adult son in ankle restraints whose family sought conservatorship.
Yes, the assembly-room wait can be a frustrating nuisance for tired or stressed citizens, especially atop hardship, yet I found most "waiters" were philosophical if they became ensnared against their will because the judges are likable, competent and fair. And financial hardships were carefully questioned: That was the reason I was excused from the second trial.
The citizens of this county are extremely generous with their time and money to charities, schools and causes, and I hope that financial hardships do not prevent the best of them from serving in our courtrooms.
-- Jan Edwards, Camarillo
On Monday, the Ventura City Council is poised to decide the future of the Victoria Avenue Corridor. Is Ventura to become a Wal-Mart town, or will we join the growing number of cities across the nation that have rejected Wal-Mart's intrusion into their standard of living?
It is really a question of economics. A "sells everything" Wal-Mart store will impact the financial health of the many stores and their employees in the area that have served us for years. In fact, many businesses may, and probably will, fold, if Wal-Mart opens its doors. The list is long: Bed, Bath & Beyond, Barnes & Noble, The 99 Cent Store, Ralphs, Vons, Longs Drug, the Target on Main Street, and even a new mom-and-pop liquor store in the old Ralphs mall. There are also countless other stores that will fail when the anchor stores are no longer there acting as magnets for customers. Their tax revenues will no longer fill the city's coffer.
Unfortunately, this is not a baseless prediction. This scenario of economic blight has played out in dozens of cities across the nation where a Wal-Mart has opened. Surrounding businesses are destroyed, and then Wal-Mart closes, leaving an area of shuttered stores that had once served the populace and provided a decent living for their neighbors and friends who, both union and non-union, enjoyed a fair wage and equitable working conditions. In our own state, Cathedral City suffered when a Wal-Mart opened and wiped out nearby businesses, before closing. You can find out more at www.Walmartwatch.com.
While Wal-Mart plays Christian music from their loudspeakers during the Christmas holiday, do their own employees go wanting for Christian treatment? On Dec. 23, 2008, Wal-Mart settled in court 63 of 73 wage and hour class action lawsuits brought by their own employees.
So, aside from economic considerations, there is the issue of morality. Will the council protect Ventura's businesses and their employees? Or will they vote to alter the Victoria Avenue Corridor Plan to cater specifically to Wal-Mart?
If you care about Ventura, you might consider attending the council meeting Monday. Whether you speak or not, your mere presence will send an important message.
Wal-Mart has the revenue of many small countries. They don't need Ventura. And by God, Ventura doesn't need Wal-Mart!
-- Larry Cardozo, Ventura
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union is trying to push another merger of UFCW Local 1036 with Local 770 down our throats. Local 1036 just voted on this 16 months ago and defeated the merger by more than 600 votes.
The international is only setting polling places for the areas in which there is support for the merger. Neither Simi Valley nor Moorpark has a polling place since we don't support the merger, so we have to drive 20 miles to place our vote even though we have the most stores in our cities.
They are not allowing absentee ballots for those people who are not able to vote in person on the days of the vote. Last time, we had mail-in ballots. Even when serving in Vietnam we were given ballots so that our vote counted.
It is the right of everyone in Local 1036 to be allowed to vote on April 20 and 21. Every member's vote should count.
The international's reason for the vote is that we have more bargaining power as one local. That is like saying all Teamsters should be in the same local. We still get the same contract regardless if there is a merger or not.
There is a report everyone is entitled to see that will show all of the money spent for salaries for the leaders of Local 770, as well as how much money they have spent on trying to pass this merger. Go to firstname.lastname@example.org. It has been reported by the international that out of our 12,000 members, there is no one capable to lead our union.
-- Larry Parisien, Simi Valley
(The writer is a 38-year member of the union. -- Editor)
Re: your April 12 article, "We can't pay for jury duty":
Last month, I reported for jury duty for the first time in my life. Late in the day, I was sent to Courtroom 47 for a domestic violence case. More than half of the other prospective jurors there were dismissed because of financial hardship.
After they left, the rest of us underwent a process called voir dire. In theory, voir dire makes it possible for attorneys to question jurors directly in an effort to uncover potential biases. In reality, voir dire ends up systematically eliminating good people who would make impartial jurors.
For two hours, I watched the attorneys dismiss one person after another, including everyone who had an advanced degree or worked in a scientific/engineering field. These people did not do or say anything to indicate they were impartial or would be biased.
When it came my turn, the prosecutor immediately noted my doctoral degree and questioned whether I would actually listen to the evidence presented -- or try to outsmart everyone else. When he saw that I teach wilderness survival skills at a state university, he began to cast me in the role of a right-wing, anti-government sympathizer: "Do you believe the government has the right to intrude into people's personal lives?" This is akin to asking a man if he hit his wife with the buckle-end of the belt.
I was dismissed from jury duty without knowing why. It could have been because I have a doctorate or because I am a male or even because I am Jewish. In 2005, a California county prosecuting attorney gained national attention for issuing instructions not to include Jews or black women on certain types of cases.
I do not know why I was dismissed, but I know it was not because I am biased, incapable or unwilling. I was dismissed because the prosecuting attorney was legally allowed to view me through a stereotypical lens without regard for my personal merit. And this is the definition of prejudicial discrimination.
It is ironic that the only place in our country where this type of discrimination is not punished is in the courtroom.
-- Gabe Goldman, Ph.D., Simi Valley
There is a very good reason for not releasing Guantanamo detainees into the U.S. prison population.
It is not just NIMBY -- not in my backyard -- but for a variety of reasons, the prison population is already disenfranchised from the mainstream. Some are not very smart, some are angry, some are anti-social, some are unprincipled. All have problems. They could be very vulnerable to recruitment efforts of dedicated al-Qaida and Taliban members.
We would be very concerned if we learned these bad actors were trying to get across our borders.
Putting them inside our prisons would not only get them inside our borders but would put them in touch with a vulnerable audience. I think it would be extremely dangerous.
-- Cliff Cox, Thousand Oaks
While I sat in my car in a grocery store parking lot waiting for my wife, I saw two near accidents. Cars backed up from their parking spaces and almost hit pedestrians with shopping carts. Both cars had their backup lights on and moved backward slowly. The first woman did not even notice how close the car came to her. The second woman noticed and angrily scolded the driver.
I almost hit someone two weeks ago. I looked in the rearview mirror, checked both sideview mirrors, shifted my car in reverse and slowly moved backward. I jammed on my brakes when I saw two men walking nonchalantly in back of my car. I must have missed them by a few feet. Neither one noticed how close they came to my car and just continued to walk by and talk to each other.
I'm surprised there are not more accidents in parking lots.
Drivers: As you get in your car, check to the rear and look to see if pedestrians are in the vicinity. While behind the steering wheel, check your rearview mirror and check the blind spots in your sideview mirrors. Shift into reverse and move backward slowly while keeping watch in your rear view mirror.
Pedestrians: Be alert. Be conscious of your surroundings while you walk to the store or back to your car. Be aware that even if the driver is very careful, he may not be able to see you in his blind spots. If a car's backup lights are on, get out of the way, because the driver may not see and come out quickly.
Good health to you all!
-- Roy Wilhelm, Ventura
America is being swindled, hornswoggled, suckered. It's the oldest game in the book, right out of the comic strips of the 1920s. Openly, on television, fast-talking commercials for big-ticket merchandise -- from cars to TV sets to computers -- are pushing sales by offering you cash back. Don't you realize what that is? They are giving you back your own money that they got from you by overcharging you at the start. Just ask them to let you keep it from the beginning! Cash back is not somebody else's money -- it was always yours.
-- Hal Wilder, Camarillo
The reason the world finds itself in this situation with Somali pirates is that we failed to deal with the problem when the bad guys only had fishing boats and landing nets. Now that they have become rich from all that ransom, they have swift boats, AK-47s, GPS devices and satellite phones.
Well, the cat's out of the bag now, and if our fearful leaders think this illiterate slime will ooze back to whence it came, they are in for a rude awakening. The pirates' choice consists of capturing one or two ships and retiring as millionaires without even risking their lives or returning to abject poverty. Duh!
The navies of the world must be permitted to shoot to kill -- as was the law of the sea until, apparently, the 21st century -- any person or vessel suspected of piracy, period. The only advantage we have is that we outgun them, and we had better use it soon and at every opportunity lest the scum buys a nuke.
-- Robert Merrilees, Camarillo
Re: Terry Paulson's April 13 essay, "Take God over Newsweek":
Kudos to Paulson for his essay on Newsweek's article, "The end of Christian America." Paulson's essay was the right piece at the right time and the right place. Amen to that and to The Star for printing the essay. Good job.
-- Charles Bauman, Oxnard
Re: your April 10 article, "Neighbors help Simi woman find her dogs":
When I looked at the picture of Andrea Rose with her chocolate lab, Amy, in bunny ears, I thought it would be a column about those crazy pet owners who dress their animals in costumes for the holidays. As the proud grandmother of Pudge, a 4-year-old beagle, I can't imagine doing that.
The real essence of the article reminded all of us pet owners to be ever vigilant about the dangers to our pets. We have close friends who lost two chihuahuas to coyotes in their backyard, another who lost her cat, and another who almost had her dog, Lucky, taken by a pack of coyotes as we watched. I am so thankful that Andrea had such an amazing ending to a horrible nightmare.
-- Carol Johnson, Camarillo
This is for all women readers who are working hard in these bleak economic times and still not earning an equitable wage -- and not even realizing it.
April 28 is Equal Pay Day. To match her male counterpart's earnings in 2008, a woman will have to work until April 2009, an extra four months.
According to the latest data from the Bureau of Statistics, in 2007, working women earned 78 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts. That's barely a cent more than the 77 cents to the dollar they were earning in 2006. That's chump change -- not real change.
This has immense consequences over a lifetime. Women not only have less to spend every pay day, but have smaller (if any) pensions and lower Social Security payments. And living longer than men, they have more years over which to stretch what little funds they do have. Estimates of what the ongoing wage disparity, over a working lifetime, costs the average American woman and her family range from $440,000 to $2 million.
The Paycheck Fairness Act, approved by the House (256-163) in January, would provide crucial tools to deter wage discrimination by closing loopholes in the Equal Pay Act and providing incentives to businesses to follow the law. But to achieve its goal, the Paycheck Fairness Act must be passed by the Senate.
For more information on pay equity and a chance to support the Paycheck Fairness Act and tell Congress we want real change, go to www.aauw.org and click on the home page links to Equal Pay Day. You don't have to be a member of the American Association of University Women -- a nonprofit, 125-year-old organization that promotes education and equity for women -- to join the action network and support our mission. You don't even have to be female!
-- Patricia Ehret, Camarillo
(The writer is the public policy representative for the Camarillo branch of the AAUW. -- Editor)
Apparently a group that calls itself "Citizens for Responsible Development" favors grandfathering any and all illegal housing units -- bootleg shacks and the like in our city - in part supposedly in the name of providing "affordable housing."
In my opinion, that is quite the opposite of "responsible."
To do this would reward all of those property owners who have added or benefited from illegal units, and it would penalize the vast majority of honest citizens in our city who have obeyed the law.
There are appropriate ways to provide lawful and safe "affordable housing." "Grandfathering" -- bestowing an undue amnesty on lawbreakers and slumlords -- is not the "responsible" way.
Building and zoning regulations exist for good reason. Do you really want anyone and everyone -- including folks in your neighborhood - to be able to add units or structures illegally and then be allowed to keep them?
The City Council has it right. No such reward should be given to the lawbreakers.
-- Don Greenberg, Ventura
Hooray for Adolfo Camarillo High School!
As a newly minted California Distinguished School, perhaps now they will provide the quality education they claim they already do by raising the school above the state's requirement of an API over 800. For our community, with its top-notch feeder schools with the Pleasant Valley School District rated 850, you would have thought the Oxnard Union High School District -- 693 score overall, 797 for ACHS -- could not only reach but exceed the minimum API score.
It is good to see ACHS has implemented a plan to rescue the bottom third of their ninth and 10th graders who were flailing along with GPAs below a 2.0. Let's see a decrease in the dropout rate and graduating classes with more students capable of attending college. Maybe then you will see a greater percentage of the children from the PVSD desire to attend. As it stands now, the greatest number of interdistrict transfer requests they have ever received has inundated the surrounding high schools.
Local parents: Don't become complacent by a new sign on the school wall! Make the extra effort, get out your GPS and drive all the way to the OUHSD board meetings at night in Oxnard and demand increased performance for your children's education. It won't just happen, as the OUHSD board is the same board that won't build you a high school and has never listened to Camarillo's needs.
I won't be there, because after a dismal four years for one of my children, my next child entering high school will enjoy going to a public school that provides more educational opportunities on a clean, friendly campus with a pool, a performing arts center and whose board meetings are actually held closer to my home.
-- Peg Hicks-Moore, Camarillo
I agree with the city that all granny flats must be legally permitted and have no code violations. I bought a legal duplex as an investment and gladly paid extra for that legality when I purchased it.
Some of my neighbors have converted their units illegally and are renting them out. This not only impacts parking in the area but also my ability to compete and make a fair rate of return on my investment.
The fact that illegal units don't have individual meters puts me at a disadvantage because I can't split utility costs between two units and must pay or charge for the individual metering.
I also need to pay extra for legal rental insurance along with homeowner's insurance.
This all adds up to a unique disadvantage to those who follow the rules to make sure their tenants are safe and covered in case of catastrophes.
Am I a dupe because I followed the law? Should I have just ignored the law and converted a single-family home into a multi and saved lots of money? With that kind of mindset, why would I even get a driver's license or smog check my car? Stop for red lights or pedestrians? No way! That wastes gas, and I can't afford to follow these rules anymore because they impact my pocketbook.
The right thing to do is to get full permits and either take out a loan to make the modifications or convert back to the legal usage. That way the playing field is level for everyone and no one gets special treatments and entitlements.
-- Jeff Ross, Ventura
Re: your April 9 article, "Newborn left with Oak View firefighters":
Thank you to The Star for putting this article on the front page! Thank you to the firefighters for maintaining the confidentiality of the mother. With publicity like this, maybe there will be more scared mothers who will leave their babies, alive, rather than in a Dumpster. Blessings to that mother who made the right choice and gave her baby the chance to live, and blessings to the firefighters.
-- Paula Nofziger, Ventura
Re: your April 4 article, "We can't pay for jury duty":
The court system makes jury duty more of a hardship than it needs to be.
For me, from Simi Valley, it means driving all the way across the county during the worst of morning and evening rush-hour traffic to get to the court in Ventura, even though the East County Courthouse is within walking distance of my house. The mileage reimbursement doesn't cover the actual costs for travel to Ventura from Simi.
If the court wants to double or even triple the rate of citizen participation in the jury system, it can do so easily by making it easier -- and cheaper -- for people to actually do jury duty.
Jurors should be allowed to serve at the court nearest their home, and under no circumstances should they be required to travel more than 15 miles to any court in the county.
Jurors should be compensated for mileage at a more realistic rate than 34 cents per mile and for travel in both directions. At least 50 cents per mile seems more reasonable.
Jurors should be compensated for their service in an amount that more accurately reflects the value of their service. At least $100 a day per juror, beginning with the very first day of jury duty, should be the rule. The compensation should be paid in advance.
Free day care should be provided on site by the court for both small children and elderly adults when their caregivers are required to perform jury service. If the court cannot provide on-site day care services for jurors, it should compensate them in full within 15 days for the cost incurred in obtaining such day care for their charges.
Jurors should be able to lie down on cots in separate cot rooms for men and women, with an attendant of the same gender in each cot room to gently notify a juror if her or his presence is being requested. This is not a ridiculous request for the elderly and infirm for whom sitting and waiting all day in uncomfortable furniture is uncomfortable.
These are some common-sense solutions to a problem whose hardships should be ameliorated or at least shared by the court system.
-- Karla Johnson, Simi Valley
Re: U.S. Rep. Elton Gallegly's April 12 commentary, "American dream resides in homes, not D.C.":
Gallegly is right on! We are quite fortunate to be represented by a congressman who wants to protect the citizens of this country from crushing future debt and from hastily concocted schemes that will result in government waste and even more bureaucracy in Washington. We're with Gallegly!
-- George & Ruth Fritkin, Thousand Oaks
Re: U.S. Rep. Elton Gallegly's April 12 commentary, "American dream resides in homes, not D.C.":
I almost skipped Gallegly's commentary, but then I thought maybe it was an apology for the abysmal job he and his party did for the past eight years. Unfortunately, I found no remorse or contrition for the condition he and his party left this country in.
Gallegly brushed aside the $5 trillion in deficit spending they amassed by blaming it on 911, which happened on his watch! Then-President George Bush was briefed a month before 911 and by the previous administration that al-Qaida was planning an attack on American soil. He did nothing!
Then we had to listen to that tired old song about what America represents, according to Republicans. America is a very different place than the philosophical ramblings Gallegly and his party like to make it out to be. When does he or his party consider the needs of the average person in the employee class? Does he really think that everyone can be a small business owner? The majority of the population will always be employees because of the very nature of our society.
There are needs that need to be met in this society other than the greed that Gallegly thinks is the core element of America prosperity. The fact is that without a strong middle class, there would be little opportunity for the entrepreneur he worships.
I remember Bush a few years back talking to an elderly women who said proudly she was working three jobs, and Bush embraced her proudly like that was something our country should be proud of -- an old lady working three jobs.
The fact is we all need to pay higher taxes, even if someone cuts the budget. We have a huge deficit!
Republicans are always preaching about tax cuts and how President John F. Kennedy cut taxes to stimulate the economy. What they don't tell you is the top tax rate at the time was 90 percent! When President Bill Clinton left office, we had a budget surplus, the top tax rate was 39 percent and we had just won a war in Eastern Europe without a single casualty. Does anyone else long for those days?
-- Tom Ion, Moorpark
Finally, common sense has prevailed in a decision that affects all of those who use electrical power in California, and especially in western Ventura County -- namely, approval of the peaker power unit in Oxnard.
The arguments in favor of approval were all technical and practical, and those against were political and emotional. Bravo to those with the intestinal fortitude to overcome the typical nonsense from environmental ecoterrorists who seem to garner awards for just being blind obstructionists. Not that this good news will necessarily start a trend of common sense in decision-making, but it is a nice respite from typical politics.
-- Tom Reilly, Thousand Oaks
Re: your April 4 article, "We can't pay for jury duty!"
Here's a way to increase the jury pool: Require legal resident noncitizens as well as citizens to serve on juries.
Citizens are unfairly and unjustly being forced to supply the jury pool for everyone -- citizen or noncitizen, especially here in Southern California, with its large immigrant population. Where does it say that only U.S. citizens can serve on a jury? I can't find this anywhere in my copy of the U.S. Constitution! Where does it say that everyone -- U.S. citizen or not -- is entitled to a trial by a "jury of his peers?" A person who cannot guarantee my right to a trial by jury as I can do for them is not my "peer."
U.S. Constitution Article III, Section 2, states (in part), "The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury." It doesn't state that a jury must be comprised of U.S. citizens. To me it seems inconsistent and illogical that only U.S. citizens are required to serve on juries, whereas noncitizens are not even eligible. Why should I be required to guarantee a "right" to someone who cannot reciprocate and do the same for me?
These noncitizens are reaping a major benefit of U.S. citizenship, but they are not shouldering any of the responsibility that goes along with it.
To make matters worse, even illegal immigrants are guaranteed this "right" to a trial by jury. I believe that illegal immigrants should not be entitled to a trial by jury, but only a trial before a judge.
Finally, as a comparison of the responsibility of jury service to military service: Both legal and illegal immigrant males between 18 and 26 years of age are required to register with the Selective Service. Check it out for yourself on the Selective Service Web page.
-- Phillip Thiele, Simi Valley
The other day while shopping at the Smart & Final on Hillcrest Drive in Thousand Oaks, I noticed that one of the employees was throwing away perfectly good food in the Dumpster. Knowing full well the people who would benefit from expired or outdated foods, I decided to ask some questions and got the runaround. I was told that because of liability issues, they could not donate it to a local food bank, although I know full well that Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons donate their expired foods to local food banks.
I left several messages at the Smart & Final corporate offices and have not had the courtesy of a reply.
I am shocked that in this economy, they could and are getting away with this. I believe that The Star should investigate and have them do the right thing. Every day that is wasted more perfectly good food is being thrown away because of an arbitrary expired date, and one more person is left hungry in Ventura County.
-- Harvey Youngman, Thousand Oaks
For several weeks prior to April 11, members of our Kiwanis Club visited all the supermarkets in Simi Valley to request permission to station our volunteers outside their doors for a major food drive to benefit Care & Share and the Samaritan Center. Twelve stores agreed, and we proceeded to plan and prepare for our campaign.
With the help of our high school Key Clubs and middle school Builders Clubs, we made signs, printed flyers and assigned shifts to cover the sites from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The managers of three Albertsons, three Vons, two Ralphs, Pavilions, Smart & Final, Trader Joe's, and Fresh and Easy all participated in the day that Kiwanis International designates as "Kiwanis One Day," when all clubs throughout the country spend a full day in service to the community.
We asked shoppers to participate by donating a nonperishable item to our drive and were surprised to find that, instead of one item, people brought us as many as three shopping bags containing such things as rice, beans, pasta, sauce, soups, baby food, hair products, toilet paper, toothbrushes and mouthwash. Several of our members who have trucks went from store to store filling their beds with bags of goods, delivering them to the pantries of both facilities, and then starting the process again.
It was a fulfilling day of service for us, but it wouldn't have been possible without the generosity of the people who gave so much to help the many in need in our community. We are grateful for the support of our supermarkets and our citizens who help us in our efforts on a constant basis.
Simi Valley is a wonderful and generous community; we are proud to be a part of it.
-- Madeleine Kolodziej, Simi Valley
(The writer is secretary of the Kiwanis Club of Simi Valley. -- Editor)
Re: George Will's April 8 essay, "New car designer in chief":
It wasn't clear if Will was sticking it to General Motors or President Barack Obama -- that is, until he referred to GM as a "mendicant." Wow, a mendicant with a private jet?
To alleviate this sometimes confusion, maybe we could "embed" our columnists, like another George did in Iraq. Remember the wildly successful "shock and awe" and "mission accomplished" news items? We could sweep out the current pundits every election and put in some new guys. Yes we can.
-- Charles Vanderbilt, Simi Valley
Congratulations to Ventura High School for being recognized as the "Most Winning School" at the Ventura County Science Fair for the sixth year in a row. This accomplishment reflects not only the hard work of the students, but the dedication and enthusiasm of VHS teachers Karen Reynosa and Woody Maxwell. A big thank you to these teachers for making science fun and interesting for their students and encouraging them to participate in the science fair.
-- Susan Goodkin, Ventura
An amendment giving special consideration to Wal-Mart has been proposed as an addition to Ventura's Victoria Corridor Plan. After three years of work on the plan, it's time for the council to pass it -- with no exceptions for very large stores.
We know Wal-Mart wants to come into the old Kmart site, but with an even bigger store than what Kmart had. The Victoria Plan has a limit of 100,000 square feet on store size. Do we really need a Wal-Mart twice the size of the Ralph's across the street?
The proposed exception for Wal-Mart would allow it to add store space in the form of new loading docks so its big rigs can roll night and day along Victoria. The amendment would also allow other "modernizations" that would exempt Wal-Mart from the building design requirements and signage guidelines that are in the Victoria Corridor Plan.
Making it easier for Wal-Mart to come onto Victoria, with its usual giant ugly store, will delay the Victoria Plan vision of a walkable, accessible boulevard, with a mix of stores and Class A offices. As it is written, the plan will greatly improve the main route to the Ventura County Government Center. It will take decades for this vision to emerge, and we have to start now.
Leave the plan alone. Don't make exceptions for Wal-Mart. The last thing we need is another giant junk store along Victoria.
If you want to get involved, please go to www.StopWalmartVentura.com. Then come to the Ventura City Council meeting on April 20 when they will be voting on the amendment and the Victoria Corridor Plan.
-- Lilith, Ventura