For years I've been wanting to express my concern regarding the two crosswalks located on Loma Vista Road near Ventura College. I was elated to see that the city finally installed crosswalk light signals -- the first one located on Loma Vista Road near Ventura County Medical Center and near the Grossman Medical Building, followed by ones on Telegraph Road near St. Bonaventure High School and near Ventura College. These locations have heavy traffic and have by far improved the safety for those using these crosswalks.
My biggest concern, however, for years has been the need for crosswalks like these on Loma Vista Road near Ventura College. Those of us that who are longtime residents of Ventura can remember several accidents at these two locations over the years, including some resulting in serious injuries. At night, the lighting is almost non-existent, and I feel that it would be very beneficial if the City of Ventura would consider making these two crosswalks the next locations to install these extremely beneficial crosswalk lights.
I do have an issue regarding the color of the light. The current lights flash yellow when there are people crossing. It is my understanding that yellow means "slow down." Shouldn't the flashing lights be red? It's just a question and possibly a suggestion.
-- Sharon Gondeck, Ventura
June 2009 Archives
For years I've been wanting to express my concern regarding the two crosswalks located on Loma Vista Road near Ventura College. I was elated to see that the city finally installed crosswalk light signals -- the first one located on Loma Vista Road near Ventura County Medical Center and near the Grossman Medical Building, followed by ones on Telegraph Road near St. Bonaventure High School and near Ventura College. These locations have heavy traffic and have by far improved the safety for those using these crosswalks.
California, as we know, has real problems, and like all problems, they are an effect of behavior, which is an effect of thinking. So, what thinking must change to resolve California's problems?
The current thinking that is reflected in behavior and problems is the belief that a politician or interest group can be better off by defeating another politician or interest group; that they can thrive at another's expense; that winning means another must lose. This thinking results in legislation everyone knows is beneficial being defeated because one party doesn't want the other party to claim success for a good idea. This thinking results in polarized gridlock in both government and society. This thinking is the cause of our problems.
If we change our thinking to: "I want to do what is best for the whole, whether or not I get 'credit,'" we find ourselves thriving much more than if we had been "victorious in having defeated our opponent." We find our talents really do gain expression. We find our self-respect grows, as does our peace of mind. Paradoxically, we find our contribution being more valued and respected and ideas more honestly considered. We end up getting more of what we thought we'd get through defeating the opponents by finding common ground, being flexible and working for the benefit of all.
It takes courage and motivation to change our thinking. The pain of doing what doesn't work continues to grow until we become open to a new way. How much pain will California go through before it accepts a new, more effective way of thinking?
When light and compassion rise up to meet the current level of openness, there will be constructive change. We're not there yet. This letter is intended to move us closer.
-- Scott Friedman, Camarillo
Whenever politicians want to spend more money, they always talk about waste, fraud and abuse. They always come up with a number, in the billions, in "savings" by eliminating the trio. They never eliminate waste, fraud and abuse without spending more money.
President Barack Obama spoke of a $1,000 hidden tax that we with insurance pay that is passed on to us from those who get care but don't have insurance. He acknowledges that this is not fair. He states that the care these people get is the most expensive. Is he promoting legislation to end this unfair tax you and I pay? No! In fact, he said that we would be "better off" paying to insure these persons. Thus, you have the Democrats' plan to make health insurance "affordable" to those without it. Make someone else pay for it!
Before anyone jumps on the government-solution bandwagon, consider this: If you have health coverage that you pay for yourself, no matter what you pay, 50 million people supposedly can't afford what you pay now. So, are your premiums going to go down? Don't count on it! Only by subsidizing it can government make insurance "affordable," which means you and I will pay.
Social Security and Medicare are facing insolvency. The system is broken. It has unfunded liabilities to the tune of $60 trillion! Forget the $2.4 trillion "trust fund." It doesn't exist! You and I have paid into it, but they have spent it and replaced it with government bonds.
Look at it this way: A $2.4 trillion surplus was taxed from you and me, but it is going to have to be collected again!
-- Brian D. Schwan, Ventura
Whatever it is our politicians in Sacramento decide to do in the next couple of days or weeks, they should know this: The citizens of California are already taxed as high as we can stand, and any further attempts to raise our taxes to eliminate the deficit resulting from years of clueless inaction on their part will only add further to the pain and misery we are all enduring.
Perhaps they have forgotten that we are in the worst recession that most of us will ever see in our lifetimes. They also must remember that in addition to our already high state taxes, we also must pay federal income tax, property tax, state sales tax on many things we purchase daily and very high gasoline taxes that hit many of us daily.
In addition to this, the fees and surcharges we pay for utilities and services, usage of parks and public spaces, etc., have done nothing but go up in recent years, many of them the result of additional higher taxes. How much more tax are we expected to pay?
California cannot, repeat cannot, continue the unabated doling out of billions of dollars for bloated social programs, bureaucratic blunders and pure waste. Reality must set in. It isn't 1980 anymore, and we're all in serious trouble. Priorities should be education and the truly needy, but help must be found apart from the backs of overstrapped taxpayers.
-- Dave Epelone, Camarillo
Re: Neal Andrews' June 25 letter, "Ducking the vote":
I have lived in Ventura for 46 years, since the population was 36,000. I have always known personally some, if not all, of our City Council members. It seems to me the current group is more representative of our city's diverse makeup, because the council in many ways is also diverse in terms of age, background, length of time as a local citizen, career, political experience and much more.
I believe they are all dedicated to the concept of intelligent growth and progress inspired by well-thought-out solutions to social, physical and long-term problems. I do not think they will consider making decisions based on potential tax revenues alone or destroy our unique small-town atmosphere and ambiance with unrealistic density allowances -- I hope.
Because of this diversity, the council has the advantage of a myriad of opinions and ideas for consideration, based upon each individual's experience or future mental images of an improved Ventura.
After reading Andrews' letter, I came to the following conclusions:
-- This was a lost opportunity for constituents to share their reasons behind their votes.
-- Voting, many times, can be made difficult by lack of information. Therefore, every opportunity we have to learn from those closer to the subject will give us more confidence that we are making the proper decision and even provide motivation to suggest others follow suit.
-- Max Van Der Wyk, Ventura
Re: your June 25 article, "Residents protest Edison plan for power substation":
It's the classic irony of NIMBY: Thousand Oaks residents don't want a power substation near Olson Road and Country Club Drive, but they were mum and even pleased with the Edison plan and Oxnard city support for installation of the peaker plant on our coast.
Thousand Oaks residents should come down to the beach to see what it takes to power their "quality of life." I think they will feel that a little pole and a few wires will seem minor when compared to a smoke-blowing power plant. Perhaps we could arrange a swap?
-- Jerod Price, Oxnard
The United States evolved as the world's leader in space exploration 40 years ago, in July 1969, by the successful journey to the moon by American astronauts. This outstanding technological achievement of all mankind elevated the national sense of morale of the citizens of this country to one of the highest in pride of accomplishments and well-being. At this point, this country had suffered technological defeat by the Soviet Union due to their being the first to conquer space with their Sputnik programs. The ensuing accolades and compliments from world leaders, except the Soviet Union, caused a fervent wave of patriotism and pride to sweep across this nation. Truly this was a time to be a proud American.
Today, I personally feel that this great heritage generated by this nation 40 years ago is being lost in the oblivion of neglected history. I am appalled at the lack of understanding by the average citizen of the significance that our journey to the moon had on world history. I am aware of this since I was a member of the Apollo team that sent our astronauts to the moon.
What America needs today is someone as an elected government official with appropriate influence to once again take up the banner of American patriotism and pride and preserve a precious national heritage to its proper place in history.
To my knowledge, after 40 years, there has been no official effort, or even a comment being made, by any governmental agency in reference to having a national monument erected for commemorating mankind's greatest technological achievement: America's successful journey to the moon. Therefore, I respectfully request that Barack Obama, as president of the United States, initiate action to have a national monument erected to commemorate the placing of our flag and footprints on the moon.
The United States not only achieved a heritage in world history to be passed on to future generations but also gave to all humankind knowledge of the benefits derived from the research generated in preparing for the mission to the moon. The development of the miniature computer is only one of the multitude of benefits derived from this research. This has revolutionized the way that the world conducts business today. Included are new materials, alloys and methods of manufacture, the scope of which included benefits for almost every individual, from household kitchen to hospital emergency room.
This indeed was a great gift from the citizens of America to all humanity.
-- William E. Winterstein Sr., Fillmore
A growing number of people, legislators, humane societies and rescue organizations are replacing the term "animal owner" with "animal guardian," recognizing that the word "owner" is outdated and doesn't reflect the human/animal bond that exists in our culture today. "Guardian" denotes a higher level of responsibility, caring and respect to our animal companions. It sends a message that they are much more than mere commodities, objects, property and things. "Guardian" accurately describes the appropriate kindness and long-term care to one's family pet, teaching children respect, compassion and kindness.
-- Anthony Montapert, Ventura
Ventura needs a major electronics store, but not at the taxpayers' expense. If Best Buy or any other company needs to upgrade a structure, let them go through the normal banking loan process.
-- Jerry Clark, Ventura
Choices have consequences. Elections have consequences. Californians have been voting for left-wing Democrats for decades. The California Legislature has been majority-controlled by Democrats for as long as I can remember. The liberal fiscal choices and decisions have finally caught up with us. The state is now bankrupt. And we reap the sad consequences.
Somehow, the liberals continue to cry out for more taxes and increased spending. California liberals continue to bash employers (corporations) as greedy. California Democrats have successfully transformed our state into one of the most hostile places to do business.
Somehow, The Star thinks that money grows on trees. It's magical thinking to believe that endless tax hikes feed the hungry and clothe the kids without shoes.
Here's a lesson in Economics 101: People need jobs. Higher employment equals greater prosperity. Prosperity leads to increased tax revenue for schools, roads and welfare. Employed people are able to put food on the table and clothe their children.
Unfortunately, The Star's only solution is to strangle the economy as staunch advocates for higher tax burdens.
The Republicans and conservatives want to grow the economy. A growing economy provides jobs and increases personal income. This is an immutable law that has proven to be successful throughout history.
It's time for Californians to choose economic growth as more important than government growth. It's the most compassionate approach to prosperity and provides the most compassionate outcomes for our citizens.
For some unknown reason, The Star consistently chooses against economic growth. It's a choice that only leads to greater poverty.
Has it come down to this?
-- Sean Ragan, Camarillo
As Speaker Nancy Pelosi walked down to the floor of the House of Representatives late June 26 in her well-filled-out white pantsuit and gave a perky smile and hand wave to her side of the aisle, it was apparent that the intense arm twisting that went on the day before from the White House had yielded the necessary votes to pass her global warming legislation.
Not only is this a bad piece of legislation because of all the concessions and bureaucracy it has formed, but it does nothing to achieve energy independence. And if you believe in global warming, it does very little to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. It does control every aspect of our lives and passes on the cap-and-trade fees to everyone in the form of a hidden tax on everything we do and buy.
The problem lies in the fact that over the last 10 years, while carbon dioxide levels have continued to rise, temperatures have dropped slightly. The dire predictions from the climate models in the 1990s have not come to pass. NASA is admitting that we may have a cooling period for the next 20 years. However, in spite of what the recent science and data is indicating, the politicians have placed global warming on the crisis glide path.
How about just taking a breath and doing some sensible things to make the U.S. energy independent. Give engineers some time to figure out how to make alternate forms of energy and transportation economical. We don't need totalitarian government controls. A gentle nudge from Washington would do just fine.
-- George Niznik, Oxnard
Re: your June 23 article, "Short yellow light blamed for tickets in Ventura":
I take issue with the Ventura County Grand Jury report on short yellow traffic lights in Ventura.
What are these jurors thinking? They correctly report that the yellow light at California Street and Thompson Boulevard is too short, but they miss the broader issue of short-duration yellow lights all over Ventura.
For example, at the right turn lane from Mills Road onto Telegraph Road, the yellow arrow is 3 seconds. Whilst this is legal, it is blatantly unfair and unsafe. Who can stop an automobile in 3 seconds when going 35 mph? The answer is very few. This 3-second exemption for so-called protected turns is in the California Traffic Manual. However, it is egregious and should be repealed.
These short yellow-light times are blatant attempts to balance the city's budget on the backs of its citizens. This, together with coding violation raids, tickets for parking too far from the curb and fines for pedestrian infractions, are altogether too much.
The Grand Jury has failed in its assessment and has also mistakenly stated that traffic cameras increase safety. It has been widely published that these cameras actually increase collisions.
I will personally not vote for any City Council member who does not in public disavow the use of traffic cameras. I am tired of having my every move watched. In addition, the Ventura transportation manager, Tom Mericle, should change his tune or take a walk on the Appalachian Trail.
-- Godfrey Smythe, Ventura
Re: your June 26 article, "Ventura drug-treatment agency halting programs":
Miracle House and its related programs have a long history of providing high-quality addiction recovery programs to the people of Ventura County. Over the years, the staff at Miracle House has literally saved hundreds of lives and made life worth living for thousands of people who have had the misfortune of suffering from some form of addiction or the mental health problems that commonly lead to addiction.
By failing to keep effective addiction recovery programs, such as Miracle House, open, we will increase human suffering, increase the number of broken families, decrease workplace productivity and increase costs for providing police, courts and medical services. As my grandmother would say, "Penny wise and pound foolish."
If we claim to care about family values, our community or the success of our country, it is imperative that we do everything possible to make sure programs such as Miracle House continue to function.
-- Vern Novstrup, Ventura
Re: your June 28 editorial, "Sentenced as minors to life":
This editorial refers to our archaic sentencing system -- yes, the one that sees our nation as the one with an outstandingly ridiculous number of men, women and children behind bars, serving equally ridiculous sentences. The number is greater than any other civilized, industrial nation.
Our laws are based on the same insanity that caused our ancestors to kill an estimated 15 million native Indians in the process of a European invasion, genocide and theft of a land that didn't belong to us but to a race of people we called "savages," whom we slew in the name of "colonization." It was the most barbaric act of genocide ever known in the history of mankind.
We also conducted the most incomprehensible social-industrial, economic experiment we call capitalism, in which we implemented slavery as an economic tool.
Both our current laws and our economic system have failed, as has our social system.
Don't let the fact that we've passed civil rights legislation and elected an African-American president fool us into thinking that we are, at last, "civilized."
-- Miguel Espinosa Jr., Oxnard
Re: your June 29 article, "Fireworks in Fillmore heating up for holiday":
Fillmore fireworks booths do not sell firecrackers. They sell only "safe and sane" fireworks. "Safe and sane" fireworks "emit a shower of sparks." "Safe and sane" fireworks do not explode or go into the air. Those that do are illegal.
Please do not blame Fillmore when you hear explosions or see a skyrocket.
-- Mary Ann Godfrey, Fillmore
Re: Martin Harary's June 26 letter, "Enough of the right":
I read this letter with interest. We share the same reaction to many right-wing columnists. However, I have always appreciated The Star for printing all points of view. Our county consists of people who are on all sides of any issue. This fine newspaper serves us all, not just the right or the left.
-- Mary Anne Powers, Ventura
This is regarding a proposal to build a 3.5-story, 49,939-square-foot building at 4010 East Telegraph Road with 40-plus units and only 19 underground parking spaces.
The adjacent lot, at 4001 Ivy Street, has a single-family, single-story structure that is to be razed to make a parking lot for the apartment residents and, of course, visitors. Ivy Street and Armstrong Street end together right there. The parking lot will only be accessible from Ivy Street or Armstrong Street. This makes for a lot of added traffic on this already busy corner and adds to our problem of inadequate parking on the street here.
The Planning Commission will be reviewing this design and making changes to the zoning of these two properties at 6 p.m. July 7 in council chambers at 501 Poli St. All of the property owners on both Ivy Street and Armstrong Street strongly oppose this project and are highly concerned about the added traffic it will bring. I'm concerned about my privacy as well, because this monstrosity will abut my property.
This project would be more appropriate for single-story senior bungalows with their own parking and having an entrance from Telegraph Road only. The other downside to this proposed project is that it is bound to push the value of the homes on these two streets down at a time when the housing market is already in the toilet.
Please join me and my neighbors to stop this before it gets off the ground.
-- John Baker, Ventura
Re: Ed Begley Jr.'s June 28 Pulse page piece, "Less is the new more: Environmental movement right all along":
I agree with everything that Begley has to say about the environment, and it behooves us all to manage it with common sense. The only thing I disagree with is his mode of transportation. Not everyone can afford an electric sun-powered car, and if it is only sun-powered, how do you drive it at night?
Nickel-core batteries are highly toxic, and the gas emitted from them is bad for the atmosphere, so no one should brag about those cars too much. But if they ever start making them in real numbers, we'll have major problems. We need to go back to the horse and buggy.
Oops, I forgot: Carbon dioxide is a dangerous gas! Well, we could always go to hydrogen, and if there were an accident, you'd only lose half a city block. It's what you have to sacrifice for a clean environment.
So maybe we should just start walking again like our great ape cousin and become hunter-gatherers again. Just think how clean our planet would be then -- no planes, no trains, no autos, no coal or gas electric plants, and we could use whale oil for light at night. Oops, I forgot: Whales are an endangered species. We could just go without light, as building a fire at night causes carbon dioxide gas to go into the atmosphere.
Bagley could still have his electric sun-powered car but with no batteries, so on cloudy or rainy days, he couldn't drive, but neither could anyone else!
What a great life! Less is more is what President Barack Obama wants you to believe. Don't worry, all he needs to do is pass his energy bill and we'll all be dead or starving to death.
-- Bob Moeller, Oxnard
In the last few days, the House of Fools (House of Representatives) passed the climate change law. Hopefully, the Senate will see how foolish our representatives are and veto the bill. This law is just another way to collect more taxes for the government so that they can have more power in how you, as a citizen, can live.
Just to give the readers of The Star a few facts. The population of China is more than 1.3 billion and India is more than 1.1 billion. Here in the good old United States, the current population is a little more than 307 million. The population of China and India alone contributes more greenhouse gases than our entire nation, and that's not counting their infrastructure, where most of their energy comes from coal. And those two countries are growing (progressing), not regressing, like we are.
Anyone who thinks that President Barack Obama can convince the leaders of China and India to change to a more enviro-Nazi thought process when they meet in Denmark later this year is just as foolish as Rep. Henry Waxman and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
If our nation just disappeared, the climate would not change. It was just a short 10,000 years ago that glaciers from the Arctic covered New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Minnesota and Illinois all the way to down to the Ohio River. There were no factories, cars, refineries or human influence, so what made those glaciers go away? It was Mother Nature, not man or his 1963 V-8 Impala with the engine that required lead additives.
-- Bill Vaughn, Camarillo
Re: your June 27 article, "Coyotes blocked out, says resident":
I live at University Village retirement community in Thousand Oaks, and believe me, the coyotes are definitely not being "denied access to the hills!"
Our back lawn parallels Olsen Road. Coyotes daily come up and look in our patio windows. They saunter across my path when I'm out walking at 11 in the morning. Several of our residents have lost dogs to them.
Rather than being denied access to the hills, it would seem that the coyotes are enjoying the green lawns and lush ravines of University Village! They never had it so good!
Besides, isn't Mary Troness' statement, "Make it safer for people and safer for coyotes" a bit of an oxymoron? Which way does she want it?
-- Jean Irving, Thousand Oaks
Re: Joe R. Howry's June 28 essay, "Cheating pays for Manny":
I thank Howry for his essay regarding the demise of baseball as we once knew it.
For decades, baseball was the "national pastime" that upheld fair play, sportsmanship and honest endeavor. With fan approval, baseball now carries the slick sham of drugs, ego, wealth and false adulation. Manny Rodriguez and others are thumbing their noses at all of us -- and the fans roar their approval.
Baseball has slumped into the morass of "immoral morality," teaching us by example that it's OK to break the rules if you are a superstar and that the way to become a superstar is to break the rules.
A faint hope exists in me that the Dodger organization will realize the gnawing sore that exists in the game and bench Manny until the end of the season. I take no bets.
-- Jo Ann Goff, Thousand Oaks
It is amazing that our elected officials have so much time on their hands. For instance, the Moorpark City Council is worried about smoking in public, as are many other government officials at the local, state and federal levels. Perhaps these organizations should worry more about the financial crisis facing the country, or maybe they just have too much time on their hands.
Oh, I forgot: They need more time to take care of themselves, like getting their hair styled and suiting up in the latest fashions. They also have to make sure they have government vehicles to drive to and from fancy dinners, etc. Of course the taxpayers provide all of this.
But they may have forgotten one important word. That word is "election," and we do remember, so beware! We do not forget!
By the way, I am not discriminating, as this applies to all levels of government nationwide!
-- Charles Johnson, Simi Valley
Re: June 26 commentaries, "Surviving despite a terrible 'collision with death,'" by Margie Borjon-Miller, and "Article's focus was all wrong," by Alicia Borjon-Ortiz:
At noon on Sept. 22, 2008, I was nearly killed by a driver who ran a red light in Camarillo and T-boned my car on the driver's side about six inches behind my head, breaking my neck but fortunately not causing paralysis. I was knocked unconscious and woke up about two hours later in St. John's Hospital in Oxnard, being greeted by a smiling police officer who explained that I should have been killed and that it was my lucky day.
I decided then and there not to expend even one calorie in anger at the driver who hit me, who had totaled his car and was hospitalized after making a very big mistake. I have since fully recovered and have kept that one calorie intact. I thank God that my grandkids were not in the back seat and that I was alone.
I very much enjoyed the tone and content of the letter written by Margie Borjon-Miller, who was gracious and appreciative to the "angels, prayer and kindhearted individuals to carry us through" after her recent accident. The angels were there at my accident too, but I never had the chance to meet or thank them, as I was unconscious. I hope that Margie also eventually has a full recovery both physically and emotionally and even spiritually.
I also read the accompanying commentary from Margie's sister and was dismayed by both its tone and content. It was basically filled with anger and venom directed at both The Star and the person who caused Margie's accident.
There's no right or wrong in these matters. We all react differently, and Alicia's anger is understandable and maybe even merited, but it sure is nicer when there is a positive attitude after an accident, and I believe it promotes overall healing.
-- Thomas Reilly, Thousand Oaks
My son is a United States Marine, in 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance. In the service of his country, he has spent his days working in the desert in the Anbar Province. It is not a safe place. His mother reads the newspaper and worries every time we read of a car bomb or suicide bomber. We wait anxiously for him to return to base and e-mail us that he is safe. To say that this is a strain on our family life is a terrible understatement.
I respect my son's decision and commitment to join and try and make a difference in this world. But the city of Thousand Oaks apparently has no respect for those who make the commitment to serving their country. Instead they have decided to ticket my son's truck. Yes, it is parked on the street. But no, it is not unattended. We wash it regularly. We drive it once in a while, all in the hopes that he will return to be the regular driver of his truck. So it sat in the same place for a few days and we were out of town. The "USMC 29 Palms" Department of Defense sticker is clearly visible.
The city of Thousand Oaks has chosen to ignore my explanation of why the truck has not been moved so often. They have ticketed his truck and now have insisted that I pay the fine for an "unattended" vehicle. This is the vehicle that I wash in the hopes that I will be able to tell my son face-to-face that we covered his back while he was gone. The reality is that there is a definite possibility that he may return home in a box.
The city of Thousand Oaks apparently has decided that the income from ticketing his truck is more important than the concept of showing respect for those who are risking their lives to give them the very freedom to be here in America.
I no longer have any respect for the city nor the heartless police force that refuses to recognize the circumstances. The city can extract their pound of flesh, but I have the moral high ground here. I have hosted many young Marines in my home when they had weekend leave. My wife and I opened our house to those from the Twentynine Palms base and from Camp Pendleton as a measure of support. My wife sends them boxes almost every week with simple things such as socks and treats that they cannot get when serving in Iraq. We support our troops. We don't make them pay for the room or food or for parking.
The city of Thousand Oaks and the supposed "sergeant" who refused to correct the ticket get no respect from me. Other cities fly banners with the name of those who are from their city and are now serving their country. Here is Thousand Oaks -- we apparently only honor them if they die. The city has revealed only that they hold the moral low ground and don't deserve the freedom that others risk their lives for.
The city may have the power to force me to pay this ticket, but the loss of my support and respect will cost the city more in the long run.
-- Robert L. Kay, Thousand Oaks
(The writer adds that he is a proud Marine Corps father writing on behalf of Cpl. Christopher Kay. -- Editor)
Winning isn't everything.
This old adage especially holds true for the apparent winners of the Sierra Club's Los Padres Chapter election. Are members who tell me that I won by a large margin correct? I suppose I'll never know, since for the second time in six months an election was thrown out for what I think are illegitimate reasons. Apparently, the ballots won't even be counted.
The fact that I won the first election by a large margin may not mean anything. I trust the advice that I have been given about the results, but who knows?
I do know that the implications made by the club that purchasing new or gift memberships are somehow an act of cheating are wrong. Members are constantly being solicited to purchase gift memberships. I've never seen any restrictions on who should be a recipient. It seems that this issue should have been discussed prior to the election so that we wouldn't be in this situation.
An even larger problem in this election was that people had horrible problems getting ballots. Many people did not receive ballots on time to vote or had to request replacement ballots if someone advised them of the procedures. But many people must have missed out on the election entirely if no one contacted them to tell them the election had started and how to get a replacement ballot.
The number of people who didn't get ballots must be considerable. Why is there no attention on that?
I wish to thank all those members who twice now have voted for me only to see the election overturned. I only wanted to help protect special places and animals.
Perhaps it is time for others to step forward, but first they should ask the people in control if they find them acceptable.
-- Barbara Berns, Thousand Oaks
There was a fairly sanctimonious uproar recently over the cost of a date the president had with his wife. Perhaps those ever-vigilant critics will now focus their investigative resources on South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and the cost of his little soirees to Argentina and who footed those expenses.
That said, I think the prurient interest in the e-mail exchanges between the governor and his paramour was absurd. The news conference was embarrassing enough. It reminded one of the way children and teenagers act when a note (now text message) is found and passed around to everybody else so that there can be one big guffaw. We have enough faux media outlets to make sure the contents of the exchanges are divulged. We don't need those reporters who advertise themselves as serious or hard-hitting journalists to act like giddy little children in reporting this type of story.
-- Rodney K. Boswell, Thousand Oaks
I rarely find myself writing a letter to the paper, but I am propelled by a sense of duty. As a social worker who works with people on a daily basis to help them in a variety of ways, I am certain that the proposed cuts would be dreadful. The impact of these cuts would be a horrific blow to countless individuals, families and the communities in which they live.
The cuts would not only impact the recipients of services but would reach out into every corner of each community, with job losses, inability to stimulate the economy and the increase of stress and desperation.
I strongly believe that when we invest in people, the rewards are countless. However, the opposite can only bring more devastation on every level. Families and individuals are already stressed, and these cuts could mean the difference between the basic necessities of food and shelter. It is important to remember the faces of those people and how they will be impacted by these cuts. I cannot stomach the blow of the proposed cuts to the people of Ventura County and the State of California.
I ask that the governor take a moment to try to listen to the voices of the disenfranchised -- children, elderly, disabled and chronically ill -- and send a message that they are not forgotten. It is my expectation that people will continue to be a top priority and not the bottom line.
It is time to look at other options and not to gamble with people's lives. I recommend that the governor look at possible tax increases that have been recommended and will still allow for people to be the top priority and send a message that hope is not lost.
-- Dora Saenz-Belden, Simi Valley
(This letter previously appeared in the Service Employees International Union Local 721 electronic newsletter. -- Editor)
The recent murder of Dr. George Tiller has brought renewed focus on the abortion debate, specifically late-term abortions, which were Tiller's specialty.
Considering that late-term abortions -- for example, third-trimester abortions -- are done on babies who could survive outside the womb with the proper treatment, isn't it time that these procedures are banned entirely?
If a late-stage pregnancy does pose a threat to the mother's life or health, is it not possible to simply remove the baby -- not unlike a Caesarean procedure -- and save both lives? Given the advanced state of medical technology nowadays, I don't know why any late-term abortion would have to be performed.
When one also considers that the unborn child in the third trimester can feel pain, and that late-term abortions involve horrific methods such as dismemberment or saline solution -- which essentially burns the unborn child to death -- it becomes clear that the time has arrived to ban all late-term abortions nationally. In fact, such a ban is long overdue.
-- Noel D'Angelo, Thousand Oaks
On July 4, Americans will celebrate their independence and freedom. There will be parades, picnics, parties and speeches.
The Santa Barbara Tea Party & Culpepper Society will host a pre-Fourth of July kickoff event on July 3 at 7 p.m. at De Guerra Plaza. This wild west show and freedom rally will be emceed by western music radio DJ Rooster Bradford and stars Hollywood actor Peter Sherayko as Buffalo Bill and Deborah Bertling as a singing Annie Oakley. It is free to the public.
If you believe in the greatness of America, please come. The Santa Barbara Tea Party is a group of citizens dedicated to defending the principles set forth by America's Founding Fathers.
-- Diana Thorn, Carpinteria
Re: Paul D. White's June 17 commentary, "How many children must be sacrificed?"
Bravo! Finally, someone has verbalized what I have been thinking for a long time but could not express as succinctly or as eloquently.
In addition to the five preventive and curative actions White suggested for implementation by the Oxnard political, religious, law enforcement and education "leadership," let me add one more. We need to stop being afraid of setting limits with both the family and the child. The children of many of these single-parent homes run the house, and the parent, usually a single mother, is unable to control the aberrant behavior. These children having children then want "the system" to fix a situation that has been fermenting for years, but now the child is a teenager with no fear of or respect for anything, least of all the system.
I, for one, think White should be consulted when the Oxnard leadership gets together again to figure out why yet another child has died.
-- Lynne Brady, Camarillo
The proposal to tack $15 on to our vehicle registration to fund state parks is a great idea for three reasons:
-- It protects thousands of jobs in our tourism industry.
-- It ensures low-cost recreation opportunities for Californians.
-- It prevents decay and vandalism of the parks and facilities, thus safeguarding our sizable investment.
The Legislature should incorporate this plan into the state budget, and the governor should support its passage.
-- Riley Neel, Thousand Oaks
The president's blue ribbon committee on healthcare appears helplessly in impasse. So far no proposed system on the table has met with agreement, largely due to perceived costs. The Washington Post has noted, "Almost 30 key lawmakers helping draft landmark healthcare legislation have financial holdings in the health industry, totaling nearly $11 million worth of personal investments." Could this have something to do with the present impasse?
What if someone came up with a system that:
-- Insured every U.S. citizen.
-- Provided affordable healthcare for all.
-- Resulted in a healthier nation.
-- Led to more efficient reimbursement for doctors and other healthcare providers.
-- Returned the power to doctors rather than insurance companies to make all medical decisions.
-- Allowed U.S. industry to be far more competitive in the world market place.
-- Could result in an actual reduction of total per capita costs to the U.S.
There is a healthy example of such a system to the north, just over our shoulders. We may not want to replicate every aspect of Canada's system, but surely it deserves our careful consideration.
According to the World Health Organization, our national healthcare costs per capita are about twice those of Canada. At the same time, it seems that the Canadians also enjoy a significantly greater life expectancy and a notably lower infant mortality rate.
The chief complaint against the Canadian and other such single-payer, universal health systems is something akin to "Oh my God, this is socialistic!" To this, I'd like to refer to a recent AARP Magazine interview with Lee Iacocca, the renowned capitalist and former CEO of Chrysler Corp. Iacocca, a few decades back, had engineered a successful multibillion-dollar "bailout" loan from Uncle Sam, which saved Chrysler. He mentioned in the interview on healthcare he had found that his cars could be manufactured in Canada for up to 20 percent less.
Can you believe any standard bearer of our sacred free private enterprise would turn down such a competitive edge potential just to win a semantics argument over a health system label?
-- Bob McCampbell, Ventura
Our California Legislature really needs some budget advice from California's moms and dads. If my family was in a deep financial crisis that meant I couldn't provide my kids with the essentials they need, I would turn over every cushion looking for spare change, get a weekend job or sell things in a yard sale. I would try almost anything to bring in more money.
While our state leaders have said these budget cuts are agonizing for them, they haven't yet considered every option to avoid or lessen them. Cuts to programs serving children and families could be avoided if legislators closed corporate tax loopholes and raised taxes on items like tobacco and alcohol in order to raise revenue. According to recent public opinion polls, these revenue options are overwhelmingly popular, while drastic cuts to social programs are not.
I urge our leadership to step up and do right by California's kids and families.
-- Stephanie Tanger, Simi Valley
Re: your June 17 editorial, "Healthcare reform soon?":
The Star editors seem to believe that the president's plan, though "still evolving" and on target to pass in two months time, will improve things.
Please consider this:
The cost of current government healthcare systems -- i.e. Medicare -- is unsustainable without drastic tax increases or aggressive rationing measures. There has not been any proposal from advocates of reform to address this issue. Adding a new, much more ambitious, entitlement is questionable. Doing it in such a rush is reckless.
President Barack Obama promises -- shades of "read my lips" -- that a government plan will not ban existing private financing. He says, "If you like your doctor, you can keep seeing him. If you like your insurance plan, you can keep it." Reason dictates that a government system that can pay health claims with tax dollars, borrowed dollars, or newly minted dollars will cause the elimination of a private product that must earn at least as much as it pays out. When private plans recede from availability we will be left with one choice: the government offer, subject to politics, tax issues and rationing.
-- Fred Ziegler, Ventura
Re: Bruce Tinsley's June 17 Mallard Fillmore cartoon:
It may seem silly to respond to an editorial cartoon, but just because Tinsley hides behind a duck (Mallard Fillmore) and chooses to draw cartoons rather than write grown-up articles, that doesn't mean he should be absolved from libel.
By misleading context and misquotation, Tinsley has turned well-known quotes by Vice President Joe Biden, Judge Sonia Sotomayor and President Barack Obama into libelous fabrications.
First, during the campaign, candidate Biden responded to a question of his opinion of Obama by saying "he is clean, bright and articulate." Tinsley inserts the words "the first" before "clean, bright, articulate" and "African-American" into this quote to make Biden appear to be racist.
Then he takes Sotomayor's well-known quote -- "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life" -- and instead quotes her as saying, "Latinas make better judges than 'white males,'" again trying to paint Sotomayor as a racist.
And finally, he takes a quote that Obama made in a serious speech in Philadelphia on race in which he described his maternal grandmother as a "typical white person" and says that "I (Obama) joke about typical white people," clearly misconstruing the quote and the meaning to convict the president of racial prejudice.
He finishes his cartoon with Obama saying, "And it's my opponents who get called racists."
Tinsley took the essence of quotes and fabricated them into lies.
This may seem like nit-picking to folks on the right, but they have made a creed out of this kind of innuendo and miscontextualizing since the days of Joe McCarthy. Editorial cartoons by their very nature are biased, just like editorials, but they ought to be held to the same journalistic standard of truth that The Star must surely demand from its more serious commentators.
-- Gary E. Murphy, Simi Valley
I just received a book that I had ordered online which I am going to donate to our local Moorpark library. The title is, "The Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States," by Benjamin F. Morris. It was published in 1864.
Many Christians and non-Christians have been misled by anti-Christian scholars and propagandists to de-Christianize American civil government, law and life. Morris' great work is a magnificient contribution to our understanding of the Christian -- or dominantly Christian -- history of these United States of America.
The ACLU needs to study hard on the contents on this book. This book should also be taught in every classroom to show how far we have deviated from the founding principles of our country.
-- Judith Patton, Moorpark
It pleases me that The Star is maintaining a modicum of interest in the traditional conservative base of Ventura County by publishing conservative points of view and political cartoons like those of Michael Ramirez.
On an individual level, most people are conservative, realizing that if they overspend their income they will be sued for not paying their bills and really get in trouble. I wish that all politicians followed these guidelines when spending other people's money -- our taxes.
On a lighter note, sometimes it's fun to resort to political party name-calling. Traditionally the Democrat Party is known below the radar as the Tax and Spend Party and the Republican Party is the Party of the Rich, although there are far more rich Democrats than rich Republicans.
Republicans are supposed to be for free enterprise, but Free Enterprise Party is too cumbersome for our dumbed-down electorate to comprehend. Free Market Party might be a little easier on the ear, but it could be misunderstood if you call Democrats the Free Lunch Party. Calling Democrats the Tax Our Children Party has a more truthful ring to it.
However, both parties, considering themselves to be in hog heaven in Washington and Sacramento, deserve to be called Pork Parties.
-- Lou Gates, Westlake Village
On June 14, I attended a wonderful musical performance at the Ventura High School Auditorium. The auditorium was full, and that means there were more than 1,000 people there. The special event at this concert was the presentation of a plaque honoring former band director, Larry Weiss, for his many years of conducting the Ventura County Concert Band before his retirement. The Ventura Unified School District superintendent, Trudy Arriaga, was there to present it to him. The plaque is permanently displayed in the lobby of the auditorium.
This concert, which is so consistently supported by the community and brings so many of our residents, and the special occasion of this particular concert, should have merited, it seems to me, news coverage from The Star.
-- Dolores Strickland, Oxnard
Re: your June 17 article, "Outlook for budget plan gloomy":
I noted on the headline that the budget outlook is "gloomy." Apparently, the legislative leaders have not yet decided to try to become responsible stewards of the taxpayers' money by reducing expenditures.
For them to change, perhaps they should look to where real savings can be found:
1. Abolish non-emergency social services for illegal immigrants.
2. Abolish some of the boards, commissions and various state agencies that overregulate California's businesses and collectively drive productive business out of the state.
Remember: California's budget does not need more revenue. It needs to reduce expenditures!
-- Donald E. Power, Thousand Oaks
Re: your June 18 article, "Former aide confirms affair with senator from Nevada":
Now that I stopped laughing I can actually send this letter.
It seems we have another holier-than-thou Promise Keeper, a guardian of public morals and Bible-hugger politician, who has succumbed to impropriety when it comes to morality.
Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., loved to pass judgment on those he deemed to be less saintly than he, but he has now proclaimed that "having an affair was the worst thing I've ever done." I disagree. I say the worst thing was being such a hypocrite and casting aspersions upon others. Remember, "Judge not, lest ye be judged."
The last time we mixed religion with politics, people got burned at the stake! When will the "puritans" in the GOP get wise and govern instead of preach?
-- Jim Shahan, Oak Park
Re: Warren Harwood's June 16 commentary, "A bittersweet future for PVSD's Los Altos Middle School?"
If Pleasant Valley School District trustee Harwood believes parents of children who are "prepared to master algebraic functions in fifth or sixth grades" shouldn't start charter schools, perhaps he should make sure that non-charter schools better meet those children's needs.
Many advanced math students spend their class time suffering through rote lessons on material they've already mastered, as teachers are pressured by No Child Left Behind to focus on students struggling simply to reach proficiency. It's no surprise that eventually parents have enough and look for -- or create -- alternatives for their children.
And just for the record, gifted math students come from all socio-economic backgrounds, not just "advantaged" homes.
-- Susan Goodkin, Ventura
(The writer is executive director of California Learning Strategies Center. -- Editor)
Re: your June 3 article, "Dogs free to bark at College Park":
This article made it appear the new dog park was the only place in Oxnard to socialize off-leash with dogs.
In 2005, The Star ran an article about the STAR Canine Social Club. I had been volunteering with the group for a number of years when the article ran. Since then, the group has changed. It is now the nonprofit K9 Social Club.
Even though there was a change of management in 2005, the dog socialization group has met at the same location continuously in Oxnard for all this time. The K9 Social Club has the field at Campus Park, formerly Oxnard High School, at the corner of 2nd and H Streets reserved for every other Saturday afternoon from the city of Oxnard.
It was a pleasant surprise to read in the newspaper about the "grand opening" of the dog park at College Park. When and where were notices of the grand opening posted? The newspaper article was the first time everyone I know of became aware of the grand opening.
The Citizens Advisory Committee had allocated five acres to a dog park at College Park. It was disappointing that, after they worked on the plan for a year, the size of the dog park was reduced so drastically. I visited the dog park the day after the article ran. The reduced size is offset somewhat by the agility equipment that has been installed. It seems to be a very nice little dog park. There's not enough room for a medium or large dog to really run, but it's great to have a safe place for dogs to play together.
There also is an off-leash dog park at the corner of 5th and H Streets in Oxnard where I take my dogs to socialize with other dog lovers and their dogs. It would help mend the disappointment to the dog-loving community if what we lost in size at College Park was compensated for with the dog park remaining at the corner of 5th and H Streets. Additionally the 11 mature trees that remain from Oxnard High School could be included in this dog park. The trees are resources the community should continue to protect and preserve.
Oxnard is a very large city that has a canine population that can certainly support more than a one-acre dog park.
-- Sharon Mullin, Oxnard
Re: Audra Strickland's June 14 commentary, "Time to reform budget process":
Once again, Assemblywoman Strickland wastes three columns of print in The Star.
She calls for the legislative leadership to reform the budget process, yet she tells us that only five elected officials really craft the state budget -- three Republicans and two Democrats. So who is to blame?
Our Legislature is at a stalemate. Democrats hold the majority, yet they can't get the two-thirds vote required to pass a budget because Republicans refuse to sign off on raising revenue to cover critical services. Therefore, it is minority Republicans who ultimately decide the fate of California's budget process.
Strickland complains about "dark-of-the-night" deals, but as I recall, it was just such a deal by Republican Sen. Abel Maldonado of Santa Maria that garnered promises not to increase certain taxes and also resulted in a series of ill-fated propositions being placed on the May ballot. Hindsight shows us that Californians not only rejected this Republican trick, but in so voting actually acknowledged a revenue rescue was necessary.
So why is California really in this mess? Despite the waste and pork barrel spending Strickland dwells on relentlessly, the biggest culprit is an anticipated 27 percent decrease in state revenue from $100 billion to only $83 billion due to the global recession. California could fire every state employee -- including prison guards and university professors -- close every government office and stop all travel without closing the budget gap. The government would be gone, but the deficit wouldn't.
It's time for Strickland -- and all Republicans -- to get real and acknowledge that it's impossible to fix the budget deficit by eliminating waste and cutting programs. A combination revenue rescue combined with cuts in non-essential spending is the only answer. Revenue rescue proposals could easily add up to more than $20 billion, spread the cost fairly among individuals and business and go a long way toward cutting our deficit and saving vital programs and services.
-- Bruce Little, Camarillo
Re: your June 16 article, "Giving volunteers some credit":
A few questions about SB520, Fran Pavley's bill that would give students academic credit for volunteer service:
What are you going to pay the high school volunteers?
What are you going to pay the college student volunteers?
What are you going to pay the Neighborhood Watch volunteers?
How about all the people who volunteer with their heart?
How about the values Violette Garcia's parents taught her about the true meaning of volunteering?
How will we tell the heartfelt from the paid volunteers?
SB520 needs to be opposed.
-- Kenny Helderlein, Oxnard
We overwhelmingly voted against a condo conversion of Vallecito Mobile Estates in a "required" ballot survey.
If this condo conversion is allowed to take place, it will be devastating to all of us seniors, especially the many who are low-income and disabled. In the long term, we could lose all the equity in our homes and be forced to just walk away. Many of us would either end up on the streets or have to move in with our families, many of whom live far from California.
We have a big sign outside our front gate announcing a hearing by the city Planning Commission, to be followed by a City Council meeting. No one here has been able to sell their homes, and I understand the sign now may just as well say "keep out." One resident who was able to sell just before the sign went up got about half of what he originally paid not so long ago.
We have a great little community here. People are very stressed, rightfully worrying about their futures.
The park owner claims he is not making money on us. However, all the information I've read and heard states that owning a mobile home park is an extremely lucrative business. And this particular park owner owns many other mobile home parks.
Recently, in a letter sent to us by the park manager and owner, a "resident" was referred to at least three times as an "it" -- not a "he" or "she" or "they" or "them." It was just another one of their efforts to dehumanize us.
It's an absolute shame that people have to resort to this kind of greed -- taking from the elderly, the poor and disabled to pad their already fat pockets.
Unfortunately, it would appear that if we lose our homes, other mobile home parks in our county could easily fall prey to their park owners as well.
-- Jean Mau, Newbury Park
Whether Democrat or Republican or independent, whether one believes in global warming or not, whether one believes in the claims about pollution or not, and whether one believes in oil as an energy source or not, one thing can be said for sure: We are all Americans and we love our "purple mountain majesties ... from sea to shining sea."
We also believe in progress and the innovative minds of our citizenry.
So, I call to all those who are challenged to rise to the occasion and develop new energy sources that will employ our fellow Americans, build new and large companies and preserve and protect our environment -- for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren.
-- Gregory S. Pavlidis, Simi Valley
Re: Warren Harwood's June 16 commentary, "A bittersweet future for PVSD's Los Altos Middle School?"
As a member of the Meadows Arts and Technology Elementary School Board of Directors, I feel compelled to respond to Harwood's commentary.
Based upon his commentary, Harwood does not seem to have a concrete understanding of charter schools in general and certainly has a misguided opinion about the MATES mission and the students whom the school will serve.
Charter schools are public schools, funded directly from the state. They are operated by a governing board comprised of teachers, parents and community members. Charters remain separate from a larger district and have greater autonomy with regard to curriculum and teaching methodologies. They must, however, meet California state academic standards. Charters are tuition-free and open to all students.
MATES will not only serve students who live in the surrounding neighborhood, but any students whose parents see value in what MATES has to offer: academic excellence with an arts and technology focus. There are no geographic boundaries to charter schools. There is also no screening process, academic or otherwise.
Harwood is incorrect in his assumption that the MATES community is especially wealthy. The true strength of MATES will be, as it was at Meadows for many years, not in its families' bank accounts, but in its well-documented culture of parent volunteerism.
It seems a serious disservice to readers of The Star's editorial page to have an article with a byline as prominent as Harwood's be filled with such alarming inaccuracies. I would not purport to know the inner workings of the Pleasant Valley School District without some level of research and fact-checking, and it is discourteous for Harwood to do so in regard to MATES.
-- Renee Dake, Thousand Oaks
Re: Gary Tuttle's June 10 letter, "Why GOP is on downswing":
When I read an opinion from an obvious Democrat regarding the status of the GOP, I find I must respond.
People on the left do a disservice to the two-party system when they attempt to detract from the foundations of both parties. From a conservative: We are telling the Republicans to stop trying to be like the Democrats.
For more than 200 years we have had an incomparable existence. Others throughout the entire globe risk everything for the opportunity to live among those of us fortunate enough to have been born here. This happened here because a few select men had the foresight to set forth upon this continent some basic rights that had never before been granted to humankind.
Distractions like the abortion issue, the systematic conquest of indoctrination of our students toward fascism and the murder of a criminal block our basic foundation and lead us to the path we currently find ourselves.
Don't be fooled. The Democrats are losing registered voters just as quickly as the Republicans. More and more citizens are realizing that the system is broken, there is corruption in both parties and elections are no longer "free." All of this is interfering with our self-evident, God-given liberties, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Instead of "progressing" beyond our Constitution and instead of trashing our Bill of Rights, why don't we concentrate on our foundation? Read the words of our Founding Fathers -- the real George Washington or the real Benjamin Franklin. These men fled a government exactly like the one we find currently invading our lives.
-- DeAnna Brown, Camarillo
Re: The Rev. W. Lee Truman's June 10 letter, "The real difference?"
I appreciate the legitimate differences between those who support that which are called "right to life" and "a woman's right to choose." My dilemma arises from the neglect of those who believe that life is a sacred gift, one with which we do not have the moral justification to interfere.
Truman's letter asks the question, "When can we play God with a clear conscience?" Unfortunately, there has been no outcry, moral indignation and rarely a comment about the death of Iraqi civilians and the dismemberment and disfigurement of uncountable others. We have read and heard far too little about the plight of the Iraqis whose deaths may exceed 100,000. Is not the life of an Iraqi citizen as valuable and cherished in the eyes of God as an unborn fetus?
I would like the good reverend, or anyone who shares his beliefs, to reconcile the difference between the holiness of a child in the womb and one that has already entered the world.
One would have expected that by now the pro-life's collective voices would have formed a loud and clear chorus of outrage. Excuse me if I miss the point, but I am deeply confused and upset about the indifference shown about the taking of life exhibited by those who maintain that such acts are wrongful. Does the commandment "Thou shalt not kill" extend only to pregnant women?
-- Richard S. Diamond, Camarillo
With all the enthusiasm, semi-riots, news reports and parade about the Lakers -- and I've been a huge fan for going on 50 years, ever since seeing Jerry West come to Penn State representing West Virginia in 1959 -- I just have a question: Wouldn't it be nice to see a little of the same admiration and expression of thanks for a job well done given to our returning soldiers, all of whom gave some and some of whom gave all?
I fully realize that these gifted athletes -- with talent on loan from God, by the way -- have accomplished quite a feat, but is it on the same level as protecting the country that we all know and love, continuing to keep us safe and liberating 50 million people from a torturous, totalitarian tyrant?
It seems most of these basketball players are lacking in the basic accepted social skills that would preclude them from a position in most any of our workplaces. I, for one, just once would like to see our successful, returning military folks treated like the heroes they are.
Enjoy the moment, Lakers fans, and may we all have a better sense of what really matters in the big picture. God bless America!
-- Burt Smith, Camarillo
These stimulus items are just a few examples of how your local politicians plan to spend our tax dollars:
--A $10 million stimulus grant for the repair of an abandoned railroad station, with no plans to activate same.
-- A $3 million tunnel for turtles to pass safely underground below a road.
-- The use of stimulus funds to "hire" an individual to seek additional stimulus funds.
-- Millions of dollars of earmarks spent on an airport with as few as six landings a day.
These politicians, by seeking these grants or earmarks, hope to win their constituents favor at the next election.
May I propose that our hard-earned tax dollars assume the form of a long-term loan at a low rate of interest in lieu of an outright grant? In this way, should the politicians still want these foolish or phony stimulus grants, they will have to be repaid.
Loans, instead of grants, protect the taxpayers' money for those Americans who still believe that there is no free lunch.
-- Sal Terrusa, Camarillo
Re: your June 8 article, "2010 election under way":
I read with amazement The Star's article on potential campaigns and candidates. What amazed me was that our county treasurer and tax collector, Larry Matheney, was still "chewing on the meat" of his decision of whether or not to run for re-election.
This is the same county leader whose agency was the one responsible for embezzling hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars from Ventura County citizens, and the same man whose defense for these actions was that he was an incompetent at the job he was elected to hold.
I am shocked that such a man would even think for a second that it is appropriate to run for re-election. Matheney should have resigned when some of his incompetence was revealed to the public. The question now will be whether the people of this county will respond appropriately to the candidacy of the man responsible for robbing our poorest and weakest citizens.
We know the Board of Supervisors has no stomach for this issue, and this is evident by the fact that not one member demanded Matheney's resignation when these issues came to light. This troubling fact is either evidence of a lack of courage by the board or evidence of a community of politicos who are reliant on each other to maintain their employment.
The people get the government they deserve, and if voters are not willing to rectify the board's lack of courage by ending Matheney's reign of ineptitude, then there should be no surprise when other elected officials perform with the same lack of ethics and competence as Matheney.
So I will be the first of hopefully thousands of citizens of this county to say, "Stop chewing on the meat of your decision, sir. For the first time in your public office life, do an honorable act and leave quietly, grateful for the fact that your friends on the Board of Supervisors looked the other way at your transgressions."
I ask others to join me by writing Matheney a short note letting him know this should be his last term of incompetence.
-- Ron Bamieh, Ventura
(The writer, an attorney with Bamieh & Erickson, represents The Star. -- Editor)
This is an open letter to the parent who supplied the champagne to the graduating Newbury Park students:
After they'd had their "small amount" of champagne, how did the students get from Point A, your house, to Point B, where the bus was? Did they drive themselves to the bus? If so, what would have happened if they'd been stopped by the police? "Gee, Officer, it was OK with the other parents!"
When August comes around, a senior packet of letters is sent home. One very important one lets you know that during that year, if at any time there is a behavior problem, that student will face the consequences. That letter is then signed by both the student and parent and sent back to the school. There is also a letter for the prom, stating that the students are supposed to act accordingly before, during and after the prom. That is also to be signed and turned in.
One set of parents mentioned they wanted the punishment to fit the offense. OK, how about community service during the summer -- not just for the students, but also for the parents who gave their OK?
Did you miss what happened April of 2008? A Newbury Park High School student lost his life and others almost lost theirs. This was from drinking and driving.
I am not saying one "small amount" of alcohol will make these underage kids drink. What I am saying is that you gave them the idea to think it's OK to drink and that they can't have fun without it.
So instead of blaming others -- the student with the swine flu who forced the prom date change, the high school principal, the Conejo Valley Unified School District, the security at Skirball Center where the prom took place -- for your mistake, stand up like a parent. Admit to your child that you made a mistake. Learn from it.
-- Anita M. East, Thousand Oaks
With two major military bases and an abundance of veteran county residents, it's beyond me (or maybe not) why The Star would use a small sliver of the front page to honor our veterans on Memorial Day. You only get one day a year to show your gratitude with some things in life, and The Star definitely missed the mark on this one. Why exactly does The Star think it's able to live like it does -- free? Maybe when The Star figures that out, the paper will improve, but it's not likely.
-- Jon Davis, Ventura
Re: your June 8 article, "FDA may soon regulate tobacco":
Whenever the people deliver to the government the responsibility for their own personal behavior, it requires a huge convulsion to recover. Behold the Volstead Act, the 18th Amendment (prohibition) of the 1920s, the result of which was diametrically opposite of its intent.
As a victim of 40 years of smoking, subject to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, I regret my years of smoking. But I will regret even more our loss of personal responsibility for our own behavior.
-- Hal Wilder, Camarillo
Some believe that Bill O'Reilly bears some responsibility for the murder of Dr. George Tiller. This argument is based on the fact that he has a huge audience and that some individuals are influenced by his celebrity and his rants. O'Reilly more than once addressed Tiller as "Tiller the baby killer."
Last night on "The O'Reilly Factor," both O'Reilly and Glenn Beck laughed off the notion that O'Reilly bore any responsibility for Tiller's death. Beck stated that the only people responsible for someone's death are the murderers. Using this logic, Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussein and countless other tyrants throughout history are not responsible for the deaths of millions of innocent people, and Charles Manson bears no responsibility for the deaths carried out by his so-called family.
Hate breeds hate. It's not that complicated.
-- Rick McGrath, Ventura
Re: Pa Ventura's June 13 item, "To pageant pushers":
I don't give a hoot about Miss this or Miss that. I'm not a pageant fan, nor have I ever been. The defrocking of Miss California USA is an issue to me because it was done to her for expressing her First Amendment right to free speech. For Pa to say "Who cares?" is alarming. Pa has the same right to speak his mind that Miss California USA has. We all need to "care," especially Pa.
-- Sharon Fleischer, Oxnard
Well, I don't know about anyone else, but I have had it with this excuse for a governor and his threats to all of California. He should have done his job instead of running around to all sorts of states raising money. What happened to all the money?
Now let's balance the budget on the backs of the poor, the sick, the disabled and the homeless, but where are the sacrifices of the wealthy? There aren't any. They are never asked to sacrifice a thing.
Well, one thing is for sure: The Terminator was a perfect role for Arnold Schwarzenegger. He is as cold and heartless as the robot he emulates. Shame on the governor.
-- Ken Green, Ventura
When there is an oil spill, red flags fly. With misuse of agriculture and home poisons such as pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and bactericides, it's like "hush, don't tell." With the mass distribution of -cides over the whole earth to all the nations, the sum destruction could be greater than that of the atomic bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. These -cides are affecting streams, rivers, underground reservoirs, wetlands, atmosphere and oceans. The mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, insects, bacteria and fungi are affected in ways we do not know.
Let us not be guilty of using -cides at the cost of the life of the innocent, and let us not be known among the galaxy as the planet that murdered its life.
-- Donald Saunders, Ventura
Are we going to stand around and watch our youths kill themselves, or are we going to take a stand and stop this? Lip service will not help us. As the saying goes, "If you talk it, you need to be able to walk it," and I don't mean gang slang.
There is a piece of property known as the Honor Farm, or the West Campus, controlled by the county of Ventura and leased to HELP of Ojai. I have a proposal for the property:
We could be responsible citizens in the Ojai Valley and use this property to benefit our youths by turning it into a Boys & Girls Club -- a far better use for it than for our senior population.
Crew is already located there. What a good tie-in for many of our young people.
There are great areas for basketball and volleyball courts, a baseball diamond, ample space to build a swimming pool, buildings that could be easily renovated (much of the work done by youths) for a recreational hall, clubhouse, etc. And, lo and behold, there's space for a skate park that seems to be having a hard time finding a home in the city of Ojai.
Since I first moved to Ojai, I have heard that we can see that we have never really taken care of our youths. Come on, folks. It's time -- past time -- to step up to the plate. I am expecting a 100 percent involvement in my proposal. Let's do something positive for the youths of Ojai Valley. No more murders!
-- Ed C. Martel, Ojai
(A town hall meeting Thursday will address gang issues facing the community. The meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. at the Matilija Junior High School auditorium, 703 E. Paseo Road, Ojai. Representatives from the Ventura County Sheriff's Department are expected to attend. -- Editor)
Not only is the digital TV image much improved, the TV dinners taste better.
-- Ray Linder, Thousand Oaks
I recently received some recently declassified Sept. 11 photos, and after I reviewed them, I was moved to comment.
First, let's please remember the men and woman who were lost in this despicable act of violence, including the hundreds of individuals who were not in harm's way and unselfishly rushed headlong into hell to help. Many never came out.
I would like to see the outrage we feel about 9/11 applied to the continuing escalation of domestic terrorism by radical hate-mongers who have been raised with no tolerance for other groups, positions or views. I am talking about the harassment, vandalism, threats and murder committed by these fringe elements toward minorities, woman's rights groups and reproductive clinics.
Just as international terrorism is supported and encouraged directly and indirectly by the fringe inside religious, social and political groups, so is our homegrown version of terrorism. These fringe elements teach hate and radicalize their children -- and the cycle continues. We see it in our schools every day.
If these individual terrorists did not get peer and high-profile public support for their views, they would be much less likely to act out their destructive fantasies.
When high-profile individuals and organizations suggest that someone does not deserve to live or should be killed because they don't approve of their ethnicity, don't agree with their views or don't approve of their legal activities, a very powerful message is sent to the fringe: It's OK to act, we support you. The ones encouraging these acts may say, "We don't condone these actions," but they find a reason to subtly condone it and continue the hate-based rhetoric.
As a society, we need to be more vocal in condemning these disturbed predators, including those using the airwaves and the Internet to give them direct, as well as more subtle, encouragement. We will not like the social consequences of doing nothing and allowing this behavior to continue. We have the good fortune to live in a free society, and that freedom does present challenges when dealing with this type of hate-baiting, but we can't give up.
The acts themselves are illegal, but we should also make the encouragement of these acts an embarrassment and socially unacceptable.
-- Marvin Mackey, Newbury Park
The two Miss California USA beauty queens -- current and former -- and Barack Obama have nothing in common.
They all decry gay marriages, but there is a huge difference. I believe the two ladies are sincere.
And if the cultural tide turns sufficiently to assure his re-election, Obama will have an about-face "revelation!"
The ability of politicians to twist their rhetoric to appeal to the masses is as troubling as the mob's willingness to hear what they want to hear.
-- Joe Mack, Newbury Park
I live in an unincorporated area of Ventura County, about two miles east of the Newbury Park library and four miles southwest of the Thousand Oaks library. Ventura County supervisors' decision to apply my property taxes to the county library system instead of supporting the Thousand Oaks library system is to deny me access to the library -- access I feel I am entitled to as a taxpaying county resident.
The two county libraries closest to my home, Camarillo and Simi Valley, are 13 and 22 miles distant respectively. Have the supervisors noticed the cost of gas? My 14-year-old Camry gets 21 miles per gallon. As a very active patron, I visit the library at least once a week. Withdrawing county support and reallocating my tax dollars will greatly affect my quality of life.
Thousand Oaks spends $9 million to support its library. The county is asked to turn over about $195,000 to support us unincorporated residents -- about 2.2 percent of the total budget, based on taxes we pay. My phone book lists 15 Ventura County libraries. Will each receive equal portions of this largesse? About $13,000 each?
I'm sure the County Library Commission consists of earnest people trying hard to find operating money for county libraries. But pulling this funding from the Thousand Oaks library is not the way.
-- Emerald Jones, Newbury Park
Re: Audra Strickland's June 14 commentary, "Time to reform budget process":
Strickland thinks it's "time to reform [the] budget process."
Gee, I didn't know that!
Oops, sorry, I lied! And since she represents me, I'm entitled to tell her off.
I'm tired of the self-serving words coming constantly from Sacramento. Until Strickland can tell me what she has actually done to solve the problems she complains about -- bills submitted or whatever -- it would be best for her to stay silent. Otherwise, I might get the idea that I should vote for Donald Duck. I can't really see how he could leave me any worse off than this bunch has.
Strickland should speak up again only when she actually has something to say. This group reminds me of a bunch of roosters constantly crowing and making a great to-do. But when I look for the hen who can actually deliver the goods, there's not one to be seen anywhere.
My two cats could tell me it's time to reform the budget process if I asked them. Strickland has better things to do with her time.
-- Roy W. Hogue, Newbury Park
With so much dismal news confronting us, what a pleasure it was to spend an afternoon with the talented young musicians of the Conejo Valley Youth Orchestras at "Eurofest" on May 31 at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza. They performed at a level that would make any major city proud.
For an afternoon we were reminded of the joy music brings to our lives. The troubles of the world instantly fade when the music starts. Seeing these enthusiastic and amazingly skilled young musicians renews my faith in the endless national resource that is our youth and in the value of music in their preparation for life. Some were graduating, going on to pursue degrees and careers in music, medicine, education, business, biomedical engineering and environmental science, to mention only a few. I have no doubt they will be leaders -- among the best and the brightest.
Clearly our community has a treasure in their conductor, Bill Benson. He is not only a superlative musician, but a leader and mentor to his charges. It is one thing to have great musical talent and a concept of how music should sound, but it is quite another to impart that vision to others. In Benson we have that rare confluence of artist and teacher who connects so effectively with young musicians. I am amazed and humbled by the results he gets so consistently.
Yes, we have trouble in our land. But we also have tremendous resources in our pipeline as these young musicians and their conductor so beautifully demonstrated.
-- Robert Danes, Ph.D., Westlake Village
(The writer is a music professor at CSU Northridge. -- Editor)
Re: your June 9 article, "Funded or not, drug treatment program still law":
As The Star points out, Proposition 36 treatment for non-violent, low-level drug offenders is not a social service that can simply be cut; it's the law as approved by more than 61 percent of California voters. Dramatic cuts in funding would place an unbearable strain on Proposition 36 treatment -- a strain that would only add to our state's current financial crisis.
A 2008 UCLA report evaluating Proposition 36 found that it saved the state $2 for every $1 invested. Cutting funding for such economically viable, not to mention legally required, treatment would be dangerously shortsighted.
We applaud those in local government who are pursuing alternative sources for funding this critically important program, and we urge our legislators in Sacramento to do the same. In particular, we urge the Legislature to shore up treatment with federal stimulus funds, $135 million of which are available for this purpose.
-- S. Ryan Patterson, Los Angeles
(The writer is a policy intern with the Southern California Drug Policy Alliance. -- Editor)
Senior citizens and residents of mobile home parks have been targeted once again.
Every other year Western Mobile Alliance, along with park owners and the California Association of Realtors, puts something before the state Legislature to do away with rent control in mobile home parks. This year it is AB761, and is being voted on now in the Assembly.
It seems condo conversion isn't working too well this year, and park owners' profit margin is low. The people who make up most of the residents in parks are low-income and mostly shut-ins, and we don't need our homes taken away from us. However, that's what is occurring when the rents rise beyond our means.
It seems rent control is a pain in the sides of park owners, and they will spend millions to get rid of it. If they would spend that same money to lower rents and fix some of the aging parks, everyone would be grateful.
-- Merle Pitman, Ojai
I think three of the proposed budget-cutting proposals need more analysis and discussion.
-- Closing down state parks.
This tactic doesn't make sense to me. Closing the state parks will eliminate the state revenue generated by these parks. Granted, in some cases expenditures may exceed revenues, and if the disparity on some of them is very large, closure may be a good option. However, their closure will result in a number of state park employees being added to the unemployment rolls, and there will still be ongoing costs associated with their closure, such as security, minimum maintenance, graffiti removal, etc.
Alternatives that should be considered other than complete closure should be an increase in park fees or the contracting of parks that include camping to private operators. Most private campgrounds make a profit in spite of the fact that they have to pay taxes, including property tax, permit fees, and other state and local taxes. Most state parks are located in beautiful, prime locations, so they would be a viable business opportunity. Under this alternative, the state could get a percentage of the profits and turn a liability into an asset.
-- Releasing prisoners early.
Before releasing prisoners into our neighborhoods, we should consider deporting illegal immigrant criminals. The number of illegal immigrants in our state prison system is significant and increasing. At a cost of about $8,000 per year per prisoner, the long-term saving to the state budget would be significant.
-- Closing down schools, raising college tuition and cutting back social services to children.
Before making these decisions, consideration should be given to stop giving free education, college scholarships and social services to illegal aliens. It is estimated that this action would save the state $5 billion per year. Priority should be given to preserving the education and benefits of law-abiding citizens before across-the-board cuts are made.
Granted, many more cuts need to be made to solve the immediate budget crisis, but unless these alternatives are given serious consideration, in the long term, the state will continue to struggle financially.
-- Al Knuth, Camarillo
I would like to clarify a few points surrounding the story about the Sierra Club's Los Padres Chapter.
At the urging of local chapter leaders, the National Sierra Club investigated and subsequently invalidated the Los Padres Chapter election after 40 percent of the ballots cast were found to be invalid.
Also at the request of local leaders, the National Sierra Club is taking steps to ensure fair elections in the future, including helping the chapter rerun a fair election and providing support for the new chapter executive committee to fulfill its governance and financial responsibilities.
Any disciplinary action taken against any club leader is done to protect the best interest of the organization, and only after careful deliberation.
It is very important to note that the overwhelming majority of the Sierra Club's leaders in the Los Padres Chapter are dedicated individuals acting with restraint in the face of an unusual level of publicity surrounding this election because they are eager to focus their time and energy on the variety of conservation priorities about which they care deeply.
The Sierra Club will do all it can to support them in this endeavor.
-- Allison Chin, President, Sierra Club, Lansdowne, Va.
Re: your June 11 article, "Sierra Club election drives wedges between members":
Last December, I was persuaded to run for the Los Padres Chapter executive committee. I was greatly surprised to be the top vote- getter. In January, Julianna Krolak and I were installed as new members of the executive committee. Since then, my club experience has been a nightmare.
The chapter newsletter, the Condor Call, announced that "it is necessary to rerun" the election. But that is not what has happened. Rather than rerun the election, which should include only the candidates who ran previously, the club removed Julianna and me from office and has done everything it can to make it impossible for us to run for the offices that we had won previously.
Rerun should mean taking the same people back to the starting point and restarting the race. But neither of us was allowed on the new ballot by the nominating committee. Instead, we had to lose time getting petitions signed by chapter members while the preferred candidates were off and running.
Obviously, it is the wish of club leaders that we fail. That fact was confirmed when the chairman of the chapter nominating committee used the newsletter to condemn me and the other petition candidates.
His highly partisan action belies the concept of neutrality for both the committee and the newsletter. Worse yet, the chapter chairman has condoned this use of club resources against his competition in the election.
He has also falsely accused me of supporting other members when, in fact, I never had an opportunity to take such actions. His assumptions on what I might do are inappropriate.
I've been told that no petition candidates have ever been elected to this chapter. Why bother with elections if the winners are picked beforehand?
-- Barbara Berns, Camarillo
Re: your June 11 article, "Sierra Club election drives wedges between members":
As a candidate in the upcoming Los Padres Chapter election, I would like to set the record straight on several issues.
Before our national headquarters invalidated 40 percent of the ballots, two of the former nominees, Julianna Krolak and Barbara Berns, were installed as leaders. Krolak and Berns subsequently lost their seats. Our chapter leaders had the option to count the 60 percent undisputed votes. Instead of following chapter bylaws, one group leader took matters into his own hands. We didn't need a costly special election.
When the nominating committee started work on the rerun, neither Krolak nor Berns was renominated, as one would expect. Instead, they had to start over by gathering petitions, along with myself, unlike the nominees who received preferential treatment. The chapter's nominating and election committees were appointed by an official from the national headquarters. Those meetings were held behind closed doors, contrary to bylaws.
Our chairman and his supporters have denigrated the petition candidates as members of a "clique" or "faction." Look who is calling the kettle black.
As our chairman stood by, we experienced widespread election fraud. Furthermore, he recently voted to spend $2,500 in chapter funds for 10 tickets to a private gala event, which he is attending along with fellow leaders. Worst of all, he has driven away experienced activists and major donors.
Our club is not well served by leaders who feed at the trough, look the other way when we need help, and attack other qualified independent candidates.
-- David Kanter, Ventura
Re: Ruben Navarrette's June 11 essay, "Governor clears the air":
Navarrette seems to be a very intelligent man with many sound thoughts. I'm just curious if he ever writes about anything other than the wonderful benefits of illegal immigrants or how America is responsible for the violence in Mexico, since our prison system is bursting with evil Caucasians, and we all know what a peaceful, non-violent society the Aztecs and Mayans cultivated.
I hope Navarrette will keep up the "illegal immigrants for all" mantra. We can never have enough of them! Besides, why do anything legally when you don't have to?
-- Frank Mills, Ventura
Any revision of our healthcare system should provide for long-term care, especially for at-home care. Home healthcare is far better and costs only a fraction of institutional care.
My wife and I have been married for 52 years. For the past seven, I have served as her home caregiver because she has Alzheimer's disease. I hire an aide about three hours a day; the remaining 21 hours are mine. Despite incontinence and confusion, we get along and are almost certainly happier than most. Margaret is neither angry nor afraid.
We pay for her care by withdrawing from traditional IRAs and thus incur substantial taxes. Our government spends hundreds of billions annually on institutional care, where our seniors are drugged and strapped into wheelchairs. Yet we receive exactly nothing to offset the costs of keeping my wife at home. Does this make sense or seem fair?
Our prescription costs are high, and my wife is now in the doughnut hole. Our AARP prescription plan recently quoted a "discounted" doughnut hole price of $406 for 80 generic Plavix pills. I purchased 100 identical generic pills from NorthWestPharmacy.com in Winnipeg for $80, and this company is also in business to make a profit. The pills were shipped postage paid from Switzerland. I can furnish a copy of the receipt.
These are among other reasons why I support a sensible public health insurance alternative to compete with our current "free market" tragedy.
Opponents claim that the president's plan is unwieldy and even socialistic. What it really offers is opportunity for choice. Those who wish to keep their present private plan will be free to do so, and those who wish an alternative will have one. What is more American than that?
We are small business owners.
-- Delton Lee Johnson, Santa Paula
What a slap in the face to the Ventura County Board of Supervisors past and present. The Grand Jury basically said that our elected officials are either too stupid or too afraid of the unions to keep pensions under control. The Grand Jury feels it would be best if we, the voters made the tough decisions that the Board of Supervisors can't or won't make.
-- Mike Malloy, Ventura
We all know the recession has hit California hard and our state budget is reeling. But it will only stunt California's recovery to drain $24 billion from the state's economy, as the governor's latest budget proposes.
What's more, it will be harder for struggling Californians to get back on their feet because the cuts target the sick, the poor and the elderly -- those who need the most help during these tough economic times.
Sadly, the governor's latest budget proposal would shred California's safety net. And obstructionist Republican lawmakers would rather defend tax breaks for oil companies and big business than keep kids insured and allow the frail elderly to remain in their homes.
Lawmakers need to protect all Californians, stop the severe cuts and pass a sensible budget that includes new revenue.
-- Patsy & Ted Rabago, Ventura
Re: Don Brunson's June 11 letter, "Zero common sense":
Brunson talked about common sense in his letter. The parents who allowed the so-called "toast" didn't have much. It is against the law for persons under 21 to consume alcohol, whether they have their parent's permission or not. Since when is parental permission above the law?
Besides, it was 13 students, not 32 students, who were suspended. It was the responsibility of the administration of Newbury Park High School to uphold the law in this situation, and they did exactly that.
It is clear to me that it is a few parents like Brunson who don't have common sense. It is people like Brunson who continue to belittle our education system and the important and thankless job they do in educating our young people. I'd like to put Brunson in a classroom, counseling office or behind a desk as a principal and see how he would do.
When anyone writes a letter like Brunson's, it is no wonder some young people have no respect for the law.
-- William Swiontkowski, Newbury Park
Re: Don Brunson's June 11 letter, "Zero common sense":
Brunson seems to be an expert on common sense, yet his letter reflects a tremendous absence of common sense on his part.
The actions of the children were against the law, and I applaud the administration and the Skirball Center for having the courage in how they handled the matter. The action of the parent who gave "permission" to drink reflects a disregard for the law and is an irresponsible act. You cannot give permission to do an illegal act.
A major responsibility of a parent is to raise children with good values and judgment. Allowing them to drink is an abrogation of this responsibility and only teaches children that it is permissible to break the law.
This parent and Brunson's attitude reflect the decline in our civil society. They seem to be more concerned with being a "buddy" to their children rather than a responsible adult role model teaching them how to be a good adult.
Thank you, Newbury Park administrators, and do not be bullied by whining, complaining parents who lack good common sense and sound judgment.
-- Spencer Resnick, Thousand Oaks
As you will see, there are no qualifications, including common sense, for the office of our elected officials.
In the beginning, we were told that we would be able to trade in our gas-guzzling car for a voucher worth up to $4,500 that could be used for a car with better fuel economy. The first bill was written too quickly and had to be revised because foreign cars were excluded, and to omit them would violate trade laws.
The bill was revised again, and this time fuel economy standards were thrown out the window. On June 9, the House approved legislation that would subsidize the purchase of a new Hummer H3T, which gets 16 miles per gallon, or a new Dodge Ram 1500 4X4, at 15 mpg. Excluded was the Ford Focus, at 27 mpg.
The Senate is mirroring this legislation.
The auto industry had a hand in this crafty piece of smoke and mirrors. If they were really serious about an energy policy, they would give out a $5 voucher for the Hummer or Dodge and a $4,500 voucher for a Ford Focus.
If you are a non-believer, call Sen. Dianne Feinstein. She has exposed this sham.
-- Robert Pisapia, Westlake Village
Re: your June 10 article, "Toast before prom leads to suspensions":
Shame on the parents of those Newbury Park High School seniors who found it necessary to serve champagne to their children so they could "toast their senior prom."
Seriously, toasting the senior prom with champagne? The senior prom is a voluntary extracurricular activity and one in which prior to purchasing tickets all participants were required to sign forms stating their knowledge of the "no tolerance" policies of the high school and the Skirball Center. These same students knew the consequences of any infraction prior to making that toast, yet they chose to sip champagne provided to them by the adults present.
Are these the same parents who will host graduation parties for their children and supply alcohol for them there -- all under the guise of "at least we know where they are drinking and can keep them safe?" Drinking under the age of 21 is against the law, as is providing alcohol to minors.
I applaud the administration of Newbury Park High School for making rules and sticking to them. What are we teaching our future generation if we allow them to break the rules and still reap all the benefits afforded to those who follow the rules?
Congratulations to those seniors who attended prom and made the right choices. They are the ones who should be allowed to walk with their heads held high at graduation.
-- Jenny Murry, Moorpark
Re: Isis Topete's June 10 letter, "Want to marry? Move!"
Topete suggests that same-gender couples who want to marry should solve the problem by leaving the state. This solution misses the point of the Proposition 8 civil rights struggle.
Equal protection and treatment under the law is a founding principle and an inalienable right of all citizens. Like the freedom of speech and the freedom to practice (or not) a religion, the freedom to marry the person you love is fundamental to the American way of life.
Marriage allows couples to make legal their lifetime commitments to one another, and it gives them the opportunity to assume full responsibility for each other.
Regardless of how you feel about marriage -- for opposite or same-gender couples -- it's wrong to single out one group of Americans and deny them access to the same rights and responsibilities as their fellow citizens.
-- Edie Brown, Ventura
(The writer is co-coordinator of Equality Ventura County. -- Editor)
The question is not whether former USC basketball coach Tim Floyd is guilty, but why this situation recurs around the country.
Whether or not he was given financial inducements, O.J. Mayo attended USC for one year as a steppingstone to an NBA career that he now enjoys. He is among a large group that uses universities as an apprentice program to an NBA career. They attend but are not students -- not in the sense of battling SATs, other applicants and finances that others go through.
Schools reap large sums when teams appear in televised and tournament games. Coaches receive large sums -- usually more than the president of the university -- to produce teams capable of earning this money. The education of the "student-athlete" is nowhere in the equation.
Let the professional leagues pay for their own apprentices and not take up increasingly valuable desk space. College sports can remain spectacular with four-year athletes, and those who choose to go directly to a professional career can do so without having to cheat the system.
-- Glenn Egelko, Ventura
Was it a compliment or an insult when Councilmember Neal Andrews characterized me and others who spoke at Monday night's council meeting as "very skillful political operatives?"
Three of us had presented our concerns about the proposed ballot wording of the "superstore" initiative to be presented to the voters in November. We and others had worked hard to qualify the initiative, and more than 8,000 valid Ventura voter signatures were collected.
But since Andrews has consistently opposed our attempts to keep Wal-Mart out of our city, or, at the very least, to limit what the giant retailer can do here, I have to conclude Andrews meant to insult us. By calling us "very skillful political operatives," he obviously meant to demean the contributions we citizens had made to the ongoing challenge of shaping the growth of Ventura while preserving its quality of life.
Of the citizens who came before council on Monday's item, I know for a fact not one of us is paid one cent for our citizen activism. On the contrary, we devote many hours a week as volunteers and pay many expenses out of our own pockets -- because we love Ventura. Andrews is apparently unable to recognize -- or value -- people with a passion for our community who have the nerve to act on that passion.
That being said, I want to be clear how much I value the people I know who are indeed paid for their activism. These local "political operatives" -- in Andrews' lexicon -- lend essential skills, experience and other resources to citizen groups. They work long hours with very modest pay because they too have a passion for improving life for all our citizens.
Andrews owes me and others an apology for his clear intention to demean our contributions to our community. And I suggest that he stop characterizing in any way the citizens who come before City Council.
-- Nan Waltman, Ventura
It is amazing that the parents of the children -- and I mean children -- have not stepped forward and taken responsibility for their actions.
First, they served liquor to a minor. Second, they knew the rules and still proceeded to ignore them. They are the guilty party here and should be held accountable for their actions. Instead they want special privileges for the school to accept their bad behavior and instead try to put the blame on someone else.
This is a big problem here in the United States. Everyone, including the government, blames someone else for their bad judgment. This behavior has caused the mess we are in. Really, think about it all and say enough is enough.
-- Mary E. Aquino, Moorpark
The process the Conejo Valley Unified School District and board used in closing two elementary schools has been well documented, as has their contention they have done only what's necessary to cope with budgets.
However, recent events show they do not, in fact, "get it."
At University's open house to celebrate 46 years of service, the superintendent and an associate attended, though no parents, staff or children needed those who closed that school in attendance, and neither of them was there when University opened. Days apart, district personnel with notepads in hand were hovering at the entrance like 200-pound vultures in ties. And on the last day of school, the board made sure everyone at University knew it was closing by having the moving vans in the driveway well before school started.
University's kids, parents and staff "got it" in more ways than one.
-- G.R. Whale, Westlake Village
I am so proud that the Conejo Valley Unified School District held to its rules and kept the suspension of those who broke the rules regarding alcohol. If they had allowed the students to walk for graduation, that would have set a precedent allowing for those illegal "celebratory" toasts all over the county and state.
Yes, zero tolerance might be a little too much when it comes to bringing mints or eyedrops to an event. But when educated parents know the rules, then break them and teach their children, "Well, it's OK, it's only a sip," they are teaching them in the long run that as long as you do not get caught, it's OK.
They were all well aware of all the rules, as each senior was given these rules, and both responsible parents and responsible students broke them. Now they are learning about consequences, and whether that is harsh or not, those are the rules.
I applaud Newbury Park and having a senior walking today who followed the rules and had a pre-prom party with sparkling apple juice as a toast. She deserves to walk, and it would not be fair to the others if she had engaged in underaged drinking and then walked.
Those parents are the ones who made the mistake, and those parents have to live with the fact that they won't see their children walk. At least they get their diploma.
Kudos to CVUSD.
-- Lisa Padilla, Moorpark
For us residents in Vallecito Mobile Home Park, the future seems very uncertain because the park owner, Vedder Community Management, is in the process of subdividing the park.
This is an excellent move to Vedder's benefit, but for us residents, we have two very questionable choices.
First, we can stay as renters but with very limited rent control. This means that if we sell our place, the park owner can charge any rent he wants. That makes selling our place and redeeming our investment very unlikely.
Second, we can buy our property. That would mean using our savings. The trouble here is that due to the present economic situation, our savings have decreased considerably. The question then is: What do we live on?
Many years ago at a City Council meeting regarding rent control, then-Mayor Alex Fiore reminded Vedder that residents' rent had already paid off the purchase price of the park and that Vedder was receiving more than adequate income on his investment.
Vedder is very sharp. I just wish he would spread some of the wealth around.
-- Gordon K. Wolfgram, Newbury Park
Many news outlets and reporters look to the American Dietetic Association for trustworthy and accurate information on diet and nutrition.
I would have done the same until I learned that the ADA favors industrially processed ingredients over organic food, even though their own Hunger and Environmental Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group has repeatedly found that plants cultivated in organic systems contain higher levels of nutrients and an organic diet avoids the many serious health risks associated with pesticide exposure.
The American Dietetic Association refuses to endorse organic, but it has given its stamp of approval to aspartame and genetic engineering. Could this be because they receive industry funding from companies like ARAMARK, Coca-Cola, Colgate Palmolive, Corowise, Ecolab, Ensure, General Mills, GlaxoSmithKline, Kellogg, Kraft, Mars, Pepsi and Unilever, as well as the industrial dairy and beef industries?
-- Sophia Caldera, Santa Paula
Re: Terry Paulson's June 8 essay, "Individual responsibility":
This essay was pretty much right on, but Paulson may have been aiming at the wrong target. Why blame those poor politicians? They were only doing what we asked them to do. Instead, we should be pointing fingers at ourselves.
For decades we voters have been neglecting to build savings accounts for ourselves. Instead we have asked our governments, state and federal, to provide us with "entitlements" covering our medical expenses, our schooling and our retirement.
Then we repeatedly re-elected those who complied with our wishes.
We must come to realize that government has no money of its own. They do their work with money taken from the people.
-- Hal Wilder, Camarillo
Re: your June 6 edition:
People often criticize the news media for reporting so much bad news. However, this time I compliment The Star for the many positive stories on June 6.
As a Korean War veteran, I appreciated the articles on heroism and sacrifice on D-Day in World War II.
Also, there were these courageous stories: "Infected by HIV as a baby, he's moved on," "Former extremist fights militancy," "Following through: Four students' business plan becomes club in Camarillo," "County trekkers soldiering on," "Churches battling the recession with 'faith stimulus'" and "Amazing arm aids wounded."
I urge others who usually denounce the media for its negativity to look up this issue and enjoy some inspirational reading material.
-- Roy Wilhelm, Ventura
Re: your May 31 editorial, "Schwarzenegger's 'modest proposals'":
While those of us in California face difficult times ahead, I feel the state and federal legislatures are not thinking far enough outside the box to solve these looming budget shortfalls.
The Legislature is looking to take badly needed services from hard-working taxpayers, reduce services such as police and fire operations, increase costs to those just getting by via vehicle license fees and personal and sales taxes, make roads worse due to no repair and more congested due to no money for expansions, and finally increase taxes on those already paying well more than others.
There must be other options and ways to generate revenue and reduce costs.
Our tax system is overly complicated, and the super wealthy -- individuals and corporations -- have the money and resources to use all the loopholes that exist. A flat tax would uncomplicate the system and increase revenue to state and federal coffers.
The main point I want to suggest involves those who do not make any contributions to society. These are our convicted felons who are guests of their respective states and are costing our taxpayers billions of dollars per year.
It is unthinkable that the states pay more to keep these prisoners locked up than the median income of most constituents -- more than $80,000 a year.
My suggestion is that we outsource our multiyear prisoners to Mexico for pennies on the dollar. We can contribute to Mexico's economy, reduce the "easy life" that is found in most prisons and save billions per year. I believe it would also be a detractor for those who consider criminal behavior, as they would not want to be housed in Mexican prisons. I do suggest they be given basic rights and amenities for living, but they should not be allowed to live better than a large percentage of our population does, as they have it now.
This does think outside the box, but it is truly and win-win-win situation. The U.S. wins by reducing costs for keeping prisoners incarcerated, and it resolves overcrowding. Mexico wins by creating revenue from housing our felons. And law enforcement wins as this would detract others from criminal activity.
-- Brad Niems, Somis
When I was about 6 years old, I remember sitting underneath my grandmother's large dining room table when my aunt, who was an Army nurse, told a story about her unit arriving at one of Germany's death camps and how horrific it was. I remember being frightened when she told everyone sitting around the table how they had found a little girl, curled up in a corner in one of the gas chambers, who had died of fright.
It has been 65 years, yet I can remember this as though I'd heard it just yesterday.
-- Karol Ransom, Ventura
Re: Gary Sparks' June 5 letter, "Don't landscape roads":
I read with great interest, and even greater disappointment, Sparks' letter about landscaping in/on the middle of our streets and sidewalks.
Besides the rather glaringly obvious faux pas about how trees and plants are placed in the sidewalks, Sparks favors more concrete, cement and asphalt as opposed to these plants.
All hail the concrete jungle! Not!
I believe that with a bit more planning and investigation, our fair cities might devise a plan to keep our cities beautiful as well as safe. There are an amazing variety of plantings offered that do not obstruct views or grow to an unmanageable stature and do not destroy or buckle sidewalks or streets. If these plants were to be utilized, I feel confident that our "parklike" vistas will be a welcomed sight in our cities.
Additionally, Sparks and I might enjoy our walks a bit more! I know I will knowing that our carbon footprints will fade much faster for our future generations to enjoy the sights.
-- Libby Anger, Camarillo
Re: your June 9 newspaper:
The competing headlines, "Teachers staking jobs on furloughs" and "New chapter in education," are ironic and, sadly, telling. How like out governor to use this photo opportunity and the great white hope of technology to try to camouflage the dismal situation California's educational system is facing.
Digital textbooks? A good idea! Especially if it puts even a small dent in the $58 million deficit Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has helped the public schools accumulate. Hey, how about virtual teachers? Low salary, no health benefits. Better yet, let's just have all students log on daily and learn from home. Close the schools! That would save a bundle!
-- Julie Soske, Ojai
The city of Ventura should just take down all the traffic signs and stop lights. If there is no enforcement, then they are just a waste of money.
-- Jerry Clark, Ventura
Re: Isis Topete's June 10 letter, "Want to marry? Move!"
Topete made the case that if you really love each other and you are gay, you need not be married because a ceremony is not important.
On the other hand if you insist on getting married, you should move.
I am appalled, too, that Topete thinks the solution is so simple.
Moving is ridiculous. If you live in the state and you have a job and a home, friends and family, why on earth should you have to move because you want to get married?
Marriage isn't important? Really! When my spouse died, I could have collected his/her Social Security, but if you are not married, that is not an option. Domestic partnerships do not cover many of the things that a marriage contract does.
Equality is the issue, not marriage per se. The Constitution guarantees equal rights for all its citizens, yet gay people cannot marry in California. Marriage is an equal right, and Topete would deny that to many, many couples in California.
Making a "fuss" is what democracy is all about. Maybe it is Topete who should move.
-- Terry Gibson, Oxnard
Re: Lydia Katharine Bowker's June 9 obituary:
We want to offer our sympathy to all of Lydia's family. We have so enjoyed living in the home formerly owned by members of the Bowker family here in The Oaks of Santa Paula. We fell in love with the house as soon as we saw it, especially with its oriental touches. My husband, Dr. Ernest Carlson, was born in Japan and spent his youth there. We want the family to know how much we appreciate the wonderful ambience they created here for our family to enjoy.
To the family: Though you are experiencing your loss, we're sure you are also celebrating a life fully and well lived. May God bless all the family.
-- Joyce & Ernest Carlson, Santa Paula
It is sad to see that the "zero common sense" bug has apparently bitten Newbury Park High School administrators.
Thirty-two seniors participated in a "toast," involving little more than a sip of champagne, with their parents' permission, prior to boarding the bus to the senior prom and, upon arrival at the venue, were all given breathalyzers which, of course, showed a positive hit for "trace amounts" of alcohol.
High school administrators who, even with the assistance of a breathalyzer, apparently cannot tell the difference between students showing trace amounts of alcohol and students showing up to the prom intoxicated, have invoked their "zero tolerance" policy to deny the seniors the privilege of attending the school's graduation ceremony.
Even after having confirmed the circumstances of the situation and the parents' approval of the toast, school officials have stuck to their "zero tolerance policy."
What that indicates is a rather shocking inability or stubborn reluctance to apply even a minimal level of common sense to the situation. This conveys to our young people that the adults in this situation, despite being well-educated academically, are so lacking in common sense that they can't tell the difference between inappropriate alcohol abuse and a parent-approved ceremonial toast. It is rather disconcerting that these same folks are responsible for the daily supervision of our teenagers.
Zero tolerance policies have been used in recent times, as they have been in this case, for some rather "brainless" decisions. At a minimum, we should expect our high school administrators to use a lot more common sense than has been demonstrated in this case. After all, it's not as if the students were found to be in possession of Tums, Midol or fingernail clippers.
-- Don Brunson, Simi Valley
The sale of General Motors and Chrysler to the Federal Reserve and the United Auto Workers should be making people worry about the future of free enterprise.
The courts, probably under pressure from President Barack Obama, gave their preference to the UAW and the feds over the private individuals who invested their hard-earned money. The feds and the UAW don't have any of their own money invested, yet they get first crack at the business? How is this fair? How is it even constitutional? Aren't secured debts supposed to get first dibs on any remaining assets in a bankruptcy? How is it that these two entities can just step in and get it all, leaving hundreds of innocent investors in the lurch?
There's an old saying, "If it looks like fish and it smells like fish, it's probably fish." Well, this looks fishy, it smells fishy, and it probably is fishy. It looks a lot like a power grab by some very big, very powerful organizations. No doubt they give a lot of money to political campaigns. How about you and me? We get dumped in favor of the rich and powerful?
I thank the president for making me feel so worthy of his consideration. I will no longer invest in big companies that are in the way of a government program overhaul -- healthcare, automobiles and very possibly oil and power suppliers in the future. Say goodbye to free enterprise.
-- David Eckerson, Ventura
Re: Gary Galles' June 7 Pulse page piece, "Cutting beyond the fat":
Galles piles one absurdity on top of another as he moves through his article.
He starts with the assertion that "a dollar of government spending costs society far more than a dollar." Expenditures in the private sector also have administrative and compliance costs. As to social costs, who pays the social costs of a private company polluting the environment or contributing to global warming?
Throughout American history, corporations have not paid the social costs of their operations. They have been passed on to our citizens. There is no incentive for private companies to pay these costs unless they are forced to. If an ethical company tries to pay these costs, they are not competitive with those who choose not to.
Look at Galles' cost/benefit analysis. In his calculations, what is the value he would apply to the lives and property that our police and firefighters save? What are the values of the life of a child cut down in a drive-by shooting? Of lives shortened due to air pollution or toxic waste dumping? Of the lives of children and adults who live below the poverty level and who cannot afford healthcare? Of a good education for all our children, including the poorest, for our economy, society and government? Of a regulatory system that assures honesty and integrity in the way our capital markets and individual companies operate? Think a bit longer, and the list goes on and on.
Why wouldn't Galles emphasize the social responsibilities corporations should bear in exchange for their unique legal privileges? In fact, no society in the developed world operates without a safety net for its poorest members.
The reality is we need a vibrant, effective government, just as we need a private sector with the same attributes.
-- Bill Robinson, Westlake Village
General Motors looks like it will continue with Chevrolet and Buick as its strong brands.
I learned that Buicks are quite popular in China with the growing upper middle class. My own observation is that in this country, when approaching a Buick from behind, you do not see the head of the driver in more than 60 percent of the vehicles, and in those same vehicles, the brake lights are on more than 50 percent of the time.
I've never owned a GM product myself. The last one my father owned was a '57 Chevy that he bought new. It was much sportier than the '51 Ford he traded in. I liked the twin ornaments on the hood that reminded me of missile launchers and that the hood remained up without the need of a stick to prop it open. The gas filler cap hidden behind a chrome door on the back of the tail fin was also really cool. I would lie on the shelf behind the back seats and enjoy the panoramic view afforded by the wraparound rear window.
The '59 had those horizontal tail fins. Rumor was that they would lift the back end at 90 mph, and they could definitely poke you in the eye when you were running around the neighborhood playing Zorro.
I hope GM survives for the sake of the U.S. economy. Just don't expect me to buy one anytime soon.
-- David Seifert, Simi Valley
Westminster Free Clinic, located in Thousand Oaks, would like to thank the following high school seniors for their volunteer service as part of our medical team serving low-income, uninsured people of East Ventura County for the past two or more years. They have volunteered a minimum of 300 hours, with some providing more than 1,000 hours of service.
The students volunteering the most hours from this graduating class were Nathali Patlani from Newbury Park High and Nadia Safaeinili from Thousand Oaks High School.
WFC's 27 high school graduates are all attending great colleges and universities in the fall, such as UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC San Diego, Duke, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and many others. The board, staff and volunteers of WFC wish them well in all they pursue, believing the students' long-term commitment to the clinic and its patients is just the beginning of the great things these young people will do for their community as adults.
This year's graduates are from Thousand Oaks, Newbury Park, Westlake, Oak Park, Oaks Christian, Simi Valley, Royal, and El Camino high schools. They are: Christian Aviles, Nicole Cummings, Andrea Delgadillo, Angela Forster, Alexandra Garcia, Yesenia Lucio, Samantha McSweeney, Maria Palomino, Fatima Pantoja, Nadia Safaeinili, Rosemarie Sherbetjian, Daniel Zamora, Andrea Barragan, Erin Dixon, Aneliesse Ochoa, Fanny Sanchez, Wesley Wong, Da Young (Diana) Kim, Nathali Patlani, Mateen Saffarian, Sara Veliz, Erin Walker, Emilce Rivera, Shant Hagop, Bill Allison, Ana Castillo, and Angela Garcia-Morales.
The volunteer doctors and nurses and other medical professionals of WFC who mentored these students and cared for our patients are also thanked for their long-term commitment to providing healthcare to people in need and for investing in the future of high school students in our community.
-- Judy Gindi, R.N., President, Friends Board of Westminster Free Clinic, Thousand Oaks
Re: Chuck Thomas' May 30 column, "Why state government is flat broke":
California is broke for many reasons:
-- Poor planning based on unrealistic home values, income growth, expanded tourism, expanded lottery, expanded casino gambling and new industries.
-- Unchecked spending on public assistance (welfare?) programs and low tuition that attracts out-of-state community college students.
-- Excessive spending on freeways, prisons and "public works."
-- Unreasonable regulations and taxes for new start-up businesses. This destroyed some businesses and drove the rest to other states.
-- Unreasonable licensing requirements that not only burdens law, medicine and engineering, but also impacts low-risk hair cutting, massage, hair styling and real estate sales.
-- State duplication of federal agencies that already regulate health (Food and Drug Administration), energy (Department of Energy), environment (Environmental Protection Agency), worker safety (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), corporations, taxation and the stock market. This is like having three parking meters (local, state and federal) for every parking space downtown.
-- Expansion of the University of California system without the money for additional construction. Every campus can't have Nobel laureates.
State government should be able to correct these problems and operate with a leaner budget. If these suggestions aren't acceptable, how about dividing the state into north, south and central California? Why do we need one state covering most of the West Coast? Why do we need a population of 30 million? Why do we need the "seventh largest economy" in the world?
-- Tom Novinson, Ventura
Did you know that there could be a new reality TV show filmed in Thousand Oaks? It would need a name. How about "Keeping Up With the Council Members" or "Pimp My Council Member" or "Extreme Makeover: T.O. Edition."
In its quest for more revenue and to help their Hollywood friends, the City Council on June 23 may significantly revamp the longstanding commercial filming permit restrictions. 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 if the council tosses them out the window. Sleepy residents will wake up 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. Write, call or e-mail the City Council and tell them that a next-door neighbor's right to peace and quiet should be kept, not discarded, 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 you don't, then the "The Simple Life" in Thousand Oaks may be gone forever.
-- John Fonti, Newbury Park
On June 5, I attended the opening night performance of "Steel Magnolias" at the Hillcrest Center for the Arts. There were only about a dozen people in the audience.
Where were you? You definitely missed a great evening of entertainment. This was a most enjoyable production starring six very talented actresses. None are professional, though that is hard to believe. By the second scene I completely forgot I was watching actresses and thought I was in the company of six real friends in Louisiana.
Everything about this production is top notch, from the set to the lighting and the music. The direction is first-rate, the pace of the action is just right.
Nowadays, with gas prices creeping up past $3 a gallon again, it's really nice to know that you can get good entertainment within driving distance. Not all the good shows are in downtown Los Angeles or the San Fernando Valley. We are so lucky to have theaters in Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, Moorpark, Somis, Oxnard, Camarillo and Ventura -- so much rich theater so close.
No, I do not work for the Hillcrest Center. I just feel everyone should try to make an attempt to see this fine show. I think it only runs through June 14. I love live theater, and I am sure there are a lot of others like me out there.
-- Don L. Johnson, Oak Park
I would like to see the budget cuts be taken in such areas as per diem food allowances and other official travel expenses for our elected officials, as well as the fleet of cars used in official capacities. How about terminating the unnecessary advisory boards where appointees meet once a month to discuss pointless issues that never get resolved while drawing $100,000 salaries each?
-- Richard Reiss, Newbury Park
Re: Gary M. Galles' June 7 Pulse page commentary, "Cutting beyond the fat":
So far it looks like Galles and I are the only two in California who understand the problem. As the pain gets worse, I can only hope that more people will start to be honest with themselves and each other.
In the meantime think about this: For years Californians have passed one initiative after another that locks in spending on this, that and the other thing. Each one is no doubt worthy. But the Legislature is prevented by the constitution from undoing anything passed by initiative. So now their hands are tied. They don't have enough money to fund it all and keep the state going, and they can't adjust spending to fit our income unless they cut from something not mandated by the voters. The measures that should have been on the May 19 ballot would ask the voters to undo all the foolish locked-in spending and return control of California to the Legislature.
We're in trouble for two reasons: the demand to fund certain things whether the money is there or not, and because, as Galles points out, when people don't have a sufficient financial stake in the benefits they get they have no incentive to prioritize or decide whether something is worth the cost or not.
There's no such thing as a free lunch. We'll not be saved by finding one more revenue-generating scheme -- talking heads notwithstanding. The spending just swells to gobble up the money. We can have anything we want, but we'll never be able to have everything we want.
-- Roy W. Hogue, Newbury Park
The voters rejected the propositions promoted by our governor, one result of which will be that billions will be cut from our schools' education budgets. Yet our children will still be able to attend school; the three R's are not in danger.
The people in sub-Saharan Africa did not vote on any propositions to restore funding for their schools because, essentially, there is no funding. These children aren't reading or writing, adding or subtracting. Instead, when they are 13 or 14 or 15, they have children and get AIDS -- or they get AIDS and then have children. In another 13 or 15 years, their children have children.
Education is a great contraceptive. From a study of adolescent girls in Kenya, half of those who dropped out of school had babies within two years. Only one in 10 girls who went on to secondary education became pregnant in the same time period. Apparently, those girls also learned to "just say no."
What happens when children -- and especially girls -- go to school? HIV infection rates are cut in half and birth rates fall. People who can read and write can make a living and live in dignity. Importantly, children stop having children.
Education of the world's poorest is our best long-term defense against terrorism's cancer. Barack Obama promised to "feed hungry minds in poor nations" in his inaugural speech. This month, he has the opportunity to keep his pledge by creating the Global Fund for Education.
Obama: Keep your word!
-- Robert Heller, Thousand Oaks
My solution to all those who oppose Proposition 8: Move. That's it.
I am appalled that so many people forget the most obvious way to get married if they are of the same gender. Yes, California is a big state, so of course there are a lot of gay couples, but the U.S is not keeping them from their rights because there are other states that allow such marriages, including Connecticut and New Jersey.
If they really "love" each other, then it doesn't matter if they get married or not, as long as they're together! Is their commitment for each other so weak they have to back it up with a ceremony? That shouldn't be an issue, if they undyingly love someone, as they claim.
Also, if they want to have legal recognition, they can register as domestic partners, which is legal in California.
They don't have to make a fuss about something that's not a big deal. If they want to justify themselves with a ceremony and prove themselves, if they truly must, move!
-- Isis Topete, Piru
Just a suggestion for saving some money for our city, county, state and U.S. Postal Service: If all could combine the maintenance and fueling operations to one location in each city and allocate the costs by percentage to each entity, I'm sure a lot of money would be saved. This would help all the respective budgets, and heaven knows every entity could use some savings.
-- Betty Stephenitch, Ventura
That speech. It will simply be known as that speech, or the "New Beginning" speech -- the quintessential working model for all the ages. The Cairo speech of June 2009 will be remembered, referenced and recited in generations to come. My only hope is that the lessons are harkened as well.
The mistrust will not go away quickly, but what this leader has done is wake the sleeping virtues inherent in all beings that share this temporary living space. He was adequate with praise, gentle with criticism. His frequent reference to the "Holy Koran" and his native utterances have won over many, provoked thought with the skeptics.
He was uncompromisingly true in his historical realities and the labyrinthian Mideast state of affairs. Those who insist he is a radical or a Muslim masquerading as a Christian simply lack the capacity for fair-mindedness. Take your blinders off and see the philosopher for what he is.
Even if nothing happens, and peace remains elusive in that tragic region, this lionhearted, well-intentioned man has already brokered world respect and admiration.
I believe we are truly standing at the cusp of "a new beginning" where American benevolence, fairness, universal goodwill, morality of principle and reasoned intelligence will save this country from its self-inflicted deterioration.
Soldier on, Mr. President.
-- Maya Teague, Camarillo
It is rather pathetic to witness all these sanctimonious white males -- Newt Gingrich and others -- accuse Sonia Sotomayor of racism, of being an "affirmative action" candidate and of promoting a racial agenda. There are those who would even have us believe that the four most conservative members of our Supreme Court are neutral interpreters of the Constitution.
From the very beginning of this country's history to the mid-1960s, 82 percent of our history, "affirmative action" has always meant that "only white males need apply," whether in political and public service employment, the arts and professions or in sports. When things began to change after the 1960s and minorities challenged the old rules, "affirmative action" became a dirty word that now meant unfair and inferior, preferential treatment and un-American favoritism.
As a white male native of Ventura, I am old enough to remember when Latinos were confined to downtown Ventura, before the freeway was built, from Thompson Boulevard to the beach, from Oak Street to Seaside Park. I suspect as well that the current controversy over the Cemetery Park issue has its roots with that earlier view toward Latinos.
While we should always applaud the courage of our Jackie Robinsons who break down barriers, we should also condemn ourselves for not having lived up to our own patriotic rhetoric in our Pledge of Allegiance, "with liberty and justice for all."
-- Bruce Allen Hardy, Ventura
Over the last year, the Republican Party has lost thousands of registered voters in California. Many former Republicans have changed registration to independent or Democrat. Political experts have come to the opinion that the Republican Party has lost voters because the leadership and public voices of the party have moved far from mainstream America.
Three events covered by The Star recently are excellent examples of the extremism of the TV and radio "voices" of the Republican Party. First was the pharmacist in Oklahoma City who put five extra bullets into an unconscious robber, killing him. The second event was the removal of the fledgling College Democratic Club from the ironically named Liberty University, with student expulsion from school as a possible punishment. The third event was the murder of George Tiller, the Kansas abortion doctor who was shot while attending church.
The TV and radio "voices" of the Republican Party have either ignored the issues or have been attempting to justify all three actions.
On the pharmacist's shooting of the unconscious robber, they have made the excuses of "adrenalin surge," "fear of retaliation" and "he is a hero." We have yet to hear the Republican voices say anything except to justify the fatal shooting.
Radio and TV conservatives have largely ignored the Liberty University issue, but those who speak out say it is a private school and has the right to expel any "undesirables." We have yet to hear the Republican voices speak out against this lack of freedom and democracy at Liberty University.
The murder of Tiller has been justified by calling him "Dr. Killer" and by using the argument that "by taking his life, hundreds have been saved." The "voices" of the Republicans have not publicly called the murderer a "hero," but they have not shown any sympathy for the victim, even saying, "Tiller was a mass murderer and, horrifically, he reaped what he sowed."
Is it any wonder why Republican citizens are fleeing from the "voices?"
-- Gary Tuttle, Santa Paula
For many years, I have had the pleasure of introducing many of our young citizens at various functions in and out of Simi Valley. This includes 33 years as parade announcer and master of ceremonies for Miss Simi Valley and Junior Miss, to name a few.
I have always felt that the young people of our community have been the true ambassadors of our city and have never failed to say so. They travel outside of the city in various competitions, such as sports, music, speech and a variety of other activities. As a result, they have always come home with many honors and trophies, as well as great pride for themselves, their school and, of course, our city.
There are also times when they compete outside and do not win and do not bring home the trophy, but even so, they return home with pride of competing at the top level and the honor of reaching that level for their school and their community. This is what the Royal High School boys volleyball team did when they played Westlake High School for the California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section Championship on May 30. They lost in five games, which shows how well both teams played.
There is no questioning the depth of disappointment our young men are going through. They played like champions all season under the coaching of Dean Borth, and they played like champions on May 30. Don't try to tell them, "It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game that counts." That won't fly at all right now. But, we can tell them that we are very proud of their entire season, of how well they played May 30 when they came back to win two games after being down two, that we are proud of their being a team of young men that any community would be proud of.
My wife and I have met some of these young men, and we know the qualities they possess. So, again I say thanks to the Royal boys volleyball team for being outstanding ambassadors and we are proud of their accomplishments throughout the year.
-- Bill & Rose Edwards, Simi Valley
Re: Linette Angelastro's June 5 letter, "What is teacher wearing?"
Hooray for Angelastro! Thank goodness someone else feels as I do about the tacky dress codes of today's teachers.
For years I have been absolutely appalled at the image that these educators present to their classes. I realize that I am old-fashioned, but I do believe that "casual dress" has its limitations. You wouldn't allow a banker to oversee your investments if, when you met with him, he was wearing Bermuda shorts, a tank top and flip-flops because he wouldn't inspire your confidence. If you were an employer, how would you judge an applicant who was dressed as this teacher was on your first meeting?
I don't doubt that this young lady is intelligent, knowledgeable and a gifted teacher, but somewhere along the line she was never taught about the image that proper dress presents to the public. This is the message that our children are learning from observation in the classroom. They are learning how to dress from their leaders, and they need positive images.
I don't know why people don't realize that image -- and that includes dressing for your job -- is so important. We have become a society that is, frankly, sloppy. There are certain professions that require confidence and respect, none more important than the job of teaching our children. If only our teachers would consider the importance of dressing for the job and the effect that their personal image has to connect with their students, I'm sure their job would become even more rewarding.
Image inspires confidence, earns respect and helps the teacher to maintain control in the classroom.
-- Ginni Davis, Simi Valley
While stopped at a traffic light on Rose Avenue near Wooley Road in the early afternoon of June 4, a gentleman with great agility quickly leaped out of his car, a black Hyundai sedan, to remove a long sheet of white plastic caught on my Honda Element's grille. We were headed north near some fields, but there was no chance to say thank you properly. I hadn't even realized where that long strip had gone when it was in my path, but it had been there since I'd turned left at Rose from Channel Islands Boulevard. I really appreciate that help!
-- Theadora Davitt-Cornyn, Oxnard
Re: your June 4 headline, "Arson fire guts topless coffee shop in Maine":
This is one of my pet peeves. Arson refers to the crime of "burning the dwelling house of another" and a million other statutory prohibitions. Therefore, the word "fire" is redundant and grates on my eye and ear. The headline should have been, "Arson guts topless coffee shop in Maine."
-- Dick Hawley, Thousand Oaks
As everyone knows, our country is experiencing the greatest economic crisis since the crash of 1929. Although we might not have been hit -- so far -- as much as other parts of the country, Thousand Oaks has not been spared. The city has a $3.2 million deficit, and our council members have not been helping things.
Here are only a few recent expenditures:
-- $96,500 on a consultant to study why The Lakes shopping center isn't profiting.
-- $5 million, for starters, to construct a large sports complex along Lang Creek in Lang Ranch. What if we scaled down the park?
-- Full health benefits after five years of council service, in addition to the annual $19,000 council members receive. Our council members have full-time jobs with benefits outside of the council.
-- $83,000 for an "election analysis" and ballot measure to ask Conejo Valley residents if we are willing to pay more taxes for city services.
The first step is to attend the June 9 City Council meeting and say enough to incoherent judgment and wasteful spending when the council discusses our budget.
The second is to vote in new leadership in November 2010.
-- Clint Matkovich, Thousand Oaks
Re: Kristine Pustina-Haldane's June 2 letter, "Dream lives":
Finally, we have the left showing their true colors, that their goal is to put an end to "privileged whites," per Pustina-Haldane's letter. The "empathy" they want to see used to interpret the Constitution is only to be applied to minorities -- groups selected by them -- as evidenced by Sonia Sotomayor's decision to rule against white firefighters in Connecticut.
This one-sided empathy must explain the decision of the Department of Justice to dismiss charges against the Black Panthers who wielded nightsticks at the voting polls last year, or inspired Eric Holder to petition for the pardon of 19 Puerto Rican terrorists who killed six Americans.
President Barack Obama was "shocked and outraged" by the killing of the late-term abortion doctor, but he said not one word about the Black Muslim who killed a U.S. soldier in Arkansas.
And what long-discriminated minority will be thrown under the bus by Obama in his pursuit to rid us of democracy? I think he explained this in his comments that Iran should have nuclear power, but Israel should stop building houses. I think he clearly stated in his speech in Cairo where his empathies lie.
The truth is that racism and prejudice are rampant on the left, but they like to believe that their racism is justified and therefore can't be condemned. Sotomayor laughed nervously after she realized her activist comments, of making law from the bench, were being taped, but one has to ask: Does the left want equal justice under the law, or are they just looking to get even?
-- Patti Chiarelli, Thousand Oaks
Re: your May 26 article, "Nobel laureate brings anti-poverty mission to county":
I was thrilled to read about Muhammad Yunus' antipoverty mission. The idea of social business, of corporations becoming socially responsible, is an idea whose time is way overdue!
One necessary aspect of corporate social responsibility is promoting primary education for all children. I hope that part of the Grameen Bank's credo requires its borrowers to send their children to school. We know that education is the fastest and surest road out of poverty. On average, a woman's wage will increase by 20 percent for each year of education beyond grades 3 or 4.
This month, the president will have the opportunity to back his campaign pledge of creating a global fund for education. In this time of crisis, priorities become clear, and education needs to be a priority. I hope President Barack Obama makes good on his campaign pledge.
-- Shoshana Wheeler, Thousand Oaks
Re: Frank Gavaller's June 3 letter, "Redefining marriage a hoax":
Gavaller quoted Harvey Milk as saying, "We're here to recruit you," in order to attempt to make a point that gay folk somehow "recruit" others to be gay to increase our numbers.
First of all, there seems to be no need to "recruit" anyone. Considering individuals like Larry Craig and Ted Haggard for starters, it seems those with same-sex desires are literally crawling out of the woodwork.
Secondly, the quote was taken entirely out of context. The quote was aimed at gay folk who were already out of the closet. He wanted to recruit them to political activism. I know because I was there in San Francisco when he said it.
Thirdly, Gavaller called Milk an "idealogue." Dictionary.com defines the word idealogue as, "One given to fanciful ideas or theories." I pity Gavaller if he thinks that equality and fairness are somehow fanciful ideas. Let's put his rights up to a vote and see if he thinks that is fanciful.
It's easy to call a dead person names. Gavaller should try using a little courage and aim his barbs at the living but try to show a bit of respect to the dead, particularly those who died because of who they were.
-- John Levy, Oxnard
Re: Paul Kistler's May 22 letter, "Gun letter refuted":
We are more than 233 years removed from the circumstances of our founders' days.
Rifles were kept for the survival of those earlier Americans. The lands were mostly agrarian and the forestry was plentiful and thick. The arms of the day supplied food for their families as well as protection for their herds and flocks from predators. Further, the enemies of the day were some Indian tribes and/or nations who saw the white man as usurpers of their lands.
The British Army might have been victorious during the Revolutionary War had they confiscated all the civilian weaponry in a timely fashion. The patriot's rifle played a major role against the tyranny of the British.
The success of the American Revolution led to the Bill of Rights, which further secured the Constitution. The Second Amendment guarantees the right of citizens to bear arms (not just the militias); it was and is the primary guarantee of all of our rights. Confiscating guns in those days would have been nonsensical; personal survival was at stake. The right to hunt for game and protect loved ones from Indian attacks was paramount. The Second Amendment was clear: Everyone kept their guns.
No individual or government should have the power to take away your natural or God-given right to defend yourself. The Second Amendment strongly supports that inalienable right.
With criminality on the rise and the dangers of tyrannical powers demonstrating a death wish for the United States, this is definitely not the time to give up our weapons of last resort. Self-defense further assures our right to life, liberty and the destruction of an imminent threat.
The Second Amendment protects all other amendments and the entirety of the Constitution including the First Amendment -- the right for Kistler to speak his thoughts. Without that right of free speech, I might have lost my right to respond.
-- Sal Terrusa, Camarillo
The governor and the Republican right have gotten their way in this recent budget mess. Let's look at who is paying the tab.
State employees are being asked to take a 5 percent salary cut. In some school districts, teachers are being asked to take a pay cut so that other teachers can continue to work. If not a pay cut, they will have to deal with larger classes and fewer resources, which makes a difficult job even more challenging.
At the county and city level, similar cuts are being implemented.
Think about this.
The middle class is asked to reduce their income from (for argument's sake) $50,000 to $47,500, so $2,500 goes to help the state. It comes out of someone's salary but we don't dare call it a tax which, in reality, is what it is.
Those at the bottom who need basic services just to survive may lose that lifeline as well. The tax to them could be everything they have. For some, it could be their life. For our children, the tax will be an underfunded education system or no funding for a college education. The future for most will suffer, but not the future of everyone.
Who isn't getting taxed? Those at the top, of course, because they have the power of a one-third vote to prevent it. And don't give me the argument that they already pay their fair share. In 2007, the top 1 percent paid 7.4 percent in various state taxes while those at the bottom paid 10.2 percent. California ranks 18th nationally in state taxes paid, not first as many would tell you.
So, thanks to our teachers and schools, government workers and the very poor. This budget solution is being put on your shoulders, whether you like it or not.
When state Sen. Tony Strickland tells you that Californians want tax cuts, not tax increases, just remember that he isn't speaking to you. He's speaking to the one-third minority at the top.
-- Ed Wehan, Ventura
"No single speech can eradicate years of mistrust," but there comes that single point in every national conflict when pounding plow shears into swords, exacting that last vestige of vengeance, and continuing the wholesale slaughter of perceived enemies no longer reflects the will of the combatants and a desire for peace and reason prevails.
After a long and devastating night of siege and violence where warring leaders on both sides vie for their individual conceptualization of victory, when dawn comes, the light reveals the catastrophe of their obsession, a battlefield strewn with the torn bodies and shattered lives of soldiers of misfortune, depleted of hope and future, all pleading for an end to the insanity.
President Barack Obama's historic speech to the Muslim world at Cairo University, whose enrollment is more than 180,000 young students -- many of whom have suffered the loss of families and friends in this intractable conflict -- perhaps is that crucial point which will help to bridge the divide between "hateful American and Arab stereotypes" and encourage combatants towards a resolution to the awful chaos in the Middle East.
The speech was interrupted more than 30 times with applause from the audience of young Muslim idealists whose desire for peace resonates in their continence, having experienced the long, long night of religious and political extremism steeped in fear and dissonance.
The president said that "no single speech can eradicate years of mistrust," but in history, there is a plethora of single speeches that brought forth wisdom, eradicated pain and suffering, inspired new generations and changed the course of human emotion. This speech is another one.
-- Charles Williams, Oxnard
Re: your June 4 editorial, "A symbol of excess" and George Will's June 4 essay, "A nation green with guilt":
Usefully placed to the right of an editorial on a Chinese company buying the Hummer brand of gas-guzzler, Will has a column taking up the argument that much of the green movement in the United States has been less about saving the environment and more about reducing our feelings of guilt for despoiling the environment.
Will and his sources contribute to the debate, but here are two quick semi-rejoinders.
First, the U.S. is constitutionally a secular republic, but the people who talk of us as "a Christian nation" have a point: U.S. culture evolved as part of Christendom -- and Protestant Christendom to boot. Acting to save one's individual soul is central to Christianity, and especially to Christianity's Protestant variations.
Added to the Protestant mix have been, primarily, Catholics and some Jews, two groups less militantly individualistic, but who also know a thing or two about guilt (although Catholics tend to get a bit hung up on sex: for Jews and liberals, there are worlds of guilt beyond sex!). When it's not about inspiring fear, most U.S. political motivation has to do with guilt.
Second, to get to real improvements in the environment, the current ruling generation of well-to-do people must make some real sacrifices. How do Will and associates intend to get that job done?
A basic rule of politics is, "Posterity don't vote, and neither do children" -- and until recently, neither did a lot of young adults.
If the poor of the Earth need at least moderate coal-use for development, how do Will and other responsible conservatives intend to get the ruling rich to cut back enough on our environmental despoliation for a net improvement, enough to give a chance to current young adults, children and unborn posterity?
-- Richard D. Erlich, Port Hueneme
It is apparent that neither Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger nor the Legislature quite believes yet that California is facing a real crisis, though the governor is starting to come around. The shell games that were voted down last month are ample evidence that Sacramento is caught up in the notion that somehow all this will miraculously go away real soon.
It is apparent -- to me, anyway -- that future tax revenues won't return to the $100 billion-plus realm for a long, long time and that what is needed are profound changes, not wishful thinking.
Ultimately, however, Californians have done this to themselves.
Straightening things out will requires a couple of paradigm shifts.
First, every generation must pay its own way. It is immoral and the antithesis of civilization for the baby boomers approaching retirement -- and I'm one of them -- to borrow from or count on future generations to pay this generation's current or future entitlements in order to protect our wealth today.
Second, no statutory entity in government should be sacrosanct. During a true crisis such as this, programs need to be killed.
The revenue crisis is attributable to institutionalized self-interest: The bulk of the state's income tax is collected from a stratospheric few whose income has been hammered by the recession. Property tax assessments on the wealthiest property owners -- those who have owned the longest -- are a fraction of what new owners are assessed.
I propose constitutional amendments that would:
-- Require as a condition of continued employment that a nonpartisan legislative budget analyst forecast annual budgets to within 5 percent.
-- Require the Legislature to prioritize every budget item, and require cancellation of any program that, in a low revenue year of less than 95 percent of forecast, falls below the revenue priority line.
-- Require every government entity to fully fund future entitlements with current revenue, prevent public double dipping and make salaries and benefits commensurate with what is customary in private enterprises.
-- Establish a modest state estate/inheritance tax.
-- With a five-year transition period, set an assessment floor of 0.5 percent on all residential and commercial property, and allow income-qualified partial deferrals-until-sale (to the current Proposition 13 equation) for fixed-income residential owners.
-- Michael Gorder, Westlake Village
Re: photos accompanying your June 3 article, "One for the history books: Santa Paula teacher is best in county":
How pathetic that Ventura County's Teacher of the Year is on the front page of the newspaper in flip-flops, jeans, a t-shirt and a sweatshirt. This is a perfect example of all that is wrong with our schools.
-- Linette Angelastro, Newbury Park
Cost of oversimplification
As a systems engineer, I've worked on projects for NASA Goddard, Lawrence Livermore National Labs, JPL, Intel and others. I found that each project was really a collection of smaller projects and problems, each with their own pros and cons, proponents and opponents, risks, costs, schedules, consequences, etc. All of these had to be identified and addressed. If action was taken based on incomplete thinking, it could produce very bad results.
In the nine years I've lived in Ventura, I've seen two examples of this sort of oversimplification.
The first was the traffic circles on Beachmont Street in the Ventura Keys. We paid to have them put in and then paid again to have them removed.
The second example is the current discussion of Cemetery Park.
In both cases, local government has responded to a very small, very vocal minority, without concern for the other citizens, businesses, events and uses that would be affected, and without regard for the public money.
I hope we can convince the City Council that changes to Cemetery Park should be dismissed out of hand, as should have been done with the expensive and unnecessary street changes to Beachmont.
-- Nelson Wallace, Ventura
Re: your May 29 editorial, "Bad drivers: Californians flunk road test":
We kill thousands of people on U.S. highways every year. California drivers finished 48 out of 50 in regard to driving knowledge.
It is my contention that we need to do something about this, and the answer is to bring the class of driver education back into high school graduation requirements. In the test cited, drivers older than 35 were most likely to pass the test, while the age group with the highest failure rate was the 18- to 24-year-olds.
We used to have a good driver education situation here in California until Proposition 13 made people think that driver education was too expensive and not necessary. Many of the over-35 drivers had a good class of driver education and gained the knowledge that was necessary to pass the test cited in the editorial.
Ventura High no longer offers driver education. Buena High only offers one class before school. Where are our priorities? This life-saving class is not available to the majority of students in Ventura. Why do we let this happen?
-- Sam Marsh, Ventura
There are a lot of proposals and threats by our state Legislature to raise taxes. Schools don't have enough money, so there will be necessary cuts.
With all this, the state employees pension fund is a prime target for raiding. Well, most of us drawing that pension have worked a long time, donated our fair share of the money and are just the little guys that would be hit.
There are a number who just sat in an office with a great title and drew huge unearned salaries. A good example is the guy at the head of the University of California. He is not a teacher, he has a nice office and lots of perks, and he draws a salary of more than $400,000 a year. Be honest, his is a "figurehead" position. Cut that salary in half, along with a large number of other similar positions, and you will find a lot of new money for schools and other programs.
"Tax and spend" is the motto in Washington, D.C., but we do not need it here.
-- Don Davidson, Port Hueneme
The California economic crisis will continue until the state and federal government advance pro-growth economic policies. We are currently experiencing the longest recession since World War II, with no end in sight. Until the recession cycle is broken and the private sector experiences strong economic growth, this crisis will continue to impact our lives with ongoing cuts in programs and services. This is the future of Obamanomics.
Unfortunately, the Obamanomics of stimulus (essentially pork and welfare), massive federal deficits and debt, higher taxation, anti-global warming penalties (carbon tax or cap and trade), and government control of industry (banks, autos, health, etc.) will not break the cycle of recession and stagnation -- all of which Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger heartily endorses.
The health and welfare of the California state government is directly correlated to the prosperity of the private sector. The private sector is the engine that drives economic growth. Capitalism, not government, is crucial to the citizens of California enjoying the services and programs we've experienced in the past.
Those days of prosperity and business-friendly environments are long gone with the overreach of Obamanomics, which will have a devastating impact for decades to come. I'm afraid we must scale down our expectations of state services in proportion to the shrinking of our private sector.
-- Sean Ragan, Camarillo
Re: James Verkuil's May 29 letter, "Seeking special rights":
I want to agree wholeheartedly with Verkuil and his perspective on gay marriage.
Verkuil points out that we all have had the right forever to marry anyone of the opposite sex and clearly states that the few who prefer the same sex in marriage are asking for a special right, not an equal right. If the two ideas -- heterosexual marriage and homosexual marriage -- were equal, then both parties could procreate equally and in the same way. As we know, homosexuals are not equal in that way and could not continue to create more families by themselves. They must have help from the opposite sex in some way to fulfill that.
There are only two types of sexes on this planet: male and female. Thus, when children are brought up, it only makes sense that a male child needs information, examples and nurturing from a male component that a female cannot give, no matter how you look at it, and vice versa. I realize that society thinks children only need "love," no matter what the dynamic is, in parenting, but that is not entirely true. There is a reason we have a mom and a dad, whether people like it or not.
One more perspective I agree with is that race, skin color and eye color are only benign differences, but a gender difference is very serious and changes the whole ballgame. Should I be able to marry my brother simply because I am attracted to him and love him? Where do we draw the line in morality?
Let me pose a final question: Why does the homosexual society want a biblical statute and a religious statute (marriage) when it condemns the Christian society for being bigots and haters? It sounds hypocritical to me.
-- Michelle Kennedy, Ventura
The Barack Obama administration's latest moves toward the control of the U.S. auto industry has been one huge leap forward toward socialism in our country, any way you look at it.
The establishment of the new Corporate Average Fuel Economy guidelines is an action toward telling Americans what size and type of cars they must buy. The manufacturers will be forced to build small, light and underpowered vehicles to meet these standards, and that will be the buyer's only choice. Government will be telling us what we must buy and drive. Al Gore approves!
Also, the federal government being involved in running the auto companies will be a disaster. The politicians will all be fighting over where factories are to be closed and built, and where dealer locations are to be opened. I can't wait until General Motors introduces the new Pelosi GT coupe or the Barneymobile rear drive pickup.
This administration seems to have forgotten that the OPEC-driven high oil prices of last year are what drove the final nail into our uncertain auto market and brought car, SUV and truck sales to a screeching halt. Uncertainty drove the collapse.
Where is the legislation from Obama's administration to tap our vast oil reserves to compete with OPEC in the world oil market to drive prices lower? It has completely fallen off the congressional radar as an option.
I'm an old guy, and the last time that I can recall the type of controls being pushed now was rationing during World War II, and that was for a united and supported effort, not because of a desire to change our free-market way of life.
Be careful, Americans, or they will be telling us how we must dress and where we can live. Sound familiar?
-- Ron Busick, Camarillo
Re: your May 31 article, "How budget affects you":
I am a dyed-in-the wool Democrat -- except for that brief time I registered as a Republican while married to an attorney, but that's another issue.
However, I must comment on the single mother renting a motel room with her three children, which she is able to do with the assistance of CalWorks, her safety net. This is when she's not crowded into her mother's one-bedroom apartment in Santa Paula.
While I feel for her children, did it ever occur to this 20-year-old woman with 5-, 3- and 1-year-old children to stop having children she can't support?
I am an educated single woman, and I struggle to support myself. This is more and more difficult because I'm also supporting so many people who do not take responsibility for themselves and especially for the children they bring into this world. Who did she think was going to support her and each of her children?
Frankly, I'm tired of it.
-- Sherri Milam Gardner, Santa Paula
I recently drove by my local gas station and saw it had gone up another 4 cents overnight. It now sits at $2.89 a gallon.
With oil sitting at $68 a barrel, I had a suspicion that we were being gouged. So I sat down and did the math, and I found out my suspicions were correct.
Last year, oil topped out at $144 a barrel and $4.55 at the pump. With oil at $68 a barrel, I wondered what the cost at the pump should be based on last year's historic prices.
So, using the formula:
X/$68=$4.55/$144 where X is today's estimated cost.
X=$2.15 a gallon.
This is what we should be paying for oil being $68 a barrel.
To put this in perspective, if we use today's costs and apply them to last year, we would have paid $6.12 a gallon.
Now, I know the oil companies need to make a profit, but they were making a profit of more than $10 billion a quarter last year. It will be interesting to see what they make this summer.
-- Daniel W. Mitchell, Santa Paula
Does anyone ever recall the experience of buying a car at a dealership? If there is such a thing as karma, then it is certainly at work here. I recall the awful times of having to sit at a dealership and the feeling of being taken advantage of by the sales staff, with all their gimmicks and acting scripts to get the maximum in their negotiation.
One time I was trying to buy a PT Cruiser when they first arrived, and the local dealer attached a $10,000 premium to the car. When I complained to the Chrysler corporation, all they did was ignore me.
Well, I for one want my tax dollars back from these crooks for their dishonest sales techniques.
-- Richard Reiss, Newbury Park
The members of the United Church of Christ in Simi Valley, an open and affirming congregation since 1998, deeply regret the California Supreme Court's decision of May 26 to let Proposition 8 stand.
We applaud, however, the court's decision to grant legitimacy to the 18,000-plus marriages that took place during the 2008 grace period that ended on Nov. 4.
We give thanks for hearts and minds that have changed since Proposition 8 became law and for the editorial support shown by The Star. We also recommit ourselves to the struggle for marriage equality.
Our church continues to welcome gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered individuals, knowing that true grace means being able to be who you are all the time, without apology or regret, without secrecy or reservation.
Justice is always a hard-fought road, and yet our commitment to the teachings of Jesus calls us to work for nothing less than full equality for all.
-- The Rev. Dr. June Goudey, Simi Valley
(The writer is pastor of the United Church of Christ in Simi Valley. -- Editor)
Re: your May 26 article, "Nobel laureate working to end poverty":
I am writing to share my thoughts regarding Muhammad Yunus' presentation at a luncheon held at CSU Channel Islands. One of his themes regarding poverty is how it impacts primary education worldwide.
Throughout the world, children from poor households, slums and other disadvantaged groups face major obstacles in access to a good quality education. While children from the wealthiest 20 percent of households have already achieved primary universal school attendance, those from the poorest have a long way to go.
There is no time like the present for President Barack Obama to keep his campaign pledge for creating a global fund for education. Yunus, through the policies of the Grameen Bank, reinforces primary school attendance. We need to make this happen worldwide.
-- Lori Mahoney, Thousand Oaks
Re: Larry Jones' May 31 commentary, "In defense of excellence," a response to your May 19 article, "Educators weigh merits against pressures on students":
I want to thank Jones for his response. As a teacher and a parent of a former academic decathlete, I, too, was disappointed and upset at the negative implications the May 19 story presented.
Jones very eloquently penned my own thoughts and, I'm sure, the shared sentiment of the thousands of teachers and parents in our community who strive to encourage a love of learning within their children.
I thank Jones and again congratulate him for his accomplishments!
-- Susan Selvaggio, Simi Valley
President Barack Obama has already concluded that we will not be in Iraq for a decade. While contingency planning in the military is a good thing, public comment that contradicts the position of the commander in chief by one of his subordinates ignores civilian control of the military and the chain of command.
-- Steven Brown, Moorpark
Re: Ruben Navarrette's June 2 essay, "Ah, refreshing restraint," and Stanislaus Pulle's June 2 commentary, "Judge Sotomayor and empathy":
Federal courts have been making policy for a long time, since 1803 in Marbury v. Madison. Congress establishes policy; the executive enforces it; and the judiciary decides whether the conduct of the other two branches was constitutional. By declaring an act of Congress unconstitutional, the judiciary is asserting its policy over that of Congress, and that was the "original intent" of the Founding Fathers.
Those same Founding Fathers intended the Bill of Rights to be anti-majoritarian: Individual rights were protected as against the will or the prejudice of the majority as expressed by the legislature. But individual rights are not absolute. If the rational interests of the majority are more important than the individual's interest, the majority wins. But if the majority purpose is arbitrary, unreasonable or capricious, then the individual wins. But a court must decide.
Such evaluation requires sound discretion, based upon precedent if applicable, but ultimately upon rationality and wisdom -- resulting from life experience. Justice Antonin Scalia agrees.
In 1898, the U.S. Supreme Court held, in Plessy v. Ferguson, that a Louisiana law requiring separate railroad cars for black people and white people was "equal" -- "separate but equal." That policy lasted until 1954, when the Supreme Court ruled that state laws requiring separate facilities for blacks and whites was inherently "unequal." Again, the court set policy!
Justice may be blind, but definitely it is not deaf and dumb. The person who appoints a judge, and the confirming body, must determine whether the nominee is qualified -- by education, experience and track record -- for the office.
Miguel Estrada was well qualified to be a federal district court judge; he had no judicial experience to be an appellate judge.
Navarrette's essay was insightful and accurate. Pulle's essay was ignorant and silly from both a political and academic standpoint.
-- Raymond A. Greenberg, Westlake Village
(The writer adds that he is a lawyer who has practiced constitutional law in California for more than 40 years. -- Editor)
Re: Raymond Freeman's June 3 letter, "Corporate philosophy," a response to Miriam Jaffe's May 27 letter, "The truth of talk radio":
The "dense forest of liberal media" is a figment of Jaffe's imagination? Really? Freeman's response is not a figment but a fabrication of his liberal imagination.
How many channels besides ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN and MSNBC does Freeman want with a most definite liberal slant? How many newspapers besides The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, etc., does Freeman want with a liberal slant?
Both the Hollywood industry and music industry are heavily populated with liberals. How about the field of education? It is a common fact that at least 75 percent, if not more, are liberals and are trying to foist this same thinking on all levels of academia.
About the only venue left is Fox News, which has open discussion from all points of view. Freeman would know this if had an open mind and was not poisoned by all the above.
No amount of hysteria on Freeman's part will change the fact that the aggregate sources cited above have corrupted him and more than a majority of our country.
-- John A. Krumm, Newbury Park
Re: your June 2 article, "Internet site lets users compare surgery charges":
This confusion over the real cost of healthcare is very important for people to understand today. The insurance companies, through their agreements with the hospitals and doctors, have contractually made them charge the high "negotiating price" to the patient, or their contract with them can be revised -- meaning lower reimbursements. With health insurance, you do not get a "discount" or "special rate" from the hospital or doctor, just the privilege to pay the real cost for the care.
Insurance companies want to create this fear of financial ruin if you do not have their insurance -- that's why hospital bills are so high. How else would we be willing to pay those outrageously high insurance premiums?
For more information on the true cost of healthcare, go to the Health and Human Services government Web site http://www.cms.hhs.gov/HealthCareConInit/02_Hospital.asp#TopOfPage
You can download the actual Medicare payments for procedures to hospitals and physicians in Ventura County for 2006. The Medicare payments are between 98 percent and 102 percent of the actual cost of a procedure. Insurance company reimbursements are generally 10 percent to 20 percent higher then Medicare's.
-- Tom Blanford, Ventura
My wife, 1-year old daughter and my mother were stuck on the side of the freeway near Calabasas after a tire blew out on their minivan recently.
While sitting there for two hours waiting for a tow truck that never came, my wife saw the Highway Patrol drive by three or four times. She is sure that a couple of those times, if not all of them, it was the same Highway Patrol officer combing that area.
You would think that a Highway Patrol officer whose job is to protect and serve would stop to ask if everything was OK and see if they needed help, especially after passing her several times and seeing that they were still in the same situation they were in a couple of hours earlier. Instead the officer was probably so busy giving out tickets and meeting his quota for the day that he never even considered helping out the minivan stuck on the side of the freeway for hours with all of the lights on.
I guess if it can't make them money, then there's no concern. How about them doing their first and most important job, which is to protect and serve?
It's pretty sad that we don't have "good Samaritans" anymore, or even "half good Samaritans." Yes, I'm sure there are plenty out there, but it's just so far and and few between that it's basically an extinct practice.
The CHP needs to keep their eyes peeled for situations other than the ones that might make them money. If they did things out of the goodness of their heart rather than the size of their wallet, maybe citizens would respect them a little more and not think of them as just another cop giving us a hard time.
-- Daniel Choi, Oxnard
Re: your June 1 article, "Abortion doctor fatally shot in church":
Yes, the only therapeutic response to the untimely and unspeakably tragic killing of Dr. George Tiller is grief.
We grieve with his family and friends and with his fellow parishioners at the church where he worshiped and where he was killed. Even if he had violated the Kansas law requiring a second doctor to certify the need for a late term abortion -- commonly known as a "partial birth abortion" -- certainly his penalty would not have been execution. Regarding our laws and the death penalty, Tiller was innocent. It is tragic when innocent blood is shed.
Having said that, let us grieve, also, with the women in our nation who have allowed their baby to be killed in their womb. Sooner or later, every one of these women will grieve. This is not to say that they would universally reject abortion if they had it to do over again, but it is to say that as they come to realize that innocent blood was shed, they will grieve for a lost life with the same quality of grieving that Tiller's family experiences.
May we all grieve together.
-- Norman R. Williamsen Jr., Camarillo
Re: your June 1 article, "State agency casts wary eye as medical spas proliferate":
I am prompted to write because of one sentence in the entire article that caught my eye as especially significant: "Designed to prevent business interests from dictating medical decisions, California's corporate medicine laws prohibit medical practices besides hospitals and some clinics from being controlled by people who are not doctors."
Don't insurance companies, most of whose staff is not licensed in any aspect of the medical profession, dictate medical decisions? Aren't many insurance company decisions based solely on "business interests?" It's something to ponder.
-- Ilene Bernik, Oxnard
Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, with her Senate Bill 435, looks like another motorcycle expert -- not a real one-- trying to put through another unwanted, unneeded law for motorcycles.
I would like to know where Pavley gets her information. I am a real motorcycle expert, and motorcycles pollute less and get much better gas mileage than cars. And for the record, do the local police need another worthless law to waste their valuable time on by trying to stop bikes and crawling under them to look for catalytic converters?
Does the senator even know what a catalytic converter looks like? Does she even ride a motorcycle? What gives her the right to try and pass laws about bikes? Who did she talk to? For too long, the motorcycle industry has been hassled by people who have nothing to do with bikes yet seem to find us an easy target. It's time to leave motorcycles to the ones who ride them.
I'm not some crazed outlaw biker. I'm an intensive care nurse who, like others, enjoys the freedom we get when we ride.
Pavley should stick with what she knows best. It seems to me she has too much time on her hands, so she should go help someone who needs it.
-- Brad Ring, Oxnard
Re: Michael Powers and Dr. David Araujo's June 2 commentary, "Primary-care doctors: V.C. on the right path":
Powers and Araujo wrote an eloquent essay concerning the family practice training program at Ventura County Medical Center. However, I saw not one mention about specialist physicians in their report.
The primary-care doctor program in Ventura is excellent; however, these primary-care physicians provide outstanding care because of the backup and training provided by many excellent specialists affiliated with the program.
I first became involved with VCMC almost 20 years ago while I was head of neurology at Childrens Hospital in Los Angeles. I would come up here once a month to help teach the residents and to provide consultations for the attending physicians. The experience here in Ventura was so fulfilling that I eventually decided to move my family here and to spend my full time teaching and seeing patients through the VCMC system. I had trained at Johns Hopkins, Stanford, Harvard, and had been on the faculty at the University of Texas-Houston, USC and UCLA. Providing care and teaching here in Ventura has proven to be the highlight of my career.
I would hope that the readers of the essay concerning primary-care physicians realize that there is excellent breadth of care for all patients here in Ventura, as well as excellent depth with outstanding specialists in all areas of medical care.
-- William D. Goldie, M.D., Camarillo
(The writer specializes in pediatric neurology. -- Editor)
From an economic standpoint, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposal to close 220 state parks makes no sense.
The $70 million projected savings over the next year is less than 0.3 percent of our $24.3 billion debt -- pocket change in this context -- and would be consumed by interest on this debt before the parks are closed. Closing 79 percent of our state parks would only reduce the annual operating cost of the park system by about 36 percent, contradicting the claim that only the least profitable parks would be closed.
Moreover, the cost to the state of unemployment benefits and lost tax revenue from 2,000 park employees to be laid off has not yet been deducted from this "savings."
As a whole, our state parks system generates more revenue for the state than it costs to operate, i.e., it is profitable.
Why, then, close the parks? Upon closure, most of the land occupied by these parks becomes surplus property of the state. Based on past proposals by the governor to sell state property, we might expect to see this land on the auction block. In a depressed real estate market, timber interests, real estate developers and wealthy individuals (both domestic and foreign) seeking a scenic private estate could buy it for a song. Such potential buyers are typically large contributors to political campaigns. Is this a coincidence?
No one will benefit from closing our state parks except politicians and special interest groups.
-- Nick Fotheringham, Thousand Oaks
Re: your May 30 article, "People move into affordable houses":
In response to your heartwarming story: Being able to read, write and speak the English language is a qualification for one to become a U.S. citizen. Please tell me how one received affordable housing and has to be accompanied by an interpreter for their new apartment? Does one not have to be a U.S. citizen to receive this benefit?
Let's be clear on what "affordable housing" is. It is a redistribution of wealth. Someone has to pay the market value for the housing. The taxpayers do. Once the units are given, they have to be monitored by the city. So not only is there an initial cost to taxpayers, but an ongoing cost.
Please point me to the verse in the U.S. Constitution that states "housing for all."
-- William F. Klepper, Simi Valley
Recently, we lost our camera at Simi's new dog park. We discovered it was missing on our drive home, so we immediately returned to look for it. It was nowhere to be found, and we hoped someone would see it and could read a very old address label taped on it.
A short time later, to our surprise, we found a note on our front door asking us to call a number regarding our camera found at the dog park. The man who answered said he had read the address on the camera and had brought it to our home. When we were not there, he hid it on the property and then left the note. He was so considerate that he didn't want to just leave it on the porch in plain sight.
Jim D'Amico and Theresa Rochner are these good Samaritans who went out of their way to help strangers. We are so grateful to them for their "act of kindness" that we wanted to share our story. There are not only happy, playful dogs at the dog park, but very caring, thoughtful people.
-- Don & Beverly Zeller, Simi Valley
Re: Steven W. Thrasher's May 26 commentary, "Prop. 8 promotes hate":
Thrasher argues that the passage of Proposition 8 will lead to increased violence against gay Americans. It's a provocative and well-written piece.
Thrasher clearly has studied such violence, and his work to expose and eradicate it is admirable. I think his connection of this violence to Proposition 8, though, is misguided. To his credit, he does not say that the 7 million Californians who voted for Proposition 8 condone violence; he does, however, call it hate speech that "leads to raising children who are bullies (and sometimes murderers)." He also writes that voters have said gays should not feel equal or safe.
In fact, we have said nothing of the sort. We have voted to continue the definition of marriage between one man and one woman. Those who bully or perpetrate violence against gays should be prosecuted and scorned. They are thugs and unfortunately are among us, regardless of how we define marriage.
Thrasher concludes that without same-sex marriage, gays will be more vulnerable to homicide. This argument damages his credibility, and I fear it may hamper the effectiveness of his noble work.
-- Gary Carlson, Simi Valley
Music producer Phil Spector was sentenced by California Superior Court Judge Larry Fidler to 19 years to life in prison for murdering Lana Clarkson. The minimum for second-degree murder in California is 15 years; however, Fidler decided to add four years to the minimum sentence because a gun was involved. In doing so, Fidler sends a clear message that murders committed with a gun are somehow worse than other slayings -- that homicide in general should be ranked in terms of methodology.
I wonder if Judge Fidler is prepared to tell the family members of a person murdered by stabbing or bludgeoning that their loved one's murder wasn't heinous enough to warrant the stiffest penalty available by law for that crime. What exactly would be the rationale behind such a theory?
In fact, as grisly as it may be to consider, it would seem that death by shooting is less traumatic than death by stabbing, strangulation, burning or any number of other monstrous methods of homicide. So why does the statute allow for an increase in sentence for some gun-related murders, when murder by gun may very well be a less horrible means to death than most others? The answer is simple: California lawmakers are anti-gun, and this is another way for them to say as much.
To elevate gun homicides to a more egregious offense is to relegate the same atrocities by other means to lesser transgressions. It also diminishes the profound tragedy and loss felt by those whose family members were killed by a weapon other than a gun.
Don't get me wrong -- I won't lose any sleep over the additional four years Spector will have to wait for a parole hearing. But replace his gun with a butcher knife, a golf club, or a car in a lake, and the same justice should apply.
-- Nick & Laura Moses, Simi Valley
Re: your May 31 article, "Wanted: tenants":
I was very pleased to read about the new office building in downtown Ventura. My congratulations to Dan Frederickson and his partners.
I was surprised, however, when he politicized the article by proclaiming, "I watch Fox News because I'm a Republican." Well, if that's the case, may I recommend that he get very familiar with factcheck.org. This, of course, is the nonprofit, nonpartisan group that checks for veracity the news items of the day. Oh, wait a minute, he watches Fox News. Save the effort -- there's never any need for any facts there!
-- Jim Shahan, Oak Park
I live in Camarillo Springs, and since moving here in 1997, I have made all my water outlets in the house -- including the toilets, showers, sinks, etc. -- have a lower amount of water dispensed. I have trimmed back on my water outside, and wherever I plant new plants, they are of lower water needs.
However, twice now I have had the opportunity to go to the Camarillo City Hall in the last two years, most recently last Wednesday. I used the men's room, and although I reminded a city councilman and told the front desk that their water regulators in that room are of the old style, which run for a much longer period of time, no one seems to have paid attention.
So I thought possibly The Star could prompt the City Hall people -- and even check to make sure their new buildings have the less water use type appliances -- to make the entire city a water-wise city. They can put out pamphlets and tell their constituents to be water conscious, just as I get periodic reminders from Camrosa to be a good citizen. They should check all their own buildings, too.
-- John Adams, Camarillo
Re: your May 31 article, "Ventura school district sponsors a free health fair":
Once again, after weeks of rehearsal and singing their hearts out, not one mention of the Ventura Unified School District choir's performance at Summerfest.
These children, under the direction of Heidi House, have worked really hard to perform their best -- first at the Festival of Talent and then at Summerfest -- without one word of recognition from their hometown paper. They are going to perform one more time, at the Pacific High School graduation on June 9. Maybe this time The Star could give them the "well done" they so richly deserve.
-- Aileen Wachholz, Ventura
Re: your May 31 article, "Charter school would focus on trades":
I read with enthusiasm about the newly proposed charter high school -- Architecture, Construction and Engineering, or ACE. This is the type of out-of-the-box thinking needed to provide young men and women with alternatives to traditional high school.
I want to commend the Ventura County trade unions for being instrumental in this process. Their associations have supported public education for many years and have long advocated for such a high school. What an opportunity for students to complete their high school diploma, the requirements to go to a four-year college and learn a skilled trade at the same time!
With the proposed school being located in central Ventura County, it will provide opportunities for all districts. I urge the Oxnard Union High School District and Ventura County Office of Education to move quickly.
-- John B. Walker, Ventura
(The writer is a board member of the Ventura Unified School District and the California School Boards
Re: your May 30 article, "School official apologizes for racially offensive skit":
I wasn't there to see the skit at Westlake High School, but I agree having "BNR" on the license plate was poor judgment. But doing the skit? If it was Latino students who came up with the idea, wrote the skit and performed it, I don't see what all the fuss is about.
How can parents object to the skit unless they were there to see and hear it? And I guess by the same token you could ask how could I pass judgment if I wasn't there to hear it. But a student was quoted as saying, "You should not make fun of your own race." And a parent was quoted as saying, "It doesn't matter if the kids were Hispanic. They have to know it's not OK to offend cultures like that."
Are they kidding? If we can't laugh at ourselves then who can we laugh at? This is where political correctness goes awry. Why is it that George Lopez is so successful? Do these same people rise up in outrage when he performs? How about Jeff Foxworthy? A lot of his career is built around making fun of "rednecks."
I think America needs to get its sense of humor back and stop being so darn sensitive and seeing evil intent at every turn. Was it poor judgment on Dean of Activities James Marshall's part? Some editing would have been prudent. Should he have apologized? Maybe for some of it. Should he lose his position? I don't think so. Does he need sensitivity training? I doubt it.
Mr. Marshall is a great guy -- a really nice guy. He deserves to stay where he is. He has been good at his job.
I bet those boys were pretty proud of themselves when they wrote the skit, and kudos to them for having a sense of humor, for being involved in their school and being in charge of pep rallies next year.
-- Candace Litchfield, Thousand Oaks
(The writer is a parent of a Westlake High School student. -- Editor)
Re: Larry Jones' May 31 commentary, "In defense of excellence":
Bravo to Larry Jones!
Yes, students give up the mall and beach to participate in the Academic Decathlon. No, they do not have time to watch "American Idol." But as a former academic decathlon coach at La Reina High School, I can say that what they do gain is this:
1. An understanding of what it is to be part of a team. While students can earn individual honors, the team wins as a team. Students teach each other, support each other, comfort each other and come to love each other.
2. The meaning of sacrifice. While students sacrifice free time and their own pursuits, they learn that hard work and helping others have benefits far beyond themselves.
3. A capacity to stretch their brain in ways they never thought possible. Students are crammed with information and tested in mind-boggling detail. They are interviewed, write essays and give speeches. Recently, a student from the 1992 team came by to say hello. She reminisced that she still remembers the people she studied for the Super Quiz, like Yo-Yo Ma, Donna Shalala, Nadine Gordimer.
4. A confidence that stays with them. One year a student received 1,000 points out of a 1,000 on her speech. She has told me that that one score has given her confidence for the last 20 years -- in job interviews, in presentations she makes and in her view of herself.
No, La Reina never beat Moorpark High School. We never went to the state competition -- or the national competition. But I don't think one former member of the Academic Decathlon team regrets having competed.
Since I stopped coaching at La Reina, I go to Moorpark High School once a year to talk to the decathletes about the essay. I go because of Larry Jones. When my teams competed against his, I observed first hand his commitment, his passion and his joy when he saw students -- all students -- succeed.
I go because I see in his students what I saw in mine and in what Larry expressed in his article: a striving for excellence, a team spirit, and an enduring bond with each other.
Larry's dedication to his decathletes -- not as students who have the requisite GPA, but as human beings in his charge -- is beyond my ability to explain. Moorpark's success is as much a tribute to Larry Jones as it is to his students. Thank God for teachers like Larry Jones and for programs like the Academic Decathlon.
-- Betsy Potts, Thousand Oaks
It is obvious that California's budget needs a drastic overhaul. Herewith is a serious recommendation:
To the elected leaders of California government:
If you are serious stewards of state government resources rather than posturing politicians, stop publicly threatening to cut the most important and fundamental functions of state government, namely public safety and education, and terminate functions of lesser fundamental importance, such as:
1. Non-emergency free social services to illegal immigrants.
2. Many of the state boards, commissions, agencies and other taxpayer-funded entities that collectively overregulate businesses and drive business out of the state.
Do not claim that state government needs more revenue; it does not! State government needs to cut non-fundamental functions and services.
Perform the governmental functions for which you were elected, and be responsible stewards of the taxpayers' money.
-- Donald E. Power, Thousand Oaks
I'm a white male, over 45 and live a middle-class life. And you know what? I think Judge Sonia Sotomayor is fully capable of representing my best interests on the Supreme Court.
Her record and many upstanding referrals all point to a fine legal mind, as well as personal integrity. And the fact that she acknowledges that a person's background, gender and ethnicity all help inform their thinking tells me she has intellectual honesty, as well as the common sense to question how she comes to her own decisions.
The president has made a great choice. I support it.
-- Aaron Deri, Thousand Oaks
Re: your May 30 article, "Sheepish Simi will follow own water rules":
Apparently the elected members of the Simi Valley City Council don't feel that their responsibilities include reading and understanding items placed before them prior to voting on new ordinances affecting the city and its residents. And somehow it falls to "staff" to do that reading and understanding, so our elected officials are blaming their underlings. I don't recall voting for or even seeing any "staff" on my ballot. How cowardly of the council members to act in this manner.
Finally, according to The Star, "The Simi Valley ordinance was passed in a first reading." So was this proposed ordinance read aloud to council members at their meeting, or was it just assumed that each of them had read the proposed ordinance in full? If it was read aloud, then they all were asleep at the switch and not paying attention.
How many other items affecting us all have been passed by this group without them understanding what they were voting into law?
-- Roger O. Vaden, Simi Valley
Re: your May 20 editorial, "Reckoning day for California":
This editorial really missed the main motivation behind the resounding defeat of Propositions 1A through 1E. Yes, maybe the word "billion" numbed some of our brains, and yes, maybe many of us were confused by the complexity of the issues, as well as being tired of having to go to the polls so frequently.
But blaming us voters for the state's incredible mess is way off base. Editors surely have to ask why we voters have, over the years, passed so many "expensive" initiatives that have purportedly tied the hands of our legislators. These initiatives have arisen because past and current governors and legislators have abdicated their responsibilities, leaving a gaping vacuum quickly filled by mostly one-issue special interests.
What's more, in some instances, the initiative process has actually been encouraged by these very same officials. What a splendid way to avoid accountability!
The result, then, is a complete bypass of the legislative process, thus eschewing in-depth study, expert testimony, serious public debate and pragmatic compromise. The issues are dumped on the electorate to sort out, always accompanied by a generous overload of sound bites and fliers.
Had past and present elected officials done their jobs, few of these initiatives would ever have come into being as such. What we voters are saying, therefore, is that we are sick and tired of having the state run by propositions, that the "blame" for a mess like this needs to be placed squarely where it belongs, and that Sacramento needs to do the job they are elected and paid to do!
-- Allan C. Strayer, Westlake Village
As a member of the public that attended every meeting the city had on planning a lasting tribute to those killed and injured in the Metrolink crash, the families that suffered and those still suffering, I applaud the City of Simi Valley for proposing to use additional Community Development Block Grant funds to further the work we all put into this project. Staff did a great job listening to us and coming up with a beautiful memorial honoring those neighbors and friends that were on the train that fateful day.
As a member of this year's CDBG funding committee, it was our job to allocate funds to those in need and to help make our city a nice, clean, safe place to live, work and raise a family. This seems to fulfill our task.
Thanks, council members, thanks!
-- Wayne Evans, Simi Valley