Readers comments 1.12.13
Supernaturalism is not the answer
Al Villanueva’s “Reflections on Sandy Hook” Viewpoint in Wednesday’s COURIER was confusing in that he continually vacillated between identifying concretely plausible and supernaturally unreasonable connections with that crime.
Mr. Villanueva makes a plea for “pragmatic remedies,” and identifies several existing social conditions that are conceivably connected with our national addiction to violence. He also entangles the idea that some mythological holy being not only “…knows why Newtown occurred” but can, through adherence to its spiritual assertions, bring about elimination of human violence and a return to a fantasized time when, “There was only peace and harmony…”
Mr. Villanueva ignores the fact that indigenous native peoples have the same history of violence, as well as compassion, as all other people’s of all other ethnic groups. These are human traits and have been historically universal, regardless of whatever supernatural belief system was currently in vogue.
If we want to reduce the incidences of violence then, as a species, we must take responsibility for our destiny and stop trying to blame cause and effect on adherence or non-adherence to some magical djinn or jujus.
Some sensible examples would be: stopping the sale of assault weapons, allocating a tiny portion of our massive military budget to buying back guns, allocating another tiny portion of our bloated warfare budget to providing social support for families and individuals most in danger of falling through the cracks or acting out in irresponsible and hurtful ways, developing school curriculums to include a scientific understanding of human behavior as well as concrete constructive strategies for solving interpersonal problems, etc.
Our actions reflect our culture and unless we rebalance our capitalistic insatiability as well as concretely learn to act more rationally and ethically, we will continue to generate human and ecological tragedy.
The time is now
Beth Harnett gave us a fine discussion of the California Public Utilities Commission and its role in setting rates of California utilities (COURIER, January 5).
One additional fact is exceedingly important: The PUC sets rates only for privately-owned public utilities; publicly- owned public utilities set their own rates.
For example, the cities of Pomona, La Verne, Los Angeles or the Metropolitan Water District or Three Valleys Municipal Water District do not go to the PUC for approval of their rates. Rates are set locally, through actions of locally-elected councils or boards of directors. These agencies are required to operate transparently, their deliberations open to the public under the Brown Act and other regulations.
Local control is one of the major advantages of Claremont owning its own water company. Approximately 85 percent of water operations in California are owned by public agencies. If Claremont owns the water company, we do not need this constant appealing to the PUC.
One problem for Claremonters is that the little Southern California Water Company over in San Dimas, which was invited to take over our water service back in 1922, has morphed into a national corporation, American States Water. This private company, listed on the New York stock exchange, has stockholders who love their profits that continue to rise even in hard times—at the cost this year of $8 million to Claremont rate-payers. That money in a few years could buy the water company.
We had 800 Claremonters last year protesting the high rates before an administrative law judge sent here by the PUC. Even that display of public outrage will have little or no effect on the PUC ruling. We know from past experience that the recommendations from the Division of Ratepayer Associates, supposed to advocate for the public, is also lightly dismissed by the PUC.
We need local control. We need to buy our water company now. If only Golden State were willing to sell, we could negotiate a price. If they continue to refuse, the only alternative is to go to eminent domain proceedings, and pay whatever a court decides. But even that uncertainty is better than leaving our fate in the hands of a rapacious, profit-oriented private company and at the dictation of the PUC.
Charging our volunteers
The city council’s decision to exempt “veterans with special license plates” who reside outside Claremont from paying fees for parking at the Wilderness Park appears to be based upon the council members’ gratitude to such veterans for their service/contribution to our community. The principle underlying the decision is not unreasonable.
Yet, if service/contribution to our community is to be the basis for an exemption from such parking fees, are there not other groups whose membership includes non-residents, whose service/contribution to our community is at least as great, who should be given the same exemption? Most of us would say “Yes, of course there are.”
For example, there are many non-residents involved in the myriad of volunteer groups in our community, which range from those tutoring our kids to those cleaning up our roads. There are non-resident police officers who enhance our security. There are non-resident teachers in our schools and colleges who help prepare our kids and young adults for success in the future.
There are many non-resident city employees who do everything from keeping our parks green to solving countless problems residents face. And, there are many non-resident veterans who have not purchased special license plates identifying them as veterans who have contributed no less than those who have purchased the plates.
If we honor one group for its service and contribution to our community with an exemption from parking fees, it is only fair that we honor all of them.
Hopefully, council members will apply the principle it used to exempt a few of the many veterans who are residents of other communities from paying the Wilderness Park parking fees to those non-resident individuals in other groups whose efforts significantly enhance the quality of life in Claremont.
Dean McHenry, Jr.