We encourage readers to submit letters to the editor on issues of interest to East Valley residents. Submissions should be no longer than 300 words, factually accurate and original thoughts of the writer. Please be brief and include name, address, city and phone number for verification. Letters and call-in comments may be edited for clarity and length.
Unfair traffic enforcement
In reference to Bob Steigerwald’s March 18 column, “ ‘John Adams’ provides gripping view of history,” his opinion is supported on at least two fronts. First, the proposal to install cameras on the freeway to raise $90 million dollars implies the court system is being used as an income source and not as a means for justice.
Second, all one has to do is sit in a courtroom during pretrial hearings at the respective cities. I have done so in Mesa, Chandler, and Gilbert. The routine is the same; the verbiage seems scripted and provides no distinction between cities. More than half of the observed cases were unrelated to the original reason for the police stop: i.e., expired driver’s license, no proof of insurance, seat belt violation, no registration papers, etc. The police report sounds like it was written by a lawyer and in such a way as to declare the offense an act just short of murder against the people of the respective city. The fines and penalties imposed seem out of proportion to the offense committed, which also includes mandatory jail time. At the end of the day, the court system has assessed fines of about $100,000, on average. This happens almost every day.
No double-dipping for retirees
I sympathize with the teachers of the Tempe Union High School District with the loss of benefits for their medical coverage. But the Arizona State Retirement System should not take the brunt of the school district’s financial problems by letting the “retired” teacher return to the same teaching position under the guise of “contract laborer” who will not have to continue contributions to the state retirement fund.
There are many communities that have allowed the same employee to return under these conditions. We are hurting ourselves in the long run. There has been no increase for the state retirees for the past four years, and may not be for several more years. But the costs for daily living continues to increase. Food, gas, utilities, and yes, medical coverage. We don’t even get a cost of living just to keep up.
Be careful in your decision. Think about tomorrow. If you choose retirement now, you will be accepting a much smaller monthly income and this will be forever. Believe me, your expenses will not remain the same.
The state retirement system must review its formulas and distribute funds, like Social Security does when the “retiree” really does retire at age 65. If you deplete the state retirement system now, you will have nothing when you really need it and cannot continue to work.
The ‘5 Cs’ for the schools
The five Cs that defined Arizona in the “old days” (the 1950s and ’60s) should give way to the new five C’s in education if our state is to retain its economic competitiveness and vitality:
Compensation — We’ll need to pay teachers more money if we are to attract and retain dedicated, inspiring, personable and professional educators.
Consolidate — We have too many “standalone” elementary districts (Avondale Elementary, for example) and too many small unified districts (Miami Unified) that need to be consolidated with neighboring districts to provide better educational opportunities and to maximize state dollars.
Calendar — We can no longer afford to have students attend 180-plus days of school per year while our global competitors are going to school 200 to 220 days per year.
Cooperate — Teachers, administrators, the Arizona Department of Education, and the Arizona Legislature need to throw down the gauntlet and start cooperating for the betterment of education statewide. Blaming one another for real or imagined shortfalls in our educational system has led to acrimony and resulted in very few positive achievements over many years.
Continuing status change — If we pay teachers more and have students attend school longer, we need to be able to assist underperforming teachers to teach better, and where necessary, terminate unproductive teachers without long, drawn-out hearings, court proceedings, etc.
Are we capable of completing the new five C’s? Clearly, we either change the collective character of our schools or we risk cataclysmic and costly consequences this century and beyond.
Richard K. Meszar
Salt River Project
Make the grocers pay
I don’t even know where and how to began to thank SRP for raising our rates during the hottest summer month by only 6.3 percent instead of 9.3 percent (Our View, March 18). Plus, we have a chance to say if we approve or not. What a joke. The people at SRP know that they will get their hike. If they want to encourage conservation, don’t go after the working people or people who lost jobs, etc. Trust me, most of us conserve to pay our bills. How about going after businesses and retail stores who are freezing out their employees and chasing customers away? And even grocery stores, where their huge entrances are opened all year round. How much energy do you think they are conserving?
Rules would have prevented mess
Despite a painfully obvious explanation of the subprime mortgage crisis plunging the U.S. economy into recession, Republican propagandists continue to parrot their mindless denunciation of government regulation. While the housing bubble inflated the easy profits of crooked brokers selling mortgages to unqualified borrowers, the Bush administration not only did nothing to limit the reckless lending; it stopped states from imposing their own regulations to prevent this fiasco.
The perennial Republican campaign against regulation betrays colossal ignorance of economic history. Recurring economic crises result not from too much, but too little regulation. In a recent instance of inadequate regulation, the Enron Corporation collapsed in a mass of fraudulent theft, climaxed by the criminal conviction of President Bush’s big political backer, the late “Kenny Boy” Lay. Enron exploited electric utility deregulation. The company plotted strategic generator shutdowns to create power shortages. Through this fraudulent market manipulation, the company stole hundreds of millions of dollars from California power consumers.
President Bush obviously understands none of this dismal history. In 2002, finally forced to confront the Enron collapse, he displayed his perennial inability to learn from experience. Minutes after saying, “… Our government must do something about the (Enron debacle)” he warned that the government should “not overregulate those who are trying to create work.”
Now, with the subprime mortgage fiasco sinking the economy into recession, we hear proposals for another huge taxpayer bailout, more hundreds of billions for irresponsible borrowers and reckless lenders. The same Republican propagandists who preach free-market risk taking and denounce socialism generally, accept chronic socialistic bailouts focused on the rich. And they still fight regulation.
In other words, trust the crooks who have proved that they can’t be trusted.
Good visual aid
I was delighted a thumbnail picture of Los Angeles Times Opinion section contributing editor Erin Aubry Kaplan (March 21) was attached to her “Angry black men are scary, angry white men are heroic” contribution to Sen. Barack Obama’s defense of Reverend Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.’s remarks.
I was initially worried she might have been either Irish or Jewish instead of African-American when she immediately announced in her first sentence: “I’m black and mad.” Whew! Close call.