Re "Massive evacuations ordered as onslaught of fires spreads," Oct. 23
The fires raging across our area are frightening and tragic. But there is only one place to lay the blame: on the doorstep of the Los Angeles (and Orange and San Diego) county boards of supervisors, which never met a mountaintop development they didn't like.
I worked on a seasonal fire crew in the Santa Monica Mountains during the 1985 Decker fire, and even then it was clear that allowing people to build in these areas was naive at best and greedy at worst.
When is someone with courage going to say that there is a limit to what our resources can tolerate? We know that the Santa Anas blow hot and dry in the fall and that dry chaparral plants burn.
What we don't apparently know is how to say no to campaign contributions from developers.
As a former Southern Californian, I was saddened to see the damage wrought by fire this year. The prayers of many people here are with you during this trying time.
Once the fire season has ended, I ask that you consider this: In Florida, for years, frame homes were quick, easy casualties of hurricanes. Finally, the state set strict building codes that basically ended homes being blown away by storms.
Now is the time to go the final step and outlaw any frame home in a fire zone. Concrete, metal or other construction is fire resistant if not fireproof.
With limitations on home construction, perhaps we can finally stop the endless procession of building, fire and reconstruction.
As the devastating fires rip through Southern California again, I have to ask why we were not more prepared. We need to be more proactive before the winds arrive. First, the local fire stations could involve local residents in fire watches. The media could get the word out before the winds arrive. They could send the message to would-be arsonists that the neighborhood is watching. Let's learn from these experiences and, come next September and October, start preparing before the winds arrive.
Every soot-smeared fire captain says the same thing: If only there were more resources. Presumably, they mean people to clear the brush and operate helicopters, planes, trucks, mobile medical stations and food kitchens. In previous disasters, the gaps were filled by the National Guard. Remember them? Now, instead of helping to save homes, they are sitting in Iraq waiting for their turn at the hideous roulette of the roadside bomb.
With firefighters unable to cope with limited equipment and resources, the only safe option for residents is to flee with their photo albums and pets. With a relatively small investment, why couldn't area fire hydrants be connected to rows of 30-foot utility poles with a wide sprayer nozzle at the top? Firefighters would strategically create a misty barrier of saturated ground that would stop the approaching fire. Residents can afford to pay for them.
David G. Wright
Uncontrolled wildfires, endangered firefighters, terrorized people, devastated natural beauty, billions in resources wasted and public and private property destroyed. I wonder if any of the arsonists responsible for some of the recent blazes will ever get theirs? The state should offer a $50,000 reward for the arrest and arraignment of offenders, with an additional $1 million following the conviction. Wave the carrot of instant gratification and see who speaks up.
I want to say hats off to all the wonderful firefighters fighting an unbelievable battle, saving our lives and property. They're a fantastic group of men and women who don't receive enough recognition.
Foundation's values remain solid
Re "Giving, with strings attached," Opinion, Oct. 21
Scott Sherman gets it wrong. Ford Foundation grantees accept our grant letter not because they abandon their principles but because they understand the letter states Ford's values on nonviolence and nondiscrimination.
Sherman frets that the grant letter limits free speech. The facts say otherwise. More than 6,000 grantees have signed the letter and continue their work unabated. Universities we fund understand the letter refers to official positions of the institution -- not to classroom discussion or campus speakers. The foundation is a vigorous defender and funder of academic freedom and free speech. We do not, however, fund speech espousing violence, terrorism, bigotry or the destruction of any state.
Sherman repeats the unfounded assertion that the grant letter was foisted on Ford. Untrue. The letter's authorship remains with the foundation. The ACLU's Anthony Romero was consulted, however, and his suggestions were adopted.
The courageous work of the people we support speaks for itself. Whether fighting to expand civil rights or creating opportunities for the marginalized, our grantees offer powerful evidence that the Ford Foundation's values remain unswerving.
Marta L. Tellado
The Ford Foundation
Students can look both ways
Re "Expo Line plan meets resistance," Oct. 21
Talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth. We are going to include another section of the city in a transportation plan that can only help enhance the lives of the residents, and we have a new term, "environmental racism." I have a suggestion. Re-educate the Dorsey High students on simple traffic safety. This isn't just a problem at Dorsey but at schools around the city. If this is a bona fide concern, then it would make more sense to put in a few pedestrian footbridges than to raise or lower a train track.
The notion that high school students cannot simply check to see if traffic is coming is insulting and ridiculous. As a recent high school graduate, I vividly remember being able to swivel my head from right to left and right again when crossing the street. Another idea: Instead of Angelenos forfeiting taxpayer money to build an underground or above-ground line for these outrageous concerns, hire a crossing guard.
San Francisco's medical plan
Re "S.F. offering healthcare to neediest," Oct. 22
I was stunned and happy to hear that at least one city in California is willing to provide medical assistance to people not solely based on whether they are covered by traditional insurance. San Francisco's offering of a medical plan that is either free of charge or offers payment on a sliding scale is at least a small start in the right direction of ensuring that everyone has access to healthcare. Being a former San Franciscan, it does not surprise me that this city has taken matters into its own hands. I only wish that the rest of the lawmakers would start to pay attention to the real needs of the people who elected them.
Divine texts, flawed authors?
Re "Scholars try to reconcile 'problematic' religious texts," Oct. 22
While I find it heartening that these scholars are spending time trying to find loopholes in the more embarrassing parts of their traditional texts, I could save them a lot of time and effort. Just accept the fact that your holy books are the product of human creativity, not divine revelation, and thus are subject to all the errors, exaggerations and fabrications as any other human effort.
If the Old or New Testaments, the Koran or any other religious tract contains passages that are problematic, it's because the author was a flawed, imperfect human being. So rather than wasting your time bending over backward to reinterpret what the text is really saying, why not just set the books down, shake your neighbor's hand, try to get along and just be nice to everyone?
Dignified way to die at home
Re "State reaches into grave for funds," column, Oct. 21
Steve Lopez, in this instance, failed to look at the big picture. Lopez states that the value of the Medi-Cal beneficiary's house is excluded in determining his eligibility for assistance. Let us assume that Leonard Ratzman receives $100,000 in benefits from Medi-Cal. At the time of his death, let's say his house is worth $300,000. Medi-Cal can get repaid and the daughter can get the balance. If the house is worth less than $100,000, Medi-Cal should write off the uncovered balance. This program provides a dignified way for Ratzman to remain in his house without imposing on his daughter for financial assistance. The money that Medi-Cal recovers is then available to loan to other qualified individuals.