In a letter published on Nov. 20 ("Dunbar Explains Why She Sold Out"), City Councilmember Kathleen Dunbar attempts to justify her recent vote to let a court decision--shielding 89 billboards from city code enforcement--stand. For reasons that are not clear, she goes on to make patently false statements about my work in the Arizona Legislature as a volunteer lobbyist for neighborhood and environmental interests.
I have never in any way had a contract with the city of Tucson or been paid or authorized to lobby the Legislature on its behalf. Any citizen can verify this with the city's Procurement Department. Ms. Dunbar made this same claim two years ago during her electoral campaign in less-than-diplomatic terms. Perhaps she is displeased that I performed previous contract work for the city as an investigator and trial witness and was instrumental in obtaining judgments and settlements that removed more than two dozen noncompliant billboards from our streetscapes, and in identifying major code violations that are still at issue for more than 200 other billboards.
The second charge is failure to register as a lobbyist, which is a violation of state law. In fact, I have been continuously registered as a lobbyist since 1993. This is all a matter of public record in the Secretary of State's Office.
It should be added that Ms. Dunbar's characterization of her vote favoring the pro-billboard legislation -- an issue that passed in 2000 -- does not stand up to scrutiny either. The truth is that during the previous session, Rep. Dunbar voted twice for a bill that had the same operative language in it that HB 2559 did, but in addition was expressly retroactive (HB 2671: third read March 11, 1999; final read May 5, 1999). Fortunately, an unprecedented statewide coalition of neighborhood, environmental, astronomical and municipal organizations were able to defeat the bill, even though the pleas of Ms. Dunbar's constituents fell on deaf ears.
After reading the letter from Seth Frantzman defending Wal-Mart and other corporations for their practices at home and abroad ("In Defense of Wal-Mart," Nov. 20), I felt so warm and fuzzy. How could anyone even think of criticizing these global forces of good? To think that they just want to keep the wretched South Koreans from the famine! Who would have guessed?
I was left with some questions, though.
First, there's the question of Coca-Cola and its Colombian activities. Union activists working for Coke have an alarming tendency of ending up murdered. In fact, eight of them have ended up dead, one of them while on the job in a Coke plant and another after being taken from the job by armed gunmen. After each murder, there's often mass resignations from the union. Coke maintains that the workers simply don't want a union--fear of death doesn't enter into the equation at all, you see.
Is mayhem and violence limited to Coca Cola? Of course not. Take the case of Shell Oil and its activities in Africa. While building a pipeline in Africa, Shell encountered local opposition and protests. Their reaction? Hiring mercenaries to violently suppress the protesters. This has been widely reported on in Europe, which moved Shell to mount a public relations campaign.
Corporations pay pittances to foreign workers under hellish working conditions. Are they doing it out of their deep, abiding concern for the welfare of these people? Hell, no! They're doing it because they can get away with exploiting the workers and destroying the environments in those nations.
Unlike state-run public schools, charter schools vary so much in both approach and mission that it seems unlikely that essentially quantitative comparisons with traditional public schools such as that in Nov. 20's "Charting Charters" have any relevance or validity.
Charter schools must be judged one at a time. That Arizona's charters have performed poorly in aggregate is no reason for shutting down successful charters or impeding further school reform, which is what reports such as "Charting Charters" provoke in the political sphere. The combination of tone and method used in the report make it seem the work of somebody with an ideological axe to grind.
The obvious remedy to the situation was missing from the article: Replace failing charters and failing methods with those that have been proven to succeed. Dave Devine should have addressed what sorts of charters or other forms of education reform succeed, rather than choosing a lazy and convenient method to bash the idea as a whole.
We encourage Bennett Kalafut to re-read "Charting Charters," which presents both pros and cons of charter schools.