Chamber Of Horrors

To the Editor,

Regarding "The Tucson Chamber Of Crapola" (Tucson Weekly, April 17): The Skinny had it absolutely right when it derided the Greater Tucson Chamber of Commerce's position opposing the open-space bond question as stupid. The Chamber's position included suggestions so foolish and off-base (that developers should "donate open space") it was hard to believe they were being made by someone who knew anything about the real business world.

Mailbag If I were a member of the Tucson Chamber, I'd be angry that the people running this organization aren't telling me the truth, and are instead shilling for big business interests (i.e., corporate homebuilders) who care nothing about Tucson and the thousands of local businesses that comprise the backbone of our community. Then I'd scrap my membership.

The truth of the matter is that the open space bond is good for business, even if the Chamber can't--or won't--figure it out. Tucson's economy is largely tourist-based, and people visit our community to experience our unsurpassed natural resources and take advantage of our world-class recreation opportunities--not to see the latest tract home development. The bond proposal seeks to preserve key parcels of tourist-attracting open space (like Tortolita Mountain Park) and fund trail and trailhead development, and it will also ensure public access to federal lands, improve flood control, protect our water resources by facilitating natural recharge, and preserve historic treasures like the Juan Bautista De Anza National Historic Trail. And here's another important benefit of bond funds: Pima County uses its bond dollars to leverage matching grants that would otherwise not have been available to our community. That's an excellent benefit for Pima County taxpayers--and free money is a concept even the knuckleheads over at the Chamber of Commerce should like.

If the Chamber and their colleagues at SAHBA had a lick of sense, they'd embrace this outstanding opportunity to secure our future and support the open space bond. Unfortunately, their agenda is much narrower than that; it's not what's best for Tucson that concerns them, it's what's best for a handful of big-money, mostly out-of-state interests. Such selfishness, greed and lack of vision are the bane of Tucson.

--Jerry D. Boettcher

A Friend Writes...

To the Editor,

Regarding "Front And Center" (Tucson Weekly, April 24): How about The Skinny being called The Silly from now on? Friends of the Sonoran Desert, the group supporting the open-space bond proposal, is made up not only of local environmentalists but also neighborhood activists, preservationists, progressive Realtors, and just plain folks who are sick of all the inappropriate and uncontrolled development wrecking the Tucson basin.

Rich developers can afford to hire expensive consultants and lawyers with years of experience and skill in manipulating public opinion. So why criticize a local group for making use of the skills and expertise of specialists who work on our side? Expert skills are necessary to win this campaign! Consulting with an expert doesn't mean surrender of local control. How about some support from The Skinny for a slightly more even playing field here?

--Alfredo Gonzales, Jr.

Atom Bomb

To the Editor,

Christine Stavem's "Who Will Tell The People" (Tucson Weekly, April 3) was a good example of "how not to be believed" at least by the people who know about the subject. The plutonium "rocket," as Stavem discusses it, is nonsense: The radioactive material is well shielded and the idea that five billion people could be poisoned--even if the material is spread on earth--is absurd.

The mega-merged banking behemoths was another good, or rather bad, example. The facts are that the USA and every other first-world country is getting a two-class society--upper and lower. There is nothing we can do about it, so shouldn't we help people at least plan for it? The Weekly doesn't seem to think so.

The surveillance cameras are another effect of the two-class society; as we have more criminals we have to keep track of them. Honest people will not object--why should they?

The last one I will talk about is the U-238 ammunition; it is not radioactive, and is about as dangerous as iron, nickel or cobalt. Fragments of iron are dangerous if they are traveling fast.

The more silly the left wing looks, the better for the right wing. How about an article on UFOs--that makes as much sense as what Stavem has written.

--Stewart Hoenig

To the Editor,

Christine Stavem's "Who Will Tell the People?" (Tucson Weekly, April 3) is marred by its top example of censored stories of 1996 (Nuclear Proliferation in Space). Stavem quotes Karl Grossman, who quotes "authorities" who claim the plutonium-238 in the NASA Cassini spacecraft could expose roughly five billion people to dangerous levels of radiation. This kind of hysterical exaggeration calls for a reality check.

Many satellites now in orbit are powered by plutonium-238 thermo-electric generators, and each kilogram of plutonium represents 17,000 Curies of radioactivity, producing 560 watts of heat and about 30 watts of electric power. Each Curie corresponds to the radioactive decay of 37 billion atoms per second. If Cassini carried 72 pounds (33 kilograms) of plutonium, there would be 560 thousand Curies. If that seems like a lot, compare it with something else.

The Soviet reactor explosion at Chernobyl released 30 to 40 million Curies of iodine and cesium, and probably even more radiation in the form of gases (xenon and krypton). The damage to the environment was tremendous. Perhaps 30 people were killed while trying to fight the fire. There may be several hundred cases of cancer in the general population caused by the accident, though it will be very hard to distinguish these from the much larger "normal" cancer rate.

Compared to this, a plutonium-238 electric generator in a spacecraft is peanuts. It is not a reactor that can explode. If it collided with some space junk, some plutonium might be released which would dissipate harmlessly into space. The only real concern is a possible explosive failure during the initial rocket launch, which might contaminate some Florida real estate. As for injuries to people, falling shrapnel would be more dangerous.

A lot of baloney has been written about plutonium, including the label of "most toxic substance known." Some biological and chemical substances are far more toxic than plutonium. Granting the possible alternative of solar power (much more expensive for many deep-space missions), I believe the benefits of Cassini as designed will outweigh the risks by at least several million times.

--David L. Hetrick

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