Do We Care About the Child?

To the Editor,

I would like to commend your article on the working poor (February 28), a population invisible to many Americans. Our society has a stereotype that those who are poor are "lazy" and, thus, unemployed. Stories like "Working Poor, Living Poor" help debunk this myth. Poverty is a result of a greedy capitalistic society rather than ineptitude and laziness.

Your article neglects to mention a large portion of those living in poverty--children. In Arizona, 22 percent of children live in poverty. The parents of these children are expected to experience "the pride of returning to work" (as mandated by the Welfare Reform Act passed during the Clinton years). And as parents return to work, 60 percent of children under the age of 6 spend all or some of their day in child-care. We need to be concerned with this number, given that most of the care in Pima County is rated poor to mediocre. The effects of poor child-care settings on children can be detrimental, while high quality child care has been linked to increased school readiness skills and positive social skills.

However, quality child-care is out of reach for many families. The average cost of full-time care for one child in Pima County is between $3,500-$7,000 per year. High-quality care costs more. For many families, this cost is unbearable, particularly if there is more than one child in the family. Our government helps only the neediest of families with child-care subsidies through the Arizona Department of Economic Security. But the subsidies are based on the cost of child-care in 1998, and costs have risen 14 percent since then.

Governor Hull's proposed budget for 2003, which will begin on July 1 of this year, proposes to reduce the subsidy rate to levels set in 2001--which were based on prices of child care in 1996. This means that families already struggling financially will have to pay the difference for child-care. The old adage that our children are our future makes it clear that this is an issue we should all be concerned about. Concerned readers can contact their legislators and urge them to keep the subsidy rates where they are--we cannot afford to skimp on our children in times of need.

A final point: a typical child-care worker in Pima County gets paid about $8 an hour (yet another low-wage job). This is less than telemarketers, street vendors and animal caretakers. Is this how we value children?

--Monica Brinkerhoff

Credit Due

To the Editor,

Thanks for Connie Tuttle's nice spread on the alternative Tucson poetry scene ("Hidden Poets," April 4). I do want to call attention to one serious omission, though. Dove Diamond, a righteous poet, put together the Hazy Days open mic scene a year and a half ago and continues to nurture it, creating a safe space for poets and would-be poets to try out their work. He was not mentioned in the article, but a lot of us want to say "thanks" to Dove for his efforts; without him, the scene would be much less than what it is.

--Albert Vetere Lannon

Bad Taste

To the Editor,

Now that Tucson has been blessed, finally, with a gourmet Asian restaurant, I deplore Diza Sauers' pedestrian review of Dao Hunan (Chow, February 21). Diza, meet authentic Asian food. I have traveled and worked in Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Okinawa, Guam, the Philippines and Bali. I am delighted with the unique menu items, the detail, spicing and presentation of the cuisine at Dao Hunan.

My first complaint is the offhanded putdowns of "the usual round of suspects (as opposed to) some authentic dishes worth trying." It is not only by the uniqueness of a menu item that its taste and quality is judged, but in its taste and quality. Rice is a "usual suspect," but a great jasmine or basmati or one of tens if not hundreds of exquisitely prepared white rice means the difference between a treasured Asian (Middle East, Near East, Central and South American, European and North American) dish--unless you prefer Uncle Ben's varieties.

When you write that "the charbroiled pork stick . . . is better than it sounds" and "the salmon curry is as strange (sic) as it sounds," I wonder if you came for a concert or a meal. Asian food does not sound like American food. Asian words, languages, tones and rhythms do not sound familiar to American ears. The cultures are different. The very idea of going to an Asian restaurant, especially one with the awesome flavors of Dao Hunan's, is to eat something exotic. Eat with your mouth, not your reading glasses.

When you write that the lamb hot pot has "fermented tofu, which tastes like mustard on steroids (sic)" and "All in all, the dish works, albeit in a strange fashion. The notes are low and salty, slightly sour and bright, all at the same time," my palate screams in disgust for your lack of familiarity with Thai cuisine. The essence of Thai food is to excite the range of taste receptors in the mouth. If you want bland baloney, stop eating and just read your words.

Your description of the Siam Duck as "overwhelmingly rich" reflects your difficulty in appreciating gourmet food. But the greatest effrontery to good taste is your review of the Pad Thai. I grant that on any given day, at any given meal, standards may vary. But in Thailand, where Pad Thai is the national dish served in restaurants and by street vendors, the preparations are so varied, per the cook's genius and inspiration, that the fish sauce, soy sauce and sugar might make such a dish unrecognizable to you.

--Sol Grossman

Critical Habitat

To the Editor,

Tim Vanderpool's article on the cooperative activities of conservation groups on both sides of the border ("Borderline Hope," March 21) gave a fair assessment of the situation, but the story contained a false criticism of the Wildlands Project by Border Ecology Group director Dick Kamp.

Kamp was apparently misquoted (Mailbag, April 4) in that story as saying he had "justification that there were movements between the Wildlands Project and The Nature Conservancy to try and seize Mexican land." But since Kamp's comment was nevertheless published and will likely cause unnecessary consternation among private landowners in Mexico, it is appropriate here to further clarify the cooperative nature of the Wildlands Project's cross-border conservation work in that region.

Kamp correctly noted in his letter that many Mexicans are suspicious about perceived U.S. "interventionist" conservation efforts in that country. Already aware of those suspicions, the Wildlands Project has long led the way in careful, cooperative, inclusive projects to protect land in Mexico. A prime example of that respect for Mexican autonomy in conserving land has been the Wildlands Project's parrot protection project at Ejido Tutuaca.

Working with Mexican partners Pronatura and Naturalia, the Wildlands Project succeeded in the protection of 6,000 private acres of endangered thick-billed parrot habitat at Ejido Tutuaca through a unique, long-term conservation lease that was unanimously voted upon and agreed to by every ejido member. The lease agreement halted the imminent clear-cut logging of the area and will result in ejido members receiving cash payments in lieu of logging revenues for the next 15 years.

In addition, the agreement included the construction of three cabins which will generate eco-tourism revenues, and a full-time paid position for a local groundskeeper. The agreement with the ejido provides for project monitoring by Pronatura and Naturalia to ensure payments are received by the ejido and the land is protected. It is hoped that this new method for conserving private lands in Mexico will be a model for respectful cooperation in future cross-border conservation projects, demonstrating that economic viability can be sustained for Mexican private land owners through activities that do not destroy critical habitat.

--Kim Vacariu
Southwest Representative
Wildlands Project