Before You Fly, Get On the Bus

To the Editor,

In an introduction to your feature story "On the Bus" (July 11), you accurately nail the situation: "With rare exceptions, aging boomers are definitely not On the Bus." We are that rare exception, but just barely.

As frequent air travelers, we've discovered that one of the benefits of living in midtown is being within walking distance of a bus stop. The good news is that if we're willing to pack reasonably light and our plane doesn't depart too early or return too late, we can use SunTran to get to and from the airport for a buck each way. We avoid the costly parking, or a cab, or imposition on friends, and we get in some good weight-bearing exercise. But the best benefit is: The bus is going anyway. We also avoid putting another vehicle on the road and we increase ridership stats. So this is what it has come to: not so much frugality, or self-improvement, or convenience, but nobility.

Our efforts to spread the word, however, fall pretty much on deaf ears. Any mention of our plans draws the response, "The bus goes to the airport?" followed by "Hey, don't bother with that, I can take you." To a city awash in the transport blues, this is our two cents' (er, buck's) worth.

--Denice Blake
John Blackwell

Get Off My Bus

To the Editor,

At any given combination of price and service level, there will be a certain amount of public demand for SunTran. At the current levels of price and service coverage, there is little demand in Tucson for this bus system. SunTran is therefore not a viable operation, as it earns no profit and needs public subsidies to survive.

The arbitrary, overzealous demands of leftists in this case far exceed what Tucsonans actually want and are willing to pay for. How to make up the difference? With guns, of course. This is how leftists address all issues--with a pointed gun or, more broadly, coercion. You guys want to force your vision of the good on everyone else. So it doesn't matter if I sit here on my couch and decide, nope, I'm not interested in paying for a bus system, because you will come and steal my money from me with your laws and referendums. It doesn't matter if thousands of Tucsonans conclude that a bus system is not conducive to their values, lifestyles and preferences--you somehow came up with the crazy idea that you have the right to force your vision on them.

Andrew's piece doesn't present any cohesive argument on public transport, just vignettes of fellow travelers. His only argument is this snippet: "There's no doubt that socially, economically and environmentally society would benefit if more of us were getting 'on the bus.'" Oh, really? I do better socially by riding a bus instead of having full control over my travel? Remember, the strongest communities are those populated with high self-esteem, autonomous people, not communal drones.

And how does the economy benefit? No answer is given. As for the environment: If I take Tucson's harmless air pollution levels and reduce them to an even more harmless level, how have I benefited the environment in any way that I should care about?

Stop trying to engineer my life, and everyone else's. The synergies of freedom, not the conceit of control, produce far better outcomes--on this issue and every other.

--Joe Duarte
Libertarian candidate
U.S. Congress, District 8


To the Editor,

James DiGiovanna's testy tirade against Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise (Cinema, June 27) sounded like the rantings of a bitter queen after a luckless night of cruising (pun intended). It had little to do with the worthy efforts of the filmmakers and more to do with furthering the agenda of a reviewer who simply can't stand those big studio execs. For example, predisposition to dislike Sandra Bullock movies keeps me, your average popcorn-chomping filmgoer, as far away from her movies as possible, but a similar predisposition on the part of the reviewer is unprofessional and not worthy of The Weekly.

First, DiGiovanna's personal obsession with Tom Cruise's arms was offputting. The film had no gratuitous bicep (or tricep) shots. In fact, the gay male with whom I attended the picture was surprised that Cruise's assets were not exploited to the usual extent. Face it, James, your myopia about the tanktop must have blinded you to Cruise's outstanding performance in a demanding role in a film project he's been nurturing for years.

DiGiovanna, overcoated and mesmerized by Cruise's rippling muscular hypertrophy, never bothers to give voice to the few legitimate criticisms of this film, such as the Spielburg stereotypes trotted out for many of his blockbusters (the computer geek in the tie-dyed pants, the "zookeeper," etc.), which do sometimes detract from the film's integrity.

Now on to the "spitting vs. swallowing" criticism of Spielberg's use of (or by) advertising in Minority Report. I found that the inclusion of familiar corporations into the out-of-control futuristic spot-marketing campaigns made Spielberg's future both possible and probable. I'm sure that the whopping $25 million pocketed by the Spielberg machine for advertising placement bought about 8.3 seconds of footage in this spendy flick. Come on! Who's blowing who? Far from intrusive, this use of advertising is intrinsic to the story.

Minority Report satisfies a crossover audience of indy film lovers and action fans, and to pretend that it doesn't because of a predisposition to scoff at SKG Productions belittles your publication.

--Saba Bennett

Rational and Reasonable at City Hall

To the Editor,

In The Skinny, July 11, Tucson City Councilman Fred Ronstadt was castigated for, in your paper's words, his "brutish behavior" for asking the city manager about the salary of a city-employed garbage collector and union boss. Whose annual salary of $36,274 your paper divulged to its readership. The garbage collector, James Modiset, had harshly berated four members of the City Council at a recent council meeting for not supporting higher salaries for the city's blue-collar workers.

In his criticism of some of the members of the City Council, Mr. Modiset made the claim that "a management fiasco at City Hall was taking food off his table and denying him the opportunity to put away enough savings for his daughter's college fund." I must say that I found his insinuation that his family is possibly going hungry because he is not paid enough to be absolutely ludicrous. With an annual income of $36,274, Mr. Modiset easily makes over twice the per capita income of Tucson residents. Based on the 2000 census information for Tucson, a household income of $36,274 would be in the top half of household incomes.

The article also included criticism from two members of the council for Councilman Ronstadt's inquiries about Mr. Modiset's salary. Councilman Leal's criticism was that the request of "personal financial information of speakers would have a chilling effect on democracy." Let me see if I have this straight. A relatively well-paid city employee goes before the City Council lamenting that his family is going hungry because the city is not going to pay him more money. Even though the speaker is the first to bring up the issue of his personal finances, a councilman asking a completely relevant question regarding the topic somehow threatens our democracy. I don't think so.

It was not the defense of democracy that Councilman Leal was striving for with his words; it was the silencing of Councilman Ronstadt's questioning that he was after. You have to admit the disclosure of Mr. Modiset's salary negated his argument for more money. I suspect Councilmen José Ibarra and Leal did not want that to happen, so they desperately tried to change the subject from Mr. Modiset's salary to imaginary problems with Councilman Ronstadt's behavior.

The regular meeting agendas have always stated under the "call to the audience" section that "individual Council Members may ask the City Manager to review the matter, ask that the matter be placed on a future agenda, or respond to criticism made by speakers." Without a doubt Mr. Modiset spoke at the meeting with regards to his salary with the motive of criticizing Councilman Ronstadt and others. It is quite rational and reasonable that Councilman Ronstadt would want to get all the facts accurate and out in the open regarding the very issue for which he was so harshly berated.

--Joseph Cates

Don't Talk Back

To the Editor,

Tom Danehy is correct once again ("Yak Yak Yak," July 18). However, his reason for banning a phone in the car is missing some crucial elements. As I point out when I do stand-up comedy, "Do you have any idea how hard it is to eat a Big Mac; drink a Super Gulp; hold your dog between your legs; hold your cigarette out the window; and talk on the cell phone at the same time?" Get with it, Tom!

--Matt Welch

Double Dippin'

To the Editor,

Re: "Night and Day" (July 18) by Chris Limberis about Ann Day, Chuck Huckelberry and Barbara Gelband. The Three Stooges in the latest Pima County "Double-Dippin" Shell Game. Stooges of their own--well, pick any adjective that describes the darker side of human nature. Self-aggrandizement might be a good place to start.

I'm not sure what Huckelberry had to gain by slithering Gelband around county retirement regulations, but you can be sure that quid pro quo is, or will be, in there someplace. But he'll never tell--nor Day, nor Gelband. Honor among thieves?

Well, apparently "double-dippers," in the earnings shell game, aren't thieves, according to Ann Day, who said that everybody (among county law enforcement personnel) does it, or at least did it. Does this mean that everybody doesn't do it anymore (except The Three Stooges), but it's still OK to do it?

I guess that if you're in the Pima County Clique of Big Wheels Club, you can do whatever you want. Wasn't it Leona Helmsley, the Queen of Mean, who said that only Little People pay taxes. I suppose it's only little county employees who must obey county regulations.

But not all little people are given to obedience. As Ed Abbey, the conservationist, puts it in Down the River: "Mankind will not be free until the last general is strangled with the entrails of the last systems-analyst. As my sainted grandmother used to say."

Abbey was talking about MX missiles that surrounded Tucson. But he might just as well have been talking about Pima County government. Abbey was no saint, but he was right, which is more than we can say for Leona Day, Huckelberry, or Gelband.

--Denny Banks

Who's Afraid of the Wolf

To the Editor,

Laura Schneberger's letter to the editor taking reporter Tim Vanderpool to task for his coverage of the Mexican wolf saga (Mailbag, July 11) is exactly the kind of carping that has resulted in so many setbacks to recovery of this critically endangered species. Like Ms. Schneberger, I too live at the edge of the Gila National Forest, and had a wolf near my property. But perhaps because I am not a rancher, my experience has been quite different from Ms. Schneberger's. It seems the entire recovery program is structured around responding to ranchers' concerns.

Many of the wolves that have been removed from the wild by the Fish and Wildlife Service first went astray after finding the carcasses of domestic livestock that died of other reasons, then scavenging on the remains and eventually learning to regard cattle as food. But the wolf who lived in and around the Burro Mountains of my home was removed for a different reason. He had never evinced interest in cattle, and in fact was so wary of human presence that I never got a chance to see him. But he crossed over the invisible line separating the Gila National Forest from neighboring BLM public lands.

Thanks to pressure from the livestock industry, leaving the official recovery area for any significant length of time is forbidden these wolves. He was captured by helicopter net gun and has apparently been sentenced to life in captivity. His brother, who similarly left the recovery area in Arizona and was also captured for that reason, died from exhaustion after being chased for miles by the helicopter.

I too was at the Arizona Game Commission hearing that Mr. Vanderpool reported on, and while I cannot attest to the accuracy of his quote of Ms. Schneberger, he certainly got the tone right. The constant badgering by a handful of ranchers using our public lands is sabotaging recovery of the Mexican wolf.

In May 2001, a blue-ribbon panel of wolf scientists urged Fish and Wildlife to change the rules of the program to give the wolves a greater chance of survival and recovery. Dr. Paul Paquet of the University of Calgary, and his three colleagues, recommended allowing wolves to leave the recovery area (to be as free as all other wildlife), doing something about the cattle carcasses littering the public lands and habituating wolves, and giving the Fish and Wildlife Service authority to release wolves from the captive population into the Gila Wilderness, which is largely free of cattle. (Currently, only wolves recaptured after initial release in Arizona can be re-released in New Mexico, but animals born in captivity can only be released in Arizona--thanks to the louder whining of New Mexico ranchers before the reintroduction even began.)

The Fish and Wildlife Service has not even begun to change the rules along these lines. Apparently ranchers' privileges to graze the public lands count more than the lobo's survival. That governmental prejudice against this beleaguered animal saddens many of us living close to the land.

--Donna Stevens

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