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Please Dig In

To Don Bauder and Moss Gropen: Regarding “the voters” having widely rejected Mike Aguirre and voted for Prop C profitization, I don’t believe it (“Bar Rejects Charges Against Aguirre” and “Water’s Monopoly Game — Public? Private?” “City Lights,” February 10). The Republican-appointed registrar of voters office has been cheating the vote as have Republicans nationally for ten years. Mike Aguirre polled 50–50 on his election, and the 2-to-1 loss is suspicious for a 2-to-1 program. This also happens with many, many propositions that are rigged to outmaneuver our Democratic-majority lawmakers. In the recent election, Howard Wayne was within automatic-recount margin and the spread suddenly switched on the TV screen (a red flag) to an unrecountable five points. As well, Steve Whitburn’s county district has two-thirds Democrats, yet he lost by 2 to 1.

Please investigate these rigged elections as well as antigay Prop 8, which also flipped suddenly onscreen in a mirror image of the vote for Prop 4 antiwomen’s rights, which was defeated. I also believe the corporate tea party house candidates ousted long-term Democratic favorites because there are still 18 paperless voting states. Please, please investigate the subterfuge of this most basic right on which all our financial, health, freedom, and peace rights depend.

Val Sanfilippo
via email

Spin Left Us Dizzy

My colleagues and I are sadly disappointed with the lack of journalistic integrity displayed by Moss Gropen in his February 10 “City Lights” story “Water’s Monopoly Game — Public? Private?” Not only are there several factual errors and misquotes throughout, but Mr. Gropen replaced the nuance in my answers with blatant innuendo to exaggerate our position from cautious consumer advocates to fanatical ideologues.

While we may expect this level of spin from a media outlet with an obvious political agenda, the fact that an independent, community newspaper like the San Diego Reader would publish something so deliberately biased is especially disheartening.

Throughout the article, but particularly at the end, Mr. Gropen questions Food & Water Watch’s standpoint on water privatization, which seems odd since our website clearly states who we are, what our mission is, and that Maude Barlow is our chairperson. What is not transparent in this article is Mr. Gropen’s agenda. There is no bio of Mr. Gropen on the San Diego Reader’s website to let readers know that he is a business lawyer with a possible vested interest in the issue.

Mr. Gropen is entitled to his opinion, of course, and differing opinions should be voiced on your pages. But passing off opinion as fact, and worse, deliberately reporting on an interview with a source inaccurately, does a disservice to your news outlet and to the cause of civic dialogue about these important issues.

Below is a list of errors and misquotes:

Paragraph 3: “…a recent spin-off of Public Citizen, a band of ‘consumer advocates’ led by cranky populist (and perpetual third-party presidential candidate) Ralph Nader.” The caption under the photo also states that Food & Water Watch is linked to Nader. As it clearly states on our “About Us” page, Food & Water Watch was founded in 2005 by 12 former members of Public Citizen; we are not “linked” to Ralph Nader in any way.

Paragraph 4: “They say that if Mayor Jerry has his way, San Diego will be no exception [of water rates surging because of privatization].” What was said is that in our research, we found that rates have gone up when systems were privatized and so that was a concern in any city considering privatization. It was never said that San Diego’s rates would be guaranteed to surge because of privatization.

Paragraph 5: “Starmer acknowledges, the study doesn’t focus on the type of privatization deal that the City is contemplating.” The wording of this paragraph suggests that we offered our report despite acknowledging that it was not relevant to the case at hand. Actually, we told Mr. Gropen both in our initial email pitch and over the phone to look specifically at the 18 remunicipalizations outlined in the report because they were all management contracts, which are relevant to San Diego.

Paragraph 6: “Food & Water Watch maintains that all privatization is bad.” This was never said and is a dramatic oversimplification used to make us appear naively ideological. What I made clear to Mr. Gropen was that privatization of the infrastructure that delivers water to people’s homes is problematic due to the inherently monopolistic nature of those systems. This was the specific focus of my comments reiterated to Mr. Gropen in a follow-up email.

Mr. Gropen simplistically states “Food & Water Watch is still vehemently opposed to the private sector running the water show,” but he doesn’t explain the other factors that must be weighed besides rates going up and that lead consumers to be concerned when a city considers privatizing its water system, all of which were listed out to him during the interview. These include a lower investment in infrastructure, water quality concerns, and a lack of accountability.

Paragraph 7: Misquote: Mr. Gropen claims that I stated that the Reason Foundation was behind the impending push to bid out the water system and that the Reason Foundation has ties to Carl DeMaio. Both of these are blatant misquotes and were never said. I stated that DeMaio has been regularly referring to a number regarding the savings from privatizing, and I stated that the number he uses came from a Reason Foundation report. I never in any way suggested that Reason was advocating on the bid or was “behind” the mayor’s push, nor that Reason and DeMaio had any sort of relationship other than the fact that DeMaio uses their number. Mr. Gropen seems to have created this statement out of thin air.

Paragraph 12: Misquote: Mr. Gropen claims that I stated that San Diegans “didn’t get all the facts” when they were voting on Prop C. My statement was that when voting on Proposition C, San Diegans were asking the city council to consider all the facts and make a decision that would be best for the city, and we hoped they would do that.

Thank you for your attention to these concerns.

Elanor Starmer
Western Region Director
Food & Water Watch

Moss Gropen responds: My quotes are accurate. As for Ms. Starmer’s suggestion that I may have a “possible vested interest in the issue,” although I am an attorney who practices business law, I have no connection to the water industry or its champions.

Audit This

Moss Gropen is correct when he questions the City’s strategy to sell its assets and outsource its services (“Water’s Monopoly Game — Public? Private?” “City Lights,” February 10). Water and sewer alone take in about $2,000,000 per day. Private industry would love a piece of that action.

It’s important to understand that the goal of all private businesses is simply to make money. They have little concern for public good. Their only obligation is to their stockholders, whose goal is to make money.

With this in mind, Mayor Sanders has already embarked on his plan to outsource City assets and services. His first target was the Help Desk and Desktop functions previously operated by the San Diego Data Processing Corporation.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to tell if there has really been any savings. Departments have retained their own desktop support personnel, and there hasn’t been an unbiased, comprehensive report as to the level of service and actual dollar savings.

That’s my problem with this strategy — there is no plan to provide an “unbiased” audit of the results. I’m not rejecting the strategy. I’m simply requesting that the results be evaluated and presented to the public. This should be the job of city councilmembers. It makes no sense for the mayor to do the audit, as he is the one advocating outsourcing.

The city councilmembers need to implement audit procedures to ensure that outsourcing is the best strategy.

It’s important to understand that once the City divests itself of key businesses, it will likely lose control forever. It will lose expertise, and it will not be able to buy back the assets. Also, if the City negotiates contracts as it has with the Chargers, we will end up in worse shape.

Ronald Harris
via email

A Four-Letter Word

Where do we go when we die? What Bible is Paula Elizabeth reading, or not reading (“Sheep and Goats,” February 10)? She says heaven was not something Jesus preached about, so she is not worried about it. It seems to me Jesus gave His life for people to be able to go to heaven. This sounds like a feel-good church — sin is not even mentioned, which, of course, is why the Bible says Jesus died on the cross, because of sin. If folks really want to learn about heaven, better avoid this congregation; they don’t seem to worry about it at all.

Paul Richard
via email

Sound Familiar?

It is unfortunate that the leader of a denomination that includes “Christ” in its name would refuse to use the word “sin” because it is “provocative” and “harmful” (“Sheep and Goats,” February 10).

Christ used the word “sin” quite frequently, from His warning, “You will die in your sins,” to His command, “Go and sin no more,” to His reprieve, “Your sins are forgiven.”

Jesus also “preached about” the consequences of sin: “everlasting punishment,” “the furnace of fire,” and “the outer darkness.”

In John chapter 15, Jesus said of the world, “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.”

Anyone who is the least bit familiar with the words of Christ has no excuse for pretending that sin does not exist.

Jim Crooks

We’re Riders, Not Racists

We went to the Escondido city hall to speak to the mayor and to bring our charro members to get introduced to the city council for them to see us and to hear our issues (“Stringers,” February 3). At no time have we brought the race card to the mayor. We could have, but we want to work with the city. We don’t want people to see Mexican Americans in an always-negative way. We have shown that we are hardworking people. We keep our kids off drugs and out of gangs. Our kids learn the way of the charros that have been here in America over 500 years. Our events are the way of the ranch workers — the events come from everyday life on a ranch.

We have done these events for the love of the charro ways and not because we get big money for doing it, unlike other horse events. How many horses have to be put down at the Del Mar racetrack every year? But it’s okay; it’s in fun, and it’s okay to gamble on them. Steeplechase? Polo? Why don’t you hear someone going after them? No, let’s go after the Mexicans. We can pick on them.

If you are going to accuse us of anything, please read, get involved, get the facts. Don’t let your hate and racist ways get the best of you.

Sergio Contreras
via email

He’s Gone! He’s Gone!

I just picked up a Reader recently and read the movie review section. I did the happy dance!!! Thank you for getting rid of Duncan Shepherd!! I don’t know how or why, but thanks just the same. I gave up on even scanning that section of the Reader for the last several years because that overly verbose windbag would only give a good review if the movie came before 1980 or was made in another country. I’m not reading to learn about the depths of your movie knowledge, dude, I’m reading to see if the movie is any good or not — hence the word “review.” I mean hello? How can you trash The Hangover????? Thank you for getting some folks who actually know what they are doing back on board.

Curt Lange
via email

Always Be Weird

I hate it when you omit “News of the Weird.” It is one of the things that makes your publication unique. Don’t omit it, please.

William Smith
via email

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SurfPuppy619 Feb. 20, 2011 @ 6:29 p.m.

It’s important to understand that the goal of all private businesses is simply to make money. They have little concern for public good. Their only obligation is to their stockholders, whose goal is to make money.

======== All private businesses need to make a profit to survive, but that is NOT their ONLY goal, or even the main goal.

The notion that they have little concern for the public good is ridiculous. That would apply to Wall Street for sure, but to make that claim about all is just dumb.


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