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I read Louise Steinman’s article on Majid Naficy [“Poet of the Revolution,” February 9–15] with great interest. As an Iranian and an American — and yes, something in between — I’m often dismayed at how members of my community are represented in the media. Steinman’s article was the first piece I’ve read that deals seriously with the complexities of history and identity which many of us are trying to negotiate.
Is Harold Meyerson being disingenuous in his article about the electricity crisis [“The Last Bad Idea,” February 16–22], or does he not understand free markets? As long as Sacramento controls the bizarre schemes that govern the creation and distribution of electricity in California, we do not have a free market in energy here. Having already failed us, the Legislature is now champing at the bit to control the entire system. Meyerson is all for it and suggests that government-owned utilities like the DWP run more efficiently than private companies can. He fails to mention that they operate under an easier set of regulations and are subsidized by taxpayers from around the country, including ourselves.
Because of the politics involved, most Californians are losing sight of the real problem. California’s power demand is greater than its supply. We want to magically run our appliances at rock-bottom prices without generators cluttering the environment.
There is more going on than perhaps Mr. Meyerson realizes, or is willing to admit. First off, the electricity market was never deregulated fully; rather, the wholesale market was thrown open to competition but not the retail market. Thus the full cost of generating and transmitting power was not allowed to be passed on to consumers — thereby ensuring that the market wouldn’t work properly. Also, electricity generation requires (for the most part) natural gas. Natural-gas prices have also increased dramatically in the past year, meaning that the cost of producing electricity has gone up. Basic economics tells us that as the cost of production increases, either you charge more or you produce less. But again, since Edison and PG&E were not allowed to pass on the increased cost of production, they had to absorb the loss.
It’s funny that Mr. Meyerson, usually opposed to monopolies and oligopolies, seems to support having just one big energy provider — talk about not having any haggling power! Let’s fully and properly deregulate this energy market so that it will be worthwhile for other producers to come into California and compete for energy dollars.
I’m confused. How can the restructuring of California’s energy market be called “deregulation”? If retail prices are fixed, and purchases are allowed only on the spot market, wouldn’t “re-regulation,” or “handicapping,” be more appropriate terms?
I am sure there is some sort of vast right-wing conspiracy to deprive Californians of affordable electricity. There must be, since California has plenty of electricity and there haven’t been rolling blackouts for a week now. The state should own all the power plants and utilities within the state. That way, California will have an adequate supply at low prices without having to build more plants or buy power from out of state.
The District Giveth . . .
Re: Howard Blume’s story about the mayor vs. United Teachers of Los Angeles [“Superintendent Dick,” February 16–22]. The story states that teachers took a pay cut 10 years ago that was never fully restored. This statement is completely inaccurate. This is a myth promoted by the UTLA.
Last year, parents serving on the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Sunshine Committee asked the district to prepare a year-by-year list of raises and bonuses. This detailed analysis proved that not only had teachers received adequate raises during the past decade, the district had also made up the so-called salary decrease through earmarked bonuses and paybacks. We were also informed that fewer than one-third of the teachers currently employed by the LAUSD were even impacted by the pay cut 10 years ago. Because no one in the LAUSD ever keeps track of financial data and no one ever refers to the facts, the UTLA has found that whining about a 10 percent pay cut that came about after a 24 percent pay increase that threatened to bankrupt the LAUSD has been an extremely effective tool for lobbying for raises, bonuses and decreased workloads for the last
Our request and the results are one reason why the Sunshine Committee was disbanded last June by the school board. The Sunshine Committee is supposed to provide the board with the public’s feedback on negotiating proposals. This is a legal requirement under the Rhodda Act, which gave teachers the right to have a union. Clearly, a majority of the board members do not want to evaluate the contract proposals objectively and are happy to have a superintendent who believes in making the teachers happy at any cost.
HOWARD BLUME REPLIES:
The writer is incorrect in stating that the 10 percent pay cut came after a 24 percent raise. Starting in 1990-91, teachers were to receive annual 8 percent raises over three consecutive years. Instead, they received only the first year’s increase. The second year, pay was cut by about 4 percent, on the condition that most of the lost funds be restored in later years, which they were. The third year, pay was cut by 10 percent, with no provision for repayment. Since that time, teachers have indeed had several pay raises, but a teacher working in 1990 will not have caught up with all the lost pay. The 24 percent pay raise would have made L.A. teachers about the best paid in the county. This year’s raise brings them to about the county average, according to both the union and the school district.
Re: “The Movement’s Mayor” [February 16–22]. My faith in miracles has just been reaffirmed. For Harold Meyerson to even tacitly suggest that Maxine Waters is not supporting the best — or even the most progressive — candidate in the mayor’s race is, in fact, a miracle. As we all know, because the Weekly has told us so, Maxine can do no wrong.
Re: Steven Mikulan’s article “Why I Drive a Hate Crime” [January 19–25]. Mr. Mikulan seems to think that people criticize him for owning a SUV just for the sake of social gamesmanship and holier-than-thou pseudo-progressivism. Well, I’d like to give him a hard time, because SUVs are gas-guzzling road hogs. We must all take responsibility for our actions, and sometimes your choices are just plain wrong. Sure, you can’t boycott every single product that contributes to trashing the environment or oppressing people, but does that mean that you shouldn’t do anything, and just give up? Mikulan’s excuse, that everyone but “the most self-destructive radicals” eventually grow up and throw up their hands, to become a grasping consumer and resource glutton, is lame and self-serving.