Sex (and cigarettes) on the beach

Your editorial, \\\”Big Brother doesn\\\’t smoke, apparently …\\\” (editorial, 12/01/05) laments Ventura City Council\\\’s recent decision to consider an ordinance that would ban smoking from all city parks and city controlled beaches. Your editorial centers around the \\\”slippery slope\\\” we are courting when we ban a legal activity. My reply can best be summarized in a limerick:

Banning smokes on the beach argues Rex,
singles out smoker’s rights, he objects.
But there in the sand
Other things he found banned,
like driving and shooting and sex.

Bob McCampbell

More on Tookie

In regard to Clive Leeman\\\’s letter asking the governor to spare Stanley \\\”Tookie\\\” Williams\\\’ life (“Save Tookie!, letters, 12/01/05), I have to ask if Mr. Leeman has done any research on Stanley \\\”Tookie\\\” Williams\\\’ life? Mr. Leeman did mention that Williams was a \\\”founder of the Crips gang,” which in itself is probably not illegal, but what are street gangs known for? How does one become a member of a gang? It is common knowledge that in order to join, one must commit a crime in front of other gang members (as witnesses). Has Mr. Leeman ever heard of the term \\\”accessory to the crime?” According to, \\\”common law\\\” traditionally considers an accessory just as guilty as the principal(s) in a crime and subject to the same penalties. Now tell me Williams is innocent.

Mr. Leeman also suggests that Williams isn\\\’t guilty because as we all know DNA now can be used to prove innocence. What Mr. Leeman fails to provide is proof that DNA has exonerated Williams. Seems like just another smoke screen from Mr. Leeman.

I will sleep better on 12/13/05 knowing one more gang-banger has been thinned from the herd.

Tim Hansen

No smoking here

Despite the Ventura County Reporter’s poorly researched editorial to the contrary (12/01/05), there is increasingly clear evidence that the dangers of second hand tobacco smoke are very real.  Why the VCR would side with smokers while ignoring the community’s right to clean air and city beaches and parks free of smoker’s litter is puzzling. There is no constitutional right to smoke and courts have repeatedly ruled that smokers are not a group that deserves special protections.

Studies by the California Environmental Protection Agency (CALEPA) have shown that tobacco smoke doesn’t dissipate outside as quickly as once thought. CALEPA is beginning the process of classifying secondhand smoke as a toxic air contaminant. Second-hand smoke is a significant health risk for many chronic disease sufferers, such as those with heart disease, cancer, emphysema, asthma, or chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome, and outdoor tobacco smoke exposure can cause flare-ups such as respiratory distress or severe headaches. Scientists have not determined any safe threshold level of second-hand tobacco smoke. Even very low concentrations of tobacco smoke affect children under 2 years old and those with respiratory handicaps such as asthma.  

Tobacco kills more Americans each year than alcohol, cocaine, crack, heroin, homicide, suicide, car accidents, fires and AIDS combined. The Center for Disease Control estimates that 3,000 lung cancer deaths and more than 35,000 coronary heart disease deaths occur annually among adult nonsmokers in the United States as a result of exposure to secondhand smoke. Most non-smokers, whether they are chronic disease sufferers or not, are fed up with being exposed to irritating second-hand smoke and smoker’s litter. That is why many Ventura citizens waited hours to speak in favor of the drafting of a city ordinance prohibiting smoking at our city parks and beaches. We are tired of smokers taking our freedoms. Our freedom to enjoy clean air, rather than foul, vile, tobacco smoke. Our freedom to enjoy a beach or park not littered with cigarette butts. Our freedom to not have our taxes go to pay maintenance workers to pick up those cigarette butts. The Ventura City Council is right in responding to the vast majority of their citizens who have had their right to clean air and their right to not have toxic smoke imposed upon them denied for too long. And smokers will be able to enjoy the beaches and parks too, they just won’t be able to smoke there.  

Gisele Jones

An environmentalist’s lament

In his latest column (“A conservative environmentalist’s lament,” Angry Economist, 12/01/05), William McGowan blames the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations for a lack of communication with “conservatives and the politicians that represent them.” According to McGowan, the split between environmentalists and conservatives all goes back to the l960’s, when “Sierra Club President Carl Browder[sic] made a deal with the Department of the Interior to allow the flooding of Glenn Canyon[sic].”

McGowan obviously doesn’t know much about the Sierra Club. No person of that name was ever president, for one. (Probably he’s thinking of David Brower, but how can we trust an economist who can’t get his facts straight?)

But more importantly, to blame the Sierra Club for not getting along better with “conservatives and the politicians who represent them” (also known as Republicans) shows that McGowan has not been paying attention to what has been happening in Washington and to our environment for the past 25 years.

Perhaps he hasn’t noticed, for example, some of the anti-environmental actions taken by self-declared conservatives in the White House and in Congress since l980. It’s a very, very long list, so I’ll just mention three of the most notable examples from last month:

On Nov. 3 in the House of Representatives, a bill (HR 4200) was introduced that would allow any and all kinds of logging on public lands, including clear-cutting, after a “catastrophe,” defined as “wind, rain, snow, soil erosion, or fire.” This bill has the full support of the Bush administration and other Republican anti-environmentalists, would gut laws designed to protect our national forests, and put millions of acres of old-growth trees at risk of logging.

On Nov. 18, anti-environmentalist Congressman Richard Pombo, a Republican who has been advocating the abolishment of the Endangered Species Act for years, introduced a provision to a budget bill that would allow new applications for mining on public lands. (According to the Republican-controlled Department of the Interior, this likely means that 20 million acres of public lands — including national parks — would be sold. Environmentalists say the sale adds up to 350 million acres.) Several senators and six western governors, including Wayne Allard, a Republican, oppose it. And yet McGowan wonders why the Sierra Club doesn’t want to go to tea with the GOP?

On November 30, Sen. Larry Craig, a Republican from Idaho, inserted language in a budget bill that “zeroed out” the Fish Passage Center in the Pacific Northwest because this center (with 12 employees and an annual budget of $1.3 million, according to the Washington Post) keeps track of salmon runs and that irritates Craig’s biggest campaign backer, the electric utility industry, which gave his campaign more money than any other senator. Is this the sort of action McGowan thinks the Sierra Club should support?

Is it really any wonder the Sierra Club doesn’t support many Republicans? The real question is: How “conservative” is the Republican party today? Is it “conservative” to give away ownership of public lands? Is it “conservative” to turn over regulation of the oil industry, the coal industry and the pesticide industry to industry representatives? Is it “conservative” to ignore global warming? That’s what a self-declared “environmentalist” like McGowan should be thinking about, not the Sierra Club and what it did in the l960’s.

Kit Stolz

Ed. Note: Kit Stolz is a regular editorial contributor to the VC Reporter.