Letters to the Editor, Dec. 1
The unkindest cut of all
EDITOR: Once upon a time, the Roman Legions under Caesar’s rule extended his empire to many far away lands around the globe.
Year after year, battle after battle, his armies fought and won. Then, they returned to report to Caesar of their victorious triumphs.
For the soldiers, it was usually a very long trudge, marching week after week with bad food and poor accommodations.
One bright spot occurred at the end of the trip as they arrived back home. There at the outer gate to the city, they discovered “Nona’s Fresh Berry Juice Stand.” She offered cold, fresh squeezed berry juice of all kinds. The legionaries loved it, and always made a brief stop to have a tankard of her refreshing juice.
They got to know her and would tell her of how the battle went, and how they won.
They even gave Nona the nickname “No.” Every soldier knew her. And, to a man, they looked forward to that tankard of berry juice at the end of the journey.
Unfortunately, Caesar insisted that he be the first to know the news of any military victory in foreign lands. It came to his attention through a casual conversation that “Nona, the owner of the juice stand at the city gate, knows of the battle news, even before you do!”
He immediately ordered a platoon of soldiers (all of whom knew and loved Nona) to go and tear down her juice stand. When they arrived, she greeted them cheerfully, “Hi Flavius, did you come back for some more juice?”
He sternly he looked at her, and said loudly, “‘No’ we came to seize your berries, not to praise them!”
School board trying to avoid public scrutiny
EDITOR: Last week we were witness to a shameful episode in local governance. The Sonoma Valley school board adopted an agreement that will likely add millions of dollars to the cost of future school facility construction, and were it not for the vigilance of this newspaper’s education reporter, it might have slipped through unnoticed on the board’s consent calendar.
The item in question is a Project Labor Agreement and its effect will be to deny access to district construction projects for about 85 percent of local contractors. It is a multi-million dollar gift to local construction unions and, unfortunately, it comes at the expense of district students and tax payers. Labor unions have been an important force in lifting up the lives of our nation’s workers, but any institution is capable of abuse and over-reach and this current episode is a prime example.
We would like to assume our elected officials set the interests of their constituents as their first priority. If that were the case here, then several questions would need answers:
• Why was an item of this magnitude slipped onto the board’s consent agenda which is intended for routine administrative matters?
• Why was there no apparent staff analysis to determine the potential impacts of this agreement? There is ample public data that demonstrates the effect PLAs have on the cost of capital projects. In fact, a study earlier this year by the Sonoma County General Services Administration estimated that a PLA added nearly $4 million to the cost of a new county detention center. Wouldn’t a district that is significantly over budget on its current construction agenda want to have that information in front of them before making a decision of this kind?
• Why was there no study session or other opportunity to educate the public on the costs they would bear if the agreement were adopted?
• Why was an agreement that will have such sweeping long-term impacts on district finances hustled through in a lame-duck session before the newly elected board could be seated?
This subterfuge was all cleverly orchestrated by board chair John Kelly, who has racked up thousands of dollars in contributions from labor interests in his prior campaigns. Trustee Britta Johnson, who was defeated for re-election, but still voted on this agreement, received more than $6,000 this fall in contributions from the very construction trades who showed up to speak in favor of the PLA at last week’s meeting. It’s no mystery why they attempted to slide this under the radar of public scrutiny.
Can this bell be un-rung? I don’t know. But, if nothing else, it is a lesson to all of us to pay attention to what happens in our local boards and commissions and to the actions of those who are elected to be stewards of our tax funds.
Preserve Eldridge for the commons
EDITOR: A recent edition of the I-T (Nov. 24) featured a number of letters and opinions on local matters as per what that section of the paper is for. Here are a few comments in response.