Gifts vs. taxes

EDITOR: I was struck by the reaction of Sonoma State University anthropology Professor Margaret Purser ("Some topics too close to home for SSU's ethics center," Thursday) to the voluntary gift of American International Group to kick start SSU's Center for Ethics, Law and Society: "What are the issues with a public university accepting corporate funding in this new world?"

Perhaps the question too close to home for Purser should be: What are the issues with any university accepting funding taken by brute force under threat of incarceration and/or forfeiture of personal property? AIG's gift comes from revenue generated by completely voluntary, mutually beneficial exchanges with its customers. SSU's government funding comes from an involuntary, forceful taking by the state for the benefit of certain, but very far from all, of its citizens.

How is a private university any different than a public university except than by the voluntary/involuntary nature of their funding? That certainly is a dilemma that a Center for Ethics needs to address before it even opens its doors to discourse. I agree with the professor that "we need to have this conversation out loud and in public" — both conversations.


Santa Rosa

Greenhouse gases

EDITOR: George Johnston said it is a well-established scientific fact that heat travels freely through any gas, including greenhouse gases ("Climate change," Letters, Friday), which means that climate change caused by the concentration of heat trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is scientifically impossible.

Clearly, Johnston missed the day in seventh-grade science class when they explained about the earth's atmosphere. Carbon dioxide, along with other greenhouse gases naturally occurring in the atmosphere, absorbs and then re-emits a wide range of energy — including heat. This is known as the greenhouse effect, and it keeps our planet a comfortable temperature. Without the greenhouse gases, Earth would have a temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit. With too many greenhouse gases, Earth would be like Venus, where the greenhouse atmosphere keeps temperatures around 750 degrees Fahrenheit.



Inspiring words

EDITOR: I was touched by the words of the sixth-grade students from Santa Rosa Accelerated Charter School (Letters, Tuesday). It is amazing that out of the mouths of children come words so truthful and sincere. They remind us of Martin Luther King's own words: "At the center of nonviolence stands the principle of love . . ." This is such a simple thought, yet it escapes most adults.

King was himself a victim of gun violence, and yet he reminded us before his death that there is a higher road to travel and a better world in which to live, if only we are willing to dream.

Thank you students for daring us to imagine the unthinkable — "If no one had a gun, no one would need a gun."



Pensions and budgets

EDITOR: Steven Greenhut ("California, unsaved, speeds toward wall of debt," Sunday) referred to a recent Los Angeles Times report that contended that the cities of Vallejo, Stockton and San Bernardino "became insolvent largely because of their inability to pay for public-employee pensions and health care." It's true that these cities face fiscal challenges, but pensions were/are not the problem.

The real culprit, as identified by the Retired Public Employees' Association of California, was/is the economy, the housing market and financial decisions by city officials. Stockton and San Bernardino had high rates of housing foreclosures and high unemployment, which led to reduced consumer spending and sales tax revenues for local government budgets.

While "total employee compensation" is one of the biggest expenses for cities, it's also true that in well-managed cities those budgets are built with employee costs in mind. Pension costs are a small piece of a total city budget. For example, Stockton's pension costs are only about 6 percent of the total city budget, and San Bernardino's are about 10 percent of that total city budget.


Santa Rosa