City on the Brink
"Sleepless in Stockton" [December 2012] is an outstanding article, excellent in many respects. I've sent it to the network of maybe 150 pension reformers I know around the state. It lays out key constitutional quandaries - this has the potential to make an extremely interesting U.S. Supreme Court case.
For two decades irresponsible elected officials and greedy employees have been more than happy to buy labor peace and artificially low local taxes by kicking the [public pensions] can down the road. This allowed them to pass the exploding costs to the next board of supervisors or next city council. Now it's time to pay the bills; welcome to the real world, where you can't get something for nothing.
Martin G. Richman
I like to have environmental laws based on science and evidence, rather than "feel-good" sloganeering. I also like to see people given a choice and rewarded for "good" behavior - discounts for bringing reusable bags rather than penalties for forgetting them. So I was glad to read about Stephen Joseph's work in fighting plastic bag bans ["The Bag Man," December].
However, this is ultimately a policy issue, and I doubt that Joseph will prevail in the courts, given the state Supreme Court ruling against an EIR requirement [for a ban in Manhattan Beach].
The people and their politicians understand litter. They don't understand energy and material balances. So even if plastic bags are the better choice, people will still support bag bans. Sadly, the science and engineering to do a comprehensive analysis is beyond the understanding of the average citizen, lawyer, or politician.
William R. Brown
Synanon's Positive Side
This regards your interview with Paul Morantz ["The Lawyer Synanon Tried to Kill," December]. I was sorry to see him included among the illustrious lawyers you've interviewed for your Legally Speaking series. Morantz had a terrible experience with Synanon, it is true, but his preoccupation with this group over the last 40-plus years is astounding.
I found the interview to be really superficial, and it demonstrated Morantz's lack of scope regarding the Synanon community. While I abhor some of the things done by Synanon, there were many great things done as well, including being the grandfather of the many drug treatment programs that still exist. We who moved into Synanon during the turbulence of the Vietnam War era were searching for a community where we could raise our children safely and create our own lifestyle. The founder's instability eventually led to awful things, and the community didn't last. But many of us do not regret our efforts to forge a better society.
In 1980 my husband wrote a book about our experiences there: Escape from Utopia: My Ten Years in Synanon
. It was a fantastic ride for us, even though we regret some of the things that happened. We should not be throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
A wonderful interview with Paul Morantz, a man who truly gave of himself, at a tremendous cost. His insights regarding cults should be studied by everyone in these uncertain times. Good for you, Paul. Thank you.
Herbert P. Walsleben Jr.