I found your article on mass transit ["Cover Story," Feb. 12] to be very interesting. I have lived near SDSU since 1996 and I don't own a car, so I have used the transit system a lot. Two of the main issues raised in your article are the cost to use transit and the slowness to ride it.
There are several ways the cost of transit to customers can be reduced without the transit agency paying more. One way is to change the tax laws so that when employers buy their workers transit passes, the companies can deduct more. Right now, companies can deduct about $100 a month per worker from federal taxes for transit passes, but I believe they can deduct about $150 a month for giving the workers discounts on parking.
Other agencies could offer higher discounts on transit passes or fares. SDSU gives students about 30 percent off the cost of a monthly pass, but they could pay the entire cost. At Horton Plaza, customers who spend a certain amount can get a discount on parking, but I don't think people who ride the bus and shop get any kind of discount.
We can also increase the amount of money going into the transit agency. Right now, the one-half of 1 percent sales tax is evenly split three ways, with one part going to transit. In Los Angeles County, there is a 1 percent sales tax going entirely to transit, so transit gets six times as much there. In the future, if congestion tolls are added to freeways, some of that money can go to transit.
To speed up the trolley, in the downtown section, the tracks could be placed in a tunnel, so it wouldn't have to stop at every red light. For the buses, we could ban cars from individual lanes in certain places, allowing the buses to move much faster. We could also place special sensors on buses and at traffic signals, which would turn the lights green as buses approach. Replacing all the buses with low-floor ones would speed up boarding.
Once a freeway is built, lots of buildings go up nearby, making it very expensive to widen it. Also, studies show that once you widen a freeway, people are induced to drive more often and farther, so in a short time, congestion is just as bad. Even with the widened or new freeway, you still have to use the local roads, which are very rarely widened, and you still have to find spaces to park. In many cities, most of the transportation money goes to roads, then people wonder why transit is not very good.
People need to make the choice to spend a larger proportion of transportation money on transit and less on roads.
The verdict is in
Re: "Rodney redux?" ["The Front Lines," Feb. 12]. I am the deputy San Diego city attorney who represented the three San Diego police officers accused of excessive force by plaintiff Rodney Mitchell.
Your reporter elected to describe the plaintiff as a retired Navy man. Your publication did not inform its readers of his criminal history nor his prior civil rights lawsuits that were dismissed as without merit. All these matters were public record.
In the interest of fair and balanced journalism, I share with you the outcome of the trial that concluded in U.S. District Court on Feb. 21, 2003: After the plaintiff, the three officers and eight percipient witnesses took the stand, the jury returned a verdict in less than 20 minutes clearing the officers of all plaintiff's allegations. After the verdict was read, one juror commented that the he felt the case was a frivolous lawsuit that should have been dismissed years ago.
If CityBeat truly does not practice sensational journalism, you will report the verdict in your next issue.
Maria C. Severson
Office of the San Diego City Attorney
Editor's note: We'll go ahead and let this letter serve as a report of the verdict. As for Rodney Mitchell's criminal history, CityBeat reporter Parisa Baharian had this to say: "Mitchell's criminal history consists of a DUI five years ago. And he was arrested on battery charges five years ago and convicted. Mitchell made an unsuccessful civil rights claim to the state Attorney General's office alleging obstruction and perjury by the San Diego District Attorney's office. These were things I did not include because they did not bear directly on the incident that was alleged to have occurred."
I read your article on the Centro Cultural de la Raza ["Cover Story," Jan. 8] with great interest. I have great interest because I have been personally involved in the development of Chicano/Latino cultural centers for the last 25 years. I was executive director of the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center in San Antonio, Texas from 1983 until 1998. During this time, I am not aware of Nancy Rodriguez, who claims to have been an administrator there, to have ever held any such post at the GCAC.
While your detailed article has so many indications of why and how a community-based arts center can go awry of its community, and how its leadership can alienate not only its founders, but the entire community as well, they prove to be too many for me to point out. I can say that it is clear to me that this center needs to have its current leadership removed and to install one that has the backing and blessing of its community, both artistic and general community. A cultural center without arts activities and without a community, is not a cultural center.
Last, an indication of the lack of genuine interest in the community displayed by the current administration, was apparent to me when Nancy Rodriguez called me on occasion to ask my advice regarding her battle with the artists. During this conversation, when I began asking some hard questions regarding her actions and the "Centro," she became defensive and discontinued the conversation. It was evident to me that she was not interested in hearing anything other than her own views.
Pedro A. Rodriguez,
San Antonio, Texas
Editor's note: In our Jan. 8 cover story, we incorrectly said Centro Cultural de la Raza Executive Director Nancy Rodriguez was a former administrator at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center in San Antonio. This information came from a source deemed reliable, and both Rodriguez and Centro Board President Aida Mancillas failed to respond to two CityBeat requests for a follow-up interview. In response to the above letter, Rodriguez said she was both an arts patron of and juror for the Guadalupe Center. She also participated in several shows there as a performing artist. She said that at no time did she claim to have been employed by the center prior to being hired at the Centro. We regret the error.