OpinionReader Letters

On France's effort to ban the full-face veil; the city of Bell's well-paid city manager; and remembering Harvey Pekar.

ChinaHealthBell (Los Angeles, California)Public EmployeesGovernment

What's behind the veil

Re "French National Assembly approves ban on face veils," July 14

A recent Pew survey reported that more than 60% of Europeans favor the ban on full-face veils and only 28% of Americans do. This indicates to me that Europeans have a better appreciation for the ideal of true liberty for all individuals, an ideal for which our forefathers and mothers fought: the freedom to pursue self-chosen goals in life.

Can a person whose face is always hidden in public realistically run for public office, be hired as a physician or as a schoolteacher, or serve in the military? Can she expect to work for public agencies or businesses that have physical contact with the public?

Let's be honest about this. The purpose of the burka with a full-face covering is to keep the woman tied to the home to serve her master. She is not the autonomous individual that she should have the right to be in a free society. This is a condition generally imposed on her, subtly or not so subtly, by her family or husband. Condoning it is no more a matter of cultural tolerance than condoning slavery because it still exists in some cultures.

Leon Schwartz
Altadena

Nice work if you can find it

Re "Is a city manager worth $800,000?," July 15

The Times has done a service exposing the excessive salaries of top officials in the city of Bell.

Robert Rizzo, the $800,000 city manager, is in a perverse way correct when he rationalizes that in the private sphere he would be compensated even more generously. The city of Bell appears to be like many companies where the CEO controls the board, and both collude to create self-servicing policies and compensation rules. I wonder what managerial breakthroughs Rizzo's team has implemented to earn his pay? Hopefully someone will work to give him and his staff what they deserve: a walk out the door.

As a postscript, will they ever serve jail time? If the private sphere is the model, justice will not be served.

George Garcia
Long Beach

It must take a unique entrepreneurial spirit for a public servant to grow a $72,000 salary into over 10 times that amount in only 13 years. If Rizzo thinks he can make that kind of money in the private sector, the citizens of Bell should waste no time giving him the opportunity to do so.

Eric Anderson
Burbank

You've got to be kidding. Most physicians who deal with life and death every day don't make the kind of money Bell's city manager was earning.

Many can't find work, homes are in foreclosure, the economy is at its worst in years, and tiny Bell pays its manager an outrageous salary. Most would consider this unconscionable.

Andrew J. Gero
La Crescenta

Your article on Bell's city management restored my faith in the fantastic opportunities still afforded us all in this great city, state and country.

If I don't win the California Lottery soon, I'll be sure to put my hat in the ring for a "part-time" Bell City Council position at $100,000 a year. I'm pretty sure I can set aside a minute or two each month for some of those grueling meetings they have to endure. In the immortal words of Yakov Smirnoff, "What a country!"

On another note: What's this thing I hear about California having money issues?

Chris Heath
Westchester

What's wrong with this picture?

Re "Principal replaced at arts school," July 13

I am stunned by the news of Central Los Angeles High School #9 principal Suzanne Blake's firing. It shows why this arts school, and the arts in general, will fail in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The students at the school have already garnered numerous awards and achievements and put on extraordinary feats of artistic merit. They love the school and the superior education they are receiving. But all Supt. Ramon C. Cortines and school board president Monica Garcia care about is a "disastrous" accreditation visit — one the school aced with flying colors on the second visit.

Shame on Cortines for "supporting" Blake and then hiring someone to come in and do his dirty work. Shame on Garcia for mugging for the cameras when the school opened, then stabbing Blake in the back when the cameras stopped rolling. Shame on a few teachers and the union president for sabotaging a school where a large majority of the faculty loved their jobs and worked hard for their leader.

Blake deserved better, and the school is worse off without her.

Scott Burstein
Los Angeles
The writer, a music teacher, has volunteered at Central Los Angeles High School #9.

Costly school

Re "School cost is record for L.A. Unified," July 14

As chairperson of UTLA's Salary and Finance Committee, I am glad The Times has exposed LAUSD's outrageous spending on a single high school.

This is not the first time it has done something like this. Imagine if the children of Los Angeles had the almost $500 million spent on the Belmont fiasco, or the millions spent on the Beaudry building that houses thousands of bureaucrats. It is not my teachers' salary that is bankrupting this district. It is the district's continuous mismanagement.

Lisa Karahalios
Los Angeles

China's AIDS efforts defended

Re "China's two faces on AIDS," Opinion, July 12

Your readers deserve to see the whole picture of China's efforts to combat HIV/AIDS.

The Chinese government considers combating HIV/AIDS a top priority and has categorized it as a strategic issue. China's policy includes free voluntary blood tests, free antiretroviral treatment for low-income urban and rural HIV/AIDS patients, free medical advice and treatment for pregnant women and their babies, free education for HIV/AIDS orphans and governmental care for HIV/AIDS patients who live in poverty. In 2009, the central government's budget for HIV/AIDS treatment reached $300 million.

China's measures for combating HIV/AIDS have achieved remarkable progress. Though the estimated number of people living with HIV in China reached 740,000 by the end of last year, the infectious rate is decreasing.

Like many developing countries, China has limited resources to combat HIV/AIDS. We will continue to work very closely with the international community to achieve universal access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support.

Jin Fan
Los Angeles
The writer is spokesperson, Chinese Consulate General in Los Angeles.

Not always a curmudgeon

Re "Harvey Pekar, 1939 - 2010," Obituary, July 13

Though there's no denying that the larger-than-life curmudgeon that Harvey Pekar frequently played was a key part of his public persona, I was nonetheless amused to see one of Harvey's outbursts described in your obit as an example of the real Harvey Pekar. Of course, there was no one Harvey Pekar. Like an earlier poet of everyday American life, Harvey contained multitudes.

I had the pleasure of meeting one of these Harveys when I adapted his stories for the Los Angeles stage in the early 1990s. When I placed that first cold call to the Cleveland VA hospital where Harvey then worked, I braced myself for the worst — only to discover a passionate, funny and self-deprecating writer who drew inspiration from the world around him, which rather fortuitously included the file room of the Cleveland VA.

When Harvey and his wife, Joyce Brabner, flew out to see my play, I watched Harvey interact with dozens of people, from backstage celebrities to strangers he'd run into at Dutton's Bookstore. He approached each encounter with dignity and curiosity, always more listener than talker: a quiet observer of ordinary life in all its extraordinary splendor. That Harvey Pekar, the real Harvey Pekar, is the one I'll always remember.

Vince Waldron
Eagle Rock
The writer adapted and directed the play "American Splendor."

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