Letters to the editor

A piece of history vs. a parcel of land

Re “A ranch gives up the ghost,” Column One, Aug. 2

People who live in Los Angeles County and who wish to leave their beloved homes to a historical association or as a museum should realize that their wishes will seldom be carried out. No one wants to spend money on the upkeep of these buildings because their investment is never returned. Greed for money, and especially greed for land, will always trump donors’ personal wishes and their legal wills.

Donna Turner PetersenSun Valley


As a USC alum, I am disgusted (but not surprised) that the university would sell to developers a historically significant property that was given to it in good faith to preserve. That the school “cannot find a proper use for the property” is lame and unimaginative. How about using the ranch as a site for its popular cinema school summer intensives, which draw students from around the world? What would-be filmmaker wishing to be steeped in Hollywood history could resist staying at a home built for Barbara Stanwyck? As an Angeleno, I am equally disgusted that the city would so easily drop the property’s landmark status to curry favor with developers. Oakridge, designed by Paul R. Williams, one of L.A.'s foremost architects and the first African American member of the American Institute of Architects, deserves to be preserved.

Zsa Zsa GershickNorth Hollywood

Contrary to what some may believe, there are intelligent, creative and culture-starved people living in the San Fernando Valley. It is beyond belief that a wealthy university such as USC would need to sell a potential cultural landmark and a little-observed part of Valley history for its film program. The Valley continues to be raped by developers looking for one thing -- money. Is there anyone who cares about saving what little we have left and actually has some pride in the Valley? I think that Victoria Oakie would be quite disappointed, as are many others.

Joanne TaylorNorthridge

The School of Cinematic Arts (formerly known as the School of Cinema-Television) had an enduring relationship with Jack and Victoria Oakie that spanned several decades. On March 16, 2001, Mrs. Oakie ensured a proper use for the family home, bequeathing that “this gift of property . . . shall be allocated to the USC School of Cinema-Television and the property and its proceeds shall be used to honor my late husband, Jack Oakie, through, for example, the establishment of an endowed chair . . . and other appropriate means of perpetuating the memory of Jack Oakie.”

USC prides itself on respecting the wishes of all its donors. In following the directive of Mrs. Oakie in cooperation with the Jack and Victoria H. Oakie Charitable Foundation trustees, the School of Cinematic Arts looks forward to honoring Mrs. Oakie’s spirit and preserving the legacy of her husband in perpetuity.

Elizabeth M. DaleyDean and Professor, USC School of Cinematic Arts Los Angeles

Expand access, protect research

Re “Research for all,” editorial, July 27

Although the National Institutes of Health funds many research studies, it does not pay for independent peer review. That function, which ensures the integrity of the research, is funded by journal publishers. But government bureaucracy continues to impede participation and undermines the successful expansion of information access.

Authors and publishers deserve copyright protection for their works. The current NIH funding proposal recognizes the importance of copyright but still violates its fundamental principles -- namely the right to reproduce and distribute the copyrighted work. Why does The Times think that Congress should decide how long the private sector may have to market copyrighted information before the government expropriates publishers’ investments and makes their content free?

Publishers will keep working to expand access to research while maintaining the integrity of peer review and copyright protection. This is essential if we are to sustain the incentive for continued publisher investments that advance science.

Brian D. CrawfordWashington

The writer chairs the executive council of the professional and scholarly publishing division of the Assn. of American Publishers.

Our infrastructure needs help

Re “ ‘Structurally deficient’ for 17 years,” Aug. 3

Who will stand up in Congress and say that for what we have wasted in Iraq, we could have rebuilt every bridge, school and highway in the United States, providing real security and jobs to every American and a new infrastructure for the next several generations? What a colossal waste of life and resources.

Abraham EntinGranada Hills

Wouldn’t it be nice if we spent the money to maintain bridges before they collapse, instead of saying we will pay to have them rebuilt and pray for those who were killed through our gross negligence?

Hans GrellmannPalos Verdes Estates

When President Bush says, “We are fighting the terrorists over there, so we don’t have to fight them here,” what he really means is that we are spending our money over there, so we don’t have any left to spend here.

Edward HeldWoodland Hills

Often I wish the letters to The Times weren’t so predictable. The collapse of the Minneapolis bridge was, of course, the result of a lack of funds allocated to bridge inspection, some of which were absconded with by the Bush administration for its evil purposes. So it goes. Meanwhile, no one noticed that the inspectors annually decided that the bridge was safe.

No amount of additional funds would have changed that unless bonuses could have been paid with them for finding the bridge unsafe. This would only be fair, considering the monstrous additional paperwork.

H.R. RichnerCosta Mesa

Every time such a disaster occurs, insurance companies must lose money.

Why don’t they get together and pool their lobbying money and push the government to remedy the ailing bridges, roads, tunnels, dams and so on? Wouldn’t that save money in the long run and free up those dollars for useful things such as private jets for the chief executives and third or fourth vacation homes for their chief financial officers?

June ChaseLos Angeles

Let Haiti decide what it needs

Re “Haiti debates having a homegrown army,” July 30

The Haitian army was not homegrown. It was formed by an act of the U.S. Congress. Its most memorable officers were only distinguished by their bloody history of disenfranchising and suppressing the interests of Haiti’s masses on behalf of the economic elite they protected and the U.S. interests they were created to secure. The people of Haiti suffered unimaginable torture, arbitrariness and death under the former Haitian army, which never defended the interests of Haiti, but only those of its creator, the U.S.

Marguerite LaurentStamford, Conn.The writer is the founder of the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network.

In response to your article on a Haitian army, I can only ask, why would Haiti choose to fund an army when it cannot fund a national infrastructure? Haiti lacks schools, hospitals, roads, potable water and sewage systems, and adequate electric power, not to mention jobs.

Haiti is very unlikely to enter into international combat with a 2,000-member force and, if attacked with modern weapons systems, would have fragile defenses specifically because it lacks the items mentioned.

Lacking roads, power and an educated and literate public sector workforce, Haiti is unlikely to be able to staff an efficient and ready armed force of any strength sufficient to ward off an attack either from without or within.

You refer to a study commissioned with a New York City firm under Haiti’s previous administration that recommends an army. I rather think that President Rene Preval is in a better position to determine the needs of his country.

Joan W. DrakeWashington

The prison dilemma

Re “Addicted to prisons,” Opinion, Aug. 1

The judges wisely and courageously ordered a three-judge panel to oversee the prison crisis, but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger stubbornly and foolishly appealed, disregarding the facts that lives are being lost because of medical negligence and that releasing prisoners two weeks early or prohibiting re-incarceration on technical parole violations will not threaten public safety.

Citizens are becoming educated and no longer want tax dollars wasted on the greed-based expansions of mismanaged, disease-ridden prisons. Intelligent voters no longer condone warehousing and inhumane treatment of prisoners because we know this brings institutionalized, anti-social, disease-carrying criminals back to our communities.

Informed voters, heeding the advice of experts, will advocate crime prevention and community rehabilitation.

Barbara ChristieArroyo Grande, Calif.

Violent felonies account for most of the increase in our prison population over the last 10 years. This while the rates for most violent crimes have decreased. The three-strikes law is working to protect us from criminals addicted to violence. I will support taxes to pay for more prisons.

Paul W. HenningerLake Forest

Antiquity honesty

Re “The return of antiquities a blow to Getty,” Aug. 2

While the return of antiquities is still in the news, as evidenced by the Getty’s noble gesture to the Italian request, it would be proper and correct if the British Museum took note and returned the Parthenon marbles to Greece. Now that the Greeks are unveiling their new Acropolis Museum, it would be the perfect time for Britain to return these most significant pieces, among the greatest symbols of democracy.

Joyce HelfandArcadia

Now that the Getty has come clean and agreed to return 40 pieces from its collection to Italy, will the Italians return the majority of that collection to Greece?

Lenora Bacolas LowePacific Palisades