Letters for Thursday — December 08, 2005

• What holiday is Dec. 25th?

• Full-time council members?

• Unrealistic standards?

What holiday is Dec. 25th?

So we’re celebrating the holidays! We’re running around like we’ve just been let out of a zoo as we rush, push and shove to buy, buy, buy all those unnecessary toys, trinkets and gadgets to disguise in wrappings for loved ones during this famous holiday season, or are they really trappings manipulated by the marketplace?

Are we really trapped into thinking we HAVE to do this so-called Christmas thing that isn’t even considered Christmas anymore by a number of powers that be. So if it’s not Christmas, then what holiday are we celebrating, and why? What’s the purpose of it all? Historically speaking, the pagans were the first to decorate the “Evergreen trees” in the woods with berries, seeds and honey to attract the birds in celebration and appreciation of Mother Nature and the winter solstice. Since all other trees appeared dead in the cold of winter, the Christians adapted the tradition of decorating the Evergreen as a symbol of the Christ and His everlasting life thus, the name Christmas tree. Christmas gifts originated as the gifts presented to the baby Jesus by the Magi. So for centuries on Dec. 25, Christians have honored their designated Holy day free from work, around a Christmas tree centered for family and friends to feast in celebration of the birth of Christ.

So isn’t it interesting that everyone jumped on the Christians’ bandwagon of a day off for gift giving, feasting, Christmas tree decorations? Of course the warm-spirited tradition does seem to bring the best out of all of us, and that feels good, if only for a day.

But now some want to change the names so they don’t feel left out of a celebration that doesn’t include the name of “their” religion. Since Christmas is traditionally a Christian celebration, to be fair it seems that if everyone else wants to play “Holiday,” as opposed to Holy day, you don’t have to go and try to change the origin and the names, just play! Give, love, forgive, be grateful, and be merry. That’s what the Christ, his birth, and Christmas day symbolize. It’s as simple as that. We don’t have to be a Christian to play Christmas, and Christians will never say you can’t give, love and be merry because you’re not a Christian. But since the word Christ does mean universal love, a good Christian will encourage anyone and everyone to give in the spirit of love and be merry all year around, to celebrate the spirit of Christmas every moment of your life.

Truthfully, I can’t think of any religion that does not agree with love, joy, gratitude and forgiveness. Can you? We are all God’s children called by any name, and it seems that until we can look at the mixed plate and see wherein we all agree as opposed to where we differ, we will never know Peace on Earth and Good Will to Men. So to all, I wish a very Merry Christmas.

  • Gabrielle Olivier

Full-time council members?

The idea of adopting a county manager form of administration is being discussed and publicized in meetings of the Charter Commission and elsewhere. Another issue deserving equal attention is the idea of full-time Council members.

The County Council currently raises and allocates more than $120 million a year and must hold the administration accountable for the expenditure of those dollars. In addition, the Council handles an endless stream of ordinances and resolutions as well as concerns and complaints from citizens who feel they have nowhere else to turn.

Can we realistically expect these seven persons, who are unofficially part-time servants on part-time pay, to meet the expectations that come with being the County’s legislative body? I say “unofficial” because the Charter does not specify the amount of time and energy a Council member must give to the task, and members are free to engage in other business and professional activities.

In the course of looking at Council salaries as a member of the Salary Commission last year, I began to see this issue as one in which circumstances have outstripped an institution. The pace of life, the scope of responsibilities, and the demands on a member’s time and attention have grown exponentially since these legislative positions were created in l969.

One result of the changes is to bring to light the fact that the Council carries all the responsibilities that on federal and state levels are divided between House and Senate. The Council is a replica of the House, with its two-year terms, its permanent electioneering mode, and its immersion in the emotional and partisan clamor of the public.

The Senate was designed to add a more reasoned and less hurried dimension to the legislative process. We can hardly expect the Council to meet this test even with full-time members unless we find additional ways to strengthen the legislative process. But electing full-time Council members is the first and, in my view, necessary step in meeting today’s needs.

A word about salaries. We do not need legislators whose first priority is maximizing income. Let’s have no talk about competing with the private sector for legislators, nor should we surrender our right to expect a sincere commitment to serving the public interest from our legislators. On the other hand, the County has a responsibility to pay full-time legislators a living wage.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the “living wage” issue is how many people are effectively excluded from running for Council under the current system, especially in this insane real estate market. I think it would be prudent to take down those barriers by making the position of Council member a full-time position and paying a living wage to those who serve in the position. It will then be up to us to hold them accountable on a rational basis for the quality of the legislative process and the quality of individual performance in the process.

  • Horace Stoessel

Unrealistic standards?

I believe many wonder how to better protect visitors: what impossible standard will creep up for liability? We have all seen it, sensible people seem to think the laws of nature are suspended because they are on vacation. They take chances everywhere from crossing streets to swimming at remote beaches.

We all have teenage kids and friends who routinely rescue folks from dangerous waters and trails. Pristine areas are what we offer in a competitive travel market, yet after a disastrous event, the county takes a hit for the dangers.

Rescue personnel put their lives on the line every day, and truly are heroic. When they do this for anyone who frivolously ignores warnings it must tear at them.

As a community, keep perspective: consider that ERs see many more vacation mishaps than drownings. Nice people out of their usual environment who get too much sun, eat unfamiliar foods, try new activities.

We have uniquely accessible and wild places. Do not expect to safeguard them unrealistically.

  • Pat Littlejohn

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