December 2, 2005

The Public Forum . . . El Foro Público

What is the true sense of Christmas?

A favorite season for many has arrived. It is almost Christmas, the time of the year where I was told as a child is a good opportunity to rejoice, make wishes, forgive and give. It just seems to me that the giving part has been misinterpreted by all of us and used well by the huge retail industries’ publicity campaigns. People seem more anxious and desperate for lining up every morning after Thanksgiving Day to get the best “deals” in town. I have heard calling this need of buying, a tradition. This “tradition” has become one of the most important things to do for many people around the country. Buying, exchanging presents, and expecting a gift as a symbol of Christmas.

TV stations will remind us in one way or another to not forget about Christmas shopping. We have turned a special season into a very commercial and profitable opportunity for those whose only purpose is to sell. It is almost hard to believe that such a huge community of religious believers has emphasized more in the process of giving and receiving presents, while forgetting about the real sense of Christmas. I cannot talk for the ones that do not name their celebration Christmas; at least their celebration may have a different meaning. I thought this celebrated day was a day to remind us of family unity. A season of the year in which we all become more compassionate and sensible to other peoples’ needs; a time in which connecting with every entire creature on earth can be a perfect expression of giving.

How can we really contemplate true purpose of this magical season if we are overwhelmed with our list of presents? We might have lost the true spirit in the middle of the fight for the last good deal at the malls.

If time means gold, why not to give one of our most precious gifts to our beloved ones? If we value every minute as worth more than anything else, why not give some of that to the most important people around us; our family, friends and coworkers. I bet no one will say no to a good quality conversation, or to someone offering to listening, not only being present, but truly listening. How many times have we postponed calling an old friend because were “running out of time.” Or what about the excuse: “when we have more time, we will have a simple, casual conversation with our son, daughter, mother or father.” If we were given a choice, have we ever wonder what we would rather have for this Christmas? If right now we were unable to communicate with the person that we most appreciate, will we rather have that person here with us exchanging smiles and good tidings? Is that piece of material what really fulfills our soul? or is it covering a bigger need, one that we do not know how to reach.

What we are teaching our children in this society is to value and appreciate gifts that have a price. We are no longer letting them know that it is fine not always to have what is advertised. We are failing to teach our youth how to use many of their innate gifts. Such us caring, accepting others, being grateful for the little or simplest things they have. Those gifts are probably the only ones that cannot perish and will last in our memories as the first caring touch we have ever received.

Let us not allow the creative, colorful advertising to take with it the true sense of Christmas. Make Christmas the beginning of a New Year of innumerable opportunities of being more perceptive of who or what is around us. Feeling compassion and expressing patience to those who are waiting for us to present our real gifts to them. There is nothing wrong with buying special gifts. But, let’s not make buying presents as the only way of demonstrating our appreciation of others. We have priceless virtues  to give that are within the reach of our heart.

Feliz Navidad!

Karla Paniagua
Chula Vista

Cancer Research Should Be A Priority For Congress

As someone who has been touched by cancer and as an American Cancer Society volunteer, I believe that investing in cancer research and programs should be a top national priority. That’s why I was so disappointed to learn that Congress could cut cancer research funding by as much as $100 million this year.

A cut in cancer funding could lead to delays in the development of new cancer-fighting drugs and treatments, screenings that detect cancer at its earliest stages and programs that improve the quality of life of cancer patients. A funding cut would mark the first time in more than a decade that the federal government has reduced support for cancer research.

In September, 92 Senators and 280 Members of the House signed a letter supporting the Bush Administration’s goal to eliminate suffering and death due to cancer by the year 2015. With adequate funding, we can make cancer a disease people live with, rather than die from.

Thirty years ago a cancer diagnosis left many without hope. 10 million Americans are survivors of the disease. Now Congress has the chance to ensure there is enough money invested in research and programs to allow for far more progress in the future.

I urge my Congressional delegation to oppose any cuts in cancer research and programs. Rather than reverse our progress in the war against cancer, Congress should give the gift of hope to cancer patients and their families this holiday season.

Angelica Rivera
Chula Vista


Open Letter to the Chula Vista City Council

Dear Mayor and Council Members,

I am writing to call your attention to two recent incidents that we believe reflect on the credibility of the offices of the City Attorney and Clerk on two critical issues: consistency in how meetings are conducted, and transparency in decision-making. 

Consistency

On November 16th, the Planning Commission and Housing Advisory Commission held a joint meeting that was noticed as a “workshop.” At the workshop, one of the Planning Commissioners attempted to make a motion. A representative of the city attorney’s office advised the commissioner that a motion was inappropriate because the meeting was noticed as a “workshop.”

On August 18th the Planning Commission and City Council held a joint meeting that was also noticed as a “workshop.” At this workshop, a motion was made, amended, and voted on without objection from the city attorney’s office.

If the city attorney’s office is to maintain credibility with the community, it should be consistent on this issue and in all its opinions. 

Transparency

The second incident occurred at your September 20th meeting.  A page from the agenda of that meeting is attached. Note that item 8 (consent calendar) refers to amending the municipal ordinance and appropriating funds for the new, at-will position of “coast-al/environmental policy consultant”. We have since learn-ed that this item also included another new position that of a bodyguard for the may-or. The security item was “attached to an item creating a position for a coastal/environmental consultant to the may-or.” But as you can see from reviewing the agenda, there is no reference to any attachment concerning security or any other issue.

As you know, the primary focus of CII is land use and development, so we have no opinion one way or the other about whether this use of public funds is justified. However, we are committed to full public disclosure and transparency on all issues, so we are disturbed that the full extent of what the Council was actually voting on was not disclosed on the agenda. In our view, transparency in government is essential in a participatory democracy to maintain public confidence.

We hope that next year when the Council is asked to appropriate an additional $120,000 to continue the mayor’s security service, it will be clearly stated on the agenda so that members of the public will have an opportunity to comment on the item if they wish.  Again, the credibility of the city in general, and in particular the offices of City Attorney and City Clerk, are at stake.

Patricia Aguilar, President
Crossroads II
Chula Vista

House Leadership Cuts Food From Immigrant Households

As many Americans were preparing for their biggest meal of the year during the Thanksgiving holiday, members of the House of Representatives voted to take food from the dinner tables of the families who need it most. On Friday, November 18, 2005, as part of the budget reconciliation process, the House of Representatives voted 217-215 to cut the Food Stamp Program by $700 million dollars over five years, a massive funding reduction which is estimated to push more than 300,000 low-income individuals off the program.

Further, supporters of this legislation, the “Deficit Reduction Act of 2005” (H.R. 4241), targeted immigrant families to bear approximately one-third of the food stamp cuts by extending an already arbitrary five-year eligibility bar to seven years. In an effort to conceal the real nature of the cuts, House leadership proposed insignificant changes to immigrant food stamp eligibility. However, these modifications are negligible, and 70,000 legal immigrants are still expected to lose food stamps by 2008. The indirect consequences of the House budget bill are even more far-reaching as many children in noncitizen households will fall from the rolls of the program due to the confusion surrounding the fourth adjustment in food stamp law for immigrant families since 1996.

In addition, Congress launched an assault on American values by slashing the budgets of programs designed to help low-income families, such as student loans and critical health care programs. These programs are often lifelines for low-income families, creating opportunities for students to attain a college degree and allowing parents to sustain healthy households. The vote to pass the House budget bill came at 2:00 a.m. on Friday morning, a tactic reserved to bully members into supporting controversial measures and hide harmful votes from full view of the American people.

The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) is deeply disappointed that the Bush Administration turned its back on immigrant families by supporting passage of this legislation, including the cuts to food stamps for legal immigrants. This is a reversal of position for the Administration, which had supported restoring food stamp eligibility for legal immigrants.

Marcela Salazar
Sr Communications Specialist
National Council of La Raza

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