by Inlander Staff A Smoke Ban Fan -- "For thy sake, tobacco, I would do anything but die." So wrote English essayist Charles Lamb two centuries ago. Apparently, the Spokane County commissioners do not share his sentiments. In the first week of the New Year, crazy cattle and crazier weather dominated headlines, but a new policy to be instituted by the county restricting new employees from smoking is causing quite a stir as well.
Some are protesting this ban, not out of any great love for smokers' bad habits, but because they think this is a precursor to outlawing other risky behavior. It takes no imagination to see public places where smoking employees litter the ground with butts and fill the air with their noxious exhaust -- in some cases right at the front door.
If prospective employees don't want to cramp their style by refraining from smoking during working hours at county jobs or for other like-minded employers such as Avista, nobody will force them to work at those places. Barring legal challenges, we can all soon breathe easier when entering county facilities and job sites.
Stop the Blame Game -- I cannot let go by without a response such recent comments in the Inlander's Letters to the Editor column as "Evil Empire" and "A Reformer Replies" (1/8/04). To say that the Cowles family's involvement in the community is motivated solely by financial gain is a baseless assumption. I have for years heard people bad-mouth and criticize the Cowles without ever inquiring or checking into the monumental good they have done for this community. If you took the time you could see for yourself -- Gonzaga University, Whitworth College, River Park Square, Mirabeau Point, Mount Spokane and many, many other institutions, organizations, events and activities would have fallen by the wayside without the Cowles' involvement.
To punish them for having wealth is ludicrous. Long ago, and recently even, the various Cowles generations could have easily moved away from the Inland Northwest, invested their assets elsewhere and left the region to founder on its own. Yet they choose to stay and choose to work to make this a better place to live for their children and for future generations.
I am tired of Cowles bashing! When will this community wake up and appreciate those who are doing something productive and proactive?
Maddening Meat -- The current USDA effort to protect the $175 billion U.S. beef industry from the mad cow crisis deceives American consumers. Mad cow disease had not been detected earlier because, until recently, USDA had been testing only 5,000 of the 35 million cows slaughtered annually. Europe and Japan test thousands every day. The 1997 ban on feeding cow slaughterhouse remains to other cows, a common transmission path, is not preventing spread of the disease. A government survey found 25% of feed plants out of compliance, and the cow diagnosed recently was born after the ban.
Americans do consume meat products containing spinal column and brain tissue, traditional carriers of the disease. During slaughter, muscle tissues are routinely sprayed with bits of these tissues. T-bone steaks, hamburgers, hot dogs, and beef fillings and toppings contain bits of the spinal column. We cannot determine the number of cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), the deadly human form of the disease contracted by consuming infected beef, until we start examining the brain tissues of thousands who die of dementia each year. Other animals raised for food are also capable of carrying, contracting and, presumably, transmitting the disease, but they don't get to live long enough to manifest symptoms. Folks in the meat industry should seek a more secure career. The rest of us should make a New Year's resolution to replace meat in our diet with vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
A Towering Tale -- The article "The Two Towers" (12/18/03) was the best-written piece on the River Park Square issue that I have read. Ted McGregor's article was fresh and informative. I respected McGregor's illustration of the good and evil of both stances, with the emphasis on moving forward. It was very well balanced and just what the community needs to hear. I appreciate The Inlander's objective analysis of the issue.
It's All in the Interplay -- Michael Bowen's article, "Interplaying With Fire," (12/18/03), quotes Interplayers Producing Artistic Director Robin Stanton, as saying:
"When I walked in, the organization was in the process of going through founders' syndrome. They tried to come to an agreement about the Welches' retirement. There were board walkouts. It was tumultuous, and I got hired into the middle of it."
Regarding the trustees "coming to an agreement about the Welches' retirement," that was easily and quickly settled and signed into being by the trustees on Feb. 28, 2001 -- long before Ms. Stanton appeared on the scene to begin work, as contracted, on April 17, 2001. By contractual agreement, as cofounders, Joan and I served on Interplayers' board for a year following Ms. Stanton's date of employment. During that period, nothing resembling "board walkouts" occurred.
When Ms. Stanton "walked in" she took charge of a theater that had enjoyed 20 successful seasons; was regularly playing to large and often sold-out houses; a sizable and loyal subscription audience; over $150,000 in subscription renewals for the upcoming season; financial reserves that included a $40,000 inheritance from the late art activist, Katherine Gellhorn; and a complete staff of long-term employees.
Ms. Stanton's conclusion that her biggest mistake was that she "didn't clean house right away" suggests a disconnect with the obvious. Clearly, long-term employees with an established commitment to an organization's success are the best resource a new manager can have. Theater works best when those who create it work together as a team. After all, Interplayers' last name is "Ensemble."