Non-union for a reason
Regarding your story "CDA Outsources Union Jobs" (9/21/07): If I need a painter to work on my house, I'd rather hire one paid by the square foot than one paid by the hour. The former has a financial incentive to get the job done, while the latter might take as long as possible to make the maximum money.
The Community Development Authority does not exist to provide union jobs; it exists to provide housing for poor people. Before Agustin Olvera became head of the city's Housing Operations unit, the CDA was blasted by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development for its high vacancy rates and slow turn-around times.
For example, after a tenant left a city-owned apartment, it took the union painters, carpenters and carpet cleaners as long as four months to get the apartment ready for the next occupant!
That's ridiculous - just ask any private landlord how long it takes to get an apartment ready to rent when there's money on the line. But while city workers took their sweet time, low-income families and disabled people languished on waiting lists, and apartments went empty.
Olvera's predecessor, Deborah Garret Thomas, had attempted to speed up the process but was thwarted at every turn by - you guessed it - the union.
Olvera and his boss, Mark Olinger, deserve credit, not castigation, for cutting apartment turn-around time in half and whittling away at the vacancy rate. If it takes non-union workers to get the job done in a timely and efficient manner, so what?
Kathryn Schubert, Monona
Thanks for your article about tankless hot water heaters ("Getting Into Hot Water," 09/21/07). It's great to get the word out about these environmentally friendly heaters. We've had one for four years.
The article says "Tankless units cannot run without softened water," but this isn't true anymore. I think in the past, the heat exchanger would get coated with hard-water deposits and lose efficiency, but modern designs have nearly eliminated this.
In fact, because tankless heaters are constantly being flushed out, they actually do better than tanked heaters where the sediment falls to the bottom, lowering the heater's efficiency and eventually cracking the bottom.
We don't have a water softener, and I dismantled our tankless heater last weekend to see how it's doing. I found hardly any hard-water deposits.
In addition to using less gas, there are several other advantages to tankless heaters; readers can see my article for our experience losing the tank.
On Sept. 30, we set out for a two-hour drive to Madison for an afternoon of culture and State Street shopping. Whenever we head for Madison, we check out the Isthmus website, TheDailyPage.com, for the events listings to help us plan our trip.
We were interested in the Kanopy Dance program at the Overture Center, since my daughter is a dancer and we were bringing our foreign exchange student from Columbia for a taste of the city.
With tickets priced at $24 each and in the Overture Center I felt confident the event would be worthwhile and exciting. How disappointed we were! The dance was of the quality one expects to see in a high school auditorium for $7 a ticket.
I now find myself having to question the Overture Center, Isthmus and Madison itself on the quality of the arts it is promoting.
Kanopy's brochure states that it is Madison's premier dance company, and I bought into Susan Kepecs' article ("Facing Mecca," 9/28/07). However, I found no correlation between what we saw onstage and what was written in her story.
At least the Packers won and we saw many drunken people staggering down State Street. Maybe we can make a dance out of that.
K O'Brien, Viroqua
David Medaris: I had to look at your name several times while reading your column ("Peaceful Waters," 9/21/07) to make sure one of my family members hadn't written it! We own a cabin on a lake similar to the one you described - and absolutely feel blessed to have such a haven.
Upon our purchase 10 years ago, the real estate agent said no one wanted it because motor boats were not allowed per deed restrictions, and the cabin was so "rustic" it didn't have a dishwasher. I'm glad!
That lake and the wonderful family gatherings we've had there are precisely what draws my family back. Thanks for the great piece of writing.
I loved your column on the small lake up north. I too have favorite water bodies in the north that I canoe every year for my sanity. I would like to see more of this kind of writing in Isthmus. Ever since George Vukelich died there has been a dearth of good outdoor writing in Isthmus.
We should applaud and acknowledge Charles Sykes' column regarding the "The Wimpification Of America" (9/14/07). However, this malady not only plagues our children but reflects the condition of our society as a whole.
Increasingly, American culture has accepted, and even celebrated, a national character of weakness and laziness. We disdain and take all measures to avoid strenuous physical labor or activity. Instead, as the TV ad says, we seek the "easy button."
Our ancestors toiled and sacrificed to beget a life for subsequent generations less ruled by hardship and strife. Ironically, yet inevitably, those noble predecessors endowed today's society with all the devices to circumvent physical and social exertion.
To quote your cover story, "The kids [and the rest of society] aren't all right" (9/14/07), partly due to deprivation of the health benefits that vigorous activity engenders. We should celebrate our physical capabilities and not acquiesce to the culture.
I have lived in Madison for almost three years at the Meriter Retirement Community with my 90-year-old husband, who has dementia. As a result I do not get out much. The Annual Manual (8/24/07) is such a great publication. It is very helpful when I want to get something and, what's more, I just enjoy reading through it. Thank you for all your efforts in publishing it.