I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised by Jenny Peek's article ("How UW Lab Cats Became the Symbols for PETA's Campaign Against Animal Research," 1/10/2014). Putting abused animals on the front page is always a good attention grabber. The fact that Isthmus allowed a somewhat sympathetic view to be published made my day.
I was the veterinarian for those cats for several years. I know the conditions well. I fought tooth and nail to get their situation improved, especially in terms of adequate nutrition, adequate veterinary care and competent surgery. Unfortunately, looks like business as usual at the university. At least all those highly paid "researchers" can spend their cash at Isthmus advertisers. Evidently, Isthmus thinks all is right with the world.
Richard (Jim) Brown, DVM
Thank you for your coverage of the issues surrounding the Madison Metropolitan School District's meal program ("The School-Lunch Dilemma," 1/31/2014). However, MMSD deserves more than the "windowless" "industrial" portrayal by Isthmus. Likewise, the United States Department of Agriculture is much more supportive of local purchasing than the article suggests.
REAP recently received a substantial USDA Farm to School grant to work with MMSD to improve purchasing practices, which was unfortunately not mentioned in the article. One focus area for this work is the addition of geographic preference language to MMSD's bidding process for unprocessed food items, an option provided by the USDA. This would allow MMSD to put preference on local purchasing, even mandate it.
While unclear in the article, school districts are not required to hold formal open bids for all purchases. Under federal law, purchases under $100,000 may be made informally. MMSD has set a more restrictive threshold of $15,000, limiting their flexibility to purchase outside of contracts, potentially from producers and distributors that offer local products. Revising this threshold could open additional opportunities for farm to school.
While local procurement has yet to be fully incorporated into school lunches, the REAP Snack Program is well established and responsible for over $50,000 worth of local purchases in 2013. This program, made possible by REAP, MMSD and the USDA, provides a weekly locally grown fruit or veggie snack to MMSD schools enrolled in the USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.
Local purchasing for MMSD school meals is no doubt a "dilemma," but it is also an opportunity. We are confident that together we have the tools, partners and support to tackle this issue head-on.
Natasha Smith, Farm to School program manager, REAP Food Group
Peds vs. parking
Former mayor Dave Cieslewicz is right on track with his comments about Judge Doyle or Public Market Square ("Madison Is Missing the Mark on Judge Doyle Square," 2/7/2014). To fill the space with architecturally bland parking ramps would be a shame. I've seen Copenhagen and many smaller Danish cities, where there is always a pedestrian street in the center of town, with inviting shops, tree-filled public spaces and plenty of indoor and outdoor cafes. There are also street musicians. People come together and seem to enjoy life. It's like State Street without the limited traffic.
It would be great if Madison had more of this. So much of the city, especially the west side, seems to have been developed during the car-heavy culture of the last century. Imagine West Towne with park areas, walking trails, outdoor cafes and live music.
I'm afraid you are totally wrong regarding parking. Downtown will not be the vibrant area you dream of if there is insufficient parking. Public transportation is not convenient, and already there is not enough parking to meet needs. And proposing less parking is irresponsible. People have many options for their leisure pursuits, and if it becomes more difficult to visit downtown they won't come.
Bad legal precedent
So, four same-sex couples recently sued Gov. Scott Walker in a misguided attempt to overturn Wisconsin's commonsense amendment to the state constitution banning homosexual "marriage" ("ACLU Targets Wisconsin's Same-Sex Marriage Ban," 2/7/2014). Apparently some people haven't learned from the past. The ancient and primitive Greeks and Romans crassly valued homosexual relations. But eventually the people wised up and realized that was a mistake, and homosexual activity was again deemed unethical and basically driven underground.
Now, misguided "progressives" are trying to take us back thousands of years to more primitive and decadent times, despite the fact that thinking people have known for centuries that homosexual activity is immoral and a bad legal precedent.
Wayne Lela, Downers Grove, Ill.
There was no way to fold last week's paper in half to censor the stringed female ass that appeared in the American Apparel ad on the back cover. The children, especially the girls, need not learn more ways to display the booty.
Mary Jo Walters