Two pit bulls killed a horse in in Morgan Hill last month.

Let that sink in: Two dogs that likely weigh between 40 and 70 pounds so severely injured a 1,000-pound horse that it had to be euthanized.

Sadly, pit bull attacks are not unusual.

Baby Royal from the Flickr photostream of DeeMo

A few years ago, my daughter was walking our dog when a neighbor’s pit bull came tearing after them. The pit bull’s owner gave chase and caught his dog. We were very lucky that he was home, noticed that the dog escaped, and able to catch his dog. I shudder to think what might have happened if circumstances had been even slightly different. On another occasion, a pit bull visiting a neighbor broke through the wood fence between our yards and menaced our 23-pound cockapoo; animal services had to capture the pit bull.

A 9-year-old Hollister girl was attacked by a pit bull when she walked to her mailbox last month. Her father was bitten when he tried to save her. KSBW reports that the girl and her father were lucky: They only suffered “moderate” injuries.

When Gilroyan Yvonne Hyatt and her dog were attacked by a pit bull, they weren’t as fortunate. The Dispatch reported that “the pit bull came extremely close to biting into a main artery in [Hyatt’s] hand, a scenario that could have proved fatal.” The pit bull nearly killed Hyatt’s dog and severely injured Hyatt’s arm. Neighbors who rushed to help couldn’t deter the pit bull with broomstick whacks to the dog’s head or with punches to the dog’s face. The attack continued until someone beat the pit bull in the head with a hammer. Hyatt required 68 stitches and a stay in the intensive care unit.

Two-year-old Morgan Hill resident James Soto’s injuries were untreatable: A pit bull mauled him to death.

These are just a few dog attack stories about one dangerous breed from one tiny corner of the world.

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It’s time for another periodic round-up of things that make me roll my eyes, shake my head, and utter a two-syllable puh-lease.


Complaints that Morgan Hill’s annual Independence Day concert is being taken from downtown induce eye rolls. The protests have erupted in response to a decision to move the concert from Monterey between Second and Third streets to the outdoor amphitheater at the Community and Cultural Center a few blocks south. Both locations are in downtown Morgan Hill.

Zoning Morgan Hill via Google Earth from the Flickr photostream of Eric Rice

The Community and Cultural Center, which runs between Dunne and Fifth streets and Monterey and Depot streets, is the anchor of downtown Morgan Hill. Given the costs associated with street closures and the cleanup problems associated with the old location, it makes sense to move the concert to a different downtown location that just happens to have been designed for exactly this type of event.

We heard similar protests when the Friday Night Music series was moved to the Community and Cultural Center, a change that has gone well. People who don’t know geography and ignore history? Puh-lease.


As a library lover, I’m disgusted to read about the vandalism that’s occurring at Gilroy’s brand-new library. Head shakes and eye rolls do not suffice.

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Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | June 5, 2012

Empty nest preview

“Kids don’t stay with you if you do it right. It’s the one job where, the better you are, the more surely you won’t be needed in the long run.” ~ Novelist Barbara Kingsolver

We’re in the month between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and smack dab in the middle of graduation season, even though there are no graduations in our immediate family this year. It seems timely, however, that I’m realizing that this summer, I’ll be living through a short preview of the next phase of my life: The mostly empty nest.

My son is heading to Tokyo at the end of this week for a four-week program studying Japanese at Chuo University. He’ll be living with a Japanese family and getting an immersive experience in the culture he’s been studying at Cal State Monterey Bay.

My daughter, who is finishing her junior year at Live Oak High School this week, will depart shortly thereafter for Costa Rica with her Girl Scout troop for a long-planned, much-anticipated nine-day tour.

So, for a week and a half in late June, I’ll have a preview of what life will be like when she goes off to college in 14 months.

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Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | May 22, 2012

Win or lose, Prop 29 stinks

The June 5 primary ballot is a simple affair. It should take just a few minutes to mark my choices on my absentee ballot. But I’m stuck on one vote: Proposition 29, which would levy a $1 per pack tax on cigarettes to fund cancer research.

My choices for Prop 29 are “Yes” and “No.” I don’t like either option.

It’s not that I oppose a cigarette tax to fund cancer research. It makes sense to tax tobacco products, which are strongly associated with increased risk of developing several deadly cancers, to fund efforts to combat these terrible diseases.

cigarette from the Flickr photostream of danmachoid

What’s more, California ranks 33rd, according to Tobacco Free Kids, for taxes levied on cigarettes. California imposes an 87-cents-per-pack tax. The state with the highest per pack cigarette tax, New York, imposes a whopping $4.35-per-pack tax. The national average is $1.46 per pack. California is one of only three states that hasn’t raised cigarette taxes since 1999.

In addition, raising cigarette prices “is one of the most effective ways to prevent and reduce smoking, especially among kids,” according to Tobacco Free Kids. “The general consensus is that every 10 percent increase in the real price of cigarettes reduces overall cigarette consumption by approximately three to five percent, reduces the number of young-adult smokers by 3.5 percent, and reduces the number of kids who smoke by six or seven percent.”

So why haven’t I voted “Yes” yet? It’s because I despise ballot-box budgeting; Prop 29 is a prime example.

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Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | May 8, 2012

Lugar’s woes exemplify GOP’s small-tent politics

“Big ideas don’t often come from small tents.” ~Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger

I’m a political junkie who spent good chunk of my youth in Indianapolis, where I observed the career of Richard Lugar; he was a favorite in my staunchly Republican, very religious right world. Even as I moved left first politically and eventually geographically, I admired Lugar and followed his career.

Lugar became mayor of Indianapolis at roughly the time that my family settled in the Hoosier state. Lugar, an Eagle Scout, Rhodes scholar and Navy veteran who supported President Richard Nixon’s efforts to return many federal powers to state and local governments, was elected to the United States Senate in 1976. He earned a reputation as a foreign policy expert able to work with members of both parties. Time magazine named Lugar one of America’s 10 best senators in 2006.

But Lugar might not win today’s Indiana primary to represent Republicans in the general election Senate race. Why? This Washington Post headline sums it up: “Indiana Sen. Lugar’s reputation as statesman could cost him in Tuesday’s tight GOP primary.”

Will Indiana voters retire Lugar? from the Flickr photostream of kennethkonica

I can’t think of a sadder or more damning statement about the current state of the GOP. Statesmanship is a bad thing? But Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Political Report recognizes that sad reality: “It used to be that ‘playing well with others’ was a highly valued quality… It’s not anymore.”

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I’ve complained for years about the scourge of ballot-box budgeting — that’s when voters approve propositions that earmark government revenue for specific purposes, circumventing the normal budget process involving the state legislature.

Oakland Tribune columnist Byron Williams was exactly right when he wrote in 2006 that ballot-box budgeting “assumes a static world.” He added that ballot-box budgeting “masquerades as direct democracy, when in actuality it transforms the electorate into part-time legislators. … What was once reserved as the work of elected officials who have the benefit of hearings, staff analysis and institutional memory has been given to voters to make what is tantamount to a snap decision.”

California Statehouse from the Flickr photostream of queenkv

Thanks to ballot-box budgeting, our very expensive legislators control an ever-shrinking portion of the state’s budget. Ballot-box budgeting leaves them very little flexibility to deal with shifting economic conditions.

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Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | March 27, 2012

Project Roadmap deserves your support


The college admissions process is a confusing stew of acronyms, jargon and can’t-miss deadlines that’s difficult even for students who enjoy every advantage. Now imagine trying to navigate it if your parents didn’t attend college, aren’t native English speakers, or work long hours at low-paying jobs to make ends meet and don’t have the time or information to help.

Next, add to the mix the chronic state public education budget cuts that drastically reduced the number of public high school guidance counselors in California. The result: Many good students who dream of attending college won’t achieve that goal.

Confused over Doc from the Flickr photostream of

U.S. Department of Education statistics for the 2009-2010 school year show that California has one guidance counselor for every 810 high school students. The American School Counselor Association says guidance counselors should have a maximum caseload of 250 students.

Insufficient counseling resources have a lasting negative effect on students’ lives. In September 2010, U.S. News & World Report noted that “Students who are poorly counseled in high school are more likely to delay college and make questionable higher education choices,” citing Jean Johnson, who coauthored a March 2010 Public Agenda study.

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Powerful conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh’s three-day verbal assault on Georgetown University student Sandra Fluke is outrageous for many reasons. Limbaugh’s choice of words — the subject of his narrow, half-hearted apology — is just the beginning.

Rush Limbaugh - Caricature from the Flickr photostream of DonkeyHotey

Limbaugh lied about the content of Fluke’s testimony at a House of Representatives hearing: “[Fluke] testifies she’s having so much sex she can’t afford her own birth control pills.” Fluke actually testified about fellow students who couldn’t afford contraceptive drugs to treat medical problems because the insurance they purchased through Georgetown wouldn’t cover it. Fluke focused on a lesbian student who lost an ovary and possibly her fertility because she couldn’t afford the pill that would prevent ovarian cysts. Fluke did not testify about her own sex life or contraceptive usage.

Limbaugh used those lies to characterize Fluke as a “slut” and a “prostitute.” It was offensive language, but typical for Limbaugh. My outrage extends to his dangerous lies and to the abuse that the influential Limbaugh, possessor (for now) of a bully pulpit and millions of “Dittohead” fans, heaped on Fluke because she advocated a position he doesn’t like.

If I were Fluke, I’d seriously consider slander and defamation lawsuits. If I were head of Clear Channel, which has a $400-million, eight-year contract with Limbaugh, I’d have my lawyers looking for ways to avoid financial liability for Limbaugh’s comments.

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Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | February 28, 2012

Non-disclosure calculus

“Among other common lies, we have the silent lie — the deception which one conveys by simply keeping still and concealing the truth. Many obstinate truth-mongers indulge in this dissipation, imagining that if they speak no lie, they lie not at all.” ~Mark Twain

News broke last week that two-term Gilroy City Councilman and mayoral candidate Dion Bracco entered guilty pleas in 1990 to two drug charges, including felony possession of methamphetamines for sale. According to staff writer Mark Powell’s report, the pleas stemmed from a 1989 arrest in Morgan Hill in which undercover officers purchased meth from Bracco’s roommate after telling her, “Dion sent us over.” Police found meth in the apartment and on Bracco himself.

Handcuffs from the Flickr photostream of MadMup

It’s pretty dramatic stuff: I was visiting universities in southern California with my daughter last week and the news pierced my college-admissions bubble.

This news raises pertinent questions: Should Bracco have voluntarily disclosed his felony conviction during his three City Council campaigns (2003, unsuccessful; 2005 and 2010, successful) or his current campaign for mayor? What about when he sought and was appointed to a seat on Gilroy’s Planning Commission in 2003? Should commission applicants or elected office candidates be required to disclose any prior felony convictions?

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Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | February 14, 2012

Birth control coverage and the constitutionality canard

“It is now a fact that as a result of birth control, the survival rate among mothers and children is higher. There is less suffering for all groups.” ~Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger

“In the United States today, the small fraction of women … who are sexually active and at risk of unintended pregnancy but do not practice contraception are responsible for almost half of the unintended pregnancies and nearly half of the abortions.” ~Guttmacher Institute

Let’s start this Valentine’s Day column with some relevant history: The United States Supreme Court ruled that birth control bans were unconstitutional for married couples in 1965 (Griswold v. Connecticut) and for all couples in 1972 (Eisenstadt v. Baird). It ruled that women have a right to terminate pregnancies in 1973 (Roe v. Wade). The Obama Administration recently announced a rule that requires most employers to cover birth control without co-pays, including Catholic hospitals and universities.

prevention from the Flickr photostream of brains the head

Cue the right-wing echo chamber, which featured people screaming about religious freedom and trying to whip the religious right into a constitutional fervor. They conveniently ignored the fact that the Obama Administration’s rule is based on a more than a decade of precedent. Mother Jones reported that in December of 2000, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that “companies that provided prescription drugs to their employees but didn’t provide birth control were in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prevents discrimination on the basis of sex. That opinion, which the George W. Bush administration did nothing to alter or withdraw when it took office the next month, is still in effect today — and because it relies on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, it applies to all employers with 15 or more employees.”

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