I am extremely concerned with the incorrect data and extremely single-sided statements regarding weight-loss surgery and its risks and benefits as detailed in “The Skinny on Being Fat.” (Cover story, 6/04)

I had lap-band surgery five years ago with a starting weight in excess of 400 pounds. I was suffering from high blood pressure, asthma and sleep apnea; and the weight and my arthritis were limiting my ability to get around. I have been obese since

I was 3 years old and have lost 100 pounds dieting more times than I care to count. I was put on my first diet in 1958 when I was 10 years old. I was put on diet pills for the first time when I was 12 years old. I have been up and down since then, over and over again.

Yes, I have used food for psychological reasons, and counseling can and does help, but nothing has enabled me to get five years of major sustained weight loss (I have lost 250 pounds and maintained it) until the weight-loss tool known as the lap-band.

This surgery probably saved my life as now I am on no medications, no longer suffer from sleep apnea, and my arthritis is in the background, allowing me to swim laps for an hour, five days a week, to weight train, walk, bicycle, scuba dive, chase my grandkids and lead a healthy normal life.

I am not iron deficient, and my surgeon checks my vitamin and mineral and protein levels once annually to make sure of that. I am not so limited in my food choices that I have to think about food every hour. I plan my meals with full knowledge of the calorie and protein content of everything I eat. This makes me accountable for my own nutrition and weight. I enjoy food and eat a varied, and sometimes gourmet, diet, I am just aware of exactly what I eat. I don’t see a problem with this.

The “cheering section” that is provided by my surgeon’s office is a well-educated support staff, including two doctors, nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants and peripheral staff. I myself present “testimonials” at his seminars so that I can give back to the community some of what it has given to me in the way of assistance in resolving this lifelong medical issue. All of the potential risks of surgery and the lap-band itself were explained to me at every office visit prior to surgery, and my surgeon does periodic testing to make sure everything is as it should be. I am 60 years old and have more energy and stamina now than I did at 40.

Yes, there are complications with surgery, but the co-morbidities of obesity frequently outweigh the risks of surgery. This is an individual decision. My understanding of the actual statistics of lap-band surgery is that the average weight loss is 50 percent of the total amount to be lost. I am an exception to that rule, as was “Mildred’s” bad experiences with gastric bypass surgery an exception to the rule.

It takes more than one interview or result to present a true view of the reality of any situation. Perhaps “Mildred” and I are both statistical anomalies. In my opinion, adequate news reporting would include both of us as well as at least one of an “average” result, be that result mediocre weight loss or a minimal level of satisfaction with the surgical procedure.

Since obesity is obviously in epidemic proportions in the U.S., resulting in crippling costs to our health care system, not to mention shortened life spans, the more education as to exactly what each of us is eating that we can have, the more educated decisions each one of us will be able to make.

Please interview a bariatric surgeon such as Dr. Helmuth Billy and interview a more statistically relevant number of people before attempting to lead your readers to some interesting, unhealthy and inappropriate conclusions.

Sandi Henderson, Oxnard

A word from the Sierra Club President
I would like to clarify a few points surrounding the story (News, 6/11) about the Sierra Club’s Los Padres Chapter. At the urging of local chapter leaders, the National Sierra Club investigated and subsequently invalidated the Los Padres Chapter election after 40 percent of the ballots cast were found to be invalid. Also at the request of local leaders, the National Sierra Club is taking steps to ensure fair elections in the future, including helping the chapter re-run a fair election and providing support for the new chapter executive committee to fulfill its governance and financial responsibilities. Any disciplinary action taken against any club leader is done to protect the best interest of the organization, and only after careful deliberation.

It is very important to note that the overwhelming majority of the Sierra Club’s leaders in the Los Padres Chapter are dedicated individuals acting with restraint in the face of an unusual level of publicity surrounding this election because they are eager to focus their time and energy on the variety of conservation priorities about which they care deeply. The Sierra Club will do all it can to support them in this endeavor.

Allison Chin, Sierra Club President, Lansdowne, Va.

Disenfranchised Sierra Club nominee speaks out
Last December, I was persuaded to run for the Los Padres Chapter Executive Committee.  I was greatly surprised to be the top vote getter in the election. In January, Julianna Krolak and I were installed as new members of the EXCOM. But since then, my club experience has been a nightmare.

The chapter newsletter, the Condor Call, announced that “it is necessary to re-run” the election. But that is not what has happened. Rather than re-run the election, which should include only the candidates who ran previously, the club removed Julianna and me from office and has done everything it can to make it impossible for us to run for the offices that we had won previously.

Re-run should mean taking the same people back to the starting point and re-starting the race. But neither of us was allowed on the new ballot by the nominating committee.  Instead, we had to lose time getting petitions signed by chapter members while the preferred candidates were off and running. Obviously, it is the wish of club leaders that we fail.

That fact was confirmed when the chair of the chapter nominating committee used the newsletter to condemn me and the other petition candidates. His highly partisan action belies the concept of neutrality for both the committee and the newsletter. Worse yet, the chapter chair has condoned this use of club resources against his competition in this election. He has also falsely accused me of supporting other members when, in fact, I never had an opportunity to take such actions.

His assumptions about what I might do are inappropriate.

I’ve been told that no petition candidates have ever been elected to this chapter. Why bother with elections if the winners are picked beforehand?

Barbara Berns, Camarillo

New legislation will help workers unionize
Now, more than ever, working people need to get ahead. The Employee Free Choice Act will protect the freedom of working people to advance economically. It will put decisions about how to form unions in the hands of workers, not bosses, and will impose real penalties when companies abuse, harass or fire workers who are trying to form unions.

Even with a sinking economy, Big Business has made blocking the Employee Free Choice Act its top priority, and it’s putting all of its efforts into a vicious and dishonest campaign, using shady front groups to spread falsehoods to the public, the press and politicians.

The same people who laughed at concern about the stock market and the economy a year ago are again spreading lies about the Employee Free Choice Act. The biggest lie is that the Employee Free Choice Act would eliminate the secret ballot.

Jeremy Yablan, Simi Valley

Gallegly needs to get the facts straight
Representative Gallegly’s newsletter arrived yesterday. Here is a quote from it: “The Cap and Trade system touted by the majority — where the polluting company buys the right to emit carbon dioxide from a company that emits less — is little more than an energy tax that will cost each American family about $3,100 a year.” He then goes on to detail what $3,100 will buy in today’s economy.

If Gallegly had taken the time to look at FactCheck.org, he would have found that one of the authors of the MIT study from which that figure was simplistically derived actively disputes that number. John Reilly, associate director for research at the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change even sent a letter to House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) on April 1, saying that the study Reilly co-authored had “been misrepresented in recent press releases distributed by the National Republican Congressional Committee.” He said the GOP’s calculation fails to account for Obama’s stated intent to provide rebates to consumers to cushion the effect of increased prices.

Using misleading information to drive your agenda is a reprehensible tactic, Mr. Gallegly, and unfair to your constituents. I would encourage all readers to peruse factcheck.org and politifact.com to see who is really telling the truth … and who isn’t.

Wendy Stroud, Oak View

Curing illnesses should not be for profit
Congress needs to include a viable public health insurance option now in the reform this year.

If the private insurance industry cannot compete with Medicare (or a similar option), then they should go out of business. Competition is healthy and needed. We do not want corporations making a profit from illness, just as we would want a private fire department profiting from damaging fires. Fed-Ex can compete with the U.S. Post Office. Let’s ask our corporations to serve the good of our society versus selfish greed.

Scott Wilson Ojai

Personal property rights abridged
Your article on the building code, dated April 2, 2009 (News), struck a raw nerve with me. It’s been sitting on my desk for a good while now, but I still wanted to respond to your report.

I’ve been dealing with Building and Safety for about five years now. Someone with poor eyesight reported me anonymously, and it has cost me many thousands and much aggravation to satisfy the agency. The anonymous report can be a real nightmare for the owner, because sometimes people use it to exact vengeance. The report doesn’t even have to be accurate. Perhaps they dislike their neighbor, perhaps they wanted to buy the property themselves, or perhaps they are people with nothing better to do than peer out their windows. In any case, the city is duty-bound to look into these complaints.

I think that code violations are much more frequent than the 1-in-30 you mention. Any inspector worth his salt can ferret out any number of code inconsistencies in residential structures, and, as Nick Deitch says, many of those inconsistencies have little to do with safety.

At this point, the city wants me to build a carport or garage. In fact, they require a garage space for every bedroom in the house, even if you don’t own a car. I have two tiny bedrooms, but what of homeowners who have many bedrooms? I have one and one-third acres in which to park. I don’t need a garage, I don’t want a garage, and I have never found a use for one. Is it for the sake of the car’s safety? It’s an old truck, for goodness sake. It will cost me upward of $12,000 to build a minimal carport, and that in 2009, when money is tight. Perhaps I’ll need to get a loan. That’s not so sensible. They will no longer give me extensions.

An individual seeking a permit to build faces a number of expensive obstacles. The city requires architectural plans and soil reports. The structure must reflect those plans precisely, so if you make any changes, the inspector will require rectification, even if the changes make good common sense. Of course, they require permit fees. When Andrew Stuffler says, “We are not about harassing the community. We let it go …,” he leaves out the penalties that the city may impose on “violators.” They can enforce daily fines. They can cloud the title to your property. Apply these penalties to a hard-pressed family who bought a fixer-upper, and you can imagine the economic chaos that might hit them.

This is my first house. I consider my property rights to be much abridged.

The city is unfriendly to traditional building methods and alternative structures. And I also believe that there are thousands of people in this city who suffer the same kinds of harassments and costs. The contractors and architects have many stories to tell. I am very pleased that that this subject gets any coverage at all, and I hope that you and your colleagues will follow the story.

Kate Pond, Ventura

Energy bill needs a makeover
For the sake of our economy, we need our representatives in Congress to fight to fix the energy bill. Congress is voting in less than 10 days. We need to be thinking about long-term consequences ecologically and economically, not short-term fixes. What will it take for Congress to act responsibly?

Sydney Harris, Ventura