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Re: Speaking out

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Dear Bill: Thanking for your thoughtful comments and observations, I respectfully disagree with your assessment that in our profession " ..the notion of rendering public service without emolument is now quaint, and went away a couple of generations ago. ". In my opinion 99.99 percent of individuals involved in my profession are honest and honorable people and this percentage of us do public service without emolument. Just look at this site. Look at yourself. I have read your many posts with much interest and may be a few times I did not agreed with your point of view but even when I felt not agreeing with you I admired you for taking the time out of your very busy schedule (those were the days that every minute of your time could be used to make money!) and made your comments. Was there any emolument? Extend that to thousands who have done exactly that. Then, look at all these committees and organizing conferences that so many in our profession spend their family time or money-making time to just serve . This is public service. I will give you two example, one no longer with us and other our good friend who contributes to this forum quite a lot. When the Caltrans Seismic Advisory Board formed by Governor of California, the first Chair was the legendary Professor George Housner of Caltech. He was truly one of the founding fathers of earthquake engineering. Because of my involvement with investigation of Loma Prieta and then Northridge, I spent quite a lot of time , as he requested , with him to present to him in person the many details of our findings. Because of that I got to observe him a in a close and personal manner. He was a role model for anyone in any profession how you serve public. And, he was just one of the people in that 99.99% category in our profession. It was the next Chair and the current chair of the Seismic Advisory Board and its members (see brochure at : ) who turned the Seismic Advisory Board of Caltrans to a money making machine for themselves and their firms at the expense of public safety and taxpayers money.

The other person, is our own friend Harold S. who , even in those days of busy work, would not forget us on these pages and would provide input and answer questions based on his vast experience in and knowledge of of structural engineering. I have been with him in Super Shuttles a few times going to and coming from committee meetings, which is the most unappreciated public work with no compensation what so ever, and have seen how he sacrifices his family time, to make sure the information that he has gets into the system and we end up with structures that serve the public in a safe and economical manner. And , he is just one of the 99.99% of our profession.

What I think has happened in our profession is that , as the compensation for structural engineering services were not keeping up with our expectations for what we were doing, we started to be complacent and when we saw someone is corrupt ( and I use the word intentionally) we tended to turn the other way and think that well, one day I might be in that situation and I might do the same. But I can assure you that that 99.99% in our profession , given the chance, will not do that. Many of them had the chance and did not take advantage of that opportunity to fill their pocket.

I am personally not interested to go after those in our profession who through unethical conduct gain financial advantage. But, I am very concern about those who unethically gain financially at the expense of public safety. Then , people get killed.

Best regards


Abolhassan Astaneh-Asl,

5                                Message:0005                            5
From: Bill Polhemus <bill(--nospam--at)>
To: "<seaint(--nospam--at)>" <seaint(--nospam--at)>
Subject: Re: Speaking out

This has become the rule rather than the exception on consulting for public work.

I should add that I do not know any of these gentlem, nor am I privy to any details of this situation, but the notion of rendering public service without emolument is now quaint, and went away a couple of generations ago.

Everything is a business opportunity now - including elective office.

William L. Polhemus, Jr. P.E.
Via iPhone 3G

On Nov 17, 2009, at 11:13 AM, Abolhassan Astaneh-Asl <astaneh(--nospam--at) > wrote:

...have used their position of power over Caltrans as Seismic Advisory Board members to obtain millions of dollars of taxpayers money in consulting and research contracts , on a non-competitive basis.

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