Wednesday's Letters to the Editor
Published: Tuesday, August 21, 2012 at 7:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, August 21, 2012 at 4:01 p.m.
EDITOR: Just a few figures I've read recently: The cost of the 2012 elections is estimated to exceed all previous records at $6 billion to $7 billion. The U.S. space exploration program has cost more than $200 billion, and that doesn't include our latest landing on Mars. The just concluded Olympics cost England somewhere near $15 billion dollars. U.S. military expenses have averaged $600 billion to $700 hundred billion a year since 2007. I can't quite wrap my head around those numbers.
If we, and the rest of the world, would spend just half of what we spend on some of these ventures and programs, just think how much good we could accomplish. How great would it be if we could channel just half of all that time, energy and brilliant scientific technology to solving world problems. Things such as global warming, world hunger, pollution and drought, just to name a few, would be things of the past.
I'm just asking for half.
EDITOR: Ken Churchill and New Sonoma have done a great service in excavating the facts of the costly pension scheme approved by our elected officials during the economic boom.
For those overwhelmed by the complex issue, here are a few understandable points:
• Businesses discontinued defined-benefit plans because they are an unsustainable liability.
• Allowing employees to retire with 90 percent of their salary, starting at age 50 or even 55, was a pipe dream invented during the boom and passed in Sonoma County without due process or adequate cost analysis.
• Issuing bonds to pay for retirement benefits saddles future generations with debt and compromises our ability to raise funds for critical services and infrastructure.
• The unions wave red flags about cuts in retirement benefits, but most taxpayers have felt the pain personally as their 401(k)s, IRAs and other savings have cratered since 2008.
Nobody likes cutting benefits. But if Sonoma County is going to avoid becoming the next Stockton or Vallejo, we need to face the situation we have been put in and demand that our elected officials and the unions make meaningful and immediate cuts to pension benefits that should never have been approved in the first place.
No boos, hisses
EDITOR: Let me set the record straight on an incorrect statement in Grant Barnes' Close to Home commentary (“Quixote alive and well in Sebastopol,” Sunday). The people who attend Sebastopol City Council meetings on the proposed CVS/Chase project do not “reflexively hiss and boo at the mention of big business.” I should know. I have presided over all of these meetings, and there have been many.
With remarkably few exceptions, supporters and opponents of the proposed project have consistently demonstrated respect for opposing viewpoints. There has been no hissing and booing, reflexively or otherwise. It is a disservice to everyone who has attended these important public meetings and exchanged ideas on an issue of great local interest to misstate the tone of the discussion and mischaracterize the conduct of the participants.
EDITOR: We often hear recipients of unsustainable public pensions claiming that they simply played by the rules and if people find that objectionable, they need to change the rules. It's a reasonable argument, and it reminds us as voters that we can vote to change rules.
Now we hear that Mike Kerns is making the same argument to justify the “pension spiking” he used to maximize his retirement benefits (“Employee perks pay off in retirement,” Sunday). He claims that he was only following the rules and that if people find that objectionable, then maybe they should change the rules. However, Kerns has taken this popular argument to an absurd level. After all, as a former Sonoma County Supervisor, he was a rule maker.
Recruiters on campus
EDITOR: Did you know that all public high schools are required to send children's contact information to military recruiters, even if parents haven't given them permission?
The No Child Left Behind legislation requires schools to do this to receive federal funding, but the same legislation also allows parents to opt out. If you don't want your child harassed by military recruiters this school year, there is a form you can complete that may have been missing from your back-to-school information packets.
For more information and to download the form, go to http://thefullpicture.info/opt-out-forms.
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