Letters to the Argus-Courier Editor Feb. 10, 2022

Letters to the Argus-Courier Editor Feb. 10, 2022.|

EDITOR: As a writer and lover of all forms of art -- as well as the freedom to think and create -- I found David Templeton's compilation of the Petaluma Art Center's "Thought Experiment" responses thought-provoking and inspirational.

One of the answers that he included said, in part: Having an arts center "reflects more open minds and working minds." How timely! Look what is happening in states like Texas where books and art are not only being banned, they are being burned (ironically, Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451" is on the hit list of some 850 "objectionable" books).

In Tennessee, the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel "Maus," about the Holocaust is verboten because of naughty words and images (of naked mice, no less), and books by great Black writers like Toni Morrison are being trashed because they make some very, very sensitive, privileged white folks "uncomfortable."

In Gov. Ron DeathSantis' fascist-lite state, a "Don't Say Gay" bill was just passed in the legislature where it is forbidden to say the word "Gay" out loud in schools. (First Amendment be damned)!

This, of course, is all a taste of things to come if, God forbid, more power-hungry Trumpublican politicians are elected in 2022 and Dictator Donald worms his way back into the Oval in 2024. We have already seen and chronicled the toxic fascist appetizer he and his thugs have recently helped to whip up.

My contribution to the "Thought Experiment" is: "In a time and country where -- incredibly -- books, art and speech are being banned, art is a Blue State oasis in an arid Red State desert of tyranny, ignorance and Neanderthalism. The more art is created and shared, the more the human spirit can not only survive it can thrive."

Bob Canning

Petaluma

I support Blake Hooper

EDITOR: I will be supporting Blake Hooper for our district supervisor in this June’s election. Blake is a new, inspiring type of candidate. He has a broad, deep, comprehensive vision for Sonoma County as well as detailed knowledge of the county’s institutions and processes. As well, Blake is a people person.

When I recently sat down to speak with Blake at length I could see that his key interlocking goals of addressing our housing crisis, building a culture of equity and trust, and planning for disaster resilience are not just informing ideals. This is a man with specific, creative, ecologically smart, practical ideas for achieving these goals.

Scott Hess

Petaluma

PG&E bills outrageous

EDITOR: In response to Sandra Anfang’s letter in last week’s issue regarding PG&E’s ‘shocking’ new utility bills, I could not agree more. We are a two-person household in a home of about 1,000 square feet. We set our thermostat at 64 degrees, use it only in the morning, and do not use appliances (other than cooking) after 4 p.m. Our bill for January was $371. INSANE! We are fortunate. We can afford to pay this outrageous bill. But there are so many families having to make the choice to either put food on the table, buy needed medications or keep themselves warm during these winter months. I urge everyone to write Congressman Huffman and Assemblyman Levine and urge them to work to nationalize this vital PUBLIC utility. This should not be a “for profit,“ privately held company, plain and simple.

Greg Mitchell

Petaluma

Another vote for Hooper

EDITOR: Re: “Progressive politicos and Wine Country VIPs line up to fund Sonoma County supervisor race,” I wasn’t surprised to read that Blake Hooper is receiving lots of individual donations, many smaller than $100. I am proud to say mine is among the small donations. As an extremely low-income, car free person, I’m supporting Blake because of his desire and knowledge to serve those of us who most need an equitable, inclusive and seamless active transportation network to get to work, shop and run needed errands without cars. Blake’s volunteerism in Petaluma, including on the Planning Commission, Transit Advisory Committee, and Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee, as well as his background working in both the federal and state government make him an ideal candidate for county supervisor of District 2. Blake’s impressive supporters include the very finest citizens and politicos in our county: Petaluma Mayor Teresa Barrett, Rohnert Park Mayor Jackie Elward, Healdsburg Mayor Osvaldo Jimenez, Petaluma School Board President Joanna Paun and many others.

Sheila Baker

Petaluma

PG&E responds to critique

EDITOR: We are hearing from our Sonoma County customers that their energy bills are higher than normal. We understand any increase can be challenging. We are taking action and here to help.

Natural gas prices have gone up significantly, about 90% higher than last winter in PG&E’s service area. This is happening nationwide, and globally it’s even higher, about 400%. PG&E passes the cost of energy purchases directly to our customers and does not mark-up that cost. What we pay for our customers’ energy supply, both natural gas and electricity, we pass through directly to customers.

Higher natural gas costs combined with lower-than-normal temperatures in some areas are causing folks to crank up their heaters, resulting in an increase in monthly energy bills.

PG&E works to reduce gas price volatility impacts by buying and storing gas when prices are lower for use when prices are higher and maintaining access to lower-cost gas in gas production basins.

Customers can help cut costs, too. More than 70% of winter energy costs are from the heating system, water heater, and washer/dryer. A few ways to save:

– Set the thermostat at 68 degrees or lower, health permitting, save 2% for each degree the thermostat is lowered.

– Clean or replace air filters monthly, and keep warm air moving by reversing ceiling fans to force warm air into living spaces.

– Set the water heater thermostat to 120 degrees or lower; install low-flow fixtures to use less water (or take shorter showers); wash clothes in cold water.

As the weather warms up, usually during March and April, energy usage and bills should decrease. For more info, visit www.pge.com/winter.

Thank you for your feedback,

Ron Richardson, Regional Vice President, PG&E North Coast Region

Rainier the wrong way forward

EDITOR: “Is Petaluma’s Rainier Connector a Political Casualty?” favors the Rainier connector based on the assumption that its potential for traffic alleviation is still a top priority for the city based partly on a 2004 ballot measure. But left out of the conversation is a new understanding of the irreparable destruction that this connector will have on one of our last remaining stretches of undisturbed wetlands along the Petaluma River corridor. The remaining vernal pools and wet meadow complex along the river were described in the historical ecology report completed in 2018 by the San Francisco Estuary Institute and Southern Sonoma Resource Conservation District. Once common these habitat types are now exceedingly rare. The capacity of this area to both absorb carbon and water and thus reduce the impacts of global warming is also left out of the argument.

The city’s adoption of the Climate Emergency Action Plan and creation of a Climate Commission speak to the need and the will of our community for more responsible development. Paving over some of the last freshwater wetlands along the river will increase flooding, and destroy critical habitat. It is not the right project for Petaluma and our 21st century priorities.

Maxene Spellman, board member, Friends of the Petaluma River

Petaluma

Petaluma earns kudos

EDITOR: Kudos to Petaluma who joins Sebastopol and Windsor in earning all A’s on the American Lung Association State of Tobacco Control 2022 report card by passing a comprehensive tobacco retail license in December, including banning the sale of flavored tobacco and vaping products starting on July 6. The council responded to community members, educators and public health concerns that currently nearly one in five teens are vaping and close to one in four teens are using at least one tobacco product – at risk of becoming the next generation addicted to nicotine.

Even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke remain leading public health threats and health disparity. In addition to tobacco-related death and disease, smoking also increases the risk of the most severe impacts of COVID-19, making ending tobacco use more important than ever.

The purpose of the SOTC report is to increase public knowledge about local laws that protect residents from the deadly toll of tobacco and to encourage local leadership to take action where improvement is needed. We now call on the County Board of Supervisors to provide the same protections.

Pam Granger, Tobacco-Free Sonoma County, chair

Cannabis Tax Boon is All Smoke

EDITOR: The cannabis industry sold our Board of Supervisors on the fiction that legally grown cannabis would generate abundant taxes. On that basis, the Supervisors approved Measure A, “...to fund essential county services such as addressing industry impacts, public safety, fire, health, housing, roads, and environmental protection...". Now the cannabis industry demands a tax holiday on outdoor cannabis because they lost their cannabis bet. At the 1/4/22 Board meeting, they claimed to be going broke and threatened to go back to "...the black market" and grow illegally. Why should we pay this blackmail ransom and subsidize that industry? At the 1/4/22 meeting, the county admitted the taxes generated from the cannabis barely covered the costs of administering the program, before even considering the true costs like enforcement, cleanup, and the upcoming costs of the Environmental Impact Report. The tax boon is a myth – smoke and mirrors. The Board is flying blind without fundamental studies of cannabis industry economics. Napa County did such a study and rejected the entire industry. Until the Board can see through the smoke, it should put the “tax brake” on granting even more favors to the cannabis industry. Stop subsidizing cannabis.

Rachel Zierdt

Sebastopol

On fire safety and good governance

EDITOR: The Press Democrat published an excellent editorial on January 21 “Developers Can’t Just Brush Aside Fire Risk Anymore”, concerning a proposed resort in Lake County that was blocked by a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, also joined by the state Attorney General. The decision by the Superior Court Judge stated that the developers had failed to provide a safe evacuation route for the 10,000 existing residents plus the additional 4070 proposed by the resort. The sole evacuation route was a dead-end road that also did not meet the State Fire Safe Regulations, and the location was in a very high fire zone, an area that burned in 2020. This decision highlights the importance of fire safety in land use planning; fire breaks, defensible space, structure hardening, and shelter-in-place provisions are important but they do not replace the need for safe evacuation.

Sonoma County has had three devastating wildfires in the past four years. Yet, county officials, including our Board of Supervisors, fail to adhere to basic fire safety in permitting large commercial operations on unsafe roads in high fire-risk areas.

Recent project approvals were in remote mountainous areas on narrow roads with only one-way out, where evacuation for residents is already unsafe. Many of these areas have recently burned, and roads don't meet State minimum fire-safe regulations. Why do our county officials not only allow but encourage commercial development in unsafe areas?

Sonoma County’s voice was prominent in urging the State to reduce regulations to allow such unsafe development, and such deregulation is now proposed by the State. Wildfire Professionals and the Insurance Commissioner oppose such deregulation. Meanwhile, the county approves commercial development in violation of State regulations. The county appears desperate to seek economic expansion at the expense of safety. Why? The cost of wildfires far outweighs any short-term economic gain. Good governance should result from making/following good laws, not by lawsuits as was required in Lake County.

Deborah Eppstein

Santa Rosa

Sonoma County shouldn’t bail out cannabis industry

EDITOR: I served on the County Cannabis Advisory Group in 2017-18 as a neighborhood “rep” and had a lot of interaction with industry reps. Having read about mega grow operations near Palm Springs and other areas in the south as well as large operations in Monterey County, I asked how local growers could compete when the production costs here would be so much higher? The answer was: they couldn’t. They would have to depend on “branding” by relying on the name of Sonoma County and using appellation designations. This was the only way to make a sale at a premium price and make a profit. This meant growing outdoors with roots in the ground, not growing in tubs of potting soil as most do here. Fast forward to today. Growers in the Emerald Triangle are still trying to unload 2020’s crop, the current price for “generic” cannabis is cratering, and local growers are pleading for reduced taxes and other support from the government. The problem stems from poor business decisions made by local operators when the future trends could be clearly seen. They don’t need a moratorium on taxes for their poor judgment and subsequent failure.

Brantly Richardson

Santa Rosa

County shouldn’t entertain cannabis tax break

EDITOR: It’s widely understood that the Board of Supervisors and Santa Rosa City Council are pro-cannabis. However, the latest push by marijuana operators to eliminate and/or decrease their business taxes is out of bounds. And the fact that the supervisors wasted no time in placing it on their meeting schedule says they prioritize the demands of a controversial industry over the good of the citizens of this county.

The Economic Policy Institute says Sonoma County is among the pricier places to live in California. The group estimates that a family of two adults and two children in Sonoma County would need to earn a combined income of $9,165 a month to live comfortably. In 2021, the consumer price index rose 4.2%, food prices have increased 6.3%, energy costs are up 28.2% and housing jumped 4.1% in the Bay Area.

The inflation rate is 7%.

With these figures in mind, it is unconscionable that any member of the Board of Supervisors is even contemplating granting this request of the cannabis industry to pay less taxes. It strains credulity that any business would plead for help, asking for tax breaks, simply because their business plan did not pan out and their profits were affected.

Mayme Follett

Santa Rosa

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