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Letters (February 23, 2023)

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When the Glass Fire came over Rincon Ridge on the night of Sept. 27, 2020, we had to evacuate. I drove two blocks before joining a stationary line of vehicles on St. Francis Road. There we sat for over an hour. We couldn’t move because Highway 12 was completely jammed with vehicles fleeing the fire.

After a while watching houses and forest on the ridge a quarter-mile away explode into flames, I thought I might have to leave my vehicle and run for it. But older folks who were also trapped could not run and were terrified as the enormous flames crept closer.

We survived because the wind was not strong and because of the bravery of the firefighters. Had the winds been as strong as in the 2017 fires, scores or possibly hundreds of people could have been incinerated, trapped in their cars.

Over the past 30 years, I’ve seen Highway 12 become increasingly clogged with vehicles as more and more housing was built. Any further housing development along Highway 12 east of Calistoga Road is insane.

This is the wildland-urban interface and a known fire corridor. Somebody tell the planning department.

Leo Jones

Santa Rosa

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Back on Nov. 17, 2021 the CDC reported US overdose deathe frpm the drug fentanyl were exceeding 100,000 annually. If the nation had not just started to leave the Covid epidemic behind, this would be noted as the no. 1 health crisis, and yet, oddly, any serious notice of this hasn’t happened. Another way of saying what is happening is to note that 150 Americans die every day from fentanyl or other synthetic opiad drug overdoses. Fentanyl is very cheap.

Supplied in great quantities mostly by Mexican drug cartels, fentanyl might be handed out to you at a party, a ballgame, tailgate party and swallowed by a peer group member in a moment when someone is just trying to go along with the crowd. This is never a good idea and may well be your final act before death.

Narcan can bring a victim back, but only if the victim is found and treated soon enough after taking a pill of fentanyl .

Frank Baumgardner

Santa Rosa

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Joe Biden denigrated efforts to modify Social Security. Nowhere does it state why these changes are being considered.

Here are the facts. The Congressional Budget Office projects Social Security will be insolvent in 2035. We are all living longer, and there are fewer workers supporting an aging population. Revenue for Social Security is declining fast. That means in 2035 a mandated program solvency trigger kicks in. For an average couple, their payments would be reduced $16,600. If you are 55 now, are you factoring in a $16,600 reduction in your benefits when you retire? For low-income couples, this is devastating — a $10,100 reduction.

We should have made these changes 15 years ago. We are now at the point where the needed changes are going to be painful. Our politicians continue to fail us with their partisan cudgels. This is not a left-right issue. This will affect us all.

Don’t believe me? Do your own research. Start with the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Budget, available online.

Kevin Baughman

Santa Rosa

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ms Notes. Every few years right wing Social Security chicken littles recycle the same tired old doom and gloom projections, always inserting their favorite word “entitlement,” as if having basic medical care or a minimum retirement income that the recipient pays into is some kind of generous gift from the wealthy and/or a welfare scam. The tip-off for this particular “bipartisan” front group that Mr. Baughman suggests is right there in the first sentence of their wikipedia page: “The Committee focuses on many issues including deficit reduction, entitlement reform, fundamental tax reform, improving the budget process, and other topical issues as they arise.” Their “projections” always fail to note the simplest fix of all: removing the social security (FICA) earnings cap so that social security contributions (and they are contributions, not taxes) are applied to incomes over $160k (the current cap). Most of these “bipartisan” politicians are closely connected in one way or another to Wall Street, therefore the entire propaganda show is a front for turning our basic retirement incomes over to the Big Casino, similar to the (unfortunately mostly successful) attempts to convert working people’s pensions into 401k “investments” since the bloated and rigged Wall Street ponzi scheme is supposedly so gol-durn much better for most ordinary people who have no idea how rickety the whole financial house of cards is.

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Regarding restaurant coalitions attempting to deceive the public via an upcoming referendum, I think the term “minimum wage” should be replaced with “minimum living wage.” Minimum wage should be redefined as “slavery light.” Problematic, I realize, comparing a paying job to slavery, but if you consider that what sustained the overwhelming profitability of the Confederacy — free labor — then it’s only halfway to a truly moral economic system when “minimum wage” is an acceptable standard of remuneration.

If the viability and profitability of any business depends on ongoing subsidy by the labor force in the form of underpayment (minimum wage), then that business isn’t a viable business in a democracy any more than cotton was in the Confederate states.

Any product being produced and sold must reflect the actual cost of a living wage for those who labor to produce it, then those who can afford that must pay that price. If enough people aren’t willing to pay that price, then it is not a viable product in a democratic, capitalist system and must fail.

The hours someone spends at any job are gone permanently from their life, regardless of the skill level required to do that job. Everyone deserves a living wage as compensation for those precious hours.

Nathaniel Roberts


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In our quest to switch gas appliances to electric, we planned to purchase an induction stovetop to replace our gas unit. Just as we were about to put down our credit card, my husband asked if it was safe for someone with a cardiac pacemaker. We were advised it was risky, particularly if the person with the pacemaker was left-handed and/or got within 2 feet of the induction stovetop. My husband (being both left-handed and visually impaired) decided it was probably not a good choice for us, and so we opted for an electric stovetop instead. (Maybe not as much fun as gas or induction, but perfectly fine.) Something to think about if you are planning to reduce your use of natural gas in your home.

Jane DeYoung

Santa Rosa

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It is almost tiresome to read that SMART trains are empty and our pathways unbuilt. In fact, over 46,000 people rode SMART in January. These numbers are audited, by the way. There are 25 miles of Class 1 pathways within and along the railroad right of way, with another 14 miles fully funded for construction. There are 12 stations completed and four more planned. Sonoma and Marin county residents should be secure in supporting a complicated project through lawsuits, fires, floods and, oh, the pandemic. SMART provides safe, reliable and environmentally responsible transportation options.

 The commitment of the board, staff and especially the new general manager provides every indication we are going to Cloverdale. I think people who doubt the success of this jewel of infrastructure in our counties are just not paying attention. But rhetoric can be damaging, so I urge all citizens to go ride a train — great fares, coordinated stops. Just look at the facts first.

Dani Sheehan-Meyer


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To the Editor:

On February 16 the Maine Supreme Judicial Court dealt a major blow to Nordic Aquafarms, the Norwegian company that wants to build a $650 million industrial fish farm on Humboldt Bay. In a considerable setback to Nordic's plans to build an industrial fish farm of similar size in coastal Belfast, Maine, the court ruled that Nordic doesn't own the intertidal land it needs to lay its saltwater intake and effluent discharge pipes.

Following the ruling, it seems the only way forward for Nordic in Belfast is for the City of Belfast to prevail in its eminent-domain land grab designed to deliver the needed land to Nordic. But that City maneuver is being challenged in court. Maine law bars the use of eminent domain for private purposes, so the City of Belfast is saying it wants to create a 2.7-acre seaside park, replete with a Nordic industrial pump house, that would just happen to let Nordic put an industrial pump house on park land, and lay its pipes just offshore from the park, spewing 7.7 million gallons of effluent per day. And park visitors would have to cross a busy highway to get from the park's parking lot to the actual park.

Right. Got it.

Nordic knew all along there was considerable doubt about ownership of the disputed land, but it failed to tell the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, which requires clear ownership of all needed lands before applying for any permits. Ironically, the disputed land was for sale when Nordic made its discovery, but Nordic decided to save a few bucks and not buy it - and now the company has spent untold sums fighting a losing battle for ownership of the same disputed land.

But it's too late for Nordic to buy the land now. That ship has sailed - the real owners refuse to sell to Nordic, thanks in part to Nordic's subterfuge. In fact, the real owners placed the disputed intertidal area in a conservation trust in April 2019, and the February 16 court ruling validated and reinforced that conservation trust.

All told, Nordic is now more than four years behind schedule in Maine. And there's no end in sight.

Meanwhile the company recently announced with considerable fanfare that it had raised $7 million. That's about one half of one percent of what it needs to build in Maine and California. All of which begs the question: is Nordic Aquafarms really ready for prime time?

The evidence suggests otherwise.

Lawrence Reichard

Belfast, Maine

One Comment

  1. Kimberlin February 24, 2023

    The SMART train is great, I have used it several times from Marin to Santa Rosa and back. I always arrive rested and not tired from driving in traffic. It has a diesel engine now but is designed to be electric when fully functional. Just remember tons of people were strongly against the building of the Golden Gate Bridge. Now everyone loves it. Same people against this train. Some things never change. I can’t wait for Cloverdale.

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