Letters to the Editor

Playing politics with transportation issues

Commuters board a Caltrain train at the station in Millbrae. The Federal Transit Administration is delaying a decision on whether to approve a $650 million federal grant for electrification of a San Francisco Bay Area train system that would also help California’s high-speed rail project.
Commuters board a Caltrain train at the station in Millbrae. The Federal Transit Administration is delaying a decision on whether to approve a $650 million federal grant for electrification of a San Francisco Bay Area train system that would also help California’s high-speed rail project. Associated Press file

McCarthy plays politics with rail

Re “Kevin McCarthy displays his clout, for good and ill” (Forum, Feb. 26): Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy is responsible for helping to cancel the federal government’s $650 million share for the electrification of the San Jose-to-San Francisco rail line.

The letter to the U.S. secretary of transportation, signed by all 14 California Republican congressmen, claims that this would be “an irresponsible use of taxpayer money.” On the contrary, this project would take thousands of cars off congested highways. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao signed off on the request, putting her in lockstep with all of the California Republican members of Congress and causing thousands to be stuck in traffic, while ignoring the planet in favor of partisan politics.

Susan Pelican, Woodland

Let counties pay for CalTrain

I realize the primary aim of Dan Morain’s column on the CalTrain expansion was to criticize Rep. Kevin McCarthy for opposing federal spending of $650 million on the project, but the three counties involved – San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara – are by far the richest in the state outside of Marin County.

Their combined population of about 3.5 million boasts a median family income over $100,000. They are also home to some of the most profitable businesses in the world. The solution to the potential loss of $650 million in federal funding is for those three counties to pay more into the system, via individual taxpayers, businesses and/or fare increases for the existing riders and the 45,000 more that Morain assures us will use the system each day.

Harvey Swenson,

Sacramento

If we can’t pay, stop building more

Re “Our roads and highways are crumbling right beneath us” (Forum, Feb. 26): Ben Boychuk’s commentary says California needs $500 billion of road maintenance. Divided between 15 million cars in the state, that’s $33,000 for each car, easily more than the average car is worth.

Let’s stop digging a deeper hole by building new roads. It’s time to build cost-effective ways for us to get where we want to go.

Peter Jacobsen, Davis

Wrong lesson in capitalism

Re “Those fired for skipping work to protest got a lesson in capitalism” (Forum, Feb. 26): Edward Joseph Pierini Jr. does indeed provide a lesson in capitalism – the worst tendencies of capitalism and the reason why unions exist.

In referencing Carlos the janitor, the implication is of someone working either at or near minimum wage, with no sick pay or vacation time accrued. A worker who works with the knowledge that he may be fired at any time, for any reason, with no recourse.

Employers like Pierini have one goal: Profit. Humanity is never considered.

Scott Klesert, Chico

Capitalists insist we live for work

Working harder makes sense when our leaders are doing a reasonable job. When they are doing a really bad job, going out on strike is appropriate. Some could lose their jobs over it. Workers and bosses need to come to agreements, otherwise the only one who loses are the regular working people.

I believe the commentary by Edward Joseph Pierini Jr. makes the case that we best look the other way or be fired.

Nothing against work and the independence expressed by Pierini, but he might consider that dissent is something we all must make time to afford.

He might find many of his customers are also joining in protest of the Trump administration’s excesses. A local chapter of effective resistance can be found at indivisibleguide.com.

Scott Ragsdale, Davis

Why believe agency officials?

Re “State protects its drinking water aquifers” (Viewpoints, Another View, Feb. 26): State regulators need to stop pointing fingers and finally admit how much their own failures and broken promises have undermined public trust in California’s plans to protect water from pollution by oil industry injection wells.

When Department of Conservation officials confessed in 2015 that oil companies had been allowed to drill thousands of injection wells into protected aquifers across California, they swore to fix the problem by Feb. 15, 2017. Yet they couldn’t meet this shockingly lax deadline.

Instead of shutting down these wells, regulators are relying largely on data from oil companies to push for exemptions that could turn water supplies in places like Monterey County into permanent dump sites for oil waste.

The Brown administration has fired officials for raising safety concerns about oilfield underground injection.

When state officials have such a long record of looking the other way while oil companies harm the environment, why should we believe their excuses?

Maya Golden-Krasner,

La Cañada Flintridge,

Center for Biological Diversity

Locals responsible for pension crises

Re “CalPERS’ clients need pension flexibility” (Forum, Another View, Feb. 26): Reading David Kersten’s commentary, one would believe that local governments were required by law to adopt certain expansive pension formulas by the Legislature. However, Senate Bill 400, enacted in 1999, applied only to the state of California and its employees, and did not “set a new floor” or require anything of local governments.

Kersten’s article perpetuates a falsehood about pensions and pension costs. Local governments negotiated pensions and pension formulas far more generous than that provided to state employees in SB 400, doing so knowing the expense. Indeed some local governments issued Pension Obligation Bonds to fund these generous pensions. The evidence is in the list of the highest pensions in California, all retired local government employees.

While CalPERS supported SB 400, it should not be blamed for what is now deemed a fiscal crisis by local governments; those local government officials should step up and take responsibility.

Linda McAtee, Sacramento

Speech and protest go together

Re “Milo outs the fair-weather friends of free speech” (Forum, Feb. 26): It seems as if Joel Bellman is trying to make an argument that the First Amendment is not fully embraced by the right and the left, and that limits have been established by both sides that they do not want to cross for fear of unpopular ideas and fearless truth-telling.

There are many forums which allow the freedom of speech, but forums of a public nature allow protesters to denounce a speaker. Now it becomes more of a freedom of speech vs. freedom of protest issue. Protests can turn ugly very quickly, injure people, damage property and give unwanted publicity.

There are several interplays going on here. First, there is the speaker delivering the message under the guise of freedom of speech. Second, there is the listener, who may not like the message, engaging in freedom of protest. They go hand in hand.

Steven Bickford,

Sacramento

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