Re “Court fees punish the poor for being poor. California, stop criminalizing poverty” (California Forum, July 2): A few days ago, I stripped paint off an old house in West Virginia. I was there with a group of people from my high school, and we stayed at a place called Nazareth Farms. It was quite possibly the most boring thing I have ever done. We struggled for hours, with absolutely zero visible improvement, and on top of that at around 3 p.m., it started raining. John’s house was in desperate need of a new coat of paint, so the pre-existing layers needed to go. John couldn’t do the work himself, and couldn’t afford to hire anyone else, so we worked for him instead. Sometimes people who can’t afford it need help, and sometimes, we just need to help them.
Joseph Marchant, Sacramento
Re “Why tying counties’ hands on contracts will cost taxpayers” (Viewpoints, July 11): Whenever public dollars are used to pay private contractors, taxpayers and the general public need to take care. There are opportunities for abuse and self-dealing. A private jail health care provider for Alameda County cut corners, resulting in an inmate’s brutal death. Throughout Southern California, the bad apples of the substance abuse clinic sector invented rackets to rip off taxpayers, including treating “ghost patients.” Ambulance response times have soared after communities contracted out emergency response. Currently, counties are excluded from the same accountability and transparency standards that protect taxpayers when state agencies, school districts, community colleges and libraries contract out with private for-profit or non-profit agencies. AB 1250 by Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, would fix this loophole. AB 1250 would require reasonable standards, including demonstrated savings over the duration of the contract, open and competitive bidding, and public access to contractor performance data. It also would require that contractors bring efficiencies to public work, rather than simply degrading wages. If a county is managing its contracts well, complying with AB 1250 will not be a challenge. If it doesn’t, that’s a bigger problem, and one that deserves some sunlight.
Bob Schoonover, SEIU Local 721 president
For years I wondered why intermediate algebra in high school or college was required for non-math, engineer or physics majors. Math requirements should be applicable to everyday life. I don’t know anyone in real life who uses quadratic equations. I know many people who use the Pythagorean theorem for making your patio square before you build a deck. I know how the rule of 78 works for simple interest loans which most people get. I know how the rule of 72 applies to interest earned on your money, which any investor young or old should know. All these years, high schools and colleges kept teaching or requiring intermediate algebra when the above mentioned math would be far more useful in life.
Paul Reid, Folsom
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