Letters to the Editor

State budget, autism, Yosemite, mental illness, Delta tunnels

We cannot afford welfare state

Re “Brown urged to fortify safety net” (Page A1, Jan. 4): In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson and Congress passed a series of bills that promised to eliminate poverty. Since then, our nation has spent more than $17 trillion on those “Great Society” programs, but poverty rates have not changed. Instead, we have created multigenerational welfare dependency in many cases.

There are many programs in California that provide cash, food and housing to the needy. And now some in the Legislature wish to enhance those programs and give more money to more people. The fact that California is $700 billion in debt due to unfunded liabilities is insignificant to them.

We are rich enough as a society to provide for the truly needy. We are not rich enough to give money to anyone who asks. That’s what we have been doing, and now the Legislature wants to do more of the same. Let’s hope the Legislature recognizes the damage they’re doing to our people and our budget.

Ken Hokanson, Loomis

Teaching kindness, social skills

Re “A night at the movies tests autistic boy’s family” (Viewpoints, Jan. 3): As a teacher for special-needs students, I was touched by what Andy Jones wrote.

Every year I hold disability awareness presentations at my school. I go to each classroom and talk about autism and other disabilities. I often bring my own students and introduce them. We talk about autism and some of the unusual traits they may notice out on the playground. We talk about those “clucks,” hand kisses and unusual vocalizations they may see and hear. Then we talk about them – do their feelings get hurt when others make fun of them?

Every day, my special-needs students are instructed how to behave in social situations (movies, grocery stores, library, cafeteria). I tell the general education students that they are my students’ teachers when they are not with me, to learn kindness, compassion and social skills. Then I ask these wonderful kids if they would like to be friends with my students and help me. I can honestly say just about every single hand goes up.

Beverly Baker, Rescue

Yosemite names deserve respect

Re “Some of Yosemite’s famous names part of property dispute” (Page A4, Jan. 3): It is possible that historical names of sites and lodging in Yosemite National Park will be changed to represent newer commercial realities and ownership.

This is an appalling idea. Yosemite is not a football stadium; it is one of California’s sacred sanctuaries, which also happens to be a national park visited by millions of Americans and foreigners every year. As a native Californian, it has been part of the incredible mountain heritage I’ve enjoyed my whole life.

Corporations have many other opportunities to promote their names. Corporate names in a national park cheapen the site. Assigning commercial names to traditional places is not appropriate and sets a horrible precedent. Google Falls? Amazon Village? PG&E River? Half Dotcom Dome?

There is only one Yosemite, and it deserves our continued respect.

Nancy A. Wagner, Sacramento

Hard to judge necessary force

Re “Mentally ill shouldn’t be at high risk from police” (Editorials, Jan. 3): Although your core points that police need better training and procedures for dealing with the mentally ill are valid, your editorial reflects some serious gaps in your understanding of the dynamics of these situations. While mental health professionals may be available when taking proactive action or a situation can be stabilized, they are not available to patrol officers responding to a call.

The implied assumption of saying “officers pumped 14 bullets into the 43-year-old man” ignores the reality of the impact of gunshots. Contrary to television, gunshots do not immediately disable in most cases. Fourteen shots can be fired in only a few seconds. It is easy for someone who has never faced an armed opponent or tried to subdue a resisting person to be cavalier about use of force. Things become far messier when one operates in the real world.

William Vizzard, Sacramento

Outreach team was beneficial

As a social worker during the 1980s and ’90s with Adult Protective Services and Child Protective Services, I responded to many reports involving mentally ill persons as either abusers or victims of abuse. Often I would request assistance from the Sacramento Mental Health Center’s Mobile Outreach Team to accompany myself and law enforcement and to provide the needed on-scene mental health evaluation. This service was critical to de-escalating situations and providing the appropriate response.

Sadly, the outreach team was cut for budgetary reasons. The results are evident by the increasing circumstances that end in tragedy that may have been averted if this service were still available. Wouldn’t it be great to go back to proven, valuable programs and provide the safeguards for the vulnerable mentally ill and the protections for our community as a whole?

Melinda Lauten, Fair Oaks

Tunnels project will be destructive

Re “Big Seattle dig still a black hole” (Page A1, Jan. 2): We should compare the Seattle “Big Dig” to what we can expect from the proposed Delta tunnels, which is a significantly bigger project. The shaft in Seattle to rescue the huge boring machine that is stuck in the muck is affecting groundwater and causing nearby buildings to sink and crack.

The Delta plan includes 10 such shafts along the 30-mile route. Going “under the Delta” sounded so much less invasive than a peripheral canal. But it is what it is – a huge, destructive construction project through the heart of sensitive wetlands and fertile farmlands.

Jan McCleery, Discovery Bay

Drilling a giant sinkhole

Did you notice the fact that the Seattle tunnel, much shorter than the ones proposed for the Delta, are years behind in schedule and way over budget? Did you notice that the composition of the soil is very similar to our proposed project? Similar projects, similar problems, benefits as yet unknown.

One major difference is that our topography is full of those annoying nuisances called earthquake fault zones. Has anyone seriously addressed that little foible and come up with a way to deal with the potential collapse of the tunnels?

Seriously, folks, we need to step back and give this project some genuine evaluation before we dump our precious cash into what might wind up being called “The Giant California Sinkhole.”

Robert V. Pietruszka, Sacramento

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