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<b>Executive power</b>

EDITOR: President Barack Obama announced "significant changes" in the way the government collects and manages personal data while leaving in place "other pillars of the nation's intelligence programs" ("Obama sets limits on phone spying," Jan. 18). Changes? A careful reading of the president's actual directive merits review. I quote:

"Nothing in this directive shall be construed to prevent me from exercising my constitutional authority, including as commander in chief, chief executive and in the conduct of foreign affairs, as well as my statutory authority. Consistent with this principle, a recipient of this directive may at any time recommend to me, through the APNSA, a change to the policies and procedures contained in this directive."

Lofty words, perhaps, but the pronouns say it all: the president will decide -#8212; what is collected, where it is stored, etc. -#8212; everything. Yes, he's the president, but when anyone, has -#8212; or at least claims -#8212; that level of authority, with or without "constitutional provision," we've stepped squarely onto a dangerous path.

I am far more concerned with the direction this takes than with any personal data the government may have collected. As history duly reports, a government with self-claimed authority and secret courts can do anything with that data. I am truly frightened. You should be, too.

ALFRED LOCKWOOD

Cotati

<b>Conserve now</b>

EDITOR: The Press Democrat has written many articles informing people about the drought and need for conservation. The Sonoma County Water Agency has spent a huge amount of money on publicity about its 20-gallon challenge and the need for conservation. The Marin-Sonoma Water Saving Partnership is putting out a lot of feel-good suggestions for saving water, but it's all low-hanging fruit. Thus far, little or nothing has been publicly mentioned about mandatory conservation for Water Agency customers, where much higher rates are billed in tiers for those using high and higher amounts of water.

Unfortunately, government appears to have no leverage over agricultural water users and private property owners along the river in Mendocino and Sonoma counties. On Oct. 20, there was 37,514 acre feet of water in Lake Mendocino; on Jan. 19, there was 25,384. That's a difference of 12,130 acre-feet in three months. At that rate, Lake Mendocino will be completely empty by the end of July. And then unregulated water users will really learn about conservation.

The Sonoma County Water Agency is counting on Lake Sonoma to supply customers with water this year. But if the drought continues, that will be unsustainable. Mandatory conservation needs to start now.

BRENDA ADELMAN

Guerneville

<b>SR fee increase</b>

EDITOR: In fairness, I believe that all individuals and organizations should pay their own way, so in principle I understand why the Santa Rosa City Council made its decision to raise development fees ("Council approves permit fee hikes," Wednesday). However, it is insulting to be told that because the city isn't recovering all of its costs for services in the fees it charges that I am therefore receiving a private benefit.

The whole developed world -#8212; including Santa Rosa -#8212; exists because of the work of developers. Everyone who lives in a house, works in an office, drives on a road or shops at a store is benefiting from the efforts and risks of another. Developers build for the benefit of others, and they are rewarded (or not) for the risks they take.

Practically speaking, the fee increase will result in more location opportunities going to national tenants who can pay the freight and further marginalize the local mom and pops. And that's disappointing.

BRUCE CODDING

Santa Rosa

<b>Problem panhandling</b>

EDITOR: Downtown Santa Rosa has become infested with homeless people. I'm one of them, but I am not part of the problem. The problem is with the homeless who panhandle openly on the street. (Go to Fourth and D streets for prime examples.)

There are numerous issues with this behavior, beginning with the fact that it's illegal. I think it's blatantly rude to accost strangers in this way and irresponsible to give any of these panhandlers any money. Here's why: Giving these people cash serves only to encourage them, increasing the likelihood of a repeat performance.

My advice to all Santa Rosans who are unlucky enough to be asked for money and who possess this misplaced sense of sympathy or charity is to give this cash to the Redwood Gospel Mission instead. The mission (located at 101 Sixth St.) does more good for more people than can be accurately estimated -#8212; feeding and clothing people, housing them, saving them from addiction and more. Please say no to the panhandlers and yes to the Redwood Gospel Mission.

DAN SCHALLER

Santa Rosa