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<b>A path, not a train</b>

EDITOR: Is it too late to scrap the plans for the SMART train and turn the train tracks into a walking/running/cycling path? It would be cheaper to build and maintain and healthier to use than the train.

The Iron Horse Trail in Contra Costa County, which runs from Concord to Dublin, where the tracks used to be, is extremely popular because it provides a nice wide, safe, car-free path. I wish we had one here. I know that I and many others would use it frequently for exercise, but I can't imagine that I will have a reason to ride the SMART train very often if and when it comes.

LISA BOLLMAN

Windsor

<b>Using deadly force</b>

EDITOR: Assuming that Sonoma County Deputy Erick Gelhaus knew that AK-47s are bought as lethal weapons as well as toy replicas, a warning shot by his partner while Gelhaus had Andy Lopez in his gun sight could have prevented the poor boy's death. Furthermore, being a good shot, one or two shots at his legs would have disarmed him, if necessary. Our peace officers need to reconsider how they use deadly force. I hope the community pressure brings change.

ERIK HOLBEK

Glen Ellen

<b>Conserving water</b>

EDITOR: Once again we are facing drought conditions, and once again we are being asked to reduce our water usage. I agree that we all need to reduce the amount of water that we use.

Over the years we have lived here we have put in low-flush toilets and followed a "yellow let it mellow" policy, installed low-flow showerheads, taken shorter showers with the water on a lowered volume, done full loads of dishes in the dishwasher and full loads of laundry in the washing machine, reduced car washing to once every several months, removed all of our lawns, put in drip irrigation and, in many cases, planted drought-tolerant plants.

We have done virtually everything possible to save water, so the prospect of a 20 percent cutback in our usage is hard to swallow. Penalizing those who have already done a lot to reduce their usage is unfair. A more just approach would establish a per-capita consumption formula that would make allowance for existing business, agricultural and ranching enterprises. Additionally, there needs to be a temporary moratorium on new hookups until we get back to a wetter climate pattern. Increasing the demand for water during a drought just doesn't make sense.

RICH FLOURNOY

Santa Rosa

<b>Drought and fracking</b>

EDITOR: So far I have not heard of any discussion regarding the drought and fracking. Fracking uses tremendous amounts of good water and turns it into a toxic chemical soup. So far, the Environmental Protection Agency does not know what the chemicals are so it can see if they are getting into drinking water.

We have substitutes for fossil-fuel energy but no substitutes for fresh, clean water. Some have talked about desalination, but this is expensive to set up and a long time in the future. It also requires much energy.

It does not make any sense to use clean water to frack to get fossil fuels that are then used in desalination plants to get fresh water. Though with the power of fossil-fuel corporations and thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court, this is what our legislatures may go for.

HELEN ARCHERD

Calistoga

<b>Ready for anything</b>

EDITOR: Watching images of Atlanta at a standstill after two inches of snow, I couldn't help but wonder how many of those stranded drivers had three-day emergency survival kits -#8212; water, food, warm clothes, blanket, flash light -#8212; in their cars? Do you have survival kits in your car, at work, and at home?

MARCIA MUNSON

Sebastopol