SMART costs

EDITOR: Given its funding cuts due to shrinking sales tax revenues, Sonoma-Marin Rail Transit needs to make the most of every expenditure. Here are some suggestions.

First, instead of replacing track between Guerneville Road and Windsor for a

Class 4 utility (80 mph maximum speed), use the existing Class 3 track (60 mph). Windsor is a better terminus than Guerneville Road, with Airport Boulevard as a way station.

Gain: more fare-box revenue at startup. Saving: the added costs of 10 miles of new track plus environmental review costs, as using existing track would be considered maintenance rather than new construction.

Second, instead of building concrete platforms before startup, construct temporary timber ramps just long enough to serve two- and three-car trains. SMART's station plan for Petaluma shows platforms almost 600 feet long. You don't need a 600-foot platform for two-car trains that are 160-feet long or even for three-car trains 240-feet long.

Third, instead of spending $30 million for a railroad bridge over Andersen Drive in San Rafael, install a grade crossing with gates and flashing signals for about $1 million, or build a road overpass. The wild card here is the California Public Utilities Commission's stipulation in 1997 that San Rafael is obligated to pay for the crossing.



Revolving door

EDITOR: It isn't bad enough that our state legislators play switching chairs between one house of the Legislature to another, they also switch to lucrative positions on commissions and boards.

Three of the most popular are the Occupation Safety and Health Appeals Board, the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board and the Workers Compensation Appeals Board. Each of these pay upwards of $128,000 per year plus expenses. Appointees are excess politicians. Michael Allen who recently lost in his bid for re-election to the Assembly has been appointed to the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board by the speaker. His annual pay actually increased to $128,000.

Several years ago, a study was done to evaluate the 500 existing boards and commissions. The results were published in a report titled "Government for the people for a Change." The report recommended that 88 of these 500 boards and commissions be transferred to other agencies or eliminated.

Obviously, this didn't happen, and no agencies were eliminated. It couldn't happen. There wouldn't be places for the revolving politicians, so nothing was done.



Must we judge?

EDITOR: It's good to be a spiritual seeker (Meet the &‘Nones:' Spiritual but not religious," Friday). They are growing in numbers, and that's fine with me. My only problem is that very often I encounter people who are spiritual, atheistic or agnostic and express great disdain for those who choose to belong to an organized religion. What's with that holier-than-thou attitude? It's fine to have your own personal belief system. But why be so judgmental of those who believe differently?


Santa Rosa

Council's choice

EDITOR: We already voted for Santa Rosa City Council members. We read campaign brochures, heard speeches, watched debates and made our choice. Those who ran devoted their time, energy and money hoping to win a seat on the council.

We, the voters, already made our choices and do not want to see the current City Council members stack the deck by overriding our election choice. To take applications from those who did not have the interest in running for election makes no sense and allows someone to slip in without public scrutiny and input.

To call for another election is wasting money, leaves a void and a loss of proper representation for a year and creates additional expense for the city and potential candidates.

The voters have spoken, now the council needs to do its job and appoint the next runner-up. We voted for him and our vote deserves to be honored. As Councilwoman Erin Carlstrom said, "someone with a track record with the city" and "an interest in city issues," which describes Don Taylor.


Santa Rosa

Act of submission

EDITOR: When you lay down your arms, it is an act of submission. If you choose to do this, you should think very carefully who and what you are submitting to. Blind trust in those you submit to is dangerous. Our Founding Fathers were well aware of how dangerous this can be, which is why the Second Amendment is second only to the establishment of religious freedom.