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Defense threatened

EDITOR: The four-month delay in congressional appropriations and the concomitant uncertainties about the defense budget put our national security at risk. We are at war. Your Army is downsizing by 15 percent, yet it already has a $6 billion operating-accounts shortfall, which, if sequestration triggers, would make the total shortfall $17 billion for fiscal year 2013. Sequestration would bring significant further reductions in strength.

Your Army needs multi-year budget predictability to balance strength, modernization and readiness and to avoid the "hollow force" of the post Vietnam years. We ask that your readers join us in urging Congress to remove the fiscal uncertainty, avoid sequestration and give our armed forces the funding that is needed to defend our cherished freedoms.


President, San Francisco chapter, Association of the U.S. Army

Cutting trees for safety

EDITOR: Trees should only be removed when necessity demands. Protecting public safety is a good reason, e.g. preventing wildland fires. As the former director of emergency services for Marin County, I learned that trees hitting power lines are a common way that forest fires begin. Fires damage the ecosystem and homes, kill people and animals and increase flooding and erosion. Beyond that, power outages from fires are disruptive, costly and even life-threatening for some people.

Given that we are dependent on a reliable energy system, and at risk of forest fires, it is time to recognize that PG&E needs to remove trees that interfere with transmission lines ("County asks PG&E to avoid tree removal," Monday). The new federal guidelines demand it — charging a $1 million a day fine if power companies don't comply. Common sense and protecting the public, local economy and environment requires it.

We heap criticism on PG&E if it fails to do what is in the public interest; now is the time to let PG&E move forward with this necessary, vital tree removal so that our community is not at risk or facing a far more potentially destructive outcome.


President, North Bay Leadership Council

Ruining court records

EDITOR: The authors of the Sacramento Bee editorial regarding court reporters ("State courts must enter the electronic age," Monday) don't have a clue. I've been a trial lawyer for more than 40 years. Personal experience tells me that the "electronic age" (digital recorders) is not an answer.

Court reporters were laid off to save money, but it does not follow that replacing them with cheaper tape recorders is wise policy. Recording testimony is only half of the trial record. The other half is transcription, needed to produce a written record for appeals.

There is no electronic device that records testimony and spits out an accurate transcript; only a human can do that. Transcribers can listen to court tapes and type testimony, but their product is full of error. They are never sure who is talking, and they weren't at trial. Reporters own their notes because only they can "read" them since each reporter uses different strokes for different words.

It is irrelevant that appellate courts use only electronic recording. They don't take testimony, and they decide cases upon the content of written briefs, not oral proceedings.

This is a crazy idea that will ruin the reliability of court records.


See the Pulitzer Prize-winning articles on the October wildfires here

How we covered the early hours of the October fires here

See all of the PD's wildfire coverage here

Walnut Creek

Behind the numbers

EDITOR: The phrase "when distressed sales were excluded" ("Home values jump 16.6 percent in county," Wednesday) caught my eye, so I did some further research. A quick look on zillow.com at homes in Santa Rosa for sale or in a pre-market distressed condition showed only 55 non-distressed home sales and a whopping 320 homes in a distressed sale or pre-market condition. Excluding distressed sales is like saying, "Except for what I charge on my credit cards, I'm living within my means." It may make me feel good, but it's not an accurate portrayal of the situation.


Santa Rosa

Montgomery success

EDITOR: Congratulations to the students of the Montgomery High School drama department who participated this past weekend in the Lenaea High School Theater Festival at Folsom Lake College.

More than 60 high schools competed in this event. Montgomery High took four gold awards and one silver award. Their success is the result of the hard work of Susane Byrne, whose untiring dedication to the drama department is appreciated by all the members of the Montgomery community.

Our grandson is one of the beneficiaries of Byrne's dedication, and we wish to thank her.


Rohnert Park

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