<b>A boost for local business</b>

We didn't shed any tears when the state eliminated redevelopment, a program that diverted millions of property tax dollars for sometimes questionable purposes.

But not every redevelopment project was a boondoggle. The good ones included a Sonoma County program that offered loans to rehabilitate commercial facades in the Guerneville, Roseland and Sonoma Valley redevelopment areas. Fortunately, it isn't going away. As a matter of fact, it's expanding.

In May, the Board of Supervisors earmarked some of the property tax money coming back to the county for the facade-loan program. At their July 30 meeting, the supervisors allocated $500,000 for the loan program and extended eligibility to businesses throughout the county. Thumbs up.


<b>Hands out for handouts</b>

Companies that lobby in Sacramento filed quarterly reports last week listing, among other things, the sports, concert and amusement park tickets they provided to elected officials and their staffs.

The big givers included AT&T and Disney, according to the Los Angeles Times, which reported that legislative staffers accepted 13 free tickets for a Sacamento concert by the rapper Pitbull and 21 for Sesame Street Live.

Among elected officials, the Times reported that state Sen. Jim Nielsen, a former North Bay legislator, received free passes to Disneyland. Assemblyman Mark Levine, D-San Rafael, received two tickets worth $367 for a Giants game, courtesy of AT&T.

State legislators get paid $90,500 a year (plus expense money). Some of their staffers get paid considerably more. Can't they afford to pay for their own tickets?


<b>Too much canine companionship</b>

We like Fido. And Mickey and most of the other dogs we encounter at the park or on walks around the neighborhood. But passing off an ordinary mutt as a trained service dog to bring it into restaurants and stores or on public transportation is ridiculous. "I do feel that I'm stretching the rules," one two-legged miscreant told Staff Writer Jeremy Hay ("Four-legged frauds," Thursday). "Maybe I'm just rationalizing, but she's a joy wherever she goes." Good grief.


<b>Linking taxes and spending</b>

Residents of Marin County are getting some useful new information in their property tax bills: an accounting of the county's unfunded pension and health care debt. This year's tax bills will include an extra sheet disclosing the county's long-term costs for pensions and health care for retired employees as well as other details of the county budget.

Roy Given, the director of finance for Marin County, said the information was requested by a group called Citizens for Sustainable Pension Plans. The group says it got the idea from Cook County, Ill. Givens said cities, school districts and other taxing agencies will be invited to post their own budget and debt information on Marin County's website. Sonoma County should do the same.