<b>Benefits aren't free</b>

EDITOR: While I agree with most everything Darryl Fenley said in his letter ("Watchdog needed," Tuesday), I have to take exception to his second sentence. I don't know where he gets the idea that Congress gets no-cost medical benefits.

Congress has the same medical plan available to all federal civilian employees and retirees. It's called the Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan, and it and allows congressmen to choose from a menu of providers with varying benefits.

While the government picks up a generous portion of the cost of the individual plans, I have to pay more than $5,100 a year for myself and my family, as would any congressman with the plan I have. I would hardly call that medical care at no cost.

As an aside, under ObamaCare, Congress will lose the federal employee health plan, and members and staff will have to purchase medical insurance from an ObamaCare health exchange.



<b>Living near services</b>

EDITOR: For years, I have lived within a five-minute walk of three centers that serve the disadvantaged: the armory, the James Coffee house (for youth) and the Catholic Charities day center for the homeless. In 17 years, I can recall only four times when I have been affected by the clients of these centers:

One night, two men bedded down in a neighbor's yard; I gave a young girl struggling with a heavy suitcase a ride to the armory; and I gave a lost girl directions to the Coffee House. One night I came home from work to find a boy sleeping on my porch sofa — no coat, head on his backpack. He never moved as I unlocked the door. I told my husband, and he asked him to leave, which he did.

In this time, I have never felt threatened, never suffered any physical harm or property damage.

To those that feel a deep concern about the opening of a Social Advocates for Youth center in their neighborhood ("Plan for Warrack site stirs passions," Aug. 4), I would say that I understand their concern. However, the reality of the presence of the SAY center in their neighborhood will likely be far less than they fear.


Santa Rosa

<b>Patrons of the arts</b>

EDITOR: I don't agree with Judy Kennedy's opinion that the sculptures installed at Montgomery Village are "schlock" ("SR public art draws fire," Wednesday), and I don't agree with her playing art juror for the community at large.

David Codding fulfilled his obligation to spend 1 percent of his building cost three times over. The fact that Kennedy does not like the art is a moot point. Codding and Melissa Williams should be revered for all that they do for the arts in this county instead of being insulted.

I have been an art advocate in this community for 20 years, and I have not seen anyone rise to the level of support that I have seen from these two. They supported and funded the 5 Camera Arts Festivals, Santa Rosa's first Phantom Gallery and Silver Stone Gallery, and they have promoted dozens of art festivals and countless concerts that this community has participated in and enjoyed for free.

Thus far, the city of Santa Rosa has not been able to afford or produce anywhere near the number of community art events that Williams and Codding and David have been responsible for sponsoring. As an artist, I would like to express my gratitude and thank them for being such great patrons for the arts.


Santa Rosa

<b>Clean Power meetings</b>

EDITOR: Much has been written about Sonoma Clean Power in the past few months. With 79 percent of the county being covered, service will start next year for the first group of customers in Sonoma, Santa Rosa, Cotati, Windsor, Sebastopol and unincorporated communities.

To help residents and businesses learn more about what Sonoma Clean Power means for them, we are holding community meetings to answer questions and share how Sonoma County's new power provider will operate. Our next meeting takes place Monday in Sebastopol, followed by Santa Rosa's meeting on Sept. 4. Meetings in other towns are being scheduled .

Details are on our website, sonomacleanpower.org. We hope to see you at an upcoming meeting.


CEO, Sonoma Clean Power

<b>Public finances</b>

EDITOR: Your Monday editorial was right on — Sonoma County should provide an accounting of its unfunded pension and health care debt ("Thumbs up: Linking taxes and spending"). We should also have access to where the money comes from, what needs to be spent on what, who prioritizes the spending and an accounting of where the money goes.

I also agree with columnist George F. Will that we ought to go with a "blank slate" approach to the current tax code and erase all deductions and credits and start over ("Senate's challenge: Taming the tax code beast," Monday).

Tax simplification would be political reform.

Kudos to Sens. Max Baucus, Democrat, and Orrin Hatch, a Republican, and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, a Republican. Now they are trying to make something happen that will benefit all Americans. Just what we need.