<b>School traffic</b>

EDITOR: Santa Rosa parents experience daily traffic jams at schools when dropping off their children. A principal explains, "Yes, it's madness twice a day, but parents are concerned about safely."

What if kids walked to school? Exercise — twice a day. Breathing air, instead of idling auto exhaust. Fewer bouts of asthma. Less chance of lung diseases in the future.

"Sounds great," parents would say, "but our children's safety trumps everything else."

Solutions? Divide school attendance zones into quadrants and decide on a central meeting place within each quadrant. Adult monitors could teach safe walking practices and supervise the walk to school.

Besides the health benefits, children and parents would be building friendships with their classmates and neighbors.

It sounds like a win-win solution, doesn't it?


Santa Rosa

<b>Unmatched leader</b>

EDITOR: I taught at Sonoma State University from 1967-97, and I was fortunate enough to know to a degree every president from Ambrose Nichols to Ruben Armi?na. None of them was the equal of David Benson ("Former SSU president Benson dies," Saturday). He had a clear vision of where Sonoma State could go and how it could get there, but he also might slip out for lunch with faculty friends or critics and discuss matters over with them as they dined.

In a time when Sonoma State seems to have developed an aristocratic administration, it may be difficult to imagine Dave and Betty Benson socializing with faculty and staff. The many times provided pleasant settings where serious issues could be discussed openly. He was an excellent listener who thought before he responded. His office door really was open to all, and he would discuss his decisions openly. He took his job seriously but not his own status.

With Betty, he established a social tone and communication style that moved Sonoma State back on track. We were fortunate indeed for his service. I feel honored to have been his colleague and pal.



<b>Wishing for better</b>

EDITOR: Why would we think BART and the union would come to a agreement when Congress cannot agree? Just vote them out without their perks.



<b>Driving at 102</b>

EDITOR: Congratulations to Marion Almeraz for keeping her wits about her and passing her driving test at 102 years of age ("85 years in driver's seat — and counting," Sunday). We all know plenty of people half her age who shouldn't be allowed behind the wheel.

One would expect the state Department of Motor Vehicles to put her through the full battery of tests at this age and so they did. So far so good. But giving her a five-year pass at 102? A lot can happen in five years, especially when you're talking years 106 through 110. What in the world were they thinking? Nice job, DMV. You've earned your spot on the list of state agencies to de-fund.


Santa Rosa

<b>Kids in need</b>

EDITOR: As supporters of the organization Social Advocates for Youth and its efforts to turn the former Warrack Hospital into a residential and resource center for youth aging out of foster care, we feel compelled to respond to recent letters.

The youth who would be housed at the site have been put into foster care because their families have been unable to care for them. These kids have been attending school with your children and grandchildren. At age 18, they are basically turned out of foster care, given a check for $300 and left on their own to find food, shelter and employment, or figure out educational opportunities. All this without any family assistance.

These kids do face challenges, but most have been in the foster care system, not the criminal justice system. Without SAY's support, they may well end up on the streets, and we all suffer the consequences. We urge you as a community to give these young people a chance at a better future.


Rohnert Park


Santa Rosa

<b>Symphony's 'shoebox'</b>

EDITOR: I, too, attended the season opener of the Santa Rosa Symphony that Staff Writer Diane Peterson reported on in Monday's paper ("SR Symphony opens season"). Yes, the music was wonderful, and the acoustics near perfect, but I'm wondering why she made no mention of the fact that the hall was 35 percent to 40 percent empty.

Could this be the result of what I believe no one wants to admit — the Green Music Center is a poorly designed, over-hyped, wildly expensive "shoebox," and it is nearly impossible to sell season tickets for the bloated asking prices?

The second and third tiers were nearly empty, with a few stalwarts perched on the edge of their seats uncomfortably hanging over the railing to catch a view of the stage. Maybe they were the smart ones as my wife and I, sitting at the back of the hall, found those much-ballyhooed $850 wooden chairs about as comfortable as poorly designed deck chairs.

None of this bodes well for the future of the symphony. They should have stayed at the (now beautifully renovated) Wells Fargo Center.


Santa Rosa