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<b>Calistoga water rates</b>

EDITOR: The Calistoga City Council raised water and sewer rates, plus annual increases for three years, even though Mayor Chris Canning had previously said Calistoga already had the highest water rates of any Northern California city.

Our city fathers said they probably would not have to raise local utility rates when they authorized two extremely large resorts, because the added transient-occupancy tax might even allow a reduction in our personal utility charges. They even wrote that we have plenty of water and sewer capacity to cover the proposed additions. This was untrue, as we are now on water rationing, and there are problems with our wastewater.

The Calistoga City Council also must know that, in population ratios, Calistoga has more senior citizens on fixed incomes than any other city in Napa County. Also, up to 70 percent of our schoolchildren are from homes at poverty level. None of these people can afford to pay these extras, as small as they may seem to the advantaged ones.

I am deeply disturbed by those votes by the council.

CATHERINE LERNER

Calistoga

<b>A carbon tax</b>

EDITOR: In reference to your Tuesday editorial ("Stalling globally, acting locally on climate change"), any effort to decrease greenhouse emissions by increasing energy efficiency is laudable and should be pursued vigorously, though without global action, its impact will be negligible.

In your Dec. 1editorial ("Global climate inaction continues"), you stated: "Climate change has no easy solution."

I submit that, while politically difficult, imposing an escalating tax on the release of carbon into the atmosphere would make the burning of fossil fuels less competitive and the production of energy from renewable sources more competitive, resulting in a slowing of the rate of climate change.

The tax could be rebated to households to offset the increased cost of energy and to encourage investment in energy efficiency.

TOM WHITE

Santa Rosa

<b>Public assistance</b>

EDITOR: To say Medicaid, Social Security, food stamps or any welfare benefit may cause dependency is shallow ("Do you think Medicaid breeds dependency?" Wednesday). These services are easy to demonize. They keep millions of humans alive and well.

We have leeches in our culture of all income levels. Just look at our tax system. Loopholes make Swiss cheese ashamed of itself. Corporate welfare costs more than you think; it's linked to war, the stock market, religious institutions and many American industries.

All living creatures need some basics to survive. Public assistance should be one of the factors a modern civilization incorporates for its survival.

BRUCE MALLON

Petaluma

<b>Inspiring story</b>

EDITOR: I was moved to tears as I read the story of Jose Sevilla, who came from Mexico City at age 14, barely knowing English, and worked hard for the next 25 years to realize his dream ("A classroom journey," Thursday). He is now teaching young kids like himself, who will undoubtedly become successful adults themselves.

GRACE BARNER

Santa Rosa

<b>Tracking waste</b>

EDITOR: On Nov. 18, The Press Democrat ran an article focusing on the movement of hazardous waste ("State loses track of 174,000 tons of toxics").

California's paper system is not perfect. Ninety-nine percent of the state's 450,000 annual waste shipments arrive safely. Missing paperwork, not missing waste, accounts for the vast majority of the remaining 1 percent.

One missing load is too much, so we rely on additional tools to ensure safety. These include local, state and federal inspectors who conduct more than 100,000 inspections of hazardous materials businesses each year, spotting potential on-site problems and inspecting generators' paperwork for shipments of hazardous waste.

In addition, we and our local counterparts respond to hundreds of tips on suspicious activity, and we've formed partnerships with local communities to create systems that allow anyone to report suspicious activity.

Since the start of this administration, we have improved how we track hazardous waste, and we anticipate a nationwide electronic system in the coming years. Californians need and deserve the best tracking system available.

DEBBIE RAPHAEL

Director, California Department of Toxic Substances Control