<b>Politicians and pensions</b>

EDITOR: It is to be expected that local mayors, city council members and county supervisors who rely on public employee union support for their re-elections would criticize any effort to reign in out-of-control public employee pensions. Inexcusable, however, is the misrepresentation of such efforts so as to unfairly skew public perception.

The Pension Reform Act being championed by San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed is neither "draconian" as Santa Rosa Mayor Scott Bartley is quoted as saying, nor is it an impediment to local labor negotiations as Healdsburg Vice Mayor Jim Wood suggests ("Effort to overhaul pensions draws fire," Friday).

Quite to the contrary, the initiative seeks to level the playing field in labor negotiations far too long tilted in favor of public employee unions.

Current state law is like a ratchet. It allows the future accrual of public employee pension benefits to be increased, but never reduced. Reed's initiative would correct this imbalance and restore to local governments the flexibility to negotiate future pension benefits just as is done for future compensation, health benefits and other conditions of employment.

Mind you, we're talking about the accrual of future benefits only. Benefits already earned are unaffected. Far from draconian, this initiative simply frees local governments to negotiate pension benefits without state interference.


Executive director, Sonoma County Taxpayers' Association

<b>Lost innocence</b>

EDITOR: I think some people just don't get what a loss Andy Lopez is to the innocence of children. They never expected someone so sweet and kind to be taken away so violently. They are playing soldiers or cops as we did as kids. They are playing in empty lots and walking on city streets, which are their backyard. Most still believed that police protected and could shoot to disarm, not to kill.

Annexing these areas into the city, having community policing and parks to play in and an independent citizen review board — all of these measures, over time, could help break down the sense of being thought of as "other" by the powers that be and the community at large.



<b>Tobacco laws</b>

EDITOR: A little late, but I'd like to say that the more we take responsibility for minors the more irresponsibly they will act. Healdsburg raising the legal age for tobacco purchases to 21 won't help a whole lot when it's still being pushed by tobacco companies as a cool thing to do ("Healdsburg may hike age to buy tobacco to 21," Dec. 6).

Smoking isn't very healthy but neither is driving a car, drinking too much, overworking, underworking or various worldly instances that remind us too often of our mortality.

As it stands, it's a little odd that 18-year-olds can enlist in the military to be shot at overseas, yet they cannot enjoy a chance to drink responsibly and, perhaps in Healdsburg, indulge in inhaling carcinogens and an addictive poison into their lungs.

A ban on tobacco sales to anyone under 21 will likely get Healdsburg sued, and I feel the city has more important things to be doing. Perhaps a ban on public smoking within city limits would be more helpful. People can enjoy their smokes (including the e-cigarettes) on their own property while finding smokeless methods of nicotine intake when they're out and about.

Or we can just keep things as they are and be content with the fact that smokers are actually decreasing in numbers.



<b>'Village neglect'</b>

EDITOR: Although I join the mourners of another child killed in America from gun-related violence, I have a different viewpoint than many who are speaking publicly. How did we get to this point where any parent feels children should have a toy replica AK-47?

Parents are accountable to and for teaching their children good behaviors and making good decisions for their protection. The old saying "it takes a village to raise a child" is absolutely true. Where was the village? Just because a toy AK-47 gun is available does not mean it is an appropriate toy for a child.

The rating as a toy does not exempt parents and the village from using common sense on the behalf of our children. Be a parent and a village — just say no to replica guns. This is not a case of gun violence. Rather this is a case of village neglect of our children. Where were all the protesters when Andy Lopez needed his village?