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<b>Unsavory politics</b>

EDITOR: In the beginnings of the Republic, to vote one had to be free (white), male, 21, own property and in many places have the "right" religious affiliation. As these requirements changed through our history, there have been many efforts by those in charge to restrict the vote or change the results. Examples include poll taxes, literacy tests, blatant intimidation at the polls and partisan court rulings, just to name a few.

The latest in the "let's keep the wrong people from voting" are Republican legislators' efforts in Pennsylvania, Ohio and some other states. The photo ID requirement in Pennsylvania is simply a version of the poll tax, and the rule change on early voting in Ohio is pure and simple to benefit Republican candidates.

Politics by its very nature is and has been a rather unsavory business, but if we don't insist on fairness, inclusiveness and true legality in the voting process, it makes a mockery of the democratic process and indeed democracy itself.

PAT KENNEDY

Santa Rosa

<b>Towing rates</b>

EDITOR: The Santa Rosa City Council's vote for higher towing fees and vehicle impound charges makes absolutely no sense to me ("SR raises tow rates in wake of law change," Wednesday). Lots of businesses, not just towing companies, are experiencing declining revenues. The fact that the number of cars towed and impounded is down sounds like a good thing to me.

Not too long ago, the water district asked everyone to conserve water. Well, everyone complied, and our rates increased to compensate for the lost revenue. This feels like the same thing, except it's not the city of Santa Rosa's job to guarantee income for privately owned towing companies.

CAROLE GALEAZZI

Santa Rosa

<b>Blowhard sheriffs</b>

EDITOR: I was saddened and dismayed to read of the shooting of four sheriff's deputies, two fatally, in Louisiana a few days ago ("Two deputies killed, two wounded," Friday). Investigators have linked at least some of the perpetrators to an anti-government group known as Posse Comitatus that doesn't recognize any authority above the level of county sheriff.

I was shocked to read that Northern California sheriffs are involved with and speaking before a similar group, the Constitutional Sheriffs' Association ("Sheriffs blast state, federal regulations," Sunday). Do they not realize that local sheriff's deputies are the frequent target of anti-government lunatics with guns?

For three county sheriffs to be whipping up anti-government fervor is highly irresponsible. It's dangerous, even, to their own employees. And why are these sheriffs recommending harvest levels in federal forests, anyway?

And, of course, these sheriffs are like all the federal-government-is-bad blowhards — they have their hands out for money from, you guessed it, the federal government. More money for weapons for their departments, more money for marijuana enforcement.

I hope the citizens of Mendocino, Del Norte and Siskiyou counties rethink their choice of sheriff next election.

SHARON TREMBLE

Occidental

<b>Offensive column</b>

EDITOR: You're kidding, right?

"It doesn't hurt that it also reminds voters that, as a Mormon, the GOP candidate doesn't drink beer. What kind of American is that?" ("Mr. President, come to Sonoma County for a real beer," Chris Coursey, Saturday)

Just insert black, Hispanic, LGBT, Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, Hindu, Shinto, etc. for Mormon and watch the media outrage and ACLU lawsuits that follow.

It was not funny, humorous, insightful or satirical. It's just plain stupid and offensive to every American.

The First Amendment prohibits restrictions on free speech. This permits anyone the freedom to express any opinion. This is good. But when a columnist, with a clear political agenda, crosses the line and mocks an individual's religious tenets, even a public figure, all Americans should be outraged. I am.

Many Americans choose not to drink alcohol for personal reasons. It's their choice. We should respect that choice.

We should all cherish and value our diversity. We are all Americans. That's the essence of who we are. We all have differing backgrounds and beliefs, but we are all Americans. We may respectfully disagree on issues, but we are all Americans.

By the way, I'm not Mormon, I'm an American, and I love well-crafted beer.

KEN RICHTER

Santa Rosa

<b>Reprehensible spiker</b>

EDITOR: After reading Sunday's article "Spiking pensions by cashing out benefits," I find myself really annoyed. The article tells me former Sonoma County Auditor-Controller Rod Dole is the grand champion of all spikers.

I would have assumed that as an elected official he had a fiduciary responsibility to the citizens of this county to point out the flaws in the pension calculation rules as unsustainable for the county and to aggressively advocate for changing them. Instead he used his extraordinarily keen understanding of the flaws to optimize his personal pension and has thus contributed to the severe financial situation the county is in — a situation he was personally responsible for avoiding as auditor-controller.

While technically legal, his behavior is reprehensible.

DAVID HOLCOMBE

Graton