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<b>County contracts</b>

EDITOR: You reported that 1,700 members of Sonoma County's largest union group are voting on a contract that could be the framework for negotiations with the other 10 union groups ("County workers to vote on contract," Tuesday).

About 3,800 Sonoma County employees and an unknown number of retired employees consume 40 percent of the budget for salaries, pensions and other benefits. As that must be the largest single county expense, and one that affects funding for all other projects, it is expected that democratic transparency would prevail. But the article said county officials wouldn't release any information to avoid interfering with the vote.

The county grand jury recently chided the supervisors for questionable legality of labor agreements made in 2002. Now we find out that the public won't be made aware of details negotiated on our behalf until after the contract is ratified by members of Service Employees International Union Local 1021.

The supervisors should be ashamed for not exerting more effort to keep the public informed. The taxpaying public should be ashamed for not calling out the supervisors. The priority given to the county unions and the weakness on the part of our supervisors is obnoxious.

RICHARD LAMBERT

Sonoma

<b>Murray's lesson</b>

EDITOR: The incredible story of E. Walter Murray in Sunday's Towns section ("An enduring spirit") touched my heart — not only because of his milestone 100th birthday coming up on Dec. 24, or the fact that he looks amazing for a man nearing the century mark, but for his spirit. He serves as a lesson for all of us. How could he not, with such compassionate and generous parents? Their legacy lives on in him and the reason he has so many friends is because he is such a good friend.

As for crediting his longevity to his many friends, I think maybe he has it backwards. He honors and remains connected to his past, he is productive and engaged in his present, and he looks to his future with courage and optimism. What more could you ask for in a friend?

KAREN McMILLEN

Santa Rosa

<b>The Big E</b>

EDITOR: Sunday's paper had an Associated Press photo labeled "Last call for the Big E." In the caption was the statement, "The Enterprise was the largest ship in the world at the time it was built, earning it the nickname Big E." Not correct. The World War II era USS Enterprise carried the nickname "Big E." My guess is that she had it before Pearl Harbor. When the current ship was built, she inherited the nickname.

KEN HALL

Petaluma

<b>Swelling government</b>

EDITOR: Jerry Dunn, the county's human services director, had it right — collectively we need more preventative responses for the neediest members of our community ("Sonoma County adding 54 social service jobs," Nov. 18). Instead of spending the majority of funds allocated from grants on new jobs, we need to institute programs to reduce poverty.

According to the article, food stamp applications have increased by 157 percent since 2006. There's also a 30 percent increase in Medi-Cal recipients, and, at the same time, we have seen an increase in poverty and part-time jobs with no benefits.

Increasing the safety net does not mean that we should increase administrative position while failing to address the necessity for increasing skilled labor among low-income communities to promote social and class mobility. Supervisor Mike McGuire says "we are in the position to add back services that had been cut," but old policies that promote administrative positions are sure to result in new cuts in the next economic crisis if we fail to address the underlying issue: increased poverty in this country.

How can anyone justify a swelling increase in government funded safety nets and not try to prevent people from entering poverty?

JACOB JACKSON

Rohnert Park

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