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<b>Trains vs. bikes</b>

EDITOR: It seems a sham — sorry, shame — that another train car has priority over roadside bicycle safety improvements ("County shifts $6.6 million to SMART," Tuesday). Are we not reading every week of a bicyclist being injured or worse? Are we not promoting Sonoma County as a world-class bicycle destination?

Determining priorities is both an art and science. Expert testimony, consultant recommendations, circumstances and personal bias do not, and in this case did not, add up to common sense. The negative publicity this decision will surely provoke should have been cause to abandon the suggestion.

I truly appreciate those in public service, a difficult job it is acting on behalf of constituents. But I, for one, cannot understand or explain the romance this train seems to have placed on our elected officials and the to-hell-with-everything-else priority it has become.

BRAD THOMAS

Windsor

<b>Modern marriage</b>

EDITOR: The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to consider the issue of gay marriage. I believe it's time to consider this controversy in a modern context. Everyone should be free to legally marry anyone they want. Marriage is simply a contract between two people to share their lives. Of course, there are significant religious and financial considerations.

Religious organizations opposed to gay marriage should not be forced to marry same-sex couples. It's their right to conduct their religion however they choose, within the law. Same-sex couples can have a civil marriage or find a religion that will marry them.

Regarding finances, heterosexual couples get a tax break and other advantages. I believe there are significant cultural and biological reasons for this. Humans are compelled to reproduce or the species will disappear. Couples should be awarded tax breaks and other advantages to have children, not simply for being married. This benefit should apply to all couples, gay or not.

While I'm on the subject of religion and taxes, I'd also like to propose that religious organizations be treated the same as other institutions regarding taxes. A significant percentage of Americans have no religious affiliation. They shouldn't have to support religions financially.

JEFFREY A. RAPP

Healdsburg

<b>Bowled over</b>

EDITOR: I really like football. My wife wonders what I will do when the season is over. But how many bowl games do we need? Two years ago, I wrote about the college bowl games reported in The Press Democrat. On Dec. 3, we had a similar report, this time with an article from the Kansas City Star sharing my sentiments ("Sorry list of match ups in BCS bowls").

Two years ago, there were 11 teams with 6-6 records. This year, there are 12 teams, and one has a 6-7 record. Perhaps the excitement comes from the names of the games. We will be cheering at the Beef 'O'Brady's Bowl, the Meineke Car Care Bowl, the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, the GoDaddy.com Bowl and other inspiring supporters of sportsmanship.

My disappointment is that my prediction did not come true — the Kohlers Plumbing Bowl and the Cialis Erectile Dysfunction Bowl did not make this year's cut. On the serious side, it is clear that this is not about quality and sportsmanship but only about commercialism. This commercial tradition does not serve the ideals of college football.

However, I wish all of the players well. l think they deserve better.

STEPHEN P. COLLINS

Petaluma

<b>Why we need change</b>

EDITOR: Former Santa Rosa City Councilwoman Jane Bender thinks a "home run" was hit based on the votes for mayor and vice mayor of Santa Rosa last week ("Crossing the aisle," Letters, Saturday).

Here is an opinion from somebody not involved with Santa Rosa politics, but I do observe what is going on.

Bender, like several current members of the council, seems attracted to back-door deals, junior high school popularity contests and I'll-scratch-your-back-you-scratch-mine while following a partisan agenda. This is why I voted for districting when it comes to how we vote for the City Council.

So we have a greenhorn, inexperienced, untried brand new councilwoman who claims to be the wise woman in how the City Council should run. Then she puts herself forward as vice mayor and gets elected. Talk about back-door deals. A home run for the exact type of council we need to get rid of.

CHRIS SANTOS

Santa Rosa

<b>Safe driving</b>

EDITOR: In response to Wes Brubacher's letter ("Two-footed driving," Saturday), I couldn't agree more. I was introduced to the philosophy some 52 years ago when living in the San Jose area. It took two or three days to get comfortable with the process, but I'm certain that, over the years, it has kept me safe from rear-enders on more than one occasion. It became a reflex-action that everyone should attempt to use.

MONTE MOORE

Fort Bragg