<b>Taken for a ride</b>

EDITOR: It would appear that the SMART board has found a way to increase ridership before the train even begins operation ("County shifts $6.6 million to SMART," Dec. 11). We seem to have all been taken for a ride.

SMART, as sold to the public during the election, has become a model for bait and switch. My respect and appreciation to SMART board members Tiffany Renee and Steve Allen for their no votes.

SMART advertised the reduction of automobile use as one of its primary goals. I dare say a completed bicycle/pedestrian pathway would have more quickly and effectively achieved that and more.

SMART promised us more than just a train.



<b>Officials behaving badly</b>

EDITOR: I am a retired middle and high school teacher. The vast majority of my former students exhibited more poise and maturity in their interactions with one another than did Santa Rosa's mayor, Scott Bartley, and his colleagues Councilwoman Julie Combs, and Councilman Gary Wysocky at the recent City Council meeting. ("Honeymoon over for mayor," Thursday).

According to Bartley, Combs and Wysocky inappropriately "called him out" in public and asked him if he was going to apologize for calling Jack Swearengen "clueless." It appears that Bartley would have preferred to have this discussion in private. Probably a good idea. Bartley escalated the situation by refusing to apologize for a clearly inappropriate and disrespectful comment.

How can citizens have confidence in our leaders when they behave as they do? The City Council needs to stop squabbling and start behaving like grown-ups. Is this too much to ask of them?


Santa Rosa

<b>Fiscal irresponsibility</b>

EDITOR: Thursday's article about state pay and pension benefits was unbelievable ("How state got into pay, pension jam"). Greed and lack of responsible financial management is a major reason the state (and country) is in dire financial trouble.



<b>Union rules</b>

EDITOR: Michigan's establishment of a right-to-work law has been misrepresented in the media, mainly the broadcast medium.

The union shop rule doesn't force workers to join a union; it requires workers to pay a fee for the union's representation of all workers at negotiations with their employers. The dues that members pay include this fee plus the amount their union spends on political campaigns and lobbying; non-members are not charged for the union's political activities.

Michigan's governor sold his legislation by using the canard that it supports freedom for workers, and broadcast reporters have used that explanation without informing themselves of the real mechanism unions use to fund the services they provide workers.

President Barack Obama described right-to-work provisions as "your right to work for less," and he is correct. If workers are glad they have a 40-hour week or an eight-hour work day, they can thank unions. Regardless of whether workers are represented by a union, they benefit from the working conditions and pay scales unions have established. Workers in right-to-work states are paid less than workers in states that have union shops.

Perhaps we can expect little better of politicians who use terms such as "union thugs" and "forced to join," but we should expect more from journalists who report their activities.


Santa Rosa

<b>Giving hope</b>

EDITOR: The massacre in Newton, Conn. was horrific. Here is a small idea to honor the innocence lost. In memory of those six adults and 20 children who died, in memory of the child the gunman once was, give a gift to a needy child who is still very much alive. It is a small gesture, but it is something. If you have young children yourself, letting them pick out and donate a toy could be a healthy way to help them through this tragedy.

Programs that accept donations abound. There are giving trees throughout the county in malls, stores and businesses, banks and churches. Many fire stations are collecting toys, and I know at least one of my local schools, Windsor Creek Elementary, and I'm sure others, are accepting both toys and monetary donations for children in need. You can even donate online at the website for the Volunteer Center of Sonoma County.

I encourage you to help the light of the children of Newton continue to shine. Give a toy, give a book, give hope.