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<b>Private-sector benefits</b>

EDITOR: I'm responding to Tracie Rinehart's letter ("Unfair contract," Friday). We get lots of information about government workers but not so much from the private sector. I'd like to use my own experience as an example.

I worked at a major electronics company for 28 years until I was laid off three years ago. I laugh when people tell me that I must have a great pension. My pension consisted of a hearty handshake as I was walked out the door. I got a lump sum retirement, which equates to about $800 a month (plus my 401(k), which was mostly self-funded). I also got retirement medical for which I pay $138 a month. I have Kaiser, and my copays are $40. My insurance is going up to $203 a month in January. I only have to pay that for one month because in February I turn 65, so my company is dropping me from coverage.

When I was working, I made a good wage, but I assume it was about equivalent to a technical manager working for the county. Many private-sector workers would envy even these modest benefits. Just trying to add a little real-world perspective.

BILL SPITA

Santa Rosa

<b>Not about guns</b>

EDITOR: It's inevitable that many will use this senseless tragedy as an opportunity to reopen a discussion on firearms in this country. This will add to the pain we feel when such a horrific crime is inflicted on our nation.

As a society, we don't contemplate going back to Prohibition because of all the people who misuse alcohol. It doesn't work. We correctly see it instead as an illness to address. This is no different.

We will continue to suffer these tragedies as long as we won't address the root cause. The problem is mental illness and people having a difficult time coping. We need a national discussion on helping those who are ill, disaffected and having problems living in our society. How do we identify the mentally disabled and help them?

Please don't use this as an opportunity to further cause pain and tear us apart as a country by driving an agenda that misses the problem and focuses on the tools used. Anders Breivik killed 77 people in Norway last year. This happened in a country with incredibly strict gun laws. Criminals can always get whatever tool needed for their mayhem. We need to find them first.

MIKE HAWKINS

Windsor

<b>A new dawn</b>

EDITOR: Saturday morning dawned in brilliant color. I got to spend hours with my precious granddaughters, ages 5 and 3. On Friday, my heart was torn once again by a young man with a gun.

A list of communities — Blacksburg, Va., Oak Creek, Wis., Tucson, Ariz., Fort Hood, Texas, Littleton, Colo. and Denver — now includes Newtown, Conn. Add to that 25 people killed day after day in this country by firearms. Putting schools under lockdown is not the answer to a problem, it's a desperate response to fear in a time when young men find it easier to get a gun than a job.

I'm not sure the answer will be found in Washington or in Sacramento. The Democrats and Republicans are too controlled by special interests, not the public interest. My sense is that the ideas and leadership must arise from you and I, from the neighborhoods, from educators and school boards, from health care providers, from civic organizations, from the judicial and legal community and our nonpartisan city councils and boards of supervisors.

Saturday morning dawned in brilliant color.

BILL ROBERTSON

Windsor

<b>Quick, easy detour</b>

EDITOR: Saturday's article about the coast highway closure ("Coast highway closure indefinite") suggested that the Meyers Grade Road detour adds a six-mile, 25-minute drive for those traveling up and down Highway 1 on the north Sonoma Coast.

That's not the case. The detour parallels Highway 1 and is only a mile longer than the original coast highway route. It adds no more than five minutes to the trip between Jenner and Timber Cove. Many of us who live at The Sea Ranch, in Gualala or Point Arena prefer Meyers Grade even when Highway 1 is open. It would be a shame to discourage folks from enjoying a holiday trip to the coast over a detour that's not really even inconvenient.

JOEL CROCKETT

Gualala

<b>Burbank's words</b>

EDITOR: When I moved to Santa Rosa some 30 years ago, I was impressed by a quotation atop the Empire section of The Press Democrat. A few years later, after the New York Times purchased the paper, for whatever foolish reason, you discontinued printing the quote. Now that we have new, and local, ownership dedicated to preserving the uniqueness Sonoma County, wouldn't it be fitting and appropriate to resurrect that quote from Luther Burbank? "I firmly believe, from what I've seen, that this is the chosen spot of all this earth as far as nature is concerned."

JIM FAHY

Santa Rosa