Rail's value

EDITOR: The North Coast Railroad Authority's freight rail operator, the NWP Co., is delivering all of the ribbon rail and concrete rail ties to reconstruct the first leg of the SMART track from Guerneville Road in Santa Rosa south to downtown San Rafael ("Noodles of steel," Saturday).

Bringing these materials into Sonoma County by rail reduces traffic congestion and saves time, energy and money. Keep in mind that one rail car takes four trucks off of Highway 101, and one gallon of diesel delivers a ton of freight more than 400 miles.

The SMART/NCRA/NWP Co. partnership is concrete evidence that the return of freight trains to the North Bay is good for the environment, good energy policy and good for the local economy.


Executive director, North Coast Railroad Authority


Glamorizing tobacco

EDITOR: I was surprised to see that you would choose to display a photo of a smiling man with a lit cigarette in his hand on the front page of your Towns section on Sunday ("Dawn on the docks"). By doing so, you are indirectly promoting smoking to the many children and young adults who see the photo.

Smoking and other tobacco use ruins and ends the lives of countless people every day, just as it did with my brother, who died of lung cancer from smoking in 2002 at the young age of 48.

This is 2012, and showing photos of people seemingly enjoying tobacco is needless and irresponsible.



Same-sex schools

EDITOR: It was with great interest that I read David Brooks' column concerning the state of boys within the education system ("The new honor code," Saturday).Those of us in the field know that the "wiring" of a boy's brain is different than that of a girl's. Boys learn in various ways — through movement, senses and hands-on. Therefore, even though they seem to be more rambunctious in a classroom, perhaps they are truly "getting it" in the only way that works for them.

This is why I am a believer in the same-sex model for schools, with teachers who are better working with only boys or only girls. The curriculum and teaching methods could be molded to fit the needs of the gender.

As a product of a same-sex high school (St. Rose Academy) in San Francisco, I know firsthand the freedom that comes from not having to worry about the "other sex" and being able to concentrate on myself and my studies. It was my experience that we had no trouble being social with boys, even though we were not in school with them daily.

I think it is time that we re-evaluate the same-sex school model and let all children learn in the best environment to ensure success.


Santa Rosa

Fact-free letters

EDITOR: Thank you, Gail Watkins for your thoughtful insights from the Rush Limbaugh program ("Only for himself," Letters, Sunday). And thanks to The Press Democrat for allowing such fact-free talking points to grace your Sunday letters page.



Medical care

EDITOR: I have been a surgeon for 40 years. I have always felt that all people should receive medical care regardless of their ability to pay. Obamacare is based on the same belief, but it forces you to pay your own insurance, forces bankrupt states to increase payments for Medicaid and decreases the budget for Medicare (as baby boomers flood the system). We're the losers. The winners are insurers, pharmaceutical and medical device vendors, medical tech manufacturers and lawyers.

The law changes the way Medicare pays and sets up autonomous committees to determine what treatment will be paid for (thereby determining what treatment will be given). He who controls the purse strings controls the outcome. The parameters of quality will be dictated by the government payment/penalty plan.

Obamacare doesn't lower the cost of care. It doesn't limit the cost of insurance, medications or legal expenses. Real reform would lead to cost controls for these industries, but President Barack Obama doesn't have the courage to fight those special interest groups.

As I am mostly retired, the law doesn't affect my income or autonomy to decide (with the patient) what treatment is best for each person. However, as a Medicare patient, I'm deeply concerned about the future of my medical care and that of anyone who gets sick.


Santa Rosa