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But does it work?

EDITOR: Your Feb. 27 editorial did a good job of laying out the history and the pros and cons and abuses of redevelopment districts in California. However, you ignored what should be the most fundamental question: Do they work?

That is, for all of the tax revenue lost to local government (subsidies to developers) to ostensibly increase tax revenue and clean up blight in the long run, do they in fact do that?

In a 1998 report by the Public Policy Institute of California, Michael Dardia in a two-year- long study showed that areas identified as “blighted” that “benefited” from redevelopment would have just as likely recovered economically, and in the same amount of time, through free-market forces with no loss of local property tax revenues.

With his methodology of using 38 matched pairs of properties in the same counties or cities, some given the powers of a redevelopment agency and some left to the “invisible hand” of the marketplace, there was virtually no difference in economic recovery.

Local governments would still prefer redevelopment agencies because they carry significant political power to wield influence and direct a natural process — and cut ribbons.

ANDREW P GROSE

Cloverdale

Guns and people

EDITOR: Marc Thiessen’s column on attacking the National Rifle Association seems a compelling argument at first glance (“Attacking NRA is a slap at everyday Americans,” Friday). However, not all who buy semiautomatic or assault weapons are brave and responsible NRA instructors like Stephen Willeford. The armed sheriff’s deputy on duty in Florida didn’t rush in to take action.

Shooters Nikolas Cruz, Devin Kelley and Stephen Paddock all bought either semiautomatics or assault rifles. It is far easier to control the sale of guns than to investigate and maintain records on the thousands of people who would buy them.

It’s a numbers thing: the fewer such guns are available to the public, the fewer can be used to commit mass murder.

LINDA LLOYD

Santa Rosa

Being prepared

EDITOR: A better public warning system is needed, but blame for falling short in the recent Sonoma County wildfire response again falls tragically short. Like Katrina and other disasters, guilt is always placed on emergency services and not where the responsibility rightly belongs. The responsibility belongs on each of us.

We all know a serious earthquake has been predicted for years, but we don’t have to prepare ourselves and one another if we have a Chris Helgren. The approximately 1,500 first responders will take care us, all 500,000 of us. They will provide us food, clothing, medication. They will put shoes and flashlights under our beds so we don’t have to walk on broken glass. They will put gas in our cars if we need to evacuate. No worries, no responsibility, Chris will take care of us.

On occasion our planet can be a very dangerous and deadly thing. When will we wake up as a culture to our innate responsibility to ourselves, our families, our neighbors, our community? The next disaster is already out in front of us. There are excellent programs, such as Map Your Neighborhood, but who among us will catch up? Who among us will take action?

RICHARD RUGE

Sebastopol

Youthful activism

EDITOR: Women throughout the country have rallied around the anti-sexual harassment cause — with impressive results so far. Now, teenagers are similarly rallying around the gun violence cause.

Dismissing the teachers-with-guns solution as demented, they are demanding action — such as substantive background checks, banning assault weapons and bumpstocks and raising the age for purchasing guns. Supportive rallies and marches have been scheduled all around the country.

What causes come next? Climate change? Racial equality? Social justice? With the midterm elections coming up (and youth participation in recent elections historically low), this is the time to encourage young people to register and vote.

With record numbers of female candidates running for political office, there is the potential for increased female leadership. Maybe it’s also time for more of us males to get off the bench.

In the meantime, let’s all join in the youth marches.

MORGAN LAMBERT

Santa Rosa

Bay tree risks

EDITOR: Kate Frey neglected to mention important negatives to planting California bay trees in her Feb. 24 column (“Spring cascade of bloom”): They are very flammable. Even the green leaves burn (according to a neighbor who is a licensed forester). Someone whose house was spared in the recent fires said that a huge bay tree on their property literally exploded when the fire reached it. They found pieces of it all around their property.

Bays carry the fungus that causes sudden oak death. Growing one within 35 feet of the following plants is likely to cause their infection and death: coast live oak, California black oak, tanbark oak and several other oaks (from “New Sunset Garden Book”).

It is known as a climax species. That means that, if not kept under control, bay trees will crowd out all other plants.

I asked a local bird expert about bay trees and birds. She said that they offer nothing for our bird populations.

We live surrounded by woods and have had to spend substantial sums of money removing California bay trees. Unfortunately, they stump sprout and reseed prolifically.

JEANNETTE GRANT

Occidental

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