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A surreal budge cut

EDITOR: Sonoma County’s Commission on Human Rights, which advocates for the basic rights of our most marginalized and needy residents (e.g. immigrants, the homeless, the disabled, people of color, LGBT people, etc.) may have but a few more months to live.

That is, unless the residents of Sonoma County pressure our Board of Supervisors to restore funding for the commission’s meager 12 hours a week of support staff, the phone line that desperate residents can use to plead for emergency help and the room that was appropriate for the commission to hold its regularly scheduled public meetings.

All of the above was costing the county a measly $26,432 a year, including benefits, of a 2018-19 county budget of more than $1.63 billion.

This board action, when seen in the context of the 40 percent increase in hate crimes in the county from 2016 to 2017, as recently reported by the state, seems surreal.

Also, this action replicates Donald Trump’s budget proposal to zero out the U.S. contribution to UNICEF for 2018-19. UNICEF serves the most marginalized people on this planet.

ROBERT GALLUP

Petaluma

Jennings crossing

EDITOR: SMART officials have no authority to second-guess the safety of the Jennings Avenue rail crossing (“Officials stall on crossing,” July 28). In September 2016, the California Public Utilities Commission approved the proposed Jennings crossing as meeting all safety requirements. That decision is final; the state Public Utilities Code prohibits any further challenge by SMART — or anyone else.

The CPUC has authority over SMART, and the Federal Railroad Administration has authority over the CPUC and SMART.

The railroad administration has exclusive authority to establish quiet zones, where the train horn is silent except for emergency use as determined by the train’s engineer, and the agency says quiet-zone crossings are as safe or more so than non-quiet zone crossings. The agency rules out any liability for accidents because the train engineer did not sound the horn. SMART has no authority over quiet zones, nor to demand quiet zone indemnification agreements from Santa Rosa.

In November 2016, Santa Rosa approved funding for SMART’s contractor to build the crossing before scheduled train service was to begin. SMART has refused to follow through; Jennings is still closed. Santa Rosa can and should build the crossing with its own contractor. SMART has no authority to prevent this.

JAMES L. DUNCAN

Santa Rosa

Hamas’ evil regime

EDITOR: The most recent quarterly missive from Therese Mughannam-Walrath (“A divisive law,” Wednesday) contains the sentence, “How long before we are brave and honest enough to admit that Zionism is racism and that a Jewish state cannot be democratic?” To state the obvious, Israel is the only functioning democracy in the entire Middle East.

Hamas is a terrorist organization, which spends about $100 million annually, 20 percent of its overall government budget, on preparing and executing attacks against Israel. Their most recent innovation is launching incendiary kites and balloons from the border to burn Israeli forests and agricultural fields. Recently, one such balloon reached Beersheba, 25 miles from the border. This serves to augment the time-honored traditional attacks by suicide bombers, missiles and random stabbings.

There is no basis to believe that a Palestinian state would be anything different from one more failed, fractured, and violently racist, Islamist Arab country. Nevertheless, Israel should provide free electricity, sewage treatment and hospital care to the terror group busy trying to kill it.

As far as healing is concerned, we can show compassion to the actual Palestinians living under the evil Hamas regime and state that are the actual cause of their misery.

BRANDES ELITCH

Healdsburg

Living near wildlife

EDITOR: Another mountain lion killed (“Mountain lion reported killed,” Tuesday). I just don’t get it. People move here to be around the beauty, the open space and the wildlife, and then they either want to kill it or contain it.

Four years ago, I sold my house near Chanate Road. I lived there for 20 years with no fencing as did all my other neighbors. We were each on about a half-acre, the deer used to roam and, yes, we did see foxes and on a rare occasion a mountain lion or a coyote.

We learned to live with it. As soon as I sold my house, the new owner put up fencing, I guess, to keep the wildlife out.

LINDA SOTTO

Santa Rosa

Caring for our young

EDITOR: I read that a mother orca whale continues to keep her dead calf’s body afloat after a week since it died (“Orca’s grief puts focus on endangered whales,” Thursday). The theory is that she and her supporting pod are grieving for the calf.

Then I turned the page to read about a migrant toddler who died as a result of possible negligent care of a respiratory illness shortly after being released from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Dilley, Texas (“Lawyer: Child died after ICE release”). Strangely, no one can even confirm the child’s name, but an immigration lawyer in Texas said she learned of the death online via a Washington, D.C. lawyer.

What can be learned when a pod of whales cares for their young better than we humans? If this doesn’t make you take stock of what’s happening in our country, we are in deeper trouble than I thought.

ROSE K. NOWAK

Petaluma

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