Union Democrat staff

PERS defended

To the editor:

On Jan. 5, The Democrat ran an editorial criticizing the Public Employees' Retirement System's "3 percent at 50" program. I am a newly-retired, former California "safety" employee who worked hard to earn those benefits.

Many people are ill-informed about the PERS programs, including 3 percent at 50. Active employees pay into the retirement system to varying extents, depending on their civil service agreements or memoranda of understanding with their branches of state employment.

There have been many attempts in recent years to dissolve or "raid" the PERS program, most notably, the brazen attempt by then-governor Pete Wilson and Assemblyman Keith Richman. The thrust of their attempt, which resulted in threatened legal action against the governor and a permanent revision of law to prevent future unlawful attempts as such, was to balance the then $15 billion deficit.

Richman cited PERS as having "...over $21 billion in unfunded liability." This was simply not the case. Even in these trying times, PERS is completely solvent and has some $200 billion in assets - assets that we California State employees paid for with our money.

Stephen Lampl

Twain Harte

Policy change

To the editor:

We are writing regarding The Democrat's Jan. 7 story, "SHS board says PE exemption a Pandora's box."

We want to make parents aware of some facts. The article stated, "The instances for which an exemption could be granted under the state Education Code do not apply to Brittany Malone's case." This is false and is supported by Ed Code 51241 and Sonora High School Board Policy 6142.7.

Our daughter, Brittany Malone, was qualified for an exemption from her second year of PE. The denial was an SHS choice not to allow what the law allows. One reason for denial was the school's stance that Athletic PE does not meet "state standards." Why do other schools in and outside of our league allow this? Again, SHS's choice, not law.

We received calls of support, some from PE teachers outside of our district. They informed us that Ed Code really applies to freshman and sophomore teams too, not just varsity teams.

So, if you are a parent who has a gifted athlete and doesn't want your child to drop important high school-college prep classes to take PE, we suggest you hop on the new PE summer school option available this year.

Mr. Dearden (the school principal) said the PE graduation policy review committee will continue. He is aware of our continued interest to be on this committee. If you want to be a parent voice, please call SHS. We concur with PE teacher LaDeane Hansten's response, "I think we've beaten the horse to death." Now, let's hop on a fresh horse and gallop towards a policy change!

Jon and Bebo Malone


What was lost

To the editor:

Your Jan. 9 story about BLM's Peoria Wildlife Management Area properly acknowledges that the 2,500 acres of "wildlife" area created to mitigate the loss of 12,500 acres of Stanislaus River canyon inundated by New Melones was not an even trade. But then the story extols the virtues of the mitigation area, leaving out any description of what was lost when the canyon flooded. Let this old-timer help a bit and simultaneously reminisce:

Lost was what river activist Mark Dubois called a place that, "touched people's hearts like few places have. It was accessible, but because you had these 1,000 foot cliffs around you, you felt as if you were 100 miles away from civilization." Also lost was free flowing river access to limestone caves (Coral and Crystal) with their icicle-like stalactites and stalagmites; the magnificent fig tree at Duck Bar reputed to be the largest fig tree in the world; the rickety wooden suspension bridge first built by a prospector circa 1938; the hikes up Rose Creek and the South Fork for a dip in the swimming holes; the beautiful growth of maiden hair fern across the river from Grapevine Gulch; remnants of gold-mining equipment dating back to the 1800s at places like Otter Bar; the many mortar holes dug by ancient Me Wuks for grinding acorns into food products; wildlife sightings running from bald eagles to river otters to bats and rare spiders in the limestone caves; and much more.

In return we got a string of broken promises from the federal government, and a recent camping and boat-launching fee hike at the beginning of the worst recession in memory.

Jerry Cadagan