Union Democrat staff

Modest income

To the editor:

The topic of public pensions seems interwoven into most newspapers these days.

As a retired teacher, the educator in me feels the need to set the record straight on a few key points. Many people seem to think that teachers receive pensions as a free benefit when, in fact, they pay into their own retirement account. The average retired teacher paid into his or her retirement for more than 26 years and receives an average of $2,700 per month in benefits.

Unlike corporate workers, teachers are required to contribute to their pensions; most paid 8 percent into the California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS), which is higher than the rate private industry workers pay for Social Security.

In general, teachers aren't eligible for Social Security so their CalSTRS pension is their only guaranteed income in retirement. Just as private-sector retirees rely on Social Security, retired teachers rely on CalSTRS. Teachers made contributions in good faith, were promised a pension in return and should be able to depend on this modest retirement income.

Retired educators in Tuolumne, Amador and Calaveras counties have contributed more than 30,000 hours of volunteer work in their communities. Retirement for educators now means service.

Lenore Shively, president

California Retired

Teachers Association

Mother Lode, Division 87


Burns needed

To the editor:

John Muir would do back flips upon learning of more prescribed burning (fall and winter, duh) in Yosemite and elsewhere. A recent letter ("Stop the burning," Mary Jane Vicars, Oct. 12) described the prescribed burn policy in Yosemite as utter mismanagement, malfeasance and not according to nature's (and God's) random order.

Stupendous stupidity aside (summer burn?), far more burning is required everywhere. After decades of "put-all-fires-out" blind management, many forests and national parks require more burning. The problem is, bureaucratically, it can't be done.

Nature requires that we have "boots-on-the-ridge" savvy, seasoned firefighters and foresters who are fully authorized to declare prescribed burns as they see fit. With all local, state and federal honchos' approval, let these burn specialists refine prescribed burns to include selective logging and mega-fire forest management practices

Our urban to forest interface is a proven firestorm nightmare waiting for the right conditions to erupt (remember Oakland?). Since the word "burn" will soon morph into a metaphor for this century, we should all ask Obama to consider prudent fire management as a great way to combat unemployment.

Dave Maloney


Another theory

To the editor:

Re: "From the Past" by Bob Holton ("Names of places remain a mystery," Oct. 14) about the origin of Tuolumne County's name.

"Talmalamne", meaning "clusters of tee pees made of stone", may have been taken too literally. Since our "aboriginal friends" were quite spiritual and closely connected to everything around them, maybe that definition should be reconsidered.

My theory is this: Is it possible that their worship was appreciation of the land? Just look at the painting by Thomas Hill (or any of the other, too numerous to count, paintings, photos, etc. of Yosemite and other great granite cliffs of our higher elevations). Doesn't it resemble giant stone tee pees? At least, in my eyes it does.

Maybe it pays to be a dreamer ...

Sandra A. Prosco


Public option

To the editor:

People all over the occupational map want a public option as part of health care reform. Further, the American people, and they are a majority, want this in the health care bill.

I don't think Congress gets it. The American people are more concerned with the representative character of Congress. We want a public option. Don't you get it?

Andrew Jay Bell