Union Democrat staff

Lower prices

To the editor:

To anti-Wal-Mart activists: In response to The Union Democrat's Feb. 9 front-page story, in which activists demonize Wal-Mart's planned grocery section expansion, and to your three follow-up letters to the editor, I respectfully suggest and request this:

Cease your hostility to us Sonorans. Let's work together for the good of all citizens, for our golden opportunity to hold down and put a stop to ever-increasing food prices. Let's rein them in and bring them down, while still maintaining good quality and value. Competition has throughout the ages been a proven method.

Sonora does not need any 24/7 grocery operation: Operating costs would go up, requiring off-setting increased pricing. Nobody gains, everyone loses.

Instead, use your good offices, time and talents, as well as your verbal and written expertise to combat Sonorans' very serious and immediate problem - excessive food prices. The need is great, for the benefit of the unemployed and non-affluent and hungry and low-wage earner and single parents and grandparents now having to feed their kids and grandkids, etc., etc., etc.

Please join us in this upcoming citizens/voters upheaval of hundreds if not thousands of money-strapped, dollar-conscious neighbors - to convince the Sonora Planning Commission that grocery store competition is vital to the life and good health of it's citizens, voters and businesses, too.

The next Wal-Mart environmental report should be out after April 1. By mid-March, our promotion will start. We hope you will join this most-important cause. We're ready for "bear."

James A. Doot


Board ineptitude

To the editor:

In response to Robert Rutherford's Feb. 22 guest opinion, "Strawberry Fire District Responds."

I find myself feeling appalled at what is either extreme ignorance or contempt for reality.

Mr. Rutherford claims that the district has a mutual aid agreement with the county, which denies it. This would be an easily settled claim if Mr. Rutherford would simply produce the document. At the least, his inability to do so shows laziness and unprofessionalism on behalf of the district, if it has managed to misplace such an important document.

Then Mr. Rutherford uses the winter weather as an excuse for the district's lack of response to the Strawberry Store fire. Mr. Rutherford, does your engine not have chains? Or, was the only "impassible" road the one going from your station to the store? Thankfully, Pinecrest found a path.

Mr. Rutherford then claims that district volunteers were attempting to respond, but heard that Pinecrest had the fire out and went back to shoveling snow off of driveways and roads. The work is far from done when a fire is extinguished, so why district volunteers did not continue to respond and assist is a question that board members should inquire about.

Finally, Mr. Rutherford has the nerve to mention the money that the district has been able to amass for "supplies and communication equipment." Perhaps if those dollars had been spent on a shovel, chains, and pagers, your district could have made it to the fire.

I hope that the residents of Strawberry recognize the board's ineptitude and look to partner with Pinecrest in order to get some service for what they pay for.

Kenny Hockett


(Hockett is a paramedic with Tuolumne County Ambulance.)

Great service

To the editor:

Kudos to Animal Control.

A little over two weeks ago I got bit by a teeny, weeny dog. Within two hours after reporting it while at Prompt Care, I received a call from Animal Control advising me that the dog would be picked up and quarantined and asking if I was all right. The lady who called me was very concerned that I was OK and asked if there was anything they could do. I said no thanks.

Ten days to the day she called me again to tell me the dog was being released and all was well. Their service was so great that I had to let everyone know.

Thanks again, Animal Control.

Gary van Den Bergh


Trader Joe's diatribe

To the editor

Re: Scot Turner's Feb. 16 letter.

Scot, was your diatribe a joke? It's obvious you don't have a problem with Trader Joe's, you have a problem with too much time on your hands.

Trader Joe's would be a welcome addition to our community. It would bring much-needed jobs to the area and wouldn't stop our citizens from shopping at grocery stores. Meanwhile, I'm still trying to figure out your comment about Trader Joe's and what kind of car the fine people of Sonora drive.

Diane Todaro


Kill the lobbyists?

To the editor:

It was Dick the butcher in Shakespeare's Henry VI who famously said "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers." We vexed citizens nowadays might instead say, "Let's kill all the lobbyists."

A record $3.5 billion was spent on lobbying in 2009. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce alone reportedly spent $194 million against the health care bills. It's hard to make any sense of numbers like these - they are mind-numbing. Two more cases are from a single issue (Feb 5, 2010) of the New York Times:

One headline read: "An army of Lobbyists sent to kill 'Common Sense' reform," as the Senate was attempting to overhaul banking industry practices. Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd voiced dismay at "the refusal of the large financial firms to work constructively ..."

Another headline told us that "Industry lobbying imperils Obama overhaul of student loans." Everyone familiar with the present arrangement knows that the lending institutions are reaping billions in profits. Sallie Mae, the biggest student lender, spent a reported $3.48 million on lobbying last year.

How is it that we - the people, the governed - abide a process wherein needed legislation is routinely contorted or killed by lobbyists and their corporate employers?

Many congressmen, ironically, are often powerless themselves in the face of big-money from rich organizations. It thus seems unlikely that Congress will soon rise and vote to rein in the lobby industry.

We the people are (also) mostly powerless. Or are we? Could a big citizen movement be mounted that would vote only for candidates who vowed resistance to lobbyists? Imagine that!

Dick Peterson


Support tourist tax

To the editor:

This June, vote yes on a tax increase.

Here's the good news: If you live here, it won't affect you. The transient occupancy tax, better described as the "tourist tax," is levied when we stay in hotels, motels or other lodging. Most communities work hard to put that money to good use, ours included. This increase will be from 8 percent to 10 percent, the same rate that many nearby counties already charge.

The Tuolumne County general fund will get most to help support county services. A smaller portion will go to the Visitors Bureau to help it promote our county. There's also hope that something could go to support a foundation for our arts community.

We could work more efficiently to coordinate, collaborate and create new art-tourism events, find and write grants more effectively and help set a welcoming "stage" for worldwide guests.

Why not fill our lodges, restaurants and shops every weekend? That's good for our local economy.

In addition, a vibrant cultural life creates greater appeal for new businesses. Improving the quality of life through the arts can strengthen what we offer new industries.

We have affordable business real estate, good schools, beautiful natural surroundings. Let's also work to enhance our live theatres, art studios, galleries, film making, children's theater, poetry, festivals, live music, public art and chances to do art.

Our creative community is ready, willing and able to help expand offerings to tourists and residents alike. A strong arts commission or council would affect locals, could have an exponential impact on the quality of our lives.

B.Z. Smith