Union Democrat staff

The Real America

To the editor:

As Vietnam combat veterans from 1967 to '69, my wife, Jeannie, a surgical nurse and first lieutenant volunteer, and I, a drafted, cardiac-chest surgeon major, the Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans parade Sunday was a very special event.

Together we performed over 2,000 major operations on our guys, the occasional enemy and innocent civilians, with remarkable survival rates. We both are members of California's largest Vietnam veteran group, Sonora's Chapter 391 of the VVA. Our guys give college scholarships, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners to the needy, provide split wood to the less fortunate, decorate graves, send our color guard to services and give back to this community in many different ways - big time.

That simple fact, and the enthusiastic, emotional, flag-waving crowd along Washington Street Sunday, told me all I needed to know about Tuolumne County.

Those of us who were spit upon wearing our sweaty, often, blood-stained fatigues at our San Francisco Airport homecoming, hearing "baby killers" and worse, finally saw an outpouring of real love and appreciation. We went when we were called, we served, we still are not sure if it was right or wrong and many came home nearly destroyed - if they were lucky enough to come home at all.

This war lasted 17 years and killed 58,000 of our fellow Americans in the prime of youth. Jeannie and I thank all who were there Sunday, many running out to hug us. We never got that welcome home 40 years ago, but it was well worth waiting for.

Now I really know why I moved here from Monterey 22 years ago. This is the real America. Thank you.

Dr. John and Nurse Jeannie Baldwin

Twain Harte

Transparency urged

To the editor:

In the course of my campaign for auditor controller of Calaveras County, I have been investigating government waste in Calaveras County. During this time, I came across information regarding Coroner Kevin Raggio that I turned over to the press for investigation.

As part of this investigation, I reviewed the mid-year Calaveras County financial shortfall. This began on March 5 of this year with a look at the budget and departments that are experiencing possible irregularities. The coroner's office was one that stood out. With a budget of $156,441, it had expenditures totaling $96,025. This is 61 percent of its budget as of mid-year.

I had a short, informal meeting with Kevin Raggio on March 9, and asked him several questions regarding his budget projections and expenditures as of mid-year.

Beginning on March 11, I had several meetings with elected officials and citizens regarding possible performance irregularities. But instead, they informed me of an ongoing criminal investigation regarding the coroner.

On March 17, I gave the limited information that I had to the press with the assurance that my name would not be used. I told them to investigate fully before writing any story. There was a leak, and my name was made public.

Due to threats and comments made toward me, I am telling the public that I was the person that took the story of Coroner Raggio to the press. The idea that a criminal investigation into professional conduct of an elected official was never made public is repulsive in my mind. Transparency in a democracy is as important as the right to vote.

Carl Stoughton

West Point

OHV decision

To the editor:

As an avid angler who enjoys fishing in the Stanislaus National Forest, I'm disappointed in the recent decision by the Forest Service to legalize 137 miles of user-created off-highway-vehicle routes that affect water quality and wildlife.

Part of fishing for me is heading to a quiet stream, away from noise and pollution. Noisy all-terrain vehicles or motorcycles speeding acres rutted hillsides, or zipping down across stream crossings, add to the watershed problems that already come from hundreds of miles of poorly maintained roads in the national forest.

The Deer Creek area is one good example of an OHV use area where ruts send sediment downslope into streams during heavy rains, and where OHV riders often disturb wintering deer and other wildlife.

The recent Forest Service decision will allow these problems to become legal and permanent.

We need to figure out a way where everyone can enjoy the benefits of the Stanislaus Forest, but not in sensitive areas that aren't appropriate for that use. Opening up 137 miles of user-created OHV routes and many miles of previously closed roads is bad for water quality, bad for those of us who enjoy quiet recreation and bad for tourism.

I look forward to the time when the Stanislaus Forest moves away from favoring OHV use over other important uses of the forest.

Patrick M. Stone


Where's the beef?

To the editor:

To those who are outraged over the successful and lawful passage of modest health care reform, one question:

The Republicans fought this ferociously - on behalf of greedy corporations. Ask a teapartier to name one part of the legislation that they think is flawed, and be prepared to wait for any specific and intelligent answers. The bill will save thousands of lives each year by requiring every citizen to have health insurance (providing assistance to those who need help being able to afford coverage). The bill will limit corporate misbehaviors, such as cutting off coverage to people who get sick and denying coverage based on preexisting conditions. The law will not allow taxpayer dollars to be used for insuring illegal aliens or provide abortions.

Where's the beef, teapartiers? Or is your objection to the law only about anger and hate about who we have in the White House these days and how incredibly intelligent, fair and skilled he is?

Bob Wetzel