Union Democrat staff

Athletic upgrades misuse of bond $$

To the Editor:

Administrative offices at Columbia College are undergoing a $10 million makeover. The 50-year-old bleachers at Summerville High are too steep and need to be leveled somehow. Sonora High plans to swap out a pool and tennis courts for ... a pool and tennis courts. How do these projects enhance education?

Our schools are awash in bond money provided by the trusting voters of Tuolumne County. Property owners will be paying for these expenditures for decades. Pre-election promises have evaporated, new (primarily athletic) priorities have emerged, the various spending plans have changed radically.

This is a problem, because it looks like a betrayal of the public trust (even if it isn't). How can it be fixed? What about a freeze on bond sales until we have agreed on what the heck we're buying? Or using only a portion of the money, getting the most bang for the buck, and reassessing. There should be a bond administrator (county) scrutinizing these pricey proposed projects, because we really can't expect the school districts to have the necessary expertise. Others may have more and better ideas, but it's important to handle these bond measures right this time, or the voters will never pass another one.

Mary Tune

Twain Harte

In support of the Sonora pool project

To the Editor:

While we may not be as loud as the opposition, there are many of us who support the construction of a new aquatic center at Sonora High School. I was fully aware that plans to improve athletic facilities, including possibly the pool, were part of the intended use of Measure J funds. It was one of the reasons I supported it.

In rural areas like ours, local government often depends on joint use partnerships with schools to make available recreational facilities to its citizenry. Sonora High has a long history of such cooperation. All year long one can find community members, many non-students, using the track, fields and the pool for personal athletic and recreational pursuits. All of my children learned to swim there and all eventually joined the lifeguard and swim instruction staff at the Sonora pool. It serves an invaluable service to residents of all ages who don't have access to a backyard pool or a gym membership.

The pool will be put to good use not only by the P.E. classes and sports teams at the high school, although I believe those to be important uses, but by the community as a whole. The present pool is in terrible shape and will have to be retired in the coming few years. The bathrooms at the pool are downright scary. Instead of bemoaning the fact that kids are spending too much time inside in front of screens when they could be getting exercise, I say give them an awesome place to do just that.

I'm a property owner and taxpayer, and I am happy to have my tax dollars be used, in part, to create a healthier, more active community.

Carlene Maggio


Climate change impact costly

To the Editor:

The year 2012 marked the hottest year on record and it looks as though 2013 is going to result in even higher temperatures. The National Organization for Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has announced that a rise in serious hurricanes will accompany the rising temperatures in 2014. Extreme weather conditions and changing temperatures are not only impacting the environment but are costing taxpayers money. Superstorm Sandy, wildfires on the West Coast and a drought in the Midwest cost US taxpayers over 100 billion dollars last year. Yet government officials continue to deny the existence of climate change.

"Indeed, many scientists maintain that [greenhouse gas] emissions from electric power plants are not contributing significantly to overall warming trends."

Stephen Miller

Exiting president and CEO, American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity ACCCE

-The Nation, April 13, 2009

Ninety-sevent percent of top climate scientists and every major National Academy of Science agree that man-made pollution is warming our climate. Here's how they know. First, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased about 40 percent since humans started burning dirty energy like coal. Second, the carbon from dirty energy has a unique chemical signature that differentiates it from other sources of carbon - so we can confirm that it's coming from us. Third, we know it is carbon - not natural forces like the sun - that's responsible for the recent increase in global temperatures. Why? The lower level of the atmosphere is warming, while the middle layer is cooling. If the sun were responsible for most of the recent temperature change on Earth, both layers of the atmosphere would be warming. The evidence is inescapable: Humans are changing our climate.

Deborah Baron

Twain Harte