Union Democrat staff

Rim Fire heroes are true heroes

To the Editor:

As the Rim Fire enters its fifth week I think it is time to reflect on the heroes that came to our rescue. Too often people use the term, "hero," lightly. They call a sports figure a hero after a great performance in a game. A true hero is someone who drops, everything at a moments notice, leaves behind his or her family and home for weeks at a time to work in hellish conditions to try to save the lives and property of complete strangers. A person who puts themselves on the frontline of a major wildfire with wild flames whipping all around them. And a soldier who travels halfway around the world to protect our freedom!

These brave men and women, especially the local deputies, police and firefighters who still worked as their homes and families were threatened by fire. They are the heroes! And let's not forget that a hero is someone who also leaves his or her family and home and comes to our rescue to evacuate us and protect our lives and property. And when the time comes that we must leave they stay around to guard our homes from those who would take advantage of the situation.

Everyone agrees now as the fire is still burning but I challenge everyone to remember these, "heroes," when the contract negotiations come around for firefighters and police and there is talk about cutting pay and benefits. If we can pay sports figures millions of dollars to "play a game," something is wrong with our society for not providing for our "true heroes."

Remember the ones who run into fire as we run away and remember the ones who run down a dark alley after a man with a gun when most if not all of us would run in the other direction and remember our soldiers who are still fighting for our freedom!

Remember what a "true hero" is before you ever use the word again!

Joe Riva


Loss of planning director impactful

To the Editor:

Rebecca Willis has resigned. For the sixth time in seven years, there will be a new Calaveras County planning director.

Willis made significant improvements to the department, which included building a capable staff, promptly processing over-the-counter projects, moving forward a backlog of more complicated projects, and properly recommending the denial of two projects that could not be lawfully approved under the current General Plan. And she was moving the long-awaited General Plan update toward completion. But, apparently, she ruffled the wrong feathers, and determined it was time to find another job.

The planning director serves at the will of the Board of Supervisors. At any Tuesday board meeting, just three members of the Board can fire the Director without cause. This has serious implications. For example, it is easy for a Supervisor (or two) to threaten and intimidate the Director, and the lack of job security makes it easier for other jurisdictions to poach a talented director. They don't even have to offer more money or loftier titles - just a little peace of mind.

We elect our Supervisors for four years. They don't have to worry about three of their colleagues firing them. Perhaps it's time for the Supervisors to offer the same protection to the planning director. If the Supervisors really care about the future of Calaveras County, they will offer an employment contract to the next planning director such that he or she need not live in fear of losing the job for doing the job well.

Kerry Williams

Community Action Project/Calaveras Planning Coalition

Anti-science politics are costly

To the Editor:

With the Rim Fire surpassing the $100 million mark - the cost of fighting it, not the greater cost of resources destroyed - we already see a reversion to politically motivated positions which prevented timely, needed action in the past.

We need more logging activity, with a massive investment in thinning, prescribed burning and turning forest waste into energy. The cost may not be met with the value of the timber.

The alternative is another Complex Fire or Rim Fire down the road. Revisiting the spotted owl wars of the past, pitting loggers against environmentalists, only fuels political ambitions, primarily on the climate change-denier Republican side. When forestry works toward a healthy environment, we can foresee a healthy industry, both processing timber and improving the condition of the forest.

Personnel need authority to determine appropriate prescriptions, the objective being a mosaic, with treated areas arresting runaway burns. Public input is necessary, but should not stymie timely action. Process is not a substitute for results. Park and Forest Service staff seem overly intimidated by ambitious and often willfully ignorant politicians and their supporters, activists overstating positions on every issue and some extremists who oppose all logging. Timely salvage of burnt timber from this fire will be a test of our ability to act.

We should recognize the reality that virtually all forest will burn, even if not this decade or century. Slash should be used to produce power, with co-gen plants supported to compete with cheap fossil fuels which fail to monetize environmental costs, and freed from the requirements governing coal, which could have remained sequestered in the ground

This fire and other environmental disasters afflicting the country surely tell us that gridlock and anti-science demagoguery costs lives and jeopardizes the nation's welfare.

Paolo Maffei