Letters to the Editor, Aug. 24 - 27

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No ‘culture’ in culture commission

EDITOR: Dear Sonoma City Council,

I read with interest the article in the I-T on the Cultural and Fine Arts Commission (“Culture Club: City Committee Has an Eye for Art,” Aug. 14). I would like to suggest a name change based on their actual activities: “The Public Art Installation Approval, Scholarship and Treasure Artist Appointment Commission.” My reasoning is that this committee is not involved in the promotion of culture (ostensibly its mission) in our community in any way more than this new name suggests. They seem uninterested in other important cultural activities in Sonoma, and are certainly not promoting culture in Sonoma to its residents or the outside world.

For example: I think people would agree that Sonoma Arts Live (SAL) is an important part of the cultural fabric of Sonoma… at least I hope they would as it has a commitment to bringing quality live performing art to our community, and is doing so year ‘round. Well it’s bad enough that SAL (a 501C-3) receives no support from the City of Sonoma, but as far as I can tell the performing arts as a whole do not receive any attention from the commission. (I understand the city may be raising the Transient Occupancy Tax. How about the council throw some of it toward the promotion and support of culture in Sonoma?)

My point it: How do you call a commission a Cultural and Fine Arts Commission when really all they do is approve public art installations, give out one scholarship a year, and select a Treasure Artist?

If the mission of the commission is truly to promote fine arts and culture in Sonoma that’s what they should be doing, and you should give them more that the paltry sum they now receive so they can do it effectively. If it isn’t, then change the name.

Rick Wynne


Surprise ending

EDITOR: I am a resident of Sonoma. A few weeks ago, I had strong stomach pains and went to the Emergency Department of Sonoma Valley Hospital. I was concerned it might be appendicitis. They did a CT scan and told me it was a bowel obstruction and wanted me to stay in the hospital until it worked itself out through a bowel movement. I stayed in emergency overnight and then was admitted as an inpatient, where I stayed one more night. I had a bowel movement and was discharged. I received a diagnosis, but not any direct treatment other than an IV solution to prevent dehydration. My insurer was billed for $40,866, including $10,846 for an abdominal CT scan and $15,323 for overnight in the emergency department. I don’t yet know how much I will be required to pay. Had I known these were the charges, I would not have gone there. I suggest that the hospital post rates (or at least inform patients prior to diagnosis/treatment) so that patients are not surprised later, as I was.

Robert Taylor


H2O rates not water under the bridge yet!

EDITOR: I am writing to protest the proposed increases in the Sonoma water rates beginning September 2018. Similar rate increases were unanimously rejected by the City Council in 2012, when it acknowledged that more information and due diligence were required, including considering a consolidation of functions with the Valley of the Moon Water District, examining the fixed-versus-usage costs (which are cheaper in nearby cities), and questioning the continuing high increases in the Sonoma County Water Agency’s charges to supply some 90 percent of Sonoma’s water needs.

None of this was done before new increases were imposed from 2014 through 2019. It was then stated that water rates “can be adjusted annually after January 2020 in accordance with state law using the San Francisco Bay Area Consumer Price Index.” This would keep the rates in line with operating costs. By state law, increases in water costs from the Sonoma County Water Agency could also be passed through to customers. The annual rate increases of 7.5 percent now proposed for fiscal years 2020-2023 vastly exceed both historic CPI increases and even the 6 percent annual cost increases expected from the water agency.

I have repeatedly questioned the excessive and continuing increase in water costs sanctioned by the Board of Supervisors year after year and suggested that a closer examination of the water agency’s budgets and expenditures were required. In 2013, I expressed my concern to Supervisor Gorin about the potential lack of cost control at the water agency by the reported prolific use of agency credit cards by employees, spending almost $1 million per year to “allow quick access to supplies for capital projects and services.” There has been no response.

And then, there is the City of Sonoma’s questionable transfers of funds from the Water Fund for other purposes while past maintenance and improvement in the local distribution system were deferred. One also questions the need to “install new advanced meters” when “smart” meters were already installed some years ago.

There are too many unanswered questions as well as unfounded assumptions as the basis for these proposed new rate increases. To enact a program of increases without resolving these matters is unconscionable while the projected increases in the fixed service charge and volumetric charge are outrageous.

The Council has had little time to thoroughly study the voluminous 2018 Water Study Report received less than two months ago. Thus, the rush to adopt new rates seems imprudent.

G. F. Simmel


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