Don't overlook academics

Headlined in the Jan. 10 Voice front page is a remarkable achievement: Three East Bay high school football teams have won North Coast titles.

These victories deserve recognition. And, of course, we all need physical activity in our lives.

However, as a tutor of students who are preparing to take the college admission tests (SAT and ACT), I perceive varsity athletics from a different angle. Some of my students are excellent football and basketball players. I help them perform at a high level also when they sit down on a Saturday morning to take the college admissions exam.

The problem is this: Playing a high school sport at a varsity level leaves precious little time in the day for a student to sharpen the academic skills that are required to excel in school and on the SAT or ACT.

Even if a college-bound high school student obtains an athletic scholarship, will he or she be adequately prepared to handle a college curriculum? Probably not, if the pursuit of athletic prowess has displaced the pursuit of learning.

Raymond Barglow

Berkeley

Council's plan purely political

I object to the City Council's proposed changes to district borders.

This plan is purely political. It is an attempt to unseat a progressive council member, Kriss Worthington.

The conservatives on the council and the mayor should be ashamed of themselves.

Terry Cochrell

Berkeley

Self-control or gun control

I am referring to the recent fatal shooting of a texting father in a Florida movie theater.

Smartphone addiction is a common problem in our country, at least in part because it is not yet socially recognized as a problem.

Handgun addiction is a common problem in our country, at least in part because it is not yet politically recognized as a problem.

The smartphone user was rude and selfish. The handgun user was, for at least one moment, insane and murderous.

Waiting for the great mass of us to reliably develop self-control is a fool's errand.

Guns, as physical objects, can be regulated. Self-control, a personal, psychological act recreated each moment by hundreds of millions of us, cannot be reliably regulated.

What if the shooter had been armed with nothing more than the same popcorn supposedly thrown by the rudely texting father of one young girl? Now, how many dead?

"Guns don't kill people, people kill people" ... particularly when they're well armed.

The issue was and is, gun control.

Michael Steinberg

Berkeley

Not the time to pay down debt

It was interesting to read the preponderance of letters in the Jan. 18 Times that urge a paying down of California's debt.

The authors of those letters seem to believe economics is a simple matter of common sense. If only this were so.

Pandering, however, to their view, consider this: Borrowing costs are, at the moment, unnaturally low. According to their own ideas, the profligate spending from President Barack Obama on down (quite incorrect, of course, because while in office, Obama has dramatically reduced the annual increment) will result in inflation, a rise in the cost of borrowing.

It would seem, therefore, that the sensible time to pay off debt lies in the future, when costs are high, not now, when rates, by comparison, are low.

Now for tax. The turning point in the California budget came very simply: The electorate agreed to an increase of tax on, primarily, the very rich. The latter have benefitted immeasurably in the last few years and the tax increase barely scratches their gains, that have been vastly greater than anything achieved by the middle class.

What Gov. Jerry Brown should be doing is continuing the process of moderately redressing the dramatic inequalities the last decades have brought. Whether he requires further spending, for instance to stimulate the economy (an entirely orthodox view), is a matter for debate -- but if he does, the time to borrow, or equivalently, to maintain debt, is now.

Michael Bloxham

Kensington

Inexcusable behavior

Lack of preparation of council meeting minutes by elected Pleasant Hill City Clerk Kim Lehmkuhl is inexcusable and has created city liability.

Her comment, "I didn't run for this job to be a stenographer ... I want to make a product that's actually useful," indicates total lack of understanding of city clerk duties.

Government Code Section 40801 requires the city clerk to prepare council meeting minutes and keep them in a book. Apparently, Lehmkuhl is unaware of this law.

We former Certified Municipal City Clerks hold the job of keeper of official city records and city historian sacred. We are appalled by Lehmkuhl's disrespect for the importance of official minutes.

Failure to respond to council and city staff members' requests for minutes reflects an arrogant attitude. Tweeting during council meetings, when she should be taking notes for preparation of minutes, is unprofessional and raises the question of competency.

We recommend her salary be held in escrow until the minutes are completed. If Lehmkuhl is unable or unwilling to carry out her statutory duties, she should resign.

Barbara M. Rivara

Walnut Creek

Jacqueline Bucholz

Albany

Marie McKechnie

Pleasant Hill

Peggy Ezidro

Antioch

Rivara is a retired elected Walnut Creek city clerk; Bucholz a retired Albany city clerk; McKechnie a retired Berkeley city clerk; and Ezidro a retired Pleasanton city clerk.

Easy multiple choice question

If all the members of our armed forces were sons and daughters of senators or representatives in Congress, how long would it be before all our forces in Afghanistan were re-assigned to the United States:

(a) Five Minutes?

(b) Ten minutes?

(c) Fifteen Minutes?

Frederick Shaw

El Cerrito