I was happy to see City Newspaper address the crucial issue of over development ("Growing, Growing, Gone?" February 2). As the article suggests, local officials need to remove loopholes and ambiguities from regulations on open-space development, in order to strengthen the efforts to preserve what is left of the country landscape. If we fail to do so, over-development will devastate the local habitat and the wildlife that depend on it, subsequently eradicating the rustic character of the area.

            In addition to strengthening open-space preservation efforts, our state officials, specifically Senators Robach, Maziarz and Rath, have a significant opportunity to preserve much of the Rochester rural area. Senate bill 2081, the Clean Water Protection-Flood Prevention Act would better protect New York's wetlands, potentially preventing development on wetlands in the area larger than one square acre.

            The state Assembly has passed its version of the bill, and the Senate has given it significant, bipartisan support. By co-sponsoring the bill, our local senators will not only help maintain clean water and help provide habitat for wildlife, but will also prevent flood-related property damage in the region, as local wetlands play a significant role in absorbing rain water run-off and snow melt.

            Garry Cranker, Whittier Road, Ogden


Regarding KrestiaDeGeorge's outstanding article "Burned Out" (February 23): I'd like to add that if tough-on-drugs policies worked, the quixotic goal of a drug-free America would have been reached a long time ago.

            And if tolerant drug policies created more drug use, the Netherlands would have much higher drug-usage rates than the United States. They do not. In fact, the Dutch use marijuana and other recreational drugs at much lower rates than Americans do. See the web site:

            And if tolerant drug policies caused more overall crime, especially violent crime, the Dutch would have much higher crime rates than the US. They do not. The Dutch murder rate is less than one-third the per-capita murder rate of the US, and their rate of incarceration is about one-seventh the US incarceration rate.

            In the Netherlands, marijuana is sold to adults without criminal sanctions in coffee shops. In the United States, marijuana is sold by criminals who often sell other, much more dangerous drugs, and who often offer free samples of the more dangerous drugs to their marijuana customers --- thus the gateway effect.

            Legalize, regulate, and control the sale of marijuana, and we close the gateway. Legalize all types of recreational drugs, and we would make the term "drug-related crime" as obsolete as buggy whips.

            Kirk Muse, Mesa, Arizona


Paul Van Ness claims that $1.4 trillion has been "saved" in a "Social Security Trust Fund" (The Mail, March 2). Wrong. As he admits later, what Van Ness calls a "trust fund" is simply a stack of government bonds --- IOUs that have to be paid back out of future revenues. With interest. There is no gold in FortKnox just waiting to be spent on future retirees; there is a stack of government promissory notes waiting to be repaid from the general fund when Social Security withholding is no longer sufficient to pay scheduled benefits.

            This is a problem foisted upon us by decades of short-sighted and self-serving politicians, both Republican and Democrat, who should have been saving the surplus instead of spending it to make the deficit look smaller and scribbling out IOUs for their successors to pay. But that's another issue, and one that would simply have postponed the inevitable had they done it right: When outgo exceeds income, even savings eventually run out.

            In 2015, by most estimates, Social Security revenue will no longer exceed benefits paid, and the Social Security Administration will have to start cashing in the bonds make up the difference. Where will the government get the money to cash in those bonds to pay Social Security benefits? From the general fund --- income tax, sales tax, and the like, which means that if nothing else changes, less money will be available for other government programs, or a general tax increase must be passed, or Social Security benefits must be cut, or the money will have to be borrowed.

            And let us keep in mind that entitlement programs and interest on the national debt already make up the largest segment of the national budget. Even if we make the assumption that money can be found in the general fund to cover these bonds, eventually there will be no more bonds to cover, no more IOUs to cash in. There will be nothing left that's earmarked for Social Security, nothing remaining that can be called a trust fund by even the most motivated partisan hack, and the system becomes the financial equivalent of Medicare, only larger.

            If anyone thinks the national debt is huge now, just wait: The number that results as we try to fill the black hole of Social Security by borrowing will be describable only through the use of terms such as "googolplex."

            The date when even the IOUs are gone is most often reported as 2042, but the exact date is irrelevant. What's important is that we are now standing in the railroad tunnel with the retiring baby-boomers on the track behind us and the headlight of the approaching financial crunch clearly visible in front. Does it really matter how fast the trains approach, or is the fact that the trains are already in the tunnel the important one?

            Even President Clinton, along with the late and highly respected Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, acknowledged the approaching problem with Social Security as a true crisis as far back as 1998. The recent push by President Bush is hardly a newly minted quasi-crisis invented by Republicans and the current administration in an effort to dismantle the program as part of some Machiavellian conservative agenda.

            Sure, there is no emergency today, or this week, or this year, and the system ain't broke yet. Shall we wait until the trains collide?

            Rich Young, Bakerdale Road, Greece


On the heels of a man riding his high horse screaming "The Red Ink Is Coming, the Red Ink Is Coming," I do not anticipate much sober, reasoned debate about Social Security or, as Jack Webb might have said, "just the facts ma'am."

            Congress might consider economic principles and sound ideas of saving and spending and apply them to the entire federal budget. This not the time to be rushed into uninformed action by the inarticulate screams of a man claiming to see a light in some church tower. We might even consider George the Humble's ramblings about his bravery at touching the third rail. We saw no attempt at rail touching when re-election loomed in term one. In courage, as in comedy, timing is everything. Is it possible to do the wrong thing at the right time?

            Tim Shea, Nelson Street, Rochester


John Walsh's March 16 letter on Social Security contained an incorrect attribution. The quotation that the Trust Funds "do not consist of real economic assets that can be drawn down in the future" came from President Clinton's Fiscal Year 2000 Budget, not from the Social Security Administration.


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