How to make high-speed rail safe, reliable

Remember Amtrak Bourbonnais 1999! On 79-mph track (like Caltrain), Amtrak hit a heavy truck at a grade crossing, derailing two locomotives, scattering 11 of 14 cars, killing 11 passengers and injuring 128.

Caltrain has dozens of grade crossings between San Jose and San Francisco, and many points of public contact near its tracks. High-speed trains on Caltrain tracks would be highly vulnerable to accident and sabotage.

The California High Speed Rail Association should squander no more high-speed rail (HSR) money on Caltrain. Instead it should truncate HSR to the Bay Area at San Jose, with transfers there to Caltrain, the Capitol Corridor, the planned Silicon Valley BART and Valley Transportation Authority light rail. Junk the "one-seat ride" for San Francisco HSR patrons.

Later upgrade the Amtrak/Union Pacific East Bay Mulford line north to a transfer station at the BART overhead in Oakland, six minutes from Embarcadero station in San Francisco with a train every four minutes and extend it on to Sacramento. No new bay crossing!

HSR could be better, safer, more reliable and far less costly. High-speed rail really needs a secure, grade-separated and fenced route. Proposition 1A in 2008 called for "safe, reliable" HSR, and this is a good way to achieve it.

Robert S. Allen

Livermore BART Director, District 5, 1974-1988 Retired, SP (now UP) Western Division Engineering/Operations

Democratic bias a bit too obvious lately

Contra Costa County is not a decidedly liberal community, unlike many in California. With an average of 35 percent of the county population voting conservative since the 1992 presidential election, I would expect that as a trusted news source, the Contra Costa Times would display stories in a nonpartisan manner, refraining from any liberal or conservative bias. In fact, it is in your business' interest as a company to provide news that your readers align with, and in this case, it would be balanced.

On Page 5 of the May 25 publication, two stories titled "GOP targets Clinton ... Drive up negatives so she decides not to run" and —... President making effort to greet people" were featured side-by-side, showing a picture of Obama shaking hands with tourists. The use of the words "drive up negatives" and "targets" holds clear negative connotations, portraying the GOP as an antagonistic "bully." Following was an article praising Obama's spontaneous visit outside of the White House, portraying a Democrat as a personable, "plain-folk" representative.

I urge you to reconsider your placement of inherently biased articles, titles and subtitles. The traditional newspaper is not the correct medium for which political agendas should be allowed to surface. Without a source of unbiased news, there can be no hope for an informed electorate or political discussion truly worthwhile for democracy.

Kristine Craig

San Ramon

Appointing city clerk may be no better

Your paper advocates making the job of city clerk an appointed position instead of an elected one, citing, as an example, the disaster that was Kim Lehmkuhl's term as Pleasant Hill's elected clerk ("Nightmare ends when clerk quits," May 22).

Indeed. If Ms. Lehmkuhl had been appointed, then instead of resigning in the face of an impending recall election to seek employment elsewhere, she could have been kicked upstairs to a higher-paying job.

Paul Kotta

Livermore

Let schools know calendar just fine as is

The Pleasanton Unified School District Board is about to change the school calendar such that it begins the first week of August and concludes the Friday before Memorial Day weekend. They feel this will improve high school test scores and reduce student stress by allowing students to finish their final exams before the Christmas break, and they claim this is overwhelmingly supported by the teachers and management. This change has not been well publicized, but without your responses, it will become reality.

If you believe as we do that it's a bad idea to:

  • drastically modify our school calendar when all other surrounding school districts have not done so;

  • eliminate the best weather month of the year for family vacationing;

  • conflict with summertime extracurricular activities such as camp, sports, etc.;

  • affect all grades even though the perceived benefit is only for high schoolers;

  • and do this without adequately surveying parents, please let your school board know you disapprove of this plan. They have already decided this is in your child's best interest, so failure to act will mean your child will start the 2015 school year on Aug. 4.

    Mark Miller

    Pleasanton

    VA's patients need volunteer advocates

    I am a weekly volunteer at the Veterans Affairs clinic in Livermore. While I am not involved in the medical field, I do interact with the veterans.

    I believe what is needed at the VA medical facilities is a patient advocacy program that would be staffed by volunteers. Veterans who are having problems receiving care, or problems with their care, could contact the patient advocates. The advocate would intercede on their behalf with the VA to help make sure that the patient concerns are addressed in a timely manner and they do not fall through the cracks. The volunteer program is already in place at the VA, and as the veterans well-being is the only concern of the volunteers, it would seem to be a program that could benefit them.

    Jane Parish

    Danville