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Letters to the Editor 

Guarding the Coast
The oil and gas industry's front organizations, including America's Wetland Foundation run by Big Oil front man, R. King Milling ("Coast Guarding," Aug. 26, 2008), is nothing more than an attempt to have taxpayers foot the bill for Big Oil's destruction of our wetlands in its oil-and-gas operations along the coast over the last 50 years, which returned billions in profits to its already gloated coffers.

While Milling and the other oil and gas henchmen on the Coastal Restoration and Protection Authority ponder ways to avoid responsibility for Big Oil's destruction of our wetlands, we lose more miles of coastline. What will it take for the citizens of Louisiana, the Gulf Coast and our elected leaders to wake up and finally hold the oil companies responsible for their destructive behavior? Evidently, $4 per gallon of gas and destruction of our homes, property and loved ones is not enough.

Vincent L. Bowers

Commentary Veto
The article on Gov. Bobby Jindal ("Vetting the Vetoes," Commentary, July 22) was the most asinine thing I have ever read in your paper. Come on people, lets move on with a better Louisiana. It's bad enough I have to live here knowing the general public voted for Kathleen Blanco and Ray Nagin. Since all my relatives do not live in this state, I am tired of being made fun of at family outings. Help me out here.

Jeff Womble

Update Homestead Exemption
I had an opportunity to check the Bossier Parish Tax Assessor's Office for a copy of my property description. After reviewing the description, I noticed the property tax for 2007. I also noticed the estimated tax for 2008.

The property tax amount for 2008 had nearly doubled from 2007. There appeared to be an error in the amount, so I contacted the Tax Assessor's Office for clarification. The estimated amount on my printout was correct and was due to a parish-wide property tax review. I questioned who determined the property tax exemption of $75,000 for property, and it turned out to be our Louisiana Legislators. I asked when was the last property tax exemption change made. The answer I received was that the Louisiana property exemption of $75,000 had not changed since the 1960s.

Louisiana property tax exemption should be increased to the average present-day property value and possibly voted on by Louisiana property owners only. I encourage all property owners to contact their Legislators for this worthwhile issue.

Leroy Taylor

The Never-ending Debate
In this day and age, rife with insurance gouging — both health and vehicle — who in their right mind would admittedly stump for the right to wear no helmet when riding a motorcycle? Ken Behr's argument ("More About Helmets," Letters to the Editor, July 22) that Motorcycle Rider Education is an effective means for preventing injury and loss of life is absolutely right — if the driver is wearing a helmet, something that almost all motorcycle safety courses acknowledge.

The sad fact of life is that as autmobile drivers become more and more profuse, they spend less and less time looking in their mirrors. No matter how wonderfully Mr. Behr and his ilk handle their hogs, no one can account for the rogue wave of mishaps that afflict New Orleans and most other cities where autos, trucks and motorcycles share the streets. Not to mention the fact that the helmet law actually benefits both taxpayers and insurance companies.

The freedom to decide is one of the greatest gifts of the bill of rights, but don't mistake freedoms for stupidity. Cherishing First Amendment rights in this modern day means allowing that some rules and laws — i.e. no murder, no thievery — must be placed on the citizenry. Going helmetless might not end up in Ken Behr's death, but allowing the helmet bill to fail smells of gross abuse itself, a common case of tough-guy machismo intervening with common sense.

H.A. Cherry

Care Is There
As an individual with almost a decade of experience in both direct services and planning for the HIV/AIDS continuum of care, I am concerned that [author David] Winkler-Schmidt ("What's in their Wallets?," Cover, Aug. 19) chose only to highlight negative, conflict-ridden aspects of the HIV/AIDS continuum of care and omitted mention of the many positive efforts that improved the delivery of such care and services in the last few years.

More than 2,350 persons living with HIV/AIDS received critical medical and supportive services during the last program year, and more than $7 million was expended to provide this care. From 2006 to 2007, the estimated level of HIV-positive individuals accessing medical care increased by 7 percent. Twenty distinct service categories help eligible individuals get into care, stay in care and stay healthy. Eleven agencies are funded by the Part A grant to the Office of Health Policy to provide the highest-quality services, which are required to be delivered in a culturally sensitive and fiscally sound manner. Services have continued to be available to any client in need while agencies address reimbursement-related matters.

A strong collaborative planning approach addresses issues related to HIV care and services. The Mayor's Office of Health Policy and AIDS Funding (OHP), under the direction of Fran Lawless, helps to facilitate this collaborative approach through communication and participation with diverse constituents, including HIV planning bodies, other Ryan White funding streams and HIV/AIDS-related programs. OHP has successfully increased funding for the EMA, expanded the scope of its office's programs and consistently met all mandates as required by the Health Resources and Services Administration.

I challenge every human being to work together to positively resolve the pressing issues related to care services. Divisiveness divides. Unity continues to unite this community.

Brandi C. Bowen

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