Ethan Robarts, 17, navigates the sidewalk along the 2400 block of Prosser Avenue in Los Angeles. "I just jump over it," Robarts said.

L.A.'s sidewalks of shame

Fancy this: In a city known for its car culture, Angelenos care deeply about their sidewalks.

Every time the issue of fixing L.A.'s thousands of miles of neglected walkways gets tackled in the opinion or news pages, at least a dozen readers (not a huge amount, but more than on the average topic) fume about their experiences negotiating sidewalks buckled by massive tree roots or just wear and tear. In response to an editorial and a news article this week on the city sitting on a $10-million fund for sidewalk repair, 22 readers wrote letters imploring L.A. to take action or offering their advice for improving the walking experience here.

As someone who regularly runs and walks and pushes a stroller on sidewalks in L.A. and its surrounding burbs, this reaction isn't surprising. But there might be a takeaway here for L.A. pols: If you want electoral success, give Angelenos (the ones who write to The Times, anyway) an earful about good sidewalks.

— Paul Thornton, letters editor


Jeff Dietrich, pictured above, and Catherine Morris of the Catholic Worker have for decades helped skid row's homeless despite little support from local business and political leaders and even their church hierarchy.

The 'saints' of skid row

Most of the several hundred letters I read each week can best be described as adversarial: They take issue with healthcare reform, the handling of the crisis in Ukraine, politics in Washington and any number of topics where there is little middle ground.

Occasionally, an uplifting story will provide some respite from the ceaseless debates. This week, reporter Kurt Streeter's Column One on Jeff Dietrich and Catherine Morris of the Catholic Worker movement — a husband-wife team whose lifelong work has been to "enable" skid row's homeless — did just that. About a dozen readers wrote expressing their admiration of the couple for their tireless efforts.

Here are some of their letters.

— Paul Thornton, letters editor

Long Beach resident Claire Marmion praises Dietrich and Morris for living what many people preach:

Thanks to Streeter for his recognition of the work that Dietrich and Morris do for those on skid row.

We often read that the true measure of a society is how the...


The ABCs of the SAT

OK, a quick quiz for readers: Was the Op-Ed article entitled "Just My Luck" in The Times on March 23

(a) Good writing

(b) A compelling argument

(c) An indictment of test-taking

(d) All of the above?

Delightedly — or maybe dutifully — a number of Times letter writers answered (a) (b) (c) and (d) in response to Haskell Flender's piece on the SAT.

The high school junior described taking his test days after the College Board announced upcoming revisions to the "flawed" exam that, among other things, "tests antiquated vocabulary" and is a "poor predictor" of college success. Here are a few of the responses from readers.

-- Sara Lessley, letters department

Eileen Flaxman of Sherman Oaks countered in kind:

Kids have been whining about the SAT for generations.

But let's not forget the inherent practical value of this rite of passage: a) set a goal, b) prioritize our schedule, c) manage our anxiety, d) put everything we've got into it on test day, and finally, e) let go of remorse,...

SAT preparation is a major industry. This month, the College Board announced the second redesign of the famed test this century, to take effect in 2016.

High schooler's take on the SAT: It scores with Times' readers

OK, a quick quiz for readers: Was the Op-Ed article entitled “Just My Luck” in Sunday’s Times

(a) Good writing

(b) A compelling argument

(c) An indictment of test-taking

(d) All of the above

Delightedly — or maybe dutifully — many Times letter writers answered (a) (b) (c) and (d) in response.

In the Op-Ed, high school junior Haskell Flender wrote about taking the SAT test:

“But my group of test-takers had a dubious distinction, one that set us apart from those who have taken the SAT before us and those who will take it in years to come. We were taking a test that, just three days prior, had been declared by the organization that administers it to be flawed because it a) tests antiquated vocabulary, b) presents artificial obstacles, c) disadvantages those who cannot afford expensive preparatory courses, d) is a poor predictor of college readiness and success, or e) causes ‘unproductive anxiety’ among high school students. Correct answer:...

John Hartung, formerly of ABC 7 in Los Angeles, will be the main studio anchor for SportsNet LA, a new TV network launching as the 24/7 TV network of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Talk about Dodger blues

This, we Dodger fans have been told, is our year. And for a while, most of us won't get to see it.

Opening Day tends to stir the optimist in the most despondent fan, but much of the Dodgers faithful are missing out today: The Dodgers and Time Warner Cable still haven't come to terms with other pay-TV providers on carrying the cable channel that will broadcast the team's regular-season games. For cord-cutters, there's no hope at all: Free, over-the-air broadcasts are out too.

Taken together with higher ticket prices, the prospect of being shut out from the most promising season in decades hasn't sat well with readers. As the Dodgers-Time Warner drama has played out over the last several weeks, dozens of readers have sent letters expressing their disappointment (one in poetry). Nearly all of them directed their anger at the Dodgers and Time Warner.

— Paul Thornton, letters editor

Jeff Kahl of Aliso Viejo pines for the voice of Vin:

I haven't missed watching Opening Day since...

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is seen in Beverly Hills last month discussing his campaign to lure California businesses to his state.

Bring it on, Texas!

Here's a response to Rick Perry for his latest attempt to woo California businesses to Texas that the Lone Star State governor might understand: Bring it on.

Perry, whose state just poached L.A.-based Occidental Petroleum Corp., plans another swing through Southern California next week backed by an ad blitz touting Texas' business-friendly climate against California's supposedly commerce-hostile environment, according to a Times article on Thursday. Most of the more than one dozen readers who sent us letters were unfazed by Perry's plans for a corporate exodus; some readers even recommended a few more local industries that the governor might want to take back to Texas.

Here are some of their letters.

-- Paul Thornton, letters editor

Villa Park resident Don Wise spots some fertile hunting ground for Perry:

"Somebody should drive Perry to Vernon and tell him he is most welcome to take battery recycler Exide Technologies back with him.

"Having lived in Texas many years ago, I know that...

Protesters hold placards during a demonstration in London against Russia's involvement in the crisis in Ukraine.

Ukraine crisis brings out the diplomats among Times readers

According to much of Western punditry, Russia's military action in Ukraine's Crimea region is an unprovoked act of aggression by the increasingly autocratic Russian President Vladimir Putin, who should stop meddling in the transition underway in Kiev after months of protests and even violence.

Many of our readers see things differently.

Though Putin is taking a fair amount of criticism from readers (some of whose letters will likely be published in Tuesday's paper), some said Moscow has legitimate concerns about the future of predominantly ethnic Russian Crimea and whether Ukraine orients itself more toward Europe. A few even put some blame on the Obama administration for involving itself diplomatically in a conflict thousands of miles away.

PHOTOS: Deadly clashes in Kiev

Where there does seem to be some consensus among readers, however, is how the U.S. and its allies should respond: It's best for us to sit this one out, at least militarily. Although a handful of readers urged Obama to...

Officials investigate the scene of a multiple vehicle accident in which six people were killed on the westbound Pomona Freeway in Diamond Bar on Sunday morning. Police believe a drunk driver caused the accident.

Readers' ideas for stopping wrong-way drunk drivers

Part of what makes the horrific crash Sunday in Diamond Bar that killed six people -- which police suspect was caused by a drunk, 21-year-old woman speeding on the 60 Freeway in the wrong direction -- so tragic was how completely preventable it was.

The driver, who has a previous DUI conviction (as a teenager), didn't have to take the wheel of what becomes a speeding, multi-ton weapon under the control of someone who's been drinking. The lives of six people plodding along a freeway -- something Southern Californians do without consciously considering the risk -- didn't have to be snuffed out so suddenly and brutally.

How can we prevent a tragedy like this from happening again?

The obvious solution, of course, would be for every drinking person to summon some sober judgment and recognize that getting behind the wheel places themselves and everyone else at great danger. But alcohol drowns that kind of thinking; it insidiously makes you more likely to grab the keys with each increasingly...

Citing concerns over portraying the San Gabriel Mission accurately, supervisors voted last month to restore the Latin cross to L.A. County's official seal. Above, the cross atop the mission's church building in 2009.

County seal cross: ACLU, L.A. Times get it wrong, readers say

The Board of Supervisors' vote last month to restore a Christian cross to L.A. County's official seal prompted the ACLU on Thursday to file a lawsuit -- and dozens of readers to fire off letters to The Times, many of them saying the civil liberties organization should let this one go.

Three letters -- two for the cross, one against -- were published in Sunday's paper reacting to our editorial Friday critical of the supervisors for dragging the county into an inevitable and costly legal battle. Since those letters were edited for publication last week, many more were sent, most of which were sharply critical of the ACLU and The Times.

Of course, there were a few readers who took the editorial board's side (one of those letters is below). But the clear majority bought the supervisors' argument that restoring the cross was legally defensible on the grounds that the seal ought to accurately depict the San Gabriel Mission, which now has the Christian symbol perched atop its church building....

Folk music legend Pete Seeger performs during a concert marking his 90th birthday at Madison Square Garden in New York in 2009. Seeger died this week died at the age of 94.

Singing Seeger's praises

Letters written in response to an obituary rarely number more than a few. The Times' article this week on the life and passing of balladeer Pete Seeger, by contrast, drew nearly two dozen letters.

Most who wrote reflected on Seeger's music, but some shared their personal experiences with the folk singer. One reader sent us a lengthy letter she received from Seeger in 1962 in response to her fan mail. "Take it easy, but take it," Seeger ended his response.

Here is a selection of the letters on Seeger.

-- Paul Thornton, letters editor

Stefani Rosenberg of Los Angeles, who received the letter from Seeger, said she didn't expect a reply:

"In 1962, my cousin and I were teenagers and admirers of Seeger — so much so that we wrote him a letter, never expecting a response. To our surprise, he did reply. We have cherished this letter all these years.

"Here was a man who took the time to respond to two young impressionable girls. He shared his personal stories with us and expressed interest...

A longtime Santa Monica resident wrote in a Times Op-Ed article Sunday that policies favoring cycling and greater density have resulted in much worse traffic. Above, a cyclist rides on Ocean Park Boulevard in Santa Monica.

Who's to blame for Santa Monica's traffic hell? Readers weigh in.

Santa Monica's cyclist-friendly "urban village" planning, according to 29-year resident Bruce R. Feldman, has made the city a commuting hell for those who drive or don't live near the urban core. And by the way: Cyclists are rude, routinely break traffic laws and have a general sense of entitlement.

Understandably, Feldman's article Sunday touched a nerve. For frustrated car commuters around the region and others dismayed by high-density development, his piece confirmed their belief that it’s insanity to remove vehicle lanes while cramming more residents into smaller spaces. Some cyclists made the case that cars are still the biggest drivers of congestion and that cyclists deserve to be accommodated in transportation planning just as motorists do. Last time I read them, the comments online have come down pretty decisively on Feldman's side; the letters have been more balanced, though they tilt in Feldman's favor.

As a sometimes-cyclist (though not in Santa Monica), it goes...

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