* Congratulations to Mayor Richard Riordan for speaking out against the ill-named "California Civil Rights Initiative." I agree with your July 20 editorial that he "has helped bring clarity to a controversial and deeply misleading ballot initiative." Sure, it took courage for him to oppose CCRI because it is still popular in the polls. However, its appeal is ebbing, and in the long run he will command the respect and admiration of his constituents.
* Riordan's declared opposition to Proposition 209 could be better justified by illustrative examples. Two are community policing and public heath prevention of epidemics. The best practitioners of community policing are officers who share the language and cultural traditions of the community, not necessarily the officers who scored highest on the written entrance exam. Similarly, the community health educators who have been the most effective in persuading members of high-risk communities to reduce their risk of AIDS or tuberculosis have been those who were bilingual and bicultural.
Linguistic, cultural (and racial) backgrounds are legitimate additional qualifications to consider when hiring or admitting a person to advanced training. California urgently needs to retain the freedom to grant small preferences to members of seriously underrepresented groups if we want to maximize public safety and public health, and minimize the taxes required to address these concerns. As long as racial, cultural or gender preferences are given to members of underrepresented groups only when they are otherwise well-qualified, most California voters would choose the increased public safety and decreased taxes made possible by affirmative action programs.
WILLIAM J. McCARTHY