How to tax golf courses; assessing Obama’s first year; Malibu’s successful battle against a camp for inmate firefighters

Taxing golf courses

Re “Higher taxes may hit some golf clubs,” Jan. 16, and “Unfair way to tax golf course,” Column, Jan. 19

Article 13, Section 10 of the California Constitution specifically precludes the application of the “highest and best use” standard to the taxation of golf courses, and for good reason. Over time, the application of that standard would result in the residential/commercial development of golf courses and all similarly situated green spaces.

Would that result in higher property tax receipts? Absolutely. Would that diminish everyone’s quality of life in urban Los Angeles? Absolutely. Would most communities find that an acceptable trade-off? I would be comfortable putting that question to the most general of public tests.

Be careful what you wish for; you just might get a lot more than you bargained for.

Craig Kessler
Buena Park
The writer is executive director, Public Links Golf Assn. of Southern California.

For several days The Times has run stories about the favored tax status of golf clubs being a result of Proposition 13. The real story is that Californians have been giving favored property tax status to country clubs since 1960, when they voted in favor of Proposition 6.

As a result of this forgotten constitutional amendment, golf course land owned by private country clubs is appraised on the basis of its recreational value as a golf course instead of its full market value.

Remember the motto “Keep California Green”? It was plastered on billboards throughout the state in support of Proposition 6, and convinced Californians that they needed a subsidized playground for the rich.

Maybe voters are wiser today.

Ellen Hoffs
Santa Monica

Obama’s first year

Re “Obama, Year 1,” Opinion, Jan. 19

Aaron David Miller states that President Obama “has finished one of the more successful first years of any modern president.”

Is Miller blind? Yes, Obama sounds and acts presidential, but Miller did not name one thing that Obama has actually accomplished. Obama is all talk and no action. All Obama did was approve bailouts, which have not helped create jobs.

Oh, I am mistaken -- Obama did accomplish something: He has put the U.S. in debt that we will not get out from under in my grandchildren’s lifetime.

Judy Herbst
Beverly Hills

Miller leaps from a realistic view of Obama’s first-year failures to a rationalization of hope for his future presidency. The nation will benefit if the hope is realized, but Obama’s presidency will definitely result in continued failure without a significant correction in White House staff and a redirection toward the political center.

Obama’s promises on transparency, bipartisanship, special interests, pork spending and healthcare will not be forgotten by a skeptical public in the 2010 elections.

Otis Page
Arroyo Grande

Miller hits all the points I’ve also noted about the huge mess that the Bush administration left. They had eight years to create this crisis. It’s going to take at least a couple of years to stop the downward slide and turn us toward prosperity again.

As Miller notes, Obama is not only juggling this country’s deep financial woes but is dealing with two wars (also started by the Bush bunch). He is also trying to get a national healthcare bill passed, reestablishing neglected ties to other countries and dealing with an opposition party determined to discredit him and reject everything he and the Democrats try to get passed through Congress.

You try to do all that, and in one year’s time!

Gail Noon
San Pedro

Wildlife war

Re “A catfight over neutering,” Jan. 17

As a member of both the Audubon Society and the ASPCA, I thought the program for neutering feral cats was a win-win for both bird and animal lovers. We have a feral cat who had two litters before we adopted her and had her neutered. Left wild and unneutered, she would have had many more litters of feral cats, which would have been a greater threat to the bird population.

I find it nutty that this is being considered an environmental case. Cats, whether house cats or feral cats, kill birds, especially when seeds from bird feeders fall on the ground and make small birds easy prey. That is mother nature at work, not an environmental problem.

Cats, especially feral cats, benefit society because they kill rats and mice, which are a menace to health and our food chain.

Jack Allen
Pacific Palisades

Which group of cats do you think will kill more birds: A group that is fixed and fed and properly maintained, or a group that is breeding uncontrollably, with starving adults and kittens? This lawsuit should have been tossed out of court as a nuisance and the “bird people” fined for wasting the court’s time.

What is so truly sad is that the “bird people” and the “cat people” are on the same side. No one wants more feral cats. The difference is that the cat people want them to be humanely treated -- trapped, neutered and released -- and the bird people want them exterminated.

Just when you think this city can sink no lower, there we go.

Jo Ventresca
Toluca Lake

Two views of Malibu

Re “Inmate firefighters won’t be stationed in Malibu,” Jan. 21

Who says government is no longer responsive to the will of the people?

Just look at how quickly Los Angeles County backed away from its consideration of temporarily housing inmate firefighters at a camp in Malibu in the face of opposition from the rich, powerful and famous citizenry of that wildfire-prone community.

Perhaps we are seeing the birth of yet another grass-roots movement -- the Latte Party. The rest of us can keep on busting our buns to get potholes fixed on our streets.

As for the good citizens of Malibu, keep your skills ready to excoriate the county for its lack of preparedness the next time your community burns down.

Gary R. Levine
West Hills

Please don’t characterize housing inmates at a local fire station as a pro- or anti-fire suppression issue. Who wouldn’t welcome more fire suppression in a brush area?

These inmates did not choose firefighting as a career. They chose drug dealing, identity theft and burglary -- and I don’t not want my children or anyone else’s living around the corner from them.

Judy Gordon