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Once again the people of Phoenix have been snookered by the new water rate schedule announced in a letter sent out by the mayor.

The letter explains the new three-tier rates, but there is no mention of the $34 base rate, a base rate two to three times higher than any other community in the Rogue Valley. Now the base does include 5,000 gallons, but this brings us to another problem. A third of the population of Phoenix have no income or low income other than Social Security and they use far less than 5,000 gallons. But they still pay for the full 5,000.

The new rates are the product of the Phoenix Water Commission, which was supposed to be an independent agency. However, the mayor at one meeting told the commission members that they couldn't stray from certain parameters he wanted. And even more telling is an email dated Nov. 13, 2013 from a commission member to the council liaison stating, "we did this based upon the narrowed requirement from the mayor to support your preparation of the council's resolution ...". How is this showing independence?

What we need in Phoenix is water rate fairness. — Steven A. Schulman, Phoenix

In the past few days, we've read about two very different restaurants' experiences. One article was about the opening of another national chain in Medford, Buffalo Wild Wings, and the droves of locals going to wait hours for a table and/or their food. The other was about the closing of MacLevin's in Jacksonville, a locally owned deli that uses ingredients from local producers, but due to lack of business, can't keep the doors open. A similar fate was recently dealt to 38 Central downtown, and Rosso's last year.

Knowing nothing of the business practices of any of these places and what ultimately led to their closings, it would still be encouraging to see the locally owned places get the patronage that the chains do. Often the local joints use more sustainable, organic, freshly prepared ingredients than the chains, and the menu prices are similar. Just some food for thought next time you're looking for a meal out. — Alyssa Penicook, Medford

Natural gas is not "the clean fossil fuel" we have been waiting for; it emits methane, a 25-times-worse greenhouse gas than CO2.

Studies indicate that somewhere between 1 percent and 9 percent of the methane actually escapes into our atmosphere and contributes to our pollution problem. Present in the atmosphere are fugitive methane gas emissions. "Fugitive" means methane escapes during extraction due to leakage of this gas. In order to be cleaner than coal or oil, less than 3.2 percent of the methane can be permitted to escape.

It is true that our increased reliance on natural gas has contributed to lower carbon dioxide emissions over the past few years. However, natural gas does not offer us avoidance from the hazards of greenhouse gas pollution. Natural gas is not the solution unless there is incontrovertible evidence that it reduces greenhouse gas emissions. — Louise Shawkat, Ashland