Seniors have a right to live where they choose

Regarding Fran Marscher's Aug. 19 Opinion piece, "Our most vulnerable citizens don't belong in hurricane danger zones": It isn't the government's job to decide what is or is not too dangerous a place for the elderly to live. That choice is theirs alone. Hurricanes are only one factor - what about tornados, floods, and earthquakes? There are dangers everywhere. The weighing of various factors must be left to the individual.
Robert J. Marler
Huntersville, N.C.

While I agree with what Ms. Marscher wrote, I would like to examine a couple of questions:

Q. Why are these folks where they are?

A. Aesthetics (weather, water, etc.)

Q. Zoning is restrictive and possibly illegal from the standpoint you propose, so what is the alternative?

A. Develop a retirement area duplicating the same conditions sought by retirees in a safer part of the country. If Las Vegas could be built in a desert, why not duplicate the Florida conditions? This could be done in Arizona.
Donald B. Carter
Livingston, Texas

I have been a city planner in Florida since 1981. The land-use link to protecting the public from storm damage is not new to Florida's planners and policymakers, but there are several other issues involved. Hurricane Andrew did most of its damage inland, but the reality is that all of Florida is vulnerable to damage by storm. Second, the retirement areas in Charlotte County that were badly damaged this month were not recently developed. The 31 mobile-home parks in that county have been in place for so long they don't meet current building codes.

What's needed is not local officials "just saying no" to development in coastal areas, but better pre- and postdisaster plans that also identify funds to reinforce buildings.
Sheryl Stolzenberg
Delray Beach, Fla.

What Kerry shift on security?

Regarding your Aug. 19 article "Kerry shifts right on security": I think that you are doing John Kerry and the nation an injustice by saying he "shifts right." He hasn't shifted anywhere from what his position has been all along.

There are some significant differences between the two candidates on security. The missile-defense system Bush has promoted is a relic of the 1980s that does nothing to address our most immediate needs in defense. What it won't do is stop low-tech terrorist activities on US soil - the most pressing threat. We are now forced to prioritize what we need most for our welfare.
Abbi Hasty
Pendleton, S.C.

'Nonprofits' and student debt

Regarding your Aug. 17 editorial "Sallie's Shenanigans": There is a massive fleecing going on right now of student-loan borrowers who default on their debt. Since a federal law passed in the late 1990s makes getting out of student loans impossible through bankruptcy, a number of "nonprofit, public benefit" agencies like Edfund have sprung up. They are collecting from defaulted borrowers at massively inflated rates and pay no federal income tax.

I originally borrowed about $39,000. After leaving my first job out of college (two weeks prior to Sept. 11, 2001), with only a verbal commitment for another position that fell through, I was unemployed for more than two years.

After trying to deal with the student-loan bureaucracy and burning through all my assets, I finally gave up and moved back home. My loans went into default and were shipped back to Edfund, which tacked on huge collection fees. The last time I checked, I was getting bills for approximately $90,000.
Alan Collinge
Tacoma, Wash.

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