I'm still shaking my head over the "Making Ends Meet" chart in your Feb. 1 issue (part of the "Counting pennies" story).

The first thing that caught my eye was the $492 per month rent quoted for a two-bedroom apartment. We own eight two-bedrooms in a well-maintained, 1978 vintage building in the hospital district. We charge $385 per month and usually have vacancies. After reading your article, I surveyed the Sunday paper and found that 44 percent of the several hundred "For Rent" listings are priced at $425 or less per month.

Next I checked our food bill. You estimate a monthly cost of $472. Our family of three spends less than $300 per month on food. Any family of four that tries could cut $200 per month from your food and rent estimates alone. What really flabbergasted me, however, was that your source ignored the effect of earned income and child-care tax credits. By my calculations, using the tax forms and your numbers, you've overestimated this couple's taxes by about $300 per month.

The real disservice given by this analysis, however, is that it promotes the notion that poverty is something to be solved by the government. Such things as overtime work, growing a garden, improving one's work skills, swapping babysitting with neighbors to save money, house sharing, avoiding the vices and learning how to budget are time proven poverty fighters.

I know because I've been there. I also know that these techniques aren't used when people come to believe that they are victims with problems to be solved by someone else.

& & Jim Shamp

Cheney, Wash. & &

As you may already know, the Fall Folk Festival in Spokane is gaining momentum and is now one of the premier events in the region for promoting cultural diversity. The goal of the festival is to promote awareness, appreciation, development and continuation of the varied cultural traditions existing in the Inland Northwest, and to provide a showcase for sharing these traditions in a spirit of community. In the past, the Spokane Folklore Society (SFS) has planned and sponsored the festival and, with the help of support from our community, has had great success in doing so. However, the festival is now so big that the SFS feels that it is time to look for new ways to grow.

The Fall Folk Festival is looking for new members to join our steering committee. Among the duties of committee members is organizing the different facets of the festival, planning growth and development and setting policies that affect the successful outcome of the festival each year. And, of course, we are always looking for new, diverse performers.

Festival 2001 takes place on Saturday, Nov. 10. If you are interested in helping, we want your input, ideas and energy. Please contact me at 747-2640 or e-mail dancer@cet.com. We're looking forward to working with you.

& & Sylvia Gobel

Fall Folk Festival Committee & &

I have been pondering the value of setting standards or measurements for political candidates and appointees as suggested by an august personage on the City Council.

Perhaps we have simply been too lax in only requiring that candidates be of legal age, citizens, residents and have no felonies. These minimum expectations definitely open up political races to just any old American.

We could devise job applications that required in-depth responses for questions like: education and training that are relevant to the desired position; personal and work history; demonstrated experience relevant to the position; demonstrated skills and competencies; demonstrated leadership abilities; history of community involvement.

My pondering led to a wandering of the mind. Up came the additional following requirements: successfully passed a professional mental health status exam; demonstrated ability to resist money from local and national "Titans"; lack of documentation as a blind or fanatical adherent to any one side of a public issue; demonstrated abilities of civil and respectful responses to others; demonstrated mastery of "common sense" theory; demonstrated application of a natural "sense of humor."

My favorites are common sense and sense of humor. Common sense requires a balanced and even outlook in life. The greatest benefit of extremist stands are that they do get the attention of the voters. Do those stances hold realistic answers for problems? I don't think so.

A sense of humor requires the ability to look at the world (and ourselves) from all angles. It encourages looking at all the possibilities, thus the ability to be a problem solver. A sense of humor results in flexibility and freedom of choice. The funny bone gives a defense against the stress of the job -- a way to keep equilibrium. It gives patience to cope with the inane and insane. Without it, there is no joy and laughter -- only the taking of one's self and one's issues entirely too seriously. With it, there is the balance that leads to common sense.

Reality bites. Never will there be such a questionnaire -- nor should there be. But dear fellow voters, we could at least look for the sense of humor.

& & Valerie R. Smith, MSW

Spokane, Wash. & &

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