Letters for April 6

Readers sound off on toxic art, community policing, and Cal's baseball players.

“Toxic Art,” Feature, 3/23

Your Nose Knows

Great article, Kudos to you, Jessica [Carew Kraft]! What I have learned working in a lab with VOCs (volatile organic compounds) is don’t ignore your nose — if it smells, stop using it. Also, if you can’t cut out the toxins outright, it is easy to make yourself much safer — ventilate the room and get fresh air in, limit exposure, wear gloves, and wash hands before eating and drinking. You can even get a respirator with VOC cartridges for pretty cheap.

Joelle Tirindelli, San Francisco

“Has Community Policing Ended?” Full Disclosure, 3/23

Batts Is Right

1. The voters thought they were getting an even distribution of problem solving officers.

2. The reason the voters were promised an even distribution of problem solving officers was not that there is an even distribution of need for these officers. It was promised because politicians knew that voters in the hills, who vote and donate in higher numbers, would not support a tax that gave the flats more problem solving officers than the hills.

3. The flats have more problems than the hills, so sending more problem solving officers there makes sense. In the example [given in the story], one officer is tasked with the hills above Moraga Avenue, and two are tasked with the heart of West Oakland. Seems reasonable.

I live in the heart of West Oakland and we’ve had two vacant houses within a block of us taken over by heroin dealers. I’ve had a junkie try to beat me up with a 2×4. I’ve had to intervene when a man was kicking his kid’s mom in the face while she was cowering on the sidewalk on the other end of my block. An 87-year-old woman who lived on my block was killed by her nephew who sodomized her with a 10-inch kitchen knife and set her house on fire.

I don’t know what they have to deal with above Moraga Avenue, but it’s not that.

So yeah, it looks like Batts is bending some rules. Does that bother me? Not so much.

Max Allstadt, Oakland

The Flats Need Cops

I lived in the flats in the Ghost Town area for about a decade, before recently finding a rental in the hills near Shepherd Canyon. It’s shameful that we’re criticizing putting twice the number of PSOs in West Oakland, instead of equally distributing them geographically. First off, I can tell you, there’s no comparison between crime levels in the hills and the flats. If we were distributing them based on demand, I’d venture that a 10:1 ratio would be more appropriate than a 2:1, especially when we’re talking about violent crime, and ongoing criminal issues. Fortunate people in the hills should rest peacefully knowing they don’t “need” the kind of PSO force that West Oakland does.

Lars Soldahl, Oakland

“Losing Athletes and Scholars,” News, 3/23

Save Cal Baseball

This is an excellent, well-written article demonstrating how athletic and academic excellence can be — and clearly are — intertwined at Cal for many bright, talented, and deserving students. I truly hope funding for Cal baseball comes through. Thank you, Mr. Gackle, for this thoughtful and thought-provoking article.

Paul Wichelmann, Berkeley

Kill Cal Baseball

Cal baseball is nothing more than what college baseball in general has turned out to be: a place for upper-middle-class white parents to see their kids play at Cal just like their dads did. If Cal was making the College World Series on a regular basis, Cal baseball would still be funded. With Title IX and the success of the Cal softball team, the Cal athletic director had no choice but to cut the baseball program.

I have been a coach in the highly successful Oakland Babe Ruth program under the leadership of Oakland Babe Ruth coach Eddie Abram. In 1998, Oakland Babe Ruth won the fifteen-year-old Babe Ruth World Series. Many have dubbed that team as one of the greatest fifteen-year-old teams in Babe Ruth history. Not one player from that team was recruited to play baseball at Cal.

Jerome Wiggins, Berkeley

“Going the Distance,” Events and Attractions, 3/23

The Oakland ‘Public Nuisance’

On the morning of Sunday, March 27, I left my home and walked to the local AC Transit bus stop near Madison and 11th streets to catch an eastbound 40-line to my place of employment. There, I met other people trying to get to their various destinations. There was a very ill-looking man in a wheelchair trying to get to the hospital; there were elderly people holding canes; there were well-dressed people clutching Bibles; there was a large number of non-English-speaking foreign nationals; there was a young woman from out of town trying to get to a family reunion; and there were people who, like me, had a job to go to.

The bus we waited for never came. There was little in the way of signage to tell anyone what was going on, and that was either vague or inaccurate. To make the situation worse, it was only in English, so that the many Asian, Hispanic, and Arabic people waiting could not read it. No firm schedule was posted at all. When I asked one of the many cops present what happened to the bus service, he said it was disrupted due to the “Oakland Marathon.” So I asked him, “How can I catch the bus I need?” His response: He had no idea, since the person he needed to ask was “missing in action.”

I waited for nearly two hours for buses that never came, as did many other people. The police, which were very numerous, created a series of barricades making it difficult to travel around the neighborhood; some people were virtually trapped in front of their own front doors. This went on until a seemingly endless stream of joggers finished running by.

The upshot was that this “happy event” was, in fact, a public nuisance, disruptive and damaging to many in the local community. It certainly must have been a real joy to all the poor folks and non-English-speaking minorities that their needs should be pushed aside so that bourgeois yuppies with too much time on their hands can indulge in childish show-boating in marginal communities. But, of course, as we all know, the wants and needs of “po’ folks” don’t matter as long as wealthy, privileged (mostly white) have their way. Right?

Many local people suffered damage by the cavalier attitude of AC Transit and our city government. I lost a considerable amount of money from lost business transactions. Particularly infuriating is how our “politically correct” government wants us to abandon private vehicle ownership, yet public transportation is allowed to get sorrier and sorrier at every turn. If you don’t want people to act like anarchists, don’t force them into a corner where they have to.

This is far from the first time this sort of inconsiderate and disrespectful action has taken place in Oakland by the people who are supposed to maintain order here. Perhaps they can be taught how important it is if hit with an expensive class-action lawsuit. I, for one, am in favor of it.

Back in the Sixties, we had a saying: “If you don’t like the news, go out and make some of your own.” To that, I say, “Amen.”

(When I was a college student, I was a long-distance runner, and did many marathons. I once ran from downtown Berkeley to central Hayward. I always did it alone or with friends. No expensive police presence was necessary, because we were not trying to be “look-at-me” show-offs, like five-year-olds do. We just did it to keep in shape. No audience required.)

James J. Fenton, Oakland

“Sharks Left for Dead,” Feature, 3/16

Ban the Soup

Shark fin soup is about trying to show off. It’s glorified chicken soup mostly — for this a terrible price is being paid by sharks and we will soon pick up the bill as the system they maintain collapses. Ban the damn stuff.

George Rix, London, UK

“Dog Park Divides Lake Merritt,” News, 3/16

It’s the Parking

Parking is a problem. People keep mentioning that as an afterthought. It’s almost impossible to park near the Lakeview library as it is — even though the parking lot was built right in front of it — what with the soccer players and farmers’ market. I don’t believe people will walk their dogs to the dog park. I believe they will drive their dogs in their huge SUVs. The dog park could easily be put somewhere else.

As far as “we’ve had fourteen years to oppose this project,” I knew nothing about the project and neither did a lot of other people.

Also, dog owners seem to get a bit crazy about their dogs and inconsiderate of other people. I constantly see them unleashed by Lake Merritt. Dog owners walk by purposely not looking at you as the dog desecrates the landscaping — like the bicyclists who disobey traffic rules and then get self-righteous about it.

Catherine Shallcross, Oakland

“Married to the Mob,” Music, 3/9

Punk Funk Mob Love

This is awesome! In case you still haven’t caught one of their shows, they’ll be playing April 15 at Ashkenaz in Berkeley with the legendary Monkey!

 Peps Jara, Oakland

“Beyond Fair Verona,” Theater Review, 2/23

A Fine Romeo and Juliet

I was impressed that the acting was evenly good throughout. I can also understand Ms. Swan’s opinion that the kids behave in an overly juvenile fashion. I gave it a standing ovation and intend to see it again. I would note that when I first saw one of director Hillman’s Shakespeare plays last year (Twelfth Night), I hated it. But after seeing it two more times, I was jumping up and down. I think that her unique interpretation has to be accepted, including the contextualization, text amendments, and physical comedy, or you won’t like it. Artistically, she doesn’t make as far a stretch as some movie directors have with Romeo and Juliet.Stephen Yeh, Oakland

“Fruitvale the New Hipster Hangout?” News, 3/2

No White Kids Allowed?

In regards to the readers that are displeased about the “hipsters” going to Fruitvale taking and then leaving before the sun goes down — I have to say that it is quite disappointing to hear that the residents would rather keep their community homogenized with one particular culture or perspective. It is rather disheartening that the community there would rather keep their doors shut than welcome an opportunity to share their culture with those from other communities. Last I checked, diversity included “white kids.” This seems as though it is the same perspective as “stay out of my neighborhood, you aren’t the right color,” just with a different community backing it.

Last I checked not much happens at night in Fruitvale that would cater to anybody hanging out after the sun goes down. Most places shut down when the sun goes down in Fruitvale. Maybe if you want people to stay after the sun goes down you should give them a place to hang out at after the sun goes down. Or is their dollar not good enough for you?

Leilani Hunter, Oakland

“Hate Man,” Feature, 3/2

Send Hate Man to the Mideast

I have known Hate Man since 1989. I hesitate saying anything positive, as it might dilute or cause the goodness to dissipate. You can call him somewhat crazy, but he has influenced many people toward not being harsh. People can have major conflict, but that is no reason to be mean. With his charisma and spirit, and with using his techniques of pushing, slapping hands, etc., I believe peace could come to the Mideast after much time. Maybe I am wrong or crazy. I have seen him recycle many things, not for any profit.  I have seen him clean up dog poo on Telegraph Avenue for no pay … just to be a good citizen. He found a considerable amount of money and turned it in … but I had to drag the story out of him. He believes you disperse the good energy by talking about it.  

Richard List, aka “Head for The Hills,” Berkeley  


The Express Rocks!

It just sort of hit me (as I finished the latest of god-knows-how-many thousand veggie burritos over the years) that I have been a hard-core reader of this newspaper since I was a teenager in the 1980s.

I owe almost everything I am as an adult to the writers of this paper. You guys opened my eyes to full-contact politics and in many cases introduced me to the music and people I still love today. You kept my head in the game, asked me the right questions, and shaped me into the progressive person I strive to be.

I know I can be a pain in the ass with my Kafkaesque manifestos, but thank you, sincerely, for always being here, through good times and bad. You guys really are the best of the best.

Erik Kolacek, Alameda

Anti-Abortion or Anti-Immigration?

Which “wedge issue” will Republicans and the Tea Party use to divide and confuse Americans in 2011? Will it be anti-abortion or anti-immigration that the GOP drums into the American psyche?

Republican governors and Tea Party politicians are sponsoring anti-abortion bills in twenty states. Ursula LeGuin showed the hypocrisy of these religious folks and their crusade with her observation: “The preservation of life seems to be rather a slogan than a genuine goal of the anti-abortion forces; what they want is control over women. Women in the anti-choice movement want a share in male power over women and do so by denying their own womanhood and rights.”

There are also numerous anti-immigration bills pending in state legislatures targeting Hispanics, Latinos, and Mexicans. Notice I didn’t say immigrants again! The anti-immigration movement is more about power than society’s well being.

So, which wedge issue do you think Republicans and the Tea Party will use to rally its base this year?

Ron Lowe, Nevada City, Calif.


In our March 23 theater review we had the character Beardo refer to a “lap of land.” The line should be “lack of land.”

In the March 9 Legalization Nation, “What’s Next for Berkeley Patients Group,” we misstated the amount Harborside Health Center paid in back taxes to the State Board of Equalization. It was $110,000.


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