Letters for August 6

You want us to let Jesus into our hearts, you don't trust Chevron or Children's Hospital of Oakland, and you're sick of warrantless searches, development in Alameda, diesel trucks, Oakland cops, and UC Berkeley libraries.

“Big Oil in Little Richmond,” Feature, 7/9

One Crucial Omission

As a Richmond resident and one who has followed Chevron’s “upgrade” permit through commission hearings, I think you have given those not familiar with the issues a well-written, well-researched article with one crucial omission.

While it is indeed impossible to prove that Chevron “causes” a specific amount of illness, it is obvious that if they increase their toxic emissions, health risks will increase as well. Therefore, it was a huge mistake to omit Communities for a Better Environment’s demand. CBE wants the permit approved. Old and dangerous equipment should be replaced, should have been long ago.

They are taking Chevron at its word, and only asking for a comprehensive, verifiable cap on emissions at the current level. Personally, I think Chevron is lying, which is why they won’t agree to this. And I’m always suspicious when one party in a dispute refuses to talk to the reporter.

Michael Beer, Richmond

Chevron Beyond Richmond

I was impressed by Anna McCarthy’s excellent article on the proposed Chevron refinery expansion. However, Ms. McCarthy failed to reveal the devastating impacts of the Chevron refinery on communities beyond the boundaries of Richmond.

Chevron is driving the war in Iraq. According to the Department of Energy, the Richmond facility refines around 1.1 million barrels of stolen Iraqi oil a month. Chevron is also lobbying the US government and the Iraqi parliament to pass the Iraqi Oil Law, which would allow for two-thirds of Iraq’s oil fields to be controlled by foreign oil companies, such as Chevron. The war in Iraq has already cost the United States $2.8 trillion dollars and killed over 4,000 soldiers.

Chevron is contributing to climate change. According to a letter written to the Richmond City Council from Attorney General Jerry Brown’s office on March 19, 2008, the proposed refinery expansion will increase greenhouse gas emissions by a whopping 898,000 tons. This pollution increase affects all of us. Climate change caused by carbon emissions is the worst environmental disaster our planet has ever faced. Hurricane Katrina, and the current food crisis, which is being exacerbated by prime agricultural land being destroyed by extreme weather events such as drought in Australia and California’s emergency-level drought, are all linked to climate change. And Chevron, as the corporation keeping us all addicted to oil, is the chief culprit.

It’s time for Richmond City Council to say no to dirty fossil fuel and the Chevron expansion and say yes to a green, fossil-free economy and the long-term health of all people, from Richmond to Iraq.

Jessica Bell, organizer, Direct Action to Stop the War, Berkeley

“Don’t Call It a Recession,” Seven Days, 7/9

A Loss of Pride

I am writing in regards to the recent layoffs and program closures at Children’s Hospital of Oakland. I have been working with two specialized programs that were both eliminated. I am standing up primarily for the patients that have been left out in the cold, and secondly for my dedicated colleagues who have been disrespected in ways no human being should.

This is a hospital whose mission says it is “to ensure the delivery of high-quality pediatric care for all children through primary and subspecialty networks.” It is understood that there is a bottom line financially; however, the board members and administration of this institution made a decision without the forethought or planning of how the children and families would be served. The “subspecialty networks” that were eliminated are simply not offered in many other locations; the programs where they are offered are so small they will not be able to absorb our patients without also negatively impacting their own patients. So the burning question that we have all lost sleep over in the past week is: Where will all the children go?

The lack of forethought and the inconsistency in this situation is astonishing! The willingness to make concessions further supports the lack of planning for this major blow to the hospital and greater community. How is it that these administrators who have worked their way to the top of the ranks had no idea how many children would be affected? How is it that they fired some people and escorted them off the hospital property before 5 p.m. that day, while others were allowed to stay to follow through with the standard of care that had been previously established? Why did they originally state the eliminated clinics needed to be closed by July 15, then willingly extend to August 1 only for those who requested it? Why is it that they committed to a “sign on bonus” of $3,000 to an employee less than two months prior to laying her off? Why is it that they are willing to fund the specialized training of an employee who was retained, when the 27-year career of another employee in that same specialty area was so abruptly ended? How could they force their employees to shoulder the responsibility of notifying so many families, without direction or a transition plan, that we are breaking our long-term commitment to them? Why was there no official notification to the employees or media about which departments have been affected? Out of respect for who we are as employees and for the community we serve, why is there such an incredible lack of transparency?

Until July 1, I was so proud to say that I worked at Children’s Hospital Oakland. I was proud to say I served children regardless of their insurance coverage, social status, or primary language. Today, I am relieved that I no longer work for an institution that would treat its patients or employees in this way.

I am choosing to not share my name – not because I am unwilling to attach my name to my words, but because this could come from any one of the 125 employees who have been “let go.”

Anonymous, Oakland

“Sleeping Around Craigslist,” Feature, 6/18

Jesus Loves You. I’m Not So Sure.

I am grasping for words to express my sadness and disgust for the two female writers who slept around Craigslist and for your deplorable publication in general.

I picked up your newspaper at a “health food” store to find some local movie listings, and after browsing the contents, page after page of perverse and cynical depravity, I was compelled to write this letter.

My intention is not to attack anyone; not the editor, nor the writers, nor the readers who enjoy this pitiful liberalism. I would just like to ask you, quite earnestly, if you’ve ever considered — seriously considered — how much Jesus loves you, and desires for you to repent; to make a U-turn from this filthy life, and to ask Him for forgiveness. He will heal all broken hearts, restore dashed hopes, bring REAL satisfaction to unfulfilled lives, and replace our anger and pain with a peace that passes all understanding and pure joy that is beyond our imagination. Experiencing actual JOY from the Lord makes the brevity of a sexual orgasm seem like a hiccup. It can be 24/7, if you want it to be. Thank God for our human sexuality, but why must people fall into the trap of trying to soothe their anxieties with such a temporary salve? God has a better way. In Him, there is REST for your soul. He has a better life to give; but only if you ASK for help, with a humble and repentant heart.

I speak from experience, not from merely “reading a Bible” or “going to a church.” Dear sinners, the answer is JESUS!! Period. NOT Christianity — nor any such organized man-made religious system. They are all hiding places for darkness and greed.

If you, dear editor, are reluctant to print this letter because you perceive it as “preaching” or “evangelizing,” then so be it. I hope you will at least pass it along to those two women (one a MOTHER of CHILDREN!) who are arrogantly unashamed of their selfish, sexual adventures in spite of the potential damage to their kids’ very souls, not to mention their own. My heart breaks when I read about the bizarre exploits that humans crave in order to satisfy their flesh, yet we continually neglect that real longing in our souls for God, and for truth, and for REST from our burdens. Neither psychotherapy, nor religion, nor excessive indulgence can ever provide that. It just can’t. And it won’t.

I pray that we all will relinquish our pride, our sarcasm, and our selfishness and seek genuine peace for our hurting hearts. The doctor is IN. Jesus is available. What are we waiting for?

Bradley Crooker, Danville

Miscellaneous Letters

Inappropriate Density

My neighbors and I recently received a letter from an architectural firm inviting us to review the preliminary plans for the old Island High School site on Eagle and Everett. In attending the meeting the plan presented was to construct a 36-unit apartment complex for very-low- and low-income residents. What also came to light is that the same developer is building a project at the Grand Marina, and to comply with the inclusionary housing initiative requiring they have a certain percentage of low-income units in their new construction, they want to pull all low-income units out of the Grand Marina project and put them all at the Island High School site. This seems to me to go against the intent of requiring a mix of income levels represented at their developments. Also, the plan calling for 36 units (which is excessive in the scale of our neighborhood) is in excess of what is required by the initiative, which makes us believe that they are also wanting to build these low-income units to meet the requirement for other developments on the island which have not yet been disclosed. We have started a petition opposing this project as it has been proposed to us and will have representatives present at the planning board meeting at city hall. I am writing both to make you aware and to ask if you have more information that you think is relevant.

Amy Elizabeth Parker, Alameda

Resident to Towne Centre: Slow Down

How can the city staff conclude that increasing the size of Alameda Towne Centre by 30 percent, from 545,000 to 706,000 square feet, and making it a regional mall with a major discount store would not impact Alameda’s environment and streets? From a traffic perspective, nothing has changed since the 2006 target environmental impact report. The target proposal they defend would not cause any problems. And so the final environmental impact report (FEIR) still allows a discount store. This time it could be larger than the target proposal via modifying the Mervyns building with a second story and a multilevel garage. The FEIR states there are no impacts with estimated increase of 9,700 vehicles per weekday or 50 percent traffic increase for the Centre.

Alameda is an island. We must give more careful consideration to the way the island develops. Unfortunately South Shore should have been on the estuary side of the island, and significantly increasing it impacts the quality of life of our neighborhoods.

The citizens of Alameda are not opposed to growth. We implore the planning board to deny the FEIR for the Centre expansion until a reality-based, technically correct assessment of its impacts can be presented and reviewed by the public. We, the people, will settle for no less. Let the shopping center finish its remodel, install the sidewalks, etc. Only then, that is after the remodel, can reality-based evaluations be performed of the impacts associated with an expansion.

Comments can be heard at the August 11 Planning Board Hearing.

Eugenie Thomson, Alameda

End the Warrantless Searches

I realize you may be a bit busy to have time for my rather long letter. It’s basically a copy of a letter I’ve send to assorted federal and state agencies protesting this weird practice of random fishing expeditions against food stamp recipients, even when no fraud is suspected and where the recipient is known to be highly compliant and cooperative in every way. Before, when only “real losers” ended up on social services, nobody cared about these degradations. But now, as I say in my letter, that conservatives and liberals alike are needing social services as the economy spirals downward, even a lot of conservative folk may be shocked to see that being on food stamps causes them to virtually lose their right to be free from warrantless searches without probable cause.

I’ll understand if you don’t have time for this, but I thought I’d give my little protest a whirl. Copies of the letter below were sent to Feinstein, the White House, the Agriculture Secretary, and local and state officials.

Heck, if I had my druthers, I’d like a cameraperson to film this creepy “home invasion” and put it on YouTube. I think the general disgust over the feel of this would be bipartisan.

I am a citizen of Contra Costa County. I am a model social services recipient. I’m disabled and on Social Security Disability. I’m totally honest, no drugs, no criminal record, accurate and honest in all my reporting. My social services agency here in Contra Costa County, Employment and Human Services, does not suspect me of any dishonesty. In fact they know I’m painstakingly honest and scrupulous. I even report birthday presents and tax returns and practically every dime I get. Everyone knows where I live. Everyone knows I live alone. It’s all public and easy to see and my past and everything is totally transparent. And yet they have a policy of demanding their way into innocent people’s homes, without cause, by their own admission, even when they suspect nothing. They are allowed to invade our privacy because the food stamp laws are written that way and, unfortunately, since we poor people aren’t so important politically, no one comes to our aid when our personal dignity is harmed.

I would not object to these searches, which I know are technically legal and upheld by the courts, even though they are totally unethical in most cases, if, for instance, they had probable cause to suspect information had been withheld or inaccurately reported by the applicant. But, in fact, they already know they have all the information, but are asking for it again, even though it will be exact copies of what they already have. In other words, they’re claiming to come get paperwork, but, by their own admission, they admit they already have the paperwork and that it is complete. So, by their own admission, they are just coming to conduct a fishing expedition against someone whom they currently have no evidence against or cause to suspect has done anything wrong. In fact, they probably believe my information is astoundingly accurate. They are, in short, just invading people’s privacy since the laws are written in such a way that the poor are deprived of their privacy. They are, to be exact, picking weak people who have no rights, according to the way Congress has written the laws, and just luxuriating in their random ability to turn anyone’s life inside out because they simply feel like it.

Now, I will comply with this search, which violates really everything America stands for, since I have nothing to hide. However, I want you to know I am deeply offended, and I want a camera filming this so that the public can see how creepy it feels to have a person forcing their way into your home and rummaging around your personal effects simply because they have the arbitrary power to do so, although they themselves admit they have no cause, no suspicion, and have all the records they need already. Since they themselves have given me receipts showing they have all the exact records they are claiming to need to come and get.

Of course home searches should be reserved only for cases where workers can state they really suspect something is really wrong with the applicant’s honesty, or that some other exotic information has led them to believe that a search of a home would really be helpful and reveal something deeply important (a search which, for anyone but a poor person, requires a serious warrant and judge to scrutinize). In other words, in other parts of our legal system, it’s understood that the invasion of a home is offensive, and that searches that are just fishing expeditions where the searchers freely admit they suspect nothing are horrendous.

Rest assured, I will comply, but under severe protest, and the public will get very detailed information about how this looks and feels. In the past, politicians felt there was nothing to lose politically by just simply abandoning civil rights when it came to the poor, since no one cared about anyone who was poor. But now that the economy is down and people are needing social services, even formerly healthy people and people who are usually employed, more people will be offended when they see this could be them needing food and medicine, and that, although they are totally honest, and although the social workers know they are honest, still they could have this degrading exercise in intimidating poor people go on for them in their own homes.

I want this completely groundless abuse of my personal privacy and personal dignity and my personal honor to stop, and we need the leaders of agencies to step in and stop this, not just for my sake, but for the sake of all the hard-working Americans who may suddenly find themselves in my position. We need the executive branch to step in and ask congressional leaders to work on this. Since both conservatives and liberals are losing their homes and their jobs and are needing food stamps, I think we can all work together to make sure that honest people, suspected of nothing, don’t have groundless, warrantless fishing expeditions going on in the sacred space of their private homes unless there is a serious accusation being made backed up with probable cause and ideally some evidence.

Mel C. Thompson, Pleasant Hill

Giving Back to the Library

At its web site, the public UC Berkeley Library has the unmitigated nerve and gall to post to the public a prominent “Giving to the Library” page unabashedly soliciting monetary donations and “gifts” from the public. Yet through blatantly discretionary and discriminatory policies and practices, it imperiously restricts public access to its main stacks to elitist and exclusionary extremes which have remained unduly unchecked and unchallenged for far too long an untold span of time — until now:

Now the only other way a visiting member of the taxpaying public, including residents of the oppressive and repressive state of California, can gain rightful public access to that library’s main stacks is of course to pay an extortionate, profiteering $100 fee for an annual library borrowing card — or to confront and contend with habitually rude and obnoxious clerks at its circulation “privileges desk” — in application for a two-month maximum so-called “reference card,” permitting simply stacks access without any borrowing privileges — whose sole mission and reason for existence is to strain every nerve restricting public access further rather than courteously accommodate requests for stacks access made by prospective library visitors.

Amongst the motivations for so imperiously restricting public stacks access presumably includes discouraging (as Cal cops habitually do) Berkeley’s legion homeless population from even entering the library, and preventing taxpaying members of the visiting public from overworking or otherwise overexerting the wrists and vocal cords of overpaid (from tax-paid public funds) library staff. Poor dears!


Personally I’m no stranger to either this library or its mightily elitist, exclusionary, discretionary, and discriminatory policies and practices. Still in my possession are no less than five of those so-called main stacks access “reference” cards from 1989, 1990, 1992, 1996, and 2002 — that latter card renewed at least four times! In less prohibitive and stringent times past, in fact, a wonderful lady head of the library circulation department’s “Service Desk” (now the “Privileges Desk”), Mrs. Joyce M. Ford, kindly mailed me my reference cards upon written request — without ever once meeting me and without my ever setting foot out of my local Berkeley Bog hovel to acquire their sacrosanct cards! Despite Cal’s way over-rated academic reputation as a purely PUBLIC institution of lower learning, its magnificent main stacks collections are top-notch and a sheer joy to employ!

Once the new underground Gardner main stacks were constructed by around mid-1994 PUBLIC access abruptly grew even more exceptionally prohibitive and restrictive — much akin to how PUBLIC access to Cal’s Edwards Stadium running track grew more exceptionally prohibitive and restrictive every time its sponge was resurfaced.

Most recently I contacted this library’s “Reference Services” head, Imani Abalos — with perfect good faith and courtesy — about possibly acquiring a longer-term “reference card” for strictly research purposes (not a borrowing card since I prefer simply researching to borrowing anyhow), mentioning my full-time Cal staff wife in my exceptionally polite inquiry; and Abalos politely replied, at first, but then just as abruptly — and rudely — refused to reply at all to my follow-up inquiry concerning whether my wife’s Cal staff ID number was, as Abalos put it, “active in the library database privileges.” (Unbeknownst to me before, you see, spouses of full-time Cal staff members can acquire a main stacks access library card by presenting California ID and verification of marriage.) She wholly ignored my question concerning whether this card was obtainable by mail as it was in better times past. Instead — in true, typical bureaucratic, authority-tripping style — she passed the buck to Sheehan Hawkins Grant, head, “Library Privileges.” Then the real rude fun began.

In response to this excruciatingly simple request for PUBLIC accommodation and cooperation (for explicitly stated but perfectly reasonable logistical and health reasons) — and likewise in true, habitual bureaucratic, power-tripping style — Grant starts (in curt, discourteous emails) mistering me, summarily refusing my request, emphasizing “no exceptions.” Well, Grant’s presently to learn: RULES ARE MADE TO HAVE EXCEPTIONS!

For that matter, any COMPETENTLY THINKING bureaucrat could’ve recommended that the full-time Cal staff wife could indeed apply (with the requisite “documentation”) and pick up the bleedin’ reference card on her husband’s behalf SINCE SHE’S THE ONE ON-CAMPUS MOST EVERY SINGLE WEEKDAY! But no, that would be way too simple and COMMON-SENSICAL.

So I ask her to refer me to any cited university policy specifically prohibiting mailed reference card applications. Next Grant — likewise in true, habitual bureaucratic, power-tripping style — starts flippantly spouting legalistic GIBBERISH regarding so-called “best practice” and “due diligence” to, get this, “mitigate instances of FRAUD” — without EVER citing the first RATIONAL OR RELEVANT UNIVERSITY POLICY OR PROCEDURE! Get REAL, lady, the Cal library’s no freakin’ federal gold repository; nor is it even a social services agency so cease and desist from treating it as such! It’s a BOOK repository and a tax-paid PUBLIC service. And in MY book that means it’s a place of tax-paid public RIGHTS, not “privileges,” so let’s get our conceptual terminology straight from the start! And you’re there PRIVILEGED TO SERVICE — NOT CONDESCEND TO — THE PUBLIC WITH A GREAT DEAL OF JUST-DUE POLITENESS, COURTESY, AND RESPECT!

So finally, after as good as accusing me of making a fraudulent request, Grant — likewise in true, habitual bureaucratic, power-tripping style — dictates to me what “will be adhered to in this circumstance” and how application “must” be made. Well, Grant’s likewise presently to learn: I’m the wrong person picked ever to be haughtily and high-handedly told what I “will” or “must” do when applying for public SERVICE.

Whenever you take strong exception, strongly object, and vociferously raise your citizen’s voice in strong public protest against such arrogant and obnoxious bureaucratic FLUNKYISM, you automatically and naturally become the “bad guy.” But I’ll gladly and happily risk it.

In fact, I’ll make it my profoundly special mission to bring it to the attentive notice of every conceivable regulatory agency, local and state legislator, and news media outlet until this pompous Cal campus library converts at last, once and for all time, from a public PATRONIZING to a public SERVICING establishment — PERMANENTLY — advocating at the same time a CONSPICUOUSLY public BOYCOTT of ANY AND ALL charitable contributions to its very PUBLIC, TAX-PAID coffers!

Ms. Grant, you’ve deeply inspired me: count on it!

Joseph Covino Jr., Walnut Creek

The Truth About Diesel

I moved to the east end of Alameda four years ago. At first I wasn’t aware of the slow changes in my health, but as time went on, I noticed strange symptoms. The symptoms are listed at end of e-mail. After installing a window HEPA filter with a fan in front of it and closing all windows, the symptoms vanished overnight. This lead me to see the cause of the symptoms, the dangerous diesel pollutants generated from the vast amounts of (daily 2,000, 14,000 weekly) diesel trucks, ships, and other traffic at the Port of Oakland.

The Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach recently have stepped up programs to address this serious health issue. The Port of Oakland has implemented a plan. The only problem is, the time frame is set for 2020. That’s twelve years from now, which is unacceptable.

In the course of my work, I’ve rented to traveling nurses. From them I’ve found out how many people are being put in the hospital and at risk from the diesel particulates who live within a one- to four-mile radius of the Port of Oakland. This includes Oakland, Emeryville, Berkeley, Alameda, and possibly Treasure Island and Richmond. In addition, we hear ambulance sirens on average once a day. Less if the winds are coming from the south.

Almost every person I speak to — neighbors, officials, etc. — are not able to comprehend the vast amounts of diesel exhaust in the air. This is because they are not able to smell the air, due to not having a comparison. Since I am now aware of it, I actually can begin to smell it as I come up to the Highway 24 tunnel from the Orinda side. We will not be staying in this area. My concern is for the rest of the people living here.

This is something that needs to be addressed by the agencies and politicians responsible and the public needs to be made aware of to put pressure on them. I hope you are seeing the severity of this situation.


> Glue-like (sticky) phlegm.

> Insomnia.

> Severe and daily diarrhea.

> Continual metallic taste.

> Strange skin tabs and growths.

> Memory problems.

> Arthritic-like pains.

> Gum and teeth problems.

> Chest pains.

> Lowered immune system.

> Bloating.

> Irritability.

> Headaches.

> Disruption of digestion and elimination processes.

> Sores and boils.

> Increased need to urinate.

> Concentration problems.

> Severe heartburn.

> Rashes and severe itching.

> Possible increase in hair loss.

> Nails become harder and brittle.

> Smell and taste decreased.

> Cold and hot flashes.

Martin M. Haffner, Alameda

A Different Theory

Public policy in many urban cities is driven by the building trades union, the police officers union, and the chamber of commerce. All of these interests originate with people who use cities, but who do not live in them or send their children to their public schools.

In the city of Oakland, the mayor and the city council are now being pushed to ask the citizens of Oakland for more tax dollars for more police. There is no evidence that more police will reduce the crime rate of Oakland. There is little evidence that more police reduce the crime rate in any city. Yet, the premise of this campaign is more police mean less crime.

I do not know if this premise is true. I have seen no evidence that there is an inverse relationship between the crime rate and the number of police. What I do know is that this proposed tax only pays for a fraction of the cost of more cops. This new tax measure does mean more debt for the city of Oakland. I do know that this tax means more unfunded liability for the pension fund, for the public safety budget of the city of Oakland. I do know that this additional tax burden on the taxpayers of Oakland does not address the key issue that creates the criminal class on the streets of Oakland.

I theorize that the criminal class is created and grows from our inability to educate a very large number of black males. I do know that 66 percent of all black males who enter the Oakland public school system drop out before graduation. I do know that these young men who drop out before graduation have no skills and no education, thus no ability to make a living. I do know that these dropouts generate families without fathers in the homes, without means to support those families. I do know the likelihood of these dropouts engaging in criminal activity is very high.

We are being sold a crime theory without basis in fact. That theory is more police mean less crime. I propose a different baseless theory. I propose a policy change in the qualifications for a new police hire. I propose that the city of Oakland hire a different quality of police officer. I propose that the city of Oakland hire a police officer who knows the geography of Oakland. I propose that the city of Oakland hire a police officer who knows the people of Oakland. I propose that the city of Oakland hires a police officer who speaks the language of the streets of Oakland.

Since the police officers union has successfully lobbied and enacted a federal law which prevents the city from requiring that an officer be required to live in the jurisdiction that officer polices, the countermeasure is to hire people who are already residences.

I propose that the citizens of Oakland ask Councilman Larry Reid, who chairs the public safety committee, to introduce legislation, which awards any applicant for a police job who is a longtime resident of Oakland a twenty point preference. Such legislation would go a long way toward employing those who have a proven interest in the well-being of Oakland. Mr. Reid can be reached at 510-238-7007.

Joe Dobro, Oakland


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