Letters For February 13-19, 2008

Readers sound off on Carlos Plazola, Pilates, Dr. Cory Reddish, Decanter magazine, our crime column, and gentrification.

“Meet Oakland’s New Go-To Lobbyist,” Full Disclosure, 1/9

It’s a Shakedown

In the past I have read Mr. Gammon’s articles and not given them much thought, but admit it is kind of fun to read dirt about people once in a while. However, his recent article concerning Carlos Plazola hit home with me because I know Carlos and Laura Blair and I have researched the Emerald Views and Gateway projects. The negative image projected by Mr. Gammon of Carlos Plazola, Laura Blair, Emerald Views, and Gateway is shameful and unwarranted.

I have been a progressive all of my life. I believe in most issues that many other progressives believe in: We’re opposed to the death penalty, we believe in pro-choice, we believe in gay rights, in fact all civil rights, we believe in gun control and we are anti-war. Yet, I can’t remember when being progressive somehow became the same thing as being automatically opposed to constructing a building. I am a small construction contractor and I can think of no better service than to building a structure for people to live and work in. But whenever I read an article from the Express on any private development, the stereotype that they present is that they ALL must be these sleazy, corrupt developers.

The reason someone like Carlos Plazola is hired is because whenever a builder is crazy enough to try and do something in Oakland, every kind of group imaginable comes out of the woodwork and a builder needs help wading through all the B.S. Some people have legitimate concerns regarding a development in their city and should be heard. But it is also true that some just want to shake down the developer, knowing that if they scream loud enough and long enough, that eventually they will get something out of the deal.

Compare two Oakland projects right next to each other: The Gateway Community Development, which includes a section that is across the street from an elementary school, and the St. Joseph’s Senior & Family Housing project which is right next to the same elementary school. On the Gateway project a small but well organized group came out opposed to the project complaining about dust, traffic, height, noise, its close proximity to the school as being reasons that they are opposed to it. Yet the St Joseph’s Development, which is actually closer to the same school and being constructed by Bridge Housing, got a free pass. Why? Because one is perceived as having deep pockets, someone who is ripe for a shakedown, and the other is a nonprofit and you can’t squeeze much out of a nonprofit.

If I were to invest my life savings in constructing a building in Oakland, I would be crazy not to hire someone like the very capable Carlos Palzola and Laura Blair to help wade through all the crap that one has to go through to get anything done in this city.

The Express seems to have this fantasy image of lobbyist and developers. Where they all must meet up in back rooms and then twist the arms of some elected official to vote for their project. They also seem to think that one city councilperson can amass enough power to strong-arm another city councilperson into voting his way. Does anyone at the Express have any idea of the egos that elected officials have? Do you really think that someone who broke their back to get elected is going to just roll over and play dead because another elected official asked them to? They also seem to think that friendship is going to get all this special treatment. Hell, I got a lot of friends, but am I going to jeopardize my job because a friend asked for a favor that’s probably going to get splashed all over the newspaper? No, sorry I’m not. And neither is Pat Kernighan or Ignacio De La Fuente.

But you can believe what you want. If this newspaper is willing to pay their rent by selling ads to prostitutes, then it’s not much of a stretch to have Mr. Gammon fantasize about how things get done in Oakland. Its just a shame that hardworking people like Carlos Plazola and Laura Blair have to have their names slandered in the process.

Jay Dodson, Oakland

Likable Enough

If you haven’t noticed, Mr. Plazola gets very prickly when it comes to unflattering comments directed his way — this is obvious from reviewing his numerous retorts to similar feedback on other web sites and blogs — he definitely comes out swinging when it happens. It is unbecoming of him, really, as Mr. Plazola is “likable enough,” to borrow a phrase used by someone else recently when debating public issues.

John Klein, Oakland

“At the Core of It All,” Feature, 1/16

Beware the Exercise Ball

Thanks very much to R. Eric Clarke for the entertaining and inspiring “At the Core of it All.” I do have one correction to his facts though. Romana began studying with Joseph Pilates in the early 1940s. She has been teaching what he taught her for over sixty years.

Teaching Pilates in its original form and communicating that mission to the public is a daily challenge that I have taken on as the foundation for my work as a Pilates instructor. I am in a constant position of explaining what Pilates is and then clarifying what it isn’t because almost every person who inquires is misinformed. For example, the photo chosen to accompany the article: an exercise ball. Joseph Pilates never used a ball, and neither do I or any of my teachers. Joseph Pilates developed many apparatuses small and large, simple and complex, all designed to help us bring balance to our bodies taxed by our modern lifestyle. A word to the readers, if you see a ball in a studio or class, be aware: you know there’s something other than the original Pilates Method being taught.

Wishing good health and happiness to all!

Faye Stevenson, Alameda

“The Cost of Purification,” Feature, 1/16

Shining a Light Down There

It’s unfortunate that the author of this article takes a cynical perspective on the importance of cleansing as well as Dr. Cory’s unique approach to it. In this time, when so many people are engaging in too-drastic cleanses like the Master Cleanse (with little knowledge either of the effects of toxicity on their bodies or the ways in which they can begin to restore their health), Dr. Cory’s essential cleanse shines a sorely needed light on the practice and immense benefits of an appropriate cleansing program.

Dr. Cory is knowledgeable, compassionate and energetic, and had the author chosen to shed some of her own apparent prejudices towards all things “new-agey” and health-oriented, she might have gained something from a morning spent with a gifted health practitioner. I encourage other readers to look past the tone of this article and investigate Dr. Cory’s web site and services for yourself.

Caitlin Sislin, Oakland

Open Your Minds

It is unfortunate that the East Bay Express hires “journalists” who are so preoccupied with their need to ridicule their interviewees that they neglect to educate themselves on the subject of their article, or to execute even the most basic fact checks. I put the word journalist in quotes in keeping with Ms. Swan’s enthusiastic use of them throughout her article; had she even an elementary understanding of the terms she punctuates with such disdain, she might have avoided not only overusing this grammatical device but also revealing to the readership her ignorance of the subject matter.

For readers interested in learning about healthy diet and lifestyle, by the way, I would like to point out that quinoa (pronounced keen-wah, and not “kimwa”) is a South American grain rich in protein, highly digestible, and very tasty. Ms. Swan might have ordered a bowl at that very moment (it is on the Cafe Gratitude menu) and begun her own foray into a healthier attitude on the spot.

Sadly, the tone of the article leads one to believe that the author was mostly concerned with distancing herself from the subject at hand, and convincing her readership of her skepticism for an otherwise worthy and important matter. I hope interested readers will pursue the subject of cleansing with an open-mindedness and precision that Ms. Swan was unable, or unwilling, to exhibit.

Leela Devi, Berkeley

“Notes of Kiwi,” Wineau, 1/9

Decant Your Preconceptions

I don’t know how much you read Decanter, but the wineries that submit wines to their awards is usually limited, and very rarely do the best producers even go near the awards. So even though Central Otago Pinots are excellent, they were not in this case at least judged against the best Burgundy has to offer. I am a Decanter subscriber, and love them, but I think their awards are kind of a joke. Also, why the assumption that the readers of Decanter are SNOBS?

Jason Carey, Oakland

“Does Crime Create Conservatives?” Apprehension, 1/9

Not Information, Storytelling

OK. This we all know. Basically this article is nothing more than a series of stories. It does not even contain any statistical information. How about some of the article about what is happening in law enforcement? Social services? School truancy? Funding for youth programs? Parole education? In-jail reintegration programs? Jobs? and … Yeah, other than relating a string of events that make a catchy read, what is the article telling us? Are these crimes even representative of what is going on or are they the interesting exceptions? This is not information. It is storytelling.

Donald Macleay, Oakland

“Yuppie Go Home,” Theater, 1/23

Urban Pioneers

Gentrification of the hood? How about “urban pioneers'” with enough sense and courage to bring decency back to neighborhoods destroyed by violence and drugs. I just love it when those without the guts to endure life in a transitioning drug neighborhood call us “gentry.” Ain’t no gentry around here, just a bunch of working-class and barely middle-class residents down in my ‘hood fighting for the right to have a safe neighborhood for their children. Seems to me there are two privileged classes, those at the top and those exploiting the bottom. I am referring to the drug dealers who couldn’t be bothered actually working for a living.

Laura Menard, Berkeley

More Letters Online

Complete version of these letters online at EastBayExpress.com

Letters Policy

Please provide your full name, address, and daytime phone number, although we’ll only print your name, city, and affiliation. Send letters to [email protected]m or Letters, East Bay Express, 1335 Stanford Ave., Emeryville, CA 94608. Letters are edited for length and clarity.

Correction

In our February 6 review of foolsFURY’s play Monster in the Dark, only one of two costume designers was mentioned. The costumes were by Kaibrina Sky Buck and Ambra Sultzbaugh.

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