Letters for January 26

Readers sound off on organic labeling, OONA, and Steep Hill labs.

“The Cannabis Clean-Up Team,” Legalization Nation, 1/5; “Steep Hill Cleaning Up the ‘Bathtub Gin’ of Ganja: Pics and Links,” Legalization Nation Blog, 1/5

Not Legit

One must be careful when reading articles like this. This is not real journalism with research behind what is said. This lab is not founded or based on peer-reviewed scientific methods. In a compared study with a lab that uses methods similar to what is used by the Dutch government, steep hills values for potency did not come up with the same numbers. This is an unfortunate problem for an industry that is trying to be legitimate. Labs in this industry must have peer-reviewed methods by legitimate scientists.

Jake Pritchett, Oakland

Lacking Cred By Choice

A recent article in the East Bay Express showed a glimpse into the inner workings of Oakland-based laboratory Steep Hill, where cannabis-based medicines can be tested for potency and quality. In the article, the founders of Steep Hill expressed the ambition to “Clean Up the Bathtub Gin of Ganja,” referring to the chaotic times of the prohibition. In other words, the services they provide will once and for all separate the good cannabis from the bad, and everyone can feel safer.

As a scientist with a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry of cannabis, I have been involved with legal and international cannabis research for more than ten years. Over that time, I have worked with universities, the Dutch government, pharmaceutical companies, and the Dutch medical cannabis grower Bedrocan. My experience includes developing the Dutch official quality-control methods, researching the Volcano vaporizer, and isolating some of the first cannabinoid standards. More recently I have become involved in clinical trials and international policy, mainly focused on the US. As an established medical cannabis expert, I would like to raise some questions about the ambitions expressed in the newspaper article.

According to the article, “The cannabis quality control lab Steep Hill has scientific validity problems.” The methodologies used for potency testing and quality control are firmly kept secret, as the founders of Steep Hill feel confident that any form of peer-review is unnecessary, and self-validation is sufficient. At the same time, the ambitious lab is drawing national attention, and may even be featured in National Geographic soon. Because of the reasons I will argue below, anyone concerned with the future of medical cannabis should wonder if this is actually a positive development. For the moment, there is no reason yet to cheer the accomplishments of potency testing, because we actually do not know what we are cheering for.

Steep Hill is, without a doubt, one of the leaders in the field of potency and quality testing, if only because the number of cannabis testing laboratories is still quite small. But as usual, with leadership come great responsibilities as well. For a laboratory selling analytical results, this responsibility comes in the form of using methods that have been thoroughly validated. This means that you are absolutely sure that the results are reliable, reproducible, and most of all, transparent. “Validations in cannabis come in the form of self-validations,” commented co-founder David Lampach in the article. But it is good to realize that this is a choice of Steep Hill, and not a necessity. Self-validation may be a viable option for the medical cannabis industry as a whole, as opposed to central regulation by the government. However, self-validation should not be used as an excuse for obscurity by any single laboratory.

The justification Steep Hill gives is that they want to protect their scientific method. This makes sense, and they are entitled to make a few bucks on the service they have pioneered. Also, there is no need to disclose the person who developed the method, and even publication in a peer-reviewed journal is not really needed. Even the lack of a scientific training of the two founders may be forgiven. After all, well-designed methods for potency and quality testing carry the signature of quality in themselves. But in the case of Steep Hill, who is supposed to recognize that quality, if no one is allowed to look? Steep Hill counters this argument by pointing out they compare results with other “pot-labs.” But again, what do we know about those labs, what is actually being compared, and what labs are we talking about, anyway? The basic message here seems to be: just trust us, because we know what we are doing. This is clearly not acceptable, when so much is at stake. A nice label saying “Steep Hill certified safe” is good marketing for sure, but it does not necessarily guarantee patient safety. In fact, safety claims that are not validated by sound science, specifically about pathogens, may be a lawsuit waiting to happen.

I personally agree that Steep Hill still seems to lack scientific credibility, but that is mostly their own choice. Peer-review and method validation have a very clear purpose; to allow knowledgeable and trained individuals to have a critical look at what you are doing. The goal is not to try and take you down, but simply to check if your product lives up to the expectations. And if there is one thing we have learned from the recent economic crisis; companies have an almost inherent tendency to blow those expectations out of proportion. It is therefore not more than reasonable to allow some form of checks and balances.

Such outside interference does not need to be a threat to business. Under normal scientific conditions, there is enough information that can be communicated about your methodology, without giving away your trade secrets. These results are summarized in an extensive validation report, which should be finished before actual testing begins. For the services Steep Hill offers, this includes parameters such as extraction recovery, linearity, specificity, reproducibility, and number of duplicates analyzed. Also, it would not hurt business if it was known where their cannabinoid standards come from, and how often the analytical systems are checked. And finally, all results should come with clear reports and an explanation of the calculations that were used to obtain those results.

To make this very clear, everything mentioned above is absolutely standard procedure in the realm of quality control, whether it applies to pharmaceuticals, food, or even car manufacturing. In my opinion, if Steep Hill continues to perform its operations in the current obscure way, they load the suspicion on to themselves. And of course, the same applies to any of the other labs that are currently operating in places such as California, Colorado and Montana. I sincerely congratulate such laboratories with their success, and it is amazing to see how they are capable of capturing so much positive attention. But now the time has come for them to embrace the standards of the scientific community they wish to partake in, for the sake of the medical cannabis community as a whole. Would patients buy any other medicine that comes out of a factory where nobody knows what is actually going on? I guess not. So why should this be accepted for medical cannabis? When you pay ‘$120 per sample’ for a service such as potency testing, you should be allowed to ask some questions about the quality of that service.

There is an important reason why we should all care about the way cannabis testing labs are doing their business. If cannabis is a medicine, then treat it as a medicine. That is the message that is currently resonating through the medical cannabis discussion. Potency testing and quality control is currently the flagship of the medical cannabis community, and it seems to bring the entire discussion to a new level of acceptance, both with politicians and the general public. If this ship goes down because a few people are allowed to run away with its benefits, it may bring the whole medical cannabis fleet down with it. Imagine, if it would ever become clear that the analytical results of several years of testing have been unreliable, this would bring the credibility of the entire medical cannabis field down to the ground again. Especially, if it becomes clear that the mistakes made could have been avoided entirely … by allowing some basic professional standards to be implemented. Therefore, it is time to make absolutely sure that the foundation under this new trend is absolutely sound. And everyone who cares about the future of MC has a responsibility in this; the patient, the provider, the physician, and the politician.

Yes, it is necessary and appreciated that Steep Hill, and other laboratories nationwide, want to clean up the ‘bathtub Gin of Ganja.’ But under the current conditions, they may just be making Moonshine instead. Perhaps they should clean up their own bathroom first.

Dr. Arno HazekampCannabis Researcher, Leiden UniversityThe Netherlands

“Will You Attack Lincoln, Too?” Letters, 1/12

Rates vs. Cuts

David Altschul, J.D., is correct that 1 percent of taxpayers pay 40 percent of income taxes. This is hardly surprising. These taxpayers have 25 percent of all the income. However, they actually pay less than 25 percent (let alone 40 percent) of total income and payroll taxes.

Studies also show that tax cuts that are not offset by spending cuts do indeed boost economic growth, as one might expect. But this does not mean that lower tax rates will necessarily increase economic growth, which is really the question since it isn’t possible to continually cut taxes without cutting spending.

Robert Denham, M.A., J.D., Berkeley

“Bonds Aren’t Free Money,” Letters, 1/12

The Best Value

Steve Finacom claims the fundamental issue in “the dispute over Berkeley’s Measure FF branch library bonds is that the Board of Library Trustees is attempting to use bond money for an unauthorized purpose — completely demolishing two of Berkeley’s four branch libraries, and constructing new buildings instead.”

From my standpoint, as a recently-retired librarian who worked for the Berkeley Public Library for 24 years, the issue is whether Berkeley citizens get the best value for their money. They voted to improve the four branches and to make them earthquake safe — and there is no fiscally responsible way to improve services and ensure safety in the South and West branches except by starting over.

Whether the language of Measure FF authorized demolition is a legal issue to be settled in court, but I believe the Library’s public process — to evaluate architectural alternatives for providing expanded library services in a safe environment — showed that constructing new buildings was the better, more cost-effective choice.

In 2009, I participated in the three public workshops for South Branch, my neighborhood library, in which Field & Paoli architects compared the alternative of retrofitting and expanding the existing structure to the alternative of constructing a new building. Finacom, attending only the initial workshop, denounced the idea of even considering a new construction alternative. Those of us who attended all three workshops ultimately concluded that constructing a new building was the better idea.

South and West Berkeley contain the bulk of Berkeley’s low-income and minority people. The branches that serve these communities are in the worst shape. The library board should be congratulated for being willing to spend a larger proportion of the $26 million voted for improving the branches citywide to build new libraries in South and West Berkeley.

Details, especially the Noll & Tam structural evaluations of the South and West branches, are available through a link at BerkeleyPublicLibrary.org.

Jane Scantlebury, Berkeley

“Berkeley Settles Library Fight,” News, 12/22/10; “Bonds Aren’t Free Money,” Letters, 1/12

Keeping Nuclear Free

Thank you for publishing Judith Scherr’s article and Steven Finacom’s letter; however, there is an additional important issue at the library which we address below: its adherence to the Nuclear Free Berkeley Act.

An overwhelming majority of Berkeley citizens in a 1986 election approved the Nuclear Free Berkeley Act (NFBA). The Peace and Justice (P&J) Commission was established at that time to monitor the enforcement of the Act. The law states the City “shall grant no contract to any person or business which knowingly engages in work for Nuclear Weapons, unless the city council makes a specific determination that no reasonable alternative exists….” Most of the proposed contracts that have come before the P&J Commission are with the University of California (UC), which manages the Nuclear Weapons labs. In the case of UC there is almost always, if not always, a finding of “no reasonable alternative.”

The question now is: Will the Berkeley Public Library (BPL) and the City Manager abide by the City Council’s decision to waive the NFBA for just two years, rather than the three years requested by the Library?


On January 27, 2009, the Berkeley City Council was under pressure from a huge crowd of anti-nuclear public commenters demanding the council honor the Nuclear Free Berkeley (NFBA) by denying a waiver of the Act requested by the Berkeley Public Library (BPL). 

The Peace and Justice (P&J) Commission had shortly before held a hearing on the library’s waiver request and voted 7-2 to recommend denial by the city council.

The library director justified the NFBA waiver request, stating that the Checkpoint check-out Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) system (installation of which was completed just a few years previous) was deteriorating and that, because it is a proprietary system, it could only be maintained by 3M, a company designated by Checkpoint. 

The problem: 3M declined to sign the statement required of all city contractors that states the company is not, and does not intend to be, involved in nuclear weapons work or the nuclear fuel cycle.


At the suggestion of a recently retired library trustee, the council waived the NFBA for two years, rather than allowing the three-year contract requested by the BPL. The two years is either up on January 27, 2011 or March 14, 2011, March 15, 2009 being the date the contract was signed with 3M. 

What’s the bamboozle? The bamboozle is that, although the contract states that it will end on March 14, 2011, there is an added phrase: “The City Manager of the City may extend the term of this contract by giving written notice.” Furthermore, the contract indicates that the annual amount for maintenance is $56,305, yet the total amount of the contract is exactly three times that amount, $168,915. Why did they include enough for three years of maintenance, when the city council approved a waiver of the NFBA for just two years, not three?

More History

In the Fall of 2010, BPL signed a contract with Bibliotheca, a non-nuclear company, for a new RFID checkout system. On November 8, 2010, the P&J Commission wrote to Library Director Donna Corbeil requesting that it be informed of the “schedule for installation of the new RFID system, and final and complete termination of the 3M contract, such that the Library will be in compliance with the NFBA waiver deadline of two years”. 

Library Director Corbeil’s November 23, 2010 response letter to P&J does not provide any RFID installation schedule. It does state that “on November 18, 2010, 3M representatives were notified … that the Library has elected to allow contract # 7890 with 3M to terminate on the agreed date of Monday, March 14, 2011. Consequently, the Library will not be exercising its contractual option to extend service.”

Current Upshot

What’s the concern, then? The concern is that the library has provided no information to the P&J Commission, and has not made information public, as to whether the installation of the new RFID tags in the library’s thousands of books and other media has even begun. But, even if it has, how can it be completed by March 14, 2011? The Checkpoint RFID system took about one year to install and involved using librarians, aides, and temporary employees, the latter at a cost of over $65,000.

What is the library going to do if the new RFID system is not fully installed in the South and West branches — those scheduled for demolition — and in the Central Library, by March 14, 2011? (Claremont and North are due to be closed for renovation in March, 2011.)

It appears BPL has three ways to go.  We suggest the third.

1.  Continue the old deteriorating dysfunctional Checkpoint RFID system without a maintenance contract while waiting for the new RFID system to be fully installed.  This would undoubtedly result in a security gap for Library materials.

2.  Mock the city council’s action, and mock the Nuclear Free Berkeley Act representing the community’s wishes, by exercising the option to extend the 3M contract (an option that should never have been included).

3.  Cancel the contract with Bibliotheca — it has an escape clause — and install a bar code checkout system which would merely require placing metal strips in those books which do not already have them, instead of having to replace RFID tags in each and every book and all other Library materials.

A bar code checkout system would be the honorable and most cost-effective way to go.  Shouldn’t we be concerned about cost in the current economy, especially in the face of cuts which must be made because of the reduction of State funds to local agencies?

Gene Bernardi


Berkeleyans Organizing for Library Defense


“How Organic Is Organic?” Eco Watch, 1/5


To me, the bigger issue isn’t about misleading labeling, but of health consequences. Why would anyone ever think to process food with a petroleum-based neurotoxin??? Just frightening that the US food industry and the USDA would allow any use of hexane or any other toxic chemical!!!Another argument for not eating anything processed. Yikes — I’ve been eating these bars almost on a daily basis for years thinking they were “healthy”!

Rose Borden, Oakland

“Profiting from Eminent Domain,” News, 1/5

Trash Without Borders

I don’t really understand why this was even included:

“On a recent afternoon, an old mattress and chunks of concrete were strewn across the sidewalk.”

I live in West Oakland.

Have you looked at the general area?There is trash everywhere.

Matthew Meyer, Oakland

“Drug Addicts Unite!” News, 12/29

Why Punish the Sick?

Lauds to the recovering addicts and their health providers who have banded together to affirm and exert their right to more rational health-care options.

Their voices must be heard and respected if we as a society are ever to come to realistic terms with the problems caused by overdependence on drugs.

One treatment option which receives surprisingly little publicity, despite its apparent efficacy, is suboxone therapy for narcotics addiction. I once had a girlfriend who was severely strung out on heroin; when she decided to kick, she gathered together eighty bucks and scored ten suboxone pills on the underground market. I was very skeptical of her claims as to this prescription medication’s benefits: to wit, that it immediately and completely alleviates withdrawal symptoms and allows the resumption of normal behavior patterns. I was forced to revise my opinions when I witnessed its effects: she took one-half to one pill per day and experienced no physical illness whatsoever, returning to her accustomed occupation with absolutely no delay. In eight days, she was done with the treatment and required no “maintenance” dosage to stay well. I have since learned that this therapy is in fact known in medical circles, but for some reason it is not made widely available. To my knowledge the only way an addict can receive this treatment is via a psychiatrist, a pricey alternative few can readily afford.

I may be wrong, but suboxone seems like a wonder drug for narcotics addiction, and I can’t help but feel it is a deeply puritanical need to punish the sick which limits our full acceptance of this highly effective therapy. We ought to be giving the stuff away! In any event, if there is something I am missing perhaps a qualified member of the treatment community could respond either in these pages or via email to [email protected].

Dr. Robert Kenneth Lewis

President, Feel The Love Foundation


“Transformation of Oona,” Music, 12/29

Hippie or Not

You’re spot-on that OONA is brash, saucy, crisp, and sharp, and the band blends blues grooves with pop appeal. But anyone who’s heard Joy of Cooking’s stuff would have to question whether the sizzle, spice, and strength of Oona’s music and live performance is really “despite her hippie pedigree.”As the SF Chronicle‘s Jon Carroll once put it, Joy of Cooking was “a remarkable rock and roll band, half ballads and half boogie, with a driving rhythm section fronted by two swell women, Toni Brown (a smart, crafty songwriter who could evoke sentiment without sentimentality) and Terry Garthwaite (who sings like an angel with dirty wings).” OONA is an original, but she’s carrying on the fine (and too rare) tradition of smarts, solid craft, and killer rhythm and vocals.

Josie Garthwaite, San Francisco

A Godsend

I’ve seen OONA live five times. If watching the heavens of music is like surveying deep space, OONA is already a star — with a different kind of make-up, rich with human truth and infectious hooks and rhythm. In a pop world where authenticity and soul-connection seem scarce, OONA is a godsend. And fun as hell.

Ramona Minero, San Francisco

Check, Check, Check

The reviewer is more interested in being clever than accurate. The music is not excessive nor artificial. It is multilayered and cannot be pigeon-holed into one genre.

You like tasty guitar leads? Check. Toe-tapping bass lines? Check. Layered and propulsive keyboards? Check. Dynamic and rocking drumming? Check. Vocals that originate from the soul? Check.

Take the time and see OONA yourself.

Mark Clement, Oakland

“A New Day in Oakland,” Seven Days, 1/5

Key to Urban Investment

How would Brown grab the tax increment financing mechanism that the redevelopment agencies hold? Given the sordid past of many redevelopment agencies in the state, it wouldn’t be that surprising if they went away — but that tax financing is key to urban investment in one form or another.

Doug Johnson, Oakland

“Cee Lo Green,” CD Reviews, 1/5

Better Days

And to think he used to make relevant, meaningful music with Goodie Mob. I guess it all started when he wore that wedding dress. We really need Dungeon Family in times like these.

Carl Chambers, Oakland

“Worst Movie of the Year,” Letters, 1/12

Celluloid Bile

Kudos to David Wietzman for his letter about the Coen brother’s True Grit. I also wasted two hours on it, and felt ashamed and sickened at the El Cerrito audience cackling with glee at Jeff Bridge’s abuse of Indian children. He also did a truly atrocious job of overacting.

Another example of review inflation is the favorable critical response to Black Swan. Did we need another film where the female characters are impaired or devilish? Do the writers of this bile enjoy seeing a young woman kill herself at her moment of success? All the credits at the end seemed to belong to men.

Rachel DeCarlo, El Cerrito

“Yelp and the Business of Extortion 2.0,” Feature, 2/18/09

A Cash Grab

Yelp is absolutely, 100-percent a cash-grab. I posted a (tactfully worded) negative review, stating 100 percent that it was my personal experience, truthful and legit. There was no slander, no explicit language, no reason whatsoever to pull the review — yet two weeks later it was filtered and the offending business’ reputation restored to perfect shape. It is a cash-grab and a joke. Cannot wait for a competitor to blow Yelp out of the water.

Mike Hoyles, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Screw Them

I left a nice review for a local business that my wife and I use quite often on Yelp.com. I carefully wrote the review so it could be useful to someone reading it. What happens? My review gets filtered by their overzealous filter system. Screw Yelp.com, I removed my review, told Yelp.com to take a long walk on a short pier and closed my account. I will never trust Yelp.com again after this and reading about other peoples’ experiences with them.

Sean Ryer, Galena, OH

“Top Ramen for Life,” Feature, 11/10

Educated At a Price

I thought being educated was a gain for everyone. The interest rates are horrendous. Loan sharks and Sallie Mae have a lot in common. I am in a situation where we agreed on a payment plan and Sallie Mae reneged on the agreement. No one will take my case. Sallie Mae will not allow me to consolidate either — the recovery department is a joke. The advocates are not helpful, they just keep telling you how sorry they are. I have resorted to getting two jobs. If I had known that being educated came at this price, I probably would have just opted to get a government job and kept good credit. I am a skilled, professional living close to the poverty level with bad credit.

Linda Kamal, Kansas City, MO

“Collective Bike Riding Gaining Traction,” News, 11/10

Me, Too

I’ve guided a few ad-hoc gangs of bikes on First Fridays, although we have made the obligatory stop at Linden Street first to enjoy a fine sample of their brews, we then head into downtown Oakland to tour the galleries on the Murmur nights. It’s so much fun to have enough bikes together to claim a full lane of traffic and generally cars have been very friendly and entertained by our presence!

Tres Fontaine, Oakland

“Dangerous Perspectives,” Feature, 12/15

Harrowing Read

Beautifully written, Rachel. Felt like I was experiencing his harrowing shoots, too.

Nga Bui, Oakland

Juvenile Behavior

“Speeding down 880 at 90 miles per hour … lurched across lanes … weaving between the other vehicles.”

The guy is welcome to risk his own skin and make orphans of his kids, but he is a jerk for endangering others with his juvenile behavior.

Aaron S. Thomas, El Cerrito

“Hello Again,” Food, 12/15

Welcome Home

I’m really happy Giovanni’s has reopened again — new menu, fresh homemade pasta, and keeping the best parts of the past, the pizza and focaccia bread. The service is warm and friendly, the decor has been updated but it’s not a total makeover. I still feel at home.

Tom Rathmann, Oakland

Traditionally American

Should be “fried egg panino” (singular), not “fried egg panini,” if you’re referring to a single menu item. Plus penne is almost always a dried, store-bought pasta, even in the best restaurants, unless the kitchen is making it fresh with a pasta extruding machine. Chicken parm and veal marsala are not programmed into a European’s food memory hard-drive. Don’t confuse traditional recipes from Italy with Italian-American cuisine.

Adrian Reynolds, Oakland

“A Safer Place to Break the Law?” News, 12/22

Blame the Burbs

I just knew it! It’s that suburban element coming in and messing up our city.

I’m saying that still believing graffiti is art.

Peter Schroepfer, Oakland

“Express Appoints New Co-Editors,” Editor’s Note, 12/22

I’ll Miss Bob

Just read Gammon will be assuming another position with the East Bay Express. I’m pleased for him but disappointed because I will certainly miss his articles!

There were times I thought Mr. Gammon had a death wish — he walked a thin line at times to let the people know what is going on.

He is truly an investagative reporter. I wish him well.

Carolyn Mixon, Oakland

Editor’s Note

Co-Editor Robert Gammon plans to continue being a reporter, but on a less frequent basis.

“Oakland Funds Ballpark Study,” Seven Days, 12/29

A Waste of Money

Thank Oakland City Council member Jane Brunner and her cronies for wasting $750,000 to fund an environmental study on a ballpark for the A’s. And this from a city that can barely pay for basic services, is losing police, has a huge deficit. This is supposed to somehow send a message to the A’s that we are serious? The A’s will do what the A’s want to, and that’s that. The A’s might be more willing to stay if Oakland spent that money on police and schools. Then let the A’s fund their own environmental study and let the A’s pay for their own ballpark as well.

Andrew Berna-Hicks, Oakland

“From Disease to Green,” Eco Watch, 12/29

So Not Green

Technology to burn the biosphere is so not green. Biofuels from non-recycled products are essentially profiteering. Thank you for the industry perspective. Yay localism! Yay science!

Paul Anderson, Oakland

“Fight to Feelmore,” Culture Spy, 1/5

Feel Great

This is a really great article. I could become a fan of both Ms. Joiner and of writer Rachel Swan. Good work!

Martin A. David, Oakland


In our January 5 Culture Spy, “The Flap Over Feelmore,” we misspelled the name of Fred Brown and his store, Rocsil’s.

In our January 19 cover story, “Parks in Peril,” we listed the wrong members of Oakland’s Public Works Committee. It consists of city councilmembers Libby Schaaf, Larry Reid, Rebecca Kaplan, and Nancy Nadel.

Miscellaneous Letters

A New Progressive Strategy for California

The Republicans have made the “No New Taxes” mantra an article of faith, and they can supposedly impose their will on the Democratic majority because of the two-thirds rule for revenue increases. There is, however, a secret weapon that is now available to the majority, if they decide to use it. The last election has now made it possible for a simple majority to pass a budget, even though two-thirds are still required to approve revenue increases. In other words, the taxophobic minority can decide how big the pie is, but now the majority gets to decide how the pie is divided. This means the majority can say to the minority, “You don’t want to pay for government? Then no government for you.” In other words, not a dime from Sacramento goes to any district whose representative refuses to vote for revenue increases. No public-funded building projects, no libraries, no convention centers. Jerry Brown has plans that will increase his power to use Sacramento money as carrots. He wants to transfer more responsibilities to the states, and then send revenue to the individual cities and counties to perform what were formerly state government duties. There is, however, an opportunity for using sticks as well as carrots. Transfer the responsibilities to every county and/or city, but only send money to areas whose representatives are willing to vote for revenue increases. Let the Republican districts pay for these responsibilities with local tax increases, or do without.

There are two possible outcomes that can arise from this action:

1) The Republican districts stoically tighten their belts and deteriorate into little western approximations of Somalia, with little or no functioning government. I don’t think this is very likely, but even if this happens the rest of us will still be able to use the extra revenue to keep our parks and schools open.

2) The people in those districts will protest that they are being unfairly treated, and demand their services back. The rest of us then say, “Write to your representative and state senator and tell him or her to vote for revenue increases. If they refuse, replace them next term with someone who will take a realistic approach to revenue issues. Until you do this, the fairest place to make government service cuts is to those who think that government is unnecessary.”

I can regretfully understand why President Obama has been forced to compromise with the new Republican majority in Congress. Governor Brown, however, is under no such pressure. California withstood the nationwide Republican onslaught by electing no Republicans to statewide office, and electing fewer Republicans to the statehouse. It is absurd and unjust that a minority perspective that has been decisively defeated at the polls should continue to maintain a stranglehold because of the two-thirds rule. In a recent poll, California voters were asked if we should “increase state funding for California’s community colleges and public universities.” Eighty-two percent said yes! To call this approval “overwhelming” is an understatement. Those extremists who have repeatedly cut state funding for public colleges are clearly out of sync with the rest of the public. They have forced their will on us for decades because of the old budget rules. Now that the majority controls the budget, we can take back the power of self-government. They have never compromised with us, and now there is no need to compromise with them. It is time to play hardball.


Teed Rockwell, Berkeley

Not-So-Smart Meters

PG&E response to my March 10, 2010 letter was insufficient. PG&E compared its SmartMeter radiation to our microwave. We can read the label within our microwave “complies with DHHS radiation standards 21 cfr – – -“. We can see no safety-label on the SmartMeter. Our microwave has “no-leakage” when off. PG&E compared its SmartMeter radiation to our telephone. We have a wired land-line. We have no air-conditioning, we need none in Martinez-by-the-bay.

PG&E SmartMeter signals are causing my after-dark motion-detector to be overworked.  If SmartMeter signals are strong enough to interfere with a motion-detector, the signals may be strong enough to interfere with the electrical-systems of humans and animals. In April, I spent a week in the hospital with a heart-rate over 140, never before.

 In my opinion one-size-does-not fit all when it comes to SmartMeters! It seems that neither PG&E, nor the PUC, cares “where” the SmartMeters are installed. Is bedroom-wall (my case) more dangerous than a dining room wall? Is there more danger if three SmartMeters are within seven feet of a bed (my case)?

I have asked PG&E to remove its SmartMeters from our home, and remove the two SmartMeters from our neighbor’s home. He said he approves.

John Bauer, Martinez

Batts: Finish the Job

Dear Editor and Oakland Police Chief Batts,

Why give up and quit after only one short year on the job? Why don’t you follow star college quarterback Andrew Luck’s example: Stay and finish what you started in Oakland, like Luck stayed in school at Stanford to get his degree, instead of rushing into the NFL and making millions? Why don’t you be like Luck, rather than just cutting and running from Oakland to go for the mega bucks in the big leagues of the San Jose PD? If you go and desert the people in Oakland who believed what you said, trusted you, looked up to you, helped make your reputation good enough to be considered a finalist for San Jose chief, then everything you’ve said over the past year in Oakland was just one big lie told by you on your way up the ladder. Do you have a problem working with a Chinese woman mayor, the first of any major American city? Did you mislead her? How about East Oakland City Council President Larry Reid, whom you told two months ago you had no plans to leave Oakland? Are you afraid of dealing with big-city politicians or politics? The Oakland Police Officers Union? You could hammer out a deal with the union and get a reasonable tax increase measure passed by the Oakland voters easily in the next election, provided you stayed and got your job done, instead of starting to walk out the door in a matter of months. Unfortunately, Oakland looks like it was just a stepping stone for you, so you can burnish your résumé, add it to Long Beach PD on your way to cash in down in Silicon Valley. It’s your choice, will you stay or will you go? If you go, you’re just like every other climber going after the big bucks, saying anything to, and then stepping on and over, poor urban folks on your way up the ladder to make more money for yourself. You’re just like many others who have done this to Oakland. You don’t have to take the job in SJ, even if they offer it to you. Oakland is the best place west of the Mississippi: three sports teams, best views, restaurants, nightlife, weather, port, airport, waterfront, and weather. Oakland is The City now; SF is the West Bay, SJ the South Bay. Don’t take my word for it, just ask Oakland residents Boxer, Brown, and Barbara Lee. You’re planning to quit one-third of the way through the contract that you signed with 400,000 people!

The choice is yours, make a difference by facing the challenge in front of you in Oak Town, or give up quickly, cut, run, and go for the big bucks in the valley. Will you live up to your challenge here, or are you a quitter after barely a year? Best of luck to you in deciding which way you go. To paraphrase JFK a half century ago, “Ask NOT what your City, Oakland, can do for you, but what you can do for your City.” For starters, how about fulfilling your contract and keeping your promises?

Joel Freid, Oakland


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