Letters for November 31

Readers sound off on Jean Quan, ranked-choice voting, the Oakland A's, and more.


“Jean the Giant-Killer,” Feature, 11/17

A Tasty Pudding

This is an excellent article. Jean Quan is officially the Mayor-Elect of Oakland! What Quan has done, whether a person supports her or not, which I surely do, is a quintessential lesson in grassroots politics. She went door-to-door, block-by-block introducing herself and educating people about Don Perata, the long-term kingpin of not only Oakland politics, but California politics. He has been the quintessential pay-as-you-go politician. He took pride in calling himself The Don, clearly using the Mafia title in jest, but in all seriousness, to try to intimidate anyone who tried to oppose him. Ranked-choice voting has been the best thing that has ever happened to the City of Oakland. It spares the City of Oakland of a costly runoff, and Perata outspending her, which he did 5 to 1 during this past election. I am very confident that even in a runoff that Quan still would’ve beaten him. Most Oaklanders are wise, fair, pragmatic and we embrace our diversity. We are not only one of the most integrated cities in the whole country, but we all get along quite well. We love our diversity. Jean is the best person for building coalitions and bringing people together. The proof is in the pudding … mmmmmmm.

Warren Taylor, Oakland

Be That Leader

Mayor-elect Quan, the city of my birth is in dire trouble. Crime, a broke city, Oak Knoll, the port and the city, and (I know it’s not your responsibility) the schools are only some of the problems facing you and the rest of Oakland. Mayor Quan, the mission you’ve chosen to accept will be the toughest of your career. You will take leadership of a city in desperate need of a great leader. Please be that leader.

Robert Au, Austin, Texas

Counting the Votes

Two points were missed in the RCV discussion: The second (or third) choices of Perata voters never could have mattered, because their votes could not have transferred to anyone else as long as he was still in first (or second) place. So it really makes no difference who Perata voters might have chosen. For the same reason, the third choices of Quan or Kaplan voters never could have mattered because their votes could not have transferred more than once before a winner was determined.

Robert Denham, Berkeley

No Mandate

Yes, Quan won fair and square. No, she does not have a mandate. All of Quan’s first-, second-, and third-choice votes amount to 44 percent of the 122,000 voters. That’s not a mandate, and many people already are talking about how to fix or just toss out ranked-choice balloting. One insider beat another, despite ranked-choice voting, lots of other candidates, and one new candidate — Joe Tuman — who became a serious contender until the media drowned him out in the horse race coverage of the election.

Charles Pine, Oakland

Rank Voting

Your front-page story, “Jean the Giant-Killer,” with its bold assertion, “It wasn’t just about ranked-choice voting,” gave me quite a start. Oakland has a bizarre new mayoral election system, which when no candidate initially gets a majority of all the votes, allows some voters to vote a second time. And who, pray tell, gets to vote a second time? Why folks that voted for the least popular candidate. And why should they get to decide the election? No one has quite bothered to spell reasons for that bizarre privilege. Let’s just call this “loserocracy,” because it is no longer democracy. This absurd situation is straight out of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, where some of the animals are more equal than others.

Ranked-election theft is what we have seen in the Oakland mayoral election. My understanding of our American democracy is that elections are won by the person with the most votes. A simple and straightforward way of picking an election winner: Just count all the votes and the candidate with the most votes is declared the winner. But election losers in the City of Oakland apparently tired of that simplicity. No, they decided that no one could be an election winner unless they had a majority of all the votes cast. Now this presented a small problem: What if no one candidate got a majority of all the votes cast in an election? So the powers that be invented a run-off election staged between the top two candidates. But the perennial election losers tired of this. No, they wanted to devise an election system that turned losers into winners. So we now have a rank-voting system where the second and third choices of voters who voted for the least popular candidate can now be as important as the original votes for the leading candidate. This is insane. This is Elections in Wonderland. It is illegal and unconstitutional to “distribute” the votes of one candidate and give them to another candidate. This rank election counting scheme violates my rights to have my vote counted in an honest election. We need to return to the traditional American election with the candidate with the most votes declared the winner.

James K. Sayre, Oakland

Editor’s Note

Every single feature that you are complaining about — 1) a second election 2) between the top two votegetters, 3) in which people who voted for one of the losers get to vote vote again 4) for the purpose of giving one candidate a majority of the vote — was also a feature of Oakland’s prior system of run-off elections. But run-offs also cost the taxpayers more money.

“Oakland Fights to Keep A’s,” Seven Days, 11/24

The Next Insider

Quan defeated Perata for mayor. Her first real act as mayor-elect is a big commitment to a new sports stadium, greased with lots of public funds. The parallel to Perata’s 1995 Coliseum push is obvious. Despite Quan’s sloganeering about neighborhoods, she is apparently nothing more than the next insider.

Charles Pine, Oakland

What Is the Cost?

I love the A’s and I want them to stay, but what is the cost to the city? Search for articles on stadium costs vs. economic impact and it’s always a net loser for the state. One example: DCFPI.org/would-a-publicly-fina… There is a model for stadium construction using private funds working just across the bay. I want the A’s in Oakland but after the sting of giving Al Davis a ton of cash to come back and helping to cause this mess I’m wary of investing public money to finance a private business. Also, shouldn’t we expect major buildings like stadiums to outlive the average person? Are we going to do this again in 45 years?

Roberto Santiago, Berkeley

“A Poet Goes Def,” Music, 11/10

A Bright Light

Great article. Rafael Casal is a bright light for the Bay Area. He is multi-talented and creates art that will keep your undivided attention.

Mikhel Davé, San Francisco

“Real Deal,” Museums & Galleries, 11/10

Shovel-Ready Culture

This is an amazing exhibit. Some of the pieces were loaned by private collectors, but the majority of the works had been languishing in storage at the SFMOMA, DeYoung, and Legion of Honor — unseen by the public for decades. This collection is testimony to what’s possible when government invests not only in shovel-ready projects, but in jobs dedicated to art, music, crafts, and culture.

Susan Ives, Mill Valley

“What About the Crust?” Letters, 11/17

Whole Wheat All the Way

No-brainer! Whole wheat has more flavor and texture. As good as Amy’s from a grocery or Pizza Pazza on Piedmont Avenue are for organic white flour crusts, even my 88-year-old New Yorker dad searches out organic whole wheat crusted pizzas for his Sunday alternative to cooking. We even did a pizza on that big round rye cracker, but it was too thick. Tasty, though.

Linus Hollis, Piedmont

“Why Legalization Failed,” Legalization Nation, 11/10

Pot Users Killed Prop 19

I hate to say it, but it was our own doing, those who support the usage and benefits of marijuana, that caused this bill not to pass and we’ve set ourselves back another ten years. It wasn’t about the actual legalization of the plant (not drug). It was about being heard; having a voice.

People were so caught up in the media propaganda that they failed to look at the true picture. The federal government would have overturned our proposition before it ever got put into practice. The fact is, they don’t have the balls to say to the people of this nation, the people they falsely imprisoned, to those who lost their homes, jobs, families … lives, “We’re sorry. We were wrong.” How would they? How can you apologize for forty to sixty years of ignorance and naivety?

This is the reason medicinal was placed in front of marijuana in the first place. How can you say that what helps a patient like myself, wouldn’t have a similar effect on someone using it for recreational purposes?

I voted yes on Prop 19. Unfortunately, a lot of people who benefit from this crop did not, out of greed. Growers, dealers, ignoramuses who chose no because they think it’s written incorrectly. (BTW, it can be amended like SB 420 amended Prop 215 to make the corrections on the mistakes made prior.) They are at fault. 500,000 votes? Are you kidding? LA alone could have covered that in dispensary workers who chose not to vote, as though the law would somehow force their businesses to close.

Anyways, I’m rambling. Maybe because I smoked a fat bowl to calm myself for the fact that we had our chance again and blew it. Last time was 1976. I wasn’t even alive then. In conclusion, I’m disappointed in our so called “union.” We failed our own. We are the only ones affected by this. You, who voted NO, or didn’t vote at all, are trying to take away our voice. But, like the many minorities who became the majority before in the fight for rights, we will not tread lightly into the dark abyss. We will fight till our final breath. WE WILL HAVE OUR VOICE!

Ryan Hoffing, Simi Valley

Involve the People

The Central Valley is stuck in a “cannabis-is-illegal-no-matter-what-Prop-215-said” mode. I will be opening California2012.org forum in hopes of gathering the pro-cannabis people from all over the State of California in hopes of initiating dialogue for a 2012 legalization initiative. One thing that Prop 19 did not do was get the people in the loop of crafting their own initiative. If we are to succeed in 2012 we need the communities involved and not just canna-business millionaires.

Ernst Berg, Turlock

“Charting the Rise of Medical Cannabis,” Legalization Nation, 11/17

Way Past Absurd

The amount of resources spent by law enforcement and the legal system is way past absurd. In a time where revenue is scarce, everywhere, these outdated drug policies suggest a blind unquestioning dogma — kids will smoke pot, everyone will be high, etc. Truth is they do it now anyway. Consider that if everyone who smoked pot were rounded up, law enforcement you would be prosecuting half the population; and you would need the other half on salary to do it!

Dean H., Berkeley

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

Yelp and the Business of Extortion, 5.0

I also own a restaurant and they filtered all my good reviews and left one bad one by a competitor. I know who left that bad review. I can not get through to yelp to remove my business. I think this company can destroy anyone’s business very easy, and I know for sure that they are getting paid high from a lot of the other competetors. Just say I own a Greek restaurant for 15 years, then all of a sudden another Greek Restaurant opens right down the street. Yelp is watching the both of us and the restaurant that is paying yelp will be the lucky one, but they still do not have any business to put the paying guy ahead. I want my business off and quick. I advise any one not to use them at all. They are bad, bad company.

Louise Goussis, Wellington, Florida


In our November 24 article “Meredith Maran’s New Look at Recovered Memories,” we misquoted the author and erroneously made it appear as if she had multiple lovers during the period in the mid-1980s that is discussed in the story. We also misstated the publication date of her new book, My Lie: A True Story of False Memory. It came out in September. And the photograph of Maran was taken by Cori Wells Braun.

Miscellaneous Letters

The Cause

There was and is, A CAUSE, prior to the big bang.

The prominent scientist Stephen Hawking warned humanity that, “We’re acting with reckless indifference to the future on planet Earth. It will be difficult to avoid disaster in the next hundred years, let alone the next thousand or million.” Why is humanity hell-bent on destroying the world? Has humanity lost its moral compass, if it ever had a real one? Numerous people, disappointed in church and religion, are embracing atheism, but in so doing throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

Maybe the time has come to replace the archaic and man-made concept of God with a new science based understanding. However, despite the fact that ten thousand scientists are working on the Large Hadron Collider, in trying to recreate the Big-Bang and looking for the God particle, the Higgs boson, by smashing subatomic particles together, not one scientist came out and admit, perhaps for fear of ridicule that, before the big bang, and as THE CAUSE, there was and is a Super-Intelligence, who is as invisible and intangible as is our mind, that is me, the I?

It may take many years before that happens, since even Stephen Hawking says, “The universe can create itself spontaneously out of nothing and it has no creator.” Wow! Is then the belief in God any less fantastic? Is it too much of a conjecture to presume that the big bang was designed, just like any seed, with the Anthropic principle, and the process of Creavolution, to produce in time, exactly what exists today?

Lastly I add my own prophetic words from the 80s to Stephen Hawking’s … every year lost in curbing the violence of man against man and nature will require eons for the earth to heal itself, and nobody really knows the day of no return.

Gunther Ostermann, Kelowna, BC, Canada

Just Us For Oscar Grant

It sure was amusing to me how the majority of the people I saw at the Johannes Mehserle sentencing protest were bourgeois white-breads who in all probability have little or no connection to the black community. Particularly ridiculous was the pretentious chanting of “We are Oscar Grant.” Really? If these folks are Oscar Grant, let’s see them put their money where their mouth is, and provide financial support for his widow and orphaned child, instead of playing the grandstanding “Radical Chic” fashionista. But of course, this requires a maturity and sense of responsibility beyond showing up at populist events and shouting pro-forma slogans to impress your friends.

Whether they will admit it or not, most of these self-styled seekers of justice are as much a part of middle-class America as the conservatives they villify. That is the reason why there is as little chance of real revolution in this country as there is of pigs growing wings. In the future most of these young people will put aside their radical pretensions and become stock brokers, realtors, corporate attorneys, etc., in short THE ESTABLISHMENT, just as happened with the “Young Turks” of the sixties. At that point, their interest will go from Justice to “Just us.” That is, if it hasn’t already.

And so it goes now, as it ever did.

P.S. To the idiot who grabbed the cop’s gun: I understand provoking dangerous confrontations wins you big Brownie Points with your yo-yo friends, but it’s a popularity you can “live” without. It may not be a bad idea, either, to leave the area before OPD makes you their new “special hobby.”

James Fenton, Oakland

Happy All Hallow E’en

This past week, one afternoon prior to Halloween, I drove down Solano Avenue in Albany. I came to an easy stop — for there were at least forty pre-schoolers crossing — each cradling a tiny orange pumpkin in one hand. The kids smiled and laughed when their good teachers pointed to me in my ’73, Orange Volkswagon — Super Pumpkin. Wearing a funny, lopsided, Irish Country Hat, I smiled as well, politely tooted, and waved — all in rhythm — while rocking my head from side to side as our wonderful children happily waved back at a delighted and proud eighty-year-old Grandpa.

May traditions and fond memories always warm our hearts,

Jack Biringer, Berkeley