Letters for the Week of April 15, 2015

Readers sound off on putting citizens in charge of police complaints, bad landlords, and racism in Berkeley.

“Putting Citizens in Charge of Police Complaints,” News, 4/1

There’s Backroom Lobbying Going On

Although representatives of the Oakland Police Officers Association declined to comment for this piece, they are busy trying to persuade city councilmembers that moving forward to implement the policy of putting citizens in charge of police complaints may cause delays in Negotiated Settlement Agreement (NSA) compliance. Of course, neither Judge Thelton Henderson (as he stated at the NSA status conference in March 2011) nor OPD Chief Sean Whent agrees with that prediction. So, who you gonna believe?

Rashida Grinage, executive director of PUEBLO, Oakland

It’s About Credibility

Law Enforcement leadership must take an active role in supporting and developing a strong working relationship with unbiased, independent, qualified citizen oversight personnel in an effort to bring respect, transparency, and credibility to our law enforcement accountability system and to reestablish the public’s confidence in our law enforcement organizations.

Luis Bolaños, Palm Springs

“When Landlords Harass Tenants,” News, 4/1

It’s Not Acceptable

I don’t know about Oakland, but where I live it is not acceptable to force tenants to live in a construction zone that results in a loss of use of the property without compensation. They’re not only requiring these tenants to live without the amenities and full use they’re paying for, they’re making them fund the improvements that offset capital gains and increase the owners’ equity. And they’re exposing them to environmental hazards. Never mind that these repairs were probably deferred to save a buck in the first place.

Lead and asbestos exposure is not a joke. My partner lived in a crappy duplex that the owner had barely improved in his long history of ownership. There was exposed friable asbestos pipe wrap in the basement and illegal plumbing tie-ins, and the chipping lead paint on the slowly collapsing porch poisoned the downstairs tenant’s dog. The downstairs tenants had a hole clear through the siding and a shattered window throughout the winter.

Is anyone supposed to be sympathetic to owners when they make your life hell because years of deferred repairs become such major issues as to make the place uninhabitable? If you don’t want to pay for the significant cost of these renovations as a landlord you should buy something else. I’m a homeowner and a landlord, by the way, and I understand the obligations. Further, I recognize that actual human beings have to live with what I do and don’t do.

CJ Weiland, Columbus, Ohio

“Whose Home?” Culture Spy, 4/1

I Can Identify with W. Kamau Bell

I felt the same way when I moved back to Adams Point in Oakland after being in Atlanta from 2000 to 2010. Man, how the flavor has changed, but, oh well, I’m here to stay, and I’m Unapologetically Black.

John Blaze, Oakland

Now This Is a Conversation On Race

Bravo. Eat your heart out, Starbucks. This is how it’s done.

Elisabeth Jondahl, Portland, Oregon

“A Parcel for the People?” News, 3/25

We Need a New Developer

I support a shorter tower that is more to-scale, with some of the land being converted to a public park. It should be developed by a different developer, however, one that has paid its debts. If Urban Core owes San Francisco $5.5 million, but then spends $5 million on land in Oakland, that is money they don’t have.

Segue Fischlin III, Oakland

“It’s Time to Overturn the State Ban on Rent Control,” Seven Days, 3/25

Rent Prices Are Insane

Something has to be done — rental prices in the Bay Area are laughably high — insanely high — especially for what people are being paid. I make $60,000 (which should sound good, but isn’t anymore) and could not afford to live alone in a safe place if I had to. In no way is that an indication of a healthy local economy.

Nikki Simonsen, Livermore

“The Vegan New Wave,” Taste, 3/25

See You Soon

I’m planning a trip to the Bay Area just to visit all these awesome places. Thanks for the coverage!

Mary Marshall, West Lafayette, Indiana

Thank You!

Great to see so many of my favorite businesses mentioned here! Thanks for covering the growing East Bay vegan scene! We definitely have an amazing community.

Stephanie Frankle, Berkeley

“A Drop in the Bucket,” Seven Days, 3/18

What About Fracking and Growth?

The California Governor’s Office declared a state of emergency due to drought conditions. Yet the Governors Office, state departments and agencies are knowingly jeopardizing the health and safety of California citizens by poisoning our water supplies by allowing fracking to continue. They’re also depleting our water supplies by expanding economic development. You can’t declare a state of emergency for water conservation to only then pump toxic chemicals into wells and expand houses, businesses, strip malls, and schools with known limited water supplies. This is an outdated policy that is harming the public and needs to be fixed.

Andrew Weaver, Castaic

Beef Is Worse

Crops?! Yes, almonds are water-intensive, but worse than that is livestock. I agree that folks need to cut back on almonds but am shocked this article did not even touch on the livestock sector of agribusiness. Wake up! Check out CowConspiracy.com.

Lisa Robles, Oakland

Desalination Is the Answer

I urge you to attend a lecture on “Water Solutions in California” on Tuesday, April 28 in Walnut Creek. You are basically correct about the abuse of water by certain elements — farming — in the state. But I differ with your position that the agricultural economy of California is only a minor part (2 percent) of the overall picture. Agribusiness is still a major part of the state’s economy and is expanding due to the demands for the myriad of products it produces. Yes, 80 percent of water goes to farming and yes, there are abuses there.

You mention almond growers as key abusers, but they have invited Israel-drip experts to assist them in lowering their water usage, and almonds are a key export item, not to be ignored. Certainly the state legislature, and especially the governor, have to respond to abuses and seek solutions, as we have only one year of water left for the state. Water consciousness is now as vivid as earthquakes in the soul of Californians. 

Desalination on a grand scale-up — and down the state coast, powered by solar energy — can assist in relieving the water shortage, and that process will have to be developed, costly as it may be. With 38 million people in the state, is there any other way to provide the life-giving element of water?

Sal Compagno, Berkeley

“What’s Killing the Baby Sea Lions?” Eco Watch, 3/18

Stop Blaming the Fishermen

The environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) are on a constant search for a “crisis” to exploit. When there isn’t one, they’ll make one out of nothing, relying on the general public’s lack of knowledge in the area, along with a good bit of sensationalism and hype. Honesty isn’t their strong suit.

William Diller, Atascadero

“White Collar Squatters,” Music, 3/18

It’s Too Hard to Open a Venue in Oakland

The dispute does seem acrimonious, but the larger issue here is why there’s so much red tape to open a new venue in Oakland. Three months to get all your permitting together is a best-case scenario, from what I’ve observed and heard. The city should be working with venues to activate spaces and fast-track permit apps. There should be an Entertainment Commission to help expedite the process, which appears to be fairly Byzantine and overly cumbersome.

Eric Arnold, Oakland

Let’s Support This Venue

As a strong advocate of the performing arts community in Oakland, I find this situation is very sad. Oakland is celebrated for its thriving and unapologetic artistic scene, and yet we are very limited in our accessibility to good venues and spaces that will allow us to have our crafts supported. I hope this beautiful venue is able to get the doors open soon so we can make use of it.

Candi Martinez, Oakland

Rent Control Raises Prices

The socially progressive approach to rent stabilization (control) is a band-aid that infects the market, rather than curing it. It is nothing less than shifting the wealth of new renters to those who have rented for some time. New renters pay higher rents because a portion of the market’s rental properties are under rent control. Rather than letting the competitive market determine competitive rates, the government takes over and sets rates.

Progressives who think the government gets things right need to look at the $6.4 billion Bay Bridge replacement fiasco. The operant statement about the renter whose rent was increased is, “Unable to find anything else affordable in the area, Zhang decided to stay for now…”

Unfortunately, when purchasing housing is so expensive to be almost prohibitive — as in the Bay Area — the cost of renting increases across the board. This is the way a competitive economy works. I rent and have empathy for renters, because rent increases have happened to me. Nonetheless, that’s how the marketplace works in this country, and if rent controls are imposed on property owners, soon enough there will be nothing to rent. In San Francisco, it has already happened. I can’t remember an article citing renters’ happiness about their rent payments, and never one that cites a renter’s glee over enjoying lower than competitive rates for the past years in a property whose landlord charged less than market and then decided to sell — as happened in this 901 Jefferson Street property.

William H. Thompson, Walnut Creek

“How East Bay Tenants Get Displaced,” News, 3/11

Renters Need to Get Involved

On the Peninsula, seniors, disabled people, single moms, and families are all at risk of economic eviction and no-just-cause eviction. This has been going on for three years and is rapidly increasing with no leadership in sight from state or local leaders. Renters need to get registered to vote and organize in every city to get rent stabilization locally, and also go after the state laws that enrich landlords and realtors at the expense of the middle and lower-income classes.

Cynthia Cornell, Burlingame

“The End of Long-Term Drug Rehab,” Feature, 3/11

Ninety Days Is too Short

Long-term drug treatment is a necessary part of recovery for some people. New Bridge’s long-term program was there when my son needed it, and I shudder to think if it hadn’t been. I’m glad there are people like Angela Porter fighting to keep programs in place for those in desperate need. Couldn’t we all just agree that ninety days is way too short for some people who are battling this cunning, baffling disease?

D’Anne Burwell, Los Altos

“Faculty Punished for Speech?” News, 3/4

Heyman Said It All

The article by Sam Levin telling us how Laney College’s faculty is treated was summed up nicely by college spokesperson Jeffrey Heyman, who said, “Part-time faculty play a very important role in Peralta. They teach a lot of classes and we really value their expertise and what they bring to our students.” He forgot to add: but of course that is not the way we treat our part-time faculty.

Daphne Parson, Oakland

Note to Readers

During the past few years, some prominent members of the East Bay Black community have asked us to capitalize the word Black when using the term to refer to Blacks as a racial group. They point out that when referring to other racial and ethnic groups — including Latinos, Hispanics, Asian Americans, Native Americans, and Pacific Islanders — the Express and other news organizations have traditionally used capitalization, but not for Blacks. And they contend that this discrepancy is unfair, and serves to delegitimize Blacks as a group.

We agree. And so the Express will now capitalize Black when referring to Blacks as a racial group.

Over the years, editors, reporters, and others have argued against making this change, noting that it’s common to capitalize African American. But many Black scholars and activists have contended that the term African American is inadequate, and that many people prefer Black American.

Having said that, African American is a term that many people still accept and use, and the Express will continue to use it when appropriate. But as scholars such as John Baugh and Geneva Smitherman have pointed out, Black is often a better term. Black is the name that most Black Americans prefer, according to surveys. And according to Baugh and Smitherman and many other historians, sociologists, and psychologists, given Black people’s history of struggle in the United States to achieve freedom and self-determination, and the central role that language and naming oneself has played in this fight, denying the preferred name a social group has given itself is as much a political act as acknowledging that name.

So why not acknowledge it? Professor of linguistics Robert Wachal calls on scholars and everyone else to “please capitalize the names of races as a matter of courtesy, logic, and accuracy.” As Lori Tharps, associate professor of journalism at Temple University explained in a New York Times op-ed last fall, “[w]hen speaking of a culture, ethnicity or group of people, the name should be capitalized. Black with a capital B refers to people of the African diaspora. Lowercase black is simply a color.”

Some scholarly societies also now capitalize Black. According to the American Psychological Association, it is reasonable to capitalize Black because it doesn’t refer to the color of one’s skin so much as it does the social group that a person belongs to — like being Latino, Chinese, or Russian. In America, to be Black is to have a unique culture and history that’s different from everyone else, while still being as American as apple pie.

For many of those same reasons, the Express also will continue to refer to whites in lowercase. Whites in the United States are not oppressed, and do not have a unique culture and history. As a group, whites are also not requesting capitalization. 

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