Letters for the Week of April 30

Readers sound off on eco-drones, donation bins in Oakland, and raising the minimum wage.

“Blight for Profit,” News, 4/16

A Problem for Years

The blue book bins have been a problem for years. The verbiage on the boxes says “donate” and refers to charities, but actually the company that puts the boxes out is the largest bookseller on Amazon, selling under a variety of names. They donate children’s books (which have very little resale value) to schools. Older books that don’t have a barcode (which might include valuable books) are sold by the ton for pulping. Friends of the Library groups in the Bay Area researched this extensively a few years ago when Safeway started putting these boxes in its parking lots. Donations to Friends groups dropped noticeably in many areas. Please give your used books to your local library or Friends of the Library. They will use or sell your books, with any proceeds used to buy new library materials (books, CDs, magazines, etc.).

Linda Landau, Orinda

“An Ecological Use for Drones,” Eco Watch, 4/16

Drones Provide No Eco-Benefits

The idea of ecological drones is an oxymoron. Like all machines, drones make unnatural noise, consume oil, and pollute the air, including adding to climate change/global warming. The only way they could be considered even a necessary evil would be if they were to provide more benefits than harms. Your article did not point out any ecologically or environmentally useful benefits from using drones. All you said is that they might provide some information about hard-to-reach areas, like marshes. We don’t need any more information in order to know that the best thing we can do for natural areas is to leave them and the wildlife there alone. Drones should not be flying over natural areas, disturbing the wildlife, consuming oil, and polluting the air. Natural areas should be no-fly zones!

Nerds for Nature is a perfect example of what’s wrong with worshiping science. These people are so wrapped up in their intellects that they are totally out of touch with their instincts and gut feelings to the point where they cannot see what should be plainly obvious: Bringing machines into natural areas is harmful to the natural areas and to the planet as a whole.

Adding more noise, oil consumption, and air pollution to our planet is not good for the environment, despite what some nerds might think. We need to greatly decrease the number of flights of all types, not add to them by flying drones over natural areas.

Jeff Hoffman, Berkeley

“A Rough Time for Quan,” Seven Days, 4/16

Had Her Chance

We need a mayor who will lead and let the metrics speak for themselves. Jean Quan had her chance; let someone else try.

Mike Merriman, Oakland

“Can I Recycle That?” Sustainable Living, 4/16

Saving Pizza Boxes

Good article. Did you know that you can take your pizza boxes back and put your new pizza in it? We have done this many times at three different shops. After about five to ten times, they go into the big green bin. Think how many boxes we have saved!

Caroline Purves, Berkeley

Different Rules for Different Counties

Enjoyed your article on recycling in the last “green” issue of the Express. I didn’t realize until I was halfway through the article that it was about Alameda County. I’m in Contra Costa County, the differences being that all food scraps, fruit, meat, veggies go in the green container (compost), and shredded paper goes in a paper bag, and then into the green container (compost).

I checked with Richmond Sanitary Service about this. It differs from Alameda County. Wish they would get together on this so it doesn’t confuse people.

Dee Chacon, Richmond

“Dieting for Drought,” Sustainable Living, 4/16

Taking Water From the Future

I’m not sold on the use of groundwater. I think we are taking from the future in order to have something now. Groundwater is like money in the bank — we may need it for a rainy day. No pun intended.

Look, I know almonds are profitable. I also know we have more than eighteen million almond trees in Stanislaus County. Can we sustain that type of water use? We are irrigating like there’s no tomorrow — and sadly, if we keep it up, there won’t be. 

I am sold on cutting back, and not just on food. It takes more than 1,800 gallons of water to make a pair of jeans, 400 to make a cotton T-shirt, and 39,090 to make a car. If we make our clothes last a little longer and our car run a bit farther, we all benefit.

Phillip Moya, Merced

“Organic Energy,” Sustainable Living, 4/16

Drive Electric

Your issue’s discussion of sustainability missed the biggest source of greenhouse gases in the Bay Area and in California — internal combustion engines powering light duty vehicles. In addition, the article “Organic Energy” correctly points out that “going solar is not cost-effective for low-energy users.” What the article misses is that by driving an electric vehicle (EV), a low-energy user suddenly becomes a medium to high-energy user, roughly doubling the electricity use for a small house. At that level, solar power becomes very cost-effective. Net metering means that PG&E pays thirty cents per kilowatt hour (kwh) for peak summer hours. This drops the cost of solar to around ten cents per kwh if you size your system to zero out your PG&E bill. And time-of-use metering means that EVs can charge overnight for 10 cents per kwh, or about 3 cents per mile, compared to 16 cents per mile for a car that gets the US average of 25 miles per gallon at $4 per gallon. The savings on gas, plus tax credits, make EVs such as the Chevy Spark the most cost-effective cars on the market. And driving an electric car on solar power cuts carbon dioxide by 80 percent compared to a conventional gasoline car; this includes carbon dioxide from producing the car, the batteries, and the solar panels. As production techniques improve, the savings can be even greater. Switching to solar power and an electric car is a great way to cut your carbon footprint and save money at the same time!

Jack Lucero Fleck, Oakland

“Berkeley’s Unequal Punishment of Teachers,” Feature, 4/2

Politics of Education

In response to and in support of Mr. Brian Crowell’s predicament as reported in the April 2 article in the East Bay Express, thank you for your courage in regards to your experience in the educational system. The drama you have been privy to is merely the politics of education. Understand that politics and economics are one and the same. Please keep in mind that the struggle never ends.

Evelyn Washington, Oakland


Raise Minimum Wage

I am a person who escaped poverty with education and a minimum wage job. In so many ways, I was lucky. My cousin and her husband, both campus police officers, raised me as their own son after my mother passed away from cancer when I was six years old. Through their love and guidance, I came to believe that if I worked hard enough, anything was possible. I put myself through college by working the night shift flipping hamburgers at McDonald’s for minimum wage. My first year, I worked from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. and then would get myself to chemistry class that same morning, tired, but determined to build a better life. The rest of the way, I worked in the restaurant industry for minimum wage and tips.

I was motivated because I knew then, just as I know now, how education can transform a life — including my own. Many of my friends weren’t so lucky. Some never had the opportunity to earn a living wage. A few landed in jail or were caught up in street violence. And sadly, a few even ended up dead.

I was determined to find another way. But I also had a way to help myself by working. It wasn’t a great job flipping burgers, but it paid enough to help make ends meet. You can’t say the same thing about the very same job today. The purchasing power of a minimum wage income peaked way back in 1968. Last month, the Richmond City Council, a body on which I proudly served, gave its initial approval to increase its minimum wage to $12.30 per hour by 2017. And on May 1, the Berkeley City Council will vote on a proposal to take the first step in raising its minimum wage to $10.55 per hour. Please, join me in advocating for a yes vote in the strongest possible terms.

Opponents say these increases will drive jobs to other communities. But we have a growing consensus in the Bay Area that is quickly making that argument moot. San Jose voters recently raised their city’s minimum wage. San Francisco already has a local ordinance. Oaklanders are starting a petition drive to raise Oakland’s minimum wage. Many in the Bay Area delegation in Congress — including Congressman George Miller — are fighting to increase the federal minimum wage. I’m grateful for their leadership. But the working poor in the Bay Area can’t wait for Washington to act. I know because I’ve been there myself. With Richmond, Berkeley and Oakland all considering minimum wage increases this year, the East Bay can be the model for the rest of the state. We have some of the wealthiest and some of the poorest residents, and our income disparity is one of the highest in the state. If we can pass and sustain higher minimum wage, then so can the rest of California.

Tony Thurmond, candidate for California State Assembly, District 15, Richmond


Our April 23 news story, “The Failure of Berkeley’s Living Wage Law,” erroneously stated that city staffers planned to bring their report detailing the results of their investigation into LAZ Parking, to the city council on May 6, according to Berkeley city spokesperson Matthai Chakko. Chakko has since corrected his comment, saying that a date has not yet been set for when the report will be completed.

And in our April 23 music story “The Return of Dee Bell,” we incorrectly stated that drummer Phil Thompson and bassist Scott Thompson are father and son. In fact, they are not related. 


Oakland mayoral candidate Joe Tuman said after we published our April 23 Seven Days column “The Great Contradiction of 2014” that when he said at the April 3 debate that “new revenue measures need to be in place” to help pay for adding three hundred police officers, he meant he believes the City of Oakland can grow existing tax revenues without having to necessarily increase taxes or create new ones.


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