Letters for the week of April 6-12, 2005

Berating our coverage of area cable-access television, but applauding our coverage of billboard-industry politicking.

“The Power and the Apathy,” City of Warts, 3/16

Size doesn’t matter
Your article was a huge disappointment. Contrary to [Chris] Thompson’s assertion, there are several growing cable-access communities at work here in CoCoCo. Mt. Diablo Adult Education offers a unique education program in community media at its large studio in Pleasant Hill. MDAE also has been in the distance-learning business on cable for nearly ten years.

One of the biggest problems faced by access producers has been the poor quality of service from the cable provider. Over the past twelve years, the cable provider has found many ways to deter residents from public access. For example, the studio is only open during daytime business hours. Most public-access programs are produced in evening hours by people who work during the day.

Here in Contra Costa County, there is a user organization that helps produce programs and has a number of access producers who have their own equipment. Diablo Video Arts works cooperatively with city and county governments to ensure a future of quality and effective programming.

Lastly, there is a simple point about access that needs to be recognized. Access television is not big. Numbers are not as important as is the connection with specific audiences. The whole idea of access is to provide programming to audiences that are underserved such as ethnic communities, etc. The assortment of cable providers has made that process very difficult for anyone but the most determined producers. That is why the access channels are populated with so much opinion. It seems that only the true believers have the stomach to endure the hardship of access production.
Robert Rothgery, Concord

A narrow look
Chris Thompson in his column takes a very narrow look at what is at stake in the current cable franchise negotiations in Contra Costa County. By assuming that public-access channels are the only type of channels that can profit by negotiations, he misses both government channels and educational channels. CCTV, the county channel, reaches every cable viewer in the county, carries Board of Supervisors meetings, public-affairs programming, and educational television. Contra Costa College, California State University Hayward, and the Mt. Diablo Unified School District all have educational channels that reach small areas and that could be expanded throughout Contra Costa County as a result of the negotiations. These channels are used for college-level courses and classes in ESL and GED. They have been a boon to people who find it difficult to get to a school campus on a regular basis. Contra Costa College alone has over 1,000 students enrolled in such classes.

So the negotiations are not a trivial affair, and the effort by those involved could hardly be called apathetic. The cities and county negotiating the franchise are right on target in demanding that the cable company provides these channels.
Barry Benioff, Contra Costa Educational Television Consortium, Contra Costa College, San Pablo

“The Clear Channel Candidate,” Cityside, 3/9

Always something sordid
I am happy to read such an excellent article that once again exposes De La Fuente. It is obvious that the man has connections (to Perata) and other business interests. The construction companies are his biggest finance contributors. Now we have Clear Channel joining his political machine. There’s always some sordid connection with “Nacho.”

The recent events have shown a test of his political wits; a true prodigy of Perata. The “Shame Campaign” and this article suggest a definite link. He’s known about the problem for years but now the timing fits nicely with the mayoral campaigning.

I also bet there is some connection to the mayor’s proposed Port billboard ads. Unfortunately, with such a public outcry, De La Fuente has kept quiet on that front. If elected mayor, I can bet he’ll return the favor and we’ll be seeing Oakland as a billboard jungle.

As a Fruitvale resident, merchant (part of his so FAILED neighborhood revitalization effort), and his constituent, I have to deal with his “lack of leadership” in District 5. He needs to clean up his own mess before running for mayor. A good Web site that exposes this is DeLaFuente.blogspot.com
H.D., Oakland

Reject politics-as-usual
Express writer Robert Gammon’s March 9 article profiling Oakland City Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuentes’ brazen conflict of interest involving Clear Channel Communication and De La Fuente’s position as council president underscores the serious concerns voiced by many Oakland citizens about the city’s Democratic Party political establishment: too many Oakland politicians — with some exceptions — are beholden to outside corporate interests and practice entrenched, politics-as-usual behavior.

On May 17, Oakland voters have an unprecedented opportunity to reject Democratic establishment politics-as-usual and elect — for the first time — a Green Party candidate to the Oakland City Council (District 2): Aimee Allison. Aimee is a Stanford-educated nonprofit business consultant, former Oakland schoolteacher, mother, and African-American Gulf War army veteran who became an antiwar conscientious objector. Aimee’s campaign has generated enormous excitement among Oakland’s progressive community and neighborhood-based groups.

The May 17 special election will be a mail-only ballot. District 2 extends from Grand Avenue to International Blvd., encompassing the neighborhoods north and east of Lake Merritt. Express readers can learn more about Aimee’s campaign by visiting AimeeAllison.com.
Chris Kavanagh, Berkeley

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