Letters for the Week of August 27, 2014

Readers sound off on Kaiser, advertising in the Express and the appeal of Oakland

“A Flawed Model for Care,” Feature, 8/13

‘Shame on You, Kaiser’

I am a registered nurse in the intensive care unit at Kaiser Modesto and my son has been denied mental health services. He was hospitalized for threatening to commit suicide, and while he was a patient, he had violent episodes toward staff. Every day was a fight to keep him hospitalized, which was the recommendation of his physician.

I filed a case with the California Department of Managed Health Care but it found in favor of Kaiser, so my son was released and Kaiser wanted him to attend intensive outpatient treatment, even though I explained he had already failed that treatment. I took him to his first appointment, during which he refused to participate, so they kicked him out. That meant he could only be seen once a month because the therapist said there was no room in the schedule. I then scheduled weekly appointments far in advance and Kaiser canceled them all.

My son is still suffering and I worry every day that he will hurt himself or me or my other child, who is six years old. Shame on you, Kaiser.

Amy Glass, Manteca

Does the Kaiser Model Work at All?

Kaiser appears to be systematically denying patients access to essential but expensive-to-provide services. We have to ask: If this is how Kaiser keeps its premiums relatively low, does its model work at all?

Owen Thompson-Lastad, Berkeley, CA

I’ve Had Exceptional Care at Kaiser

I have had great success with Kaiser Santa Clara and Santa Teresa’s mental health care services. I have been dealing with anxiety and depression and I found their programs to be extremely helpful and readily available to me. I have experienced exceptional attention and care at Kaiser. Additionally, one of my children went through the outpatient drug program and the services were very impressive. My child had immediate access to an excellent therapist on a weekly basis. She also had a lot of group therapy choices. Although she was not classified as an addict, Kaiser treated her usage very seriously. I highly recommend this intervention program to other parents. I am saddened to hear that other patients are falling through the cracks.

Kristen Vannest Kuhlmeyer, San Jose

Come On, Express, You Can Do Better

As a Kaiser Permanente member, I was very curious about the story regarding the mental health services offered by the system. I was very disappointed to discover that the first page of the issue was a full-page ad for the rival hospital chain Sutter Health’s new Alta Bates Summit hospital. I would like to think that the paper’s reporting and business divisions are separate, but it’s hard to ignore the possible conflict of interest presented by the paper’s layout. When writing stories critical of an organization, it should be very important to avoid even the appearance of conflict for a news organization, and this issue is falling quite short of this standard.

Jesse Richmond, Oakland

The Editor Responds

The news team was not aware that the newspaper would be running an ad for Sutter’s Alta Bates. In fact, we typically do not know in advance what ads are going to be in the paper. In addition, our advertising team is not privy to what stories we’re running until after they go to press.

“Setting the Record Straight about Oakland,” News, 8/13

Thank You, Mr. Gonsalves

Elmano Gonsalves is my new hero. I get so tired of trying to defend Oakland to old, closed minds near and far. Many of them are here in the East Bay, even working with me in Oakland, and they still seem to think it’s the Nineties (it has nothing to do with their outdated wardrobes). Seriously, though, I get very frustrated. I often throw my hands up and tell them, ‘You’re right! It’s terrible here. Tell your cohorts and do stay away!’ We don’t need their kind anyway, right? After all, they’re the first ones to run out to the news crew with the proper soundbite of fear.

Justine tenZeldam, Oakland

Gonsalves Is Right

The article was on point. I’ve owned a small business in Uptown Oakland for seven years and have lived here for more than sixteen years. When I first arrived from Los Angeles, I was nervous about Oakland’s reputation and my safety based on media reports. I was pleasantly surprised to see and experience first hand how beautiful Oakland is and how culturally diverse the landscape is. I have never been robbed or burglarized. Less than six months ago, I started a Tumblr blog called Faces of Oakland as an homage to Oaktown and as an attempt to show Oakland’s culturally diverse faces to people from the outside looking in. So far, so good. I overstand Elmano Gonsalves’ campaign to demand fair reporting about a city that has had its fair share of slanted media reports. I love it here. It is no utopia, but what city is?

Tracey Friley, Oakland

Gonsalves Is Full of Crap

A while back, a friend of mine from Walnut Creek asked me if it was true that Oakland was the “bright side of the bay.” My response was that it was only true if you are referring to the muzzle flashes that come from automatic weapons.

I don’t know what Mr. Gonsalves’ game is, but he is full of crap. I’ve been a resident of Oakland for about thirty years and I can assure you that no amount of “happy talk” can disperse the abysmal facts. The police department considers it a “good year” if the annual homicide rate falls anywhere below triple digits. For comparison, my friend from Walnut Creek lives in a town that has one murder every ten years or so. That means that, given the same time span, the ratio of murders in Oakland as compared to Walnut Creek is about 1,000 to 1!

Now, let’s look at the national statistics. Oakland was recently ranked third in the country for violent crime and first for armed robbery! The police department is one of the most dysfunctional in the state, and is endlessly being slapped for civil rights violations and excessive force. The public schools are inferior to those found in the Deep South.

Furthermore, if there has been an improvement recently concerning crime, it is because the city government has an unspoken agenda of pushing poor blacks, Latinos, and other indigent persons out of the area instead of providing them with the education, counseling, and decent-paying jobs they require and deserve.

Tell me, Mr. Gonsalves, what developer is paying you through the back door to spin the truth? Are you planning to try flipping houses here? Or do you have title to an expensive condo you want to unload on a gullible yuppie? Tell you what, move yourself and your family into a neighborhood in deep East Oakland (around 90th Avenue and International Boulevard would be good) and then stay there for sixteen years. Then you get to tell me how “cool” Oakland is. As the “brothers” say, “You be talkin’ shit.”

James J. Fenton, Oakland

“The High Cost of Justice,” News, 8/13

Online Court Fees Are Unfair

Beth Winegarner touches on an important issue of a “paperless society.” The prevailing wisdom is that society is better off as we move toward cloud computing and paperless workplaces. However, as Winegarner’s article capably points out, people’s access to documents in the electronic sphere is not unfettered. Paywalls and access fees proliferate across data houses. These fees negatively impact economically disadvantaged persons. I’m disheartened to see that Alameda County is gouging impoverished and/or working people (both plaintiffs and journalists) with exorbitant online case access fees. These fees bear no relation to the actual cost of maintaining the electronic records system, and is another example of one being rewarded with access to the court system based on ability to pay. 

Rob Craven, Berkeley

“Caltrans Still Obsessed with Road-Building,” Eco Watch, 8/13

Keep the Spotlight on Caltrans

Thanks for the coverage of this pernicious threat to our precious redwoods in Richardson Grove State Park and the scenic Smith River. We who have been battling the Caltrans Willits bypass appreciate your mention of this behemoth of a boondoggle. Unfortunately, it’s not true that lawsuits have stopped it, though they have helped slow it down. Destructive work on the precious wetlands on the project’s north end was stopped for eleven days last summer when a protester occupied a large crane tower. It was also stopped when the US Army Corps of Engineers suspended its permit this past June for three weeks due to Caltrans’ failures to comply with the permit conditions. Small, rural North Coast communities are easy victims of Caltrans’ roughshod treatment and rip-off projects. The leadership and management lie, cheat, and steal to keep it that way. Please keep the spotlight on them.

Naomi Wagner, Willits

“Water Bond Measure Is a Bad Idea,” Seven Days, 8/13

Your Viewpoint Is too Narrow

While the author admits that the 2014 Water Bond doesn’t include any direct funding for Governor Jerry Brown’s tunneling project, he makes a valiant effort to link the two. Further, Robert Gammon addresses only $2.5 billion (now $2.7 billion) of what is now a legislature-approved $7.5 billion water bond, in essence leaving out a whopping $5 billion that will go toward watershed protection, groundwater cleanup, water recycling, and cleaning up of small communities’ water supplies. By judging this water bond so narrowly, the author seemingly discredits any of the environmental benefits that go along with it. Seeing as the water bond would have been dead on arrival without any funding for storage projects, I believe the current, bipartisan-approved bond is one that the voters can and should confidently approve in November. It’s not perfect, but in reality what really is in this day and age?

Alex Size, Oakland

“The Groove and How to Find It,” Movies, 8/13

Do Your Research

As a fan of Lois Lowry’s 1993 young adult novel The Giver, I wanted to respond to Kelly Vance’s review of the new film. While I completely agree that most aspects of the film look like the creators were attempting to evoke Hunger Games Lite, I thought Vance was slightly remiss in not including a sentence or two on the pedigree of Lowry’s source material. In the early Nineties, there was no concept of dystopic fiction for children and young adults. For middle school kids like me who wanted something lighter than 1984The Giver was what there was. Vance is absolutely correct that the core concepts evoke some of the same collectivist fears that appeared in 1984 and Brave New World, but calling this story derivative of The Hunger Games points to a reviewer who hasn’t done his research. 

Hannah Emery, Pinole

“Living on the Streets of Oakland,” Feature, 8/6

Thank You, Express

I met Joe Mazarek, who was featured in the story, when he approached me to wash my windshield at the gas station. Because of the article, I knew Mazarek was a woodworker and understood a bit about his struggle since becoming homeless. He is a friendly and peaceful guy who I was honored to share a sincere human moment with — all thanks to the Express for covering real news; the stories of people here, in our community.

AnnaRae Grabstein, Oakland

“Are Jazz Festivals Excluding Women?” Music, 7/03

Jazz Belongs to Everyone

Gender discrimination has no place in jazz. It doesn’t matter if you are a girl or a guy, what matters is whether or not you can play. Can you swing? Jazz belongs to all races, all colors, and all genders. It is 2014. It’s so sad we are even talking about this.

Grant Koeller, Englewood, Ohio


Our August 13 feature, “Deadly Delays Part One: A Flawed Model for Care,” misspelled the first name of Latika Malkani, a lawyer representing Susan Futterman and other plaintiffs in one of the class-action lawsuits against Kaiser Permanente. And our August 20 music story, “Real Stories,” incorrectly stated that Hip-Hop For Change wrote microgrants to Save the Bay and that it collected more than $5,000 in donations. Hip-Hip For Change works closely with Save the Bay, but it has not written grants. And Hip-Hop For Change has collected financial support from more than 5,000 donors.


Our August 20 Seven Days, “Ferguson, Sanford, and Oakland,” stated that Michael Brown was trying to get away from Officer Darren Wilson when Wilson shot him. There have been conflicting accounts of the shooting, and the exact circumstances have not yet been determined. 

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