Letters for the Week of February 5

Readers sound off on fracking during the drought, Oakland's surveillance center, and cuts at Kaiser.

“Fracking During a Drought is Crazy,” Seven Days, 1/22

Very Bad Idea

Fracking remains a very, very, very bad idea for California. The threat to groundwater quality alone is sufficient to ban fracking; in addition, fracking has the potential to precipitate earthquakes, which can be quite annoying in this part of the country.

The writer is absolutely correct: Fracking in California is a very, very bad idea.

Michele Ocla, Oakland

Secure Water Supply

Governor Jerry Brown has a few screws loose, so he can seem erratic at times. I’ve noticed that government only responds to crises and is virtually unable to plan ahead wisely. Here’s a thought: Start planning now to desalinate water.

There are new technologies, some of which also employ solar energy, to reduce costs that can ensure water for populations near the ocean, which means most Californians can have a sure supply of fresh clean water. As for agriculture, a quick trip to Israel would show our farmers how to use a fraction of current water to grow crops. Perhaps this one-in-a-thousand-year drought is a one-year phenomenon, but why take a chance? It’s time to secure our water supplies ahead of high-speed trains and probably any other grandiose projects.

Steve Redmond, Berkeley

Need-Per-Person Limit

While I strongly agree with you that fracking is too environmentally harmful to be allowed, and especially so during a drought, I strongly disagree that everyone should be subject to a 20-percent or other-across-the-board reduction in water use. A much environmentally better and fairer reduction would be to limit the amount of water that each person uses. In an across-the-board reduction, water pigs will still be using too much water, just less of it. Meanwhile, people who conserve as much as possible will be made to suffer. This is not only grossly unfair, it will not save anywhere near as much water as a per-person limit.

Suburbanites who water large lawns; people who wash cars; golf courses; merchants who hose down their sidewalks; and other people and activities that waste water should be made to stop, not only during the drought but permanently. It’s not like we get our water locally; this water is taken from rivers in the Sierra Nevada and the extraction of it is harmful to those rivers and their ecosystems. There are other ways to accomplish needed goals (replace lawns with native plants that don’t have to be watered, cars can be washed with a bucket and sponge using recycled water, water for golf courses can be restricted to recycled water, and sidewalks can be washed with a bucket and brush), and our precious water should not be used to do so.

Also, you did not mention by far the biggest water user in California, agriculture, mainly in the form of agribusiness. Agriculture uses about 85 percent of the water in California, and that industry’s water use needs to be reined in if we are ever going to save substantial amounts of water. While agriculture generally gets its water from different sources than where we get drinking water in the Bay Area, it remains the elephant in the room that must be dealt with. We all have to eat, but water-intensive crops like cotton and rice should be grown in the eastern US, which has an abundance of water, not in the dry west. Moreover, because California is arid to semi-arid, and because the vast majority of water used by agriculture comes from somewhere else, California farmers should not be given water to grow export crops. Other regions need to begin growing their own food instead of depending on California destroying its water and ecosystems to provide them with food.

Jeff Hoffman, Berkeley

Stop the Insanity

It’s time to weigh in. I find it ludicrous to promote water conservation while allowing fracking. Sure, [the fracking industry] may have used 202 acre-feet in 2012, but that was in its infancy. There’s no telling what it’s using now. There are no records of where the fracking sites are. The oil industry has a bad record of looking out for the consumer. We’ve seen what happened in the Gulf and in Puget Sound, and now we’re seeing it with fracking. Recently, in the floods in Colorado, we were faced with tanks toppled over. I guess they didn’t foresee a flood. I guess the frackers don’t foresee an earthquake in this state. I guess that’s why they allow fracking in Los Angeles next to the San Andreas Fault.  

We have enough problems in California regarding water without being saddled with one more. The ski industry is devastated by the lack of snow. The boating industry has been hit hard. Now, the farming community. One farm here in the valley has decided to let the land go fallow. Instead of providing jobs for farmworkers, it will sit idle. The community has come together to promote water conservation. I walk down the street and notice brown lawns being watered once a week. I read in the paper a neighboring town will be hiring more people to monitor water wasters. Now you’re telling me the frackers have an endless supply. Stop the insanity, stop fracking.

Phillip Moya, Merced

“The Hidden Costs of Oakland’s Surveillance Center,” News, 1/22

Don’t Fear Cameras

I’m just curious what the rampant cost of being the robbery capital of the US is to us? Right, the fringe doesn’t care. What you do in public is public. I’m 100 percent for safeguards, but video surveillance of public activity is already everywhere. What really gets me about the political factions against the Domain Center in Oakland is that most of these groups publish their activities on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram. Some even have websites where they relish in their acts of vandalism … so what gives?

Also, why do people fighting for a more representative government fear being recorded? Shouldn’t our society’s future reformers be engaged in complete transparency, especially in public? The opposition also needs to accept that a huge number of Oakland residences and businesses already use video surveillance to compensate for our city’s deficient police force (thank you, City Hall, really) and we don’t fear the cameras.

Matt Chambers, Oakland

“Nurses Say Kaiser Oakland Is Shortchanging Patients,” News, 1/15

Working Outside of Scope

Love this article, but hate that it is heartbreakingly true. In fact, the conditions [at Kaiser] were a huge determining factor in my decision to leave a job that I truly loved a few short years ago. It does make me sad to know that nurses who are brand new to the profession have no previous experiences to compare to, and are being conditioned to think that this is the way things have to be. Consistently working understaffed and outside of our scope leads to job dissatisfaction and potentially unsafe situations for both staff and patients. I am hoping that a strong union and strong bonds with co-workers will help us get to a brighter place, and soon.

Katie Mirchandani, Martinez

Combat Soldiers

The same is happening at Kaiser South Sacramento. We are jammed up in the post-anesthesia care unit holding patients because there are “no beds,” when in fact the census shows open beds, there are just no heads. Not enough nurses, and nurses are just too exhausted to pick up extra shifts because they are burnt out. The nurses have been functioning much like combat soldiers for quite some time. We need help to give adequate care to our patients. Kaiser’s only vision should be to provide safe, quality care.

Mia Pinto-Ochoa, Sacramento

“Death of a Pot Salesman?” Legalization Nation, 01/8

Not the End of the Black Market

The deal is this: Regulated cannabis outlets do not, by themselves, herald the end to black-market dealing. This is one result of the “legalize it and tax the hell out of it” mentality that keeps cannabis prices artificially high. There are also costs for labor, wholesale cannabis products, rent, legal advice, and other expenses that street dealers don’t incur. In law enforcement circles, there remains concern about “diversion” of adult-use cannabis to minors and locations out of state.

In the bigger context, the diversion is properly viewed in reverse. Regulated cannabis sales are a powerful tool in diverting both consumers and suppliers from black-market operations. It will not be a slam-dunk, and the feds are still the big elephants in the room. But we’ve charted a course toward reasonable cannabis regulation with civil versus criminal enforcement, a win-win for all those involved. Law enforcement buy-in is one vital key to encouraging buy-in from everyone else; the alternative is the undermining of cannabis regulations as happens routinely in California and other medical marijuana states.

Michael Green, Fresno

“When Corporations Want Profits, They Don’t Ask for Permission,” Feature, 1/8

Use Imagination for Retaliation

When corporations rip off your work for their profit, I suggest you use their corporate identity, logo, slogans, etc. as your weapon of choice. Create your own ad campaign on their behalf to pervert their own corporate identity and message, which they have already spent much money to develop. As an imaginative artist you should be able to conjure up some sort of degrading or derogatory campaign linking the offending corporate identity to murder, rape, pedophilia, human trafficking, prostitution, torture, theft, sexual depravity, etc. — any type of behavior that society finds to be socially unacceptable. Use your own fertile imagination. Employ other artists to join in and attack from multiple angles. Put to use print media, electronic media, billboards, etc. to get your message out to the public.

At worst they will sue for copyright infringement, which equals free publicity for a struggling artist who is short on an advertising budget. To give an example, I will use Chevron: “We pump poison from the ground, refine it, and sell it to you to poison the air we all breathe.”

Do people sucker consumers to pay for their own destruction? People do! So instead of being a victim and feeling powerless, try using your imagination to get even. If they harm you, harm them right back.

Rachie Sayd, Oakland


In our January 29 pets issue story, “Euthanized No More,” we got wrong the name of the Berkeley Humane Society. Also, in that issue’s Culture Spy, “Preserving the old Bay Bridge,” we incorrectly stated that the “truss spans” on the old span are 288 feet tall; they are actually 288 feet long.


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