Letters for the week of January 6-12

Readers sound off on California's broken parole system, the Raiders, and homelessness.

“Trapped Part One: Cruel and Indefinite Punishment,” Feature, 1/6

This Article Gives Me Pause for Thought

A well-written article packed with in-depth research and information on a matter that certainly seems to merit attention. In Demian Johnson’s case, it appears the parole system is not functioning to the benefit of taxpayers who must fund the continued incarceration of a man who appears to have been reformed. The matter of limiting state payments to $400 for the prisoner’s parole attorney seems especially troubling, and the very low recidivism rate of such past parolees is highly encouraging.

I’m normally a hard-nosed law-and-order advocate, but this article has given me pause for thought. The overall balance of justice should not allow any government to tip the scales with arbitrary and petty weights, otherwise the government itself becomes an offender worthy of public disdain.

Citizens are correct in having given the power to determine the future of offenders’ lives to their government, but along with that granting comes the solemn expectation that their government will not stack the cards against any person who could become a free, lawful, and productive citizen again.

William Thompson, Walnut Creek

“A Holistic Approach to Helping the Homeless,” News, 1/6

Here’s Another Example

Thank you for this article. As [author Isara Krieger] learned, getting people off the streets is not an easy thing to do. I wanted to bring your attention to St. Mary’s Center in Oakland. It also works with homeless people, but with those who are 55 years old and older. It is amazing how many senior homeless people are on our streets. St. Mary’s has a winter shelter open from December to April to get people out of the cold. St. Mary’s also does a great job of finding long-term senior housing and helping its clients get their social security and medical benefits that some don’t even know they are eligible for.

Louise Hill, Oakland

“Schaaf’s Stance on Raiders is Spot On,” News, 1/6

You’re Wrong About Parking

I’m a bit confused about the statement made regarding parking. Since when is a 15-percent reduction “close” to the original amount? I’m pretty confident if the author’s salary was reduced by 15 percent, he wouldn’t sign off on it stating it was close enough!

Wendy Nathan, Lincoln, California

Miscellaneous Letters

It’s Time, Berkeley

Most people see Berkeley as a progressives’ paradise. But when it comes to campaign finance, we are behind the curve. At a [recent] joint meeting between the League of Women Voters and Oakland’s Public Ethics Commission, Ann Ravel, former [Fair Political Practices Commission] chair and current commissioner on the Federal Election Commission, stressed the need for campaign finance innovation at the local level. Ravel said that in the aftermath of Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United, the best way to strengthen our democracy is to create small donor matching programs that amplify local voices, and to empower candidates to run small donor campaigns. Cities like Los Angeles and New York City both have very successful small donor matching programs, and now Berkeley has the opportunity to create the model for public financing and encourage other Bay Area cities to follow suit.

Leila Pedersen, Berkeley

Too Many People

Regarding no specific recent articles of yours, but related to several current issues you’ve covered, I’d like to propose something: It’s time to depopulate California. In a major way. If nothing else, the dire lack of water should be reason enough.

I predict that within two years, this idea (which I’m sure is not mine alone) will emerge from the dark corners of marginal opinion and the internet into the mainstream. Until then, I want to broach the topic here. Not that this will actually happen, of course: Current policy is, “Sure, move out here for your piece of the California dream” — nevermind that the state is about to turn into a desert, not to mention an exorbitantly overpriced playground for the mega-rich that excludes us lesser folk.

David Nebenzahl, Oakland


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