Letters for the Week of July 2

Readers sound off on Berkeley's proposed soda tax, NIMBYs in Berkeley, and Rebecca Kaplan's campaign for mayor.

“Activists Push for Berkeley Soda Tax,” Eco Watch, 6/18

Public Backlash

The dangerous health effects of soda, processed foods, and GMOs are to the 21st century what cigarettes were to the 20th century. Eventually there will be a public backlash so large that corporate money will no longer be able to control or influence it.

Linda Forde, Oakland

“Can Bates Outsmart Anti-Growthers Again?” Seven Days, 6/18

Can’t Have It Both Ways

Even though I agree with the need for people to start driving cars less, at least cars with internal combustion engines, the fact of the matter is that many people avoid coming to Berkeley simply because there aren’t enough parking spaces. This causes them to go to Emeryville, El Cerrito, and other places to shop.

That is one of the major reasons there are so many empty commercial spaces and storefronts in downtown Berkeley; something that the Berkeley City Council has been complaining about for many years, along with many residents who live here.

People here in Berkeley need to realize that they can’t have it both ways. If they want people to patronize downtown businesses, there simply have to be enough parking spaces available, or people will just go elsewhere to shop and do business. Even though using public transit, bicycles, or walking might be the most socially responsible and “green” practice and the best for the environment, I highly doubt that you can force people to give up their automobiles or not use them.

What sense does it make to have downtown development when no one, except for Berkeley residents, ever goes downtown to patronize businesses? They need to figure out some type of compromise that satisfies everyone. I can’t see where either of the two positions — the one supported by Mayor Tom Bates, or the one supported by Councilmember Jesse Arreguin — really does that.

Blane Beckwith, Berkeley

“The Port of Oakland’s Fight for Living Wages,” News 6/18

Living Wages for All

The city council could enact a minimum wage of $13.75 for every Oakland worker within a few weeks and this whole dispute would vanish. That the city council thinks some workers in Oakland deserve $13.75 per hour while others do not is a disgrace.

JP Massar, Berkeley

Living Wage Advocate

As a port commissioner, Bryan Parker is the only Oakland mayoral candidate to implement a living wage for public employees. One more reason to ignore the Express article that caricatured him as a black Mitt Romney.

Len Raphael, Oakland

“Trigonometry or Empathy?,” Opinion, 6/11

Great Education Is Possible at Tech

Kudos to Ms. Sophie Schafer for reporting her experience and perspective. In my experience, Oakland Tech has some excellent teachers and it is indeed possible to get a great education there. It would be even better if the classroom behavior she describes were effectively eliminated; it is not a valuable experience to see one’s peers get away with that nonsense and be able to adversely affect your education that way.

Mary Eisenhart, Oakland

“Little Mokka Takes on Big Starbucks,” Local Economy, 6/11

Why the Starbucks Hate?

I don’t get the Starbucks hate — if you have a better local business, God bless, you’ll be fine. Competition is not a bad thing. Ashby and Telegraph is pretty tame as far as busy intersections go, and it should have better transit service anyway. If traffic becomes a problem, then maybe we can finally get bus rapid transit built out to Berkeley. But I don’t see the Starbucks attracting any more traffic than Whole Foods already does.

Omar Yacoubi, Oakland


Unremarkable Tenure

Rebecca Kaplan’s rationale for her candidacy for mayor is that “Oakland is ungoverned” — whatever that means. Her tenure on the city council has been, to be charitable, unremarkable, and to my mind she is complicit with the rest of the folks downtown who seemingly don’t give a damn. 

It is an indisputable fact that there is an absence of leadership downtown and in the enormous vacuum left by Mayor Jean Quan, anyone with real talent and, most importantly, ideas could have established themselves as a serious person with the management and administrative skills necessary to actually do the job as mayor. 

Where the heck has Kaplan been these five -plus years on the council? “Unremarkable” is a charitable description of her resume and body of work on public policy or administrative innovation. This town has had enough of careerist nonentities who have done practically nothing of consequence other than attach themselves to the flavor-of-the-day issue in the news and practice the art of self-promotion 24/7. How about electing somebody who has never been on the city council but maybe actually worked and competed in the private sector, aka the real world where adults operate? Kaplan is simply a more articulate Quan. She has never run anything of consequence in her entire life. Not what this town needs!

Jonathan C. Breault, Oakland

Protect the Bay

The San Francisco Bay is a treasure for all Californians. It’s where we go to fish, birdwatch, and enjoy nature. However, the Bay and many other waterways across California are contaminated with toxic pollutants.

Environment California Research & Policy Center’s report, “Wasting Our Waterways,” ranks San Francisco Bay fourth in the nation for the amount of total toxic discharges in nationally iconic watersheds, with 1.67 million pounds of toxins discharged in 2012.

Congress passed the Clean Water Act nearly forty years ago to protect the bay and other waters across California. Yet lawsuits brought by polluters have resulted in court decisions that now put 140,000 miles of California’s streams at risk of losing this protection.

We cannot continue to allow polluters to dump millions of pounds of toxic pollution into California’s waters. This summer, the Environmental Protection Agency is working to close the loopholes in the Clean Water Act. This could be the single largest step taken for clean water in more than a decade. But polluters are pressuring the EPA to back down.

We know San Francisco Bay is a big part of what makes summer in California so great. That’s why it’s critical we move swiftly to close these loopholes and restore Clean Water Act protections, so that all of California’s waterways get the protection they need and deserve.

Jonathan D’Souza, Environment California Research & Policy Center, Oakland


Our June 18 Eco Watch, “Activists Push for Berkeley Soda Tax,” erroneously stated that current members of the Berkeley Public Health Department were working to get a soda tax measure on the November ballot. In fact, it’s retirees and other former members of the Berkeley Public Health Department who are doing so. Also, our June 18 news story, “Prisons Adopt New Censorship Rules,” erroneously stated that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is currently implementing the new censorship regulations. The CDCR plans to institute them, but had not yet finalized its decision when the story went to print.

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