Letters for the Week of June 10, 2015

Readers sound off on the California drought, nighttime protests, and police tactics.

“Turning Water Into Wine,” 5/27

We Need a Rational Water Strategy

I was born in Oakland, but the Wine Country has long been my playground. The water is our resource. Citizens should have all of the information so that we can all make an informed choice on how we use our water. No bullying, no special privileges for big wine. We need a rational water strategy. Thank you Express and Will Parrish for giving citizens insight. Brilliantly done!

Dana Smith, Emeryville

So What Wine Is Sustainable?

Well, here I was trying to buy California-produced wine, thinking it was more sustainable than buying wine that has been shipped from another state or continent. What should the sustainably minded consumer do? Is wine from Washington, Oregon, South America, Australia, or Europe more sustainably produced?

Keira Williams, Oakland

This Should Be a National Story

I appreciate the Express for publishing this detailed research article by Will Parrish. A lot has changed here in Sonoma County, which used to be known as part of the Redwood Empire. It has been transformed by investors from Wall Street, Silicon Valley, China, and Europe, and turned into their Wine Empire. They extract the benefits and we locals pay the costs. This article helps concerned residents here extend our reach into more of the San Francisco Bay Area. Since wine is a commodity that leaves here and is sold throughout the United States and internationally, this article can help make this a national story.

Shepherd Bliss, Sebastopol

A Wake-Up Call for Water and Wine

Will Parrish shines a light on the gravity and magnitude of ecological and subsequent financial collapse that the state is in for if immediate actions are not taken — which he also sheds light on. Hats off to those working on these actions. This is truly a wake-up call.

Ellen Hopkins, Santa Rosa

Water Is Sacred

This is an excellent article. It is time for the public to understand what creates health in our environment. Evidently, we can’t depend on our elected officials to do so, and certainly not on those who profit from taking what belongs to all of us: water and the water cycle. Ignorance and greed are devastating companions. As native people say, water is sacred. Perhaps a dark gift of the drought is this realization.

Patricia Damery, Napa

Don’t Forget About the Pesticides

Excellent article, Mr. Parrish. I live in Sonoma County, and in addition to the water issues caused by the proliferation of vineyards, many people are experiencing health problems related to vineyard drift (from pesticides and herbicides). That could be a whole other article.

A large winery here is the number-one polluter in the county. It is good to keep your windows up and vents closed when driving. What looks beautiful can also be extremely harmful. Many vineyards have taken to spraying under cover of darkness so as not to alarm the neighbors. I can’t imagine that drinking these wines would be very good for your health either. So much for the pleasure of wine tasting.

Kathleen McCormick, Petaluma

“Schaaf Fails First Big Test,” 5/27

The Mayor Has Her
Priorities Wrong

The most frustrating thing is when an elected official is too busy being concerned with how people are protesting rather than working toward changing the why.

Talia Alarid, Oakland

I Call Bullshit

As a native Oaklander and resident, I say your commentary on the banning of nighttime street protests is bullshit. Nowhere is there a constitutional right for anybody to create a situation that encourages the kind of behavior we have seen in recent night marches in downtown Oakland. This isn’t free speech, it is incitement to a riot, regardless of the peaceful intentions of the organizers. Anybody who wants to organize a march has obligations to fellow citizens that extend to the unintentional consequences of these events.

Limiting the street marches to daytime hours is sensible and allows our city government, yes, the police department is part of it, to monitor and control the uncontrollable elements that these events encourage.

I am tired of my city being trashed by people who have no business being allowed to continue this type of anarchism. Get used to it. There are so many of us Oakland residents who will not tolerate it anymore.

Michael Yoino-Young, Oakland

Schaaf Should’ve Learned from Quan

You’d think that Libby Schaaf would have studied the lesson[s] of former Mayor Jean Quan and learned something. Nope. Most telling is the silence of her Black female campaign advisor Peggy Moore. There’s already a recall Libby campaign, just five months into her term.

Eric Arnold, Oakland

You’re Wrong About Schaaf

I disagree. I think Mayor Schaaf passed her first big test with flying colors. We cannot allow Oakland to continue to be the default playground for professional protesters with no clear goals and a desire to take to the streets for any reason regardless if it actually has anything to do with Oakland.

There is a reason this doesn’t happen in any other city … because they don’t allow these destructive nighttime protests either. Kudos to Mayor Schaaf, and it’s about time the citizens here who are truly proud of and actually respect and represent this community, take a stand against the few here who continually seek to disrupt, destroy, and rob it of its vital resources.

Razor Sheldon, Oakland

Schaaf’s Got Some Nerve

Just two weeks ago, as the commencement speaker for Mills College, Libby Schaaf had the nerve to brag about getting endorsed by the Express. How funny that the Express released this article, with which I am in total agreement. But is anyone surprised by her actions?

Sophia M. Perez, Oakland

Schaaf Violated the City Charter

Oakland mayors have no power to do what Schaaf has claimed authority to do. The Charter in Section 207 provides in part: “The Council shall be the governing body of the City. It shall exercise the corporate powers of the City and, subject to the expressed limitations of this Charter, it shall be vested with all powers of legislation in municipal affairs adequate to provide a complete system of local government consistent with the Constitution of the State of California.” When it comes to the powers of the mayor, the Charter in Section 305(b) says that the mayor has the power to “[r]ecommend to the Council such measures and legislation as he deems necessary and to make such other recommendations to the Council concerning the affairs of the City as he finds desirable.” (Note the sexist term because this was written by and for Jerry Brown.) The clear message here is that the mayor of Oakland does not have the power to do what Schaaf has done. Schaaf could be making a recommendation to the city council, but she does not have the authority to make a policy, only the city council does.

Ralph Kanz, former chair of the Oakland Public Ethics Commission, Oakland

It’s Illegal on Many Levels

Not only is the policy overbroad and a violation of the crowd control policy and of free speech, but it is also a demonstration of collective punishment, which is a violation of the Geneva convention and other international protocols.

JP Massar, Berkeley

Schaaf’s Solution Stifles Free Speech

I attended the Saturday and Sunday demonstrations. What I noticed was that OPD placed teams of officers on three of four corners at 14th Street and Broadway, plus numerous motorcycles positioned nearby. As soon as demonstrators stepped onto Broadway, officers rushed to form a tight police line at the center of Broadway, which was shut down in both directions, and a police line was set up immediately behind the marchers.

Those police lines were maintained for the entire length of the march — from Frank Ogawa Plaza to OPD headquarters on 7th. Marchers were not allowed to cross the police line at the center of Broadway or to fall behind the police line at the rear.

In other words, all demonstrators were immediately kettled and OPD maintained the kettle for the entire march, a “moving kettle” as it were. In the meantime, OPD used the closed lanes of Broadway to freely move personnel, motorcycles and cars up and down the marchers’ route.

But why? Why was a lawful and peaceful assembly subjected to a mass kettle from the very beginning? Why were peaceful marchers forced to stay within a small, tight, and police-controlled area of the street?

Further, following close behind was the mobile sound unit over which an officer read a one-minute script about facilitating the march, First Amendment rights, and that “lawlessness would not be tolerated,” etc. The script was recited over and over for the duration of the march. The volume was so loud that marchers could not carry on conversations without yelling at each other and using a normal speaking volume was inaudible to people standing next to each other. The announcements were inappropriately loud, glaring, and the incessant repetition was a form of harassment in and of itself.

Taken together, this was not free expression at all but merely the illusion of free expression.

John Klein, Alameda

Ban the Helicopters, Not the Protesters

All I can say is … Oops. How about a 24 hour ban on helicopters? I’m tired of the racket. The protesters are quiet in comparison.

Segue Fischlin III, Oakland

“Jacking Up Rents in Oakland,” 5/20

The Problem Is Complicated

Oakland has very explicit rules for condo conversions with rigid noticing requirements to tenants at time of conversion filing, rights of first refusal, and required discounts to tenants. Building inspections are also required. Whether those discounts would have been enough to make the units affordable for tenants to buy is another question. And after the last real estate bubble burst, it’s still very hard to qualify for a loan.
The prior owner plausibly did intend to do what he said: continue renting out reasonably priced units. Totally understandable that he didn’t know that it’s impossible to get a conventional re-fi when one person or family owns more than half the condo units. He had to sell because of that federal lending rule.

But even a valid conversion to condos without a sale of units is not enough to remove the units from rent control. Sales of separate units in arm’s-length transactions to separate buyers would remove them from rent control. What’s not clear is whether the bulk sale of all the units to one buyer while continuing renting to original tenants would defeat rent controls. If so, that’s a loophole that has to be closed.
For a citywide solution, nothing short of a lot more high-rise apartments, plus increased use of land trusts where residents lease the land under their homes, is the only possible fix. Even then, it’s not clear whether many of those high-rise apartments will be too expensive for many of our present residents. If rent control were vastly expanded, you’d at best protect current residents but wouldn’t be providing housing for future residents. Not simple to correct without unintended consequences.

Leonard Raphael, Oakland

“Why OPD Can’t Solve Crime,” 5/20

Why Can’t Civilians Be Investigators?

Why do investigators have to be cops? Why can’t smart, organized, clear- and level-headed civilians be detectives? It’s high time to rethink policing and decide rationally which parts we need and which we don’t.

Susan Harman, Oakland

Oakland Needs True Community Policing

I would suggest that any discussion of policing in Oakland be held with some real discussion about the forces on the ground that affect crime in this city. Hiring more police will not necessarily result in a reduction in crime, only better statistics. Most of the time, police show up after a crime is committed.

An OPD management priority on more officers and a visual presence strategy as the preferred deterrent is because most people who live in economically challenged neighborhoods do not talk to OPD. A cultural attitude of no snitching cannot be over-emphasized as a factor in why detective work and investigations are handicapped as a primary strategy.

People who live in Oakland know the following to be generally true: If you are not involved in or hang around people involved in gangs or the underground economy, Oakland is a pretty safe place to live. I am talking about the sale and movement of drugs, stolen goods, auto theft, credit card fraud, and prostitution. Secondly, over the last twenty years, the demographics of the central East Oakland flatlands have changed. Hispanic residents are now the majority and Mexican gangs, which engage in the underground economy, are a problem. Similarly, African-American groups who are similarly engaged are problematic in North and West Oakland. Throw into the mix the inability of all youth to engage in constructive conflict resolution, the accessibility of guns and parolees with no hope of gainful employment. Those are the problems and they are complex.

My belief is that until true community policing occurs and lines of communication between citizens and OPD improves, investigation of crimes and opportunities for prevention will continue to suffer. We also need to give kids constructive outlets and tools to resolve conflict. If kids stay busy, they have no time to join gangs.

Gary Patton, Hayward

“No, Governor Brown, You Shut Up,” Seven Days, 5/13

Don’t Forget About the Pollution

The delta project will require diesel trucks running 24/7 to the workplace; diesel pile-drivers hitting metal against metal 24/7; and diesel machines putting off light above and underground. The Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) has announced that it will “zero out” the emissions by means of the cap-and-trade laws, i.e., they will purchase carbon credits from some other area. But that only zeroes it out on paper! The pollution still remains in the Delta area! Should workmen have to endure this polluted atmosphere and risk contracting cancer and other diseases?

Will Governor Brown direct his protégé Mary Nichols, the chair of the Air Resources Board, to give them an allowance? That’s the big question.

Burt Wilson, Sacramento

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