Letters for the Week of June 4

Readers sound off on Jerry Brown's proposed budget, fire hazards in Berkeley, and typewriters. Plus, the Express won nine awards for journalism excellence.

“Brown’s Budget Proves He’s A Centrist,” Seven Days, 5/21

Writing on the Wall

You’re pretending that cautious is the same thing as centrist. Brown is obviously a liberal — he has a very long career putting that trait on display. He just sees the writing on the wall here: that California’s many spending programs need to be more solvent if people want them to be around for a long time, and that the state needs to be able to weather economic storms.

Solomon Kleinsmith, Omaha, Nebraska

Hurting Seniors and the Disabled

As a person with a disability who depends on In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS), I can tell you that Governor Brown’s proposed cap on IHSS service hours will cause huge problems for the disabled and seniors. This proposal would limit to forty hours the amount of time that an IHSS caregiver could work for an IHSS consumer in a week. This would cause huge problems because it would force IHSS consumers to either do without needed care, or hire additional caregivers, something that is next to impossible because there is currently a severe shortage of personal care attendants, especially those who are willing to work for IHSS.

This would place many disabled people and seniors in the position of being unable to live safely in the community and being forced into nursing homes; something that is not only much more expensive for the taxpayers, but very undesirable for most people.

He is also proposing to maintain a 7 percent cut in IHSS funding that he put into effect a few years ago, when the state still had a large budget deficit. Governor Brown did that with the promise that he would restore this funding once this state achieved a budget surplus.

Now, with the release of his May revise, he is totally reneging on his promise and still wants to keep the 7 percent cut to IHSS in place. There is absolutely no reason why he should keep on hurting California’s disabled and seniors, especially since this state has a budget surplus.

Thankfully, his fellow Democrats don’t seem to be going along with his plans for IHSS. Senate Budget Subcommittee #3 rejected both the forty-hour cap on hours and voted to restore the 7 percent cut to IHSS. Hopefully, they will hang tough and continue to advocate for us.

Blane Beckwith, Berkeley

“A Growing Fire Hazard in the Berkeley Hills,” News, 5/21

Ugliest Scenic Turnouts

These are the ugliest scenic turnouts in the west. The university needs to fulfill its legendary reputation in the field of landscape architecture and follow tried and true methods of controlling public space by studying successful turnouts around the world. You might remember view spots in the Alps, at Yosemite, and along Interstate 5 up north, in the place you took your pictures?

The Eucalyptus logs should be removed. They provide too much privacy for criminal activities. There should be trashcans. Good turnouts are paved and have a modest three- to four-foot stone wall enclosing the view site. The wall is wide enough for sitting, maybe notched with seating on the paved side, with a thirty-foot drop on the other side to deter exploration. The need for policing will diminish.

Hank Chapot, Oakland

“Vote Sbranti, Corbett, Honda, and Torlakson,” Endorsements, 5/21

Democracy in Action

In your endorsements column you bemoan new voter-approved rules that you claim favor Democratic centrists, as if that’s a bad thing. This is democracy in action. Have you considered the idea that East Bay voters on the whole are more centrist than you are? You seem to fear the possibility.

Harry R. Mitchell, Berkeley

“The Water Tunnel Boondoggle, Feature, 5/14

Don’t Invest

Oh my god! Just came across this article. Read it and didn’t understand all the particulars and myriad of entanglements. As a long-term investor I learned one thing many years ago — if you don’t understand it, don’t invest in it! This plan is obviously for the sellers; not the buyers. Get the hell outta here!

Byron Roberts, Stockton

“Slow Type,” Feature, 5/7

Be More Creative

Good article, but I was surprised that in the discussion of QWERTY alternatives you didn’t even mention the Dvorak keyboard layout. Among other things, it puts all the vowels on the home row and arranges the letters so that they’re more evenly distributed. Dvorak is my preferred keyboard layout on my computer. Unfortunately, none of my typewriters have it. Even so, I find it easy to switch back and forth from QWERTY on a typewriter to Dvorak on a computer.

I do most of my writing on a computer, but I do sometimes use a typewriter, especially when writing letters. I also prefer manual typewriters to electrics.

In some ways, using a typewriter forces you to be more creative. If you’re starting to type a new word and hit the wrong key on a computer, you can delete the incorrect letter and start over again. Do it on a typewriter and you either cross the letter out, erase it (which always leaves a telltale mark), take out the paper and start that page all over again or replace whatever word you intended to use with one beginning with the letter you typed. That’s what happened to me when I typed a letter to a friend last year in the form of a “dialogue” between Jack Benny and his cast (she’s a huge Jack Benny fan). I’d meant to type a particular word, but hit the key for a letter that wasn’t in that word. I figured out what new word starting with that letter I could use instead and slightly “course corrected” the intended “conversation.” I ended up adding “character bits” I might not have even thought of had I written it on a computer.

Here’s something a typewriter can do that would probably require a special program for a computer to do: produce backward type. Not by itself, of course, but if you put carbon paper in backwards you’ll end up printing a copy of whatever you’re typing on the reverse side of the top sheet, rather than the sheet below the carbon paper (I made that discovery by accident one day). If you photocopy that reverse side, you then have a letter (or whatever) that’s written backwards and needs to be held up to a mirror to be read. Both my nephew and a young cousin have gotten kicks out of such letters.

Patrick Keating, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

Curious About History

I thoroughly enjoyed your fascinating article. I learned so much and it gave me a lot to think about. 

I have my aunt’s old typewriter and I can’t even read what brand it is. I tried to turn it over and it is about ten times heavier than my desktop. Now I’m curious about its history. My aunt is 94 years old and hopefully she can tell me more about it.

I remember seeing the Selectric ball demonstrated at the Seattle World’s Fair and being transfixed by it. I fondly recall when my mom was the only one I knew who had a script typewriter. She loved it.

I’m sharing your article with family and friends. Thanks so much for such a well-researched piece.

Nancy Rubin, Berkeley

“Are Foreclosure Cases Rigged?” News, 5/14

Larceny in Every Heart

What? Our judiciary is crooked? Come again. Well it’s not what that little boy said almost a century ago: “Say it ain’t so Joe”; that has become part of the American lexicon. 

Let’s look at the top: the Supreme Court. We have a Chief Justice who said he would follow precedent when attending his hearings in Congress. Of course, he lied and has been making new and outlandish decisions based on his far-right beliefs.  

So should we be surprised that at every level judges who are wealthy and find ways to enhance that wealth, often with shady if not illegal practices, are crooked? 

America has had its fling with the crooked and the venal and it chose that over honesty and decency when it elected Richard “I am not a crook” Nixon. It could have chosen George McGovern, a decorated bomber pilot who never stole a dime in his political life, but let’s face it, there is a little larceny in every heart — and in some like judges, a little more than others.

Steve Redmond, Berkeley


Broader Coverage, Please

Your title of East Bay Express seems to stop at about the southern border of Oakland. That is too bad since there is a lot of criminal activity by government in the rest of the East Bay that needs addressing. Hayward City Hall is a hotbed.

There are, of course, several statewide activities that should be addressed with broad input from the broader East Bay. The eminent aggressive actions by the governor to overturn Proposition 13 are one of those.

At one time you were politically active and took quite a reasonable stand. Your rag is not in local boxes so I get a copy only when I make art reproduction trips to Gicleé on Fourth St. Have not seen recent material so have no idea of your current stance.

Robert B. Wister, Hayward

Recognize Gary Yee

I hope that folks will take a moment to recognize retiring schools Superintendent Gary Yee for all that he has accomplished during his lifetime of devotion to Oakland’s kids. To my mind there is not a better person or citizen in this town than Gary. His career as a teacher, administrator, school board member, mentor, and all-around good guy is testimony enough to rank him as a truly special person and one who deserves a ton of thanks from generations of kids, parents, and ordinary citizens who care about Oakland. 

Until recently, Gary was not alone in his all-out pursuit of educational excellence. He had his truly amazing wife Caroline at his side and as a team the two of them did ten lifetimes of good work for our town. When Caroline tragically, suddenly, and unexpectedly passed away in early 2013, thousands of citizens hereabouts were beside themselves in grief. Gary, in his inimical and selfless way, took on the job as superintendent anyway proving once again that his care and devotion for others trumped personal pain and sadness. 

There are hundreds of folks like me who have known Gary for years and I know I am not alone in this testimony about how truly remarkable his life has been. I just hope those who were not lucky enough to be friends with Gary take the time to recognize how special he is and how much he has given to Oakland. In the pantheon of Oakland’s greats, Gary is a first ballot hall-of-famer!

Jonathan C. Breault, Oakland


The Express won nine awards for journalism excellence, including six first-place honors, in the 37th Annual Greater Bay Area Journalism Awards. The Express won the most awards overall and the most first-place honors of any Bay Area weekly news publication. The awards were announced over the weekend by the San Francisco Peninsula Press Club.

Express contributors Ali Winston and Darwin BondGraham won first place in the continuing coverage category for their series of investigative reports on Oakland’s controversial surveillance center, also known as the Domain Awareness Center, or the DAC. The series included the December 18, 2013 feature story, “The Real Purpose of Oakland’s Surveillance Center.” BondGraham also won a third-place honor in the business/technology story category for his June 26, 2013 report, “Public Research for Private Gain,” which revealed that the UC Board of Regents had created a private entity to control how publicly funded research is used.

Co-editor Robert Gammon and contributor Joaquin Palomino won first place in the best series category for their two-part report, “Tunnel Vision: Delta in Peril and Rivers in Peril.” The in-depth stories focused on Governor Jerry Brown’s plan to build two massive water tunnels underneath the fragile Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Gammon also won a first place award in the news column category for his weekly column Seven Days.

Contributor Rebecca Ruiz won first place for best feature story of a serious nature for her December 11, 2013 report, “Life, Death, and PTSD in Oakland,” which detailed how violence and poverty have traumatized the city’s youth.

Contributor Vanessa Rancaño won first place in the specialty story category for her August 21, 2013 feature, “Waste: The Dark Side of the New Coffee Craze.” Her report examined how single-cup coffee brewing is producing massive amounts of trash.

Contributor Mark C. Anderson won first place for best sports story for his April 3, 2013 feature, “Real Warriors,” which explored the renewed success of the Golden State Warriors basketball team.

Former Express staffer Azeen Ghorayshi won a second-place award in the best news story category for her feature, “Warning: Quake in 60 Seconds.” Her report focused on technology that would enable California to implement an early-warning system for earthquakes.

And former Express staffer Brian Kelly won a second-place award in the page design category for his July 24, 2013 cover illustration, “False Witness.”

All of the Express‘ awards were in the non-daily print division for stories published in 2013.


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