Letters for the Week of June 8

Readers sound off on the Pacific Pinball Museum; our new food writer, John Birdsall; and Oakland's budget crisis.

“The Pinball Wizard,” Feature, 5/25

Wake Up

Michael Schiess is dreaming if he or the board of directors of the Pacific Pinball Museum thinks that they will get any kind of municipal support in this financial climate, particularly from Alameda, which is already strapped and trapped by supporting the USS Hornet with berthing space. Add to that two other equally struggling museums in Alameda clamoring for municipal support (the Alameda Naval Air Museum and the Alameda History Museum), and it is easy to see why Alameda cannot support the Pacific Pinball Museum.

It was foolhardy for the Pacific Pinball Museum to collect so many machines when they were already hard-pressed for space. Museums should take space constraints into consideration before collecting. The question they should be constantly asking themselves is, “Can the museum care for and meet all of the long-term needs of these artifacts in perpetuity?” This is a very tall order. If the answer is that there is no more room — stop collecting! Collecting for museums is a long-term, ongoing responsibility that often requires vast resources to accomplish well.

In the end, Pacific Pinball Museum has an issue with image and message — people see it as an amusement center/arcade run by hobbyists that they pay admission to, not as a community asset that meets a nonprofit educational mission; builds, preserves, and maintains an historical artifacts collection; serves a constituency; and deserves community support beyond the admission they pay at the door.

Pamela Kruse-Buckingham

Museum/Nonprofit Consultant


Room in Denver

I’m just saying that Denver has plenty of empty space. There are plenty of people supporting the local museums and this one might get some chamber of commerce and local interest. Denver does Americana.

The Colorado Rail Museum is a big draw, so this venture might be a winner here.I’m looking at a big, empty space where an Albertson’s used to be. And there are stores like it all over Denver. You could probably get Coors/Molson to do the heavy lifting. They have the fleet of railcars. Heck, they could set up the museum across the highway from the Colorado Rail Museum.

Just thinking outside the box.

Art BlackwellPinball Addict

Evergreen, CO

“Meet Your New Pot Dealer: Big Pharma,” Legalization Nation, 5/25

Do More Research

I believe David’s interpretation of the DEA list of producers is incorrect. Based on my experience, there are not 55 companies that hold licenses to grow marijuana in the United States. Instead, the list from the DEA is composed almost entirely of companies working with synthetic cannabinoids for sale for development of drug tests and analytical methods, training of drug-sniffing dogs, etc., and in some cases, animal and human studies. 

I noticed that in David’s article, the only marijuana producer mentioned by name was ElSohly. I suggest you call a random sample of 10 of the 55 companies on the DEA list and see if any confirm they have a license to grow the marijuana plant for natural extraction. I doubt you will find even one other than ElSohly.

I’m Rick Doblin, Ph.D, executive director of the nonprofit pharmaceutical company, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS, Maps.org). MAPS has coordinated a lawsuit against the DEA regarding its refusal to issue a license to Prof. Lyle Craker, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, to grow marijuana for federally regulated research. The DEA has indicated that it will reject the recommendation by DEA Administrative Law Judge Bittner, made after extensive testimony in her courtroom at DEA headquarters, that it would be in the public interest for DEA to issue a license to Professor Craker. 

MAPS is sponsoring Professor Craker’s efforts and would cover his production costs with the marijuana grown to be used for MAPS’ research conducted with FDA and DEA approval. For more information, see Maps.org/research/mmj/dea_timeline/

In the Craker case, DEA is fundamentally obstructing privately funded drug development research with the marijuana plant itself, smoked or vaporized. David’s article makes the mistaken comment that the DEA licenses 55 marijuana growers for Big Pharma, “a fact that contradicts the widespread belief that there is only one legal pot farm in America, operated under the DEA for research purposes.” Rather, this article presents a belief without basis in fact. If you do find that even one of the 55 companies on the DEA list other than ElSohly actually does grow marijuana for natural extraction of cannabinoids, which I don’t anticipate, please let me know so I can inform Craker’s lawyers at ACLU and the major DC law firm, Jenner & Block.I think it is incumbent upon you to explore this matter further and correct the record as quickly as you can.

Rick Doblin, Ph.DMAPS Executive DirectorBelmont, MA

“Off the Grid Coming to North Berkeley,” What the Fork, 5/25

More Yuppies … Fart

“Off the Grid?” Hardly… more yuppie “foodie” bullshit … more yuppies in lines blocking foot and car traffic to stuff their faces. Another “delicious revolution” … fart … the bourgeoisie takes to the streets … fart … it’s revolting alright … will sit-lie apply to these slobs?

Carl Martineau, Berkeley

Tasteless Writing

So John Birdsall has flown over to the East Bay Express and is now feathering two nests (also the SF Weekly). While it’s great to see the new section, “What the Fork,” its smarmy, pseudo-hip title makes me wonder if Birdsall’s foot-in-mouth disease style of dining commentary will also infect your paper. Judging from his writing at the Weekly, will Express readers now be treated not only to filler disguised as pretentiously irrelevant and annoying personal asides concerning his dining companions, but also to his phenomenally tasteless culinary tropes, like the one in a glowing review of the now shuttered Berkeley restaurant Locanda da Eva, where he compared consuming lardons on one of their pizzas to “slurping moist condoms”? With favorable reviews such as that, it’s no wonder the restaurant went out of business.

J.J. Phillips, Berkeley

Editor’s Note

John Birdsall no longer writes for the SF Weekly, and his editors are responsible for the column name.

“Libraries on the Brink,” News, 5/25

Why Not Cut Police/Fire?

The spirit in which Measure Q was written was to devise a scheme in Oakland’s budgetary allocations, especially during hard economic times, to guarantee that libraries receive a minimal amount of funding (currently 2 percent) and not get squeezed out of the budget. Instead, Measure Q is being misused as a bargaining weapon to threaten library workers with mass layoffs unless they repeatedly take disproportionate amounts of salary cuts.

That there are only three potential scenarios, as proposed by the mayor (and supported by city council) is a distortion. Why was there no “Scenario D” where cuts to police and fire department were included among the cuts to social services, especially when police and fire account for 75 percent of the general fund?

I do believe public safety is a priority. That is why, with a 17 percent unemployment rate, Oakland citizens need access to computers to find jobs, access to safe spaces for youth, and access to the meeting rooms where Neighborhood Crime Prevention Councils convene. Now is the time for Oakland to challenge the police/fire monopoly on our general fund, honor the spirit of Measure Q, and collect the $14 million in revenue that 77 percent of voters volunteered to pay to keep libraries open.

Jenny Rockwell

Branch Manager, Golden Gate Branch


Tax Alone Won’t Cut It

The mayor’s Scenario C is actually not based on the parcel tax. It’s based on employee concessions and the parcel tax. The parcel tax alone won’t do much at all. Worse still is the timing. If there is a proposal for the parcel tax, it has to be approved by a public vote. The ballot goes out in November, but the new fiscal year begins July 1. Would they close the libraries for July through November? Maybe, but that wouldn’t do the job either. If we’re going to spend the money on the libraries and other services, we have to collect it. The property taxes are collected at the end of one year and the beginning of the next. By the time the measure was passed, it would be too late to collect it with the 2011-2012 taxes. It would have to wait until the following fiscal year, 2012-2013. That is, the tax couldn’t be collected until the end of 2012. Any library services dependent on those taxes would have to wait until the end of next year. Scenario C isn’t the answer.

Bob Shurtleff, Oakland

“Bashing Mayor Quan,” Seven Days, 5/25

Kids In a Sand Box

Nice article. Watching the city council lately is like watching a bunch of kids in a sand box throw sand in each other’s faces. Everyone after their own agenda and wanting to be right. There seems to be very little interest in helping the mayor figure out a way to balance the budget without destroying so much of what makes our city wonderful: parks, libraries, art, good senior centers, etc.

Sara Somers, Oakland

Chain Saws vs. Nail Clippers

With the City of Oakland facing Depression Economics, the ongoing approach of trying to balance the current $58 million shortfall (an estimated at $76 million next year) is both naive and quite shortsighted.

The deficits are simply not sustainable. Not only do the deficits have significant effects on the city’s financial stability, economic growth, and our standard of living; in the not-too-distant future they will become catastrophic. It simply cannot continue. If the city were operated as the half-a-billion-dollar-a-year business that it is, it would have been put under bankruptcy re-organization long ago.

For years the City of Oakland’s leaders have attempted to balance the budget with a pair of fingernail clippers making minuscule cuts. They should be using a super-sized chainsaw! Clipping away at expenses only continues the downward spiral and resolves nothing. History clearly shows that the clipping-away approach is an unquestionable failure.

An enormous share of the city’s budget woes does not provide a single service to its residents, specifically interest payments on debt (not even the principle) and retirement pensions. There is no chance for the city to get back on its feet if it continues to pay these debts at face value. The city has been borrowing money without a source of repayment for decades. They have been making promises to employees they could never keep. It’s time to stop the insanity. Without a strong financial foundation, nothing can be rebuilt.

That brings me back to the earlier paragraph; the city must file for bankruptcy. Yes, on the surface, that is a huge ego crusher. And yes, on the surface, it will reflect poorly on the résumé of our city officials. So what? This is not a popularity contest; it’s about saving a city that is sinking with no viable plan to prevent drowning.

Under bankruptcy, our debt obligations of hundreds of millions of dollars could be restructured. If interest rates alone were cut by half, the budget would nearly balance. Re-modification of contracts on our pension liability must also be restructured. This, too, would save hundreds of millions. These two items alone, which an intelligent bankruptcy plan could accomplish, would put the city back on a stronger foundation from which it could rebuild and grow.

It’s untrue that municipal bond obligations cannot be restructured. I’ve spoken to bond experts, it can be done.

These actions would likely be unpopular. Will it piss people off? You bet. But this is not about keeping smiles on everyone’s faces and the local politician’s reputation unblemished. It is about saving a city that is the Titanic after the iceberg.

To think the city is too big to fail is erroneous. Look at history. Because we are too big is the very reason the city in time will definitely fail!

And to even begin to worry about the city’s credit rating should not be of any concern. The city’s credit is already in the toilet.

Oakland leaders take out that chainsaw and don’t be inhibited in its use. Do you want something to put on your résumé that you can be proud of? Then make the tough, tough decisions. Make the decisions that will save the city and the people that you were elected to serve.

Rene Boisvert, Oakland

“The Man Behind Richmond’s Renaissance,” Feature, 5/18

Bringing Class Back

I have lived in Richmond since 1950. Bill Lindsay and Chief Chris Magnus have saved our city — plain and simple. They bring the word “class” back to the city government.  Both are fair-minded, hard-working, honest, intelligent, courteous, down-to-earth, well respected gentlemen. Both are extremely well liked and respected. I might add that they have a great sense of humor which helps with the different people that make up this city government.

Cathie Louden, Richmond

Amazing Things Are Possible

I appreciate John Geluardi’s positive view of our changing Richmond.

Bill Lindsay is a good administrator, and yes, they are scarce these days. Our city is changing not just because we have good administration but because the community is involved, making change, standing up to the corporations that have dominated us, uniting folks that have been pitted against each other, and developing creative solutions to social problems, and because we have good elected leaders like Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and council people who represent us. Amazing things are possible when you have a mobilized community and a responsive city government.

A better Richmond is possible!

Keep writing about Richmond, John!

Juan Reardon, Richmond

An Emperor With New Clothes

Only one who has not watched a Richmond City Council meeting for the past six years and has paid no attention to crime and unemployment statistics could believe that (1) Richmond has experienced a renaissance, and (2) any renaissancelike movement in the city is attributable to the tongue-tied Mr. Lindsay. Rather, it is clear to those of us who have observed the mean-spirited and pointlessly long council arguments about such pressing local matters as sponsoring a flotilla in the Red Sea that the only change in Richmond is that it has a new emperor, Tom Butt, and he has a new set of clothes, Bill Lindsay. Mr. Butt’s new set of clothes leaves him parading naked in the streets.

Miriam Foxx, Richmond

“A Ban on Sitting?” News, 5/25

Don’t Criminalize Poverty

Thank you for a thoughtful article on the proposed anti-sitting ordinance, especially for mentioning that the areas in town with the highest percentage of homeless people and transient youths are doing the best economically.

Further criminalizing poverty is such an absurd thing to do. I hope your readers will sign the petition against this proposed idiocy at Change.org/petitions/stand-up-for-the-right-to-sit-down

Carol Denney

Stand Up for the Right to Sit Down Coalition, Berkeley

“Pot Penalties May Be Relaxed,” Legalization Nation, 5/18

Wrong Approach

This bill is a big mistake. It should be reduced to a misdemeanor with a $50 fine instead of leaving the penalty to the whims of some bureaucrat.Do not support this wrong-headed approach!

Scott Pitts, Las Cruces, NM

“Yoo: Obama Should Have Tortured Bin Laden,” Seven Days, 5/11

Who’s the Real Threat?

Wake up! Your government is much more of a threat to you than bin Laden ever was.

Jim Mellander, El Sobrante

“Libraries on the Brink,” News, 5/25

100 Librarians

(For Oakland, Geri, Michelle, and Stewart)

I’m lookin’…

I’m lookin’ here and there

I’m searchin’ everywhere

I’m lookin’…

For 100 librarians to

Leap from bookmobiles,

Wrestle black boys off corners,

Arrest their attention,

Transport them to branches,

Handcuff them to the stacks and

Interrogate them:

“Tubman was strapped, wasn’t she?”

“Douglas assaulted his masta, didn’t he?”

“Ida interfered with a lynching, didn’t she? Didn’t she?

Interrogate them:

“You could ID John Brown in a lineup, couldn’t you?”

“Where’d Ol’ Nat hide the murder weapon? Where?!”

Interrogate them:

“Who’s the ‘Brown Bomber’?

“What’s ‘Ali Bombaye’?

Interrogate them:

“Home was stolen 18 times—who did it ? Who?!”

“Who performed the first open heart surgery?”

“Who invented the shoe lasting machine, traffic light, and airbrakes?”

“Who invented bleach, mayonnaise, shaving cream, peanut butter and axel grease? Who?!”

“Who went by the street name, Wizard of Tuskegee? Who?!”

I’m lookin’…

I’m lookin’ here and there

I’m searchin’ everywhere

I’m lookin’…

For 100 librarians to

Diagram crime scenes called Cape Coast Castle,

Goree Island, and The Point of No Return

Sketch composites of kidnappers, mutilators, murderers,

Rapists—alias Christian Foundingfathers…

Investigate dealers of

Iboe, Wolof, Ashanti,

Fulani, Mandingo and

Crackdown on criminals—

DisInformation, MisEducation and Digital Jim Crow!

I’m lookin’…

I’m lookin’ here and there

I’m searchin’ everywhere

I’m lookin’…

For 100 librarians to

Investigate what boys know

About Brown v. The Board of Education,

Black Codes, Slave Codes,

Fanon, Nkrumah, Lumumba,

Contras and crack cocaine—

Investigate When 100 homicides became routine!

I’m lookin’…

I’m lookin’ here and there

I’m searchin’ everywhere

I’m lookin’…

For 100 librarians to

Throw the books at boys—

Try them as adults…

Reading Malcolm,

Give ’em hard time—

Black Awakening in Capitalist America,

Indeterminate sentences:

Das Kapital,

Lock ’em in solitary

with The Invisible Man,

Slam their heads into

The Souls of Black Folk,

Transfer them to reference and

Choke them with Chaucer’s studies at the University of Timbuktu,

Strike them with Memphis, Greenwood, Rosewood,

Kush, Kemet, or 17 universities and

70 Libraries the Moors built

I’m lookin’…

I’m lookin’ here and there

I’m searchin’ everywhere

I’m lookin’…

For 100 librarians to

Recapture wards

With sweetly-calculated strokes,

Inject them with high expectations—

Cool and unusual punishment!

Watch them jerk, writhe,

Gasp for breath, and fight

To keep hearts and libraries


Raymond Nat Turner, Oakland


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