Letters for the Week of March 14, 2012

Readers sound off on nuclear weapons, the Oakland blogosphere, and Laura's Law.

“Emergency Call,” Feature, 2/29


Until I retired four years ago, I worked for 36 years in the Public Conservatorship program for Contra Costa County. This article is wonderful. It clearly lays out the inadequacies of the public mental health system and the heartbreak for families. Thank you so much for publishing this important piece.

E.B. Friedman, Berkeley

Get Educated

Thank you very much for this excellent article on the horrific situation in these counties related to getting help for our mentally ill loved ones.

Any solutions to the treatment of the mentally ill are as complicated as the brain disease itself, but it doesn’t mean we should stop trying to improve the paths to wellness for even some who suffer so profoundly from serious mental illness.

Please continue to educate the community as to our desperate need for funding, for Laura’s Law and for forced outpatient treatment.

You may want to look at some of the successful models of treatment — like The Village in Long Beach with Dr. Mark Ragins. Perhaps there are more avenues of support than through the changes of laws — our understanding of the person whose brain gets hijacked by schizophrenia, our understanding of their humanness, how to befriend them as they are — that might help us in the ongoing fight to determine how best to help this population of suffering individuals (and their families).

Gloria Davidson, San Ramon

“Wither the Oakland Blogosphere,” News, 2/29

Withering — or Evolving?

I enjoyed reading this article, as I’ve enjoyed reading much of Rachel Swan’s great coverage of the East Bay’s art and music scenes. (I’ve also enjoyed her indulgence in puns — a recent favorite of mine is the headline “Fishbone Out of Water.”)

However, I thought I’d be remiss if I didn’t write to challenge her assumption that the Oakland blog scene is in decline. Yes, it’s true that many of the blogs she writes about in her piece aren’t being as actively updated as much as they were a year ago, but in the last several months, I’ve seen a resurgence of Oakland culture and politics blogs, including 38thNotes.com, OGPenn.Wordpress.com, TheDoctrinaire.Webs.com, and my own blog, DJMattWerner.Blogspot.com, to name a few.

Matt Werner, Oakland

“Change Is Messy,” Raising the Bar, 2/15

Occupy Is Just Getting Started

It’s amazing how much cycling has improved in the Bay Area as a result of the two divergent tactics employed back in the Nineties:

1. Volunteer staffing of design and outreach committees through organizations such as the Bicycle-Friendly Berkeley Coalition, East Bay Bike Coalition, and San Francisco Bike Coalition, in cooperation with regional and city government.

2. Critical mass. Remember the response when then-Mayor Willie Brown threatened Critical Mass? The event set a massive attendance record, more than 200 hundred were arrested, and Bay Area bike activism gained international exposure.

Multiple approaches to solving big problems are important.
Occupy is just getting started …

Vince Rubino, Seoul, South Korea

“A Tax on the 99 Percent,” Full Disclosure, 2/8

Nothing New

Well, since what he’s proposing is merely to restore the sales tax to what it was before June of last year, this histrionic response seems a bit much.

We’ve been paying astronomical sales taxes all our bleepin’ lives here, and I don’t see that changing — though I do see the good citizens of Livermore getting a bit testy at the suggestion they should forgo their BART station after half a century of paying sales taxes for it, as it were.

The other thing, of course, is that the citizenry had already worked out a perfectly good fix for the regressive sales tax. They bought from Amazon. But nooooooo …

Mary Eisenhart, Oakland

“Hayward and San Leandro: Cities of Hidden Treasure,” Insider’s Guide, 2/22

San Leandro Love

I took great interest in this article because I was born and raised in San Leandro. I must say, I was very, very pleased with your write-up.   

I no longer live in San Leandro — I live in the valley (like most of us now), but I will always consider San Leandro home. You hit the nail on the head with Drake’s, Paradiso, and Boulevard Burger. These spots can rival anyone, and I mean anyone — and only charge a fraction of what their competition does. I’m not just saying this because I’m from San Leandro, but because I am a big-time craft beer and food enthusiast.

I was so very proud reading your article.

James Conan Gouig, Dublin

“Coach Collins,” Feature, 1/4

Dumbfounded and Disappointed

This piece was a while ago, but I just read it. A friend gave it to me because he could not believe what he’d read. And now, I can say, “me too.”
I was dumbfounded by the fact that the author and the Express believed that this was a story worth telling. I did not see anything compelling about Rob Collins’ story, especially when the author seeks — in his subtitle — to portray Collins as the “real deal” in contrast to what appears to be some type of dig at Coach Ken Carter. Collins doesn’t come close to matching Coach Carter as a coach in Richmond for a number of reasons.

Collins appeared to be all about himself, as amply displayed when he left his team after one season for greener pastures — i.e., big budgets and luxury buses. What type of coach does this (after one season) to kids who — as mentioned in the article — come from tough circumstances where adults are constantly abandoning them? Of course, careerism and ambition are not necessarily bad options to pursue. However, as one reads the article, Collins’ decision plays into a larger narrative that does not support the savior plot that author Paul Gackle sought to construct.
Collins’ motives were different than Coach Carter’s. Carter was on a mission that went beyond basketball. He conveyed values and principles that put academics front-and-center, not basketball (hence the infamous gym lockout), unlike Collins. And he did it in the midst of tremendous backlash from school administrators and parents.
Moreover, Gackle tries to convince the reader to believe that a white coach working amongst a predominately black and Latino team is a rare and high virtue — the proverbial “white shadow,” the paternalistic hero. White coaches at urban schools are nothing new. They are a dime a dozen. In sports, kids and coaches can care less about race. A true coach will go to Iraq if there is an opportunity to pursue his or her craft and a kid will let a Martian coach them if they can help the team win.

What I found most interesting was the double standard of appropriateness that Gackle draws between urban and suburban communities. Collins was rejected from suburban schools on two occasions, but Gackle felt compelled to recast Mr. Collins’ run-ins with suburban high school parents and administrators as an overreaction based on their middle-class uppityness and high expectations, rather than seeing them as consequences of inappropriate behavior on Collins’ part (throwing chairs, using foul language). Then, Gackle takes it even further by suggesting that Collins’ behavior was more of a fit for urban youth. He essentially implied that Collins’ style was more suitable for Richmond’s urban athletes because of the poor environment. This absolutely speaks to low expectations that writers — like Gackle — have of urban youth and their future. Essentially, through the lens of Mr. Gackle, a mainstream reject like Mr. Collins is perfectly suited for the socially dysfunctional environment of Richmond.
I simply do not know what Mr. Gackle was thinking when he decided to write this article about Coach Collins. Moreover, I do not understand why he felt compelled to discredit Coach Carter by pointing out that some of the stories in the film was inflated or overblown. Really? When has Hollywood not exercised its license to embellish a story? In a city like Richmond where young black and Latino males have few role models and heroes, it is too bad that Mr. Gackle felt compelled to muddy Coach Carter’s great work.
In comparison to Coach Carter, Collins is not a role model. He is unaccomplished; he is an unfinished story. Is this what these kids need? Apparently, Gackle felt like there was a redemption story in progress with Collins. But it appears that Collins needs these kids more than they need him.
I have higher expectation of the Express.

Ahmad Mansur, Oakland

Miscellaneous Letters

From Fukushima to the US?

March 11 marked the one-year anniversary of the tragic events at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan.

The accident at the Fukushima plant has had profound and long-lasting public health, environmental, quality-of-life, and economic consequences for tens of thousands of Japanese citizens.

What happened at Fukushima can happen in the United States.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is the federal agency responsible for nuclear safety in the United States. The president and Congress oversee the NRC and are responsible for making nuclear power in this country safer and for preventing a nuclear disaster from happening here.

The NRC, President Obama, and Congress are not addressing critical nuclear power safety concerns with any sense of urgency or leadership.

The NRC should reduce the risks associated with how spent radioactive nuclear fuel is stored after it is no longer being used for producing electricity by requiring that it be stored in much safer dry casks once it has sufficiently cooled. It should also enforce its existing regulations, like fire protection regulations. Today, more than 45 nuclear plants do not comply with fire protection regulations first adopted in 1980.

Albie Miles, Oakland


In the March 7 installment of our What the Fork column, “Gluten-Free and Bike-Delivered,” we misstated that Niloufer took over as chef at Blue Oak Café after Robert Dorsey’s departure. In fact, she took over as manager.

In our March 7 news story, “Will Occupy Oakland Embrace Strategic Nonviolence?,” we got Nichola Torbett’s surname wrong.

The February 29 installment of our What the Fork column, “Food for Thought,” mistakenly referred to Gather as a vegetarian restaurant. It also serves meat.

In our February 29 corrections section (yikes), we incorrectly implied that the Shotgun Players had not staged a production of The Miser in 2004, when in fact they did.


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