Letters for the Week of May 28

Readers sound off on the water tunnels boondoggle, Oakland's ethics rules, and the 'morals' code in the Oakland Diocese's new school contract.

“The Water Tunnel Boondoggle, Feature, 5/14

Masterful Job

Once again the Express has done a masterful job of journalism while covering both sides of the very hotly disputed Bay Delta Conservation Plan/peripheral tunnels proposal.

There is one aspect that deserves further mention. The story points out that under some scenarios the taxpayers could end up shouldering much of the financial burden. The fact is that even under the rosiest scenarios, the BDCP plan documents show that at least $8 billion of the cost (so-called habitat restoration and other mitigation measures) will be paid for by taxpayers. Many of us live in areas that will receive absolutely no benefit from the BDCP/peripheral tunnels plan. Why should our tax dollars be used to pay for any part of it?

Jerry Cadagan, Sonora

The Whole Thing Smells

Excellent article by Joaquin Palomino. This is a very difficult issue to wrap one’s head around; the tentacles come from every angle. He laid this out as best as anyone could, especially for one not being around the Delta.

The particular angle I’d like to see explored is “follow the money.” Who is really behind this?

It can’t go on the ballot, so the voters are kept out of the mix. Our esteemed political parasites in Sacramento do nothing if it does not benefit them or someone close to them. Who really benefits? Certainly not those of us who live and toil in the Delta!

Old senile uncle Jerry [Brown] seems possessed by this “project.” I believe he has Faustian nightmares of not having his name on a public works project like his father before him. He does not really need campaign cash or even patronage. So what gives? It has many scratching their heads. Something bigger is down the line — tradeoff for that stupid choo-choo train? Jerry’s projects are so last century; who is advising him — the ghost of Crocker/Stanford/Huntington?

This whole thing smells. It would take a writer of Mr. Palomino’s talents to get to the silty bottom of all this.

Theresa Salazar, Courtland

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

Justice Just A Word

If only this was 1789 and the guillotine was being erected in every town square in America, as a warning to the connected that if they continue in such practices they will be disconnected at the neck. Heads must roll for there to be justice. Vive la révolution! Alas, we live in an age when justice is now just a word, a tarnished word at that.

Franklin Graham, Santa Rosa

“Oakland Needs Tougher Ethics Rules,” Seven Days, 5/14


These reforms are long overdue and should enjoy overwhelming support from the Oakland electorate in November. A big shout-out please for Councilmember Dan Kalb, the League of Women Voters, and the other members of the working group.

Ken Katz, Oakland

“Teachers Forced to Sign New Personal ‘Morals’ Code,” News, 5/7

Discrimination Isn’t Moral

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a “moral code” — in fact, more of us could use one. However, to discriminate against someone in terms of employment, because they do not meet your moral code is wrong and is not moral. One of the wonderful things about Bishop O’Dowd was that this was a school that was about teaching everyone, and not discriminating against others because of their race, religion, or their socio-economic background. It was a safe place where everyone could learn. It has an eclectic and diverse faculty with many phenomenal teachers, committed to education. This should be the emphasis of O’Dowd. The private lives of the faculty and staff is irrelevant to their ability to provide a unique and quality education, and to inspire students to care about what they are learning.

O’Dowd has always accepted non-Catholic students, stating that you do not need to be Catholic to come to the school. In fact only about half of the student body is Catholic, so why not extend the very same openness to the faculty and staff?

Colleen McCauley, Oakland


Indigenous Leaders Mobilize Against Fossil Fuel Industry

A group of indigenous activists have begun to organize against the expansion of oil refineries in the San Francisco Bay Area. Known as Idle No More San Francisco (INM-SF), the group is led by Pennie Opal Plant and is spearheading a series of “Healing Walks” to protest the corridor of fossil fuel refineries in five cities along the Carquinez Strait, including the Chevron facility and proposed WesPac terminal in Pittsburg. The first of the Connect the Dots Healing Walks was fifteen miles, taking walkers from Pittsburg to Martinez on foot.

“It’s time to begin a graceful transition to clean energy,” opined Opal Plant. “This is preferable to an abrupt transition that could happen in the future when people realize how fossil fuels are profoundly damaging the world’s climate.” The indigenous leader said that the first healing walk arose after citizens of the refinery cities Pittsburg and Martinez began to get to know one another and understand that their health issues had common oily roots. Happily, the walk facilitated alliances between the citizens being affected in the refinery communities and their Bay Area neighbors. “It was powerful to walk in prayer past the proposed WesPac site, Tesoro and Shell refineries,” said Opal Plant. “Praying for a just transition as well as the safety of the refinery workers.” Although the walkers expected dissenting honks from passing vehicles, drivers instead “honked their horns and shouted” cries of support and encouragement.

This all began in Canada in November 2012, when four women created Idle No More (INM) in reaction to legislation proposed by Prime Minister [Stephen] Harper that would have violated First Nations’ rights and decimated environmental protections. A non-violent indigenous mass movement, INM endeavors to “protect water, air, land and all creation for future generations.”

Since its inception two autumns ago, the INM movement has swept the continent with speed, utilizing the full battery of non-violent resistance techniques: flash mobs in the form of round dances in malls; protests; direct action; blockades; and even a high-profile hunger strike. It seems to have successfully galvanized a public front opposed to the Harper government’s assault against the health of North American people and ecosystems. Such is the support around the world that solidarity events have taken place on every continent, with the exception of Antarctica.

The INM movement has two primary targets. First, it seeks to stop the extraction and processing of oil tar sands, a type of fossil fuel whose withdrawal requires egregious amounts of water, energy, and destruction of soil. The largest industrial project in human history, tar sands excavation produces three to four times more greenhouse gases than regular oil extraction. These oil resources happen to lie under 140,000 square kilometers of pristine boreal forest, an area the size of England, which the tar sands industry is already decimating to get at the oil.

At least a few facts about tar sands industry operations deserve our attention. First, they produce lakes of toxic sludge large enough to be seen from outer space, eviscerating the habitats of thousands of species. Secondly, transporting the volatile chemical-crude oil mixture through pipelines and over rail imperils the health of communities, both human and non-human. This became strikingly evident when in the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic last summer, a number of train cars containing crude oil came loose, exploding, destroying the town, and killing 47 people. Furthermore, to extract all of the existing tar sands could liberate more climate pollution than the US and China combined have released in all their history. With certainty, that outcome would spell certain death for much of life on Earth due to the compounding effects of global climatic heating.

INM’s second major objective appears to be to shut down the construction of at least five major oil pipelines that would transport highly volatile oil from Canadian extraction plants to the US’s western and southern ports for processing. The southern leg of the Keystone XL Pipeline — currently under non-violent assault by farmers, ranchers, and Native people of all political persuasions across the Midwest — is already under construction, and fossil fuel corporations are pressuring President Obama to approve the rest of the project. In opposition to the Keystone XL, an unlikely alliance has formed between mostly white rural landowners and Native Americans. Calling themselves the Cowboy Indian Alliance, or CIA, this group staged a wildly successful protest at the White House drawing thousands of concerned citizens from all over the country. Their slogan is “Reject and Protect”: reject the Keystone XL Pipeline in favor of protecting the health of all present and future living communities.

Born and raised not far from the Chevron refinery in Richmond, INM-SF Bay’s leader Pennie Opal Plant has a history of environmental and Native American activism going back thirty years. She is not enrolled in a tribe, but is Yaqui, Mexican, Choctow, Cherokee, and European. After discovering the INM movement online, Opal Plant and her husband traveled to San Francisco’s Canadian Consulate to express solidarity with their First Nation sisters and brothers. The leader described how she took initiative in connecting with the Forward on Climate action in San Francisco, empowering INM-SF Bay to head off the demonstration with a round dance and prayer. “We were very well received and after that became connected with activists who later formed The Sunflower Alliance, of which I am a member,” she said. Since then, INM-SF Bay has crafted “many actions, including several at the Chevron refinery, Kinder Morgan in Richmond, and the Canadian Consulate.”

INM-SF Bay’s momentum seems to be increasing rapidly. Beyond being invited to Earth Day San Francisco for the last two consecutive years, the group was privileged to lead a 2,800-strong march from Richmond Station to the Chevron Refinery on the anniversary of that facility’s 2012 explosion.

The purpose of INM-SF Bay is to serve as an affinity group of Native Americans and allies united in mutual aid. To learn more about INM-SF Bay, visit its Facebook page. To get involved with the organization and help ensure the future for coming generations, all are invited to join the group at any of their actions.

All are encouraged to join in the next Refinery Corridor Healing Walk from Martinez to Benicia. For more information, call 510-619-8279 or visit the website at ConnectTheDotsHealingJourneys.org.

Colin Murphy, Oakland


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