Letters for the week of November 11-17

Readers sound off on Oakland's toxic failures, a Richmond developer, and the state's traffic ticket amnesty program

“Oakland’s Toxic Failure,” Feature, 11/11

Don’t Tolerate Illegal Dumping

The vast majority of the hazardous waste that was transported/disposed of illegally was waste that was abandoned on the streets of Oakland by Oaklanders or by contractors that Oaklanders hired. Be cautious of who you hire to clean out your garage or yard, to paint your house, to stucco your walls, etc., and make sure that they take your waste to the proper place to dispose of it. Illegal dumping is a big problem in Oakland and contributes to a lot of blight.

Almost all of this waste could have been disposed of free of charge if the dumpers would just take it to Alameda County’s Household Hazardous Waste Facility. It is open Wednesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. — no appointment necessary. It is located at 2100 East 7th Street in Oakland. Be vigilant in your neighborhood, and if you witness illegal dumping, write down the license plate of the vehicle or snap some pictures. The city is launching a unique program that will provide rewards to witnesses who help stop people illegally dumping in Oakland neighborhoods. With the Reward for Reporting Illegal Dumping Program, witnesses who report illegal dumping can receive up to half of all penalties collected in successful enforcement actions based on the witness’ reports.

This sends a strong message that Oakland will not tolerate illegal dumping in our neighborhoods and city streets.

There are four ways to report illegal dumping:

1. Call the Public Works call center at 510-615-5566, Monday–Friday, 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m.

2. Email: [email protected]

3. Mobile app: http://en.seeclickfix.com/apps

4. Online: OaklandPW.com, click on “Report a Problem”

When reporting illegal dumping, please:

• Include the type of debris, amount, and location in your report.

• Never touch hazardous or medical waste!

• The city will take care of abating the illegal dumping and help you to apply for the reward program.

Oakland could be the cleanest cities in the world if we would just start caring and refuse to accept the blight as status quo.

Dan Keenan, Oakland firefighter, Oakland

Uneasy Feelings

This explains the uneasy feeling I get when I see the birds living in San Leandro Creek. The words, “your days are numbered” come to mind.

Christopher Fallis, Alameda

“Richmond Developer Pushes Two Ballot Measures,” News, 11/11

Wake Up, Richmond

I think the real corruption here is the city manager making almost a half-million dollars a year! How do people justify that this is OK? Why should our tax money pay these exuberant salaries [and benefits]? How many of you make $412,000 a year [in total compensation]? Why aren’t people outraged by the lack of fiscal responsibility in the City of Richmond. The city spent $101 million to renovate City Hall? Wow! That is a great use of our hard earned money taken from us in taxes. Wake up, Richmond!

Jaime Warren, Richmond

Say ‘No’ to Poe’s Development

The rhetoric is flying fast and furious in John Geluardi’s [story] about Richard Poe’s ballot initiatives. There’s so much to laugh and/or cry about: Bill Lindsay’s sort-of-actually-insane compensation package; Poe’s willingness to battle it out in the comments section of EastBayExpress.com, but not be interviewed; and the fact that California’s ballot initiative process would allow a developer to supersede a city’s General Plan. If I squint my brain, I can actually think of good and bad things about each of those, but not about Poe’s Richmond proposal. A 59-home boutique neighborhood is not what Richmond’s waterfront needs right now. This is a crucial moment for the future of the East Bay; allowing our cities to be developed poorly will only exacerbate the crisis of urban displacement.

Peter Smith, Oakland

“Hellhole of Desperation Still Exists,” News, 11/11

Traffic Fines Are Abusive

My objection to the unsubstantiated racial element in this report aside, I would like to [say] that I consider the pattern of setting fines and penalties for traffic offenses in California to be abusive.

It is, in my opinion, a violation of the “excessive fines” provision of the United States Constitution. It makes a mockery of basic fair play between imperfect average Joe citizens, rich or poor, and a government possessed of overweening electronic powers to turn them into tax-farming targets.

Sherman Kassof, Oakland

Kudos to Alameda County for Changing Policy

As reported in the blogpost “Alameda County Traffic Court Eliminates Harsh License Suspension Policy That Punished the Poor” [published on EastBayExpress.com] on November 11, I commend the Alameda County Superior Court for their revision to the implementation of Governor Jerry Brown’s traffic ticket amnesty program. Namely, I am encouraged that the court has taken steps to mitigate the cruel and unusual punishment of crippling traffic offenders from participating in local economies through the suspension of drivers’ licenses. While the violation of traffic laws should be disciplined in the interest of public safety, discipline should come in a form that is appropriate for the violation. Though license suspension may seem an appropriate response, the reality is that the ability to drive is a fundamental factor in someone’s ability to hold employment and thereby uphold their responsibilities to their families, partners, and children.

In reality, the practice of license suspension should be further examined to fully understand the crippling impacts it can have on communities without other means of accessing employment. For people who don’t have access to decent public transportation or who work multiple jobs outside of transit-rich neighborhoods, the practice of suspending driver’s licenses is cruel and unjust. Given the reality that communities of color are more likely to be targeted by police even for traffic violations, this practice also only further exacerbates racial inequalities. Other forms of discipline (such as community service) can and should be explored before low-income residents are pushed further into poverty through the crippling effect of a license suspension.

Juan Sebastian Arias, Berkeley

Actions Have Consequences

In a world today where everyone is a “victim” — even of an amnesty program — it seems personal responsibility is a thing of the past. Add to that the persistent insinuations by articles like this one that every black person is even more victimized, and we wind up with unprecedented societal guilt on a monumental scale.

There is no justification for racial discrimination, and there is even less justification for falsely claiming it. Almost anyone who has encountered the DMV has at least one story of displeasure, no matter his or her race. It is probable that the administration of the traffic fine amnesty program has flaws — almost every government affiliated program has them. If so, they need correcting.

For every reason, including public safety, holding a driver’s permit is a privilege — not a right. The “poster person” in this article talked on a cellphone while driving and also was cited for following too close. The article does not claim his innocence of those acts, nor does it claim his initial job was lost due to his not having a driver’s license. Even had he paid the initial fines — his insurance rates would have increased, making it doubtful that while unemployed and living out of his car, he could have paid for insurance. It’s a sad tale, but a reality that personal responsibility to drive responsibly and pay for things associated with driving is a prerequisite for joining others who are responsible on the roads.

While this article commendably points out likely areas for correction in the administration of the amnesty process, it loses credibility in its innuendo that blacks are the most unfairly oppressed because of their race. The problems cited apply to all races and to every person who was not sufficiently responsible to drive without breaking laws and to pay their initial fines when cited. Nobody takes pleasure in seeing a person’s life in difficulty, but when that person’s actions were the fountainhead of the situation, pity may rightfully be to some degree less. The sooner folks and reporters realize and accept that personal actions have consequences for all races, the better our society will be.

William H. Thompson, Walnut Creek

“Big Oil Brown Strikes Again,” Seven Days, 11/11

The Governor Works for Oil

Governor Jerry Brown is on the payroll of the oil corporations and is not working for Californians.

Earl Richards, San Francisco

Brown Chose Oil Over the Needy

Maybe this explains why California is the only oil producing state that doesn’t have an oil depletion tax. Even in the lowest point, when we had to cut funds from the neediest, he would not consider such a tax.

Joyce Roy, Oakland

“Boston or Brooklyn?” Movie Review, 11/11

The Catholic Church Was Organized Crime

The film Spotlight shows how difficult it is to get the truth out of an organized crime syndicate. A team of Boston journalists worked tirelessly to find out that the Catholic Church knowingly was running a massive organized child-rape crime syndicate in Boston and around the world back in a time when the Catholic Church had a powerful influence. It also shows how Catholic followers tried to help the church get away with it.

Make no mistake, this is a movie about organized crime, featuring the Catholic Church, the largest organized child-rape crime syndicate in the history of the United States, and in brutal defiance of Jesus in Matt 18:6–14, where Jesus said child-rape was unforgivable.

The Catholic Church’s organized crime syndicate is worse than Whitey Bulger’s from Black Mass. This movie shows how the Catholic Church exhibited the same “code of silence” that the mafia has, without the honor, as they were protecting at least 249 confessed pedophile priests in Boston.

Whitey Bulger killed twenty adults. The creepy pedo-priests in the Catholic Church raped more than 1,000 children in Boston alone. At least 249 pedophile priests were hidden and protected by hundreds of other priests, and by Cardinal Law. (Only 90 were known at the time of the movie, but credits at the end show 249).

The Catholic Church admitted that there were 4,329 accused pedophile priests in the United States in their own John Jay report of 2004 — and of course they lied. The number was well over 6,900.

And the Catholic Church hid and protected 100 percent of its known pedo-priests, worldwide. Cowardly, rampant, unforgivable evil, in brutal defiance of Jesus, has a name, and it is the Catholic Church.

Neil Allen, Boston

“The True Sharing Economy,” Feature, 11/4

It’s Uber-Capitalism

Thank you clarifying, in your November 4 article, that there is actually a sharing economy in the East Bay, and that it has nothing to do with Uber (as far as I can tell) or others with similar business models. Uber (among others) is, of course, happy to ride along on the coattails of goodwill that we give to “sharing.” But they are practicing classic capitalism. In fact, it’s uber-capitalism: Investors earn money off of the work of others, predatory pricing is practiced, attempts are made to influence regulatory practices, workers are expendable. Hopefully, a new term will be developed to describe capitalism made possible by mobile technology, but “sharing” doesn’t have anything to do with it.

Heidi Skolnik, Alameda

“The Golden Ones,” News, 11/4

The Warriors Don’t
Deserve a Free Pass

In response to Mark Anderson’s piece on the Golden State Warriors, I appreciate and agree with most of the points he makes about this great team/great franchise. But are we so in love with this talented and intelligent ownership that they are getting a bit of a free pass on the impending move to San Francisco? Do people feel that since there is so much money involved how could we expect them not to move? The ownership is already wealthy beyond reason. Would it be absurd to expect them to stay in a city that has offered the greatest fanbase in the country? To stay in a city that can use the benefits of having the Warriors play here? What a great message [Joe Lacob] could send: It’s not always only about money — there are higher values, i.e., loyalty. Sometimes, we tinker with something that works and it regresses. If the Warriors get to San Francisco, personally I will not think of them in the same way.

Roger Marsden, Fairfax

“Saving Chinatown,” Feature, 10/28

We Need Balance

A good article. I am in favor of bringing in a new and vibrant mix into dilapidated neighborhoods. I think that this matter of community revitalization is often seen as a zero sum game. Instead, leaders should approach the matter with surgical precision rather than hatchets.

This requires adding and/or keeping important civic, business, and community enclaves around the “new” emigrants in Chinatown.

In the Fruitvale, for example, La Clínica de la Raza is a mainstay, even when new buildings are razed. Too often, city leaders look at the “bang for the buck” projects and overbuild condos, and business buildings, and forget about the need for staples, such as schools and churches in the neighborhood. What they tend to forget is that the current, young dot-commers will eventually have children and families, and if they follow the old track in Oakland — leave to the suburbs of Lamorinda or Alameda once their kids have to go to school past the third grade — then what will Chinatown be? Temporary housing, unless it’s done with precision.

Good middle and high schools should be kept or built, and churches should be left intact. This way, some of those transitory Gen Y-ers will tend to stay for the long haul once they grow up!

Tim Crosby, Oakland

“Oakland Struggles to Hold Banks Accountable,” News, 10/28

No Respect

I am a single mother and have lived in Oakland since 1997 and have always used a coin-operated washing machine in the apartment building where I live. I can’t afford to buy my own home in Oakland, so I’ll never be going to Chase for a mortgage. But, occasionally, I do go to the Lakeshore Avenue branch to change a ten-dollar bill for a roll of quarters so I can do my laundry. Recently, I waited in line, only to have the teller turn me away. They no longer make change for people who aren’t customers. Now that’s what I call a community service bank — one that’s really grateful to be chosen as the municipal banker for the City of Oakland.

Somehow I think the council didn’t give the bank the news that they’re supposed to serve and respect us.

P.S. I canceled my Chase Sapphire credit card.

Linda Norton, Oakland

Hello, Anyone Paying Attention?

[There’s a] troubling pattern of major contracts signed without councilmembers understanding what they’re signing: garbage contracts; this banking deal; the Surveillance Data Center, to some extent; the allowable types of freight at the new port terminal (aka coal). Is City Attorney Barbara Parker’s office asleep at the wheel? City contract department staff? Councilmember staff? City administrator’s office?

Len Raphael, Oakland

“Oakland’s Sweeping Plan for Parking,” News, 10/28

Change Times, Not Fees

I hardly think it’s fair to charge more for parking when there is a clear and present danger of having your vehicle broken into by the time you return to it in certain lots (in nice areas). Instead make the meter times variable with limits of fifteen to one hundred and twenty minutes — this might encourage people to move them faster.

Francesca M. Austin, Oakland

But Who Gets Swept Away?

The proposed “market-based pricing” plan for parking in Oakland’s most highly trafficked commercial districts is promising, but it seems like more thought needs to be put into some of the potential consequences. One concern is the disparate impact this will have on people’s parking behavior based on their income. It’s possible that increasing fees in the most convenient spaces will advantage higher income drivers who can more easily stomach the price-hike. Lower-income drivers, who are already plagued by generally longer commute times and other environmental stresses related to their socio-economic position, will once again be forced to deal with a time-consuming inconvenience as they seek out cheaper spots further from their destination. However, one mitigating factor here is the fact that low-income residents are much less likely to drive to work than those at higher income levels. If this tendency is paralleled in non-commute travel, perhaps this isn’t as big of a concern.

It will be important, however, to ensure that alternative modes of transit are encouraged and supported with new infrastructure. This is hinted at toward the end of your article, but I’d like to see more concrete plans for things like increased bike parking and lanes. In all likelihood, higher parking prices will cause some to choose other methods of getting around, and without accounting for this with improved access for non-drivers, a “market-based” parking plan just shifts the burden once again to those least able to pay up.

James Yelen, Oakland

It’s a Bad Idea

Great, another policy that makes it harder to have a family live in Oakland. So on top of schools that nobody wants to go to, combined with an overwhelmed public safety department, now we’ll penalize families who dare to patronize local businesses and contribute to the sales tax revenues. Seventy-dollar meter tickets (fiscal emergency-special case, remember?), broken car windows, and a broken city administration, all encouraging you to shop in Emeryville. Berkeley as a model? It’s practically illegal to park there.

When was the last time you saw a city service decrease prices after an increase? Market prices equals penalize you for living here, shopping here, and having a family here.

Let me spell it out — there are no school buses here — you pretty much need to drive your kids around here if they are in school here.

Robert Townsend, Oakland

“Our Fair Share,” Opinion, 10/28

It’s Not Sharing

This self-defined “sharing economy” is just a misnomer for play-by-your own rules. We have Uber, which is essentially a car service that owns no cars. We have Airbnb, which essentially provides hotel rooms but owns no hotels. No overhead, no operating costs, no health care, no benefits, no insurance. Over and over, the technology provides the platform to link customers and service providers. The company itself assumes no risks or responsibilities of the traditional business model. All they do is skim the profits off the top while others take on all the risks. This is all about short-term profits and is not sustainable in the long run.

As soon as regulators and the law properly close in on these scofflaws and make them follow the rules like everybody else, their stars will fade. Definition is power, and right now these companies are self-defining themselves as the new economy, when, in fact, they are providing no new services; they just don’t play by the same rules as their competitors.

Gary Patton, Hayward

“House of Noodles,” Food Review, 10/28

Wait on This One

Based on this article’s positive review, we had lunch at Noodles Fresh [recently].

The place was not busy (maybe one-third of the tables, at most, were occupied). Nevertheless, the service was very poor. It took about forty minutes for all of our food to show up, and it came staggered. My wife was half of the way done with her meal by the time mine finally showed up.

The lack of attentiveness to some details seemed odd. You can eat at the counter, where they have a large screen TV on. It was showing Sesame Street in a restaurant with 100 percent adults in the room and no children.

In terms of food quality, the pot stickers were excellent. My dish of Jiangxi Stir Fry (House Special), rice noodles with beef and more, was very good. My wife’s dish of Jiangxi noodle salad (House Special), rice noodles with BBQ chicken and more, was not so good. The chicken was nicely sliced white meat chicken that would have been a good substitute for sandpaper — incredibly dry and tasteless.

I hope this is part of a “shake out,” and they improve over time. The theme is great, the restaurant is large and clean and nicely decorated. Some of the food was great. I would like to be able to go back there but definitely not in the near future.

Michael Good, Oakland

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