Letters for the week of October 14-20

Readers sound off on gentrification in Oakland, a proposed park featuring a wooden deck and racism on Nextdoor.com

“The Superheroes Behind the Scenes,” Culture Spy, 10/14

My Heart Breaks

The story of this beautiful project coming out of [Attitudinal Health Connection] Art Esteem as visualized by Amana Harris and her amazing parents, co-creators, and artists, who run AHC, breaks my heart. I am at a loss for words in expressing the grief I feel for the family and friends of Antonio Ramos. Oakland is my home town and I will continue to pray for its healing and love for all!

Roberta Llewellyn, Sebastopol

“Censored!: Ten Big Stories the Media Ignored,” Feature, 10/14

A Point of Clarification

I am disappointed that Tim Redmond suggested that, at times in the past, we “veer[ed] off in the Looney world of conspiracies and 9/11 Truther territory.” I went back and reviewed the top 25 stories for 2003 to the present. There were three news stories listed in the top 25 related to 9/11 out of 325 stories we published in that time period. This amounts to less than 1 percent of all the stories we ranked in the top 25 each year. This is hardly a “veering off in the Looney world of conspiracies” that Redmond claims.

The three 9/11 stories we did cite were more than adequately sourced, including Deseret News, FBI records, and transcripts from the Japanese parliament. All three had been completely censored by the US corporate media. The topics included how the FBI had no evidence that Osama Ben Laden was involved in 9/11, coverage in Japanese news and television regarding 9/11 questions from official transcripts in the Japanese Parliament, and news from a Salt Lake City mainstream paper on how a university physicist was questioning the collapse of Building Seven.

The Project Censored mission is to research and report important news stories that the corporate media ignores or censors. In that regard, there are no forbidden topics, including 9/11, and we stand proudly on our record.

Peter Phillips, President Media Freedom Foundation/Project Censored, Occidental

“Oakland’s Culture Clash,” Seven Days, 10/14

Newcomers, Please Volunteer

Thanks, Bob Gammon, for this. I wish all the folks who are moving in would take the energy to volunteer somewhere in our community. Every school, recreational center, arts nonprofit, or food bank that has been working for years to make Oakland better can use your help by donating money, or better yet, your time.

Karen Hester, Oakland

Diversity Is the Secret Sauce

Given the recent representation Oaklanders’ received from Ms. Rachel “There is no affordability crisis” Flynn, director of [Planning and Building], and Libby “Let’s appointment an eviction specialist as tenant advocate” Schaaf, mayor of Oakland, it seems pretty clear that the folks in power are failing to prioritize and enact policies that would preserve Oakland’s “secret sauce.”

I would also like to suggest that the “sauce” is 99 percent cultural capital that has been built up by and sustained by Oakland’s economically and ethnically diverse, working-class residents and only 1 percent actual financial investment in Oakland by private and state monies. But, to hear our leaders tell it, it’s the other way around. Thank you for voicing these concerns so succinctly. Just one peeve: Hella lot equals hell of a lot. Maybe “hella sauce” if you have to.

Chanty Nok, Oakland

The Newcomers Are Not to Blame

This is what I love about our Liberal Bay Area Writers. We celebrate and cherish diversity. But … if they don’t look like us, earn like us, like what we like, want what we want, then we don’t welcome them here.

Oh, and you really think that people (young or old, white or not) really want to move into areas being “gentrified” if they are wealthy and have lots of disposable income? Really? It is just people looking for housing that is affordable to them. They just happen to be able to afford more. Shame on them.

We would not want them here. They are different than us. We are too busy promoting diversity. The East Bay is liberal and conservatives try to maintain the status quo but we had better not let anything change around here.

Geez, listen to yourself.

Michael Good, Oakland

“A Park to Nowhere?” Eco Watch, 10/14

What’s Wrong with the Deck?

Where is the city going to get the great amount of funds needed to make it a park, especially a highly accessible park?

What the Bay Area really needs most is more housing to address the acute housing shortage. That is the reason the housing prices are so high. And if most of the housing at this new location will be high cost, so what? That will take the price pressure off of all available housing in the area as the well-to-do will abandon existing housing for this site. Let them have their big boardwalk. The site was awful before and no one went there. In the future, I can bicycle there, and it will be a great bike destination. [People with disabilities] can take East Bay paratransit service to get there or a taxi.

Vincent Sauve, Oakland

The Whole Thing Should Be a Park

The public already decided what it wanted. We learned when the project was first proposed that a ten-year-long citywide open consultation process determined the entire Oak to Ninth [Avenue] area should be an open space park, as per California state requirements that waterfront be recreational or water-based industrial. Never residential. [Then-state Senator Don] Perata pushed an exception through the state legislature allowing Oakland and Signature Development [Group] to build residential there, in direct opposition to the citywide decision to make it parkland.

Mike Bradley, Oakland

“Nanos, the Literary Nomad,” Books, 10/14

Miss You, Nanos

This little bookshop was, for me, a major draw to living in the Temescal area. It’s terrible that there is no longer room for independent printmaking and bookselling in the neighborhood.

Sarang Shah, Oakland

“Salsipuedes,” Dining Review, 10/14

Scrumptious

I went to Salsipuedes recently. It was impressive to watch the prep. Even more surprising was that the delivery exceeded expectations. I met chef Marcus Krauss and the crew, who are all talents in their own right. The wines are most decidedly natural Spanish, French, Sicilian. It was excellent. I ate the roasted vegetables, pork steak, shishito peppers, and black cod tail. Scrumptious.

Don Holm, Oakland

“Racial Profiling via Nextdoor.com,” Feature, 10/7

Clearer Info, Please

Each Nextdoor neighborhood has at least one “lead” or moderator. In most instances the lead has a pretty good idea of his responsibilities, however every once in a while he has little idea of what those are. Even though they are spelled out, it’s up to the lead to be aware of them and abide by them.

I can vouch for one (only one!) instance when I thought that a thread had gone too far. I asked the lead in that neighborhood to please close the thread or remove the most offensive comments. He responded that he thought that free expression should be encouraged. In the end, Nextdoor itself closed the thread.

As well, each Nextdoor participant is supposed to register with his own real name. This makes it difficult for folks to make outrageous statements under pseudonyms as on other venues.

If nasty comments have been allowed to remain after you have flagged them, I would send a [private message] directly to your lead respectfully asking them why.

Please note that the Express article, though long, has little clear first-hand info. Most folks interviewed have reported items they have seen. There are no actual website screenshots included. As well, even though the title states it is about Nextdoor, the author includes Glenfriends, Yahoo, Google, Facebook groups, and in doing so muddies the water even further.

Judy Berkowitz, San Francisco

The ‘Curtain-Twitchers’

In Britain, busy-bodies are referred to as “curtain-twitchers.” It seems this hyper-vigilant, eternally suspicious, and perhaps bigoted demographic is being well catered for by Nextdoor. Oh, the wonders of social media!

John Seal, Oakland

This Is Sensationalism

The Express has eloquent writers but these articles are intentionally divisive for the sake of publicity. The Express is one of the few passionate news organizations in Oakland, so I keep reading. These stories could be real news if the writers would present statistics, studies, and stories from all sides of the situation. This helps the readers understand the whole picture rather than read a few inflammatory anecdotes to fit the writer’s opinion.

Racism is real, it sucks, and everyone should do more to stop it. But Oakland is awesome, full of amazing people from diverse backgrounds, and we need to focus how to grow stronger together. The Express can help us do this by separating writers’ opinions from their “news.” Oakland desperately needs a reliable and balanced news source. Is there any good reason not to do this?

Will Roscoe, Oakland

We Need to Take Responsibility

I thought the racism exposed in this article was appalling, and then I saw the [online] comments. We white people are used to going into denial about racism, which is fed to us with our mothers’ milk. We don’t realize that our pretending hurts people of color. We don’t want to take responsibility for our actions. But we know the truth deep inside. We feel guilt and shame, especially if we consider ourselves liberal or progressive. Life is much better for everyone when we white people work on our racism. It is freeing to let go of fear and prejudice. We need to end white supremacy before the next generation is poisoned and more people of color are harmed. I recommend the work of Tim Wise.

Holly Harwood, Oakland

Thanks!

Terrific article! At this juncture, when police are being called on drummers and church choirs, we need to increase the dialogue and understand the effect on others when we call police due to our own biases. I know some will not agree with this perspective, but I appreciate hearing voices from Oaklanders of color on racial profiling, feeling their celebrations are not welcome at Lake Merritt, and other issues that are currently being raised.

Ginger Holman, Oakland

Get to Know Your Neighbors

It would be great if people could have a National Night Out block party with Oakland police and the neighbors getting to know each other, their vehicles, and their interests. By knowing neighbors, helping each other, and watching out for each other the suspicious activity on the block would hopefully be by others who do not live or travel the block just to get to somewhere else.

People do not always trust the people next door if they do not take the time to get to know them.

Owen Martin, Richmond

You Missed the Big Picture

Oakland residents need to be aware of suspicious activity because burglaries, robberies, and other street crimes here are two to three times what most major cities suffer. The article tries to portray awareness as racism, but it has no data, no proof, only anecdotes. I’m on Nextdoor, and I could give you stories about white people reported as suspicious. So what?

Suspicious does not mean guilty, it does not mean a crime has occurred. Courtroom rules of evidence do not apply. Suspicious simply means that a situation warrants further attention. Unfortunately, there are all too many of these in Oakland.

Maybe the next article could report crimes deterred because alert neighbors observed, called OPD, the dispatcher made a professional evaluation, and police arrived and caught a burglar in the act. These events, too, have been reported on Nextdoor.

Charlie Pine, Oakland

“Coal Attorneys Investigate Oakland Councilmembers,” News, 10/7

You Rock!

Great work, keep up the sleuthing!

Naomi Schiff, Oakland

BondGraham Is Awesome

Again, great investigative reporting work here. You’re to be commended. This project must be stopped. Coal is a killer — a dead-end energy source. Isn’t it enough that we see endless oil tanker cars rumbling right through our precious 4th Street boutique ‘hood and downtown Oakland? And again, when is this [Phil] Tagami character going to be thoroughly investigated and thrown in jail? Didn’t he pocket enough from the Fox Theater rehab debacle, and now this?

Ben Kapinski, Oakland

Umm, Ms. DA?

Time to thoroughly investigate the attorneys and coal companies. Where is the district attorney, asleep?

Steve Redmond, Berkeley

“Oakland Favors Bank Over Bus Riders,” News, 9/30

Classic Oakland

This is classic City of Oakland staff incompetence. Why do people infer that there is no transportation planning expertise in City Hall until Mayor Libby Schaaf’s new department is established? That is not true. There is a legion of well-paid transportation engineers working every day in the Public Works Department. They are responsible for technical review and coordination of citywide transportation-related issues.

The problem is that they have no leadership and nobody willing to make tough decisions. They are especially averse to and incapable of making an unpopular decision that they will have to defend publicly or across the plaza in City Hall. For that group, the path of least resistance is always the way to go. What do you expect when the Public Works director is not a civil engineer, but a political appointee from a past regime?

In this case, clearly the benefits of this AC Transit stop to the community as a whole, especially at the base of Pill Hill, seem to outweigh the concerns of a single business along the corridor. However, when that owner is politically connected, it takes a professional staff with the balls to say no and an environment in City Hall that respects and supports that expertise. That kind of environment does not exist and has not existed in the City of Oakland for years.

Gary Patton, former deputy director of Planning and Zoning for the City of Oakland, Hayward

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