Letters for the week of October 15, 2014

Readers sound off on Oakland's District Four, the Berkeley soda tax, and Courtney Ruby explains why she should be elected mayor.

“From Siegel to Parker,” Election 2014, 10/8

I’ll Get Results

I appreciate your ranking me among the top seven candidates in the race for mayor. Much has been said about how hard it is to distinguish between so many candidates. I started this campaign with a pledge to tell it like it is. So here it is: I am the only candidate for mayor who’s taken on City Hall and gotten results. 

As city auditor, I’ve held local government accountable. For every dollar I spent on audits, I saved six. I led the fight for mandatory ethics training and forced the city to refund millions in overpaid parking tickets.

My top priority is safety — because we need leaders focused on better policies, not endless politics. I will hold City Hall accountable, generating new funds without new taxes through mandatory management audits of every department to pay for vital services, such as hiring more police officers.

Accountability should start at the top — that means no raises for top managers without results. And I will send every large city contract out to bid — with local hiring and living-wage requirements — to increase efficiency.

Together, we can fix this mess we call the Oakland city government. I know, because I’ve done it before. I took a deeply troubled city agency and made it a model of accountability, transparency, and results.

From one of the worst to one of the very best — we can do it. I did it with the auditor’s office and I can do it at City Hall.

As city auditor, I am the leader of a city agency. But my most important job is being a mom. I’ve got two incredible young boys — and I want them to grow up to be safe and successful young men in this city.

They deserve — we all deserve — a government as great as our city. That’s why I’m running for mayor.

Courtney Ruby, Oakland

“In Oakland Hills Race, a Battle of Ideologies,” Election 2014, 10/1

As a District Four property owner and a proud parent of a student in our only public middle school, I am aghast that Jill Broadhurst seeks to represent our district when, by her own actions, has done us harm. Specifically, she is part of a large group of mostly white upper-middle-class families from the hills schools and Crocker Highlands that, rather than fight to make the local middle schools better, decided to start their own charter school, taking many families of similar demographics with them.

Their actions have resulted in declining enrollment at Montera (the District Four middle school), and have diminished the pot of fundraising money that goes to ensure that all students have extra resources that the Oakland Unified School District can’t provide. If she wants to lead our district, perhaps she should have started by fighting to improve the middle school (whose population is much more reflective of Oakland), rather than harm it by zapping its resources and bolting.

We all know that property values increase with good schools. Jill Broadhurst has done nothing to help with that.

Having attended a recent candidate forum, I was very impressed with Annie Campbell Washington’s grasp of the issues and plans to make changes. Broadhurst seemed to me to be a closet Republican explaining that she does not favor raising taxes, which is why she is not in favor of the ballot measures that would do so.

If you care about someone that represents all of District Four, and not just the hills, vote for Campbell Washington. Broadhurst presented an “us against them” platform — beliefs evidenced by her support of the charter school, which has had detrimental impacts on the district she seeks to support.

Jennifer Berg, Oakland

Here’s the Truth

Annie Campbell Washington equals Jean Quan. That’s all you need to know.

Frank Castro, Oakland

Campbell Washington Is Not Quan

I am a lifetime member of the Sierra Club and actively work in my land use law practice for the environment. I also work for neighborhoods. Annie Campbell Washington helped my own neighborhood recently with a major, nagging problem and got it solved.

However, I have kept an open mind in the District Four race because people I respect felt confident that Jill Broadhurst was a good and honest candidate. If it is true that Broadhurst used the Sierra Club and its logo untruthfully, that is a major factor in my mind and should be in every Oakland voter’s mind, as well.

From my twenty-plus years of experience with politics in Oakland, our neighborhoods are almost always at the bottom of the barrel when up against major developers; private schools; and politically active, wealthy contributors to campaigns. The last thing the neighborhoods need is a councilmember who puts himself or herself first and us last. At least we should get a fair shake downtown and our interests should not constantly be behind personal and political gain.

Unless Broadhurst has a very good explanation for what happened with the Sierra Club (which I doubt), I support Campbell Washington. From what I have seen in my practice, her involvement with Jean Quan was minor and she is not Quan. Her other jobs are just as important to consider, and we should get reasonable consideration from her.

She has a reputation for standing up and refusing to be swayed by the dishonest practices that constantly occur in City Hall. Please join me in putting our interests on an even keel with those who are more powerful than us, and who usually “get their way” no matter the inequity of the situation. 

Leila H. Moncharsh, Oakland

You Changed My Mind

Thank you so much for the piece on the candidates running for the District Four seat. Before reading this article, I was likely going to be a Jill Broadhurst voter; I will now be voting for Annie Campbell Washington. 

Of course, in Broadhurst’s mailers, she doesn’t mention that she’s against the Lift Up Oakland initiative, Measure Z, or that she’s an advocate for landlords in the city. The reasoning she uses for being against Lift Up sounds like a canned line from Paul Ryan or Ted Cruz. That sort of reasoning is exactly what Oakland doesn’t need. Plus, her opposition to Measure Z highlights her fiscal inexperience, or rather, fiscal blindness — also more of what Oakland doesn’t need.

All that’s to say, thanks, Express, for the timely, informative piece.

Stephenie Tesoro, Oakland

“Identical Dems in Assembly Race,” Election 2014, 10/1

Thurmond Is Better

I believe that Tony Thurmond is a great man, leader, and public servant. He has a much better sense of what the community needs, having served as a Richmond City Council and school board member.

He lives and breathes the issues that we so desperately need to address in the East Bay — jobs, environmental justice, support for youth and seniors. There is a big difference between Tony and the other candidate. I am sorry that the Express could not come out and endorse Tony, as so many of the other local newspapers have. Thank you for your coverage of the upcoming election.

Kath Delaney, Kensington

Vote Thurmond!

Similar candidates? Yes. Identical? No. And for me at least, Tony Thurmond is a much better choice. I feel like he actually cares about the district, but Elizabeth Echols just wants to be in the Assembly because she sees it as a good next step for her. And maybe “Pay it Forward” isn’t a terribly innovative idea, but at least Thurmond is thinking. Most of what I’ve heard from Echols’ campaign just seems to be not-too-well-rehearsed talking points.

Sean DeWitt, Berkeley

“Berkeley Versus Big Soda,” Election 2014, 10/1

Put Big Soda’s Money to Good Use

I did a little double take when I realized that the same issue with Jean Tepperman’s excellent article taking down Big Soda in Berkeley’s Measure D battle also began with a double-page ad from that same Big Soda. I expect you’ll get some flak for that. I say don’t worry about it — go ahead and take their money, and use it to keep publishing articles detailing their sleaziness. And vote Yes on D!

Jef Poskanzer, Berkeley

Go, Berkeley!

One of my proudest moments for Berkeley was the night our city council voted unanimously to take on Big Soda. As we all suspected, Big Soda has come after us guns blasting. Is Measure D perfect? Probably not. Does it send a message to the rest of the world that it is time to stand up for health? Yes. 

And just like with Big Tobacco — literally millions of dollars are being spent by Big Soda to fight us.

Some of their logic is really laughable: For instance, they say flavored lattes don’t count (yes they do — the syrup is taxed), and we are not taxing milkshakes. Milkshakes? Really? At least with milkshakes and lattes there is one ingredient that has a health benefit — milk. Please name one ingredient in soda that is beneficial to health and not chemically manmade (Okay, I will give them water … maybe). Then compare the quantity of $4 lattes and milkshakes that America consumes every day to $1 cans of soda. I don’t have that number at my fingertips but I can guess that the difference is a hundred-fold.

Yes, it is true that the revenue from this tax will go to the general fund and not to specific health programs. That is because the threshold for the ballot to do so would have increased from 51 percent to 67 percent. The citizens of Berkeley will just have to hold the city to its promise that it will ensure these revenues are used to fund health education.

As for the message this will send to the rest of our nation, it is well worth the fight. Leave it to Berkeley and San Francisco to take this mammoth bull by the horns. We have set the standard before, and we will do it again. Bring it on, Big Soda! Your money only fuels our fire!

Jacquelyn McCormick, candidate for Berkeley City Council District Seven

Sugar Is Like Tobacco

Berkeley, like the rest of the nation, is plagued with chronic health disparities. One-third of all kids — and nearly one-half of kids of color — will get diabetes. And poor diabetics are ten times more likely to have an amputation. This is why, in April 2013, I joined Berkeley’s community effort to tax sugary drinks — Measure D.

Sugary drinks are the biggest cause of diabetes. Yet the American Beverage Association spends millions aggressively marketing to children, people of color, and low-income communities. Now the ABA is spending millions to defeat Measure D in order to protect its profits.

When I was directing tobacco policy for Contra Costa County in the 1990s, I saw the effectiveness of sound public health strategies, such as workplace smoking bans and advertising restrictions. These policies started locally and were funded by tobacco excise taxes. The resulting groundswell from counties across California eventually convinced state and national leaders to reject tobacco industry money and take action. Unlike cigarettes, sugary drinks are commonly accepted — and legal — for consumption by children. But they are causing an epidemic of diabetes that will cripple our families and bankrupt our health care system, unless we do something.

Measure D is a local excise tax that holds Big Soda accountable and raises funds that can be used to prevent diabetes. It’s a good first step for Berkeley, and a ground-breaking step for the country. Let’s do something: Vote yes on D.

Holly Scheider, Berkeley Healthy Child Coalition

“Vote Young, Butt, Nosakhare, and Padilla,” Election 2014, 10/1

Just Can’t Give Brown My Vote

I see that you are endorsing Jerry Brown for governor.  With Brown’s over-the-top support of fracking in California and for draining the delta, I just can’t give him my vote in good conscience. I guess I’ll have to write somebody in. Perhaps you could publish an explanation for your support of Brown and try to convince me that fracking is okay. Or perhaps you could suggest a write-in candidate.

George Wright, Richmond

“The Dark Side of Amazon,” Feature, 9/24

I’m Done with Amazon

I’m so thankful to Jim Hightower and the Express for exposing this modern-day robber baron. I will never shop at Amazon again. Apologists for Amazon’s malfeasance should put themselves in the shoes of Amazon workers and small local business owners. Shameful!

Erica Etelson, Berkeley

Buy Used, Buy Local

Excellent article. Thank you for reprinting it. The modern version of capitalism has been perverted by Wall Street, which has bought congressmen and passed new laws and regulations that benefit only large companies and the One Percent at the expense of Main Street and the other 99 Percent. Amazon is a child of Wall Street whose only plan is to turn the planet into cash for a few leaving behind pollution, trash, and an impoverished population. It is time to stop buying from Amazon. If you need something, buy it used. If not used, buy new from locally made products only from local merchants. Get money out of elections and return to progressive capitalism that benefits Main Street and the 99 Percent.

B. Tom Smith, Oakland

“The Battle for Richmond’s Soul,” Election 2014, 9/24

It’s About Bates and Chevron

Another excellent John Geluardi article! Thank you. Two comments:
1. Another contrast between Nat Bates and Tom Butt, to my mind, is that Tom is articulate, can express a reasoned position supported by facts, and actually looks into the context of a decision or an event. Bates is no friend to open discussion. His preference is to work out a deal behind the scenes, garner support for city council votes, and bring something to a vote as a rubber stamp rather than as the culmination of a debate.
2. Chevron’s attempted purchase of Richmond politics is unconscionable. Condemning the city to more years of disruptions by Corky Booze does more damage than the oil company’s fire ever did. Though perhaps if there were a means for being compensated for my suffering, my pain might be mitigated. Maybe a new Chevron fund?

Beverly Galloway, Richmond

“Apple Virus U2.0,” Music, 09/24

It’s How the System Works

“This collaboration stings most because it repurposes something Radiohead proved to be a liberating asset of the internet — free distribution — as a service of corporate marketing.” Gosh, what a surprise: corporations appropriating the culture for their own benefit. What’s next, profit-taking?! It’s how the system works. We create, they profit.

Mike Bradley, Oakland

“The Expansion Will Be Great,” Letters, 9/17

Oaklanders Deserve a Free Park

Elmano Gonsalves stated that “the Oakland Zoo brings people to the area who otherwise would never come to enjoy Knowland Park. The zoo is the attraction. The people of Oakland, living well below the view ridge, deserve a vibrant and prosperous city with attractions that bring people to Oakland to spend money, which in turn contributes to the tax base and to the general fund.”

So, keep the citizens of Oakland down in the flats, while “the city” prospers from people who live elsewhere and have the money to pay to go to the zoo? Better to make the free Knowland Park more accessible to the Oakland flatlanders, providing them with direct access to their wild heritage, and nurturing their appreciation of the environmental services provided to them by Knowland Park Nature, for free. People, even flatlanders, will want to live in Oakland because it also can provide natural amenities, like an open and free-access Knowland Park. That’s what the people of Oakland deserve. The city should be obliged to provide it.

Peter Rauch, Kensington

Free Will Astrology, 9/10

Thank You!

Rob Brezsny is a postmodern marvel. Thanks for bringing him into your publication. He’s the kind of person that makes the Bay Area uniquely, remarkably the best place on earth.

Mandy Kirk, Petaluma


Our October 8 Legalization Nation, “Pro-Weed Voters Should Not Ignore the Election,” mistakenly stated that state Senator Mark Leno co-sponsored Proposition 47. He supports the measure, but did not sponsor it.

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