Letters for the week of October 25-31, 2006

Readers sound off on Oakland redevelopment and Buju Banton.

“Big Dreams in a City Without Cash,” City of Warts, 10/4

The truth about redevelopment
Despite providing many facts to Mr. Thompson, none of that information seems to have made it into the story. For example, redevelopment funds are not all for hotels and shopping malls. The West Oakland redevelopment plan says that money can be spent for infrastructure improvements like undergrounding of electrical wires, fixing streets and sidewalks, upgrading industrial land to attract new industry, thus creating new jobs — the latter is certainly a high priority in any antipoverty strategy. It can also be used to help low- and fixed-income people fix up their homes. I believe that under some conditions it can be used for police.

I was surprised to see the county supervisor’s criticism of the redevelopment areas. Before such areas are established the city must obtain approval from the taxing entities whose taxes would be reduced and we’ve never seen a disapproval, nor was I approached by the county at any of the countless meetings we had over at least ten years before deciding to make West Oakland a redevelopment area.

The West Oakland plan doesn’t have the power of eminent domain in most of its neighborhoods. The plan was developed by representatives elected from each neighborhood and that was a long-debated concern. Because West Oakland is not focused on eminent domain to demolish wide swaths of land for outside developers, the tax increment pot is growing slowly. One of our first efforts will be to revitalize the San Pablo corridor to attract more businesses that provide services to the neighborhood. This will also be a job growth opportunity. The West Oakland Redevelopment PAC also voted to provide start-up leasehold improvement money to a new worker-owned cooperative grocery store that we are planning for the Mandela Gateway retail space at the West Oakland BART station.

The West Oakland Redevelopment PAC meetings are the second Wednesday of each month at 6:00 p.m. in the Senior Center at Adeline and 18th St. We encourage West Oakland residents to attend and participate in the future development of West Oakland.

The article also failed to say that redevelopment law requires the spending of at least 15 percent of tax increment on affordable housing. In Oakland, we have committed to a higher percentage and this forms the pot of money we provide every year for which the affordable housing development community competes. Providing jobs and affordable housing are certainly appropriate strategies in an antipoverty agenda for a city.

Redevelopment dollars will also be used to save the old train station in West Oakland as well as pay for the affordable housing at the Wood Street development adjacent to the train station.

While I recognize that there have been redevelopment abuses over the years, I think it’s important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater and create the most progressive community we can, utilizing the redevelopment tool that is available to us.
Nancy J. Nadel, Oakland

Chris Thompson replies
The councilwoman is mistaken. State law obliges Oakland to spend 20 percent of redevelopment funds on affordable housing, not 15 percent. And while I didn’t point out the city’s legal obligation, here’s what I did say: “Oakland reserves 25 percent of its redevelopment budget for the construction of low- and moderate-income housing.”

Audit the books
I’m extremely pleased to find that someone has finally exposed the myth of redevelopment and what it has actually perpetuated rather than what it was intended to accomplish.

In a recent meeting about development in Oakland, I commented that out of all the audits that Mayor-elect Dellums should conduct, the redevelopment agency should be the first priority.

The audit needs to determine what Oakland has received versus the tax increment money that has gone to redevelopment. Additionally, it needs to analyze to what extent infrastructure improvement has suffered because of the tax increment drain.

Along with this debacle, developers are stampeding Oakland; submitting applications to build outrageous projects. This stampede was encouraged by the remarks of an outgoing mayor who has done little, if anything, for Oakland. His comments to developers that applications should be submitted before he left office, and that he would ensure they were processed even if he had to type them himself, has led to intimidation of, and placed tremendous pressure on, a planning department that seems to be performing like deer in a headlight.

Thank you for bursting the myth and providing a wakeup call.
Antonio May, Oakland

“One Love, with Reservations,” Water Cooler, 10/4

That was, indeed, lowdown
Thank you so very much for clarifying what really was going down last week with the Banton/Angel Magik show. I am on Angel Magik’s e-mail list and may have even attended a show. The e-mail that was sent out by Angel Majik last week made absolutely no mention of the inflammatory lyrics or Banton’s viewpoint on the LGBT community. This upsets me, even as I’m typing this. The promoter basically misinformed his patrons via e-mail, causing the deluge to the Oakland City Council offices.

Since I am an avid volunteer for the SF AIDS Foundation & the AIDS Life Cycle for over four years (besides having friends from ALL backgrounds), you can imagine my shock when I read your article. Now, I must decide whether to just cancel my Angel Majik subscription or add the Shattuck Down Low to that list.

The continued promotion of hate among ANY community is WRONG. With the two gay-bashing incidents this past year in SF (Castro after Gay Pride and recently after Folsom St.), the continued ignorance of the heterosexual community that THEY are now the main transmitters of HIV/AIDS (thirteen to late twenties) and now this?

When does the Bay Area stand together to say, “This is wrong and we will not tolerate it any longer!”? I thought these days were way behind us. Must the ’80s be present in more than the clothing styles and music right now? Are we, as a community, moving in reverse? The promoter and each person that supports Banton or any other person whom supports hate mongers should be very ashamed of themselves. Again, thank you for shedding light on the darkness.
Celeste Young, Fremont

Your music has issues too
Shame on the LGBT community! They had nothing better to do than to protest an artist who recorded a song over fifteen years ago with pressure from the recording industry. As many violent and homophobic artists that perform in the Bay, they choose to protest against Buju Banton, who HAS changed since becoming a Rastafarian. How about protesting those artists who promote shooting/killing one another, selling drugs to their own communities, and those who promote sexism? What a waste of time and energy!

The show happened anyway, and shows will continue to occur as long as people take a stand against those who have nothing better to do than participate in worthless protests that lead to more publicity for them. Big up all of those who took a stand against the city officials on the LGBT’s payroll and wrote e-mails and made the Buju show happen. We must continue to use that same energy to continue to promote OUR events in the face of the detractors.
Asatah Taalibah, San Leandro

It’s about murder
I hope that people don’t think that censorship is what gay activists are promoting here. Gay activists just want people, and particularly music artists in this instance, to think more critically about how the music that they produce might negatively impact our communities. Promoting murder is never a worthy message to send out into a world that is already so violently inclined.

Joe Hawkins, Oakland

Why is your bigotry okay?
Yes, once again a reggae artist is chased out of San Francisco (and now Oakland), no matter how wildly popular with the public. I want to thank the city of Oakland for protecting the “LGBT community” from Buju Banton’s two-hour set of Rastafarian spirituals and lovers’ tunes; obviously such an onslaught can only be endured by the free-speech-loving town of Berkeley.

Your recent article on what went down quotes a city aide trying their hardest to convince us “it’s not about black and white, it’s about hate,” when we all know from reading your periodical alone it’s okay to dismiss certain groups due to their beliefs and behavior (Christians, Republicans, et al.) but not others. Would Eminem have been allowed to perform in Oakland and San Francisco? Of course, very few, if any, white people will actually admit to their own racism, particularly the “politically correct” white liberal crowd which is the Oakland establishment in 2006. Yet those who know history can see this is merely one more footnote in a long line of racism and colonialism where white people favor and protect their own (from threats either real or imagined) at the expense of dark-skinned peoples who speak differently from themselves.
Nat Mastick, Oakland

There are none so blind …
I fear that the unacceptable antigay themes in some reggae recordings is in fact merely a symptom of the disease and that the offensive lyrics are the result of artists responding to attitudes prevalent among the broader community from which they come. As such, protesting and banning the artists here in the Bay Area will do nothing to change the homophobia at the root of the problem.

All of which is to say the need for education in Jamaica is why we are establishing a donation box for used eyeglasses to support the Point Hill Diagnostic Reading Center in the town of Point Hill, just outside of Kingston, Jamaica. As Jane Taylor, the director of the Reading Center, noted to me by e-mail: “The kids in the reading program show a high incidence of poor eyesight. We need to help them buy their glasses. Impossible at the moment … so they continue to struggle.” Members of the community that want to support this effort are invited to drop off at the restaurant used eyeglasses in a protective case for children up to sixteen years of age. We are also reaching out for optometrists that can examine and measure the donated eyeglasses before shipping them to Point Hill.

It’s only a small step, but educating the people one town at a time seems a more productive way to affect attitudes, and ultimately, the themes of creative work by reggae artists such as Buju Banton and Beenie Man. In the long term, it may ultimately reduce the incidence of hate crimes against gays and lesbians in Jamaica as well.
David Howard, Caribbean Cove Restaurant, Berkeley

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