Letters for the week of September 28-October 4, 2005

Who's Tupac next to MLK? Leave Tori alone, wouldya? Why is your columnist biased? Is Bob Gammon a federal agent?

“Captive Audience,” Feature, 8/31

I am outraged
Having just recently read An Act of State: The Execution of Martin Luther King by Dr. William Pepper and his previous Orders to Kill: The Truth Behind the Murder of Martin Luther King, and understanding completely the power of this great human being, and the fear of that power by the powers that be that he could actually mobilize people to force the end of the Vietnam war, mobilize to eliminate social, racial, and economic injustice to the point that they assassinated him, and then to see that disrespectful and ridiculous quote you chose to highlight — “All that MLK shit, no way. It’s been done. One kid talked about Tupac, though. There’s something interesting there.” — sickens me. Who exactly is this Tupac person in comparison to Martin Luther King? That you would highlight this and the speaker would say it shows how uneducated and ignorant the American populace is. I am outraged!

Sunny Safiya, El Sobrante

A ‘hood transformed
I am the property manager for Haig Mardikian, who owns the buildings at Telegraph & 23rd Street where three of the five galleries you referred to in your article are located. It gave me great pleasure to read your report on what is happening in that neighborhood, as I have observed it firsthand the past ten years.

Seven years ago, two small adjoining apartments in the 2308 Telegraph building were vacant at the same time. In addition, the storefronts on Telegraph were vacant and had been for many years. Mr. Mardikian had offers to rent them as liquor stores and all-night convenience stores, but he knew the problems those type of stores bring to a neighborhood and choose to leave them empty instead. At that time I proposed the idea of joining the two apartments to make a more attractive apartment, and to rent one of the storefronts as an artist’s studio/workspace — it came as a package deal.

In June of 1998, Tim Martinez and his then-girlfriend moved into the apartment and took over the 2312 Telegraph storefront. We continued to repeat the concept and through Tim and Alicia word began to slowly spread. A real artists’ community began to flower in the building. I am gratified to see how it is flourishing, and to have your observations and reporting in print are even more gratifying. So many, many thanks.
Roderick Kiracofe, San Francisco

“Tori Amos 101,” Music, 9/7

Leave Tori be, you twit
I’m not sure if this was someone’s attempt at a joke, but this writer clearly hasn’t listened to Tori’s music. Claiming that “Father Lucifer” is an homage to Little Nicky is not only a slap to Tori, but probably the highest praise Mr. Sandler could receive. Oh, by the way, Tori was talking about her miscarriage in the song “Spark,” not polishing off a quart of ice cream … twit.

Andy Christiansen, Ridgefield Park, New Jersey

“Presumed Guilty,” Bottom Feeder, 9/7

Nitwit dog owners
Were you serious writing that bit about dogs? I guess people like me fall into the category of “busybody” if we object to having our streets plagued by off-leash dogs, right? Every damn dog owner thinks their dog is “incredibly well behaved.” These are the same nitwits whose dogs crap in front yards and their “guardians” won’t clean it up because they don’t want to trespass. Or their dogs dump in the grassy strip between the sidewalk and street so the rest of us can step in [it] when we leave our cars.

These are the same nitwits who come forth with a shit-eating smile and some nonsense about how the dog wouldn’t hurt anything when it charges us or our dogs on their leashes. The lame statement “They don’t like to use a leash because Zora feels she is being punished” demonstrates an incredible lack of respect and concern for other living things, plant and animal, crowded together in a city setting. And, pray tell, how does Ms. Spurgeon know that her dog “has since mellowed” after attacking a neighbor’s cat? Did she take it to a doggie therapist? Furthermore, I am quite sure these poor, mistreated folks wouldn’t give a damn about how their neighbors feel about the dogs off-leash. I doubt they would even listen to someone who wants them to keep their dog under the control of a leash.

So very many dog owners are contemptuous of anyone restricting their dog’s territory or behavior. They love their dog, and so should everyone else. Yeah, right. These people knew better but chose to break the law. Why should we feel sorry for them, even under the circumstances of this particular way of making sure the law is respected and followed? It’s too bad the fine isn’t more. And yes, I like dogs … and cats and humans and other creatures.
Patricia George, Berkeley

Harper should be ashamed
Will Harper ironically can’t get through even the first sentence without passing judgment: “Neighborhood busybody Marie Bowman wants you and your pooch on a short leash.” Calling someone names before introducing their views — the old trick of poisoning the well — is a sorry attempt at argument, let alone journalism. But sticking with an objective opening like “A Berkeley woman recently attacked by a neighbor’s dog is seeking heightened leash-law enforcement” would have let all the hot air out of Harper’s soufflé.

In our neighborhood there are a great many responsible dog owners, and a small few who merely think themselves so. Marie registered complaints against three sets of owners whose dogs were loose in violation of a city ordinance. One set of owners promised to keep their chow on a leash in future, whereupon Marie dropped her complaint.

A second owner, Jeanne Spurgeon, claims her dog Sheba doesn’t roam loose: “We watch her like a hawk,” she is quoted as saying. The hearing officer dismissed the initial citation based on conflicting accounts, but it was a simple matter to photograph Sheba soon afterward on yet another of her unsupervised outings in the neighborhood (snapshots submitted to the Express).

The third set of owners, Kathleen Hanley and Lonnie White, told the hearing officer they have walked their dog Zora without a leash for years. Zora is only asked to “heel” on a small segment of their walks. Telling a judge your dog is so wonderful you don’t use a leash is like bragging you’re such an awesome driver you don’t use a seatbelt; you are a public safety hazard, whether you recognize it or not. Kathleen and Lonnie’s “unblemished record,” as they put it, hangs on their assertion that the off-leash, nonheeling Zora miraculously stays within six feet of them at all times as they stroll around Berkeley, baby in tow. They claim to be stunned that the city believed evidence to the contrary.

This is hardly a saga of miscarried justice. Will Harper should be ashamed of himself for gratuitously slandering my wife to add interest to his nonstory, and for trivializing the very real consequences of irresponsible dog ownership that sent her to the hospital.
Bob Baum, Berkeley

Go get ’em, Feeder
Is our city attorney John Ashcroft? Looks a bit like it. You don’t have to be on the right to take his principles of law enforcement to heart. Let’s go a little further. Can anyone just call up animal control and command them to cite a neighbor? Possible, but I doubt it. Let’s talk to the animal control officer or other official who took the complaint and see if Bowman used her position as a Berkeley city housing advisory commissioner to get this remarkable level of service — twice. Let’s see how many other citations of any kind were issued by any city department for which no enforcement officer saw any evidence at all of a violation.

Grrr! Go get ’em, Feeder. I know none of the people involved. I’ve never heard of them before. But this inquiring mind wants to know.
Sherman Kassof, Oakland

Safety before doggy rights
I would really like to know why Will Harper consistently portrays Marie Bowman in a bad light. She is one of the smartest, best-educated, and best-spoken people around, and she is conscientious to a fault. Does he have some sort of problem with that?

Marie was the victim of a vicious dog attack that left her in a wheelchair for quite some time. Her experience has scarred her (physically and psychologically) for life. What Harper has failed to recognize in his ill-spirited article is that her injuries were the result of the failure of the system to deal with a vicious animal in a timely fashion. As the numerous deaths through dog mauling show, it’s high time public safety takes priority over “doggy rights.” Perhaps Harper needs to examine his priorities.
James J. Fenton, Oakland

“Documents for the Undocumented,” Cityside, 9/7

Gammon and the Man
First Mr. Gammon rides along with the OPD to conclude that sideshows don’t exist in Oakland. Then he writes a story drawn from the affidavits of FBI agents, and the Express runs it with a 1-800 tip line for the feds at the end. Gee, what’s next: the Bush files on Saddam and the WMD? Guess Kate Berrigan (Letters, 9/7) got the answer to her question about what “occupation-era success story” you’d bring us next.

Aaron Shuman, Oakland

In “Breakin’ the Law” (Performance, 9/21), we stated that the Kaufman and Hart comedy You Can’t Take It with You was a commentary on McCarthy-era America. That was wrong; the play debuted in 1936, while Senator McCarthy’s destructive campaign against alleged communists began in 1950.


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