Letters to the Editor

Week of April 13, 2001

Making the Scene in Oakland
TO THE EDITOR:It’s unfortunate that you felt compelled to go to press with Sara Zaske’s inaccurate piece (“Culture Watch,” April 6). I know I love the Express for its entertainment listings and I generally expect them to be accurate. After reading yet another story of questionable reporting, I see much less is expected from your “reporters.”

To set the record straight, the Public Art Advisory Committee (PAAC) did, in fact, have a say in choosing the panel members for the Frank Ogawa Sculpture piece. The agenda and minutes for the January 8 and February 5 meetings document thorough discussion and acceptance of the process and panel selection. The minutes for both meetings were passed unanimously. Scott Atthowe’s grips of “not being included” is a familiar rant from new commissioners who have spotty attendance. Had Ms. Zaske taken the time to ask Mr. Atthowe or staff from the department for those materials she may have found no truth to his whine.

But then there was the strange pull quote that cannot be found anywhere in the story “[the Mayor’s] not doing anything the arts community wants.” So, more money for grants, more festivals, opportunities to sell their crafts and artist representation at a policy level are not what the “arts community” wants? Surely this grossly untrue declaration might be backed up with some facts. Nope. Not even the author of the quote.

Then there is the questionable relevance of someone she interviewed–Judith Offer. Sure, she was a commissioner–during the Elihu Harris years. She’s played no role at all in the current process to select a commission for the Frank Ogawa Fountain, but her suspicion qualifies her to be an authority on the process? Why not poll the artists that come out to the plaza each Friday; I bet they’d have equally valid points to make about the legality of the process, too.

Unfortunately, the Express confirms the belief that your paper is best used for its club listings–and little else. Perhaps if the journalistic standard were raised you might get the attention of reliable sources. Until then, it looks (and reads) like you’re nothing but heresy.
Jacques “Behind the Scenes” Barzaghi
Office of the Mayor

SARA ZASKE RESPONDS:How nice to hear from you, Mr. Barzaghi. First off, let me apologize up front for the unattributed pull quote. It was a quote by Dan Fontes that got dropped in the editorial process. Mea culpa.

As to the rest, I would like you to know that I have read the minutes for several months of PAAC meetings including those from January 8 and February 5. Didn’t take me long–they were very short.

Neither the minutes for January 8 nor February 5 directly contradict Mr. Atthowe’s assertion that the PAAC was not fully involved in the process. In fact, the January 8 minutes mention “much discussion” about the selection process (without detailing exactly what was said), and briefly paraphrase three separate PAAC members asking for more information about a process that had already begun.

The single sentence in the February 5 minutes pertaining to the Ogawa sculpture indicates that the majority of the selection panel had not been put in place by the end of the meeting.

However, these points are moot as they concern my column; I reported on the complaints that the PAAC and Oakland artists have with your department. If you disagree, I suggest you take it up with them.

I would have been more than happy to include your point of view had you chosen to return my calls, instead of writing a letter after the fact. If you really want to come out from behind the scenes, how about an interview?

That’s Showbiz
TO THE EDITOR:I attended St. Leander’s elementary school in San Leandro during the 1950s while a new church was being built for the folks in the hills. In the meantime, the Catholic mass was celebrated on the stage of the Bal Theatre every Sunday. We sat in the soft seats and kneeled on the slopped floor as incense permeated the theater and the priest offered us the “body of Christ” in Latin.

Now that very stage is being used for underage striptease, virgin sacrifice, and transgender celebrations (“Rocky Nights in San Leandro,” April 6). How ironic. It was also used for a few rock ‘n roll concerts in the ’60s. One thing hasn’t changed. Pring’s. It was a teen hangout then and it still is now.

And don’t bash the San Leandro City Council or police. They’re well-meaning folks. They just don’t understand.
Paul August

Let’s Do the Time Warp Again
TO THE EDITOR:Loved Kara Platoni’s article on the Rocky Horror (“Rocky Nights in San Leandro,” April 6). I always wondered about what the appeal was, and I got a well-balanced feeling–an on-the-inside, sympathetic, funny, and entertaining view. Thanks! Also, blessings upon you for exposing the child care and child protection crises.
Sue Roberts

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