Letters to the Editor

Week of May 11, 2001

Don’t Bet on It
TO THE EDITOR:I just want to correct a mistake in your April 20 “7 Days” column, although the mistake is understandable. For the second time, staff released materials to the public and press that were inaccurate about the alternative that OBRA and the Oakland City Council chose for the army base. We chose (and it was a big compromise for me since it will result in fewer and lower-paying jobs) what is called the flexible alternative.

It would include a business park, high-end retail, and a four-star hotel, if the latter are feasible. We did not approve a convention center or entertainment at the site, despite staff’s erroneous materials.

If Oaklanders are against the casino and would like to help me circulate a petition, please call my office at 238-7303.
Nancy Nadel

Oakland City Council, District 3

Co-chair, OBRA

Sorry, Vince
TO THE EDITOR:This is Vince Meghrouni from the band Slowrider that played at the benefit at La Peña on April 13 that Chuy Varela was so kind to write about (“Quetzal Logic,” April 20). It was an honor to play at the show with all the great performers at that edition of “Hecho in Califas,” and great that Chuy saw fit to give it some ink.

The only thing is, you spelled my name “Maghrouni,” whereas it is actually Meghrouni. And I gave Chuy my card and everything. Ah well, just wanted to set the record straight. Thanks!
Vince Meghrouni
Los Angeles

Pull up to the Bumper, Baby
TO THE EDITOR:The “Cityside” article “‘E Meets P'” in your April 20 issue, about the Berkeley parking problems, accurately restated the fight as between the good environmentalists, the “ecos,” and the evil greedy business people, i.e. “polluters.”

Unfortunately, this simplistic dichotomy may be easy, but it does not accurately deal with the much more complex, real problem. On the one hand, the ecos apparently don’t seem very concerned about the transportation needs of the disabled, the elderly, or the ill. For many of them, if they can’t park, they can’t drive, and if they can’t drive or be driven, they can’t participate. The Ecos seems to only be concerned with just those young, healthy people who have no children or disabilities, and who are physically able to either ride a bike, or who have the time on their hands to wait 45 minutes for a bus. The so-called Ecos are apparently not interested in helping the elderly, or those people with cardiovascular or other physical impairments that make it difficult to talk or ride a bike, nor do they include those people confined to wheelchairs, or who have young children. How do the Ecos suggest that these people get to the library, Berkeley Rep, to a movie, or go shopping for food, without a vehicle that they can park reasonably close to the facility?

There are several cities where most people have no need to use their own car: New York, London, and Paris. These cities all have excellent, convenient, and relatively inexpensive subway systems, buses, and taxis. Berkeley also has a subway, buses, and taxis, but comparing Berkeley’s transportation system to New York highlights the obvious, namely that Berkeley is unlikely ever to have the money to afford to build a comprehensive subway system and bus system that adequately covers the city, or to ever have a network of taxis, or any of the necessary transportation substructures. Moreover, Berkeley would also have to reorganize the community so that people are able to walk to buy their groceries, go to school, or get to work, like many do in New York. The residents of the 150 new units on Oxford may be fortunate enough not to need a car, but for most of the other 150,000 residents of Berkeley, that is not the case.

Planning commission chair Wrenn was quoted as saying “building more parking has the effect of encouraging more people to drive.” Is there any real hard evidence whatsoever to support Wrenn’s statement that more parking encourages more cars? That’s like suggesting that if we don’t build housing, people will stop procreating. It doesn’t make sense, especially when I see downtown Oakland, with lots of parking, not attracting vehicles, and I see Chinatown and North Beach in SF, that have almost no parking, attracting a great many vehicles! This would suggest to me that there are more important reasons why people decide to drive, and the availability of parking is not the primary one.

Councilman Worthington was quoted as saying, “The university has ten different parking lots, most of which are sitting there empty.” That is certainly not my experience! When I’ve tried to use university parking, the lots are almost always full. Recently I tried to attend a performance at Zellerbach, apparently at the same time as a Cal basketball game, and every lot was totally full. I have to wonder if Worthington has been in Berkeley during any Cal football game? When there is not enough parking, and all of the lots are totally filled, the cars are forced to invade the surrounding neighborhoods to find parking places. Moreover, to suggest that it is a simple matter to ask someone going to the new Berkeley Repertory theater to park in a faraway Cal lot and take some shuttle to the theater is fantasy, and certainly doesn’t take into account anyone who may be elderly, disabled, or infirm.

Do the members of the Berkeley City Council or Planning Commission live near their work, and if not, do they drive to work? Do they have nice reserved parking places for themselves? When they go to 4th Street or to Chez Panisse do they take the bus?

Finally, Wrenn was quoted as saying “Parking is very expensive”; saying those 250 parking spots would cost $8 million, and then asking, “What if you spent $8 million on transit? What would you get for your money?” The answer is that $8 million wouldn’t get you very much. About two inches of subway, and very few buses. How many buses could you get, how many drivers and repairpersons would you be able to hire? Moreover, where would you park the buses?
David M. Weitzman

BAMN’s Bum’s Rush
TO THE EDITOR:I’ve been active in progressive organizations since the Vietnam War, and every one has attracted destructive, domineering lunatics like BAMN (“Class Struggle,” April 20). I’m not encouraged by the lukewarm, ineffective opposition to BAMN that I saw in the article and letters to the editor. The only effective way to deal with them is to throw them out, as we’ve done in more than one instance. Just throw them out.
Mike Bradley

(another Mike Bradley, not the Oakland teacher and union activist)

Striking Distance
TO THE EDITOR:Thanks to Chris Thompson (“Class Struggle,” April 20) for his reply to my letter to the editor (April 27). I understand the point he was trying to make (“…teachers didn’t discuss a strike as an option for the first time since 1977”), but it’s not true.

In 1986 we had the longest strike up to that time–one month. From 1989 to 1992, the state took over the district. We couldn’t strike if we wanted to. In 1992, we settled without ever thinking of a strike, still hurt by the strike of ’86. No one would dare discuss a strike. Besides, the money wasn’t there. From 1986 to 1995 the union was still hurt by the strike of ’86. No talk of strike. In 1995, when the money was there, and the frustration built up, another strike began.

So it’s obviously incorrect to imply we threatened a strike with every contract since 1977, at least it’s obvious to teachers like me who have 33 years of teaching in Oakland and 25 years of being a teacher activist and OEA rep.

As for the 21 percent figure, Thompson should check his notes. It’s a familiar figure to most Oakland teachers because it was our pie-in-the-sky request to the district. It was our asking price, so to speak. Chaconas actually raised it to 24 percent to obtain and retain teachers. I’ve never heard of the “some” and “others” you cite as your source.

In brief, we spent the better part of a year asking for 21 percent, received 24 percent and, according to you, got 24.36 percent. Please feel free to take this letter to anyone who has spent as much time as I have here in Oakland. Ben Visnick said he would answer Thompson’s call if he wanted to confirm these facts with him. Thanks for raising the issue.
Paul August

Class Resentment
TO THE EDITOR:I am a regular reader of the Express. In fact, you are the only paper I read on a regular basis. The rest of the news media is, in general, not worth my time.

However, I am in strong disagreement with your leading article, “Class Struggle,” which appeared in the April 20 issue of this year.

I am a teacher of English at Oakland Tech High School. Thus, I have worked with Tania Kappner for two years. Before that, I hired her as a substitute in my classes, with great success. I have also had Yvette Falarca as a substitute in my classes, and I know Mark Airgood from meeting him at district-side events.

It is hard for me to understand that, while Oakland Unified High School District is crying out for more qualified teachers, your paper would take the time to disparage these three people. Everything I have experienced in working with these three shows me that their intelligence and dedication to the Oakland school system is of the highest quality. Everyone knows that our school system needs help–the very help that intelligent, politically-conscious people like these three can provide. So why would you, my favorite paper, let someone disparage them?

I noticed in the article that Mr. Thompson occasionally used quotes (i.e., quotation marks) without identifying the person being quoted. Could he be quoting himself?
Lee Colman

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