"Grow House Hazards," Feature, 3/9
I Was There ... Illegally
In his article, David Downs writes, "The rapid rise of indoor marijuana farms can be traced to the 1980s, when the Reagan administration launched the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting, or CAMP. The program sent government-funded helicopters and cops to backwoods farms in the Emerald Triangle, the famed Northern California pot-growing region that includes Humboldt and Mendocino counties."
As a soldier with the 7th Infantry Division at Fort Ord in the early-1990s, I participated in several of these raids with my aviation unit. It was never explained to us that this was a violation of the Posse Comitatus Act, and that as active duty soldiers we should not have been used to aid the DEA in these "greensweeps," as they were commonly called.
Michelle Cook, San Jose
Electrician for Hire
There is a distinct irony in having an improperly wired or under-powered grow room facility of any size. Growers, for the most part, fail to recognize that a modern grow room needs to be treated as another addition to the structure. The available power at receptacles is, at best, suitable for timers, fans, and control mechanisms. All else (and, ideally every part of the grow) should be fed from a separate sub-panel, mounted in (or between) the designated room(s), from which all power emanates. This sub-panel must be properly fed from a breaker located in the main distribution panel. These sub-panels can be mounted on "power distribution panels," onto which all receptacles, breakers, and contactors are mounted. This makes it easy to "take your grow room power with you" when you move.
All it takes is knowledge of the electrical devices and their (separate and combined) power consumption, wire size, voltage drop, conduit bending, crawling through attics with power drills, etc. In other words, it takes a qualified (read: licensed and insured) electrician whom you can trust not to talk about your grow in bars on Saturday night. At the very least, one should read a book on basic wiring methods and follow the printed suggestions. Your grow room should be wired to electrical standards that an inspector would require for your (and everybody else's) safety, regardless of whether it would actually be approved and allowed.
My company is 420Electric (420Electric.com), serving the East Bay. While any electrician with a license and insurance is qualified to wire a grow room, my California electrical contractors license (license number 952214) has me branded, for better or worse, as 420Electric. One can understand how this company name stands in the way of the occasional remodel job for most upscale businesses. I am, however, dedicated to designing, wiring, inspecting, and troubleshooting grow rooms, and my professional affiliation with the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners requires integrity with my clients — under which "discretion" falls.
Thank you for an opportunity to address this issue. There is no excuse for growers who are raising crops worth thousands of dollars to try to DIY, or hire Joe Six-Pack or Timmy Two-Finger. Worse yet is the idea of stealing (or "jumping") power. This inevitably results in fire and loss, as people who steal power rarely do so to "code." The power company isn't tracking you (yet) and you aren't doing things right if you cannot cover the expense and investment necessary to install safe, reliable power distribution that will yield many fine crops over time.
Baran Galocy, Berkeley
A Bad Example
It is disgusting how municipalities are so eager to overlook the illegalities going on right now, as long as they get their share of the profits. Is that what we are teaching our youth? This is the worst form of politics I have witnessed in my 74 years.
Howard "Duke" Holtz, Lakeport, CA
"The Demise of Kitty's," News, 3/9
The Wrong Target
We're very disappointed in the Emeryville City Council for the attitude taken against Kitty's. As new neighbors in this community, part of our decision to move here was a well-planned urban living community, as the city advertised itself, and for us, coming from Los Angeles, a nearby entertainment venue was a must. When we found Kitty's bar, it felt like home, and the first thing that we did was Salsa Night. Unfortunately, Oakland does not offer the desirable atmosphere for nightlife and Berkeley was not planned for entertainment venues, so Emeryville is ideal for this purpose. It's a shame they don't see it that way. We even took some friends visiting from Los Angeles and they fell in love with the place.Hopefully the council will reconsider its actions and everything can go back to normal.
One thing that we don't understand: Why Kitty's instead of the Card Club on San Pablo? And Black and White Liquor? Those businesses bring unattractive clientele to the city. Best of luck, Kitty, and we support you.
Gaudy Welsh, Emeryville
A Voting Force
Kitty's cabaret license is very important to the Latin community. This venue has been very supportive of Latin music in the Bay Area and has become one of the most important locations for performance and expression of Latin music and culture.There are thousands of dancers, musicians, and fans who depend on venues like Kitty's to participate in, share, and express their Latin culture. This community is strong, very well-connected, technically savvy ... and we vote!
Tony Sternad, El Cerrito
A Change for the Better
It's rather sad that Kitty Faria thinks her business will fail without a cabaret license. As a former patron and neighbor, I can say that my interest in Kitty's has returned now that the non-local club crowd is gone. I know many, many people who stopped going just because of that crowd. The lines, the dress code, the club atmosphere, the constant scuffles — very unappealing for people who just want to get drunk with some friends. There are very few bars in the immediate area and my friends and I regularly go to bars just to "come hang out and ... talk." The Ruby, the Missouri, and Radio don't seem to be failing on that very same model.
Ms. Feria could really take advantage of this change to turn her place into a bar that the police wouldn't hate and the locals would support. She could host beer tastings and draw in the young professionals living and working in Emeryville. Maybe have a few drink specials for the shot-and-a-beer crowd. It couldn't hurt to cater to the ready population, who currently go out of their way to patronize other, more friendly bars. I hope she does.
Christina Thompson, Emeryville
"Cops Make Bank on Overtime," Full Disclosure, 3/9
Better Oversight Needed
Regardless of whether or not Officers Morse and Thomas are padding their bank accounts with overtime, I find it deeply troubling that (to paraphrase Geoffrey Pete) they issue the permit, set the criteria, give you the number of cops, and also tell you the price. There needs to be a set of rules governing this process, and if such rules already exist, they need to be communicated to the public. At the moment they seem to be entirely arbitrary. Considering OPD's history of police corruption, this is not a good development.
John Seal, Oakland
Cheaper Than New Hires
I only want to address the issue of police overtime. The police department is short-staffed and now there are complaints about overtime. If you follow the money, it is cheaper to pay overtime than to hire more police. By going the overtime route, the city does not pay benefits or other attendant costs of another police officer.
Retired officer, Oakland Police Department
I appreciate the fact that the Express has started to cover some of the ongoing issues of racial discrimination that persist in Oakland. Robert Gammon's recent article on police overtime and the actions of police in regard to the business of Geoffrey Pete and other African-American entertainment venues is an excellent example. Overtime pay to some officers is larger than their regular yearly pay! Oakland residents cannot afford these payments.
Furthermore, the argument for much of this overtime is the racist assumption that those who attend black clubs are so difficult to manage that large numbers of extra police are warranted. Yet I have personally witnessed large numbers of white revelers unsupervised by any police at all.
Geoffrey Pete has been a conscientious business owner and courageous community activist for several decades. If we want the kind of "diverse" city most of us talk about, we are going to need to defend the rights of black business in their dealings with everything from police overtime to contracting opportunities.
Kitty Kelly Epstein, Oakland
"40th Street," Insider's Guide, 2/23
I wish the Express would openly admit its disinterest in the brown and black people of Oakland, who have not only lived and built and dealt with the city as home and refuge, spanning multiple generations, but who also stand to lose all sense of recognizing their home by the recent migrants who build, push, and ignore the community which stood before it — me and my family included.I am all for Oakland becoming revitalized but there is no sense of critical thought of how the revitalization process leaves out huge aspects of the population. This "post-racial" ideology is BS and continues the tradition of white supremacy by erasing persons who do not fit into societal "progress." Oakland has no room for those who argue for the active, vocal, and prominent inclusion of people of color.
Essence Harden, Oakland
"Hate Man," Feature, 3/2
Sandeep Abraham and Kathleen Richards have collaborated on a real winner of an article here — amazingly thorough. This article is not only accurate as far as I can tell, but also sincerely respectful of Hate's experiences, lifestyle choices, and philosophy. Thank you so much for your careful and caring reporting on a person whom I have always believed to be an eye-opening, mind-broadening example for the rest of us.
Prudence Hawthorne, Missoula, MT
Lessons to Learn
Great article. He's taken it to the extreme, where I wouldn't want or be able to go, but he's got a point. We're not honest with each other about our negativity, and that poisons our relationships.
Jane Farrell, Peoria, Arizona
I've had two encounters with "Hate" that I always found very memorable and humorous. Around '69 or '70 I was talking with a friend on Durant Avenue, just east of Telegraph. I think Hate was acquainted with him. Hate came over and uttered the phrase, "Tom Terrific's Magical Mystery Underwear." Another time, after returning from San Leandro on the infamous 40 line and witnessing a potentially violent confrontation on the bus involving the driver and most of the passengers, Hate boarded the bus on Telegraph near Broadway with a woman who had some young children with her. They all had "punk rock" haircuts. Hate had his beard and dress. Some teenagers at the back of the bus started yelling "FAGGOT!" to which Hate replied "STRAIGHT!" These two words were thrown back and forth in a verbal shoving match-volleyball game until Hate won through unshaken perseverance, wearing the teenagers down into silence and resignation. Rock on, Hate Man!
Carl Martineau, Berkeley
Since Hate Man has such deep respect for the power of language, when he was admitted to the hospital for his "recent prostate problem," I am sure he greeted all his caregivers with, "Fuck you, I hate you" and received excellent care as a result.
Steve Senter, Piedmont
"Fruitvale the New Hipster Hangout?" News, 3/2
Don't Blame the White Kids
Okay people, get off your moral high horse. Never mind the cultural politics of it all. I for one am happy these white kids are coming to my neighborhood. They are supporting local businesses! They spend their rich parents' money here! They increase foot traffic in a retail district! What's not to like? And to those who are complaining about these white kids fleeing the area as soon as the sun goes down, I ask, can you blame them? I'm brown, have lived in the neighborhood thirteen years, and I get my brown ass indoors at night. They're not working on a gang injunction in the Fruitvale for nothing!
Seriously people, be happy that people from outside the immediate area want to support our businesses.
Jenny Sit, Oakland
It is extremely irresponsible and wrong to frame Fruitvale as a place to consume, appropriate, and leave before the sun goes down. How about asking the people who live in Fruitvale what they think about their home possibly becoming the next Mission or West Oakland? How about asking those Berkeley students why it is they think it is cool to go to a place, take, and leave?
Alex Martinez, Oakland
"Disabled Fight Jerry Brown's Budget," News, 2/16
A Growing Problem
With $12.5 billion cuts proposed for programs that largely serve the disabled and seniors, I'm reminded of a sleeping giant that will soon arise at the front doors of homes throughout the state of California: the rapidly aging population living in unhealthy, unsafe, single-family homes.
California's elderly population is expected to grow more than twice as fast as the total population from 1990 to 2020, with a total population growth of more than 112 percent. The oldest old-age group (85-plus years) will increase at an even faster rate, having an overall increase of 143 percent during the same period. Currently, approximately 18 percent of single-family homes have an occupant of 65 years or older, and in such counties as Plumas, Calaveras, Lake, Sierra, and Inyo, nearly one in four individuals are 60 years or older.
The overwhelming majority of California's single-family housing stock has architectural barriers that subject seniors and persons with disabilities to unsafe living conditions, social isolation, and forced institutionalization. The barriers also discourage friends and family members with mobility impairments from visiting. Such a seemingly simple physical act as independently entering and exiting a home can be extremely challenging for someone with a mobility impairment, and often leads to serious injuries and hospitalization. According to a 2005 report produced by AARP, 1.8 million older Americans received medical care for injuries sustained from falling in their homes. Such falls cost the nation $19 billion in direct medical costs each year, and by 2020 costs are projected to reach $43.8 billion.
By requiring new single-family home construction to incorporate the three architectural elements listed below, California provides an opportunity for the aging population and persons with disabilities to live healthier, safe, independent lifestyles, allowing them to maintain relationships with their neighbors and surrounding community while saving the state money on direct medical costs. The three architectural elements are a zero-step entrance/exit into the house; doors that provide 32 inches of clearance; and at least a half-bath on the main floor. These features embody the spirit of "visitability" and define accessibility in the broadest terms as a civil right.
As new housing construction patiently waits to return, California has an opportunity and responsibility to reassess the future of housing to ensure it will meet the needs of the rapidly aging population and empower its citizens to live long, healthy, safe, and independent lives. Without giving immediate attention to this growing matter, California will find itself scrambling for funds it doesn't have or had cut years before.
Joshua Rucker, Berkeley