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Letters for May 26

Readers sound off on Nic Nak dispute, redevelopment agencies, Oakland nightlife, and more.

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"Kaplan Ensnared in Racial Dispute," Full Disclosure, 5/12

Potential for Crime

Robert Gammon's story on the struggle over Nic Nak's liquor license left out some important information. As one of the many neighbors who opposed the Planning Commission's waiver to grant the license, I would like East Bay Express readers to know the full story behind our opposition.Once a liquor license is approved, it stays with the business. From then on, whoever buys the Nic Nak can sell liquor at the site. The current owner, Mr. Pannell, tried to sell the store in 2004 and again in 2008. Obviously a mini-market with a liquor license would be more attractive to buyers. So although Mr. Pannell's store hasn't been a crime magnet, it could well become one under a new owner. Studies show that more alcohol outlets mean more violent crime in neighborhoods. A 2010 report by researchers at the University of Indiana reported that the increased density of alcohol sales outlets has a direct affect on the average number of assaults in the immediate area. The clear connection between liquor sales and crime is the reason Oakland bans new liquor stores close to existing outlets.The Oakland ordinance requires at least 1,000 feet between liquor stores. The nearest liquor outlet in our neighborhood, T&K Market, is literally across the street. The Oakland ordinance says that if a store is closed for ninety days or more, it has to re-apply for a liquor permit. Mr. Pannell closed his store for five years. Now he wants the city council to treat him as if his business never closed, and ignore its own law about the distance between liquor outlets. If the city council upholds the Nic Nak appeal, it will create a exception big enough to drive a beer truck through. Other neighborhoods may well see mini-market owners applying for such creative exemptions.The neighbors opposed to the Nic Nak appeal include African-American residents. This is not about race. It is about Oaklanders working to make their neighborhood safe not just now, but into the future.

Judy Pope, Oakland

It's About Crime, Not Race

In regards to the Nic Nak dispute, Rebecca Kaplan asks, "If you run a store that hasn't caused crime and people are trying to take away your permit, might not you wonder whether your race is an issue? And wouldn't you feel that's unfair?" I honestly don't think that's the case this time. People in Oakland are very tired of the crime and this is one way they feel, whether effective or not, they can take a stand against it. So often there's been a connection between alcohol, drugs and crime, so adding one more liquor store to the mix in Oakland certainly isn't going to help bring down the crime rate. Also, race is not always an issue when it comes to these matters. I truly feel that if Mr. Pannell was any race other than African American, there would still be an objection to reinstating Nic Nak's ability to sell liquor.

On another note, I'm a bit disappointed in Rebecca Kaplan. I've been reading that she's a shining, new bright light in Oakland politics but, based on what I've read in this article, she's just business as usual. In order for things to truly change in Oakland, the would be movers and shakers need to see things from more of a commonsensical, 'justice is blind' perspective, and not rely on the old 'tried and true,' which is not always true any more.

Gery Tinkelenberg, Oakland

"Oakland Cops: 'That's Not the Way We Do It,'" Seven Days, 5/12

Karma's a Bitch

Ah, yes; whoever said revenge isn't sweet was a liar. When Gray Davis was governor he remarked that redevelopment agencies should be outlawed; they involve public money in private sector business, which encourages cronyism and governmental corruption (only a fool would think otherwise).

In Oakland particularly, the R.A. is run in a rapacious and corrupt way; for example, pet developers can be given "forgivable" loans (read: money giveaways) for their "service to the city" (read: large campaign contributions). To insulate the R.A. from taxpayer wrath, the city government makes it a separate legal entity from which money cannot be transferred for other uses; this creates a monetary Black Hole where money goes in but it can't never come out. This is intentionally designed to create a ready cash cow for crony developers to milk.

Complaints made to the city council about this contrived set-up have fallen on deaf ears, perhaps because the city council is also the R.A. wearing different hats (life is full of coincidences).

Ain't karma a bitch? Now, the state plans to do the R.A. what it's been doing to us all along, expropriating money. Well, GOOD! I hope the state uses the money wisely, but even if it doesn't, watching it empty the R.A. Pork Barrel is satisfying enough.

Maybe there is some justice out there after all.

P.S. I've spoken to some economically savvy people who agree that the proliferation of redevelopment agencies contributed to the current "recession" (read: depression). On reflection, I agree.

James J. Fenton, Oakland

"Oakland Unified Has Too Many Schools," News, 5/5

Perpetual Motion Machine

First, a quote: "The aim of education is knowledge not of facts, but of values." — Dean William R. Inge

Robert Gammon is treating the issue of the depopulation of the Oakland schools as some sort of political conundrum that can't be explained, so is best ignored.