News & Opinion » Letters & Guest Essays

Letters for May 5

Readers sound off on Devon Blood, Alamedans, and suburban sprawl.


"The Death of C3 Cannabis Collective," News, 4/21

Civic Challenges in Nut Creek

This article makes me sad, especially because Walnut Creek is now my adopted home.I know from experience how difficult it is to fight City Hall, since it took me a year just to get a flag on the library flagpole in WC, and now am fighting just to get some signs put up at bicycle crossing in my neighborhood.Thanks for the article though

Jason Ruderman, Walnut Creek

"Businesses Can't Thrive Without Schools," Letters, 4/21

You're An Angry Little Man

Nice letter, Tom Jackson. Instead of threatening local businesses which (thank god) class up this backward town, how about you get your facts straight?

I've lived here for 42 years, 20 of which I have spent paying property taxes. While I'm sure that you're just adorable, clearly you've never bothered to read the text of Prop 13. It specifically slashed the tax rate on residences, effectively gutting the AUSD budget when it passed.

The "untold story" is that you obviously have no idea what you're talking about and are (surprise) an angry little man who doesn't want to pay taxes. Boo hoo.

Gotta love Alameda, the island of homophobes and deadbeats. God help us.

Erik Kolacek, Alameda

"Back to the Green Future," Eco Watch, 4/7

Dense Cities Won't Affect Sprawl

I appreciate Mr. Gammon's hardworking attitude towards his journalism, but I am getting tired of his ill-informed synthesis of history in regards to the metropolis and the automobile. The geographic split between living and working places primarily dates to industrialization in Europe, predating the domination of the automobile by over a century. What was the cause? Mechanization, which increased dirt and noise, capitalization, which financed the machines and building of factories, and urbanization itself, which packs people in close. This last point is important — all metropolitan areas, even those built before the automobile, are surrounded by suburbs, many of which were made possible by trains, etc. This counters the currently popular idea that Mr. Gammon seems to subscribe to: that dense urban development will slow suburban growth. In fact, all evidence points to the contrary.

Ivar Diehl, Oakland

"An Oakland Icon May Close," News, 2/24

Canned Vegis Don't Deserve a Bailout

A longtime Oakland resident, I would like as much as the next person to see Merritt Bakery and Restaurant continue to succeed.

I am disturbed, however, to learn that the restaurant is asking the city "for a $300,000 bailout, plus $50,000 a month to help (owner Charles Griffis') cash flow until business turns around." 

And I do not believe a supposed lack of parking should be blamed for the decrease in receipts. There are plenty of food shops in town with little parking — let alone designated free parking — that seem to do quite well (e.g., Bakesale Betty, Arizmendi, shops in Chinatown and Rockridge, etc.). 

There are no doubt things Mr. Griffis could do to try to increase bakery and restaurant foot traffic, things that would not entail handouts from the City of Oakland:

Work to improve the menu. Though Merritt is known for its strawberry shortcake and fried chicken, its menu selection can be updated and refined. Why not play up the fried chicken sandwich, for example, the way Bakesale Betty does one of its specialties?

Improve the quality of the food. The toast, for example, is often dry; the hash browns equally mediocre. The vegetables taste like they are canned. Make sure the food it serves is consistently good.

Rework the prices. Perhaps Mr. Griffis should not have "raised food prices during the recession in an effort to increase revenues." Menu prices need to be on par with the local competition (e.g., Rolling Dunes, Diggery Inn, Lakeshore café, etc.). This is basic economics.

Improve and update the interior. Though a renovation is not financially feasible, minor changes will not go unnoticed. Even Denny's has flat-screen monitors these days. People like to feel comfortable when they eat out. The restrooms can also be significantly better.

To further drum up business, Mr. Griffis needs to make a concerted effort to get the word out. Merritt is a decades-old institution in a prime Oakland location. Celebrate it. Remind families. Send out fliers. Brainstorm coupons and promotions. Give children balloons, something. Offer a slice of cake or a scoop of ice cream for birthday guests. Advertise in local newspapers, etc. 

Like any other Oakland business, Merritt Bakery and Restaurant needs to figure out on its own how it can thrive. It should not rely on city government for bailouts nor should it expect them.

C. Eng, Oakland


An Open Letter to OUSD School Board Members

I have been teaching in Oakland for seven years. Throughout my career I have put students first. I am proud to say that students and parents (and principals) have been very happy with my performance. I think this is true for the vast majority of Oakland teachers and OEA members. I was very disappointed with the school board's 7-0 vote to impose working conditions on Oakland teachers and, by extension, their students.

A public school district in California has only imposed a contract on its teachers twice before in recent history. This is a highly unusual action. Please don't make the claim that rising health care costs forced you to do this ( default.asp?1994Nav=) when total employee health care as a proportion of the OUSD budget has decreased since the last contract was agreed due to an exodus of experienced teachers with families from our district. Please don't make the claim that OUSD cannot afford fair compensation for OEA members when OUSD ranks at the bottom of Alameda County districts in combined pay and health care. Please don't make the claim that OUSD cannot afford reasonable class size when we are spending tens of millions for Sei Swun, Edusoft, Cambridge Education Group, Action Learning Systems, and other outside contractors to perform work of questionable value. Such claims are disingenuous and do a disservice to your office.Would it be irregular to suddenly refuse to renew all these contracts? Certainly, but no more irregular than it is to impose a contract on teachers without even meeting once after the report of a neutral fact-finder is released. We can talk about cuts, but let's not forget that Governor Schwarzenegger's May revise on the state budget has not even come out yet. Let's also keep in mind that California revenues have been higher than expected in recent months. The future is not necessarily as dark as you make out. If OUSD school board members are happy to be the bully boys of pro-privatization and pro-charter advocates in California they should be forthright and say so. If OUSD school board members have some kind of vendetta against the OEA they should say so. If OUSD school board members have been told by state officials that they need to impose or they risk being taken over again by the state, they need to say so. But don't insult the intelligence of your employees and your constituents by making the claim that you can't afford the contract that you freely admit teachers and other OEA members deserve.I look forward to working very hard for your defeat the next time you run for office.