News & Opinion » Letters & Guest Essays

Letters for November 17

Readers sound off on elk meat, beer, whole-grain pizza dough, SmartMeters, and door-to-door canvassing.


"The Tule Elk Hunt of 2010," 11/3, Eco Watch

Elk Meat Is It

How can we get on that hunt? And does the meat taste good?

JJ Lasne, Oakland

"Gimme a Beer, Hold the Shot," Bars, Clubs & Coffeehouses, 10/27

Raise a Glass

I go to these places, because instead of serving beers only good for getting you drunk (like, gag, Budweiser or Pabst), they serve beers of high quality, in the full range of types, that taste exceptional. Something for everyone, from Belgian brews to local microbrews and craft beers. Who says that only wine lovers can care about their drinks? Beer Revolution and The Trappist both have a wide, changing selection that lets you determine your taste in beers, and work to broaden and refine it. I put together an Oakland walking beer trip on Gowalla, including these Oakland finds. I'll see you there!

Paula Wirth, Oakland

"Are SmartMeters Dangerous Too?" Feature, 7/21

SmartMeters Are Jamming My Radio

All of my AM radio frequencies have been turned to static for weeks. It began when PG&E started installing "Smart Meters" in this neighborhood. I knew there was something going on when I would pull into my driveway and the closer I came to the garage door, the louder the static became on both AM and FM on my car radio. Today the PG&E man came back to install our meter since we refused when the private contractor was here; needed more info. He said, "You are picking up the signal emitted from one meter to another so they can work." They work on the same idea as a wireless computer router, which picks up signals from each computer.

Kathie Thompson, Chico

"Hello, Wanna Give to a Good Cause?" Feature, 11/3

Not All Canvassers Are the Same

Your recent piece shined an important spotlight on the employment practices of a particular street canvassing operation. Mr. Green rightly called out problems with that organization. But not all canvasses fail to treat employees with the fairness and respect they deserve. As the article mentions, Peace Action West offers heath-care benefits to full-time and part-time staff. Even during this economic downturn, we have increased canvasser pay and avoided layoffs. We also offer generous vacation benefits, sabbatical pay, and a socially conscious IRA.

The article also mentions that canvassing is a challenging, high-energy job. I know it's tough. I canvassed for a year and a half before advancing into other advocacy work. In fact, every one of our current senior managers cut their activist teeth as canvassers. Many of Peace Action West's former organizers used what they learned to get jobs working for progressive members of Congress, to start their own nonprofits, and even run for office.

For a wider understanding of the importance of canvassing, look to the political and funding context. We count on letters and signatures we gather to get the attention of elected officials. We canvass because, as a grassroots group working on controversial issues, we have to. Peace issues do not generally attract foundation support. Forget government money. Without the generous hearts of the folks responding to the canvassers' "pitch," some progressive organizations would simply not exist. Is that what we want, given the political challenges we face from the right? As your article implies, we shouldn't have to choose between treating workers fairly and building organizations that push for progressive values. We need to do both. To the readers who make space in their busy lives to make the world a better place by stopping to chat with a canvasser: Give yourselves a pat on the back!

Jon Rainwater, executive director, Peace Action West, Oakland

"The Art of Canvassing," Feature, 11/3

Why I Don't Give

I appreciate that these folks have their hearts in the right place, but I make it a point never to give money to them. How much overhead does it add to the already tight budget of these causes to use paid canvassers? Shouldn't they be in the Antarctic Ocean saving Minke whales from Japanese fishermen? That's activism; standing on the street and harassing passersby is just annoying. The confrontational sales pitch is off-putting, and the ones I've engaged with aren't actually happy to accept a one-time donation; they want an monthly donation and a credit card. No thanks, I'll donate on the Internet instead.

Josh Levinger, Oakland

"New Recycling Carts Roll Into Berkeley," Eco Watch, 10/27

Poaching Is Bigger Than Us

Great article!

Just a clarification. The $3/mo fee is a DIVERSION fee; it helps cover any number of the city's many programs that divert discards from the landfill. This fee is not earmarked for recycling per se and just makes up part of the overall budget for Zero Waste and Clean Cities efforts in Berkeley.

On the poaching, you have to understand the relative implications of the new carts. Yes, other cities still have poaching, the carts do not eliminate poverty or the inherent incentive to collect valuable recyclables from private sources. But compared to the small open bins and bags, carts are a deterrent and we have already seen the reduction in illicit scavenging that other cities have experienced when they adopted carts.

Martin Bourque, Executive Director, Ecology Center, Berkeley

"Card Clubs 4, Chevron 0," Seven Days, 11/3

Well Done, Richmond

Richmond, I'm just so happy for you and proud of you! Having been a Richmond resident for five years or so, I miss the strong upward trajectory in the ethics of your government you have engineered, along with your ever loyal guide and friend, Tom Butt. When I first moved there I was fooled by the pretty face and false promises of Ms. Lopez, as I hadn't yet learned the ropes of Richmond politics and I am ashamed to admit I voted for Ms. Lopez the first time around. It took a few months of watching the city council meetings for my slow brain to see the pattern (obvious now in hindsight), that for Lopez, Viramontes, and Bates there is little consideration of what is best for Richmond citizens, but that everything revolved around their patrons and financiers. Only when there was no competing interest did they seem to do the right thing, and while it took a while for me to figure that out, it did eventually become clear.