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Letters for the Week of April 28, 2015

Readers sound off on water conservation, unsafe housing in Oakland, and Roundup.

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Page 4 of 4

Jeff Hoffman, Berkeley


"Ask Mr. Dad," Kid You Not, 3/26

A Big Help

I have found that helping my kids through the third grade can be beneficial, but as of the fourth grade, the child needs to learn to be an active independent learner. Sometimes my son has sports practice early in the day and there is a limited time for homework. In those times, I will help him get the work done so that he does not stay up too late. My observation is that for fifth grade and beyond, independent learning and studying is of primary importance, and that teachers recognize a student who is independent versus one who is spoon-fed by the parents. This great article has helped me overcome my desire to over-help as the helicopter parent. It has moved me in the direction of independence and not dependence. Thanks.

Jerry Udinsky, Berkeley


Miscellaneous Letters

The Minimum Wage Should be Fair to Workers and Small Business

Does the city council want to drive small, independent businesses out of Emeryville? That could be an unintended consequence if the council votes to go forward with its proposal to raise the minimum wage in Emeryville to $14.40 an hour — which would be the highest in the country and second highest (next to Australia) in the world!

We all know the minimum wage is going up across America. This is inevitable and long past due. My husband and I own The Broken Rack, a pool hall with restaurant and bar located in Emeryville. Like many other small business owners, we support raising the minimum wage. After all, in a small business the people who work for you are people you know. We simply want to see the minimum wage increased in a thoughtful, fair way that allows businesses like ours to make the adjustments needed to stay afloat and puts us on a level playing field with other small businesses in neighboring communities. The proposal before the Emeryville City Council does neither.

Make no mistake about it, in the restaurant industry at least, increases in the minimum wage must be paid for by the consumer in the form of higher prices. In an industry of notoriously low-profit margins, the increase can't be simply absorbed. Some of us will try to rework staffing models — reducing the amount of work available and service levels — but all of us will have to raise prices. And it's an economic truism that when prices go up, demand goes down. When prices rise across the board and over time, consumers adjust. If prices are raised too abruptly, the result can be decreased revenue in combination with rising costs — a recipe for going out of business.

Oakland merchants have been vocal regarding their concern over the impact on their businesses of that city's recent 36 percent increase (from $9.00 to $12.25) in its minimum wage. But at least Measure FF in Oakland was the topic of many months of public discussion and a general vote. In San Francisco, the electorate voted to raise the minimum wage from $9 in stages, reaching $15 in 2018. The Emeryville council proposes to raise this city's minimum wage by 60 percent all at once, with virtually no advance warning or public discussion, let alone public vote.

And it would burden Emeryville small businesses with a minimum wage 18 percent higher than their counterparts in Oakland. There is a real possibility that the combination of the magnitude of the increase and the disparity with neighboring Oakland will drive some of our small businesses out of business, putting low-wage earners out of work. Is it likely under these conditions that Emeryville will attract other small, independent businesses to replace those that are lost?

My husband and I would welcome a regional minimum wage of $12.25. It would help us to do something we would like to do anyway — raise the wages of our lowest-paid employees — without putting us at a competitive disadvantage with similar establishments. We believe the resulting price increases would be in a range that the public would support. It seems to us that the reasonable and responsible course for Emeryville to take is to align itself with the Oakland model.

The council is fast-tracking this with plans to take action on the proposal in May and have the new minimum wage in place on July 1. We hope that Emeryville residents will join with us and other small business owners in calling on the Emeryville City Council to reflect on the impact this ordinance will have on local small business and take a more balanced approach by enacting a $12.25 minimum wage — fair to Emeryville workers and fair to Emeryville small business.

Marilyn Boucher, Emeryville

Correction

Our April 22 news story, "Any Means Necessary," misspelled Charles Weigl's last name and incorrectly stated that Jose Palafox is a current member of AK Press, rather than a former member and current resident of the 23rd street building in Oakland that was damaged by a recent fire.

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