News & Opinion » Letters & Guest Essays

Letters for the Week of August 29, 2012

Readers sound off on the OPD, Art Murmur, and Missouri Lounge.


"How Much Garbage Does It Take to Treat a Patient?," Feature, 8/15

Here's Hoping

Twenty-two years ago, the facilities director at the San Jose Medical Center asked me, as a consultant, to set up a sterile field and sort "red bag waste" against the then-new Title 22 regulations on exactly what was infectious. We discovered that about 85 percent of what was in the red bags (at 22 cents per pound versus trash at about 5-6 cents per pound picked up) meant they were killing themselves with costs; the director assigned a staff person to watch operating room, emergency room, and all other sites for errant use of red bags and paid for his salary immediately. Anybody overusing red bags today is just stupid.

Alameda County banned the incineration of municipal solid waste in the county in 1990; shipping the stuff out of county to autoclave-and-bury or to burn is a subterfuge and not the answer. As author Kathleen Richards notes, plastics are made from high-value raw materials and deserve a better end than roasting-to-sterilize or incineration.

Let's hope somebody cares.

Arthur R. Boone

Center for Recycling Research, Berkeley

"The Future of First Fridays," News, 8/15

A Problem that Doesn't Exist

Ellen Cushing's article in the Express about traffic issues surrounding the Art Murmur tries to paint a picture of a problem that simply does not exist. There are no "victims" here. Pickpocketing is a lame excuse for challenging Art Murmur. No food poisoning has been reported, and if firecrackers bother you, don't visit West Oakland on July 4th like I did.

The streets of Uptown are never more safe than they are during Art Murmur and they certainly are way safer than on any given weekday. In seven years of Murmur, no one has gotten hurt, when on any given First Friday there are between 5,000 and 10,000 people enjoying the area, many spilling out into the streets and all of them walking up and down and crossing the streets during the event. I hear event organizers, candidates for city council, and city staff raising the idea that "someone is going to get hurt," and someone may get hurt, sure — but it won't happen because the streets are dangerous during Art Murmur. There is a story here, it's just not traffic safety. It's an issue of how we make Art Murmur even better.

Controlling traffic is not the way to make people safely enjoy the streets. It's the way to allow more people to better enjoy a kick-ass street party. Closing the streets to traffic will essentially bring an evening Sunday Streets to Oakland every month, and a Sunday Streets party that is way more fun than one on a Sunday morning. And it will bring even more people to Downtown Oakland. We should turn Art Murmur into a monthly evening-time Sunday Streets by closing off the streets to traffic in the Uptown. The bigger the area of street closures, the better the Art Murmur!

The real story that I want to see written has to do making with Telegraph a better street every day. In the last few years Telegraph has had many collisions involving cars with pedestrians and bicyclists, yet the city has not shut the street down to traffic to address this issue (which it shouldn't), and the city still has done nothing to improve Telegraph on a daily basis for people walking and bicycling (which it absolutely should). When Art Murmur grows, bringing thousands of people to Telegraph and there are no collisions, it's a safety-in-numbers thing. It's also a phenomenon of when streets are for people, they become much safer, and when streets are for cars, they are way more dangerous.

How to do it? Telegraph Avenue needs a diet — a road diet. It is way too wide for the traffic it carries and, regardless, there are much better and safer uses of this street than pretending that Uptown is a better neighborhood when lots of cars roll up and down its streets. It is not. It is a better street when we give it wider sidewalks, bike lanes, better transit stops, and, most importantly, more space for Art Murmur patrons to hang out and enjoy the street. A road diet converts streets poorly designed for cars into streets better designed for people, which provides more space for artists and vendors, more space for food trucks, more space for bike parking, more space for residents to enjoy their neighborhood — more space for people. And space for more people to come to downtown Oakland and say, "This city rocks!" Art Murmur highlights a timely opportunity the City of Oakland has to reenvision a street like Telegraph and make it a world-class neighborhood boulevard that is safe and a wonderful place to be — not just on First Fridays, but every Friday and every day for everyone.

Dave Campbell, Oakland

Get an Organizer

I have been involved somewhat in this ongoing discussion as I organize large events like the Temescal Street Fair and Rockridge Out and About. The fact that a two-month-old was killed in LA at a similar event makes me more worried than ever that something really bad could happen here. Folks cook and serve food out of their coolers and on homemade grills — which is a recipe for food poisoning waiting to happen, in addition to being unfair to the maybe 25 trucks and pop-ups that pay their fees to the Alameda County health department and to the City of Oakland for a business license. There is also a lot of underage drinking, which is worrying.