News & Opinion » Letters & Guest Essays

Letters for the Week of December 31, 2014

Readers sound off on Lynette Gibson McElhaney, undercover police, and Black Lives Matter protests.


"West Oakland Councilmember Involved in House-Flipping Scheme," Feature, 12/17

Gibson McElhaney's Actions Are Troubling

As a District Three resident, I find this very troubling. Embodying the process of gentrification in order to "house veterans" and keep your organization afloat? I'm sorry, but if your organization cannot do its mission (create affordable housing) without engaging in its opposite (create non-affordable housing), perhaps the organization should shut its doors.

I happen to be a veteran, and I find this "we did it for the veterans" rhetoric to be just a pretense. If veterans were their concern, and they did five minutes of searching, they would find a local organization called Swords to Plowshares, largely composed of veterans, establishing an immense (and admirable) amount of local affordable housing for veterans, without flipping houses.

Lynette Gibson McElhaney has also been involved with the San Pablo Corridor Coalition in our district, which appears to be an avenue to usher in development, chaired by real estate investor Alex Miller-Cole. First on the agenda is closing the most popular place for our neighborhood's houseless folks — St. Andrews Plaza — for seven months to install a "sculpture installation." If this is what affordable housing advocacy means to Gibson-McElhaney, I don't want it.

Joshua Shepherd, Oakland

It Was a Trumped Up Article

I don't see what the big deal is. This is a really long article about a non-profit getting a little money for doing business!!! As much as I don't agree with how Gibson McElhaney assists my neighborhood with regard to cleaning up the "dope fiend" park and other blight, I would never condemn her for running a business that makes a profit through deals and relationships with others in the community just like any other business in America — and maybe the profit made was used in some way to better the community.

This is all a political lynch mob to smear Gibson McElhaney and get her out of office. If she continues to not do the things she's promised in District Three — clean up the streets from Grand to 40th; close down at least half of these damn churches, halfway houses, homeless shelters, and single-person rooms and disperse them throughout Oakland; implement a shopping cart "return-to-owner" system to get them off our damn streets (none of these so-called homeless people have ever purchased an effing shopping cart to push through the streets of Oakland); and get some real businesses here in our neighborhood, then yes she should be ousted. But not for any single reason in this trumped up, blow-hard article.

Nayaa Lacy, Oakland

We Need the FBI

As a resident of District Three, I was not at all surprised by your story. There were two red flags reported by the media about Lynette Gibson McElhaney shortly after her election to the city council: her state and federal tax liens exceeding $25,000 and the fact that her husband hadn't held a job in more than six years.

Each member of Oakland's city council receives a taxpayer-funded annual compensation package (base salary and benefits) that exceeds $100,000 for a part-time position with the month of August off. In addition, each member receives more than $250,000 in taxpayer funds per year for "office expenses." Add to that additional taxpayer funds for a Paygo slush fund that each councilmember receives annually. Lynette uses her "office expenses" to hire three people to do her work for her. Can't she find nonpaid volunteers in her district to help her out and return the $250,000 to the city's general fund? 

Whatever happened to volunteerism and true "public service?" Ask any board member of a homeowner's association (HOA) in Oakland and you'll find out that many of them devote more time to board business than all of our councilmembers spend on their official city positions. Most of these HOA board members (many who hold full-time jobs) do not receive any compensation (nor should they) for their services. We might attract a better quality group of people for council if we eliminated all compensation and benefits for their positions. If we did, we would save $2.8 million per year that could be used to hire additional police officers and reduce our sky-high taxes and maybe begin paying off our billions in debt and unfunded liabilities.

The FBI includes public corruption as a top priority among criminal investigations because of the significant toll that corruption takes on our pocketbooks. Public corruption costs us billions of dollars each year. As stated on the FBI's website: "[T]he FBI is singularly situated to combat this corruption, with the skills and capabilities to run complex undercover operations and surveillance." I recommended to the FBI that they set up a permanent office in Oakland's City Hall. Gibson McElhaney's personal financial train wreck is just the tip of the iceberg. Dig deeper and you'll be surprised (or not) about what you will find. Let's make sure that we include an investigation into the Richmond Neighborhood Housing Services entity as well, especially during the times when they received taxpayer funds.

I had high hopes for Gibson McElhaney after years of incompetence and neglect from Nancy Nadel. However, her financial incompetence, negligence, greed, and unethical behavior make her a perfect addition to Oakland's political cesspool.

Mark W. Forster, Oakland

The Express Should Be Ashamed

As a resident of District Three and a nonprofit organization leader, I deeply resent the Express hatchet job on Ms. Gibson McElhaney's business dealings. Nonprofits often engage in for-profit activities in order to support their non-profit work, which is exactly what Richmond Housing Services seems to have done. This kind of activity is especially commendable given the shrinking of funding for nonprofits since 2008. My reading of this article is that the Richmond Neighborhood Housing Services invested in the purchase and rehab of three properties, all in neighborhoods that have already been gentrified, and made a little money on the investment, enabling the organization to support the development of low-income housing elsewhere. The Express should be ashamed for touting this tempest in a teapot on its front page and maligning the reputation of a dynamic African-American woman leader.