"California's Thirsty Almonds," Feature, 2/5
Great article! So in the 1970s they wanted to build a drain from Westlands to the delta to dump their toxic selenium and boron water there? The whole thing sounds too absurd to be real. People are admitting it was a big mistake to build the Central Valley Project to take water to Westlands, and yet now they want to build another tunnel to take even more water to Westlands. Hopefully saner minds will prevail. And I used to think Governor Brown was a really smart, balanced thinker.
I do feel sorry for any farmers facing economic ruin, but who is to blame when the land has no good ground water, and they plant trees? Did the water contract managers not explain it or did they lead the farmers to thinking they'd always get the water they wanted?
It's scary to hear how much acreage there still is in the desert that investors are buying up to plant even more almonds. Is there no limit to how much water they think is in the delta?
The Westlands farmer [Dan Errotabere] got it wrong when he said "We need to have a public policy debate about whether we want agriculture in California or not." That's not the debate. We want it in the north, or on the east side of the San Joaquin Valley. But there have to be limits.
Jan McCleery, Discovery Bay
Largesse to Millionaires
Thanks for a great piece — especially the part about the costs of drip-irrigation systems, which in my mind would be a much better investment than any of the so-called tunnels Jerry Brown is proposing. I drive on Interstate 5 once a month and often wonder why they still use flood irrigation in this arid area. As for the tunnels, the only folks who want them are the growers who we subsidize. Los Angeles' and Orange County's boards of supervisors and the water districts there have already come out against them, and I am thankful that we have at least one news source exposing this largesse to millionaires. Thanks again for this article.
Marty Price, Oakland
Throwing Money and Water Away
Great, great story. Will we just keep throwing good money (and water) at bad things? [Land] Retirement is the only solution that makes sense on any economic basis. Please write something on why I-5 between Tracy and Los Banos has a few acres of almonds being removed but thousands of acres are being planted — today! Maybe the crop insurance subsidy in the new farm bill makes growing anything at any time a profitable venture.
Larry Farwell, Santa Barbara
Almonds Add Value
Much of California relies on water that falls on one part of the state and is moved to where it is needed, including much of the San Francisco Bay Area. Water is a public resource administered by the State Water Resources Control Board. That has helped fuel California's economy in the Sacramento, Silicon, San Joaquin, and San Fernando valleys. Each of these regions, and others, provide a valuable contribution to the diverse and interwoven economy of our state.
Almond production, like many of California's farm products, provides value-added benefits to the economy through jobs in processing, transportation, wholesale, and retail businesses. A significant number of jobs at the Port of Oakland are the result of farm production in California. Farms are one of the few bright spots in the balance of trade, thanks to people like Dan Errotabere and almost 4,000 others like him who grow the food we buy around the corner and around the world.
Mike Wade, California Farm Water Coalition, Sacramento
Good Work, Local Freebie
Does it seem weird to anyone else that the only newspaper reporting on things I actually care about is the local freebie? Good job (again!), East Bay Express.
Autumn Kruse, Richmond
"Oakland Cops Think City Is Too Liberal," News, 1/29
As an Oakland resident: Thanks Oakland Police Department for your dedication and service!
James Alvers, Oakland
Leadership Starts at the Top
It is sad and frightening to find out that OPD officers are so poorly led and supported. A superb communication system is essential to police work, as are cameras and better lighting. Oakland will never lift itself from an image of a crime-infested city directed by gangs and criminals without a huge improvement in the support of its police officers. Leadership starts at the top and needs the support of the politicians who so far have been weak and disingenuous at best. Other practices, such as a carefully crafted stop-and-frisk policy and gun laws that make it much more costly for criminals to carry or use firearms, are also within the power of the city to enact and enforce. Enforcing traffic laws will scoop up a disproportionate number of criminals who treat traffic laws the way they treat the law in general — with contempt.
In the end, the very communities where criminals operate and live bear the brunt of fear, murder and mayhem. Once Oakland tackles these problems sensibly it will be able to move forward.
The city council needs to hear from the chief of police at every meeting and the city could reach out to the experts at UC Berkeley for data analysis and predictions to better deploy officers.
Steve Redmond, Berkeley
The Is Mayor the Problem
The article is written as though officers' attitudes are the problem. No, the problem is the mayor.
Oakland needs a mayor who convinces us by deeds that his or her first priority is public safety, who gets staffing of our half-a-police-department onto a steep ascent, who rallies the people of this city against crime and thug culture, who supports our police force instead of continually sniping at it, and who makes attorney John Burris go to court with a case instead of continually paying millions to him and his fortune-seeking clients. In other words, the very opposite of Mayor Quan.
Charles Pine, Oakland
"The Hidden Costs of Oakland's Surveillance Center," News, 1/22
Seems like our elected officials think getting DAC is like buying a home burglar alarm system — you pay an upfront fee and a modest monthly fee and you're all set.
I am not an IT infrastructure person, but I've seen enough companies spend big bucks on custom and semi-custom complex software projects to know that DAC will need continuous expensive care and feeding, modifications, upgrades, bug fixes, etc.
The people with the skills to do that kind of work are not typical IT support people. Whether as employees or consultants, they will cost us a never-ending bundle.
Len Raphael, Oakland
Our February 12 cover story, "The Rise of the New Land Lords," misstated Alex Schafran's job title. He is a lecturer in urban geography at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom who has studied the foreclosure crisis in the Bay Area. Also, in that issue's Culture Spy, "A New Space for Artistic Entrepreneurs," we mischaracterized the company NextSpace as being a franchise.