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Letters for the Week of January 14, 2015

Readers sound off on the year's best films, Oakland City Council and Spare the Air Days.


"The Best Movies of 2014," Feature, 12/31

You Missed Some Great Films

No mention of The Theory of Everything or Life Itself? That's just a shocker! Isn't a movie critic supposed to serve all moviegoers? Maybe this one should see Life Itself — it's very inspiring and thoughtful.

Ruby MacDonald, El Cerrito

"Council May Dampen New Year," Seven Days, 12/31

Kaplan Is Just As Bad

Over the years, I've read most, if not all, of the articles the Express has written on Rebecca Kaplan. Her record as a lazy, ethically challenged, risk-averse do-nothing is well documented and legendary. I've also read the articles on Lynette Gibson McElhaney. There, too, the coverage has been accurate, clear, and concise. What I don't get is why the Express continues to deny its clear and cogent bias, in this instance, against Gibson McElhaney, while seemingly doing the opposite with regard to Kaplan. In the end, the protests of the Express against this premise ring as hollow and obsequious as the protest of Gibson McElhaney. Birds of a feather.

Jeffrey D. Cash, Oakland

"Salmon Stuck in Dead-End Waters," 12/31

The DFW's Efforts Were Heroic

While the story included many important points, it overlooked the heroic efforts of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) to save more than 600 of these "lost" fish in recent weeks. Although trapping fish in drainage canals and trucking them back to the Sacramento River is not a sustainable long-term solution, DFW should be given kudos for its intensive efforts to save these salmon.

The 100-year-old Yolo Bypass canal system was built in a past era, one in which salmon biology was largely unknown, and these native fish did not enjoy protection under state and federal laws. State and federal agencies now have a legal obligation to protect these fish, and straightforward and cost-effective improvements are available to prevent this problem in the first place. An updated water system could meet the needs of both people and fish and, ultimately, save the state millions of dollars. These are goals that all Californians should support — and ones that the California Department of Water Resources and Federal Bureau of Reclamation should pursue in due haste to avoid repeating this tragedy again next year.

Jacob Katz, Central California program manager, California Trout, Davis

"OPD Improves Handling of Protests," Seven Days, 12/17

Berkeley PD Should Be Tolerant

I am appalled at the behavior of the Berkeley police during the demonstrations against police killings of unarmed black people. When I moved to Berkeley in 1983, the police would block traffic for us when we marched in demonstrations, and police attacking peaceful demonstrators was unheard of. Those Berkeley police were not without their issues, but compared to other police departments, Berkeley residents could be relatively proud of their police. 

Now local civil rights attorney Jim Chanin reports to Robert Gammon that the Berkeley police were "the worst" in dealing with the demonstrations.  Instead of being proud of our city and its police, I am now ashamed.

The City of Berkeley and its police handled the demonstrations badly from the very beginning. Calling in backup from other jurisdictions and arming police with riot gear were both totally uncalled for and led to the police abuse of demonstrators by beating them with clubs and firing tear gas and so-called less-than-lethal ammunition at them. This behavior is outrageous anywhere, but especially here in Berkeley, and would never have happened in the Berkeley that I moved to thirty years ago. The fact that a very small fraction of the crowd, some of whom were no doubt agents provocateurs, broke windows and committed other crimes does not excuse these transgressions on the part of city officials or the police.

Berkeley is not as progressive as it was in the 1980s. Nevertheless, this is still Berkeley and we will not tolerate police abuse. Apparently, at the next city council meeting, enough of us were willing to demand that the city address this abuse, but then immediately before the hearing, the city canceled it. This was nothing but cowardice on the part of Mayor Tom Bates, who knew that he would be called out for allowing this police abuse to take place.

Berkeley police should be the most tolerant cops regarding demonstrations — not the least. If serious police misconduct and abuse occurs again, hopefully there are enough of us in Berkeley to remove a mayor and anyone else in elected office who not only allow this type of behavior, but in fact set it in motion by calling in unwanted cops from other jurisdictions and illegitimately and unnecessarily arming cops with riot gear against peaceful demonstrators.

Jeff Hoffman, Berkeley

Miscellaneous Letters

We All Need to Breathe

Every day so far in 2015 the Bay Area Air Quality Management District has issued an alert for unsafe air quality in the Bay Area and requested that we "Spare the Air." As I walked to the bank, my little local health food store, and BART these last few days, I've been really appalled to see how many people sit in their cars, motors running, typing away on their cell phone. Cars are not our own personal phone booths. Turn the car off.

Or Sunday, two men stood in a yard talking to each other with two cars in front of the house that were both empty and running. They run on gas that burns into carbon monoxide — a  deadly, colorless, odorless, poisonous gas, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.