"The Year in Weed," Year in Review, 12/25
Cannabis Prohibition Isn't Sane
While this year has been monumental, 2014 may see the end of cannabis (marijuana) prohibition. The wall has so many holes in it it's difficult to see it stand another year.
Cannabis prohibition is one of America's worst policy failures in history, responsible for increased hard-drug addiction rates, contempt for drug laws, eroded constitutional rights, escalated prison populations, corrupt politicians, racial discrimination, the prohibition of American farmers from growing hemp, and trillions of dollars in costs — the list is growing faster than the plant itself. It is difficult to understand why anyone would want to force the black market to continue regulating what God created. A sane argument to continue cannabis prohibition doesn't exist.
Stan White, Dillon, Colorado
"A Waterfront Ballpark Makes Sense," Seven Days, 12/25
Waterfront Stadium Harms the Environment
I totally disagree with Robert Gammon's advocacy of a ballpark and basketball stadium at Howard Terminal instead of at their current locations. It is just plain wrong that Howard Terminal is "readily accessible" by anything except driving. It is, in fact, only accessible by car for the vast majority of fans.
Howard Terminal is about a mile from the nearest BART station. The vast majority of fans will not walk that far instead of driving, and buses are totally inadequate to carry all the people who get off BART to go to the games. A ballpark and/or stadium at Howard Terminal instead of their current location would mean a lot more driving, along with all the harms associated with the consumption and burning of oil, which I don't think I need to list here. Very few people come to A's games from the West Bay, and even if they did, ferries can only carry a few people and are polluting in their own right. Amtrak trains do not run anywhere near often enough to carry significant numbers of people to ballgames, so that option is also a false one. The only way to have large numbers of fans continue to use public transit to come to games is to rebuild the ballpark and stadium at their current location, which is at the Coliseum BART station.
Mr. Gammon's prioritization of money over the environment on this issue is rather disturbing. Keeping people out of cars is far more important than whether some businesses in downtown Oakland benefit from putting a sports complex there, because the environment is more important than money. And while there is a slight chance that a downtown ballpark and basketball stadium might be a financial boon to businesses in the area, it is far more likely that people will just drive to Howard Terminal, watch games, and drive home, as Howard Terminal is not walking distance from downtown for the vast majority of people. I agree that having small, independently owned businesses at the ballpark and stadium would be far preferable to having chain retail establishments owned by large corporations. However, the overall effect of buying food and other things from large corporations would be less harmful than that of the increased driving that would be caused by moving the sports complex to a location like Howard Terminal that is not served by BART. Remember, buying gasoline is also patronizing large corporations, in fact, some of the largest on the planet.
Let's keep the A's and Warriors in Oakland, but let's keep them right where they are, near a BART station. Moving them to Howard Terminal would be bad for the environment, bad for fans forced into cars to get to games, and bad for everyone who would suffer from greatly increased traffic before and after games. The slight chance that some small, independently-owned businesses might benefit from a move to Howard Terminal is not even close to being worth the environmental harms that such a move would cause.
Jeff Hoffman, Berkeley
"The Nonprofit Shift," Year in Review, 12/25
Cost of Nonprofits
The benefits of having nonprofit, state of California, and federal offices move to Oakland should be balanced against the cost to the city of providing municipal services to those organizations.
Nonprofits and government organizations are exempt from most local taxes such as real property tax (if they own their own office), equipment property tax, and business taxes. Of course, they are also exempt from state income tax. A large piece of the property tax would have gone to Oakland Unified School District and the city. All of the business tax would have gone to the city's general fund. Nonprofits do pay sales tax and payroll tax. A fraction of sales tax does go to the city. None of the payroll tax does.
While there are definite benefits to Oakland having otherwise empty buildings occupied by nonprofits, there are also costs. The benefits might be diffused over a much wider area than the city, but many of the costs are localized.
Len Raphael, Oakland
"Big Money Trumps Environment," Year in Review, 12/25
Reading your list, the list is mostly wins. I believe that we must manage all our energy sources and fracking is one of those. Petroleum, like it or not, is here to stay for a long time. Similarly, water is a resource that serves all Californians and needs to be managed for all 38 million of us. It should be done in an environmentally wise manner, which, I believe, the environmental impact report seems to show. I'll trust Phil Isenberg on this one, not the Sierra Club. As I said in the 1980s when the peripheral canal initiative was defeated, after all California is one state when it comes to managing our resources.