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Letters for the Week of March 23, 2016

Readers sound off on John George Psychiatric Pavilion, St. Andrews Plaza, and Aztecali.

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"Overwhelmed," Feature, 3/9

Marginalized and Devalued

The mentally ill, as with other disenfranchised groups, are marginalized and devalued. Therefore, it is not surprising to read about the indifference reflected in the systemic dysfunction of an administration that relies on draconian tactics to censor its first responders, the healthcare workers. The tip-off of a corrupt management culture is its reliance on punitive retribution against those who seek change through challenge and confrontation of the status quo. Is it any wonder the mentally ill are treated with servile contempt, corralled into what amounts to an encampment of human degradation when principle is usurped by bias and prejudice?

Mary Ann Vigilanti, Oakland

Pushed Through a Revolving Door

Whatever happened to the tax on the millionaires that was supposed to help provide community-based mental health services? While the entire state is dismissive of mental health issues, I see them daily in working with the homeless in San Leandro, and I am appalled at the revolving door that the county and state seem to think passes as mental health facilities. If the folks on the board of supervisors, the Alameda County Behavioral Health Care Services Agency, or any of our elected representatives had family members being "uncared" for in this type of situation, they might have something constructive to offer! We have people who ask for help being pushed through a revolving door and those whose mental capacity does not allow them to function who need help also. But eighteen hours waiting to be handed some pills and shown the door does not qualify in my mind as "mental health care."

If people with physical injuries were treated in this manner there would be headlines everywhere, not just in the Express. Thank you for the article.

Moira Fry, San Leandro

"Saint Andrews Plaza: More Than a Triangle," News, 3/9

Skank Park

I never knew the official name of the place. I call it Skank Park. I have to take the bus on San Pablo Avenue past there, mostly after midnight. The park is still active at that time with cars constantly pulling up to buy and sell drugs. As a white female, I've never been hassled too much besides the occasional aggressive panhandling. It is a very intimidating place, though. Everyone hanging out there is pretty strung out.

I occasionally see police cars, but they don't seem to do anything besides cruise by. Sometimes I catch a cab, or a friend will drive me home. It's embarrassing when we pass the park. I always hear comments about what a bad neighborhood I live in. I don't know what this park renovation will look like, or how long it will take, or where those folks will go in the meantime. I'm scared that I will see drug deals go down in front of my building, but I'm more scared that even my "bad neighborhood" is beginning the process of gentrification. My rent is cheap right now, which is necessary since I only work a part-time job. If I lose my place due to a rent increase or property sale, it's all over for me. I wonder if I will be able to live in Skank Park after the renovation?

Michelle Castro, Oakland

"Your Friendly Neighborhood Taqueria," Dining Review, 3/9

The Secret Is Out

Glad you enjoyed Aztecali as much as I did. Now the secret is out, and that can only be a good thing as I'd like to see Aztecali enjoy much success!

Karen Hester, Oakland

"Mixed-Income Neighborhoods Work Best," Opinion, 3/9

Tax Windfall Profits

Affordable housing is based on taking the free lunch of increased land value away from landowners and giving that land value back to the community that created it. When there is a scarcity of both housing and places to build housing, as there is in the Bay Area, the developer pays a high price for the land on which to build.

In this case, the land was owned by the City of Oakland, which sells it to the developer for less than the going rate, and this subsidizes the affordable, below market-rate apartments. Similarly, when the land is privately owned but the city requires inclusion of below market rate units, the developer reduces the price he or she is willing to pay for the land in order to keep the development profitable. This analysis is based on the work of Henry George, and before him Adam Smith, who both pointed out that the value of the land is created by the larger society, not the land owner. They went on to say that since rising land values simply generate windfall profits for people who own real estate, such land values can be subjected to taxation as windfall profits, and the tax will not be passed on to the consumer.

Stephen Barton, El Cerrito

"When Stories Hurt," Feature, 3/2

Secondary Trauma

In the veteran community, it's called "secondary PTSD," and it's gradually becoming better known. It can be passed down generationally to varying degrees depending on how the parents interact with their children and grandchildren. Of course, it can also be passed to others who may interact with a traumatized person.

One thing not discussed as much is how the opposite can also occur, that healing can also be passed around in a similar manner. I wrote a story related to this on the blog that I share with four other members of the organization Veterans for Peace.

Michael Wong, San Francisco

"The Oakland Fence Saga," News, 3/2

The City Is Liable

If the city owns the land, how does the city escape liability in the event that Mr. Josh Harkinson removes the fence, and someone suffers an injury later?

Charles Pine, Oakland

Not His Land

It's not his land. I don't see the issue. If I could move my fence in Montclair by two feet that would be huge.

Fernando Zamora, Oakland

"Teens Do Takeout," What The Fork, 3/2


The food is excellent! Hearty servings, beautifully prepared. And the price can't be beat for such high quality, delicious food. The kids are friendly and quite professional. It's a great program all around!

Erika Liskamm, Oakland

"Too Much Police Oversight in Richmond?" News, 3/2

Who Will Police the Police?

Richmond Mayor Tom Butt continues to try and raise suspicion towards the Perez family for wanting a true and impartial investigation, which never was performed, after the shooting death of their only son, Richard Pedro "Pedie" Perez III. Pedie was shot by Richmond police officer Wallace Jensen on September 14, 2014. We applaud the fine job that the majority of the Richmond Police Department (RPD) officers are doing in this community, but a 24-year-old man lost his life at the hands of one of their officers whose reputation isn't the most pristine.

Clearly, Mayor Butt doesn't understand the situation. It is not a matter of antipathy toward the RPD; rather, it's an effort to hold them accountable by conducting independent investigations of any incidents involving police use of force. Power corrupts, and the only way to root out the corruption is to shed sunlight on it. Richmond is leading the nation in facing up to an evil that has been going on for too long. Trust should not be granted a priori to any individual or institution merely because it serves a community need; rather, it should be earned and verified by independent review.

The poet Juvenal asked the question almost two millennia ago, "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" (Who will guard the guards themselves?) In a constitutional republic, no institution should be above scrutiny and the impartial application of the laws.

While many of the reforms adopted and implemented by former Police Chief Chris Magnus have been helpful, undoubtedly contributing to better police-community relationships, this does not mean that there have been no abuses of police authority over the last twelve years. The known evidence in Pedie's case is so overwhelming that any responsible citizen must demand all the facts.

We applaud the great progress that Richmond has made. It is a model in important ways. But training is one thing; what cops actually do is another. Wallace Jensen's shooting of Pedie Perez, and the city and county cover-up, make it clear that we still have work to do. If the police want our confidence, they have to be honest with us.

Patricia L. Perez, El Cerrito

"A Beautiful Combination," Saigon Deli Sandwich & Taco Valparaiso, Dining Review, 1/13

Great Place

I had the veggie sandwich and I was surprised that grilled tofu was included. The bread was perfect, and I liked how they carved out the middle to stuff the pickled carrots, sliced cucumber, and cilantro inside. Tony Torres insisted that I try the taco with a caramelized onion, a drop of avocado, a whole grilled jalapeno pepper, and pork — which I don't usually eat. But I couldn't say no to Torres; he is so nice and friendly. Great place and prices are so reasonable.

Addie Brown-Mason, Oakland


Our March 16 Culture Spy, "The Inevitable Intersection of Art and Politics," erroneously referred to Cat Brooks as a co-founder of Black Lives Matter. In fact, Brooks has been a member of the Black Lives Matter Bay Area chapter since its inception.



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