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R.B. Sheldon, Oakland
"Conflicts Seen in Coal Study," News, May 4
In Benicia, Environmental Science Associates has been a disaster.This is because ESA has provided very suspect legal cover for a pro-Valero council member who wanted to approve the Crude By Rail project despite heavy public opposition, both from Benicians and others up and down the rails. In particular, attorney Brad Hogin has crafted a unique legal theory to say Benicia has no choice but to approve Valero's Crude By Rail project, because of "indirect" pre-emption. Under his theory, local land use authority is irrelevant, because if there is an even remote connection to the railroads, the authority to deny is pre-empted by federal regulation. Of course, dozens of other lawyers, including Attorney General Kamala Harris, have said this is not supported by law. Unfortunately, the "Valero 3" — Council Members Alan Schwartzman, Mark Hughes and Christina Strawbridge — have shown their true loyalties lie with Valero and not the people of Benicia by voting for a ludicrous 11th hour request from Valero to seek a declaratory order from the federal Surface Transportation Board, which has nothing to do with local land use authority if it does not involve rail companies. Hey Oaktown, beware of ESA!
Andrés Soto, Benicia
More coal conspiracy chat
One wonders whether the sudden urge to ship coal through Oakland is more about using coal shipping to reclassify the Port to serve some other political interest.
Paul Anderson, El Cerrito
"Can Cars Be Environmentally Friendly?" Sustainable Living, April 20
And more car bashing
"Cars are sexy, and fun to drive." Not if you're stuck in traffic, as drivers are increasingly everywhere around the Bay Area. Alternative-power cars really are not "the answer." Just a glimpse at the whys: Cars are fundamentally wasteful economically — even cars that are driven 15,000 or 20,000 miles a year sit unused 90 percent of the time. That is a very poor use of resources for a society. That's why things like Uber work — people on average have much more car than they need. Much, if not most, of the pollution from a car comes from making it rather than driving it. ...
Alternative-power cars, sorry. It's the familiar corporate-supplied technological fix for everything that ails us. The automobile-dependent society is the corporate dream of the 1940s and 1950s. We're stuck in a vision that's more than half-a-century old.
Hobart Johnson, Oakland
Should I get rid of my bed, too?
"[E]ven cars that are driven 15,000 to 20,000 miles a year sit unused 90 percent of the time." They don't do any harm and are not inefficient when they stay unused. My bed is unused about 75 percent of the time, too. Should I do as in The Jungle by Upton Sinclair and rent the same mattress to multiple people working different shifts, to be "efficient," by your formula?
Maria Ku, Oakland
On the City of Oakland's proposed soda tax:
Fighting fast food
I want to discuss the idea of an Oakland soda tax. Food is a basic necessity for survival, but for some food is a comfort, an addiction and even their silent killer. The fast-food industry is taking over America with its extreme portion sizes, cheap options and easy access. These bad eating habits are influencing the way our youth gets nutrition. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. In 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.
Specifically in the Bay Area, where I was born and raised, nearly half of the kids in Oakland and Richmond fall into the category of overweight or obese.
It is our responsibility as adults to make sure the children of our community are being given proper nutrition and access to healthy activities.
I am from the city of Berkeley, and currently there is a soda tax, which took effect this March. The soda tax is still very new, and there isn't any clear data to prove the tax is working yet, but there is a tax on cigarettes which is another health issue affecting many Americans. The CDC has stated that more than half of smokers are low income. There are many articles that show a significant decrease in the number of cigarettes bought and consumed every time the tax increases.
Since there is evidence that a tax can cause a decrease in consumption due to socioeconomic factors, I believe a soda tax being implemented in Oakland can help decrease the childhood obesity rate in this city. Oakland is being targeted by fast-food chains and soda companies. There is a fast-food chain in every corner, giving out large sodas cheaper than water bottles being sold in many drug stores. This is unacceptable. The children of these cities are falling victim to this target marketing, and it is having serious consequences on their health. If a soda tax is placed, then hopefully the prices will be too much of a financial burden that it will allow people to think twice about purchasing soda or other sugary beverages. This tax can have the potential to truly help our youth.