"Sales Tax Battle Brews in Alameda," Feature, 4/18
Alameda Can't Afford It
As a left-wing liberal, I usually vote yes on tax increases. But this is a regressive tax that is most burdensome to those who have the least income. And for the rest of the city, it will drive shoppers out of Alameda so they don't have to pay the highest sales tax in the county! An Olympic-size pool is not something our town can afford right now.
Jennifer Mertens, Alameda
Don't Reward the Firefighters
In no way should Alameda reward the firefighters with yet more cash and prizes. They just received an extremely lucrative contract last fall, just months after standing around doing nothing while Raymond Zack died. Now Alameda citizens are supposed to buy into a vaguely worded thirty-year tax to give the firefighters — who don't live in our community and who show huge contempt for the local citizenry — more money and toys?
Adam Gillitt, Alameda
Alameda City Manager John Russo says that his plan makes sense because construction costs are 30 to 40 percent lower than they were five years ago. But issuing the bonds roughly doubles — or more — the cost of the projects.
For his plan to make sense, construction costs would have to be at least 50 percent lower for that to be a rational argument. To put it in other words, a swimming facility that would have cost $8.3 million five years ago can be built for $5 million today — except that by issuing bonds, it will cost $10 million due to administration and interest expense. That's faulty logic.
David Howard, Alameda
One point: Not a single penny generated from this measure will benefit the pocketbook of a single firefighter. That is the law, given that this is a special tax. The funds must be used for equipment and facilities, and expenditures are subject to an annual audit which will be presented by Alameda's city auditor, Kevin Kearney. Kearney and the city treasurer, Kevin Kennedy — who have both been staunch critics of City Hall and some of the city's labor contracts — vigorously support this measure. That alone should put the lie to David Howard and his anti-tax activists' conspiracy theories.
John Russo, Alameda City Manager
"The Perfect Gym?," Culture Spy, 4/18
The Perfect Thing
Such a smart move — it's crazy nobody had thought of it before. But Nathalie has a personality that I think no one could have brought to an LGBT gym if he or she tried. Congrats on having the guts to be an innovative thinker and going for it!
To The Perfect Sidekick trainers and clients — keep up the hustle and good work!
Marciela Huerta, Washington, D.C.
"How the Prison Population Exploded," Feature, 4/11
The criminal justice (!) system screws you for life. Employers usually won't hire someone with a felony conviction. This means it's easier to go back to prison than live on the streets. But in prison, you get minimal education, other than, possibly, welding. If you want to pass your GED, you're on your own — it's computerized and most inmates don't use computers. Unless the state passes a law prohibiting discrimination against ex-cons, the prison population will continue to grow. That's unlikely.
Many people end up in prison because of stiff sentencing laws. The Three Strikes law is plain stupid, and unfair. If we had choices, yes, avoid crime. Do people (other than organized crime) choose crime as an avocation? Or is it because they don't have the breaks? Do kids from wealthy families go to prison? Do men of privilege go to prison? Very rarely. Prison is a receptacle for society's rejects.
And at the same time, politicians — many of whom are corrupt — run for office by being "tough on crime." Ex-cons deserve a break!
Frank DeFelice, San Jose
"Happiest Hour," Last Call, 4/11
She's Fine, We Promise!
I am quite enjoying Ellen Cushing's writing about not only public houses but also cultural events. Only, I have this fear that one of these weeks there'll be no sign of her, except for a notation at the bottom of a page to the effect that "Ellen Cushing's column is temporarily suspended while she is drying out in accordance with her doctor's orders. She will return."
Anyone else share that concern?
Eric Leimseider, Berkeley
"Berkeley Softens Plastics Position," Eco Watch, 4/11
A Plan for Plastics
Berkeley's future decisions on the management of its post-consumer plastics stream should be shaped by four considerations:
1. For assiduous recyclers, mixed rigid plastic (MRP) discards, if not separated for recycling, can easily double or triple the weekly volume of their trash. In my two-person household, we carefully manage all our discards and put MRPs into a separate thirty-gallon can, which fills up every three weeks and is hand-carried as needed in trash bags to Superlink (92nd Avenue, Oakland), which bales and ships the material to Asian ports for hand-sorting, granulation, washing, and reprocessing. But for my plastics recycling program, my twenty-gallon trash cart would fill every two or three weeks instead of the six to ten weeks it lasts now.
2. MRP curbside collection programs are now operating in 39 states with over 300 communities involved. Each program is probably a little different, but the ubiquitous yogurt cups and pill bottles, etc. have been added to the screw-top number ones and twos without fanfare or difficulty. What is not well-documented is the percentage of what's collected that goes to market and, correlatively, the percentage of what goes in the recycling cart that ends up at the dump because sorters and their machinery are inefficient. Because the MRP is so lightweight and of limited value, there is little incentive to do a thorough sorting job; the compulsive/ambitious persons filling their recycling carts with MRPs are relieved and rarely inquire how much of all that material goes to market.