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Letters for the Week of May 20, 2015

Readers sound off on traffic fines, standardized tests, and anarchists.

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"The High Cost of Driving While Poor," Feature, 5/6

It's About the Ability to Pay

Fines should be income-based, so poor people are not disproportionately hit — and so rich a-holes don't flaunt the law because the fines are inconsequential to them. Finland just gave one of the latter a $58,000 speeding ticket (not his first either!).

David Lubertozzi, Richmond

The Money Is Going to Out-of-State Companies

The red-light cameras need to be removed. They do not improve safety, and much of the fine money — and that's $500, minimum, for the camera that snapped my picture at 27th Street and Northgate Avenue — goes to an out-of-state private company. Most of the citations are for drivers not coming to a complete stop before making a right turn. It's an extremely minor infraction that shouldn't even warrant a $100 fine, much less payments of $1,000 and up.

Joe Mullin, Oakland

Culver Deserves to Go

Great article and data. First off, the justice system should have no place for people like Commissioner Taylor Culver, who is arrogant and has a personal agenda. He still serves the state, not his own kingdom. I am sure that they could hire someone far more reasonable and professional. The question is if they want that. It's so annoying to see angry people in powerful positions like that who seek to intimidate. It's not like these average people with citations are high-profile criminals. Culver seems to miss that piece of information.

Secondly, I am skeptical as to whether people here rely really need cars as a means of transportation to get to work, but I completely agree with the stance that fines as steep as the traffic citation add-on fees are absolutely no good. It doesn't make sense to try to go after someone with no money to begin with. That's not how you help someone to get out of poverty or correct his or her behavior. What's really a big problem is that government doesn't realize that there is an underclass composed of poor Blacks who need a lift in reasonable ways. Apparently, government just doesn't get that yet. It would make all the sense in the world to finally stop punishing poor people and help them up instead of putting them down. What a messy place this is!   

Susanne Brooks, Richmond


"A Testing Nightmare in Oakland Schools?" News, 5/6

Opt Out of These Tests!

I am a member of BATS (Badass Teachers) and we are very opposed to this new strand of testing. Teachers and administrators agree that testing is a necessary part of education.

This test, however, is brought to us by the disorganized Common Core program and is closely associated with Pearson Press. Many people on the outside of education do not know the phenomenal costs associated with testing. School districts pay for the tests, for the evaluation of the tests, and for the results. The Common Core is a new curriculum (to those who have been teaching for less than ten years). Those of us who have a longer professional life will recognize this as "Thinking Meaning Centered Curriculum, or TMCC."

If you have held a position in any corporation for a long time — say fifteen years — and the standards you are held to are changed with one year, are you expected to perform with full force and excellence in that first year?

I strongly urge parents to opt out of this test. Give your students an opportunity to learn the new system of teaching, to develop the necessary skill set needed to be successful on these tests. Otherwise it is just business as usual with the test vendors making a lot of profit, and teachers struggling with students to figure out how to teach well and satisfy the outside demands.

Ariel Owen, Danville

Just Say No to Tests and to Federal Money

I told this to the Governor Jerry Brown straight to his face when I taught at his Oakland Military Institute charter school: "Why don't we tell the federal government to go pound sand and take all the federal money out of California schools and simply fund schools at the level for which California citizens have the political and economic will?"

He responded, "Do you know how many people are employed managing federal funds?"

I told him I didn't care. They could all return to teaching, and have nothing to do with testing or assessments. It's about money and contracting.

Michael Sagehorn, Oakland


"Behind Closed Doors," News, 5/6

Government Transparency Is a Joke

Ever since President Obama allowed federal agencies to essentially ignore the Freedom of Information Act, local governments have taken the cue. It is taking me months to squeeze public records (quality control audits) out of the California Department of Public Health's cancer registry. The department and the UC Davis Health System are in flagrant violation of the California Public Records Act, but short of a lawsuit, they are at liberty to do what they want.

I requested and got the email trail relevant to my request and it reveals a bureaucratic conspiracy to find a reason to deny me the records. As for the federal agencies, it usually takes years (if ever) to get them to comply with FOIA. Part of the strategy is to hire dimwits to eternally "process" the requests, coupled with illegal "policies" that allow records to be redacted if a corporation does not want the inherently public information to be revealed.

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