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Letters for the week of November 4-10

Readers sound off on planning department transparency, the city's attitude towards sex workers, and the Warriors' disregard for their hometown

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On the other hand, I just bought in the area, and it will be to my benefit to keep rents high. So I guess if I can't beat 'em, might as well join them. So thank you, Express, for doing your part in making sure the members of the community oppose any housing in general. My nest egg and property value is much better off as a result.

Clarence C. Johnson, Oakland


"Oakland Takes Stand Against Sex Workers," News, 11/4

Morality Versus Reason

I think the reason this debate results in people talking past each other so much is because each side of the debate is arguing about a very different thing from the other. [Decriminalization] advocates, including current sex workers, sex worker advocacy groups, the World Health Organization, and Amnesty International argue from a policy position that makes sex worker safety and well-being are primary. The result is that arguments against what are seen as threats to safety and well-being — criminalization, stigma, and treating sex workers as if, uniformly, they are victims and have no agency — reinforces the paternalism with which they are treated and allows prohibitionists to displace them in public discourse.

Prostitution prohibitionists' focus is on social message and political statement and the role of prostitution in the cultural reproduction of a) patriarchal exploitation (for feminists), or b) debasing immorality (for the religious right), or c) capitalist exploitation (for certain ahistorical leftists who seem unaware that prostitution has existed in every political and economic system ever established).

So the argument really boils down to what you think is more important to pursue as a matter of public policy. From the perspective of [decriminalization] advocates, such as myself, the point is that criminalization causes additional harms specific to sex workers.

The politics and morality that put abstract political ideals and personal morals ahead of the human rights of actual people is what gave us the Swedish model of criminalization. This can be seen in the statements of the originators of the Swedish model, for whom negative effects on sex workers was seen as a good thing and part of the strategy to eliminate prostitution, to drive women from the trade. It's intended to send a message to society: No matter the collateral damage to sex workers evicted by landlords ensnared as pimps because they derive economic benefit from prostitution; sex workers forced to work alone, who working together for security and support would be deemed guilty of operating a brothel; sex workers unable to hire drivers and security, who would also be considered pimps; migrant sex workers deported back to the desperate situations they fled; sex workers who have to pick from a more dangerous smaller set of potential clients because only the better safer clients are scared off by threat of arrest and have to negotiate transactions with them more quickly, more furtively, [and] more dangerously.

It is a narcissistic morality and politics that values its projection of the virtue of the holder over the harm caused by it to others — this can be seen by how the specter of child exploitation is routinely invoked as a cover for going after consensual adult activity. It's a morality and politics pursued against reason, toward the elimination of prostitution—like its kindred movements, alcohol prohibition and the drug war.

Peter Schafer, Brooklyn, New York


"The Golden Ones," News, 11/4

The Warriors Disrespect Oakland

The Warriors have done very well for themselves, but the problem is that their host city of Oakland is marginalized and pushed aside even as it has been the most loyal and successful city in the NBA. How can the Warriors' success story be told without mentioning the ugly and disloyal aspect of that success?

The fact of the matter is that Oakland is not benefiting as it should for having such a popular NBA champion franchise playing within its city limits. There is no name recognition for the city when the Warriors are on the road. There is no such thing as the city of "Golden State." The name should have been "Oakland" Warriors. The Warriors also play up San Francisco while playing their home games in Oakland as the networks are encouraged to use San Francisco imagery during national telecasts. For opening night at Oracle Arena in Oakland, the TNT pre-game show was held not at Oakland's Lake Merritt or in Oakland's Jack London Square, but instead at San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf. The Warriors also held their opening night festivities at Fisherman's Wharf. Oakland's love affair with the Warriors seems to be a one-way infatuation.

As a reward for Oakland's 43 years of incredible support and a renovated arena in 1997, the Warriors are now planning to invest $1 billion, not in Oakland, but in San Francisco. The Warriors seem to value and romanticize their failed nine years in Daly City as the "San Francisco" Warriors, where they averaged less than 5,000 fans per game, much more than they value their very successful 43 years in Oakland. The Warriors push their "The City" merchandise without ever selling anything in 43 years with a whiff of "Oakland." The Warriors and the NBA have deemed Oakland immaterial and unimportant and have consistently disrespected this proud city. Oakland has done everything all wealthy sports owners and leagues ask of host cities and yet is still losing its NBA franchise to San Francisco.

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