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Letters for the Week of October 22, 2014

Readers sound off on District 2, medical cannabis in San Leandro and the MacArthur Maze

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"Replacing Pat Kernighan," Election 2014, 10/8

What About Andrew Park?

I noticed that this article gives four paragraphs to the first three candidates mentioned and only two paragraphs to Andrew Park's campaign. There is an uneven treatment in the number of issues written about for each candidate with only one subject mentioned for Park. Somehow I expect better from the Express. Why not try a more balanced approach by giving each candidate's view on the same four topics instead of this sloppily offered hodgepodge? Park is a much stronger candidate than the author would like us to believe and his star is rising rapidly.

Karen LeGault, Oakland


"Vote Campbell Washington, Droste, Maio, Worthington, and Echols," Election 2014, 10/8

Thurmond Is the Better Candidate

As a longtime Berkeley resident, I say it's time for a real progressive from Richmond — Tony Thurmond — to represent our 15th Assembly District and our 12-city region's interests in the California legislature. The Express' endorsement of Elizabeth Echols is based on tortuous speculation rather than the candidates' records. Tony Thurmond has held public office on the Richmond City Council and the West Contra Costa County school board. In those two elected positions, he clearly worked for the interests of the general public, not those of Chevron.

Echols, not having held elective office, has no voting record. To attempt to smear Thurmond, as Echols has in recent ads insinuating that he's the tool of corporate interests, suggests a level of desperation that should not influence the Express in its endorsements. 

Thurmond, who calls forthrightly for banning fracking rather than the moratorium preferred by Echols, is the candidate I want fighting for our interests in the California legislature. Berkeley city Councilmember Jesse Arreguin decided, after observing the Echols campaign, to move his support from Echols to Thurmond. Given Ms. Echols deliberate misrepresentations, I suggest that the Express too reconsider its support for her candidacy.

Charlene Woodcock, Berkeley

Get Your Facts Straight

Your article endorsing Echols appears to have been written by a lazy writer, or else a writer who did zero research. I say this because the article repeats the Echols lie that Chevron has funded positive campaign literature for Tony Thurmond. You claimed that Chevron has donated to the Alliance for California's Tomorrow, the organization supporting Thurmond with glossy flyers without saying a word about Echols. Unions donated to that committee. Many businesses donated to it. A good reporter would have reviewed the list of who donated to Alliance for California's Tomorrow and seen that Chevron has not given that alliance a dime. One relatively small oil company called Occidental gave money. Echols knows Chevron did not give any money to that alliance but she implies it, and so does your endorsement.

Relying on a candidate's biased self-funded political mailers while writing a story doesn't sound like journalism. It comes across as unprofessional and uninformed, if not ignorant and biased, using Echols own misrepresentations to justify the Express's puzzling endorsement of her.

Do we want a representative, or any elected leader, to use distorted, dishonest, and ill-spirited ads to win campaigns? How ironic that Echols accuses Thurmond of benefiting from dark money when Echols is self-funding a lot of her campaign without putting that on a brochure.

I know whoever wrote the endorsement of Echols does not know the facts because your endorsement asserts that Chevron donated to the group that Echols is using to smear Thurmond. You don't have to report manufactured facts to endorse someone. Just say: "We endorse Echols," without repeating her smear campaign lies, eh?

Tree Fitzpatrick, Berkeley

Editor's Note

According to records on file with the California Secretary of State's Office, the two largest donors to the Alliance for California's Tomorrow, which has been funding mailers in support of Tony Thurmond, are the California Independent Petroleum Association ($154,000) and a group called Californians for Jobs and a Strong Economy ($202,000). Chevron is the largest contributor to both of these groups. The oil giant gave $1.3 million to the California Independent Petroleum Association PAC (a group that is funded primarily by large oil companies) and donated $540,000 to Californians for Jobs and a Strong Economy.


"Pro-Weed Voters Should Not Ignore the Election," Legalization Nation, 10/8

You Forgot San Leandro

I'm surprised that you did not mention Mike Katz-Lacabe and Mia Ousley, who are running for San Leandro City Council districts One and Five, respectively. They both worked hard to get the City Council to pass the medical marijuana ordinance, attending and speaking out in favor of the dispensaries and organizing people to do the same. They are both running against opponents (Deborah Cox and Leah Hall) who are on the record opposing marijuana dispensaries. Victor Aguilar, who is running for District Three, may be pro-cannabis, but he did not participate in the fight to allow dispensaries in town.

Margarita Lacabe, San Leandro


"Tricks But No Treats," Movie Review, 10/8

It's Not That Simple

The Green Prince is an important documentary about a young Palestinian who, sickened by the racism and violence perpetrated by Hamas, for which his father served as a leader, made the ethical decision to combat terrorism by engaging in espionage for Israel's Shin Bet. By so doing, he doubtless saved countless lives. In the Express review, Kelly Vance opines that by collaborating with the Israelis, Mosab Yousef "committed the most shameful act a Palestinian Muslim can imagine."

Vance may not recall that when Yousef joined Shin Bet, at least half of the Palestinian people held Hamas in contempt and were furious that Hamas had seized Gaza by brute force.  During the Second Intifada, Hamas was behind the bombings that led to the murder of scores of Israelis. And it was the work of Shin Bet that saved hundreds more lives of Jewish and Arab Israelis. So when Vance calls Shin Bet "one of the world's most feared state-terrorism orgs," he has stood reality on its head.

Shin Bet were the protectors, Hamas the clear-cut terrorists, and they were named as such by both the United States and the European Union. Sadly, Hamas — despite its open advocacy not just for the annihilation of Israeli Jews, but the murder of Jews everywhere on the planet — is now shown via the Palestinians' own polls to be the most popular political organization amongst the Palestinian people.

Vance doesn't seem to comprehend that it was opposition to this support of Jewish genocide that brave men such as Mosab Yousef and Gonen Ben Yitzhak were fighting. Lost on Vance is that rich and rare friendship that developed between two courageous and most honorable men, a Palestinian and a Jew. Forget Vance's simplistic commentary and see The Green Prince for yourself.

Dan Spitzer, Berkeley


"Berkeley Versus Big Soda," Election 2014, 10/1

Big Soda Behaving Badly

Poor, put-upon, Big Soda. Has anyone noticed how many more tantrums it has thrown lately? With Berkeley's soda tax (Measure D) possibly cutting into this $65 billion industry's profits, Big Soda first whimpered, "Not fair." Then it cried foul over all of the meanies revealing that anti-soda tax plaintiff Leon Cain recently moved to Berkeley (Berkeley Versus Big Soda, 10/3). Next was its crankiness over signs posted on city medians, which is illegal in Berkeley. Poor, browbeaten Big Soda. It's rough out there.

But let's face it. The badly behaving behemoth is Big Soda, which also whines about how Berkeley writes its propositions. Never mind that it hasn't liked how any soda tax measure has been written, anywhere. With its millions of dollars from the American Beverage Association, it has blocked thirty cities from passing similar measures. This despite overwhelming scientific evidence linking soda consumption to Type II Diabetes, now considered a pediatric disease; this despite persuasive research indicating that soda taxes will reduce consumption; this despite the opportunity Measure D presents to raise funds for the city's popular gardening and nutrition programs.

To date Big Soda has spent $1.4 million to defeat this measure, but Berkeley is one city where Big Soda's money won't block its passage. As a former Berkeley resident myself, I know that Berkeley's voters cannot be bought. Measure D is the right first step to improving the health of Berkeley's children. I urge my Berkeley neighbors to vote Yes on Measure D.

Robin Dean, Oakland


"In Oakland Hills Race, a Battle of Ideologies," Election 2014, 10/1

This Race Is About Shoring Up Oakland

In this race, we need a thoughtful, experienced candidate who has the grace to work with all city players. Broadhurst has name recognition in the moneyed hills, and I suspect many of her supporters are faithful to her without considering any alternative. That's good friendship, but it doesn't necessarily translate to good government.

Annie Campbell Washington currently lags only because her support is broader than the local polls — the kind of breadth we need to get work done in Oakland. It is unfortunate that voters confuse Campbell Washington's candidacy with her time in Quan's office, just as voters confuse the familiarity of Broadhurst with the key qualifications needed for city council.

This race should not be about offending a friend, but about shoring up our complex Oakland. We should look at these women carefully for what experience they bring, the positions they take, and their plan for follow-through.

Kim Cardoso, Oakland

Broadhurst Is No Moderate

Broadhurst is much closer to the Tea Party ideology than this so-called "moderate" label. Her proposed austerity policies are bad for the district and bad for the city. I think most people that currently support her have not done their homework. I strongly recommend that people attend one of the District Four candidates' debates and hear directly from the candidates. One candidate will cause a lot of damage to Oakland and that's Broadhurst. In her own words: "OPD doesn't need more money... ."

Joao Pio, Oakland

Broadhurst Is Irresponsible

Public safety is the most important issue before Oakland voters. I will vote for Measure Z, because it will fund the cops and community programs we need. I respect some of the arguments against it, because it is not perfect. So be it.

However, it is totally irresponsible of Broadhurst to oppose it without very, very specifically stating how she will:

1. Fund our public safety needs including more cops.

2. Indicate how she will fill the huge hole in the city budget if Measure Z fails. If elected that would be her responsibility.

Very specific answers, please!

Ed Gerber, Oakland


"Vote Yes on Measure BB and Prop 47," Election 2014, 9/24

You Underestimate Measure BB

While I appreciate the Express' support of Measure BB, I was disappointed in the reluctance of the endorsement. The Express fails to convey that BB will fund one of the most progressive sets of investments ever seen in a countywide transportation measure. Nearly half of the funds are for public transit, including money to restore AC Transit service cuts; modernize BART stations and address overcrowding; and provide affordable transit options for senior and youth. The next largest category of expenditures is for local street improvements — a category that primarily funds repaving projects that benefit the safety and comfort not just of drivers but also of bus riders, bicyclists, and pedestrians. BB includes nearly as much money for biking and walking as for highways, and much of the highway money will go to rebuilding outdated interchanges that form major barriers for bicyclists and pedestrians. The measure was developed and is supported by a broad coalition of environmental, business, social justice, and other groups (the Sierra Club, Genesis, and the Alameda County Taxpayers' Association, to name a few) and includes aggressive local hiring provisions that will result in thousands of good-paying jobs in Alameda County.

Understandably, tax increases give many pause, and those that are potentially regressive even more so. However, the steady decline in state and federal funding for transportation, aging infrastructure, and growing demands make Measure BB essential. And while BB is a sales tax increase, the deep support for public transit means that the measure will provide real material benefits to many low-income households. Best of all, Measure BB will fund a specific set of projects in Alameda County and includes provisions for annual audits and reviews by an independent watchdog committee. Please check out the full plan at YesonBB.org/2014tep.

Matt Bomberg, Oakland

Good Job

Thanks for taking the time to put this very thoughtful analysis together. Oakland voters deserve it.

Doug Bloch, Alameda


Miscellaneous Letters

Tear Down the Maze

The 600-pound gorilla in the room? How about 20 million tons of concrete in your backyard? These grotesque images are meant to convey something that doesn't get talked about for fear of upsetting the big guy: Caltrans, Destroyer of Neighborhoods, Great Magnet of Filth, Disease, Dumping and Graffiti — particularly right here in West Oakland, California. We've gone through a bunch of mayors, planning commissioners, councilmembers, etc., and rarely got one who wanted to take on the almighty agency, even after the fiasco of the bolts and a boatload of other blunders, none more egregious than the Cypress viaduct through West Oakland, the failure of which during Loma Prieta caused in the deaths of 42 people.

Some ardently believe in the right of eminent domain to enable executives from the East Bay's wealthiest enclaves to breeze through a downtrodden area like West Oakland. After all, didn't Oakland get a brand new Cypress Memorial Freeway out of the deal? Hasn't it been worth it that West Oakland's once-thriving neighborhoods are now riven with crisscrossing concrete behemoths — and, therefore, failing schools, high crime rates, high unemployment, human feces, and drugs everywhere? And, to add insult to injury, Caltrans now deems that anyone who applies to paint a mural on one of Oakland's filth-infested underpasses should pay for the privilege! Huh?

Madame mayor or mayor of the future, tear down this wall! We don't need this boa constrictor monstrosity here anymore: there isn't one bit of good that the freeway does for West Oakland other than to provide an easy escape route for the dumpers, metal thieves, pimps, and drug dealers who prey on the unduly beset citizens here. Maybe if the director of Caltrans spent a day in West Oakland observing the damage done to the social fabric of this struggling community, we could have the beginnings of a better dialogue on social parity, one that would result in switching the script 180 degrees so that the muralists were paid for making this unfair burden on West Oakland just a tad easier to bear.

So that's what I'm voting for this time around. I'm sure the financial crisis, underfunded schools, West Nile virus, Lew Wolff, and any number of other problems will remain as difficult to resolve as in the past. Some candidates are obviously better than others on this or that critical item; but the one who'll dare take on the evil empire, that's the one for me.

Steve Lowe, Oakland

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