Letters for August 19 

Readers sound off on the Parkway closure, Ringling Bros. Circus, and our dining reviews.

"Picture Pub Pizza — Poof!" Feature, 7/22

We Like the Parkway

Thanks for rolling up your sleeves and making some sense of the chaos that was so widely felt during these closures. The lack of clarity in the case of both theaters pointed towards complex causes, but without journalism, who would deliver the facts? In the first week after the Parkway's closing, about 5,000 people joined the Facebook group Save the Parkway Speakeasy Theater in Oakland (now iliketheparkway.com) looking for answers. Our cause has been to rally support for the institution and our hope is to facilitate the Parkway's reopening. Please join our mailing list at iliketheparkway.com

Darren Hawk, Oakland

The Grass Isn't Always Greener

My name is Joe Hawkins, co-producer of the Oakland International Black LGBT Film Festival that once called the Parkway Theater home. I am writing to thank you for shedding more light on this subject.

I must also thank Kyle and Catherine for providing my co-producer Debra Wilson and I, with the opportunity to give creative birth to the nation's largest Black LGBT Film Festival. This would have been our seventh year at the Parkway.

 It seems clear that Oakland entrepreneurial creativity and effort revived the Cerrito, while the Oakland Parkway business suffered. Oakland business owners cannot take their eyes off of the ball and give to others what we need to keep for ourselves. Because we all know that the grass is not always greener outside of Oakland.

Joe Hawkins, Oakland

The Loss of Community

I appreciate the details here — I was hoping the Express would follow up on what happened. I was a Parkway patron since 1997 and there in sadness on the last day. I don't know the Fischers personally, and my sense about them was that they ran the business with a lot of inventiveness, personality, and dedication to serving the community that patronized the theatres. I don't think profit was the top of their agenda, and that seems borne out by their willingness to keep going in faith, even when it cost them a lot. It's sad to me that they weren't helped more on the business end by the city after they helped develop something that goes beyond profit — neighborhood and community. Both Oakland and EC lost a lot by the closures — the theatres were for me, and I suspect so many, way beyond a place to see a movie and eat pizza.

Irene Nexica, Oakland

We Need a *&%#* Life

Oakland really, really needs the Parkway — for two reasons. We need an alternative film house, and we need that funky 18th and Park neighborhood to get a *&%#* life! I'm tired of getting depressed when I walk through there. It would also be great if the huge, dismal parking lots at Kragen, Walgreen's, and Lucky's were replaced with some inviting retail stores

Denny Smith, Oakland

"Putting the Zing Back into Ringling," Culture Spy, 8/5

The Elephant in the Room

I find it disheartening that a supposedly aware newspaper like the Express would make room for a fawning profile of a Ringling Brothers ringmaster without asking him about the "elephant in the room" — the issue of the Ringling Brothers circus abusing its elephants.

A 2009 investigation by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals found that 11 of their animals are regularly beaten and whipped.

I'm the mother of a 4-year-old boy, and every aware parent I know refuses to take their kids to the Ringling Brothers circus because it conveys the message that these elegant, intelligent animals were put on earth merely for our entertainment.

Lisa Tsering, Oakland

Pain for Pleasure

Leading Protestant theologian, Dr. Albert Schweitzer, taught: "We need a boundless ethics which will include the animals also." Schweitzer opposed the use of animals in entertainment. "I never go to a menagerie," he once wrote, "because I cannot endure the sight of the misery of the captive animals. The exhibiting of trained animals I abhor. What an amount of suffering and cruel punishment the poor creatures have to endure to give a few minutes of pleasure to men devoid of all thought and feeling for them."

Vasu Murti, Oakland

Pain for Pleasure Pt. II

Your article on Ringling Brothers Circus was very disappointing. As you make light of Ringling Brothers show, animals are being beaten and mistreated.  This circus was again caught on tape hitting, jabbing, and beating the elephants. Please spread the facts. The video can be seen here: http://circuses.com/

Shani Campbell, Danville

Shame on You

Shame on the Express for its fluff on Ringling Bros. Circus's new ringmaster with no mention of the controversy that follows the circus from city to city over its abusive treatment of animals. A recent undercover investigation of the circus revealed a Ringling head elephant trainer and animal superintendent striking elephants in the head, trunk, and ears with a heavy, metal-tipped bullhook. If the Express wants to give the circus free promotion, in the least its readers should be advised of who is really paying the price of a ticket — the animals who are beaten, abused, and deprived of everything natural for a few cheap laughs.

Mark Middleton, Oakland

A Living Nightmare

Life on the road with the Ringling Bros. Circus might be challenging for the performer you profiled, but unlike the elephants, tigers, horses, and other animals used by the circus, at least he isn't locked in a cage or shackled in chains. He can get up and walk away anytime. The animals cannot. 

It's odd that your piece didn't mention a word about the recent video footage of Ringling trainers beating elephants with bullhooks — a rod with a sharp metal hook on the end — and whipping tigers. PETA's undercover investigation documented Ringling elephant handlers hitting elephants over and over, and Ringling owner Kenneth Feld recently admitted under oath during testimony to answer charges that the circus' elephant-handling practices violate the federal Endangered Species Act, that elephants are routinely hit with bullhooks.

Life on the road may be a dream for circus employees, but for the animals used by Ringling, it's a living nightmare. If you care about animals, watch the footage for yourself at www.RinglingBeatsAnimals.com before buying a ticket.

Kristie Phelps, Assistant Director, Animals in Entertainment Campaign and Outreach ProgramsPeople for the Ethical Treatment of Animals,Oakland

"You're Not an Environmentalist if You're Also a NIMBY," Feature, 7/1

There's Plenty of Development

Has Robert Gammon ever visited Berkeley? I'm confused because he concludes with the assertion that developers shun downtown Berkeley. Perhaps he rode through on BART once? If he'd like to come up from the station, I'd be pleased to show him plenty of major development within 5 blocks of BART:

the 2001 Gaia at 2120 Allston;

the 2002 Artech at 2000 Addison;

the 2002 Allston Place (Oak Court/Pioneer) at 2161 Allston;

the 2004 Fine Arts at 2461 Shattuck;

the 2004 Touriel Building at 2004 University;

the 2005 University Neighborhood Apartments at 1721 University;

the 2006 Stadium Place at 2310 Fulton;

the 2006 Library Gardens at 2020 Kittredge;

the 2007 Hillside Village at 1797/1801 Shattuck;

the 2008 Berkeley City College at 2050 Center;

the 2009 Oxford Plaza at 2175 Kittredge;

and the 2009 Bancroft Hotel renovation.If he prefers current construction, I can offer:

the Arpeggio on Center at Shattuck;

the Trader Joes on MLK at University;

the Fidelity at 2323 Shattuck;

and the Freight and Salvage at 2020 Addison.

The real-estate broker Gordon Commercial says of downtown: "Since 2000, over 3000 new residential units are newly built, under construction, or in the permit process." (It's right there on their web site.)

This leaves me with the question of why I should believe anything Mr. Gammon has to say. Mr. Gammon?

P.S.: What about development in Hayward or San Leandro? Are they NIMBYs too?

John Vinopal, Berkeley

Miscellaneous Letters

What Happened to the Creek?

Having returned to the Bay Area after having been away for six months, I was appalled at the condition of Cerrito Creek. Cerrito Creek is on the south side of El Cerrito Plaza and forms the boundary between El Cerrito and Albany. The creek is unrecognizable, clogged with weeds and trees and a complete mess. In addition, the walking trail along the creekside was spewed with broken glass from the material used for surfacing.

This is all not the product of vandalism but rather years of poor planning and design. If this is the sort of eyesore we can expect from exposing creeks we should return to underground culverts which, at least, can be surfaced with pleasing landscape.

 Wayne Curt Huber, Berkeley


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