Letters for November 3 

Readers sound off on the SEIU, inspections and taxes in Alameda, the Landmark Forum, and our extreme leftist bias.

"NUHW Vote Is a Bloody Nose for the Labor Left," Raising the Bar, 10/20

You Mischaracterized My Argument

In Jay Youngdahl's account of the SEIU-NUHW election at Kaiser, he quotes from one of my Beyond Chron articles — "If workers find their way to the truth, NUHW can prevail" — to falsely conclude that "this implies that these Kaiser workers are just not as smart as NUHW supporters such as himself." Nothing I wrote could reasonably lead to this conclusion. Youngdahl either never read my stories and/or intentionally ignored my main points about SEIU's campaign.

I described on September 7 ("SEIU Uses Fear, Lies, and Million$ to Sway Kaiser Workers," available at archive at BeyondChron.org) and in subsequent pieces how SEIU based nearly its entire campaign on the false claim that workers would lose wages and benefits under their existing contract if they voted to join NUHW. The NLRB filed charges against Kaiser in late September for denying contractual pay hikes to Kaiser workers who earlier voted to leave SEIU for NUHW, an action that occurred after most Kaiser workers in the recent election had voted. This meant that most Kaiser workers — no matter how smart — had little way of learning prior to casting their ballots that the NLRB at least preliminarily found SEIU's chief campaign argument to be untrue.

This was the basis for my conclusion about Kaiser workers not learning the truth. And it was a truth too inconvenient for Youngdahl to include in his article.

Youngdahl never explains why SEIU had to spend between $10-40 million to prevent losing 44,000 of its own members, far and away the most money any union has spent to avoid decertification. If SEIU felt its workers were, to use Youngdahl's terms, "smart enough" to back their current union, it would not have subjected workers to a mass advertising, mailing and robo call blitz that greatly exceeded per voter what New York City's Mayor Bloomberg and California's Meg Whitman spent combined in their races.

Randy Shaw, Editor, BeyondChron.org, San Francisco

"Inspections From Hell," "City and Wine Bar at Impasse," Feature, 9/22

It's Also Happening in Berkeley

I was impressed with the reponses to the article "Inspections from Hell" by Stephanie Rice. Years ago on Parker Street in Berkeley, I had reason to believe that the City of Berkeley was trying to take a Filpino woman's property, and tenants were told not to pay the rent. The same thing happened on Russell Street. It has been a standing joke for years that the Mafia has been involved in building inspections and city planning because that's where a lot of the money is. Code inspectors can literally take property away from homeowners by sabotage and pay-offs.

After Jackie Foster (then Berkeley Housing Authority director) was taken to jail in handcuffs for alleged crimes of stealing approximately twenty years ago, the landlady managed to keep her property, but not without a struggle. Apparently, all Section 8 tenants were forced to flee or lose their housing vouchers and the landlady had to prove that the code violations were not her fault. She blamed the Section 8 tenants instead.

I knew an acquaintance living in Berkeley and she told me the building she moved into on Parker Street was a "house of horrors." I felt concerned for her because she had never had to live in this environment, having just left the more upscale Piedmont Avenue for the more downtrodden Parker Street residence. My acquaintance also told me there were fights, one of which she broke up between two young boys. She didn't know it then, but she said she should have been on the landlord's side. She knew the landlord had threatened to sue the Berkeley Housing Authority, so the City of Berkeley came after the landlord. Berkeley City employees have been known to protect each other by compliance because city employees don't want to have the city sued or lose their jobs.

I also understand that the Berkeley City Council gave in to the BHA and its director, which means that 75 people, mostly black, will be losing their housing because of the amorous affair between the "In People" and the big corporations. It's about time the City of Berkeley was served with a class-action suit.

At this point, we can't be sure that some landlords don't fall under the category of "favored-landlord status" as in the Carlos Romo days. However, a sneaky contractor without the proper license doing plumbing may have been caught red-handed by a building inspector when the work had already been done. It appeared that the contractor was chastised and not punished because the owner was actually a landlord corporation. I know there is a jail sentence for this because in Idaho where I once lived there was a maintenance worker who was arrested for doing plumbing as a favor for a neighbor.

Knowing this, I don't want to find myself in the same predicament as Jimmy Hoffa. I prefer to be anonymous, but I realize I can't be because the East Bay Express requests that we use our names.

Geoffrey Hartshorne, Oakland

Nice Job, But

I was interested to see your article on the Alameda Building and Planning Department. I thought your story was very well written with respect to the parts of it that I am familiar with, with the exception of the reporting of Mr. Skrinde's allegation that inspector Carder solicited a bribe from him. Although your writer properly identified this as merely an allegation, several years have now passed and it was never proven to be true. Moreover, although Mr. Carder is a very long-time employee of the city, the fact that no one stepped forward to make a similar allegation once Mr. Skrinde's complaint was made public ought to give one serious pause. There have been serious issues about Alameda's building and planning department over the years, and I think your story would have been better without repeating this particular allegation.

Laurence Padway, Alameda

"Old Guard or Fresh Face?" Feature, 10/6

I Liked You Better Before

Your one-sided far-left reporting is a joke. Yes, Perata is a crook, but arrogant Quan and demented Kaplan are reprehensible far-left extremists who also engage in dirty politics. But you biased supporters at the Express of these dubious left politicians give them a progressive left pass.

Figueroa uses some fake Southern Alameda County residence — a falling-down shack — as an address and lives (voter fraud?) across the bay, but I didn't see that in your coverage. Your political coverage in recent years has become a dishonest agenda driven far-left big government tax and spend socialist ideology, like the other silly leftist freebee, the San Francisco Bay Guardian. The Express did a better job before you extreme Berkeley leftists got control of it.

Warm Day, Berkeley

Editor's Note

Actually, it was Robert Gammon of the East Bay Express who first broke the story about Figueroa lying about her residence, in our June 23 issue. (See "Liz Figueroa Lies About Her Residence.")

"Budget Cuts Overshadow Alameda Schools Race," News, 10/13

Too Many Taxes

"... As Alameda's Measure E school parcel tax does" — surely the author means Measure H, which is a split-roll tax, and was passed in 2008. Measure E was also split-roll, but it failed at the ballot box in June 2010. Easy to understand the confusion, with AUSD bringing forth a parcel tax every two years.

As for "restructuring" the high schools — there are really only two high schools to "restructure" — Alameda High and Encinal High. Yet, Alameda has ten elementary schools, which the district will consolidate only as a last resort, despite the widely divergent range of capacities at those schools. (The largest has twice the capacity of the smallest.)

The District's staunch defense of the adult school is comical as well. Where, oh, where, will adults in Alameda go for continuing education if not for the adult school in Alameda? College of Alameda? UC Berkeley? Any of the CSU campuses in the East Bay? To any of the other community colleges in the Bay Area? To Stanford? It's not like AUSD provides the only opportunity for adult education in the Bay Area, or even in the East Bay.

David Howard, Alameda.

"I Am Annoyed and Disappointed," Feature, 8/5/09

Not a Cult

I totally understand why they may want their staff to do The Landmark Forum. It makes for workability. It's totally empowering and no, it's not a cult. I am sure there's much more to the story with this Ash chick. If I owned a company, I'd demand that everyone do it up front. It takes people's victimy stories away. Shit, it's cheap, it's effective, and it only takes three days! The whole "pressure" thing is bullshit. I went through a leadership training program there and we were always taught to honor a 'no' by immediately thanking the guest and walking away. "Pressure" — no such thing.

I do not know why Landmark is not represented in the world for what it truly is, something sooooo much more effective than therapy, IMHO. I've seen people bust through issues they'd been talking about with therapists for years. People LOVE the drama of calling it a "cult." It may be the kind of cult that empowers people to go out in the world and make a difference and to make peace with their families, that kind of cult. My landmark Forum Leader said, "Some of you will want to continue education here, and some won't. We want you to leave and use this in the world!"Why does no one call the Catholic Church a cult?

Vanda Mikoloski, Venice

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