Letters for the week of August 15-21, 2007 

Readers sound off on the Paramount and Fox theaters, the new face of city hall, and Oakland school administrator Kimberly Statham.

"Outfoxed?" Feature, 7/25

Whither the Paramount?
I absolutely believe that the greater Oakland area can support two grand theaters. I've been in Chicago on a night when their uptown theater district had three big shows going on, and I've seen the vitality their restored theaters are bringing to that area (this in a city with numerous other theaters within several miles).

What does concern me is that it seems nobody's being creative about booking the Paramount anymore. I used to go see movies there all the time (including several sold-out shows), and I loved the old newsreels and costumed hosts. I heard this was stopped because it was too costly, but I would have been happy to pay more than $6 for the evening-long experience. What happened?
Jessica Hilberman, Oakland

What about parking?
Thank you, Kathleen, for your report on the Fox. I have had the same question just recently. What will happen to the Paramount after the Fox opens? Already the Paramount attracts few shows. What will the Fox do?

And what about parking? There is little when a show is in town. Downtown needs more than an old theater to be revived. It needs businesses that are open late and later with neighborhood populations to support them. And it needs constant police presence which I seldom see.
J.J. Lasne, Oakland

"City Hall Shake-Up," Full Disclosure, 7/18

What good old days?
Bob Gammon is frequently probing and comprehensive in his investigative reporting — but his less-than-insightful observations on local politics are troubling. Mr. Gammon seems almost nostalgic for the good old days (last year) when wealthy developer Phil Tagami was the unofficial "mayor" of the city and hosted Jerry Brown's wedding. The reporter implies that something is wrong with Mayor Ron Dellums for what is actually an outstanding achievement, closing down the backroom deals and big-money hotline to the mayor's office. As Mr. Dellums has repeatedly said, you no longer "have to pay to play."

And the Express reporter goes further in seeming to blame the mayor for creating an atmosphere where a member of the public would have the gall to challenge Mr. Tagami in what is reported by some to be an ill-tempered and threatening verbal attack. Is Mr. Gammon actually critical that our city's mayor is promoting local democracy, encouraging the participation of members of our community, across the usual barriers of race, age, sex, and income? As is well known, Mr. Dellums advocates and is a personal role model of positive politics, placing issues for debate on the table frankly, without resorting to personal attacks.

Finally, Mr. Gammon should check his facts more carefully. He misspelled the name of Mr. Geoffrey Pete, well-respected Oakland businessman and vice chair of the Oakland Black Caucus. And I would be interested to hear Mr. Gammon's proof of the alleged personal friendship between Darrel Carey and Mr. Pete.
Kim Carter, Oakland

Robert Gammon responds
The article in question was neither "nostalgic" for the previous administration nor did it criticize, implicitly or explicitly, Mayor Ron Dellums for anything. The letter writer is correct about one thing: Regrettably, I did misspell Geoffrey Pete's last name.

Double standard
Why does Bob Gammon only identify the race of the black people in his article? This smacks of something, but I'm not sure what. Is it just the old white assumption that the norm is white people, and everyone else needs to be identified? But then, what about Phil Tagami? Or does it stem from some other agenda? I don't know, but it bothers me.
Kathryn Kasch, Oakland

Robert Gammon responds
In a story partially about minority contracting, the race of the minority-contracting advocate was clearly relevant. But the letter writer makes a good point about our failure to identify the race of the other people named in the story.

Hard at work for Oakland
Many people in Oakland believe that our mayor and other elected officials are working diligently to address the numerous issues that face our great city. We also believe that only through our participation and financial support can our community continue to improve the quality of life for all Oaklanders. As an Oakland native and lifelong resident, I want to express my gratitude to my friends and neighbors who choose constructive optimism and hope over destructive pessimism and doubt.

Recently, many local media outlets and disgruntled individuals have attempted to cast a shadow on City Hall and any notion that good work is happening there. Having spent the past twenty years working with and volunteering for Oakland, its mayors, and other elected officials, I respectfully ask those who feel obligated to promote a pessimistic view to consider taking another look.

Recently, I met with Mayor Dellums and his staff to discuss my company's progress on local and minority hiring for the Fox Theater Project. I found the mayor and his staff engaged, prepared, and willing to invest the time to listen and energy to lead. As I left the mayor's office I realized how much activity was afoot to advance the Oakland agenda. I feel confident in expressing that Mayor Dellums and his staff are hard at work for Oakland.
Phil Tagami, managing general partner, California Capital Group, Oakland

Saving her bacon
California Education Code 41326(b)(2) defines the qualification for a state administrator as "The administrator shall have recognized expertise in management and finance." It also makes State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell and Alameda County Superintendent Sheila Jordan responsible for seeing that this law is carried out.

Kimberly Statham was a feel-good, popular alternative to Oakland's previous abrasive State Administrator Randolph Ward, but being popular did not mean she was qualified. Statham's poor management of the firing of Katrina Scott-George and her firing of Javetta Robinson without a highly qualified successor ready to take over created an unnecessary crisis. This crisis then was met with Alameda County Superintendent Sheila Jordan temporarily saving Dr. Statham's bacon by bringing in a recognized financial expert recently retired; but only a temporary solution. Dr. Statham's firing of Javetta Robinson also would prevent most from considering her an expert manager.
Jim Mordecai, Oakland

"Try Rapid Bus Plus," Web Letters, 8/8

It's about time for East Bay BRT
Suggestions of Rapid Bus Plus (instead of BRT with dedicated lanes) do have some merit. Rapid Bus Plus would certainly be a major improvement for a route like the 72R on San Pablo Avenue. Actually, it would be ideal to have every bus line running with "proof-of-payment," NextBus displays, and Signal Priority technology.

However, even with all of these improvements, Rapid Bus Plus would still have to contend with car traffic. Herein lays the shortfall of Rapid Bus Plus on a busy corridor.

Imagine the Rapid Bus Plus pulling over and, with proof of payment, loading passengers very quickly, saving lots of time. So far, so good. Now imagine the Rapid Bus Plus trying to leave the stop ... not so rapidly. The bus must first wait for a break in traffic until it can pull away from the curb. Very suddenly, the time gained with proof of payment is lost again.

Now imagine the Rapid Bus Plus rolling along in the right-hand lane and the bus comes to an abrupt, lurching halt. A car driver ahead of the bus has just spotted a potential parking space and is braking and trying to back in. Paralyzed, the bus must wait again while other cars jockey by in the left lane to go around the bus and the parking car. This may go on and on along the entire route.

In summary, the synergy that would be gained by "proof of payment" is quickly lost when the Rapid Bus Plus must run along tight corridors.

The seemingly small time savings found in the DEIR from BRT over Rapid Bus are significant. Even a few minutes of faster bus travel means that buses can operate more frequently with little or no added cost. BRT buses would come every 3.5 to 5 minutes during peak hours. This reduces the time passengers spend hanging around waiting for the bus, saving even more travel time overall than just the "time on the bus savings" indicated in the DEIRs. Even when considering the time it might take to walk to a BRT station, with increased BRT frequency, total trip time overall will be reduced.

And these estimated time savings are just for the current passengers. Imagine how much time would be saved by future BRT passengers, who will be traveling faster than they would in a car. Riding BRT, future passengers could also skip having to worry about time spent looking for parking. These future passengers are a key demographic that a consistent and reliable BRT, which doesn't get stuck in traffic, will attract. These are also the future clientele of businesses that will be fortunate enough to be located near a future BRT station.

This is the beauty of BRT. It's about time. Avoiding car traffic in dedicated lanes, it stays dependable and reliable. Time is money, after all. When viewed through that lens, East Bay BRT presents a solid gold opportunity to improve transit, the environment, and, in my humble opinion, society, all at once.
Joel Ramos, Oakland

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