Letters for the Week of June 25 

Readers sound off on public schools in Oakland, the Oakland mayor's race, and what's poisoning the bees.


"Trigonometry or Empathy?," Opinion, 6/11

Believe in Public Schools

Hats off to a wonderful article by a ninth grader at Oakland Tech. Well-written and researched, Sophie Schafer. We chose to send our kids to McChesney Junior High (now Edna Brewer) and to Skyline High School back in the 1980s. Both girls made friends across ethnicities and economic classes and they both have kept these friendships throughout their adult lives. As far as we could tell their academics did not suffer. Both women are contributing to their communities and both vote. They have good, strong values and we don't feel that private school would have made them any more successful or bright than they are. Our eleven-year-old granddaughter is in public school. My husband, who is retired from King Estates Jr. High in Oakland, often runs into his ex students who are active and successful in the community.

We believe in a strong, well-funded public school system, and wish more parents would participate rather than leave. If we all got together on the same page, imagine what we could accomplish. Kudos, Sophie.

Sandi Morey, Oakland

No Diversity-Empathy Connection

I was raised in a small town in Montana in the '70s. In my class, there was a black girl in and a Hispanic boy. It wasn't until years later that I realized this. We all loved playing together and we did not even know what prejudice was (let alone racism).If you look at the diversity and empathy, I do not see how there is any connection. Diversity is not necessary for empathy. When I was a kid, we had empathy without noticing the differences between us. Of course, we were all poor. So, I suppose our racial diversity was greater than our class diversity. Maybe the author is using race as a proxy for class. Now, class is where people could use more empathy, and not just from one side.

Gary Baker, San Leandro


"Little Mokka Takes on Big Starbucks," Local Economy, 6/11

Be the Best They Can Be

If Mokka is in fact so well liked by the locals then hopefully an additional coffee shop will just make its owners try harder to be the best they can be. It seems rather arbitrary to not allow another coffee shop within a certain distance of Mokka — if that's what people were really hoping for.

I think the "traffic" issue was a red herring, and Starbucks isn't exactly the "evil empire" anyway. Mokka is going to need to get on with business and be the best coffee shop/sandwich place they can be and they will do well. (Especially since the locals like them so much.)

Chet Shannon, Berkeley


"How Cyclists on Telegraph Mean Business," Local Economy, 6/11

Healthier Future

I wish these improvements had been completed a few years ago. My decision to buy a car was influenced by the lack of adequate bike facilities on Telegraph, and my health has suffered since. Here's to a healthier, bike-friendly future!

Omar Yacoubi, Oakland


"Electricity May Go Green and Local," Local Economy, 6/11

No on AB2145

Thanks for covering the exciting news out of Alameda County. One correction: AB 2145, the utility power grab of 2014, wouldn't "reform" Community Choice, it would destroy it by making it impossible for Community Choice programs to enroll new customers. If East Bay residents want a choice other than PG&E, they should call Senator Alex Padilla (916-651-4020), Chair of the California Senate Energy Committee, and tell him to vote no on AB 2145. You can learn more at No2145.org.

Erica Etelson, Berkeley


"Improving Lake Merritt," Eco Watch, 6/11

More Improvements to Come

Measure DD also built the East Oakland Sports Center, was a major contributor to restore Studio One, rebuilt and reconfigured 12th Street (which was seismically unsafe), fixed the crumbling 18th Street pier, added to the Bay Trail, and fixed the Lakeshore pergola. And there is more to come.

Naomi Schiff, Oakland


"Now We've Got a Mayor's Race," Seven Days, 6/11

Fiscally Responsible Candidates

I'm going to vote for the fiscally responsible candidates, meaning Joe Tuman, Courtney Ruby, and Bryan Parker, and will never vote for progressive tax-and-spend liberals who have tanked this city.

James Zigenis, Oakland

Finest Public Servant

And out come the shills! Rebecca Kaplan is the finest public servant this city has seen in the twenty or so years I've been here. Finally there's a candidate I'm actually excited to vote for, instead of "yeah, I guess they are okay."

Plus, I'm on the outside for this race, which means I can say whatever I want.

Conan Neutron, Oakland

Not Exactly Exciting

"Kaplan's entrance into the race also gives both progressives and moderates plenty of choices to be excited about." Not exactly exciting to this progressive. Maybe Kaplan's entrance makes a great day for the writer. Hope he has a really nice day!

Michele Ocla, Oakland


"What's Poisoning the Bees," Feature, 6/04

Too Much Blame on Neonics

The article "What's Poisoning the Bees" was well-written and makes many good points, but places too much blame on neonicotinoids as the main cause of current bee problems. The beekeeping community is badly divided on neonics, with many feeling that alternative chemicals would be much harder on bees.

No beekeeper I know of disputes that neonic dust escaping at corn-planting time has caused severe, but isolated bee losses, but steps have been taken to greatly reduce or eliminate this hazard. There are currently a million acres of canola in North Dakota, virtually every plant grown from neonic-treated seed, yet North Dakota bees thrive on canola and North Dakota usually tops all other states in honey production every year. The decline in US honey production shown in your graph does correlate with neonic use, but it also correlates with a significant decline in bee forage, due to widespread planting of corn for ethanol and of soybeans (both poor bee plants). Drought in recent years has also caused a decline in honey production. Conversion of CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) land that was formerly good bee habitat has had a significant negative impact on the health of both honeybee and native bee species. The decline in the flower-to-bee ratio in the US in recent years has had a far more devastating effect on bees than neonicotinioids. Perhaps a future article in the Express could address this issue. Randy Oliver, a beekeeper/scientist from Grass Valley, has written extensively on bee-pesticide issues, including recent postings on the Harvard neonic study that are posted on his website: ScientificBeekeeping.com.

I agree that there needs to be better evaluation of the hazards of materials before they are brought to market. Pesticides always have been a hazard to bees and always will be, but to imply that they are the main cause of current problems is misleading. 

Joe Traynor, Bakersfield

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