Letters for the Week of June 5, 2013 

Readers sound off on restorative justice, Prop 13, and the Oakland Army Base project.


"A People-Focused Solution," Feature, 5/22

It Takes a Village

I am happy to see the Express give some love to the Oakland restorative justice program and the student leaders and adults who make it happen. Jean Tepperman did a great job capturing the essence of what we are trying to do, and I am so glad she could highlight some of the amazing individuals doing this work in our schools.

It is important to note that at Montera Middle School, local nonprofit SEEDS Community Resolution Center has been an integral partner in this work. Principal Tina Tranzor and indefatigable Montera parent Nina Senn, who is a Montera PTO member and the SEEDS Board President, coordinated efforts to make sure that Yari Sandel's hours were increased beyond what the Oakland Fund for Children and Youth had so generously given her via the Peer RJ Grant. This increase in hours allowed Yari to include parent volunteers and increase the scope of her RJ work and really make a substantive difference at the school site. There are many unsung heroes and it is impossible to name them all. In this case, we would be remiss not to mention Nina Senn and SEEDS.

Thank you for highlighting this very important work as we shift the culture and climate at our schools.

David Yusem

Program Manager, Restorative Justice, Oakland Unified School District


"Costly Loophole Remains Open," News, 5/22

Vote With Your Dollars

Prop 13 should only have been for real persons, not corporations, but leave it to our legislature to mess it up. It's time to revamp it, keeping the rates for the people, not corporations, which are always finding loopholes to dodge their responsibilities.

As for the Chamber of Commerce, with their scare tactics, how about Californians boycotting any company that avoids paying its fair share of taxes? We are the twelfth-biggest economy in the world and the people have a lot of clout. It's time to use it wisely. Governor Brown needs to stop coddling the big money boys and get them to cough up their fair share of taxes.

Steve Redmond, Berkeley


"Oakland Officials Withold Air Pollution Plan," Eco Watch, 5/15

The Army Base Project Managers Respond

This story badly misleads readers in two significant respects:

1) Reporter Charlie Mintz's lead paragraph and central premise is that regulators say the city and developers are not doing enough to prepare for air pollution created by the Oakland Army Base development project. Mr. Mintz, however, cites no regulators who make any such claim.

2) The layperson Mintz relies on for his central premise has his facts wrong. The City of Oakland and the developers are going well beyond just "doing enough."

It does not take a particularly close read of the May 15 story to see that what an actual regulator told Mintz is that he simply wanted more information from the City of Oakland and developers about their air pollution mitigation plans — not that the plans were inadequate. Dave Vintze, a manager at the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, told Mintz the following: "We may agree 100 percent with them (city and developers). "But they're not giving us the details on what they're planning on doing out there. ... They've been less than cooperative about it."

The development project has been working diligently on an air quality plan since an Army Base development agreement was signed by both the city and developers and recorded in December 2012. Meanwhile, the city and developers have, in fact, presented information to the Air District and are scheduled to provide more.

In reality, the city and developers are doing everything required and more under rigorous state environmental laws and the development agreement, community benefits agreement, and community cooperation agreement governing the project — all of which were signed late last year following at least 107 town hall gatherings and 37 public hearings.

An air monitoring plan has been completed and reviewed by the Air District. A lengthy construction management plan addressing air quality for the first stage of construction — which likely will begin in the late fall and last approximately four years — has been drafted and will be delivered to regulators shortly. Long-term mitigation measures relating to vertical (building) construction and future site operations will be proposed and implemented once the tenants and operations at the future logistics center are known. Without such information, specific planning cannot take place. When it is known, appropriate mitigation plans addressing the operations will be prepared, shared, and implemented.

The story's overarching theme is that the project should use modern and innovative green infrastructure to mitigate pollution. The odd thing about that point is that neither the city nor the developers disagree. And all the agreements — finalized in late 2012 — facilitate the use of the best and most current environmental practices.

As it moves forward, the Army Base project will continue to go well beyond the letter of the law and uphold its obligations to the state, the City of Oakland, and its residents — both with respect to the unprecedented jobs and job training package being provided as part of the project, as well as the required environmental mitigation measures.

Robert Selna

Communications and Government Affairs Manager, Oakland Army Base Project


"All Hail the $6 Rice Plate," Restaurant Review, 5/15

Ben's Is the Best

I've been going to Ben's for a year. The food is delicious and inexpensive but what keeps me coming back is how fresh it is. They are located in the produce district and it shows. Ben knows how to cook vegetables, not overcook them like most restaurants. Expect warm service and great, inexpensive food, and don't forget to bring cash.

Brian Thivierge, San Francisco

Corrections

In our May 29 cover story, "Throwing More Money at Police," we failed to note that Oakland's proposed 2013-15 budget mixes police, fire, and other city employees in its "sworn" salaries category. Thus, we erroneously stated that OPD sworn salaries are double the civilian total. In fact, OPD officer salaries constitute 40 percent of the city's total general fund salaries. The $202 million Oakland has budgeted as total compensation for "sworn" employees next year includes $80 million for fire employees and $120 million in total compensation for Oakland's police, while the city's civilian employees will receive $104 million. In addition, our story stated that, out of the city's entire billion-plus-dollar budget, OPD officers receive almost half of every payroll dollar spent. But the true proportion of OPD's share appears to be one quarter.

Our May 29 news story "Oakland Airport Businesses Flout Living Wage Law" misidentified the airport Subway outlet owner who had been singled out by port investigators. It was Gurinder Grewal — not Navdeep Grewal.

Our May 29 music story, "Björk Breathes New Life Into Craneway Pavilion," stated that Vespertine came out in 2011. It was 2001.

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