Letters for the Week of March 28, 2012. 

Readers sound off on Dan Richards, Le Cheval, and livestreamers.

"Homeless on the Bay," Feature, 3/14

It's Bigger Than Just the Bay

Overall a good article on a troubling problem that has increased in the last few years. I would point out that there are a couple of items in the article that are incorrect.

Living on an anchored-out boat in the bay is not illegal in and of itself. There are places in the bay where it is illegal to anchor and of the places where it is legal, there is almost always a time limit — usually 72 hours. Someone who is not dumping overboard, who moved his boat within the anchoring time limit, and who kept their registration updated could legally live on a boat in the bay outside of a marina. There is no requirement for live-aboards to register with the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC). Marinas receive a permit from the BCDC, and in that permit there is usually a limit on the number of live-aboards the marina can legally have. The BCDC has a great deal of power over what happens in the bay, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. It did not always have control over boating activities in the bay, but redefined boats as "bay fill" a number of years ago so it could exercise control over them. It's a stretch of the definition if you ask me, but well played to get what it wanted.

I don't know of anyone who refers to these people as "off-anchor" — it's "anchor out," "on the hook," or just "anchored." If you are off-anchor your boat is loose and drifting somewhere.

Getting rid of boats is a costly process for many reasons, but in the end a fiberglass or wood hull has no value and must be cut up and shipped to a landfill — sometimes to a special landfill for toxic waste if the hull is soaked in oil or fuel. This and the storage cost are the driving factors. I would be highly skeptical of anyone who says they can do it cheaply. There have been a number of entrepreneurs over the decades offering their services to harbor masters to dispose of boats cheaply. What usually happens is the person either sells the boat for little money and thus sends it into the same cycle of abandonment, or they strip it of all identifying numbers and leave it tied to something for someone else to dispose of, much like the guy in the pickup truck who offers to get rid of that old couch for you and it ends up on the side of the road somewhere for someone else to pay to take it to the landfill.

The article doesn't mention it, but Richardson Bay off Sausalito has had a long-term anchor-out problem for decades now. I think the townspeople and the boat owners have reached a sort of detente over the issue. I believe this is mostly driven by the cost of removing the boats, and little has changed there in a long time. Once an anchor-out community forms, it can be difficult to break up.

In the end, it all comes down to money. It takes thousands of dollars to dispose of a boat, and the governmental units that might have jurisdiction over the waterway in question do not have the money to spare. So no one wants to take responsibility and everyone keeps saying it is someone else's problem.

The answer, I think, is a state fund to dispose of abandoned boats. Then, just like having a car towed, someone just has to call a company and have them send over a tow boat. That company goes through all the legal processes of making sure the boat is abandoned and then disposes of it in a landfill. The boats should not be resold only to enter the revolving door of cheap boats until abandoned again. Take them out of the picture completely.

Marvin Hamon, Alameda

Time for a Bigger Boat Tax?

As a once-avid bay sailor and religious reader of Latitude 38, I've been well aware of the derelict boat problem in the bay for years. Clipper Cove on the east side of Treasure Island used to have a really bad problem with these boats, but a new harbor-master a few years ago took the initiative and got rid of them. Not only do derelict boats cause pollution from oil and leaking diesel fuel, they are also a hazard to navigation. And, of course, dumping urine or excrement into the bay is illegal because of the pollution it causes.

Your article on the problem missed an important point: A boat sitting in the water must be maintained or it will eventually sink. The bilge must be pumped, the bottom must be cleaned, and the boat must be hauled out of the water and the bottom painted occasionally. Derelict boats receive none of this maintenance, whether totally abandoned or with a homeless person living aboard.

Bud Brown had the right idea: Get rid of derelict boats and charge the owners whatever it costs to do so. Sailboats are toys unless one lives aboard, and those who buy them need to take responsibility. This stuff needs to be cleaned up, but the public should not pay for it.

Perhaps we need a tax on sailboats to create a fund to pay for this cleanup, or a deposit paid by boat owners to ensure that the rest of us are not stuck with the cleanup if they abandon their boats.

Jeff Hoffman, Oakland


"See No Evil?," News, 3/14

The Power of Trust

Livestreaming is a tool and many things can be done with it. Some of the more professional streamers have chosen to conduct themselves as journalists. These streamers do not allow their choices to be controlled by the people whose actions they are streaming. These streamers whose work is of professional journalistic quality may use the words "transparent," "truthful," or the newly coined "SunshineBloc."

Spencer Mills (@Oakfosho), Pirate, Lexica, TimPool (@TimCast), and some others conduct themselves as professional journalists. This means they will show the most interesting or appropriate thing happening in front of the camera. A journalist does make choices. However, most journalists will film a crime taking place in front of their camera. Tim Pool was filming when people ran up in front of his camera and let air out of the police car tires. Tim did not chase them down to film them — they chose to do this in front of his camera. It was their choice to be on camera.

There is no reason that any journalist should be complicit in anyone's crime or wrongdoing — whether the wrongdoing is a protester throwing a bottle or a police officer beating a protester. A journalist is there to journal, to record what is happening.

Yes, a journalist makes choices. A livestreamer makes many editorial choices on the fly. The best livestreamers seek out the most important things to show, according to their educated, experienced judgment. There are reasons the best livestreamers have worldwide followings.

Trust is a big word. We trust news reporters if we feel they are telling the truth. Those livestreamers dedicated to truth have earned the trust of people worldwide.

Sue Basko, Hollywood

Heroes

Oakfosho, Pirate, and the rest of the livestreamers are heroes in my book. I watch them as often as possible so that I can see what's actually happening, as opposed to what the (almost always absent) mainstream media tells us happened via the wholesale reprinting of OPD or City of Oakland press releases. While I've seen some questionable protester behavior — mostly in the form of ill-advised inflammatory language — the livestreamers have documented an Augean stable's worth of outrageous and illegal police activity that otherwise would have been swept under the carpet.

For better or worse, there can no longer be an expectation of privacy at a mass protest, and it's important to note that the police also have a full array of camera equipment at their disposal — and are not shy about using it. Ultimately, protesters must ask themselves who they trust more to present a full and comprehensive view of their actions: sympathetic and transparent livestreamers, or police determined to crack down on dissent to the full extent of the law and beyond?

John Seal, Oakland


"Hayashi's House Raises Ethical Questions," News, 3/14

Slow News Week?

I don't see anything wrong in this arrangement. The two appear to be paying a fair rent, under circumstances, no law broken. Let them live in peace.

Tony Santos, former mayor of San Leandro


"Who Else Has to Pay," Music, 3/14

A Perverse World

I think this a great example of local journalism, presenting a local issue that has broad impact and that would otherwise be invisible to the public. It is a perverse world where music cops are shaking down micro venues for local musicians in the name of protecting artistic property rights. Does The Beatles' estate really need a nickel every time some street musician plays "Hey Jude"? Is this the way our society should support the music "industry"? Thanks to the Express for covering stories like these.

Gen Fujioka, Berkeley


"Apple's Dirty Money," Raising the Bar, 3/7

Responsibility vs. Revenue

There are "conflict mineral" provisions in the Dodd-Frank Act designed to prevent payments to warlords in the Democratic Republic of Congo where minerals for cell phones are mined. But no protections for the Chinese workers. Some folks would say that it is the responsibility of the Chinese government to protect their workers. What do you say to those who think that "maximizing profit" is the only job of a corporate CEO?

Lisa Lindsley, Washington, DC


"A New Lease for Le Cheval," News, 3/7

Hungry — and Fast

I was informed that Le Cheval was back in its old restaurant by a co-worker at around 1:00 on Tuesday afternoon, and by 1:45, I was eating my favorite dish, the Claypot.

Jeremy Kahn, Oakland


"Fire the Cougar-Killer," Seven Days, 3/7

In Defense of Dan Richards

You state that Dan Richards is the most "tone-deaf" public official in California. How wrong you are. That title goes to Governor Jerry Brown, hands down!

Dan Richards did nothing illegal, nothing immoral, nothing unethical, nothing wrong. He didn't even get the hunt for free, he got it at a discounted price, which is available to the general public. Saying that Dan Richards must follow California hunting laws in another state is like saying a chief of police in California must obey California speed limits no matter where he goes. California laws end at California borders, or is that too difficult of a concept for you? Oregon has no sales tax, so when you go to Oregon and go to a store to purchase something, tell them you are from California and that you want to pay the California sales tax on your purchase.

I do not understand how you liberals even think! On one hand, you exclaim that Californians voted to not allow mountain lion hunting, as if California voters are absolutely correct. But have those same California voters vote that marriage is to be between one man and one woman, and you guys say that California voters don't count. You cannot have it both ways!

Mike McKinzie, Garden Grove, California


"Shedding Plastic," Eco Watch, 3/7

The Plastic Problem

Plastics are a petroleum product. We have many brilliant scientists in this area. Maybe they could make two problems into one solution by reverse-engineering plastic waste into fuel. It's probably not easy, but such an accomplishment would deserve Nobel Prizes in physics and peace.

Ruth Bird, Berkeley

Syntax, Sigh

Unless Beth Terry is a zombie or a vampire (a fact not mentioned in Nate Seltenrich's article), shouldn't your headline be, "Beth Terry is living almost plastic-free" [rather than "...almost living plastic-free"]?

Joanna Graham, Berkeley

Plastic-Free in the Kitchen

Beth's blog was what convinced me to go plastic-free. I even started my own blog about it, ThePlasticFreeChef.com. I found that eliminating plastic waste from the kitchen was the most difficult part. I had to give up a lot of foods and modify my favorite recipes to be plastic-free. If you want to give up plastic but are worried that you won't be able to eat anything, check out my blog for some good ideas. And even if you don't give up all plastic, you're still making a difference.

Mary Katherine Glen, Mountain View


"In Darkness," Movies, 2/29

Insensitive and Inappropriate

Kelly Vance's flippancy in labeling In Darkness an "umpteenth Holocaust film" is both insensitive and inappropriate. While it's understandable that folks get frustrated by the number of such movies and I respect a critic's right to be bored with them, I wonder whether other groups' historic tragedies would be handled so sarcastically. I am no "diehard Holocaust fan," as the reviewer so crassly phrases it, but I do expect a minimum level of care and cultural competence. While many may be tired of the Holocaust as an artistic topic, it's become equally trite to bash a film in this way. I do agree with Vance's conclusion that "enough is too much," but frankly, not around critic fatigue over a well-worn movie plot — more so, a disturbing trend to treat such a heavy issue in such a lighthearted and offensive manner.

Jon Gilgoff, Oakland


"Emergency Call," Feature, 2/29

Desperately Needed

I have advocated for services for family members for many years. Laura's Law is desperately needed. I work with many families on a daily basis that want to help their loved ones and are not allowed to participate in treatment because of our current laws. Families become discouraged, betrayed, and alone when they seek help from systems and professionals and are still not able to access services to keep their families safe.

Thank you for your article. This information will provide education and help to reduce stigma.

Brandi McNary-Draper, Concord

Living with Blinders On

I was living in the Sacramento area when the tragic situation documented in the article occurred. Regrettably, Contra Costa County is living with blinders on regarding mental illness and the needs of those who need help. I have a family member who has experienced the flawed and broken system of the mental health system in the county. We live with hope for the future but recognize the realities of the present.

Peter Bagarozzo, Antioch


"Change Is Messy," Raising the Bar, 2/15

Oaklanders Against Occupy

After witnessing firsthand the unsanitary conditions of the Occupy camps in Oakland, in addition to random acts of violence and vandalism, and reading updates on the Occupy Oakland website that warn people who support non-violent means of protest not to join certain marches, I cannot agree with the movement, or this article. As a staunch liberal, an inner-city high school English Language Arts teacher, and a musician, I fully support young people gaining the necessary education and correspondingly earned employment opportunities. I understand the tragic consequences of the achievement gap among ethnically diverse youth and young adults, the socioeconomic inequities that remain pervasive for so many individuals in our supposedly egalitarian society, and the gross abuse of power by the wealthiest, which has persisted since the dawn of our nation. I, too endured the perils of a poor economy until I was finally hired this last August as a full-time, contracted educator. I empathize with the frustration of feeling slighted, undervalued, and outright ignored.

However, I cannot, in good conscience, support a reactionary, conceptually fractured movement that breaks multiple laws, traumatizes small businesses, schools, and the local environment, and jeopardizes the well-being of others. Protesters have displayed signs yielding contradictory messages such as "All my friends are cop killas" alongside anti-war slogans while disseminating advocacy pamphlets for anarchy as the best form of government. These messages express antithetical ideals and worldviews, and do not speak to the focused message of reining in corporate avarice. I disagree with the author's suggested ultimatum that we "passive liberals" have to either invent an alternative solution to the problem of capitalist imbalances and executive abuses, or placidly accept the forced representation of a disjointed movement that fails to offer sound and plausible solutions itself. I, like many Oakland professionals, have neither heard nor understood one logical solution from the movement. Overtaking abandoned buildings by force, throwing rocks through supermarket windows, unlawfully camping in parks and trees (of all places), and tagging on every building within range of a spray-paint can, are not viable solutions to any problem of socioeconomic injustice.

Conversely, such acts present new detriments to the myriad the Oakland community already confronts. While it may be true that not every member or even the majority of the Occupy Oakland movement participates in these criminal acts, a collective group will be judged by its very worst, rogue elements; consequently, the Occupy Oakland's methods as I have witnessed them do not represent the 99 Percent, but merely themselves at this point. Perhaps the best solution for the youthful population that seems to dominate the present movement is to enroll in school or reinvest in education in some practical capacity, muster some discipline and "true grit," and get to work on changing the corrupted system from the inside out as an educated and reputable citizen rather than from the precarious position of one who alienates the general populace with brutish demands and rancorous rallies for unmerited handouts and reckless retribution.

Juliet Hawk, Oakland


"Death of a Retail Plan," Feature, 2/15

The Alameda Labor Council Responds

On behalf of more than 100,000 working men and women in Alameda County, we are committed to the bold vision and future development of the Broadway-Valdez corridor. Oaklanders want to work, shop, and live in vibrant places that reflect the racial and economic diversity of our communities. While traditional redevelopment tools have been diminished, the corridor is already benefiting from existing construction and development by Kaiser and the continued momentum of the growing Uptown area.

Much like with the redevelopment of the Oakland army base, we need to be creative and open-minded to revenue and development opportunities that move forward the Broadway-Valdez concepts. These include long-term good jobs that support middle-class wages, affordable housing, and construction jobs, and the creation of a new, exciting shopping destination in Oakland to increase the tax base.

The Broadway-Valdez corridor project uniquely weaves together community, business, and labor needs. The project is moving forward in 2012 with important opportunities for public engagement and support from the Oakland Planning Commission and City Council. Working collectively and creatively, we look forward to building a better Oakland together.

Josie Camacho

Executive Secretary-Treasurer, Alameda Labor Council

Awards

Express staffer Ellen Cushing was nominated for a prestigious James Beard Foundation award for journalism excellence in covering wine, spirits, and other beverages for her cover story "How Peet's Starbucked Itself" (9/21/2011).

And staffer Nate Seltenrich won a second-place award for excellence in feature writing from the North American Agricultural Journalists association for his cover story "How Safe Is Your Soil?" (8/3/2011).

Both awards were from national contests; Cushing and Seltenrich competed against journalists from newspapers and magazines of all sizes throughout the country.

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