Letters for the Week of June 6, 2012 

Readers sound off on Friendzone, biogas, and the Gill Tract.

Page 2 of 4

Jim Richardson, Cherryland

"Biogas Takes a Hit," Eco Watch, 5/2

Biogas Is Better

The Express is right to criticize the California Energy Commission's decision to suspend certification of new biogas suppliers. The commission's rationale is bizarre. Its concern about where the gas comes from should not hold us back on utilization of this resource. Virgin gas is "dirty gas," and therefore has to be measured and kept separate, providing the producer with some kind of "black mark" (like a detention slip)? Give me a break!

Instead of being concerned about reducing "greenhouse gas emissions," the commission should be embracing biogas, which, if not used, will be vented into the atmosphere as a pollutant. Of the alternative electric supply sources mentioned in the article, only biogas is truly renewable. Unless or until we stop putting organics into our garbage, landfills will be venting methane into the future. The gas is drawn off landfills continuously every passing second, at minimal cost. Wind turbines and solar collectors require expensive apparatus that will never pay for itself, due to extreme capital cost and the meager amount of electricity generated.

The commission's stance — not allowing companies to deliver virgin gas and biogas in the same pipeline — gives the lie to its commitment to improve our environment. The commission is more concerned with social engineering than reality. This must change.

Steve Tabor, Oakland

"Term-Limits Measure Could Give Jane Brunner an Unfair Advantage," Seven Days, 5/2

Pay to Play in the City Attorney's Office?

I wasn't going to respond to the Express column on my term-limits proposal until I learned that my opponent for Oakland city attorney [Barbara Parker] was telling people to read your column when she was asking them for money.

You argued that Oaklanders should not be able to vote on my proposal for term limits for Oakland city councilmembers, because it might give me an unfair advantage in the city attorney's race, in that I could appear on term-limits campaign literature.

Term limits were favored by 68 percent of Oakland voters in a recent poll. If term limits get on the ballot, they will pass easily without needing much of a campaign. As far as I know, no money has been raised for a term-limits initiative. No candidate for city attorney is even close to the cap on contributions. To paint a picture of my candidacy rolling in misbegotten dough is a fantasy.

I'm proud of my fifteen-year record as a city councilmember, including my recent proposal for term limits. And I certainly do hope that the people of Oakland will support me in my run for city attorney based on my qualifications and my accomplishments. Is there anything unfair about my continuing to work hard as a representative of the people of Oakland as long as I'm in office? Certainly not. Oaklanders should demand that of all of their elected representatives.

While your column is full of conspiracy theories and baseless assumptions, there is a substantial story on campaign contributions in the city attorney race that does involve real money. Most of the contributions to my opponent's campaign come from three sources: the 35 attorneys who are city attorney employees, the law firms that the city attorney's office hires as outside counsel to the tune of more than $6 million a year in taxpayers' money, and beneficiaries in large-scale settlements by the city that the city attorney's office has recommended.

This is clearly becoming a "Pay to Play" city attorney's office, something many have suspected for years.

This wouldn't be a hard story to write, since campaign contributions and city settlements are public information. A journalist who wanted to do an unbiased, fact-based story on campaign contributions could have a field day with it. Is that you?

Jane Brunner

Oakland city councilwoman and candidate for Oakland city attorney

Robert Gammon Responds

Ms. Brunner, as you know, no newspaper in the East Bay has followed campaign contributions in Oakland politics more closely than the Express during the past decade. As such, I'm fully aware that City Attorney Barbara Parker, your opponent in the city attorney's race this November, has received campaign donations from employees in the city attorney's office; from law firms hired by her office; and by lawyers who have won large settlements from the city. But what you fail to mention is that you also have received many similar campaign contributions that raise questions about pay-to-play politics.

Records show, for example, that in your campaign for city attorney you have received a total of $1,400 in donations from the owners of B&B Vehicle Processing, which has long owned the exclusive monopoly contract on towing and storing cars for the City of Oakland. It also should be noted that, during your fifteen years on the city council, you repeatedly voted to extend B&B's contract without putting it out to bid.

You also received $700, the maximum contribution allowed under city law, from Waste Management, which holds the city's garbage-collecting contract that you voted for. You also took a $500 donation from Douglas Parking, which operates city-owned garages. Plus, you received $1,300 from the Oakland First PAC, which is run by Ken Houston of Turner Group Construction, which has vied for a public contract at the old Army Base.


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