Letters for April 9-15 

The Warriors and the Holocaust, Rice University and the Kleenex boycott, Sheila Jordan's management style, Ignacio De La Fuente's rent and council votes, Express food reviews, and much more.

Golden State Warriors Jewish Heritage Night ad, 3/12

Have you heard of the Holocaust?

Is anyone else as outraged as we are about the "Jewish Heritage Night" ad placed by the Golden State Warriors in your last issue. At first look, we thought it was a joke. Come on! A long-bearded guy dancing on a barbecue. Can't you see how blatantly anti-Semitic this appears? Is anyone at your paper paying attention to this? Have you heard of the Holocaust?

Kathleen and David Edwards, Oakland

"Though Oakland Is Up in Arms About It, Crime Is Actually Down," Full Disclosure, 3/19

Clarifying our rent

In this week's East Bay Express, there is a quote that is attributed to "a representative of Metrovision (sic) stating that the property charges $2.45 per square foot for retail space." I would like to clarify that our ASKING rent for the retail space at Fruitvale Village is $1.75 per square foot NNN. The NNN charges are estimated at $0.70 per square foot per month. If you are not familiar with that term, NNN charges refer to the tenants' pro rata share of real estate taxes, insurance, and common-area maintenance that encompasses a multitude of services provide by the landlord. To date, our most expensive deal was at $1.50 psf NNN with other deals falling between $1.25 PSF NNN, with the exception of Riveropolis which was pro bono to help build community and activate the space. I feel that you have misrepresented both myself and the project with your article. I would appreciate clarification and a correction to be issued as soon as possible. I also feel that if someone is calling from a newspaper for information, it is important to identify one's self when contacting a source. Oh, and for the record, it is Metrovation, not Metrovision.

Linda Braz, Oakland

Robert Gammon responds

When I contacted one of your representatives, I asked what you "charged for space fronting East 12th Street in Fruitvale Village?" Your representative responded that your basic rate was $1.75 a square foot plus $0.70 a square foot for various other charges, and explained what some of those were. I then asked, "So the total is $2.45 a square foot? Your representative answered "yes," so I used that figure in the article. I did not identify myself to your representative, because I was simply asking a question about your prices, and I wanted to know what your representatives tell the general public. I didn't attempt to disguise my identity and would have revealed it had your representative asked. However, I regret misnaming your organization, and will correct the error.

"Rezoning Plan Benefits Pals of De La Fuente," Full Disclosure, 3/12

Abolish the office

Robert Gammon's article about Sheila Jordan, the Alameda County Superintendent of Schools, is just one more exposé about her management style. She is not unique among county superintendents of schools. Except in five counties where the county board of education hires the superintendent, all other counties, including Alameda, the person doesn't have to have any skills or background in school finance or curriculum to run for office. 

The main problem with an elected county superintendent is that that person acts independently from any oversight as exists when the superintendent is appointed by a board. There is an elected county board of education, but it has been emasculated over the years. In most cases, it is a rubber stamp for what ever the county superintendent proposes. In Alameda County, Jordan has succeeded to find friendly people to run for the county board of education and she even has contributed money to their campaigns. In turn, once seated, they have granted her a generous salary and fringe package. The Alameda County Grand Jury took note of this conflict of interest.

Jordan was at the heart of a test case to determine who is the final authority on the budget — now about $50 million — of the county office of education. In her first term, she did not control the majority of the board as she has done since 2002. The majority refused to approve Jordan's proposed budget, because the salary provisions were too generous and not enough was allocated to students at the juvenile court schools. On advice of its legal counsel, the board revised her proposed budget and sent it to Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin. Eastin — who, by the way, was a personal friend of Jordan and on her campaign committee — rejected the budget and told the board that it had to accept Jordan's budget. To avoid lengthy lawsuits against Jordan and Eastin, the board finally adopted Jordan's version. Ever since, the other elected county superintendents have followed that ruling. Complaints about this were also sent to the incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell and the local state legislators. They all declined to enter into the matter. 

County offices of education might be on their way out of existence. Many studies have come to the conclusion that they are archaic and that their duties could well be done more efficiently by ten regions instead of 58 county offices of education. The Governor's California Performance Review made suggestions to save about $55 billion by eliminating many state commissions and boards, among them they cited the 58 county offices of education, which alone have a budget of over $4 billion. This is coincidentally about the same amount that the governor wants to cut from education. The prestigious, nonpartisan Little Hoover Commission also recommend their deletion. The governor's "Committee on Education Excellence," just issued on March 14, 2008, has said the same thing.

County offices of education in seven sparsely populated counties are useful because they run all the schools in the county absent local school districts. But Alameda and the other counties have local school districts and only conduct juvenile court schools and other specialized centers that could just as well be done by a local school district. County superintendents also are supposed to oversee the budgets of local school districts; but as Gammon has pointed out, they have not had a very good record. It has been suggested that that oversight role and other functions could better be done by auditors.

Ernest Avellar, former member Alameda County Board of Education, Hayward

"The Kleercut Boycott: Outcome Undetermined," News, 3/19

Rice doesn't Boycott

This story states that Rice University is listed on the Greenpeace web site as an institution that has boycotted Kimberly-Clark products. In 2006, some Rice students alerted our purchasing department about products that were cheaper and less harmful to the environment. Our purchasers substituted these products for the 5 percent that had been Kimberly-Clark Kleenex, but there is no official prohibition of buying Kimberly-Clark products for use on campus. Rice does not endorse products nor boycott them.

B.J. Almond, Director of News and Media Relations, Rice University, Houston

"Lush Plates of Meat," Food and Drink, 3/5

Bring back Birdsall


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