Letters for January 21 

Readers sound off on Alameda Point, Oakland's lobbying law, and transportation for low-income students in Oakland.

"Still Sitting on Contaminated Land," Feature, 12/17

Dump Her

I realize that I am turning into "Cranky Old Guy, Left-wing Edition," but this re-hashing of "Alameda vs. The Navy" is just about to drive me insane.

Listen here Alameda. This "Alameda Point" thing is getting out of control. It's got your thinking all twisted around and you are starting to make really bad decisions. Stop caring what your abuser thinks or does. You need to wise up girl ... before you ruin your entire life:

How long have I known you? I love you like a sister. Hell ... I've lived here forever and I know how you think. You're freaken beautiful, you have the body of a much younger city and a lot of people think you're hot.

Why can't you cut things off with the US Navy? It's so clear to everyone but you.

Everyone knows the Navy is a total dick. All of your friends — Mare Island, Government Island, Oakland kicked out the Navy hospital. Hell, even the Army talks shit. No one likes the Navy. Sometimes you just have to pack your stuff, grab all the money you can, and make a run for it.

Take the Navy's money. Tell it whatever you have to. Just don't sign anything, smile, and get it the fuck out of your apartment.

Ex: "It's not you, baby ... it's me. I still want to be friends, but you need to give me some space." Then change your damn phone number, go out and meet other people, and read lots of dirty, filthy rebound proposals. Someone with a much bigger, thicker wallet is bound to push your button.

Trust me. You'll feel better.

Erik Kolacek, Alameda

"Tip of the Iceberg," Full Disclosure, 12/17

Liar and Cheater but not Lobbyist

This is in response to the Dec. 17 article in which John Klein claims that I am a lobbyist. I have been called a lot things in my life, mostly by my ex-wife claiming that I was a lying, cheating, lazy, no good son of a bitch and regretfully almost all true. But never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that someone would accuse me of being a lobbyist. I'm not sure if this is a compliment or an insult, as I know nothing about being a lobbyist, as I hammer nails for a living. All kidding aside, the charge is really a sad reality of Oakland politics that there are some people who are so obsessed with preventing anyone in Oakland who speaks in favor of common sense, that they would make almost any kind of claim, including a charge that I am a lobbyist who neglected to file as such with the public ethics commission.

The fact of the matter is that I am an Oakland native, I own a small construction company, I am on the board of directors of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and on the board of directors of the Oakland Builder's Alliance (OBA). I have spoken, and written, in support of and in opposition to a number of city issues over the years, as have thousands of other Oakland residents. My politics are left. I am a small business person and believe that being progressive and pro business can and should coexist.

Mr. Klein claims that if someone who belongs to an organization, and if they attempt to influence an elected official, then they must register as a lobbyist and follow all the various rules related thereto. Mr. Klein claims, and apparently Mr. Gammon's expert legal opinion concurs, that "influencing" an elected official includes speaking at a city council meeting on behalf of any organization, including a nonprofit.

Imagine if Mr. Klein and Mr. Gammon are correct in their interpretation of Oakland lobbying laws. Let's say you're on the board of directors of a church, you go to city council or the planning commission and you're speaking about this or that, advocating a position about something. Bam! Holy crap, you're a lobbyist and you're in violation of public ethics law if you don't register. Let's say you're part of the PTA at your kid's school and you e-mail your city council person for more police patrols in the area because there's been a recent spike in crime. Bam! You can't do that unless your register first. Let's say you're employed by Just Cause and you go speak at city council in favor of tenant rights. Bam! Lobbyist. Sew a scarlet "L" to your breast.

The absurdity of Mr. Klein's claim is why so many people in the development- and construction-related businesses are flocking to become members of the Oakland Builder's Alliance: simply because Oakland politics at times become so ludicrous that we need someone to just speak some common sense and that's what the OBA does. Hell, apparently there are so many fed up with the crap going on in Oakland that even people who are not in the building trades want to join the OBA.

In closing, let me put my lobbyist hat on and try to influence some public official, either on the public ethics commission, city attorney's office, or the city council. If Mr. Klein and Mr. Gammon's interpretation is correct, we need someone to step up to the plate and fix this. We don't need to violate the people's right to free speech on top of all other problems we currently have.

Jay Dodson, Oakland

Robert Gammon Responds

Neither I nor John Klein have asserted that speaking out at a council meeting, or any other public meeting, constitutes lobbying. Moreover, Mr. Klein's ethics complaint against you and Mr. Plazola does not allege that either of you, or anyone else, engaged in lobbying while speaking up at a public meeting.

In addition, your example of e-mailing your council person to request more police patrols also doesn't appear to constitute lobbying under a plain reading of the law. The ordinance requires that for it to be lobbying, then it must involve an issue proposed or pending before city officials. That wouldn't apply to council members since they have no jurisdiction over police patrols.

"Stranded at the Bus Stop," News, 12/17

Make School Transportation a Priority

Thank you for drawing attention to the plight of East Bay youth for whom a lack of affordable transportation is a barrier to basic educational opportunities. This problem is not new, and it is scandalous that it is still not being addressed. 

In 2001, Supervisors Keith Carson (Alameda County) and John Gioia (Contra Costa), and then-Assemblymember Dion Aroner (14th AD), asked the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) to contribute $11.9 million toward a three-year, $44 million, free bus pass program. The program would have provided a free bus pass to each of the 33,000 middle and high school students eligible for free school lunches who ride AC Transit to school. This was a modest request, amounting to a tiny fraction of the nearly $100 billion that MTC was planning to spend in its 2001 Regional Transportation Plan.

MTC had priorities it thought more important than getting kids to school. It provided only $2 million of the $11.9 million requested, and attached conditions that made the program infeasible. AC Transit was forced to drop it after only a year. 

A new interfaith social justice organization called Genesis (organized by the same group that trained President-elect Obama as a community organizer in Chicago) has taken up the call for a free youth bus pass. In the 2009 Regional Transportation Plan, MTC is planning to spend $223 billion. Shouldn't that plan finally make it a priority to get low-income youth to school?

John Claasen, Genesis member and chair of its Free Student Bus Pass Committee, Oakland; Richard A. Marcantonio, managing attorney at Public Advocates Inc., Berkeley

"Taste of Firenze," Food & Drink, 12/17

Bad and Boring Tartare

Enough tuna tartare already, isn't it such a bland and cliché fish to make a tartare out of? Safe I say. And boring. And bad for the environment to boot.

Jason Carey, Oakland

E-40: The Ball Street Journal, Music, 12/10

What Do U Know?

I disagree strongly with your review of this album. U could have a point of view. However, this particular artist has 20 years in hip hop in an industry that gives u 5 years if your good. I suggest you step back and really listen to hip hop as an art form and an artist that has been making music longer than u been working at the East Bay Express !!!

Jason Anderson, San Pablo

Miscellaneous Letters

Public Land Trust, Not SunCal

I support establishing a Public Land Trust for Alameda Point instead of SunCal's plans for 4,500 homes, $700 million in additional debt, and increased traffic for Alameda.

Why? 

Alameda risks losing existing businesses and jobs at Alameda Point, such as TheForgeworks.com.

A Public Land Trust would work to preserve the eight soccer fields at Alameda Point, while SunCal plans to tear them up and replace only half of them, with a mere promise of a sports complex.

Another 4,000 to 6,000 homes would stretch our public safety services at a time that the city is threatening to cut back on police and fire services, and implement rotating fire station "browouts."

Our city cannot afford $700 million in redevelopment bond subsidies to SunCal.

Partnerships such as a VA hospital/clinic at Alameda Point that work with our community colleges and public schools to produce much-needed nursing school graduates or the existing film studio facilities at Alameda Point that work with our local schools to teach our children film and art are preferable to SunCal.

Sheila A. Leonard, Alameda

We Need a Visionary

Military bases and VA medical facilities have been closing or downsizing throughout the nation for over twenty years, particularly affecting the entire Veterans Health Care system. Budget constraints and discretionary funding puts the VA at the back of the line when it comes to setting aside funding for medical facility construction and upgrading advanced medical training. And the results of this callous lack of foresight is our veterans are treated like second-class citizens and their contributions and sacrifices are all but ignored.

Communities are hard-pressed to reclaim the land that once supported the tools of our military efforts, and the histories of these magnificent facilities have become simply footnotes to our nation's history. Hamilton Air Force Base has been marking time for over twenty years with very little resolution to its future. Oaknoll Hospital bit the dust and Livermore medical facility is waiting for the final blow. The Oakland Veterans Outpatient Clinic is suffering diminished resources and is located in an area that suffers the lack of economic development, and its prestige is diminished by the location it was initially built at. It too faces fiscal reevaluation for the future.

The mirror of the past reflects yet another magnificent military base — the former Alameda Naval Air Station that suffered the same fate as many of the other military bases. Its future is the subject of developer's greed and exotic, futuristic planning that ignores the quiet ambience that once appealed to a simple family lifestyle.

Alameda's John J. Mulvany was a visionary. Back in 1917, he scouted the west end of Alameda, then known as Alameda Point, and envisioned a naval base that might be erected on the seventeen hundred acres of marshland. Through determination and vision his dream became a reality. And for over sixty years Alameda and the East Bay benefited from the activities that maintained our ships and repaired the military aircraft. Over 41,000 service men and women and federal workers were employed on these 2,270 acres of marshland, and the funding benefited not only the military but the City of Alameda and surrounding communities. To be sure, Mulvany's vision had a positive effect on the economy of our Alameda community.

Mulvany's vision has been muted and other cities both north and south have benefited from Alameda's demise. Alameda has no visionaries — no one with the foresight to recapture the excellence and potential that John J. Mulvany envisaged over half a century ago. Now our aging veterans and maimed and suffering military men and women returning from the Middle East scramble to find suitable health care close to home. Some travel to health facilities as far away as Travis Air Force Base. And the Veterans Administration stands at the end of the line to receive discretionary funding to support our wounded warriors.

Well, my friends, someone does have a vision. Struggling to keep pace with our aging veterans and wrestling with exotic diseases and severe physical injuries our soldiers are bringing back from the Middle East, the VA is systematically seeking to upgrade existing medical facilities across the country in an attempt to provide adequate medical services to thousands of ailing veterans in Alameda County. Enter the vacant, contested land at Alameda Point. Under the able leadership of VA Directors Claude Hutchinson, Larry Janes, and Don Rinker, the Veterans Administration is proposing to build an up-to-date campus that includes a technically updated two-story outpatient clinic, a potential for a long-term care facility for our aging veterans, possible partnership with Alameda Hospital that will benefit both Alamedans and our veterans. In addition they envision a 53-acre Columbaria that will serve over 322,000 veterans. Their vision includes partnering with the Peralta Community College's School of Allied Health for Nursing training, building a heliport for emergency medical needs, as well as serve the community in the event of regional disasters. The Air Force, Army, and Native American veterans and their families will also benefit from these visionaries.

You sent us off to war to defend the principles and values that were meant to free us from the bonds of hatred and undisciplined demagoguery that pervades an unstable world. We did our job and served our country with honor and pride. Alameda has the chance to revisit that vision John J. Mulvany perceived over half a century ago. This community can make a dramatic contribution to the well-being of our servicemen and women by making a commitment to put Alameda back on the map again. Let Mulvany's vision work for peace. For the sacrifices and contributions our veterans made on behalf of our nation our veterans ask only to heal their wounds and help them put their lives back together again.

Mark Raymond Chandler, Alameda

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