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. 

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