Letters for May 27 

Readers sound off on Measure Y, our theater review, and water conservation.

"Measure Y and the Oakland Budget Mess," Full Disclosure, 4/22

Don't Blame the Workers

It was disappointing to see the Express and some politicians resorting to corporate-style "blame the workers" rhetoric.

Oakland's budget crisis is no mystery: Like every major city, revenues have plummeted due to the collapse of the housing market and the resulting recession.

Police, fire, and legal mandates account for all but $70 million of the general fund. Even if every civilian employee worked for free, it still wouldn't solve the problem.

Civilian employees have not had raises since 2007 and are not asking for raises in our current contract talks. We suffered layoffs last October and since January we've taken 10 percent pay cuts. We have offered more economic concessions and proposed a retirement incentive program to shrink the workforce by attrition instead of forced layoffs, but the city still demands more cuts.

Oakland's police received a 4 percent pay increase in 2008 and will get another 4 percent raise in July. The city spends more per officer on overtime than any other city in the country — as much as $35,000 each. In San Francisco, the police agreed to defer $14 million in raises to help close their deficit.

Our members are ready to do their part, but this crisis requires that everyone share the burden. Our alternative budget to fix Oakland's crisis will be released soon. We hope residents and our political leaders will support reasonable budget solutions that reflect Oakland's values and protect services, jobs, and quality of life.

Jeffrey Levin, vice-president for Oakland, and Bob Muscat, executive director, IFPTE Local 21

"There Will Be Blood," Theater, 4/29

There Will Be Spoilers

I enjoyed Rachel Swan's enthusiasm and style in the recent review of Berkeley Repertory Theatre's The Lieutenant of Inishmore in the East Bay Express. That said, I was extremely disappointed by how much of the plot and the surprises of the play are given away in it! Ms. Swan herself says in this article of McDonagh's playwrighting: "He has a wonderful way of withholding details ... saving the 'aha' moment for the very end." In reading this review, I only wished Ms. Swan could have taken inspiration from McDonagh, and thought twice before revealing so much of what happens, as much of this play's (and most plays'!) strength is in surprising its audience.

Too late for this review, of course, but perhaps something to consider in the future.

Michael Austin, San Francisco

"Sierra Water Grab," Feature, 4/29

Consider the Sierras

East Bay residents, I urge you to think about your impact — this time in the sierras. I own a house in Amador County and clearly see the degradation of land and river to get EBMUD water to the Bay Area. Let's choose conservation and water recycling rather than ruining our sierras. Please support the Foothill Conservancy that works to protect the sierras for future generations: FoothillConservancy.org.

Catherine Squire, Richmond

"Backpedaling in the East Bay," Seven Days, 4/29

Rush Isn't a Blowhard

Robert Gammon is lying when he writes that Rush Limbaugh is "an idiot blowhard who wants ... Obama, and ... the country to fail."

What Limbaugh said was: Obama wants to nationalize banking, healthcare, and the auto industry. I hope he fails.

Let's review. 1) Banking: The top honchos in the Obama administration are the same people who gave us Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, and years of unregulated credit bubbles.

2) Healthcare: Do we really want to be like Canada and have seventeen-week waits to see a doctor?

3) Detroit: Our auto industry is dying because people can buy cars they like better, for less money, from other makers. Obama is doing nothing to address the $7 billion GM coughed up last year for pensions and retiree health benefits, leaving far less money for research and product development. Next to numbers like that, restricting executive pay is less than a finger in the dike, while unionized greed is unchecked, enacting laws that require us to buy costlier, unproven "green" vehicles won't stop the carnage (pun intended).         

Gammon usually has been reliable and accurate. This was a disappointment.

David Altschul, J.D., Berkeley

Don't Sacrifice Berkeley

We cannot save the planet by destroying Berkeley.

If Berkeley's Climate Action Plan (CAP) is worth doing, it is worth doing right with ample council and public thought and discussion — which has absolutely not yet occurred. I implore our council, in the interests of democracy and the well-being of this city, to postpone any adoption or pre-adoptive votes until:

1. There have been several council workshops/public hearings to thoroughly and publicly discuss and vet the plan. No more strong-arming please.

2. There has been a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR) to determine impacts. The idea of the proposed Negative Declaration ("because the CAP would not result in any significant adverse environmental impacts," per Climate Action Coordinator Burroughs) is patently absurd. We cannot know the negative impacts without the EIR and a plan of this scope inherently has negative impacts.

On specific CAP proposals, we need at least the following changes:

1. Creation of homeowner incentives, not mandates, whether at time of sale or otherwise. Use of a Transfer Tax and other possible tax rebates as incentives is excellent. Yes, the city will get less revenue, but if the CAP goal is so worthy, the money will be well, and likely better, spent. In these economic times, it is cruel and unusual punishment to suggest further financial burdens on our residents.

2. Careful study and reconsideration of any measures that are inherently wasteful, like new appliances, cars, windows, buildings etc. when the old ones still work or can be made to work.

3. The EIR needs to assess the impacts of the CAP on open space, solar access, views, historic resources, etc. These are also part of our physical environment and have climate as well as social impact. This assessment is exactly what a full EIR will do and why it is absolutely necessary.

4. More attention paid to UC Berkeley impacts on the local environment and Measure G goals. What good will it do for the city and its stakeholders to reduce their impacts when UCB is ratcheting up negative impacts?

Our city must not continue the strong-arm behavior that this CAP has thus far engendered. Let's have a thorough and civil discussion. Measure G was not a license for a totalitarian remake of our city. The council should take no action now on the CAP other than to extend the timeline, recommend a full Environmental Impact Report, and input several preliminary amendments based on the foregoing.

Barbara Gilbert, Berkeley

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