Letters for the week of August 20-26, 2003 

Your Gary Coleman stunt was degrading. Your Gary Coleman stunt was fabulous. Your OMI story was shortsighted. Your Kevin Freeman story was terrifying.

"Gary for Governor," Feature, 8/6

It's a sad day
I hope you are NOT serious. I found the articles about Gary Coleman very degrading and insulting to the State of California, not to mention to Gary himself. The recall issue has become a circus for all to play in. It's a sad day indeed. The world is in desperate need for people who really want to better each citizen's life.
Karen Sergi, Oakland

Brugmann was right
Bruce Brugmann said the Express would go downhill, and your endorsement of Gary Coleman for governor proves Bruce right. You have given the Bay Guardian enough fodder for the next decade. I've considered the Express a serious publication, but sponsoring a stunt like putting Coleman in the recall race reduced the Express to the level of the supermarket tabloids.
Harrison Chastang, San Francisco

I want Gary next to me
When will "Gary Coleman for Governor" T-shirts be available? He's got my vote!
Niels Schroeter, Vista

Citizens for Coleman is not producing campaign paraphernalia at this time, but a Google search for Gary Coleman will turn up independent vendors who are selling T-shirts, bumper stickers, mouse pads, coffee mugs, and, yes, thongs.

Gary no, Liz yes
Although I was impressed with some parts of your story, I was disappointed that you had chosen a Southern California candidate as opposed to an East Bay, or even Northern California one. My name is Liz Swaney, I'm nineteen, and am hoping to get on the ballot by the August 9 deadline. I'm a California native and have been an East Bay native all my life. Check out my campaign Web site at: www.lizforgov.com and donate if you want! =)
Liz Swaney, Oakland

Donate if you will, but Ms. Swaney did not make the October 7 ballot. 2006 perhaps?

"Jerry's Kids," Feature, 7/23

Our students deserve better
Chris Thompson's article about the Oakland Military Institute set up a striking parallel for me: I'm often waiting for the bus at 14th and Broadway when the OMI students descend on the intersection after school. I have never seen a group of young people with such violent and destructive tendencies. They hit each other, deliberately walk into strangers, kick bus benches, turn over trash cans, and empty out free newspaper boxes onto the sidewalk. None of this seems surprising to me now, knowing they've spent a day under the irresponsible and untrained eyes of military personnel with no care for their needs to develop into positive and healthy adults. The OMI isn't helping our youth become these adults, or providing sustainable discipline that remains within the students when they leave the school premises.

Earlier this month, I went to the Scream III Tour concert (not because I'm a fan of the P. Diddy spawn B2K, but because I came across free tickets) at the Oakland Arena. Between each teen-girl-heart-skipping act, a DJ spun popular rap, hip-hop, and R&B music and turned the stadium into a supersized community dance club. It was amazing -- thousands of young people of all ages danced and laughed and just sat and talked for four hours without a single violent incident or cause for security presence. Finally, for one night, the youth of Oakland had something positive to do besides hang out on the streets.

This is our city. Our young people are precious and should not be subject to the whims of a mayor who spends more time telling people what to think than listening to our visions for the future. Jerry, you have failed our students. Take the money you're wasting directing them toward a life of military service, and spend it on teen centers and youth programs that allow them an opportunity to be creative and productive citizens -- not military machines.
Sele Nadel-Hayes, Oakland

Perfect? No. A start? Yes.
In response to your article -- rather biased if you ask me -- I would say this: OMI has been a godsend to hundreds of kids.

Is it perfect? No. Is it a great opportunity for local families to get their young sons and daughters into a university? Without question.

You evidence a serious unawareness of the challenges inherent in the building of an institution of this magnitude. Having problems and making some people unhappy come with the territory. Leadership is making the necessary changes and staying on course despite setbacks. From day one, local critics have tried to kill this school. They have consistently failed because they are fighting against what so many parents want for their children.

The key question is: Has the school been making consistent progress to achieve the vision of enabling more local kids to prepare for college? I believe the answer is clearly yes. If you or anyone else has a serious proposal that could make the school even better, I would welcome it.

With respect,
Jerry Brown, Oakland

Learn some history
In an earlier Express article ("Brown vs. Board of Education, " November 21, 2001), Chris Thompson attacked Paul Cobb for asking too many questions and interfering with the district administration. Many of Cobb's "disruptive" questions were about the school district budget, which turned out to have an $80 million deficit! Too bad more people did not have the courage to be "disruptive" at the time.

In his latest schools article, Thompson attacks Cobb again, this time because Cobb asks questions about whether black people are getting any of the contracts paid out of a half-billion-dollar budget in a district where half the students are black!!!

I do not generally support the idea of mayors appointing school board members, but in Cobb's case, the mayor appointed one of Oakland's most consistent civil rights leaders. Try a history lesson and some real investigation, Chris, or cut out the gratuitous attacks.
Kitty Kelly Epstein, Oakland

Putting children second
Chris Thompson's "Jerry's Kids" was a total farce, if in fact one would even consider it an investigative article, rather than the overly dramatic editorial that had one sole purpose -- yet another attempt to bash Mayor Jerry Brown. You cannot deny that the initial paragraphs of the feature were nothing but hyped agenda that had absolutely nothing to do with OMI! Additionally, Mr. Thompson was incredibly irresponsible in choosing the title "Jerry's Kids"! When contacted by Mr. Thompson, I invited him to view a video of OMI's eighth-grade graduation so that he could get a temperature of what OMI has done for our cadets. His response? "Not interested in the students," and he proceeded to ask, "Isn't it true that Mayor Brown has caused all of the problems by never following through with issues?"

His article was a twisted amalgamation of what's really going on at OMI; one that had no vested interest in what this school is really about: our kids! Mr. Thompson repeatedly misled any reader fool enough to actually believe him, about the initial and ongoing purpose of OMI. One has only to read the school's charter to understand that OMI is/never was intended to be a disciplinary school. It was created to provide our students who have the desire, drive, and discipline to attain more than what Oakland Public Schools are currently geared toward in the way of superior college options.

It is obvious that you place more importance on your own political agenda than journalistic integrity. Even more disappointing is that you value your smut reporting above the hard-working kids who are committed to attain a chance at a better future. Shame on you!
Cara Kopowski, Oakland

"Murder in Pod B, Cell 9," Feature, 7/30

Open your eyes and hearts
I read, with much sadness, John Geluardi's piece about the murder of Kevin Freeman. Last year I lived on the north side of Berkeley and saw Kevin on a near-daily basis. As you wrote, Kevin was an engaging and warm person, willing to share a story and offer a pointed opinion.

What a tragedy our system has allowed to happen -- or, more accurately, created. The homeless, mentally ill, and those with substance (drug and alcohol) abuse problems deserve much more compassion than even we in the Bay Area have offered. Your story was a good step in the right direction. Have we criminalized mental conditions and homeless states? Our country, with the now-highest rate of incarceration in the world, apparently has. Let's continue to keep our eyes and hearts open to the Kevin Freemans of the world.
David Demko, Pinole

His suffering was tragic
Shock and grief is my response to learning of the killing of Kevin Freeman. I lived at Blake and Ellsworth streets for some time twelve years ago, and Kevin was hanging around the block. One guy across the street essentially considered him a neighbor. I never spoke to him personally. I didn't like the bottles and piss left by the winos, but it was all harmless and part of the neighborhood experience. In the years since then, I'd seen him arrested once across from La Val's. Whenever I'm on Telegraph, strangely, I hope that I'll spot him. Now he's dead, and I'm floored to read how he suffered. I'll write again when I've had time to become furious about the negligence of the jailers.
Gary Goodman, Oakland

How can we avenge his death?
Your article was the most touching and terrifying article I have read in a very long time. Not only because I was in almost the same unit (for women -- called the E-ward) and constantly wondered why we had no protection. For example, I am legally blind, but was not allowed to have my contacts or glasses.

Mostly this scares me because this is the first I've heard of it and nobody seems to care just because he was a drunk. The mental unit conditions in Santa Rita are horrible and nobody seems to care. Is there anything that can be done to let people know? Please write back. I would like that poor man's death to be somehow beneficial to someone.
Jennifer Rockwell, Hayward

It brought me to tears
When I read your article on Kevin Freeman's cruel murder, I was brought to tears. What had happened to Freeman is without a doubt one of the most horrible things about our prison system. Maybe the police should have been doing their jobs that we, the taxpayers, pay them to do. This could have been prevented. There should be justice for this man's life. This crime should be investigated; he had constitutional rights that have been violated. I hope for future cases of public drunkenness that police don't violate others' rights and put them in prison with hardened criminals.
Megan Jones, Chico

Don't just stand there
It made me sad and angry to know that it takes a man to be brutally murdered for anyone to say what goes on in Santa Rita.

I'm sorry, but why do human beings just let a person who is obviously disturbed onto the street and not try to get them help? We see this in our backyards every day and turn a blind eye till it's too late. Even when told that there is something wrong with our children, parents all too often throw in the towel and chalk it up to laziness or something else nonmental because it reflects badly upon them. There is no doubt in my mind the Rapers care about their child. But his friends could have at least called 911 to get him looked at by a psych tech for those imaginary knife fights.

Jeez Louise, people, stop letting the TV do your thinking for you. Angry, sad, and misanthropic.
Charles S. Names, Berkeley

"Exile in Whinerville," Music, 7/16

Bite me
I understand Gina Arnold is getting flack for criticizing the hostile "senseless, sexist, and abominably stupid" reviews of Liz Phair, er, I mean, her latest album. As a 38-year-old feminist, I'm writing to say thank you and hang in there. I hadn't planned to buy Phair's latest album because I heard it lacked the edge of her first.

On second thoughts, though, I will buy it for the same reason I bought the Dixie Chicks album: to get on people's nerves. The reactions to Phair's album and Arnold's article make me wonder (again) why people are so threatened by a thirtysomething woman living her own life, speaking her mind. I'm glad Arnold/both women had the guts to say what a lot of us have been thinking (namely, "Bite me").
Jeanne Flavin, Bronx, NY


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