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.

Page 2 of 3

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.

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