Letters for the week of February 20, 2002 

"The only thing green about this city is the money. Where is the progress?"

Editor's note
Due to a production error, one page of Chris Thompson's cover story, "The Ultimate Backup," was deleted from last week's print edition. It can be read online at www.eastbayexpress.com. We will also be glad to mail or fax a complete version of the story (call 510-379-3700). We regret the error.

The Naked Truth
Re: The 7 Days column and the accessibility issues with the Berkeley Folk Fest (February 6). As she has since the issue arose, Jessica Bryan continues to ignore the core issue: Is it proper to use public monies to support events that deny accessibility to all citizens? After ignoring the issue when first brought to her attention, the argument was made that partial accessibility should be a sufficient "compromise." Failing in that, she now would shoot the messenger for pointing out the nakedness of the king. As for Dona Spring, if she seeks a dark lady that abandons principle for personal vendetta and political gain I offer her a looking glass. Stand by for a new attempt to fund a semi-accessible festival. Dare I suggest that rules and laws regarding access mean nothing if they are not equally applied to projects we support and those we do not.

Robert Nichols, Berkeley

Hall of Mirrors
I am very disappointed by your coverage of the controversy around the proposed new Alameda County Juvenile Hall ("House of the Setting Sun," February 6). Mike McPhate writes that "Teenagers mounted strong opposition to the county's new juvenile hall. If only they were right."

But then he goes on to present the arguments and facts opposing the juvenile hall expansion -- proving the advocates' case! I left this article, which I did find fairly well-researched, puzzled by the title. Why aren't they right?

McPhate points out that the proposed new hall will be almost three times the size of halls in similar counties, at a time when violent crime among youths is dropping! He accurately reports that youths today are being jailed for very light charges, and that the estimates used to justify the size of the project were inaccurate. As for the supporters, McPhate provides no facts to defend their position. So, why does he take their side?

His major argument seems to be (although he puts no emphasis on it) that the county has received $30 million for the state which can only be used to rebuild its current juvenile hall, which is old and decrepit. But he doesn't even look twice while reporting that the proposed hall will cost $200 million -- if this extra $170 million won't come from alternatives to incarceration (or our schools, as the motto "Books not Bars" represents), where is it coming from? There is no examination in this article.

All of the actual statistics and numbers in the article point out that there is no justification for building such a gigantic jail. Instead, the only support for jail comes from quotations and anecdotes, like Gail Steele, who says that locking up kids is now the only option because our social programs have failed for the past thirty years. Or a County Sheriff who calls Alameda County teens "violent as hell" -- and which McPhate correctly contradicts with statistics in the next sentence.

McPhate gives equal weight to the arguments in favor of the jail, with no evidence to support them, and the arguments against, which are supported by statistics, facts, and figures. This is another case of the type of "he said, she said" coverage of controversial issues which has turned me off of the conventional media. I'm very saddened to see it in a paper like the Express, which usually is not afraid to take a side, especially the unpopular but correct side.

The new juvenile hall will be an extension of the failed racist social policies, which have created Alameda County's current problem of urban blight, crime, and drugs. The Express should be able to see that putting $200 million into a new jail for teenagers when our schools are crumbling and failing, our parks and libraries are closing, and our economic development policies are stranding the poor, will only exacerbate a desperate situation. Furthermore, I recommend the pork-barrel handouts of construction and operation contracts to the jail industry -- such as the bilking of Alameda County of $170 million (with the "gift" of $30 million in state-controlled funds) to build a ludicrously oversized facility -- as a story worthy of the Express' investigation.
Joshua Sperry, Oakland

Change and the "Blessed City"
Regarding Melissa Hung's article entitled "How Green Is My City?" (January 30): I could not have described the current situation of Berkeley better than Patrick Kennedy as he stated in Hung's article: "The most curious thing about Berkeley is that it calls itself a great progressive city, yet is violently against change."

A fairly new resident in Berkeley, age 19, I recently moved to the area with the widespread notion that this was a microcosm of progress gaining ground within a larger world of formerly obstinate disinterest. What I've found instead is a city drowning in outdated liberal protest and bureaucratic backwash, much like many local governments across the nation. This is not to say that Berkeley's history of social change and liberal leadership is insignificant -- but it is this background that clouds the minds of many local politicians, forcing them to either act in a typecast manner or to completely break away from Berkeley's environmental/liberal movement past. There is a definite disparity in existence today between the public's view of progress and that of the city government's.

Unfortunately, neither of these two opposing views leave room for responsible decision-making in regards to city planning. Instead of trying to work with both the environmentally concerned public and the economically concerned business community, the City Council seems to ignore the best interests of both. The only thing "green" about this city is the money. Where is the progress? Where is the forward thinking?
Kristen Weiss, Berkeley
via the Internet

Register Discovers Jeans
It's fun to chat about your life and work with a reporter ("How Green Is My City," January 30). But there are always the details to clear up. The black jeans I wear "day after day" -- they're not the same pair. They just all look the same. They start off good enough to look like dress pants and end up as plenty good work pants. This is one of my great discoveries.
Richard Register, Berkeley


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