Letters for the week of February 21-27, 2007 

Readers comment on Ray Dones' qualifications and Prop. 71's costs and benefits.

"Papa Dones' Deal," Full Disclosure, 1/31

Dad's qualifications
Robert Gammon raised a question of my father Ray Dones' qualification to conduct a solar energy implementation study for the Peralta College District. It should be pointed out that Ray Dones was for many years the owner of one of the largest electrical contracting firms in the state of California. His firm, Aladdin Electric, was also the largest African-American-owned electrical contracting firm in the United States. In that capacity, Mr. Dones was responsible for the design, construction, and operation of literally thousands of electrical systems — including photovoltaic systems.

If anything, it could be argued that Mr. Dones was overqualified to conduct photovoltaic implementation study. But he personally headed up the team of qualified engineers that also worked on the study because at 89 years of age, renewable energy, particularly solar energy, is an advocacy that he is passionate about. During his twenty years of retirement he has worked constantly to ensure that minorities and low-income households have access to renewable technologies and the myriad business and employment opportunities associated with the growing renewable industries.

Time has proven the validity of the recommendations made by Ray Dones to the Peralta District to install a one-megawatt solar system on the Laney campus. Among other foregone benefits, the district would today be saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual utility costs and setting an example of environmental responsibility in the utilization of "clean energy" to power its largest campus. Through Mr. Dones' guidance, the study also provided the basis for a major PUC grant that was made available to the district to offset the project costs. And the project would have provided an ideal training opportunity for Peralta students in the fast-growing solar industry.
Alan Dones, Oakland

Robert Gammon responds
In the two-page biography Ray Dones submitted to Peralta, he did not mention ever previously conducting a solar energy study or having installed photovoltaic systems. I called him twice to ask him about his qualifications for the $75,000 solar energy study now being investigated by the FBI, but he did not respond.

"A Penny on the Dollar," City of Warts, 1/24

Prop. 71 is about lives
In 2004 California voters passed Proposition 71, the "Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative." Chris Thompson's critique of the initiative is one-sided. He talks of monetary payback to the state government from the initiative, which he says will be less than some backers of Prop. 71 anticipated. But we who campaigned on behalf of this humanitarian measure were always clear that its major "payoff" would be in suffering alleviated and lives saved, not in revenues to the state. Healing spinal-cord injuries and diseases such as Parkinson's, juvenile diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer's is the aim of this research, which explains why patients, along with their families and allies, gave their strong support to Prop. 71.

Concentrating his attack on estimations of income to the state, Mr. Thompson neglects other economic benefits of the initiative: It will attract tax-paying biotech industry to California, provide a substantial number of jobs, and lower healthcare expenses associated with chronic medical conditions for which the research finds effective treatments. Moreover, implementation of Prop. 71, including interest payments, will cost Californians less than twenty dollars per capita annually. Is that too high a price to pay for research that holds such healing promise?

Thompson charges that "the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the nonprofit set up to disburse the funds, has been disturbingly secretive about how it intends to spend the public's money." This is not so. More than the National Institutes of Health or any other comparable public funding agency, the institute has made extraordinary efforts to inform the people of California about its activities and to invite them to participate as collaborators. Since its establishment following passage of Prop. 71, the institute has convinced many skeptics (including those of us who are appalled by rampant cronyism and corruption in many public agencies) that it is committed to making transparent and open its processes of governance. It has held public seminars and workshops (on the issues surrounding egg donation, for example) and has conscientiously and under intense public scrutiny developed regulations regarding conflicts of interest and intellectual property issues. Please visit www.cirm.ca.gov to learn more about how the institute does its work and involves the public. Even better, attend an institute meeting yourself.
Raymond Barglow, Berkeley

"A Cappella and Dr. Dre Don't Mix," 92510, 1/24

Sorry you don't like it
I'm sorry to hear that you don't like our arrangement/video. I'm sure when Ben Folds stops liking it, he'll take it off his Web site himself. But for now (February 9), it's still there. That is, we've been the site's featured video for approximately two weeks now. Attached is a screenshot of my desktop to serve as a time-stamp.

To address your question as to why our group hasn't been submitted in the YouTube category, we don't know why it isn't working. But the fact that it's been on BenFolds.com for a few weeks now is testament to how much that doesn't matter.
Christopher Condap, Berkeley

"Ink-Stained Hell," Full Disclosure, 2/7

A crying shame
Thanks for the excellent article on the trials and tribulations of the Post and its current owner, Paul Cobb. Where a responsible black press is so needed, it's a shame that the "wheels of justice" turn so indifferently and could cause an important community enterprise to falter. We can only hope somebody will step forward and help untangle this mess. Certainly the story out to public is an important step.
Margot Dashiell, Berkeley


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