Letters for the week of February 7-13, 2007 

Readers comment on Fremont crime, Oakland litter, and the battle over Wolfgang's Vault.

"Who's Killing the Immigrant Mothers of Fremont?" Feature, 1/10

Straight Outta Fremont
I grew up in Fremont, right down the street from where the two ladies were beaten. I was shocked when I heard it had occurred in my old stamping ground. Nothing ever happened there. That, by the way, is why I'm one of the "white people who fled." There is nothing with a capital "N" to do in Fremont. It's a place where you live and go to school and that's it. It still doesn't have culture, art, or anything of interest to visit. Financially, Fremont became too pricey. We could buy twice as much home and property in the Hayward Hills area, and enjoy ten times more cultural diversity. People have not forgotten the murders. There is still plenty of speculation. The Ansari case is just baffling. As far as people getting upset about changing the name to "Little Kabul," where is the racism in that? If I went to Kabul and set up a sign that said "Centerville" I don't think I'd get a positive response either. It's been Centerville forever, just like Niles and Irvington and Mission. When they do find the perps, I hope you will follow up your story, hate crime theory or not.
Christie Bulcao, Hayward

The Immigrants of Fremont
Being that I was born and raised here in Fremont from 1968 through 2006, I believe that I've got a pretty good idea of what this town is about. The article leads one to believe that these two "hate crimes" (as the families would have one believe) were committed by a Caucasian. How so? Statistically speaking, that is nearly impossible. Add in factors such as the locales where the incidents took place (both are areas of high traffic and gang activity) and you have other "options" as far as "finger-pointing."

I'm not going to say that there aren't old-timers who are racist. Every city has them. I will say this: When I was in high school there came a year when strangers were scuttled into the back classrooms and kept apart from the rest of the school. ESL classes were given to these students (at a time when it didn't exist) and all of their classes were separate from ours. Every so often, you would catch a glimpse of these students — they looked shocked, confused, and scared.

Now, the rest of the student body was never told about these students. There were no announcements that we were getting refugees from a war far away from here (the Russian-Afghan war), no newsletters or yearbook notations. Heck, I'm not even sure if they got yearbook pictures! My point is that the city itself handled the influx of immigrants to Fremont poorly from the start. Those poor kids and the looks on their faces that one day have sat with me for years, until I figured out for myself where they came from and what had happened. This should not have been the way it was handled. As far as I know, the policy toward immigrant children has only changed within the last ten years. For shame!

As kids learn from their peers and adult figures around them, so does hate fester among the ignorant.

For all anyone knows, those horrible murders were like any other murders in the US: Most are committed by someone you know. The immigrants from Mexico were walking in a very heavy Latino/Afghan gang area when it was still dark (how could one see the color of their skin in the dark?) The poor woman who was murdered in what is referred to as the "Glenmoor" area — I cannot believe that there were not more witnesses. That is a very small, close-knit neighborhood. They know when you spit on their lawn, for goodness' sake!

That one may indeed have been a hate crime. Or, it could have been someone whom the public, her family, and friends knew nothing about.

One need only to look as far as Craigslist to see that there are a number of unhappily married women and men from various backgrounds residing in Fremont and looking for "love."

To try and paint this city as racist is totally ridiculous. The so-called whites in this town are a minority. Not only that, this town has been populated with immigrants from day one. Check your facts and history, please! And if there are racists here who are unhappy — MOVE! You are not welcome here.
Celeste Young, Fremont

Consider the Children
Someone should inform the Cuellar family about a bill introduced into Congress called the Child Citizen Protection Act, HR213. It restores limited power to immigration judges to consider the best interests of US citizens before deporting their parents. It is a shame that our government destroys families in this manner and sacrifices our children in the process. Whether or not the parents are here legally, the best interests of their children should be considered first and foremost before the family is deported and forced to start over in a country where their children will not have the resources and future available to them here.
Betsy DeWitt, Flushing, New York


"Chasing the Rubbish Ruffians," Cityside, 1/17

The Pyramid of Crime
Not everyone who lives in West Oakland is poor. This neighborhood has a middle class that increases with each dilapidated home renovated and sold, each condo development completed and occupied. Since moving to West Oakland four years ago, my weekly ritual is to collect and dispose of all the fast-food wrappers, malt-liquor cans, and plastic bags that collect in front of the house. There's a spot across the street, owned by the school district, that is a favorite illegal dumping spot. Mattresses, TVs, household hazardous waste, tires, you name it. The dumpers almost always come in the middle of the night to drop off their "gifts" like some kind of Bad Santa.

Twice each day I pass under the freeway dividing West Oakland and Emeryville. For me, leaving West Oakland and entering E-ville is like the scene in the Wizard of Oz when everything goes from black and white to color. I have to go to Emeryville to find a grocery store ... any store, a cup of coffee, or a restaurant that isn't fast food. Sometimes it seems all we have in West Oakland are liquor stores, churches, and mechanic shops specializing in hot-rodding cars. And piles of illegally dumped trash that often sit for weeks.

Why do they dump in West Oakland instead of somewhere else? The dark side of the Golden Rule is, "Don't expect someone to treat you any better than they treat themselves." People who eat nasty food and blow through stop signs aren't going to give a shit about the environment and will dump their garbage wherever it's convenient for them. Many people who live in this neighborhood dump on these streets and demonstrate to their children that that is acceptable behavior. They dump trash in their own yards, so of course this place is ideal to come to save money otherwise spent at Davis Street.

References from Robert Lewis' article highlight what appears to be inadequate training of the Litter Enforcement Officers: disturbing the physical evidence to render it useless, and officers learning police strategies from television shows. Add to this a political and legal system that can't get it together to raise funds from fines to support an enforcement program for litterbugs.

What I didn't read in the article was about any effort to innovate. How about surveillance cameras, sting operations, and community policing? I suppose trash in the streets doesn't measure up for innovative resources when there's a dead body on top of the heap because people are shooting each other over drug turf. We're dealing with a pyramid of crime in Oakland, and murder is at the top. At the bottom is the littering, loitering, dumping, illegal parking, and cars blowing through stop signs. I suggest the easy way to get to the criminals who murder and rape, and all the stuff that sells newspapers and long commutes to overpriced suburban tract homes, is the low hanging fruit at the bottom of the crime pyramid. If they blow through stop signs, take their license. If they dump on private or public property, fine them. If they park illegally or drive without insurance, take their cars. As long as this is a friendly environment for the lawless to live their despicable lives, this will be the place to dump. And solicit prostitution, and find street drugs, and murder.

As negative as I may sound, things have slowly but steadily improved in West Oakland over the past four years. But we have a long way yet to go.
Vince Rubino, West Oakland

Thank You, Lerneda
Thanks for your article about Lerneda Lacy, Garbage Cop. This unsung heroine often got a "hallelujah" from me when I was teaching English to immigrant adults in a lonely classroom on an abandoned East Oakland street last year. When we showed up to work in the morning, we never knew what we would find in the street in front — sofas, fridges, stolen cars, hundreds of empty CD cases, and once even rotting cow hooves. For a while we were plagued with regular forty-gallon bags of a thousand rotting oranges every Monday morning. (The kids from Fremont High used to play "throw the rotten orange at your friend" sometimes after school.) We managed to build a warm learning atmosphere inside the classroom, but the street outside always threatened to bum everybody out.

For us Lerneda was a shining beacon of sanity because our calls to her always meant the garbage disappeared ASAP. Sometimes she would come poke through the garbage trying to nab the culprit, other times she just sent a truck to haul away the stoves and mattresses.

Eventually Lerneda was assigned to a different area, and we were left in a gray area as city, school district, and adult school functionaries blamed the problem on each other. Last September the school even closed for a while, mostly because of a collective inability to cope with garbage, and it looked for a while like the forces of degeneracy had won. But that's a story for another time. I just wanted to add my "Thank you, Lerneda."
Sam Davis, Oakland

Where to Dump It
Thank you for deeming illegal dumping a worthy topic to write about. It certainly affects the entire community in terms of aesthetics and public health. I do believe, however, that the article could have been more informative and educational. In reality, the issue is much larger than illegal dumping — it's about access and information and your article in a widely read and free newspaper could have been a vehicle to provide, albeit subtly, at least a bit of it.

First of all, let's acknowledge how challenging it can be to actually get debris to the appropriate resting place. Really, we don't want people dumping legally or illegally. Ideally, we want to divert goods from the landfill and that requires a certain amount of understanding of debris management and the appropriate method(s) of removing these items from homes or businesses. For example, there is electronic waste, hazardous waste, food waste, other recyclable items, and garbage, etc. With these various items, there are preferred methods of disposal, e.g., recycling. Further, there is more than the Davis Street Transfer Station as a resource to facilitate this local and global goal.

With that said, here are at least a few more resources that could have been included in your article:

Most single-family residences have the opportunity to have at least one clean-up day per year — all they have to do is call and schedule it with their sanitation provider. This clean-up day can include bulky items like sofas and refrigerators, hazardous waste, etc.

Multi-family residences also have one clean-up day, but it would have to be a coordinated effort by the landlord or manager for the entire building.

There are often free e-waste events (as recently as January 9 and 10) sponsored by the County where residents can drop off old computers, faxes, CDs, etc.

Usually, hazardous waste is accepted on these days, too (batteries, paint, fluorescent lights, etc.)

Donating items: the Salvation Army and St. Vincent De Paul will come and pick up goods (clothing, household items, etc.)

Good old-fashioned garage sales: many communities and neighborhoods host multi-family garage sales and share the responsibilities of organizing and advertising. They also tend to attract more shoppers, because they like the idea of going to one place and having a variety of shopping options.

Stopwaste.org offers valuable recycling resources for residences and businesses. They also offer grants to help businesses become more "green."
Felicia Silva, Oakland

Prosecute Them
I really enjoyed this story. I feel that all too often the little guys are stepped on because they can't stand up for themselves. This story calls attention to a problem that all of us are already aware of, but no one seems to do anything about it. I hope the City of Oakland makes a better effort to prosecute these illegal dumpers who continue to take advantage of those whose voices are seldom heard. Well done, Robert Lewis.
Will Roberts, Chicago, Illinois


"Ungrateful Living Dead," Music, 1/10

The Dead Died
Your story is so on it's not even close to funny. This is the very reason this Deadhead of 37 years will no longer support them until they pull their collective greedy heads out of their asses. As unfortunate as it is, the Grateful Dead died with Jerry.
Jay Ashley, Murphys

I Ain't No Deadhead, But ...
Boy, talk about youthful arrogance and ignorance! This David Downs fellow wrote one of the most disrespectful pieces I can imagine about some of the most loved bands of the '60s and '70s in his article defending the entity called Wolfgang's Vault. Bill Sagan never could have obtained rights to distribute the content he streams "for free" on his Web site. Mr. Downs includes quotes from Sagan's attorney referring to the Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, and the Grateful Dead as "antique rock stars" defending their "old has-been goods." Mr. Sagan could have negotiated deals with each of these major artists to obtain permission to distribute these live shows, but instead chose to "just do it," for whatever reason — and it's difficult to understand the logic behind that decision. These genre-defining bands and artists deserve so much more from a supposedly "alternative" Bay Area weekly than some narrow-minded kid comparing Carlos Santana to Matchbox Twenty, and claiming that the Dead sound like Phish and the String Cheese Incident! Do any of the editors of your paper even have a clue?

Maybe the point of this article was to ruffle the feathers of those who would defend the likes of these "aging rock stars." Even so, what about the very fact that stuff that was created by Bill Graham to be distributed for free to his beloved audience is now being sold to the highest bidder on Wolfgang's Vault by a guy who obviously cares not about the music and the artists, but strictly about the profit? Their free live streams generated commercial traffic that more than pays for this supposedly "free" but actually "stolen" content. May the scam known as Wolfgang's Vault die the painful death it deserves for disregarding all the rights of these magical artists — and by the way, I ain't no Deadhead, but I do respect them for what they've done. The Internet offers and will continue to offer many incredible avenues of distribution for artists to consider as Web sites develop legal and fair ways to offer artists' work to their fans and beyond. That is how a bridge will be built between today's younger audience and these great artists.
Marc Weinstein, Berkeley

Jam Bands Suck
"Using the Vault, I discovered that Carlos Santana could really wail — I just thought he was that annoying guitarist for Matchbox Twenty. I also listened to my first Dead set ever. Not bad, even if it did sound a lot like Phish and the String Cheese Incident." Funniest line I read all week. I am still chuckling. Truth be told, all jam bands suck! I once lost a ticket to a S.C.I. concert that my friend insisted that I attend with him. He was so pissed at me that he wanted me to buy another ticket from a scalper; I obliged. Of course, thirty minutes later while in line to enter the show, I realized that not only had I lost one ticket, I had lost the second as well. Funny thing is that they sucked just as much listening from the fire escape as they probably did from the orchestra pit.
Pat Taylor, St. Louis, Missouri

Right on the $
Your article was right on the $! Just as outrageous are Neil Young and Robert Plant. I can see the Stones and Page suing, but I would think that the Dead, Young, and Plant would be above it. Thanks fo' yo' point of view.
James VanDevanter, Prince Frederick, Maryland

It's Unfortunate
It's sad, but the truth is that the surviving band members have actually succeeded in screwing a lot of people in recent times. Remember Doug Irwin who made Jerry's guitars, and after Jerry's death, they were supposed to go back to him? Well, the band sued him, claiming that they actually belonged to the band. Let's not even go into the fight that band members Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, and Phil Lesh got into a few years ago over the band's tape vault. I guess none of this is actually news if you read a lot of the credible books put out since Jerry's death that say that this wasn't even that uncommon when he was alive. Now don't get me wrong, I AM a Deadhead, but it is unfortunate that the band has to be this way.
Jerry Smith, Tacoma, Washington

"Magic Touch," Film, 1/10

File This Under Horror
We strongly disagree with your opinion of Pan's Labyrinth, and we know that it received wide critical acclaim in the US. We can only conjecture that this is due to America's love for gore and horror movies. The gratuitous violence is not only entirely unnecessary (we already know that the Capitan is evil, and blood spurting is not poetry unless you are a closet sadist), it seems to have been included simply for the entertainment of audiences who appreciate gore. The assertion that "kids would surely appreciate it" is just plain wrong. My eight-year-old is quite used to seeing foreign films as well as cartoons, but certainly would have walked out of it in the very first scene. To compare a horror film to the sublime beauty of Spirit of the Beehive, which my eight-year-old loved, as did all of our close friends, is like comparing Chez Panisse with KFC. Sure, they both serve dinner, but what kind of dinner? File this movie under gore/horror, not drama. And don't bring a child, not unless you are trying to acclimate him or her to a world of brutal sadism.
Biff Stockton, Oakland


"Major Labels' Hyphy 2.0," Music, 1/10

Thizzin Isn't
I just read Eric K. Arnold's article on Major Labels' Hyphy 2.0. I was at the Youth Uprising Christmas Party. Many of the Bay Area artists that Mr. Arnold listed, including Miami, Mac Mall, Rydah J. Klyde, E-40, F.A.B., Traxamillion, Ray Luv, Jacka, Clyde Carson, B-Legit, Too $hort, BavGate, Casual, DJ Backside, and Zion-I, were in the building, sending a strong message to the youth that this was the place to be. What I found most interesting and disturbing about the article is that j DIGGS was the first artist to get on the mic and publicly say, "Thizz is not about drugs. I am a Thizz Artist, President of Thizz, and I have never taken a pill." He encouraged the kids not to take e-pills and not to associate Thizz with drug usage, but with the energy of the music. He spoke at length and in full, clear detail. Not once was he even mentioned. Is there a reason why?
Betty Diggs, Fairfield

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