Letters for the week of February 7-13, 2007 

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

Page 2 of 4

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.)

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