Letters for the Week of March 11, 2015 

Readers sound off on dive bars, OUSD's seniority battle, and going tipless.

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Shoshanna Howard, Oakland

Stop Quoting King Out of Context

At some of the Oakland protests I have seen signs with Martin Luther King, Jr.'s words: "Riot is the language of the unheard." These signs provide an incomplete, out of context, and blatantly dishonest way to quote King and attempt to condone the trashing of Oakland. To accurately quote King and capture the power of his ideas, we need to include his words: "Riots are socially destructive and self defeating," "I will continue to condemn riots," and most importantly: "It is as necessary for me to be as vigorous in condemning the conditions which caused persons to feel that they must engage in riotous activities as it is for me to condemn riots." Let it be clear, MLK would not condone the trashing and burning of Oakland.

Pepe Vallenas, Oakland

Open Letter to Arecia Yee, Community Services Program Manager for Richmond Plunge, Richmond Recreation Department

Ms. Yee, I wanted to draw your attention to a shocking waste of water at the Richmond Plunge that I witnessed recently, which I hope is of concern to you during this historic drought: Each of the three times I went to the shower stalls in the men's changing room, all of the (ten or twelve) showers were flowing at full volume, but no one was using them. Either everyone is forgetting to turn the water off, or a few people are deliberately turning on all the faucets — behavior that in either case points to a culture problem and educational opportunity at your facility. Additionally, your employees are not sufficiently monitoring for this behavior, which indicates a management problem at your facility.

Whatever the cause, this must lead to hundreds — if not thousands — of gallons of unused fresh water going directly down the drain daily. When you consider the massive expense and environmental cost our state has undertaken to secure fresh drinking water from the Sierra directly into your shower pipes, it's appalling that so much of it ends up going directly down the drains in your facility, particularly at a time of drought. I urge you to install the auto-off shower valves found at most municipal shower facilities, which would save water desperately valuable to farmers, homeowners, industry, and salmon alike.

However, even with the water waste stopped, this prolific water consumption shows that no one is paying attention to water usage — even at a moment when public officials up to the governor himself feel the need to weigh in on water conservation. This troubling lack of oversight suggests a larger culture problem within your department, at the very least. It also suggests a lack of metrics and audits on your system, and a lack of accountability from your supervisors. I urge you to develop metrics by which you audit your monthly water usage, and incentivize your staff to conduct their work duties with these metrics in mind.

While I recognize that some people may feel that there are larger, more pressing issues in the world than water conservation, the fact is that freshwater shortage is quickly moving up the list of the world's critical problems. And as the program director of a water-based facility, one would think that ensuring an abundance of good, clean water would at least be your first priority. I don't know you, your priorities, the standards to which you are held, or your organizational structure. But I do see the resulting water waste, and I urge you to do better. I can only hope and trust that you and Richmond's Department of Recreation are already hard at work addressing these issues.

Joe Chojnacki, Oakland

We Need More than Cheerleading

I suppose I should be pleased to have a new mayor who is unabashedly in love with Oakland and who freely proclaims her Oakland roots and lifelong love affair with our town. It is obvious that Libby Schaaf has conflated her unconditional love for Oakland with a commensurate willingness and ability to transform the town.

My question to her is: Into what? I have no idea whatsoever of what this mayor plans to do differently from past administrations and how her rhapsodically idealized declarations about Oakland's incredible potential can be realized. There have been, after all, a lot of murders already in Oakland this year. Burglaries in the hills are still completely out of control with absolutely no evidence that they will abate anytime soon. Carjackings and shootings are a daily occurrence. To be realistic, downtown Oakland is still scary.

It is one thing to be effusively enthusiastic much like a hyperbolic cheerleader and it is another altogether to construct a coherent, thoughtful plan to actually effectuate real change in this town. I don't have a problem with this mayor being our number-one cheerleader, but truth be told it is going to take a whole lot more than enthusiasm and self-professed parochialism to turn this town around. If it was easy, there are thousands of other folks with a similar resumes and a lifetime residencies in town who could do the job.



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