Letters for the Week of March 7, 2012 

Readers sound off on Occupy Oakland, Desley Brooks, and Rob Bonta.

Page 2 of 3

Max Eveleth, Alameda

"The Greek Connection," News, 2/22

Occupy CalPERS

Great article about CalPERS and its investments in Greece. For years I've been hearing about how Greece owes so much money, along with Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Iceland, etc. The mainstream media is quick to tell us about all these irresponsible deadbeats and how much they owe, but we are never told who lent them the money. Now we know.

For every irresponsible debtor, there is an equally irresponsible creditor. Why would anyone be so stupid as to lend money to Greece, which obviously can't pay it back? The stupid creditor is even more responsible for this untenable situation than the debtor. In the case of German banks, they are so rolling in cash that they lend money without bothering to think, but CalPERS has no excuse. The fund's managers did the same thing back in the dot-com boom and they lost their shirt then, too. They never learn.

One important reason why an institution will lend money stupidly and expect to get away with it is the assumption that governments will put austerity measures on ordinary people to force them to pay back their bad bets. Another reason is their expectation that the people they are serving, California State employees, will continue to approve of what they're doing. Public employees have to take control of their retirement system and demand that retirees' money be invested in California, not in some deadbeat country on the other side of the world or some criminal corporation like Enron or Bank of America. It's not too late to turn things around. Occupy CalPERS!

Steve Tabor, Oakland

Selective Ignorance

Isn't CalPERS' hands-off approach to the companies in which pension funds are invested similar to Apple and other manufacturers' hands-off approach to the companies that produce their products, e.g. FoxConn, et al?

Chris Gilbert, Oakland

"Where Kosher Meets Fast Food," Restaurant Review, 2/22

Picky, Picky

I was pleased to see a feature review of Amba, the Middle-eastern vegetarian restaurant in Montclair. Jesse Hirsch certainly did his research by not only interviewing the owner, Jonathan Wornick, but also reading blogs to learn more about Wornick's ambitious expansion plans.

Amba not only has great food (my fave is the sabich sandwich) but it has inviting decor and a diverse menu to please the palates of young and old.  So why does Hirsch criticize Amba for serving pizza and fries? What is the point of praising the price of the falafel ($8.50) and bashing the cost for other items priced at $10 or $8?

Then Hirsch reveals Amba's plans to add meat to the all-vegetarian menu. OMG! Meat? If Hirsch worries that the same knife that slices chicken will be used to chop eggplant, he could alleviate his anxiety by asking Wornick.

Next, Hirsch seems to go on a rant about the future of Amba. According to the review, Wornick plans two Amba offshoots this year. Hirsch equates this to P.F. Chang's or Chipotle and questions Amba's future integrity. Come on! How about waiting for this future event and reporting on it then, rather than jumping to a conclusion about what he calls a "whitewashed, non-kosher franchise in a food court in Stockton?"

Amba offers healthy fast food, served by a local indie restaurant with fun decor and friendly staff. We need more Ambas, and whether it is through their own expansion or stimulating competition for more healthy fast food, they are providing not only a service to their community but to the well-being of future generations.

Stu Sweetow, Oakland

"Death of a Retail Plan," Feature, 2/15

Redevelopment Is Far From Dead

While the loss of redevelopment creates challenges for Oakland, let's not give up on the city's economic future just yet. With First Fridays drawing buzz, The New York Times anointing Oakland a top-five global destination, and the League of American Bicyclists declaring us the fifth best city for bicycle commuters, there's much to celebrate. The City of Oakland — working with the community — has been moving towards a more holistic, bottom-up approach, including other elements of a healthy neighborhood (residential development, open space, street improvements). As the merchants interviewed in the article note, this organic approach is showing some results.

Far from being "dead," the Broadway-Valdez planning process was revived in 2010, when the city made a stronger effort to bring in a wide range of stakeholders, including housing and environmental groups, labor, and local residents. We came together in the Better Broadway Coalition, recognizing that commercial revitalization is best achieved in an inclusive and vibrant community, including affordable housing opportunities, transit and bicycle/pedestrian facilities, quality jobs, and retail accessible to local residents. While Oakland needs more retail, our best hope is not to copy the suburbs, but to build on our urban assets by creating a unique district where all Oaklanders can live, work, and get around easily, patronizing local businesses as they do so.

East Bay Housing Organizations has worked with the Better Broadway Coalition and the city to help infuse this more complete vision into the Broadway-Valdez Plan — one where businesses get foot traffic from residents of new and rehabbed housing affordable to seniors, Alta Bates nurses, or Grocery Outlet cashiers. We've seen it happen before just a few blocks away, as the Uptown and Fox Courts developments, which include market-rate and affordable housing, revitalized their neighborhood. We believe this future is still possible — and necessary — though as Eric Angstadt notes, it will take a new level of creativity, as the elimination of redevelopment has decimated funding for lower-income housing.


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