Letters for the week of May 12-18, 2004 

Old Oakland is not the only economically depressed neighborhood to get a Starbucks. Plus, a rebuttal from the author of some research on parental move-aways.

"Celebrity Hocus-Pocus on Broadway," Cityside, 4/21

Decaffeinated in Point Richmond
We've had a Magic Johnson Starbucks here in economically depressed Point Richmond for about three years. Yeah, that's right, Point Richmond -- the only all-white, middle-class part of Richmond. But we share a ZIP code with poor folks, so ... clearly, despite the three privately owned coffee shops we had here when Starbucks came in, we were obviously "underserved." You had to walk a whole half-block to get a latte, and that was just too far.
Sara Gillies, Richmond

"Should She Stay or Should She Go?" Feature, 3/31

The move-away debate pits feminists vs. kids
Your article on the LaMusga divorce move-away case, today decided by the California Supreme Court, was generally thorough and balanced. But inexplicably, your reporter failed to contact me or my coauthors (Professor Ira Ellman and Dr. William Fabricius) despite the fact that our research was described as a key ingredient to the case. I was a co-signer of one of the key briefs, and a partisan on the other side, psychologist Dr. Judith Wallerstein, characterized our study as "deeply flawed."

I wish to make three points. First, no study, standing by itself, can ever claim to be completely conclusive and definitive. Since ours is the sole study ever conducted that directly explores the relationship between young adults' adjustment and whether their divorced parents moved apart, we scarcely would claim or have claimed our study is the final word on the subject. Still, our investigation was considered sufficiently rigorous and meritorious by the anonymous expert peer reviewers and by the journal editor to warrant publication in the most prestigious professional journal in the field, the Journal of Family Psychology. Moreover, the American Psychological Association chose to commit its resources to publicizing its findings. This reaction would hardly be the case if these more objective experts shared Wallerstein's view that the study was "deeply flawed."

Second, while more research is needed with respect to some aspects of the move-away issue, our findings are clearest on the critical legal issue of Burgess and LaMusga: Should courts assume that any time the custodial parent wishes to move that the move is in the child's best interests? The findings of our study are difficult to reconcile with the presumption that moves are good for children whenever desired by the custodial parent. As argued in the brief written by psychologist Dr. Richard Warshak, the policy implication of our study is that courts should examine the children's interests case by case in relocation disputes, rather than assume that the move is in the child's interests simply because the custodial parent would like to move.

Third, you cast the larger dispute as one between advocates on "dad's side" vs. those on "mom's side." We believe the debate splits less along gender lines than it does on the basis of professional social scientists vs. ideologues. The brief that Dr. Warshak wrote was cosigned by 28 leading researchers and mental health professionals, all eminent in their fields, roughly evenly split between male and female, several of whom are Dr. Wallerstein's former collaborators or coauthors. The much smaller group who signed the brief on the other side virtually all self-identify as feminist advocates. Put another way, the divide appears to be between those who want what's best for mothers vs. who have researched what's best for children. Today, the California Supreme Court made a ruling that put into practice the move-away rule that we recommended: one that requires judges to give children's best interests a case by case examination.
Sanford L. Braver, Ph.D, professor of psychology and co-principal investigator, Prevention Research Center, Arizona State University Department of Psychology, Tempe, AZ

"Waiting for the Bus," Feature, 4/7

Just fire bad drivers
I ride the bus every day, and I am sometimes astounded at the drivers' disrespect for disabled patrons. The episode that comes to mind occurred several months ago, when a driver stopped for a wheelchair. She wouldn't let him on the bus until she had seen his money (and I have seen drivers do this several times since then). Then, when the man couldn't tie his chair in himself, she called him lazy and stupid and a troublemaker.

She kept saying, "Look what you did. Look what a mess you made," exactly as if she were talking to a dog that had stained the carpet. He wasn't provoking her in any way. She kept cursing and complaining at him as she drove. When the man got off the bus, he kept his head down, but I could see that he was shaking with sobs.

No one should have to endure that kind of abuse just to ride the bus; and that driver should be out of work and in some sort of rehabilitation. All of the competent drivers are completely overshadowed by the inexcusably abusive ones.

Furthermore, the drivers who are abusive to disabled passengers are THE SAME ONES who curse at able-bodied passengers or try to pick fights with them. The drivers who bypass wheelchair passengers are almost certainly THE SAME ONES who drive past a lone able-bodied person at a bus stop when the driver is behind schedule, wants to make a green light, or is simply in a bad mood. These are also the same drivers who drive aggressively and cut off other vehicles in traffic. The removal of these drivers would therefore make buses more pleasant and safe for everyone.

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