Letters for the week of May 16-22, 2007 

Readers sound off about John Russo's stance on Oak-to-Ninth, Texas wines, and illegal file downloading.

"Oak to Ninth Yin-Yang," Full Disclosure, 4/25

An outrage
Bob Gammon's excellent piece of journalism on the Oak to Ninth referendum lawsuit was a true service to the people of Oakland who, left to the devices of their city attorney, might not realize just how blatant has been his manipulation of the law. Had the referendum lawsuit never been filed, it would likely never have come to light that an ordinance not yet written had been passed — or to put it another way an ordinance that had been passed was then altered in significant ways making public scrutiny as well as official review impossible. John Russo's adamant defense of this flawed process is an outrage.
Kate Tanaka, Oakland

A tale of two ordinances
Thank you Robert Gammon for your excellent piece on the behavior of Oakland City Attorney John Russo and his duplicitous efforts to protect the Oak to Ninth developers at the expense of the citizens who worked hard to bring this project into the arena of public debate and approval by putting it on the ballot. Your article makes clear to the casual observer that there were two version of the ordinance: the "adopted version" that the city council approved on July 18, 2006, and the Referendum Committee attached to its petitions, and the "final version" that Russo made available nine days later and now claims should have been used by the Referendum Committee. Thank you for shedding light on city government's attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of its citizenry.
Gary Knecht, Oakland

Measure Y flimflam
City Attorney Russo used a similar double standard to kill police staffing requirements in Measure Y. Russo kept quiet while councilmembers promised 1) the new tax money would not be spent if the city did not already have 739 police, and 2) the city would hire 63 more officers for a total of 802. That was during the campaign. Afterward, when the city failed to perform and a court action was filed, Russo's office told the court that the city could spend the money, including grants to social programs, regardless of how many police it had, but at the same time, the city had no obligation to add even one new officer. Today the city has fewer police than when Measure Y was written and passed.
Charles Pine, Oakland

Electoral democracy
"In particular, he made a big deal of two maps it lacked." Those omitted maps were a big deal because they showed how much park/green space will be provided in the project, which the coalition against Oak to Ninth misrepresented to gather signatures. While most people sign petitions without much persuasion (and, of course, don't read the fine print), many signers were led to believe there won't be ample public spaces in the project. I suppose we can all study this issue and vote on it, but we have elected officials to study these issues and vote on it. Didn't our city council unanimously approve this project after months of discussions and involvement with community leaders and compromises from the developers?
Steve Rochon, Oakland

The big ripoff
One of the sad and unfortunate facts is that elected officials will sell off the public assets for campaign contributions, pennies for a dollar. The Oak to Ninth Project is a "ripoff of historic proportions," as former Councilman Wilson Riles Jr. says. Kudos to Mr. Gammon for putting a spotlight on the underbelly of Oakland politics.
Akio Tanaka, Oakland

"California's Best Bargain?" Wineau, 5/9

It's the grapes
Saw the comment in your column regarding another columnist's mention of Texas Sauvignon Blanc, and your mention that they have a long winemaking tradition. I don't know if the other columnist is correct or not, but I have a little experience with Sauvignon Blanc from Texas. I did a bit of tasting last summer at Dry Comal winery, outside New Braunfels. The Sauvignon Blanc was the best wine they had (to my California tastebuds). Good enough I bought a bottle. However, there was a reason for that — the grapes didn't come from Texas at all. They came from — surprise — California. They didn't say anything about it, but, if you examined the label closely, it isn't "Texas Sauvignon Blanc," it's "American Sauvignon Blanc." When pressed (bad pun), they admitted that the grapes for it actually came from California. So, don't believe everything you hear.
Michael Arighi, Oakland

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