Letters for the week of May 31-June 6, 2006 

Fans of Sheila Jordan speak up in her defense. Fans and critics of

Ignacio De La Fuente do, too.

"Err Jordan," Feature, 5/24

Tell it to the tabloids
Robert Gammon's effort to smear Sheila Jordan and paint her opponent Bernard as a white knight is totally sleazy. You can always find disgruntled former employees and political losers to say something bad about a person. It means nothing. Gammon's dip into Jordan's divorce papers for ammunition is nothing but dumpster journalism. Gammon should be writing for one of the supermarket tabloids instead of the Express.

Jordan has a distinguished record as county superintendent. When the statewide fiscal crisis hit the school districts, she did the right thing. Where the law allowed, she appointed fiscal advisers to help the districts get back on their feet. She — and the county office she put together — deserve credit for the successful recoveries of the Hayward, Berkeley, Emeryville, Livermore, and Albany districts. The chief business officer of the San Leandro district recently testified that the Alameda County office has the best record of fiscal support of any in the Bay Area.

Jordan also distinguished herself by standing up and organizing public protests against the statewide school budget cutbacks, and against the governor's November 2005 special election initiatives. The county superintendent's job under Jordan is not just a desk job, nor should it be. Advocacy on behalf of the schools is something we should expect from someone in this position.

While Gammon finds no bit of dirt too insignificant to print, he can't find any ink for Jordan's accomplishments. Jordan has put together a capable administrative staff and runs an efficient and transparent operation. She was nominated as Administrator of the Year 2005-2006. She believes in diversity in hiring, and has put together a staff that resembles the United Nations. Jordan won a quarter-million-dollar Ford Foundation Grant to promote arts education in the public schools. Under her leadership, Alameda County is one of three in the state picked to share a $1.8 million grant to train math and science teachers. Test scores for the county's Juvenile Hall students went up 163 points last year and now rank in the top third statewide.

There are many other achievements. There are solid grounds, in short, why Jordan has put together a long and distinguished list of endorsements from public officials and educators countywide. She is one of the few candidates who has the support both of the Oakland Chamber of Commerce and the Alameda County Central Labor Council AFL-CIO.

Equally slanted as Gammon's picture of Jordan, but in the other direction, is his portrait of her opponent, John Bernard. Bernard is notorious for a top-down, take-no-prisoners style of administration. Novato was known for its decentralized, horizontal, network type of governance where schools — and their parents, teachers, and students — had a large measure of autonomy. Bernard killed that, and installed his own brand of centralized, superintendent-centered vertical bureaucracy.

Most glaringly absent from Gammon's rose-colored portrait of Bernard is Bernard's record as employer. Gammon must have known about, but deliberately chose to ignore, the scathing report about Bernard's autocratic and bungling record as administrator in Novato, penned by Joe Morgan, president of the Novato Federation of Teachers. Not coincidentally, the Alameda County teachers' and classified employees' unions adamantly oppose Bernard and endorse Jordan. All of these facts are germane to a voter trying to decide how to cast a ballot. None of them appears in Gammon's sleazy story.
Martin Nicolaus, Jordan campaign Webmaster, Berkeley

Editor's note
The letter writer is Jordan's boyfriend.

Bernard is no saint
Standards of journalism, only occasionally a priority in the pages of the East Bay Express, seem to have evaporated entirely in the Robert Gammon story "Err Jordan," a hit piece on the county superintendent of public instruction. Devoting thousands of words to mostly unsubstantiated charges and one-sided interpretations when it comes to Jordan, the writer somehow neglects to bring the same critical attitude to bear on her challenger, John Bernard, who is presented as a heroic champion of education.

Missing in action during the description of fiscal woes of school districts under Jordan is any sense that as she was taking office the state was plunging into recession, the dot-com bust, and a huge deficit, and that she inherited most of the fiscal problems she faced "on her watch." Missing too is the fact that the small district in which Bernard served as superintendent, Novato, sent layoff notices to 140 teachers in 2003, and suffered a teacher turnover rate of 25 percent.

Talk to teachers in Novato about how beloved Bernard was as he proposed to cut their already inadequate salaries while bringing home $144,000 himself in 2003, tops for comparable districts. No mention of this in Gammon's hatchet job while spilling gallons of ink on Jordan's salary. The Express should let its readers know when it substitutes opinion pieces for news reportage.
Fred Glass, Berkeley

Win the election
Go, John Bernard. Alameda needs you as county school superintendent! You have been successful everywhere you've been working with the parents, faculty, and students. Win the election on June 6. We're behind you all the way.
Jack Whisman, San Francisco

"Selling Ignacio," Feature, 5/10

About that victory lap
As a supporter of Ignacio De La Fuente for mayor, I enjoyed your feature article on him both as a person and as a candidate. But I have a bone to pick. Since Will Harper gathered his information in March, I can see why he refers to Mr. Dellums as "the frontrunner." Things have changed a lot since then. An informal poll in the SF Business Times shows De La Fuente with 58 percent of the votes. People are noticing that there is not much information about HOW Mr. Dellums will implement some of his "grandiose" ideas. You missed an opportunity to compare the candidates on the specific issues.

As Mr. Harper reported, De La Fuente "accurately reflects Oakland's true face — tough, gritty, roguishly charming." I like that image. And I will be there on June 7 to cheer Mr. De La Fuente as he takes his victory lap on his Harley.
Barbara Schaaf, Oakland

Editor's note
The letter writer is the mother of Libby Schaaf, De La Fuente's press secretary.

Who's the Raider?
De La Fuente apologizes for the first Raiders deal but is proud of the $55 million school for two hundred students on the Montgomery Ward site. Elementary schools usually cost $15 million. He showed that with the machine behind him, he could get the school district to cough up $40 million to settle a vendetta against "local preservationists and an out-of-town developer." They wanted to reuse the Montgomery Ward building for 520 units of housing (20 percent affordable for teachers) AND build a new school AND pay to do this by leasing the property from the school district. He was willing to sell out the school district, his own council district, and the city to "bring that building down." This deal doesn't show up as a line item every year but it has cost the school district and the city tens of millions.
Joyce Roy, Oakland

Healthcare is relevant
In your May 10 profile of Oakland mayoral candidate Ignacio De La Fuente, I was sorry you chose to belittle the commitment of De La Fuente's opponent, Ron Dellums, to affordable universal healthcare. In fact, healthcare reform is serious business. It is not a jokey example of political unfeasibility, or pie-in-the-sky idealism. People suffer and die every day for the exclusionary, inefficient, and uniquely American model of for-profit healthcare. It needs to be dismantled. Those who champion universal government-sponsored healthcare, as Ron Dellums, should rightly have their political courage applauded.
Karen Armstead, Oakland

Stay out of my mailbox
I thought you and your readers might appreciate that two weeks ago De La Fuente's people circulated his literature in the mailboxes all around our Oakland neighborhood (Laurel District). The problem is that it is a federal crime to place anything but mail into someone's mailbox. I think this tells you what kind of a fellow this guy is. If he didn't know they were doing this, that's one problem. If he did, that's a whole other problem.
John Sala, Oakland

"We're Outta Here," Feature, 4/12

Stop the quarry
Thank you, Robert Gammon, for writing an informative and well-researched article on the devastating impacts the proposed Apperson Quarry in Sunol will have on wildlife and our enjoyment of the East Bay's finest parks. Please let your readers know that the quarry is not a fait accompli. The Alameda Creek Alliance and other conservation groups will be doing everything possible to protect the Sunol tule elk herd and endangered species in and around Apperson Ridge. Anyone who appreciates the bucolic beauty of the Sunol Valley, enjoys seeing elk and eagles, or likes to hike, bike, ride, or swim in Sunol Regional Park should join our efforts to stop or alter this insane project.

Write to the Alameda County Planning Department, Alameda County Supervisors, and the California Department of Fish and Game opposing this project and insist the environmental review for the quarry be reopened. Visit AlamedaCreek.org for more information on the quarry and how to get involved.
Jeff Miller, director, Alameda Creek Alliance, Canyon

"Down and Out at Highland Hospital," City of Warts, 4/19

The lazy hack and the easy mark
Leave it to Chris Thompson to find a way to trash one of the nation's most respected teaching hospitals. No, you probably won't find as many problematic patients as one finds in Highland's emergency room in other, private medical settings which won't assist them at all. The world already knows this, Chris, if it is news to you. To imply that Highland's care is substandard because the kitchen doesn't serve grease or because drug-seeking smokers congregate outside is unprofessional and unfair.

I received the most amazing (and effective) treatment for Hodgkin's disease at Highland, and feel fortunate to have had the cutting-edge care of the remarkable and largely unsung staff, which takes seriously its responsibility to provide help to people from all walks of life, who might speak any of several dozen languages. Consider, for a moment, that the last thing the skilled, patient professionals at Highland Hospital needed was a lazy journalist looking for an easy mark.
Carol Denney, Berkeley

Photographer Kahlil Jacobs-Fantauzzi contributed some images to the photo-collage by illustrator Ariel Shepard that appeared in our May 24 issue.

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