Letters for the week of November 12-18, 2003 

The Alameda power plant is still on the drawing board. The great coffee-roasting rebellion is alive and well.


"Gain in Alameda to Bring Pain in San Leandro?" Cityside, 10/22

Not in my district
Alameda Power & Telecom Co. no longer considers San Leandro a prospective site for its waste-to-energy facility. Furthermore, I am unalterably opposed to such a plant being constructed in District 6, City of San Leandro. As the directly elected official for the district, I have no plans to either support Alameda Power or to have any type of waste-to-energy facility built at the foot of Davis Street. Should you have any questions, you may reach me at 510-357-2182.
Tony Santos, District 6 councilman, San Leandro

San Leandro is not in our current plans
Your publication regularly covers issues related to the environment. So we were not surprised when Chris Thompson contacted us regarding a story he was doing about our power-generation study and our research into potential power resources.

We looked forward to sharing our circumstances, our exemplary environmental record, and our approach to fulfilling our obligation to serve. It is projected that, within only two years, Alameda will need an additional five megawatts of power. It is our duty to ensure that the power needs of our community are met in a responsible manner. Over 80 percent of the power we provide today is generated using renewable resources, and it is our intent that we remain an environmentally responsible utility. As we begin to look to how we will provide for our future energy needs, we are considering a wide variety of technologies that support our environmental goals. We have had a number of town meetings to gather community input, and we expect to continue conferring with the residents of Alameda as we move through our selection process.

So it was with great surprise and disappointment that we read the inaccurate and misleading information in Mr. Thompson's story. The following are but a few of the comments that concern us.

"Twenty years ago, Alameda citizens rejected a proposal ... to build an earlier municipal garbage incinerator." This is not true. The citizens did not reject it. We, Alameda Power & Telecom, determined it was not needed and ended our inquiry into its possible use.

"Alameda was subject to the same rolling blackouts as everyone else during the great power crisis of 2001." This is not true. The rolling blackouts were imposed by the state to reduce the amount of power being used by utility customers. To deal with the reduced power-usage requirements, we acquired emergency generators. When blackouts were imposed, we complied with the reduction of power being used from the "grid" and supplemented it with the auxiliary generators. As a result, it was not necessary for us to interrupt service to our customers. In addition, responding to community input, these auxiliary generators were retrofitted to use cleaner biodiesel fuel.

"It plans to set it [a gasification plant] up downwind in San Leandro, near a solid-state transfer station." This is not true. While we have discussed many possible locations for various generation technologies, including San Leandro, we currently have no plans to do so. Any suggestions as to siting are, at best, premature because we are not committed to any particular technology.

"They're actively pursuing the project under the auspices of a dispassionate inquiry." This is not true. We are not actively pursuing any specific project. We have included municipal solid-waste gasification in our studies because it appears to offer a means of generating electric power that is environmentally beneficial in both its operation and the fact that it disposes of solid waste. But again, no decision has been made. We have no commitment to this technology other than to study it to determine its feasibility. If there are problems related to hazardous emissions or other operation concerns, this approach will not be pursued.

We will continue to study the viability of solid-waste gasification as a practical and renewable source of electric power. The state government has set a goal under which 20 percent of the power used in California would come from renewable resources by the year 2017. At present, over 80 percent of the power used by Alameda Power & Telecom is from clean, renewable resources. We value this record very highly and do not intend to jeopardize it.

Any exploration of solid-waste gasification is part of our ongoing efforts to meet the needs of our customers in ways that are environmentally responsible.
Junona A. Jonas, general manager, Alameda Power & Telecom, Alameda

Chris Thompson responds
Junona Jonas was kind enough to arrange her objections in descending order of validity. She is correct that Alameda's citizens were, in fact, not involved in the discussions around the waste incinerator. But her claim that the city was not subject to rolling blackouts because the utility managed to compensate for the loss of power is really a question of semantics; are you experiencing a blackout if you have a small generator in your basement?

As for her claim that Alameda Power & Telecom considered San Leandro just one of many potential sites, her consultant's report contains an entire section on siting the gasification project in San Leandro, and there is no section discussing the merits of any other candidates. In fact, under the section, "Potential Strategic Alliances and Partners," the consultants wrote, "The city of San Leandro will be an essential player." As for her final objection, I was reporting the opinion of Bradley Angel, not stating a fact.

"Blood and Money: Endgame," City of Warts, 10/8

Racism is racism regardless of color
Yusuf Bey was never convicted of rape (statutory or otherwise) or any other crime in a court of law, even with strong evidence like DNA. But as one who watched his performances on KSBT-TV, the oh-so-pious reverend was clearly a racist, espousing black supremacist theories just as unscientific, silly, and plainly bizarre as the most wacko white supremacist theories of the KKK, Nazis, White Aryans, etc., particularly Bey's teaching that the white race is an evil product of a mad black eugenetic engineer who lived six thousand years ago. Bey espoused this nonsense for years while being accepted by Oakland's political establishment, Reverend Bob Jackson, Chauncey Bailey, KSBT-TV, and Allen Temple, among many others, who should be remembered for their shameful liaison with a blatant racist and child molester. However noble their intentions, being in league with Bey causes one to understandably suspect that they may indeed at least condone his degenerate sexual behavior and racist rantings.

Praising Bey for elevating Oakland blacks' self-esteem seems at first to be very commendable but much of this was done by falsehoods of black racial, cultural, spiritual, and moral superiority, all of which I've viewed many times on his True Solutions telecasts. White supremacists use lies as well to raise whites' self-esteem. Both are equally nefarious.
George Warren, Alameda

"The Real Shock Rock," Music, 10/8

It may be history but it's not always pretty
You wrote: "Minstrelsy hasn't merited serious cultural study since its awkward birth in the 1830s." In fact, there are a number of well-researched and in-depth books on minstrelsy. There are straight histories out there, but the ones that interest me the most are those that discuss how minstrelsy was used to construct and cross boundaries of class, race, and gender. See especially Eric Lott's Love and Theft.

The issue of whether this should be performed is a sticky one. Within the context of historical reenactment, it seems a relatively benign activity. I'm led to question the drive to reenact itself and the attendant emphasis on objectivity. Imagining history as a script to perform seems rife with problems.
Drew Beck, Berkeley

"The Caffé Critic," Food Fetish, 10/1

The rebellion is spreading
I'm a physics graduate student who, in my seven years in the Bay Area, has gone from a noncoffee drinker, to a sleepy first-year who needed it, to an espresso drinker, to one who was unhappy with university area cafes, to the proud owner of a Pavoni hand-lever machine, and finally to someone who roasts his own beans with a rewired home roaster, grinds them by hand, and then produces, by a carefully honed technique, the finest espresso or cappuccino on campus.

In the article, you explained that local coffee cafes, striving to be Euro, overroast coffee, obscuring its varietal character, and when pulling shots, proceed to extract as much carbon as possible from the charcoal. I've avoided bad roasts by buying green beans from Sweet Maria's in Emeryville and roasting them myself. Tom at Sweet Maria's (SweetMarias.com) is a fascinating coffee geek, and you'd do the rebellion a service to feature his opinions and services in a follow-up article.
Matthew Cargo, Berkeley

"Are We Too Wacky For You?" Letters, 10/8

Cast off your ideological leash
In response to John Mink's defense of "Berkeley/Oakland politics," I'd like to respectfully pose a few different dimensions. I should add that I know John Mink personally, having high regards for him as a political-punk singer in Fleshies, cofounder of S.P.A.M. Records, main impetus behind the free public Geekfest outdoor shows, and quasi-protégé of Jello Biafra. And he comes from a family of educators, artists, and the late congresswoman from Hawaii, progressivist Patsy Mink, whom I also respect.

I have personal affinities with various aspects of leftism and rightism and centrism and anarchism, as well as the underlying commons between them all, and views alien to all four. As I see it, many people in Berkeley and Oakland take certain democratic principles very much to heart; to an extent, this is admirable, but I also see unpleasant sides to Berkeley/Oakland political culture. Democracy in and of itself is hardly all good; it's simply the most relatively humane form of duking it out. I think what lends to the cynicism non-Berkeleyites feel toward Berkeley is the pretentiousness of Berkeley's views of itself as utterly educated, enlightened, sophisticated, etc., when people in Berkeley are just as prone to their passions, biases, and small-town chauvinisms as all other human beings.

I do not always like everything the Express sees fit to print, but I believe the Express' editors have as much right to express themselves as anyone. I am very grateful to the Express for its exposés of Yusuf Bey, of the assorted goon-squads' stealing/trashing whatever newspapers don't kowtow to their coercive- "utopian"(?!) loudmouthings, and of the drivel and nonsense that fanaticism in politics trickles down to. To me, left/right/centrist/anarchist/libertarian/yada-yada are split personalities of the same basic mentality, "I'm right and you are so wrong."

I get cynical whenever I read leftist diatribes about Bay Area media, because it sounds exactly like Rush Limbaugh/Fox "News," et al., bellyaching because there isn't 100 percent dittoheading. The Bay Area is home to a pretty damn wide spectrum of people, like it or not, and when the left chastises the right for intolerance, the left should also chastise itself for its own intolerance.

Last words: "Berkeley/Oakland politics" is a slight misnomer. Like everywhere else, these communities have their entrenched parties as well as those who disagree to varying degrees, those who don't care, and those who do care but see through all human folly. The sprawling varieties of leftism may have deserving roles in the politics of these towns, as well as the sprawling varieties of nonleftism; neither has a monopoly, and neither should be bullying others/media into kowtowing to their own desperate, loudly infantile wills.

P.S. John Mink claimed that the Express is Berkeley-based, but the Express is based in Emeryville, a distinctly capitalist enclave.
Kenneth R. James, San Pablo

"Class-Action Warrior," Feature, 10/8

Has Ahnuld read your story?
Thank you for writing this article. Exorbitance in legal fees is a "social ill" that desperately needs more attention. I hope more attorneys will be inspired to follow suit (no pun intended).

If you talk to Larry Schonbrun, please pass along my gratitude for what he's doing. I really think there need to be billing standards/limits for the legal community. I would be in favor of encouraging Larry to contact our new governor to share his insight, which I believe would be useful in getting legislation in place to offer needed oversight in this rampantly out-of-control area of our legal system. Based on what I have read, I believe Mr. Schwarzenegger would be very sympathetic to his cause.
Judy Lovejoy, Fremont

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