Letters for the Week of November 28 

Readers Sound Off on Altamont Motorsports Park , Dubious Ranger, Henry Norr, and TIP's arrest.

Letters for November 28-December 4

"Fresh is the Word," Music, 10/24

The Truth About TIP

You're getting your awards shows mixed up. The BET Hip-Hop Awards was held in Atlanta a week after the VH1 Hip-Hop Honors, which was in New York. TIP was arrested in the ATL.

Marcus Matthews, Atlanta, GA

"Gimme Shelter," Feature, 10/24

Some Advice

I read with some amusement your Oct. 24 article regarding the Rivard family's concerns about the increased use of the Altamont speedway track and how it is affecting their lives. From a distance, it's possible to see both sides: The new owners of the track blow in, want to optimize their investment, they quickie up some bleachers, lights, and so on; no permit 'cause, hey, it's the middle of nowhere, right? All the new fans roll in, park everywhere, drive fast, trash the place, and so on. The track hasn't felt out the neighbors yet, so there's lights, noise at all hours, etc.; hell, no consideration. Bad stuff. No love.

Earlier, the Rivards foolishly build a house next to a large racetrack(!) and then are surprised when it becomes louder and more present. The first thing they do is form a committee, hire lawyers, and go for the gonads. They expose the track's relaxed attitude towards permits, they go to the county, make noise, make press ... and then Mr. Rivard claims surprise when the track CEO won't shake hands. In fact, the track management is well and truly pissed, and the Rivards can't understand why!

The bads.

To the racetrack: You blew in there, large, noisy, and bright. You didn't shake the man's hand. You didn't talk and help, you did low-level retaliation. You lied. Everybody hates that crap. And you still haven't faced the neighbors and shaken their hand, saying the magic words, "I'm sorry we've had a misunderstanding. Let's make it work".

To the Rivards: You bought and built next to a racetrack. A LARGE racetrack. Then you went right to the lawyers. Then you are surprised when the track is way, way pissed off. Your behavior is called passive aggressive. Everybody hates that crap.

The advice.

Track: Shaddup. Sit down and be a good neighbor. You can have your track, and most of your races. Put in sound buffers, turn the lights off early, keep a good schedule, and talk to the folks. Talk, and try to make it work out, really. 'Cause they will be up your butt again if you don't.

Rivards, etc.: Shaddup. You might not want to hear this, but do: You live too close. We all do. Life grows bigger and louder around us all, every day, even over here in Kensington, my home. The track owes you something, but you also owe them. Can you pay? I think you made a bad decision to build there. The track is not going away. Forget that. They will make some concessions, but will it be enough? Come back down to the planet, here.

And as for that lawyer? Fire his ass. He is saying only what you want to hear, spouting to the press. Stuff not based in reality. The best you can hope for is a negotiated settlement. Here I am, telling you that for free. Him you pay?

That's all I got. Call me, both you, if you want to talk.

Daniel Leonard, Kensington

A Pawn in Their Game

I have long maintained that your publication is the best of the Bay Area free weeklies. I am therefore sorely disappointed to see the unbalanced article on the conflict over the Altamont speedway. I feel that your author did a poor job of looking over the situation and fully understanding the forces at play. In short, she allowed herself to be used by the Rivards to further their own selfish aims. I'm very disappointed that you left out some very salient facts in your article. I expect the Express to be better than that.

A: Practically the first thing that the Rivards did upon purchasing their property was to build a motocross track there. They let many people use the track, to the point where they had to post that the track was in fact private because people they didn't know were just showing up to ride. The point is that these are hardly your basic quiet-loving countryfolk. They use heavy equipment to tear up their land, and then make copious amounts of noise with their motorcycles.

B: If you visit the Rivard's web site on this issue, you'll find that they push the environmental issue heavily. They speak about how the racetrack isn't in keeping with the natural habitat of the area, and the opening page has a pretty picture of a wild fox. The problem is that the racetrack sits next to the intersection of two freeways — hardly a natural wonderland. It's also highly hypocritical of off-road motorcyclists to criticize paved-track operators over their environmental impact.

C: No mention is made of how the Rivards tried to buy the racetrack. It seems to me that there may be a serious case of sour grapes that somebody else beat them to it. It stands to reason that may well have been in the Rivards' plans all along. Otherwise, why did they build their house overlooking the track?

D: The author made the point that having legitimate venues available for drifting makes that activity less likely to occur on public streets. This point is important and meaningful, as people die daily from street racing, and thus, providing a safe place to indulge their passion provides a public safety service. I acknowledge that the track management has been arrogant and dismissive at times. Condren and his crew have made enemies of people that came prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt. But if you snoop around this issue it's pretty easy to see that the Rivards are hardly pure as driven snow. They did a classic "build next to an airport and complain about the noise" scenario, and the location of their house coupled with their own motorsports background suggests that this power struggle isn't just about good or bad neighbors, but about power and control. The East Bay Express may have allowed itself to be a pawn in this battle by not adequately providing a complete picture.


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