Letters for the week of October 10 

Readers sound off on Fairbanks Capital, Lenore Anderson, and MediaNews

"Stolen Property," Feature, 9/12

I know Jim Hultman personally, but did not know all the details of his story until I read this article about how his house was stolen by Fairbanks Capital Corporation. The injustice is so appalling in this case (and in several of the other cases of complaint or lawsuit against Fairbanks), and it is quite scary to see that current laws are insufficient to prevent one from losing one's house to a loan company conspiring to steal it. In this case, Fairbanks Capital made themselves nearly half-a-million dollars by fraudulently foreclosing on Jim's $170,000 loan and selling his house for $635,000. I urge all those affected by this story to contact their congresspersons, as I will do, so that laws are written to prevent this kind of thing from ever happening again. Jim should get his house back, the brothers who bought it should get all their money back from Fairbanks, and Fairbanks' top execs should go to prison for the rest of their lives. Apparently, Fairbanks is just Enron spelled differently. We've got bright minds in this country: Let's put them to work thinking like crooks, so they can figure out the loopholes in the laws and provide the guidance for congressional bodies to add greater legal protections, so that these kinds of nightmares never fall upon decent people again.

Deborah Mikuteit, Oakland

EDITOR'S NOTE: While Hultman's house was sold against his will for well below the market rate, Fairbanks did not get all that money. Indeed, as the story noted, Hultman got just over $450,000, albeit for a house appraised at $850,000. Fairbanks recovered the outstanding loan amount, and probably collected a bunch of additional fees in the transaction.

I was reading this article and I have to say this sounds a little biased. I completely agree that the mortgage company should fry for what they did. I hope he wins his case, but to take out his wrath and rage on the guys who just bought the house legally is not right. This article paints a really nasty picture about them when the real people to blame are the mortgage company. I think it's sad that writers like you like to drag people through the mud who otherwise might be really good people just to make a little more fire to your article.

Brad Dixon, Campbell

"Suffer the Little Children," Apprehension, 9/19

Anneli Rufus' latest gossip column — excuse me, "crime reporting" — seems to take pleasure in disparaging Mayor Dellums' appointment of Lenore Anderson as director of public safety. Ms. Rufus goes to great lengths to sensationalize Ms. Anderson's views on criminal-justice policy, hinting that they'll lead to more crime in Oakland. In her effort to smear Ms. Anderson, Ms. Rufus makes many wrong assumptions, three of which I'd like to address.

First, Ms. Rufus is wrong to insinuate that Ms. Anderson is foolish to believe that the increased use of criminal punishment creates crime, rather than preventing it. There is a long line of experience, activism, and scholarship that forcefully supports Ms. Anderson's views. For example, a recent paper by economists Keith Chen and Jesse Shapiro entitled "Do Harsher Prison Conditions Reduce Recidivism?" found that harsher prison conditions do not reduce recidivism rates, and may actually increase them. With the sharp increase in the number of people incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses over the past thirty years, it's perfectly logical to believe that prison creates more crime.

Ms. Rufus goes on to suggest, ever so ominously, that community-based rehabilitation programs will be "coming soon to your street." Leaving aside the xenophobic, "not-in-my-backyard" sentiment this statement was intended to provoke — not surprising given that Ms. Rufus is the author of the antisocial Party of One: The Loners' Manifesto — a system of community-based rehabilitation centers would be a more humane, more economical, and more effective policy choice for California. Not only does our current system of sadistic youth prisons fail to rehabilitate youth, the trauma and violence inflicted on the young people caught inside the system often cripples their chances of leading positive, healthy lives in the future.

Lastly, Ms. Rufus concludes by claiming that Ms. Anderson will be "looking out for young criminals." While this statement succeeds in terms of fearmongering and its use of racially-coded language ("young criminals"), it is completely devoid of real argument. Ms. Rufus never attempts to explain why providing better economic and educational opportunities for young people of color will not help "stanch the blood flow" in Oakland. In her hysterical paranoia, Ms. Rufus would likely have us to continue with the same "tough on crime" policies that have failed for the past thirty years. Ms. Anderson should be applauded for her willingness to address the structural inequalities of race and class that are so often at the root of crime.

Is violence a serious problem in Oakland? Unquestionably. But it was a problem long before Mayor Dellums took office. As the elected leader of Oakland, he should be given the opportunity to implement policies that will actually work.

(Full disclosure: In 2005, I completed a three-month internship with Books Not Bars. Since that time, I have not remained in contact with Ms. Anderson or anyone on the current BNB staff.)
Heath Madom, Oakland

This story may have entertained a few readers, but I think I speak for most when I say that the issue of public safety should never be exploited for entertainment. Some residents of Oakland really do "awaken from gunfire" and have lived with this reality for a number of years. Mayor Ron Dellums is laying the foundation to make a significant positive difference in regards to public safety, such as hiring Lenore Anderson as Oakland's very first public safety director (a recommendation made by the people of Oakland). This was a significant announcement made by the mayor. Rather than doing a quick Internet search, the least Rufus could have done was call our office to set up an interview with Ms. Anderson, who could have had a serious conversation about the mayor's public-safety agenda, which emphasizes 1) Prevention, 2) Intervention, 3) Sustainability, AND 4) Enforcement to stop crime. This form of "Google" journalism is irresponsible and does a disservice to your readers.

Paul Rose, communications director

Office of the Mayor, Oakland

"Trashing the News Union," Full Disclosure, 9/5

I want to demonize [Dean] Singleton and MediaNews, too, but your argument doesn't make sense. You're saying they are treating Contra Costa Times workers well so that they don't unionize. Well then, what's the problem? They're being treated well. Isn't that the goal?

P.S. — This story would be a lot stronger if you gave actual amounts people were paid rather than just saying they're being paid well or not being paid well. By whose standards? I'm sure the Guild contract is available to you, since you are a former union official. It's hard to feel any sympathy for a person making more money than you, but it's easy to feel sorry for one who is making less.
Bob Gamboa, Berkeley


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