Letters for the Week of October 17, 2012 

Readers sound off on Measure S, Trattoria La Siciliana, and the Oakland Zoo.

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Equally troubling is the anti-homeless attitude of the piece, which offensively repeats an antiquated Reagan-era mantra about homeless people making "lifestyle choices." How would your reporter know what "choices" people are making as they live a lean and mean existence without shelter, on the streets, with minimal food? Your report refers to a "small horde" of No on S supporters holding a campaign kickoff rally — a derisive reference with no basis in fact; your reporter didn't bother to quote anyone present, not even Councilmember Max Anderson, who has spoken eloquently about how Measure S scapegoats homeless people for a much larger business downturn problem that stems from Emeryville mall businesses and a lack of downtown anchor stores in Berkeley. But no: Instead of letting readers hear this and make up their own minds, your reporter chose to paint with dismissive generalizations. Also ignored is the fact that No on S has garnered widespread support across Berkeley, including merchants, faith leaders, four of five Berkeley Democratic clubs, and a broad array of social service advocacy groups that work directly with homeless and poor people.

We invite your readers to get the facts about Measure S. Please visit our site at NoonSBerkeley.com to learn more. Measure S is simply the wrong way for Berkeley to solve very serious problems of business struggles and homelessness. Instead of scapegoating homeless people for the recession, let's build real solutions that unite rather than divide our city.

Christopher Cook, communications director, and Bob Offer-Westort, coordinator, Berkeley Standing Up for the Right to Sit Down/No on S

The Kids Aren't All Right

If the goal of Berkeley related to Measure S is to get people off the street and into services, and the main problem is homeless youth, then there needs to be some place for homeless youth in Berkeley to go during the day — to get off the street. But there is not. Berkeley has no drop-in center for homeless youth. So if a youth is homeless, he or she has no place to go. What "services" are they going to be directed to via Measure S? Youth use the public library as the de facto drop-in center right now. We are creating a situation where they will just be shuffled from block to block, and endlessly ticketed. Berkeley needs to create a center for homeless youth that includes drop-in services and shelter. Measure S is a cruel waste of taxpayer dollars on a strategy that is not going to work!

Sally Hindman

Director, Youth Spirit Artworks, Berkeley


One-Sided and Stereotype-Laden

In this story, Rachel Swan uses snide descriptors ("spitting distance" from BART, "mounds of detritus," "a horde of activists"), implies homeless people's inhumanity ("Ambassadors would quietly shoo homeless people away from the city's main commercial districts"), obfuscates the issue of skyrocketing rents ("Owners and managers of commercial property ... have a hard time renting ... because the scene ... has had a real chilling effect"), diverts attention from damaged individuals ("A mere glance at the empty windows and gutted buildings shows that the area is suffering"), creates ad hominem arguments ("after all, homeless people won't be moving to other areas of the city if they're in jail"), rationalizes the disappearing of homeless people ("[Berkeley is] now home to a more affluent student population with greater discretionary income), et cetera.

Some of the organizations that oppose Measure S: Alameda County Peace and Freedom Party, ACLU of Northern California, ASUC Senate, Berkeley Citizens Action, Berkeley Society of Friends, Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency, Cal Democrats, City of Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission, Community Defense, Inc., Disabled People Outside Project, East Bay Community Law Center, East Bay Stonewall Democratic Club, East Bay Young Democrats, Food Not Bombs, Gray Panthers of the East Bay, Green Party of Alameda County, Homeless Action Center, International Indian Treaty Council, John George Democratic Club, Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute, National Lawyers Guild, Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP), and Youth Spirit Artworks.

Measure S will not help homeless people. Measure S will not help Berkeley's small businesses. Measure S will waste tax money that could be spent on services and job opportunities, and on revitalizing Berkeley's commercial district. No on Measure S!

Beverly Slapin, Berkeley


Sidewalks Are for Everyone

Once a week, I pick a spot on the Telegraph sidewalk where I won't be in anyone's way, and I sit to meditate. I think we all could benefit from spending time on our sidewalks like this. Out in the public commons, we can build the kind of community where people help one another. We can break the grip of modern-day isolation.

But Measure S would make it illegal for us to sit on the sidewalk in Berkeley's commercial areas. As for me, my mother always knew I'd end up an outlaw. But it's homeless people who would bear the brunt of sit/lie jail time.


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