Letters for the week of October 3, 2007 

Readers sound off about Too $hort, the Oakland Ballet, and Your Black Muslim Bakery

"Too $hort, Career Counselor," Feature, 9/5

Your Tax Dollars At Play
Music columnist Eric K. Arnold glorifies rapper Too "Hey b*tch" $hort and his political-economic hookup with the management of Youth UpRising. For credibility, Arnold needed the pretense of talking to a critic. I declined to be interviewed when he submitted a list of questions modeled on, "Have you stopped beating your wife?" So Mr. Arnold cribbed from the Web site of a group I cofounded, Oakland Residents for Peaceful Neighborhoods (www.orpn.org). However, he could have read more carefully. Contrary to his statement, I am not now and have never been an attorney.

Mr. Arnold repeated City Hall's chant that we can't arrest our way out of Oakland's problems. Who said we can? (To be sure, arrests are way down.) The real issue is that Oakland has only half a police department. We need at least 1,100 police for this city of 410,000 residents, not the 700 or so we have today. Then officers could walk the neighborhoods, respond when we need help, and actually investigate and apprehend criminals.

Instead, City Hall diverts police money to Youth UpRising, even while the agency helps promote sideshows. No one condemns everything it does; health checkups are great. However, Oakland residents should reflect on two things about Youth UpRising. First, consider that the city council handed Youth UpRising a virtually unconditional five-year grant of $1.5 million without competitive bids. The city gives the agency annual grants on top of that. Second, ask yourself whether there is any reason to believe your neighborhood will be less plagued by "boom car" stereos, by auto thefts, home burglaries, and violent robberies as the result of an opportunistic partnership between Youth UpRising management and gutter rappers.
Charles Pine, Oakland

You Say You Wanna Be a Hip-Hop Star?
As a resident of East Oakland who lives in the flatlands below 580, my family and I are constantly dealing with gunshots, sideshows, burglaries, prostitution, etc., etc., etc. We see firsthand every day what East Oakland is all about and to us ORPN has been a breath of fresh air. Charles Pine is right about Youth UpRising; is this really the best we can do for our kids regarding vocational training? When I was young we all wanted to be rock stars, but in reality very few of us earn our livings today in the entertainment industry and I don't think it is going to be any different for most of the youngsters at Youth UpRising.

I do not have a problem with people like Too $hort spending their money to help kids in East Oakland, but I do have a problem with Measure Y money being spent on Youth UpRising because that money should be going to hire more cops so the people of Oakland can walk the streets without being shot, robbed, or raped. If Too $hort wants to be a positive role model, he can use some of his many millions to fund Youth UpRising. Time to put his money where is mouth is, if you ask me. Measure Y is funded by the taxpayers and most of us are not millionaires or anywhere near it, but we still deserve a modicum of public safety, something Oakland is not even close to being able to deliver. Oakland leaders need to fund the basic services such as public safety, clean streets, and good schools before they fund recording studios for future hip-hop stars.
Mary Becker, Oakland

A Leap into the Unknown," Fall Arts, 8/29

Guidi Can Do It
As an employee of the Oakland Ballet during Ms. Brown's reign as Artistic Director, I can say unequivocally that the bankruptcy of the company in 2006 was due entirely to her mismanagement, poor planning, and concentration on building a cult of personality. Ronn Guidi is a strong leader and an excellent person to work with. I'm sure Mr. Guidi's long experience with the ballet and the city will revive the scrappy company and set it on a course for future success, assuming that his successor is more competent and less self-centered than Ms. Brown.
Rew Tippin, Tampa Florida

"Your Black Muslim Hotel," Full Disclosure, 8/29

The Boycott Starts Now
The business and political establishments of Oakland fear being called racists far more than they worry about a bunch of murdering thugs offering their services as "security." Maybe it's time for sane people (white, black, and otherwise) to start boycotting businesses who employ or kowtow to those running a known criminal enterprise.
Stan Rothwell, Milpitas

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