Public Comment


Tuesday July 27, 2010 - 12:05:00 PM

To Oakland City Attorney John Russo:; Bell, CA: a lesson for us all;The Truth about Immigrants;
Immoral War; Department of Confusion;
A Film Worth Seeing; Sudan; Information Request;
ACT Transit Drivers Union Needs a Course in PR 101; Election in District 7;Health Care;Notes on Writing; 


To Oakland City Attorney John Russo: 

Please spare SF Chron readers having to read your laughable attempts to smear John Burris. If you eradicated the institutional racism, bad police practices, and corruption in the OPD, you wouldn't have to take pot shots and cast aspersions on him. 

The police "misconduct" that cost Oakland tax payers $19 mil wasn't caused by John Burris. It was caused by you, the City Council, and the Mayor in your collective failure to ensure a PD with integrity. Speaking of integrity, John Burris adds more integrity to Oakland and to our country than you do and you must know that. 

I note you chalk up Burris' victories to "notoriously sympathetic BA juries" and to poor police record keeping. Come on! This isn't Simi(an) Valley where perhaps you'd be happier working. Those notoriously sympathetic to victims of police brutality BA juries are aware of excessive police force, framing citizens, and other unconstitutional actions police routinely engage in. 

Please take heed of Councilpersons Chan and Kaplan and actually do something to create peace instead of spending taxpayer time trying to undermine a widely admired and respected lawyer. 

Maris Arnold

Berkeley (We still think here.) 



Bell, CA: a lesson for us all 

There is a huge lesson in the recent developments in Bell, California. After the news got out on how much some people were earning, the townsfolk got the biggest earners fired and the council to take a 90 percent cut in pay. So, you can fight city hall after all, and you, the public, can prevail over the entrenched political machines. So, what's the trick? 

The Bell saga points to three steps in the process. First the news of something egregious needs to get out to the public. Openness and transparency is vital to our civic life, as are the people who dig through records and bring these things to the people 

Second, you need a critical mass. People who dislike what's happening go about to the community, stirring people out of their apathy, until a number of people, all with the same issue in hand, constitute a movement. 

Finally, there is the demand, not request or humble suggestion, that things change and change now. A large and vocal group confronts the power structure and says it ends right here, right now. The officials have the choice of backing down or beating a hasty retreat out the back door. 

Admittedly, it's easier in a small town, a bit harder at the state level and harder still in DC. However, it has been done before, and it can be done again. Get informed; get up and get involved. 

Meade Fischer 


The Truth about Immigrants 

Arizona's new immigration law goes into effect on Thursday. To hear some mfolks describe it, Republicans and Tea Partiers and Rush Limbaugh types, America is under attack by crazed rapacious and thieving hordes that are pouring across the southern border bent on occupying the country. These illegal immigrants - or "aliens" or "invaders" in the vernacular of those who complain incessantly about them - are described as consuming vast sums of welfare and health care funds, committing countless crimes, clogging the prisons and in other ways are ruining what would be an idyllic paradise. 

During an election year, Republicans latch on to and ramp up the
anti-immigration issue. The hysteria over undocumented workers is a "hot button"issue being used to stir up Tea Party Republicans around the country. 

Talking heads claim that undocumented immigrants are taking jobs away from Americans. Not true and eliminating immigrant workers would be a serious blow to the U.S. economy. 

Those who are coming to the United States illegally are, overwhelmingly coming to work and better themselves and their families. Don't believe fantasies and lies being peddled by self-serving, self-appointed patriots. 

Ron Lowe 


Immoral War 


The Afghan war is immoral and "unwinnable." It's devastating to the Afghani people (expecially to their mothers, children, and families) -- wrecking people's lives and their environment. The money we spend each day on war in Afghanistan and Iraq is money we need to invest in our communities here in the U.S. to eradicate poverty and injustice -- and to build green jobs for our unemployed youth. 

Suzanne Ludlum 



Department of Confusion 

You people need to do your damned job and start investigating this
spill more. The government and BP should not be allowed to cover this mess up the way they have. BP has waged an all out PR war in the hopes of cleaning up their reputation. Your job should be to counter this PR assault. It's not right and it simply shows that you people are have been bought out by big business. How much money are you getting from BP this year? 

Robert Shreve 

[Editor’s Note: bupkes.] 


A Film Worth Seeing 


I recommend Oliver Stone's documentary, "South of the Border." You know going in that it will be one-sided, but it is refreshing to see and hear Hugo Chávez, Lula da Silva (Brazil), Evo Moreles (Bolivia), the Kirchners (Argentina), Fernando Lugo (Paraguay), Rafael Correa (Ecuador), and Raúl Castro, speak unfiltered through the U.S. media. The film mostly focuses on Chávez. These leaders promote a Latin American union similar to the European Union largely free from U.S. control. Let's face it, the U.S. has carried the Monroe Doctrine to an absurd extreme, for too long treating Latin America as one big U.S. colony. 


Ralph E. Stone 




The U.S. participates only as an observer at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the UN, in her first address to the Security Council, expressed U.S. support for the Court’s investigation in Sudan. The U.S. could engage with the Court by reactivating its signature to the Rome Statute by a letter to the UN Secretary General. UN chief Ban Ki-mon regretted the indictment of Sudanese president. African Union chair Tanzania said the indictment could further destabilize Sudan and called on the ICC to drop it. Sudan exports to China account for more than 20 percent of its total exports. Regarding the humanitarian crisis in Darfur: No one is above the law. The U.S. has vetoed UN resolutions condemning Israel. President Omar Bashir has visited Egypt, Libya, Ethiopia, and Chad. In addition, one half-dozen other countries share a common border with Sudan. It is the tenth largest country in the world. It borders Ethiopia and Kenya which border Somalia. According to the CIA: "The Darfur conflict, the aftermath of two decades of civil war in the south, the lack of basic infrastructure in large areas, and a reliance by much of the population on subsistence agriculture ensure much of the population will remain at or below the poverty line for years despite rapid rises in average per capita income." The Arabs have been in North Africa since before Columbus discovered America. I spoke with the Sudanese Amassador to South Korea in the aftermath of Colin Powell condemning genocide in Darfur. He replied, look at my face, what color am I? He was a light-skinned descendent of Saladin, a Kurd. Saladin (1138-1193) was a Muslim leader, who recaptured Jerusalem from the Crusaders. 

Richard Thompson 


Information Request 


As a history professor with a special interest in the Vietnam era, I have a project that might be of interest to your readers. I am researching and writing a book on the 1960s as seen through the eyes of American children. For many Americans like myself who were born between 1956 and 1970 – and are now in our forties and fifties – the “sixties experience” was a fundamental part of our childhood and remains central in our lives today. I would like to hear stories from this generation about growing up in the United States during the 1960s in order to understand the meaning of “the sixties” from the perspective of children. How did you experience the Vietnam era’s powerful historical forces and popular culture between Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961 and Nixon’s resignation in 1974 in your life as a child? What did things such as the Vietnam War, civil rights movement, the Beatles, hippies, assassinations, moon landings or protest mean to you as a preadolescent? Ultimately, has your unique perspective on “the sixties” had any impact on you as an adult? 

Please contact me at; or on Facebook at “Children of the Sixties” 

Joel P. Rhodes, Ph.D. 


ACT Transit Drivers Union needs a course in PR 101 


The wah-babies at AC Transit are at it again. Drivers basically wildcatted this week and 20% of the drivers didn't not show up. They said they were "sick." They already forced arbitration(and ACTransit ASKED them to just declare a strike.) To show everyone "who's Daddy" the drivers also colluded to "sick out" beginning Monday. Not the wisest move by a typically union-friendly Bay Area. At near-depression levels of unemployment. 

Hardest hit were the more profitable lines that take commuters to San Francisco. 2 buses never showed up on my route. 

As an extra insult the drivers: 

1) Miss routes at random, so riders are playing Russian Roulette with their schedules and lives. Imagine if you had to pick up your kid at daycare? 

2) Stranded riders in the City by playing hookey on the last bus out of San Francisco. 

3) Conversely, played hookey on the last bus going to San Francisco-putting already worried workers in a position of being late to work. 

4) AC Transit already raised fares, and raising fares to 2x-3x more won't solve the budget woes. Bus systems cannot balance budgets on fares and need tax subsidies no matter what. Taking it out on riders is bad public relations and just begs voters to tell the unions to go to hell-as if they were the only people on the planet who are faced with changing economic conditions. 

5) Even better, Leaders of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 192 said there is no "sick-out" stemming from their anger over the contract that was imposed on them on Sunday. So they are flatout lying too?? 

This episode just goes to show that the public union system is corrupt and spoiled beyond belief. With boutique benefits and pensions, public unions make better pay and retire better than most of their private sector equivalents. Strong arming the district and drivers to cry "uncle" with idiotic tactics like the sick out just make me beg for a strike. That way we can fire everyone and start from scratch with a sustainable salary and benefits system. 

Justin Lee  



Election in District 7 

The Zone 7 election between Worthington, Beiers and Rosales is a reflection of the fragmentation of the Queer community in the Bay Area. There should be a unified front for social justice and environmental change. A queer politician should be informed and inspired by one's own personal experiences in a homophobic nation, especially in the shadow of Prop 8. Kriss Worthington should stay on city council; he has earned his leadership position. George Beier makes a good neighborhood organizer, but doesn't have a voice for social issues. And Rosales should keep doing what ever it is she does. (I have no clue who she is, no offense intended.) 

As for the issue of Telegraph Avenue, nothing there is Worthington's fault. In a free enterprise society, it's not up to a city council member to keep businesses afloat, except in unusual circumstances. Cody's closed because it refused to have a 21st century business model, including a website to order books online. Other closures can also be attributed to failures to adapt to a changing economic environment. Some stores close because their whole premise was flimsy. Moolicious, for example, was an attempt at a fast-food joint which only sold bowls of cereal; it was a terrible concept. 

George Beiers says he wants to change People's Park. He's never in People's Park; he never volunteers there. He was on the People's Park Board. He had the opportunity, and he decided to quit. Asides from that, the UC has refused recent requests to fix the broken water fountain, and to reinforce the children's area as a family safe zone (no smoking signs, a children's fence). Last year, the UC Police repeatedly harassed park volunteers for doing basic tasks like gardening and maintaining the stage. If the UC will only improve the park if Beiers is city council person, that implies a back room deal. 

Lastly, public safety in Berkeley has become an issue because the UC and city police departments were too obsessed with political protesters, and ignored actual crime. Just as one example, city council member Anderson had to intervene in court to stop the police's fixation with Stephanie Tang of World Can't Wait. The police became “culture warriors” whose primary targets were animal rights activists, anti-war protesters and other progressives; meanwhile gang activity was left unwatched to grow. The cops don't care how many people get harmed by violent crime, as long as they can bust activists. 

Nathan Pitts 


Health Care 

By now all it has become plain that the health care reform bill is a very weak gesture towards the critically important task of seeing that all Americans do in fact receive health care. Liz Fowler was instrumental in weakening it and she is the very last person that should administrate it 

Glen Kohler 



Notes on Writing 


Berkeley has, without question, an astonishing number of famous writers -- Pulitzer Prize and other prestigious award winners. This, of course, is not surprising given the fact that our city boasts one of the greatest (if not THE greatest) University in the country. Not so well known, but nonetheless every bit as prolific and talented as the aforementioned writers is the U.C. Section Club Writers' Workshop, a group of about 25 women who gather once a month to read and critique each others' work in progress. 

This Workshop was founded in 1927 to provide educational opportunities and support to the University community. Through its peer editing process, the Workshop has nurtured scores or writers, many of whom have been published and won literary prizes. Most earned advanced degrees; a third of our members hold Ph.D.'s. We are artists, gardeners, musicians, animal lovers, photographers, dreamers and doers. And now we take great pride in a recently published book, "Roots and Tendrils", in which twenty seven contributors, under the expert guidance of Susan Austin, have compiled an anthology of fiction, poetry, memoirs and humorous sketches. 

Meeting monthly at a member's home, where a lavish potluck of sinful refreshments get us off to a rousing start, we tear ourselves away from that tempting buffet and commence the serious business of listening to five or six writers read aloud their material. The unspoken rule is that we do not tamper with anyone's choice of subject, but give only constructive criticism. We delight in toasting members who have published books. As our writing has progressed, out friendships have deepened and our respect for each other has grown. With "Roots and Tendrils," we offer our readers another form of literary potluck, an eclectic feast of our making. 

Dorothy Snodgrass