Projects do work
Gretchen Lipow's Feb. 20 letter made the broad claim that redevelopment areas "do not pay for themselves," citing research by Michael Dardia of the Public Policy Institute of California. On the contrary, Dardia finds that redevelopment projects can and do pay for themselves, as long as they are aimed at blighted areas that have little prospect for redevelopment without massive upfront investments.
Projects that do not target genuine blight may, in effect, receive a government subsidy; however, Dardia concludes, "Redevelopment does provide infrastructure, affordable housing and commercial development.
Given that the state, counties and special districts provide subsidies of this size, however, it might be worth targeting these moneys more narrowly on the most blighted areas."
Lipow also claims that "the city itself absorbs a loss because it must pay for city services" at Alameda Point, but fails to mention that the development plans require direct payments to the city, either through fiscal mitigation payments or a Municipal Services District, to cover any such increased costs.
Alameda Point is precisely the kind of blighted site where tax-increment financing pays off, and the strict fiscal neutrality requirements of the plan protect the city's general fund from the threats Lipow mentions.
Her ideas would require taxpayers to raise 100 percent of the capital and bear 100 percent of the risk, instead of allowing a private company to do so in exchange for potential profits. I encourage Alamedans to read SunCal's master plan and make up their own minds.
Michael J. Krueger
Use Web to inform public
Eve Pearlman writes in the Feb. 20 Journal that the city of Alameda isn't facing bankruptcy, it is doing just fine. But her assertion is merely another assertion, like all the others she condemns, because the city hasn't been forthcoming with budget transparency. In this Age of Information, it would be very easy for the city to address the public's concerns, by simply creating an informational Web site detailing its spending and budget priorities.
Instead, we get generalized reports, denials and contradictory statements.
On this Web site, I would like to see the following:
What positions and services have been cut or eliminated or reduced to avoid bankruptcy?
How many people does the city currently employ? How many of those staff people make more than $100,000 per year? How many work a four-day week?
How many city staff positions have been added in the past 10 years? What essential services do those added positions provide?
What further cuts in positions and services is the city considering if future deficits appear?
Moreover, I think the citizens of Alameda would have more trust and faith in their leaders if the Alameda Unified School District would do the same. A simple Web site detailing the number of full-time teachers, their salaries and benefits; the same information for administrators and "support staff;" money allocated for construction, maintenance and repair; and budget for "special projects," such as class-size reduction.
Without financial and budgetary transparency, citizens will continue to be suspicious that their hard-earned tax dollars, paid to city, county and state coffers, are being wasted and/or misspent.
Historic house helps
As a homeowner on Buena Vista Avenue, I am against removing the 2413 Buena Vista home from the historical register, demolishing it and paving the property for a parking lot.
The Gateway Strategic Plan stipulates maintaining the historical character of homes built in the 1800s.
The quality of life for the neighbors is enhanced by preserving a building of Queen Anne architecture as supported by the Historical Advisory Board.
Paving the entire lot increases water runoff and reduces the residential nature of the neighborhood to an even greater degree than what already exists by enlarging the space for parked cars.
Other houses in the surrounding neighborhood which were in a similar condition have been restored instead of destroyed.
The presumption of the developer is that the citizens of Alameda do not care about protecting the nature of their city by preserving the limited number of priceless buildings of the 1800s, which when gone are gone forever.
The demolition of this building sets a dangerous precedent threatening the destruction of the other older homes in our area and city which help make Alameda, Alameda. Therefore, I'm against removing this Queen Anne from the historical register.
Patricia M. Paul
Jordan was a true legend
It is with sadness that I read about Payton Jordan's passing in Joe King's column on Feb. 20. Jordan was a man who is not only a track and field icon, but truly a sports legend and one who will be always remembered. He made his mark on the track as a collegiate athlete champion at USC, a world record master's athlete, an Olympics assistant coach or coach in 1960,1964 and 1968 and as the longtime track coach at Stanford from 1957-79.
In 2005, during my son's freshman year at Alameda High School, I took him and his fellow sprinters to the aptly named Payton Jordan Invitational at Stanford. The boys met the legend and had a picture taken with him. It's one thing to read about or see footage of the Olympic past, but it's truly an experience to meet someone who was there and who had a major role in it. It will be something the boys will always remember. He was kind enough to spend some time with them and was generous with his time.
Payton Jordan touched many lives, and the boys are proud to have been inspired by him. I know Joe King wasn't exaggerating when he described Payton Jordan as the best man he's ever met.
Problems with Comcast
Since no one at Comcast is willing to listen to my complaint, I must turn to the newspaper to vent. I was an Alameda P&T customer and switched to Comcast in December. Two technicians came to my home and in an hour-and-a-half, I was all set up with Comcast TV and Internet service. I called Comcast the next day and arranged for my AP&T account to be closed and the new Comcast account to be opened.
I opted for my credit card to be billed each month and gave the necessary information. A couple of weeks went by, and then I started receiving dunning notices in the mail and robo phone calls telling me to call Comcast immediately. When I did so (seven different times), I was told to ignore the letters and calls and that all was in order with my account.
Then last week Comcast shut off my service for nonpayment of my bill! When I called again and got matters straightened out, I was offered many apologies for their error, and was told my service would be restored, but not for 48 hours. I hit the roof! I demanded to talk to a supervisor or manager and to have my service restored immediately. I was put on hold, and after a minute or so, I was advised that the supervisor was busy with another customer (I'll bet), and that my service would be restored in 5 to 10 minutes.
Well, that's all fine and good, except I have a wireless network in my home, and both my modem and router had to be rebooted. After another hour on the phone with Comcast and their tech support in Utah, my system was again up and running.
I cannot believe a large corporation like Comcast can get away with treating its customers so poorly and does such a poor job of processing their accounts. And they want me to switch to their phone service? That'll be the day!
Circus fun helps arts
In these times of uncertain financial conditions, it is extremely important to acknowledge when people come together and willingly share their talents, time and treasures to bring joy to so many and to raise money for our schools. This is what happened on Feb. 8 when 2,000 people filled Kofman Auditorium to be part of the fifth annual Circus for the Arts in the Schools.
The circus was a resounding success. Laughter filled the room, and we raised close to $30,000 for arts in our schools. The proceeds from the circus support an in-school arts program at Paden, Otis and Lum schools. This program is an integrated arts learning experience. Focus is on student engagement with live works of art and the deep study of arts disciplines connected with curriculum and classroom learning goals. This approach embodies the integral role that the arts can and should have in education. All Alameda Unified School District schools also had the opportunity to raise funds for the arts in their schools to use at their discretion through ticket sales.
Conceived in 2004 by Paden School parents Jeff Raz (artistic director), Pam Arneson (producer) and Sherry Sherman (producer) and the Paden principal at the time, Judy Goodwin, Circus for Arts in the Schools has successfully raised more than $115,000 over the last five years. Circus performers, including the Lincoln Middle School Jugglers (all of whom donate their time), sponsors, parents, children and school personnel join together to make the circus a reality.
Thank you to everyone for both your personal and financial contributions. As principal of Paden School, I am grateful and honored to be part of a community that so deeply supports the arts in both our schools and the greater community.
Principal, Paden School