Prevent fireworks' illegal use this year

Last year my wife, our dog and I were subjected to a barrage of fireworks on the evening of July Fourth. Media accounts of the displays documented widespread illegal activities largely unmonitored by the police and fire departments, though hundreds of calls inundated both.

From 9 p.m. to nearly 11 p.m. the noise and lights generated by the explosions went unabated. Our 10-year-old dog trembled the entire time. We thought of other pets that were likely affected in a similar manner.

We also mused about very young children that were probably affected or older adults trying to sleep. And we wondered aloud how many troubled veterans from the Middle East wars were startled (and worse) with the familiar nightmarish sounds of detonations in their neighborhoods. Many of these activities are deemed illegal in the City of Alameda, yet it is simply ignored. We suspect the powers that be will not improve enforcement of the law until a child is maimed, a home goes down in flames or an angry citizen attempts to quell the disturbance in lieu of the police.

There is nothing patriotic about setting off loud explosions for the thrill of colors and noise. We call upon concerned citizens to email and/or call the offices of the mayor, City Council, city manager and chiefs of the fire and police departments to demand an end to this activity. Roughly a month out the city should make a concerted public relations' effort to remind citizens of the dangers and illegality of fireworks. There should be an articulated zero tolerance policy announced and enforced. We seem to find additional overtime moneys for a number of city functions during the course of the year. Surely, we can find the funds to have a significant police and fire presence in the troubled spots of Alameda on July 4, 2013.

Don Arnold

Farewell, Fred, and thank you

For Fred Chacon:

Like Prospero with his magic books,

Fred's drama gifts (and dashing looks),

Have served him well for many years --

The air still vibrates from the cheers.

So many actors have played his stage,

Thrilling the audience of every age,

So many shows, so many nights,

Dramatic stories, musical delights.

From Peter flying across the sky,

To Elvis' gyrations (my oh my!),

The question of whether or not to go,

Was yes, of course -- it's a Chacon show.

And so we came and took our seats,

Dazzled by these theatrical feats!

But like the man with his books and robe,

And even that fellow who ruled the Globe,

There comes a time for a final bow,

And for dear Fred that time is now.

And so we rise, begin to applaud,

His heart and soul we need to laud,

And say, "Thanks for all that you have done,

30 years of the finest, dramatic fun."

Gene Kahane

Gene Kahane is the longtime drama teacher at Encinal High School.

Scandal shows tax code too complex

After many discussions about revising the tax code, the recent IRS scandals emphasize that lawmakers need to get serious about this issue.

First, the IRS agents should have met their deadlines in a timely manner in responding to those who applied for tax-exempt status. On the other hand, we should not give tax-exempt status to a majority of 501(c)4 organizations, if any, knowing that many use funding to conduct mostly political activities.

Tax-exempt status was originally designed for 501(c)3 organizations to allow them to use a greater portion of funding received to serve their clients and use only minimal unrestricted funds to politically advocate for their clients when necessary.

When I was board chair for an AIDS service organization in another state, we used unrestricted funds to meet with key state legislators to stop the governor's plan to cut funding for substance-abuse programs that were successful.

A solution to the tax code is to simplify, simplify, simplify. Set a flat tax for all individuals so everyone pays their fair share and the wealthy should give more.

Kurt Kleier

Oakland