Retrofitting was essential

Jon Wilner's recent article in the Times on the Cal Athletics facilities financing plan represented, by and large, the most balanced coverage of this complex topic to date.

I appreciate the effort he took to make it clear we had no choice when it came to retrofitting Memorial Stadium. Back in 2008, members of the UC Regents made it clear to the campus we needed to either retrofit the stadium or abandon it.

Although the article does not mention it, we did examine the possibility of playing elsewhere, but each of the off-campus alternatives came with detrimental financial implications: rental costs in perpetuity and loss of economic impact to campus and community from playing away from Berkeley, which we witnessed firsthand in 2012.

Simply retrofitting the stadium, without making any other improvements to the facility, certainly would have lowered the price tag of the California Memorial Stadium project (70 percent of the project's hard costs were attributed to addressing the seismic issues).

However, a retrofit-only project had no chance of being funded through philanthropy; state money or student fees were out of the question. Therefore, the option remaining was to create value in the project that could be monetized with our community (donors, alumni, ticket buyers and sponsors).

We incurred additional expense to the project by adding amenities and premium seating clubs that would produce revenue to service the debt on the entire project. Without the additional premium seating and clubs, the project itself would have created no net new revenue to Intercollegiate Athletics and no new ability to service any debt.

I should point out that even though the Endowment Seating Program has not yet lived up to our original expectations, we have already generated sufficient funds to cover our interest expenses for approximately 20 years. As a result, we have ample time to monitor and, if needed, adjust a financial model that now includes a very diverse set of revenue streams.

Sandy Barbour

Berkeley

Barbour is the director of athletics at UC Berkeley.

Hostages to BART strike

It is outrageous that these unions have the power to disrupt the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Bay Area residents.

Our BART directors and lawmakers must take steps to ensure these unions cannot hijack our transportation system, and that the BART strikes we have been forced to endure cannot happen again and again.

It is clearly evident that relying on union workers to operate and maintain BART has been a big mistake. We, the people who built and own BART, would be much better served if BART employees were hired and paid like the rest of us -- through competitive labor markets. That's the best way to ensure BART employees are fairly compensated, rather than letting the unions hold the public as hostages until their demands are met.

And then let's elect state legislators who aren't in the pockets of the SEIU and other unions and who will make laws to protect us from the greed and tyranny of the unions.

Dick Patterson

El Cerrito

Oakland must keep the A's

The city of Oakland has been given every possible opportunity to make it happen with Major League Baseball stalling the city of San Jose. Now San Jose has tried to raise the stakes with the antitrust lawsuit. However, most bets are that it won't succeed.

Oakland already owns suitable land for a stadium. There's backing from East Bay corporations; then go and build it on the north lot of the shovel-ready land the city already owns.

Use eminent domain to relocate those businesses on San Leandro and 66th avenues, and develop those lots with the likes of a sports museum/Bay Sports Hall of Fame, and casual restaurants that could serve not only folks attending Raiders and A's games, but also travelers coming and going to the airport.

The Coliseum sits on a BART station and an Amtrak station, next to one major freeway with four access points, a mile and a half from another major freeway, a soon-to-be terminus for an airport tram, a major gateway boulevard (Hegenberger Road), a half mile from East 14th (International if you must), and next to another semi-major street (San Leandro).

Most cities would die for that kind of access.

Oakland, you want to be a major player, then it's time to stop acting like the dysfunctional small backwater town people accuse us of being and act like one of the most exciting cities in America that we want to be.

Major and exciting cities simply make it happen.

Anthony Moore

Oakland

Intervening in Syria is wrong

The Times June 21 editorial on the Syrian conflict, which praised President Barack Obama's decision to arm the rebels in that war, was wrong on several counts.

  • The United States is under no obligation, moral or otherwise, to intervene. Our only concern should be to promote and defend our own national interests, and the United States does not have a vital, or even marginal, national interest in aiding the Syrian rebels.

  • The rebels are in no way any better than Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and are possibly worse. While Assad is an autocrat and gangster, he has not done harm to the United States. But his enemies, who include al-Qaida and other jihadists, have. These are the terrorists who killed thousands of Americans on Sept. 11, 2001.

  • Assad's use of chemical weapons changes nothing. His supposed violation of international law is meaningless, because international law itself is a fiction -- and should remain so. Its only purpose can be to diminish the sovereignty of individual nations, including the United States.

    Jayme Scott

    Hercules

    Reduce feral cat numbers

    Regarding a recent article in the Times, "Claws of concern," about reducing feral cat numbers through "trap, neuter and release" (TNR) and wildlife proponents' concerns, I want to clarify several points:

  • It's trap, neuter and return, not "release," as erroneously reported. Cats are humanely trapped and fixed, then returned to their colonies where they are fed and cared for. Cats are never randomly dropped off, as your article might imply.

  • TNR's effectiveness has long been supported by scientific research cited on NeighborhoodCats.org, AlleyCatAllies.org, and HSUS.org (U.S. Humane Society).

  • TNR is practiced by individuals, organizations and government entities worldwide because it works, is a more cost-effective use of taxpayer dollars than euthanasia, and is the humane thing to do. Locally, the Berkeley East Bay Humane Society, Oakland Animal Shelter and San Francisco SPCA endorse TNR.

    Feral cat population control is a complex problem. In other cities, wildlife advocates like Portland's Audubon Society and feral cat organizations have successfully partnered to reach the same goal: fewer cats. We urgently need to do the same for the sake of the cats and of wildlife.

    Ellen Sasaki

    Richmond