Community safety should be only issue

As enthusiastic new residents of Oakland, we are appalled and frightened by the level of violence in our city. A random bullet through a neighbor's wall on a holiday weekend illustrates that even staying locked inside our home is no guarantee of safety. Burglaries, shootings and torched vehicles are regular occurrences that do not seem to result in much more than a brief mention by the media and no response at all from city leaders.

We do not see our outrage or sense of urgency reflected by the mayor or our understaffed police department. We want more police in our neighborhood, so our young daughter feels safe here. We also want a demonstration of real commitment and follow-through on crime-reduction strategies that include offenders in the process, such as those exemplified by David Kennedy at the Center for Crime Prevention and Control.

What are our leaders doing to remedy the out-of-control crime and embarrassingly low police presence in this beautiful city? Community safety should be the only item on Oakland's agenda.

Lulu Garrett Cook

Oakland

Passing IRS muster unlikely for new tax

I strongly urge your reconsideration of the basis for the new parcel tax you are recommending for the March 2013 special election. We are all working toward the goal of continued adequate, equitable and defensible school funding.


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Equity and tax deductibility are of primary concern to me, and, I believe, most of the Piedmont voters. The Nov. 18 issue of the Piedmont Civic Association highlighted a matter of increasing concern: that ongoing tax deductibility of parcel taxes that are not based on "a like rate on owners of all properties in the taxing authority's jurisdiction," as outlined in a recent IRS opinion letter is questionable. What you are proposing stands a good chance of failing the "like rate" test and could result in Piedmont residents receiving a "Notice of Additional Tax Due." Furthermore, the PCA article pointed out that "an aggressive stance by the FTB could not only impact the deductibility of Piedmont's proposed eight-year school parcel tax of $2,000 to $3,500, but other city parcel taxes that are also based on parcel size."

A like rate will ensure equity for all Piedmont homeowners, i.e., the same amount per square foot of property or habitable space. It will stand a strong chance of passing future FTB or IRS tests.

A parcel tax is based on the characteristics of the parcel and, as such, permits differing rates for residential and commercial parcels.

A Local Classrooms Funding Authority parcel tax (Measure CL) was approved on the Nov. 6 ballot for voters in Los Angeles County in the Lawndale, Hawthorne, Wiseburn, Lennox and Centinela Valley school districts. Measure CL levied a parcel tax of 2 cents per square foot for residential property, and 7.5 cents per square foot for other types of property.

The West Contra Costa Unified School District has a parcel tax rate of 7.2 cents per square foot which was extended until 2018 by the voters (Measure G) in the Nov. 6 election by a vote of 75 percent to 25 percent.

Both of these school funding sources have seen the wisdom and advantage of using a "like rate" per-square-foot-form of parcel tax. Piedmont needs to consider the same approach in order to ensure equity irrespective of property size and ongoing tax deductibility of this and future parcel taxes.

Jim McCrea

Piedmont

Our book club not just about reading

I am a member of a book club, OREC -- the Oakland Reading and Eating Club -- which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. The group originated with a suggestion from Dee Weber, who had fond memories of the book group her mother belonged to 30 years earlier that provided support for reading activities as well as a lovely social network. We choose a book each month and, as you can guess by our name, discuss the book after a potluck dinner with time for socializing. We have developed strong social bonds, watching children -- and now grandchildren -- arrive and grow.

Our membership has evolved a bit over the years but we remain a cohesive group of friends and enthusiastic readers of a wide variety of books, moving into year 32 now.

Caryn Dombroski

Oakland

About Gaza Strip, some talking points

Amid the storm of coverage of the conflict in Gaza, several key facts must be remembered:

  • Israel completely withdrew from Gaza in 2005; the Hamas leadership in Gaza has sworn to destroy Israel; Israel has been subject to ongoing attacks from Gaza for years; and these attacks intensified in recent weeks. Those attacks have been targeted at civilians.

  • No nation can stand by idly while its citizens are forced to take shelter from rockets fired by nearby enemies.

  • Israel has displayed endless patience, but is finally acting, in self-defense, to send a message to the Hamas leadership that it must stop its attacks.

  • Israel makes unprecedented efforts to attempt to avoid civilian casualties, but when Hamas places its weaponry in populated areas and fires from these areas, some civilian casualties are inevitable. The blame for such deaths lies with Hamas.

    Dan Fendel

    Piedmont

    Flatlands' problems headed for the hills

    The seemingly inexorable disintegration of civilization continues in Oakland unabated.

    Criminals run the town, and the elected hierarchy in Oakland is helpless to combat the carnage. The people entrusted with the responsibility of running Oakland are incompetent, and more than likely resigned to the fact that their town will in perpetuity be the repository for an extraordinarily disproportionate number of society's swine, thugs, thieves, murderers, pimps, dependent incompetents and demanding and irresponsible cretins.

    Oakland is just that sort of town; replete with every sort of aberrant, dysfunctional, violent, amoral, selfish, stupid, ignorant, inept, uneducated, destructive leeches who prey on the weak and unsuspecting and destroy everything in their wake.

    These homicides are traveling up the hill, folks. They will be in your neck of the woods real soon; count on it. There is no plan, no real willingness on the part of Mayor Jean Quan and the City Council to combat the scourge.

    Jonathan C. Breault

    Oakland