Oakland shouldn't shirk public safety

It has been brought to my attention that certain Oakland councilmembers support cutting the budget for public safety to fund other expenses -- which I don't understand. I've had my house broken into, sister mugged, parent's house burglarized and countless friends with the same story. Cutting the budget only serves to show the criminals how Oakland provided a welcome mat to commit more crimes.

As a business owner with my establishment in another city, it's these types of decisions that keep me from moving my business to Oakland.

Doug Eng

Oakland

Don't cut Quan's police budget plan

If one accepts the premise that Oakland has a tiny police force and crime is of epidemic proportions, then any modification to Mayor Jean Quan's very modest budget proposal to increase our police manpower would seem to be naive and irresponsible.

Councilmembers Larry Reid and Desley Brooks ought to rethink their proposal, which would diminish our force while increasing salaries for city employees. The fact that Noel Gallo endorses this idea is a shock to me as when he campaigned to represent the district in which I reside he told me in no uncertain terms that his number-one priority was aggressively combating crime.


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The idea that our council would once again overpromise, overpay and acquiesce to the demands of the unions is depressing because if this town is ever to reach its potential and fulfill its enormous promise, crime has to be addressed in a mature, realistic and vigilant manner. The town cannot afford anything less. Crime and the specter of it is overwhelming this place, and the municipal government consistently fails the taxpayers in this critical issue. I would prefer that councilmembers who are unwilling to realistically address the crime problem find another line of work.

Jonathan C. Breault

Oakland

Fire prevention trumps the trees

Letters have appeared opposing FEMA grants to Oakland and to the East Bay Regional Park District to remove eucalyptus trees from areas of public land in the Oakland and Berkeley hills. Opponents argue that hills fires begin in dry grasses, not in eucalyptus trees.

Periodic brush fires in the hills are inevitable during seasonal dry windstorms. The issue is not how the fires start. It is how quickly they are controlled. Oily shards from the eucalyptus trees act as living torches carrying the fire through the air hundreds of feet to new locations. To save lives and property, these trees must be removed.

Where were the opponents living during the 1991 hills wildfire? The sky was red with sparks and flames, and the escape roads were blocked with abandoned cars. Many residents died. Thousands of homes were destroyed. Contact FEMA before Tuesday to say that you support the fire prevention grants. Send an email to EBH-EIS-FEMA-RIX@fema.dhs.gov, or send a letter to P.O. Box 72379, Oakland, CA 94623.

Gary Sirbu

Oakland

Sometimes trees have got to go

I love trees, but not the Monterey pine in my yard that fell onto the high voltage line, starting a fire, or the one that fell during a windstorm, killing a sleeping neighbor.

These trees are beyond their life expectancy, and many are diseased and ready to fall due to their shallow root systems.

The tree removal work done along Grizzly Peak by UC Berkeley, East Bay Regional Park District and the cities of Oakland and Berkeley is great. Do we remember the sight of flames a hundred feet high in 1991 as our hills burned? The cinders from the tall eucalyptus trees jumped at half-mile intervals.

A tree removal program at Skyline Gate in Redwood Regional Park done two years ago, amid much protest, left a pretty ugly and bare area. Now, there are rare Pallid manzanitas appearing, the oaks and other native plants have never looked better, and no replanting was necessary. (A French broom removal project was part of this success.)

Choices are not always easy when we live in a forest.

Elaine Geffen

Oakland

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, perhaps to reputable charities and not more to the government. Then the president and Congress could work to limit the IRS to doing only its truly needed functions.

Kurt Kleier

Oakland

Merritt project a job well done

Great job, Oakland, on the Lake Merritt project.

I work near the Lake Merritt BART station and have been watching the process for the last several years -- from the renovation of the boathouse to the new bridge and park on the west end of the lake.

Thank you for turning this into the gem it deserves to be.

Maureen Gaffney

Larkspur