Drop in murder rate offers little comfort

My tear-stained heart will not let me celebrate Oakland's 30 percent drop in homicides, because my 19-year-old son told me while I visited him in Aurora, Colo., that stray bullets killed four people he knew last year.

His tale of woe dimmed flickering memories of happier times when we witnessed him and hundreds of children graduate from Skyline High School in 2012. All of them were full of dreams then, and now three of his schoolmates are dead, along with another acquaintance.

After he told me about his friends' misfortune, he smiled at me and said, "Dad, I'm where I'm supposed to be."

"You're safer here than on the streets of Oakland," I said with regret, because communities without sons celebrating birthdays eventually die.

I hope that this year more adults teach our children constructive communication skills and the art of win-win, so fewer of our babies kill each other.

Gerald Green

Oakland

Zoo should rethink its expansion plan

I thank the paper for running the recent My Word by the young 24-year-old Oaklander who wrote about what will be lost forever, for our and future generations, if the Oakland Zoo is allowed to over-expand into this natural parkland.

I, too, grew up around the zoo, as did my children. The zoo has done a wonderful job of education and displaying animals in as natural a setting as possible.

Some of these animals have seen their habitat diminish so much that this is the only opportunity one has to see them.

What the My Word author pointed out so wonderfully is that if the executives of the zoo continue their plans to construct the proposed mile-plus of fence, and build an administration building in the largest natural park in the city, hundreds of native animals will be displaced. Wouldn't the zoo be creating the exact situation that makes them necessary? Curious.

Let's pause and think about this. Last thing we want is to pave paradise and put up a parking lot.

Laura Reyes

Oakland

Take country back from the rich

How thrilling that Bill Gates regained the exalted title of World's Richest Man.

As a card-carrying socialist, let me suggest a few ways to lighten Gates' ample wallet as we soberly contemplate that half the world's people subsist on $2 per day.

First, tax the rich at Eisenhower-era rates of 90 percent. The auto industry had no trouble flourishing in the car-crazy '50s under this tax rule while negotiating with the UAW at the same time.

Then make workplace union representation mandatory whether public or private. Just look at the baseball players before the late Marvin Miller came along with the union and shook tightwad team owners' pockets upside down.

Lastly, we need a guaranteed income benefit of $12,000 per year starting at age 18. We can pay for that by rolling back military spending to pre-1980 levels.

This is a new era of robber barons and a level of American greed not seen since the 1920s. We need to take our country back now.

Aaron Aragon

Newark

Lawmakers must act to help all animals

Our state Legislature reconvened Jan. 6. Now's the time to ask your representatives to introduce legislation to protect animals, both wild and domestic. A few suggestions:

Ban all "wildlife killing contests" of coyotes, rabbits, ground squirrels, crows, whatever. They are unethical and ecologically unsound, and give all hunting a black eye.

Ban the use of electronic duck decoys ("roboducks") -- unethical and unsporting.

Ban the Mexican rodeo's brutal "steer tailing" event (already banned in Alameda and Contra Costa counties).

Amend current law (Penal Code 596.7) so as to require on-site veterinary care at all rodeos.

Ban the sale of non-native turtles and frogs for human consumption. All are diseased. Released into local waters, they displace and prey upon our native wildlife.

Ban elephant rides -- dangerous for animals and public alike.

Ban the cruel "farrowing crates" at state and county fairs.

Ban the giving away of goldfish as prizes, and the sale of hermit crabs as "pets" (all taken from the wild) at fairs and carnivals. Most will die an early death.

Write to all legislators c/o The State Capitol, Sacramento, CA 95814.

As The Lorax says, "If somebody like you doesn't care a whole awful lot, nothing's going to get better. It's not."

Eric Mills

Coordinator Action For Animals Oakland