Must better define the terms of debate

The Jan. 1 article, "Sharing economy to drive more policy changes," on the sharing economy failed to address policymakers' biggest challenge: defining what sharing means.

The article confuses the issue, first by explaining that "the sharing economy refers broadly to companies, many of which make mobile apps, that provide services using things people already own," then by spotlighting Poshmark, an online platform where people sell clothes. But selling is the opposite of sharing. Let me explain.

Sharing platforms (Airbnb, Sidecar, Liquid) stretch wage-earner dollars by allowing people to borrow instead of buy; they reduce waste by ensuring that individual resources benefit multiple people simultaneously. Online vendors (Amazon, eBay, Poshmark) can't claim those same benefits.

So are online marketplaces to be feted or feared? We can't have that debate without first taking the time to draw proper distinctions.

Chelsea Wurms

Oakland

Exotic business will be sorely missed

With the close of 2013, Oakland lost an elegant, classy establishment on Upper Grand Avenue. A little more than two years ago, Chris Cooper and Arnel Alcordo took a chance on Oakland and turned an old bank building into an architectural delight to house their collection of beautiful art, artifacts and handcrafted Balinese masterpieces in their gallery cum cafe under the same roof.


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Monkey Forest Road was a beloved spot to the many who thronged there for the fine coffee, tea and bakery treats (many gluten-free) and to enjoy the art. But, alas, not enough patrons came to buy from the collection, and now the owners have been forced to close their doors. For those who knew and loved this exotic corner of Bali in our own uptown, it will be sorely missed.

Joanna Biggar

Oakland

Hayward council turns its back on homeless

If you are homeless or hungry in Hayward, you are really up against it.

Recently, Hayward City Council passed an ordinance whose sole purpose was to prevent groups from feeding the hungry in city parks. I guess the city feels if you stop feeding the hungry, they will go away.

The city freely admits it has no money to solve this problem. Suddenly, the city is now concerned about their welfare. Maybe they should have checked with the people we feed to see if they had any concerns.

Our group has been feeding the people for more than 25 years and has never had any problems. Incidentally, our food preparation consists of a cold sandwich. The cost to the cash-strapped city is nothing, nada, zilch. We feed the hungry at Portuguese Park and always leave it cleaner than it was before we got there. The city should check its cameras.

Of course, the homeless are responsible for all the negative activity that goes on in Hayward -- like dying behind Safeway on Foothill Boulevard.

The city clerk forwarded my request to the City Council for a delay in enforcing the ordinance until spring so that winter would be less difficult for the homeless. Of course, I did not hear from the City Council. Why should they make it easier on the hungry?

Matt Grajeda

San Leandro

Privatize BART and save money

The BART and government union bullies are the coffin nails that will drive our Bay Area cities and counties into hopeless bankruptcy.

We should sell BART to a private company. Right now, half of the BART income is from our property tax payments -- about $200 million a year. If we offered a private company $100 million a year to take over BART and allowed "new BART" to fire all the present, greedy union employees, use all the facilities for a minimum fee (say $100,000 a year), "new BART" could hire a union-free staff for half the price, with a no-strike contract with all "new BART" employees.

"New BART" could charge 10 percent less to us riders to begin with, and be allowed to charge increases only if the present BART board agreed. We could save $100 million a year and have cheaper tickets, friendlier employees and more reliable transportation.

Do the math.

Sidney Steinberg

Berkeley