Bad signal sent by city on police panel

The city of Oakland has recently hired a new executive director of the Citizens' Police Review Board, Anthony Finnell, who appeared at the recent meeting of the CPRB. It's too bad the City did not think that this appointment was important enough to warrant a news release.

Perhaps, given recent community efforts to achieve greater police accountability that were thwarted by the administration, it was felt that this might not be the opportune time to discuss the current civilian oversight agency that Oakland has had for decades.

What a terrible signal this sends to the community, not to mention the newly hired director who isn't valued sufficiently by his new employer to warrant a story in the press and that the agency he now heads is similarly undervalued.

Is it any wonder that the community lacks faith in the "establishment" to take the issue of police accountability seriously?

The administration should be embarrassed about its failure to post a formal announcement to the media -- other than what the mayor included in her newsletter.

Rashidah Grinage

Oakland

Doctors reimbursed at insufficient rates

The author of a recent letter, "VA debacle is classic case of botched care," stated that the problems in the Veterans Affairs medical system foreshadow similar problems for health care under Obamacare for all but the very wealthy. It was noted that California's Medi-Cal system is struggling with a backlog of 900,000 applicants.

In the multiyear political football of the Affordable Care Act, there was one issue that President Barack Obama was always willing to compromise on to appease his opponents and move his vision of health care reform forward. That issue was reimbursement to doctors and other medical providers.

In response to predictions that Obamacare would cost too much, there was always a willingness to cut reimbursement rates for medical services. The rate of reimbursement for Medi-Cal in California is so low that it barely will cover the cost of doing business.

There is a mythology that doctors are wealthy and can afford to provide low-cost services. While some doctors are wealthy, many others are highly trained, hardworking professionals who struggle on a daily basis to provide the best care to their patients. With the low reimbursement rate of Medi-Cal, it can be very hard to simply stay in business.

Elizabeth Preston

Oakland

Oversight is helping OPD change culture

Regarding the recent letter, "OPD's settlement is an expensive disaster:"

The police abuses happened on ex-Mayor Jerry Brown's watch, and he got us into the Negotiated Settlement Agreement, then did not actively make sure the Oakland Police Department obeyed it.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, incredibly, is the first mayor in more than a decade under the NSA to meet directly with the court-appointed overseer. She named an excellent Police Chief in Sean Whent, a veteran of OPD's Internal Affairs and uniquely qualified to foster compliance.

The NSA was imposed because some OPD officers were credibly accused of planting evidence, physically abusing arrestees and other unconstitutional abuses. Others remained silent, protecting fellow officers.

Polls showed that 40 percent of Oaklanders don't trust the police. Public safety depends upon OPD being trusted as respecting constitutional protections for all. In Los Angeles, crime went down and the solve rate went up when its police department complied with their own court oversight.

OPD's culture is changing under Whent and Quan, as praised by the court overseer in recent reports. When the court lifts oversight, OPD will need to continue the new constitutional practices for the safety of all.

Outdated definitions of the police role in society have no place in a modern city like Oakland.

Valerie Winemiller

Oakland

Assemblymembers should revisit vote

Bay Area Assemblymembers Susan Bonilla and Joan Buchanan recently voted to support the governor's budget, which included the use of cap-and-trade revenues from polluting industries to be used to reduce emissions. We were, therefore, surprised to see them both signing on to a letter to exempt the worst source of pollution, transportation fuels, from inclusion in the AB32 cap-and-trade program.

As a physician, I see the suffering from asthma, emphysema and heart disease in my patients, who suffer even more when they breathe air pollution. Low-income communities are disproportionately affected by air pollution, which puts them at higher risk for illnesses.

More than 30 major medical and health care organizations in California support AB32 to save lives and reduce health care costs from breathing polluted air.

By avoiding their compliance obligation under AB32, the oil industry is promising to impose even more costs on families that are already burdened with air pollution and higher health care expenses. We urge the Assemblymembers to reconsider their positions.

Fred Herskowitz, M.D.

volunteer physician American Lung Association in California Oakland