New leaders must arise, save Oakland

Every Oakland resident who cares about our city should be desperately seeking new leadership.

I cannot begin to pinpoint the exact places where our city got so far off-track, but there is plenty of blame to go around. Jean Quan divided Oakland from the beginning of her term in office. As residents, we can all only hope for new and better leadership.

Who can rise above the dysfunctional politics of Oakland? Who truly can bring about change? Who cares enough about increasing crime, gun violence, homelessness, prostitution and graffiti to do something about it?

Who is going to take active solution-based policy to approach these issues? How many more homeless camps are going to spring up under Interstate 580 or how many times do we as residents have to wake up to news of another senseless murder so close to our homes that we actually feel lucky not to have been out last night?

How much longer can we live in a void and eventually move somewhere else because it's just too difficult living year after year in Oakland?

Joanne Devereaux

Oakland

Finance remodel of theater wisely


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I just listened to the portion of the Piedmont Unified School District's Jan. 22 board meeting recording in which Gautam Wadhwani, financial officer for the Piedmont Arts Center and a finance professional, gives advice to the board about which bond option to select for financing the Alan Harvey Theater renovation.

The speech reminded me of 2007 late-night TV ads encouraging homeowners to load up on debt and take second mortgages or interest-only first mortgages with balloon payments:

"I will encourage you to borrow as much as you can in a low-interest environment."

"We should not worry about debt being a bad thing."

"Educated voters are a minority of the populace."

"If you agree that we are in a low-interest environment, you want to borrow for as long as you can."

"It is always better to defer taxes."

"Every dollar that I save in not paying taxes, I can use ... to make my wife happy."

"You want to borrow interest only."

"It is good economics and good finance for everybody."

During the board meeting, Hari Titan made an appeal to modify the text of the June ballot measure to exclude the use of creative financing instruments. I do not know if the board adopted his suggestions, but I strongly urge it to do so if there is still time. Please join me in doing so. Am I alone in suspecting that the whole AHT project has been approached upside-down?

"What is the maximum amount of money the district can borrow? Get that money from the voters. Design a project that spends the money."

We all know that every education dollar counts. Think what $1.3 million (the additional amount saved downsizing from a $14 million to a $13 million project -- slide 9 from KNN Consultants Dec. 11 presentation) would do to improve education in Piedmont classrooms.

Bernard Pech

Piedmont

Statewide bag ban needs a test period

Any deal to ban carryout plastic supermarket bags statewide should be implemented strictly on a temporary five-year trial basis.

After five years, the law should be subject to a review-and-renew process. If, at the five-year mark, it cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the law has accomplished its intended objectives, the law should automatically repeal itself. After all, can we really be certain the local/county bag bans have done any good?

Robert Minot

Alameda

TV show makes losers of us all

The latest season of "The Biggest Loser" TV game show ended with a major controversy recently -- a controversy that I'm surprised no one saw coming.

The newly crowned winner, Rachel Frederickson, lost 66 percent of her body weight for a final weigh-in of 105 pounds. Viewers' sentiments matched those of trainer Jillian Michaels, who looked noticeably shocked and concerned. This spiraled into a Twitter storm of criticism that railed on Frederickson's "unhealthy" weight. I put "unhealthy" in quotes out of caution; I am not her doctor, therefore I cannot know whether Frederickson is in fact healthy or not.

I did, however, plug Frederickson's weight and her 5-foot-5-inch height into a Body Mass Index calculator for a BMI of 17.5. That's a whole BMI point below what's considered the bottom threshold of a healthy weight (18.5).

Let's stop talking about the numbers for a moment and get to the real root of the problem: weight does not always correlate with health. Yes, to my eyes, Frederickson looks dangerously skinny -- almost skeletal -- but there is no way for me to judge her health by sight alone. That said, 105 pounds is not a weight that should be celebrated, let alone a weight that should be awarded $250,000.

Isn't it obvious how messed-up a message this sends? Lose weight, and you win; gain weight, and you lose. That's one seriously screwed-up equation. I don't want my TV to tell me that I'm a failure for an inability to lose weight. But when TV turns weight loss into a game show, what else am I supposed to think?

Shows such as "The Biggest Loser" blur the line between health and weight. I know plenty of people who are considered healthy in strictly medical terms but don't necessarily appear thin in plain sight.

"The Biggest Loser" celebrates weight loss, not health. And when we put the numbers and the contest above everything else, we all end up losing.

Michelle Robertson

UC Berkeley sophomore