Letters to the Editor

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Honorable Mayor and City Councilmembers:

Electrification is an important climate mitigation initiative. Since Alameda has its own electric utility that has been 100% renewable since 2020, Alameda is in a great position to be a leader.

Given that there are already several trends increasing electrical demand, I think it’s especially important that Alameda focuses on supply initiatives, especially as we continue to have rolling blackouts when demand surges.

Some of the trends that will continue to increase demand:
• Rapidly increasing affordability of electric vehicles.
• Alameda’s Housing Element specifying 5,353 new housing units in the next eight years combined with the requirement they be all electric.
• Corresponding retail structures and city infrastructure for new housing.
• State and federal initiatives, like the Inflation Reduction Act

At this point in time, I suggest it’s more important that we incentivize supply creation. City simplification of the solar permit process is a good first step, but we have a long way to go to take advantage of the abundant sunlight we have in Alameda. We should incentivize home solar as well as moving forward with the Doolittle Solar Facility (“AMP to Go Solar on Mount Trashmore,” Nov. 24, 2020). We should incentivize battery adoption to store more of that power for the challenging 4 to 9 p.m. peak demand time.

Since Alameda’s greenhouse gas emissions from transportation are significantly higher than from homes, increasing home-charging access, including incentivizing electric panel upgrades and car-charging infrastructure for homes and multi-family apartments, should be a priority over other housing electrifying investments.

City incentives for full-home electrifying of existing homes and apartments should not yet be a priority:
• It can cost tens of thousands of dollars per dwelling.
• It can displace renters, especially the most vulnerable.
• Housing greenhouse gas emission is 27% versus 70% for transportation in Alameda.

We should address electricity availability and some of the other lower hanging fruit first.

I urge the council to ask staff for an alternative electrification plan that prioritizes increasing supply, starts with the most cost-effective measures, and doesn’t threaten the housing of our most vulnerable population.

— Paul Beusterien

Editor:
On Jan. 19, 2017, Raquel Maria Dillon reporting for NBC Bay Area News, announced that the Alameda City Council had voted unanimously on Jan. 17, 2017, to join what was then a growing list of “sanctuary cities” for undocumented immigrants.

Furthermore, Vice Mayor Malia Vella was quoted to say that “she wanted the vote to send a message that the city would protect civil liberties and civil rights” even for non-citizens. At the time, Alameda was bracing for stepped up immigration enforcement under President Donald Trump.

Assuming that our January 17 resolution was more than an anti-Trump knee jerk response, the present could finally be Alameda’s opportunity to translate lofty words and generous promises into meaningful action.

Since January 2021, nearly four million immigrants have crossed into the United States; many of them are still looking for a safe start, Alameda could be that haven.

On September 11, Vice President Kamala Harris assured our nation on “Meet the Press” that “The border is secure.” Blame it on many years of teaching geometry in public education, but I have developed both an eye and an ear for incongruencies. As Chico Marx says in the 1933 documentary, DUCK SOUP, “Who you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?”

A fraction of these four million have literally, and very temporarily, shown up at the Vice President’s front door and some have momentarily encroached on a former president’s exclusive island. In both locations they were mysteriously whisked away before setting up camp or getting to shop for souvenirs.

As Rob DeSantis assures immigrants arriving in Florida, “The legislature gave me $12 million. We’re going to spend every penny of that to make sure that we are protecting the people of the state of Florida.”

DeSantis has publicly recognized there are “a whole bunch of other places” to send people.

“This way, these sanctuary jurisdictions can put their money where their mouth is,” DeSantis added without identifying Alameda per se.

Governor Greg Abbott who has been busing migrants from Texas to New York City and Washington, D.C., has been getting inexplicable blow back from these self-designated, proudly proclaimed sanctuary cities. In D.C. the migrants disembarked from their bus at the very seat of power, the home of our Vice President. Nonetheless, those migrants did not remain in that welcoming sanctuary neighborhood for long.

Some states, that never thumped their chest to boast sanctuary status, are overwhelmed by immigrants. Del Rio, Texas, a city of 34,500 people, had more than 49,500 migrant encounters in July alone. By contrast, and no one is suggesting this is relevant, the year-round population of Martha’s Vineyard is 17,000 people. This idyllic island welcomed just 50 migrants for a few hours, before being overwhelmed and whisking them away to the mainland, without an iota of protest from empathic residents.

A California governor called the transporting of immigrants to the safety of sanctuaries, kidnapping. As Mayor Eric Adams of New York City and the Mayor of El Paso agreed, “these migrants and asylum seekers are not coming to any particular city, they’re coming to America,” one city is as good as the next and Alameda could voluntarily elect to be one such city.

If California is sending economic and political refugees to Texas, should not Texas have the right to reciprocate and send refugees to California?

Were Alameda to send a message to the governors of Texas and Florida that Alameda is a Sanctuary City and our motto reads: “Everyone Belongs Here” we could honor our pledge that the Alameda City Council had voted unanimously for on January 17, 2017.

Or we could ignore the crisis, hunker down and risk looking like hypocrites hoping no one will notice.

— Jeffrey R Smith

Editor:
In 2014, after the killing of 19-year-old Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri, the Black Lives Matter movement demanded (in vain) that the police officer who shot him be charged with murder. The media descended on the town and the systemic racism that prevailed there was exposed. Typical was the CNN piece called “Policing for Profit: How Ferguson’s fines violated rights of African Americans.” The reporters were shocked to discover that extracting fines from the poor, especially in the form of traffic tickets, was how the city met its expenses.

The rip-off of Alamedans by our Public Works Department is a small thing compared to the rip-off of the people of Ferguson, and in my case there’s no racial angle; I’m a white male. But in both situations, a city is extorting money from its residents.

In response to COVID-19, Alameda created space for outdoor dining on Webster Street (Park Street, too) by reducing traffic lanes and creating new parking spots on the inner lanes of the street. White lines were painted to designate the new parking area. Unbeknownst to me, vertical stripes meant “no parking.” So, on a recent Saturday morning, I found a woman in uniform writing a ticket for my old Volvo when I returned from the farmers market.

The officer was chatting with someone and hadn’t finished entering my license plate number into a handheld device. “Here I am,” I announced. I explained that I thought I had parked legally and asked her if she could “please tear up the ticket.” I asked again, politely, if it was in her power not to give me a ticket. (My car is an ‘85 Volvo and I’m an 80-year-old man.) She shocked me by saying, “I could but I’m not going to.” She handed me the citation and said it would explain how to appeal online.

The address, to which you’re supposed to mail in payment, is “City of Alameda, PO Box 11113, San Jose, Ca 95103.” (I thought the City of Alameda was in Alameda.)

The ticket was $65. That’s a lot of money for people living on a small pension and social security like me and my wife.

Going online to appeal, I landed on a site run by PTicket.com. You have to create an account, which takes time and means sharing your credit card info. The PTicket.com site informed me I had two weeks to pay, after which the fine would go up to $115!

The site also said, “The following are not valid reasons for contesting and will cause the request to be removed from the appeal process. You will then be responsible for any late fees incurred.”

In case that didn’t sink in, the message was repeated in two bullet points:
• To extend payment is not a valid reason for contesting.
• Not being able to afford to pay the citation/ticket is not a valid reason for contesting.

I wrote out my appeal and after filing it, got this return email from PTicket.com:

“Due to a technical issue we’re currently working to resolve, you may not receive a notification email when your dispute is completed. Please log into your account in order to check the status of your dispute and view the Investigation Results once completed. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

Does PTicket.com really conduct an investigation? Doesn’t the city of Alameda have clerical workers who can process parking tickets? What percentage of my payment will PTicket.com rake off?

When and how did PTicket.com get involved in this transaction? Doesn’t the city of Alameda have clerical workers who can process parking tickets?

I’ve lived in this city for more than 20 years, and still love it, but slightly less than I used to.

— Fred Gardner

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