Letters to the Editor

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Humanity has been thrown a curve ball and the new “human project” has been decided for us: we have no choice but to weather the 21st century coronavirus pandemic. People now are nervous, burdened with uncertainty and increasingly isolated. Anything we can do at the grassroots level to let people know they are not alone in this crisis is a huge step forward.

There are countless creative acts, large and small, taking place across the island.  Ordering take out from our local restaurants is the neighborly thing to do; upping donations to Meals on Wheels will pack bang for the buck. And for self-care, you may already be attending church services via Zoom or Facebook.

Create a neighborhood “mutual-aid society” by establishing a phone tree of neighbors. Have each neighbor write down what they could do to help out should the call come. Distribute the list. Use it. Stay in touch with each other.  Some may already have a CERT neighborhood watch group. Repurpose it for the pandemic.  

Adopt an Elder. Routinely ask if next time you went shopping (on-line or in person) you could pick something up. Those neighborhood libraries?  Use them as a drop-off box in which you leave little surprises for those on their walks. Or perhaps a few non-perishable items or toiletries — items some may not have and would feel uncomfortable asking. Or leave a small bouquet of flowers nearby for their enjoyment.

Join or organize a local letter-writing campaign. Send letters to our senior centers and nursing homes. Turn your kids loose on a letter-writing Monday. Pick a specific time of day, let your neighbors know you will be on your porch (sidewalk) each day at that time and ask them to join you on their porch to share a wave and shout-out.  Perhaps a neighborhood sing-along will be heard on the Island.

If engaged in campaigning (calls, emails), use all outreach to check up on the welfare of your voters — personally.

Reach out. Have hope. We are strong, loving and resilient. We can do this, Alameda —  we just need each other to see it through.


Do you know restaurants employ 16 million Americans?  Because of this pandemic, almost all restaurants and bars are closed for business leaving these people without jobs. Our industry is especially volatile: the economy, social media, trendsetters and luck determine if we live or die. Around 60 percent of new restaurants fail within the first year and 80 percent will be closed by the fifth year.

We’re lucky to have opened not one, but two restaurants on Park Street. We have no idea how we made it this far, given how fast restaurants turn over on Park Street. We employ more than 40 staff and our entire kitchen crew are skilled chefs who immigrated from China. They’re the sole providers for their families. All our full-time front-of-house staff make a living wage, and because of our generous customers, they’re also making additional tips.  

After the shelter-in-place was ordered, almost all our staff was laid off overnight. This week, we also called the garbage company, linen company, dish-washer company, chemical solution company, midnight cleaning crew, security company and window-cleaning guy to place their services on hold until further notice. We stopped our usual twice-a-day produce delivery which mostly comes from local farms. Our local fresh noodles and tofu company also cut their daily production to just once a week. Small business restaurant owner-operators aren’t really small because our industry creates and stimulates the economy. 

Park Street rent is notorious for being expensive. Both of our restaurants’ rent adds up to almost $30,000 per month. One week of not being open wipes out our entire company’s savings. We need to be busy every day in order to keep up with bills. We collect more than  $30,000 in sales tax a month. We donate to numerous schools, non-profits and food banks in Alameda and also to Oakland’s inner city. The government bailed out the auto industry, banking institutions and airline industry. What about us? We contribute to the economy, too. We create jobs just like them. 

We love Alameda and we’re thankful we’re able to plant our roots in a town that embraces small businesses. We hope we’ll be able to open our doors fully again when this is over. But it looks like it will be months from now before things will look better. I’m reaching out to the City of Alameda to please help business tenants not get evicted during this challenging time.  

Congress has passed a $2 trillion rescue package and our industry needs your help to remind the Trump administration to not overlook our fragile industry. Take action by texting “Recovery” to 52886.  

Lastly, we would like to send a huge virtual hug and thank you to all our family of customers, our children’s school families and all the non-profits that came back full swing to help us by ordering take out. You’re our lifesavers, our guardian angels and our heroes. When this is over, we all will cherish the hugs, the handshakes, the random conversations, a crowded theater and the two-hour waits at popular restaurants.  

Thank you for taking the time out to read this. Take care and good health to all!


— Linda Phung and Calvin Ton Owners, Monkey King

I have a dream that in this time of national crisis (political not medical) Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden huddle together to craft a platform (including movement toward single-payer health care for all) that both satisfies the two camps and their supporters and maps a clear path to clean up the mess the current administration has created.  They could arrange for Biden to become the presumptive nominee.  He could then name a cabinet that clearly reflects the will of the people at this moment to demonstrate his commitment to the policies.  

In my dream the cabinet and vice presidency includes Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris with significant input from Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. This “shadow” government could then spend the next 10 months organizing so that on Jan. 21, 2021, America begins to right itself.


— Morton Chalfy