Letters to the Editor

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The Alameda Sun received a copy of this letter.

Dear Harbor Bay Neighbor: With the start of the New Year, we’ve been working hard on several fronts. And what we’ve found so far is bound to turn more than just a few heads! (Ron Cowan’s) Harbor Bay Isle Associates (HBIA) continues to state that “the club needs to move to stay in business” and this “is not debatable.” This position suggests that the Harbor Bay Club is losing money at its current location with its current amenities, and will go out of business if it is not moved to the business park and replaced with either houses or a hotel/conference center. Naturally, this led us to dig into the finances of Harbor Bay Club. We found that in 2008 HBIA, using a side company called Harbor Bay Club Associates LP, took a $6 million loan against Harbor Bay Club and then rolled that into a $7 million loan in July 2013. A loan of this magnitude typically requires the cash flow from the business to be at least 120 percent greater than the debt service and the loan amount to be no more than 65 percent of the value of the collateral (in this case the land). So, despite the payments on a $7 million loan, the club is generating a sizable income stream for HBIA. Cowan also has millions of dollars’ worth of equity in the business, which he would hardly walk away from by going out of business. No one with any financial sense would be so fiscally irresponsible as to default on as profitable a business as this, especially a multi-millionaire developer. This financial revelation changes everything. It reinforces that HBIA is not concerned with providing a quality facility (or they would have reinvested a chunk of that $6 million from 2008 into deferred maintenance at the existing club) and proves the club is financially stable with no threat of closure. So, why do they keep saying they will close? We believe HBIA simply refuses to accept the fact that Cowan is not “entitled” to build more homes in a completed planned unit development (PUD) where there isn’t any available property. So, they’ve resorted to a cheap scare tactic. We don’t buy it and neither should you. Harbor Bay Neighbors favors renovating (or rebuilding) the club at its existing location so it stays an amenity for the residents it is specifically designated to serve. And with $7 million in its pocket, HBIA should be able to figure out a staged renovation plan. (Think “TransBay Terminal” in San Francisco, which continues to serve 100,000 customers daily while they build a new transit hub. It can be done.) We need your help. With the threat of club closure discredited, moving the club and building houses or a hotel on the current property offers nothing to our community. It’s time to tell the city to reject HBIA’s application now, and focus city resources where they are needed, such as on the redevelopment of Alameda Point.


— Tim Coffey, Spokesman Harbor Bay Neighbors


On Saturday, Jan. 18, 315 volunteers of all ages, in a day of service, launched the Alameda Community Garden in the Jean Sweeney Open Space Park by weeding, mulching, and building planter boxes and compost bins. They also painted a mural, tiles and signage at the site located just behind the Food Bank near the intersection of Constitution Way and Atlantic Avenue. The project was coordinated by the office of Supervisor Wilma Chan and the Alameda Recreation and Parks Department. The participants were provided a pizza lunch. The atmosphere during this effort was electric with excitement as these dedicated volunteers eagerly and enthusiastically engaged in a multitude of tasks and were rewarded with rich learning experiences while accomplishing impressive results in an inspiring sense of community. At the same time this project was proceeding on the west end of the park, Barbara Rasmussen and volunteers from the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints were doing additional work painting the historic Alameda Belt Line office buildings located at the east end of the park at Sherman Street. This project, which they began last spring and extended over the summer, was remarkable in reducing deterioration, eliminating an eyesore, and generating interest and excitement in the development of the park. Their constancy and devotion are greatly appreciated.


— Jim Sweeney The Jean Sweeney Open Space Park Fund


When I read the commentary “A New Paradigm” Fred Noel’s Jan. 23 response to my two-part commentary (“Keep the American Dream Alive,” Jan 2 and 9), I immediately recognized the voice of an administrator. He sensed that he recognized a “prevalent teacher assumption” embedded in my piece. Regrettably, as a newcomer to education with the audacity to write about public education, I trigger all the usual defense mechanisms and reprisals; no wonder my sense of job security rivals that of an Oakland Raiders’ coach.

My prolix opinion piece was understandably published in two parts and so the continuity was broken; but, the flow chart was essentially this: the upward mobility in this country exceeds that of any nation; that parents mistakenly — not necessarily by design — condemn their children to income stagnation. These are conclusions published in a study by Bhashkar Mazumder on upward mobility in the United States. As Casey Stengel might have said, "You could Google it."

The third link in the flow chart was: Proficiency in a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) component provides the best opportunity for economic advancement.

None of these three are my assumptions; I like to crouch behind findings published in the Economist or the Wall Street Journal.

As a statistician and statistics teacher, I am always noticing and sometimes quantitatively demonstrating relationships between variables that correlate positivity, or negatively, with math achievement.

Chronic tardiness, absenteeism, quotidian pleading for the bathroom pass, trousers worn sag style, texting in class, multiple tattoos and piercings, no textbook, no pencils, attempting to power nap in class, all correlate negatively — despite politically correct denials — with low math achievement.

They reflect an attitude inimical to the attainment of math proficiency. Technically, these are not assumptions, they are testable hypotheses.

Parents signaling low expectation, making excuses, blaming the system or teacher, citing family traditions of low math performance, also correlate very strongly with low math achievement.

For most students, math is hard work; math proficiency requires active learning; not passively gazing in the direction of the teacher, or staring at the text.

Having to do rigorous math and apply strenuous thinking just to learn math is a disagreeable, odious fact; any covert glimmer of a green light to circumvent this process is often seized on by students.

Such side-stepping of rigorous math ultimately correlates highly with economic stagnation given that STEM is the principal conduit to upward mobility.


— Jeffrey R Smith