Letters to the Editor

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Everyone must get a fair shake at City Hall. Open government and transparency helped level the playing field for small business owners at last Tuesday’s city council meeting. On the agenda was the presentation of a city law that would, among other provisions, result in five businesses near Webster Street being annexed into the existing tax district. Under the city’s sunshine laws, these businesses were entitled to a 12-day notice describing the pending action.
While city staff report noted that the affected businesses had no concerns with the upcoming tax, Councilmember Stewart Chen, as a small business owner, took the initiative to meet with three of the businesses to be sure they were aware of the pending city action. At each business, the story was the same. They had received a letter from the West Alameda Business Association (WABA), the organization that would be receiving the tax funds “inviting” the business to join in a collaborative marketing effort. The letter mentioned nothing about the pending tax or the amount each business would be required to pay. Chen immediately alerted city staff.
Fortunately for these businesses, Eric Fonstein of the city’s Community Development Department assembled a packet informing each business of the pending action including the assessment of the tax and distributed the notice to the affected businesses following Chen’s inquiry. Without the notice from the City, none of these businesses would have known about the tax and the opportunity to comment at the upcoming city council meeting. 
At the council meeting, Chen had to recuse himself because of a family opportunity to locate a business in the Webster Street tax district. After hearing from the affected businesses regarding the deficiencies in the WABA’s noticing and outreach, Councilwoman Lena Tam was the lone voice against the council moving to impose the tax saying that the city should not take action until the affected businesses were fully informed.
While others focused on why the small businesses should pay the tax, Tam maintained that the City needed to respect the process of notification even if WABA failed to properly notice the action. After two votes to extend the council meeting past 10 p.m., and facing pressure from others to just vote, Tam finally persuaded the city to postpone the action. City Manager John Russo offered his staff to prepare and deliver the proper notices. 
Councilman Chen and Tam’s diligence helped give a voice to three small businesses on an important issue ... taxes. 


— Jeff Cambra


The comment by J. Sanders is dead on (“Comment conflict,” March 6). Every time the Alameda Fire Department gets a new toy like a heavy rescue rig, a fireboat, or an emergency operations center, it’s paid for initially by some “grant” from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the State of California, etc. Then it’s up to us, the taxpayers, to support these new toys. 
The toys also give justification for higher pay and required training for our “out-sourced” employees. They don’t live and pay taxes here, just dream up ways for us to pay more each year. 

— Mitch Sanders

The Alameda Sun received a copy of this letter.

Dear Chief Rolleri:
We are writing to commend you and your traffic division on your recent campaign to educate pedestrians and especially motorists on the important aspects of traversing our streets with the greatest amount of respect for one another.
Alameda consists of an intergenerational population that relishes the opportunity to walk because of the flatness, the well-designed walkways and the closeness of various shopping areas making it unnecessary to drive. Our unique neighborhoods also provide areas to meet with friends over coffee and to do some shopping along the way.
We all play a part in keeping automobile-pedestrian collisions at a minimum and education is one approach. Walk & Roll to School Day over the past 14 years has educated hundreds of kids on safety lessons and we hope that they are passing them on to their siblings.
We believe that well-thought-out infrastructure improvements that catch people’s attention when driving and/or walking can contribute to minimize collisions.
As you know, it is extremely dangerous for motorists to run through pedestrian crossings without the slightest interest in stopping. Citing them is educational for everyone. Pedestrians who do not enter a crosswalk safely need to be educated, too. The other area that is frightening as a pedestrian, is a motorist speeding through a yellow light and often a red light. People with small children and seniors who walk slowly are highly at risk.
We encourage bright colors when walking at night; hard to see pedestrians are one of the many near-misses that we all experience when driving. We would like to see an effort in the city to provide brightly colored armbands for those who walk at night and need some reflective materials on their jackets. Maybe the business associations, bike shops, advocacy groups could all band together with your current efforts to make this available as another safety 
The in-pavement lights work somewhat and certainly well at night. However, they are hard to see in the daytime. We would encourage at key crossing lanes, the upright pedestrian signs that blink showing a pedestrian is crossing. The uprights are much easier seen by motorists.
As you know, this is a vibrant multi-generational town with a large diversity of ethnic groups, senior citizens and young people. A safe well-designed community encourages its residents that they can traverse comfortably and safely, and for health reasons choose walking and bicycling.
We encourage the enforcement of slower speed limits. Overall, the best way to increase safety on our streets is slower moving traffic. The 25-mile-per-hour speed limit on most streets, when obeyed, keeps serious injuries down in the event of a collision. Statistics show that drivers can notice more around them, slow down faster and, if there is a collision, the injury is less severe. Around areas with children crossing, we encourage the APD consider the 15 mile per hour speed limit. Overall slower speeds will save lives.
Eight pedestrian-involved collisions so far this year is too many and we encourage you to continue this important awareness work. Traffic safety and respect on the road is a shared responsibility of all of us working together. 
BikeWalkAlameda is completely behind these on-going enforcement approaches and we look forward to the May event and will participate as well.
Our thanks to all the officers who have participated in this traffic enforcement program.

— Lucy Gigli, President Bike Walk Alameda, and board members: Jeff Cambra, Donna Eyestone and Audrey Lord-Hausman