Incendiary Rhetoric Stains Public Dialog

Incendiary Rhetoric Stains Public Dialog


This is a response to the open letter to members of the Alameda City Council from Gabrielle Dolphin, Co-President of the City of Alameda Democratic Club.(“Open Letter on Rent Control Setback,” Jan. 25)

The Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, the ostensible topic of Dolphin’s open letter, is a complex issue, and people of good faith on all sides have opinions. Suffice it to say for now that the Act was originally passed with critical support from one of the most progressive members in the history of the California Senate, Alameda’s then-State Senator, Nick Petris (D). 

He had seen up-close the disastrous effects of completely unrestrained and confiscatory local rent control policies in his East Bay district. If the minimal reforms contained in Costa-Hawkins were not considered necessary, Petris would never have supported its passage.

The language employed in Dolphin’s letter, however, raises other issues and calls to mind more recent history. A direct response is required.

We now have a president who has used racially divisive speech in furtherance of his personal and political agenda. The examples are many: the “Mexican judge”; the “very fine people” on “both sides” of a Nazi/neo-Klan rally; immigrants as “rapists” and “criminals”; etc. Even those who support him must worry about the effect on justice for all and the quality of our democracy of these win-at-all-costs tactics.

We did not, however, expect the “Trump Style” to make inroads here in Alameda, especially in a letter authored by the Co-President of the City of Alameda Democratic Club.
And how else to characterize Dolphin’s letter that stereotypes along racial lines (including recalling the old “yellow wave” slur) and mocks the speech of those who dared disagree with her call to repeal the Costa-Hawkins Act? She wrote:

“The vast majority of those bussed to the hearing at the Capitol by the California Apartment and Realtors lobby were those representing a wave of investors from China yelling, ‘No, no, no!’ Heard throughout the crowd: ‘I come here for the market!’ This to the embarrassment of the lobbyists attempting to paint human decency into their equation.” 
It is doubtful that Dolphin knows much, if anything, about the people she insulted or the actual makeup of “the crowd”. But whatever their race, place of origin, or mastery of the language — all totally irrelevant to the legislative issue — they are just as decent as you and I, Dolphin, or anyone else. 

Dolphin began her letter with the following excuse: “It is not my style to speak in incendiary fashion but it’s time to up the ante.” Wrong again. It is fine to “up the ante” when that means adding substance to a debate. But we believe that Alamedans generally, including the membership of the City of Alameda Democratic Club, join in rejecting Dolphin’s style of “incendiary” rhetoric and the stain it puts on our public discourse. 


Joe Lo Paro is an Alameda Realtor and resident.