Cleaning house at the Housing Authority: While I agree with you that the Housing Authority needs overhauling (Matt Smith, "Bum Advice," May 16, on a proposal to dissolve the Housing Authority Commission and bring it under the purview of the Board of Supervisors), I also sense that [the proposal] is more than just reform -- it's a power play. That it comes so close upon electoral victory, from a supervisor [Matt Gonzalez] with many potential supporters subject to its rulings, speaks even more to concerns about a new fiefdom.
Perhaps the idea that the mayor should be able to exercise total control is at the heart of the corruption problem. However, the purported solution -- a new set of bums -- doesn't seem to me to be the answer. I like decentralization and could get behind a shared authority with appointees from the supes, the mayor, and perhaps some fixed-term positions outside of the electoral tides.
The welfare of the residents and a degree of self-government should be the hallmarks of a new Housing Authority. Not a patronage system for the mayor, nor a captive constituency for a few ward politicians.
Disturbing news: Your story about the use of the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard as a radiation research and decontamination facility was disturbing and shocking and some of the best reporting I've seen a local paper (daily or weekly) produce in quite some time ("Fallout," May 2 and 9).
The Bayview-Hunters Point area's health problems have been called "epidemic" -- what connection do these events have to the health problems there? What's being done about this now -- and how do we get involved?
Editor's note: The connection, if any, between the handling of nuclear materials and Bayview-area illnesses has yet to be studied, because the information disclosed in "Fallout" was not previously public. As for how to get involved, we're a newspaper, not an activism advice service, but it is traditional, in America, for citizens upset about the actions of government to phone or write their elected local, state, and federal representatives.
Think globally, radioact locally: Thank you for the recent "Fallout" feature about the reckless and irresponsible handling of nuclear materials at Hunters Point Naval Shipyard. This is an international problem with no foreseeable end in sight. Governments all over the world, in their zeal to build bigger and deadlier bombs, have left a legacy of radiation that will affect humans and other living things for all time.
A sorry apology: This is in response to a recent letter to the editor ("Your Sorry Ash," May 16) by Andrew J. Schindler, chairman and chief executive of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. Don't anyone think that R.J. Reynolds is apologetic about their marketing campaign called Project SCUM, targeting San Francisco gays and homeless people ("Smoking Gun," Bay View, May 2). The only thing Mr. Schindler and RJR are sorry about is that the confidential documents were released to the public and the press. This is just one example of how RJR and other tobacco companies operate. Schindler states that [RJR is] a responsible company, but then again [the company] claims it is not marketing to kids. How else can they replace those who die from using their products?
Bay Terrace, N.Y.
Respect for the dead: I found it interesting that the R.J. Reynolds CEO would write to [SF Weekly] to apologize for calling gay and homeless San Franciscans "scum." If RJR really "respects all of its customers," then Schindler would have also offered an apology to the many thousands of Californians who will lose health and life to RJR tobacco products this year.
Frederic W. Grannis Jr., M.D.
The rules of the road: I enjoyed [Matt Smith's] column ("Rides and Wrongs," May 2) but want to mention a couple of things. People using the bike lane as a double-parking area ought to be fined in amounts large enough to hurt or have their cars towed, or both. And since there aren't enough bike lanes, stay off the worst streets when you are on your bike -- yes, bikers should have a perfect right to be on any street they want, but getting killed through bad riding is no way to make a point.
As for Critical Mass, not everyone has the choice of mass transit or biking. Some people do have to drive to work. I've been the recipient of intense angry screaming by the CM gang as I waited to cross Market (in my good-gas-mileage, low-emission vehicle). Stopping thousands of people from going home to their families on a Friday evening is obviously a good way to make Critical Mass' point -- even if some drivers who are innocent of the crime of commuting alone by car are inconvenienced. Just as obviously it's an opportunity to get nasty for many of the CM participants. The self-righteous attitude, finger-pointing, and screaming, while understandable, doesn't serve their cause.
Yes, we need better public transit and more bike lanes. People who can take advantage of the mass transit we've got should do so and leave their cars at home. SUVs are indeed an example of the worst human traits made manifest. We also could use some civility and good sense, on everyone's part.
A student protest: After reading Matt Smith's article about the San Francisco Art Institute and censorship ("Cats and Dogs," April 25, on a meeting called after a student was suspended for making a film showing what was deemed inappropriate content), I had to laugh at his smug attitude. How much time did he spend exploring the issues before passing his very flippant judgment? He focused his rancor on a very personal description of a woman student whom he seemed to liken to some figure of repressive authority, due mainly to her "bossiness" and her prim wardrobe. Basically the bad guy in his article is shifted to an "uppity" woman who is, as he admits, a much easier target to take on than the administration.
I also noticed how focused Matt was on all of the titillating details of the spurious films. Is he guaranteeing our freedom of expression by reprinting all of the dirty details? Or is he more concerned with serving up a tasty little rant that will sell copy? Maybe you should devote an article to the dumbing down of journalism by unbridled commercialism and the pressures of market forces. Who needs censorship when we have ill-informed journalists who jump to quick judgments?
It is my guess that the self-censoring Matt was describing had more to do with issues of social tact than with an overriding repressive authority. Many students were concerned that they not jeopardize the outcome of a conduct hearing that was scheduled two days after the symposium. The symposium was never intended to address [the student's] situation directly, but obviously that was what was on everyone's minds. The administration continues to claim that freedom of expression was not an issue in [the student's] case. Who will write a story about that?
Patrick A. Piazza