Sunday, May 29, 2011
Jean Quan's tax plan riles Oakland library backers
Matthai Kuruvila, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, May 29, 2011
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan has proposed cutting 14 of the city's 18 libraries, including a venerated African American museum and library, unless unions slash their pay or voters pass an $11.2 million parcel tax.
The proposal has riled library supporters, who have come to council chambers en masse to demand that the council place the tax on the ballot.
"I feel that the parcel tax is a small price to pay for adequate city services," said Nina Lindsay, 40, a homeowner who has lived in Oakland since she was 4 and is a children's librarian.
But the proposal from Quan has some wondering whether it's just political theater.
Prominent Quan supporters, including her husband, Floyd Huen, have been regularly lining up at council meetings to speak in favor of the tax, which has been blocked from reaching a ballot by council members Libby Schaaf, Ignacio De La Fuente and Desley Brooks.
"I urge the council to please put the measure on the ballot," Huen said Thursday after criticizing council members for not supporting the tax proposal.
Other ideas suggested
Brooks has suggested that Quan, a huge library supporter, was manipulating voters about the libraries by saying a parcel tax was the only way to keep them open. Brooks added that pension or City Charter reform might also free up money for libraries.
Without looking at all options, Brooks said, Quan's parcel tax push is "disingenuous."
The mayor replied that if others wanted to put reforms on the ballot, they were welcome to. Quan said she just didn't have the time to do so herself because of the demands of the budget.
But the mayor's budget numbers themselves have raised eyebrows.
The four libraries that would remain open in this scenario include the 81st Avenue, Dimond and Rockridge branches. In addition, Quan's budget says, "the main library will remain open with full programming."
Tiny staff budgeted
But Quan has budgeted the equivalent of 4.6 employees to run the main library even though it currently has 46. Her spokeswoman, Sue Piper, said it was library leaders who came up with the figures. But even library leaders question the plausibility of five people running the three-story, 87,500-square-foot main library, which has separate rooms for children, meetings, a teen zone, magazines, history and a computer lab.
"That's not possible," said Gerry Garzon, the library's associate director. "It's just not."
Part of the reason that the library cuts would be so severe is that Quan's proposal assumes that the city would not receive parcel tax revenue from Measure Q. The 2004 ballot measure provides libraries with $14 million from a parcel tax as long as the city contributes roughly $9.1 million. Quan trumpeted Measure Q as a mayoral candidate, saying she led the effort, which prevented branch libraries from being closed.
But the current budget is so tight, Quan says, that the city would not be able to afford the $9.1 million contribution. Instead, she proposes contributing $3.6 million - which means losing the parcel tax revenue and an overall decrease of $19.5 million in library funding. Residents would stop paying an $86 parcel tax.
Quan is drawing on sentiment, not fiscal reality, in her most dire budget proposal, said Joe Tuman, a former mayoral candidate and current board member of Make Oakland Better Now, a good-government group.
For example, he points to the fact that Quan also proposed shuttering four fire stations, even though the city's interim fire chief said it would only save $300,000 annually.
"These, to me, suggest a pattern of exaggeration in the purpose of scaring people to support a parcel tax," he said.
Piper said skeptics don't understand the reality of the budget. Every department gets cut when police and fire account for 75 percent of the budget, she said. Libraries are not alone.
"One hopes that's not the case, but it's reality," she said. "It's not a scare tactic."
On another budget matter, the city wants to transfer operation of the Oakland Museum entirely over to the Oakland Museum of California Foundation, a nonprofit. Both say it would save money, including $1 million a year for the city alone.
But the union representing some of the city workers, IFPTE Local 21, says the move violates the City Charter, which prohibits contracting out work that leads to employees losing their jobs.
The city says the equivalent of 7.6 people would be laid off. The union says the number is 45.
E-mail Matthai Kuruvila at email@example.com.
This article appeared on page D - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle
© 2011 Hearst Communications Inc.
If you want to contribute to the Henrietta Lacks Foundation (created to help pay for the education and medical needs of the Lacks family) visit:
If you are interested in more stories concerning HeLa, or Lacks recognition, a simple Google search (as mentioned in the book) will turn up thousands of results.
Also, if you haven't watched the YouTube video on the HeLa cells yet, I highly recommend it. Definitely worth the time.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks has made a steady move to the top of the Bay Area Paperbacks list this month. Coincidence? I think not.
Finally, it appears that Oprah has bought the movie rights to the book and is planning on producing one for HBO sometime in the future. Although, there is nothing listed about this on imdb.com which means this project is still at least 2 to 3 years away.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Saturday, May 21, 2011
Sunday, May 15, 2011
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
via csmonitor.com (by the way, Mortenson is also being sued by Afghan tribesman who he claims were Taliban)
By Marjorie Kehe / May 9, 2011
In today's litigious society, it was the inevitable next step: There is now movement toward a class action lawsuit against "Three Cups of Tea" author Greg Mortenson.
(Author should also be in quotes-Ed. PHBC)
Mortenson, whose popular book has helped him to raise millions to support his efforts to build schools in central Asia, was one of America's most respected and best known philanthropists – until last month. That's when author Jon Krakauer appeared on "60 Minutes" to allege that Mortenson had lied in his book, misused the funds entrusted to him, and misrepresented the degree of the success of his school-building mission.
Mortenson has admitted that he "compressed" the timeline of some of the incidents in "Three Cups of Tea" but otherwise denies any claims of wrongdoing. His charity, the Central Asia Institute (CAI), has stated that in order to "address the recent media allegations" it is "gathering relevant facts from our field managers in Pakistan and Afghanistan to provide more comprehensive reporting." According to those close to Mortenson, pending heart surgery has prevented him from being able to speak out more fully in his own defense.
5 essential truths in "Three Cups of Tea"
CAI board chairman Abdul Jabbar says that once Mortenson is "[a]rmed with a healthy heart" he will be ready to face the press and answer questions.
But even if Mortenson is not able to move forward at the moment, events are moving rapidly around him.
In federal court in Missoula last week, two Montana legislators – state Reps. Michele Reinhart and Jean Price – filed a claim against Mortenson, stating that they were duped into buying "Three Cups of Tea" and then giving to Mortenson's charity because they thought the stories in his book were true.
The legislators have suggested that millions of others who bought the book, heard Mortenson speak, and/or contributed to his charity could potentially became part of their suit.
Reinhart, Price, and others "purchased the book because of his heart-wrenching story which he said was true," says Alexander Blewett, attorney for Reinhart and Price. "If people had known all of this was fabricated, they would not have given the money."
The suit that Reinhart and Price have filed seeks to pursue charges against Mortenson and the CAI under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act because Mortenson used the US mail to solicit donations.
Mortenson and the CAI are also under investigation by Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock.
"Three Cups of Tea" was published in 2006 and has garnered a wide and wildly enthusiastic audience. The book was on The New York Times bestseller list for three years after the release of its paperback edition. (The hardcover version of the book was not a big success and the paperback took off only after Mortenson persuaded his publishers to give the book a more hopeful subtitle.) It has since sold more than 4 million copies and been published in at least 39 countries. The book is required reading on many US college campuses and for all US service people bound for Afghanistan.
Mortenson, who also published a second book, "Stones into Schools," in 2009, draws huge crowds when he speaks about his work and has raised millions of dollars for his charity through both his books and his frequent speaking tours.
The suit being pursued by Reinhart and Price proposes that any monetary damages awarded be placed into a trust and directed to schoolchildren in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's books editor.
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Who, you might ask, is Henrietta Lacks (1920-1951) and why is she the subject of a book? On the surface, this short-lived African American Virginian seems an unlikely candidate for immortality. The most remarkable thing about her, some might argue, is that she had ten children during her thirty-one years on earth. Actually, we all owe Ms. Lacks a great debt and some of us owe her our lives. As Rebecca Skloot tells us in this riveting human story, Henrietta was the involuntary donor of cells from her cancerous tumors that have been cultured to create an immortal cell line for medical research. These so-called HeLa cells have not only generated billions of dollars for the medical industry; they have helped uncover secrets of cancers, viruses, fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping. A vivid, exciting story; a 2010 Discover Great New Books finalist; a surprise bestseller in hardcover.