Becker's call to reopen schools
While I disagree with several of state Sen. Becker's assertions, application of sketchy statistics, and use of the tropes "recent studies" and "common sense," I am confused by his worry about students' "...mental health, social isolation ... emotional costs..." ("State Sen. Josh Becker calls for San Mateo County schools to reopen," Feb. 26). For years, I have witnessed teens everywhere sitting in groups not socially involved but glued to their phones while not engaging in verbal discussions. The "studies" I have seen refer to this phenomenon as destructive of the very concerns he raises. Last, perhaps in school districts with hefty financial resources, those officials are able to purchase the wherewithal to allow schools to become more safe; what does he propose to do to aid those school districts that are not able to afford his recommendations?
Placitas Avenue, Menlo Park
Condemning hate against Asians
In light of recent, and increasing, incidences of racism, violence, and hate against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, the Menlo Park City School District school board members and superintendent wish to firmly condemn these acts. We are alarmed at the rise of racist behaviors and attacks against members of these communities. Violent anti-Asian sentiment has been building for years, and surged over the past year amid racist scapegoating that has blamed Asians for the coronavirus pandemic.
The MPCSD school board and superintendent stand against all forms of hate. The resolution "Commitment to Creating Anti-Racist Classrooms, Schools, and Communities," passed by the board in June 2020, takes a clear position against racism and inequity, and commits our schools and district to take action to make a difference for our students and our community. Since March 2020, there have been over 700 cases of anti-Asian racism and discrimination in the Bay Area alone; the state of California is home to 44.56% of all reported anti-Asian racism and discrimination cases throughout the country, as reported by Stop AAPI Hate. As 13.8% of MPCSD's families identify as Asian or Pacific Islander, we must stand with them against this rising tide of hate.
MPCSD is working hard to create an educational environment in which our children may grow up to be adults who are anti-racist. Through the superintendent's Antiracism Advisory Team, the district is improving its recruitment, hiring and retention to develop a more diverse staff; making curriculum decisions that bring a variety of voices and perspectives to our classroom content; investing in staff professional development that empowers MPCSD teachers and staff to understand diverse perspectives and incorporate them into the district's work with students; and bringing speaker events that encourage anti-racist ideas to our entire community. Over 500 community members participated in the district's first anti-racism speaker series in January.
Beyond the district's own work, MPCSD's school board and superintendent support all individuals and groups who seek understanding, equity and kindness, and condemn racially motivated hate, harassment and violence against persons of any race or ethnicity. We hope that the next generation will do better than ours, and that our children may grow up to lead a just and democratic society with equitable treatment and opportunity for all.
Erik Burmeister, MPCSD superintendent; Sherwin Chen, school board president; and school board trustees David Ackerman, Stacey Jones, Scott Saywell and Francesca Segrè.
The miscues and future promise of green power
The power outages in Texas and California have a common cause — premature investments in unreliable wind and solar before feasible power storage technology is developed ("Guest opinion: The Texas power crisis: What happened, why it happened, and what it means for the future of energy policy," March 12). Had Texas built more reliable power, it would have had electricity to heat natural gas wellheads to keep natural gas generation plants running. It would also have had the money to lock in guarantees on its power purchases.
In California's case the money invested in unreliable power has resulted in some of the highest power cost in the country with blackouts and wildfires. California is prematurely shutting down natural gas plants and shifting budgets for maintenance and clearance of power lines into solar subsidies.
Battery storage costs will have to drop by 50 times to make it affordable. But there is promise that the solar-hydrogen energy generation cycle would solve the power storage issue, which would make solar reliable and cost competitive with fossil fuels.
Woodside Road, Woodside
Underrepresented in government
San Mateo County leaders say the right things when it comes to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion. But what are we actually doing to make sure that people of diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and life experiences are involved in the policymaking process? Some recently released statistics shine a harsh light on our reality.
According to the Bay Area Equity Atlas, San Mateo County ranks worst in the Bay Area in the ethnicity gap of elected officials v. ethnic population (40% white, but holding 66% of elected positions).
The three largest ethnic groups in our county are white (non-Hispanic) 40.4%, Asian 27.0%, and Hispanic or Latino 24.6%. Together, Asian and Hispanic residents are 51.6% of our population. So, where are we with regard to representation of these majority minority groups?
API (Asian Pacific Islander) and Latino populations, more than half the region's population, are underrepresented at all levels of government at just 13% of top county-level elected officials.
Women are underrepresented by 20%, given that they are nearly 53% of the population, but hold only 44% of elected roles. And it is extremely rare that women hold positions countywide or higher. In fact, only two women of color have ever served in a countywide office in San Mateo.
Elections will take place in San Mateo County for supervisors in districts 2 and 3 in 2022. Our local Democratic club is committed to diversity, but endorsements from our governor and other men on the public servant ladder go largely to other white males. Advocacy for women of color is typically for staff positions or lower levels of government.
Female candidates of color cannot, and will not, soon reach equitable representation unless we all work together to support and elect them. Our county's commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion should include leadership support, and 2022 is not too early to help experienced women of color win countywide and higher office. Let's all make a difference in the election ahead by encouraging and supporting women and people of color.
Portola Road, Woodside
Investing in good jobs
Congress just passed a COVID relief bill, but short-term relief is not enough — we need longer-term investment in good jobs for all.
There are millions of people looking for good work, and so much good work that needs to be done. It will take millions to build a new green energy grid, care for older folks, teach children, restore parks and buildings, and build the kind of future we want our kids to see. This year, we can put millions of people back to work in good paying jobs building a sustainable, just, and people-centered economy.
Congress must deliver at the scale of the crises we face. Our communities, our climate, our democracy cannot afford delay or compromise. We need our elected representatives to commit to fighting for a historic economic recovery of at least $10 trillion to create millions of good jobs stopping the climate crisis and building a new, people-centered economy before the end of Biden's first 100 days.
Publicizing solutions during the pandemic
Thank you to The Almanac for your ongoing coverage of the societal impacts of COVID-19, and of ways that our community can cope with the financial and personal challenges which have affected all of us.
Two recent stories led to this letter: In early January there was an excellent review of 2020's challenges, providing thoughtful perspectives for us all and focusing on Menlo Park's resiliency ("2020: A difficult year that showcased Menlo Park's resilience," Jan. 1). On Jan. 29 there was an explanation of San Mateo County's relief fund for restaurants, which is now receiving applications for grants ("San Mateo County creates 'financial lifeline' for eateries").
In a crisis like this pandemic, the challenges are so complicated that they can be overwhelming. Our leaders in the community are responding as best as they can with relief programs, in order to help people feed their families and pay their rent.
The press has a big role in publicizing these various relief programs which are available. Thank you for your efforts to help people find solutions to their families' day-to-day challenges.
Another group that is helping to publicize solutions are our cities' chambers of commerce. In collaboration with elected officials countywide, they are helping to organize and publicize all of the relief services to individuals and employers so they can keep their heads above water.
Those programs include food delivery to families in need, rent relief and eviction protection, child care resources, health services, housing and utilities assistance, financial relief and resources to help small businesses, and publicizing volunteer opportunities and ways to donate to these various efforts.
The impact of COVID on wage earning, paying the rent, and feeding our families has been staggering. It is important to remember that the small businesses in our town employ so many people, providing the paychecks which keep families going. These small businesses are scrambling to stay afloat and bring back their employees, so that everyone can return to earning their living.
Thank you to all The Almanac staff for working hard to publicize the solutions which will help families, seniors, and employers to successfully get past this pandemic.
Menalto Avenue, Menlo Park
Violence begets violence
I am very disappointed that President Joe Biden, who ran on ending wars and not escalating conflicts in the Middle East, authorized a round of airstrikes in Syria. The bombed facilities were used by Iran backed militia, but such a raid is not going to accomplish anything, especially if we want to restart nuclear talks with Iran. Where is diplomacy? Why didn't Biden ask Congress for permission for such a strike? What are the consequences for such actions? The public should be outraged. I am worried that Biden's national security team is using force when they could be using other means. Time and time again, history has shown that violence begets violence.