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Letters to the Editor
Noe Venable's 'Moon of Pearls'
A belated comment on Joe Quirk's "The Versatile Noe Venable," which I've just read on the Internet [noevalleyvoice. com May 2000]:
Though most of the articles I've read about Noe Venable have been highly complimentary, they tend to focus on superficial aspects of her and her music: namely, her eccentricity and the dark subject matter of her lyrics -- as if this were the main source of her appeal.
How astonishing, then, to read sentences like: "Triumphant in her uniqueness, Venable seems proud of her wry wit and impish smile, or as she sings it, her 'moon of pearls'.... When she sings, her face betrays her. It overflows with wonder. In Venable's shining eyes, you can still see the kid who might show up dressed as a seahorse."
Quirk writes as one who genuinely understands and appreciates talent; who can see beyond the surface, into the inner light behind those shining eyes.
As a writer myself, I admire Quirk's ability to convey what he sees in Noe Venable. As a human being, I admire his ability to see it.
Y Build the Garage?
My wife picked up the Noe Valley Voice and read the article on the new Mission Y planned for construction on Castro between 25th and Clipper in Noe Valley [June 2000 issue]. She was happy to hear about a new Y until she got to a quote from the YMCA staff about how a two-story underground parking garage would be a "critical component" of the project. She wondered why something near two cross-town bus routes (the 24 and 48) that allow people a quick connection to BART and all Muni streetcar lines would need a big parking garage.
Noe Valley has no parking garages, yet has a thriving business district. The relative lack of traffic means Noe Valley is quiet and safe, especially for children. The 48-Quintara usually has a lot of riders, and the more reliable and frequent 24-Divisadero always picks up at least a dozen people on 24th Street. Adding more frequency to those two bus routes would impact the neighborhood far less than bringing in thousands more daily car trips to Clipper and Castro.
Give Kids, Teachers a Break
Friends and Neighbors:
I am writing in response to the May story and June letters in the Voice regarding James Lick Middle School. The issues are much more complicated than rowdy children who behave badly on the bus and in the neighborhood; or children who pour nail polish remover in a teacher's water; or even teachers and administrators who seem unable to control the kids.
Those of you who went to public school before Prop. 13 really have no idea what California's public schools are faced with today. Over the past 20 years, the resources and funding for California schools have gone from best in the nation to nearly worst. The budget squeeze now has a stranglehold on us, which is causing trouble in more places than just the schools.
Do you know that JLMS students come from all over town? Do you know that over 70 percent live in poverty? Do you know that the people who decide how many prisons we need project their figures by looking at the fourth-grade reading scores? Do you know that teachers in San Francisco are among the lowest paid in the state? And our state is in the bottom five nationwide? We spend less per student than 40 other states. These are not problems that teachers can be held accountable for. Ultimately, all eligible voters are the guilty parties.
All of the adults at James Lick are saddened and frustrated at the events making the news in the past couple of years. We all feel badly about the way the kids behave on the bus and in front of your homes. But what would you have us do?
As it is, we work long hard hours at school and are paid very badly for it. We can't ride the bus home with the students and patrol all neighborhoods! We do patrol the area around the school immediately after school. It's a duty that most of us feel must be done. But I have to admit that I wonder sometimes if all my training and expertise are being well utilized standing in Rite Aid at 3:30 watching kids buy candy.
The good news is that we're doing a pretty good job of making the kids behave properly in the classroom, so that all students have an opportunity to learn. All the indicators show that our kids' scores are going up! In spite of the odds, we are making progress. Isn't it the test scores we're supposed to be working on?
We're facing a huge teacher turnover at Lick this year and are desperately trying to find qualified people to fill the positions. However, I'm working with a team of people who are dedicated, exceptional teachers and administrators who will make the best of the situation.
We'll have to train those new teachers. We will continue to spend hours debating, reflecting, and working on our relationships with the disenfranchised segment of our student body -- the children who may grow up to be the disenfranchised adults who have a hard time being contributing members of our society. We will do what teachers and parents have always done. We will love and protect our children.
But they're your children, too. Please look at them compassionately. This neighborhood is, in a way, foreign territory to them. The kids don't see that they could own a home in Noe Valley. Many are unfamiliar with the shops and restaurants that aren't a part of their daily grazing territory. You may not act like the adults they're used to interacting with. Like many disenfranchised people, they frequently lash out in frustration. Your anger doesn't help.
What would help is your investment in the public schools. Demand that your representatives put more money and effort into our school system. Send your children to public school and get involved. (By the way, we have a great participating parent group. It's just way too small.) Pay attention to what the school board is doing. Visit our school. Volunteer to work with the kids.
It's so easy to sit across the street and criticize. Come in and see what's really going on. We have two open-house days a year, and we always welcome visitors. There is a neighborhood/school committee. Join it! The fact is that most people who come in and visit are impressed with what we're doing here.
I admit the problems are large and run deep in our society. The solutions are complicated and difficult to implement. But I urge you to become part of the solution by exercising your right to vote, participate, speak out, and understand.
Curriculum and Technology Integration Specialist
James Lick Middle School
1220 Noe Street
A Streetcar Named Perspire
I would just like to thank all those people who chose to live along Church Street and then whined and harangued about the noise of the new Breda Muni cars [March and July 1997; July 1998 Voice]. Well, for the past two years now, all we have seen rolling down our J-line are the old Boeing cars, and there is no sign that any new cars will ever arrive.
Because of you, Noe Valley's main public transportation link to downtown breaks down more often, is more overcrowded, has more constrained loading and unloading, and on hot days is completely un-air-conditioned (and Noe Valley is the warmest neighborhood that any S.F. light rail travels through!).
Church Street residents remind me of people who move near the airport and then complain how loud the jets are. Get over yourselves!
I Shall Not Seek, Nor Will I Accept
I was dismayed to see my name listed in your June issue as a possible candidate for supervisor in District 8.
While I was considering a run at one time, I decided against it once Eileen Hansen entered the race.
To set the record straight, I am not running for supervisor in District 8 or any other district. I am a strong supporter of Eileen Hansen for supervisor. I have known her for eight years, and am impressed with her integrity and her commitment to the same struggles I am committed to. I worked with Eileen on the Tom Ammiano campaign (she was not, as your story stated, involved in re-electing Willie Brown), as well as numerous other progressive causes, including the Castro Tenants Union and the Living Wage Campaign.
In fact, Eileen has worked for many years on progressive causes, including economic justice, tenants' rights, a shelter for homeless queer youth, women's issues, AIDS, etc. She is a tireless crusader and will make a damn good supervisor. She not only has my full support, but I am also part of her election team.
Tommi Avicolli Mecca
Hansen Is Off and Running
Thank you to writer Karen Topakian for focusing attention on district elections coming soon to our neighborhoods [June 2000 Voice]. It is so important for Voice readers to become involved in an effort that offers a unique opportunity for neighborhood-based power and for the establishment of a balance of power between the mayor and Board of Supervisors. We have a wonderful chance in District 8 to challenge the direction the mayor and his team have been taking our city. I hope to be your choice for supervisor in District 8.
Unfortunately, in the sidebar in the June issue, I was most incorrectly identified as a strategist for Willie Brown; in fact, I was a strategist for Tom Ammiano in the mayor's race and now am pleased to have Ammiano's endorsement for supervisor. I have also been endorsed by a former president of the Board of Supervisors, Angela Alioto, and by many others.
My opponent, Mark Leno, was appointed to the board by Mayor Brown, and enjoys his full support -- along with the support of the political establishment. I look forward to challenging politics-as-usual in this city and to raising issues critical to Noe Valley and the other neighborhoods in District 8: neighborhood character, housing affordability, among others. Please join our grassroots campaign run by your neighbors. You can reach us at 701-7334 or www.eileenhansenSF8.com. Or write P.O. Box 14192, S.F., CA 94114.
Candidate for San Francisco Board of Supervisors, District 8
The Voice welcomes your letters to the editor. Write the Noe Valley Voice, 1021 Sanchez St., San Francisco, CA 94114. Or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, address, and phone number. (Anonymous letters will not be considered for publication.) Note that letters may be edited for brevity or clarity.