Letters

Point/Counterpoint
As Prevention Point volunteers and public health activists, we appreciate the time, energy, and public attention given to needle exchange and harm reduction in "Conscientious Injectors" (June 28). But we would like to make several corrections and clarify the viewpoint of harm reductionists.

First, the cotton balls Prevention Point provides are used to filter out impurities in the liquefied drug mixture while drawing it into the syringe. Sharing cotton filters may be one way HIV is transmitted between injecting drug users. Second, Prevention Point provides the choice of half-inch or five-eighths-inch points. Third, the truck came at 6:42 p.m. on the night the author visited the Tenderloin site, where the hours are 6:30-8:30 p.m. Fourth, a needle exchange program exists in East Palo Alto, run by AIDS Prevention Action Network (APAN). Fifth, neither Sheriff Charles Plummer nor the Alameda County Sheriff's Department has ever arrested needle exchange volunteers from the Alameda County Exchange (ACE). (The Oakland Police Department has issued 15 citations.) Sixth, at the onset of Prevention Point, there were two sites -- one fixed site and one roving team in the Tenderloin. Hassles with the police came months later and resulted in citations.

One of the most important things Prevention Point has to offer injecting drug users of San Francisco is respect. Harm reduction acknowledges the fundamental dignity and humanity of every person. In doing so, harm reductionists seek to create empathetic relationships between drug users and mainstream society's institutions. In light of this, we would never refer to a drug user as a "future Jane Doe." We object to derogatory representation of our clients as faceless, degenerate "junkies."

Many of the quotes and paraphrases in the article were taken out of context. In particular, stating that using bleach is simply another drug preparation ritual implies that drug users are not capable of adopting positive health practices. The reason the needle exchange works is because drug users can and do take care of themselves. Prevention Point provides necessary access to equipment, education, and drug treatment referrals upon demand.

Rose Dietrich, Jeanette Irwin, Kelly Knight, Alex Kral, Rosemary Prem
San Francisco

What's in a Name?
As a neighbor of Harry Aleo's on 24th Street in Noe Valley, I know that he is a much admired man in the community. But let's get one thing straight: Harry wants no street on his turf named Cesar Chavez. "Street Fight" (Bay View, June 28) correctly points out Aleo's adamant opposition to the renaming of both Army and 24th Streets in the past.

But, I have just a few more questions for our community-minded activist: Harry, how did it happen that the 24th Street name change proposal died in committee? What is the traditional or historical significance of a street named after a number? What frightens you more in life -- political back-room dealing or anyone else getting their way? Finally, what do you mean by the assertion, "I was here first"? Could it have the same meaning as my assertion, "I will be here last"?

Johnny Wray Martin
San Francisco

Mal Adjustment
In disgust over "Parade Paradox" (Letters, June 28), I must respond to the person who sent it: If "knee-jerk political correctness" is your "least favorite thing about this great town," then you're an idiot not to have enjoyed the excellent article on Mal Sharpe back in May. Mal is a very funny man. And he is funny because he is somewhat politically incorrect. So that makes you a hypocrite.

Also, to say SF Weekly's audience "doesn't know or care who he is" is totally moronic. Mal Sharpe is a Bay Area institution.

Pete Devine
San Francisco

Lie Detector
Larry Bush's "How to Lie, Cheat, and Steal Your Way to Influence at City Hall -- Legally" (July 5) was quite enlightening, but he overlooked another successful method that might be called "Family Planning," best illustrated by the following example: On April 7, 1988, Supervisor Willie Kennedy received $6,500 in the form of 13 checks of $500 each drawn on the accounts of various businesses owned by multimillionaire developer, real estate tycoon, and Democratic Party bigwig Walter Shorenstein and members of his family. It was all there in the public records at City Hall, available to view without any restrictions.

The legal limit for contributions to supervisors is $500 per person. But, hey, who drives at 55 mph, anyhow?

Since then, of course, Kennedy has been a consistent pro-developer, anti-renter vote on the Board of Supervisors, and presumably she has received further rewards. Of course, Kennedy's tale is not unique. The observation made in the '20s by humorist Will Rogers that "America has the best Congress money can buy" applies equally to lower forms of governmental bodies.

Jeffrey Blankfort
San Francisco

Union Suit
"Fire One for Me" (Paper Trails, July 5) was way off the mark, and I regret Larry Bush was unable to secure my comments before publication.

Terminating senior union management employees following their attack on me alleging I embezzled $2,100 over a four-year period (the charges were subsequently dismissed by a 96-48 vote of our Executive Board at a June 20 meeting) had little, if anything, to do with disloyalty.

If that were true, they would have been dismissed years ago, as they had regularly attempted to undermine my authority and effectiveness long before the attack centered on money matters.

They were fired because, among other things, they failed to follow my legitimate direction and abused their positions by removing the union's confidential records without authorization and circulating them in public.

Their termination was supported by all but one of the local's officers. They do have a right to "the same system of work rights and appeals he [Varacalli] insists the city abide by." They immediately filed grievances under terms of their labor contract with the union contesting those discharges, and I have waived all intermediate steps in the procedure to proceed immediately to arbitration to resolve their complaints quickly.

Paul Varacalli, Executive Director
United Public Employees Local 790
Oakland

Queer-Compatible ROTC?
The recent school board vote on maintaining JROTC in the city's high schools has engendered a flurry of PC, anti-militarist letters to all of the local papers ("Military Exercises," Dog Bites, July 5). I work in the high schools, and I feel compelled to speak out on this matter.

You know, gay kids stay low-key for mere survival. However, there are a few places in school where they don't have to be afraid of retaliation for who they are. And one of these "safe" places is, paradoxically, ROTC.

I have never seen city ROTC kids harass, beat, or shun their own who happen to be gay. Rather, these kids strive together to be a unit -- disciplined, orderly, and pro-school; I defy anybody to come up with more than an occasional anecdote to the contrary. ROTC kids are, invariably, supportive of one another and much more tolerant of differences among themselves than a lot of other campus groups. So, why won't "grown-ups" let them continue their program in peace?

As a society, we have a long way to go to accept gays; it is no different among teen-agers. But when ill-advised and misconceived ideas about remedying this societal problem seriously affect those whom the proponents deign to protect, then I think it's time to knock some common sense into the do-gooders' heads. Leave ROTC alone and let us in the trenches work toward implementing the right goals -- tolerance, acceptance, and love.

Gordon D. Robertson
San Francisco

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