Lame Willy
Just a quick note to wish you all luck in your joint suit against the city regarding the newsrack ordinance ("Why We Are Suing the City," Mecklin, Jan. 6). During my six years in San Francisco, I have never heard anyone complain about any blight or public nuisance caused by free-standing newspaper racks. Of all the lame things that Mayor Willie Brown is attempting -- and is doing -- to the city, this one may be the most brazen, and we all know that's saying a lot. Fight a good fight.

J. Armin

Remember, It's Best Served Cold
I had the unfortunate experience of being a resident of Arden Van Upp's (I knew her as Dee Emelak) at 272 Downey in 1994 ("The Fortress on the Hill," Dec. 30). After moving out, my roommate and I attempted to obtain our security deposit in vain. After many, many letters, efforts to process serve her, phone calls, faxes, and certified mailings, we won our court case.

We had to go to court three times, but we never saw our deposit returned. I am still paying on the debt incurred by her actions. I am included now on the list of judgments on her credit history, and I am one of many people, I'm sure, who have some form of lien on her properties. I'm sure it means nothing to her. If there was anyone deserving of public torture and financial ruin, it should be Arden Van Upp. She is a parasite on people's goodness, and a plague on the residents who in good faith rent from her. Vengeance is finally, after all these years, mine.

Lisa Spinella
Via Internet

Preaching From the Choir
I am an educator who works with youth of color in the San Francisco Bay Area. I have also been a student organizer and youth organizer for many years. I fully support the work of Olin, and think that the group represents a turning point in Bay Area progressive organizing ("Demonstrating Exploitation," Jan. 6). It is probably one of the few -- if not the only -- truly youth-led and youth-driven political groups doing radical organizing in this so-called hotbed of progressive activity.

Your hit piece (and that's what it was) on Olin was just plain embarrassing. To you, not to Olin, which has proved in the past seven years that Latino youth can fight back and win against anti-immigrant, anti-youth, and racist attacks. Obviously, Helen Gao knows very little about grass-roots organizing, stating that Olin's efforts have produced "very little." I am a pretty jaded activist, but I am constantly amazed by the gains that Olin makes year after year.

Maybe to Gao, ethnic studies programs run by young people in underfunded and embattled public high schools like Castlemont in Oakland, Oakland High, Pittsburg High, etc. are not a big deal. As someone who works with young people and sees firsthand the major challenges they face, I see these victories as significant to educating and building a mass base of young people to fight for even bigger demands in the future.

Tsk, tsk, SF Weekly. Maybe you're trying to be too cutting-edge for your own -- and the left's -- good. Have you ever heard of the left eating its own? Well, I think you all have just swallowed your entire right arm.

Rona Fernandez

Helen Gao's article "Demonstrating Exploitation," on the youth organization Olin, is a classic hit piece designed to smear radical activists of color with distortion, omission, and just plain deception. Her attack includes potshots at Olin supporters, including me, for writing a book that praises Olin's work. Calling my comments "hyperbolic" -- as if blind to my lengthy discussion of Olin's organizational problems -- she then pulls off an awesome quoting-out-of-context act. I see Olin as the "revolutionary future," Gao asserts, when I actually wrote that youth-led groups -- of all sorts, across the nation -- are key to such a future.

I would fund-raise to get the Weekly a fact checker if I thought it would help. But that's not the problem. The Weekly's new owners seem determined to trash any force for social justice, no matter the dishonest reporting required.

Elizabeth Martinez
Bernal Heights

Helen Gao does an excellent job of making Olin victories sound bad ("Demonstrating Exploitation"). By her own words, Olin won concessions from TV (yes, Helen, protesting is heroic), BART, and the school district. If all the Olin protesters had done was to learn about the power of organized demonstration and active participation, then Olin would be a success. But Olin implemented its most important demand: ethnic studies programs.

Maybe Olin doesn't help the students with their homework. Olin goes one, two, three steps further. Olin educates, activates, and empowers. Viva Olin the victorious!

Michael Sommers
Bernal Heights

Editor's note: The letter writers take great pains to mischaracterize Helen Gao's article, which clearly explained Olin's accomplishments. The group's effectiveness, in fact, is part and parcel of the larger story that Fernandez, Martinez, and Sommers chose to ignore. As Gao explained, Olin's detractors accuse the group of exploiting schoolchildren, including middle schoolers, by encouraging them to skip school and pad the crowds at political rallies that they scarcely understand.

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