Letters to the Editor

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Editor,

The Potrero Residents Education Fund appreciates the View reporting on improvements at Daniel Webster (DW) Elementary School. As an organization whose primary mission is to support public education on the Hill, this issue is core to why we exist.

We do want to point out that the Short Cut about DW in your February 2015 issue contained some factual inac-curacies. Ranking the “hardest primary school to get into” is difficult to deter-mine due the San Francisco Unified School District’s (SFUSD) multiple round lottery application process, and the fact that DW has two kindergarten programs: Spanish Immersion (SI) and General Education (GE).

While Daniel Webster has made significant improvements over the past 10 years – going from a school slated for closure when only 30 families put it on their application, to a thriving school where more than 300 families added DW to their application last year – we don’t want neighborhood families to have the false impression that gaining admission to DW is near impossible. As for the kindergarten spots being “scooped up by…nearby residents,” the GE pathway at DW does give priority to attendance area families, but the SI pathway is what SFUSD calls a “city wide” school, meaning all neighborhoods have equal preference to that program.

The improvements at DW have been the result of the dedication and hard work of its teachers, staff, students, parents and neighbors. We intend to continue making DW an amazing school for all who come through its doors, and encourage local residents to consider both programs.

Lesley Grossblatt

Third Street

Editor,

I can’t commend your excellent commentary, “Still Alice,” which appeared in last month’s View, more strongly. As a journalist who has covered issues in aging for more than 40 years, I’ve often grated on the American way of sponsor-ing health care research and practice as if it were a competitive marketplace.  The most widespread conditions, such as Alzheimer’s or breast cancer – certainly terrible diseases – are able to wrap entire marching bands into pink ribbons or generate fine fund raising walks and bike rides. Meanwhile, as you note, funding for research into many other illnesses languishes.

We know that research finding for the National Institutes of Health has diminished in the recession and then in the Congressional foolishness that gave us sequestration cuts. And even more, we know that the U.S. practice of squander-ing enormous sums on the health care marketplace with no price controls – see Steven Brill’s new book among many other documents – continues placing an enormous political drag on our aging nation’s health. For a millennia a miracle has been defined as making the sick well and the lame walk, yet American politicians and business leaders seem to believe that sainthood will accrue only to those who maximize shareholder value in health care and drug stocks.

And thank you for noting the tre-mendous need for better eldercare across the health horizon. I’m saddened to hear about Ruth Passen, whom I knew through the years since she started the View. But I think she’d be very touched with the broad view you’ve taken on this much under-reported issue.

Paul Kleyman
Ethnic Elders Newsbeat; New America Media

Editor,

Your editorial “Still Alice” in the February issue was disappointing, only because it didn’t go far enough. Yes, perhaps one day we’ll find a cure for diseases like Alzheimer’s, as we may find a cure for aging in general, and live healthy indefinitely long lives. But in the meanwhile, we have death to acknowledge and accept.

The medical profession has a re-markable command of bio-chemistry now, giving many of us much longer lives than we could have expected even a generation ago. But shouldn’t we be able to decide when enough is enough?In the book Still Alice – I haven’t seen the movie – Alice has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She’s fully aware of what her end will be: slow oblivion, then bedridden, then dying when her brain has finally declined to such a degree that she forgets how to breathe. Rationally, she wants to take her exit before her disease slowly but completely incapacitates her. But she must do this illegally and secretly. Though we can put our cherished pets quietly to sleep when their quality of life becomes intolerable, we cannot ask the same service for ourselves.

The only legal way to quicken one’s own death in California is to refuse all medications, including assistance in eating. Then, if you’re not lucky enough to contract pneumonia, you’ll eventually die by starvation. It will take weeks, your suffering moderated by morphine, which for some induces terrible nightmares.

A front page article in the January 25 Sunday Chronicle by Leah Garchik discussed the painful death of her friend, Merla Zellerbach, a staunch supporter of Compassion and Choices, formerly the Hemlock Society. As a board member of the organization, Zellerbach had expected a comfortable exit in hospice care as her cancer cells overwhelmed the rest of her body. Her caregivers failed, Garchik reported. Zellerbach was far from comfortable. And she asked her friend to tell the story, as she felt we desperately need legislation to allow us the option of a humane exit, in our own time.

Quoting the from the article, “Twenty years after Oregon approved the country’s first death-with-dignity law, helping end a life in California re-mains illegal. But last week, state sena-tors Bill Monning, D-Carmel, and Lois Wolk, D-Davis introduced legislation to allow mentally competent, terminally ill adults the option of obtaining end-of-life medication if their suffering becomes unbearable.”

In early February Canada’s Su-preme Court ruled that patients with severe and incurable medical conditions can call on their doctors for assistance in dying. We Californians need at least this basic right. We need to go further than Oregon’s law, which applies only to those expected to die within six months. In the case of Alice, whose Alzheimer’s didn’t classify her as terminally ill, she had to depend on her own resources.  I won’t spoil the movie or the book for readers by describing the outcome.

Sally Taylor

Kansas Street

Editor,

About twice a year, when I drive into San Francisco from Oakland early for an engagement, I’ll come back to my spiritual starting point in the City:  Potrero Hill. It was the part of town I first visited in the in the late-1960’s because my sister and her husband lived on 20th Street. I loved the views/weather and proximity to the City without all of the usual urban traffic. Recently, on an unseasonably mild afternoon  I found a lovely little parklet on 18th Street and nursed a refreshing iced tea while I perused The Potrero View.

The “Publisher’s View: Still Alice” column caught my eye for several reasons. I’d just seen the film a few days prior. More significantly, my dear sister, who lived on 20th Street back in the day, was now in a facility for Alzheimer’s and Dementia care. We’ve always been very close; she was a driving force in my moving West in 1971. While the movie raises awareness of early onset in a very compelling fashion, it cannot convey the full emotional and physical toll the dis-ease takes on the caregivers. This disease needs to be researched and funded with the likes of cancer and HIV/AIDS.

Upon finishing the article I was immediately struck by the dedication to Ruth Passen, former editor of the View. Ruth was a neighbor of mine during the 1970’s. I always loved my time with both she and her husband Joe. I even contributed a story or two to the View. They were true local activists with a passion for all things relating to Potrero Hill and San Francisco. We lost touch over the years after I moved away from the neighborhood in the late-1980’s. I’m saddened to hear of her late stage Alzheimer’s. It just reinforces my desire to do whatever I can to help raise aware-ness of this insidious disease.

Frederick Rogers

Oakland