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Letters to the Editor

Thursday October 12, 2000

How about publicly-funded blight? 


Perhaps Ms. Pepples should direct her efforts directly to the council to which she aspires, with a program supporting candidate “equal rights for equal blights.” Because we live in Berkeley, Ms. Pepples could propose publicly funded “public blight.”  

Because of funding disparities between campaigns, we could equalize them by giving every candidate their own set of public poles upon which to hang their aesthetic discontinuities, or in Ms. Pepples case, photos of herself. 

We could select several “safe streets” upon which all such blight would then be publicly displayed. 

Tours could be arranged. 

Public pole maintenance costs could be underwritten by auto mechanics, because they will become the beneficiaries when drivers, casting their eyes skyward, drive into potholes, speed bumps, speed pits and each other to avoid viewing the Hydra. This new revenue source could serve as an alternative to campaign contributions by frequenting our favorite auto mechanics instead.  

Indeed, we can foster an entirely new form of candidacy, the auto mechanics! Think of it, with their focus on maintenance to high performance standards, a whole new spectrum of governmental management possibilities could arise. Because auto mechanic rates are the same as psychologists, of necessity, Council meetings would be 50 minutes long. And let’s face it, unlike a psychologist; auto mechanics have the appropriate training to screw down our loose nuts and tighten our heads, not to mention making appropriate adjustments for excessive public exhaust emissions. So, instead of debating on the policy of foreign nations, we would have debates on foreign cars! 

Instead of endlessly inflating our city expenditures, we could have discussions on correct inflation pressure limits. This would actually serve a public need. The televised council meeting could transition from dreary public entertainment to lively informative “car talk” sessions – stay tuned.  


Mike Issel 



Happy to see B-TV schedule 



I was so glad to see the B-TV, Channel 25 schedule in the Daily Planet. It’s hard to find it and the Daily Planet is so accessible. Keep up the good work in being a real community newspaper! 

Joyce Kawahata 




Permit is pending, let them sit outside 



Sandy Boyd (owner of the French Hotel cafe) was told three years ago that he had no permit for sidewalk furniture. He did nothing.  

Last May 24 the city told him to pull all tables in chairs inside, which he did. 

Over the summer café patrons, on their own, began taking chairs only onto the sidewalk. 

Sandy Boyd finally submitted his application on August 24. About three weeks later, in the middle of September, the Berkeley police came by and cited the cafe. Not even chairs on the sidewalk! That’s when several of us went to the police department to find out the law on tables and chairs on sidewalk. Bring your own and it’s OK, as long as you leave 6 feet of unobstructed space for pedestrians. 

Learning that the City takes two to four months to process these applications we then held our sit-out at the café on October 3. 

My point is the café submitted their permit application on August 24. According to Wendy Cosin, once this is done both tables and chairs are allowed outside. 

So why did the police come by and cite the café? Therein lies the rub. I believe the cafe was cited before people began taking their chairs out – three years after the owner was asked to get a permit. 

Leonard Pitt 



Removing crosswalks is a bad idea 



Traffic Engineer Jeff Knowles’ call to remove crosswalks is typical of the engineering approach that has made American cities much less livable during the past fifty years.  

Engineers are trained to study one isolated problem – the safety and efficiency of a single intersection – without thinking about how it affects the city as a whole.  

In a famous example, traffic engineers during the 1950s claimed that building freeways would make cities much safer, because freeways were designed to minimize conflicts at intersections. Freeways did dramatically reduce the number of accidents per mile driven, but they also dramatically increased the numbers of miles driven. Overall, there was no improvement in safety. 

Knowles’ proposal comes out of the same mold. Study one intersection. Ignore the fact that you are making the city as a whole less livable. Today, some traffic engineers are learning from the errors of the past and coming up with proposals that work for pedestrians as well as for automobiles. Walter Kulash is the best known of these New Urbanist traffic engineers, and he has shown that by making cities more pedestrian friendly, you can also make them more successful economically.  

Jeff Knowles pretends to be objective and scientific, but when he gets angry, he uses the term New Urbanist as if it were an obscenity, showing how dogmatic he really is. 

Traffic engineers make hundreds of small decisions that cumulatively have a tremendous impact on how livable a city is. With a traffic engineer who is a dogmatic member of the old school, Berkeley is way behind the curve.  

Charles Siegel, 



Make Toxics Division separate from Planning 



In 1997 Berkeley was granted status as a CUPA (Certified Unified Programs Agency). As a UPA, the City acts as a branch of the EPA with the rights and responsibilities of regulating and permitting environmental activities within the City. It also has the right to set fees and to collect and retain funds from hazardous waste generators as security in the event that any future site remediation is necessary.  

One of the reasons that this certification was granted was that Berkeley had a strong Environmental Health and Toxics & Pollution Prevention Program, which was separate from Planning or any other Division of the City. CUPA status was a great vote of confidence bestowed by the State on our City.  

Shortly after Berkeley gained its UPA Certification, the unified Pollution Prevention Department was dismantled. Environmental Health was placed under Health and Human Services, while Toxics Management became a division of Planning. As a division of Planning, the Toxics Management Division is unable to override the decisions of the Current Planning Director and environmental protection can take a backseat to political and economic influence. As the UPA responsible for hazardous materials permitting and compliance, Toxics Management should have the power to require whatever testing, monitoring, Risk Management, Health and Safety Plans, remediation or whatever is needed to ensure compliance with local, State and Federal Environmental Protection laws. 

If the Planning & Economic Development Divisions refuse to comply with the City's Toxic Management Division’s requirements, then the CUPA status is ineffective and the State EPA should again become the regulatory agency.  

Tony Spurlock 




Take red tape out of education, help kids 


Your October 7 story, “Parents call for teacher suspension,” provided a stunning example of the mass of red tape and bureaucratic idiocy that clogs the arteries of our educational system. 

A fifth grader violates an inane rule (exactly what purpose is there in taking away our children’s’ freedom to chew gum on a playground?). As a result, a “teacher” subjects the child to psychological and physical abuse that looks like a scene from “Lord of the Flies” – in front of her peers, just to add to the humiliation. 

When the disbelieving parents complain, Principal Waters has the utter gall to suggest that he will trade ensuring the child’s education against “protecting” the criminal actions of one of his teachers. 

Am I the only one here who sees a pattern of criminal negligence affecting a child's future? Imagine that Mr. Rutherford had been the child’s guardian, and subjected her to this humiliation at a public playground or mall. I have no doubt that any Superior Court in California would gladly issue a restraining order preventing this violent behavior and protecting the minor from future contact with Mr. Rutherford. John Muir Elementary is part of a system dangerously out of control, more concerned with protecting itself than the future of our children. Mr. Rutherford's actions put him at risk for civil suit and criminal charges. In any well-run organization – perhaps one less racially motivated – he would immediately be placed on suspension pending resolution of the matter. 

If this is against “district policy,” then principal Waters or superintendent McLaughlin needs to have the courage and leadership to rewrite policy to address the problem. Unfortunately, given the consistent mediocrity of our educational system, we can have little hope that this will occur. 

In the face of the balls of red tape being coughed up by the District, the Higgenbothams only hope to protect their daughter’ s future is to seek the aid of private counsel and their District Attorney’s office. I wish them luck. 

Kenneth Thomas 

Co-Founder, Chief Architect 

San Francisco