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Letters to the Editor

Saturday October 21, 2000

What was really said 


In your October 18th coverage of the Berkeley School Board race I am quoted as saying: "Studies show that minority kids are strong in math and science, but weak in reading". This statement does not accurately reflect what I actually said, and I would like to clarify it. 

During the interview I talked about my plans to expand our literacy plan because of my belief that reading is the gateway skill. In order for all students to succeed they need to have strong reading skills. When we look at the achievement gap we can see that many of those minority kids not performing well have great potential but their reading skills are below grade level. 

We have seen data from our district which showed a group of minority students that had high scores in the math standardized test but low scores in reading/language arts. This group of students were not performing at their maximum potential because their reading skills were not at grade level. What I cited was an example based on this limited data from our district; not a generalization of all minority students. 

This shows that if we are serious about closing the achievement gap we need, among other things, to continue our focus on literacy to ensure that all students in our system read at grade level. That is why, as a first step in this effort, I am proposing an expansion of the literacy plan. I have been working on this subject for the past four years and, to continue working on this is my commitment to our community. 

Joaquín Rivera 

School Board President 

Candidate for School Board 


Unprofessional criticism 

Dear Editor: 

I was disappointed to read that Berkeley police officers attending a City Council meeting criticized Carrie Sprague for her efforts to enforce residential permit parking in the MAGNA neighborhood next to City Hall. 

I’ve always had the impression that one of the unspoken rules of American law enforcement is to avoid publicly attacking citizens by name (convicted felons an exception). Confidence in the police depends on both presumption and evidence that they will act impartially. When individual police officers publicly criticize even one citizen who has broken no laws, that faith is undermined. It’s worse when that citizen is actually trying to get the city to enforce one of its own laws. 

I’m also personally sympathetic to the frustrations of the MAGNA residents like Sprague, since my own Berkeley neighborhood is similarly sandwiched between large traffic-attracting facilities. That said, it’s probably a good thing that the City Council is hearing complaints about parking from public employees because it brings home the reality facing all public agencies in Berkeley. The Council is quick to criticize the University and other big local employers for traffic and parking impacts, but if statistics were to be calculated on who drives to work and who doesn’t, City employees – and perhaps even a majority of city councilmembers – may be among the least “transit friendly” groups of commuters in Berkeley. 

I saw this attitude first hand while working on a committee helping to plan future renovations to Civic Center Park. From the point of view of almost all of the citizen participants, removal of the little City Council / city staff parking lot just behind City Hall was an unquestionable benefit for the community. Land would be added to the park, and the park and City Hall would be reconnected. If the parking “needed” to be replaced, it could be done in the City-owned garage half a block up the street. But time and again some City staff kept raising the issue of carving out a new parking lot from another part of the green space. 

In this area the City could learn something from the University, which has consistently pursued policies to reduce single-driver commuting. You almost literally have to win a Nobel Prize to get a free parking space on campus.  

Parking spaces are set aside for carpools. Recently, the university and students negotiated with AC Transit to arrange the “Class Pass” which allows students to ride the bus without paying fare, in exchange for a surcharge on their registration fees.  

How about it, City Council? Will you consider “acting locally” with city owned development sites downtown – to directly address affordable housing issues for those who police Berkeley’s streets, teach its children, maintain its parks, and staff its government offices? 

Steven Finacom