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Letters to the Editor

Saturday March 10, 2001

Don’t need fox’s advice to save Pacifica chicken coop 



Thank you, Mel Baker, for your helpful letter suggesting that Pacifica management should sell KPFA and WBAI.  

It is quite an impressive show of arrogance for someone like yourself, involved as you are with commercial and so-called public radio (PBS,) to give your opinion on the subject of progressive radio. People of your ilk are the very type that Lew Hill created KPFA to defend against, the ones who would relish nothing better than to eradicate the last free, independent radio network in this country for the sake of “expanding our audience,” as if that, in itself, were the ultimate objective. 

Perhaps PBS with its underwritings from Exxon and Mobil and what not is your idea of progressive media, Mr. Baker. Thanks for suggesting we destroy the village in order to save it. 

Thank you kindly, Mr. Baker, but I think we, the listeners of Pacifica will do just fine without this sort of advice. I think we can manage without the fox's advice on how to manage the chicken's coop. 


Khalil Bendib 





In response to the opinion expressed by Mel Baker (Letters March 7, 2001), I would offer that we only need to look at this past election cycle to be very aware of what the “professional media” has to offer the American people. NBC, National Public Radio and the other mass communication outlets that Mr. Baker hasn't worked for, failed by a large margin to adequately inform their huge audiences, and are complicit in the coup d'etat that just occurred. It doesn't much matter how many people are listening if the content is no better than a snow job, even if an impeccably produced one. 

The mission of the Pacifica Foundation is to broadcast radical voices of resistance, not just “alternative” ones, voices that are saying unpopular things about war, class, race, culture, sex and all of the other things that Americans don't want to talk about. Early programmer's objected to a WWII mobilization that had the support of 98 percent of the American public. I'm sure they understood why their listenership wasn't off the charts. They made a decision to reserve this portion of the dial for the lonely voices of the opposition that had no where else to broadcast.  

That is what Save Pacifica is fighting for.  


Tracy Rosenberg 

Administrative Director 

Media Alliance, San Francisco 


City attorney’s opinion flies in face of civic discourse 



I am writing to object to recent attempts by the city attorney's office to widen the definition of “conflict of interest” to the point where few citizens will meet the test of near-complete noninvolvement in the community to qualify to serve on a Berkeley commission. 

The pattern of opinions should give cause for concern to all who care about full democratic participation in our civic discourse. According to the city attorney's recent interpretations, those who serve on the boards of nonprofits, even on a purely volunteer basis, should be disqualified from many votes (recent cases include a Parks and Recreation commissioner as well as the Landmarks commissioners who have been prominent in the news). Those who work for the “wrong” employer should be excluded altogether. 

While I disagree with Commissioner Gordon Wozniak on the issue of tritium, in good conscience I must fully support his right to serve on the Community Environmental Advisory Committee (CEAC). I have worked closely with Gordon on the Parks and Recreation Commission (where he served as an effective watchdog on budgetary matters) and on two campaigns securing funding for our parks, and I know him to be an independent-minded person with genuine concern for the well-being of the people of Berkeley. Nevertheless, his unquestionable integrity and his good works in the community are not the point here. Nor is my disagreement with him on the environmental impact of tritium. At issue is the right of citizens to serve on our commissions without exclusion based on their participation in the wider community (whether through employment, nonprofit volunteerism, or advocacy on neighborhood issues). 

It is unfortunate that a community group whose position I otherwise support has chosen to use the City Attorney's flawed opinion to serve a political goal of excluding Gordon from participation on the CEAC. There are eight other commissioners on the CEAC. Those who disagree with Gordon's opinions about tritium should stick with the merits of their case and stop the unworthy campaign to silence him through public pressure and heckling (evidenced to a discouraging degree at the aborted CEAC meeting of February 22). 

Surely a city as steeped in the tradition of free speech as Berkeley can tolerate a diversity of opinions on our commissions. Surely we can understand that broadening the definition of “conflict of interest” beyond obvious financial gain will come at the expense of fewer opinions being heard and less participation in the democratic process. When free speech and full citizen participation are hindered, ultimately we all pay the price. 


Nancy Carleton 

Former Chair, Zoning  

Adjustments Board 

Former Vice Chair, Parks and Recreation Commission 



City events should be accessible to all 


The Berkeley “Free” Folk Festival held most recently in November had workshops in a room completely inaccessible to people who use wheelchairs. One wheelchair user was told the area, an area obviously listed on fliers as the location for some of the workshops, was “off limits”. 

Don't tell me to call the Mayor, who forwarded last year's letter of concern about the previous festival's violations to the City Manager. Don't tell me to call the City Manager, who conferred with the City Attorney, who sent a response courteously outlining a circuitous chain of logic in which the City of Berkeley magically emerges without responsibility or, more to the point, liability, despite the fact that the festival's budget includes public money and is officially sponsored by the city. 

Don't tell me to call the Disability Compliance Officer, who once told me that it wasn't his job to help the City of Berkeley avoid lawsuits and signed off on the use of the most recent inaccessible venue. Don't tell me to talk to the Commission on Disabilities, who with a few honorable exceptions voted not only to allow the festival to be held in the  

problematic private venue but signed off on allowing public money to be used to “enhance” the accessibility slightly without requiring even matching funds. 

Don't tell me to talk to the festival directors, who insist that any effort to talk about or improve the festival's access is an effort to “destroy” it. Don't tell me to speak with the “festival advisors” who refuse to meet or return phone calls and disparage anyone who raises the issue. Don't tell me to talk to the other musicians, who are content to sing about justice but get uncomfortable when asked to actually do anything  

practical to help with the problem. 

Don't tell me to call the NEA site evaluator, who gave a glowing review to the first festival which featured an inaccessible entrance, an inaccessible exit, inaccessible bathrooms, inaccessible workshop rooms, blocked aisles, and an inaccessible stage. 

Don't tell me to call the festival sponsor, who never returns my calls although she is a city councilmember who uses a wheelchair. 

Don't fall for the fallacy that the accessibility problems would have been resolved years ago if those who raised the issue “hadn't pushed so hard” or had been “less aggressive.” I've learned that no matter how softly you speak, how politely you inquire, how thoroughly you document your concern, if you raise the subject of disabled access people will perceive you as shouting. I've learned that once you're perceived in this way, the anger directed toward you will be perceived by others as “a feud” justifying their apathy. I've learned that five long years of dogged effort to create a festival which all members of the public can attend together without jeopardizing their health and safety is clearly not long enough. 


Carol Denney 



Science not always the answer 


Gordon Wozniak, argues that decisions regarding the environment and health should be exclusively “science-based”.  

Unfortunately science cannot explain what life is, only what it is made up of.  

The human organism is much more than a collection of cells and molecules; we have minds and imaginations.  

May I humbly remind Mr. Wozniak that what is considered scientific fact today often becomes tomorrow's science fiction.  

Michael Bauce