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Letters to the Editor

Friday March 16, 2001

Pacifica radio is about listener participation 



Mel Baker’s letter to the Planet of Wednesday, March 7, urging the sale of KPFA and WBAI misses entirely one of the fundamental issues: Both stations are listener supported, which has also meant listener participation. The sale of these two transmitters would destroy this historic, democratic tradition and reduce them to commercial fare already abundantly available.  


Jack W. Fleming 




Developing community’s not that hard 



And another front page article about “Berkeley Community Battles Developers.” I cannot understand why other Berkeley communities do not follow the model of North Berkeley, which nearly two decades ago put together the nation’s first truly community-generated Area Plan.  

I founded and organized the North Berkeley Alliance and the Area Plan, so you shouldn’t take my word for it; go on up to North Berkeley and look around. Ask around, and you’ll find people that remember what we all did. They’ll tell you about how homeowners and renters, Co-opers, collectivists, owners of small businesses and major developers, students and retired people, street people and workers, activists and folks simply curious worked together and produced the Area Plan.  

Nobody was paid. There were no outside “experts,” no consultant firms, and City Hall was told “hands off!” It was the people of North Berkeley, seeing preservation vs. developer battle after developer battle with no end in sight, who took control of the future of their community into their own hands.  

Go on up to North Berkeley and look around and you’ll see the result. It looks just about, well, almost exactly the way it looked 20 years ago. Back then it was a troubled community, with real fears of the “Gourmet Ghetto” becoming a regional shopping district, but now you’ll see a community two-decades-free of the anti-development battles that plague and exhaust every other community in Berkeley.  

I can’t understand why it isn’t done elsewhere. North Berkeley had nothing “special” about it, not a thing that said “We can do here, but you can’t do it there!”  

You can do it, too. Go and look around. Ask around. There are people on the City Council who were there. Ask around.  

Stop fighting the developers: It’s playing their game. They’ve got the time and the money, and all they have to do is win, say one out of five and in a couple of years they’ll have it all.  

Look. Ask. Do it.  


Richard Berkeley 



In school issues fairness is key 



Thanks again to the Berkeley School Board for reaffirming its commitment to quality education for everyone at Berkeley High by supporting the “Rebound” program.  

Although the reorganization of the budget will be the next immediate problem to be solved, the selection of a new superintendent must remain at the top of the agenda. And I would like to recommend “fairness” as a key factor in determining just who this will be. Fairness, as in equal, just, impartial and unprejudiced must be a major component in the approach and application of our new leadership.  

Unfortunately, over the past few years, fairness has not been the main concern of our top administration. Yes, some significant buildings were constructed, but it is also obvious that even in this category, not all schools were treated in the same way. Some renovations were spectacular, others average, and still others substandard in size and improvements, e.g. the High school still does not have phone connections between classrooms and the main office or security, while some primary schools had new classrooms added that are half the size of other schools’ additions. 

Nor have our students been receiving a “fair” education, if we look at the important factor of test scores. Depending on which school a student attends, his or her scores may vary tremendously, and sometimes even within the same school. Thousand Oaks and City of Franklin score among the lowest in the state, while others are among the highest. Additionally, if you measure the rating that individual schools use as a guide for self-improvement, the picture is not as bad but still dismal, since a few schools couldn’t even reach the goals that they, themselves, set. E.g. City of Franklin, Washington, and Berkeley High School. The latter, of course, has stood out for years for having the most inequalities.  

Incredibly, Berkeley High was denied full accreditation the last two times, mainly because large groups of the student body were not being served adequately, particularly the Latin American and African American students. (It should come as no surprise that Washington, City of Franklin, and Thousand Oaks have very large numbers of African American and Latin American students). Meanwhile, other ethnic groups of Berkeley High continue to score among the highest in the nation.  

And then there’s the rules that are not being fairly enforced, like the difference in primary school racial enrollments. How has this been allowed to continue? Go into a southside school and you see a very different enrollment pattern from a northern one.  

In summary, as we come closer in our search for a new superintendent, fairness is going to have to be a key issue. A “Potempkin Village” of neat, new buildings cannot be allowed to hide some mighty inequalities.  


Bill Moore 



Berkeley’s good cops 



Here’s how I made a mistake, for about 14 hours, of assuming my car was stolen off the street on March 6.  

I’d parked on Rose Street and walked to the Black Oak Bookstore to hear a talk that lasted about two hours. But instead of walking back to my car, I walked to where I mistakenly assumed it was located.  

If it was daylight and there wasn’t so much traffic and so many parked cars I might have seen my car, but I didn’t, even though I walked around a bit in the wrong direction looking for it. Finally, I walked to a bus stop, bused home and left a message on your “Auto Theft” telephone number.  

I called the department yesterday morning and was told that I needed to come to the department to give and sign a report. I promptly proceeded to the station and spoke with a policeman.  

It was good fortune to be interviewed by Police Officer Lester Soo, who offered to drive me through the area. As he made the left turn off Shattuck onto Rose, there was my 1963 Plymouth Valiant. To say I was gratefully surprised is putting it mildly.  

What I want you to know is how much I appreciated Officer Soo’s courteous and friendly concern and the manner in which he solved my problem. He made the incident one I shall never forget.  

Let me assure you that, as one who has always had great respect for members of police forces whose services are so vital to the maintenance of law and order in communities in our country, the way Officer Soo treated me measures and lives up to the very best traditional police conduct, for which citizens should have profound respect and gratitude.  


Alfred Williams