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Letters to the Editor

Saturday March 17, 2001





I am a visitor from Germany. Your beautiful town is surrounded by lovely scenery, has an impressive campus and countless handsome neighborhoods with their small, distinctive shopping centers. I’m appalled by the filthiness of some areas, and I can tell you’re still working on your downtown.  

I am amused by the presence of nutcrackers, peace & joy doves, and poinsettias that still festoon the downtown lamp poles. 

Has time stood still in Berkeley? In Cologne, where I come from, they’re getting ready for Easter. 



Heilecke Witschke 

Cologne, Germany 



Un-Berkeley to harass Wozniak 



Gordon Wozniak, member of the environmental commission is being harassed and run down, not for anything he did or is doing but for what he might do. For centuries, people were destroyed not for what they did but for what they believed or for what they might do. This is regressive, brutal, and perfidious and as UN-Berkeley as it gets.  

Wozniak is a distinguished scientist and about to retire. Without any evidence or basis he is accused, by some without credentials or credibility, of malfeasance. If Wozniak does wrong, he should be censured. But for his professional expertise he ought to be acknowledged, even by those who disagree with him.  

Why would a man with a long sterling record of community service jeopardize his reputation? There is not evidence of any quid pro quo or any other benefit to him. His peers and our civic leaders need the guts to stand up not only to defend Gordon from self-serving attacks, but do it for the integrity and quality of volunteer public service in Berkeley. 

Berkeley is fortunate that able people accept public service. No one gets rich from it and by and large its not even fun. To keep capable volunteers doing public service in our city we must throw roses their way and not rotten tomatoes.  


Harry D. Weininger 




Smoke scream 



There has been some misunderstandings with regard to the recommendations of the Community Environmental Advisory Commission for a proposed Woodsmoke Ordinance due to be heard by the Berkeley City Council on March 20.  

This is a very good thing for Berkeley. It has been put together with the greatest of consideration for people who love their fireplaces. The proposed ordinance will not affect existing fireplaces or residential woodstoves. It only restricts wood burning fireplaces in new home construction. Restrictions would probably apply to less than a half dozen units a year in Berkeley. 

Because of the growing concern regarding the unhealthy conditions created by residential woodburning, especially during stagnant air days in winter, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District has encouraged local governments to pass a model ordinance similar to the one being considered. To date, 8 or 9 cities and municipalities have had the foresight to pass such an ordinance to help clear the air that residents must breathe. 

Burning wood produces particulate pollution proven to be a serious health hazard to everyone, especially to children, the elderly, and people with respiratory problems. The main objective of the proposed ordinance is to get funding for a public education program so that the public can make an informed choice with regard to if, when, and how often they use their wood burning appliances. 

The ordinance is based on many health studies and has been put together by people who care about keeping our air as clean as possible. Please let your Council person know that you support their voting for the proposed ordinance.  

For more information on the proposed ordinance please contact the Toxics Management Dept., City of Berkeley at 705-8150. For more information regarding particulate pollution from woodsmoke, please check out on the world wide web. 


Jami Caseber, Chair 

Community Environmental Advisory Commission  


Fire fought with force 



Your report of fire dancing classes in San Francisco was inspiring, but Berkeleyans should be forewarned that to attempt to enjoy fire in this town will be met with fierce repression. 

While emergency flares, cigarettes tossed every which way, and of course an endless barrage of internal combustion engines spewing lung damaging carcinogens may fill the streets with impunity, the ongoing war on culture and freedom in Berkeley demands that fire not be used for any other purpose, particularly for free expression and art. Public safety is certainly not the concern. 

In a recent example, a Reclaim the Streets demonstration on February 9 of this year, in solidarity with indigenous in Ecuador who are suffering our country’s imperialism, included some individuals who lit torches with which to light an effigy of the almighty dollar (which recently forced its way into Ecuador to destabilize and leach off the economy there).  

The effigy was but 5-6 feet high and burned in about a minute in the middle of the street. This was used as an excuse by police to attack the demonstration, violating our civil right to free speech. Police essentially instigated martial law. They forcefully confiscated and destroyed valuable property including bicycles, hand-made trailers, a sound system, a personal backpack with ID, keys, etceteras, a banner which read, ‘Indigenous Freedom’, and our beloved couch. They used violence to drag targeted individuals off the sidewalk and into the street where they were arrested with false charges and held for many days, some are still falsely charged. 

The following month, police and business groups attempted to use the manufactured concept that the demonstration was ‘violent’ (coupled with the unrelated and unfortunate looting at an affirmative action demonstration) to justify further repression of demonstrations in 

Berkeley, this time targeting the monthly critical mass bicycle celebration on its 8th birthday. Claiming without substantiation that the riders were planning to burn two buildings (even in the worst rioting in Berkeley’s history people have not lit buildings on fire!), the ride was treated to armadas of riot police, helicopters, motorcycles, and of course the media. Perhaps the media’s presence is all that protected us that day. This is a family ride with children on it, which has been peaceful and positive on a monthly basis for eight years! But police have made no secret about their desire to suppress it. Business groups (the TAA and BID) even released their own alarmist and inaccurate communiques, with such misinformation as to claim that Reclaim the Streets has set fire to cars (never). 

Berkeley should be smart enough not to continually increase its police forces. Where is the balance of powers? Who is protecting the vulnerable from everyday abuses? (Essentially no one). The division between ‘progressives’ and ‘conservatives’ is sharp and deep, and the police are the conservatives’ primary tool of cultural repression, racist whitewashing, and gentrification against the barely outnumbered progressives. So when the kids on Telegraph are swept away, your innocent experimentation with traditional fire dancing may be next. At this rate, the peoples of Ecuador will have to hold demonstrations in support of the oppressed peoples of Berkeley. 

Jason Meggs