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Letters to the Editor

Saturday May 12, 2001

Berkeley needs to clean up  





2700 San Pablo Ave. remains a contaminated property from petrochemical residuals, although leaking underground gasoline storage tanks were removed in the 80s and some contaminated soil was remediated in 1994.  

There is a deed notice attesting to the contamination. Because there has been no monitoring of the contamination since soil and water samples were recorded in 1997 (monitoring wells were ordered destroyed in1998 as a condition for closure of the site) there is no way of knowing if previously extraordinarily high levels of cancer causing chemicals have degraded. MTBE is known to be particularly recalcitrant. 

The West Berkeley Plan calls for cleanup of toxic contaminated sites before development. The Federal Clean Water Act encourages local agencies to take more proactive steps in protecting our precious resource, the San Francisco Bay water basin. Allowing residual contamination to remain in the soil where it continually recharges the water table and further migrates off site is a very irresponsible way to deal with the problem and it is antithetical to the Berkeley City Council’s resolution resisting state imposed efforts to simply “contain” contaminated landsites. 

It behooves the City Council to employ the “precautionary principle” in regard to the contamination problem of 2700 San Pablo Ave. A Phase II Environmental Assessment, which would entail further water and soil sampling and analysis, must be required- before a development permit is issued, as prescribed by CEQA. A health risk assessment must be done for whatever is the actual proposed project. The project before you is not the project that was reviewed by the Zoning Adjustments Board, and previous iterations of project were not adequately reviewed for their contamination related issues. Also the toxics contamination evaluation and “modeling” should not be left up to the developer or his hired contractor or consultant. That would be an inherent conflict of interest which goes against the letter and intention of CEQA. Impacted neighbors should have a right to participate in the selection of an independent testing company and to be full participants in the review of test results. 

Berkeley has dozens of similarly contaminated potential development sites, especially in West Berkeley. It’s time for Berkeley to set a good environmental example.  


Peter Teichner 


We must seek peace in the Middle East 




For anyone who follows events in the Middle East, the past six months have been difficult. For Jewish and Arab Americans and especially students it’s been trying to see such awful violence occurring between their peoples; only months after true peace seemed to be just footsteps away. Unaffiliated others must have trouble picking through the rhetoric thrown by both sides to decide which “truth” to believe.  

The fact is however, that there is no "truth.” In this conflict there are two sides that see the same history and view it completely differently. While one side sees “orange,” the other sees “apple.” 

So, in a sense both sides are right, and both sides are wrong. There are flagrant violations of the Oslo accords on both the Palestinian and Israeli side, and while one may see one violation as worse than another, it no longer matters. One side may say that the other “discriminates,” or that the other “teaches hatred of us in their schools,” but if we truly are ready to sit down at the negotiating table once and for all, does name calling accomplish anything? 

What matters is where we go from here. Today we must decide to accept conditions as they are right now, and use them as a springboard for true change. Today, not tomorrow, is the day to find a solution, to talk peace. 

Today we must move from asking who did what and when, to what we’re going to do now. Israel supporters can site wrongs of the Palestinians in the current conflict, and vice-versa as well, but much of this is based on perspectives and biases. The bottom line is that Israel has offered peace, the most generous peace ever offered to resolve this conflict; the Palestinian authority rejected this peace and instead turned to violence as a means of achieving what they couldn’t achieve through negotiations.  


Today the violence must stop. The "occupation" of Wheeler Hall was an uncalled for event that moved this conflict onto another level from where it had previously been. This protest turned the conflict from political to just pure hatred. Event speakers called Jews "conniving", and a Star of David was equated with a swastika. Nothing could be more offensive to Jews and rational thinking people everywhere.  

In just the past few days too many children have been lost to both sides as well. Two 14-year-old Jewish boys (one a United States citizen) were stoned to death by Palestinians while hiking near their homes. A 4-month-old Palestinian girl was killed when her house collapsed on her after Israeli return-fire hit it. Must children suffer any longer? Must anyone from either side suffer any longer?  

It’s time that Palestinians accept that what they’ve lost was lost in a war that they initiated – it’s gone forever. Israel has offered much of it back however in return for peace. They must realize that Jews have every right returning to their ancient homeland, whatever negative consequences that may or may not have had. Israelis, for their part, need to accept that the creation of their state has, unfortunately, caused the suffering of another people (the extent of which can be hotly debated). Israelis must accept that Palestinians are a distinct people who too deserve their own state. Israelis cannot control the Palestinians any longer and will need to trust that all signed peace treaties will be upheld to the utmost extent. 

Today both sides need to understand and listen to the claims of the other. Resolution of this conflict will not come through violence, protests, divestment, hate or name-calling; it will only come through face-to-face dialogue and understanding, and a genuine desire to live in peace. The time to start is now.  


Daryl Kutzstein 

San Diego 


Working people need their own  

political party 




Governor Gray Davis tells us that the deregulation of the electric power industry has been a colossal disaster. On the contrary, as each day we learn of new and fascinating ways by which the power industry is robbing us blind, it’s clear that deregulation has been a stupendous success – for the power industry. This demonstrates that, in reality, we do not yet have a government of, by, and for the people, but rather a government of, by, and for the wealthy. 

Under our famous two-party system, if we don’t like what the people in our office have done, we can always turn the rascals out, and vote in the other set of rascals. 

The problem is, the vote in the the legislature in favor of deregulation was unanimous.  

Since nobody in either major party is capable of standing up against the power monopoly, we’d be fools to keep on voting for them. Maybe it’s time for working people to get together and organize a political party of our own.  

Marion Syrek