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Letters to the Editor

Thursday May 17, 2001

Correcting the record on Beth El 


A May 11 letter to the Berkeley Daily Planet from Juliet Lamont and Phil Price opposing Congregation Beth El’s building plans is riddled with misstatements. It raises false images of Beth El, its programs and the conclusions of the extensive EIR conducted on the project. Here are a few of the real facts: 

• Beth El does not rent its sanctuary and social hall. It does not hold conferences or "cocktail parties."  

• Sound standards will not be exceeded “every day of the week” as claimed. The Environmental Impact Report on the project indicated that use of the parking lot during an eight- week summer camp could exceed the Berkeley noise ordinance by ONE DECIBEL, but only if people drop off twice as many kids as traffic engineers observed them dropping off in the actual situation. According to the EIR, no other Beth El activity is likely to generate even that much noise. 

• The highest point the roof of the planned sanctuary will be almost 35 feet, and the average height of the building, significantly less. Does 35 feet “dominate the landscape?” No, it is lower than several nearby houses and within the height limits of Berkeley’s zoning ordinance. 

• Is parking scarce in the neighborhood? There are no parking restrictions and no resident parking permits in the area, which are the usual signs of tight parking. Most importantly, several parking surveys have indicated many available parking spaces during all hours of the week. 

• Beth El moved its planned parking spaces away from the land over the underground part of the creek in response to opponents’ requests. That change did move parking closer to the path, a trade-off Zoning Board members approved. 

But truth and tradeoffs do not seem to be in the vocabulary of the opponents of this project. They twist the "facts" to suit their needs. Even worse, they demand total capitulation to a conflicting and constantly shifting list of demands, something that is not only unreasonable, but also impossible. 


Alex Bergtraun 



State senator condemns medical pot ruling 



“I am appalled and infuriated by the truly awful decision of the United States Supreme Court effectively limiting the rights of Californians (and all Americans), to obtain and utilize upon advice of their personal physicians, marijuana to assist in prolonging life by making food more palatable, alleviating pain and assisting in their effective treatment. 

What a shame! 

This decision is: 

• Contrary to science; 

• Contrary to the will of the People of California and several other states where voters have passed initiatives legalizing the medical use of marijuana; 

• Contrary to the tenet of personal freedom on which our Constitution is based; and 

• Contrary to the doctrine of states’ rights on which our nation was founded. 

What a shame! 

The Supreme Court’s decision is especially obnoxious for its blind adherence to the findings of the United States Congress (way back in 1970) with respect to the medicinal efficacy of marijuana. There is a much higher authority whose experience–based knowledge I find far more trustworthy. Ask the patients whose pain and lives are at stake. Ask the physicians who treat them. Marijuana truly is effective in alleviating pain and providing relief for patients with AIDS, cancer and other lesser ailments. 

What a shame! 

This decision has been meted out by the same five (IN)Justices who otherwise routinely overrule that same Congress with respect to states’ rights on matters of much broader import. They have ruled recently, for example, that Congress cannot infringe on state’s rights to provide access laws as they see fit for the disabled–are not these patients’ needs every bit as legitimate for states to address? This ruling can only serve to drive patients yearning for relief towards the criminal underworld 

What a shame! 

Who can fail to note that it is the same five (IN)Justices who used our once proud United States Supreme Court politically to determine the outcome of the 2000 Presidential election? Now they extend their political operation to select amongst Congressional Acts and hence deny patients (and those doctors and others who would serve their needs) what they need to keep themselves healthy, even alive! 

What a shame! 

I hereby recommit myself to engage in every conceivable action in support of the cause of re-establishing the freedom of individuals and the rights of states to govern our own affairs – especially with respect to the medical uses of marijuana. 

I urge every Californian to register – in every non–violent way possible – her/his anger with and dissent from this court and this decision, and join me in a crusade to bring freedom and justice back to the judicial system and back to the people of California and the entire United States.” 


Sen. John Vasconcellos, 

D-San Jose 


Kids are born with spiritual roots 


Included in your article on raising children with religion (Interfaith Marriages, May 10), David Sauer boldly states that couples who do not choose “religious guidelines” for their children are somehow damaging them because they have “no spiritual roots.” In reality, every child has spiritual roots and can realize them without religious indoctrination when the parents are truly committed to spiritual values.  

Traditional peoples were able to offer their children an appreciation of their spiritual foundation since the beginning of time, without religion.  

They understood the value of freedom of thought as a first step to spiritual understanding . The authoritarian approach, as expressed by Mr. Sauer and Ms. Littman, is precisely why so many have turned their backs on religion long ago. 


Michael Bauce