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Letters to the Editor

Wednesday May 23, 2001

Fairy tales we love  


Dr. Michael T. Klare made a very good case for a national program of conservation in order to extricate ourselves from the energy crisis in which we now find ourselves. Unfortunately, he's whistling past the graveyard. 

When a miner on the Comstock Lode in the 19th century claimed “the privilege of American citizens to waste the mineral resources of the public land without hindrance,” he voiced a national archetype. Pundits and politicians are issuing almost identical quotes today to justify supply-side energy production no matter what the environmental and fiscal cost. That should play well even in Berkeley where, on a street populated almost entirely with university-educated professionals, I recently noted that one third of the vehicles were SUVs and minivans. The proportion in the suburbs is higher. 

Politicians of both parties are still haunted by the wimpy public image of Jimmy Carter in a cardigan. When hairy-chested George Deukmejian became governor, he announced that Jerry Brown's “era of limits” was history and abolished Brown's Office of Appropriate Technology. Californians loved him for it. And one of Ronald Reagan's first acts as president was to remove Jimmy Carter's solar panels from the White House roof. Americans adored the fairy tales that kindly uncle told them about American limitlessness, and, like young children, they want to hear them told over and over again before the lights go out. 

In 1972, John Brunner wrote a science fiction novel called “The Sheep Look Up” which describes a global environmental collapse in the near future. In Brunner's story, American consumers were as culpable for the disasters that befell them as the poll-driven “leaders” whom they elected and the greed-driven executives whom they didn't. As I watched the moms driving their SUVs to Andronico's for apples flown in from Chile and thought of the weapons systems we will build to assure they can continue to do so, I knew that Brunner's novel was not fiction but prophecy. 


Gray Brechin 




Beth El positive force in the community 


The Daily Planet received the following letter addressed to the mayor and City Council: 

This is a letter of unqualified support for Congregation Beth El’s proposed plan for the Oxford Street site in Berkeley. I am not a member of Congregation Beth El, but my family and I have many close friends who are members of Congregation Beth El. We have lived in North Berkeley for twenty-two years, and over that time we have again and again experienced the positive influence and resources Beth El has provided in the North Berkeley community and schools.  

Our daughter attended the JCC early childhood center at Walnut Square with many Beth El kids, and many of our friendships started there. We have attended countless bar mitzvahs for kids at Beth El who were friends of our children. We have always felt completely included and welcome, even though we are not Jewish.  

We know many families who are members of Beth El who are diligent supporters, both in terms of time and money, of the public schools in Berkeley as well as other community activities that enrich life in Berkeley, such as organized league sports for children. We are personally acquainted with many of the children and now young adults who have attended the wonderful religious school program at Beth El. It is our belief that the character and values that are so obvious in virtually all of the dozens of young people we know from Beth El have been instilled by the strength and health of the Congregation that brought them up.  

By their contributions to the enrichment of the North Berkeley community and by their inclusiveness, the members of Beth El have earned and deserve the support of the City Council in their effort to move from their outgrown facility on Arch Street to the new site on Oxford.  

I believe Beth El has provided more than reasonable responses to criticisms of their plan for the new facility. Please approve Congregation Beth El’s proposed plan for the Oxford site as presented. 


Dennis J. White 




Where have all the sewer funds gone? 



We read with interest your May 20th article titled "Sewer Fund Used Inappropriately."  

The Council of Neighborhood Association's (CNA) newsletter has been publishing articles by Ted Edlin for over two years documenting the misuse of Sewer Fund and other monies by the city. A recent newsletter article documented the following abuses:  

• $300,000 of Sewer Fund money went towards the purchase of a building on Sixth St. for the Health Dept.  

• The city recently leased 1947 Center St. for the Engineering Dept. at a cost of $2.68 million. Half of that money is to come from the Sewer Fund.  

• The city recently payed $200,000 to break its lease at 2201 Dwight Way, space vacated by the Engineering and Housing Departments. $100,000 of that is to come from the Sewer Fund.  

• Seismic retrofit of the Corporation Yard. $750,000. An unspecified amount is to come from the Sewer Fund.  

• Installation of fiber optic line at the corporation yard. Funding to come from the Sewer Fund.  

While your article quotes City Auditor Hogan as finding $120,000 in Sewer Funds misspent paying employees of the First Source Employment Program, we believe she could have found much more inappropriately spent Sewer Fund money since her office receives a complimentary copy of each CNA Newsletter.  

In your article, Hogan states that the misspent $120,000 was probably due to budgetary oversight rather than deliberate misuse of funds.  

After CNA has documented the diversion of sewer funds for two years, it is gratifying to see that the City Council has referred the item to two commissions.  

The inappropriate expenditures should have been no surprise to council members, who also receive complimentary copies of the CNA Newsletter.  

Readers interested in more tales of misspent city funds can send a $15 check for a one year subscription to the CNA Newsletter, P.O. Box 1217, Berkeley, Ca. 94701  


Art Goldberg  

Barry Wofsy  



Plan council OK’d not same one ZAB rejected 



Mr. Muir's argument against the false assertions of Mr. Kashani could hardly be more eloquent. As he said, the 2700 San Pablo Ave. plan which you approved was not the plan which had gone through a planning process and which was before you on appeal - that one having been rejected by the Zoning Adjustment Board.  

Shame on you City Council members for contributing to the corruption of the planning process in Berkeley.  

Having closed the 2700 San Pablo Ave. hearing April 24 – meaning having closed it to the public and the developer – yet allowing the developer, but not the public to speak at your voting session on the project, was the epitome of unconscionable. 

Peter Teichner