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Wednesday October 03, 2001

“Berkeley Lite” heavy handed  



I am writing in response to your recent “Berkeley Lite” editorial regarding the School Board, Superintendent Michelle Lawrence, and the Brown Act. I refer to it as an editorial because even though it appeared on the front page of your fine paper instead of the editorial section, it seemed both far too personal, and very much an opinion to be classified as news.  

Let’s start with that first “clandestine” trip to Southern California. I was a part of that team, so unlike you, I can report first hand. There were so many people from the school community on that delegation, that we could have painted BUSD on the side of the airplane. I thought that it was the most innovative step that we had taken in this district, and it proved to be so very worthwhile. Should the board have issued an open invitation to the community? Would they have gotten better press if they had invited you along? Neither would have been appropriate in this stage of the interview process. I didn’t take part in any of the earlier stages of the selection process, because the board wanted to include as many people as possible in the process, and divided up the tasks.  

Next we moved on to a positive future for the district and the board, as Michelle seemed to bring much of the experience and expertise that we needed. So far, you’re the only person that I’ve heard question her abilities or motives. 

Yes, the board needs to take charge, and to be less dependent on the staff. That has always been a problem, and is part of the reason that we chose Ms. Lawrence. She is working hard to train the directors, and to develop the necessary independence, but this is a huge change in the culture of our board. An obvious part of that process was when she suggested that they conduct a preliminary evaluation of her performance. You related this to an annual review. We expect a 100 day review of elected officials and other important positions; why do you think we should wait until our superintendent has been on board for a year before the board gives her any feedback or direction? 

For her to recommend that the board should evaluate her performance now is a positive recommendation, one that encourages them to take charge and insure that she is moving in the right direction. Sure, it shouldn’t have taken place in the employee’s home, but to imply that something improper was intended is ludicrous.  

The district, the many volunteers (thousands) who work in the district, and the greater community are working hard to move ahead and make the BUSD as fine as it should be. What role does the Daily Planet plan to take in this effort? So far your message is clear, and I find your thirst for conflict very disappointing.  


Mark A. Coplan 

Willard Parent 



Don’t renovate Cal stadium 



UC Berkeley is about to start a campaign to raise private funds to renovate Memorial Stadium. It is projected to cost millions for a seismic retrofitting and also a facelift. It seems like a very expensive item for a football team that only plays five to six games a season. Since there is such demand for other facilities on campus, it would seem narrow-minded not to think of how else that space could be utilized. Why not have the football team play in the Oakland Coliseum (Network Associates Stadium). It is currently a better facility than Memorial Stadium and its location and access to Mass Transit is superior. The campus then could demolish the stadium for other uses. Part of the new space could be used to build a world class training facility for all athletes.  

The training facility would go much further in helping the athletic teams to succeed than renovating an old stadium. Particularly, training facilities are more critical to football players than others. However, it would still help the other athletes as well – male and female. Another portion of the space could be devoted to student housing. The money to build to the student housing usually comes from the state. However, with rents so sky-high in the Bay Area, a creative university-private partnership to build affordable (reasonably) priced rental units for students should be considered. I think newly built facilities can also be engineered to better withstand seismic activity than renovating old facilities. 

I am big sports fan. However, the idea of a football stadium in the location of Strawberry Canyon is something that made sense in the early 20th century but is very unpractical in the early 21st century. Critics, particularly the Alumni will say, how will the students get to the games?  

What they don't realize is that much of the student population is living far from the campus due to the housing shortage and high rents. You could give the UC students subsidized BART tickets to get to the Coliseum on gameday as part of their ticket purchase. The idea of the stadium on campus is a romantic notion of the alumni. In Pittsburgh, Pa. the Steelers and the University of Pittsburgh are sharing a new downtown stadium and alleviating the heavy burden on the university to do it on their own. They probably have had better football tradition than Cal in the last 50 years. It is time to think creatively regarding Memorial Stadium and using it's space for other facilities. It is ironic that creative thinking needs to be called for in a place like Berkeley. 


Mike Ganim 



Correcting the record: Local 39 wants reasonable repayment 



Thank you for Jeffrey Obser's story on BUSD suing its own employees over the district's payroll error in your Sept. 29 edition. It is a convoluted, difficult issue to explain and he did a very balanced job of reporting. I want to correct one misstatement made by Rick Spaid, a Local 1 spokesperson, in regards to actions by Stationary Engineers, Local 39. Mr. Spaid is quoted as saying that Local 39 “definitely gave people the impression they would not have to pay this money back.” Mr. Spaid knows better. Local 39 helped employees write signed declarations addressed to the School Board and the Superintendent in June. These declarations stated unambiguously that employees were willing to pay back any monies they had been paid in error. They asked for two things: an accurate accounting of what they had been overpaid and a reasonable repayment plan so that they and their families wouldn't suffer any further hardship. The District has not complied with either request and has chosen instead to sue these employees.  

Stephanie Allan, 

Stationary Engineers,  

Local 39  



IAC stands against racism 



As the one of the organizers of the Rally for America held on campus Monday, and a leader of the Israel Action Committee, I feel I must respond to Cheryl Leung's accusations printed here about the behavior of the Israel Action Committee, Jewish Student Union, and other groups and individuals involved in the rally. At no time did any official participant in the rally direct any slur at a Muslim student.  

The rally was covered by dozens of journalists, including the Daily Planet. Most articles reported how we made it crystal clear that we stand against racism and hate directed at Arabs, Muslims, Jews, and Israelis. Not one reporter mentioned anything about our speakers attacking anyone due to their religion or national origin, because it did not happen.  

Ms. Leung is correct in saying that the rally was pro-America, and that it was also in support of America's allies such as Israel, England, Japan and other countries who have stepped up to stand with America. Ms. Leung apparently sees supporting America and her allies as a bad thing, not surprising considering that thousands of Palestinians supported by Ms. Leung and the group she represents, Students for Justice in Palestine, danced in the streets upon hearing the news of America's disaster. Indeed Students for Justice in Palestine held a celebration called Intifada Week on campus last week. Considering that American citizens have been killed by suicide bombings in Israel as part of the Intifada, in light of the World Trade Center suicide bombings one has to question exactly what message SJP and its representatives are trying to send with their Intifada celebrations and attacks on student groups who want to support the struggle against terrorism. 


Randy Barnes 



Make protests peaceful this time 



No apology needed for removing flags from Berkeley fire trucks. Protecting firefighters and equipment was smart. We should dust off the “family album” and show this generation of firefighters and demonstrators why protection might be needed. In the ’60s anti-war demonstrations, the flag and anyone or anything it was attached to became a target, especially police, their vehicles, and even firefighters. Back then, when downtown Berkeley was, in effect, bombed by demonstrators, we had to be escorted home from school by the National Guard to protect us from all that peace and love that had become very ugly, very scary, and very destructive.  

What kind of behavior will be tolerated in our city this time? The nostalgic troublemakers are already strategizing. Berkeley had better back up its No Hate Zone claim, or nothing said here will be credible. Buzzwords like tolerance, diversity, peace, and understanding won’t mean a thing if Berkeley allows the behavior we saw three decades ago. Want the flag to keep flying on fire trucks? Then don’t let the flag become the dividing line again. Think leaders should resolve things peacefully? Then don’t slide backward into using rocks and bottles and fists and burning flags to get your message across. And when the rioters tell us, “Sometimes people get hurt and things get broken when you’re standing up for what you believe in!” remember that’s exactly what may have to happen in this war against terrorism that we’re now in.  

Jeanne Gray Loughman 

Fourth-Generation Berkeley Native