Editors, Daily Planet:
On last November’s ballot, the voters approved just one bond measure—Measure I for a new animal shelter. Measure I was a rare and beautiful phenomenon in Berkeley, with over two-thirds of the voters, then-Mayor Dean and the entire City Council supporting a much needed $7 million new home for the truly voiceless residents of our city. All of us who worked so hard on the campaign were euphoric about the outcome. Berkeley finally seemed to be on track to catch up with other “less enlightened” cities in its care of abandoned animals.
Seven months later, we still have no drawings and no site for the new shelter, and our new mayor appears to have little interest in fulfilling the most significant mandate of the last election. Meetings are held regularly to discuss potential sites, but all the sites proposed by city staff are throwaways and every workable site that is brought up seems to be earmarked by the city for some other purpose, even though we all know there is no money available for new projects with the enormous deficits the city is projecting for years.
Granted, there is not a lot of available land in Berkeley, but many of us are getting the distinct feeling that something is up. At best, the new shelter may simply not be a priority of the new mayor or the city manager. Or, even worse, could the city be stalling so that the approved $7 million won’t be enough to build the shelter and the bond won’t have to be issued? Or, quite possibly, the city plans to load the next ballot with more bond measures and hopes that property owners will forget about the Measure I assessment if the project is stalled, the bonds haven’t been issued and no debt service shows up on our property tax bills.
I hope I speak for the 68 percent of the voters who passed Measure I in saying that I want to see the mayor and the city manager fast track this project before the $7 million isn’t enough to build a new shelter. How about some accountability to the voters, Mr. Bates?
Nancy S. Hair
Editors, Daily Planet:
Who is Calvina L. Fay from St. Petersburg, Fla., and why do we care what she thinks? I thought the Berkeley Daily Planet is supposed to be Berkeley’s local newspaper? Why are we printing flawed and biased “opinions” from 3,000 miles out of state? When someone has an indefensible position (like Ed Rosenthal should have had the book thrown at him for growing marijuana for the city of Oakland) they talk about something else (what’s contained in a book Rosenthal wrote about marijuana cultivation). For Ms. Fay to refer to Ed Rosenthal as a “drug kingpin” is outrageously silly. For Ms. Fay to propose that she speaks for “our children’s future” is a bit presumptuous.
Judge Breyer was smart to give Ed Rosenthal a suspended sentence. Judge Breyer knew that he was in big trouble with the people of California for conducting a trial that barred crucial evidence from the jury in order to obtain a conviction (Ed Rosenthal was deputized by the city of Oakland to grow medical marijuana) and playing into the hands of Attorney General John Ashcroft.
Judge Breyer knew that sentencing Ed Rosenthal to jail time would have set off a firestorm that may have been impossible to put out. There certainly were mitigating circumstances in Ed Rosenthal’s case—the will of the people of California voting that medical marijuana should be legalized, the sanction of the city of Oakland properly was not ignored, and Ed Rosenthal’s not having realized any personal financial gain from his medical marijuana growing for the city of Oakland.
I am writing to the Daily Planet because maybe it is the local residents’ fault for not supporting our local newspaper and providing the Daily Planet with enough letters to print that the Planet feels the need to print letters such as Ms. Fay’s 3,000-miles-away letter. Please spare the people of Berkeley the drivel of Ms. Fay’s narrow mind.
Editors, Daily Planet:
The following letter was addressed to City Manager Weldon Rucker:
I am writing on behalf of the Berkeley Council of the Blind, an affiliate of the California Council of the Blind and the American Council of the Blind, regarding the city’s having reversed its decision to reorganize the city Disability Compliance Program from the Public Works Department to the Department of Health and Human Services.
Since its incorporation into city government, the Disability Compliance Program has primarily focused on issues and concerns of individuals with mobility-related disabilities. The city has basically ignored the larger part of the disability community, those with communication-related disabilities, i.e. individuals who are blind and visually impaired, deaf and hearing impaired, cognitively impaired and individuals with certain non-apparent disabilities. A review of the city’s budget patterns shows that 100 percent of all ADA funding has been allocated toward fiscal access issues, i.e. curb ramps, electric doors, ramps and other structural considerations. Conversely, the city has elected to budget zero dollars to enhance access for the much larger portion of its disability community.
Mr. Rucker, as a tax-paying individual with a disability, I find it absolutely demeaning and personally offensive for the City of Berkeley not to recognize individuals with disabilities as humans, but rather continue to view this population on the same level it views parking meters, street lights and other lifeless objects. It is time for this type of backward thinking to stop. In the year of 2003, it is not acceptable to segregate individuals based on their race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. Why is the city comfortable in its active participation in the segregation of individuals with disabilities in relationship to programs and services by relegating this population to the narrow confines of a public works department?
You have an opportunity to right this wrong by exercising your executive prerogative and doing the right thing. If this type of offensive treatment is no longer considered to be acceptable on the basis of race, gender and sexual orientation, it should not be considered as acceptable simply because the group are individuals with disabilities.
Editors, Daily Planet:
The following letter was addressed to Mayor Tom Bates and the City Council:
On June 17, 2003, the City Council postponed our public hearing till Sept. 16, 2003.
Today, June 21, we noticed that the antennas are already installed on the roof of 1600 Shattuck Ave. We looked at the photo-simulations provided by Sprint. According to these photos, antennas are now on the roof. Just go to the entrance door of Andronico’s and look at 1600 Shattuck. There are two antennas that look like chimneys.
How can this happen? Does the city know about this? Does the Planning Department know about this?
We would like to ask the city to check whether the antennas are installed. If yes, then Sprint has acted illegally. In that case, the antennas should be removed. If they stay there, Sprint may start operating them.
Editors, Daily Planet:
Regarding Mr. Koenigshofer’s letter to the editor of June 10-12:
Mr. Koenigshofer’s main argument against rent control, that it interferes with the freedom to contract, can serve as the basis for opposition to minimum wage laws, workplace safety rules, consumer protection regulations—indeed, any public attempt to curb the socially damaging results of leaving the private market (which, after all, consists of a set of contracts between businesses and others) to its own devices.
In the early days of the 20th century, some judges used Mr. Koenigshofer’s rationale to overturn the first versions of social legislation: laws protecting female employees against dangerously long work hours. Later on, the judiciary rejected this notion of the sanctity of contracts and recognized that public welfare justifies government intervention in a wide variety of “private” economic relationships.
At least Mr. Koenigshofer’s line of thinking places rent control where it belongs, as part of the body of sensible economic regulations that have tamed the savage tendencies of laissez-faire capitalism.
These regulations are under assault from the extreme right. Accepting Mr. Koenigshofer’s logic would take us where some of the more brazen ideologues surrounding George W. Bush want to go, back to the glorious days when unbridled freedom to contract enabled workers to be paid starvation wages, consumers to be poisoned, and renters to be gouged.
Editors, Daily Planet:
Two years ago, Berkeley Unified hired a new food services director. In the first year of her administration, Food Services lost $800,000. This year, according to BUSD budget reports, Food Services lost $900,000. During this period, food services administrators’ salaries increased by over $100,000 while the entire department has only 35 mainly part-time workers. The three full-time administrators' salaries and benefits total about $250,000. $900,000 would pay for quite a few teachers.
It’s no secret why Food Services is losing money. In an era where even McDonald’s and Jack in the Box are featuring salads, the new director terminated the popular farmers’ market salad bars as a cost-cutting measure. Instead cottage cheese and cling peaches became staples on the salad bar.
A very expensive food preparation unit (estimated at $200,000) was purchased and placed on the black top at Berkeley High School. It has cooking facilities, refrigeration, the works. Yet, this food unit only sells pizza, soda, water and juice.
And in a school of 3,000 students, the director of food services only manages to sell four to six orders of pizza a day. No wonder the department is losing money, hand over fist.
Two years ago, the director of the very successful Santa Monica program applied for the job, and we didn’t hire him. Santa Monica’s food services has a farmers’ market salad bar in every school. Each school has regular cafeteria staff plus a salad bar manager. The Santa Monica Food Services department is so successful, they fund a school garden volunteer coordinator and a part-time horticulture teacher at their high school.
How long do we give someone before we decide that this person is not competent. Is two years and a loss of $1.7 million enough? I would much rather have teachers or music or librarians or sports than cottage cheese and cling peaches with a $900,000 bill.
Chris Kavanagh (of the Berkeley Rent Board) continues to expose his grandiose self-dellusions in his letter of June 20 when he asserts that the “Rent Board is perhaps the city’s most critical elected body.” Critical indeed if the great function of government is to build useless and counter productive bureaucracies that create and enforce random and unfair regulations.
Kavanagh, like any good Orwellian Bureaucrat, speaks from the platform of regulatory minutia but never addresses the larger issues of fairness or justice. He never explains the logic of a rent subsidy program that makes no effort to determine whether or not its recipients need or deserve such subsidies. He is apparently indifferent to the terrible injustices arising from the program he enforces and assumes the case by case abuse of citizens is excusable in the service of the board’s ideological predisposition.
Explain Chris how you justify forcing a landlord to subsidize the housing costs for a tenant who has a higher income than that landlord?
Explain why you are indifferent to the fact that the policies you enforce have prompted a decrease in small scale, “mom and pop” rental housing and promote a consolidation of such housing in the hands of large, impersonal, corporate type owners?
Explain Chris why it doesn’t bother you that citizens, relying on their own character and discernment, are prevented by your agency from negotiating agreements with one another and instead subjected to Draconian governmental intrusion?
Chris, do you not find it ironic and unjust that a senior citizen on a fixed income can be compelled by your agency to provide subsidized housing to an individual who is younger, earns more and comes from a privileged background?
Do you not comprehend how such ironies and injustices hurt not only their immediate victims but also the broader social contract between government and citizen?
Lastly, Chris, I am curious, do you or any of the other Rent Board members enjoy benefits of the program you so actively enforce and defend? Simply Chris, how many of you live in rent controlled units?