Page One

Letters to the Editor

Friday July 04, 2003


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Special thanks to Angela Rowen and the Daily Planet for covering the memorial for Kevin Freeman. It might interest readers to know that before the memorial march in People’s Park, UC Police Officer Vargas “detained” a marcher who was discreetly applying body paint in a circle of trees and bushes, although no complaint had been lodged by any park user. 

Vargas became agitated when park users approached to witness the “detention” and called for back-up. She stated that “things would go worse” for the detainee if those utilizing their right to observe did not leave. The witnesses, who continued to exercise their right to observe, recorded her curiously prejudiced lecture to the detainee. 

It goes without saying that alcohol-related illnesses should not be a jail or death sentence for homeless people; drinking problems on frat row are treated differently. But it is not simply the absence of a detoxification center which is the problem. Berkeley and University of California police are routinely detaining, harassing and jailing people who are different or who are ill. Until our politicians re-direct those priorities, tragedies such as Kevin Freeman’s are simply a matter of time. 

Carol Denney 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Judging by the editorial “More Light, Less Heat Needed,” attacking Hank Resnik and Livable Berkeley, his suspicion of bias may be on target. 

The editorial misrepresents “smart growth” in order to discredit it. No smart growth adherent has suggested, as the editorial implies, that “building a thousand high rises in Berkeley will prevent McMansions in Fairfield.” Rather, smart growth is advocated on democratic, environmental and economic grounds. 

Smart growth means concentrations of homes and activities so they are mutually accessible by foot. People pay sums that I can barely imagine to live in such places, San Francisco, Paris, London, Boston, to name a few. As tourists, we envy them. 

Low-density zoning that prevents cities like Berkeley from moving in this direction is social engineering by fiat. It forces us to use our cars to move from one activity to another. 

A byproduct of smart growth is attractive transit service for longer trips. Residents drive less. They consume less energy and require less infrastructure. Economic and environmental advantages result. 

Whether or not smart growth occurs in Berkeley, some people who dislike change will move away. Some did following the political shifts of the 1960s. Their homes were not abandoned. Other people moved in. The city flourished. 

Concentrations of activity at nodes along major arteries can bring a more vibrant Berkeley. The Daily Planet would serve us better by exploring the possible shape and benefits of that growth than by prognosticating imminent demise. 

Healthy cities evolve. Our region is on a long-term growth trend in population and economic activity. Berkeley cannot be the “static city,” unaffected by what is going on around it. 

Robert R. Piper, Ph.D. 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Berkeley City Council watchers note the diminishing regard for the weal of Berkeley seniors, attributable not just to budget-cutting. The latest is taxi scrip abuse. 

It has been the practice of Berkeley Paratransit Services (based in the Housing Department) periodically to mail (no over-the-counter service) forms containing the latest pricing information and an application, to be returned by mail with payment. The senior citizen can then only wait for the mail carrier. Clearly, this exchange process requires an allocation of at least a month and staff supervision. 

The current scrip period began July 1. Recipients needed confidence in receipt by mid-June. It is difficult to schedule appointments with specialized health services; it is costly to have to cancel them. Phone calls are counterproductive, viz the senior citizen who reports phoning at about 2:30 p.m. on a Monday to be told by taped response that “We only answer the phone on Mondays between 1 and 4 p.m.” 

It would be different if taxi scrip were a mere nicety in our lives. Many Berkeley seniors, like myself (low-income, without family) depend on taxi scrip for transportation to and from health-related services. Most low-income seniors are women.  

I am aware of seniors in Council Districts 2 and 4 who became alarmed by mid-June and contacted their councilmembers. Some desperately mailed in checks without current application forms and information.  

I also alerted the Commission on Aging, Senior Services and the Housing Department. My June 26 attempt to reach the city manager and mayor presumably resulted in a phone message the following afternoon from a Housing Department peacemaker. He compounded a bad situation with the news that the taxi scrip person wasn’t there that day, acknowledged that they could “do better” and misinformed by declaring that in the meantime “East Bay Paratransit [a service for disabled persons, requiring advance scheduling and processing into their computer] is also available.” He concluded with the useless, bureaucratic, “If you have any questions, blah blah.” 

Helen Rippier Wheeler 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In his letter of June 27, Randy Silverman states that regulations have “tamed the savage tendencies of laissez-faire capitalism.” The United States has never practiced laissez-faire, so what has been tamed is really the privileges and subsidies that government has granted to special interests.  

But wait a minute, politicians are still getting funds from the moneyed interests and awarding them special privileges. Now I’m confused—just what is it that has been tamed? 

Fred Foldvary 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The following letter, dated June 19, was addressed to Glenn and Diane Yasuda, owners of Berkeley Bowl: 


I write to encourage you to embrace the union drive at your store, Berkeley Bowl. As a loyal customer, a citizen of Berkeley, a member of Berkeley’s Commission on Labor, a union steward, president of a union chapter and statewide union and Green Party activist, all of these perspectives would embrace unionism at the Bowl. 

I would like to share with you a less-than-mainstream perspective on unionism. It’s unfortunate that our culture lends so little support for what is basically a medium to ensure fairness and justice in the workplace. It seems ironic that as a society we tout so loudly and often how we live in a free country, yet we tolerate the very opposite when it comes to carrying over the cornerstones of this freedom-speech and assembly-into the workplace. For far too many United Statesians, the minute they walk through the door of their workplace they are second-class citizens. 

There can be many benefits to having a union in your workplace. A union contract lays out rules for both parties to follow. A well-written contract can preclude many workplace conflicts and create an atmosphere of fairness. A contract between management and workers can clarify who gets paid what and how an employee can develop their careers with the company. This promotes loyalty and long-term employment that can reduce turnover and save operating costs in the long run. 

Unionism does not have to be antagonistic. I would be saddened to see this type of relationship between management and employees at the Bowl. I have worked hard to maintain a working relationship with the Human Resources Department at SFSU and they have acted on many of my recommendations to head off problems before they become grievances. They realize the value a well-functioning union chapter can add to the workplace. But just like any democratic institution, it only works as well as the people involved, on both sides, and their commitment to a better workplace for all. 

I don’t think I need to remind you that by law your employees have the right to organize. Your official position is supposed to be one of neutrality. Already I hear rumors that you have taken seemingly oppositional steps giving the appearance you are trying to resist. If this is true, I hope this letter can convey to you what a mistake it would be to continue along that path. Personally I promote your store whenever I can. I want to see your good reputation remain for everyone’s sake. 

Like I said, I am a loyal customer and want to keep shopping there. Please let me know if I can be of any assistance. 

Russell Kilday-Hicks 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Excellent letter from Mr. Koenigshofer (Daily Planet, June 27-30). He asks how many of the Rent Board members live in rent-controlled units. While most apartments in Berkeley (excepting new construction) are under rent control, only a fraction are incredible deals, namely those occupied by long-term tenants who got in when the getting was good. Many are large, handsome apartments for which the total price is less than most students pay to share a room. These apartments are very expensive for their unlucky owners. Despite the Rent Board’s complete disregard for fairness, providing housing costs money, especially in Berkeley’s anti-landlord, tax- and fee-crazed climate.  

Why should an unfortunate owner be forced to play a parental role in perpetuity to a tenant who might be rich or poor, kind or insufferable, but who is definitely not a family member? 

I hope that Rent Board Commissioner Kavanagh, in his next predictable rebuttal, will reveal whether he happens to enjoy one of these incredible deals. 

Judy Johnston 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The air we befoul gets in us all, whether we drive, drive a lot, drive a little, or go carless. Air pollution along with other toxics gets in us. 

With the Bush administration taking creative writing lessons in editing EPA reports, we may have to resort to penning our own letters to our automobile manufacturer (and to all automobile manufacturers) requesting more greenhouse gas emission-less vehicles. Technologies exist “on-the-shelf” now that would markedly improve the fuel efficiency of almost all light trucks, SUVs and standard automobiles, if only the auto industry would prioritize their use. And the savings in reduced fuel prices would, on average, more than triple the cost of using available underutilized fuel efficiency technologies. 

The Sierra Club, the Natural Resource Defense Council, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Rainforest Action Network and Global Exchange all have automobile fuel efficiency campaigns under way accessible from their Web sites. And, automobile manufacturer mailing addresses can be obtained from the Consumer Resource Handbook at  

We can have hulked-up station wagons on steriods (SUVs) along with greater energy independence and cleaner air, but we need to push the auto industry into being more environmentally responsible if we want to breathe cleaner air and free ourselves from dependence on limited foreign oil resources. 

Recent social and environmental histories suggest that now, perhaps more than ever, is the time to begin a comprehensive renewable energy program state by state, nationally and globally. 

The cost of a postage stamp seems like a good neg-entropic investment down the asphalt toward better energy efficiency and a healthier, more life-sustaining environment. 

In addition to requesting more efficient and environmentally friendly vehicles, you may want to ask that autos be fitted with interior air handling systems that permit the occupants to turn off polluted exterior air from being sucked into the vehicle during urban commutes when the air conditioner, fan or heater are running. 

Clean air is patriotic! It’s healthy. It’s peaceful. 

Rand Knox 

San Rafael