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Letters to the Editor

Friday July 25, 2003


Editors, Daily Planet: 

A 44,000-square-foot Berkeley Bowl market on Ninth and Heinz would be a typical freeway-oriented big-box retailer —a Home Depot for food.  

Twice as big as a supermarket and right near a freeway exit, it would draw customers from all over the East Bay. It would pull users away from neighborhood-serving supermarkets such as Andronico’s, which do not have as much parking or as easy freeway access. Big-box retailers are driving neighborhood supermarkets out of business now, just as the supermarkets drove corner stores out of business 50 years ago.  

Environmentalists oppose this sort of freeway-oriented development, because it generates more long-distance automobile use—which means more traffic congestion and more pollution. In this case, the city would not even get the sales-tax revenue that big box stores usually generate, because food is not taxed.  

I urge the city not to allow Berkeley Bowl to build a store larger than the city’s usual 20,000-square-foot limit, which is large enough for a conventional supermarket.  

A 20,000-square-foot store on this site would serve the West Berkeley community, and it would generate fewer long-distance shopping trips on the freeway.  

Charles Siegel  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The grim reality is that seniors who have been relying on the city of Berkeley for taxi scrip have received none since the beginning of the current period, July 1. In short, the city appears to have discontinued (crashed) the program without even bothering to notify them or to respond to the plaintive queries of subscribers—most of these taxi-dependent seniors are low-income women, many without families or cars. 

I have heard it said that processing the taxi scrip is a hassle for City Hall. There is no reason why it cannot be processed by and at the city’s three senior centers. Indeed, it might bring more seniors back to the centers; classes have been cut back and there’s dissatisfaction with the lunches. 

I have heard it said that seniors who don’t have cars can use taxi scrip, the bus and the city’s three senior centers’ van service. I have news, folks: Seniors frequently need transportation to and from physicians and other health-related services; seniors ongoingly need groceries; seniors deserve to be able to get a life, i.e. to access the city’s three senior centers. 

One bus route stops at the North Berkeley Senior Center; one bus route stops at the West Berkeley Senior Center, and none stops at the South Berkeley Senior Center. The senior centers’ van serves frail elderly. Seniors who have cars but are unable to use their cars and seniors who don’t have cars (the majority) need taxi scrip. Purchase of specialized parking permits for use in the North Berkeley Senior Center neighborhood may be down because of several factors. Seniors who have cars and are able to use them are lucky. Seniors with disabled stickers merely have to find a place at a curb; in the words of one city father: “They should all get disabled stickers.” 

Helen Rippier Wheeler 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I like to think of Bush’s now infamous 16 state of the union words as a “free ride” deception. Bush’s statement, “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa,” is true because the first phrase is true: Bush did, in fact, learn said intelligence from the Brits. The second phrase, the intelligence itself, does not have to hold water. It gets a free ride.  

Bush has used this free ride deception structure before. In May 2002 Bush was being asked “what he knew and when he knew it” concerning the Sept. 11 attacks. The media had just exposed the subject of his Aug. 6, 2001, Crawford, Texas, security briefing (Al Queda’s intention to attack American targets). There was speculation that the Bush administration knowingly allowed the attacks to take place.  

In defense of his actions Bush said, “The people of this country know this about me, my administration and my national security team: Had I known that the enemy was going to use airplanes to attack buildings on that fateful morning I would have done everything in my powers to stop the attacks.” 

The Sept. 11 attacks were the key that unlocked the Bush administration’s policies of empire and repression. Bush’s smoke and mirrors response to Sept. 11 questions is extremely troubling. 

George Palen 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In her editorial of July 18-21, executive editor O’Malley has given us an excellent new phrase for the massive construction which is engulfing Berkeley, “Big Ugly Boxes,” and the acronym BUB, which I hope will make its way into common usage. 

The only question is how to pronounce it. The obvious phonetic choice would be rhyming it with tub or rub. Another possibility would be using the same vowel sound as in blue, but the image evoked is all wrong—much too curvaceous. My personal choice is to pronounce it to rhyme with cube. Say it out loud and see if it doesn’t sound just right: Big, all square angles and beginning to smell. 

Ed Brodick 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

There are four letters that describe Howard Dean’s conduct during the great moral challenges of our generation: A.W.O.L.  

He was born to privilege and received the fine education and other advantages that family wealth brings. Yet he absented himself from the great struggles for peace and justice that engaged the real leaders of our time. 

Howard Dean was nowhere to be found when others were putting themselves on the line to end the war in Vietnam, dismantle the apparatus of racial bigotry and fight the encroachment of corporate power and corruption. 

Dean has spent his life in a conventional, comfortable niche that required neither courage nor sacrifice. Now he advertises himself as a person of unusual vision and rectitude. The substance of his past and present actions suggests otherwise. 

As Vermont’s governor, he collaborated with Republicans to loosen environmental regulations and tighten social expenditures, turning his back on Greens and progressive Democrats. He pressured state monitoring agencies to rush approval of massive developments. One of his last acts in office was to reduce Vermont’s education budget. 

His fiscal austerity short-changes the public sector. It is a favorite of Wall Street bankers, but a bane to everyone else—workers, consumers, seniors, students, those protected by police, health and fire departments—whose well-being depends upon adequate public spending. He continues to preach this balanced budget dogma in the current recession, when deficit spending by the federal government is needed to lift the economy from its slump. 

He opposes cuts in military expenditures despite posturing as the peace candidate. He does not distinguish funding for counter-terrorism (a relatively inexpensive item) from bloated spending on weapons systems. 

He refuses to take on health insurance companies, even though their greed increases the cost and threatens the quality and integrity of American medical care. In drafting his health care proposal, he rejected the fairness, simplicity and efficiency of  

the Canadian single-payer model. His plan keeps intact the power of private insurers, and requires moderate-income participants to pay high premiums and deductibles. 

He favors erosion of the most important federal benefits for the elderly. He has stated his willingness to limit Medicare spending and raise the age at which workers become entitled to Social Security. 

He supported NAFTA, which undermines labor, safety and environmental standards throughout North America. He currently proposes tepid reforms to somewhat moderate the misery from global corporate dominance. 

He shies away from demanding that America’s wealthiest 1 or 2 percent give up a greater portion of their wealth to properly fund programs and institutions that could make possible a more secure and decent life for us all. 

Howard Dean does not deserve to be hailed as the best hope of American progressives for one simple reason: he is no progressive. He is an astute political operator. But his opportunism should be recognized and treated with appropriate mistrust. 

Randy Silverman