Page One

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday October 21, 2003


Editors, Daily Planet: 

The positioning of two articles in the Daily Planet’s Oct. 17-20 edition was misleading. On the one hand, J.Douglas Allen-Taylor’s article, “Discussing and Repenting at Leisure,” piercingly exposed the complacency that a telling majority of (at least voting society) has towards the abuse of women by its successful election of a real, live, and so-far unaccountable example of one. I looked over from that article, to find, right next to it, Matthew Artz’s article, “Battering’s Hidden Victims: Males.” In an unfortunate coincidence, Matthew Artz’s article no doubt provided handy cannon-fodder for dull-headed rebukes of Allen-Taylor’s thoughtful point of view. Artz’s article focused mainly on a man who was verbally abused.  

By way of generosity, I imagine the point of the article was that any abuse is significant. That’s all right, but the death-by-abuse figures that Artz quoted were not an objective way to compare the relative levels of abuse suffered by men and women. It only succeeded in “hiding” the relatively astronomical levels and varieties of abuse that are non-lethal to women, that is all. That’s another reason why Allen-Tayor’s article has much more relevance in a society where those women who pointed to Schwarzenegger as their sexual assailant, now have to witness him being looked up to as “Mr. Prominent Citizen.” With a leader like this, only the naive can expect better things for women.  

One last thing: Was our “other” righteous war, the one in Afghanistan, really meant to champion women’s rights when, for so long, society has ignored the same problem in this country simply because the same is done “American style?” 

Varshana Hayes 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

J. Douglas Allen-Taylor’s question (Daily Planet, Oct. 17-20) is a good one. “Did the governor-elect assault 15 women?” he asks. Probably, given Schwarzenegger’s confession/apology and most women’s general experience. 

“Do we think that’s okay?” he asks. Of course not. Unwelcome physical and/or sexual contact is not okay under the law. But most women have long recognized what men recognize as well, that the women who raise an issue about such conduct are routinely dismissed as making a big deal out of nothing, having no “sense of humor,” or not being tough enough to handle what society considers tantamount to low-grade schoolyard hijinks. 

We still live in a boys’ club where male sexuality is admired and female sexuality is feared and reviled. The same atmosphere that protects men who commit sexual assault makes publicity regarding the sexual assault purposeless. A society which refuses to acknowledge any damage done by such behavior is not likely to respond to its exposure, making men and women who experience assault less likely to raise the issue or object. 

It lessens the weight of the collective complaints against Schwarzenegger that the men and women who were witnesses did not come forward earlier, but it is understandable that they didn’t, given the probability of being laughed at and dismissed. Another 50 women stepping forward with similar stories would have had no more effect than the original 15. 

The last question Allen-Taylor needed to ask was this: Is a revelation of a history of sexual assault an effective political strategy? Sadly, the answer seems to be no. 

Carol Denney  




Editors, Daily Planet:  

While John Parman’s remark that “Berkeley’s plan to outlaw the theft of newspapers in the city . . . is rather oxymoronic” (Letters, Daily Planet, Oct. 17-20) is true, if this proposed law made the theft of newspapers because of its content a crime punishable by a mandatory jail sentence of, say three days, then it would truly take on Mayor Bates’ hypocrisy.  

Lloyd Morgan  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

During the November 2002 Mayoral election campaign, a brochure entitled “Tom Bates for Safe Neighborhoods” was delivered to every home in the Flatlands. It read, “We need early crime alerts” and “Tom will beef-up enforcement of our speed limits.” 

A year after Tom’s election, these promises are unkept. Since August, crime alerts and information have been scarce and late in coming. This is not a good omen for neighbors who are the “eyes and ears” of Berkeley Community Policing. Our streets have become increasingly dangerous with no beef-up of traffic law enforcement. 

Bates’ campaign literature showed Tom, Councilmember Margaret Breland, and Councilmember Maio’s aide, Brad Smith “discussing more effective community policing.” We got a preview of what that means at the September meeting of the Berkeley Safe Neighborhood Committee. Sergeant Steve Odom explained the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective Community Policing,” a take-off on Stephen Covery’s 1969 book about habits of highly effective people. 

Odom’s examples included: think win-win, synergize, the importance of patience and “sharpening the saw,” the concept that addressing “small” community problems like garbage, broken windows, abandoned homes and vehicles can help reduce crime, and much more. Fine! 

Almost lost in the rhetorºic was the theory that with “the new community policing” we will need fewer police and the police will make fewer arrests! According to Sgt. Odom, arrests are no longer a priority, since we have alternatives such as diverters, speed bumps, and a myriad of city services. We’ll solve crimes and problems by “thinking smarter” about the alternatives and by using crime analysis. But Berkeley employs only a half-time crime analyst! 

Now some of this might sound funny to you, but this is not funny. I call this Berkeley-style community policing the “Think System” and you can read about it that great classic “The Little Engine that Could,” or see the video “The Music Man.” 

Since Tom Bates became mayor, the “progressives” have enjoyed a majority on Berkeley City Council—seven of nine councilmembers. Historically, the BCA political organization, which endorsed these seven politicians (and four of the five School Board members), has wanted to reduce the powers and numbers of officers in the police department. 

Merrilie Mitchell 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The current discussion about access for wheelchair riders is another reason Berkeley is such a great city. The fact that sidewalks are in worse shape than many roadways suggests nirvana has yet to be achieved. But we limit ourselves by focusing solely on wheelchairs.  

Cities across the U.S., from Arizona to Maine and now Berkeley, are struggling to assimilate all kinds of new personal transportation devices. Local governments are confronted with retirement community residents, fully capable disabled, skatepunks, golfers, cyclists, eco-activists and users of slow, non-internal combustion transport machines demanding a fair share of the road for urban golf carts, electric and gas-powered scooters, EVs, three-wheeled bicycles, bikes with trailers, small and large motorcycles, mopeds, skateboards, roller skates, those wheelie things with the handle, children on hotwheels, rickshaws, pedicabs and even the ill-fated Segway riding machine. And it’s obvious they can’t all be on the sidewalk. 

American tradition and court rulings have affirmed the right to travel. City streets have never been the sole province of automobiles. Public roads serve multiple purposes beside transit; unloading groceries, pouring concrete, walking your dog, riding your wheelchair. Those who do not own a motorized vehicle retain 

the civil right to mobility. In addition, legal precedent affirms the right to go slow on all public roads except those with controlled access or minimum speed limits like freeways. Municipalities are only allowed to enforce traffic requirements such as periodic yields. Many of these laws come from rural areas where farm machinery and horses maintain the right to the road and include legal precedent from Amish country. 

Unfortunately, some localities dealing with electric and human-powered vehicles try to fashion laws giving slow vehicles a “little access,” amounting to second class citizenship, even requiring counterintuitive traffic gestures confusing to car drivers. But special rules setting apart various classes of vehicles are not the solution. Accident statistics prove what traffic engineers and bicycle scientists say. Full integration of bicycles in traffic is not only necessary for the cyclist’s right to travel, but is safer than segregation. Adding other classes of small personal vehicles will have similar minimal impacts on traffic if automobile users decide to share the road. 

Of necessity and inkling, wheelchair users are social pioneers, but we will all benefit from emerging forms of personal transportation and must support them, and we all must take cues from bicyclists who have struggled for access for more than one hundred years. Some day in Berkeley’s future is a city crisscrossed with trees and multi-purpose public spaces where automobile users are expected to yield to little children, EVs and Wheelchairs. The automobile will have it’s place, but so will the rest of us.  

Hank Chapot 


Bicycle commuter, employed in Berkeley 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

While reading your story, “City Council Listens a Lot But Doesn’t Do Much” by J. Douglas Allen-Taylor (Daily Planet, Oct. 17-20), I was greatly annoyed, even a bit appalled, by your use of the phrase “wheelchair-bound.” Doesn’t this writer, or editing staff know this phrase is totally incorrect? 

We are not “wheelchair-bound,” we are wheelchair users! Of all places, this is the last one where an antiquated, not to mention borderline insulting, phrase like this should be used. In most circles within the disability community, whenever a outdated, improper phrase like “wheelchair-bound” or “handicapped” is used, it often is taken as a sign that there may be a small lack of recognition of our equality, civil rights, or status, by the people using it. I hope that is not the case here. 

If it seems like I may be making a big deal out of something that is seemingly nothing, I am actually trying to make a valid point here. The point I am trying to make is, if the language about us is wrong then maybe the way people view us and our issues is also wrong. 

Fred Lupke was killed because his civil rights were violated when he was not given equal access, like that given to other pedestrians, to a safe and equal path of travel. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), if it would have been followed, would have protected him and saved his life. Yet, it seems that many people, except some of us disabled, cannot recognize this fact. It makes me very upset to hear that some people almost seem to blame Fred more for his own death than they blame an unresponsive, uncaring system.  

Why wasn’t the ADA followed in this case and a huge number of other cases across this country? I dare say the reason is the Almighty dollar! It seems money, or lack of it, outweighs the civil rights of persons with disabilities. Would any other minority group tolerate or accept a price tag on their civil rights? I doubt it!  

To me, when a improper phrase like “wheelchair-bound” is used, it gives me a slight hint that some people may need to change the way they view us and the various factors that effect our lives. 

Blane N. Beckwith 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

J. Douglas Allen-Taylor (Daily Planet, Oct. 17-20), in his attempt to lose no time in subverting our new governor-elect, compares the actor’s sexual conduct with the liberal and feminist darling, Bill Clinton. 

He states, “As far as I can tell from the public record....Mr. Clinton was never accused of putting his hands on a woman who did not so desire.” It is clear from this laughable statement that Mr. Allen-Douglas is no expert in public record-checking. 

I would suggest he check the public record on the accusatory Clinton cases of the cornering in the hotel room of Paula Jones, the groping of Mrs. Willits, and Juanita’s rape. What “extensive” public record was he checking?  

While these cases remain accusations, so do those against the governor-elect. Exactly what difference is there, other than that the claims against Mr. Clinton include actual rape?  

It is also in the public record that, until the noxious Ms. Lewinsky cavorted in the Oval Office, a major tenet of feminism was that power inequities in the workplace make consensual sex between a male boss (especially, The Boss) and a junior female employee intrinsically exploitative and even rapacious. 

Of course, once their Darlin’ Bill did it, it seems to have become just a minor “wrong”—but only for leftie icons and their rabid, hypocritical supporters. 

Ken Cohen 

Pleasant Hill 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I disagree with Norine Smith when she says (“Concrete Path Threatens Shoreline Tranquility,” Daily Planet, Oct. 17-18) that, “One of the most peaceful, tranquil, calming experiences in Berkeley is about to be unalterably destroyed.” Norine is referring to the new Bay Trail Extension that will connect the Bay Trail with the Berkeley Marina along the south side of the Berkeley Marina. After having attended most of the meetings that reviewed the plan for the Bay Trail Extension, it is my sense that the new trial will continue to provide just about the same experience it now provides, but provide it with even greater safety. It is also my sense that the new trail will provide a substantially better experience for people using the Bay Trail Extension in wheelchairs. Robert Cheasty reported at the last Waterfront Commission meeting that Citizens for Eastshore Park (CESP), an organization that over the years has carefully examined the balance between habitat preservation and human use, is satisfied with the plan. The proposed design of the Bay Trail Extension has been modified in response to public comment and is consistent with generally accepted standards, which is necessary to receive funding for the project. 

Norine also mentions that the plan states that it will replace only one of every four trees cut down. Actually, the plan will replace any tree removed with four trees. 

Brad Smith 

Chair, Waterfront Commission 






Editors, Daily Planet: 

Does California really deserve the privilege of voting? Of those who actually take the time to vote, most do not make an informed decision--rather, they vote for who they think is funny, or cool, or perhaps they just vote on a whim. Our last election shows us what completely ridiculous ways the minds of the voters of California can work in. First off, Schwarzenegger is misogynistic and fairly unintelligent. Many have argued that his repeated harassment of women is his own personal business and does not reflect his ability as a politician. This would be true, if these situations were consensual. However, they were not. We have elected a man who does not know that “no” means “no”--not much better than a hormone-driven teenage boy. As for his intelligence, it should be clear to anyone who watched the debate that Schwarzenegger is not very smart. It is disgusting that we would vote for someone whose resume consists mostly of B movies. But, of course, we did elect Reagan as governor and then as president. Other candidates, such McClintock, Bustamante, Camejo, are much more intelligent and had good platforms, while Schwarzenegger’s was barely defined. But, we elected him because he’s a famous household name. Do we even deserve democracy when we aren’t even informed on the issues? We spent billions of dollars that could have been used for welfare or education; billions of dollars that we didn’t have to put on another gubernatorial race because someone decided that since Davis only won by three pecent, he shouldn’t be governor. But he still won. Of course, after Bush and Gore, it seems like anything goes. The recall passed. By 54 percent. That’s only five percent off. And now all I can say is: time to recall the recall!  

Melissa Steele-Ogus