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Letters to the Editor

Tuesday December 02, 2003


Editors, Daily Planet: 

That demented little coterie who have nothing better to do on Tuesday nights than to follow City Council meetings got a rare dose of comic relief at a recent public hearing when one councilmember tried to snooker his colleagues with some statistical legerdemain. The subject was the narrow difference in effective radio transmission between the controversial Public Safety Building communications tower and a proposed alternative. Tests had revealed the two differed by three percent (one misfired six percent of the time, the other nine percent). With a straight face, this councilmember told his colleagues the three percent difference was actually a 50 percent gap (three being 50 percent of six, right?). A local poet calls his bluff with the following: 


“Wozzlebrain Deceives Himself With Statistics,” 

For the Berkeley City Council,  

with condolences. 


Behold ex-scientist Wozzlebrain on Monday. With a weekend’s rest behind him he’s using all but six percent of his brain cells. Behold ex-scientist Wozzlebrain on Tuesday. After a Berkeley City Council meeting he’s slipped by three percent. Now nine percent of his brain cells go languishing unused.  

“My God,” growls Wozzlebrain, “in just one day I’m down a full 50 percent!”  

“Buck up!” says the poet. “You’re down just three percent. The gap between six and nine is just three percent out of your total hundred. And three percent, all poets know, is statistically insignificant. Relax. You’re not actually down at all! If you stay away from City Council meetings there may be hope you’ll learn to think again!”  

To date the advice has not been accepted. On the contrary: Last Tuesday this same facetious fellow read a parody of a sophomore research paper purporting to offer a hilariously protracted tangle of statistics as an argument against instant run-off voting. Again with a straight face. You don’t suppose he’s serious about these things? 

Rob Browning 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

We support Jill’s Posener view of the Berkeley Animal Shelter. It can’t be in an out-of-the-way place. It has to be where the human community is, so people will have a daily dose of dog or cat, because it is so soothing. It must be where volunteers want to walk dogs without fear. It should be a place where potential adopters can easily get to the Berkeley Shelter to adopt dogs and/or cats. The Berkeley Animal Cares Services will be in the building for maybe 50 years, so you have to design it well and place it excellently. We support the Sixth and Gilman site! 

Cindi and Howard Goldberg 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As we look out the front window of our home there are piles of trash and debris and an ancient, dilapidated mobile home with squatters living in it. There are no electricity, running water, or sewage hook-ups to the mobile home. The squatters have been living in this mobile home and in a second vehicle, an equally tattered RV, since May. 

The property, located in the 2800 block of San Pablo Avenue, has been our neighborhood’s eyesore for four years. It has been the site of an arson fire, a haven for prostitution, and the location of numerous altercations over bad business dealings. The lot historically has been classified as a used car lot; however the use permits have expired long ago, there are no other existing permits, and property taxes are in arrears. The owner of the property lives out of town.  

Long before the squatters moved in, we had been trying to gain the City of Berkeley’s interest in the property’s numerous and ongoing problems. In June of 2003 the new City agency “Code Enforcement” finally took an interest. A hearing was later scheduled Oct. 5 before the Zoning Adjustments Board. During that meeting the board unanimously designated the property a “nuisance,” and clearly stated that abatement should be the course of action. The board expressed their admiration for our neighborhoods’ willingness to tackle this difficult problem. It has now been over eight weeks since that meeting, and still, there has been no action taken by the city.  

The San Pablo Park Neighborhood has been working for over two years with the city agencies to remedy this intolerable situation. It has required two appearances before the Zoning Adjustments Board, hours of neighborhood organizing, countless phone calls and letters, and coordination of the city’s agencies for the entire time. While it has been our experience that all the agencies—Department of Health, Code Enforcement, Neighborhood Services and the ZAB— have been sympathetic and kind, our problem is still across the street and out patience has worn thin. 

No citizen should be required to work so hard to fix a problem that should be addressed by the agencies who exist to protect the health, safety and the well being of all neighborhoods. 

Nancy Ellis  

Patricia Kaspar  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Mr. Geller’s development vision of downtown Berkeley is mostly appropriate and quite achievable (Letters, Daily Planet, Nov. 25-27). We can cut downtown traffic significantly. Very dense cities in Europe do it and these city governments also manage to efficiently implement planned pedestrian/public-transportation-only urban centers in cramped and much more heavily regulated circumstances. We need not reinvent the wheel. The public will need to be continuously educated and involved in every step of the process, online and in person, through opinionated open-door planning sessions. In Ithaca, NY— a much smaller city with absolutely greater downtown appeal than Berkeley— there is a wonderful pedestrian mall that functions as it was designed to and has blossomed over the years since its creation into a diverse and profitable business open space and has year-round heavily attended community functions. We very much need to provide a large number of urban periphery municipal parking spaces under a cohesive, practical and well-funded transportation plan with free shuttles to both BART and local busing options. If the $60,000 a year incredibly necessary YEAH! Youth Homeless Shelter can coordinate shuttle services, certainly funds for comfortable free shuttles to and from periphery parking can happen for commuters and visitors arriving via auto from out of town. 

On the related Berkeley building heights issue, I believe we need less-than-10-story structures with periphery and local above-ground parking. I have to agree with Tom Brown (Letters, Daily Planet, Nov. 28-Dec. 1) that underground parking is not environment friendly or cost effective. I think the sunlight issue is easily addressed by use of Japanese Sunflower fiber-optic or similar technology that pipes sunlight san UV’s wherever it is needed. Plants love this UV-less light. By all means daylight the full length of Strawberry Creek. What the heck is it doing underground anyway? It’s not like we’re changing the course of the Yangtze here! I don’t think that Berkeley currently has much of a downtown. It’s not now charming, pastoral or particularly interesting. Berkeley downtown is loud and dirty. We can bellweather a progressive planning trend in mid-sized US metros. The resources are there. I agree with Tom Bates that even the local progressive media often emphasize the wrong issues. We really need to have more taxation for necessary services since the fed and state are going republocrat nuts with selfish, heartless and unrealistic slash and burn economic tactics. I don’t believe in raising property taxes on the ever struggling US middle and lower classes or poorer small business. However, taxation must increase on the individual and corporate rich. One way to achieve proportionate and appropriate taxation on the wealthy is to provide a non-negotiable higher taxation gradient for more valuable personal and corporate property transfers. A similar tactic to that which Matt Gonzalez correctly proposes for SFO. The wealthy’s unequal wealth is usually due to under-compensation of the poor. The rich are obligated as community members to balance the scales wherever they live or do business officially. Raising revenues need be neither painful nor unjust. For every problem, it has been my experience, there is a multiplicity of satisfying and exemplary solutions. 

Frank Snapp