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Letters to the Editor

Friday December 12, 2003


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I wish to comment on the state of affairs of the Telegraph Avenue Street Artists, a group of licensed street art and craft vendors to whom the City of Berkeley owes much of its character. 

We are a poor but proud lot, all makers and vendors of handcrafted items ranging from jewelry and leather goods to art, clothing, hats, incense, soaps, candles, pens and much more. The operant word here is “handcrafted.” We spend our lives making these gifts, then enduring all kinds of weather to sell them on the street, the only roof over our heads (and the heads of our customers) is that which we bring with us. Some of us don’t make enough money at our art or craft to make a decent living, eat well, or provide ourselves with good living and working quarters; some of us are more fortunate because we have other sources of income, such as a husband or wife with a steady job, or we have wholesale and website customers. 

Nevertheless, we are real businesses selling products you won’t find anywhere else. Many of our items are one of a kind, many are made in quantity, but all are handmade from raw materials, the old-fashioned way. We have no factories making our wares, no underpaid sweat shop workers laboring to make cheap goods to the masses. We have no marketing department, no advertising budget, no professional association to support our endeavors. We just survive or thrive, depending on the mood of the crowd that day, or that week, or that month. And if sales are good, we eat and pay our rent; if not, we suffer. 

So why write about it? Simple: to get the local media to devote as much attention to us as we can get. To draw crowds of people to our booths, our street stores which we put up and take down every day and night. To support the local economy, the Berkeley economy. To get you people out of the malls, away from the cheap junk that’s sold for fashion, art or beauty, and to get you to stroll by our booths and spend your money on the beautiful crafts we make. You’ll find gifts for your family and friends that you’ll not find anywhere in the world. You’ll not be disappointed and, believe me, neither will we. 

Ed Livingston 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Steve Geller writes (Letters, Daily Planet, Dec. 5-8) in praise of public transportation in Berkeley. I would be delighted if that were so, but just look at the schedules. My wife and I just spent a day in San Francisco using public transportation. The bus we rode came every four minutes in mid-day and was crowded. Too many buses in the East Bay seem to come about every 30 minutes in mid-day. San Francisco Muni transfers are free and are good in any direction for a generous period of time. AC Transit charges for transfers. BART, however, is fast, frequent, and comfortable, but then there is a charge to transfer to AC Transit from BART. The infrequent schedules of East Bay buses is discouraging; and when schedules have been revised to be even less frequent, there is even less reason to patronize AC Transit. 

Alan R. Meisel 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

When Gov. Schwarzenegger asked Californian Indians to pay their fair share of taxes, he never once asked the same fairness of wealthy Californians. It seems to me that Mr. Schwarzenegger doesn’t want to offend his wealthy friends who donated millions of dollar to his campaign. I call it hypocrisy at its worst. 

Mr. Schwarzenegger only learned one half of the United States when he was still in his home country of Austria. He wasn’t taught about the other half of the United States which had to do with American Indian sovereignty. While there might be legitimate concern over Indian casinos, Gov. Schwarzenegger’s argument about fairness of taxes in California is one-sided. 

Billy Trice, Jr. 





Dear Council Member Hawley, 

Thank you for announcing your choice of a successor in District 5. Now I definitely know for whom not to vote. 

Your candidate’s willingness to be in consensus with other councilmembers appears to be of great importance in your estimation. I’m so glad he wants to be liked so that his dance card will be full! 

How about a candidate being of good moral character, committed to specific principles, with innovative notions about how a city in a financial crisis should move forward? 

When you ran, you specifically touted your financial expertise. However, now the only solution you have put forward to solve the financial crisis is to burden homeowners with an additional property tax. 

May I suggest that it would be an honorable thing for you to do is to recognize that you no longer represent the views of the majority of voters in District 5. This was demonstrated at the last NEBA meeting. 

You should graciously acknowledge this situation, resign, and let the person who polled the next highest vote assume the remainder of your term of office. This would save the city the cost of a possible recall and another election. 

Viki Tamaradze 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thanks for the yummy info from Marty Schiffenbauer (“Decadent Delights Await the Chocoholic’s Palate,” Daily Planet, Nov. 28-Dec. 1). Here’s my two cents: You can be “chewing good while doing good” by buying free-trade organic chocolate at Global Exchange. They carry three brands from Germany and Switzerland, large and small bars, dark, milk, and bittersweet, powdered cocoa too. Global Exchange is in San Francisco at 24th and Noe and here in Berkeley at 2840 College Ave. Also, Global Exchange is one of the few places you can find organic free-trade coffee; they have a great assortment of handsome items to wear and for the home, most from small village collectives all over the globe. 

Rhoda Slanger 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

UC’s proposal for a conference center and museums does not only include underground parking on the site. It also includes a new parking structure north of Addison Street.  

This parking structure is not really part of the conference center/museum project, and it should be studied separately. I would like to see the main project built as soon as possible, but not the new UC parking structure.  

This parking structure would be used by UC employees and not by the general public. It seems to be part of UC’s long range development plan, which calls for parking to expand more rapidly than the number of people on campus expands—actually promoting a mode shift from other forms of transportation to the automobile.  

On the more general question of whether downtown needs more parking to stimulate business, I think UC’s conference center/museum project shows that we can attract more customers without attracting more cars.  

Almost all of the people coming to conferences will arrive by air, and when they get to Berkeley, they will not need cars. The hotel will actually reduce demand for parking: Many people visiting UC now stay in hotels in Emeryville and drive to Berkeley, because there is not enough hotel space here.  

The museums will draw people whether or not they provide parking, particularly the museum of anthropology, which will be one of the largest museums of its kind in the country.  

Automobile use expands to fill the amount of parking that is available. If UC builds its parking structure north of Addison, more UC employees will commute by car. If the conference/museum center includes more parking than is necessary, more visitors will come by car. All this parking will not bring more people downtown, but it will cause more traffic congestion and leave us with a less livable city.  

In the long run, more parking will make downtown less attractive and less successful. Berkeley’s downtown will never compete successfully with freeway-oriented shopping centers by providing more parking than they do. Downtown will compete successfully by providing the liveliest, most interesting shopping area in the East Bay—and that requires an intensity of use that you can only get with transit-oriented development.  

Charles Siegel  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Developer Patrick Kennedy appears to be saying (Letters, Daily Planet, Dec. 9-11) that vacant space within new buildings in Berkeley isn’t subject to city taxation. If this were true, it would be a powerful argument for immediate cessation of the mixed-use building boom currently in progress. Most of the commercial space in the existing mixed-use projects is empty—due to the lack of parking and to the economy, it is likely to remain empty for a very long time. 

Now that city revenue has been lost, it is time for fairness in taxation to begin. 

Gale Garcia 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Our city auditor has come out of the closet as the chief city policymaker and financial incompetent. In two recent articles in the Daily Planet (Commentary, Dec. 5-8) and Berkeley Voice (Dec. 5), the city auditor told us what cuts we will be making in our city budget and what our public safety services cost. 

The cuts: I was not aware that it was in the city auditor’s job description to assume City Council’s role in determining the cuts we may be making in our city budget. Silly me, I thought that was the job of our elected City Council, with input from the city manager and the citizenry. Do we not have numerous meetings and negotiations ahead to discuss such matters? Perhaps, in the interest of saving more money, a worthy goal, we should simply cancel these meetings and ask for the auditor’s royal fiscal decree. 

The arithmetic: I would not trust this auditor with one cent of my money if I had a choice. In her article, written I presume to correct the city’s “failure to communicate”, she stated that the “current year General Fund budget includes over 76 million in police and fire costs.” The truth, as uncovered by Berkeley budget maven Gale Garcia (and acknowledged by Auditor Hogan) is that the current year General Fund costs for police and fire are $48.47 million. So our auditor was off only by $27.5 million (41 percent). 

Recall Hogan! Garcia for auditor! 

Barbara Gilbert 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

If George Bisharat didn’t have the little credibility he has garnered as a professor of law, he would have no credibility whatsoever. About the kindest thing one could say about his op-ed on the Palestinian “diaspora” is that Bisharat has an astounding capacity to transform real events into fiction. This is hardly surprising, when one remembers that Mr. Bisharat once penned an op-ed published in the San Francisco Chronicle positing the absurd claim that Zionists were the primary influence behind Bush’s invasion of Iraq. 

The reality is the very day the UN declared Israel as a state, it was invaded by armies from five Arab nations. The majority of Palestinians fled as a human and logical response to the terrifying situation of seeing their families caught between an invading Arab army and furious Jews whose very existence was threatened by that force. A smaller number of Palestinians left because, as has been well documented regardless of Bisharat’s denial, they were exhorted to leave by Arab radio. These broadcasts exclaimed that after what was dubbed the easy victory to come, the Palestinians would be able to reclaim both their land and that of the annihilated Jewish infidel as well. 

And finally, yes, a still smaller percentage of Palestinians was forced out by angry Jews whose lives the invading Arab army threatened. 

Mr. Bisharat attempts to butress his case with quotes he deems as factual from those who oppose a Jewish state and fabrications the Palestinians regularly trot out to justify their ceaseless acts of terror against the Israeli civilian populace. 

Indeed, if anyone needs to apologize for unethical acts, it is the Palestinians for homicide bombings of innocent Israelis, the rendering of second class citizenship and honor murders of Palestinian wives and daughters, and the abuse of their own children by teaching them from pre-school on that the most honorable role they could play in the future would be that of a martyr-murderer of Jews. 

Dan Spitzer 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was still in mourning over the closure of Shambhala Booksellers—undoubtedly one of the finest independent bookstores in the country, truly a one-of-a-kind jewel right here at our doorstep—until I read Alta Gerrey’s delightful article (“Shambhala Booksellers Closes After 35 Years,” Daily Planet, Dec. 9-11). She cheered me up by reminding us that Berkeley still offers a rich, vibrant and diverse array of many eclectic bookstores and independent publishers. Happily, while the business end of spiritual book selling might be depressed, the vitality of the community is definitely still alive. We in the practicing Buddhist community are still saddened by this irreplaceable loss, but we’re grateful to be living in such splendid and unique places as Berkeley where such bookstores can live such long, fruitful lives and become cultural icons. We’re also quite hopeful that perhaps someday soon we’ll see another reincarnation of Shambhala Booksellers, and we trust Berkeley is the best place for its rebirth. 

Perry Brissette 

Berkeley Shambhala Center 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Acton Court illustrates the future of University Avenue without planning: huge cubic monoliths that present unwelcoming facades to passersby, and that tower over the tidy little bungalows in adjoining neighborhoods. The University Avenue Strategic Plan provides a way to provide high density residential and commercial space that enhances rather than detracts from the quality of life on and around the avenue, and that provides an attractive gateway to our city. I strongly encourage the city to follow the recommendation of Mayor Bates’ Permit and Development Task Force, and implement the University Strategic Plan without delay. 

Judy Stamps 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I know who the trashcan artist is (Daily Planet, Dec. 9-11). Or at least I’ve seen him retouching his work on a frequent basis. I never really looked at the trashcan in detail before but the face you show as a possible clue definitely is him. Except I think he doesn’t wear glasses and he wears a baseball hat instead of a knit cap. He hangs out at Nomad Café, which is nearby, and I’ve seen him walking around North Oakland. Unfortunately I’ve never approached him to find out his name but he certainly lives in the area. Sorry I don’t have more information to solve the clues of “Trashcan Guy” but I’ll keep my eyes peeled. 

Chris Douglas 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing to clarify and correct comments attributed to me in a recent article (“City, UC Disaster Meet Provokes Citizen Complaints,” Daily Planet, Dec. 9-11). 

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Molecular Foundry project is proposed for a hill site location approximately 600 meters east of the Alquist-Priolo (A-P) Earthquake Fault Zone, but very close to the East Canyon and the Wildcat Fault Zones. The Molecular Foundry site has a history of landslides and just south of the site is the Strawberry Canyon Fault, a cross fault which connects the Hayward Fault and the faults referred to above. 

However, LBNL’s proposed Building 49, a six-story, 65,000-square-foot office building is located entirely in the A-P Earthquake Fault Zone, as is also Building 88, one of the Lab’s large remaining accelerators. UC Berkeley’s North East Quadrant Project (Stanley Hall replacement) is partially in the A-P Fault Zone as is a section of LBNL’s Donner Lab. 

The Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Fault Zoning Act, signed into law in December 1972, requires the delineation of zones along active faults in California. The purpose of the Alquist-Priolo Act is to regulate development on or near fault traces to reduce the hazard of fault rupture and to prohibit the location of most structures for human occupancy across these traces. (LBNL’s Draft EIR for Building 49, page IV.E-11) 

It appears that last Friday’s “Community” Forum lacked any discussion related to the ramifications of both UCB’s and LBNL’s proposed developments (of both laboratory and office buildings) within this earthquake fault zone, deemed one of the most dangerous in the state. The city can’t afford to bury its head in the sand, by excluding knowledgeable community groups and commissions from these meetings, but instead must from now on spearhead open, honest, truly community-wide meetings, to address development in the Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Zone versus “Promoting a Disaster Resistant Berkeley.” 

Pamela Shilova 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A couple of days ago MSNBC interviewed Henry Kissinger about general political problems. Among his responses was a reference to the “victims of 9/11.” 

I am sure he was not thinking of that Sept. 11 in Chile, when the CIA, with Kissinger’s connivance, overthrew a legal democratic government. That coup caused many more victims that the 9/11 event in New York two years ago and the misery caused by the bloody dictator, Pinochet, lasted several decades. So, there is more than 9/11, but Americans remember only the one that affected them. 

Max Alfert 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Gov. Schwarzenegger is “going to the people” to win support for his budget proposals. His method of balancing the budget will destroy care for the most helpless in our society. He intendes to suspend the Lanterman Act, which protects the civil rights of people with developmental disabilities. He will also severely cut home services, lunches and transportation for seniors and the elderly and will deeply reduce medical care for the most needy. It’s obvious that he will cause untold hardship to thousands of Californians. Can “the people” he is trying to win over see clearly what is at stake? 

Cynthia Weber