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Letters to the Editor

Friday December 19, 2003


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’m writing in response to Dona Spring’s op-ed piece, “Services for Disabled Face Cuts” (Daily Planet, Dec. 16-18). Ms. Spring’s article pointed out that $346,000 in funding for 30 curb cuts ($11,533 each) in Berkeley may be on the chopping block. 

Recently, in my neighborhood of Eunice and Amador streets at Shattuck Avenue, five curb cuts were put in. The problem is that on three of those corners, perfectly usable curb cuts already existed. They were jack hammered up and replaced with new curb cuts over a period of six weeks of badly coordinated repairs, during which time the corners of all those sidewalks were unusable by anyone. So, in that recent instance, $34,600 in taxpayer money was unnecessarily thrown away. 

In August and September of 1996, curb cuts on Shattuck Avenue between Rose Street and University Avenue were jack hammered up and replaced by seemingly identical curb cuts. Only three of those corners did not have existing curb cuts before the work was done. In that case, several hundred thousand dollars—at least—of taxpayer money was used to no benefit, other than to the construction company doing the work. I wrote letters at the time to the director of public works, Vicki Elmer, and to Councilmember Diane Wooley-Bauer, asking why this completely unnecessary and disruptive work was being done, and received no response from either of them. A woman in a wheelchair who was unable to use the pre-existing curb cut on the northwest corner of Virginia and Shattuck Avenue, which was being replaced, was, while crossing the street in the middle of the block, hit by a truck, and sued the city for taking the existing curb cut out of service. 

Lest I be accused of not empathizing with the needs of the disabled, I should make it clear that I have Multiple Sclerosis and get around in a wheelchair. It is because of my daily experiences that I am so familiar with where curb cuts do and do not exist and how serviceable they are. 

Is there no one in the City of Berkeley whose job it is to go over authorized work to see whether it is necessary, before spending hundreds of thousands of dollars? Are there other reasons for giving large contracts to outside contractors? 

I am disgusted by the ineptitude of the city and by the incessant waste of money and lack of response to taxpayers inquiring about the reasons for large expenditures. A city government unresponsive to the taxpayers who are footing the bills should be replaced. 

Susan Fleisher 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

George Bisharat is right that the Palestinians are due an apology. He’s wrong, though, about who should do the apologizing.The Palestinians are entitled to and should demand multiple apologies from their own uncaring Arab brethren for: 

1) Refusing to accept the UN’s offer for a Palestinian state in 1948. 

2) Choosing instead to launch in 1948 the first of several failed wars to destroy Israel. 

3) Creating hundreds of thousands of refugees as a result of the war. 

4) Snatching and occupying land (from 1948-1967) intended for the might-have-been state. 

5) Forcing refugees into camps as pawns against Israel. 

6) Denying (except Jordan) resettlement Palestinian war refugees. 

7) Shaming Palestinians as the only permanent refugees in the history of the world. 

8) Inciting hatred in Palestinian schools and mosques. 

9) Exploiting and victimizing peace-loving Palestinians. 

10) Making “Palestinian” a synonym for suicide bomber. 

11) Hating Jews and Israelis more than caring about fellow Palestinians. 

June Brott 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In a letter in the last issue of the Daily Planet, James Harris queried: “Why in the midst of dealing with a city budget crisis did Mayor Tom Bates see fit to attend a pro-Israel dinner?” I am amazed that Mr. Harris forgets that he himself appeared at a City Council meeting several months ago to urge it to pass an anti-Israel resolution concerning Rachel Corrie. At that time Mr. Harris did not express any interest in Berkeley’s budget, only in Berkeley’s foreign policy. I am happy to hear of Mr. Harris’ change of heart, and would join with him to press Berkeley’s City Council to get out of the business of passing divisive foreign policy resolutions so that it might focus on our roads, our schools, and our homeless. I hope that Mr. Harris will join me in support of a ballot measure to disband the Peace and Justice Commission because it forces the City Council to waste its time and the taxpayer’s money (the Peace and Justice Commission requires paid staff time) on these divisive foreign policy initiatives. 

John Gertz 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Letter writer Bob Archibald (Daily Planet, Dec. 12-15) seems to have some blind spots himself concerning Berkeley’s budget deficit. Archibald rages against city spending, emoting that City Council has “an insatiable habit of spending money.” He further rants on that Berkeley “outspends just about every other city.” It is true that unlike other cities, Berkeley has its own Department of Health. Among the department’s programs are free vaccinations for families who can’t afford them. Does Archibald advocate shutting down our Department of Health? Berkeley also supplements Measure B transportation funds for seniors and disabled persons. Does Archibald think Council ought to cut that program as well and strand those vulnerable populations?  

It would appear that Archibald has bought the Republi-can/Schwarzenegger mega-lie about “government waste,” a sound byte for cutting social services, e.g.  

to disabled children and the Healthy Families program. I recognize Archibald’s anger but he needs to aim that anger at the proper targets. Among these targets are tax loopholes for oil companies, the very wealthy who don’t/won’t pay their fair share of taxes, and prison industry pork. Appropriate action in these areas would yield the billions in funding for the state and its cities to maintain the programs and educational system that distinguish the humane from barbarians.  

The USA is still a very rich country; California is still a very rich state. The money is there. It’s a question of priorities. Council as well as state Democratic legislators have to go after the big money instead of nickle and diming us all. Alas, so far they have only proven to be Democratic Party loyalists (reference Matt vs. Gavin).  

Maris Arnold 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On Sunday, Dec, 14 a goodly crowed gathered at Strawberry Creek Lodge to Honor Helen Lima. Eighty-six year old Lima is a long-time “Lodger” who, after working many years as a cook at Herrick Hospital, and despite poor health, “retired” to community activism and service as SCL’s Tenants Association president. 

Strawberry Creek Lodge is a unique, nonprofit, senior housing facility located at 1320 Addison St. in Berkeley, providing 149 housekeeping studios and one-bedroom units. The rents of one third of the tenants are subsidized by Section 8, which refers to a portion of federal legislation administered by HUD. 

Helen Lima understands the crucial difference between low-income and “affordable” housing! She has a Section 8. In 1997, when continuance of Section 8 was in jeopardy in Washington, Lima began SAVE SECTION 8 as a self-help, grassroots effort in behalf of low-income “seniors” who rent—or need to be able to rent—federally-subsidized apartments. Her testimony for Oakland’s Institute for Food and Development Policy at that time included this : 

“Our mission is difficult, but necessary: to get Congress to allocate enough money into the housing assistance programs that we have to keep them  

going, and to consider allocating money to build more housing for low-income seniors and others. They need to keep in mind and be reminded that seniors are the fastest growing group in the population.” 

Today, Section 8 is again faltering in Congress. Locally there are people on the Berkeley Housing Authority’s waiting list questioning whether the BHA’s Section 8 vouchers are being shared with or given away to housing developers. Too many of the City’s 40-plus boards and commissions are not representative of seniors—21 percent of the population—even at a token level, the existence of the Commission on Aging notwithstanding. Moreover —like Helen Lima—most low-income seniors are women. (According to the 2000 Census, the 102,743 Berkeley population includes 21,076 persons aged 55 and over, which the senior  

centers use as their starting age. Twelve percent if one prefers the passe 65 and over.) 

Helen Rippier Wheeler 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Writing history sine ira et studio (without anger and partiality) seems to have been abandoned in our own age. Increasing numbers of people approach Clio’s art with anger and partiality, especially when the Middle East is concerned. George Bisharat’s long article epitomizes this trend. Sadly, his one-sided presentation, which has been reprinted in several newspapers including the Berkeley Daily Planet (Dec. 9-11), spreads misinformation and prejudice. 

In my rabbinic career I have met hundreds of Jews, who are representatives of the nearly 900,000 Jewish refugees of Muslim countries, the Diaspora that has really been forgotten by the world. The vast majority of them recount how they were first mistreated and humiliated and then forced out of their respective home towns and villages, regardless of the fact that, in many cases, like Iraq and Iran, their ancestors had lived there for several centuries before Islam occupied and conquered those lands. I heard stories of children whose parents were mercilessly slaughtered by Islamic extremists. Their testimonies are validated by numerous printed documents such as Rahamim Rejwan’s account: “beheaded corpses of Jews were lying on the streets and dismembered infants‚ limbs could be seen strewn in every corner.” [Annals of Iraqi Jewry]. 

I hope that the good and educated people of Berkeley will be motivated to learn about history, written sine ira et studio.  

Ferenc Raj  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The parcel tax was defeated due to the help of Mark Mestrovith, head of the Berkeley Firefighters Union Local 1227 and his e-mail to Mayor Tom Bates. Now the city states that it will have to close some firestations on a rotation basis. 

A few days later, Mark wrote to the Daily Planet asking Berkeley citizens to call the mayor’s office to prevent cuts of funds to the firefighters. 

It is time that Mark should admit that he was wrong to oppose this parcel tax. He is responsible for this mess and closing of firestations. Many Berkeley residents, of which of I am one, want to vote on the parcel tax and support the parcel tax. We do not want cuts in schools, firestations or social services. 

Let’s all band together to fight the cut of taxes being forced on the citizens by the pro-Republican administrations in Washington, Sacramento and now Berkeley. Their plan is to cut social services and to privatized the city government. 

Let’s get this parcel tax on the ballot for March or November, 2004. 

John Murcko 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I hope Zelda Bronstein’s knowledge of city planning exceeds her knowledge of punctation. 

Her letter (Daily Planet, Dec. 9-11), in which she claims the Planet is guilty of typographical discrimination by capitalizing Realtor and not teacher, ignores the fact the the former is a trademark and the latter merely a trade. 

Paul Slater 


EDITOR’S NOTE: The trademark law does not mandate any particular usage by journalists, and we prefer to use lower case for all trades, including doctors, plumbers, attorneys, teachers, editors and realtors. We lower-cased two of the three references in the story, but accidentally missed the third. Though the Associated Press style book does in fact capitalize “Realtor,” it recommends that newspapers instead use the generic term for all real estate agents, which we will do in the future. 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is unfortunate (once again) that the Berkeley Daily Planet does not employ ethical and objective journalism. In a time when we need our peace officers, and we face the real reality that budget cuts will significantly impact the amount and quality of police services in the future, the Planet is laying the foundation of mistrust and slander against our cops. Think about it,in Berkeley, we are so fortunate to have some of the very best (check out some our neighboring towns to note the lack of diversity, accountability, excellent training and compassion but the instances of corruption, scandal....) police officers in the whole state.  

I learned via a witness at Mr. Mopps that the woman that Mr. Artz touts in so many ways as “a victim” violently and without provocation, punched customers and hit one in the face with a piece of merchandise. Geez, it is a children's store. She then tried to flee in a 2,000-pound weapon, think about it, striking an officer in the process. My understanding is that officers are authorized to use the force necessary given the circumstances and to overcome her resistance. If the cops had not nabbed her, we would have heard another story about how incompetent they are and how they should have done this and that. Stop making them the easy targets. Start looking at the increase in violent crime in Berkeley, and think about all the ways in which a small constituency (like you) contribute to making it impossible for our officers to keep the city safer by continuing to print a biased story.  

Also, when you are writing about the budget, salaries and such, think about it, what other employees put their lives on the line each day for this community? What percentage have been permanently disabled by violent suspects? 

Please be reponsible. Get some journalistic ethics and stop pretending that the Daily Planet represents us. 

The Curtis family 














Editors, Daily Planet: 

The twelve days of Halliburtonmas,  


On the twelfth day of Halliburtonmas, my true 

corporation gave to me: twelve no-bid contracts 



On the eleventh day of Halliburtonmas, my true 

corporation gave to me: eleven cost overruns arunnin’. 


On the tenth day of Halliburtonmas, my true 

corporation gave to me: ten insurgents insurgin’. 


On the ninth day of Halliburtonmas, my true 

corporation gave to me: nine CFOs acookin’. 


On the 8th day of Halliburtonmas, my true corporation 

gave to me: eight tanker trucks overchargin’. 


On the seven day of Halliburtonmas, my true 

corporation gave to me: seven war profiteers 



On the sixth day of Halliburtonmas, my true 

corporation gave to me: six Pentagon auditors 



On the fifth day of Halliburtonmas, my true 

corporation gave to me: five broken pipelines. 


On the fourth day of Halliburtonmas, my true 

corporation gave to me: four bawling Kurds. 


On the third day of Halliburtonmas, my true 

corporation gave to me: three French freezeouts. 


On the second day of Halliburtonmas, my true 

corporation gave to me: two dead doves. 


On the first day of Halliburtonmas, my true 

corporation gave to me: a chickenhawk in a date palm 



Very truly yours,  

James K. Sayre 






[The following is an open letter to Delta Upsilon fraternity. Please run it in your opinion section.] 

December 12, 2003 


Open letter to Delta Upsilon fraternity, 

As members of the Oscar Wilde House, an openly lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender (LGBT) themed co-op, we are outraged by a series of homophobic acts by some residents of the Delta Upsilon (DU) fraternity. These actions have continued despite repeated protests and must stop. 

At 9:40 PM on the night of December 5, Marcio von Muhlen, DU’s new president, was left by his fraternity brothers on our front porch, tied to a chair, and drenched in a nauseating combination of salad dressing, salsa, and beer. This person told us he was DU’s new president and this was the fraternity using its one opportunity to treat him badly before his term started. 

Other incidents of harassment occurred this year as well. This letter does not include more commonplace occurrences of people on the front steps of DU heckling Wilde members entering and leaving our house. On June 28, four men walked into our house uninvited at 3 in the morning, were obnoxiously loud and drunk, and told a female member of our house, “It’s okay. We love lesbians. Show us your pussy—but God hates faggots and we hate faggots.” These men had Irish accents, as did some others in other incidents listed here who identified themselves as residents of DU. 

At 3:40 AM on July 1, five individuals from DU carried a man who was saran-wrapped to a chair across the street to our front porch and left him there. The group returned to the DU lawn, where about ten people yelled at us to “Fuck him up the ass!” among other things, while laughing. 

On the street near our house at 12:30 AM on July 15, a man, accompanied by another man and a woman, hit the buttocks of a member of our house with a purse repeatedly and unprovoked as they passed by. When asked if they were from DU, they replied yes. When our house member replied he was from Wilde, this man said, “You’re gay then.” When the house member said he was not, this man said, “Well, you live there. That’s the gay house. If you live there you are gay. 

After these and other incidents this summer, we spoke with von Muhlen, who was then DU’s house manager, and made clear we felt these incidents were harassment and homophobic. However, the events of December 5 proved that DU has so far refused to change its behavior. 

DU’s idea of humiliating their new president is to tie him up and put him on public display in front of a queer house, as if this would subject him to unwanted gay sexual advances. DU’s ritual is homophobic and based on a dehumanizing stereotype of LGBT people. It is intolerable that prejudice against queer people should be institutionalized in DU’s culture. 

These are not the only incidents of harassment we have received from DU. In October or November of 1999, a friend of a current member of the Wilde House was dropped off in front of our house, when approximately ten men rushed out of DU and ran after him. Two women of our house stepped outside to confront the men. The men left after yelling “dyke” at the two women. 

These incidents have occurred repeatedly, and we can only conclude that there is an anti-queer sentiment in DU and that we have been targeted for harassment because we are an LGBT-themed house. These actions will not be tolerated. 

We are DU’s neighbors and equals, as completely deserving of respect as any other human beings. We want to make the street we both live on a safe and tolerant community for all. 

The Oscar Wilde House is a proud community of queer and straight people who support and recognize the dignity and equality of everyone. We expect DU to make a written apology to our house and to the public for its homophobic actions, and to make a formal commitment to stop harassing LGBT people in the future. 


The Oscar Wilde House, lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender themed student co-op