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Letters to the Editor

Friday January 02, 2004


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I think it is as important to exclaim “a job well done!” as it is to decry one not getting done. I have a happy ending to report regarding the “Neighborhood Eyesore” (Letters, Daily Planet, Dec. 2-4) On Dec. 23 all of the debris, mobile home, and occupants were removed from the property in the 2800 block of San Pablo Avenue by the city of Berkeley. I have personally thanked the city officials who worked most closely with this case by phone and e-mail, but I also wanted to just say a formal thank you to the Zoning Enforcement Team, Zoning Adjustments Board, and to the many other people whom I do not know but played a part in this work. 

Our neighborhood response has been ecstatic! It is rewarding to know that when many people work together that a problem can be solved. 

Nancy Ellis  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Dec. 16-18 edition of the Daily Planet had a quote from me regarding the possibility of UC losing the LBNL management contract. I would like to add the clarification that the quote represents a personal opinion. Although I am a lab employee, I do not represent lab management or lab employees. 

I would like to further note that the headline, “Bush Put Lab Future in Doubt,” is easy to misinterpret. It is the future of UC’s contract with the lab that is in doubt, not the lab and its activities. 

Robert Clear 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a Green Party member, I read with great interest Rob Wren’s incisive analysis of San Francisco’s Dec. 9 mayoral runoff election (“Absentees Proved Crucial in Newsom Victory,” Daily Planet, Dec. 19-22). 

In the aftermath of Green Party candidate Matt Gonzalez’s impressive vote total (nearly 48 percent), Gonzalez’s accomplishment potentially bodes well for San Francisco becoming a city with two competitive political parties—rather than a single party with an entrenched political establishment. 

The San Francisco Democratic Party establishment associated with former mayor Willie Brown and several San Francisco-based corporations—PG&E, ChevronTexaco, Gap and Bechtel—has been rudely jolted. 

Without exaggeration, Dec. 9 was an electoral watershed. As Wren indicated in his article, a voter alliance of Greens, independents and progressive Democrats nearly toppled Willie Brown’s candidate. Significantly, Gonzalez won the most votes that were actually cast on election day (receiving over 10,000 more votes than Newsom).  

As President of the Board of Supervisors, Matt Gonzalez will operate with a solid progressive Board majority enabling him to exercise, in effect, parallel political authority and influence to that of Mayor-elect Newsom.  

I would add that Gonzalez’s Dec. 9 election result was foreshadowed by Green Party candidate Peter Camejo’s historic second place finish during the 2002 gubernatorial election when Camejo received the highest San Francisco third party vote percentage since the early part of the 20th Century. 

Chris Kavanagh 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was concerned to read that Councilmember Gordon Wozniak is against rank-ordered voting for the March ballot in Berkeley, also called Instant Runoff Voting (IRV). 

Surprisingly, Councilmember Wozniack’s top reason to block IRV seems to be: “There are no forms of IRV that are presently certified in the State of California.” Interesting. I’m wondering if he is aware that the current software version for the voting machines used in his own county were probably not certified by the State of California for the recall election. A recent audit of 17 random counties in the state turned up not a single county using software which was certified for the recall election. Since Wozniack is taking time to dismantle a potential for IRV, rather than exposing the voting software already being used in his own county, I must assume he is unaware of this disturbing fact. 

Why would a City Councilmember be so interested in the lack of certification for a system not yet in existence, but has nothing to say about the current uncertified system we are using today? 

For more information on the lack of certification of the Diebold software used in the recall, and other interesting facts not examined by either our City Councilmembers or our local corporate news outlets (such as former felons being on the payroll of Diebold, or that the Diebold system was voted “Worst Technology” for 2003 by Fortune Magazine), please see: and 

I remain hopeful that councilmembers will re-focus their energies on issues which are already here, such as the highly disturbing dilemma of e-voting, rather than ones which are months away which hold the potential for increasing, rather than decreasing, voter participation, as have been shown in IRV systems used around the world 

Thankfully, the Berkeley Daily Planet has already shown the courage and integrity to expose information on the silent dilemma of electronic voting. 

Victoria Ashley 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

As I look at all the trash cans on my street overflowing with the boxes and wrappings of the holidays, the manifest greed that we teach our children (yes, even in Berkeley), I felt compelled to write to you about a column by J. Douglas Allen-Taylor (“Exemplary Actions From Thurmond’s Children,” Daily Planet, Dec. 19-22). I include it in the general heading, “Lies We Tell Our Children.” Or perhaps, “Pursuit of the Hallmark Moments.” 

We all now know that Strom Thurmond, when he was a 20-year-old college student, impregnated a 15-year-old house servant in 1924, and that the child born of that union is Ms. Essie Mae Washington Williams. Surely we are all sophisticated enough as to the racial history of the deep South to know that in 1924, a black female teenager in the employ of a rich white family had little choice in sexual matters. Indeed, it is undisputed that this was, if not forcible rape, at least statutory rape. It is also undisputed that the black community and Mr. Thurmond’s staff have known of Ms. Washington-Williams’ existence for many years or surely should have known of it. It simply was not a secret. Indeed, Allen-Taylor states he first heard Ms. Williams’ name more than 20 years ago. 

So I was distressed to read the following words in the Planet, describing the Thurmond family response: “‘I am Essie Mae Washington-Williams and I am free.’ Free, presumably, from a longtime burden of secrecy. But equally classy was the response from the late Sen. Thurmond’s white descendants. Asked if Ms. Washington-Williams’ claim was true, a spokesperson for Thurmond’s white children answered, simply, yes...‘We hope this acknowledgment will bring closure for Ms. Williams.’” 

No, this simple “yes” is not a classy response. There is nothing classy about this response. This is a 50-years-too-late response. A simple “no” was not an option, although the Jefferson descendants keep trying. It is not classy to admit to what is easily provable here in an era of DNA. It might have gone some distance if the white family had made an apology to the entire Washington-Williams family, who endured the racial and racist history both epitomized and personified in Strom Thurmond. 

This is all a little like asking us to think Mr. Pataki is a wonderful man, a new friend of the ACLU, because he pardoned Lenny Bruce for legal acts for which he was charged. That pardon may be a Hallmark moment for some, but not for Lenny, who was persecuted into an early death. 

No, our economy will not be saved by the greed we teach our children in December. No, a simple “yes” to the inevitable is not classy. No, it’s not all OK now that Lenny was right. 

Anna de Leon 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thanks to Sharon Hudson for her incisive commentaries in Berkeley Daily Planet. In the Dec. 19-22 issue, she correctly writes about some of the staff of the Planning Department that “... Berkeley’s current zoning code and planning process would work pretty well if staff enacted them properly and in good faith.” I certainly agree with this statement. 

In the past year, I attended most of the public hearings before the City Council. In most cases, residents were appealing to the council unfair decisions made by the Zoning Board or the Planning Department in favor of corporations or developers. As I looked further into some cases, I reached the conclusion that the culprit was usually the Planning Department that by violating city laws, ordinances, and codes tried to deceive residents. 

In public hearings, residents usually present solid pieces evidence that show the Planning Department has acted against the law. These pieces of evidence are 

mostly documents prepared by the city offices and are available to the public, such as staff reports or action calendars. However, the Planning Department invariably tries to defend its misdeeds or to marginalize the evidence by deceitful rhetoric. 

I have reached the following conclusions: 1) if the Planning Department and the Zoning Board act lawfully, inform residents on time, and do not work against them, there would be fewer public hearings; 2) once a wrongful process starts and an unfair decision is made, appeal by residents is inevitable. The process of appealing and public hearing becomes like a nightmare for residents. This process is costly and unproductive for both residents and the city; 3) naturally, the ordeal make some members of the community believe “that the Planning Department staff is too closely allied with applicants. In particular, some are concerned that staff appear to act as advocate for a project rather than as impartial analysts;” to quote from Husdon’s commentary. 

To avoid problems and perhaps save money, the city should purge the staff members who are too closely allied with applicants and act as advocate for a project. 

Mina Davenport 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was sorry to read in the Daily Planet that Berkeley Unified School District has plans to construct a building on the site of the Berkeley High tennis courts, and I beg them to reconsider. Young people are more successful in school when they look forward to attending. Many enjoy participating in athletics. The school district should encourage them by providing the best possible athletic facilities. 

Greg Kalkanis 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

During her broadcast on Dec. 16, Diane Sawyer asked President Bush about the still-not-found WMDs in Iraq. “What’s the difference?” Bush, responded, “the possibility [was] that [Saddam Hussein] could acquire weapons.”  

Mr. Bush, the difference between a hypothetical “could” acquire weapons versus a genuine “has” the weapons is approximately 400 American lives lost, 4,000 Iraqi civilians killed, and $ 400 thousand million American taxpayer dollars wasted.  

It is unconscionable that the President, the chief steward of the public’s trust, would deceive us so gravely. Even worse if the well-coordinated lies from the Administration were actually a colossal, incompetent miscalculation.  

While political pundits yammer about Bush’s re-election, citizens are calling for his impeachment and incarceration. 

Bruce Joffe 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Cal women’s basketball team is off to a great start! The Golden Bears concluded the non-conference season with a 7-2 record, their best start since the 1992-93 season. 

They need and deserve more community and university support. 

Expose your children and friends to a great group of athletes at a great university. 

We recently visited Eugene, Ore. and saw what great community support the University of Oregon Women’s Basketball receive—several thousand men, women, and children arrived in busloads for their game. 

Let us show what we can do in Berkeley. 

Daniel Horodysky