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Letters to the Editor

Tuesday January 20, 2004


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Congratulations to the Daily Planet on J. Douglas Allen-Taylor’s columns covering Oakland School Trustee Randolph Ward’s threatened school closures. The columns make clear that Ward’s plan for Oakland is to degrade, downsize, and privatize Oakland’s public schools.  

Ward should be removed and the people of Oakland should regain our democratic right to elect a school board that is accountable to us. As the turnout of 1,500 to protest Ward’s announced school closings last Thursday showed, the community of Oakland cares deeply about the future of its youth, and will not allow that future to be degraded. 

I was one of the activists who organized the protest against school closings, and publicized Ward’s affiliation with the right-wing anti-affirmative action, anti-immigrant American Independent Party (AIP). Ward tried to dodge the anger of Oakland’s students, teachers, and parents by claiming he joined the AIP by mistake. I view his claim with skepticism.  

In 1998, while trustee of the predominately Latino Compton schools, Ward implemented the anti-immigrant Unz Initiative (Prop. 227) in the harshest manner possible, dictating that classrooms in Compton use “English only” 90 percent to 98 percent of the time. His policy—perfectly mirroring the anti-immigrant, anti-affirmative action positions of the AIP and praised by the right wing National Review (Oct. 12, 1998)—was in stark contrast to virtually every other majority Latino district in California.  

These were the actions of a conscious conservative who chose to impose the harshest possible educational conditions on Compton’s Latino students. Randolph Ward is a would-be dictator whose corporate style downsizing plan threatens the future of public education in Oakland. Randolph Ward must go. 

Mark Airgood 

Oakland Teacher 

Equal Opportunity Now  





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you for your front page article “City Kills Nonprofit Center Move, Cites Cannabis Clinic Concerns” (Daily Planet, Jan. 13-15). Proposition 215, the Medical Marijuana Referendum, was approved in 1996 by 85 percent of Berkeley’s voters I believe, so this story deserves attention. 

Also, I especially appreciated included in the story the cogent, insightful, and pertinent comments by Councilmember Kriss Worthington and Reverend Mark Wilson of McGee Avenue Baptist Church. I would like to mention some information that was overlooked. James Church of the Berkeley Community Resource Center applied for the nonprofit business license. Cannabis Buyers Cooperative of Berkeley (CBCB) is a member of BCRC. Furthermore the founder of CBCB, James Blair, is himself disabled (a recovering quadriplegic). CBCB operating for the past seven years has never had a robbery. The University Avenue “pot distribution” cooperative was shut down before 2003, not last year.  

I question the actions of Permits and Zoning. From what I have heard, CBCB, acting on the advise of Councilmember Dona Spring, was planning to apply for a medical marijuana permit after the nonprofit business permit had been issued to BCRC. How could planning not know that CBCB would dispense medical marijuana after the permit process was completed when CBCB has been operating so long with city approval? On what possible legal grounds was this non-profit business permit revoked? 

I am fortunate enough to be a college graduate, and after dealing with the zoning and Zoning Adjustments Board myself a few years ago in a neighborhood matter, I found the process to be difficult and complex, not always clear-cut or easily understandable. Personally, I am very sensitive to neighborhood concerns, as well as the importance of marijuana as a medicine for many patients. The mayor and City Council should consider and adopt a revised medical marijuana initiative which has been recommended by the existing medical marijuana dispensaries in Berkeley. I look forward to our community, public officials, and city employees taking a truly fair and balanced approach to the distribution of medical marijuana.  

Charles Pappas 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In a recent op-ed piece, (“Rush to IRV Ballots Raises Troubling Questions,” Daily Planet, Dec. 26-29), Berkeley City Councilmember Gordon Wozniak announced his opposition to an upcoming March, 2004 Berkeley ballot measure—Measure I—that will allow Berkeley citizens the opportunity to vote yes or no on possibly implementing an Instant Runoff Voting voting procedure (ranking candidates by “first choice,” “second choice,” “third choice,” etc. on a ballot) for future city candidate elections. 

Contrary to Mr. Wozniak’s claims, IRV is a very simple, straightforward voting process that has been used successfully in Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Ireland for decades. Ireland’s president is selected using IRV voting. The City of London uses IRV voting to select its mayor and city council offices. 

Several dozen eastern US cities, including Cleveland and Cincinnati, used IRV voting for local elections from the 1940’s through the 1960’s. IRV voting is currently an election option in Santa Clara County, the City of San Leandro and for special elections in Oakland. 

After its citizens voted overwhelmingly to pass a ballot measure mandating its use, San Francisco’s voters are set to use IRV voting in the November, 2004 general election. Berkeley’s upcoming March, 2004 IRV ballot measure is directly modeled on San Francisco’s successful IRV initiative. 

In his article, Mr. Wozniak erroneously states that “no voting machine can handle mixed traditional and IRV voting” on the same election day. Mr. Wozinak’s remarkable claim is directly contradicted by the fact that San Francisco—with hundreds of thousands of voters—is set to conduct its November, 2004 election using traditional and IRV voting procedures simultaneously. 

This dual voting technology already exists and will be operational for San Francisco’s November, 2004 Board of Supervisors elections. The company Election Software and Services (ESS) is the provider of San Francisco’s dual traditional/IRV voting machine technology.  

What is deeply disconcerting—and cynical—about Mr. Wozniak’s opposition to Berkeley’s Measure I is that Mr. Wozniak originally voted against allowing Berkeley citizens themselves the right to vote yes or no on the IRV ballot measure. 

As a City Councilmember, Mr. Wozniak voted against placing Measure I on the March ballot—in effect, pre-empting the ability of Berkeley’s voters to decide the merits of the issue for themselves. 

Given the political dynamics of Mr. Wozniak’s own 2002 City Council District 8 election—when he was one of four District 8 candidates at the time—it is possible to conclude that Mr. Wozniak’s personal opposition to IRV likely stems from the concern that he could be vulnerable if IRV voting is used in a future District 8 election. 

In his November, 2002 City Council election, as one of four candidates, Mr. Wozniak received less than a majority of all votes cast, and only managed to win his office during a low turnout, runoff election 30 days later in December. 

Under Measure I, IRV voting will avoid the need for a second, low turnout election which typically costs the City of Berkeley hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

IRV voting insures that elected representatives have majority voter support—50 percent or more—during an election once ranked votes (”first choice,” “second choice,” etc.) are fully tabulated.  

Chris Kavanagh 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

No wonder City Councilmember Gordon Wozniak has been going on an obsessive rampage against instant runoff voting—which is set to be on the Berkeley ballot March 2 as Measure I. He knows that he would not be on the City Council today if IRV had been in place.  

In the 2002 City Council race for District 8, progressives split their votes between candidates Andy Katz and Anne Wagley. A December run-off that was entirely vote-by-mail pitted Gordon Wozniak against Andy Katz (a 22-year-old graduate student), during the week after Thanksgiving Break and before Final Exams.  

As someone who worked tirelessly to get the student vote out in that election, the task of getting students who had not mailed in their absentee ballot to go to City Hall when they had a million other things on their minds proved far too daunting. Voter turnout in the student precincts declined substantially between November and December, totally disenfranchising a large portion of District 8 residents. 

I hope Councilman Wozniak will admit that the motive behind his campaign against a common-sense reform is that he knows he benefits from low turnout runoff elections where most students don’t vote. 

Paul Hogarth 

Berkeley Rent Board Commissioner 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I would like to know the superintendent’s response on the Malcolm X flood and why there is no better oversight on the maintenance committee, especially after the resignation of these key maintenance committee members. I have just read Yolanda Huang’s letter (Daily Planet, Jan. 16-19), which quotes the meeting minutes. I find it appalling that there seem to be no checks and balances system in place.  

Did the superintendent personally get involved then when these resignations took place? It seems to me, as a parent whose daughter attends kindergarten at Malcolm X, the responsibility of the flood (which sounds like it could have been entirely avoided with consistent preventative maintenance) falls squarely on her shoulders. 

What kind of systems are being put in place now by the superintendent to avoid this from happening again? 

Catherine Huchting 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I suggest a different approach to Gov. Schwarzenegger in dealing with the Indian tribes to balance the budget.  

If talks are going nowhere with the tribes, I suggest that we erect toll booths. Maybe we don’t own the tribal property the casinos are on. But we sure own the property outside the casinos. I suggest we set up toll booths and charge $10 per person to go onto Indian property. This will help bring in hundreds of millions towards the deficit. 

John Ramirez 

San Diego