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Letters to the Editor

Friday January 30, 2004


Editors, Daily Planet: 

To state the obvious, why can’t immigrants buy an English/whatever dictionary and take same to the doctor’s office, and point to proper word or sentence? What’s wrong with pointing to the back of your open mouth and saying, “Have sore throat,” etc.? How come when we take vacations to other countries we don’t demand translators??? Is there no end to our collective stupidity? 

You people are nuts. 

David Seamen  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am responding to the letter written by Yolanda Huang (Daily Planet, Jan. 16-19) regarding the flooding that occurred at Malcolm X. Ms Huang stated, “The cure for flooding at Malcolm X is estimated to be at least $44,000, while a simple half hour of raking leaves would probably have prevented the flooding.” “Probably” was not the case; the problem was a flood, a torrent of water that no drains could handle because of the volume of water that was flowing from the street. Our drains were clear and running. 

Because I have been working here as the BUSD Grounds Supervisor for the past two years I am proud of the services that my staff provides the district improve and have seen dramatic improvement in these two years. We have seven gardeners who maintain 106 acres of grounds, and we are adding new landscapes all the time, thanks to the generosity of Berkeley residents. We have a new 20,000-square-foot lawn at Cragmont, and another 20,000-square-foot lawn at King. My staff works in partnership with parents to create these environments Ms. Huang so unkindly attacks. Since she herself has created beautiful gardens she should recognize how much time, love and caring our schools require. The maintenance department works very hard to keep our schools looking good, and do so with a lot of personal pride. Now she says that our hard-working gardeners can’t even rake leaves. W e believe our entire district is moving in a positive direction, so we are both hurt and offended by this attack. 

John W. Crockett  

BUSD Grounds Supervisor 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is the 50th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education and the issue of “separate but equal” has reared its ugly head yet again. The school board in all their wisdom appears to be fighting against Prop. 209, the separate but equal policy implemented to “re-segregate” schools. Pacific Legal Foundation, why now? 

My father integrated LSU in 1950. He was the first black American to attend the law school. I grew up in Berkeley. I was bussed in order to create diversity in Berkeley Schools in the ‘60s. I cannot express the priceless benefits attained from being in a diverse classroom! What a concept, integration in education then and now… 

As the parent of two little girls who attend Emerson Elementary, I am amazed at how easily the children parlay amongst each other. A second year law student and volunteer at KPFA, I am time-challenged in many ways. However, I contribute and volunteer when possible. I sit on a committee or two. This is the continued legacy of classroom diversity. 

Berkeley should continue to press on for equality in education. This is where we are different from Oakland and San Francisco who gave up and gave in. Because of the value Berkeley residents place on education, freedom of speech, and equal protection under the law, our city and schools are healthier, more efficient and holistic. Our streets are safer. The relationship between Berkeley Police Department and residents is one of mutual respect and unencumbered dialogue. I cannot say the same for San Francisco or Oakland. Berkeley has not had to build a juvenile hall or close any schools lately. Nor have we had to pay off victims for the misfeasance of a few rogue cops. No disrespect to San Francisco or Oakland and their decisions to comply with 209. I shudder the thought of looking to the San Francisco or Oakland position on this matter. 

Gabrielle Wilson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Not being terribly stable on my feet and prone to unexpected lurches to the left or right, it is pretty startling and scary when bicyclists or skateboarders unexpectedly whiz by me on sidewalks in Downtown Berkeley. If I was to deviate unexpectedly from my walking path, the approaching bicyclist (which can come from back or front or even from weaving around me and others) could cause me serious harm.  

Riding a bicycle or skateboard on the sidewalks in Downtown Berkeley is not only dangerous to people walking on the sidewalk, but also to people just stepping out from stores onto the sidewalks. And as one gets older, falling can result in injuries involving loss of independence which can be devastating. Also young children can be very unpredictable, you never know when they may suddenly stop or turn or whatever.  

I for one think the Berkeley cops that are giving out tickets for bicycling on sidewalks in Downtown Berkeley are not such terrible villains. In fact, after being narrowly missed by skateboarders and bicyclists on downtown sidewalks, I’ve often wondered with anger why the cops didn’t do anything to protect us pedestrians young and old.  

Pat Nagamoto 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

There’s probably a perfectly logical explanation for the current parking situation around Andronicos on Solano, but I guess I would like to hear it.  

The posted parking restrictions are as follows: 

Fresno: 4 spots yellow zone: No Parking 7 AM - 6 PM 

Solano: 7 meters: No Parking 7 AM - 10 AM, Mon - Sat 

Colusa: 3 spaces: Cones and posted Tow Away signs 

Behind store: Approx 30 spaces reserved for customers 

Fresno: “No through” traffic barrier blocking beyond the store parking lot 

Parking in Berkeley is always a challenge. It has grown increasingly so along Solano with these new restrictions.  

Carolyn La Fontaine 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The resolution regarding Rachel Corrie was sent before our city council because peace/human rights workers were being targeted for attack by the Israeli military, a concern that is shared by Amnesty International. Berkeley residents who participate in International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and similar groups that advocate for human rights are at risk. Numerous eyewitnesses of Corrie’s death assert that the driver of the Caterpillar bulldozer saw Rachel and deliberately ran her over, twice. It is possibly an act of murder.  

Tom Hurndall, a British citizen, and also a volunteer with ISM, was shot by an Israeli sniper within a mile of where Rachel was killed. In that case, after months of pressure by the British government, a thorough investigation was undertaken. This resulted in the arrest of the Israeli soldiers responsible and retraction of the story the Israeli government told for months regarding the facts of that case. 

We mourn all the deaths that have taken place in the conflict; Palestinian, Israeli, and internationals, who have been killed in a conflict fueled by a brutal military occupation. I would concur that any attack on civilians is a human rights violation. However, the Israeli and U.S. government already has investigated the deaths of those U.S. citizens killed in suicide bombings and attacks conducted by Palestinians. Is Mr.Gertz saying that the U.S. and Israeli authorities are negligent in that regard as well?  

And what of the Palestinian children and civilians killed and injured by the Israeli military? Like Hurndall’s mother, we ask if they are “children of a lesser god?” Why no Congressional resolution regarding their deaths, and continued U.S. funding of this conflict without even a debate in Congress? 

I would urge people, who want to read the full text of the Berkeley resolution, and desire more information, including the letter of that the Corrie’s sent the city council, to visit  

Jim Harris 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thanks for printing the spirited rejoinders to John Gertz’ ghoulish smear of Rachel Corrie and the Berkeley City Council (“Corrie ‘Parable’ Evokes Spirited Replies,” Daily Planet, Jan. 27-29). Good for them all, and shame on the pathetic Mr. Gertz. 

I found the quotation in this letter in one of the saddest antiwar books I’ve read, In Flanders Fields, by Leon Wolff, a military historian. Read it in a military history course in college 40-odd years ago, and rediscovered it gathering dust on a Commonwealth Club shelf last year. To wit: 


“As the sordid, shameful Bush/Blair Iraq debacle proceeds with all the inevitability of a Greek tragedy, a chilling passage in David Lloyd George’s 

war memoirs from 70 years ago provides a painfully apt analogy. Regarding his cheery top general, Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig—whose predictably doomed 1917 offensive squandered hundreds of thousands of lives in the ghastly bog of Flanders, the wartime Prime Minister wrote: 

“It naturally pleased Haig to have carefully chosen and nicely cooked little tidbits of “intelligence” about broken German divisions, heavy German 

casualties, and diminishing German morale served up to him....He beamed satisfaction and confidence. His great plan was prospering. The whole 

atmosphere of this secluded little community reeked of that sycophantic optimism which is the curse of autocratic power...” 

And so it goes. 

Kenneth E. Scudder 

San Francisco 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

For those in the Berkeley community who do not know, the BUSD Food Service Departments’ dedicated, long-term, hard-working, non-management personal have been served some bad fare recently by the BUSD Board of Education in the form of layoffs and reduced salaries—all due to no fault of their own. How could this happen when only two and a half years ago that department had $1.2 million in reserve?  

What happened was the Berkeley Board of Education chose to hire, at the recommendation of Superintendent Michele Lawrence, an inexperienced director to operate the department—in doing so, the board chose to eliminate several highly qualified candidates—one of whom piloted a revenue-generating organic food program at Santa Monica USD, and to this day, remains highly successful and revenue-generating. The “director” that Berkeley USD hired had no formal education to run such a multi-million dollar department and came from a school district where she was in middle management performing a simple supervisory role. This newly hired director didn’t even have the financial background to write a budget and she asked several of her underlings to either help her write a budget or to simply write it for her during her first year as director. 

Didn’t anyone in the department alert the district to this person’s true lack of experience or how she was performing once hired? 

I did, and I stood before the Berkeley USD Board of Education in May 2002, and stated such information to the board. Sadly, my words fell on deaf ears, and as a result of my alert, I became the very first layoff casualty for the department (so much for being a dedicated BUSD employee and alerting the district to a disaster in the making). 

Since this new director has come on-board, the BUSD Food Service Department has lost an average of $70,000 per month. No other school districts’ food service department in the entire Bay Area is losing money.  

Why is BUSD’s Food Service Department losing money and how can someone remain as a director, losing an avenge of $70,000 a month for said department, and still keep their job? I, myself, cannot answer that question—but Superintendent Lawrence and the BUSD Board of Education can—and should—explain to the Berkeley community and to the Food Service non-management staff why keeping this director is justified. 

The time is now for said explanation, Superintendent Lawrence and Berkeley Board of Education. Inquiring minds want to know! 

I also call on any appropriate federal or California state department to launch an investigation into BUSD’s hiring of said Food Service director and her continued employment at BUSD. 

Rick Fuller 

Former BUSD Food Service employee