Page One

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday February 24, 2004


Editors, Daily Planet: 

We are writing to express our sadness at the County of Alameda’s refusal to grant us a marriage license. As long-term residents of Berkeley, having owned a house here (and paid property and income taxes) together for 11 years, and as a couple in a long-term, loving relationship of over 15 years, we had hoped that our relationship could be legally recognized through marriage by the County of Alameda and the State of California. But on Feb. 19, we were denied this recognition by the county clerk of Alameda when we were refused a marriage license. 

Legally sanctioned marriage seems to us to be a fundamental right, not unlike the right to vote or own property. That one group of citizens of our state and our country is currently denied this right is a sad injustice. 

Rebecca Freed 

Jane Musser 


EDITOR’S NOTE: Several attorneys have written to remind us that mayors of cities can’t usually issue marriage licenses in California, as our editorial for Feb. 17 suggested they might. San Francisco is an exception, since it’s both a city and a county. Counties usually issue marriage licenses, so East Bay residents who want to be married on their home turf should try to persuade county registrars to cooperate. 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Yes on Prop. 56, to prevent future budgets from being held hostage by the state legislature’s radical anti-tax faction. We can’t allow a selfish minority to destroy California’s once-great public education system just to provide tax breaks for California’s wealthiest individuals and corporations. Good public education, transportation, and police, fire, and environmental protection improve the economy and quality of life for all Californians. Reinstatement of the top tax bracket is vastly preferable to burdening our children with huge bond debt and millions of dollars in interest. 

Charlene M. Woodcock 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Michael Katz’s commentary on the AC Transit Bus Rapid Transit plan (Daily Planet, Feb. 17-19) was certainly lacking insight into what Measure 2 can provide the residents of Berkeley and Alameda County. Measure 2 is hardly “pork barrel” because it gives money to projects that affect all nine counties in the Bay Area. Additionally, the projects laid out in Measure 2 go to transit projects that would continue to help alleviate traffic on some of the Bay Area’s most congested roads.  

In his commentary he stated that Measure 2 would “widen the Caldecott Tunnel, which would dump more cars onto Berkeley streets.” How exactly would it do this, Mr. Katz? If anything, the widening of the Caldecott would take cars off of Berkeley and North Oakland streets. Currently these cars end up on surface streets in an attempt to avoid traffic on Highway 24. With another bore there would be less congestion on 24 and cars would be much more likely to take the freeway and not city streets. 

Residents of Alameda County and the Bay Area have continually ranked traffic as the number one problem in the region. The Bay Area has the dubious honor of being ranked second in the nation behind Los Angeles for the most time we spend in our cars, commuting to and from work. These projects are the key to beginning to solve our congestion problems.  

Chris Douglas 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Recently, four members of the school board continued to waste education funds and the future of our children by disregarding California law and the Pacific Legal Foundation lawsuit by including race in assigning students to Berkeley schools. When they lose this lawsuit BUSD will be liable for the legal fees of the Pacific Legal Foundation as well. 

As an African American man, the issue is not the color of my skin. The issue is equality of education, and the achievement gap. African American children in this school district are on the bottom of the achievement scale. Simply getting certain numbers of children together does nothing to address the achievement gap. Sixty-five percent of African American children leave the eighth grade in Berkeley at a sixth grade reading and math level. The school board’s desire to have a black child sit next to a white child doesn’t do the black child any good. When that black child fails the high school proficiency exam, or cannot enter college, that child is consigned to a life of menial, entry-level jobs. The primary job for BUSD is education, and in that the school board has failed black children. 

For three years I labored on the Student Assignment Advisory Committee, addressing the issue of how children should be assigned to elementary schools in Berkeley. I participated because the assignment plan for Berkeley touched every child and every elementary school. By making assignment address the equality of achievement, we would be benefiting every child. Instead, the school board, with the exception of Shirley Issel, decided that race was paramount to academic education. 

I’ve been treated as a nigger because I’m black, and what I want for myself, my children and all children—black, brown and white—is a quality education. The school board should concentrate on educating children and leave the color of my skin alone. 

Lee Berry 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Under Measure H the leading candidate for mayor, city council or auditor receiving at least 40 percent of the votes would avoid a runoff election. Under current law the leading candidate needs a minimum of 45 percent of the votes to avoid a runoff. Why the proposed change?  

There was no outcry from the citizens of Berkeley for this change. The proposal was generated by the city council for one reason: to make it harder to defeat an incumbent. The reality is that almost every incumbent untouched by personal scandal can get at least 40 percent of the vote. Even if an unpopular incumbent is opposed by at least two significant candidates running real campaigns it is likely that the opposition candidates will still be unable to prevent the incumbent from getting 40 percent of the vote. Sixty per cent of the voters in a council district can be effectively disenfranchised by the 40 percent of the voters who favor the incumbent. 

Berkeley citizens often criticize the city council for not working together. However, when their own incumbency is at stake the councilmembers could not be more collaborative. Measure H was approved unanimously at the Nov. 25 council meeting with no discussion. The motivation behind Measure H is so transparent that councilmember Gordon Wozniak both signed the ballot argument in favor of Measure H and also signed the ballot argument opposing Measure I (instant runoff voting) because instant runoff voting does not require a majority of the votes.  

Bob Migdal 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As humorously reported by Carol Denney (“Cops Just Want to Have Dogs,” Daily Planet, Feb. 17-19), Berkeley Police have proposed obtaining German shepherds as part of their front line arsenal against crime. However, there’s nothing humorous about using dogs to hunt for human beings. It’s barbaric.  

Threatening a human being with dog bites is what the Nazis and Southern racists did. German shepherd police dogs in Berkeley would be a giant step  


Among the reasons the police have offered to justify obtaining two German shepherds is: The dogs will help in finding missing persons with Alzheimer’s disease. I can just imagine the terror a confused senior would feel confronted with a German shepherd wielded by a cop. Most likely, the dogs will be used to rout out the homeless from hidden sleeping places and intimidate African American youth.  

Equally alarming, the language of the German shepherd proposal states that dog use will be justified when an officer believes his/her life is in danger as well as when a suspect is resisting arrest. These provisions invite unjustified usage/abuse. For example, after 40 years of main stream civil disobedience, the police still can’t to this day distinguish between not cooperating with one’s arrest and resisting arrest. In addition, cops filled with fear and adrenaline at a crime scene will transmit those feelings onto their dogs. Get the picture? 

Presently, the police carry guns, pepper spray, and batons. They believe they still don’t have enough. What’s next after dogs, tanks?  

The best way to enhance police safety is to train police in the art of staying focused, alert, and calm in dramatic situations. In other words, mind power, not brute power. Why not apply the dedicated money for front line usage in martial arts training? 

As our Federal government hypes up the rhetoric on terror and fear, Berkeley doesn’t need additional symbols of force patrolling our streets or riding in police cars.  

If you think that police dogs are unacceptable in Berkeley, please inform your councilmember and especially Mayor Bates, who is gung-ho for the proposal. 

Maris Arnold 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Measure 1 on the March ballot will replace Berkeley’s December runoff elections with instant runoff voting (IRV). IRV is a more democratic way of electing our government leaders. Turnout in Berkeley’s December runoffs has declined for all eight runoffs since 1986 by an average of 28 percent. The overwhelming weight of evidence from both local and national examples reveals that runoff elections typically lead to lower voter turnout. This is not good for democracy. 

IRV allows voters to rank their first, second, and third choices among candidates, and if no candidate receives a majority of the first choices, then the “runoff rankings” are used to determine the winner. As a bonus, we will save tens of thousands of dollars because taxpayers will not have to pay for unnecessary runoffs, and candidates will not have to raise money for a second election. Also, IRV encourages civil campaigns, since candidates will want the to be the second choice of those who support their rivals.  

I urge a yes vote on Measure I. 

Mim Hawley 

City Councilmember, District 5 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Zoning Adjustment Board should reject the proposed development at 2526 Durant Ave. (the Blood House site) and instead support the preservation alternative for the site proposed by Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association.  

The developer’s proposal would destroy a historic resource. The Blood House is one of the few early houses remaining in the area immediately south of campus, and it gives some sense of the original character of the area.  

The developer’s proposal would be dangerous for pedestrians and detrimental to traffic flow. Because it has on-site parking, it will attract residents 

who own cars, increasing congestion. The curb-cut will make Durant Avenue less friendly to pedestrians. Cars exiting from the drive onto Durant will interfere with traffic flow and possibly cause accidents.  

The preservation alternative saves the Blood House and also provides added units in a second building on the site. This is consistent with the draft Southside Plan, which says the city should “preserve and enhance the significant architectural and historic resources of the area.”  

The preservation alternative does not include parking on site, so it will not interfere with pedestrian and traffic flow. No parking is required here by C-T zoning. To ensure that this housing would attract only tenants who do not own cars, the Zoning Board should require that residents of this project not be able to purchase RPP permits.  

There is considerable demand for car-free housing near campus. A 1999 ASUC survey found that 88 percent of students would like to live close to campus without a car. Of students who have cars, 78 percent would prefer to give up their cars if they could live close to campus.  

By allowing more students to live close to campus and walk to school, the preservation alternative for this site would not only provide much needed housing but would also reduce traffic congestion and parking problems in the south campus area.  

Charles Siegel 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Jeanne Burdette in her letter to Mayor Bates printed in the Feb.y 13-16 issue of the Daily Planet states that I have a conflict of interest working as an administrative aide for Councilmember Linda Maio while also serving on the Berkeley Waterfront Commission. According to the city attorney, no such conflict exists, nor are there any legal prohibitions for a council administrative aide to sit on Berkeley’s boards and commissions. 

Ms. Burdette also objects to “a motion to move $100,000 of Marina monies to downtown” that she asserts I made at a recent meeting of the Waterfront Commission. I believe Ms. Burdette is referring to a discussion among Waterfront Commissioners during the meeting held on Jan. 14 concerning changes to the Marina Fund. Park and Waterfront staff, in response to the city manager's request for budget reduction proposals of 20 percent from alldepartments, had recommended these changes. No motions were made during this discussion by me or any other member of the Waterfront Commission. At one point in the discussion, I raised the possibility of finding a way to help the city in its current budget crisis by finding a way to contribute $100,000 from the Marina Fund to the General Fund. I also said during the discussion that I thought it likely that there were legal obstacles that would prevent such a transfer. My proposal was found wanting by my fellow commissioners, but I don’t see this as a reason not to bring the idea forward for discussion. Incidentally, there was support from Waterfront Commissioners for some costs being transferred from other funds to the Marina Fund including a $3,483 reduction to the General Fund. 

The Waterfront Commission has a record of seeing the Marina Fund in the larger context of the entire city’s budget. Several years ago the Parks and Recreation Commission recommended and the city council approved funds to pay overhead for services such as bookkeeping and legal advice would no longer have to be paid from the parks tax. The Waterfront Commission discussed making a similar recommendation to the city council, but decided such a policy was not in the best interest of the city and didn’t make the recommendation. In fiscal year 2003, the Marina Fund paid $234,000 in indirect cost reimbursements to the General Fund. 

It is worthwhile noting that the members of the Waterfront Commission, including myself, are generally very protective of the Marina Fund. For years, many berthers at the Marina believed that “downtown” was taking money from the Marian Fund and placing it in the General Fund. Working with staff over the past several years to accurately portray the financial condition of the Marina Fund has virtually eliminated these complaints. The process of clarifying the status of the Marina Fund led to the development of a five-year budget-planning window, now adopted by all of the city’s departments. The recently published Marina Plan contains a 20-year planning window for capital projects, a strategy we hope to see adopted throughout the city’s departments. For many years the General Fund was inappropriately depositing interest earned from the Marina Fund to the General Fund. After several recommendations to the city council from the Waterfront Commission, this practice was eventually stopped. Interest earned in the Marina Fund account is now deposited in the Marina Fund. Another budget strategy developed by the Waterfront Commission that we hope will be adopted by other city departments is the establishment of a reserve fund for future capital projects. Reserve funds in excess of $1,000,000 have been set aside to dredge the Marina next year and to complete renovation projects that will keep the Berkeley Marina a viable community asset without placing a burden on the General Fund. 

Brad Smith 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In support of striking workers in Southern California, I have stopped shopping at Safeway and Albertsons. I urge other members of the community to do the same.  

Phil McArdle?