Letters to the Editor

Tuesday June 29, 2004


Editors, Daily Planet:  

The “We Support John Kerry” statement (“UC Professor Joins Laureates For Kerry,” Daily Planet, June 25-28) might have carried a little more weight if it had included the names of the 48 Nobel laureates. I look forward to that list so I can see if any of them have done anything meaningful in their fields within the last 40 years. I see that Professor Glaser’s major career achievement (according to the article) dates back to 1960. That’s 47 years for those readers who may only be acquainted with the “soft” sciences. I also find it humorous that Professor Glaser invokes Nancy Reagan’s name to support his diatribe against President Bush’s science policy, but then denounces (then president) Reagan near the end of the article. I’m not sure how Iraq, abortion, John Ashcroft, and the Patriot Act were relevant to a critique of Bush’s science policy, but then my mind doesn’t have the intellectual sweep of a Nobel laureate from Berkeley.  

Vince Swanson 





Editors, Daily Planet:  

Regarding your article on the Berkeley budget (“Council Squeezes Unions, Passes Budget,” Daily Planet, June 25-28), you wrote that six vacant police officer positions have been eliminated. Have all vacant city positions been eliminated? If not, which have not and why? Is there a hiring freeze in Berkeley? What sacrifices have non-union city employees made in terms of pay and benefit cuts? Have plans been made to trim the budget if the $8 million in tax increases that the council wants are not approved in November? You wrote that the council passed non-binding tax increases of $3.1 million and $4.9 million in new taxes. Berkeley has a $10.3 million deficit and the council wants a tax increase of $16 million. Can you explain the numbers?  

Michael P. Migal Kuchkovsky 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

In his opinion piece (“AC Transit Evaluates Telegraph Avenue Alternatives,” Daily Planet, June 25-28), John Caner claims that virtually everyone agrees on the goal of getting more people to take public transit, but opinions differ on where and how. That’s true, but then he goes on about how the BRT or other new bus system on Telegraph will reduce available parking and increase traffic congestion. This misses a major point. 

To be effective, public transit has to offer a transportation alternative better than driving. Transit has to come first; it should not have to compete equally with car traffic. If the BRT project works properly, this should be a natural development: As more people use the buses, there will be less traffic and less need for parking. 

If the Telegraph neighbors and merchants really don’t expect people to drive less, then the proposed new bus system will indeed have a negative impact on traffic and parking. This is the prime issue—not the EIR, not computer models, not a transit mall. The issue is whether we’re serious about using the bus. 

The idea of the BRT started with the TDM study. The object is to have a mode-shift from driving personal cars to riding buses. Buses should not be regarded as obstacles to “normal” (i.e. car) transportation. In congested places like Telegraph, buses should be the normal transportation mode (as trolleys and trams once were). Cars come second. If this principle is not agreed, then we’re fools to carry on with the Telegraph BRT project. 

Buses should not be viewed a only social service for the car-less poor. Public transportation is to be used by everyone. We should not be concerned giving up parking, re-routing cars or a giving buses a dedicated lane. Buses come first because they provide public transit. Those who must drive cars should expect some inconvenience. 

So the EIR is a side issue. The real question is whether we really want to cut congestion and have first class public transit. 

Steve Geller 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

Dick Cheney defended his obscenity against Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy on the Senate floor by saying that he felt the better for it.  

In fact, Cheney has plenty to feel good about: In 2002 and 2003, Halliburton was a money-losing venture, posting losses for two successive years. Now, as a result of its Iraq contracts (operation RIO), Halliburton earns a billion dollars a month. (It won’t reveal its current profit margin.) 

As a man with a sick heart living on borrowed time, he can also feel good that his place as the most influential vice president in history is already secured: He has held sway over the American imagination in an unprecedented way.  

In spite of the tragic consequences of our violent seizure of Iraq, millions of Americans will still clap him on the back for his bravura display of aggression on the senate floor, proud to join him in a resounding chorus for posterity, directed against all enemies real and imagined, and (following his example) with greatest passion against their fellow countrymen: ‘’Go f--- yourself!” 

Sheila Newbery 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

When Senator Patrick Leahy challenged the Vice President on the excessive no-bid contracts that the Bush-Cheney administration has given to Halliburton Corp., regardless of its history cheating and overcharging our government, Cheney told Leahy “Go f*** yourself.” Senator Leahy’s questions represent the concern of all of us taxpayers, since we’re the ones who pay for those contracts. Cheney’s arrogant blow-off disrespects all of us. 

Bruce Joffe 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

The Berkeley Creeks Ordinance (Chapter 17.08), currently under review by the City Council, has some extremely restrictive and troubling provisions. According to the city, more than 2,000 homeowners in Berkeley live within 30 feet of an open or culverted creek. How many know that the ordinance prevents them from expanding their existing buildings, even if the footprint of the structure is not enlarged? More alarming, how many know that the ordinance prohibits the replacement of any existing structure within the 30-foot setback following a disaster, even if there is no other buildable site on the property? 

We have been proud stewards of our Berkeley property, spending thousands to daylight our section of Capistrano Creek and naturalize its banks. We’ve even helped form our own local creek group. Yet, we’ve just learned of this creeks ordinance. Apparently, it’s been in the books since 1989, yet no one seems to know who authored the original provisions or if it even went through the City Planning Department. 

Is the purpose of this ordinance to encourage responsible management of Berkeley’s creeks, or is the unstated goal to establish creekside parkland and open space? In our neighborhood, the city had the chance to do just that back in the 1920s, but decided instead to sell the land to developers and beef up its property tax revenues. Now it wants to restore natural waterways, but nowhere does the ordinance address compensation to property owners if their development rights are denied. Regarding the disaster provision, does the city intend to purchase those rights following an earthquake or fire, or will it merely take them away? Perhaps the assumption is that homeowners will happily abandon their parcels, or donate them to the city? Fat chance, considering that most home owners in this area have their life savings wrapped up in their properties. If the ordinance remains as it is, you can bet there will eventually be a bevy of lawsuits filed by groups of angry taxpaying residents who feel that the city is trampling on their rights. 

On July 13, the Berkeley City Council is scheduled to review the ordinance and consider possible revisions and clarifications. We suggest that other citizens and property owners review this ordinance and urge their councilmembers to amend it to be workable and fair, before the next disaster strikes. 

Jeff Caton 

Member, Friends of Capistrano Creek 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

In your recent issue, the political cartoon shows a person being electrocuted. This isn’t funny. Are we the readers to assume the Daily Planet supports a violent response to injustice? 

Denny Riley 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

As a victim of a violent assault a number of years ago, I can assert with authority that it’s no laughing matter. Therefore, I find Richard Brenneman’s lighthearted and whimsical reporting of Berkeley crimes in the Police Blotter to be highly offensive and inappropriate. For instance in your June 22 issue, Brenneman describes a man forced off his bicycle, which was stolen, as turning “a cyclist into a pedestrian” as he was “relieved of his wheels.” In actuality, the cyclist likely suffered emotional trauma if not physical injuries in being forced off his bicycle. When I was attacked and robbed on the street, leaving me with a broken nose and two black eyes, there wasn’t anything humorous about it. Please ask him to reserve the creative flourishes for his next novel. 

Stacy Taylor 

El Cerrito 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

As a person who shops, dines and occasionally goes to the movies in the Elmwood District, I read with interest and some dismay the article about the restrictions on people who own businesses there.  

I for one am much more bothered by the empty stores than I am about the precise mix of merchants. Empty storefronts blight the neighborhood and send the wrong message. I’d rather have more restaurants, if that’s what the market will bear, rather than empty spaces. It would be nice to allocate shops as the current regulations apparently do among a wide variety of businesses. But restricting merchants who would otherwise occupy the empty stores is wrongheaded and smacks of the naivety of Berkeley in years gone by. Abolish the restrictions and bring more vitality to Elmwood. 

Jon Kaufman  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Great. Now we will be treated to the endless corporate mass media glorification of a few juvenile American showoffs in their private attempts to go into space. What a fine waste of time, money and effort by all concerned. Meanwhile, back here on planet Earth, we living in the U.S.A. still suffer from a lack of universal health care; our economy is in a shambles; our civil liberties are being shredded; we are busy destroying what’s left of our natural environment and we have an endless stupid war on Iraq run by a president who feels that God has given him the divine right of kings. Great.  

James K. Sayre 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

1. How many innocent people did Osama Bin Laden kill? What has he accomplished? 

2. How many innocent people has George Bush killed? What has he accomplished? 

I wonder why I haven’t seen this discussed anywhere? 

Mike Vandeman 





Editors, Daily Planet:  

The Bush administration prohibits the media from covering the more than 800 war dead hero’s flag-draped coffins returning in countless plane loads. They don’t want people thinking about the casualty count and the billions being spent on this ill conceived war instead of on our numerous domestic problems.  

Then Ronald Reagan died and his prior-to-9/11 funeral plans were implemented. The week long, non-stop media coverage included his flag-draped coffin being expensively schlepped, no doubt at taxpayer expense, from the mortuary to the Reagan Presidential Library, to the airport, to Washington, to the Capitol Rotunda, to the church, to the airport, back to California.  

Obviously he was loved by many. Yet the media seem to have amnesia regarding his real legacy of lasting damage to the economy; environment; poor, working class and people of color; those with HIV/AIDS and mental illness; etc. He was certainly no hero to millions here as well as in countries in Central and South America.  

Flaunting the over the top, war-time, funeral honors bestowed upon Reagan appeared inappropriate compared to the blackout on the returning war dead and an insulting slap in the face to their loved ones.  

Reagan was a wealthy old man who lived a long and full life. Contrasted with the wasted and lost young lives, the casualties of Bush’s war in Iraq and the disrespectful non-coverage afforded their flag-draped coffins speaks volumes about the sorry state of this country at this time.  

Carol Gesbeck DeWitt