Letters to the Editor

Friday July 09, 2004


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s editorial “In Support of Kamala Harris” (Daily Planet, July 6-8): There are no words that go close enough to describe the marrow when faced with the bare bones of truth. And there are some politicians who make me feel glad I voted. Thank you for giving her space in your newspaper.  

Dea Robertson-Gutierrez 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Yeah, right after I vacation at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, I’ll rush right down to see Bonfante Gardens (“Gilroy’s Bonfante Gardens is a Varied Delight,” Daily Planet, July 6-8). I don’t know how I ever got limited to appreciating plants in their ugly, normal forms—rather than as peasant-art media—but I seem to have. Every time some newsy shows those trees down there, I have to take a hike in Tilden or some place to get those contorted images out of my brain. 

Ray Chamberlin 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have read Shirley Barker’s articles on gardening with great pleasure. She is a superb writer and her articles are full of practical information and interesting background material. The recipes she offers are inviting and appear quite easy to follow. 

Thank you so much for these delightful “Specials to the Planet.” 

Gloria Bloom 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

This year, this week, is the right time for Berkeley to start getting serious about campus transportation. The campus was designed for streetcars, which can move more people faster in less space, than any amount of freeways, parking garages and traffic jams. Now, modern rail technology is even more efficient. Ongoing local debate has not answered how many voters actually want rail here.  

We should be asking transit agencies NOW to start planning a direct rail link for campus, conference center, Amtrak, ferries, BART and presumably future expansion throughout the East Bay. Building a local rapid transit link to campus is a legal use of Measure 2 funds, for example. Waiting longer for a solution risks overwhelming traffic necessitating a freeway to campus or downtown.  

A simple “rail referendum” will highlight Berkeley’s growing transportation dilemma since the “Key System” was paved over and show the level of support here for a modern traffic solution. Success of a voter referendum will encourage UC and MTC to seriously consider rail as an economical option here, an option that will entice thousands of commuters out of their gridlocked SUVs. 

This is the last chance for the City Council to address transportation on the November ballot. Kriss Worthington has asked the council to consider a November “rail referendum” for the July 20 agenda, so Berkeley voters can weigh in on the future of local transportation. Please ask your councilmember and mayor to let the voters speak. 

Sennet Williams 

Trains Not Freeways 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I enjoyed Albert Sukoff’s (apparently controversial) opinion piece in the June 29 issue of the Daily Planet (“40 — Okay, 20 — Observations from 40 Years in Berkeley”) and would like to address two issues which he brought up. 

Mr. Sukoff states that Berkeley lost 15-20 percent of its population over the last few decades. Actually the population drop occurred in one fell swoop between the election in November 1978 and UC’s Fall semester of 1979. 

According to the census records of 1950-1970, the population of Berkeley varied between 111,268 and 114,091 during those decades. The number was believed to be growing during the 1970s, and estimates of 116,000 people were reported during that decade. 

In November 1978, a rent freeze (actually a rent roll-back and freeze) was approved by the voters, and went into effect in January, 1979. Rental housing was removed from the market in a variety of ways by owners who wanted to avoid this form of regulation, and Berkeley was inexorably altered. The next fall semester, returning UC students encountered a dramatic, unprecedented housing shortage which was well documented in the local newspapers. 

Although I was a tenant, I voted against rent control. It seemed obvious to me that a law which was really mean to small landlords could only have a negative impact on the abundance of inexpensive housing choices which had been available to tenants of all incomes. 

Not surprisingly, the 1980 census revealed a loss of some 11,000 in population, and the official census figure has hovered around 103,000 ever since. 

I feel compelled to clarify this issue because the “Smart Growth” machine (which has infiltrated every city board and commission involved with development decisions) has used the population decline to argue for ever larger projects. Their logic escapes me: We lost population, not buildings. So they advocate cramming in a bunch of enormous new buildings. (Hello?). 

Mr. Sukoff goes on to say that “Berkeley has plenty of crappy buildings which could and should be replaced.” Here, I agree completely. The 1960s “soft story” apartment houses are considered to be earthquake hazards. Unfortunately, it is not these which have been lost to new development.  

Among many unfortunate losses, a brick livery stable from 1900 was demolished to make way for the Gaia building, an edifice which seems to be perpetually adorned with scaffolding in an ongoing attempt to correct water intrusion problems (i.e. it leaks). 

The Edy’s building, which housed a beloved small business, was destroyed (without a demolition permit) to make way for the corporate preferences of Eddie Bauer, supposedly to “revitalize” the downtown. Obviously it didn’t work.  

Eliminating historic buildings and local businesses for deals made by people who think they know better (planners, mayors), while shutting out the public—and absolutely refusing to assess the cumulative impact of multiple huge projects—is a short-sighted way to run a town. 

Gale Garcia 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

John Kerry made a good, presidential-level decision in selecting a strong, mainstream Democrat for his vice president candidate. Compare Bush’s non-decision of four years ago when his organization tasked Dick Cheney to find a VP candidate and Cheney chose himself. It turns out that Cheney chose himself to actually run the government. 

Bruce Joffe 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding your July 2 article on the suit challenging Sutter Health’s non-profit status: There are other issues that need questioning. Our understanding is that the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center offers no reproductive services. Supposedly Alta Bates once did but their recent detailed brochure made no mention of any. 

Nancy Ward 

Co-Chair, Oakland/East Bay National Organization for Women 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thanks for your fine article “Fine Arts Cinema is Officially Dead” (Daily Planet, July 2-5). For me, it’s been dead since 1970, when a young cashier was shot in the face and killed by a 14-year-old robber who took her life for $35. I was going to graduate school at UC, and lived around the corner at the time. After that, they moved the ticket window closer to the theater and put in bulletproof glass; prior to that, there was an old-fashioned stand-alone ticket booth. 

Ultimately I think that crime is what killed the theater. I never felt comfortable going there again, and perhaps that’s true for others as well. It was no karmic surprise when the porn theater went in after that. 

As long as you have taken the time to write an obituary for the theater, I thought it would be fitting to take a moment to remember that poor cashier who died there 34 years ago as well. Sad. 

Ken Stein 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Every time I think about expansion of the campus at UC Berkeley I wonder why the expansion has to occur here. Does planning for Berkeley nest within some larger statewide framework or plan? What happened to the 27,500-student limit in the statewide plan of the ‘60s? Has it been updated since? Newer UC locations could use the new facilities. Is it vital that it happen here? 

Robert C. Chioino 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Dan Peven’s comments about Berkeley Unified’s wastefulness was alarming. 

For the brand new building at the high school to use more electricity than the rest of the campus combined is unbelievable. Why did Berkeley Unified build such a building? I support public schools but not energy gluttony. 

This information does not bode well for the other construction that has occurred throughout the district. Have we, in supporting this new construction, supported wanton energy consumption? 

I ask BUSD to post the energy consumption of each school and non-school site on its website for the 18 months from September, 2002 to June, 2004, and let us know what steps you will take to reduce your energy consumption. 

Tim Gordon 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Ten years ago, when my daughter was at Willard, I and many other volunteers planted the existing roses and other plants in front of that school. Therefore, I am relieved to have just learned that the school district has agreed to rework its plans to leave in the existing roses. 

I hope the school district will also reconsider the proposed ornamental lawns. Lawns are appropriate if there is a real functional need for a lawn, such as for a ball field. However, lawns that are just for display should be avoided. My recent newsletter from Berkeley Hort states: “The planting of a summer-thirsty lawn in our climate is analogous to buying a gas guzzling truck during a fuel shortage.” Lawns not only take up water, but Berkeley Unified maintains them with gas powered machines, which not only use gas, but spew greenhouse gases. There’s a move to adopt the purple needle grass as our state grass. That would be a lovely substitute for a lawn. 

Donna Mickleson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am ashamed at how much the San Francisco Public Library loves the Patriot Act. How can Susan Hundredth, the city librarian, say that placing microchips (radio frequency identification chips, or RFIDs) in every book will not erode privacy rights? Why not just let the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security have agents on the payroll? The agents can go up and down the isles or better yet, act like library patrons and collect information on legitimate patrons. After all, terrorists are clever enough to browse books and not check them out if they knew every book can be traced to an individual. Justified as a cost saving measure, this cowardly embracing and enabling of the Patriot Act makes me sick. Is the City Council going to support this? Once a system is in place then modifying it is just another small step. People can already be traced by their cell phones and their FasTrak transponders. Safeway cards collect demographic information every time we shop. Do we really want to trade privacy in every place we go for convenience? Don't people realize how hard people fought to get privacy rights in the first place?  

Chris Cobb 

U.C. Berkeley Graduate Student 

Department of Art Practice 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was recently enjoying a visit in Berkeley when I came across a copy of your June 8-10 paper and noticed with great interest that there was an article about a school “librarian” on the front page (“Latino Students Rally to Save Job of BHS Librarian”). As I have just finished my own school library credential, I am interested in all things school library-related, so I immediately picked it up. I quickly read the first page of story, which featured a photo of a “librarian” helping a student on the computer. 

After reading a few more sentences, I realized that the woman in question was not actually the school’s librarian at all, as the headline read, but the library media technician, a much different position altogether.  

A library media technician is considered support staff for the school’s librarian, (think of the relationship between an aide and a teacher). The demands on a school librarian are much different and complex than they were even twenty years ago, due to the advent of the Internet and the quickening of our society in general. Young adult literature has been launched into a brand new dimension, and school library media professionals are in a unique position to bridge the angst that adolescents sometimes feel with the recommendation of great books. A complete school library education enables school librarians to work with students on research projects in entirely new and meaningful ways. School librarians work closely (and on equal ground) with other teachers and school administrators to ensure that the library program is meeting the needs of all students. 

I want to stress that I don’t doubt that Ms. Troutman’s presence in the BHS library is important for many reasons, and I am always disheartened to read about any layoff of important people in students’ lives. But as a recent graduate of a library credential program, I do want to clarify that it is not a simple transition between working as a library technician and becoming a school librarian. 

Jill Sonnenberg 





Dear City Council: 

So the Fine Arts Cinema is dead. 

Aren’t you getting tired of being taken for suckers by Patrick Kennedy again and again? 

And the building itself is an overbearing eye-sore. Do you really want a dozen such buildings 

running the length of Tenement (formerly University) Avenue? 

F. Greenspan