Election Section

Letters to the Editor

Friday August 06, 2004


Editors, Daily Planet: 

In regard to concerns expressed about Berkeley High School (Letters, Daily Planet, July 30-Aug. 5), I checked with staff about the assertions in the letter. Here is the correct information.  

1) The new high school building conforms to or exceeds the latest energy efficiency codes, and did not double energy use at the site. Reducing energy costs is a priority of the district, and many district buildings recently went through a thorough energy audit. 

2) A pool cover was ordered for the new pool, and in fact was delivered on Aug 2. Now that we have it we are scheduling the installation.  

Thank you for your concern about the Berkeley public schools. 

Mark Coplan 

Public Information Officer 

Berkeley Unified School District 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The new Jean Gray Hargrove Music Library is indeed a wonderful addition to the UC campus and the Berkeley community. As you reported in the July 30-Aug. 5 edition, Hargrove magnanimously gifted $4 million of the library’s $13 million total cost. 

It might also be of interest that Hargrove was for many years one of Berkeley’s largest landlords (including my own, in the 1980s) and if not for rent control possibly could have afforded the entire $13 million herself. 

In any case, Hargrove’s generosity should be commended and perhaps other Berkeley landlords will follow her lead by contributing a portion of their rental profits to the betterment of our fine city. 

Marty Schiffenbauer 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Apparently, the Kerry machine has concluded that for Kerry to win, he must come on as more wisely militaristic than Bush, e.g. next time we invade a country, we’ll have U.N. backing. We got the snappy Kerry salute, for starters.  

Whether Kerry’s stance is genuine or pol-acting, he is, nonetheless, manipulating lies and fear, as does Bush. It’s clear that there’s little fundamental difference in foreign policy between the two. We’ll be getting guns from Kerry. Are progressives to vote for him in the hope he’ll deliver the butter on domestic issues?  

Lesson from Vietnam: Johnson’s War on Poverty was wrecked because of the increased war budget. It has been said that the biggest mistake is to jump the chasm in two leaps, which is what Kerry is.  

Maris Arnold  





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Let croissants and brioche reign on Solano. It will be a struggle but I can make it past 12 chairs. 

The Zoning Adjustments Board did not ignore the community. Using their e-mail address posted on the La Farine door, I mailed my family’s approval. I suggest another variance allowing sidewalk tables. Why should I have to go to France? 

Sam Craig 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding the La Farine permit, I wish people would get their facts straight. The Zoning Adjustments Board did not grant a variance. We granted a use permit as outlined in the zoning ordinance for Solano Avenue (Sec. 23E.60.090.C) which I participated in writing almost 20 years ago. That section of the ordinance outlines very clearly under what circumstances a use permit may be granted to exceed the quotas. My colleagues on the board take their charge very seriously and this use permit (not variance) passed unanimously. The City Council refused to consider it further. 

In the larger context, it would appear that there exists a small minority of disgruntled individuals who will misrepresent and manipulate the rules to their own end. They show little respect for the public process impugning others motivations in order to deflect attention from their own duplicitous behavior. The rest of us must suffer through protracted and costly proceedings that strain the resources of both the staff and community volunteers. This kind of behavior affects every citizen of our community.  

I would urge voters to support candidates this November who will respect the process created by a neighborhood created plan. 

Laurie Capitelli 

Member, Zoning Adjustments Board 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is important to correct the mischaracterization of ABAG’s projections and the lack of affordable housing in Berkeley and in the region. Gale Garcia’s claim that Berkeley’s population is decreasing is not accurate (Letters, Daily Planet, July 30-Aug. 5). It should be noted that the 2000 Census places Berkeley’s population at 102,743. Current 2004 California Department of Finance projections show Berkeley at 104,300 and ABAG’s projections place residents in Berkeley at 106,100 by 2005. Long term ABAG growth projections, which are recognized for their accuracy and consistency, show Berkeley experiencing steady paced growth, increasing a modest 12 percent over the next 20 years. 

The Bay Area’s housing shortage is well documented. By all accounts growth is and will continue to be an issue that we must confront. ABAG’s interest is assisting cities and counties address that growth in the most desirable way for the region. At the heart of ABAG’s projections and the challenge that local housing projects try to address is that growth must be smart and sustainable. As Garcia noted, many new projects are happening on major arteries that cross through Berkeley and surrounding communities. These projects are a part of major redevelopment of under-utilized sites that offer access to all forms of transit. They are denser mixed-use development projects sponsored by many public and private partnerships to better meet the need for housing closer to job centers and transportation alternatives.  

For insight into regional housing needs and jobs-housing balance, we recommend that readers visit ABAG’s website at www.abag.ca.gov for projections, data, and overviews of regional and local housing projects. 

Scott Haggerty, ABAG president 

Alameda County supervisor 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A key component of our occupation of Iraq is dispensing humiliation to the Iraqis. Part of the humiliation comes in the form of air strikes on houses of “suspected militants.” A house is blown up, people run in panic like ants with their nest stepped on. Throwing their arms to the sky, they vow revenge. Ergo, more suicide bombers.  

The suicide bombers and beheaders of civilians in Iraq represent an extreme version of Islam, much as Pol Pot in Cambodia represented an extreme version of Communism. The rise of the vengeful Cambodian was greatly aided by the resentment he could tap into because of our carpet bombing of his country. Now, our displays of air power and other military might in Iraq breed people who give as bad a name for Islam as Pol Pot gave to Communism. We react to the Iraq extremists with brutal repression, and the cycle repeats.. 

In the humiliate-your-enemy scenario nobody wins. Just look at Israel. 

Ted Vincent 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

  The Kerry/Edwards ticket shows great promise. They could rid us of the most radical, possibly the most dangerous administration in American history, and return us to a path of hope and prosperity once again. Yet, as a lifelong Democrat, I’m underwhelmed by my party’s platform and by its direction. Less than a week after the Democratic National Convention, it’s apparent that I’m not alone. The “bounce” in the polls is barely measurable. 

  Senator John Kerry and his colleagues helped George Bush go to war in Iraq—handing al Qaeda a golden opportunity to not only recover from defeats in Afghanistan and elsewhere, but to unite America’s enemies worldwide against us. With notably few exceptions, Democrats in the Senate ignored evidence of duplicity and followed an ignoramus who squandered the goodwill and sympathy for America inspired by the 9/11 tragedy. 

  I would like to think that what is done is done and since everyone makes mistakes, we should move forward with determination never to repeat those same errors. Senators Kerry and Edwards could move us forward, but do not seem so inclined. Neither has ever apologized for being duped by George Bush and his henchmen, nor have they announced any intentions to either reverse course or at least deviate from what our former allies fear to be a policy of world domination.  

  In short, if the Kerry/Edwards ticket appears to be just a watered down Republican ticket, they may not win the election. In 2000, George Bush beat Al Gore without even winning the popular vote—it was that close. Bush is now a self-styled “wartime president” who has fired up his base with his assaults on reproductive rights, taxes, the environment, worker rights... 

  Victory in the 2004 election will go to whoever gets out the vote. That means firing up the party’s base as George Bush is doing, as John Edwards did with his “two Americas” message, and as Howard Dean did when most Democrats were afraid to take on George Bush at the beginning of the primary season.  

  I am part of the Democratic base, and it pains me to admit that I’m still searching for leadership less than a week after my party’s national convention. I like almost everything about Kerry and Edwards: Their personal stories, their values, their families, their voting records—even their appearances (best hair counts), and I’ll probably vote for them. But too many have told me that they may or may not vote—“It depends on what I’m doing that day.” Yah, the Democratic ticket is more likable, but not that much different from the Republican ticket. 

  John and Theresa Heinz Kerry, John Edwards, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama, Al Gore and Sharpton, Max Cleland, 12-year-old Ilana Wexler... we Democrats have a proud heritage of knitting together a colorful tapestry of talented, imaginative, progressive individuals who build dreams and cultivate hope for all—not just a paying majority. Lead and we will follow. Follow and Bush will have four more years to dismantle progress in America. 

Bryan Sheridan 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I love our small world. My mom sends me copies of the Daily Planet, so I can keep up with what’s important while I am temporarily perching in North Carolina. Pretty neat to read a column by Peter Sussman in your paper. 

In response to his article, to his second point: “Can it (Fahrenheit 9/11) sway the undecideds?,” I’d like to say that it may well be swaying more than just those sitting on the fence. I’m currently working at Ft Bragg, N.C., “Home of the Airborne” and U.S. Army special Operations Command (Read “Special Forces”). In the old downtown, we have a new, avant garde movie house. They took a gamble, and brought Fahrenheit 9/11 to town. Not only did it play to packed houses, most of the men in the audience had military haircuts. Many of the women did, too. A few would leave the theater, muttering things like, “It’s biased,” or “He wasn’t ever in the Army,” but most did not. 

Fayetteville is a place where those of us of any other political stripe than conservative Republican are reminded daily that we are not OK. If Michael Moore’s movie can play this well in a town as dogmatically pro-administration, then it should soar everywhere else. It’s touching the conscience of far more than the undecided. 

Karl Davis 

Mobilized Reservist 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

As I write this e-mail, bulldozers and steam shovels are busy shoving thousands of cubic yards of dirt around on the precipitous hillside site of the future Berkeley Fire House Station 7 (Shasta and Park Hills Drive). 

These machines and workers have just recently removed completely the two dozen huge trees that previously anchored this steep hillside, on top of which sits a huge water tank holding millions of gallons of water. 

Without the trees, any observer can easily see the precarious position of the water tank, as well as the absence of ANY flat space onto which to build the planned three-story new firehouse. 

Moreover, a rumor abounds that the planners have abandoned the notion of building a mandatory retaining wall to hold back the hillside, and are planning only to “add a lot of dirt and tamp it down.” 

The idea of the firehouse on this site has long been controversial because of the site’s unsuitability and risk of seismic landslides; if the retaining wall is also abandoned, the safety of local residents, firefighters, and those they plan to serve, will be placed at an even greater and unacceptable risk. 

Russ Henke 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Berkeley’s “Woman’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF),” whoever they are, published its 10-point Israeli/Palestinian peace plan in the July 30 Daily Planet. Just one quick look reveals that this is a pro-Palestinian group, and not a pro-peace group, as advertised. For example, WILPF calls upon the U.S. to withdraw all financial aid from Israel unless it complies with its demands. WILPF does not perhaps realize that the U.S. is the largest single donor nation to the U.N.’s Palestinian refugee organization (UNRAW). Otherwise, I am sure such a peace-loving group would call for a withdrawal of that support until the Palestinians give up their war of terror. And why can’t WILPF call Palestinian violence against civilians “terrorism”? Instead, they refer to the violence as mutual “hostilities,” as if there is some sort of moral equivalence between those who are terrorists and those who fight terrorists. WILPF demands that Israel cede its right of self defense to U.N. peacekeepers. But Israel has viewed with horror what happens to some people who have been left to the tender mercies of U.N. peacekeepers. Would WILPF mourn if Israelis suffered the same fate as Bosnia’s Muslims at Srebrenica or Rawanda’s Tutsis when both were deserted by U.N. peacekeepers? Perhaps the members of WILPF are too young to remember that the immediate cause of the 1967 Six Day War was Egyptian dictator, Gamal Nasser’s, illegal order to UN peacekeepers to leave the Sinai Desert (which separates Israel from Egypt) so that the Arab armies could destroy the Jewish State and “throw its people into the sea.” The U.N. simply complied and skulked away, leaving Israel to face the combined Arab armies alone. Or perhaps WILPF does not realize that U.N. peacekeepers are even now supposed to patrol Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, but they have stood aside and given complete autonomy over the area to Hizbollah. Or perhaps WILPF is unaware that Israel faces automatic opposition in the U.N. by the majority Arab and “nonaligned” bloc, and therefore is not allowed to sit on the U.N. Security Council, or on many of the U.N.’s other bodies. Despite having one of the most fiercely independent and fair judiciaries in the world, Israel is even forbidden to have a permanent judge sit on the International Court in the Hague. This is one more reason why Israel chose not participate in its recent kangaroo hearing. 

Maybe I should have my wife sign this letter, “An International Woman for a Better Peace.” But I am not a hypocrite, and would not hide my arguments behind a seductive “women’s peace” moniker. 

John Gertz 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I would never have known about Medea Benjamin and the “Code Pink, End the Occupation of Iraq” banner had it not been for the Daily Planet’s July 30-Aug. 5 edition. 

Just who was it that decided that the major networks—ABC,CBS and NBC—would only show one hour of the Democratic National Convention and not even one hour on of the night of the keynote speech, and who allowed them to do this? 

Although if George W. Bush is allowed to continue for four more years I am sure we will not get even one hour if there is a convention in 2008. 

I was disappointed that John Kerry’s position on the Bush war is to continue having the war continue. When he protested the war in Vietnam it was in part, he said, because the president and the government lied to the American people, and because the war could not be won. This is the same reason that I and others are opposed to the Bush war today. 

Max Macks 

P.S.: Perhaps your colleague Richard Brenneman could reassign someone else to write the Police Blotter while he writes a a book that might be called, Funny Muggings I Have Known. 

I don’t think the person who has had his wallet or purse taken by force feels very relieved. However, “relieved” seems to be Brennenan’s term for this criminal act. 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I see that Sanne DeWitt is up to her usual tricks, equating opposition to the policies of the right wing Israeli government with either opposition to the Jewish State or anti-Semitism, or both (Letters, Daily Planet, July 27-29). 

I grew up during the Nazi years. Those Jews who could read the writing on the wall tried to escape, but few countries would take them, certainly not this country. When the Jews were being exterminated and the allies did little or nothing to stop the slaughter. So I accept the necessity for the creation of the State of Israel, despite the obvious problems it created in the Arab world. 

During those years, when Passover came, we used the Ceder to talk of oppression, not just that suffered by Jews, but by anyone. Those ceders continued till I stopped attending any religious rites. But the point is that we did expect the Jews, who had been victims of the worst oppression in history to learn to be better than their oppressors; so when we see the Jewish State acting to oppress its Palestinian neighbors or, even worse, it’s Arab citizens we are more offended then if any other country had done the same thing. It is as if we (as a people) learned nothing from the horror. 

That’s not “chutzpah” but rather the only way humankind will ever advance and end the vicious cycle of suicide bombings, retaliatory killings (of civilians as well as “fighters”), ad nauseum. There is plenty of blame to go around, but it is a true cop out to excuse atrocities by the Israeli government on the ground, as Sanne did, that Jews are “like everybody else.” Others do it so why can’t we? Not a formula for ending conflict, let alone acting rationally. 

And I would note that the Israeli’s have been doing just that for a long time, and still the suicide bombers come. When will they realize that they are doing something fundamentally wrong and self-defeating, as well as immoral (as immoral as the bombers). 

Mal Burnstein 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

This is in response to Mayor Bates’ request for donations for full public financing of elections for mayor, City Council, school board and auditor. 

I am amazed at the timing of this request. With the city’s infrastructure crumbling, streets in disrepair, school grounds unattended, budget cuts, etc., this is to me the worse time to ask more money from overburdened taxpayers. 

I am retired and living on a small pension and own a house which I can barely maintain and wonder how I will manage to pay for the three increased taxes that are on the city ballot this year. I also wonder about the city’s priorities having noticed several new roundabouts in my neighborhood which are expensive to build and maintain. Next to them is my neighborhood school ground full of weeds and has been neglected for years due to cuts in the schools’ budget. 

I am sure city council members, mayor, school board members and auditor would love to have this public financing approved by the voters and since the majority of Berkeley voters are not homeowners, this proposal may be approved. I do feel it is an injustice to homeowners and I am concerned that many opportunists will take advantage of this free money to run for elected office. 

At the federal and state level, this proposal would work well against vested interests. At the local level, however, these pressures are less of a threat and full public financing can lead to encourage fraud and capricious applicants. 

Andree Smith 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Over the years, I have enjoyed walking by the garden at Willard, watching the roses bloom, the native bees dancing on the lavenders and salvias. So, it was an unhappy day when the John Deere tractor arrived and started taking out the new fence that was just installed a year ago, and turning one part of the garden into dry dust. 

Last Saturday, some parents were doing plant rescue, digging up bulbs, plant divisions and taking cuttings. I noticed the deep brown of rich organic soil. What is happening? I asked. I was told the school district was pulling out plants (a beautiful bunch grass with full head of seed) to widen the sidewalk (whatever for), a lawn and a border of day lilies and agapanthas. 

Don’t shopping centers have enough agapanthas? The school district must be foolish with money to waste it so liberally. And sadly for education, the schools invariably choose the mundane. 

Raymond Piagorsky 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Caltrans, while working on construction on the span of the Bay Bridge, has unearthed several remains of the Ohlone people on Yerba Buena Island. It wasn’t the first time. In the fall of 2002, other Ohlone people remains were also discovered during a pre-work exploration. During that time, Caltrans has been trying to work with the Ohlone people to find an arrangement on where the remains will be reburied without affecting the building of the bridge. 

Now it is happening again. By not wanting to delay the construction of the span until they resolve these issues with the Ohlone people, Caltrans has shown it is not concerned about respecting the dead. Perhaps it is due to the fact that the Ohlone people are not being federally recognized that Caltrans can ignore the remains of their ancestors and continue to work on the span. 

Billy Trice, Jr. 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

“The California Tiger Salamander and its habitat are a critical part of California’s natural heritage that will be preserved for future generations.” 

This is a direct quote from Kassie Siegel, the attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity. How many millions of dollars has she and other eco-lawyers received from law suit settlements with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding listing species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and the following legal fee recovery legislation in 1976? 

Who pays the eco-lawyers these millions? 

The U.S. Government (us poor taxpayers). 

So far our government has given billions to these eco-lawyers and these eco-freak organizations for the past 25 years under the false premise that we were saving these precious weeds, fish, birds, bugs, frogs, insects, etc., from extinction. If you frighten, harass, injure, kill, take, etc., in any way any endangered species you may go to jail for up to one year and pay a fine up to $50,000. Some developers have paid over $1 million in “settlement fees.” 

What a bunch of crap! 

We never address problem issues like the 17,000-plus murders that have occurred in Los Angeles County alone since 1990. 

Under the guise of issues like the environment, toxics, malpractice, workers comp, personal injury, sexual harassment, etc., lawyers with insatiable greed for our money made our life very expensive. 

Sidney Steinberg 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

During this 50th anniversary of Thurgood Marshall’s victory in “Brown v. Board of Education” I am saddened at how inequality of U.S. public education continues and even worsens as the gap widens between the rich and the working poor. 

While engaged in the Brown case, the Supreme Court did not question the premise that under the Constitution public education must be equal for all. At question was only whether or not education can be equal under racial segregation. The right to equality was a given. 

But obviously, unequal funding cannot produce equal public education. Present funding of a child’s school—proportional to the poorness or costliness of his home and/or its neighborhood—ignores the “given” in Brown, that constitutionally, U.S. public education must be equal. Today’s public education funding should face court challenge; it is as unconstitutional as segregation. 

Single-payer universal health care is a popular demand. Why not single-payer equally-funded public education? 

Along with unequal funding a widely encouraged stumbling block to equal public education is the Parent Teachers Association, whose richer chapters do not share with poorer schools the funds they raise. This inequity needs remedy. 

In poor neighborhoods parents have little free time to volunteer. Monetary evaluation of volunteer work could implement equalization of the disparity of greater donated time in the more leisured neighborhoods than at poorer schools. The latter could use compensating dollars to hire aides, buy supplies, etc. 

Judith Segard Hunt 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The latest click up the color-coded alert ladder, the sixth, brings to mind the tale of Chicken Little.  

Why were the hen, the duck and the turkey so easily taken in? They should have asked for more evidence before rushing off to warn the king that the sky was falling. The acorn that hit C. L. on the head might have been thrown by the cunning ol’ fox (al Qaeda). Besides, a more careful investigation might have revealed that the acorn, “chilling in its specificity”, was over three years old (before 9/11/01). 

Given that an acorn’s fall is, like an earthquake, both inevitable and unpredictable, two lessons emerge from applying the Chicken Little parable to the realities of homeland security. The first is, as FDR put it, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. And the second can be expressed rhetorically: Why do we have so little respect for our enemies that we believe they (al Qaeda et al.) do not know that we know what they’re up to? 

Like the barnyard birds we seem willing to follow the fox into his den. For, if the purpose of our enemy is to frighten us then they can read in our color-coded alert ladder just how well they’re succeeding, they don’t need any more suicidal operatives. 

Marvin Chachere  

San Pablo?