Letters to the Editor

Friday August 13, 2004


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Hyberbole can be an amusing form of getting a point across but I take offense at Stacy Taylor’s use of it in such a hurtful manner. She might not like Richard Brenneman’s Police Blotter but I wish she had stated that fact in a gentler manner. I, for one, find Brenneman’s levity to be an effective tool in reporting uncomfortable situations and I hope he keeps up the good work. 

Joan Trenholm Herbertson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Where is the justice in not permitting Berkeley citizens to vote for Councilmember Shirek due to misunderstandings, paperwork snafus, sneaky legislation and who knows what underhanded manipulations? This is an outrage. 

Terry Cochrell 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Richard Brenneman’s article on David Teece (Daily Planet, Aug. 6-9) was superlative investigative reporting. Bahraini petrodollars from an Islamic bank, Russian business school, Tony Blair’s economic policies, the Republican Party. Sounds like The Manchurian Candidate. 

Nancy Ward 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

The city has recently put signs up on some streets banning vehicles over three tons. (“Three-Ton Limit,” Daily Planet, Aug. 10-12).  

According to a recent article in Slate magazine, many California cities that have imposed three-ton limits on their streets have banned some SUVs without realizing it. SUVs weighing over 6,000 pounds include the Chevy Suburban and Tahoe, the Range Rover, the GMC Yukon, the Toyota Land Cruiser and Sequoia, the Lincoln Navigator, the Mercedes M Class, the Porsche Cayenne S, the Dodge Ram 1500 pickup with optional Hemi, and (of course) the Hummer.  

The current Berkeley ordinance is limited to vehicles with commercial license plates, but it should be rewritten to apply to all heavy vehicles.  

SUVs benefit from being trucks by being exempted from automobile fuel economy rules. They should also pay the penalty for being trucks by being ticketed if they drive on streets where vehicles over 6,000 pounds are not allowed.  

Let’s rewrite our ordinance so we can ticket the governor if he tries driving one of his Hummers in Berkeley.  

Charles Siegel  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a neighbor of Fire Station 7 currently under construction who has lived near the location on Shasta Road for 25 years I can assure your readers and Russ Henke (Letters, Daily Planet, Aug. 6-9) that the changes to the hillside near the water tank and the location of the station itself is a welcome addition to our community. Despite Mr. Henke’s remarkable reported sighting of a steam shovel on the job, modern equipment and massive steel girders are being used to reinforce a hillside which has always been prone to slides. The non-indigenous trees removed to accomplish this purpose were near the end (or past) their life cycle and actually represented an additional safety threat perched as they were on the steep slope. 

For the last 25 years I can attest that the site has been used by construction crews to stage equipment, gravel, pipes and debris, even on one occasion hazardous waste! The replacement of this eyesore by a pleasant fire station design that every neighbor had the opportunity to help shape is more then wonderful! Thanks to the City of Berkeley, my neighbors, Betty Olds and the firefighters who fought so long and hard to get this station built! 

Vic Kley 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A July 30 Contra Costa Times article, “Point Molate project pending,” wrongly states that environmental groups favor this casino project. 

That is absolutely incorrect.  

We know of no environmental group that favors this project. Our organization, Citizens for the Eastshore State Park, is composed of individuals and environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club, Save the Bay, Golden Gate Audubon Society, and multiple others; none has come out in favor of this project. 

Point Molate is public land and should remain in public ownership.  

What message does this send to our children, that we solve our financial problems with casinos?  

On the drawing boards are the two in Richmond, one in San Pablo, the casino gambling on the ballot for Golden Gate Fields, plus the card rooms. 

How many casinos will gamblers frequent? Does anyone believe that casinos deliver their promised panacea?  

We can do better than to finance our future with casinos. 

This land can be a mix of parkland, Bay Trail and compatible other uses. This is a precious shoreline resource, as are Breuner Marsh and the shoreline at the Zeneca site. 

Richmond and the surrounding community have an historic opportunity to protect this legacy for future generations.  

Robert Cheasty  

President, Citizens for the  

Eastshore State park  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Twelve weeks from today we’ll know, God willing, whether or not the world’s only super power will have a forty-fourth president. Between now and then we’ll witness a fight between two dull and evenly matched contestants sparing with one another on minor issues of little difference to the rest of the world. They’ll give the same speech over and over in a few “battleground states” hoping to win over a very few undecided voters. 

Meanwhile, the rest of us, Democrat or Republican, having made up our minds long ago, can look forward to 84 days of mind numbing boredom.  

And those who do not yet know who they want in the White House are, ipso facto, not qualified to vote. 

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

One thing I found puzzling about Sarah Norr’s piece (“SF Chronicle Cracks Down on Liberal Staffers,” Daily Planet, Aug. 10) is her failure to mention the union. Why haven’t Rosen, Norr, Pates et al. filed grievances? If they sought union help and were denied they ought to file a joint NRLB complaint against the union, their legally certified representative, for failure to represent them. It would be a great way to expose the Chronicle and, if necessary, the union.  

Ernie Haberkern 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thanks for the excellent article by Sarah Norr on the “conflict of interest” policy at the San Francisco Chronicle, which has now cost several progressive journalists their jobs. Norr correctly identifies the bias against workers (owners pursue their politics as they damned well please) and the left (since no one could recall a conservative voice being silenced). I would add that the policy is intellectually vapid, since it presumes that fairness and honesty correlate with having no meaningful opinions about the world. I know many Berkeleyites turn up their nose at the Chronicle and cling to the New York Times—a more conservative and biased paper, if you ask me—but they are missing the fact that the old Chron is the Bay Area’s newspaper of record and has gotten much better in recent years. Which is why the current trend is more disturbing. Ms. Norr is right to say we had all best keep hounding the editors there to stop the nonsense. 

Dick Walker 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

As a writer who has lived in the Bay Area for better than three decades, I’ve come to know enough Chronicle staffers to state that they would be amused/appalled to read Sarah Norr’s contention that there is a present crackdown on “liberal staffers.” Indeed, most reporters and columnists at the Chron are liberal and a good percentage of the staff would be fired if Norr’s allegation had any credibility. 

Let’s look at the recent changes Norr has cited. The firings and movement of personnel came as a result of both a breach of the newspaper’s ethics and downright poor journalism. The Chron is neither a polemic like the Bay Guardian nor a print version of KPFA-like propaganda such as the Daily Planet. Rather, it 

attempts to inform it’s readers without a semblance of overt bias. And to that end, its staff must eschew mantle of extremism or prejudice in their life away 

from the newspaper. 

Norr’s father, Henry Norr, violated those ethics by journeying to the Palestinian territories as a member of the ISM, an organization which has both supported terrorists by hiding them or trying to keep the Israeli army from stopping the smuggling of munitions from Egypt. Understandably, many staffers were distraught with Norr’s extremism and he truly merited his severance from the publication. 

Ruth Rosen, best known before her hiring at the Chron as the most facile of feminists, continued her simplistic worldview as a columnist. Not only was she so predictable that most of us who consider ourselves progressives stopped reading her, she failed to check her research in making allegations which proved to be false. This was journalism at its worst and she, too, deserved her walking papers. 

For several years, William Pates riled fairminded readers in printing a plurality of letters which adhered to his political prejudices. He was particularly fond of publishing a preponderance of correspondence which made the Chron letters page a font of pro-Palestinian propaganda. But as editor of letters, Pates went over the line in giving money to a political candidate when the appearance of non-bias is paramount to the Chron’s choice of recitation from its readers. Violating a code he knew full well, Pates was justly reassigned. 

In sum, the Chronicle rightfully enforced strictures necessary to assure the public that it is a publication sans the polemics of political prejudice. And when it comes to good journalism, one could say that the firing of Norr and Rosen, along with the reassignment of Pates, was addition by subtraction. The Chron is a better paper for it. 

Dan Spitzer 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I recently moved from Berkeley to Hawaii, and I’m already beginning to miss certain things—including your paper. Even the “big city” newspapers here are really just poorly disguised local papers—and even at that, they can’t compare with the Planet. 

I look back with fond memories to those Tuesday and Friday mornings when I’d stumble down sleepily from my Shattuck Avenue apartment to pick up your paper. I particularly enjoyed the work of your cartoonist and would always flip to that page first. The cartoons were consistently intelligent and well drawn, and captured issues in a clear and thought-provoking way. The cartoonists around here don’t seem quite as capable or willing to take on important issues—their cartoons are more likely to elicit a groan rather than a laugh or a nod in liberal solidarity. 

So thank you, Daily Planet, for several years of good work. Who knows, your great articles and cartoons might just help lead me back home. 

Robin Shaw 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

It’s outrageous that only two out of nine councilmembers have enough common sense to understand that giving city employees free parking as a “perk” is wrong. Only two out of nine had the guts to vote against ripping off the taxpayer. 

Giving parking enforcement officers (of all employees) this perk—free on-street parking is a direct violation of Berkeley City Charter Article VII, Sec. 32 This action by Wozinak, Olds, Hawley, Maio, Bates, Shirek and Breland is a direct slap in the face of every taxpaying citizen in the City of Berkeley.  

Making matters worse is our city attorney’s twisted interpretation of the city charter. The council can give away whatever perk or bonus it wants to employees. But as soon as council passes a “resolution” giving it away, no longer is it considered a “perk” it’s now “compensation.” According to her, passing the item as a “resolution” means—like it or not— there is nothing tax payers can do. We don’t even have the right to do a “referendum” as allowed under the city charter. 

This is another case of Berkeley city government screwing over the tax payer to get what they want. Interpreting the laws for their benefit and interests. 

Every tax paying citizen in Berkeley should be outraged at the seven councilmembers, the city attorney and city manager for another one of their crooked backroom deals.  

Some people know what side of the plate their bread is buttered on... Kriss and Donna—Thanks for standing up for the citizens and tax payers of Berkeley. 

Jim Hultman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing in response to Robert Kavaler’s letter (Daily Planet, Aug. 10-12), wherein he takes issue with Jakob Schiller’s use of the word “win.” I, too, take issue with the headline “Berkeley Bowl Employees Win Right to Unionize” in that the right to organize a union is in fact guaranteed by federal law under 1935’s Wagner Act. This right, however, is constantly violated by employers. Indeed, Berkeley Bowl management violated these rights nearly every day of the union drive, from unlawful interrogation of union supporters to actually threatening termination for union activities.  

While Mr. Kavaler is correct that employees voted against unionization last October, I fear his judgment is less than critical. The employees voted against the union under the context of coercion, intimidation, and the promise of a better Bowl without the union. Shortly following the election, some employees got a better Bowl. For example, many cashiers received raises of $4-6, while a number of produce clerks were given a mere .25-50 cents, only to have their overtime cutback. Slight disparity? Perhaps their increased wages went instead to Littler Mendelson, a notorious union-busting law firm currently retained by Berkeley Bowl.  

Mr. Kalaver may not know that, long before the election, a strong majority of employees had already authorized the union to represent them for sake of collective bargaining. This changed only after management began their illegal counter-campaign. What employees- yes employees- did in fact win, then, is actual recognition of their union and the company’s agreement to bargain in good faith.  

He seems also to forget the role of the NLRB in his list of parties involved in the settlement. The National Labor Relations Board, a branch of the federal government, found the evidence regarding management’s illegal actions severe enough to mandate a bargaining order. A trial was scheduled this month, but the Berkeley Bowl chose to settle as opposed to facing this trial.  

This is a complex matter involving many people with a multitude of opinions. As an employee of four years, and someone most sensitive to the views of my co-workers, this decision is a rallying point. Not so much a “win,” perhaps, but certainly a step closer to the ultimate goal: a contract between management and workers.  

Kevin Meyer 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have enjoyed reading the Planet’s interesting articles and editorials about the Democratic National Convention. One important point raised by the Planet’s coverage is that some voters don’t want four more years of President Bush and Republican rule, but feel that John Kerry and the Democrats are not differentiating themselves enough. (Medea Benjamin’s protest at the convention was one example of that sentiment.) 

To those voters, I offer the following suggestion: send e-mails and letters to Kerry and the Democratic National Committee ASAP and let them know your feelings as a voter. Tell them that it’s not enough to say “anybody but Bush.” Tell them what issues you care about and what stands they should publicly and firmly take on those issues if they want your vote in November. (Examples include removing the troops from Iraq, providing more reconstruction assistance to the Iraqi people, and overturning the Patriot Act.) You can even threaten to vote for Nader—or to abstain from voting altogether—if they don’t. (The sincerity of this threat, or lack thereof, is up to you.) If enough voters put pressure on Kerry and the Democrats, they might listen; after all, they need your votes to win in November. I can’t guarantee that this will help, but it can’t hurt. I’ve done it myself, and at least I can say I’ve made my feelings clear. 

David B. Mitchell 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was standing in line, ordering pizza in Berkeley Bowl, at roughly 6:30 p.m. Monday, when I noticed the individual from the front cover of the Aug. 6 Berkeley Daily Planet. I introduced myself, shook his hand, and thanked him for his efforts on behalf of the working class. Chuck responded amicably, announcing that he was back for the first time, and then added that he felt a little nervous. As he went on shopping, I couldn’t understand why he’d feel nervous after the settlement. Five minutes later, I discovered why. 

Feeling that I had big news, I told a friend of mine, a Berkeley Bowl employee, that Chuck McNally was in the store. The friend responded that he knew, and that management had already kicked him out. Demanding answers as to why, the friend regurgitated the hocus-pocus that he previously threatened an employee, as mentioned in your article. 

I cannot understand why Chuck McNally is still not allowed in the store. I thought his gesture to spend his money at Berkeley Bowl after the settlement both courageous and kind. Obviously, he still poses some kind of threat. Clearly, he was not there to provoke someone who no longer works there. Perhaps it has something to do with the union still not having a contract.  

Whatever the case, once again, I find myself at odds with wanting to spend money at a private enterprise that not only spends outrageous resources union-busting, but that also tries to pick and choose who is allowed to shop in their store. 

Corey Wade 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was appalled to learn that the Greek government has supported the poisoning of an estimated 30-50,000 stray dogs in an effort to “clean up” the streets of Greece in preparation for the Olympic Games. What an extreme tragedy this is and a shameful stain on Greece and the games. Greece, like most other countries, struggles with uncontrolled canine and feline overpopulation. It is more than unfortunate that Greek officials did nothing to mitigate this problem (through education of citizens, ordinances regarding spaying/neutering of pets, and “catch and release” programs) before the eyes of the world turned toward them as host to the Olympic Games. Despite that poisoning animals is a criminal offense in Greece, it is a traditional method of controlling the stray population. According to Welfare for Animals in Greece, a NYC advocacy and lobby group that just traveled to Greece to investigate, 80 percent of the abandoned street dogs of Athens and the greater Attika area, including the Olympic sites, have already been exterminated. 

In Greek mythology, the Sibyl didn’t poison Cerberus (the hound of Hades), she merely placed him in a temporary sleep. Hercules himself returned the mighty guard dog to Hades at the end of his final Labor. Surely, an ancient and creative society such as Greece can find a way to save these abandoned animals and shine as host of the Olympic Games. I urge readers to contact officials at the Greek Embassy at Greece@greekembassy.org and call for an end to the poisonings immediately!  

Mrs. Terri Cordrey