Letters to the Editor

Tuesday August 31, 2004


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I want to thank you so much for the wonderful, illustrated opinion page feature you did last issue on what can only be described as the BUSD assault on the Willard garden and Willard Greening Project. (Wendy Schlesinger’s letter was sheer poetry.) 

The Sunday edition of the San Francisco Chronicle had a major feature on the fine and closely related work Alice Waters is doing at King Middle School and now elsewhere in the District. We are so lucky to have her.  

Yolanda Huang too is a treasure—albeit one without a foundation she can tap to carry out her ideas (though she has written successful if smaller grants.) I hope people who have seen the Willard grounds and/or last week’s Daily Planet letters and photo will be outraged enough by the contrast in how Yolanda Huang, the Willard Greening Project, and the Willard PTA have been treated to call Superintendent Michelle Lawrence (644-6206) demanding a public apology and—even more important—that Yolanda and someone from the Willard PTA be immediately brought onto the Willard Site Committee and have major voices in what steps are taken there from now on. 

Donna Mickleson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding Albert Sukoff’s proposal (Daily Planet, Aug. 20-26) to transform the area from UC Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza down Telegraph Avenue into a “Sixtiesland” following the model of Williamsburg: I think it is a great idea for the sake of this unique community, better than transforming the same area into a deserted AC Transit bus terminal (which seems to be in the works). 

Berkeley councilmembers and local communities should act positively on community preservation along the lines of Mr. Sukoff’s proposal before the pending destruction of that same area becomes a reality. 

Takeshi Akiba 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Oh, No ! 

It may be “common knowledge around city hall” (“Sherry Kelly to Retire as City Clerk,” Daily Planet, Aug. 27-30) but news of Kelly’s impending retirement comes as a great shock and disappointment to me, a mere voting citizen. Eh gad. 

The emphasis on the long hard-worked hours she obviously puts in is appropriate, but I’m here to underscore not only the quantity of her work, but the quality of her skills and standards! 

Helen Rippier Wheeler 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On Aug. 25, the California Legislature served up a big win to parents and students by passing a bill requiring school board approval, public disclosure and parental notification before irradiated foods can be purchased for school lunch programs. This bill provides a democratic decision-making process for a highly controversial issue that has concerned parents across the state.  

Irradiation is a technology used to kill the bacteria that causes food poisoning, but that’s not all it does. In the process, nutrients are destroyed and new toxic chemicals are formed, some of which may promote cancer development and cause genetic damage to human cells. No long-term studies have been conducted on how children’s health is affected by eating irradiated food. 

Given the scientific uncertainty over the safety of irradiated foods, it is important to involve parents in decisions regarding food their children will be served. In California, three million children participate in the National School Lunch Program, most of whom are from low-income families and may be undernourished at home.  

By passing this bill, lawmakers have ensured that California remains accountable to both parents and disadvantaged schoolchildren, who are among the most vulnerable of our state’s residents. 

Assemblymember Loni Hancock is largely to thank for authoring this legislation. Now we urge the governor to sign AB 1988 to preserve parents’ and students’ right to know what is served in school meals. 

Anna Blackshaw 

Director, Public Citizen’s  

California Office, 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Bravo Berkeley Police for recent stings enforcing pedestrian right of way (Police Blotter. Daily Planet, Aug. 20-26). It is all too accurate to call the ticketed drivers “hapless,” given how rarely this and other traffic laws are enforced, but a harsher word is deserved. Aggressive drivers make crossing many of our streets an ordeal calling for cold nerve and flawless timing. I’d like to learn which merchants were trying to save them from getting nailed, and why. Surely it’s better for business when pedestrians can get safely to your door. 

But will the stings continue until word gets around that shaving five minutes off a crosstown drive is a high stakes gamble, or are ticket recipients indeed victims, along with those three dead pedestrians last year, of erratic policing tactics that change nothing? I have to report that it was still business as usual on Aug. 23. Eight or 10 cars passed at 40 mph as I waited in the crosswalk at San Pablo Avenue and Parker Street. Two violations for the price of one; the second unavoidable since at that speed stopping for a pedestrian is unsafe.  

Would this change with consistent, continuing enforcement of speed limits and pedestrian right of way? Yes! Even drivers who didn’t read about the stings in the Planet or get cited themselves would often have to reduce speed behind more savvy motorists. It would prevent accidents and help reduce traffic and parking congestion by making walking and biking safer. 

Unrestrained traffic on our main streets takes the pleasure out of running errands and makes parents fearful of letting kids walk to the park or school. Keeping up the stings until drivers get the message, and following up with occasional—monthly?—reminders thereafter is probably the single easiest and least controversial (I hope) thing that could be done to improve the quality of life in our town. Let’s do it! 

Ann Sieck 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

At its monthly meeting the Strawberry Creek Lodge Tenants Association unanimously approved the following letter. 

The constant court actions by Housing Commissioner Marie Bowman opposing the building of a senior residence at 2517 Sacramento Ave. concerns us. Even though the courts have decided that the building should start, the end is not in sight. The court actions have already siphoned off over $750,000 from efforts to provide needy seniors safe, affordable housing in Berkeley. The wasted sum of money can mount to over a million dollars if these court cases continue. 

Strawberry Creek Lodge is a senior residence with over 150 separate apartments. We are privileged to live in a pleasant home, where help, concern and new ideas are available from staff and residents. It’s a beautiful feeling to know that interesting and interested persons are close at hand. 

In close vicinity are homes filled with families. We have no problem with our neighbors and they have no problem with us. Our community is an asset to our neighborhood and we believe that the proposed new 40 apartment senior residence will be an asset to that neighborhood.  

The courts have decided in favor of building the 40 unit building. Neighborhood persons have asserted their objections, but have been overruled. Clearly the new building would be an improvement over the existing unsightly and unsafe building. Other persons in the neighborhood, at a rally have urged that the housing should be built as proposed. 

Ms. Bowman has said over and over that she cares for seniors. She agrees that they are deserving of an affordable and caring place to live. She could affirm this care by not pursuing future court cases. 

We trust that Ms. Bowman will sincerely address the thoughts we expressed. Already too much of the funds needed for housing seniors has gone into a fruitless battle. Common sense must prevail. 

Sid Efross, 

President, Strawberry Creek Lodge Tenants Association 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

While the Republican National Convention hails President Bush as a strong leader, let’s remember that the country has lost about seven million jobs on his watch and that the average American family’s income has decreased on his watch. The clincher is that President Bush has turned record surpluses into record deficits, threatening the Social Security system that working people rely on, so that the wealthiest one percent of Americans can enjoy huge tax cuts—all this while cutting combat pay to soldiers. If strong at all, Bush’s leadership is head-strong, and it’s leading us down the drain. 

Claudia Morrow 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Bush lies continue. First he lied about his Vietnam military service, or lack of it. Then he lied about his drinking and drug problems. He lied to support his illegal invasion of Iraq. He lied about clean air and clean water. Now he lies about John Kerry’s honorable service in Vietnam. I know. I spent 19 months in Vietnam. 

By now, we all know what Kerry knew in 1970. That Vietnam was an illegal war. Just like Iraq is. A war contrived by the neo-fascist business-government partnership that President Eisenhower warned about. 

If one is to do anything meaningful this year, it is to vote. With less than 50 percent voting, the neo-conservatives will continue to pillage America’s wealth and international goodwill, unless everyone votes. 

Please register and vote. America’s future is on the line. 

William Dodge 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Fantastic Olympics. I am sending money for my couch potato seat here in the Bay Area to help defray the high cost Greece took on to build such fine facilities and provide such flawless security. 

Greece revealed the beauty of the whole world acting in concert. The country that invented democracy and the Olympics renewed its heritage by hosting the best Olympics ever. The world was treated to incredible performances in every sport. All nations competed under commonly accepted rules. New peaks of human performance were achieved. 

At a time when our president has divided nations into “good” and “evil,” into a “coalition of the willing” and turncoats like France and Germany, we needed the Olympics to highlight international cooperation. Anger only flared in Athens when a representative of the Bush administration was to show up. Despite our fine athletes, the administration’s foreign policy has obviously gained the disrespect of the world. 

We Americans have qualms about starting a war unilaterally because of weapons of mass destruction that weren’t there. We were led into thinking that Saddam Hussein was somehow connected to 9/11, overlooking Saudis who actually were. We were reminded that Saddam was brutal to the Iraqis. Only reservists, troops and their families registered the loss of life and limb. The investment of our tax money was too huge to be understood. But as atrocities surfaced showing Americans sent to Iraq also brutal to caged Iraqis, we sensed shades of Vietnam. We still did not know the depth of international disrespect. 

In much of America the sources of news are limited; most of us know more about a murder trial in California than about world opinion. Yet we need the cooperation of the rest of the world more than ever to restore peace and save our environment. The torch of international cooperation was lit again in Greece. Let’s carry it further. 

Eva Bansner 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

We went to see Uncovered: The Truth About the Iraq War at the California Theater on Kittridge Street Sunday and my daughter asked afterwards why all the “bad guys” (Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld) wore U.S.A. flag pins on their lapels and the “good guys” didn’t. Why have we let the current administration and their followers assume our flag for their own? Patriotic dissidents can wear the flag, also. Let’s do it. I’m sure we can find the pins for sale somewhere in Berkeley. 

George Paxton›