Letters to the Editor

Friday September 03, 2004


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I can’t find much sympathy for the current outpourings of emotion over the so-called “destruction” of the Willard School garden on Telegraph Avenue.  

When my own son was a Willard student a few years back, a dedicated group of parents contributed cash and much effort to landscape what was at that time hardpan and gravel on the Telegraph Avenue frontage. Our resulting plantings looked nice to my naive, unenlightened eye, and required little maintenance or water. It may have been a “commercial . . . sanitized” landscape, in the derisive words of one of your correspondents, but at least we parents had the satisfaction of knowing it was our very own commercial, sanitized landscape. 

Our grassroots effort was largely wasted, for within a couple a seasons our plantings had unashamedly been ripped out by those presuming a superior aesthetic that favored a biologically correct “natural” look. 

I would have shrugged the whole business off if it hadn’t been for the concurrent assassination of a beautiful old red-flowering tree on the corner of Telegraph and Stuart, an unusual species of eucalyptus that was highly praised just weeks ago in this newspaper. When Willard School was torn down and reconstructed in the early ‘70s, this splendid tree had been one of the few plants spared as a landmark, a reminder of the history of the site. I still grieve for this missing tree every spring when I pass this corner. 

If our earlier “commercial, sanitized” landscaping indeed required some revision, I think a little humility and respect for past efforts from the “natural look”-ers would have served the community better than their scorched earth policy that took down even a fine old tree. In my opinion, those who had so little respect for what went before are hardly entitled now to protest loudly when the school administration has to adjust the site to new conditions.  

Kim Cranney 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I suppose people see what they want to see and ignore the reality as apparently your commentators do as they decry the removal of one of Telegraph Avenues greatest eyesores. My office is across the street and for these many years, I’ve watched this well intentioned experiment in jungle condoms not uncommon), often a well screened hiding place for homeless to encamp, and invariably, as a convenient and overgrown place to dump trash. Once every so often, there would be a serious but short lived cleanup, weeding, even new planting, then they all go home and leave it for those of us who see it and walk by it every day to witness the degradation anew. And the assertion that this was a “garden,” as in someway attractive and well cared for space to spend time in, is a joke.  

Thank you, Berkeley Unified School District, the change was long overdue. 

Michael Yovino-Young 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Personally: I think there should be no more tall structures built downtown with the exception of the UC-related hotel (provided the creek is resurfaced and that street turned into a nice park). Otherwise, it will become too dark and windy downtown—precisely the opposite of what we want. Existing structures should just be “fossilized”—rebuilt in their current form, more or less (with artistic license), should they need replacing. There’s plenty of room down there for a vibrant economy. Just preserve the light and don’t make the wind any worse! Rather, some more structures along the size of the current monstrosities should fill in more of the remote areas of south Shattuck Avenue / Adeline. With all due respect, I wouldn’t miss at least one of the two current tall towers, downtown (and I doubt I’m alone in any of this). 

Also: We need trolleys. Can that be privatized somehow? (E.g., the city pays up front to lay down a backbone of tracks and operators, in exchange for a tax, can operate trains on their own schedule and subsidize (and vote on locations for) additional tracks?) 

Eh? Eh? Whaddaythink? 

Tom Lord 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing about the “Week’s Most Peculiar Heist” in the Aug. 3 Police Blotter because I was that “pedestrian” and you seemed to have left out some details, such as the fact that I was also attacked by one of the teens, and it happened at 10:15 p.m., not 9:15. Just thought I should let you know. 

Alexander Thorson 






Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am a candidate for the BART Board, District 3. In your article (“Well Qualified Trio Vies for BART Seat,” Daily Planet, Aug. 31-Sept. 2), it mentioned that BART extensions to San Jose, Livermore and Antioch are my goals. This is not my position. The headline “BART to Livermore and Antioch” was taken from my positions on my campaign website, www.BobforBART.com, and quoted as my goals, without mentioning what I had written underneath that headline: that there are more cost effective solutions than full-scale BART extensions. In the meantime, people can show their commitment to public transit by promoting ridership and building transit oriented development along transit corridors. BART extensions are glamorous, but not at the expense of local connecting services. 

Bob Franklin 

BART Board Candidate 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Measure H—the Berkeley Fair Elections Act—was developed to strengthen political debate, increase competition for municipal office and enhance the responsiveness of local elected officials. If adopted, this proven Fair Elections system will put challengers on equal financial footing with incumbents and curb the ability of well-connected candidates to amass large campaign war chests to scare away challengers. Instead, elections will be based on candidates’ ideas, experience and community support, not their fundraising abilities.  

At the same time, Measure H will help enhance financial oversight over the city’s $280 million by creating the means for political newcomers to forcefully argue for changes in budget policies and priorities. At a cost of approximately .1 percent of Berkeley’s budget, Measure H will help ensure the remaining 99.9 percent is spent according to the wishes of the community.  

Jim Hultman’s suggestion that Measure H—the Berkeley Fair Elections Act—is Mayor Bates’ “baby” (see “LeConte Neighbors Fume Over Stolen Endorsements,” Daily Planet, Aug. 27-30) is completely misguided. Nothing is more threatening to an incumbent than an adequately funded challenger; the very essence of Measure H. Other LeConte members and Neighborhood leaders—like Nancy Carleton—understand the obvious benefits of public campaign financing of elections. If some neighborhood association members feel left out and inadequately represented, their best hope is to vote Yes on H. Then, they can run for office and ensure that issues of importance to long- and lifetime Berkeley residents—like myself—remain central in local elections.  

Increase the diversity of candidates! Help make elected officials more responsive! Level the playing field! Institute a proven, tested and sound reform! Help make history here in Berkeley and vote Yes on H. 

Sam Ferguson 

Co-Chair, Berkeley Fair Elections Coalition/Yes on H 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thanks for your front-page coverage of the Aug. 30 walkout at the Alameda County Medical Center (ACMC). However, a number of factual errors crept into the piece. First, Measure A, the half-cent sales tax to support county medical services, was approved by voters just this past March 2, not two years ago. Secondly, ACMC did not lay off 340 workers last April; they proposed those layoffs which are only now being pursued, so there is no second round of layoffs this year. 

The biggest error, however, is contained in a quote from Keith Carson, who may well have been misquoted. As he well knows, there is not a “present $60-plus million deficit;” in fact, the final 2004-05 budget passed by the trustees last month included a modest surplus. Carson is also reported to say that ACMC’s budget is solely within the discretion of the board of trustees. Your reporter might have checked out this statement, which is commonly expressed by various members of the Board of Supervisors. 

Unfortunately, as those of us who attend the many public meetings required to stay on top of this issue, the supes have had a major negative impact on ACMC’s budget. For example, they demanded an increase in ACMC’s rent payment from $1 per year to $1.7 million per year! The supes have consistently underfunded the state-mandated contract for medical services to the indigent with a cut of $3.5 million this year alone. And a few weeks ago they dropped a huge bomb on the trustees just after they had adopted their budget for this year—the supes demanded a $17 million “debt repayment” from ACMC, which creates an enormous hole in their already fragile finances.  

The supervisors created the hospital authority and the board of trustees several years ago, and they appoint the trustees. They have the legal authority to dissolve the authority and bring the medical center back under direct county control. Both SEIU and community advocacy organizations like the one I chair, Vote Health, have urged the supes to eliminate this legal fiction that allows them to foist responsibility onto a non-elected volunteer body to run ACMC and to call the county subsidy a debt which requires repayment. 

The voters of Alameda County overwhelmingly passed Measure A on March 2, agreeing to tax themselves to ensure medical services to our most vulnerable residents. It is a betrayal of the voters for ACMC and the Board of Supervisors to pursue cuts that will only further injure these same patients. 

I urge the Planet to cover this urgent local issue more closely in the future! 

Kay Eisenhower 

Chair, Vote Health 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I read Ron Sullivan’s article (”Zealous Chainsaw Use Proves Lethal to Trees,” Daily Planet, Aug. 31-Sept. 2) and that prompted this query. Ron appears to be very knowledgeable in the art of pruning trees and I thought perhaps he would have some advise on my question. I have an Oak tree very close to the side of my house. It drops acorns like crazy. Is there anything I can do to prevent the acorns from dropping—better yet, to prevent the tree from producing the acorns in the first place? I hear them dropping on the roof of the house and they’re all over the yard. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. 

Olive Santero