Election Section

Letters to the Editor

Friday September 24, 2004


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Let’s hope that the citizens of Berkeley will evaluate Measure H fairly before falling prey to such specious arguments summoned up by a recent letter to the editor. I doubt that an anti-Semitic and racist homphobe candidate could qualify for public financing. It takes 500 $5 donations to qualify to run for mayor, a high threshold in comparison to Maine (where it takes 50 $5 donations to run for similar sized jurisdictions). There hasn’t been a single case of an undeserving or undesirable candidate running in a statewide race in Maine.  

The argument that incumbents will not need to be responsive to the community is patently false. The situations in Maine and Arizona do not support this contention, and neither does it hold water theoretically. A challenger would easily defeat an unpopular incumbent as they will both qualify for the same amount of funding. It simply does not follow that an incumbent who is not responsive to his or her constituents would have an advantage over a challenger willing to address the needs and wishes of the voters. 

Finally, the idea that elected officials, who are freed up to serve their constituency by public financing, would be so burdened by the cost of it that they would not be accountable is another red herring. The cost of public financing is very small (approximately $5 per Berkeley resident) and will add immeasurable value to our democracy. 

Darcy Crosman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

When I was in college I wrote a speech for my class assignment (1961) and in that speech I predicted a war of attrition in Vietnam. The real reason in my mind that we would break the financial back of the communists in Russia. I really think it helped as the U.S.A. has the greatest logistic ability of any country now or in the past. 

We lose many more people every day to automobile accidents. The difference in war is that they are all young and haven’t realized their full potential. They are also almost insanely brave. 

Why not start the draft at 62 for all of us that are fit for line duty and the rest for planning and logistics? We older folks know how to avoid risks and yet get things done. Our loss would not be so destructive. It might even save Medicare or SS. In the revolutionary war the old folks acquitted themselves well.  

I like the fact that the government is trying to keep the conflict overseas, this is tradition and it has always worked for us and is working now. Fight over there not here. 

One atom bomb would make our efforts fruitless. Therefore I recommend that we take what ever action that is necessary to prevent hostile fanatics from acquiring dangerous weapons. Look what Pakistan was doing. It is such a danger to everything including all of our information on computers and millions of lives. Recovery would almost be impossible. Please block the highway so we do not get run over by crazy people. Remember the “Old Man of the Mountain.” Just a different non-terrorist old man’s view. 

Lowel M. Somers 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

I read the Sept. 10-13 issue of the Daily Planet and I have to ask, do you have a fact checker? 

Read the following line from article “Police Special Unit Accused of Improper Search and Detention” by Matthew Artz: 

“Within seconds, Tweedie said, a team of five SEU officers had battered down her door, shoved her to the kitchen floor and pointed their M-40 carbine guns at her. “ 

M-40 Carbine guns? Who makes up this stuff? Either the SEU had MP-5 submachine guns or they had M-4 carbines. They did not however have “M-40 carbine guns.” That makes about as much sense as calling a particular car a “Mazda rx-70 car automobile.” 

Brent Mattis 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Keith Winnard’s letter about Measure H on Sept. 17 states common concerns about public financing of campaigns—that fringe candidates might get public money, that it is somehow a gift to incumbents, and that it costs too much. Fortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. 

Measure H is based on the extremely successful Clean Money, Fair Elections systems used in Arizona and Maine. Like their systems, Measure H requires that participa- ting candidates show they have a broad base of public support by gathering a substantial number of signatures and $5 contributions—100 for city council candidates and 500 for mayoral candidates. Only candidates with substantial support in the community can reach those thresholds. They are even higher than those of Arizona and Maine, where fringe candidates rarely receive public funds. 

The miracle of public financing is that candidates with a broad base of public support actually get enough funding to compete against incumbents and wealthy candidates. In Arizona and Maine, more women and minority candidates are able to run for office and more challengers have defeated incumbents. In Arizona, the percentage of races decided by money dropped from 79 percent to only 2 percent. In other words, public financing allows elections to be decided by issues, not money. No wonder voter turnout increased by 20 percent. 

As for the small cost of public financing: Arizona and Maine both have sound, balanced budgets passed by diverse and talented officials elected without private funds, providing the services their people want. California doesn’t. The federal government doesn’t. The city of Berkeley doesn’t. Is this a coincidence? 

The real question isn’t how we can afford to have public financing of campaigns. It’s how can we afford not to? Vote Yes on H. 

Trent Lange 

Vice President, California Clean Money Campaign 

San Francisco 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A double thanks for the two Brower Memorial pieces published in the Planet pages so far (“Brower Memorial May Land at Berkeley Marina,” Daily Planet, Sept. 21 and “350,000 Pounds of ‘Spaceship Earth,’” Daily Planet, Aug. 6). 

In their deliberations, I hope that Civic Arts and Waterfront Commissioners acknowledge that (1) Berkeley’s waterfront already has a fine example of plop art, and (2) a big yellow legacy from PowerBar magnates Brian & Jennifer Maxwell still adorns the eastern face of Berkeley’s tallest downtown building. Wouldn’t it be nice if both Spinnaker Way and downtown Berkeley could avoid the fate of that no-man’s land in The Great Gatsby?  

Above the grey land and the spasms of bleak dust which drift endlessly over it, you perceive, after a moment, the eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg. The eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg are blue and gigantic their retinas are one yard high. They look out of no face, but, instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a non-existent nose. Evidently some wild wag of an oculist set them there to fatten his practice in the borough of Queens, and then sank down himself into eternal blindness, or forgot them and moved away. But his eyes, dimmed a little by many paintless days, under sun and rain, brood on over the solemn dumping ground. 

The memory of an energetic local entrepreneur and the spirit of David Brower deserve better. The Commissioners (and the Mayor) should follow the lead of the San Francisco Arts Commission and decline the Eino sculpture. 

It’s time for the PowerBlight sign to disappear too. After all, since March 2000 we’ve been gazing at a Shirley Dean-era rooftop advertisement now owned by a subsidiary of breast-feeding pariah Nestlé SA. 

Jim Sharp 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

As grandson of Jerome Blank, I would like to second my mother, Marcia Blank Kelly, in her praise of my grandfather and his contributions to his lifelong home, the city of Albany. 

However, in fairness to the rest of the Blank family, it should be noted that the Daily Planet made an overreaching inference in titling my mother’s September 21 letter to the editor “Blank Family Response.” In fact her letter was simply an individual’s opinion, not a collective, “official” statement. 

Michael Kelly 

San Jose 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you for informing us about the 350,000 pound monstrosity that the Power Bar folks are now trying to pawn off onto the City of Berkeley and have installed on the Marina. Recently this statue was rejected by the San Francisco Art Commission as unsuitable and out-of-size to be put on public display in their City. This oversized piece is allegedly a memorial to the late David Brower, a dedicated environmental activist. I’m sure that in his heart of hearts he would have much preferred to be remembered by the preservation of some open land, such as the Albany “Bulb” or perhaps by the draining of the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park. 

Check out the environmental waste created to build this 175-ton absurdity: a solid one-hundred ton piece of quartzite was mined in Brazil and then shipped thousands of miles to California. Thousands of tons of copper ore and tin ore were mined, then smelted, refined and then cast to form the sixty ton bronze base for the massive quartzite piece. This heavy bronze base was then also shipped to California, where a sculptor then combined the two pieces to create his massive statue of a bronze Brower climbing on a quartzite earth. Ravaging the planet to supposedly honor a man who opposed ravaging the planet. It sounds like a plan-ET to me.  

Well, the wealthy PowerBar folks are just trying to wash away a little of their personal greed-guilt by commissioning this over-sized piece of “environmental art.” Why don’t they just keep it in their own living room to impress their friends and relations? This imperial art piece would better befit the memory of Napoleon or Genghis Khan. Or perhaps it could be reshaped and recast into a tableau of “Mission Accomplished” and then donated to the City of Crawford, Texas for the soon-to-be-former-President Bush to gaze at when he visits. Or for a more local touch, it could be re-sculpted into a “Censorship Accomplished” memorial showing Mayor Tom Bates tossing bundles of the Daily Californian newspaper into a Berkeley dumpster.  

James K. Sayre 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Next Tuesday, September 28, 2004, the city council will hold a hearing on the City of Berkeley’s Creeks Ordinance. Writing about the public debate that led to this meeting, Council member Mim Hawley writes that the amended creek ordinance has unleashed unusually strong opinions. This is because, for any of the more than 2,000 property owners who have a creek running through (or under) their property, the message the current ordinance sends is fear. Fear that a protracted process will be required to rebuild homes and businesses damaged in a disaster, and exacerbate trauma. Fear that improvements to our properties that make sense from an urban and neighborhood perspective will not be possible. Fear that the city is focusing its creek policy not on pressing issues that holistically affect the urban watershed, like crumbling culverts, contaminated runoff and sewers leaking dangerous effluent into waters where our children play, but rather on abstract, absurdly utopian visions of creeks carving deep channels where condemned homes and businesses once stood. 

It doesn’t have to be this way. I urge all sensible Berkeley citizens to show up to next Tuesday’s special session (held at Longfellow school auditorium) and urge the council to establish a new precedent that calms, rather than inflames a potentially acrimonious public-policy debate. To this end: 

Urge the council to maintain the integrity of the city’s municipal code and treat all non-conforming setbacks identically by affirming the language of Section 23.C.04.090, which establishes a clear and equitable policy for reconstruction non-conforming structures after a disaster. 

Urge the council to decisively reject the focus on a thirty-foot setback from culverted creeks, which threatens to distort what began as enlightened public policy. 

Urge the council to develop a revised creek ordinance that builds on its original purpose, which is to holistically manage the urban watershed according to best practices. 

Kevin Powell 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’m dashing this off to you because as I write a great gnashing of earth, rabbit warrens, baby frogs and handsome reptiles is taking place in West Berkeley between Frontage Road and the marina by the name of “habitat restoration” for $1.3 million to be completed in the spring of 2005 by CalTrans and East Bay Regional Parks via Cherokee-Simeon in exchange for other destruction of land elsewhere.  

This beautiful meadow has been growing for many years, maturing and becoming yet more beautiful with each passing season; a wild place where the Ohlone never tread—so how could it be named “restoration” when it was part of the bay without any vegetation at all? 

Now it reminds one of Palestine and Iraq—so un-Berkeley—so much so that it is unbearable to witness. 

The plant life is so beautiful and the little animals so dear cry out in pain and I cry out on their behalf for loss of certain habitat in favor of an uncertain future in this drought season—already five years—and who knows when new “native” plants can grow? 

Catherine Schaaf 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Concerning the Brower memorial: 

• It does not have to be called “art” or “Art.” (In fact, Dubuffet said: “Art is best when it forgets itself.”) 

• It can be called an “object” or a “discrete object” or a “memorial” or “reminder” or something else. 

It is a “tourist draw.” 

• Paper and brass explanation items can guide people to a hoped for interpretation. I would include copies of all criticisms and objections. 

• Placement in Berkeley does not necessarily have to be forever. You can say that it might be stored again after one or five years. There could be a review process every year perhaps. The voters could vote on it every year. It could be placed on a flatbed trailer and pushed around Berkeley by hand for a while (no gasoline!) It could stay in different areas for a week or so on the trailer. 

• If it is “clumsy” or “pretentious,” that is OK. “Outsider” art is very charming.  

I am not for or against the Brower memorial. Some might call it “expensive bad taste.” 

Richard List 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Over the past 10-12 years, we have given the school district over $200 million for school construction. North Berkeley has two brand new schools, Cragmont and Thousand Oaks. Thousand Oaks was completely landscaped. In South Berkeley, LeConte got a new front door, and a lawn. John Muir has a fence which looks as though you need a tetanus shot to approach it. Emerson is a slab of concrete. At Willard, the school district painted over our mural, detroyed our garden, removed one of the basketball courts that community members use on the weekends, and can’t even pick up the garbage which accumulates on all sides of Willard. The destroyed garden sits there, like a gaping wound. When is the school district going to respect our community? 

On the November ballot, the school district wants us to fork over more money. There doesn’t seem to be a good reason to give the district more money. We’ve gotten a pretty bad deal already. 

Dean Olson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Kudos many, to the new candidates for the Berkeley School Board and to the staff editor of The Jacket, Berkeley High School’s newspaper for the recent positive comments to this, our local newspaper. 

As a teacher, secondary counselor and school disciplinarian in the Los Angeles Unified School District, I support your efforts “raising the bar” to do whatever can be done to lessen the achievement gap among Berkeley High School students. 

However, given the focus of a much smaller and possibly workable community, it also seems obvious that you must seek the root of the problem, which is often the support level of the home environment. We all know that the attitudes and support tools which students bring to school can vary just as greatly as your achievement measures show within the schools. Therefore, rather than continually focusing on placing the blame solely on the school and its environment, regarding curriculum and other factors, attempt getting more parental and home environment support, thus creating more accountability and responsibility within the total school community. 

We often hear much misappropriation and misrepresentation among the specific cultural groups regarding AP and other college credit classes at Berkeley High School. Do these also reflect the same numbers with regard to the local school board and parent organizations? It might be time to move forward and insist on some changes, which could in turn produce much better support. 

Initial success must start at home, so let’s push for the change! 

Michael J. Parker