Election Section

Planet Readers Sound Off On Election Issues

Friday October 08, 2004


Editors, Daily Planet: 

If John Selawsky and the school board want to raise taxes, the least they could do is tell the truth. Their claim that Measure B will give 68 percent of its money to small class sizes is false. What they don’t tell you, what is not included in the campaign advertising, is that the school district takes the first cut for itself. This is 10 to 20 percent off the top before any school programs are funded. Read the measure, it’s the section titled “Administrative Costs.’ The school district could take up to $2.4 million to spend however it wants, including raises for administrators. So, it’s not 68 percent for class size reduction from the total tax, it’s 68 percent from what’s left after the school district takes its cut. 

The school district administration should not be seeking higher taxes to pay itself. Berkeley already pays the highest property taxes for schools. Extra taxes should go directly to teachers and students. Extra taxes should go directly to school programs. For this reason, I oppose Measure B. 

School officials who are in charge of educating our children should start by setting a good example. Tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. 

Stephanie Corcos 

Berkeleyans for Responsible School Funding 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Here is a riddle for you: What is the difference between Berkeley and Oakland? 

“That’s a no-brainer. The answer is John Selawsky.” What kind of answer is that? 

Just think about it for a minute. Before John got elected to the Berkeley School Board, we were in big trouble and the state was about to take over our district. John stepped up to the plate. He worked really hard and we avoided receivership. 

Oakland was faced with the same economic challenges. They didn’t survive. Now the State of California runs the Oakland Unified School District and five of their schools have closed. 

Please let’s show John our appreciation and elect him again. There are other wonderful people running against him but John has already proved his worth. Who I should vote for is no riddle to me. Thanks, John. 

Jane Stillwater 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was appalled at Jennifer Havens’ ignorance of the incredible citizen input in developing and drafting Measure B and for you, the editors, for printing such a blatantly uninformed rant (Letters, Daily Planet, Sept. 28-30). As a P&O representative, I can assure readers that many individuals give up hundreds of hours to serve our schools. The district itself arranged two magnificent and informative community evenings to enlist opinions and to deliberate those of most interest to the community at large as represented by the many citizens who showed up. It was democracy in action at its best. I encourage Ms. Havens to get informed and get involved. Measure B asks a small sacrifice in return for invaluable services for our children! 

Tedi Crawford 

Cragmont, BSEP Committee 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

At a recent District 5 candidates’ forum, three things were apparent about City Council candidate Laurie Capitelli. Two of these I already knew, but one was a revelation.  

First, Capitelli is an intelligent and thoughtful man who knows the city well. Second, he has a long-standing interest in repealing city rent control—and he remains dead serious about this.  

The revelation is that Mayor Tom Bates and Councilmember Linda Maio are supporting Capitelli’s election. Why have these two nominal “progressives” endorsed a council candidate who might well deliver a crucial vote against rent control?  

I think Bates and Maio owe their own supporters—or former supporters—an explanation. 

Marcia Lau 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

In his Oct. 1 letter encouraging District 5 residents to vote against Laurie Capitelli due to his alleged opposition to rent control, Rent Board Vice Chair Paul Hogarth claimed, “Nobody benefits if housing is made less affordable except for the real estate industry,” implying that rent control makes housing more affordable. Unfortunately, its effects are not so simple. 

Rent control as currently implemented in Berkeley (which is as strict as California law allows) makes housing more affordable only for tenants of rent-controlled units. By giving those people a strong disincentive to move, it reduces the supply of rentals on the market, driving up demand and thus rents for available units. These higher rents benefit developers of new housing (which is exempt from rent control) and landlords with high turnover and/or exempt rental units, at the expense of apartment hunters and landlords of rent-controlled units with low turnover. 

Berkeley voters who benefit from controlled rents so greatly outnumber those who suffer the consequences that any attempt at repeal would be political suicide. Why make a candidate’s position on such a settled matter a high priority when casting your vote? Both Capitelli and his opponent Jesse Townley appear to share this pragmatic view: There’s no mention of rent control on either campaign’s website. 

Robert Lauriston 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

Paul Hogarth needs to do his homework. Contrary to Hogarth’s letter, Laurie Capitelli has not called for “the repeal of rent control.” The fact is that many reasonable housing advocates, including Capitelli, were concerned about the impact of the passage of the state’s Costa Hawkins law that changed Berkeley rent control to allow landlords to raise rents to market rates whenever a tenant moves out. Their concerns have proved accurate: Over 70 percent of Berkeley’s apartments have been decontrolled at least once since the state law passed.  

Capitelli believes that the purpose of rent control was to maintain a pool of affordable housing stock. If Costa Hawkins undermines this worthy goal, we need to know and we need to address it. Berkeley voters have adjusted our rent laws a number of times in the face of changing realities. Seeking to strengthen the effectiveness and intent of those laws is the sign of leadership, not opposition. 

I have been a tenant activist for over 20 years, representing tenants in eviction cases, actions before the rent board and helping to draft many of the board regulations and modifications. I worked for five years as a counselor for the Berkeley Tenant Action Project. He has frequently provided expert support for me and other tenant advocates in tenant cases before the rent board and in eviction cases. I have known Laurie Capitelli for almost 30 years. During that time, I know he has always and unequivocally supported the goal of rent protections in this community: maintaining an affordable and well-maintained housing stock.  

Mike Grunwald 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

I am supporting J, K and L this November. I am grateful to live in Berkeley with its exceptional city services. I have known many city workers over the years, and while I am sure there are some here, like anywhere, who are “just collecting a paycheck,” I have been moved and impressed at the level of dedication of many of them, and the importance of the work they do—especially for our youth and our collective safety. Please join me in supporting J, K, and L.  

David Stark 

General Director, Stiles Hall 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

Eva Bansner’s letter “Betty or Norine” (Letters, Daily Planet, Oct. 1-4) is full of misinformation. I was never “instrumental in preventing any expansion on the site (at 1301 Oxford St.) by the Chinese Christian Church.” In fact, I supported both the Zoning Adjustments Board and the Landmarks Commission’s approval of a permit for the Chinese Church to expand. They never had the finances to go ahead with the proposal, the property was blighted and neglected, and the banks of the creek were badly eroded for decades. Bansner, who did not live in the neighborhood at the time, really has no first hand knowledge of the serious issues the neighborhood faced as a result of the abandonment of the property during these years. 

Eva misconstrues my interest in preservation as obstruction of development. Prior to the efforts of the Chinese Church to expand, I fought to save the original historic Byrne house located on the church property. After two serious arsons in the early eighties, the neighbors tried, with support from Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, to preserve the Italianate structure from demolition. We did not succeed, and the land sat uncared for and used as a homeless encampment (and open toilet) for many years.  

Bansner is correct that Betty Olds did vote in favor of the Congregation Beth El project, as did all the other council members and the Mayor in an unusual unanimous vote after many years of ultimately successful negotiations with the neighbors. I predict that the current owners of this property will be much better stewards of the land and Cordornices Creek than the previous owners, who were irresponsible and negligent in their understanding of both the importance of the creek as well as the historical and architectural value of the structure that was built on this land. 

As a member of the Planning Commission very familiar with the Downtown Plan, I can unequivocally state that Betty Olds has never “gone along with many development plans for certain developers that violate our adopted policies.” 

I am surprised that Eva Bansner, an urban planner by profession, is so rabidly against any change to the urban landscape. If I shared her values, I would move to a rural setting and find peace and comfort in the natural and pastoral environment, rather than live in one of the densest cities of California and feel bitter all the time.  

Susan Wengraf 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Maudelle Shirek has been my council representative since she was first elected. During that time she has never once responded to my calls for information or help. In fact, I don't know of even one person who ever did get a response. 

Nancy Ward 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

First, how in the world could Cheney have never heard about the growing rates of HIV among African-American women? It felt like his way of saying “I don’t pay attention to that part of the American population.” Rest assured that if rich, middle-aged white men were being infected at the same rate, it would be at the top of his agenda. 

Nicole Sanchez 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Responding to John Kerry’s critique of the war in Iraq during their first debate, President Bush repeated an assertion he’s made countless times: “The world is better off without Saddam Hussein.” 

This line always reminds me of an old joke: A man walks into a doctor’s office and complains about an ingrown toenail. Examining the toenail, the doctor declares, “I can fix that.” The doctor then quickly pulls a pistol from his jacket pocket and shoots the man’s foot off. As his patient screams in pain, the doctor says, “I know it hurts, but aren’t you better off without that ingrown toenail?” 

If Bush was the patient, I wonder if he’d reply, “I guess so.” 

Marty Schiffenbauer