Letters to the Editor

Tuesday November 16, 2004


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I learned so much about myself that I did not know from reading Steve Tabor’s Oct. 29 letter in response to mine criticizing Ralph Nader. Mr. Tabor must have gotten his information via telepathy since he doesn’t know me. His frequency seems a little off, however. 

I learned, for instance, that I am a “former” anti-war activist, and that (although I did not mention John Kerry), that “Brechin and his boys are stumping for Kerry so they can get positions in the new Kerry administration.” Furthermore, I discovered that George Soros has paid me $16 million to shill for the senator. I confess that John and Theresa promised my boys and me top positions in the Pentagon if I would just destroy Nader’s reputation in the Daily Planet; George has assured me that even though our man lost, the check’s still in the mail. I need it to continue my chemtrail experiments. 

Please print prominently the legal definition and penalties for libel; it might just curb such ad hominem crap and marginally improve the quality of discourse around here. 

Gray Brechin 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

We would like to thank the Berkeley voters for their support of Measure B, which is a generous and necessary community solution to the state’s poor funding of schools. These local revenues will reduce class sizes, staff school libraries, support music education, and provide professional development, program evaluation and parent/community outreach. 

Wonderful things happen in our Berkeley schools. But each year the funding is tighter and doesn’t go as far, resulting in cutbacks or unfilled needs that are disheartening to us as educators. Next year we can look forward to some positive improvements because of Measure B, such as smaller class sizes, which make teaching and learning better—thank you! 

Compelling and long-term research results show a direct correlation between student achievement and good library programs, but California ranks dead last in the nation in library funding, behind the other 49 states and the District of Columbia. The state’s failure to recognize this pressing need, and fund it, is part of the achievement gap that will not go away unless we tackle it locally. Measure B will help do this—thank you!  

Music education, professional development and community outreach are essential components of an effective education system. Again, these are real needs that are barely considered in State funding decisions. Berkeley has affirmed public education by approving Measure B—and we are grateful to you! 

King Middle School Faculty  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As one of the diverse supporters of Measure H (to provide full public funding of campaigns) I too was surprised by its rejection by Berkeley voters who in doing so, apparently allowed fear of public expense block the path to more efficient, voter responsive government. While, as your Nov. 12 editorial pointed out, it is possible to reach voters through the Internet without great expenditure, candidates with money will still beat those without, and public financing eliminates money wars by creating an even playing field at nominal cost which in states where it has been adopted has largely eliminated the corrupting influence of special interest money from politics. I say better our money, contributing small amounts together, than theirs. Hopefully more will agree the next time around. 

Tom Miller 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Nov. 12 Daily Planet article “Developer Wins Pact to Build Point Molate Casino” states: 

“However, the City Council’s approval of the Point Molate casino indicate that development on Richmond open land such as Breuner Marsh is definitely possible—especially if it brings jobs. Activists against development do have two points going for them that Point Molate did not—first, the Breuner property, is close to residential areas such as Parchester, and secondly, the Breuner site has a history of development deals being shot down by community pressure.” 

The areas slated for development at Point Molate are not open space, they consist of an existing historic district with dozens of buildings on the National Register of Historic Places and “brownfield” areas previously occupied by Navy facilities. 

This is an important distinction. Breuner Marsh has never been occupied by structures, and it is not a brownfield site. 

Tom Butt 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Rent control in Berkeley was not a major issue in the election. However as a residential landlord I am distressed by the cost of maintaining the program as well by the city’s allowing to continue a pathetic waste of money, over $2 million a year. 

To clear my position my opposition is not based on the cost to me as an individual. The cost has two elements, the rents received and the yearly registration fees. Current rents are market rents and for new tenants rent control is no factor. For existing tenants there would be increases or decreases depending on when the tenancy began and certain factors such as age, income, and their relationship with the owner. The registration fees are strictly out of pocket and in my case amounted to $2,448 for 2003. I would be happy to pay or donate this amount to a project or program that would be beneficial to the community. 

The necessity for Berkeley Rent Control certainly now is a thing of the past even assuming it was valid to start with. Not only is there no shortage of units in Berkeley but there probably is a surplus. There is a free market with tenants able to choose the best value. The combination of new apartments both by the university and the private sector along with decreased demand due to the economic downturn account for the availability. 

I wonder if the proponents of Berkeley Rent Control will ever concede that the time has come for the death and burial of the ordinance. Liberal economist Paul Krugman in an article June 7, 2000 for the New York Times writes in part: The analysis of rent control is among the best-understood issue in all of economics, and—among economists, anyway—one of the least controversial. In 1992 a poll of the American Economic Association found 93 percent of its members agreeing that “a ceiling on rents reduces the quality and quantity of housing.” 

The funds spent on maintaining the Rent Board should be used for necessary purposes and not to continue a useless bureaucracy. 

Sig Cohn 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was stunned to read in the Planet recently the amount of money ($50,000) our city (with a huge deficit) spends on lockers to “protect” the belongings of the homeless. Furthermore that our city manager has decided that we are legally obligated to do so. Why? Because it is lost property. It is not “lost,” it is abandoned. Homeless camps abound in our west Berkeley neighborhood. Along the railroad tracks, Fourth Street and Camelia, abandoned carts and trash are everywhere. Homeless who are lucky enough to live in dilapidated RVs and cars park bumper to bumper in our neighborhood along Camelia Street. When it storms, their trash fills the storm drains resulting in our homes and businesses flooding. We clean it up again and again.  

The city continues to ignore our pleas for help in this endless clean up campaign. And now we must have lockers to store their belongings? In the spirit of Berkeley’s continued support system for the homeless, I suggest the lockers be placed along the RR tracks so that the homeless may find them more convenient to where they live and if they actually use them, it may help with our existing, never ending trash problem. How about latrines too?  

Sandy Simon  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

This spring the El Cerrito City Council announced a plan to give Measure C money to a private developer to build a 500-car garage, 100 condos and a day care center. The project was to occupy the three-acre area in the southeast corner of the El Cerrito Plaza. We citizens waited for an environmental impact report (EIR) to be published so that we could respond to the proposal cogently. Initially the EIR was supposed to be available in August; in early November it finally was published. Within a few days, the developer at a public meeting announced that the project had changed and no longer was the one described in the EIR. Good golly, Miss Mollie, who’s on first? 

Mary Milton  

El Cerrito  



Editors, Daily Planet: 

During the first week of closing the fire truck at Berkeley and Shattuck from 1800 to 0800 hours, Berkeley’s only truck responded on 12 calls that included two working fires, one big rig accident on the freeway, and seven fire alarms. All of these calls were north of University Avenue. 

Last year, fire administrators proposed closing down a fire truck during the day, because there was more of a potential for rescues at night. This year, several civic leaders supported closing a fire truck at night, because it was during the “winter time.” The night time closure was supported by fire administrators so they could accrue savings faster.  

Berkeley Fire Fighters 1227 have been in negotiations over the truck closures, but the city administrators will not put in writing that the truck will be restored when $300,000 in salary savings is met.  

Fortunately, no one was injured in the structure fires last week, but the decision makers are gambling with this city’s safety. It’s a matter of the roll of dice until a resident or firefighter gets injured or killed from extended response times because someone approved to reduce the fire department’s rescue capability by fifty percent and reduce the on-duty firefighting force by 10 percent. 

Some accused the firefighters union of not being team players, which is why the city is shutting down the truck at night. It needs to be pointed out that the firefighters took zero percent raises in 2001 and 2002. The firefighters (as well as the police officers) pay nine percent towards their retirement costs and have been doing so since 1993. Public safety employees remain the only employee groups who pay the employee contribution. The firefighters offered to defer three percent of the current salary in exchange for a modest increase in 2006. The proposal would have cost the city two percent less than all the other bargaining groups raises for 2006.  

Berkeley Firefighters supported Measure M, because we believe that the fire department cannot endure further reductions without affecting life safety. The voters have spoken, but we believe the same voters do not want fire department reductions that affect emergency response. We are dialing 9-1-1 for the citizens groups to speak against shutting down fire department companies, because your safety matters. 

Call or e-mail Mayor Bates and your city councilmember today and tell them to restore the truck before someone gets injured or killed.  

Marc Mestrovich 

President, BFFA Local 1227 




Editors, Daily Planet 

We are many, young and middle-aged, middle-income, who want to own property in Berkeley. New buildings, may have filled the need for the rental market but not for the ownership market. Planning Director Dan Marks’ comments leave me despondent at the lack of leadership in this town. He should lead the way calling for infill development that would provide this type of housing. Economics and supply and demand should dictate the height, scope and nature of these projects not neighborhood NIMBYs.. 

City planners should be one step ahead of the developers, not dragging them back from behind. It is so easy to criticize those who build and design. If we stopped fighting our developers and started leading and inspiring them they might have more money left over to build inspired buildings with wonderful amenities. Imagine a building owned by middle class residents (who could otherwise not afford to own), with communal amenities such as lap pool, roof garden, roof top entertainment lounge/reading room, and communal vehicular /parking facilities. Such a building, say on University Avenue, would benefit 20 or 30 middle class residents, at an inconvenience to two neighboring home owners. Owning a property so close to our major thoroughfares is exactly what one should expect when buying those properties. Our major thoroughfares, Shattuck and University avenues, are littered with, poorly designed and placed eyesore structures. 

Those like Dan Marks, who can’t see a need for housing, ought to get up early one morning and drive to Tracy, Sacramento or Santa Rosa and see what people are doing for housing and how long they spend commuting everyday to Bay area jobs, many of which are right here in Berkeley! 

P. Levitt 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In your Nov. 5 story about the election day “debacle” at the YWCA polling station, I wish you had delved more deeply into why the Registrar of Voters continues to use poll workers whose behavior shows they shouldn’t be serving in that capacity. 

When I called the Registrar of Voters earlier this fall, a county official told me each worker is expected to show up for work at 6 a.m. on election day, and not to leave until 9:30 p.m. that evening. As Edith Hallberg pointed out in that same issue of the Planet, that is one long work day, especially for those of us who have daily parenting responsibilities. If Alameda County provided shorter election-day shifts, they would probably have little trouble filling those posts and could weed out badly-behaving poll workers. 

Scott Mace