Letters to the Editor

Tuesday December 28, 2004


Editors, Daily Planet:  

As reported in your Dec. 21 article (“Design Panel Slams Latest ‘Flying Cottage’ Plan”), architect Andus Brandt told the Design Review Committee that a city employee looking over Christina Sun’s plans to improve her two-story rental property at 3045 Shattuck Ave. by building out the first floor / basement suggested she could add a third story. Public records on file with the Alameda Superior Court and the Berkeley Planning Department cast doubt on this version of events. 

In her legal complaint against Delta Construction and Remodeling, Sun says she negotiated contracts with Delta for both two- and three-story projects before submitting either plan to the city. On April 19, 2002, she submitted her zoning permit application for the two-story project, and on May 30, the city issued a permit. The next day, Sun executed the contract for the three-story project. Over the next two weeks, she completely demolished the first floor, leaving the second on blocks. Demolition accomplished, on June 14 she submitted plans for the three-story project. 

Robert Lauriston 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

A belated response to Bob Burnett’s article which gave his conclusion that election “irregularities” did not cause enough vote changes to make the recent election a “stolen” election. 

I would ask a different question. Do we know that the past election was honest?  

We know that the person in Ohio in charge of the election proceedings was Kenneth Blackwell, head of the Bush campaign in Ohio. We know that in heavily Democratic inner city precincts there were not enough voting machines, and that people had to wait hours and hours to vote. Many had to leave without voting. We know that some voters were given incorrect information about places to vote, and even that voting could also be done Nov. 3. We also know, as Burnett says, that some people, after finishing their voting, checked their touchscreen votes, and their “Kerry” vote had been changed to “Bush.” 

Knowing that the above very very “irregular” and I would say “illegal” things have been done by the people in charge of voting in Ohio, and also by people in charge of other swing states, do I believe that those in charge made sure that the voting machines with no paper trail gave honest results? I cannot so believe. Right now I feel that the United States of America has lost its democracy. 

Julia Craig  




Editors, Daily Planet:  

There are too many instances of fraud and abuse in the U.S. election, especially in Ohio and Florida. Electronic voting machines can’t be audited. There is no way to determine if the vote was correct. The only way for the U.S. to have an honest election that we can all agree on is to re-do it with punched-card ballots, that can be checked by independent auditors. Until then, we should stop trying to pretend to Afghanistan, Iraq, Ukraine, and other countries that we know what democracy is. 

Mike Vandeman 





Editors, Daily Planet:  

My thanks to your paper and LA Wood for the commentary on our sewer and storm drain situation (“Berkeley’s Stormwater Property Tax: Where’s the Money?” Daily Planet, Oct. 29-Nov. 1). He answered all of the questions that plague me whenever we have 15 minutes of steady rain. Though I have lived here many years, I am not fluent in the politics of Berkeley. Though I am long past being naive, I am appalled nonetheless. How is it that the city can divert monies from a specific, voter-approved purpose to cover something else entirely? Why was this done and who did It? Is that information available in the public record somewhere? Isn’t there something we (taxpaying citizens and residents of Berkeley) can do about it? This seems wrong to me, and more so because it’s Berkeley. It appears that we pride ourselves that our differentness is a superior thing; that we are better informed, more thoroughly educated, of higher awareness than average. Don’t we see ourselves as standing up for free speech, diversity, peace on the planet, social justice, good government and greener practices for the health of the individual and the health of the planet? Or have I gotten it altogether wrong because the fix is in, like everywhere else, and that’s just the way it is?  

April Corsiva 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

My comments are directed towards Susan Parker’s Dec. 21-23 column, “Teaching A Child to Swim: A Fun, Wholesome and Righteous Activity.” In her fine essay Susan chronicles her experience teaching swimming to a young African-American girl friend named Jernae. Due to Susan’s and Jernae’s persistence the child successfully learned how to swim. As Susan rightly points out, “I had always thought that swimming was a skill everyone should know. It’s easy to learn, develops self-confidence, and promotes safety.” As it turned out all of Jernae’s friends at school were not as “lucky” to have a friend to teach them how to swim. 

From my point of view, as a public pool activist in the United Pool Council, Jernae’s friends at school should not have to be lucky to have a friend like Susan to teach them how to swim. The public schools with the use of our wonderful public pools (Willard, West Campus, and King) should teach all kids not only how to swim but why to swim for health and recreation. Why is it that only middle class white kids get to experience the joys of swimming through such enriched and expensive private aquatic programs such as the Bears? 

The answer to that question is that BUSD, in its frenzy to cut all non-academic programming, has eliminated swimming from its physical education program at King and Willard middle schools, to save on paying for life guards etc. Many in the school and pool communities are trying to rectify that situation. At the same time that BUSD is cutting swimming from its curriculum the City of Berkeley is closing public pools (in South Berkeley) to meet budget cutbacks. The city and BUSD are each cutting aquatic programming for poor people in West Berkeley while at the same time not talking to each other about how to save the pubic pool system for everyone. The kids, the parents and teachers who know better and the pool community must insist that the city of Berkeley and BUSD sit down and work out a plan to save and improve our public pools for the benefit of all of pool users. We are all in the same boat. Highly paid city and BUSD administrators must use some of their exceptional brain power and creativity to figure out how to preserve a very valuable city/school resource for all of us. 

The citizens and taxpayers of Berkeley spoke very clearly and loudly in the last elections. Highly paid administrators must earn their living solving vexing problems not by creating them. 

Bill Hamilton 

United Pool Council 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

Thank you Susan Parker, for bringing up the importance of teaching kids to swim. The Berkeley public pools were built so that the children would learn to swim as part of the public school curriculum. The programs were cut a couple of years ago, and we must urge the city and school administrators to cooperate to bring the programs back. Swimming is appropriate for any fitness and skill level. The water absorbs tensions, creates a zone of pleasure and equality. It’s hard to dislike people you are in the water with, frustrations dissolve, you get a fresh perspective. A friend told me that he swam six hours a day while on a college swim team in Sri Lanka. I asked him how he had time to study, and he said that because of swimming he didn’t need to study endlessly. He reviewed what he was learning while swimming, and was able to solve problems quickly as a result. Another reason why swimming. 

Gael Alcock 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

I just completed writing a long article summarizing statistical evidence of large scale irregularities in the Nov. 2 election. Here’s a simpler approach.  

According to David Leip’s Election Atlas, which uses official state voting data, 122,293,782 people voted for president. That was 16,876,524 more votes than in the 2000 race. George Bush improved his total from 50,460,110 to 62,040,237 or approximately by 11.6 million votes. John Kerry improved over Al Gore by a few more than 8 million votes, receiving 59,027,612 votes. There were about 2 million Ralph Nader voters from 2000 that deserted Nader in 2004. New voters in 2004 favored Kerry, who received more than half of the 16,876,524 million new votes cast, accounting for more than his 8 million improvement over Gore. If we ignore all the exit polls and give Bush half the new votes, he still needed 3.2 million more votes from people who voted for Gore in 2000 or Nader. But Kerry won most former Nader votes. And from that alone Kerry should have at least a million more votes than his reported total! And so for Kerry’s reported total to be correct Bush would have had to have taken away as much as another 2 million former Gore votes. So, who are the 3-5 million people across the U.S. who voted for Gore in 2000 and switched to Bush in 2004? In particular states, who are the many thousands who apparently voted for Democrat Betty Castor for U.S. Senate in Florida but for Bush for president; and who are those many thousands who voted for Ellen Connally, the African American liberal, for state Supreme Court chief justice in Ohio, but for Bush for president. I doubt such voters exist, but without those voters across the U.S. the final numbers don’t compute.  

Marc Sapir  





Editors, Daily Planet:  

George Bush likes to say that history will be the judge of his Iraqi policy. 

It’s an easy thing to say when your opponents are incompetent and don’t challenge you, and it certainly fits with the M.O. of his so-called business life—avoid all responsibility and let others pay the price for your failures.  

In this case, that means the many thousands (civilians do count) of dead, wounded and grieving. Nine hundred American children (a wide age range?) have reportedly lost a parent, which of course must translate into many more Iraqi children.  

But what is to be done? Memory itches to take over the conversation: It’s just about the end of the sweetest times, flying through the night down the New Jersey turnpike in a green Plymouth, dozing in someone’s arms, awaking to see the rings of people around the White House, a wonderful sight.  

It’s not time for memories. There’s no sense in dwelling on a time that could pretty hard and bitter and isn’t always relevant to what’s going on now. 

But is anyone else feeling this large void between the news from Iraq, which could not be worse, and the need to bear witness and to somehow bring it home to Bush in a big way, to see if Congress can be stirred?  

For all sorts of reasons, the witnessing and the protesting have all but vanished. The die has been cast, Kerry and Congress were/are spineless, there’s the disconnect between public and government a volunteer army creates (aka the lack of a draft), maybe we haven’t reached some critical mass of American dead, there are our own all-consuming lives. 

If that’s to be part of the history of this war, then that’s what the history will be. History’s full of wars that just go on and on. And that ignorant, dangerous little son of a bitch will never be challenged for what he’s doing. 

Doesn’t feel right, does it? Gnaws at you a little bit? 

Maybe it’s time to take some readings of the groups out there—which are still viable, which have a big enough tent, which have good communications with the vets’ and parents’ groups, which are planning. 

Washington can be awfully nice in the spring. 

James Day 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

On Dec. 25, this Gentile drove down to Solano Avenue at around 9:30 a.m., planning to buy bagels. No luck: Noah’s is closed—for Christmas! 

I guess true Jewish culture is dying in Berkeley. You people, instead of slicing lox, were you singing carols around the tree I saw you smuggle into the house? 

Nigel A. Renton 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

It seems obvious that Bush and his administration is part of the problem not part of the solution. In just the past four years his policies, budgets, and legislation have lead to record level federal deficit and debt while at the same time giving a trillion dollar federal tax cut to the very wealthy; he started an unnecessary war with Iraq which is costing thousands of lives and billions of dollars; we have lost hard earned civil liberties; there is a record fall in the U.S. dollar to major currencies along with an all time high trade deficit; we have an all time low U.S. world image; and finally, we have had two very questionable presidential elections, so do I need to say more? And now he wants to “reform” social security, which will mainly benefit his friends on Wall Street and cost a couple trillion dollars to do along with being very risky. He also wants to “reform” the tax code which again will mainly benefit the very wealthy and big corporations. And finally he wants to cut the debt in half within a certain number of years without raising taxes, if anything he wants to make the trillion dollar tax cut to the very wealthy permanent. This all of course means Bush and his administration will most likely want to make massive cuts in services and programs that help the average American in order to reduce the debt that him and his administration ran up. All this and he has not even started his second term yet so at this rate Bush will take us back a hundred years to the days of the robber barons. So if you think Bush and his administration did a lot of damage during the last four years it may just get even worse during the next four years unless We The People do something about it. And at this point I feel secession is the most viable solution to get us out of this mess as it is both legal and peaceful; for more information on this check out the grass roots secession movements at www.moveoncalifornia.org or www.vermontrepublic.org.  

Thomas Husted 





Editors, Daily Planet:  

Sooo, President Bush and Wall Street wants to privatize Social Security. 

Of course, there’s no doubt that Enron and Global Crossing fully approve of the scheme. 

It appears that the Bush administration’s phony Social Security crisis scenario being played out is nothing more than a scam meant to frighten the public into allowing Social Security to be privatized.  

This is known as elder abuse.  

Sounds like that boy who cried wolf once too often, when I consider who it was that took this country into the mess created in Iraq. 

The Bush family has a poor track record when it comes to taxpayer dollars being needed to bail out their failed schemes.  

Iraq has cost America a fortune in blood and dollars. 

Let’s not forget how Neil Bush and his schemes turned into a $1.2 billion disaster at the Silverado Savings and Loan in Colorado. 

Then it was Jeb Bush that was caught up into a massive $100 million fraud scheme with the International Medical Centers in Florida.  

I am opposed to the privatization of Social Security, and suspect that the elderly would be better served by trading in their Social Security checks for some lottery tickets, rather than to trust the Bush administration to have their best interests at heart. 

Lynda Carson 





Editors, Daily Planet:  

I love the story about Mark Tarses, the landlord who gives candy to his tenants ( “Landlord Sweetens the Deal for Tenants,” Daily Planet, Dec. 21-23). It’s so refreshing to find something like that when most of your news concerns outraged citizens complaining about bureaucratic decisions made behind their backs. 

Is it possible to have more such feature stories? How about other ingenious businessmen, cultural leaders and the people who run our schools and libraries? The list is endless. 

Rose M. Green 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

You carried a commentary by Paul Hogarth in Dec. 17-20 issue (“Rent Control is Fully Constitutional and Good Public Policy”). Although you say that Mr. Hogarth was a member of the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board from 2000-2004 and is now a second-year law student at Golden Gate University, and although Mr. Hogarth starts out by claiming that a previous commentary by Robert Cabrera “contained so many lies and inaccuracies that even a second-year law student can easily refute them,” Mr. Hogarth’s own commentary also contained a critical lie and inaccuracy. 

Mr. Hogarth cites a case as Penn Central Station v. New York (1978). There is no such case. The proper citation is Penn Central Transp. Co. v. New York City, 438 U.S. 104 (1978). This is significant, because one could not find the case if one looked for the citation given by Mr. Hogarth. Secondly, and more importantly, Mr. Hogarth claims that “Mr. Cabrera confuses basic regulatory laws like rent control and zoning restrictions with actual takings of private property like eminent domain,” and that “it only becomes a ‘taking’ under the Fifth Amendment if the regulation makes [the property] completely worthless.”  

Mr. Hogarth speaks contrarily here. At first he denies the existence of “regulatory taking,” and then he acknowledges it backhandedly by stating an entirely false criterion for it. It is true that in the case he cited, the New York Court of Appeals had denied the existence of “regulatory taking,” but that was not the conclusion of the U.S. Supreme Court. Nor is there any statement to the effect that a property must become worthless for a regulatory taking to occur in the case cited or anywhere else. Below are the relevant quotes from the case that Mr. Hogarth miscited. 

At page 120: The New York Court of Appeals affirmed. 42 N. Y. 2d 324, 366 N. E. 2d 1271 (1977). That court summarily rejected any claim that the Landmarks Law had “taken” property without “just compensation,” id., at 329, 366 N. E. 2d, at 1274, indicating that there could be no “taking” since the law had not transferred control of the property to the city, but only restricted appellants' exploitation of it. 

At page 127: It is, of course, implicit in Goldblatt that a use restriction on real property may constitute a “taking” if not reasonably necessary to the effectuation of a substantial public purpose, see Nectow v. Cambridge, supra; cf. Moore v. East Cleveland, 431 U.S. 494, 513 -514 (1977) (STEVENS, J., concurring), or perhaps if it has an unduly harsh impact upon the owner's use of the property. Pennsylvania Coal Co. v. Mahon, 260 U.S. 393 (1922), is the leading case for the proposition that a state statute that substantially furthers important public policies may so frustrate distinct investment-backed expectations as to amount to a “taking.” 

Peter Mutnick 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

It seems that all Washington officials, government spokesmen and also 9/11 commissioners are intent on causing the public to be in constant fear and panic. “We are safer than we used to be but still in danger of attack from an implacable enemy (who is declared to hate us because of jealousy).” 

However, just a couple of weeks ago, Osama bin Laden gave a speech that conveyed a quite reasonable message: “If you and your Israeli agents stop mistreating and robbing Arabs, we won’t attack you.” He also made it clear in a subsequent speech that his principal argument was with the government of Saudi Arabia, which keeps its people in a state of poverty and ignorance for the exclusive benefit of a host of Saudi princes (not to mention their American business connections). 

Our current government benefited greatly by producing fear in the American population. Shall we continue to live in fear of imagined danger or try to live a normal life? And perhaps with a less extreme government that will respect the basic rights of all members of the population?  

Max Alfert