Letters to the Editor

Friday March 25, 2005


Editors, Daily Planet:  

Explain to me again why George and Tom aren’t offering to personally pay for Terri’s hospital bills? But money isn’t everything. So explain to me why George and Tom aren’t down in Florida kindly changing Terri’s diapers? Okay so compassion isn’t everything. So explain to me why George and Tom haven’t sent Terri off to Iraq? Okay so killing people is a selective thing. So explain to me why George and Tom are running our government and Terri isn’t? As far as I can tell, all three appear to be brain-dead! 

Jane Stillwater 




Editors, Daily Planet: I take my position serving the people of Berkeley as a Peace and Justice Commissioner very seriously. I was thus surprised and disappointed to see a letter in the Daily Planet by Nancy Delaney that misquoted me, and I appreciate being given the opportunity to correct Ms. Delaney’s mischaracterization of my remarks and to respond to her misquote. 

There is no question that the violent physical sexual assault of a woman (rape) is a terrible crime. In addition, I agree with Ms. Delaney that the use of rape as a battlefield tactic, as in Bosnia, is a human rights violation. However that was not the issue before the Peace and Justice Commission. The resolution in question recommended to the City Council that the rape of female soldiers by male soldiers in the United States Army be reported to the United Nations as a human rights violation. The sexual assault of female soldiers is a military violation, it is a crime, it is indicative of serious problems in the U.S. Army in regard to gender, violence, training, and troop discipline. It needs to be pursued with vigilance and dedication. However, it is not a violation of international human rights. If it were, then the term would be meaningless. The United States Army needs to be held to account for the safety of its female soldiers and the criminal acts of some of its male soldiers. I fully support this. The United Nations has no power or responsibility in this matter, and it is misguided and a waste of time to think that it does. Our City Council has more pressing concerns about protecting the real life women on the streets of Berkeley than indulging in this kind of abstract political posturing in relation to the United Nations. 

As to my personal life—I greatly resent Ms. Delaney publicly speculating if I have been a rape survivor. It is of course this kind of salacious prying into victims’ personal lives that makes it hard to prosecute rape. I believe my very personal history is my business, not that of Ms. Delaney or the readers of the Daily Planet. As to my record as a feminist, I have been an advocate for women’s rights for 30 years, since I was a student at Cal in the seventies and co-organized the anti-rape group there. I invite skeptics to Google my name on the web, and they will certainly see my long history of feminist activism. In addition I invite them to read my book, Lifecycles Two: Jewish Women on Biblical Themes in Contemporary Life, which is filled with feminist content, including an essay by me on sexuality which specifically condemns rape both as a violent crime and for the general fear it causes women. I hope that your readers will feel free to contact me and get to know me themselves by dropping by Congregation Beth El or writing me at JaneLitman@bethelberkeley.org. 

Jane Rachel Litman 

Peace and Justice  





Editors, Daily Planet: I am writing in response to Zelda Bronstein’s March 22 letter, in which she implies that unionized employees of the City of Berkeley are not being asked to make any sacrifices in response to the city’s current budget woes. Ms. Bronstein is apparently not aware of the following points: 

• The managers at the city of Berkeley were given their raise (27 percent) all at once. Union rank and file were promised raises over a six-year period, so we haven’t yet seen the 28.5 percent raise Ms. Bronstein cites. 

• Members of the city’s various employee unions voluntarily deferred 2.26 percent of our cost of living adjustment (COLA) last fiscal year. While this deferred adjustment will be restored later this year, union members will not receive retroactive pay for the 11 months that we sacrificed our COLA. 

• City employee wages have also been retroactively reduced by the union membership’s agreement to participate in the closing of city offices (voluntary time off), and taking time off without pay.  

• Finally, the 28.5 percent raise that we were promised but have not yet received was intended to raise city employees to parity with other comparable cities.  

It is citizens like Ms. Bronstein who will make major sacrifices in reduced quality of city services if the wages offered by the city are allowed to sink significantly behind those of neighboring cities and Berkeley’s qualified and competent workers respond by seeking employment that will allow them to support their families. 

Heath Maddox 

City of Berkeley Employee 

Member, SEIU Local 535 




Editors, Daily Planet: I read with interest two articles in Tuesday’s edition regarding the Berkeley Public Library. The first dealt with the appointment of Ying Lee to fill a vacancy on the Berkeley Public Library Board of Trustees. I trust she is a fine person with a great interest in the well being of our library system. But what amazed me was the process by which she gained her new position: “...the Berkeley Public Library Board of Trustees has selected a veteran of local political battles to join its ranks.” 

In other words, the board is a self perpetuating aristocracy that requires no public input in order to determine its own membership. This method of selection brings back memories of the Soviet Union’s Communist Party Politburo. It too selected its own members to rule the Party and the nation. It had the authority to pick its First Secretary who had the effective rule of the Party and the nation. Berkeley’s Politburo picked Jackie Griffin to run the library, again with no public input. The City Council must approve of Lee’s appointment but it appears this is only a formality. Members of the Board of Trustees can only be removed by impeachment voted by a majority of the City Council. No wonder public input on their decisions means next to nothing. It’s very generous of them to stage monthly public meetings to provide at least the pretense of public input. 

Later in the same article reference is made to the possibility of a community meeting to be scheduled by the trustees to discuss the RFID system and possible layoffs of library staff. The value of such a meeting was explained by Board President Laura Anderson: “There is no way RFID is not coming to the library.” In other words, if you have nothing better to do with your time, attend this meeting. Or if you are stupid enough to think that your point of view will have any impact of this Board of Trustees, be sure to attend. 

It is clear that the present Board of Trustees is very much like George Bush: Its members never make a mistake! The $500,000 they foolishly expended on RFID, $500,000 they had to borrow with interest to be paid out of scarce library resources, is now committed to this dangerous scheme of Jackie Griffin. How many books or other library materials might have been purchased with this half million dollars? 

A second article told of Gene Bernardi’s attempt to gather petition signatures in front of the Main Library. The security guard ordered her to move out of the Plaza and go to the sidewalk with the threat of police action. Clearly the guard was acting at the direction of the library management. I phoned the city attorney’s office today to ask if all government properties were off-limits to petitioners. The response I got was that the library was acting legally in that it was keeping entrance and exit to the library free and clear. Anyone who has seen the front of the Main Library knows there are four large double doors and that the space is at least 50 feet wide and 20 feet deep from the stairs to the sidewalk. One person gathering signatures presents no threat to other persons coming and going. Of course, Bernardi represented a threat to Director Jackie Griffin, thus the action of the security guard. Again, in the best traditions of an authoritarian mentality. Be warned: If you stop in front of the doors of the Main Library to talk to a friend be aware of the right of Griffin to force you off “library” property. You thought that area was “public” property. You were wrong! Apparently Griffin believes in the First Amendment provisions only when it is convenient to her cause. 

At least Board President Anderson made one point that all can agree with regarding the board: “We all felt like she (Lee) was of the community and had a lot of experience working with the community. That’s something we’re finding all of us need some skill at.” This on the job training regarding community relations seems to be coming very slowly for this out of touch board. 

Don McKay 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

The end is near: The illegitimate Bush regime is collapsing in slow-motion on a day-by-day basis now: The whole phony edifice may come crashing down to the ground any day now... The uncalled for offensive busy-bodying interference into the sad case of the nearly brain-dead Florida woman by Tom Delay, Bill Frist, Jeb Bush, George Bush and other Republican opportunists is actually a symptom of their increasing desperation to distract the American people from their long string of failures.  

All of the Bush-G.O.P.-neo-con grand schemes have turned sour: The Bush plan to destroy Social Security has flopped big-time: The more people hear about his corrupt plan to privatize it the less they like it. Their neo-con fantasy of the beflowered cakewalk in Iraq has turned into an endless nightmare with no end n sight: This neo-con quagmire/rat-hole has so far cost us over 1,500 dead American soldiers, thousands more American soldiers wounded and crippled for life, at least 100,000 Iraqis dead and several hundred thousand more Iraqis wounded and crippled for life. All this devastation costs us well over $100 billion per year with no end in sight. 

The obscene Bush tax cuts for the absurdly rich have bankrupted the federal budget and when the Asian banks decide to stop lending us any more money to finance our ever-growing budget deficits, our interest rates will go through the roof and our economy will then collapse into the worst recession since the Great Depression. The Bush regime, which has stolen two presidential elections in a row, will finally be called to accounts by an increasingly pissed-off America. The Bush gang will finally all resign en masse and will surrender their illegitimate executive power in exchange for immunity from future prosecution for their many war crimes, lies and financial corruptions.  

James K. Sayre 





Editors, Daily Planet:  

Jesse Townley’s response (Letters, Mar. 22) gives us a laudable resume of his good works, and attributes his freedom to give so generously of his time to the low rent he enjoyed in west Berkeley. If the community values those services, which it should, then they should be supported from the general fund, not through an outdated zoning policy that artificially suppresses rents in one sector and places the burden of our shrinking tax base on property owners throughout the rest of the city. In my letter I did not mean to suggest that he or his landlord received a direct cash subsidy, but that’s what rent suppression, in effect, provides.  

Due to changes in the way commerce is conducted, Berkeley is quickly becoming a one-industry town—UCB, which contributes nothing to our tax base, and very little in other assistance. In fact, the massive construction of student housing will put all that student rent money into the university’s coffers, rather than into the hands of landlords, who would recycle it into the local economy. The only hope for fending off Berkeley’s impending economic collapse is to make pockets of west Berkeley, near the freeway exits, available to the new reality of commerce—car dealerships and big-box retail. Either that, or a marina casino— your choice, friends. 

Jerry Landis 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

In the 1980s they made a huge increase in our Social Security (FICA) tax, telling us that the increase would go into a trust fund and would save the Social Security system from insolvency. 

Now Bush tells us that there’s nothing in the trust fund (just worthless IOU’s). 

So we paid this huge increase in our Social Security tax for nothing. 

So give us our money back! 

Myrna Sokolinsky 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

I am very disturbed by reports that Diebold and Registrar of Voters Brad Clark have been stonewalling implementation of instant runoff voting (IRV) for Berkeley. It is my concern, and the concern of many of the people who worked on Measure I and many of the 20,000-plus people that voted for it here in Berkeley, that one company and one man are thwarting the will of 72 percent of the voters.  

Despite San Francisco’s ability to run IRV elections, Mr. Clark says Alameda County cannot do it and Diebold is claiming it will need millions of dollars and several years to implement IRV, despite contrary statements in their response to the county’s RFP in regards to ranked ballots and their bidding on a contract to supply the voting machines for Ireland, which uses IRV in their elections. 

Berkeley may be forced to put a new initiative on the ballot to guarantee IRV for Berkeley without the county and without Diebold.  

Diebold is one of the least trusted companies in Berkeley, especially after what happened in Ohio last November and I’m sure many Berkeleyans would be happy to see our elections run without their equipment and software. 

Dave Heller 

Coordinator Measure I campaign