Letters to the Editor

Friday April 01, 2005


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Gov. Schwarzenegger’s call for a special election in November is ill conceived and self-serving. We don’t need an election which will cost up to $70 million, when a regularly scheduled election will take place only six months later. What’s the rush? Arnold is trying to make an end run around election laws by bringing his agenda before the voters in 2005. In that way, he can continue to raise funds from his base of millionaire supporters, something he would not be able to do once he declares his candidacy for re-election in 2006. Equally important is the fact that in 2006, California law will require a voter verified paper trail. A special election in 2005 will have no paper trail and no way to validate the results if they are questioned. We don’t want what happened in Ohio to happen in California. 

Michael Marchant  





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Becky O’Malley writes in her March 22 editorial that “there’s no easy answer to the question of whether a teachers’ union is good or bad for students,” pointing out that the all-time worst and two of the best Berkeley teachers she’s known were all high officials in the teachers’ union. 

But the main issue is not whether good teachers or bad teachers belong to teachers’ unions. Naturally, both do. The main issue is why the union goes to such great lengths to protect the job of the all-time worst teacher. 

Our teachers, most of whom are excellent, ought to ask themselves whether they would enjoy far more public support for higher pay and benefits if their union didn’t so stubbornly resist getting rid of the bad ones. 

Russ Mitchell 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Last Saturday, I spent several hours participating in a silent vigil for our military (and Iraqi) dead at UN plaza in San Francisco. We sat among 1,525 pairs of combat boots and countless civilian shoes representing fallen soldiers and civilians. Each pair of boots was tagged with a soldiers name, age and home state. It was a very powerful experience to read the individual names and chilling to realize that most of these people are the age of my own children. As I sat there, I thought about how disgraceful and disrespectful it is that the war makers and their media ignore this reality and try to hide it from public view. What if Terri Schiavo were a combat casualty? I wish every US citizen could visit this display. This war would be popular no more. 

Robert MacConnell 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

To the first-grade teacher and others who think it would be insensitive to leave the name of a slave holder on a building with a large black student population, I can only wonder how there can be so much ignorance in any American school system. Who do you think inspired Lincoln and the abolitionist movement? Who do you think inspired the world to believe that everyone should be equal before the law? With a little research, your teachers could uncover the agony of Jefferson and Washington in having to live with slavery and uncover their writings that led to its abolition. 

Howard Bull 

Mountain View 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Now that the enlightened citizens of Berkeley are considering renaming Jefferson School, and are contemplating calling the post office the Maudelle Shirek Post Office, will we soon be entertaining the idea of putting Johnnie Cochran’s name on the Hall of Justice?  

Steve Schneider 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

One lesson for the children at Jefferson school, if their school is renamed, is that one bad move in life negates positive achievement, even if the achievement is writing the Declaration of Independence. Conservatives play this game when they denounce Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for being an adulterer. Played consistently, the lesson for children is that all people are no damned good.  

Rather than outright rejection of Jefferson, students could be taught that while he showed his allegiance to the hideous institution of slavery, there was a brief moment in his life when he rose above his putrid environment, as occasionally happens with individuals of the exploiter class. Sometimes, they even switch sides in the eternal battle between power and justice. When our young people grow up, the social crisis of the day may be so strong that humanity would be greatly helped if some in power could be coaxed to switch. Our young people will be poorly prepared to coax if they have been taught that the men in the big house are without redemption. 

Ted Vincent 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a native of Berkeley, I know how passionate people are about everything from fire danger signs that “lower property values” to designs for ergonomic wheelchair-accessible curbs. It should come as no surprise then that some in the city have taken on a new passion to wipe Berkeley of the shameful memory of slavery. The move to rename Jefferson School should really only be the beginning. A few years ago a fellow journalist, her name now gratefully sought by this correspondent, suggested Berkeley give a nod to its strong, vibrant lesbian heritage by re-naming Berkeley “Sister City.” Berkeley’s own name comes from that of George Berkeley; while he was an eminent Irish philosopher and Anglican bishop of Cloyne (Ireland) he also was for a short period a farmer in Rhode Island (1728-31) and perhaps had slaves himself. This should raise enormous concern for those who seek to completely abolish slavery’s legacy in Berkeley.  

It is time for a complete analysis of all of Berkeley’s place and official names and solicit the public and the intellectual community in Berkeley to re-name the city and its integral boulevards for future generations to enjoy and know they are free from civic commemoration of slavery’s violent past.  

I would suggest we rename Jefferson School for the comments of Dora Dean Bradley, the parent of a third-grader who said succinctly that the Declaration of Independence was not written for her benefit. Despite seeming to enjoy the finer points of the First Amendment, which Jefferson drafted. Perhaps we can name it after all the activists in Berkeley who feel so full of zeal they must waste the city’s and public’s time in needless reviews of something so frivolous as this. We could rename the school after all of the people over the years whose public passions have made Berkeley a laughing stock for the rest of the state and nation.  

It is sad that Ms. Dean Bradley forgets about the thousands of graduates of Jefferson School who will lose out on the chance to cement their memories of the school by the continued use of its name. I only hope that whatever actions are taken by the school board, it does make a point to remember Jefferson’s own legacy and how free speech and its, in my opinion, sad use lead to the name change in the first place. 

John Parman 

Birmingham, England 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding the city’s proposal to close all public swimming pools for six months this coming fall and winter: This is a bad idea.  

I disagree with this proposal on a number of grounds: 

1. As a health professional I see the ill-effects of obesity and overall declining health of Americans every day. With obesity, diabetes and hypertension rates rising exponentially, this is a time to commit more funds to exercise programs—not less. Poor health is a financial liability to every community. 

2. Losing swimmers = losing revenue. There are many, many committed swimmers who choose Berkeley’s pools. If pools close, swimmers will be compelled to go elsewhere and pay their fees to surrounding cities’ pools or the YMCA—and they and their steady fees may not return. 

3. Good faith: City pools are part of basic city services. Why do we pay some of the highest property taxes in the Bay Area if we can’t keep (for example) these beautiful, oft-used pools going year round? 

Recommendations for raising money for the pools: 

• Raise the fees, if only temporarily.  

• Raise the age of the senior discount from 55 to 65. 

• Expand pool hours. Longer lap and family swim hours. For historical support: “Pre-masters,” a relatively new program at King Pool, is always packed.  

Thank you for your time. I strongly urge the city to keep all pools open the entire year.  

Carey Kozuszek 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Helen Burke’s letter on the Sierra Club elections is long on innuendo but short on substance. Prior to a 1996 board decision, the club called for reduced immigration as part of a comprehensive population stabilization campaign. 

In support of her position that rampant population growth in California and the United States is not a problem, Burke cites environmental heavyweights Robert Redford and Robert (“I only have four children”) Kennedy, Jr. Those who have called for reduced immigration as part of a comprehensive population policy include local hero David Brower, Greenpeace founder Paul Watson, Earth First founder Dave Foreman, Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson, Worldwatch Institute founder Lester Brown, and Earth Day founder Sen. Gaylord Nelson. 

When Brower resigned from the club’s board over its failure to confront crucial environmental issues, he said, “Overpopulation is perhaps the biggest problem facing us, and immigration is part of that problem. It has to be addressed.” 

Burke is right that there is the threat of a takeover at the Sierra Club. It might be taken over by environmentalists. (For more information, go to www.sustainablesierra.org .) 

Members who want to get the club back on the conservation track should vote for the population stabilization ballot question in favor of reduced birthrates and immigration and for the following environmentalist candidates: Gregory Bungo, Alan Kuper, James McDonald, Robert Roy van de Hoek. 

Mark Johnson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In response to Michael Steinberg’s assertion, in a letter to the Planet, that Jeannette Rankin’s vote against U.S. entry into WWII was “an expression of rigid ideology”: 

On Dec. 8, 1941, Jeannette Rankin asked that the War Resolution be sent to committee. Hers was a lawful request made by a duly elected member of the House of Representatives. She had many concerns about the resolution that she believed should have been addressed before the vote was taken. The speaker, Sam Rayburn, broke the law by choosing not to recognize her on the floor that day. She voted appropriately. A shamefully dishonest history paints her as nothing but a wide-eyed pacifist. Jeannette Rankin was a great, pragmatic, clear-headed stateswoman whose role in American history has been jaded by jingoistic, reductive nonsense. 

Jeanmarie Simpson 

Reno, Nevada 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Ms. Simpson is the artistic director of the Nevada Shakespeare Company and the author of A Single Woman, in which she plays the role of Rankin. The final local performance is 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the Claremont House, 4500 Gilbert St., Oakland. For tickets, write to Loma64@yahoo.com or call 587-3228. 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a feminist and single mom I was disturbed to read Ms. Litman’s attack on Ms. Delaney (Daily Planet, March 25-29). No matter how she parses her words it is evident Rabbi Litman is seeking to minimize the horror of rape. Ms. Litman says we should only worry about women being raped in Berkeley. According to Ms. Litman rape is a “terrible crime,” but voicing complaint about the failure to punish U.S. military personnel who engage in rape is, for some reason, not something Berkeley should not waste our time on. Berkeley takes stands on many issues. We opposed the war with Iraq, we support Tibet and we oppose casinos in San Pablo, but somehow, in Ms. Litman’s opinion, the rape of women is not worthy of our efforts. 

I was also taken aback by the hostile tone of Ms. Litman’s letter. Such hostility seems inappropriate for a woman addressing another woman who did nothing more then express concern about Ms. Litman’s comments. It’s almost as if Ms. Litman was telling Ms. Delaney that she was above criticism, and that she had no right to be concerned about comments indicating rape was not a violation of a woman’s human rights. If Ms. Litman resents people speculating about her experience with rape then perhaps she ought not to use her position as a rabbi or commissioner to say—in any circumstances—that rape is somehow less of a human right’s violation than crimes such as torture. I myself doubt the decency of any person, regardless of their rape history, who would make such a foolish and insensitive statement. All Ms. Litman’s talk about her feminist credentials means nothing if she spends her time urging the Berkeley City Council to be any less critical of rape then it is about other issues.  

As a single mother of a school daughter I was doubly shocked when I learned that in addition to being associated with Beth-El, Ms. Litman is School Board Director Shirley Issel’s appointee. Is this the type of attitude Ms. Issel promotes? Does she favor hiring teachers that would have our children learn rape does not violate a woman’s human rights? Are these the type of moral teachings that rabbis are promoting at Beth-El? Both Beth-El and Shirley Issel owe the people of Berkeley an apology for the comments of their representative. 

Judith Clancy 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Mickey Howley, here, in Khao Lak, Thailand. An article in the Daily Planet in which I was mentioned was just brought to my attention by one of my fellow volunteers here at the Tsunami Volunteer Center. I must say that the article was an accurate representation of the goings-on in the area, although there is much less of the “eerie” side of things now than there was back when I arrived at the end of January. I’ll just say that some events in those earlier days caused me to rethink some of my formerly-held spiritual beliefs. I wanted to let you know that I have been invited to speak at NYU upon my return in mid-April to foster the volunteer spirit (no pun intended). This will be the initial engagement of a U.S. major university tour to include a multimedia presentation, talk and question and answer session about volunteering at the Tsunami Volunteer Center in Khao Lak. It has been a wonderful opportunity that those who have been here have experienced, without exception. Not offering that opportunity to others would be doing them and the affected peoples here a grave disservice. A presentation fee will be solicited to offset costs. Major universities are considering a $2,500 fee per engagement, with proceeds going to benefit the affected people of this area. I am working with a former six-figure San Francisco Graphic Design and Multimedia expert (whose former clients include the Caesars Group), and a former New York producer (both volunteers here—it is amazing the resources that become available in the name of goodwill!) to put this together. Please let me know if Berkeley will be interested to be a part of this tour. On a side note, my landlord in Bellingham, WA is a retired Berkeley Engineering Dept. Librarian. Ask some of the older set (Gordon is 73 now) if they remember Nathan “Gordon” McClure. And keep up the good work with the Daily Planet! 

Mickey Howley 

Project Coordinator,  

The 100-Days Tsunami Memorial 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On Friday March 25, I called in a complaint to the BAAQMD about Pacific Steel Casing. This was the first time I have complained about PSC. 

My companions and I were overtaken by the odor while exercising out at Cesar Chavez Park. When the wind blows a certain way, all the people at Cesar Chavez Park, “out for a breath of fresh air,” get PSC instead. We have been inhaling this periodically for years. 

I wanted to let you know what the field agent from BAAQMD told me, upon my pressing for some answers. 

He said that the odor is simply “unpleasant” to some people and that it has been deemed “not toxic” by some sort of authority. I told him that it seemed like it was actually some sort of particulate matter that was sticking in people’s throats, and he said that if I felt that way I should go to my doctor and be tested to see if I was personally having a problem. As if this was my problem only and not an air pollution problem. 

Furthermore, he said that PSC had just been cited in the last few days, and that they are cited periodically. If this is the case, then it seems to me that any fines they pay are not high enough to deter the polluting. 

The BAAQMD agent also told me that my complaint would not “count” very much because it was not affecting me in my residence, but instead in a public space. Huh? It’s okay to pollute public parks? 

Catherine Courtenaye 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I read with great interest the commentary by L.A. Wood on the air quality problems caused by the Pacific Steel Casting company. For years I have wondered how, in this otherwise green community, a source of wretchedly foul-smelling, if not toxic odors could continue with seeming impunity, and now with his article I finally have some clarity on the issue. 

I have called the Air Quality Board on several occasions with unsatisfactory results, and I am aware of the city’s plan to retain manufacturing jobs in west Berkeley and how it is that local politicians might dodge the issue, but this acrid cloud is often more than one can reasonably tolerate. 

It is my hope that Woods’ piece will stimulate some action towards solving this problem. 

G. B. Carson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Terri dies: Now politicians and religious pontificators can’t use and crucify her for their gains and agendas any longer. Would you like to have been kept alive in a vegetative state for 15 years to bankrupt your parents or children and become a trinket in the hands of the polarizing forces of America?  

I am sure our Gracious God said to Terri, it’s time to come home and play in the bliss of true love. You’ve been used and exploited long enough. 

Ron Lowe 

Nevada City  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is up to people who are concerned about indigenous people’s rights and the environment to fight an attempt to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. The Senate recently approved the deal. It is a victory for President Bush, who wants to please his oil buddies. 

The Senate used a back-door plan, attaching the bill to a budget bill. The refuge is home of the Gwich’in people. They live in their own way of life there and they should be left alone.  

Billy Trice, Jr. 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I take the bus to work every day. I walk six blocks on my way to the bus stop. On every corner I notice broken bottles and splinters of sharp glass. Who are the people tossing glass on the pavement that children and youngsters and elders walk on? Who are the people who don’t know any better? Is there a way to include them so that they feel they are one of us? How can we transform their anti-social behavior into care for our community? 

Romila Khanna] 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Just a word of thanks for your wonderful paper which I devour word for word! 

Are we in trouble or what with this “English Patient” in the Big House? Puppet Regime R Us. 

Loved Bob Burnett’s “Bush’s Decision-Making Style” article which added to the fire of the book I’m currently absorbed with (Bush on the Couch by Justin A. Frank). 

Incredible information. Our people are starving, losing their jobs due to many reasons, food is getting so expensive, no medical coverage for most while the fat cats are filling their bottomless pockets. Not too much hope for a disabled elderly person like me. The past seems like a dream for which I have gratitude to have experienced. 

Grushenka Vicari 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

If workable money-saving alternatives exist to doing so, then laying off library workers, thus thrusting them into a bleak job market, is unjust and unnecessary. Replacing the human face, voice and warmth of our library with technology is a heartless and unwise move.  

Countless times in my long-time daily use of the library, the smiles, humor and gentle spirit of the workers checking my books out to me has eased my woes and given me hope. No machine will ever do that for me. 

The threat of job loss looms for library workers. This continued demoralization of library workers, and further alienation of concerned patrons seems a foolish path to tread. 

Sue Pector 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Berkeley has financial difficulties, like most cities. Berkeley’s City Council wants to reduce one staff member of the Berkeley Animal Care Services and I think that would be dreadful. Recently, the city has taken away two staff members of Animal Care Services and now the staffing is at a minimal level to function. If they take away more Animal Control officers, Animal Care Services will close for one day per week. That means nobody will adopt dogs, cats or other animals that are home there on that day. The volunteers will not walk dogs or pet cats on that day. The owner/guardians will not look for their lost animals on that day. There would be no intervention for potential animal abuse, pick up of dead animals, and a whole lot of other things that the Animal Care Services staff is there for on that day. 

If the volunteer coordinator position were eliminated, adoption website postings will suffer, which will severely hinder animal adoptions. The volunteer coordinator enables all those extra hands to make the adoption process work.  

As a Berkeley citizen, I am finally proud of the animal shelter because it’s a humane and caring place for dogs and cats. If you feel like I do, that it is essential what we keep the staff in place, please write to your city councilmember, the mayor and newspapers to make your feelings known and attend the budget meetings this spring to protest the elimination of any more Animal Staff Services staff members. Berkeley citizens and animals thank you for your help. 

Cindi Goldberg 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

We are living in the sixth great extinction on Planet Earth. This time it is being caused by the human race and its destruction of habitat. It is estimated that 50 percent of all species will be extinct in the next 100 years. 

We have already fished out 90 percent of the large fish in the oceans. Endangered wild game in Africa is being killed for food. The hole in the ozone layer is growing each year, allowing UV radiation to kill off krill in the southern oceans which is the basis of the food chain for fishes. Tropical forests are being torched to clear land for cattle, soybeans and corn. The carbon dioxide released into the air each year is overwhelming the planet’s ability to absorb it and is causing global warming and major climate changes worldwide. There is little we can do about this because we are too many and our lifestyles are incompatible with the rest of the planet’s ecosystems. 

The human race will survive, but it will have evolved into a different species, fewer in numbers, with more respect for other life forms on Planet Earth, on which it is dependent. 

Stephen Jory 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Berkeley’s city manager, pinching away at unspent funds, has spotted our pennies committed to city fathers and mothers for roof repairs, BHS warm pools. Our little piggy bank was given to us six or seven years ago; last year we saved it from his, the manager’s, clutches with a dramatic last-minute appeal to the City Council. This year he simply pulled the plug on the drafting machine churning out the drawings for the roof contractor. Yanking on a cord, a pig’s tail, pinching away, he makes us squeal and shout. (We’re used to it, but it’s still no fun.) 

The city fathers and mothers continuously supported swim programs for seniors and the disabled for many years, uninterrupted at BHS south warm pool, threatened now by a rotten, leaky roof gushing a waterfall or two indoors, the repair of which, to save a few pennies, might be delayed indefinitely. Is this pound-foolish? 

Cynics whose numbers grow daily in this swim community now believe the school district will be happy to close the doors forever on our tacky, ancient, crumbling, unsafe, ugly, unloved (except by us) building, attached to the old gym that is scheduled or planned to be demolished. BUSD recently grandly announced the gift of a vacant lot where a new warm pool might someday be constructed with funds from unknown sources (some funds were collected from voters for repairs at the existing building, but far from adequate for a new pool and enclosure of any quality). Washing their hands of the old building(s) and the communities that depend on them surely will permit them, BUSD, at long last once again to focus their full attention on their true calling: education of their charges. 

The beneficence of their gift overwhelms them and us. All we have to do now is stand on street corners, cups in hand, all 300 of us, and collect pennies for a new building. This will take far less than 70 years, the life of the building we now use. Working hard at begging will make us good, strong and hardworking, and teach us the value of piggy banks. 

We deeply appreciated this lesson in the enduring, selfless beneficence of our city mothers and fathers. Learning self-sufficiency and independence from large handouts and from a building and from a therapy pool will give us all a stiff upper lip. 

Terry Cochrell