Letters to the Editor

Friday April 15, 2005


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I attended the recent City Council meeting on April 12. What’s happening to this city? Pools getting closed that are well used and compassionate library workers with a boss who wants to ignore the union that represents her employees? I’m a frequent library user and I’ve noticed the plummeting morale at my local branch and tired faces on the workers. I’ve also noticed that the computers never work and stay broken for weeks. What happened to supporting people in Berkeley who can’t afford the $700,000 house or the swanky, gourmet restaurants or the expensive gym memberships? I say we should save the public pools for our residents, support workers rights, and get our priorities straight. Let’s find more creative ways to deal with our budget woes. What happened to speaking up for what we believe in as citizens?  

L. Finzel 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

We are told that the reason gas prices have “surged to a record high” is the increased global demand for oil. Consumers are expected to accept this explanation as the inevitable consequence of “the Law of Supply and Demand”—scarce product plus increased demand equals high prices. 

But if there is a supply/demand law it is very peculiar. The gas station across the street from my house changed its prices three times and yet received no new delivery. How can the same tank contain gas of differing prices? Furthermore, there is no reason why “global demand” should cause national variations—California gas costs 16 percent more than the national average—and regional differences—3 to 4 percent more in San Francisco than elsewhere in the Bay Area. 

I sense the spread of economic paranoia and the mainstream media must take at least partial responsibility for failing to investigate the source of profiteering and price gouging. 

Marvin Chachere 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Joyce Roy’s April 12-14 commentary on AC Transit’s Van Hools buses isn’t strong enough. Those buses are a liability lawsuit waiting to happen. Drivers on the 40 Telegraph line drive fast immediately after I board, as I am thrown back and forth grasping for something to hold onto and tripping before I can find a seat. In the good ol’ days, I complained about waiting 40 minutes for the 40 bus headed north on Telegraph (it’s scheduled to come about every 15 minutes). Now I also have my black and blue marks to complain about, not to mention the pain and disorientation of being tossed around on a moving bus that is lurching very fast and unpredictably down a bumpy street. It’s a lawsuit waiting to happen.  

Hello, AC Transit directors. Is anyone there listening? 

Maureen Kane 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I attended the neighborhood meeting last Thursday night to discuss the West Campus redesign to meet the needs of BUSD and the local neighborhood, as well as city planning needs. 

While it is thoughtful of BUSD to use this meeting process to try to avert the type of difficulties they had with the Franklin School rehab, and the move of all the classrooms to that facility, their current plan to develop, discuss, and help define the neighborhood’s vision for the old West Campus facility cannot possibly take place in such a short time. Nor can the design input process they are currently using possibly represent a consensus on the part of the neighbors or the generally held popular views of the larger planning community of citizens (not developers) in our town. 

What the so-called design process represents is a strong effort to look like they asked for the neighborhood’s opinion, without truly answering any of our valid concerns, questions, or needs. 

If the school district wants to work with the neighbors, they should listen to our concerns, answer our questions, and meet us halfway. This eight-acre parcel cannot be redesigned during a musical chairs exercise, which is all we’ve gotten thus far. 

Lynda Winslow 

Curtis Street Neighbors 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Your article on the West Campus meeting characterized the former Adult School business as “seismically safe.” This is either or misprint, a mistake, or an example of blatant misrepresentation by the school district. Those of us who opposed moving the adult school out of our neighborhood were repeatedly told that the building was seismically unsafe and that retrofitting it would be more expensive than remodeling the Franklin school and transferring the Adult School to it. We were not told, by the way, that the district’s own retained experts had advised against that move and instead had suggested that administrative office share the West Campus site with the Adult School. 

Another interesting points is that while the superintendent denied that the district had plans for the site, during questioning at meetings on the move to Franklin it became clear that she wanted to build an administrative office building on part of the space and use the rest to store and maintain trucks and other heavy equipment. It also became clear that the district wasn’t interested in opinions of the City of Berkeley, which opposed the district’s plans for the site, or the neighbors. The site was being cleared of the Adult School in furtherance of the plan to build district office space on that is now emerging. (The district continues to deny that it has a plan for the site. This master plan is supposed to be created suddenly in the next 30 days. ) 

The real story and the most glaring omission from your coverage of the planning discussion is the fact that the district intends to build its luxurious new office space with funds the citizens of Berkeley voted in 2000 to retrofit school classrooms. A review of the district’s resolution to submit the bond issue Proposition AA to the voters, the ballot proposition itself, and the arguments in favor it the bond issue, make it clear that the citizens of Berkeley were voting to raise money to protect the children of Berkeley, not to provide a luxurious new office building for the superintendent and her staff. In view of the fiscal crises facing the school district, it’s unlikely that the citizens of Berkeley knowingly would vote funds to create new office space, particularly when there were and are other more fiscally responsible options available. In order to get around this, is appears that the school district will include “classrooms” for “teacher development” and some spaces for the 20-35 students who have been expelled from Berkeley schools and call the new structure a “school.” Even so, the clear language of the ballot proposition should prevent the use of Proposition AA funds for this project. 

Finally, the “requirements” for the site mentioned in your article, should properly be characterized as a “dream list” not requirements, since there is other real estate available to the district for some of these uses, including the corporation yard that will increase traffic past two pre-schools and the Strawberry Creek Lodge, home to many elderly pedestrians. 

Ruchama Burrell 

Poet’s Corner Neighborhood Group 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As I read today that Poki Namkung will be leaving the City of Berkeley’s Health Department, I was reminded of the best 11 weeks of nursing school yet. Between August and December 2004, I and three other students from the UCSF Masters Entry Program spent two days a week working along side the City of Berkeley’s Public Health Nurses gaining clinical experience for a course in Community Health Nursing. Having grown up here in Berkeley and Oakland, I felt lucky to have the opportunity to give back to my community as a part of a clinical assignment for school.  

As I entered nursing school last June, I had limited knowledge about the role of the nurse in our society. What came to mind were images of complacent women who knew only how to follow the directions of doctors and were unable to think critically on their own. What I have learned during the past 10 months is that the nurse is a vital force in the community who helps maintain people’s health, and assists them in their recovery from illness. The nurse is also the man or woman who supports a family and works as an advocate for them through the process of birth and living, as well as death and dying. The nurse is the person who provides access to information and resources for children, adults, and elders in our community, for whom access is the largest barrier to them receiving health care and maintaining good health. Additionally, the nurse is the person who must understand the complexities of the human body and its illnesses, as well as know how to address the way they effect the social, emotional, economic, and spiritual health of our patients. We must be able to think critically, and empower our patients to do so as well as they navigate through a system which is fundamentally disempowering. 

We are lucky to live in a town which has its own Public Health Department, and to have had people like Poki and the rest of the team of health care providers who work daily for the health of our community. 

Eva Goodfriend-Reaño 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Mark Maccoro’s opposition to the Lytton casino plans was based on the “unfair disadvantages faced by other tribes” in comparison with the Lytton’s. Why is he not also concerned with the unfair disadvantages to the mainstream public for not being allowed to have slots and casinos? Just other tribes? 

Keep in mind, any tribe or tribal member can buy a card room and operate it under California law as it was run by the previous owner. They don’t HAVE to operate a tax-exempt “Indian Casino”. That is a choice they make that is not available to the rest of us. It looks to me that it’s not any “tribe” that is facing discrimination, but the general public. 

Or did someone outlaw equal rights when I wasn’t looking? 

Betty Perkowski 

North Stonington CT 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Following teacher statements at the board last week, the superintendent and board members tried to distance themselves from Arnold—saying that they found it “deplorable” that teachers could say their actions were “like Arnold’s.” We all know that some of the financial issues facing the district are the direct result of inadequate state funding. But, we also know that there are other areas where the Arnold-like actions of this administration take on a life of their own. 

Take, for example, termination notices sent to approximately 75 temporary teachers on March 15. In years past BUSD sent out many March 15 notification letters, but waited to send out termination letters until the end of the school year. In most years BUSD finds itself in a position to offer back jobs to most of its temporary and probationary teachers. If things at my school are any indication that will be true this year too. Why then is the administration acting like Arnold? This is a non-monetary issue, yet they are seizing an opportunity to demoralize teachers. 

How does such Arnold-like action affect a specific site? At my site, Malcolm X, for example, we have two teachers retiring and another teacher leaving the area—creating three vacancies. At Malcolm X we also have two temporary—and wonderful—first-year teachers. Both of these teachers received a termination notice in March in spite of the fact that the principal has given them excellent evaluations. These two first year teachers are having to watch as their positions are posted throughout the district, and having to re-apply for their positions at a school which already has three vacancies. This is the kind of anti-worker behavior one would expect from Arnold. It is totally demoralizing. 

If the superintendent and the board want to distance themselves from Arnold they need to act, not just speak, in ways that show basic concern and respect for the people they employ. Indiscriminately sending termination notices on March 15 to 75 temporary and probationary employees is not a commendable labor practice. 

Louise Rosenkrantz 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Berkeley City Council has done it again. On Tuesday night, it has passed on the first reading a revocation of tenants rights on the basis of a complete and perhaps deliberate misreading of a Court of Appeal ruling, Tom v. City and County of San Francisco (2004) 120 Cal.App.4th 675. That ruling declared a badly worded San Francisco ordinance to be an unconstitutional invasion of privacy. The San Francisco ordinance had outlawed tenants in common agreements, after first allowing tenants in common ownership. For whatever reason, the Board of Supervisors thought this was a preferable way of restricting tenancies in common, but of course it is not and it is patently absurd. Willie Brown, to his credit, realized the foolishness of this approach, but apparently he could not enunciate his reason convincingly and the Board of Supervisors overrode his veto. 

The Court of Appeal ruled on just the narrow issue of the unconstitutional invasion of privacy arising from restricting the internal agreement among owners of a residential property, once the ownership and hence ownership rights have been granted. It did not address the broader issue of whether a city may outlaw tenants in common ownership in the first place, if it is done on zoning and planning grounds. The Court of Appeal ruling explicitly declined to rule on whether the San Francisco ordinance was preempted by the Ellis Act. A fortiori, it therefore declined to rule on whether any other ordinance, such as the Berkeley ordinance, was preempted by the Ellis Act. The trial court had issued a broader ruling, but the ruling of a trial court sets no precedent and is binding only on the parties to the lawsuit. It is certainly not binding on the City of Berkeley or any other municipality. 

The Berkeley ordinance had not shared the infirmity of the San Francisco ordinance. It had simply outlawed tenants in common ownership, on planning and zoning grounds. The Ellis Act explicitly allows this type of restriction, and it was in no way implicated by the Court of Appeal ruling. The wolves in sheeps clothing have apparently used an hysterical misreading of this ruling to do what they really intend, namely dismantle completely all tenants rights in the City of Berkeley. How long will the intelligent people of Berkeley stand for these neo-con shenanigans? 

Peter Mutnick 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The April 12 letter by Ms. Maureen L. Farrell which critiqued my critique of the coming Al Gore Current cable television channel was interesting. However, I do not accept the notion that none of us can say boo about the many and varied deficiencies of Al Gore’s ill-fated 2000 presidential campaign, because, somehow, that would be “supporting” the Bush gang and all of their many miseries which they have visited upon us and the rest of the world in the last five years.  

Since my anti-Bush credentials have been challenged, I searched my computer’s hard disk and discovered that I have been writing letters attacking the awful environmental record and hard-right extremist views of then Texas Gov. Bush starting in October 1999, long before he was nominated for president by the Republican Party in the summer of 2000. I also began writing letters attacking the Bush administration’s many lies and distortions about Iraq starting in August 2002, at least six months before the start of the Bush war on Iraq in March 2003.  

That being said, Vice President Al Gore ran a very poor campaign for the presidency in 2000. He shunned the support of the incumbent President Bill Clinton, easily the most popular and most savvy Democratic president since Harry Truman. This poor decision alone may have cost Gore the presidency. In the televised presidential debates, Mr. Gore just couldn’t be bothered to control and mask his utter disdain for the coked-out little mind of Gov. Bush; admittedly, that would be a tall order for ordinary folks, like you or me, but this is supposed to be one of the strengths of a career politician.  

After the close 2000 election, Mr. Gore didn’t demand a total and complete recount of all the votes in the disputed Florida election. No, he just asked for a recount in the five most populous (and most heavily Democratic) counties. This lame move made him look self-serving and thus not interested in true democracy, i.e., having all the votes counted.  

After the Five Supremes picked their ideological buddy, Gov. Bush, to be president, Al Gore just rolled over and played dead, and thus revealed his underlying allegiance to the rich white old boys’ club (Dem/GOP) that runs this country, and showing no interest in honest, count-all-the-votes American democracy. Al Gore could have pressed his case by speaking about the massive Republican election fraud masterminded by Bush brother Jeb and GOP Secretary of State Katherine Harris in illegally tossing thousands of legitimate black voters off of the Florida voter registration rolls in 2000. If Gore had shown some guts and courage by attacking the absurd illogical convoluted one-time-only ruling of the Supremes, he possibly could have helped rein in the Bush regime, by painting it as illegitimate. Al Gore let us down.  

This same miserable losing scenario was again played out four years later, this time by Sen. John Kerry in the 2004 election. With overwhelming evidence of massive computerized electronic election fraud and theft of the 2004 election by GOP manipulation (with what I estimate to be the flipping of 5 million Kerry votes into Bush votes on election night), Sen. Kerry just rolled over and played dead for Bush and his gang. John Kerry, just like Al Gore, showed his underlying allegiance to the rich white old boys’ club (Dem/GOP) that runs this country, and showed no interest in honest count-all-the-votes American democracy. John Kerry let us down.  

So if I choose to write a critical critique of Al Gore’s new Current cable television project, saying that it is probably off-the-mark, it is with knowledge of the long history of Al Gore missteps and poor decisions as background. Mr. Gore’s new project may prove interesting and useful, but what we really need is an Air America cable television channel as an alternative to the present faux news offerings of the corporate media. 

James K. Sayre 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I would really appreciate if you cease printing letters that contain unexplained and confusing personal attacks on people. The Daily Planet has published several letters that attack people without offering any context or justification for the attacks. In some cases, also, I think you should consider offering an opportunity to the person attacked to respond in the same issue. Or do a little fact-checking? 

A letter was published last October from Sean Dugar, a former chair of the City of Berkeley Youth Commission about Karen Hemphill, a School Board candidate. He did not explain his opinion that “[t]he thought of Karen Hemphill on the school board terrifies me. I have sat down with her several times to try and convince myself that she is what is needed on the board. But I cannot and will not vote for someone just because they are black. Karen has values and thoughts that change like the wind.” I wondered what issues Ms. Hemphill had changed her mind about, and why her flip flopping was so terrifying, but the letter writer did not explain. All I learned from his letter was that she was black, which I had not known from Hemphill’s election materials that I vaguely recalled. Despite my skepticism about Dugar’s judgments, his letter influenced me. Maybe he knew something I didn’t know? No response appeared from the candidate. And 10 days later, the election was over and Hemphill had lost—barely.  

Recently, Rabbi Jane Litman, a commissioner on the Peace and Justice Commission (which I had never heard of it), was the subject of a bewildering and context-less letter by Nancy Delaney (March 22). Delaney wrote that Litman commented in a meeting “that rape was not a violation of ...human rights [but] admitted it was a crime.” Litman was accused of “callousness,” her “solidarity with other women less privileged than herself” was questioned, and Delaney speculated about whether Litman or someone close to her had ever been raped. What was this all about, I wondered? Was Litman (a distant acquaintance) using her position on the Peace and Justice Commission to defend rapists ? Delaney’s letter had mentioned that the issue was related to approving a book about international human rights violations. But what was the issue here? Did the book attack rapists while Litman defended them? Litman did respond a few days later (March 25). Evidently the discussion had involved whether rape was a violation of municipal, state or international law. Or something like that. But why? I still don’t know exactly why this came up! 

Then a truly personal attack came on April 1 in a letter by Judith Clancy that incorrectly stated that Litman’s defending letter was hostile, and that Litman was “seeking to minimize the horror of rape.” The Clancy letter doubted her “decency” as a person, a woman, and a feminist, questioned her “moral teachings” as a rabbi, and demanded apologies from Litman’s employer as well as the Berkeley school board member who appointed her—all because of an unexplained but evidently rather arcane issue regarding jurisdictional issues in international law. At least I am glad Litman noticed these letters and was able to respond clearly and eloquently to them, and with restraint.  

I suppose that, due to her position on an obscure Berkeley commission, Litman is a public figure, so it is not entirely outside the bounds of journalism to publish unexplained and bizarre attacks on her, but it is not even very good entertainment. It must be rather painful to her. Is it really necessary? Is it even decent? 

David Herzstein Couchª