Letters to the Editor

Tuesday May 03, 2005


Editors, Daily Planet:  

Zelda Bronstein (“Downtown Parking: Myths, Realities, Solutions,” April 26-28) raises several pertinent points regarding Berkeley’s downtown parking situation. 

For one, Ms. Bronstein notes that studies made since the closure of Hink’s garage show that the Center Garage—except for weekdays between noon and 3 p.m.—offers ample parking. Well, yes. Peak hours can be expected in any commercial area. But the difficulty of parking in downtown Berkeley during this prime period particularly affects restaurants which rely in part on lunchtime business. Lack of parking is a prime reason for people with their tax dollar revenues to go where they can easily find it for free without a long walk to their destination. (Let’s save the walking-for-health issue for another discussion.) The Albany portion of Solano Avenue and El Cerrito Plaza are nearby oases. (And, to mix problems here, both are noticeably more pleasant than downtown Berkeley with its entrenched dirt and degradation. Why should anyone endure parking hassles and costs when more attractive places are readily available? In fact, why, at this point when there is little that is unique or special in downtown Berkeley, make any effort to get there by any means—automobile or transit?) 

Ms. Bronstein is to be thanked for divulging the little-known fact that the first 15 minutes in Center Garage are still free. But, for too many people, 15 minutes to search for a parking space, walk to their destination, conduct business, return to and exit the garage is a virtual impossibility. Increasing the free period to 30 minutes would provide a realistic option. Even the reduced $1.50 rate for the first 60 minutes is not much incentive to shop, attend meetings, or dine in the downtown when many of these activities require more time. The 90-minute allowance that Ms. Bronstein suggested for curb parking would be helpful in Center Garage for the first 90 minutes at a reduced rate. 

Beyond the concerns that Ms. Bronstein addressed, there is another, more intransigent problem with Center Garage—namely, safety. Regardless of the time of day, the garage simply feels unsafe. With its dim lighting the garage is conducive to physical attacks. No restriction is placed on pedestrian entry; anyone can enter unseen from two streets, lie in wait, and assault even alert people. Further, the narrow driving lane provided for cars makes it hazardous to walk between one’s car and the exits. Drivers entering and leaving the ramps tend to swing wide and leave pedestrians little safe area. Often, steep steps or ramps must be used to reach an elevator. Yet not everyone can easily negotiate steps; walking on these ramps is risky and rightly discouraged. For safety reasons alone, Center Garage, regardless of available spaces, is not an option. 

In too many ways, downtown now is neither a desirable place to park nor, sadly, to be. 

Barbara Witte 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The new calming circles, recently constructed on Allston Way and Addison Street, are a menace to life and limb. They are a peculiarity, unfamiliar especially to out of town drivers, which will cause crashes and pedestrian deaths and injuries. There has already been one crash into someone’s front lawn at Allston and Grant. 

The pedestrian markings, many octagonal, invite pedestrians who are interested in crossing across and side-to-side to remain in the street rather than going from corner to corner, making them vulnerable to injury by vehicles. On Addison, one calming circle has crosswalks on three sides, and a limit line on the fourth side. The limit line invites the pedestrian to stay inside it. The same limit line is an outer limit for cars traveling south to north. This is a sure invitation to a vehicle-to-pedestrian close encounter! Other crosswalks associated with the calming circles invite pedestrians to walk into unpaved planted areas, telephone poles, and a mail box. 

The newly erected pictograms on how to drive, while intelligible upon reflection, will provide little help to motorists who suddenly encounter these obstacles. Careful examination of the calming circles’ edges already show wheel scrapes indicating near disasters. 

Rip them all out now, or watch these pages for the fatal consequences of this misbegotten disimprovement.  

Robert Rush 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The recent celebration of the golden anniversary of the Salk oral vaccine should have been a realization of the failures of the past. There should be no celebration, only self-reflection and  commitment not to make the same mistakes once again. 

In 1987, Eva Snead, M.D. documented the Salk vaccine as being the indirect cause of AIDS in her report “AIDS-Immunization Related Syndrome.”  The African green monkeys used to develop the Salk vaccine were, in fact, contaminated with a virus called SV-40; a virus that went undetected.  SV-40 was then easily transmitted to  humans on a wide scale (Immunization: The Reality behind The Myth, Walene James, 1988). For those of us with already weakened immunity, SV-40 mutated into HIV, AIDS, leukemia, birth defects and more. 

Furthermore, if we look at the bell curve of all epidemic disease, we see that after reaching epidemic levels, they naturally fall on their own. Vaccinations are usually introduced during the height of an epidemic and as the numbers go down, we celebrate our actions and victories. This is the sad truth of the fallacy of the Salk vaccine. 

Michael Bauce 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding your editorial April 29 “Electing A Pig In A Poke,” I disagree with your contention that Mayor Bates doesn’t have his priorities straight. During his administration I have attended many council meetings that have disability-related issues on the agenda. Each time, Mayor Bates and the council have heard the item early in the evening, respecting individuals’ mobility and public transportation needs. He has also been sensitive to school night schedules when agenda items relate to children and youth.  

As for electing individuals who you believe will always vote in the public interest—how would that be possible? Usually there are competing interests among the electorate (including between individuals who are often on the same side) on any given issue. Someone’s going to be disappointed. The dialog about Terry Schiavo’s fate is a good example.  

Susan Henderson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Most Berkeleyans familiar with City Hall these days know that the Daily Planet editorial maligning Mayor Tom Bates is way off the mark. 

Few elected officials have dedicated as much time and energy to serving the disability community as Tom Bates has while in the Assembly and now at City Hall. 

He has been instrumental in making the Ed Roberts Campus, a socially progressive development dedicated to promoting independence for people with disabilities, a reality. Most recently, Mayor Bates helped the Ed Roberts Campus fend off a last-ditch effort by project opponents to derail the campus in the name of historic preservation. 

Further, over the past few years when members of the disability community have had an issue before the City Council, Mayor Bates has always shown great sensitivity to those of us who rely on public transportation by requesting himself to move our items up early in the agenda to ensure the widest participation by our community. 

We know that Tom Bates puts people first. 

Jan Garrett 

President, Ed Roberts Campus 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Your April 29 editorial raises once again the issue of whom politicians represent: the voters or their donors. In the last election Berkeley voters turned down a “clean money” proposal for public funding of elections. Perhaps the next time around voters will appreciate that “even in Berkeley” politicians can be influenced by money—and it’s better to pay campaign costs with our money than theirs. The cost per voter—about the same as going to the movies—would be an investment in democracy well worth the price. 

Tom Miller 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

We find Becky O’Malley’s most recent editorial (“Electing a Pig in a Poke”) very off-the-mark. After discussing casinos, gambling and other off the subject issues the editorial then becomes an attack on Mayor Tom Bates declaring him a non-progressive because he and six other members of the Council voted to overturn the landmarking of Celia’s restaurant building.  

Three years ago, we joined with other progressives in the effort to draft Tom Bates to run for mayor of Berkeley. We feel that Berkeley is fortunate to have Tom as our Mayor and are pleased that he is putting his skills and energy to work on behalf of our city. If the Daily Planet wants to discuss Mayor Bates’ progressive credentials, it needs to addresses his record and votes on a range of social, environmental, and youth initiatives.  

Here are just a few of Mayor Bates’ accomplishments that have made us feel proud that he is Berkeley’s Mayor:  

• Project BUILD. A summer literacy and nutrition program for 1000 south and west Berkeley youth was started by Mayor Bates. Due to the city’s budget deficit, he is raising the nearly $100,000 cost of the program with private donations of money and materials.  

• Funding for Child Care Centers. When the state budget crisis cut off funding to the child care centers in Berkeley that serve low-income families, Mayor Bates guaranteed city funding until the state money was restored. This saved hundreds of Berkeley parents from having to choose between their jobs or taking care of their kids.  

• Because of Berkeley’s impressive commitment to services for youth, a major foundation named our city the best in the state when it comes to teen health.  

• Homeless Programs. Mayor Bates made good on his campaign promise, and spent 24 hours “homeless” on the streets of Berkeley. Since then, he has worked to improve homeless services, coordinate services with neighboring cities, and move funding into long-term housing and case management programs.  

• Environmental Programs. Mayor Bates initiated the Council requirement that all city buildings be built to green standards. Earlier this year, Berkeley became the first city in the nation to share city fleet vehicles with the public in an award-winning and innovative partnership with the non-profit City CarShare. Mayor Bates also proposed a unique $100 million clean energy fund partnership with Oakland and plans to move towards public power through “community choice aggregation.”  

• Housing Development. We support the hundreds of new housing units that have been approved by Mayor Bates and the City Council. Many of these units are the only opportunities for affordable ownership in Berkeley and many others are providing below market rentals. These units are also putting more housing on streets served by transit and in close proximity to Berkeley’s small businesses that need a strong customer base to thrive.  

We wanted to share these accomplishments with other readers of the Planet as information on programs like those described above don’t always reach the news pages. In these first two and a half years in office we feel that Mayor Bates has done an excellent job.  

Catherine Trimbur  

Matthew Hallinan  

Nancy Skinner,  

Mal Burnstein,  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Transit proof of payment (POP) fare systems, derided in recent letters, have been used in civilized countries for decades. Details vary. The general idea is that you buy a ticket before boarding the vehicle. A machine located either at the stop or on board stamps the ticket with the date and time. Inspectors occasionally walk through and ask to see everyone’s tickets. Anyone without a ticket or with one that has expired (time and date no longer valid) is fined an amount intended to discourage repeat offenses. 

POP sees use on buses, LRT, ferries, and commuter trains. Its primary objectives are to 

1. Improve service quality by minimizing the time spent stopped while passengers board and alight. 

2. Allow the operator (driver) to concentrate on driving without worrying about fare collection. 

3. Reduce operating cost by increasing the mileage driven and passengers carried during a driver shift. 

In other words, transit becomes faster, safer, and cheaper to produce. AC Transit deserves praise for planning ahead to implement these proven improvements. 

Robert R. Piper 

Berkeley Director of Transportation, 1976-78 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I very much appreciate the Daily Planet’s coverage of the proposed mega mall at Golden Gate Fields. Albany residents should brace themselves for the coming PR offensive from Magna Entertainment (owners of Golden Gate Fields). No doubt the mall will solve all of our problems, fund the schools and not impact the existing businesses along Solano Avenue. But before we buy that line we need to remember back to Magna’s attempt to build a trackside casino by putting it on the statewide ballot, seeking to override city zoning controls. They spent millions on that one. Now they have brought in Rick Caruso, a big time Southern California developer, to pitch their new mall plan. (Don’t confuse it with the earlier mall plan they submitted for review and then withdrew so they could focus on passing the casino plan). You may have heard how Caruso’s now opened offices on Solano Avenue to push the mall. He’s even sent in the former PR guy/campaign manager for Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn to lead the “educational” effort. Aren’t we lucky! And don’t forget he’s hired former Assemblywoman Dion Aroner to do “community relations” for the mall plan.  

When they get done with their backroom efforts and decide to finally show the mall plan to the public, please take a minute to carefully consider the source of their claims. Developer Rick Caruso is a big time Republican donor. He raised a Million dollars for the re-election of George Bush. He loaned his jet to the Bush campaign. He even gave $250,000 to the group supporting Bush’s Social Security privatization plan. He spent a cool $1.4 million for a political campaign to push through his mall plans in Glendale late last year. Big league politics have come to Albany. Get ready for a slick sales job and remember to always consider the source.  

Next time you see an Albany city Councilmember be sure to ask them where they stand on the mall. If they tell you they haven’t decided yet, take that as meaning they will vote for the mall at the end of the process but don’t want to take the heat for their position until then. They all have had private briefings from the developer and since the original mall plan was propose four years ago they should have a pretty good idea where they stand by now.  

If all of this concerns you please join with the Citizens for the Albany Shoreline (CAS) to fight for the completion of the East Shore State Park (and to stop the mall).  

Brian Parker 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thanks to Carlton Jones and Marguerite Talley-Hughes for proving Michael Larrick’s point. Instead of stepping up to the plate and acknowledging the harmful culture of victimization that has severely retarded black progress in America, they spout the same old leftist crapola. If it wasn’t for Thomas Jefferson Talley-Hughes wouldn’t have a prayer of achieving the rights all of us have today. Jefferson and Company put in the Bill of Rights, not slaves. Naturally, Talley-Hughes doesn’t mention the salient fact that Africans were sold into slavery by their fellow Africans. Far from being tolerated by the United States Government for hundreds of years, the slave trade was outlawed by an Act of Congress in 1803, 27 years after the founding of the US. Then 60 years later US whites fought a bloody civil war that resulted in the abolition of slavery. The industrial wealth of the United States that created a modern society was not done by slaves. Slavery was an uneconomic and anti-capitalistic institution to the core. 

What about the incredible contribution of many Jews to the civil rights struggle? Their reward has been to endure black anti-semitism and the incredible solidarity of many black intellectuals with Islamic causes despite the fact that Arabs were among the top slave traders. All of this sanctioned by Islam including slavery in Saudi Arabia today. 

As for black leaders, Mr. Jones, there are several people routinely referred to as same: Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, etc., and I do not recall any anguished letters from you protesting this. I’m afraid that true history has nothing to do with the culture of anti-white victimization promoted today. 

Michael P. Hardesty