Letters to the Editor

Tuesday July 05, 2005


Editors, Daily Planet:  

I have been a citizen of Berkeley since 1961. I have seen the number of fire stations reduced, the number of men on each engine/truck reduced, and now we see the number of fire stations reduced! How much more reduction will ensue? Will we soon contract out fire service for our city to anyone who has a fire truck in their garage? 

With the recent three-alarm fire at Gilman and Fifth streets —and the recent article in the Daily Californian about fire station brown-outs—the City of Berkeley is asking for disaster and probable lawsuits from future fire victims who will claim, and rightly so, that the response time of any fire engine company will be delayed—and in fire, there is no mercy—seconds and even minutes can mean disaster and even death for said victims. 

The Fire Department serves every citizen in the city 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Why doesn’t the city cut funding to those programs that serve only a small (but bothersome) minority of the city ‘s population and are of considerable cost to taxpayers and adn to the energy of city employees, like the mental Welfare Department who serve all the homeless people in Berkeley. Homeless people stay in Berkeley because we serve them so much—you do not see them in Albany—these people do not pay taxes, are hard on the eyes, and live in our parks and church yards throughout the city. If the city is so hard-strapped then such “luxuries” as homeless-police should be abandoned. If the services for the homeless were removed, the homeless would move elsewhere....so let them. When San Francisco altered its homeless management, many of them came to Berkeley and have strapped our services to the bone. Which would you rather have? A fully manned Fire Department of seven engine companies or homeless and the homeless-police who tax all of us in more ways than one. You know what my vote is—cuts need to be made, so make them, but do it for the benefit of all in the city and not for what’s politically correct. 

Karl Jensen  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Berkeley Honda owners can call 1-800-999-1009 to let American Honda Motor Co., Inc. know how displeased they are with Tim Beinke, the new owner of the Honda dealership in Berkeley. 

As I tried to impress upon the complaint department, mistreatment of employees sullies not only the Berkeley dealership but the Honda name. 

It was only a minor consideration which sent me to Honda after driving a Toyota for 20 years. If I were in the market for a car today, Honda’s shameful treatment of long-term employees would send me right down the road to Toyota. 

Jeanne Burdette 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

First let me say what a good paper this is. 

In reference to “West Berkeley Residents Demand Quieter Trains Whistles” (June 14), I would like to point out that part of the problem is that it is not a whistle. 

About 10 years ago it was a whistle and although it was still a little loud, it wasn’t obnoxious as is this very, very loud truck-like sounding horn. 

To Union Pacific: Bring back the ol’ train whistle and turn it down a notch. Show consideration. Your new idea of a loud horn, unlike a train whistle, is causing residents who have always lived near the railroad to lose sleep. 

Joanne Wohlfeld 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’m no fan of Mayor Tom Bates, but it’s ironic that former mayor Shirley Dean is now criticizing Bates for “giving away the store” and not gaining bigger concessions from the university. 

Mrs. Dean was mayor for eight years before Bates, and I don’t recall her ever saying to the university, “Enough!” As a well-paid employee of the university for many years while on the City Council, she could have used the bully pulpit to gain their attention, but chose not to. 

Kevin Wong 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Mal Burnstein’s June 24 letter provides an insightful explanation of the City Council majority’s decision to accept the university’s deeply flawed Long-Range Development Plan. He gets to the underlying reasoning for giving up a CEQA law suit on the one hand to gain increased payouts from the university on the other hand.  

It is good that the underlying reasoning is finally out in the open. We might finally get to the heart of the matter.  

He is representative of the wide-spread belief that CEQA is toothless with respect to the university, that the university can do what it will on the basis of “overriding considerations,” and that the city is helpless in the face of the university’s extraordinary powers. These folks would undoubtedly be grateful for increased payments in exchange for a lawsuit that, in their opinion, would bear little fruit.  

On the other hand are those of us residents who have been protected by CEQA, who have engaged the courts, engaged the university, and engaged past mayors, councilmembers, and city staff, and found effectiveness, power, and influence by standing together.  

It is therefore altogether shocking for those of us who value CEQA to find it devalued and dismissed especially knowing the gross misrepresentations in the 2020 LRDP environmental impact report. It was ripe for legal challenge. 

The LRDP EIR identified four alternatives to the university’s preferred plan and any of which would have been preferable. These are as follows:  

Alternative L-1: Lower Enrollment and Employment Growth. 

Alternative L-2: No New Parking and More Transit Incentives. 

Alternative L-3: Diversion of Some Growth to Remote Sites. 

Alternative L-4: No Project. 

A new EIR could have gotten us one of the preferred alternatives each of which is less environmentally harmful. Yet by the city’s caving in, the university’s most expansive long-range plan remains in effect and citizen complainants are left standing alone on this and all future UCB developments.  

Estimating the costs of this plan and trying to negotiate increased fees and payments appears to have been the city’s self-congratulatory accomplishment. The city focused on money for the price of this 15-year development project. Many residents in the campus vicinity would have appreciated instead a lobby for constraints on unreasonable and disruptive development, which is an inherently sound approach from a fiscal and civic perspective. This is not pie in the sky, but the process already set up under CEQA.  

Citizens have a right to be angry. Whether or not the dollars and cents favor one approach or the other, it is the nickel and dime attitude that offends and reveals an impoverished mindset devoid of meaning and value.  

It is neither a progressive nor a moderate issue, but a matter of social and environmental justice. Perhaps it would be clearer if residents of Berkeley were from an underdeveloped country and the University was the unelected tyrant.  

Janice Thomas 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I guess everyone is right: Education in the high schools is sorely lacking these days. A case in point is Piedmont High grad Christian Hartsock’s column in the June 28-30 edition of the Daily Planet. Of course, attributing to unnamed “liberals” the views of the Communist Party USA (Really! Does it still exist?) is hardly original. It is an old tactic lifted from the Red Scare days of the 1950s when “Reds”—for those too young to remember—did not refer to people who lived in Republican states.  

But if one is going to dispute the CPUSA’s thesis that Christianity is a violent religion, one shouldn’t make up non-existent massacres and say that the fact they didn’t occur proves one’s point. It is the equivalent of taping a “kick me” sign to one’s own butt. Christians have committed massacres, and not all of them are ancient history. 

For example, the Sabra and Shatila refugee camp massacres in Beirut in 1982, although abetted by the Israeli army under Sharon, was carried out against Muslims by Maronite Christians. Or one could point to the Srebrenica, Bosnia massacre of 1995, in which more than 7,000 unarmed Muslims were systematically murdered by Christian Serbs. In Nigeria Christians and Muslims are engaged in escalating retaliation. In 2004, more that 300 Muslims were massacred by Christians in the Village of Yelwa. Similarly, in Indonesia, Christians and Muslims have been slaughtering each other, and Muslims claim that thousands have been put to death at the hands of Christians in Maluku. Not to mention, say, the holocaust and the pogroms in which Jews were murdered by Christians, or, for that matter the Crusades, which featured Christian murder-in-the-name-of-the-lord for fun and profit. And, of course (nobody expects) the Spanish Inquisition. 

This is not to argue that Christianity is intrinsically a violent religion, or that all, or most, or even a large portion of people practicing Christian religions are violent thugs. But making up fictional massacres and then saying “Oh, wait a minute, that didn’t happen” doesn’t go all that far to advance an argument that Christians are blameless in contrast to the bloodthirsty Muslims when so many actual massacres at the hands of persons describing themselves as Christians indisputably did happen. 

I won’t even go into the despicable treatment that prisoners convicted of no crime have received in the American Gulag (as described by that Commie front group Amnesty International) of Abu Ghraib, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo, where the dispute is whether “only” 30 have, in an unexplained manner, died at the hands of their captors, or whether the death toll is as high as 100. We all know that the insults to the religion and persons of the detainees had nothing at all to do with the violent protests against the detention which led scores of “fire breathing” (really? I’d like to see that) Muslim “idiots” to vent their “religious insecurities.” 

No, it wasn’t the fact that America has detained people without trials, lawyers, charges, or access to their own families; that America has tortured them physically and psychologically; that America has, without any legal process “renditioned” captives over to totalitarian states to be tortured. No, we all know what caused those “hysterical” Muslims to protest: 

It was all Newsweek’s fault.  

Paul Glusman 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

I had always assumed that journalists do their own research and then incorporate opinions in quotations into an article. It seems that Ms. Norton took Mr. Mirab’s words as fact and then used them in her article as such. Her article, “Iranian Americans Target Elections in Downtown Protest,” contained two gross mistakes. 

1) In the article she said: “The process for electing a ruler in Iran begins with the careful screening of potential candidates by a council directed by the current president.” First of all, the council is called the Guardian Council and it is made of 12 members, six of whom are clerics chosen directly by the supreme leader and the other six are jurists chosen by the head of the judiciary who is also chosen by the supreme leader. Therefore, it is the supreme leader, not the president who has control either directly or indirectly in the affairs of the Guardian Council.  

2) She also said in the article: “Mirab contends that the supreme leader, as the president is called, uses this council to select the next president, regardless of who wins the popular vote.” The bigger mistake was made here. There is a president and a supreme leader. They are not the same person, they are two different people. The current supreme leader is Ali Khameini and the current president is Mohammad Khatami. In addition, the Guardian Council does not choose the winner (unlike the Electoral College process here in America). The Guardian Council examines the credentials of candidates running prior to the election and whomever musters the greatest numbers of votes wins.  

In addition, I have to add that the National Council of Resistance of Iran which Mr. Mirab is a member of is the political arm of the Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MK0) an armed (prior to the U.S. invasion) opposition group based in Iraq. This group is on the US government’s list of terrorist organizations.  

For your information, I have added the following BBC link which provides a diagram about Iran’s government structure that may help Ms. Norton understand the political system better: http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/static/in_depth/middle_east/2000/iran_elections/iran_struggle_for_change/who_holds_power/. 


Name withheldÄ