Letters to the Editor

Tuesday August 02, 2005


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I read last week’s stories about the Peace and Justice Commission with a great deal of interest, since I served for four years on the commission—until March of this year—as the appointment of the late Margaret Breland. During that time, even after a flurry of conservative appointments following our resolution on Rachel Corrie a few years ago, there was always a progressive outlook on the commission and a willingness to take on all issues of importance and relevance—local, national, and international—that were brought to us by Berkeley citizens. 

Now things have changed for the worse, in my opinion, and one of the people who have helped that along is Darryl Moore. After four years on the commission I needed to turn my attention to other obligations, and upon Mr. Moore’s election, I met with him to discuss replacing me on the commission. I suggested a couple of names; other commissioners who were aware of my intentions suggested names as well. All of them were progressive voices in the community. Much to our surprise and disappointment, Councilmember Moore chose instead to take one of the members already on the commission, Betty Olds’ appointee, and make him his own, thereby freeing up Councilmember Olds to make another even more conservative appointment. If this is indicative of how Mr. Moore intends to ally himself on Berkeley politics during his tenure on the City Council, then we progressives are in for more disappointments.  

In the meantime, we are left with a Peace and Justice Commission where more than half the appointees are unwilling to vote for peace. 

John Lavine 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding P. Wooten’s July 29 letter: It’s possible. It is possible for 50 percent of a population to commit more than 50 percent of violent crimes. Disregard sex for a moment. I know it’s hard.  

Imagine an individual commits more than one violent crime; a repeat offender. Now imagine a different individual never commits any violent crime. 

The U.S. Department of Justice has grappled with the “impression” that men appear to be more prone to violence than women. DOJ looked at other factors as contributors. They found that men are reluctant to report women as their attackers. They also found that in many immigrant households, reporting is not done at all... women against men nor men against men. 

We are making some progress because while some men protect their egos by failing to report to police when they are attacked by women, other men find it disturbing that so many more of their kind are committing violent crimes. 

Let’s leave Impressionism to artists. 

Gabrielle Wilson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The basic problem with the Berkeley Skatepark is that it represents a culture and activity that is antithetical to the very nature of risk-adverse government officials.  

We can readily dispel the notion that city staff are undertaking this enforcement activity because of their concern for the safety of the skaters. First, half the lights at the skatepark are not operating despite months of complaints to get them fixed. Light levels and safety go hand in hand. Second, despite what city officials would like to have happen, the enforcement of the helmet laws is not forcing kids to wear helmets. That is self evident by the fact that the skatepark, once a place of pulsing multiethnic and multiage energy, is now often nothing more than a dimly lit abandoned urban relic. Worse, the enforcement of the helmet laws just pushes the kids onto the streets and sidewalks where not only won’t they be wearing helmets but they will be dodging cars and pedestrians.  

If you have ever been to the skatepark you would cringe at the slips and falls onto the unforgiving concrete and steel and wonder why anyone would ever be crazy enough to do what these kids do absent full body armor and a safety harness. But if you are there long enough you can see some pretty amazing stuff and you are struck by how these skaters, black, white, Asian, Latino, boys, girls, young and old (well not that old) have developed this truly admirable community where there is respect for elders, race is irrelevant, and youngsters are encouraged and taught by those who know more. We would all be served by following their example.  

No, this enforcement is all about the fear that the city will be sued by someone. And this assessment is made by the city’s attorney whose job it is to warn city officials of possible future dangers. The skatepark has moved from green to red alert. The city has decided it can reduce its potential liability by having police give $100 tickets to kids. It’s a little extreme as the same message could be accomplished for far less money. So the kids respond to this persecution, not surprisingly, with outrage and defiance which will come as no surprise to anyone who is a parent. And who would blame kids for developing a resentment of police and city government for issuing tickets that are on par with a cop pulling you over for not wearing a seatbelt and giving you a $2000 ticket.  

We all accept different levels of risk in our lives and governments are no different. However, Berkeley is one of the most risk-adverse cities in California. Vendors who have no problem doing business with other cities often find their contracts held up for months while they try and get liability insurance coverage that is acceptable to this city. With regard to skateparks in particular there have been NO lawsuits (that I have been able to find) in Northern California.  

But there is a cost when the City of Berkeley transfers their potential risk to somebody else. In the case of the skatepark it is the child who gets hit by a car while skateboarding in the street who pays the bill.  

The community would be better served and the city would have less of a liability if they pulled city staff from supervising the park and let the kids use the place the way they want (which is what they did 90 percent of the time before the city took this new course of enforcement action). The money that the city saves from not staffing the skatepark for the few hours a day that they do could be redirected toward increasing or maintaining other youth recreation services.  

Doug Fielding 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Steven Donaldson’s rant on the Landmarks Ordinance is correct in only one respect: He doesn’t know anything about historic preservation. He might be surprised to learn that there are at least three, count them, three landmark buildings currently under a demolition review by the city, the Blood House on Durant Avenue, the Woolley house on Haste Street and the Copra Warehouse on Heinz Avenue in West Berkeley, All three landmarked years ago and all owned by developers who want to demolish them. To be fair the two houses are being proposed for moving to another site, but still the removal of a landmark building from its original site is a demolition under the zoning code and has impacts on not only the buildings being removed but on many other landmarks in the area. The Copra Warehouse the last four story brick structure of its age and type left in all of Berkeley (maybe in the entire Bay area) is being proposed for actual demolition to make way for a speculative, for lease, biotech lab by Wareham Properties.  

It might be of interest to Mr. Donaldson to know that the LPC under the current ordinance has no power to prevent the demolition of these landmarks . Only the California Environmental Quality Act that requires a developer to do an EIR if he wants to demolish a Landmark, protects Berkeley’s Landmarks. People that snivel about our Commission and our Ordinance should get their facts straight. 

Allen Tobey’s astonishing recount of the process that the LPC went through to come up with the LPO revisions that are now before the Council makes one wonder what planet he has been on all these many months. For one thing all the important policy changes that were suggested to be part of the commission’s rewrite were proposed by the staff and the Assistant City Attorney Zack Cowen. When the LPC wanted to bring in an outside consultant paid for by the State Office of Historic Preservation the staff nixed the deal by insisting that the commission first adopt the staff changes and agree not to study any alternatives. It’s no wonder that the new commissioners on the LPC balked at this power grab by the staff. 

The truth is in fact that developers started this fight years ago when Patrick Kennedy helped form a pro growth development group called ADAPT. ADAPT’s stated goal was to reduce the LPC to an advisory role and remove the LPC from the permit process entirely. This was followed up by a non-elected task force headed by developer Laurie Capitelli who is now on the City Council and is leading the charge to plow under 30 years of effort by neighborhoods to protect important pieces of the city’s heritage.  

What we have before the City Council now is two versions of changes to an ordinance that needs no major revision, the LPC version promoted and written by the staff who couldn’t care less about historic preservation and a Planning Commission version promoted and written largely by two Planning commissioners who were annoyed that the LPC dared to express an opinion on a project that they both had more than a passing interest in. A project that incidentally demolished a landmark site. This is payback pure and simple. It is never politic to tell the ugly truth about how decisions are made in this so called progressive administration, but there it is. 

Laurie Bright 

President, Council Of Neighborhood Associations 

Former Chair, Landmarks Preservation Commission 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Gallo Wine Ain’t So Fine  

Shame on Gallo! The United Farm Workers (UFW) recently launched a boycott against Gallo Winery. There is a mountain of evidence that Gallo has tormented, disappointed, and abused the rights of workers and forced this new boycott. For 30 years, the Gallo Wine Company has been mistreating its farmworkers. Gallo refuses to give benefits to three-fourths of their farmworkers, despite the fact that Gallo’s yearly sales average over $1.5 billion. Gallo has provided many farmworkers with little to no benefits, job protections, nor grievance rights. As a result, workers’ families have been forced to live in poor housing conditions and suffer without health coverage, paid holidays and vacations. This type of exploitation should not be tolerated. Gallo must be forced to take serious actions to treat their farm workers reasonably by giving them a fair contract.  

In 1973, when the contract expired, Gallo tried to get rid of the UFW. In the 1970s, millions of Americans nationwide supported the UFW boycotts of lettuce, grapes and Gallo wine. The people of the Bay Area gave full support to Cesar Chavez and UFW and the protest was immensely successful. In recent years, Gallo has again tried to get rid of the UFW. In early 2003, Gallo supervisors illegally circulated petitions in the workplace to oust the UFW. On Nov. 5, 2004, in a unanimous ruling the state Agricultural Labor Relations Board found that, “the company was illegally behind the effort to oust the UFW.” 

You can help! Join the unanimous vote of the Berkeley City Council, the AFL-CIO, and the United Farm Workers’ boycott and say “No Gallo!” Please sign the online petition at www.unionvoice.org/campaign/nogallo. For more information on the boycott of Gallo Wine, please visit www.gallounfair.com or www.ufw.org. The 1970s boycott succeeded at gaining union recognition and contracts. Let’s support the UFW and make the boycott succeed again!  

Kriss Worthington 




David Coolidge’s July 29 letter criticizing commentary in the July 26 Daily Planet about RFID at the Berkeley Public Library was disappointing. I kept hoping he would offer “accurate, unbiased, information” about RFID to supplement or replace the “hypothetical problems” that concern the rest of us. If he had more informed and better commentary about RFID, why didn’t he let us have it? 

Shirley Stuart 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Robbin Henderson, in her July 29 commentary, seems to suggest that public art should be immune to criticism. She depicts those who dare challenge the aesthetics or disagree on the merits of the Brower memorial or the “Here/There” sculpture as humorless and ignorant of postmodernism.  

And then, a few paragraphs down, she cites an editorial cartoon of mine, dismissing it because...she doesn’t agree with it. Should we then assume that Ms. Henderson is humorless and ignorant of satire? Her commentary in fact only confirms the point made by the cartoon—that there is a certain patronizing tone to thin-skinned arts supporters who cannot bear the thought of anything less than unanimous praise.  

The larger point that Ms. Henderson misses is that the debate over these pieces of art is exactly what makes them valuable. Though I’m not a fan of either and believe the Brower memorial to be patently absurd and grossly at odds with its stated purpose, I’ll concede that the “Here/There” sculpture is admirably whimsical. But its condescension, directed at Berkeley’s southern neighbor, and its placement in a neighborhood—my neighborhood—where violence is all too present, where gang wars are waged across the border, and where the searchlights of police helicopters probe the streets all too often, makes the sculpture seems insensitive, naive, and oblivious. 

But works of art, whether sculptures or cartoons, are meant to be provocative. They are not submitted for approval; they are intended to provoke, to entertain and to challenge. The debate is part of the process.  

Ms. Henderson’s closing threat that public art will be forced to go elsewhere if the Daily Planet does not express greater support is likewise absurd. The fact that this community cares enough to debate these works is proof positive of the vibrancy of art in Berkeley, and the Planet provides a public service in airing that debate.  

Public art begets public criticism. And if Ms. Henderson doesn’t like it, she can go to There.  

Justin DeFreitas 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

J. Douglas Allen-Taylor’s argument in “Making Some Sense Out of East Bay Violence” (July 29) is as full of nonsensical holes as a bullet-riddled road sign! The car-full of three young African-American men, one of whom fired a gun in the street and mistakenly killed his friend Meleia while “protecting” her, are THE CAUSE of the fatal violence, and the shooter cannot be exonerated or “forgiven” because he may have been reacting to someone else’s original anger or stupid behavior. 

Anyone who makes the decision to carry a gun on the street needs their head tested and must take full individual responsibility for the repercussions of their actions should they use it. These guys, who I understand do not come from particularly underprivileged backgrounds, should have had the intelligence and sense not to be sucked into the stupidity in which they are now tragically enmeshed. They have nobody to blame but themselves. Another sad aspect of this idiotic affair is the role of the cell phone, which facilitated the quick arrival of a second group of stupid people on the scene, prepared to fire on the first group of stupid people. What idiots!! 

Come on, Allen-Taylor, Berkeley is a place where people have the chance to grow up educated, intelligent and sophisticated. But some just don’t want to learn, and you should stop making excuses for them.  

John Brocket 

El Cerrito 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

While Becky O’Malley deserves credit for condemning the murder of terrorist victims in London, Egypt, Bosnia, Uganda and Darfur, she neglects to mention the country which has suffered most severely from homicide bombers: Israel. Projected on a U.S. population scale, Israel has lost 43,000 innocents to the savagery of suicidal Palestinian thugs. Given the Israelis’ extraordinary high lose of life to these Islamofascist barbarians (what else would you call them?), it is more than a little curious and disturbing that Ms. O’Malley should somehow omit Israel’s suffering. 

In trying to comprehend why Ms. O’Malley ignored the impact of terrorism on Israel, one rationale may lie in her contention that Palestinian “terror was used as a tactic with a political goal.” As if that would excuse it! O’Malley does mention Hamas, whose oft expressed “political goal” is the full destruction of Israel. Does that afford them justification for their acts of unconscionable brutality? 

Ms. O’Malley intimates that the recent acts of terrorism in London and Egypt are simply “killing for its own sake” and that supporters of Al Qaeda have no political rationale. She must be blind and/or deaf as Al Qaeda has regularly and emphatically stated that their goal is a worldwide realm of people living under Sharia, Islamic Law. And to this end, the killing of any infidel is sanctioned. 

While we have watched past Peace and Justice Commission resolutions brought to the City Council to condemn Israel, the commission has never condemned the wanton slaying of innocents by Palestinian terrorists. As John Gertz’s op-ed so eloquently put it, this form of discrimination has got to stop. And no future Berkeley mayoral candidate who aids and abets this bias will garner the political support of the Jewish community and other fair-minded members of Berkeley citizenry. As e.e. cummings said: “There is some shit/we will not eat.” 

Finally, to return to Ms. O’Malley’s omission, I say: “Becky, here’s your opportunity to condemn Palestinian acts of terrorism. Would you kindly do so, albeit without qualification? Show us where you really stand on the issue of terrorism.” 

Dan Spitzer 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

At last Zorro has been unmasked! He is really Don Diego Von Gertz of the Berkeley Democratic Party. 

Funniest looking yarmulke I ever saw.  

I have never seen anything quite as thoroughly dishonest as Gertz’s latest. First he denies being the prime mover behind “getting” the various people who voted for Rachel Corrie, but then he brags and threatens about mobilizing the 25 percent of the Berkeley voting population that he says will approve the murder of Rachel Corrie because she burned a flag. 

Also, I see no one else writing in to justify the murder of Rachel Corrie for burning the flag. Not even Antonin Scalia.  

Then he denies lobbying the School Board, just the City Council, as if the one did not connect to the other. 

Then he denies trying to foist pro-Israel views on the School Board or council. 

Well, of course not. He is intelligent enough to know that, except for him and a few other imperialist fanatics, no one will openly support the murder of Rachel Corrie. Not even among the 25 percent he claims agree with him.  

All he can realistically aim for is to have everyone stop talking about this, and other Israeli crimes against humanity. 

He has apparently been successful in using his flashing sword to intimidate the Peace and Justice Commission into silence, with a Z soon to be carved into the flesh of Maio and perhaps the other fellow, who for some reason is left out of this recent rant.  

I wonder where the Pro-Palestinian Paladinettes of MECA are in the midst of this Zionist power play going on in their own city? Are they silent because Gertz the Fox is a fellow Democrat, or because Foxgertz is a fellow Jew, or is it both? 

Hopefully, Gertzfox will appear in his mask and cape at the next Cinco de Mayo festival to explain to the Latino community how he is using the wealth derived from exploitation of a Californio legend. 

Mark Richey 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Becky O’Malley’s editorial in the July 29 edition of the Daily Planet inarticulately gropes at the root causes of global terrorism. According to O’Malley, terrorism has nothing to do with Islam, despite the fact that Islam is the only religion founded by a military general and spread by an army, and is a religion that teaches that it has superseded all others. Instead, she believes that today’s terrorists are nihilists, who have no goals. Wahabism and its leading exponent, Osama Bin Laden, does have a very clear stated goal, the establishment of a worldwide caliphate, based upon the superiority not of their race, but of their religion. O’Malley believes that not much works in stopping today’s terrorists. For example, she derides Britain’s surveillance cameras as useless, but no doubt wrote that before the would be bombers were captured last week, largely because they were caught on camera. Instead, she puts her hopes in communication between religious groups. After a long, rambling editorial on terrorism, and after giving special dispensation to Muslims, dedicated readers of the Daily Planet will have no problem in guessing at whom O’Malley points her finger: Israel. But, Mrs. O’Malley, Israel is not sending suicide bombers out into the world. O’Malley insists that the Peace and Justice Commission must not give Israel a pass. The old commission in no way fostered communication between Jews and Muslims, or Israel and the Arabs, as O’Malley wants. It would have been nice if it had. Instead, it busied itself with passing mindless anti-Israel resolutions. In doing so, it modeled itself on the U.N. General Assembly. Last year, as in previous years, with its automatic Islamic/Third World majority the U.N General Assembly passed 92 condemnatory resolutions, 88 of which were directed against Israel. Only four were reserved for any other world situation. Let’s make sure that this is not the communication skill O’Malley has in mind, and let’s make sure that it is not the type of communication skill the Peace and Justice Commission or Linda Maio’s wing of the City Council ever practices again. 

John Gertz 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Given your weekend cover story of the SUV smashing into Solano Avenue Berkeley Starbucks, my immediate tongue-in-cheek solution: Ban them  

both in Berkeley! 

Sylvia Scherzer 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Whenever there is a call for gun control, it is inevitably followed by letters to the effect that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” My father always responds “That may be true. But people without guns kill a lot fewer people.”  

Eric Weaver 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Ronald Branch’s letter about pollution at the Albany bulb shows more about the writer’s anti-Semitic hatred than it does about his so-called caring about the pollution of the bay. Henry J. Kaiser was neither a Jew nor a committed Zionist. Yet Branch immediately refers to him as a zionazi, a term which is not only deeply hurtful to the millions of people who suffered at the hands of the true Nazis, but is reflective of extreme ignorance as to the meaning of Zionism—a movement to return the Jewish people to their homeland after years of persecution. Branch shows his true colors when he says about the cause of the pollution: “This is a good indicator of the character of the people who drafted over 10 million men to do their dirty work in Europe...” Well, I have news for you, Mr. Branch—the Americans and the Allies fought the Nazis not to protect Jews but to protect the integrity of their own borders and way of life. Your right to spew your anti-Semitic hatred is protected by all those men who went to war against Nazi Germany and Japan. Henry I. Kaiser’s reputation stands on its own. He built ships and industries which not only helped the Allies in World War II, but provides all of us with the modern conveniences we have come to rely on such as roads, tunnels, houses, cars, bicycles, and more. Yes, pollution should be cleaned up. I suggest that Mr. Ronald Branch begin the cleanup by his own contribution of time and effort.  

Gail Taback 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

So the Brower Center is already $8.5 million over budget without even breaking ground, and they want the city to put in $2 million more. 

The city is already giving them the land, valued at $5.7 million, for one dollar. 

And without building any replacement parking (an additional $6 million), the city will lose an estimated $600,000 per year in parking revenue. 

This all seems very wasteful and excessive for something that is supposed to be “green.” 

Lucille Berg 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The misinformation consistently represented in Daily Planet articles about UC Berkeley’s remediation and restoration at the Richmond Field Station (RFS) is frustrating. In the paper’s July 29 edition, Richard Brenneman inaccurately reports—again—on UC Berkeley’s Richmond Field Station restoration project. 

Some important corrections for your readership: 

• The $20-million estimated cost to complete the project is not due to the change in agency oversight as Mr. Brenneman states. This budget is for the remaining phases of upland and marsh cleanup and restoration that need to occur regardless of which regulatory agency oversees this work. 

• University officials have never argued against Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) oversight of the RFS site. As we stated publicly to the Richmond City Council and in other meetings, the University would be happy to work with either DTSC or the Regional Water Quality Control Board, and we are now working well with DTSC. 

It would be helpful to the University and to Daily Planet readers if Mr. Brenneman gathered factual information for his articles before submission. We are always available for consultation or queries regarding this matter, and could have provided accurate information for this and other articles regarding the Richmond Field Station. 

Anyone with questions about UC Berkeley’s work at the RFS is welcome to learn more by visiting www.cp.berkeley.edu/rfs_marshrr.html, or by contacting our office at 642-3073. 

Greg Haet 

Manager, Environmental Protection 

Office of Environment, Health & Safety 

University of California, Berkeley