Letters to the Editor

Tuesday August 09, 2005


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Arnold Schwarzenegger has taken so much money from corporations that sometimes it all blurs together. But the $66,300 he has taken from the infamous Pleasant Care Corporation nursing homes is unprecedented and should be returned immediately. All told, 13 criminal charges have been recently filed against Pleasant Care for elder abuse and elder neglect. In the past, Pleasant Care has faced numerous lawsuits and fines for sub-standard and abusive practices and is even barred from opening new nursing homes because of this record. Schwarzenegger collected funds earned from the pain and suffering of some of society’s most vulnerable people and he insults them by spending it on his campaigns. As the presidents of the Congress of California Seniors and the California Nurses Association, I urge Schwarzenegger to return these funds immediately and to reject any future donations from this corporation. 

Deborah Burger, RN, President of the California Nurses Association 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

It was a breath of fresh air to see more coverage in your Aug. 5 edition regarding Pacific Steel’s environmental trashing of not just “industrial sections” of West Berkeley, as the latest article put it, but of residential neighborhoods populated by citizens of Berkeley and Albany—families with children, homeowners, renters, people who work in the area. I want to commend and thank you for ongoing reportage over the past few months about this major problem that has, for far too long, been off peoples’ radar screens. Where, I wonder, are other media in reporting this? Even so, you don’t need media coverage to take a stand against something so in-your-face foul, do you? 

Given its “green” reputation, the lack of uproar by local residents is astonishing, the diminished outcry disheartening. If I worked in the area, or were a homeowner, or a parent pushing a stroller, or knew my kids were playing outdoors on an elementary school playground in filthy, stinking air, I would be outraged and forced into grassroots activism. And yet, it seems to me that the vast majority of people living in the zones affected by the horrid smells simply do not notice, or do not care, or shrug their shoulders in collective apathy as though, in solidarity and numbers, their outcries and protests could do nothing. Imagine if 3,000 people marched right down to Second and Gilman Streets and staged a raucous protest on Pacific Steel’s grounds! 

I write my excoriating criticism from personal experience. Seven months ago, my wife and I moved to a lovely rental on Ramona Avenue just off of Santa Fe below Marin. We were delighted to be in the new, lovely neighborhood. That is, until it turned out that we were right in the line of fire of Pacific Steel’s daily emissions of toxic effluvia. We could not enjoy hardly a single moment outdoors in the garden or patio, it stunk so badly most days. Often, the particulate odor would infiltrate into our house. I began learning all about the controversy, how We the People, innocent citizens wanting nothing more than clean air to breath, have basically been sold down the river by corporate, city and perhaps higher, unseen and more nefarious interests (the factory produces ball bearings for the military). The more I learned, the more outraged I became. But what could I do?  

Well, for the second time in seven months, my wife and I moved. Period. Simple as that. It was totally worth it to pack up, change a million address forms again, and rid ourselves of the toxic stench permeating our and other local neighborhoods. (Believe me, on our walks in the neighborhoods, the smell was far more pervasive than anyone would have you believe.) All because of a factory spewing toxic airborne pollution, we moved to another city, out of the line of fire. As a consequence, the city of Albany has forever lost our tax dollars. Does that matter to the city? Is anyone else up in arms about this? Has anyone else been forced to move away because of it? Really, folks of green Berkeley and Albany, I don’t know how or why you stand for it so passively, as though there’s nothing you can do! There are letters to write, meetings to attend, protests to organize! Get busy or get asthma, or maybe worse. Don’t believe them when they tell you it’s “just a nasty smell.” 

Tom McGuire 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Guess what! 

Miss Clairie is now a determined bus rider! It happened during the Jewish Film Festival! Couldn’t possibly park downtown for that long! Happen to have a bus pass, so used the No. 51 every time to get down to the Roda Theatre. I was amazed at how much freedom I felt with no car or bike to worry about. I was free to go to the banks I use downtown, go to have Indian food, and not worry about the time, how long the lines were, or how long the movie lasted. 

The bus experience itself was even fun. I had been sort of dead set against bus riding for just that reason, and found (a) people I know on the bus; (b) polite people on the bus; (c) kind drivers! Just watching a driver help a wheelchair user up onto the Van Hool wheelchair bay was a lesson in patience and kindness. 

So you see, some of the stereotypes I had have been destroyed by a few rides on the No. 51, the 40 and the 40L. 

I enjoin my fellow citizens to try it. Especially you dedicated car drivers. I had so many reasons, some of them physical, not to ride the bus, and just having to and having the handy pass helped me over them. 

The end of oil as we know it is nigh. Compare $60 a month with the registration, gas, repairs and other upkeep of a car! Tell me only poor people ride the bus? Smart people, too. The beautiful people of Berkeley do. 

Thanks to all of you! 

Claire Risley  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The neighborhood signs to which Katherine Haynes Sanstad refers in her “Little Rock Redux” ask Temple Beth El to honor its promises. Those signs have appeared because the temple has a mixed reputation, and it brings that along as it moves to its new site. The developer Patrick Kennedy, featured in your the same issue, has the same problem. He does considerable good in the community, but he often uses his political influence to obtain concessions that are not readily available to others. And then we have to live with the results. Neighbors, in particular, have to live with them. Measure P, which he cites, is an example of the kind of reaction that follows. So are the signs around Temple Beth El.  

At least Kennedy doesn’t claim anyone is threatening his civil rights. What Ms. Sanstad deplores is in reality the working of karma, as another venerable religion puts it. And as the Buddha helpfully added, the possibility of redressing the situation begins with her. Each temple member’s actions are what will turn the tide of neighborhood sentiment.  

The mantle of civil rights, like the charge of anti-Semitism, is resorted to all too readily in Berkeley as a way of silencing legitimate criticism. This does a disservice to those who dissent, and it also truly dishonors those men, women, and children caught up in the real struggle for their civil rights and religious beliefs. Ask them what this has to do with that. 

John Parman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’m sorry that Ms. Haynes Sansted’s children are having a hard time with the neighborhood signs. 

I have always dealt with my children’s questions and uneasiness with simple honesty. Maybe she needs to do the same. Has she asked any of the neighbors, some of whom are congregants, why the signs are up? If she hasn’t, I have a few suggestions for her and any other parent of a child who is upset. 

Tell your children the signs are about keeping promises. The leadership of Beth El made promises to the neighborhood and we just want them to keep those promises. 

Tell your children the signs are about taking care of the environment, so that future generations may enjoy the creek and the greenway.  

Tell your children the signs are about speaking out. If they feel as if someone is taking advantage of them, they need to speak out. It is their right as well it is ours. 

Julie Dempster 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am responding to the commentary in your paper last weekend. Beth El is a synagogue. It could have been any other religious institution or any large scale development in a residential neighborhood. The religious affiliation is irrelevant whether it be Jewish, Christian, Moslem, Buddhist or other. What always mattered was the size of the building, parking, traffic, and noise issues, restoration and protection of Codornices Creek, and the cumulative impact on the surrounding neighborhood. Currently Beth El has 500 member families with capacity for growth to 800 families and activities scheduled seven days a week with bar and bat mitzvahs on Saturdays. Anyone planning this large scale development would face serious neighborhood concern.  

At the beginning of this process, Beth El leadership maintained that an environmental impact report was unnecessary even though a parking lot and road were to be placed on Codornices Creek. However, the neighborhood worked to convince the city that an EIR was required for this landmarked site. Eventually, the City Council instructed the neighborhood and Beth El to find a mediated agreement. The resulting agreement eliminated the parking lot and road on the creek, preserving the possibility of daylighting, retained a small greenway adjacent to Berryman Path where community gardeners had worked, and included a conditional use permit that required a parking management plan. 

We are not a special neighborhood. Beth El is not a special religious institution. However, neighbors want a real parking plan with mutually agreed upon measurable parameters and thresholds and techniques for monitoring. Currently the plan states that Beth El can use up to 50 percent of available neighborhood parking spaces. This does not seem in keeping with “minimizing parking impacts.” Although there are agreements for satellite lots, no one can state with certainty how many spaces would be actually available at a given time. After all, those satellite spaces are available only if those institutions do not have ongoing business or simultaneous events. There is concern that people will take available street parking spaces first before considering going to satellite lots.  

In the first parking plan submitted to the city, Beth El said that the parking management plan applied to non-religious events. 

However, the mediated agreement clearly stated that the parking plan must apply to all events of 150 people or more. The neighbors appealed to the city to have Beth El honor its agreement.  

The surrounding residents are not racists, nor anti-Semites. We are interested in making this a livable situation for all. The yard sign states, “Beth El, Honor your agreements, Minimize parking impacts, Restore the greenway and creek.” I don’t see anything on the sign that says Beth El can’t be here. The fine print on the sign reads http://loccna.katz.com.  

Diane Tokugawa 

Member of Live Oak Codornices Creek Neighborhood Association 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In a recent letter, Phil Allen stated: “Until 1947, our military forces were grouped under the appropriately named War Department.” That was the Army. There was also a Navy Department. Both were run by secretaries who were members of the president’s cabinet. 

In 1940 when Hitler was conquering Europe, President Roosevelt realized that our country would sooner or later have to enter the war against the Germans. However, he wanted the country to be united politically, so he appointed Henry Stimson secretary of war and Frank Knox secretary of the navy. Both men were noted republicans; in fact, Knox was the republican nominee for vice-president in the 1936 election. 

Look it up on the Internet: There wasn’t just a War Department, there was also a Navy Department of equal status. 

Charles Norcross  





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Every year at this time we engage in national breast-beating over the atomic bombings of Japan. Those two events must be viewed in context.  

More than 60 Japanese cities were destroyed as much as Hiroshima and Nagasaki were. In the documentary film The Fog of War, Robert McNamara discusses this campaign from his point of view as an officer on the staff of General Curtis Lemay. It becomes apparent that one of the objects of the bombing operation is killing people. McNamara says Lemay remarks that if we lose they would be tried as war criminals. 

But none of these Japanese civilians went to jobs in war plants the next day manufacturing the weapons for defense during the coming invasion. Machinery is relatively easy to replace. It is much more difficult replacing a trained work force. 

My father was among those mustering for a potential invasion of Japan. Having said that, he would have had a relatively safe job as a flight surgeon, certifying airmen at Clark Field. However, many other American dads would have had very hazardous jobs during this invasion.  

I am no fan of nuclear war, but I think we must judge Hiroshima and Nagasaki as part of a bigger picture with bigger goals. 

Frederick O. Hebert 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Berkeley Iceland youth hockey program is deeply concerned by recent statements in the press about the safety of our rink’s cooling system. While the rink management has asked us to stay silent in an effort to maintain a working relationship with the City of Berkeley, we feel compelled to speak out on behalf of the hundreds of youth participants in our program.  

Berkeley Iceland has run the same ammonia system for 65 years without any significant leaks. The largest leak (as repeatedly referenced by the City of Berkeley) was one-fourth the size of a similar ammonia leak last December at the Bridgepointe ice arena in San Mateo. Ironically, that rink switched from freon (a known danger to the environment) to ammonia as its coolant when the rink recently changed ownership, with the full support of the City of San Mateo. The 280-pound leak at the Bridgepointe facility was barely even considered newsworthy, and didn’t seem of great concern to the city officials. Further, at least one other business within the City of Berkeley utilizes four times the ammonia that Iceland does in its operations. 

Our player base and coaching staff are unusual in the world of ice hockey for their racial, gender and economic diversity. Our organization is a member of the NHL Diversity Task Force. The rink provides thousands of dollars each year for scholarships to ensure that all of the area’s youth have access to our programs. Additionally, the rink employs a broad spectrum of young adults in its general operations. Job opportunities for our local youth should be considered golden. 

So why, after 65 years of safe operation, has this become an emergency that justifies the threat of immediate closure? We respect the city’s concerns. However, the city shares responsibility for the length of time this process has taken. The rink’s management has communicated its commitment to reducing and/or eliminating the ammonia within a reasonable time frame. If the city is serious about working with the rink and its patrons, then a binding agreement should be reached for a realistic timetable to convert to a new system. 

We hope the city officials will collaborate with the rink in good faith to maintain the valuable community programs housed at this facility. We urge anyone who cares to communicate with the mayor and councilmembers to express your opinion. 

Melissa Fitzgerald, Hockey Director 

Cyril Allen, Director of Coaches and Cal Ice Hockey Head Coach 

Liesl Songer-Nelson, Administrative Manager 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

At its membership meeting Aug. 7, the Bay Area Labor Committee for Peace and Justice voted unanimously to sponsor two rallies in support of the striking workers at Berkeley Honda. The new owners are attempting to crush the union. They have unilaterally withdrawn from the defined benefit pension plan. Fifteen workers averaging 20 years of seniority, including an African American employee with 31 years of tenure, have lost their jobs. Management recruited many recent graduates of a technical school as replacements. Although other Honda dealerships in the area have normal bargaining relationships with the Machinists Union that represents their employees, it is crystal clear that new owners of Berkeley Honda have no interest in bargaining in good faith and are intent on busting the union.  

People of conscience in Berkeley, and in particular working people, cannot allow Berkeley Honda to get away with its ruthless corporate practices. This is a community that values social justice and puts a premium on fair treatment of workers. We urge customers of Berkeley Honda to refrain from doing business there until management and the workers reach a mutually acceptable resolution to this dispute. In July, the Berkeley City Council voted to endorse a boycott at Berkeley Honda. (Daily Planet, July 15, 2005) 

Let Berkeley Honda know they can’t do business like this in our community. There is no room for predatory capitalism in the City of Berkeley. 

The Bay Area Labor Committee calls upon those who support the workers to turn out at Berkeley Honda (Shattuck and Parker) in solidarity with the strikers on Thursday, Aug. 11, from 4:30 to 6 p.m. and Saturday, Aug. 13 from 1 to 2 p.m. Please join us and bring your friends and neighbors. If you have organizational connections, please encourage their participation. You can also stop by the picket lines any time Monday-Through Friday between 7 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. to express your solidarity—or just honk when you pass by. 

We look forward to seeing you there. 

Michael Eisenscher 

Convenor, Bay Area Labor Committee for Peace and Justice 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The loss of affordable housing to live/work artists in Berkeley is dismaying. They are being turned out of their homes unceremoniously by landlords, sometimes assisted by the city, without resort to creative solutions. Let’s take the Drayage warehouse situation as an example. Although the City Council claims to be sympathetic (and certain members definitely are), the council as a whole has not taken a strong stand to assist the artists.  

Why has the city not taken the initiative to act under the recent Supreme Court case and seize the Drayage property through eminent domain? The council could determine that Berkeley would best be served if the Drayage were sold to a non-profit housing group, such as the Northern California Land Trust, to be developed into a permanent, low income artists’ cooperative.  

In Kelo v. City of New London, No. 04-108, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed a city to force a landlord from a property because a development which would benefit many was to be created. The landlord fought mightily, but the needs of the many were found to outweigh the needs of the few. One would think that in Berkeley, of all places, the voices of the many would rise resoundingly in support of such a proposal.  

D.M. Casey 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Love your absolutely Berkeley newspaper! A special kudos to Suzy Parker who is the main reason I started picking up the paper. 

I have been noticing the huge controversy surrounding Richard Brenneman’s Police Blotter. Hey guys and gals, where’s your sense of irony? Had I been unfortunate enough to have a story to tell, I would not have minded the humor. And to the person who suggested tat gender not be mentioned because females make up 50 percent of the population, it might be gently pointed out that females no not commit 50 percent of violent crimes. 

Carolyn Bradley 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As the owner of a home on Tenth Street (near Heinz) I enthusiastically support the Berkeley Bowl coming to the neighborhood with one big concern … traffic! 

One would think the city and its traffic engineers could come up with a workable solution—judging from previous “solutions” I have my doubts. 

The city has concocted ‘strange’ traffic control and calming projects in the past and shown little interest in common sense low cost solutions to some problems. 

For example: 

• The “No Right Turn On Red” signs that are appearing at several intersections. What is the logic behind these signs? What study or data prompted this new regulation? This law compels vehicles to postpone right turns (even when absolutely safe) until the precise moment that pedestrians are encourage to enter the cross walk in front of right turning vehicles. The net effect of these signs is a reduction in pedestrian safety.  

• The controversial traffic circles. Many of these have been installed at intersections that are not particularly busy—Ward and Fulton, for example. Certainly there are many residential intersections that are far busier and traveled at higher speeds (Parker and Hillegass or Derby and Benvenue). In some cases these circles have been located at narrow intersections (Parker and Ellsworth) that force vehicles into the crosswalk as they maneuver around the circle. What process was engaged to determine the safety, effectiveness and appropriate location for these circles? 

Last year three cars careened through the fence, yard and nearly into a house I owned at Sixth and Virginia. In one case my tenant and her 3-year-old daughter narrowly escaped being hit. In all cases the vehicles flew though the parking strip at the place where people wait for a bus. I contacted the traffic engineer via Councilmember Linda Maio and Mayor Bates. I proposed the installation of three-foot-high concrete filled steel posts in the parking strip positioned to protect my house and those who wait for buses at the corner. I offered to split the cost (total cost $2,000) and to landscape the parking strips at my expense so the posts would not be unsightly.  

The parking engineer sent out a representative who took measurements and suggested a study. Nothing came of it. I never heard from them again. I gave up and did the safety project myself (at my expense). What I gleaned from the experience is that the traffic engineer is disinterested, incompetent or overworked. In any case I have little faith in the city’s ability to identify and enact cost effective common sense solutions to traffic problems.  

Back to the proposed Berkeley Bowl. Build it but install traffic barriers that prevent traffic on Heinz from entering Eighth, Ninth and Tenth streets. Only allow southward traffic on Ninth and Tenth streets to turn left (east) and on Eighth Street to turn right (west). Ingress and egress to the Berkeley Bowl must come exclusively from Ashby, Seventh or Heinz with no penetration into the neighborhood to the north. Special consideration should be given to Heinz and Ninth to accommodate child drop off and pick up at Ecole Bilingue. 

John Koenigshofer 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding President Bush’s inefficient energy policy, “inefficient” being the euphemism of the year: Incompetent, or inept would be more suitable adjectives for Bush’s energy policy.  

Oil, gas and coal. Oh my! Does anyone think of the consequences to human health any more? Pollution from coal-fired power plants causes chronic bronchitis, aggravated asthma, and premature death. As for oil, the runoff from our cities ends up in our oceans, harming our aquatic biomes and anyone who enjoys a good tuna sandwich. This is horrific. 

Instead of deciding how much we should fund fossil fuel companies, we should talk about how soon we will fully fund clean energy and stop this sick addiction to fossil fuels. I’m utterly disgusted that we live in the world’s richest country, but we continue to destroy both our environment and our health by pursuing non-renewable energy sources.  

Stop the charade and see the light—solar energy is peaking through the clouds, so to speak, and we’re capable of pursuing a renewable, efficient, and clean energy source. As a student, I want to be proud of living in California, and more importantly America. We can do this. 

Sara Holditch 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

With all respect given in regards to the death of Meleia Willis-Starbuck, I am wondering if anyone has thought that the only question that remains answerable is, could her death have been avoided if she had called the police instead of a friend? And did you know that under the penal code she could be charged with a crime? Please refer to the attorney general’s office for further information as to this issue. This community has had long-standing issues with these types of problems. To prevent these types of problems we may need a forum for discussion. 

A. Charlene Matthews