Letters to the Editor

Friday August 26, 2005


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Poor Mike Vandeman! Life is a risky business, isn’t it! Having sporting fun is so dangerous! A mountain biker crashes and is hurt in Briones. Ban the sport! Control anything and everything potentially dangerous! Protect people against themselves! Everybody walking even in the street should wear a crash helmet, as they should in cars, too! 

Of all use activities which are allowed and/or encouraged in public-access natural areas, surely mountain biking has just about the lightest foot-print (as long as parking associated with it is controlled and confined to existing parking areas). It isn’t that he doesn’t raise some relevant questions. Certainly, we have to struggle to balance the public benefit of mountain biking (contact with the natural environment, physical fitness, sport, not sitting at home in front of the telly) against potential minor detrimental aspects? But ban the sport and discourage children....please! What about the dangers of football, boxing, hang-gliding, etc, etc? 

Why do people who think like Mike make such facile black and white, good and evil, assumptions about life and what other people like to do for pleasure and recreation? If Mike rode a mountain bike, of course, he would see the whole situation completely differently! 

Andrew Ritchie  

El Cerrito 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On Friday, James Sayre wrote a great letter (“President Sheehan) criticizing the president and supporting Cindy Sheehan as president. I had never really thought about the possiblity of Cindy Sheehan becoming president, but if Bush was appointed to be president in 2000, Sayre thinks Sheehan should be as well. He said that Cindy Sheehan is smart, thoughtful, and sensible. Just what we need in a president. Now I feel awestruck. I had this crazy idea that Mr. Sayre was a Republican. How wrong I must have been. 

Rio Bauce 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I want to congratulate and thank Susan Muscarella for her successful Downtown Berkeley Jazz Festival. Six months ago Susan told me about her idea to have an event that didn’t focus on one downtown business but rather encompassed as much of the downtown as possible. She wanted to create a festival that celebrated Latin jazz and celebrated our unique downtown businesses. I supported her vision but I knew it was going to be a lot of hard work. If you personally know Susan then you would know that hard work never has stopped her before. Susan along with her staff and an advisory committee were able to put together a four day festival that featured over 40 artists in 15 different venues in the downtown. Over these past 6 months as Susan shared her vision she was able to secure over 20 sponsors for the festival. I am proud to be part of two of those sponsors (Downtown Berkeley Association and the Mechanics Bank). Once again, thank you Susan for this wonderful contribution to our downtown. I can’t wait until next year’s festival! 

Raudel Wilson  



Editors, Daily Planet: 

It appears to me that all of the Muslim suicide bombers have been young believers. Some of the parents who have been interviewed, have spoken of pride in their kid’s “martyrdom” and rewards in paradise. Doesn’t mama want paradise too? Why aren’t there middle aged and elderly voluntary martyrs? It doesn’t take much to drive a truck and blow yourself into the sublime. 

Ronald Gans 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a long-time Berkeley Public Library user, it is apparent to me that our library is in serious decline. Hours are shorter, lines are longer, skilled librarians are retiring or being removed from public view, staff is demoralized, mistakes are regularly made checking books in, it is harder than ever to find things on the shelves, and many old favorites have been “weeded.” The library will be open again on Sundays only because of staff efforts. 

Many Berkeley taxpayers are deeply unhappy with this decline. What began some months ago as public questioning of library decisions has turned into accusations of incompetence against Library Director Jackie Griffin. 

At the latest Library Board meeting—a public forum on privacy and safety issues surrounding the new RFID electronic checkout system—the public expressed deep frustrations not only against a so-called public forum three years after the library began pursuing this technology, but also against the director who made the deal, the Library Board that hired her four years ago, and even the City Council that passively approves the board’s selection of its own members. It is doubtful that a new library tax to address the library hours and staff crisis would pass at this time. 

It is time for the Library Board to take responsibility for the library administration’s unwillingness or inability to address the challenges that face our public library. 

Pat McPhee 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

What happened to IRV in Berkeley? The Berkeley City Council has done nothing to implement what 72 percent of voters passed in March of 2004. Berkeley City Council is relying on Alameda County and its voting equipment to implement a Berkeley law. Since when is it Alameda county’s responsibility for implementing a Berkeley law? It’s Berkeley City Council’s responsibility. 

If the county’s election equipment isn’t ready for IRV, then the Berkeley City Council should be exploring other options. Other options include using another vendor like ES&S, which has already given a quote to the city of $1.55 per registered voter to run the election. Another option is doing a hand count, like Cambridge, Massachusetts did for decades. Either of those options fulfill the criteria of the charter amendment, and the Berkeley City Council needs to start getting serious about implementing instant runoff voting. No more excuses, it’s the will of the voters. 

Dave Heller 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am sure people are getting weary of the give and take about Beth El, but I wanted to clarify past events that are well documented in the minutes of various City Commissions.  

A recent letter stated that Beth El “voluntarily initiated an optional environmental impact report (EIR)”. My definition of voluntary is somewhat different. In May and June 1999, neighbors had spoken to Landmarks Commission, Parks and Recreation Commission, and Community Environmental Advisory Commission about the “preliminary plans” (though plans were not modified until the mediation in 2001). At that time, Beth El leaders felt a negative declaration was all that was necessary. Because of the impacts to the neighborhood and Codornices Creek, neighbors felt an EIR was warranted.  

In June 1999, the Parks and Recreation Commission unanimously approved a motion asking Beth El to carefully consider concerns of the impacts of the development on the environmentally sensitive area, consider daylighting the creek and mitigating impact of parking. In June 1999, the Community Environmental Advisory Commission recommended an EIR for this project given the impact on the environment. In September 1998, 186 neighbors signed a petition requesting a need for an EIR.  

This grassroots work would have been unnecessary if Beth El leaders initially agreed to an EIR. It was after these commission decisions and public outcry, Beth El decided to do the EIR before they would be formally asked by the city to perform one. 

A similar issue occurred with the original plans to put a parking lot and road over Codornices Creek where no such parking lot and road had previously existed. Only after neighborhood involvement including the gathering of over 2,400 signatures on a petition asking for full restoration of Codornices Creek and the involvement of numerous environmental groups and community gardeners, was this idea finally dropped.  

Some could interpret the changes as being voluntary on Beth El’s part, but from my perspective, changes did not come voluntarily or easily. It took the work of neighbors, several commissions, and environmental groups to persuade Beth El to take these “voluntary” actions.  

Diane Tokugawa