Letters to the Editor

Tuesday September 06, 2005


Editors, Daily Planet:  

Your editorial calling UC Berkeley students “guests” of supposedly superior “long-term residents” was disgusting. 

Students are full-fledged citizens through the simple act of living here. As a long term resident, I will not allow you to turn Berkeley into a place with first- and second-class citizens. 

As a former student, I remember paying hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of dollars in parking tickets, with usurious 200 percent late fees, because I could not cough up fines within three weeks. Berkeley to this day treats its working poor this way, all for the simple crime of driving a car. 

I also paid thousands of dollars in sales tax and thousands more in property taxes, all to support schools and educational programs for children I did not and still do not have, to help homeless people I do not know or particularly like (assaulted by several), to fund non-profit organizations I never met and to beautify neighborhoods where I knew no one. And yet, even at 18, I could grasp that this is what government is supposed to be: not fee for service, or for impact, but from all for all. 

I am amazed that a gifted newspaper publisher like yourself, who has done excellent work, for example, covering the Marina Shores project in Richmond, cannot get your head around this simple concept. Students are not Less Than simply because they do not write property tax checks directly out of their own bank accounts, or because they disproportionately violate noise ordinances, or even because they are only in town for a few years. Nor is the university anything less than an integral and valuable part of this city simply because it requires heavy services without paying its way in taxes. 

It is tough living with the sort of people who would agree with your sourpuss editorial. When I was editing the Daily Californian and thousands of issues were stolen, your police department did not lift a finger to help (thank you to the UCPD). When our current mayor repeated the crime several years later, a “long-term resident,” who probably loved your scolding and disingenuous “welcome,” shouted at me outside a City Council meeting that my thoughts did not count (she thought I was a student). 

I have lived in Berkeley longer than any other city, for 11 years now. Despite some of the strengths of your paper, I can only hope students see that, like many in the city, you want only their money and not their company, at least not as first-class citizens. In a town with an admitted thief as mayor, teeming with surly homeless and losing retailers left and right downtown and on southside, I don’t think students are the problem. 

Ryan Tate 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

Last year, Berkeley voters passed instant runoff voting election modernization by a landslide, with over 72 percent support, the greatest margin of any item on the ballot. We want our first, second and third choice to count. San Francisco voters are already benefiting from better elections. 

The city and county should be making election modernization a top priority so that we too can have IRV elections with less hostility, more votes counted, and without an expensive and time-consuming runoff in 2006. Ranked voting elections empower voters otherwise disenfranchised by the antiquated one-choice plurality election system 

Much of the nation watches our city for civic leadership. IRV elections here in 2006 will support the efforts of congressmen Cynthia McKinney, Jesse Jackson Jr., and Dennis Kucinich, and also Howard Dean, U.S. Sen. Obama, and Assemblymember Loni Hancock for state and national IRV reform by 2008.  

Sennet Williams  




Editors, Daily Planet:  

In March, 2004, Berkeley citizens voted overwhelmingly—by a 72 percent landslide margin—to pass Measure I, mandating instant runoff voting (IRV) for future Berkeley elections.  

On Monday, Aug. 29, on the steps of City Hall, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates and City Councilmembers Max Anderson and Kriss Worthington honored Berkeley voters by reaffirming their commitment to establish an IRV voting system in Berkeley before the November 2006 elections. 

During the November 2004 election, San Francisco successfully used IRV voting for municipal candidate offices without difficulty.  

The Utah Republican Party uses IRV at its state conventions to determine nominees for elected offices. During the 1940s and 1950s, major U.S. eastern cities—including Cleveland and Cinncinati—used IRV for municipal office elections, and Australia, Ireland and the United Kingdom have used IRV for decades. 

Even if Berkeley has to hand-count IRV ballots (which is done in Ireland and other locations), IRV must be implemented in the city before the November 2006 elections—Berkeley’s voters demand it!  

Chris Kavanagh 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

Regarding your July 15 article, “City Council Calls for Berkeley Honda Boycott,” I would like to know exactly when the City Council was promoting business at Berkeley Honda (previously Jim Doten Honda)?  

According to Councilmember Gordon Wozniak, Berkeley Honda “is one of the city’s top sales-tax generators,” yet when the City Council exercised a contract to purchase Civic Hybrid’s in 2004, they went to a non-union dealership in Southern California to buy these city-owned vehicles? 

Councilmember Linda Maio, who has a 1994 Honda Accord, claims “I’m not going back to Berkeley Honda until they treat their people honestly.”  

This statement is curious, since she has only visited Jim Doten Honda once since 2000 and that was for a free warranty claim. If she has been having her ‘94 Honda serviced in Berkeley, she has been using a non-union shop. 

On the same page as the boycott article, there was a letter to the editor promoting the virtues of Berkeley Minicar as an alternative to using Berkeley Honda. They may be a great place to get your Honda worked on, but they are also non-union. 

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is currently holding meetings to determine if the hiring practices used by the new owners of Berkeley Honda were conducted fairly and based solely on the merit of the individuals being interviewed. Wouldn’t the City Council have been better served to wait until these hearings are concluded to make a decision on endorsing any kind of boycott? 

Just as a point of reference, the NLRB recently conducted hearings into the hiring practices of Future Ford in Concord, where new ownership took over a previously union contracted shop and the mechanics/employees went on strike.  

The NLRB found that Future Ford acted “without prejudice” in the hiring of employees and immediately declared the union-organized strike as “illegal and without merit” and the picketers were ordered off the premises of Future Ford. 

On Monday Aug. 29, the NLRB found that the hiring practices at Berkeley Honda were fair and conducted without bias. The union promptly dropped their charges of “unfair labor practices” against the dealership. The mechanics must be asking themselves now, why did they walk out on jobs that were paying them over $100,000 a year? So they could force ownership into accepting their bankrupt retirement plan? 

Yesterday marked 75 days that some employees of Berkeley Honda have been on strike. The only issue that clearly remains is whether ownership of the new Berkeley Honda will take on the financially embattled pension program. 

The cost of this “marriage” is nearly $650,000, the amount that the union officials have demanded from Jim Doten when he retired and now from the new owners of Berkeley Honda, to shore up the nearly $2 million it is under-funded locally. From everything I have seen to date, I can tell you without a doubt, this is one nuptial that will never make it to the altar. 

Tim Lubeck 

Service Advisor 

Berkeley Honda 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

Boy, has it been uplifting and fun over by the big plastic rat in front of Berkeley Honda lately. Especially on Thursdays and Saturdays, when the weekly rallies have been happening! 

Last Thursday there were picketing mechanics (those who didn’t make the cut when the new owners took over from Jim Doten, and those who were re-hired but left in support of their co-workers). There were school teachers, retirees, relatives of strikers, a remarkable young woman with a broken ankle. (Every time a passing motorist honked in solidarity, she cheered like an alum at a Bears touchdown. She must keep Walgreen’s in business ordering lozenges, because there’s a whole lotta honkin’ goin’ on.) 

And there were mechanics from other shops, leashed and well behaved dogs large and small, Wellstone Democratic Club stalwarts, a smartly dressed 30-something woman, City Councilmember Max Anderson, and tasty snacks to recharge everyone’s energy. You could almost say, “It’s a party!” 

And in a way, it is, but the stakes are also high. Many union jobs with a decent health plan and pension. It’s happening lots of places, but this one is right here where we can join together and win it! Their business is down, but they think if they stall enough, we’ll all go away. Only we won’t. 

So, join us. It’s fun! It’s righteous! Come Thursdays from 4:30-6 p.m., or Saturdays from 1-2:30, when there are rallies. Or really, any time they’re open, join the picketing. Come alone or bring a friend—it’s fun, and really gets their goat to see more people out there. 

Because the more people “join the party,” the more it will lighten the load of the strikers themselves, who have been out there long hours already for two months. 

It will also be one more way to show both the former Doten workers and potential Berkeley Honda customers that this community cares about an old-fashioned concept like justice. 

Oh, and perhaps best of all, we can win! How does that feel in the depths of these political doldrum times? 

Donna Mickleson 




Editors, Daily Planet  

Although labeled “news analysis,” the recent article in the Daily Planet on Venezuela (“Despite War of Words, U.S.-Venezuela Ties Remain Strong,” by Vinod Sreeharsha, Pacific News Service) is neither news nor analysis about the process of change in Venezuela.  

I left Berkeley in 1984 to live in Caracas Venezuela, where I lived for seven years. Since 2000, I have returned to Venezuela for several months every year.  

Descriptions such as “communist splurge” or “self-proclaimed revolutionary Hugo Chavez” are very much in line with the overall misinformation campaign of some of the major Venezuelan media and most of the U.S. media who by attaching misleading labels try to discredit the process of change in Venezuela. Such terms do not lend themselves to thoughtful observation and analysis.  

Having observed Venezuela for many years as well as living and talking with Venezuelans of various opinions and social classes, I believe that there is a profound process of social, cultural and political change going on in Venezuela based on a vision of participatory democracy and a commitment to environmental, social, economic and political justice.  

What is the evidence? People living in low income neighborhoods have increased access to health care, food and education. Other positive programs include low income housing projects and access to low or no interest loans to establish cooperatives to re-open businesses and agricultural sectors that have been in decline since the 1989 (when then President Carlos Andres Perez imposed the IMF economic package that led to nationwide demonstrations). 

As a foreign resident, I have seen an annual improvement in the visa and national identity card services. There is more freedom of speech and of movement since 2000 than when I lived here in the 1980s.  

The Venezuelan government has consistently opposed bombing of Afghan and Iraqi civilians. Chavez infuriated the Bush regime when on national television he held up a photo of Afghan women and children killed by American bombs and said “You cannot fight terror with terror.” Chavez is working to increase cooperation among all South American countries for mutual benefit and to escape the historical domination by the United States.  

I would invite Berkeley Daily Planet readers to find out more about what is really happening in Venezuela. The article by Sreeharsha fails to inform your readers about the democratic process of change in Venezuela.  

Pamela Collett 

Tucacas, Venezuela 




Editors, Daily Planet  

Obviously, Jernae needed to be taught some or be reminded of some manners. If she is incapable of adapting to an unfamiliar environment, she is in trouble. Undoubtedly Susan Parker offered some gentle suggestions as to how things work around here. If it takes a tough grandma in a Cadillac to square things away, so be it. I wonder if grandma makes other out calls. I suspect she would be welcome at 59th and Shattuck to assist Mr. McCullough and the OPD.  

Bill Lutkenhouse 




Editors, Daily Planet  

The hurricane and flood damage will cost hundreds of billions to repair, an amount similar to that which has been wasted by Bush in Iraq. Someone needs to tell him to bring his troops home now, and spend our resources rebuilding our devastated cities. 

Most Americans are willing to sacrifice to help fellow Americans who have lost so much, provided that everyone pays their fair share, including the very rich. Bush needs to tell his backers that the free ride is over, and rescind the tax breaks which the rest of us are having to cover. 

Can someone please gently explain to our President that global warming correlates with increasingly catastrophic weather, and closing his eyes real tight will not make it go away. 

Bruce Joffe 





Editors, Daily Planet  

The Aug. 26 Daily Planet article, “BUSD Says Derby Might be Closed,” omitted several issues that are important to this discussion.  

The stated costs for the open-Derby Street and closed-Derby Street options include only construction cost. According to the school district staff report, neither estimate includes a construction contingency, normal inflation costs, or soft costs such as design work, project management, permit fees, testing and inspections. Together these costs will add 30-40 percent to the cost of the project, raising the budget for the open-Derby Street option to approximately $1,300,000 and the closed-Derby Street option to approximately $6,000,000, yielding a cost differential of $4,700,000.  

It also appears the cost estimates did not include several specific items such as on-site storm drainage for the playing fields to allow them to be used during the wet season. Additionally, in the closed-Derby Street option part of the MLK King Jr. Early Childhood Development Center’s open space will be needed to fit the proposed regulation-size field. The budget will need to include improvements to that site as well.  

The East Campus neighbors welcome the Berkeley High School baseball team to its neighborhood, just as we have welcomed the students who attend the Alternative High School on the same site. In developing the open-Derby Street option, neighborhood representatives to the design committee supported the proposal that gives more to the baseball team and less to the community. These features include a skinned regulation practice infield and batting cages. By comparison the closed-Derby street plan has many shortcomings, The baseball field is a tight fit even with the street closed, resulting in compromises to both the baseball infield and the multipurpose field. The plan also eliminates valuable open space for the Early Childhood Development Center and significantly impacts the neighborhood in the closing of the street.  

Members of the East Campus Neighborhood Association strongly encourage the School Board to work with the city and mayor to seek a more suitable non-residential site to provide a high quality baseball facility in Berkeley. In view of the district’s financial limitations and many other pressing needs, the open-Derby Street option is the fiscally prudent course. This option is supported by the surrounding neighborhoods and does not require City Council approval for the street closure. Affordable sports fields could be ready for play by spring 2006.  

Peter Waller, Susi Marzuola and members of the East Campus Neighborhood Association  




Editors, Daily Planet  

Loved Dorothy Bryant’s “Two Novels in Support of the Artist’s Right to Privacy” (Aug. 30). Bryant writes: “The one thing that transformative fiction needs is creative readers...” That’s true now more than ever, since the reading of books is growing arithmetically and the writing of books is growing exponentially, there will soon be more people writing books than reading them. 

Joe Kempkes 





Editors, Daily Planet  

The board of directors of the Claremont-Elmwood Neighborhood Association (CENA) has discussed the Downtown Area Plan (DAP) element of the UC Berkeley-City of Berkeley agreement at its last two meetings. The DAP was also a topic at CENA’s general membership meeting in June. It was clear from those discussions that our 800 paid members feel strongly about all future development in the downtown area. The board has therefore concluded that CENA and other interested neighborhood associations should be an integral part of the planning process. 

Many compelling reasons supporting that conclusion were brought up during our discussions. Perhaps the single most important one is that CENA feels downtown Berkeley should be developed in a manner that is good for all Berkeleyans—not just for UC, its students, faculty and staff. We are concerned that if university and city staff are the only parties involved in the preparation of the DAP, the decisions on how the downtown will be developed may make our city’s downtown much less attractive to most of Berkeley’s residents. If Berkeley’s neighborhood associations are excluded from the planning process, the voices of many active and concerned citizens will be denied the opportunity to give significant formative input.  

A small mayor’s task force format will not provide a forum broad enough for an open discussion by the entire Berkeley community. We support a much more inclusive format that brings neighborhood groups into the DAP development process as significant voices. Once a draft DAP is created, it should go to the Planning Commission for implementation as the city charter provides. We feel that this inclusive process will allow all citizens to voice comments, questions and concerns in a constructive manner.  

Kimberly Tinawi 

Laurent de Janvry 

Co-president, CENA 




Editors, Daily Planet 

No doubt I am as biased as the next person, but I would say that my friend Bob Baldock’s critique of my article adds only refined oil to the fire he claims to want to control. The implication that I am dismissive of women who would charge sexual harassment is unfair. I did not write in the first person on that situation because I have no direct knowledge about it. But my view of those charges is based upon the vote of the elected Station Board entrusted with guiding KPFA’s maturation (15-5 against firing or censure). They did hire independent people including a lawyer to investigate and presumably made an informed decision based upon the reports.  

Baldock fires at me but surely his comments imply that those 15, like myself, must all be male supremacist pigs or have an agenda in protecting Campanella. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The 15 are not a unified block. My article and my understanding of the internal conflicts and resistance to needed reforms at KPFA—such as the unfortunate blocking of the effort by the Program Council to move Pacifica’s most valuable and popular news show, “Democracy Now!” with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, to a more prime time slot on KPFA—is informed by fact and first hand knowledge. Listeners hold the swing votes in the Program Council that voted the ill-fated change. The intensity of paid staff resistance to such a change is incontrovertible. This overall situation calls for an effort at open dialogue and even mediation between core staff and the activist community of listeners to see how some power sharing might amicably evolve.  

Marc Sapir 




Editors, Daily Planet 

Hardly a week goes by that doesn’t include someone telling me about the difficulty of being a caregiver. Most of the difficulties center on communication, either with the person who needs care or with the persons and agencies that provide care. 

It finally occurred to me that I might be able to help. My decades of experience as a communication coach and my own lurching through the intricacies of caring for my mother give me a fair chance of being useful. 

I called the Berkeley Adult School to see if they wanted to sponsor a class in Communication for Caregivers, and was told to go for it. So classes have been scheduled at the South Berkeley Senior Center (2939 Ellis St., 981-5170), starting in September, every Thursday from 1 to 3. This will be an ongoing class. It is free, and people are welcome to start any time. 

This will be a support group with a difference. It will include techniques for effective speaking that have been helpful for hundreds of people in challenging circumstances. Issues that I anticipate arising include:  

The difficulty of being patient when your husband asks you the same question for the third time. 

The challenge of making your requests understood by the rehab center. 

The dilemma of persuading your mother to have hired help in her home. 

Persuading other family members to consider your proposed solutions. 

The general feeling that no one understands how hard it is to be a caretaker. 

I hope that people will take advantage of this chance to make their lives a little easier. 

Donna Davis 




Editors, Daily Planet 

To support those who want to separate the wheat from the chaff—in the Daily Planet and elsewhere—I offer the best advice I ever got from my grandfather. 

He said that people who had fact and logic on their side didn’t need to use insulting adjectives (like the Planet contributor who called a neighborhood house of worship a “monstrous building”) or judgment-loaded nouns (like the writer who dismissed the historical evidence she disliked as “fables.”) 

The following facts were overlooked by the Planet contributor who claimed that the wars of 1948, 1956, and 1967 “were launched by Israel.” 

Concerning 1948: The day after the UN Partition Resolution of 1947, Syrian-backed armies began a war of liquidation against Palestine’s Jews. 

The armies of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syra and Iraq invaded Israel. 

Prior to 1956: In direct violation of international law and a 1951 UN Security Council ruling, Egypt refused to open the Suez Canal to Israeli shipping. 

In a 1951 blockade that was an act of war as a matter of international law, Egypt blocked Israeli commerce from the Straits of Tiran. 

As to 1967: On May 15, 1967, Egypt started a troop-buildup in Sinai. 

One day later, Egypt demanded the withdrawal of the UN troops in Sinai. 

The next week, Egypt again declared war on Israel by blockading the Straits of Tiran. 

In 1967, between May 15 and 5 June 5, the leaders of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Algeria and Iraq declared that Israel had to be destroyed. 

Though Israel was immediately willing to cede back almost all the land it captured, a conference of Arab leaders in Khartoum in September of 1967 refused to negotiate with or recognize the state of Israel. 

Woodrow Wilson noted that educated people are more likely to shed light than add heat to debate. 

How about it, folks? 

David Altschul 




Editors, Daily Planet 

The Bush regime has rigged the proposed Iraqi constitution by embedding 100 orders in it that allow U.S. corporations to control and steal Iraq’s vast oil reserves and to run the rest of the Iraqi economy for their own private benefit. Imagine if the writers of the United States Constitution back in 1787 had been infiltrated, corrupted and subverted by agents of the British Crown who had insisted on the insertion of orders and special provisions that allowed British corporations to control all the major American colonial resources including timber, fisheries, farmland, water power and manufacturing facilities. What if American farmers had been forced to purchase new crop seeds from British corporations each year? That, in essence, is what the American military occupiers of Iraq have illegally done in the proposed Iraq constitution. These illegal actions are violations of International Law and the United Nations Charter. 

Paul Bremer, the then-U.S. proconsul in Baghdad and the head of the U. S.-created “Coalition Provisional Authority,” inserted 100 orders into the interim ruling authority’s rules. These orders allow U.S. corporations to control and eventually steal the vast Iraqi oil reserves and also to control the rest of the Iraqi economy. These orders are deeply embedded in the proposed Iraqi constitution in such a manner that it will be almost impossible for the Iraqis to get rid of them. This is what Mr. Bush smirkingly likes to call “democracy.” 

This is part of the alleged “sovereignty” supposedly granted to the Iraqis by the U.S. occupation in June 2004. For example, Order 81, one of these illegal orders, outlaws the traditional seed-saving practices of the Iraqi farmers of keeping their best seeds from their crops for the planting of next year’s food crops and instead, forces them to buy new seeds each year from U.S. corporations such as Monsanto. How’s that for some “democracy?” What an insult to the farmers of the original Fertile Crescent, the cradle of modern agriculture and modern civilization.  

Thus, this proposed Iraqi constitution, which has been rigged by U.S. and British occupiers, is totally illegitimate under international law and the United Nations Charter. The Iraqi people will probably rightfully reject it, unless the Bush regime and their Iraqi puppets rig the vote. 

James K. Sayre