Letters to the Editor

Tuesday September 27, 2005


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I just got this email from my friend Alice. She said, “Some really good Christian wrote to our local paper and said that Katrina’s wrath was God’s way of punishing New Orleans because they celebrate Mardi Gras.” That’s like saying that Hurricane Rita is hitting the innocent people of Texas in retribution for all the embezzling and corruption caused by Texas-based Halliburton and the Bush bureaucracy. 

Well. There’s only one way to deal with that kind of ignorance and intolerance—aside from tossing the Bush bureaucracy out of our White House and hopefully avoiding God’s wrath on that one. 

Let’s Save Mardi Gras!  

Jane Stillwater 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I speak for many when I tell you how deeply disappointed we are that the Berkeley Daily Planet did not cover to any meaningful extent the adoption of the Resolution to Bring Home Our Guard from Iraq Immediately by the Berkeley City Council on Sept. 13. 

We would expect a full report when our City Council takes action on something so vital and important to the ending of this war in Iraq, and so extremely timely and necessary to the protection and well-being of Californians, as bringing home our Guard. 

It has been made too painfully clear after Hurricane Katrina the price our citizens‚ pay when our Guard and our equipment is not around to do the job they signed up to do—assist citizens in times of emergencies. 

The warning from FEMA in the beginning of 2001 should be what we heed these days: not the fear tactics of our president who needs our Guard and Reservists to supply 45 percent of his fighting forces in Iraq. This warning alone should  

make all of us in California insist that our Guard be returned immediately. 

And the movement that is swelling in California to return the Guard, with Berkeley City Council once again in the vanguard, should be front-page news in our local paper. 

Suzanne Jo 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have a suggestion for Suzanne Jo and others who express disappointment in the Berkeley Daily Planet for not covering particular issues, items on a local council meeting, etc. 

Write it yourself. Clearly, the person who wishes coverage has an interest and should be knowledgeable and even possibly passionate about it. Take the initiative and write something up. I’m certain if the Planet has the space, they’ll publish it. 

I find it amusing that it’s common for the Planet’s public to complain about “expected” coverage for several reasons. It’s a free publication, meaning that it’s completely supported by advertising. Plus the Planet has an unusual policy of taking the 1st amendment seriously—I’ve seen articles/letters printed critical of local businesses—(potential) advertisers. See if you can consistently see that in other local publications—especially considering that there are hardly any others which aren’t part of a larger conglomerate. 

When I compare the Planet to other local papers, it’s clear to me that the Planet is in a league of their own when it comes to editorial integrity. 

I doubt many of the complainers have much of an idea of how much effort, commitment, and tenacity it takes to crank out a quality publication twice a week. 

We’re very lucky to have such an outstanding local free newspaper in our community and I don’t take them for granted for one moment. 

Richard Fabry 

Point Richmond 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Is the teen readers program of the North, South, West and Claremont Branches dead? Sadly, yes they are—and we can thank the director the Berkeley Public Library for this fiasco she has perpetrated, at the behest of her own bloated ego. So where do these teenagers go now? To wal-mart and shop? To MacDonalds and socialize? To home and watch television? Probably. Thanks Berkeley Public Library director—you’re doing a fine job representing the ‘pulse of Berkeley’s most valuable asset, the kids’ by throwing their teen-librarians and program out on the street. What is next? Seeing as the Teen-librarian program has come to a grounding halt, will you then recommend to the Library Board of Directors that the Teen-librarians be laid off—seeing as they are not productive enough as compared to their prior Sept. 1 non-voluntary transfers? We’re watching you, and what you try to do. I for one want to see the Teen-librarians back where they were doing what they do best: Serve and enrich our lives in a way, you Ms. Berkeley Public Library Director have no comprehension, or confidence by many Berkeley citizens, to execute. 

Mark Bayless 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

There is one word to describe the opinion piece by Scott Prosterman in the Berkeley Daily Planet, Sept. 23-26 issue: Bravo! 

It is the height of arrogance for writers like Mr. Gertz to assume for themselves the right to describe a “Jewish” position on political issues in the Middle East. It is as if he said that it was anti-Semitic for a Jew to vote Republican—misguided, perhaps, but certainly not anti-Semitic. 

Many of us—I don’t have a clue how many—American Jews support the right of Israel to exist, oppose all terrorist activities directed against civilians—whether Palestinian bombing of night clubs in Tel Aviv or Israeli bombing of civilian targets on the West Bank—and oppose the settlements in Palestinian territory—which are in any realistic juridical analysis wholly illegal—as self defeating by perpetuating the violence that threatens the security of Israel. All of these are legitimate, arguable positions. We don’t call those who disagree with us anything but, in our opinion, wrong. 

But the Gertz’s of the world do not accord us an equal respect and Mr. Prosterman has nailed it 100 percent. Thanks. 

Mal Burnstein 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

There are countless examples of media word-storms but the deluge from hurricane Katrina in sound and print copiously illustrated has set a new benchmark.  

Most writers are misinformed opinionated dunces when it comes to New Orleans; what they don’t know would fill a library.  

I went to high school there, I taught school there, my oldest brother retired there after thirty-five years in New Orleans’ schools, my youngest brother was Assistant Postmaster, and much more. Mama and Daddy died there. What makes New Orleans unique is centuries of nurturing two parallel and symbiotic worlds, one white and one black, the former symbolized by the Rex parade on Mardi Gras Day and the other by the same day parade of king Zulu, different cultures equally colored. 

New Orleans is as much a way of life as it is a city. Katrina disrupted that life but did not destroy it. By and by les bons temps will roll again. 

Marvin Chachere  

San Pablo 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

On Tuesday, Sept. 27, at 6 p.m. at the West Berkeley Senior Center, the Berkeley Police Review Commission will be hearing my complaint against Officer Allen of the Berkeley Police Department. 

In February of this year I was evicted from my home of 22 years at University Avenue Cooperative Homes, in Berkeley, on the basis of dozens of calls made by UACH management accusing me of crimes ranging from dealing weapons and drugs, assault, and child molestation. I was never charged with any of these crimes. 

In January I returned home to find I had been robbed, and called Police. Although Officer Allen testified to PRC staff that Mr. Charles West, manager of UACH, admitted going into my apartment, and even showed Officer Allen the stolen items, nothing was done. Nothing was even reported. 

These events led directly to my eviction. I am 60 years old, suffering from testicular cancer, in poverty, and homeless. 

University Avenue Cooperative Homes is, purportedly, a 47-unit, limited-equity housing co-operative, but after I paid a monthly carrying charge on a mortgage for over two decades and tried to find out my legal and financial status at UACH, and the legal and financial status of UACH itself, the harrassment began. 

I have learned from Alameda County documents that UACH receives $60,000 a month in Federal Section 8 subsidies, yet residents include employees of the developer, of the shadowy Partnership that apparently owns it, and of various local and state agencies. Also hidden by the confidential silence surrounding UACH is its several rich commercial rentals. 

The land under UACH, and also under some of the commercial rentals was, it was said, sold to the City of Berkeley by the late and much-lamented Consumers Co-operative of Berkeley, and leased back to the developers, who were associated with CCB’s planning and Development Committee for $1 a year. 

But Alameda County records tell the real story. CCB sold the land to the developers, who sold it to themselves under a different name, who sold it to themselves again under a second different name and then sold it to themselves a third time under a third different name! 

Then the developers sold the land to the City of Berkeley, which immediately granted it back to the developers, who sold it to the City a second time the very next day. 

It was shortly after UACH opened that CCB was sold. The reason given was that CCB had expanded into areas that were not ready to support co-operatives. No one looked into the history of the sale of CCB-owned land in North and West Berkeley. 

The attitude of the City of Berkeley, its co-operation with who-ever it is that owns and controls UACH, can be traced back to the motion made by the Newport-led City council who—in its Berkeley Redevelopment Agency hats—lent the developers of UACH $644,000, and also moved that: “For the purpose of the application to CHFA, the City is the developer.” 

California Housing Finance Agency is the State agency that funnels Federal Section 8 funds to the various municipalities.  

While the poor remain homeless, the City in its partnership with “Non-Profit” corporations continues to house their chosen people, continues to hide the pockets that fill with monies that should house the poor, continues to hide the face of those who profit from hidden commercial rentals, and continues to aid the criminal activities of profiteers who punish people who try to learn the truth. 

There have been many members of the Berkeley Police who have responded, I believe, appropriately, in the situation. I want to thank them, especially those who visited me when they were not called. There are police who act with integrity and courage. 

Richard Berkeley 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Senate committee backs Roberts for chief justice; Senator Feinstein D-CA refuses to back Roberts in vote, Sen.Leahy D-Vt goes the other way. You would think that Democrats who backed Bush on his war would have learned their lesson.  

What is Roberts hiding? People with nothing to hide, conservative or liberal, will usually tell you what they believe. Deceivers on the other hand hide their true motives with lies, deception and silence. John Roberts has hidden behind a veneer of legal ethics and privilege and a litany of excuses as he skirted important issues that divide America today.  

Roberts is telling America that secrecy and deception are the way of democracy and judicial prudence. President Bush and religious right-wingers have been misleading Americans since Day 1 of their incorporation. Are we to believe George W. and the faithful have all of a sudden had an epiphiany and a change of heart? Unlikely!  

Ron Lowe  

Nevada City 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The August BUSD board meeting was exciting to watch as this summer’s maintenance and building programs were 

showcased. Mostly paid for out of bond money, they ranged from routine upkeep to large scale construction. Each project seemed beneficial for our students. 

At Malcolm X, the area outside the fence was re-configured to ward off a recurrence of winter storms that flooded many classrooms. At Washington, the standing water pond behind the play structure was drained and the overall yard upgraded with more seating and trees. Le Conte’s drop off and pick up area began to be improved and the butterfly yard started to be repositioned. 

The largest area of construction was at the Middle Schools. Willard began a full rehabilitation of its main academic and administrative buildings. M.L. King is constructing a dining commons along with a new science building. 

Berkeley HIgh School is having its “C” building repainted, lead paint removed, and the Donahue and South Campus gyms renovated. Meanwhile, the old East Campus buildings have been leveled. Additionally, there are plans for redeveloping West Campus and move central administrative offices. The garden/play area at Frankln Adult is also being completed. 

While some sites will be ready in a few weeks, most will not be finished for some time. Remembering similar past BUSD projects, I wondered how many would actually be finished with current bond monies available. Often projects have remained incomplete until new bond measures were passed. 

And then the first issue on the agenda was the report back on the fiscal feasibility of the closed site option for the Derby Street playing fields. (This report was issued by BUSD’s own Lew Jones and is “must” reading for people involved in the issue, to check for exact numbers). The review team reported that $900,000 remains set aside for improvements at this location. However, the closed site option, totaling hard and soft costs, would be around 6 million dollars. The Board asked for a reconciliation of these numbers, and a further study of “bare bone” cost comparison between the open and closed site options. However, it’s obvious that there will remain a gap in the millions between the money available and what’s needed for the closed site plan. 

And so, the question is, how will this shortfall be funded? By raiding some of the wonderful improvement projects begun this summer? And if any extra BUSD money is available, it seems that there are other projects already in line, e.g. the completion of the South Berkeley High School plan. BUSD has already admitted not having enough money to finish this 

project And what about the warm water pool on the High School Campus? Since BUSD’s financial situation is widely viewed as still very shaky, this doesn’t seem the time to begin raiding other programs, not completing ones already started, and not fullfilling agreements.  

Waldo Esteva 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

There are few things in life as fine as a neighborhood park and garden, and you are invited to help us build one this coming Saturday, Oct. 1, from 10-2 at Curtis and Virginia streets, the northeast corner of the new Berkeley Adult School.  

A wonderful, special time is promised. 

Bring shovels, metal rakes, and any strong family members as we prepare the site for planting later this fall and, as the community further refines its thinking, for a play area, community and school meeting space and possibly individual planting plots. this will be one of the very few new open spaces in Berkeley in recent years.  

“Sweat equity” is always important, but if you are unable to make it but would like to help, there is information about tax deductible donations to the Schoolhouse Creek Commons—the official name—at the bottom.  

Refreshments will be served and will be better than the usual rubberized donuts and warm o.j.  

This site, roughly a quarter acre, has long been used by neighborhood kids and families, with various degrees of official approval. Its exact status was never clear. Just how open to the public would this school district property be, how would it be used? 

That was answered as the district and school board finalized its plans for the site, with them paying for removal of asphalt, grading, installation of some turf and pathways. The rest -- the work and the not at all insignificant costs—is completely up to the neighborhood.  

Saturday’s work is crucial. 

The large majority of plants will be California native trees, shrubs, perennials and bulbs. Native gardeners are wary of working the soil much, if at all, before planting. But much of the soil here is compacted, lacking air and drainage. After a brief discussion, residents decided that the soil would be worked by double digging, the manual, time-honored way, instead of rototilling.  

Everyone, including children, is invited, if only to perch on some of the park’s interesting boulders and watch. 

For more information, email Jamie Day at dayork@infinex.com or call 559-8368, during the day, if possible. 

Tax deductible donations can be sent to Schoolhouse Creek Commons, c/o Brad Smith, 1205 Francisco St. Berkeley 94702. The Commons works in cooperation with Berkeley Partners for Parks, which allows for donations under 501(c)(3) of the tax code. 

Donations will go for plants, tools, a sign/community bulletin board, perhaps a few initial play area needs, benches and other equipment. 

Jamie Day