Letters to the Editor

Friday November 25, 2005


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Last I looked, the fields at Hearst weren’t even regulation fast pitch. Gilman Street is even further away than San Pablo Park. Having played softball at San Pablo Park for 20 years, I’ve witnessed the overuse of the fields and underutilization of the fields by the community. Please build the field at Derby and get it right this time. It will be worth it. 

Alan Roselius 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have to agree with Rio Bauce when he questions the hysteria surrounding closing one block of Derby for a much larger park with many more features. It does seem like a no-brainer to me too. Who would not want the best park possible? 

Another member of the vocal minority opposing the park points out that Ohlone Park is “underutilized.” Perhaps we could replace it with a street. Any park in our community is always a benefit, even one that is not packed with people or events. Derby Street between Milvia and MLK is an example of “underutilized.” There is nothing on that street that could not be better accessed from a park setting. Driving a half block out of your way is not a big deal. We neighbors of the park do it every Tuesday during the Farmers’ Market and have been for years. 

The Farmers’ Market management is against closing the street, mainly because of money to pay for the upgrades. Understandably, they don’t want to pay for a move they didn’t ask for, regardless of how much better it will be for the farmers trying to sell product. The School District has always made it clear that the Farmers’ Market is an important part of the new park. They should be in the new improved area at no additional costs. What difference does it make whether the city or the school district owns the land the Farmers’ Market is on? 

I encourage everyone to take a look at Derby Street from Milvia or MLK. Try to imagine a park there instead of thousands of square feet of concrete. Please contact the mayor and the Berkeley City Council and urge them to close Derby Street between Milvia and MLK, Jr. Way. Let’s build the best park possible. 

Bart Schult 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Over the past few months we have seen two historical and important street corners in downtown Berkeley revitalize with new tenants. The Kress Building on the corner of Shattuck and Addison now is occupied with Half Price Books, and the Corder Building on the corner of Shattuck and Bancroft now is occupied with Longs Pharmacy. Both of these historical sites have been vacant for over a decade. Now they are busy with new tenants and customers bringing new life to important areas of our downtown that have been vacant for much too long. As a ground floor retailer and a resident of the downtown I am very happy to add these new stores to my shopping possibilities. Half Price Books has a large selection of books, CDs, DVDs, and many more related items for sale. I have found the staff and supervisors to be friendly and very helpful. A lot of people thought that Half Price couldn’t survive in the downtown because of our ongoing parking issues. However, the loyal customers of Half Price and their new base of customers continue to patronize the store. I have witnessed customers bringing in box after box of books they want to sell to the store. Longs Pharmacy has finally opened after many months of anticipation. They have not only done a very nice job of improving the interior of their space, the exterior of the building looks wonderful and received a much-needed paint job. Though they are not the grocery store that our downtown needs, they do provide a small selection of dry goods and dairy products. I have also been impressed with the friendliness of their staff and supervisors. 

Raudel Wilson 


Downtown Berkeley  





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I live in Permit Parking area B which, along with areas A & D, include Saturdays as restricted parking days. This, I assume, is to include the CAL football games, of which there are only six or seven a year (depending if the Big Game is home). On Saturday, Nov. 12, as everyone in Berkeley was fully aware, whether they be a football fan or not, was the Cal vs. USC game. Now USC, being the No. 1 rank college football team in the nation, one would expect to fine a huge crowd in town, which we did. Apparently everyone was expecting this except the Berkeley Police Dept. as they had only 8 “meter maids” working (their usual Saturday work crew) as opposed to the 15 workers they have during the weekdays.  

At noon I wandered from my house over to the ASUC and found no parking enforcers at all in area B. When I returned home, I called the Berkeley Police Department and was told my concern would be reported. Nothing happened. So at 4 p.m. I walked my square block (Stuart Street) and counted 28 cars parked with no permits and no tickets, seven with temporary permits, others with permanent permits and no empty parking spaces.  

I have called again to both the BPD and to Councilmember Wozniak and voiced my concern. Why have the farce of the signage stating this is a two-hour area when it is not? Why do the residents need to purchase temporary permits for Saturdays when no one comes by to check? Why have Saturdays on the permits at all? Both took down my concern.  

To my memory, no “meter maid” has come by during any of the six CAL home games this year. But they surely do come by during the weekdays, when Stuart Street is empty of cars, except for the occasional contractor’s car that does get ticketed because I forgot to give them one of my temporary permits! 

The irony of this whole situation is obvious.  

Barbara Scheifler  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A Transportation Commissioner has suggested raising Berkeley’s parking-meter rates so they are in line with the rates in other cities of the Bay Area.  

The city should look at the studies by UCLA Planning Professor Donald Shoup, which show that parking works best when parking-meter rates are higher than the rates for nearby off-street parking. Shoup says that rates should be high enough that about 15 percent of metered parking spaces are vacant at any time, making it easy to find metered parking.  

If a city sets parking meter rates too low, then commuters will park and feed the meter all day, so there is no metered parking for short-term shoppers. In addition, longer-term shoppers will drive around and around the block looking for a meter rather than using the more expensive off-street parking, increasing congestion.  

If you set meter rates higher than off-street parking rates, these problems disappear, and there is convenient metered parking for short-term shoppers who just want to stop and pick something up quickly.  

Shoup found that merchants resisted plans to raise parking-meter rates, fearing that the higher cost would keep away shoppers, but that he could address merchants’ concerns by investing a significant part of the meter revenues in improving the streetscape of the shopping neighborhoods where the revenue was raised, to make these neighborhoods more attractive and draw more shoppers, rather than putting this revenue in the city’s general fund.  

This strategy has been tried in Old Pasadena and in San Diego, and it has been very successful. The extra meter revenues have been used to make these shopping neighborhoods so attractive that they have drawn much more business, despite the higher cost of parking meters.  

We should try the same thing in downtown Berkeley, in South Campus, and in other Berkeley shopping neighborhoods.  

Charles Siegel 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I loved Susan Parker’s column about hiring the guy with the rap sheet. Mainly, I loved it because I work regularly with guys (and women, too) with rap sheets who aren’t so lucky. You wouldn’t believe how many jobs these days involve a background check—not just good jobs, but minimum wage nurses’ aide jobs, driving jobs, anything that involves kids or old people or requires a license—and the background check can turn up even ancient criminal cases. People with records, even those who have put their bad times behind them, usually find themselves unemployable. Few employers (and no bureaucracies) recognize the beauty you and your helper saw in turning around a life gone wrong. 

For some of these people, help is available. It is often possible to get these old cases dismissed, once probation is completed. The rap sheet doesn’t disappear—the conviction still shows up on it—but it shows up with an order from the judge at the end of the case history, saying “dismissed.” This stamp of judicial approval can make a huge difference in getting a job or a license. It’s sort of an official gold star, saying “You did turn it around!” And getting that gold star can be as simple as filing a petition in court. To talk to a lawyer about a petition, come to the East Bay Community Law Center’s Criminal Records Clinic. It’s at the Wiley Manuel Courthouse Self Help Center, on Sixth and Washington in Oakland, on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. 

Kathleen Kahn  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I highly recommend that everyone follow the advice of Joanna Graham’s letter in the Nov. 11 Planet, in which she encourages readers to check out an exhibit entitled “Justice Matters: Artists Consider Palestine” on display through Dec. 7 at the Berkeley Art Center in Live Oak Park. Because as many people as possible should see these paintings which glorify mass murder (er, excuse me, suicide bombing), which repeat the anti-Semitic themes of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and which call for the destruction of Israel. (If you can’t make it to the show, Google the phrase “Gallery Exhibit at the Berkeley Art Center” for excellent photos of the art.) I applaud the Berkeley Art Center, MECA and Joanna Graham for drawing our attention to the vitriolic hate and veiled calls for violence amongst Palestinian supporters on the Left. Bravo! The more people that see the truth about the anti-Israel movement, the quicker it can be discredited. Thank you for your work in this matter, Joanna. 

Paul Norland 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

My wife, Jane, and I had an unpleasant experience at Berkeley Honda tonight that we thought might serve as a warning to anyone thinking about doing business with Berkeley Honda. 

We have been quietly walking the picket line at Berkeley Honda for the past several months in solidarity with the long-time union workers who were not re-hired when the new owners took over. Jane has occasionally exchanged small talk with some of the current employees during our picket, but has never been confrontational—in fact, she had hoped that by remaining pleasant and human, this unfortunate situation would somehow be resolved more quickly and fairly. 

Tonight, however, one of the Honda sales people, either through frustration at the lack of business or just plain ugliness, decided it was time to get tough. As Jane and I walked past the window with our signs, one of the salesmen, rapped on the window to get Jane’s attention. When she turned in response, he leered at her and then began gesticulating with his tongue in a manner that most people would consider both offensive and juvenile. That event led to a confrontation on the sidewalk in which the salesman told Jane to get her ass back to her communist homeland (England), and that I was both an asshole and an old man—said while he was standing much too close to me. His not-so-veiled threats (“you won’t see me if I come to your workplace” and “why don’t you and I meet someplace away from the dealership?”) now seem, in retrospect, much more menacing than I first thought. 

The situation at the dealership appears to be deteriorating. Other picketers have reported similar taunts. Berkeley Honda should settle with the strikers before their employees frustrations boil over and someone gets hurt. In the meantime, I would urge Berkeleyans to stay away from Berkeley Honda, their new and used car sales departments (where the salesman works), their service department, and their parts department. There are good union dealerships in Oakland and El Cerrito where you can buy or service a car, as well as many reputable Honda mechanics throughout the city. 

Tom Kelly 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

“General Webster is right,” Mr. Bush’s text said. “And so long as I am commander in chief, our strategy in Iraq will be driven by the sober judgment of our military commanders on the ground.” 

Now let me paraphrase that in an imaginary quote from the head of our local cult of the personality: “The City Attorney is right,” Mayor Bates said. “And so long as I am the commanding personality in this city, our strategy in the LRDP lawsuit (or substitute any other legal matter) will be driven by the sober judgment of our professionally trained attorneys on the case.” 

Hey Democrats and other hypocrites, “They that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same.” (Job 4:8, KJV.) 

On another note, Councilmember Max Anderson was quoted as saying that the decision of the Landmarks Commission on 1901 Otis St. did not “pass the smell test” and that the commission should apply proper “standards.” No, I am afraid it is the City Council that does not pass the smell test. The Landmarks Commission was obviously making a statement on the lack of genuine standards applied by the Zoning Adjustments Board and by the City Council. We all know that these bodies have become bureaucratic institutions incapable of responding genuinely to any matter that is put before them. God bless the Landmarks Commission for trying to make a statement, and I hope all the citizens of Berkeley are not fooled for one minute by the spin doctors on the City Council or in the office of the city manager. 

On yet another note, the acting Health Office for the City of Berkeley was apparently relieved of her position for making a statement supporting my appeal before the City Council concerning the proposed “renovation” at 2235 Derby St. The city manager tried to put a spin on it, as though she was supporting him rather than my appeal, but apparently even he didn’t believe that, because apparently he had her fired. Now, do you begin to understand what kind of government we now have in this fair city? Don’t be fooled by the past—look at the present—look at what is right before your eyes. 

Peter J. Mutnick 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

J. Douglas Allen-Taylor in his “opinion” column of Nov. 18-21, said “the legislative redistricting process is like taking our car to the mechanic. We know we’re getting screwed. We’re just not sure exactly how.” As the leading alarmist in print locally, who looks (and seems to find) racism behind every conflict in the east bay, I expected better. 

In three short sentences Mr. Allen-Taylor revealed his propensity to lump all practitioners of a difficult and demanding trade into one allegedly rotten barrel. Talk about preconceived notions (rank prejudice)! 

This is the sort of blanket, uninformed prejudicial condemnation that Mr. Allen-Taylor rails against week in and week out in his opinion columns. Look in the mirror Mr. Allen-Taylor, and see if the shame you deserve can be seen on your face. 

How does this statement sound to you sir: “One is about as likely to find truth and integrity in the local print media opinion pages as when looking for competency and honesty in a politician”? 

Statistics from public and private agencies show that the incidence of fraud in the auto repair field is lower than in home remodeling, auto body repair, used car sales, Internet sales, lending, moving, real estate, and many other forms of commerce. 

Evan Meyer 

Former auto mechanic 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

To J. Douglas Allen-Taylor: You would actually be funny, if only you weren’t so stupid. You actually think it was “conservatives and Republicans” who made the most noise wanting redistricting. Let’s set aside the fact that you are totally unaware that conservatives are Republicans. Let’s just go to the terrified faces of David Drier et all who made such a noise against redistricting, they completely obfuscated the governor’s trip to D.C. earlier this year. This was a trip where he was supposed to get a refund from the feds, not advance his consultants’ agenda (if you think Arnold personally give’s a shit about redistricting, you’re too stupid to live). And why the hell wouldn’t Perata and Nunez address re-districting now? Enough people—not to mention media geniuses like you—are pissed off about our districts that the Democrats—yes, even Perata and Nunez—realize judgment day is just around the corner on this issue. Just because it didn’t pass a couple weeks ago, doesn’t mean people don’t want it. They just didn’t want judges—or Arnold’s consultants—doing it.  

It would nice if, for a change, you got off your “Let’s beat the shit out of anyone who advances farther in life” wailing wall and instead just reported the truth. You have such a hard-on for Perata you kick him on all the wrong things, watering down the items that he should rightfully answer for. Get your head out of the pro tem’s ass for a minute and write about what’s really wrong with our state. Although I doubt any of it will have to do with hot button realities like too many illegal immigrants bankrupting our schools and hospitals. That’s more important to me than freaking redistricting. Or how about taking on the teachers—yes, they do have too much power. Or the pensions of public employees. Do we really think it’s appropriate someone should get their salary for the rest of their life, even 20 years after they leave their job? Just because they were a cop or firefighter? God forbid we should accept the fact that most firefighters will never actually come close to a life and death situation, and frankly if they do, it’s the choice they made. I don’t feel like paying them and their widows 100 percent of their pay til death do we all part. 

But I guess it’s sexier to go after Perata, and now Nunez. Who gives a shit about those two?! Except you! 

Page McKane 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

We live behind the house in Berkeley were there was an incident which drew the police to surround the block and cut off traffic. The incident was some kind of domestic dispute. Both the San Francisco Chronicle and the Berkeley Daily Planet ran similar short stories. As we heard disturbance and corroborated the story with other immediate neighbors, an AK-47 was used and a great number of shots (20-60 by various first hand reports) were fired. The news reports merely said: “A man came out with a gun and began firing at the officers” If it is true that an automatic weapon was used in a domestic dispute, some critical questions are raised. How was the weapon obtained? What kind of controls are there on selling or possessing this kind of weapon? What is being done to enforce pertinent regulations?  

Some follow up work in your paper is called for. The citizens have a right to know if this kind of illegal weapon was used. Perhaps that awareness could lead to Berkeley, Alameda County, and the State of California following San Francisco's lead in prohibiting private gun ownership until the rest of the nation is ready to do so. 

Names withheld?