Letters to the Editor

Tuesday November 29, 2005


Editors, Daily Planet: 

The liquor stores are drawing fire from both the South Berkeley gentrifiers and the West Oakland men in black suits. The stores must be doing something terrible. It is their trash, noise and petty crime say the gentrifiers. It is the alcohol they sell, say the men in black suits. Both complainers purport to want to improve the neighborhood. At least the men in black suits are concerned with the poor people who live there. 

Viewed from afar, it could be said that liquor stores are only the well-lit symbols of poverty. The customers in the South Berkeley and West Oakland liquor stores are those who were left behind in New Orleans, i.e. the poor without cars. The gentrifiers don’t like people walking back and forth from the liquor store past their houses. But walking is what poor people do. Out in Pleasanton or Danville, the people who buy liquor get in their cars and get it at discount at a supermarket. Neither South Berkeley or West Oakland have supermarkets. Bread, milk and other staples are bought at the liquor store. The men in black suits decry the ubiquitousness in the neighborhood of these establishments that push the evil drinks of alcohol. But people who walk need to shop nearby. In their area an abundance of small establishments is essential. Such “mom and pop” places give credit “till the first of the month,” some let customers use the phone, cash checks, or change pesos into dollars. But “mom and pops” without the profit that comes from a liquor license are almost extinct.  

Rather than pick on the liquor stores, there should be a movement to subsidize mom and pop, or, at the least, place a few supermarkets “in the hood.” Demands for a large grocery eventually bore fruit in San Francisco’s Hunter’s Point neighborhood.  

Ted Vincent 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing to let the readers of this paper know that all of the residents of southwest Berkeley do not see eye to eye in regards to the construction of a new Berkeley Bowl.  

In my opinion, a new Berkeley Bowl would be a fabulous addition to this area of the city. This area has been underserved commercially for much too long and it is in dire need of an affordable supermarket.  

Many people seems to think that a change in zoning to allow construction would open the flood gates to more commercial development. Where they see this as a problem, I see an opportunity to bring in much needed tax revenue to the city’s coffers, and to clean up an area of the city that suffers from urban blight. I ask anybody to take a walk in the area of the proposed site and tell me that it is “prospering” like John Curl said in his article. In reality, the area suffers from neglect, and contamination from years of industry and illegal dumping.  

In short, it is time that the people of this city who oppose this project wake up and accept the changing dynamics of this area of the city. Manufacturing is going to continue to leave this area for places with cheaper operating costs which will lead to further blight. Where will southwest Berkeley be then? I think that opponents of this plan have vastly exaggerated the impact this store will have on traffic, artists and small businesses. The reality is that a new Berkeley Bowl would bring more business to this area and allow for artists and small business to make more money.  

Unfortunately, many people in the bay area don’t get to come to this area of Berkeley to appreciate the diversity and unique charm we have to offer. All it is to them now, is a couple of blighted intersection. I believe that a new Berkeley Bowl and some more housing would only have a positive impact on this area.  

Jonathan Stephens 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

First thing I do when I get my Daily Planet is look to see if there is a Winston Burton essay. Would someone please give him a weekly column so I can stop being disappointed when his stories don’t appear? 

David Freedman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

UC’s Chancellor Robert Birgeneau’s hero must be King Henry VIII, who confiscated the Roman Catholic Church in England, which eliminated the poor boxes (free box) in the middle of the 16th century. Our Henry VIII, Chancellor Birgeneau, took the same measures last week by ordering the removal of the our newly built replacement steel Freebox in People’s Park.  

Last week’s San Francisco Chronicle article revealed UC administrators earn $400,000 and live in 15,000-square-foot homes for free. Then we hear how King Robert (Chancellor Birgeneau) dealt with the poor masses in Toronto, by saying, “There is not a simple solution.” In other words he did nothing and will do nothing, while he is warm and cozy at our expense. What hypocrisy! King Robert the First has no clothes.  

Michael Delacour,  

Corinne Haskins. 




Why don’t you publish more stories about me, or by me? 

I find these stories much more interesting than the other junk you write about. 

Richard List 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The author of a recent letter to the editor, David Altschul, might want to revise his derogatory statement that President Jimmy Carter was the least effective full-term president of the last 70 years. Without going into his record in detail, I’d like to suggest that Altschul remember that Carter’s carefully negotiated Oslo Accords have resulted in a long-lived peace (and even cooperation) between Israel and Egypt that should be used as an example that peace between Jews and Arabs is possible. Not a minor accomplishment. 

Sally Williams 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

There is really no polite way to say this other than that BUSD Boardmember John Selawsky doesn’t know what he is talking about when he states that closed Derby will cost $4.5 million. Oh, sorry that was last month’s number; this month’s number is $6 million. Our group built the field portion of Harrison Park. Five years ago the City of Berkeley paid about $750,000 for two playing fields slightly larger than the Derby site (design, engineering, grading, irrigation, turf, fencing, sidewalks, landscaping, etc). The City of Albany paid $80,000 this year to install a new softball diamond (which due to its size and lack of grass infield is about $40,000 cheaper than a baseball field) at another athletic field, including batting cages, backstop, safety fences, etc. The combo is $830,000. 

The professional cost estimators, hired by BUSD to develop estimates for Derby, came up with $1.3 million for the closed Derby fields and another $1.4 for non-field related costs (a place for the Farmers’ Market, new traffic light, and a storm sewer). As a reality check BUSD had these numbers reviewed by Bill Savidge who oversees building and field development for the West Contra Costa Unified School District. He agreed with the cost estimators. The number developed by the cost estimators seems in keeping with the $830,000 it has actually cost to build similar facilities.  

It is one thing for general members of the community to write letters to the editor with gross factual inaccuracies. But the entire Berkeley community should be outraged when elected public officials make inflammatory and unsubstantiated statements for the sole purpose of creating community unrest about something they personally oppose. As a result of this and a multitude of other similar statements without any basis in fact, I have asked Mayor Tom Bates and Councilmember Max Anderson to hold a community dialogue among the people supporting closed/open Derby, neighbors of Derby, and the Ecology Center/Farmers’; Market. I offered up a date of Thursday, Dec. 8 at 7 p.m. at the Alternative High School. While the dialogue may not result in consensus it certainly is a necessary step to give people the accurate factual information they deserve. 

Doug Fielding 

Chairperson, Association of Sports Field Users 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The University of California administration destroyed our free clothing box in People’s Park, sneakily, in the dark. Like criminals, they stole a very important resource for sharing in our community. Ironically, as the UC Regents were voting on milking the students for money to pay their top administrators more, they were stealing from Berkeley’s poor. Why? Irene Hegarty, from UC’s Community Relations Department says, “People have taken the clothes and sold them to buy drugs or alcohol...It just has not been a productive way to get clothes to homeless people.” First off, in fact, the freebox is an active and effective distribution system, getting clothes to many people. It’s open 24 hours a day and it costs nothing. It certainly is a more “productive” way of getting clothes to the homeless than removing the box and throwing away the clothes as UC has been doing. 

Secondly, the complaint about people selling the clothes is absurd. Who cares if someone sells something? It was given to them, it’s legal and there is plenty to go around. It is actually a great skill and service if one can identify clothes that are in fashion enough to be bought. That allows college students better prices at the used clothing stores and helps those local businesses. It reduces societal consumption. And why is it assumed that if a poor person makes money it is for “drugs or alcohol”?  

The freebox is not necessary for us to exercise our right to share clothes. As has been happening since the box was vandalized, and since the park began, people still bring clothes to the park. And the clothes are still distributed and appreciated. But instead of the dignity of a box, they lie in bags, boxes or piles on the ground. The box keeps the clothes neater and protected from the rain. 

The freebox is community helping itself. We are not asking for funding, for donations, not even for materials to build the box. It is a collective effort of people seeing a need and wanting to help others. It is hard to imagine what cruel streak in the non-democratic UC administration hierarchy chooses to destroy it. Please try to find them and call them. And keep bringing your extra clothes to People’s Park. They are needed and appreciated and it is our right to share with others. 

Terri Compost