Letters to the Editor

Friday December 02, 2005


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’m mad and so are my aerobics swimmates. The West Campus pool is closed until April. It had expensive solar paneling just put in and access to a diverse population, including my senior residence. 

The tenants’ association here gave 100 percent agreement to protest the closing of this nearby pool. 

Our aerobics class, a community of 20-25 winter swimmers for more than three years, must now use the King pool over on Hopkins. This has a hard access for the disabled and poor parking for the rest of us. 

We of course are nothing like Katrina victims, but it does seem somewhat similar: The poor end of town got the shaft. 

Nance Wogan 

Strawberry Creek Lodge 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A week or two ago I received a postcard from the Ecology Center. The postcard promoted the Tuesday Farmers’ Market and offered a discount coupon. 

Unfortunately, it has been almost two years since I’ve last shopped at the Farmers’ Market. The opposition of the Ecology Center to a ballfield on Derby Street has been a big turnoff. The Ecology Center is so anti-youth that I’ve stopped shopping at any of its very high-proceed Farmers’ Markets. Berkeley Bowl is just fine for me. 

I guess the Ecology Center doesn’t want boys in teams on ballfields, so the only places left for young men in teams is dressed in army fatigues in Iraq or in orange jumpsuits in jail. No thank you! 

Young people are the future. We should be investing in youth. The Ecology Center calls itself a “community group” but it only has programs for kale, not for kids. 

Michaela Bowens 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Although an undistinguished alumna of modest means, when 18 years ago my class was preparing for its 50th anniversary of graduation from UC Berkeley, I wildly pledged $500 for the class gift, to be paid in yearly $100 installments. I also worked a phone list to ask class alumni in San Francisco for gift pledges. On the phone I heard sad tales of grown children enduring hard times and needing help—especially with housing. I garnered no pledges. 

After my third gift payment I happened to read in the San Francisco Chronicle of UC’s million-dollar golden parachute to an official of the university taking early retirement (if memory serves accurately) because of his wife’s illness. I was furious. His retirement pay was handsome. He needed a million dollars!? 

I whipped off a letter to our class president: “...Despite my pledge it’ll be a cold day in hell before I give another dime to the University of California!” 

In response I was asked if my letter might be passed on. 

I hoped it would be. And now, after reading the Chronicle’s recent revelations of present-day perquisites, I hope all UC graduates will also reject pleas—until these wrongs are righted. 

Do, or will, the greedy officials (and our economy’s CEO’s) contribute hugely to suffers from tsunami, massive earthquake in Pakistan, hurricanes in the Caribbean, famine in Africa? Will we as a nation ever return to ultra high taxes on the rich so student grants, living-waged public work on the environment and infrastructure etc. may more fairly (and even evenly?) distribute our wealth? 

Education takes place not only in the classroom. UC’s rich officials, and the Regents too, are by example propounding the ruinous 1980s shibboleth that “Greed pays off, and so this is good!” 

Judith Segard Hunt 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Demand has been made upon county and school auditors and treasurers, and upon the California treasurer and controller to cease and desist the payment of any expense whatsoever with respect to the Nov. 8 special election, and for them and their bondsman to forthwith reimburse the county, state and school district for any funds which have been expended with respect thereto together with interest. As each have been advised, that special election is without authority in law and therefore neither state, county nor school district may be charged therefore. Without authority in law no measure can be valid. 

Raymond Hawkins 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Richard Splenda, what planet are you living on? In the weeks since the change on Marin Avenue, what I’ve noticed is that in a period of four weeks, I have seen two bicyclists on Marin the entire time! 

I have also seen traffic backed up three or four blocks at the stop lights at Peralta, Santa Fe, and Masonic. Folks trying to merge from various side streets have to wait a long time to get onto Marin. Forget about the sycamore tress; the exhaust from standing automobiles will blight the environment and reduce air quality significantly for our neighbors on Marin Avenue. 

The bicycle fanatics got their way and punished the rest of us, poor slobs, who need to use their cars or drive to the freeway to get to and from work.  

So much for good planning. 

Michele Givinda 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a member of the public and the Cal Alumni Society, I would like to bring to the attention of the interested parties that UC libraries have started to block the public and alumni to access the Internet via the library computers. On one hand it appears that this a right decision since some folks used to camp out at the computers and misused the resources. On the other hand, denial of access to the internet will hurt many who used the computers for good causes. How can UC libraries send letters to the public and alumni to ask for contributions? I used to pay the libraries at least $200 a year; however, I will not do so any more. It is simple: no services, no contributions. Perhaps, the UC executives can contribute to the libraries out of that $871 million they paid themselves as bounces. UC libraries should let the alumni and holders of library cards have access to the Internet via the library computers. 

Mina Davenport 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I would like to thank Ted Vincent for his recent letter regarding liquor stores in South Berkeley. 

I would like to thank him for revealing what appears to be the true character and legacy of progressive politics in Berkeley. For in Progressive Berkeley broken bottles, used condoms, and used drug needles in the street or tossed into back yards, are to be considered innocuous debris. 

In Progressive Berkeley screeching tires, smashed glass, screamed racial epithets, death threats, and gunfire are to be considered innocuous chatter. 

In Progressive Berkeley fists smashed into faces, knuckled-fists punched down onto the tops of the heads of children, and boot-clad feet slammed into the faces of defenseless, prostrate victims, are to be considered harmless pranks. 

Thanks again for clarifying things for me. 

John Herbert 



HR 1461 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

The House recently passed HR 1461, a bill to establish a housing trust fund from the profits of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Intended to set aside new funding for the creation of sorely needed affordable housing, the bill has taken on dangerous new provisions that threaten democracy and the rights of nonprofits to participate in our democracy.  

HR 1461 would disquality from receiving funds nonprofits who have done any non-partisan voter work in the past 12 months, such as displaying voter registration forms or driving residents to the polls on election day. Simply offering voter registration cards—as do the DMV, post office, schools, libraries, and a thousand partisan and non-partisan organizations alike in the shared national interest of increasing our woefully low voter turnout—would be off-limits to organizations that receive HR 1461 funds. 

Listen, nonprofits come in all sizes, but even those that have small budgets, small staffs, and small local influence do not have small IQs. We understand what non-partisan means, why it’s an important restriction for government-funded entities, and the legal consequences that already exist for ignoring the restriction. Yet under this bill, nonprofits who simply try to get more people to participate in community decision-making by voting—no matter who or what they vote for—will be penalized and prevented from doing their work, and low-income families and individuals who need housing will suffer. This is a backdoor attempt to squash get-out-the-vote activities and no one is fooled. 

Sonja Fitz 

Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding Association of Sports Field Users Chairperson Doug Fielding’s letter of Nov. 29, I am compelled to respond. Mr. Fielding not only criticizes my position on a significant land-use and resource-intensive BUSD project (which is legitimate), he also impugns my judgement and integrity. That I cannot let slide. 

Mr. Fielding states that the city paid his “group” $750,000 for two playing fields at Harrison Street. In fact city documents indicate that the cost was substantially higher, well over $1 million. The fact that the Harrison Street fields do not abut residential houses (about 50 feet away on Derby/Carleton Street), an alternative high school, a preschool, a business, and a UC delivery/receiving facility are also not mentioned. Nor the fact that underground and above-ground utilities, storm drains, street and sidewalk curbing, a streetlight and traffic mitigation, and a whole host of other expenses were not necessary at the Harrison Street project, and will certainly be necessary at Derby Street. 

The real costs of a closed-Derby project are yet unknown. That is one of the points I have been raising and making over and over again. To underestimate the costs as a political strategy is, in my view, deceptively self-serving. What Mr. Fielding fails to address, and cleverly avoids, is the fact that a closed-Derby Street project is far more expensive than what is budgeted for Derby Street by BUSD.  

Mr. Fielding’s “facts” defy, and thus demand, close scrutiny. There has been much oversimplification in this discussion, and many of the closed-Derby proponents have glossed over or dismissed the details and concerns of others. My hope is that by participating in this serial letter-writing to the Planet, I can help illuminate some of these details for the readers’ closer scrutiny and better understanding of BUSD’s options for developing the East Campus site. My fear is that under political pressure, the dstrict and the city might embark on a long and very costly course to close Derby Street, and miss the real opportunity we have right now to provide a quality multi-purpose playing field by 2007 and within the BUSD construction budget. 

John Selawsky 

Director, Berkeley School Board 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

So far this year, we’ve been able to keep the Bush administration’s “Unhealthy Skies” bill (AKA the “Clear Skies Act of 2005”) bottled up in the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. We have been working tirelessly this past summer and fall, knocking on doors and organizing from Boston to Berkeley to keep the committee vote tied at 9 to 9. It is now very difficult for the power plant industry to push this bill through the Senate, which would allow coal-burning utilities to release more mercury into the environment. 

Running with our success in this campaign for public health, we now shift our focus to alleviating the growing problem of global warming. Already, our automobiles are emitting billions of tons of CO2 into our atmosphere every year in a man-made intensification of the greenhouse effect, and they are less fuel-efficient today than they were 20 years ago. One of the single greatest steps the U.S. can take is to legislate an increase the fuel-efficiency standards for all cars, trucks, and SUVs to 40 miles per gallon within the next decade. We are mobilizing hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens on this issue, and targeting over 150 Congresspeople to sponsor such a bill. We are entering a period of consequences, and it is time to act. 

Samuel Lockhart 

Citizen Outreach Director 

Environmental Action 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I find it offensive that our automobiles have worse gas mileage now than they did 20 years ago. While our beloved administration has been refusing to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, we have seen an increase in gas prices and the greenhouse gases that lead to global warming. By signing onto this agreement, a message would be sent to the American public that our government actually cares about the global issue of climate change. The groundwork would be set from the top down that global warming is important enough to endorse laws requiring the automobile industry to improve fuel-efficiency standards to 40 mpg for all new cars. According to the National Academy of Sciences, were we to do this we would cut 250 million tons of pollution that leads to global warming. The United States represents 25 percent of emissions that lead to global warming and therefore we have a major responsibility to do everything that we can to prevent unnecessary changes in world climate. The time is now to raise fuel-efficiency standards. Call or write your representatives today to make this a reality. 

Joshua Sbicca 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

At a recent meeting of its core members, the West Berkeley Alliance for Clean Air and Safe Jobs addressed one of its current concerns, i.e. the BAAQMD’s (Bay Area Air Quality Management District) cancellation of an upcoming community meeting. Granted, meetings get cancelled all the time. However, a meeting of this type, which would allow Pacific Steel Casting, our councilmember, Linda Maio, and the organization that is charged with monitoring our air, BAAQMD, to explain to the public what steps are to be taken next in reducing the amount of metal and other particulate in our air, seems like the type of meeting that should be held at all costs. As emission reports continue to be released and published by BAAQMD, the state of California, and other organizations, our “green community” of Berkeley is left to wonder (and research on its own) “Who will take responsibility for our city’s health and well-being by informing the public about the health implications of these emissions?” For example, unless you are willing to do an extensive amount of research, you might not know about The West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (an effort by the Pacific Institute to empower the West Oakland community to deal with pollution and other problems) who lists Pacific Steel as second of all Bay Area facilities ranked for carcinogen risks. With a little more background, you will discover that this ranking was established using the 1997 Toxics Release Inventory data when PSC’s production levels were much lower than today’s.  

Because both the city of Berkeley and PSC turn to BAAQMD to interpret the amounts and toxicity of materials coming from PSC’s stacks, what then should citizens do when BAAQMD stonewalls the very citizens it represents and denies them the chance to meet together and brainstorm solutions to unacceptable air quality? What do citizens do when they are told that BAAQMD only meets with the public on Tuesdays and that happens to be the same day their council members meet? It should contact its council members and representatives in BAAQMD, and insist that this meeting should happen—not in two months, but in two weeks, as originally promised. If this matter was as a high a priority for BAAQMD as it is for West Berkeley and surrounding communities, I doubt we would have as much reason to question the integrity of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. 

Sarah Simonet-Reid 

Co-Founder West Berkeley Alliance for Clean Air and Safe Jobs 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Jonathan Stephens in his Nov. 29 letter is way off base in his reading of the Potter Creek neighborhood. He calls it “urban blight” and “suffering from neglect.” Nothing could be farther from the truth.  

This neighborhood is home to Tippitt Animation studios which employs several hundred bright young people, Fantasy Records (recording studio), Myer Sound, Scharfenberger Chocolate factory, the French American School (K-8), The Center for the Education of the Infant Deaf, two commercial, artisan bakeries Acme and Vital Vitals, fine furniture maker Berkeley Mills and at least two other sizable furniture/cabinet makers, Nolo press, numerous other small publishers, a book bindery, two large printing companies, the largest yoga studio in the east bay, four glass studios and many other artists and artisans. 

Recent construction includes five loft developments, the large artist/hobby building, the harpisicord makers building and the park created by Bayer. At least eight residences have been rehabilitated. 

This is a light industry/residential area and the industrial uses are indeed changing from heavier, dirtier uses to the diverse, desirable and prosperous businesses I mention above. While the Berkeley Bowl could be a welcome neighbor here the effect on present uses and on traffic must be carefully considered. 

Bob Kubik 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am the commissioner who voted against the questions proposed by CEAC ( “Transparency Needed in Berkeley Lab Nanotechnology,” Nov. 29). I did not feel that they would lead to any new or useful information, and I wanted questions that would.  

The lab responded to the questions of environmental and health risks over a year ago. I believe that the CEAC members who are concerned that the lab is not being responsive and “transparent” did not fully understand the response. The lab’s position was that nanotechnology work would be performed in a manner that would prevent any release of nanoparticles. This would be accomplished by restricting work to studies on bound substrates, in solutions, or in closed systems. If there are no releases, there are no risks. If there are no risks, then the responses to CEAC’s questions are:  

1. There is nothing to identify. 

2. There is no need for external experts. 

3. There are no risks to manage. 

4. There is nothing to inform the public about.  

With regard to point 4, the lab has indicated that it has health experts who will be keeping track of the current literature.  

I proposed a set of questions about issues that I felt the lab had not covered. In particular, I was concerned that the lab had not explicitly addressed the issue of disposal of the experimental materials. It would also be useful for the lab to be more explicit about how they will make sure that researchers will comply with their policy, and what procedures they will have to inform the city of any violations or changes in their policy.  

Robert Clear  




It is truly a service to the community to have the Daily Planet publish views on the Downtown Plan by members of the Committee. However, the writers could do a better job of differentiating fact and opinion so that readers can make better judgments.  

In the Nov 29-31 edition committee member Rob Wrenn writes “One of the major changes that has taken place in the last 20 years is that rents and home prices have soared. Even when you adjust for inflation and rising incomes, the median and average market rent is much higher than it was in the mid 1980’s. Rents for two bedroom apartments are around $2000 a month.”  

The data does not support that assertion. Rent Board data shows that the average for recently rented two bedroom apartments is below $1500 per month. For all registered two bedroom apartments city wide it is below $1300 per month. It is true that if Mr. Wrenn is talking about newly constructed two bedroom units downtown that rents range from about $1850-$2500 per month, These are not rent controlled units and they didn’t exist in the mid 1980’s. These units are defacto dorms and substantially cheaper (per person) than University housing when four students share a two bedroom unit. Rent Controlled units in Berkeley have hardly kept up with inflation. A$300 one bedroom unit in 1980 is approximately $700 in 2005. Since 1996 the Rent Board Annual adjustments have been barely 10 percent cumulatively for the subsequent 8 year period. This years annual adjustment was 0.7 percent. Rent Board fees were increased 13 percent. It is city taxes and fees that have soared in the past twenty years and not rents. Housing prices have soared but the market will undoubtedly provide a correction eventually.  

Since 1996 city employee salaries have increased almost 50 percent without considering merit or promotional increases. Inflation in the same period has been approximately 20-25 percent depending upon the index used.  

In talking about transportation, Mr. Wrenn states “Some good things have happened, including creation of a bike station at downtown BART and addition of new bus shelters.” While this is undoubtedly true I would point out that bus shelters in North Berkeley were torn down years ago allegedly due to graffiti and have never been replaced. To make use of the downtown shelters it is necessary to board a bus somewhere else where there is no shelter. Benches have recently appeared at bus stations at either end of the Solano tunnel but they aren’t user friendly in rainy weather. The Committee should broaden its perspective to make not only the downtown more citizen friendly but to make the city more friendly before you get downtown. Note that bus shelters have been replaced on San Pablo in West and South Berkeley but not in North Berkeley or South Campus areas. 

Ted Edlin?