Letters to the Editor

Friday January 13, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

The headline in the Jan. 11 San Francisco Chronicle, “Alito offers few hints on how he would rule,” is a deception that supports Samuel Alito’s confirmation. The headline might have read, “Alito won’t reiterate his views. Claims positions on abortion, defendant’s rights, racial and gender discrimination, and employer discrimination relate to legal technicalities.” Or it might have read, “Alito stonewalls hard questioning by Democrats.” 

In spinning the headline the way it has, the media (the New York Times headline was even worse) have backed the confirmation of Alito, a man who never noticed a democratic instinct he didn’t despise, to the U.S. Supreme Court. By softening the controversy the media killed the possibility of a filibuster. However, if he’s confirmed we can forget about the 4th and 13th amendments, as well as the right to abortion. And when the Constitution lies in tatters, thousands more languish in prisons and even speech is more openly suppressed (as Bush and Cheney are clearly trying to accomplish) will the managers of huge corporations who own the media congratulate themselves and tell their reporters to stop crying in their beer, it’s the American way?  

Marc Sapir 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The media is constantly trying to find something wrong with our current governor, along with giving the public misinformation about his current Class C driver license. Most of us know you can’t drive a motorcycle if you have a Class C license, but if there is a sidecar attached, it is legal because you’ve just introduced the third axle. In fact, according to the California DMV, “You may drive any three-axle vehicle weighing 6,000 pounds or less gross,” if you have a valid California Class C license, meaning, Schwarzenegger was actually driving legally when he was backed into by another vehicle on Sunday.  

Amber Tevis 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Poor Anna de Leon! I read about the problems she is having trying to run her downtown club (“Anna’s Jazz Island Files Complaint,” Daily Planet, Jan. 10) and realized that she must have fallen for the myth that city officials and developers are “revitalizing” our downtown in order to draw long-term residents back for evening entertainment. 

Anna, that’s just the cover story—concocted to keep Berkeley citizens quiet while Mayor Bates and his developer cronies systematically convert the heart of our city into wall-to-wall student dormitories serving UC. (If you have any doubt at all about who is going to inhabit these new multi-story apartment buildings, take a look at the tiny rabbit hole floor plans of the units they contain. Working adults and families sure won’t rent them.) It’s no wonder that your complaints about recurring overcrowded noisy parties with young people spilling out into the streets are being ignored by the city. That’s the current model for a successful business in our downtown now. Anna, you’d better convert your club into a pizza parlor with 2-for-1 beer blowout Thursdays before it’s too late. 

Doug Buckwald 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I would like to criticize Yolanda Huang’s Jan. 10 article about racial differences existing in high school exit exam performances. There seems to be an editorializing by omission problem here with the race with the highest performance group simply omitted, not mentioned. Is this a clever way to avoid the obvious. Asians score better than all others, they are the dominate ethnic group on Cal’s campus.  

How can we be considered anti-racist when the opposite is obvious. It cannot be hidden by using the language as means to deny the truth when everything is race based. The differences should not be masked and those who do are pandering too a social agenda that is both sexist, racist and including downright evil.  

Shame, Shame on you! 

Ronald Branch 

San Francisco 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’ll take a short break from my cowboy-libertarian plot to destroy local journalism to comment on Becky O’Malley’s editorial (“Fruitvale is a Lesson for Ashby,” Daily Planet, Jan. 10). While we appreciate your editor’s backhanded praise, the intellectual dishonesty with which she prefaces it is pathetic. Since O’Malley can’t mention a New Times-owned paper without resorting to snide remarks, let’s hear some legitimate criticism—because, yes, even we corporate puppets like to think critically about our paper and ways to improve it. Instead, O’Malley parrots the Bay Guardian’s tired and fictional party line that our corporate parent somehow dictates our content. I quote: “Once in a while the New Times chain allows a good article which doesn’t follow the company line of cowboy libertarianism to slip past the editors of one of its magazines.” Puhlease! Similarly dishonest criticisms have implied that New Times stocks papers with out-of-towners who are not of the community, or lump together New Times papers as one, rather than judging each on its merits. 

OK, Ms. O’Malley, meet the editors of the East Bay Express: Editor Stephen Buel and I both hold masters degrees from Cal’s Graduate School of Journalism. I’ve lived in the East Bay most of my adult life, as have the lion’s share of our editorial staff—two of our staff writers pre-date the New Times acquisition, and Calendar Editor Kelly Vance has been with the Express since it first hit the streets in October 1978. Buel and I each have spent many years writing and editing for locally based dailies, weeklies, and magazines; in fact, Buel started his career back when Berkeley’s “daily” was actually daily, as an intern at the Berkeley Gazette. And although it’s none of your damn business, both of us are registered Democrats—although we’re not shy about criticizing them for failing to get their shit together. As for the cowboy thing, I actually like horseback riding, but the music sucks. 

The false claim that New Times dictates what we publish, however, is Bruce Brugmann’s little fantasy—and God knows he doesn’t have an agenda. I’ve been managing editor here going on four years. Know how many times I’ve met Executive Editor Mike Lacey during that time? Once. Know how many times Executive Managing Editor Christine Brennan has stopped by to offer a critique of our news section? Once. That’s hardly corporate control. It’s true that our general format is similar to that of other New Times papers, but the paper’s content—its heart and soul—is not. If there’s any corporate dictate (and I’ve certainly never seen one), it’s to be smart, unpredictable, entertaining, and as local as possible. Fact is, the New Times folks trust us to put out a good paper, and we aim to do so. They help us when we ask for it, and cheer us when we break national stories (like Chris Thompson’s revelation that U.S. soldiers were swapping Iraq gore photos for access to online porn), uncover local wrongdoing (like Robert Gammon’s story about how a CHP chief desperate to nab a suspect in the I-580 sniper case led his agency to set up the wrong guy), or pull down local, regional, and national awards for our coverage, as we do consistently. 

Now back to the grind. 

Michael Mechanic 

Managing Editor 

East Bay Express 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As the new year begins, a significant 25th anniversary event—directly impacting hundreds of thousands of Bay Area renters—was observed during 2005’s final months: the passage, in 1980, of Berkeley’s and San Francisco’s respective Rent Stabilization and Good Cause Eviction ordinances, commonly known as rent control. 

Twenty-five years on, both cities’ rent stabilization measures remain each community’s single largest affordable housing public policy programs, ensuring stable rent levels and housing security for hundreds of thousands of tenants in one of the nation’s most expensive rental housing markets. In Berkeley, nearly 19,000 rental units are regulated, San Francisco’s ordinance regulates approximately 80,000 units. 

At the time of its passage in 1980, Berkeley’s voter-approved rent stabilization ballot measure was considered a legislative and constitutional landmark: The ordinance guaranteed property owners a constitutional right to a “fair return” on their property investment, while protecting renters from arbitrary, unwarranted rent increases.  

During the period between 1978-1981—like the dot-com boom 20 years later—rent levels in Berkeley and San Francisco dramatically (and unexpectedly) increased causing significant tenant economic hardship and dislocation. At the height of San Francisco’s 1999-2001 dot-com explosion, the city’s rent control program managed to shield hundreds of thousands renters from the ripple effect of the era’s rent increase spike. 

Ten other California cities would follow Berkeley’s and San Francisco’s 1980 lead and pass local rent control measures, including Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Oakland, San Jose and Hayward among other cities. In addition, at least 100 other California communities would pass local measures regulating mobile home residential park rent levels.  

Berkeley’s 1980 rent stabilization measure would subsequently be upheld as reasonable and constitutional by both the California Supreme Court 

and the U.S. Supreme Court.  

Recently, Oakland’s 2002 Measure EE ballot measure—“Just Cause” eviction— was declared constitutional by an Alameda County Superior Court. This court ruling is directly connected to the legal precedent established by the good-cause eviction provision of Berkeley’s 1980 Rent Stabilization Ordinance. 

Under Berkeley’s and San Francisco’s rent measures, as long as a renter is a good tenant (ie, pays rent, abides by the lease, is lawful, etc), that renter, generally speaking, will be able to enjoy the same housing security as a homeowner, avoiding the specter of a “no fault” eviction.  

Outside of communities with Good Cause provisions, it is sobering to realize that literally millions of California renter households can be subject to a 30-day eviction notice without cause at any time 

Twenty-five years on, it is important to acknowledge the legacy of rent level stability and housing security that has been provided to tenants by Berkeley’s and San Francisco’s watershed 1980 rent stabilization measures.  

Chris Kavanaugh 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was wondering if I could meet Nat Courtney or any of the other 11 union employees who are no longer employed at Berkeley Honda, out in front of the business?   

In a recent visit to have my car repaired at this dealership I was confronted by an aggressive picketer who continued to confront me after I politely said I was not interested in anything but having my car repaired, and that I was not going to go elsewhere. Why should I go somewhere else? Berkeley Honda and its staff have been nothing but polite and professional. They employ honest, hard-working people who are just trying to make a living to support their families. They don’t deserve the daily harassment they endure from these picketers!  

I wondered about these picketers so I did a little research: It may come as a surprise but those “dedicated picketers” who have been out in front of Berkeley Honda are paid professional picketers. They are not union members, unless there is a Professional Picketers Union. I’d like to know if these picketers are being provided health benefits, and pension plans from their employer? 

The only thing I think Berkeley Honda has is the City of Berkeley itself. Berkeley Honda pays the most in tax revenue and yet their the bad guys. What’s wrong with this picture? What tune will the “neutral” Mayor Tom Bates and the City Council of Berkeley be singing when Berkeley Honda says they’ve had enough. It seems to me that the city needs Berkeley Honda more than Berkeley Honda needs the city.   

I think that people should remember there is always another side.  

D. Doulgeropoulos 

Walnut Creek