Letters to the Editor

Friday January 20, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Last week you printed a letter from Chris Kavanaugh touting the 25th anniversary of the San Francisco and Berkeley rent ordinances. He thinks that the results have been favorable to tenants in both cities. 

Why does it cost so much more for Berkeley to do the same rent control benefit as San Francisco? San Francisco’s rent control budget is about $26 per unit served while Berkeley’s is $165 per unit served. San Francisco gets by with only five commissioners while Berkeley (with under 11 percent of the units covered in San Francisco) has nine commissioners. 

Maybe if San Francisco is the “City That Knows How” we could borrow some ideas from it. Happy anniversary to all. 

William J. Flynn 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’m sorry, Mike Mechanic. I’m well aware of your work—prior to managing East Bay Express—while you were in the punk scene. Your band Juke and record label Bad Monkey Records were well intentioned but at best mediocre. What’s transparent with the paper you’ve reigned in the past few years is that it is not well intentioned. In your letter to the Daily Planet you swear up and down autonomy from New Times, that you are honest and a Democrat, that you’re a true-blooded East Bay native. Yippie! The paper is still cynical and alienating. In short, East Bay Express was once a diverse array of freelance thought, a shining example of the smart people of our community. You’ve lost it. That’s why we don’t read it, and we don’t care. 

Robert Eggplant 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Oh! But you are so bad! Publishing Michael Mechanic of the East Bay Express simply gives him rope to hang himself. His self-aggrandizing letter demonstrates why so many readers eschew the East Bay Express and SF Weekly. (“Puhlease!” is campy enough for The City, but falls distinctly flat in Berkeley.)  

The UC journalism grad did not mention picking up experience at an established professional publication before being hired by New Times. Some newbie journalists like to acquire a bit of polish, you know. But since New Times publications in the Bay Area emphasize caustic editorial contempt towards other publications, perhaps his banty rooster attitude is qualification enough for the crew at New Times.  

Glen Kohler  



Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a professional journalist and a Berkeley native, I am conflicted about the strange new rivalry between the Daily Planet and the East Bay Express. On the one hand, the Planet does not have the history or the resources of the Express—on the other, the Planet has worked hard to cover local issues including City Council meetings and intra-city issues where the Express has tapered off.  

But it is important to point out that it is in the interest of a newspaper to be even-handed with other local publications. The Daily Planet’s original publisher, Arnold Lee, made it his goal to bury the Berkeley Voice, which, if not being the greatest newspaper, had impressive and enviable prep sports coverage in writer Peter Mentor. The Voice is still publishing, but its role has been reduced in the face of local competition. 

The question really is whether Berkeley is a big enough city to support so many weekly newspapers plus a small number of daily upstarts. Certainly, we can look at history: Oakland’s UrbanView disappeared in 2002. The Planet folded temporarily that same year.  

The issue here is definitely not politics, it’s simply about money. There are not enough advertisers to support a myriad of newspapers. All the new choices have put retailers in a dilemma, and that problem is really about audiences. From my own research, despite being 4,000 miles away now, the Planet is mostly read by the Berkeley middle class—what is known in audit terms as the AB set. The Express’ audience is younger, earn less money, but are more likely to spend on events and nights out; they want a quality paper with lots of info on local events but which skims over the political details of their area to focus on the interesting and the weird. The Express also has a great sex advice column, which is funny and explicit. I would challenge the Planet to run something like that, but the most controversial it will likely go is editorial cartooning. 

Were the Planet to challenge local papers better it should bone up its local sports coverage to two or more pages, find some more prescient columnists, and make journalists do their homework on stories.  

If I were Becky O’Malley I would probably retract my claims that the Express is run in the spirit of “Cowboy Libertarianism.” These newspapers have more in common than they think: a need to strengthen the bottom line. 

John Parman 

College Park, MD 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The tone of D. Doulgeropoulos’s letter in the Jan. 13 Daily Planet does not suggest that he, or she, has any suspicion or concern that there might be anything unethical in Berkeley Honda’s replacement of the former employees of Doten Honda. Berkeley Honda is not a brand new business. It is the continuation, under new owners, of an existing business. Part of the value of any existing business is what is called “goodwill.. In Doten’s case this consisted of former customers, service records, and personal relationships to staff. Staff created the goodwill, but can only share in its value as long as they have a job. Executive staff often have contracts that provide for substantial severance pay when there is a change of control. I doubt that any of the staff at Berkeley Honda received such pay, and I doubt they have as much leverage or flexibility to relocate to another job with equivalent pay and benefits.  

The capitalist/free trade ethic is often interpreted to mean maximize one’s own return, without regard to others. On the world scale, proponents ignore poverty, global warming, and so on. On our local level, Berkeley Honda, and D. Doulgeropoulos, want to ignore any responsibility to the former employees of Doten Honda. Everyone for themselves is the ethical system of a slime mold. Thank you Berkeley, for showing that humanity can mean more.  

Robert Clear  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Recently, two citizen groups—Bay Area Residents for Responsible Development (BARRD) and the South Shoreline Richmond Sites Community Advisory Group (CAG)—have demanded that the highly acclaimed Making Waves program be evicted from its temporary home on our Campus Bay property. It’s hard to imagine what is motivating this action, but it can’t be concern for the best interests of the children served by Making Waves.  

Making Waves, which provides after-school tutoring to at-risk students, has been a part of the Richmond community for 15 years, and has sent more than 80 local students to colleges around the nation. Unfortunately, area facilities with the capacity to hold 250 children are few and far between, After Making Waves had been forced out of the city’s recreational buildings and had outgrown the Eastshore Community Center, where it operated for a number of years.  

Making Waves board member Ron Nahas approached Cherokee Simeon Ventures (CSV) about providing facilities at our Campus Bay property. Campus Bay covers 86 acres, some which were contaminated by prior owners. Although much of the contamination has been remediated, additional remediation is required in some areas of the property. However, we believed that former office buildings at Campus Bay which had never been used for industrial purposes and had never shown any evidence of contamination could provide a safe temporary home for Making Waves.  

After our testing of the facilities in question confirmed that they were safe for use by Making Waves, we agreed to host the program with no financial benefit while it continued to look for a permanent home. These facilities have since been evaluated by the California Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC), the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, the Contra Costa County Health Services Department and California Department of Health Services—all of whom have concluded that the building used by Making Waves is safe for children, and that there is no health reason to discontinue use of the facilities. 

Despite this convincing evidence, and the absence of any evidence to the contrary, and despite the pleas from the directors of Making Waves to allow them to continue to use our facility until construction of their new home is completed later this year, BARRD and the CAG insist that the kids of Making Waves would be better off on the street. These are the same people who claimed that radioactive drums were buried at Meeker Beach, yet just last week DTSC found that the buried drums that were supposed to contain radioactive materials were no such thing. Nothing radioactive or harmful was found, but it took a lot of time and created a lot of worry for people who live at Marina Bay. They are also the same people who alleged that trees on the Campus Bay property were being damaged by unknown substances in the groundwater or soil, which proved to be entirely wrong, according to DTSC and Dr. Robert Raabe, professor emeritus, UC Berkeley.  

Scare tactics like these divert attention from the real problems facing Richmond. Making Waves shouldn’t suffer from unsubstantiated accusations, and the community shouldn’t be made to worry about radioactive waste and other problems that have never existed. 

CSV is committed to making Campus Bay clean and safe, and we need to allow DTSC to focus on the most important issues instead of being distracted any further. We hope the community will join us to support DTSC’s continued efforts to do its job—to protect local residents by making sure the Richmond Shoreline is clean and safe.  

We also hope that your newspaper will join these efforts by offering accurate and unbiased reporting as we strive to transform Campus Bay and help reinvigorate the city of Richmond. 

Dwight Stenseth,  

Doug Mosteller 

Cherokee Investment Partners, LLC 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

First there was John Roberts, then Harriet Miers and now Samuel Alito. If you’re not tired by now, you’re tougher than I am.  

I cannot for the life of me get excited about the impending confirmation of Alito to replace O’Connor on the Supreme Court. (I confess a cynical behind-the-hand curiosity—will women senators vote “No”?)  

I’m not foolish enough to deny the significance of another conservative on the highest court. It’s just that, you know, it’s politics. Conservatives run Washington and financial interests run conservatives. So, who besides the usual suspects is affected?  

If Roe v. Wade is overturned, then women under 40 will be second-classed. If flag burning is outlawed, then dissenters will be second-classed. If school children are obliged to pledge their loyalty “under God,” then school children will be second-classed. The thing is, women, dissenters and children are already second-classed.  

Finally, if the court decides to overturn the ruling that overturned its 1896 Plessey v. Ferguson ruling and legalize, in patriotic pursuit of a secure homeland, a modernized application of “separate but equal,” then only minorities will be second-classed.  

Look at it this way. Those who are not affect don’t care, and those who are affected and care can’t do anything about it. Anyway, everyone belongs to a minority of some sort and therefore everyone will be equally second-classed. Get it? 

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I recently attended a neighborhood meeting at the South Berkeley Senior Center. I had gone to it with an idea that I was supportive of a transit village at the west parking lot of Ashby BART if the housing built was available to our homeless population here—and the working poor (whomever they may be) and I felt it with the idea that the retail component of the project should be—instead—parking facilities, shape and form the only issue. 

Perhaps the people who attended would support this idea or perhaps still resent the project being shoved into their lives. The point is, I think, that it is social services in this city which need to be developed and that does include providing housing for people. Retailers might be able to provide more than a doorway now and then--I am not very up on how money gets funneled or how taxes provide enrichment for a community. What I do know is that we need more housing and we don’t need more things to buy or even yet another coffee shop. I understand wanting to have community input for this project but I think the substance of it is what is at issue over and above the speed at which it is planned. 

Iris Crider  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Building condos at El Cerrito Plaza is the “best and highest” use of the land because of the sites location to BART and pedestrian orientation to services. Development however requires needs and services. Whether 128 units or 97 units are built is not going to make a significant difference on the environment. What is important and has impact in the long term is the amount of light (sun light), structure volume and big trees (greenery) when mature are provided. For those concerned about traffic, the solution is to rent/sell to those who do not have cars. 

Richard Splenda 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I believe the time has come for a constitutional convention assembled for the stated purpose of removing all money from politics. Politicians could not be trusted to do this. If our members of congress did not have to spend so much of their time and energy getting elected and re-elected maybe they could help solve our countries problems.  

Jack Parks 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

While I always disagree with the oddly conservative politics of Daily Planet Executive Editor Becky O’Malley, who seems intent on keeping Berkeley what it was half a century ago rather than supporting and celebrating the economically and socially diverse place it really is, I do read the newspaper for its comprehensive coverage of Berkeley and Oakland. However, this coverage has been getting a little sloppy, if not downright erroneous. 

In the Jan. 17 issue, for example, reporter Richard Brenneman would have readers believe that Ron Dellums already ran once for mayor of Oakland: “In 1998, De La Fuente was a candidate for Oakland mayor against Dellums...”  

In fact, Ron Dellums’s current campaign for Oakland is his first and only.  

In addition, the same issue contains a write-up of an upcoming panel about a new plan for downtown Berkeley. I would like to attend, but the article lists only the location and time of the panel, and not the day. Please try harder to provide your readers with factual and correct information. 

Kelley Kahn 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was amused by the claims from the anti-death penalty crowd regarding the “unfairness” of executing an elderly death row inmate like the heinous Clarence Ray Allen. When in fact it was precisely because of the endless stalling and circumventing of our legal system by the anti-death penalty zealots that allowed condemned killer Allen to live to a ripe old age in the first place. It kind of reminds me of the old joke where the guy murders his parents and then appeals to the judge for mercy on the grounds that he’s an orphan. Ha ha. And its also worth noting that if Allen had in fact been put to death for his first murder, he wouldn’t have been around to commit three more murders. The innocent blood of those three people is on the hands of the anti-death penalty zealots. And if you don’t think so, you couldn’t be more wrong.  

Peter Labriola 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that the Bush administration went too far in trying to block Oregon’s assisted suicide law. The three dissenting votes were Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and new Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. What did you expect? Bush told us all along he was going to appoint justices in the mold of Scalia and Thomas and that’s exactly what he did. The Supreme Court now has three ultraconservatives. 

How did we get the new chief justice? John Roberts deceived America through evasion as to his true nature at the recent confirmation hearing. Samuel Alito has used the same tactic of evasion to mask his intentions during a confirmation hearing. One could lay odds that Alito also fits the mold of Scalia and Thomas. 

Ron Lowe 

Nevada City 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Just what we need, another secretly appointed, UC-selected committee. 

On Thursday, Jan. 19, at 7 p.m. at the La Fiesta Banquet Room on Haste at Telegraph, yet another in the endless parade of powerless committees debuted with great fanfare from the university for the alleged purpose of overseeing People’s Park. 

It is safe to suggest the sudden, unexplained dismantling of the previous committee six months ago was not be on the agenda. 

The thousands of dollars spent paying overtime to UC employees to systematically destroy freebox replacements in the last six months in the dead of night was probably not be on the agenda, either. 

The sudden birth and even more sudden death of these seemingless endless committees, boards, and advisory groups paints a distinctive portrait of a university committed to maintaining a pathetic facade of community involvement and oversight while fiercely protecting its right to override, ignore, or dismantle any committee which steps out of line. 

The City of Berkeley usually joins the limp celebration of the production of yet another committee, or just looks the other way. People’s Park always seems like such a small matter compared to the future of downtown, or the erection of pedestrian overpasses which elevate the lucky few above the UC-generated congestion the rest of us must brave daily. Some entire neighborhoods are locked down with big rigs, deafening noise, and choking dust while weathering seemingly constant UC construction projects, while others watch as beloved historic landmarks disappear. 

The freebox is a small matter compared to these other issues. A small group may depend on it for clothing assistance, but its larger mission of general community-based free exchange can be interrupted with only modest inconvenience. It hardly seems worth notice, although it parallels the other issues with alarming congruence. 

The City of Berkeley, the community of people that cares about the park, and the appointees themselves should object to the non-democratic nature of this group, as should anyone who sees the pragmatism of democratic values. An honestly representative group, with an honest set of responsibilities and autonomy, is the only way the community, so long abused, can be well served. 

Carol Denney