Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday January 31, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Since returning to USA from 13 years overseas I have lived for two years as a senior in Berkeley (which I regard as almost a Third World community). I swim regularly in the Berkeley High School warm pool simply because it is close and cheap and warm. 

It is, however, a complete disgrace. It is as dilapidated as an abandoned warehouse in the Bronx and it is absolutely filthy, disgusting dump, and must not have seen a janitor in three years. 

I hear talk it may be closed and that is OK by me—it will force me to go to a decent place and pay more! 

In England I used to swim in a pool eight times the size of that hole; it was immaculate and modern, and as a senior it cost me zero! 

Brian C. Waters 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

Why does the price of gasoline vary so much and so often? At the station across the street in the course of a few days a full underground tank of regular unleaded sold out for four different prices. 

Why is gasoline priced at 9/10th of a cent? Why not 3/10th? Or 7/10th? Nothing else we consumers consume is so precisely priced. 

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

So....Sharon Jackson has resigned from the Berkeley Housing Authority (BHA) just as the feds announced a fraud investigation. Meanwhile, the BHA is entering its fifth year as an officially designated “troubled agency.” 

Despite all the pork spoon-fed to the BHA, they have apparently failed to perform basic functions such as verifying tenant income and enforcing HUD habitability requirements, or the required annual inspections of Section 8 Units. It begs the question: Why spend so much money just to have our own Housing Authority? Most communities prefer to handle this job at the county or regional level. 

Sharon Jackson’s boss is Steve Barton, the Housing Department chief. Barton’s boss is the City Council, which also sits as the BHA. The BHA’s financial mess has gotten worse in the last five years, not better. And now there’s a fraud investigation. Yet Barton and every councilmember quoted by the Daily Planet says that Jackson was fantastic and nothing’s amiss! Am I missing something? 

It seems like the same tired old faces continue to collect salaries and benefits from the Rent Board, the Housing Authority, and the Housing Advisory Commission. Under the guise of “affordable housing,” this inbred group does everything it can to prevent young families and first time buyers from ever owning their own homes. 

Perhaps the federal government’s investigation will finally fix the BHA. Perhaps it is up to the voters to fix the rest of Berkeley’s dysfunctional housing bureaucracy. But, isn’t it time the council demanded a real investigation, conducted by someone who is not a cousin of someone being investigated? 

Roslyn Fuerman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

J. Douglas Allen-Taylor’s articles and columns evidence so much personal bias and conceited smugness that you should serve him up as the stuffed turkey that he really is! 

Wayne Kirchoffer 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

It was my honor and duty to walk the Berkeley Honda picket line with the striking workers, union brothers and sisters from SEIU 790, and community supporters this past Wednesday morning. Management’s primary objective is to bust the union, going so far as to try to shout over our chants that union workers make too much money. Do they prefer their workers be homeless and subservient? In the process of busting the union they are disrupting the lives of decent and hard working people. Many of those not retained by the new owners had been employed with the dealership for more than twenty years. Nat Courtney, a gold star mechanic, had worked there his entire adult life for thirty one years. We should not allow Berkeley Honda to pursue its race to the bottom. That is why I am proud to walk on the picket line. I hope that many of you will also give your support to the union and the striking workers.  

Jerry McNerney 

Candidate, 11th Congressional District 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Although my property taxes went up 11 percent, I was able to mail my payment before the deadline. This devastated my bank account. On the way home I picked up a copy of the Daily Planet. The front page featured articles concerning projects to redesign and rebuild the Ashby BART west lot and the downtown BART plaza. A third article reported that revenues from downtown retail merchants have fallen by 10 percent. 

Taken at face value, it appears that we have two ventures that are going to cost property owners like myself many thousands of dollars. This in light of the fact that the City of Berkeley is expecting to have less money. Is it just me or is there something wrong with this picture? I remember reading a month or two ago that Berkeley was running a $13 million shortfall. Did the city recently win the lottery? 

Might I be allowed to suggest that we just take a little rest here. Both BART projects are important, but not matters of life and death. Can’t Berkeley, for just a few moments, let go of this drive to keep it in the forefront of every aspect of urban progress? Could we not mark time until financial reality at least catches sight of our vision? I fear that these projects and their probable cost overruns will be financed by reaching into my pockets, which are now empty! 

John Fingado 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Letter-writer John McMullen says he is “aghast” that a “point-of-view” advertisement is posted in a BART station, a public space that is subsidized by taxes. While his letter is carefully couched to avoid expressing a point of view of his own, I wonder what on Jefferson’s green earth he could possibly be thinking. Last time I checked—and, I admit, the situation is changing rapidly—we live in a democracy, in which citizens are meant to conduct political discourse with one another in order to wrestle toward resolution the constant and shifting conflicts that arise among people whose opinions are not marshaled by thought-police into neat, conforming rows. Does Mr. McMullen mean to suggest that political discourse ought to be a private matter, conducted in dark alleys and behind closed doors, where each of us can be safely and hermetically isolated from those whose points of view diverge from our own? I sure hope that’s not where we’re headed. As the still-controversial third president of the United States once observed, “I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.” While I myself go queasy at the content and tenor of the anti-choice ads that so upset Mr. McMullen, it would be a nail in the coffin of democracy to agitate against the right of those with whom I disagree to express themselves in public. Whose mouth gets duct-taped next? Mine, maybe? 

Steve Masover 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Earlier this month, the Berkeley Voice published a letter of mine in which I opposed spending taxes on political campaign propaganda as Assemblywoman Hancock would have us do in the public campaign financing legislation she is crafting. Instead, I suggest that a better use of tax dollars would be to teach high school students about how to become eligible to vote, how to distinguish fact from fiction, opinion, and hyperbole in the propaganda generated by political campaigns. 

In response to my letter, Tom Miller, a member of a group promoting the use of taxes for political campaign propaganda, provides some blatant examples of such propaganda printed in the Dec. 16 issue of your paper. 

In his letter, Mr. Miller flatly states that “The public financing concept does not enable candidates to spend more money.” The truth is that many candidates who accept tax-subsidies for their political ads will be able to spend more money than they could themselves in the absence of those subsidies. They just won’t be able to exceed spending ceilings set for tax-subsidized candidates that may be higher than what they planned to spend anyway. 

Mr. Miller also states that tax-subsidies for political propaganda (aka public campaign financing) “puts all candidates on an even playing field.” The truth is that only those candidates who accept tax-subsidies will be playing on this “even” field. Other candidates who chose not to spend taxpayers’ money on their propaganda will be able to spend as much as they can raise through voluntary donations. 

I invite Mr. Miller or Assemblywoman Hancock to provide conclusive evidence that public campaign financing will not exacerbate the campaign advertising arms race. A visit to Mr. Miller’s website failed to unearth any evidence that public campaign financing reduces spending on political advertising and propaganda in the aggregate (for all candidates combined). Miller and Hancock’s proposed legislation will certainly increase the amount of taxes spent on such an arms race. 

Finally, Mr. Miller states that the costs of his proposals are “about the price of a movie ticket” per taxpayer per election. I would much rather spend those millions of tax dollars on high school teachers and programs that show students who are about to become eligible voters how to distinguish political propaganda, such as that presented in Mr. Miller’s letter, from the truth. 

Keith Winnard 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In a remarkable show of democracy at work, a significant plurality of Palestinians elected Hamas as their new government. As a result of decades of indoctrination from preschool on, Hamas has seen the fruition of its endeavor to create the sociopathic society of a pro-genocide populace.  

Correspondingly, it should be crystalline that the vast majority of Palestinians support a government which has overtly promised to destroy the Jews of Israel, impose Islamic strictures on a female population already consigned to third class status, persecute homosexuals, and suppress any intellectual articulation which is deemed antithetical to the Koran. 

In sum, the Palestinian people have made their clearcut choice. So when the likes of KPFAC’s news department, Barbara Lubin, Becky O’Malley, ISM’ers, and the so-called “Jewish Voice for Peace” say they support the Palestinian cause, we can say without qualification that we now know fullwell that they support genocide, discrimination and repression.  

Naturally, said parties will doubtless soon attempt to spin this, but only an ignoramus would fail to see through it. 

Dan Spitzer 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Following George Bush’s lead, Ron Berman—undoubtedly a Jew—writes (letter, Jan. 236 San Francisco Chronicle) to tell Hamas, the popular choice of Palestinians, what they must do to bring peace: disarm, recognize Israel, care more about their own people than about destruction of their Jewish neighbors. I write also as a Jew but to tell Israel what it must do to achieve peace: allow Palestinians born in Israel (and their progeny) to return and be granted the same Israeli citizenship rights I, born in Brooklyn, enjoy under the Israeli state. Grant them one person-one vote in Israel. Then you can tell Hamas these things, and you will likely find Hamas a gentle lamb willing to disarm. I wouldn’t be surprised if they would trade away in perpetuity the idea of an Islamic state; but we won’t know because Israel will not talk with them. Is this democratic proposal so unreasonable?  

Marc Sapir  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

President Bush has given nearly one-quarter of $15 billion earmarked to fight AIDS, to religious groups who stress sexual abstinence over condom use. As any person knows, it is easier to slip on a condom than to give up the naturally ingrained function of sex. It’s a no-brainer except in the minds of religious right-wingers. A narrow ideological viewpoint won’t stop the spread of AIDS. 

Ron Lowe 

Nevada City 


The State of the Union 

Is under barrage 

With Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld 

Firmly in charge. 


—George Banks