Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday February 21, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Barbara Gilbert’s Feb. 14 letter mischaracterized the nature and substance of the BLUE meeting held on Feb. 8. Berkeleyans for a Livable University Environment did hold its regular monthly meeting on that date, with Marie Bowman and David Wilson attending as guests of Dean Metzger. 

After the official BLUE meeting was concluded, we held an informal discussion about possible mayoral candidates for the November election. Both Dean Metzger and Zelda Bronstein were mentioned during this discussion, but neither one was endorsed or discouraged from running. In fact, although one person did indicate support for Ms. Bronstein, the consensus of those present was that no candidate ought to receive any endorsement without clearly stating his or her positions on the critical issues facing Berkeley. 

It is understandable that Ms. Gilbert felt the need to protect herself from the ridiculously inaccurate reporting of Fred Dodsworth of the East Bay Daily News. But in doing so, there was no need for her to make inaccurate statements about the Feb. 8 meeting or take swipes at BLUE as an organization. In fact, Ms. Gilbert’s work on the city budget and other issues has been outstanding, and we in BLUE have particularly appreciated her long-standing opposition to UC’s unchecked growth and the city’s failure to address it. However, it is also true that Ms. Gilbert’s interests do not always coincide with the primary mission of BLUE, which is to improve the quality of life for those impacted by UC’s operations and continuous expansion. 

What is most interesting about this whole matter is how many people in different groups and different areas of the city are vigorously seeking a candidate to run against Mayor Bates in the coming election. I can hardly go to a public meeting anymore without this issue coming up at least once. And what is more striking is that people in groups that don’t often talk together have begun to realize that they share many of the same concerns about how the city is being run. It should be an interesting campaign. 

Doug Buckwald 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I read an article last week that bemoaned all of that new development slated for Berkeley; the author listed the projects as if the development pipeline is an indictment in and of itself. Ironically, that argument against was more like an argument for: Berkeley may actually become cool to live in in the next couple of years. 

I live downtown, and if you want to preserve it unchanged then yeah, hold on tight to the streets clogged with students, litter, and mediocre restaurants. There is no quality retail, and no place to shop for food. The public art is terrible (what’s up with the tuning fork?!), and the BART plaza is ugly. So bring on the new Vista, and condos, and apartment buildings, and especially the museums. 

People around here seem to believe that they live in some bucolic small town, but the reality is that this is a city, and not such a great one to live in, really. I live in the Gaia building, and although there are too many Cal students for my taste, Gaia is one of the better things in downtown. Downtown shopping and dining is weak, and there’s too much jazz. If anyone wants to develop a downtown club/bar for live music that’s not jazz or world music, please do so!  

Also, people of Berkeley, please stop walking and driving as if you were the only lucky little soul that lived here, and no more naked yoga in the YMCA sauna. That shit is nasty. It’s called a city. Act accordingly. 

Lauren Giniger 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I read with interest in the Feb. 16 New York Times that the dean of engineering at UC Berkeley, A. Richard Newton, “is trying to get Tsinghua University in Beijing and some leading technical universities in India to set up satellite schools linked to Berkeley. The university has 90 acres in Richmond, Calif., that [Newton] thinks would be an ideal site.”  

Meanwhile, the university administration’s 2020 Long-Range Development Plan calls for one million square feet of new development somewhere in downtown Berkeley. Instead of turning the city’s downtown into a UC office park, and quite possibly removing more land from the city’s tax rolls, why not put some of those million square feet, particularly the portions dedicated to research (as opposed to classroom instruction) on the 90 acres in Richmond?  

Zelda Bronstein  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

By Becky O’Malley’s own account, the Santa Cruz artists seem like regular Americans who believed all that talk about civil disobedience in high school history class. The folks who organized a parade outside the bounds of the law were people with a strong sense of what is good and proper when confronted with the capriciousness of institutionalized power and its loyal opposition. Characterizing their politics as “somewhat rudimentary” and “tending toward anarchism” might make a smug bourgeois feel satisfied in her own illusions about the state and their watchdogs (the police), but it really says more about O’Malley’s prejudicial stereotypes about anarchism. While anarchists have always been weak on political economy, we have almost to a person been on the cutting edge of analyses of power and its effects on those who wield it and those who fall victim to it. 

For example, one will come away amazed at the prescience of Bakunin and Malatesta when they wrote of the certain future of a Marxist-controlled state (i.e. that it would be more despotic than the tyrannies the Marxists proposed to replace). This is hardly “rudimentary.” And what anti-anarchist could resist repeating that old ironic de rigueur slam, claiming that anarchists oppose organization? While it is true that most anarchists remain highly skeptical of organization for organization’s sake, we also know that without organization, nothing can be accomplished. Such a simpleminded and misleading characterization (as if the only kind of useful or successful organization has to be hierarchical and based on authority) is no less annoying for its ubiquity. 

C. Boles 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I witnessed the most strident neighborhood disharmony imaginable when the doughty Urban Creeks League joined hands with the Berkeley Board of Education to unearth the course of Blackberry Creek on the property of Thousand Oaks School in North Berkeley in 1995. 

The creek became a painfully divisive issue that led to acrimonious debates and outright estrangements among people that had lived as neighbors for decades. 

The pivotal issue turned out to be a $110,000 federal grant that “had” to be applied for before the end of the year. At stake was a flat portion of the block bounded by Solano Avenue, Colusa Street and Ensenada Street that was regularly used by parents with small children, and Tai Chi adherents and that supported a very large redwood tree that was loved and appreciated by all park users. 

In the end the School Board proceeded despite vocal requests by neighborhood residents with young children to reconsider. So there came to be a deep, open ditch running a few yards before diving back underground, where it now threatens to bedevil Berkeley homeowners! 

During the fracas that became characteristic of the neighborhood meetings, the science teacher at Thousand Oaks School painted an impassioned picture of students busily studying the “life of the creek.” An “Awwww!” moment for sure; one could just picture Doonesbury’s scuba-masked Zonker Harris lounging in Walden Pond! 

Reality interceded shortly after the project was complete: E. Coli bacteria were found in the water, which was then put off-limits to the eager young minds, whose days did not appear to be irretrievably darkened. Let’s don’t forget that before the creeks were buried in culverts, there were not thousands of homes and businesses and ever-growing UC Berkeley emitting organic and chemical wastes into the sewer system! These days there is literally no telling what may crop up in Berkeley’s creekwaters, including radioactive waste once detected in Strawberry Creek from Cal! 

In view of the difficulties that open-creek enthusiasts are wont to create for communities, perhaps the City of Berkeley should be urged to consider this “issue” with all of the leisure at its disposal! 

Glen Kohler 

P.S.: The last public meeting on the issue of updating the Creeks Ordinance will take place on March 22 at the North Berkeley Senior Center at 7 p.m. 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As Albany Park and Recreation Commissioners we were surprised by fellow Commissioner Brian Parker’s attack on the new Commission Chair Alan Riffer in his letter which appeared in the Feb. 3 edition of the Daily Planet. Brian’s letter asserts that Chairman Riffer has “politicized the commission” and “quash[ed] open debate… by offering Rick Caruso a special meeting of the commission.” We attended the same meeting as Commissioner Parker where the special meeting was discussed and it was explained that the city had asked Caruso to meet with several Albany commissions before Golden Gate Fields presents any proposal for the waterfront. The meeting was not instigated by Chairman Riffer. In the commission Meeting that preceded the special meeting, Commissioner Parker had the opportunity to ask that the meeting date be changed to accommodate his schedule—which the commission agreed to do—and the opportunity to argue that any special meeting should also include representatives for alternate plans for the waterfront. After the other commissioners present voted down his proposal to expand the special meeting to include Caruso and others, we stated that we would be prepared, if requested, to convene a second special meeting for others to present their waterfront plan, Commissioner Parker asserted that he was being “railroaded” and walked out of the commission meeting. Mr. Parker’s letter also faults Commission Chair Riffer for allowing the special meeting to be held at City Hall. The commission’s clear intent was to allow as many Albany residents as possible to attend a meeting that we expected to be standing room only. The meeting was as crowded as expected but, despite Mr. Parker’s concerns, un-televised. We enjoyed serving with Commissioner Parker and were sorry to see his resignation but even sorrier to see him make this parting and entirely undeserved slap at Commission Chair Riffer.  

Roger Carlson, John Kindle, Geoff Piller 

Albany Park and Recreation Commissioners 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing to urge the Creeks Task Force to adopt a creek ordinance that is respectful of responsible property use and of our natural resources. 

My name is Jane Kelly. I am the spouse of Creeks Task Force member, Tom Kelly. I am a long-time employee of Moore Iacofano Goltsman, (MIG), Inc., a Berkeley based planning and design firm that has directed and facilitated a large number of projects involving urban waterways. In my tenure at MIG I have seen repeatedly that an understanding and protection of the watershed is the key to protection of property rights. I fear that this simple principle is being obscured by misleading information that I am hearing from some city residents. The attitude that is engendered by these misunderstandings leads me to be very concerned that Berkeley will be pressured into adopting a regressive creek ordinance when we should instead be creating a progressive ordinance that is protective of both property and creeks. Other municipalities like San Luis Obispo, Santa Cruz, and Oakland are heading in that direction. Hopefully, the ordinance that we craft will incorporate the best ideas that these cities have developed and apply them in a way that is consistent with the values of the Berkeley community. 

Why does protection of our creeks benefit property owners? Here are some of the reasons: 

1. Structures that are significantly set back from the waterway are protected from erosion. We cannot consider anything less than a 30-foot setback from the centerline to be sufficient. I have personally witnessed creeks undercutting banks and putting homes in jeopardy because the homes were built too close to the creek. As the CTF knows, there is a prime, and current, example of this on Strawberry Creek at Strawberry Creek Lodge on Addison Street in Berkeley. In only the last six years, I have also witnessed Strawberry Creek at the Lodge shift its course at certain points by more than 1 foot. I would be glad to lead a tour to this site for any CTF member who has not yet seen it or who would like to revisit it. 

2. Respecting a 30-foot setback from the centerline gives the creek a better chance to reach full capacity without causing flooding or other water damage to homes. 

3. The riparian corridor created by the establishment of the setback provides habitat for birds, butterflies and other creatures and it provides a tranquil, green space for us. The property is beautified, the home is safe from erosion, and the value—to the owner and to the environment—is enhanced. 

I appreciate all the incredible work you are doing for our city on this important issue and am hopeful that you will provide a series of recommendations to the city that will reflect the thoughtfulness and values for which Berkeley is so renowned. 

Jane Kelly 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you for not hurting the sensibilities of millions of Muslims by reprinting the offensive and provocative Danish cartoons in your paper. Thank you for using your freedom of speech in a responsible manner. While we as Muslims are deeply hurt, we are also embarrassed by the foolish reaction of some ignorant Muslims who had been incited by their violent religious leaders or mullahs. Their behavior is totally against the teachings of the Quran and the conduct of our beloved prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. 

Muslims around the world are burning flags, setting foreign embassies on fire and threatening more violence because they consider the printing of those cartoons blasphemy. This behavior is against the very definition of a Muslim. A Muslim is one who is at peace with him/herself and is at peace with all the creatures of the world. By definition, there should be no danger of any sort from a Muslim. 

I’ll mention one example of how Prophet Muhammad behaved when Abdullah bin Obeye bin Sulool blasphemed against Muhammad during his lifetime. Muhammad’s companions became furious and offered to kill bin Sulool, but Prophet Muhammad forbade them. Then bin Sulool’s own son, who was a Muslim, came forward an d sought permission to kill his father. He thought that the prophet probably did not allow anyone else to kill him because he might be hurt. But Muhammad forbade bin Sulool’s son, also. One of his companions, Hazrat Omar came forward and reminded prophet Muhammad of the Quranic verse telling him, “O prophet of God, don’t you know that Allah has said that He will not forgive bin Sulool even if YOU seek forgiveness for him 72 times.” Prophet Muhammad said, “Omar, I’ll seek forgiveness for him more than 72 times.” This was the noble character of the founder of Islam and his treatment of his enemies. He kept praying for his forgiveness. No violence can be attributed to him.  

Thus, whereas on the one hand I request the free press to use its freedom responsibly, I also humbly urge my fellow Muslims to instead pray for those who hurt their sensibilities and work to conduct themselves in the true spirit of Islam and follow in the footsteps of its great founder, the prince of peace and educate your communities about his excellent character. 

Saleem Qadir 

San Jose 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In the Feb. 14 edition I challenged Becky O’Malley’s assertion that religious belief is in essence “silly.” I asked her to think thrice concerning that claim, and proffered think 1 at that time. Here I proffer think 2.  

The Lord hath annointed me to preach the good tidings to modern man. Man now has the rudiments of scientific knowledge and some grounding in the scientific approach to knowledge. He is now ready to understand the true criteria by which we can know who and what God is. The first criterion is of course love. Do you love God? However, this is premised on another question. Do you have even the faintest idea of who and what God actually is? If not, how can you love God? It would be sheer hypocrisy. Now, let’s be very clear—I have not yet had the experience of God, so I do not love God, but I have had the experience of the impersonal feature of God, known as the Great Emptiness in Buddhism and Brahman in Hinduism. In Christianity it is known as the Great White Light of the Christ and in Judaism it is known as Ain Soph Uhr, the crown of creation. I confess ignorance of Islam and cannot tell you what it is in that religion, but I am certain there is a corresponding element. 

The second criterion by which we can know the genuine God from mere imposters is absolute scientific knowledge of how the creation is put together. Miracles, healings, etc., cannot possibly prove the Presence of God, because even an advanced creature may be capable of doing extraordinary things and yet not be fully cognizant of how he does them. Only God possesses omniscience in this fundamental sense, not of events in the outer world, which could also be known by an advanced creature, but of the very essence of the creation and how it works at all levels. That is the summum bonum of the credentials of God. Man is now ready to receive this knowledge and this proof of the existence of the true God. 

Even as I am possibly dying from what man considers to be an absolutely fatal disease without treatment, namely cancer of an especially deadly variety, the Lord has annointed me to prepare His Way by beginning to reveal the absolute scientific knowledge, or what Nobel prize winner Steven Weinberg calls “dreams of a final theory.” 

Are you prepared to download this absolute knowledge? 

Peter J. Mutnick 





I have a theory where the frigid breezes blowing across the Bay originate. It is caused by Global Warming of course. Icebergs that break loose from the Arctic float down the Pacific Ocean a couple hundred miles off our west coast. When they arrive opposite the Golden Gate they tend to be sucked towards the San Francisco Bay on the incoming tidal currents. But wait, the bay’s in and out flushing action abetted by the current pouring out of the Delta, move the bergs back out. The resulting ebb and flow catches passing bergs in an eddy which causes them to bunch together. Shoreward winds from the northwest are cooled as they pass over the icy bergs; thus we are shivering outdoors and wearing ski clothes around town.  

How about that? 

Ken Norwood,