Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday March 17, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Great political leaders must be able to make hard choices. Every good political move has consequences—some bad. Post-communist Russia resulted in an increase in poverty among elderly pensioners. Post-apartheid South Africa resulted in an increase in crime for all South Africans, both black and white. But the people of both nations are now more secure, not less secure. Life is all about tradeoffs: short-term political advantage versus long term diplomacy. Anyone, including Hillary Clinton, who thinks the barring of a friendly Arab country from our ports will increase our long-term security is unable to make those hard choices. 

Gerald Shmavonian 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding the university’s stadium open house:  

It was a lot to take in, but at least the university disclosed their project designs and opened their doors to the community. Who knows whether community questions and input will affect the final design. But at least there was an opportunity for frank dialogue.  

Nevertheless, I was not relieved by what I learned. The cold fact is that the low profile stadium will be more prominent with a raised rim and prominent permanently installed lights. Stadium capacity will be lowered but the number of events will be increased.  

Some information was misleading, such as the inappropriate height comparison between existing portable lights and proposed permanently installed lights.  

Some areas of concern had not been considered, such as construction routes passing through residential corridors rather than through university-owned roads, or the unnecessary location of a noisy utility box next to, rather than, separate from residential areas.  

Some seismic questions remain such as the difference between the university’s recent geotechnical report and the established California Geological Survey landslide and liquefaction maps published in the 2020 Long Range Development Plan.  

Clearly additional work needs to be done to iron out project detail before the university project will be the “win-win” solution envisioned by Cal athletics. One wonders though if project detail can ever mitigate the co-occurring hazards of earth rupture, spectators evacuating the area, interference with emergency response, and firestorms in the most inaccessible area of Berkeley. 

Janice Thomas 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is funny sometimes how the right answer to a problem can be so obvious and yet be overlooked. Take the flap over the Derby field. I won’t argue whether the field should be multi-use to serve both neighbors and athletes, or a fenced special area able to accommodate a long ball. I want to offer an alternative: Closed Adeline between Shattuck and MLK. Seven or eight lanes plus a huge divider strip—there is room for baseball, football, soccer, probably even polo!  

Adeline is superfluous, it does not really go anywhere; it is just an extra wide shortcut. Just a quicker faster way to get cars through our part of town, leaving scattered pedestrians in their wake. That traffic could go down other streets like Ashby or Alcatraz. Imagine the long beautiful park we could make—some picnic tables near the Berkeley Bowl that were not slanted and perched on a sidewalk, room for the Farmers’ Market and the Flea Market, grassy places to play without fear of stepping over the curb and being squashed by a car. We could call it Harriet Tubman’s Terrace. The time has come!  

David Soffa 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Marcia Lau seems to be confusing two features of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) plan when she says “opposition to narrowing Telegraph Avenue is overwhelming” because many people have signed the Telegraph Avenue merchants’ petitions opposing the project.  

As I understand it, many Telegraph Avenue merchants are against closing Telegraph to all cars between Bancroft and Dwight. But this is only one alternative in the BRT plan. Another alternative includes one lane for buses and one for cars along this part of Telegraph. This seems to be a reasonable compromise that would bring the regional benefits of BRT with minimal disruption to automobile traffic: there would be one northbound car lane on Telegraph south of Dwight feeding into the one northbound lane on Telegraph north of Dwight.  

As I understand it, a relatively small number of local NIMBYs are against BRT south of Dwight, which would leave this part of the street with one car lane and one bus lane in each direction. For example, they claim that BRT would make it harder for them to turn onto Telegraph when they are driving from their neighborhood. I do not understand why they think this minor inconvenience to a relatively small number of people should outweigh the benefits of BRT to the entire East Bay.  

Lau is also wrong to say that this transit route is redundant because it is faster to take BART from Berkeley to San Leandro. BRT will be useful to people taking shorter trips all along this new line, and it is not meant to compete with BART for this long trip. For example, UC students who live near Telegraph Ave. in south Berkeley and north Oakland cannot conveniently use BART for their commute, and BRT will shift people in this corridor from their  

cars to the bus.  

BRT has been successful everywhere that it has been tried. Every city on the west coast, from Seattle to San Diego, has converted some bus routes to either light rail or BRT. Only the East Bay is still relying solely on conventional buses stuck in automobile traffic. It is time for us to help break the national addiction to oil by building BRT.  

Charles Siegel 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In the story “Board Considers Open Derby Street Plan” (March 14), there is the statement “Others say Derby Street should stay open and the site should host a multi-use playing field.” It is important for your readers to understand that the closed Derby option also results in a multi-use playing field accommodating all of the same sports as the open option. The difference is that the closed-Derby field includes baseball whereas the open-Derby field does not. Therefore the open Derby multi-use field does not satisfy the BUSD need to provide a home for the BHS baseball program. Until that BUSD need is met there is no resolution to the fundamental problem that has caused this property to remain undeveloped and underutilized for all of these years. I hope that the people of Berkeley and our elected representatives will recognize that the final solution to the problem will include a regulation-sized baseball field, within walking distance of BHS and with scheduling of the field under BUSD control. The BUSD property at Derby and MLK would seem to provide the ideal solution. As it turns out, there is a Farmers’ Market that uses the section of Derby that would be closed, one day per week, that opposes the closure of the street (for baseball, not the market). Additionally, there are neighbors of the property that oppose the street closure (also for baseball, street closure for the market is okay). The BUSD has offered to design features into the property that address most of the concerns of these opponents to the closed Derby multi-use field. From my perspective, as a concerned resident of Berkeley and a parent of a baseball player at BHS, it seems the opponents are completely unwilling to compromise such that BUSD can serve all of its students. 

As long as BUSD owns this property, BHS has a baseball program and there is no suitable BUSD-owned home field for this program, there will be no end to the debate over how to develop this property. That is because each year there will be a new wave of angry parents of BHS baseball players (they are also Berkeley residents) to add to the existing group. They become angry as they discover that a small group of intransigent neighbors and a one day per week Farmers’ Market have stalemated development of the BUSD property that can best solve the problem. The open-Derby multi-use field does not solve the problem and leaves students that choose to play baseball with pariah status. It is my hope that all affected parties can come together and form a compromise that creates a home for BHS baseball and takes into account the concerns of those that fear a multi-use field (that includes baseball) will diminish their quality of life. 

Ed Mahley  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The letters of the editor of the Daily Planet are, for me, one of the more interesting parts of each issue. 

Would that more letters were as short and well written as the letter by Pat Cody in the March 10 issue. 

Why not put letters that are excessively long (some taking up an entire column) in your Internet site and print those that are similar to Pat Cody’s making a point clearly and briefly? 

Max Macks 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

There are two possible solutions to the problems that Justin Lehrer (Commentary, March 14) and others face in parking bikes at BART. One is to use the valet parking available at Downtown Berkeley Station. For bicyclists unable to use that service, we should encourage BART to upgrade its current bike lockers and adopt the system being used at El Cerrito Plaza Station. Those lockers are available for rent with a prepaid key-card. They provide greater security than racks that expose bikes to theft and vandalism. 

I recently gave up a bike locker at the Ashby station that I rented for a full year. Most of that time, the locker was empty. It is more efficient to allow people to rent lockers for the time they need them, and prepaid cards are a convenient way to do that. In the long run, this would be more effective and cheaper than hiring more police and monitoring video cameras. To know that your bike is safe until you return is worth the rental cost. 

Tom Yamaguchi 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am saddened to read Suzanne La Barre’s March 14 coverage of the republication of Danish cartoons in the California Patriot. The opening sentence of the article is that students have ambiguously “lash[ed] out against” the Cal Patriot in response. Unfortunately, this “lashing out” merely constitutes an isolated incident involving the disposal of a number of magazines, the mere opinions of campus Muslims that were offended by the publication, two editorials in the Daily Cal condemning the publication, and an educational event on the life of Muhammad on Thursday evening organized by the Cal Muslim Student Association. The method in which the article is opened to report a “lashing out” is misleading, inaccurate, and seems to give an intentionally reactionary image of the Cal MSA when, in fact, it is the Cal Patriot that is the “reactionary provocateur.” 

Later in the article La Barre cites a rumor blog, Cal Stuff, as reporting that “student protests are in the works.” She follows this up with the fact that no organized rallies were reported by press time. Incidentally, this is because none are planned.  

I am saddened to see the record of the Daily Planet marred by such irresponsible and sensational reporting. 

Yaman Salahi 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The recent action by the City of Berkeley against the Boy Scouts is without merit. The Boy Scouts deserve to use the marina free of charge. The City of Berkeley and its citizens have been the beneficiary of Boy Scout service to the community for many decades (free of charge). The Boy Scout program has helped thousands of youth and kept many from pursuing lives of crime. Rejection of the scout’s use of the marina for a few hours is pathetic. The City of Berkeley should take some time and add up the thousands of hours the Boy Scouts have spent improving their local community (free of charge).  

Many groups that discriminate against others in our society are beneficiaries of public funds even in the City of Berkeley. Any citizen who lives in the city gets the benefit of public funds whether it be clean air to breathe, feeling safe walking down the street, or utilizing any public service. 

By taking this action the City of Berkeley is not only rejecting the Boy Scout volunteers and boy scouts but they are rejecting the future of Berkeley and of America. 

Dewey Stanford 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

To paraphrase your front-page headline on the March 14 edition, “BART Fire Article Spotlights Need for Balanced Reporting.” 

According to the article’s criticisms of BART, the following events took place: Her BART train was delayed. The author, fearing she’d be late for an appointment, panicked! Passengers on the halted train ignored instructions given by the train operator and forced doors open, making the train inoperative. Oh, and the reason the train had stopped was that there was a trash fire on the tracks.  

What was not disclosed was how long it took BART to become functional again. Did your beleaguered reporter reach her appointment in time? I’m willing to bet that she did—and I’m not a little irked that she invoked a “terrorist attack” which “could have been fatal” to describe what was in fact a minor inconvenience. And would she have preferred that the train power on through the fire on the tracks? 

I dislike front-page editorializing and I dislike the easy attack on bureaucracies. I rode the BART line to my job in San Francisco for over 20 years. Thanks to BART, I never had to worry about finding a parking place in the city—or paying for it. Yes, there were occasional delays on the system—but for the most part my travel was very reliable. And on a daily basis I could look out the window of my moving train to see freeway traffic at a standstill. 

BART deserves our appreciation and support—and your readers deserve more balanced reporting. 

Kate Styrsky 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Are the political winds changing in the toxified neighborhoods surrounding Pacific Steel Casting?  

Dunno. Still stinks to me! 

At today’s Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) Board Meeting in San Francisco, approximately 20 irate Berkeley residents and their supporters took three-minute turns at the podium in support of revising the corrupt December 2005 settlement between PSC and the district—a deal struck without any community input at all. Concerned members at the meeting today included Greenaction, the West Berkeley Alliance for Clean Air and Safe Jobs,, the Ecology Center and a new Berkeley-based Title V group. 

What isn’t surprising is that Jack Broadbent and his associates at PSC opposed the demands of our citizens to get this issue on the official agenda at the next board meeting, scheduled for April 5. Interested citizens can join us for Round 2 at this Board Meeting, at 939 Ellis Street, San Francisco at 9:45 a.m. We need your voices! 

Surprising was finding a letter from District 1 City Councilmember Linda Maio at the meeting! In her letter, Maio presented the following concerns to BAAQMD, including if the settlement actually increases the allowable emission rate at the foundry; what the district knows about Dioxin and other toxic chemicals in the manufacturing process; How Title V plays role moving forward in this struggle; and her wish for BAAQMD/PSC-related meetings to be held in Berkeley so residents can attend and give input. Good stuff. My guess is that you can read this mission-changing letter on Maio’s website. 

Maybe Maio smells the clean winds of change heading back down Gilman, a “green shift” that and many other groups kick-started long ago! Let’s everyone keep a watchful eye and ear on Maio’s rhetoric and see if this letter actually represents a sincere desire to recover our backyards—and sanity—as we cleanup PSC.  

November is just around the corner, Linda. 

Willi Paul 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I live near Shattuck and Alcatraz in Oakland and for years I rode the No. 43 bus to Berkeley Public Library’s Main Branch. Now I go exclusively to various branches of the Oakland Public Library. I have vowed to never use the self checkout. I like interacting with the workers however briefly and I resent the use of a dubious and expensive new system (RFID) that uses library patrons as guinea pigs. It doesn’t even seem to be working half the time. I proudly voted for Measure Q which has rejuvenated the Oakland Public Library system and leaves Berkeley in the dust. Keep your “here” over “there.” 

Jack Finzel 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The San Francisco Chronicle, with extraordinary cheek, began a minor editorial on March 15 with the statement “Sandra Day O’Connor’s remarks on the dangers of dictatorship in this country got little attention last week. Maybe that’s expected when a retired U.S. Supreme Court justice speaks to a roomful of lawyers. But O’Connor’s thoughts on the high court deserve prime time."  

That, of course, would have been the job of the Chronicle’s editorial board which, as far as I can determine, never ran an article on O’Connor’s warning, let alone giving it the prime time of the front page which the editors usually devote to large photos of Barry Bonds in drag or otherwise. Nor did the Chronicle, the following day, run a story on how Justices O’Connor and Ginsburg have received death threats from those domestic fundamentalists whom O’Connor now cautions are taking the U.S. toward totalitarianism. To get that news, I have to rely on the Internet, Amy Goodman, and the London Guardian, not on my local Hearst paper.  

Since we can’t even get the story itself, we can’t get the analysis that it deserves, and thus our amnesia deepens. Like its oft-repeated description of Dianne Feinstein as a “respected centrist,” the Chronicle editorial describes the former Supreme Court justice as a “Reagan-appointed moderate” who now warns that extremists are taking the U.S. towards a dictatorship. 

Is that the same Republican whose swing vote stopped the vote recount in Florida in 2000, thereby giving us the loser so beloved of those very people whom O’Connor now sees as a threat? Is that the same “moderate” whose retirement gave the far-right Samuel Alito a lifetime berth on the Supreme Court bench from which to work out his bizarre theory of a “unitary executive” who can operate above the law? 

I hope that O’Connor’s remarks indicate that she is beginning to understand the magnitude of what she herself has brought down, and that a vestigial conscience will torment her as her dark prophecy unfolds. 

Gray Brechin 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Democrats are to be congratulated for killing Dubai ports deal. They managed to be more right-wing than the president in their use of xenophobia and anti-Arab and anti-Muslim scare tactics. Going to the right of the repressive Bush regime seems to be their strategy for winning this year’s congressional elections.  

As James Zogby, president of Arab American Institute stated about the Democrats, “They are full of shit.” And just like Bush, their shit stinks. 

Kenneth J. Theisen 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Your paper has done a great service to it’s readership by printing Matt Cantor’s article about the problem(s) with aluminum wiring in homes from the mid-’60s to mid-’80s (East Bay Home & Real Estate, March 10). This is an unseen and very serious danger as you will see for yourself as I relate my tale of experiencing aluminum wiring problems. 

While attending a dinner party at some family function I noticed the lights would flicker occasionally. I asked what that was all about and my mother-in-law said it happens more and more lately but started about a month prior. She complained that the oven was not getting as hot as fast as usual also. Every so often those lights would flicker and I would here a strange noise coming from the garage. Being the nosy one I decided to investigate. 

Upon entering the garage I noticed a bad burning smell. I quickly put two and two together (I had worked in facility maintenance for many years ) and asked where the breaker panel was. Much to my chagrin it was behind 15 years worth of assorted junk. After rapidly throwing the junk out of the way I got to the breaker box. I could see light wisps of smoke coming from it. I ran to the main power disconnect and shut it down immediately. 

Returning to the panel I opened the front cover, burning my hand in the process. Realizing there might be fire behind it I ripped off the whole panel cover and found the BUSS bar melted and smoldering and some small fire starting in the insulating materiel adjacent to it. We called 911 and had the fire department out. 

The fire captain said that had we not taken the action that we did the whole house would have probably burnt down. If this were to have happened in the middle of the night things could have been much worse. PG&E came and disconnected the house until it was repaired. My in-laws got to stay at the Holiday Inn while they did the work. 

The wiring situation was so bad that every single wire, for the most part and except the ground, were fried and melted and ready to go. We are talking about the wires to lights and plugs and everything. Everything in the whole house was re-wired with copper. 

This will hopefully illustrate to some of your readers the importance of having your home wiring inspected by a professional at least every three years and by the home owner every six months. If any kind of change or problem is noted have a professional repair it immediately or sooner. This may prevent a tragedy. I have seen first-hand how dangerous aluminum wiring can be. 

Christopher D. Fuller 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

There have been a number of random shootings on San Pablo Avenue. I am concerned for those who get injured and their anxious families. I wonder why access to guns is so easy in the United States. I wonder why people who are addicted to drugs or mentally ill can nonetheless find their way to guns.  

Can we not become a society where guns are handed out only to the police? Let our sense of looking out for our neighbors be the basis of security in our society. 

Romila Khanna 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I believe the American media have long been derelict in their duty to keep the citizenry informed of wrong doings by those in public office. The litany of Bush’s misdeeds is too long to list here. Any one of his many alleged illegal and immoral activities would prove to be grounds for his impeachment. I urge your newspaper to reclaim your sense of conscience in our community, and commit to reporting on the growing national call for Mr. Bush’s impeachment. We need clear reporting and fact-checking throughout the nation now, so we can choose wisely and again take control of our political process. Please examine Rep. Conyer’s H.R. 635 and comment on his allegations, and opine whether they seem to be impeachable offenses. 

Peter M. Toluzzi