Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday April 04, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Bravo to Steve Donaldson for his letter published in the March 28-30 edition commenting that “the approval of the West Berkeley Bowl has turned into an absurd saga, strung out over two years by a handful of people wit h the money and time to use the system for their own personal agendas and ignoring the needs of the local community.” I am part of the community and I can attest that it has become a virtual nightmare to drive to the Shattuck Berkeley Bowl. There is insan e traffic, pollution created by the overabundance of cars and even though the clerks are very efficient, the lines are extremely long. Why not spread the wonderful advantages of fresh inexpensive produce and other goods to people who really need those ser vices in the West Berkeley area and relieve the congestion existing in the south Berkeley neighborhood? I would not blame the owners of Berkeley Bowl to give up and go somewhere other than Berkeley rather than fight this idiotic bureaucracy. 

Andree Leenaers Smith 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The letter by Susi Marzuola (March 31) which compares the amount of asphalt in the closed-Derby field vs. the open-Derby field avoids the real issue: The Berkeley High School baseball team does not have an adequate home field. The BUSD has committed to rectify this situation. It needs to have Derby street closed so that a regulation baseball field can be part of the multi-purpose field. 

The open-street plan which came out of a public process is only an int erim measure. I attended this meeting and that is what all participants were told. Proponents of closing Derby were told that we couldn’t discuss that aspect of the plan that night. The meeting was to get input from the community for the first phase of th e project (demolishing existing structures and making the property usable while awaiting funding for the next phase) and that nothing would be built that would preclude future closing of the street for the purpose of adding baseball as one of the uses for the facility. Apparently BUSD has decided to try to move directly to the final phase of development of their property, as it is needed now and would be the most cost effective way. 

If BUSD is not allowed to close Derby now they will try again later. It is a matter of money and political will and will not go away until the kids in the BHS baseball program are finally afforded a suitable facility that includes them. The open-Derby plan specifically marginalizes these kids and it hurts them. Attend any cou ncil meeting that affects this project and you can see and hear from them yourselves. 

It appears from my viewpoint that opponents of closing Derby have entrenched themselves into a position of “I don’t care about the BHS baseball team and I will fight al lowing baseball on this site with every resource available.” If that position could be modified to “I’m willing to accept kids baseball on the site but I don’t want night or adult baseball, locked fields, PA systems, etc.. and I do want a place for the Farmers’ Market and I have concerns about parking, etc…” then maybe a compromise can be achieved. 

The battle over this issue is being waged in a way that will lead to one group losing. We need to solve the problem of no BHS baseball home field while being sensitive to the needs of the neighbors. I’m sure that there is a way for kids to practice and play baseball in a facility that enhances the neighborhood that it is in. Let BUSD know what those enhancements need to be and maybe we can all be winners. 

Ed M ahley 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Despite intense, expanding and irresolvable conflict regarding illegal immigration, so called, no one seems aware that the issue springs from a very basic tribal instinct.  

It is blithering idiocy for grown me n, legislators no less, to talk about constructing a wall to seal our “porous southern border.” It is sanctimonious nonsense to wave the “nation of immigrants” banner, a hallowed ideal contradicted by slavery, the Alien Sedition Acts (1789), the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882), the Walter McCarren Act (1952). It makes me vomit to hear “true Americans” plead for sympathy for Hispanics who come here to do work Americans are unwilling to do, as if these folks, filled with brotherly love, leave their homes just to help us get things done. How does one account for such nonsense? 

A world populated by a single human being is hardly conceivable. A world in which all humans are identical is conceivable but sterile. Fortunately, in the real world humans are vastly di fferent and this makes it not only expedient but necessary that we self-identify. 

Basic to our nature is the need to be of a certain kind, a phenomenon referred to by David Berreby in his recent book Us and Them (Little Brown and Company, 2005) as origin ating in “our tribal minds.”  

Each of us must, per force, locate ourselves in a group, a collection with whose members we share some common attribute. Each human being belongs to an Us group—family, teacher, male, cleric, invalid, parent, etc. The compos ition of any Us group depends on the attribute that defines it. Anyone who is not one of Us belongs to the non-Us group and gets referred to with scornful disdain as being one of Them. “What do They want, anyway?” “Who speaks for Them?” played like motifs during the Civil Rights Movement. 

Us groups come in many kinds, some permanent and involuntary like nationality, some temporal and voluntary like student; their number and nature are limitless. All Us groups, however, are essentially exclusionary and superior in everyway to non-Us members—We’re better than they. 

We are told that our nation has 12 million illegal immigrants. Although that’s an uncommonly large non-Us group it’s nowhere near as large as Us. In fact, there are 25 times more of Us than of Them. 

Who do they think they are, anyway? 

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

This is in response to Richard Brenneman’s false fact that there is a South Berkeley gang called the “South Side Boys.” I am 18 years old, grew up i n Berkeley and, on behalf of the youth of Berkeley, there is no South Side Boys. It was mistaken for the letters S.S.B., which stand for South Side Berkeley.  

Justin Davis 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Unwisely, Harry Weininger (“In Praise of Jewish People,” March 28) seems to derive his identity from the group he belongs to. We Jews, as with all classifications of human-groups, have our praise-worthy members and, of course, the not so admirable in our ranks as well. Naively, Weininger skips over this reality, mentioning only being perplexed with some Jews who seem to “buy into anti-Semitism,” apparently his only possible answer to such self-criticism.  

Many of us, though not denying these worthy attributes, hear such listed praises of one’s own group as a claim to superiority, or as degrading others; enforcing the very world dissension he is attempting to dispel. Harry Weininger could use his writing proficiency to unite people instead; perhaps noting the similarity of human endeavors, fears, and des ires.. 

We are not responsible for our identity at birth, but we can claim our pride, or at least insight, for the individual we can become.  

Gerta Farber 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I appreciated the article on the Richmond Plunge. My firs t memory of a swimming pool, at age three, are of the Plunge. This was in 1940. It was very magical to a 3-year-old.  

There was an error in your article. It named Todd Jeremy as the clever architect who figured out how to reduce costs of restoring the Pl unge. The Richmond Plunge web site identifies the architects as, Todd Jersey Architecture and Ron Gammill, architect. Perhaps Mr. Jersey and Mr. Gammill could perform the same cost savings for the restoration or rebuilding of Warm Pool at Berkeley High Sc hool.  

Nancy Bartell 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Berkeley’s crucial November general election process, (along with Oakland and San Leandro) is now in the hands—literally—of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors and the Board’s coun sel or attorney’s office. The reason for this situation is connected to the 2004 passage of Berkeley Measure I that mandates all future elections use instant runoff voting (IRV), or “ranked choice voting.” 

Instant runoff voting is an enhanced, highly dem ocratic voting process that is transforming local, municipal and county elections across California and the United States. Berkeley voters passed the 2004 IRV ballot measure by a 72 percent landslide. 

In November 2004, San Francisco successfully used IRV voting to elect that city’s Board of Supervisors, Board of Education and other candidate offices. In February 2006, the City of Burlington, Vermont—the state’s capital and largest city—used IRV voting to elect that city’s new mayor. IRV is widely used in the U.K., Ireland and Australia. Bills permitting IRV voting are now pending in several U.S. state legislatures.  

Meanwhile, the East Bay cities of Berkeley, Oakland and San Leandro have each incorporated IRV voting provisions for use in future elections. According to Measure I, Berkeley must implement IRV for the city’s next general election in November 2006.  

In a nutshell, IRV enables a voter to rank his or her preferred candidates by marking the ballot with a simple “one, two, three” ranking (next to each candidate’s name). If three candidates are on a ballot, after votes are tabulated, the last ranked candidate is dropped and his or her votes transferred to the next favored candidate until one candidate receives at least 50.1 percent.  

IRV voting avoids the need for a second, separate runoff election 30 days after the first election, saving taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. Also, if five or six candidates seek one elected office, IRV avoids one candidate winning with only 20 or 25 perce nt of the total votes cast—the least democratic means of winning a multi-candidate contest. On March 13, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, on behalf of the City Council and the city’s voters, sent a request to the Alameda County Supervisors and the board’s counsel. Currently, the City of Berkeley is anticipating a legal opinion—to be rendered by the Alameda County Counsel’s office—on Berkeley’s IRV election status.  

Once the counsel’s office renders a decision, Berkeley is prepared to move forward expeditiously to arrange IRV voting for the November election. The timeline, however, to arrange IRV in time for the November election is very narrow.  

It is critical that the supervisors and its counsel act with all deliberate speed to enable Berkeley and other East Bay cities to prepare their polling stations with IRV-compatable voting machines, and uphold each city’s respective voter mandates. It is important that each city’s democratic process be respected.  

Chris Kavanagh 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It has always puzzled me that this country wants many new children to be born, but turns its back on them in terms of medical care, education, and housing. Berkeley’s current version of “eat your young” keeps young people from buying homes in Berkeley w ith it’s housing policies that make it impossible for young families and first-time home buyers to acquire their piece of the American dream: home ownership.  

Berkeley now has a glut of rental housing, with literally thousands of new units either built or under construction by the university, private developers, and “not-for-profit” developers taking advantage of city subsidies. A sensible condo conversion process would not negatively impact the market at all, as our real crisis in housing is the dearth of affordable ownership opportunities.  

All of the city’s rental investment subsidies go toward building new units—not rehabbing neglected old properties. Instead of policies that promote upgrading or care of our unique older housing stock, we have made it economically unfeasible to maintain these buildings. After 25 years of rent control, condo-conversion could be the way to spur new investment in old properties, making them showcases instead of slums for Berkeley. 

Roslyn Fuerman 




Edito rs, Daily Planet: 

Indeed kudos to the Daily Planet for continued reporting regarding the marijuana cultivation arrests, the five-month Berkeley police investigation, and the related issues in light of Berkeley’s marijuana initiatives.  

While I don’t bel ieve the “cultivating” individuals were arrested illegally, I find it extremely difficult to justify the amount of city taxpayer money spent in a five-month investigation. What if information of surveillance could have been passed to the suspects months ago; perhaps they would have discontinued their operation. Since guns were found, the Berkeley Police Department may have the benefit of the doubt. 

Still, I can’t help but feel the overwhelming will of Berkeley voters was not taken into consideration. By the way, if the city has interpreted Judge Lionel Wilson’s decision to apply only to “unlawful” marijuana, what if the cultivators were growing for medical use and had displayed enough proper caretaker paperwork from certified medical cannabis patients? A s a medical cannabis patient and patient advocate, I would have appreciated more definition and clear policy from the city attorney cited in your article. Likewise from the BPD, city manager, and our elected officials. Patients’ safe, secure, and continue d access to their medicine deserves high priority in my view.  

Dale Gieringer and Bill Panzer mentioned, are especially knowledgeable and informed individuals relating to California’s medical cannabis situation and the concerns and problems legitimate, certified patients often face too frequently with various law enforcement agencies and many uninformed and uncaring elected officials. Finally, the individual who wrote the “police procedure” letter to the editor, is certainly entitled to his opinion. But, as a Berkeley homeowner and taxpayer, I simply do not understand how “our entire community, in multitude of ways” was “benefited” by the west Berkeley pot bust. The times my van has been vandalized I attribute to society’s economic inequities as well as substance abuse. I object to the notion that unlawful marijuana use is associated with committing crimes.  

Charles A. Pappas 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I hope many of you have been reading the print media about the Moussaoui trial. In t he last few days of the trial, Moussaoui, who had been the government’s sole living alleged 9/11 conspirator, the so-called “20th hijacker” of their 19-Arab hijacker story, has made such fantastic and easily disprovable claims which have thrown into quest ion his mental stability and destroyed his credibility that the government has been forced to introduce, in a deus-ex-machina fashion, another 20th Arab hijacker from out of nowhere. In a March 29 New York Times article we are now told that Mohammed Al-Qahtani, [is] “widely believed to be the real missing ‘20th hijacker.’” Of course, he is out in there in the ether under detention somewhere, no doubt being primed for later revelations on an as-needed basis. 

In the trial a few days ago, purported written “testimony” was introduced (and as far as I know, unchallenged for its veracity by defense lawyers) from one Khalid Shaikh Mohammed to affirm that Moussaoui was to have been used in a second wave of attacks. Mohammed, is reportedly being held in a secret location—presumably not under any form of duress, unlike what has been shown to be the case with every other U.S. kidnapped detainee. In much the same way that Moussaoui has been superseded as the “20th hijacker,” Shaikh Mohammed had replaced Osama bin La den, as the so-called “mastermind” of 9/11 about a year or so ago when bin Laden’s usefulness as a principal perp had become dated.  

I think it is becoming increasingly clear, especially from this trial, that the whole Neocon fantasy about 19 Arab hijack ers perpetrating the acts of 9/11 under the direction of Osama bin Laden, oops, I mean, Shaikh Mohammed, is your classic house of cards. This is completely consistent with every other claim this administration has made about anything and everything. It is another giant lie that has gained traction through endless repetition. 

Peter Teichner 



Dear Mr. Stephen Beinke, 

Blackhawk Services: 

I have been following the strike at Berkeley Honda for some time, and am dismayed by the way in which this situation continues to drag on. I am particularly troubled by your unwillingness to bargain in good faith with the affected unions so that you can settle this matter once and for all. 

As the co-founder, along with Cesar Chavez, of the United Farm Workers, I have spent my life fighting for justice in the workplace. Thus I and countless others in the workers’ rights movement have been urging unions across the country to stand in solidarity with their striking brothers at Berkeley Honda. We are appalled at your callous refusal to retain many long-time workers, among them a 31-year veteran only two years from retirement, and at your refusal to maintain the pension plan. 

But it is not only union workers who are watching what you do. Your potential customers are also watching you. People who buy Hondas know that in treating your workers fairly, you also treat your customers fairly; customers want to know they are doing business with a fair company. 

Please re-think your stance on this dispute. You have the power to make another choice, and to return in earnest to the bargaining table. If you would be regarded as the conscientious and reasonable employers you claim to be, you have the obligation to sit at that table until you reach a satisfactory agreement with the affected unions. 

I hope you will accept that obligation. 

Dolores Huerta.