Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday April 07, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Kate Dowling was born July 8, 1946 and passed on April 2, 2006. She was best known as the proud mother of James. For 17 years she worked at the Cheese Board Collective in Berkeley where she originated live jazz and the generous extra slice. She was also famous for her sumptuous chocolate truffles and wedding cakes. She was formerly the pastry chef at Bay Wolf Restaurant in Oakland. She was well loved by all who knew her and generous to a fault. There will be a celebration of Kate’s life from 6-11 p.m. April 8 at the Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. Donations may be made to the Kate Dowling Memorial Fund in care of Wells Fargo, account number 3012327494, 6304 Dana St., Oakland, CA 94609. 

Ina Clausen 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

While J. Douglas Allen-Taylor’s March 24 article provided an accurate picture of the problems that have plagued the Kronos payroll system at the Alameda County Medical Center, I want to correct an error. 

Neither I nor Local 616 members blame the Medical Center’s CEO, Wright Lassiter, for the Kronos implementation problems. I’m sorry if I did not make that clear when I spoke with Mr. Taylor. In fact I got an earful from our members when they read that I blamed the CEO for escalating the problem. I can’t say who exactly “made the unilateral decision to go completely electronic,” but as noted in the article, ACMC has put the VP for human resources on administrative leave. 

Once Lassiter learned about the extent of the problems, which was brought to his attention at the caucus meeting with nurses, as noted in the article, he has worked to resolve the problems. We are meeting with ACMC representatives this week to review the payroll error report from the last pay period. While there remain some problems, we believe the Medical Center has made significant improvements. Mr. Lassiter has assured SEIU that if problems persist, ACMC will reintroduce the parallel electronic and paper time keeping systems while the bugs are resolved. 

Thanks for correcting this error. 

Bradley Cleveland 

Director of Communications 

SEIU Local 616 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I will never vote for Democrat Russo for state Assembly or any position except dog catcher, even though I am a lifelong Democrat and occasional voter for Green Party candidates. 

I have never met or talked with Russo but unfortunately attempted to deal with his staff when Russo was my district’s Oakland City Council Representative.  

I have never encountered such an unresponsive staff as Russo’s. 

I repeatedly called his office regarding an issue with a stop sign and another with street sweeping, but his staff never responded to my calls. Feeling like I was dealing with the customer service of a giant corporation or the DMV, I instead turned to our At-Large City Councilmember Henry Chang, whose staff not only returned my call within three days but investigated and fulfilled both of my requests within two weeks days by dealing with the relevant city agencies (agencies that hadn’t responded to my complaints spanning approximately six months).  

Russo is not fit to be a Democrat regardless of his top-down endorsements. 

1. Russo is infamously unresponsive to specific concerns from individuals (he seems more concerned with his next stepping stone to higher office than actually fixing something). He simply blows off calls from anyone lacking connections, a la Bush, in effect telling his constituents/customers they have no recourse. 

2. Russo approaches the role of serving the public in the same manner as the worst bloated, unresponsive high-tech corporation with overseas tech support.  

3. I cannot imagine Russo was good at being a lawyer or any other job requiring measurable performance. If he headed a company selling actual products, the company would probably go bust after pissing off its customers. 

4. While once complaining to neighbors about Russo’s unresponsiveness as city councilmember, a neighbor remarked that he’d watched Russo in City Council meetings on local-access T.V. and thought Russo had his head in the clouds, speaking about national issues and listening only to himself instead of addressing the matters associated with his job.  

Russo obviously doesn’t understand Tip O’Neil’s famous saying that “all politics are local.” 

I cannot believe Russo will improve education or anything since he can’t even improve a pot hole. As a dog lover, however, I would vote for Russo for dog catcher. 

John Gordon 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing in support of the folks in South Berkeley who want a multi-use field/park at Martin Luther King and Derby streets and who want to keep Derby Street open. As a long-time South Berkeley resident who lives near San Pablo Park I thoroughly appreciate and support open green space in neighborhoods. I am concerned and curious about whose interests are driving this proposal to close Derby Street. It is my understanding that many (or most) of the parents of the high school baseball team members and other residents who are pushing to close Derby Street do not live in our neighborhood. How can the school district and the City Council prioritize the desires of the baseball team over the real needs and concerns of a neighborhood? How would closing Derby Street affect the firefighters access to my neighborhood should there be a fire west of Milvia? What would be the long-term traffic and parking effects on the neighborhood? Where would the Farmers’ Market be able to move where there is such easy access and centrality in location? Why is there a willingness to develop an athletic park for the baseball team and not the same initiative and willingness to push to fix the public pools, fund after-school and nighttime sports programs, extend library hours and fund other socially thoughtful and comprehensive programs for the benefit of youth in all Berkeley neighborhoods? Voters said “no” to recent proposed bond measures, which would have provided needed services to all Berkeley residents. Where are the monies going to come from to hire new staff and provide specialized maintenance for this ideal baseball project? I think effort should be made to improve existing parks and baseballfields. Where is the long-term financial infrastructure going to come from to support this baseball filed project? There are not enough parks and recreation staff to adequately maintain the existing park. 

I support keeping Derby Street open and spending existing monies on existing needs and projects. I do not support plans to spend monies that are not in the school district budget on projects initiated by people who want to alter a neighborhood where they do not live. And should there be surplus in the school budget or the city budget, projects like this one to develop a contemplative baseball field could then be considered. 

Margaret Benson Thompson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Berkeley PTA Council has undertaken an audacious project—selling 8,000 information/coupon books called “Guide to the Good Life in Berkeley”—to raise $50,000 for providing diversity training and education for parents throughout our district during the 2006-2007 school year. With your help, we believe that together we can reach our goal—a goal that will benefit not just Berkeley parents but our children, schools, and community as well.  

Please endorse and promote the sales and purchase of “Guide to the Good Life in Berkeley” throughout our school district and city, across your professional, personal and electronic networks. Encourage your constituents and friends alike to take action in support of diversity and book sales by “spreading the word” and our intention, by purchasing and selling books, and by cheering on our students in doing the same. Understand that book buyers receive truly useful coupons that save many times more money than its $10 cost! Please do all that you can, as both an individual and as a vital conduit, to help us advance our movement. 

Like you, we recognize that each of us must work to build our individual and collective capacity to relate to one another in ways that enhance and ensure excellence, equity, and equality in our children’s education. In Berkeley and beyond, race and diversity lie at the core of all that we hold dear as a value and all that we recognize as responsible for what divides us. The Berkeley PTA Council, leading the parents of Berkeley Unified School District, intends to build strong, effective bridges between the peoples in our school communities. We intend to guide Berkeley to the bonafide “good life” and we ask that you join us! 

Thank you for all you do and are. 

The PTA Council Executive Board: Wanda Stewart, Ann Williams, Roia Ferrazares, John Penberthy, Cindy Tsai, Mark Coplan, Marissa Saunders,  

Lorenzo Blades 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I read with interest Marianne Robinson’s commentary “Affordable Housing: Reality or Myth,” and wanted to let her and the thousands of seniors who need and the thousands of seniors who need affordable housing know that the new senior housing going up on Sacramento, San Pablo and University will soon be open and is truly affordable. 

AHA’s Sacramento Senior Homes at 2517 Sacramento will offer 40 new apartments for seniors 62 and over, including seniors with disabilities and seniors that live with HIV and AIDS. All of the units have Project-Based Section 8, which means that no senior will pay more than 30 percent of their monthly income to rent—for example, if you live on SSI and receive $700 a month, your portion of the rent is $210. While some of the apartments in the building will be studio apartments, the majority of apartments will be one-bedroom apartments and two-bedroom apartments.  

On San Pablo Avenue, Resources for Community Development will soon be opening the Margaret Breland Apartments, a 28-unit apartment building for seniors. These studio and one-bedroom units will be available for rent at 30 percent of a person’s household income also. These apartments are available to seniors with annual incomes below $29,350 a year for a one-person household and $33,500 for a two-person household. 

Applications for these two buildings are available now at the Berkeley Public Library, the Berkeley Senior Centers, and Berkeley Housing Authority, among other places. While deadlines for submitting are upcoming, seniors are still encouraged to apply—waiting lists will be formed for both buildings. Early next year there will be another affordable senior housing development opening up—University Avenue Senior Homes by Satellite Senior Homes, which is currently starting construction. This development will have 79 units of affordable housing for seniors.  

For more information on Sacramento Senior Homes, please visit our website at 

Kevin Zwick 

Director of Development 

Affordable Housing Associates 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you for the reminder! (April 1st Brings Memories, March 31.) My first letter to you in April 2003 was a thank you for your new exciting publication, but also a complaint that the paper was now almost impossible to throw away! As a disabled senior, it has become my accessible “Berkeley Town Hall”—a welcome gift for my twice-a-week education and occasional personal opinions! 

Thus said, Becky O’Malley, I again honor your policy of open exchange. I certainly agree with most of the Berkeley treasures and frustrations you point out. But I was surprised to hear you say you are offended by those who are “more than willing” to risk the health of others so they “can have a cheap grocery store” in their own backyard. As I find the Berkeley Bowl as indispensable as your publication, I was very much hoping that this wonderful market could be in the West Berkeley area as well—after working out the usual glitches, of course.  

Have you considered that many of your neighbors probably use their cars to get to the “East” Berkeley Bowl now, or other desirable food outlets, polluting “our” area somewhat?  

By the way, Ashby Avenue would not have to be a narrow congested “highway,” toxic to scores of residents along the way (which is probably illegal, if not immoral) if many of our famous Berkeley diverters were removed, so that traffic could freely and fairly find other pathways, as it does in most other (dare I say) even more progressive cities! 

Gerta Farber 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a former Berkeley Energy Commission member, and a wind-energy developer, I was struck by the angry tone of James K. Sayre’s letter concerning Southwest Windpower’s gift of a wind turbine to the City of Berkeley. The turbine is very small and only 40 feet high. It would be very surprising if it kills anything more than some mosquitoes—certainly nothing compared to other sources of bird mortality in Berkeley, such as the nearby 880 freeway, downtown buildings with glass windows, housecats, etc. In the meantime, it is a very nice addition to a park intended to educate people about renewable energy. 

The wind turbines in Altamont Pass do not kill significant numbers of migratory birds. Local raptors collide with each turbine each year. They probably also collide with the cars on the 580 freeway. The overall bird population in the Altamont Pass has actually grown each year, due to constant loss of habitat to housing developments located all around. The Altamont Pass is one of the few remaining open spaces in the area. That raptors there collide with wind turbines is lamentable but basically unavoidable. 

Development, pesticides, and global warming are the major threats to birds, bats, and all life on earth. We need new sources of energy, like wind energy, on a BIG scale, to change the direction our planet is heading. Unlike other industries that impact birds, the wind energy industry has carried out dozens of studies of interactions between wind turbines, birds, and bats, over the years. Despite the very low levels of bird mortality these studies have shown (average of two birds/turbine/year, less than the average car typically kills), wind turbine designs have been substantially changed, and wind energy projects moved away from many windy sites, to further reduce bird mortality. 

People who are incensed about “wind turbines and birds” and “wind turbines and bats” never seem to be concerned, or active, about truly major threats to birds and bats. When I see a letter from someone who is systematically working on the greatest, most widespread and serious sources of bird and bat mortality, I’ll take it more seriously.  

Jessie Audette 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Letter-writer Marvin Charere erroneously sited the figure of 12 million illegal immigrants in this country. It is more likely that is there is approximately 30 million illegals in this country at any given moment. And that doesn’t even take into account the tens of millions of “anchor babies”—American-born babies of illegal immigrants who immediately qualify as U.S. citizens. 

The odd thing is, whenever I bring up the scope—and the disastrous consequences—of our insane level of mass immigration, both legal and illegal, the response from the heroic Berkeley liberals has been simply to toss the “race card” at me. Might I suggest that some of these liberals leave their safe, middle- class havens and spend some time living amongst the blacks in the inner city, like I have. Black Americans happen to have the strongest negative opinion about immigration of any segment of the American population (check all the polls if you don’t believe me). Why? Because they are precisely the ones on the front lines of this invasion and who are paying the biggest brunt of this problem. They are in fact getting displaced from their own inner-city neighborhoods to make room for the endless immigrant hordes. Now play the “race card” on that, Berkeley liberal. Instead, I suggest you check out an April 4 opinion piece in the San Francisco Examiner titled: “Illegal Immigration is Hurting America’s Poorest People.” Apparently, plenty of these middle-class Berkeley liberals—who already “got theirs”—can afford to be very magnanimous about this hideous process. Those on the bottom, who are struggling to keep a roof over our heads, do not find this nearly as endearing.  

Peter Labriola 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was distressed by Nancy Ward’s letter published in the Daily Planet’s March 31 edition. Ward took Diana Russell to task for picketing Girlfest, who held their two nights of entertainment at the Shattuck Down Low. Situated next door to the now infamous Pasand Restaurant in a building owned by Lakireddy Bali Reddy, a convicted sex trafficker in underage girls, the Down Low proprietor pays rent to members of the Lakireddy family. Nancy believes that Diana and the other picketers should not care where the events were held, but instead appreciate that Girlfest got it for free. 

What Nancy probably does not know is that Girlfest had been apprised of the inappropriateness of their choice of venue three weeks prior to the event by a concerned woman named Gina. When the Girlfest leaders made it clear to her that they would not change their venue, Gina posted this information to the general Community section of Craigslist. In response, Gina “was threatened with lawsuits, accused of ‘having ulterior motives’ and now, when I try to tell the people of Berkeley that a high-profile non-profit is making a mistake in holding their event on a property owned by people who prey on children for sex and labor, they [the Girlfest organizers] are flagging every post I put up...” Similarly, Women Against Sexual Slavery was also treated with hostility and threatened with a law suit.  

Councilmember Kriss Worthington, who supported our protest, offered the organizers of Girlfest alternative locations to hold their concerts, at least one of which was also free. The Girlfest organizers declined these options. Ward is correct that Daniel Cukierman, the proprietor of the Down Low, generously offered this facility free of charge. However, this does not negate the contradiction in Girlfest’s use of property owned by a criminal pedophile. 

Ward concludes her letter by saying that, “I and many other feminists, wish that instead of picketing Shattuck Down Low that she [Diana Russell] and her supporters had been able to appreciate the nightclub’s generosity and also how much women would benefit. The money will help to prevent future Reddy-like crimes.” I say, education without heart is no education at all. Diana Russell actually deserves thanks from our community for making us aware that our actions should follow our awareness and that we should work to help all those who are in need and suffer and not be swayed by money and power. My beret goes off to her. 

Marcia Poole 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The April 4 commentary by reader James K. Sayre regarding wind turbines deserves a response. Mr. Sayre is incorrect in believing that the bird fatalities in Altamont Pass are typical of all wind turbine installations. Lessons learned in Altamont Pass, the world’s first large-scale windfarm, are now applied in siting wind turbines throughout the country, and nothing even remotely similar has occurred. Is Mr. Sayre serious in comparing the threat of a single home-scale (not industrial) turbine in the Berkeley Marina to the potential damage of a nuclear power plant? Does he realize how many birds, animals, and trees (not to mention humans) would be saved annually by eliminating the pollution associated with coal and other fossil-fueled power plants? Mr. Sayre may discount my opinion as easily as he does that of the Audubon Society, but as an engineer working in wind power for over 20 years, I can say that Southwest Wind Power is no corporate behemoth, and wind power is not something to be feared. Wind is the fastest growing source of energy worldwide and will play an important part in the search for solutions to our energy and climate change problems. Berkeley is correct to promote public education regarding wind power, and all renewable energy sources. 

Joseph W. Pasquariello 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

As tax day on 17 April draws near, we need to remember that our tax dollars are paying for torture and death. 

They are paying for an endless war that is killing and maiming our troops and the Iraqi people. 

Our tax dollars are spent by Congress. 

Let our senators and representatives know we want the funding of an illegal aggression stopped. 

No more money for war! 

The Bush budget pays for war by cutting social services including veterans’ benefits. 

We can tax ourselves by sending a contribution to groups like Iraq Veterans Against War (, Veterans for Peace ( and Vietnam Veterans Against War ( 

We can also join activities like the Grandmothers Against the War who plan to leaflet on April 17 outside the IRS in downtown Oakland at noon, and in front of local post offices. For more specifics call the Grandmothers at 845-3815 or e-mail 

Pat Cody 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

My story is a plea to the public who has a tendency to lump all formerly incarcerated black men in one pot, and reject their efforts to find gainful employment. I am a black man pushing 40 years of age who has no desire to become a re-incarcerated statistical failure. I refuse to support prisons far away from my home that have become major economic boons for poor white communities in rural areas, e.g., Pelican Bay in the State of California. The price I’ve paid is unemployment for myself, and increased employment for white residents in these rural communities. In those instances when I have become employed, I’ve suffered the indignity of abrupt dismissal once my background check is completed. This situation has been going on since my release over two years ago. It has taken all the strength I have to suppress the seething anger and rage I feel when I’m let go, but far stronger is the firm commitment I’ve made to myself that I will not give up and become a contributor to an evil system that has no regard for my well-being. 

Inside, I’ve experienced the day-to-day horrors of prison life; the lack of privacy; the monotony of doing time; living en masse amongst strangers to whom I have no familial ties; watching my back to avert attacks; and perhaps the worst experience, listening to the voice of loneliness, my voice. When you are alone, you become in touch with the deepest part of yourself, the part that is concerned with your preservation. 

Outside, I’m no longer physically incarcerated, yet my mind is. I’m bound to a past from which I can’t seem to escape. I am thwarted in reaching my goal of being employed and having power over my life. My past remains an impenetrable, constant barrier to my future. My deepest wish is that employers will interview me and allow me to express myself by discussing the reasons for my past incarceration. I’m not expecting employers to be social workers, but I’m seeking to come out from under the label of “ex-offender.” I want to be a real father to my 18-year old son. I don’t want to leave a blueprint of prison as a life-path for him to follow. 

I write this for all black men who have been entrapped in the prison system. I know they will concur with all I’ve written, and I cling to the hope that collectively, we can come up with a solution to our problems. Despite the music videos, there is no glamour, no peace, no life, to be found within the total institution of prison. 

James Hopkins  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

My son is a senior at Berkeley High now, and here’s what I’ve learned about what it takes to survive at this huge, wonderful, but sometimes alienating school: The kids who do well at Berkeley High are those who get involved in a sport, dance, theater, jazz band, Art Club, Barbecue Club. The kids who don’t often fall through the cracks and have problems in this big, daunting place. And for an activity to occur, the kids need a place to play, act or gather to do that activity. That’s the major reason why I support making Derby Field a baseball field. There are places for LaCrosse, soccer, jazz band, swimming, dance, theater... you name it at Berkeley High, but there’s no place for baseball except a field that’s overcrowded, inadequate and where Albany Little League teams have greater priority. The baseball team doesn’t have an adequate place to play their games, and shipping them to a potential Gilman Street site just doesn’t get the job done. These kids too, need a place to call home. This issue is and always has been about supporting our kids which Berkeley has a fine, long history of doing. 

I understand the neighbors worries from having listened to them one-on-one, and dealing with similar issues related to parks, religious institutions, s ores and other public places in my neighborhood. They raise issues that need to be analyzed and mitigated in a fair, thoughtful EIR process. Unfortunately, the dialogue about this baseball field has been more of food fight than the kind of reasonable discourse that should occur. An environmental impact report is a good way to start a healthier discussion, and I hope that the Berkeley City Council agrees to be a joint partner with BUSD in preparing an EIR. 

Dave Fogarty 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I write on behalf of the millions of senior citizens and people with disabilities confused and poorly served by the president’s disastrous privatized prescription drug Part D “benefit.” 

Part D does nothing to rein in out-of-control drug prices. It leaves millions of Americans worse off by requiring them to pay more for drugs than they currently do under Medicaid and allowing private plans to deny them drugs that were covered before. 

On top of that, the Part D disaster will cost taxpayers $800 billion more over the next decade than a direct benefit under Medicare with negotiated drug prices would. Part D is no benefit and it’s not Medicare—it’s just ineffective, inefficient, private insurance. 

If Medicare were allowed to directly negotiate drug costs, it would be possible to pay for all Medicare drugs—without premiums, deductibles or co-payments—at no additional cost. 

We need a real drug benefit under Medicare that gives seniors and people with disabilities access to the drugs their physicians prescribe. It’s up to Congress to provide one. 

Jean Pauline