Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday April 14, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

The 30-foot creek setback is both a major component of the revised creek ordinance and potentially a major problem for property owners. Opposition to the ordinance might be muted if there were explicit procedures to a llow construction when the 30-foot setback makes it difficult or impossible. The following are possibilities:  

Consider trade-offs against other restrictions: 1) Relax the property-line setbacks to allow more flexibility as to where the building can be p laced; 2) relax the building height limit to fit the building on a smaller area.  

Move the creek bed to allow room for building. This measure is particularly appropriate when a creek is currently in an underground conduit.  

Trade off mitigation measures against a reduced set-back. Studies show creek health tends to increase as the setback width increases, but 30 feet is not a magic distance. Erman’s study suggests that almost 10 percent of the creeks with setbacks of only 10 feet have as much biodiversi ty as the average creek with a 30-foot setback. The odds decrease rapidly below 10 feet. Setbacks provide habitat, flood plain, and a buffer from fertilizers, excessive run-off, toxins, and so on. This suggest that setbacks should be allowed to be reduced to 10 feet on one side if the lot is otherwise unbuildable and if explicit measures are installed to control run-off and contamination, and provide for storm flows. To maintain habitat availability, the reduced set-back should be limited in length to 40-50 feet, and increased set-backs should be required on the opposite side of the creek if possible. These mitigations should also be considered for existing buildings within the 30 foot setback on change of ownership.  

Robert Clear  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

After reading the many letters about the West Berkeley Bowl, I think I see the main problem: The store is too big. 

So I have a proposal: Why not ban all except neighborhood-size stores in Berkeley? The big stores just produce more traffic and more pollution. Or, we could just build them in the heavily poor and minority sections of the city, so that the traffic and congestion doesn’t bother the kind of people who have time and money to complain to City Hall about what does and doesn’t belong in their own neighborhood? Then the complainers could shop at Berkeley Bowl anyway. 

I suppose that would be racist, so we should ban big stores throughout the entire city. Maybe force the existing Berkeley Bowl, and other supermarkets, to leave, too. We should make Berkeley a haven for neighborhood-size stores, which would not be allowed to provide parking, because people should not drive cars but should be taking the bus or riding their bikes or their electric wheelchairs anyway. 

Meantime, we should make sure the car dealers all leave town. Don’t allow them to build near the freeway! We should keep that land zoned for light manufacturing. And since there is hardly any light manufacturing growth in the United States anymore, that land could la y fallow, or be populated by artists. 

The downside of all this, of course, would be reverse economic growth and a declining tax base. We could always hit up property owners, already paying the highest taxes in the region, for more. Maybe we could aim for 50 percent higher taxes than surrounding cities. 

If the property taxpayers balk, and don’t vote in new taxes, because they think taxes are already too high, we won’t be able to fix our sewers, or our streets, and Berkeley will gradually crumble. But it will still have that old-fashioned neighborhood feel, without any big retailers to muck it up, so maybe it’s worth it. 

But if people do agree to raise taxes, maybe we could help out Mayor Bates and the university by subsidizing city services to a greater extent than we are already. We are a university town after all. 

This town is crazy! 

Tom Case 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Gail Todd (April 11-13) felt sad because no one spoke to her while checked out a book from the library. Boo hoo. Librar ies probably have more people using their services than ever even though it is expensive keeping them open. They have to keep up with everything else changing in the 21st century. 

No one is “hiding our librarians.” If you have a problem or a question, so meone is right there to talk to and they are knowledgeable and helpful and friendly. This isn’t the 1950s, when libraries had so many manual details to keep up and needed many bodies. Using a computer is so much easier and quicker than a card catalog. 

Gail Todd has been in Berkeley 36 years. Well, I have been visiting Berkeley libraries for 59 years. No, Gail, we cannot afford to pay people to stand at a counter to take a book from a little girl to stamp it and hand it back (with a smile and a good word). We pay them for the many other tasks they have to do. 

Bob Kelleher 



HR 543 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) introduced HR 543 last fall, which calls for a full debate and vote on the war. Now we have an excellent chance to get Cong ress to consider substantive measures to end the war quickly!  

Republicans Walter Jones (R-NC), Jim Leach (R-IA) and Ron Paul (R-TX) will sign on to the resolution adding bipartisan momentum to the this. Apparently, contrary to Berkeley mythos, there ARE honest Republicans who think Bush is a bad leader.  

HR 543 can be activated by a “discharge petition.” This means that once it receives the signatures of half the members of the House (218 members), the bill bypasses its committee and is immediately con sidered on the House floor for debate and a vote. This bill guarantees us 17 hours of debate (the war hasn’t been debated at all in Congress until now) and allows amendments. Rep. McGovern (D-MA) plans to introduce his “end the war in Iraq Act”—which cuts off funding for the war—as an amendment. We also expect Rep. Lee (D-CA) to introduce her No Permanent Bases in Iraq resolution as an amendment, and Rep. Murtha, (D-PA) to offer his bill as an amendment.  

Please, everybody, support groups like the CODEP ink ladies (I’m sure they’ll welcome men, also!). Supporting the Troops = Ending The War Now. Thank you in advance.  

This war costs every American household at least $2,442 a month. Sheesh! This cash could go towards college, health care, a vacation, clo thes for the baby, or enough instruments to outfit a garage band! Really good quality instruments! 

Linda Smith 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Environmentalists arise! The data are in. Official state estimates from the Department of Finance show that in 2005 there were 500,000 new residents in California. The majority of the increase involved new foreign immigrants and a relatively high birth rate among immigrants. I have personally benefited in the past—my beloved and legally adopted son was born in the Dominican Republic. And, yes, I have also benefited from cheap illegal labor. But now we are all starting to pay the delayed costs of an over-burdened infrastructure resulting in loss of open space, crowded highways, hospitals going out of business, high housing costs, water shortages, and poorer air quality. The governor has proposed a massive $222 billion 10-year bond to address infrastructure problems. Realistic environmental policy must come to terms with the fundamental issue of poorly regulat ed population growth. 

Robert Gable 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Your reporter quotes Gary Hart as saying, “Preachers said that if he [John F. Kennedy] was [sic] elected, the Pope would be in the White House,” as though the idea were absurd. It may be unfair, but it is not absurd. Kennedy’s two best-remembered foreign policy acts were to intervene militarily on behalf of Catholics in Cuba and South Vietnam. At the time, we inferred that Cardinal Spellman of New York was directing foreign po licy for the White House.  

Mark Tatz 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Though she publishes me, Becky O’Malley feels that I am boring her readership because I am a one-issue person. I actually have very many issues of interest in life, but restrict myself here to the Israel/Palestine conflict for good reason. First, these pages are filled with so much venomous nonsense regarding the Middle East, and lies must be refuted lest if left unchallenged they metastasize into the Big Lie.  

As a small typical example, R.G. Davis’ letter in the same issue states that Yasir Arafat was a Christian. He most certainly was not. He was a Muslim, and his wife, who was a Christian, converted to Islam before she could marry him, and thus gain a ccess to the many millions of dollars she stole from the Palestinian government.  

Because O’Malley refuses to do even minimal fact checking before she publishes, somebody in this community needs to keep the crazies honest. The Daily Planet has made itsel f a hotbed of Palestinian propaganda, and O’Malley has even allowed Palestinian activist Henry Norr to report (not comment, but report) from the Middle East, breaking the first tenet of good journalism—namely, that the reporter should be apart from and ab ove the story.  

Second, Israel since 2000, has been faced with the genuine specter of genocide. Imagine, Ms. O’Malley, if rockets rained down on Berkeley every day from next-door Albany, and that the mayor of Albany was elected on a platform of killing e very Berkeleyan. Or imagine that the city across the bay threatened to wipe Berkeley off the map with nuclear weapons. Would you be bored if that is what people wanted to talk about? While feigning boredom with me, O’Malley pleads in the same piece to bri ng a Palestinian propaganda play about Rachel Corrie to Berkeley, and while at it, she wants to bring an anti-Palestinian play as well for balance (I am not sure that such a thing exists, since Israelis aren’t normally given to such excesses).  

Why, Beck y? So that you can amuse yourself further by pretending to be bored, while in fact setting Berkeleyans at each other’s throats for your amusement? So here’s the deal, I’ll stop obsessing in these pages about the Israel/Palestine conflict when you do. 

John Gertz 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

How does one justify the indefensible? Judging from Becky O’Malley’s editorial, when it comes to pro-Palestinian apologists I guess the answer is to ignore the elephant in the room: Hamas.  

Let’s say jus t for the sake of argument that the manifestly false allegations Israel-bashers regularly express in these pages were true. Would that obviate holding the Palestinians accountable for electing a regime which advocates Jewish genocide? You can bet your boo ts that any other government whose covenant supported such barbarous intent would have been eviscerated by the likes of such so-called progressives. But apparently not when the intended victims are Jews. 

Of course, rather than recognizing a populace whic h has long supported suicide bombers as simply coming out of the closet to elect the chief architects of anti-Israeli terrorism, O’Malley explains this away by suggesting that “this might have something to do with Israel’s actions.” She sanctimoniously ca lls this absurd equation “an intelligent analysis.” 

O’Malley goes on to imply that the Jews and Arabs should share governance of Jerusalem, forgetting that at Camp David Ehud Barak offered this to Arafat along with a Palestinian state comprising a contig uous 94 percent of what has been called the Palestinian Territories. Given that Arafat’s response was the Second Intifada consisting of better than 80 homicide bombings resulting in hundreds of innocent deaths, the notion of Israel sharing Jerusalem in th e future is as likely as the United States sharing Washington with Al Qaeda. 

In sum, for O’Malley and others who continue to support the Palestinians without calling into question their election of Hamas, I offer the words of the esteemed Joseph Welch in his response to Joe McCarthy: “At long last, have you no semblance of decency?” 

Dan Spitzer 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Well, a big, sloppy “hag sameach” or Happy Holidays back to you as well, Becky, dear! Your best attempt at a goodwill, Holy Week editorial should go a long way to dispelling any preposterous suspicions in the local Jewish community that you are just an embittered, resentful and malignant anti-Semite at heart! 

Lord knows, you have reasons enough to be full of bitterness and hostility to this small but resourceful and accomplished minority who has and continues to wield such enormous influence in the world of politics and media in general and newspapers in particular, a field you had to buy your way into just in order to give away your “product” for free. Just imagine how you could stew over this injustice subconsciously, how it could corrode your heart and mind, were you not such a transcendent paragon of virtue, free from the cancer of prejudice and bigotry.  

In a just world, wouldn’t the Jewish, New York Times-owning Sulzberger family (among other Jewish media mogul families) be reduced to giving away twice per week at a loss their failed “daily” newspaper in a small, whack job college town, while the O’Mal ley newspaper empire was deemed the “paper of record” and feted the world over as the most serious of journalistic enterprises? Don’t you really deserve this acclaim, your birthright, robbed from you by a cabal of shady, Jewish influence mongers and peddl ers? Is it pure coincidence in your mind that spell check thinks the name Sulzberger is a misspelling of “sleazebag”? 

How unjust to you also that even the mayor of this small town could not bring himself to call the Daily Planet a “real newspaper,” let a lone bother to read it. That must have hurt where it counts! In your heart, you might even have blamed some malicious Israeli pressure groups who probably donated to the mayor’s election fund as the reason he felt it necessary to demean your publication s o. I wonder what the mayor meant by that statement? Was he perhaps implying that the Planet is really just a blog in print, one family’s ego trip masquerading as a local “newspaper”? 

Perhaps we Jews should add one more “dayenu” to our Passover Seder this year: If He had limited the Berkeley Daily Planet to the total insignificance it has—Dayenu, it would have been enough. 

Edna Spector 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding your “Next Year in Jerusalem” editorial: Your last three paragraphs are u ninformed, inaccurate, and incorrect. No need to say more. 

Frank Price 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is interesting that the United States has recently decided not to run for a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council. Could it be that t he Bush administration which has condoned and practiced torture, has launched two pre-emptive wars which have killed tens of thousands, spies on its own citizens, and generally denies its continued war crimes and other crimes against humanity recognizes t hat sitting on such a body would be hypocritical? Oh I forgot this is the Bush regime where hypocrisy is a virtue. 

The council was created on a U.N. General Assembly vote of 170 to 4. The United States and Israel were two of the four no votes. Israel, wh ich continues to illegally occupy Palestinian territory and violate Palestinian rights, has strong motives to oppose the creation of such an international body. It also makes sense that the Bush administration would be opposed to any organization that cou ld possibly condemn the regime’s consistent violation of human rights both here and abroad. 

The Bush regime’s actions are also consistent with it earlier opposition to the International Criminal Court. It is clear that Bush and his cohorts do not want to be held accountable for any of their actions by the international community. As long as it remains in power we can expect that the regime will continue with its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan where the body count mounts daily. We can also expect increased repression here at home. 

Bush will not leave office until Jan. 20, 2009. But the world can’t wait another two and a half years. We must drive the Bush regime from power now. For more information on how to oppose the Bush regime, see 

Ke nneth J. Theisen 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Ron Sullivan was correct in identifying that PG&E’s pruning program produces some very bizarre results. Sullivan noted that their tree pruning was merciless, but that it use to be worse whe n “line-cleaning pruning crews used to just top a tree—whack it off bluntly, a procedure that usually, gradually kills the tree.” Sullivan noted that PG&E now uses “drop-crotching” instead and notes that “It’ll still probably kill the tree, but more slowl y...” PG&E’s contract workers are supposed to hang notices on doorknobs of residences and businesses where pruning will take place. Sullivan should note that these PG&E hangers show three types of pruning that are in current use: 1) topping; 2) drop-crot ching; and 3) side prunes where all the limbs on one side of a tree are removed. 

All three types of pruning are highly visible on many Berkeley streets and the trees are in danger. Sullivan’s final salvo stating that is “a good idea that arborists and ev en PG&E urge people to choose smaller trees to plant under city power lines in the first place...” is dismissive of one of the finest features of Berkeley, its thousands of stately, mature trees that now are mangled by PG&E each time they prune. It use to be better in the past when PG&E had an program that fostered healthy trees and trimmed them esthetically. The current slashing program is new and I hope Sullivan will consider helping Berkeley to nourish and save it urban forests.  

Sally Williams 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A while ago you published two letters from me regarding the filth at the Berkeley High School swimming pool and also the arrogance and incompetence of the Berkeley Public Library computer department. 

The pool is just as filthy as it ever was but the library was impelled to suddenly promise to “have a technician look at it”—they still ignore my e-mails and haven’t done a thing to fix computer problems I have been complaining about for months on end. 

I guess power of the press doesn’t work in “backward Berkeley.” 

Brian C. Waters 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Bush OKd leak, former aide says: Impeach the treasonous bastard! Never in the history of the United States has there been a president who so violated truth, justice and the American way. George W. Bush has been a cancer since he was placed in office five years ago. Public elections, the heart of democracy, have been hijacked by private corporations under Bush’s watch. Since his inception Americans have had to endure lie after lie issuing from the White House. And you watch the news, I don’t have to tell you about the war. This is what happens when fraud trumps the Constitution. 

Ron Lowe 

Grass Valley%