Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday April 21, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet:  

Max Anderson should be ashamed of himself for racebaiting his constituents (“Oregon Street Neighbors Win Appeal, Criticism,” April 18). I and scores of other neighbors on Oregon Street and surrounding streets have been working for years to deal with the drug dealing and violence at 1610 Oregon St. We have now won four straight court victories against Lenora Moore, and hope there doesn’t have to be a fifth. But we will persevere in our civil actions, because we have been abandoned by our councilmember and our mayor. The city of Berkeley has it in its power to clean up with what the courts have deemed a public nuisance, but they have chosen to abdicate their responsibility and either hide behind the skirts of the neighbors (Bates) or taunt and racebait them (Anderson).  

Why is our councilmember siding with the drug dealers against his constituents?  

Paul Rauber  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Max Anderson misunderstands the concerns of the Oregon Street residents: They don’t want Grandma Moore to move, they just want folks to stop dealing drugs out of her home.  

Max Anderson assaults the sensibilities of folks who don’t like drug dealing in their neighborhood, which certainly includes African-Americans, when he suggests that his status as an African-American is a basis for his outrage at the small claims filing of nearby residents. Is he suggesting that it is racist to not want drug dealers, who may be of African-American descent, dealing drugs in their neighborhood?  

Mr. Anderson’s time might be better spent working on solutions for the young men in that neighborhood who don’t have enough opportunities in our post-industrial economy rather than suggesting concerned neighbors are behaving outrageously in pursuing their small claims actions against a house that has indisputably sheltered drug dealing for years.  

Paul S. Lecky 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I share Berkeley City Councilmember Max Anderson’s consternation at the Berkeley community’s willingness to address the drug problem at 1610 Oregon St. by making two elderly blacks homeless. 

However, has anyone made the generic link between pockets of drug activity on Oregon Street and the apparent refusal of Berkeley Bowl, just up the street, to hire blacks? No? I didn’t think so. Probably the lack of black faces I see there, which causes me not to shop there, is just my imagination. 

Jean Damu 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

You’re on your own.   

That’s Tom Bates’ basic message to Berkeley residents threatened by drug houses.   

According to the April 18 Daily Planet, the mayor says that “the city doesn’t plan any independent action” on the Oregon Street drug house and congratulates the neighbors for having successfully sued the owner of the problem property in small claims court. 

It’s unconscionable for Tom Bates to tell the neighbors of drug houses that their main recourse is to solve the problem themselves. Two weeks ago, after testifying in court, one of the Oregon Street plaintiffs received death threats at her house. As another of the plaintiffs, Paul Rauber, told the Planet, “Guys with uniforms and guns should be handling these problems, not amateurs and neighbors like us.”  

This is a job for the police—and the city attorney.  In Oakland, City Attorney John Russo has set up an award-winning Neighborhood Law Corps that directly assists neighbors. Instead of ordinary citizens having to face down drug dealers, the deputy city attorneys in the Law Corps build cases against drug houses and other public nuisances and file lawsuits in superior court.   

Berkeley needs a Neighborhood Law Corps. But most of all we need a mayor who understands that government has an obligation to do all it can to keep the community safe. 

Zelda Bronstein 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Interesting to read that on one corner of Berkeley, your car gets “booted” if you park and walk off the lot. On my corner of Hopkins and Monterey, for the last five years, I’ve been permitting people to park on my lot and shop nearby as a courtesy, hoping that a little goodwill may flow back. Also interesting is the fact that during this time, not one merchant has acknowledged or thanked this courtesy from which they’ve benefited. Sometimes I guess no good deed goes unpunished. 

Tim Cannon 

BerkeleyHome Real Estate 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

If, as Mayor Bates promised on Feb. 11, “everything is on the table” regarding development on the Ashby BART west parking lot, why has the city commissioned a study of whether moving the Flea Market to the middle of Adeline Street is technically feasible (“City Hires Firm to Study Ashby Flea Market Move,” April 18)? Should the community-based planning process decide that any appropriate development at the site must preserve enough open space to accommodate the Flea Market, this study will have been a waste of scarce tax money. 

Robert Lauriston 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Richard Brenneman’s article on the formation of a task force to plan a housing development at the Ashby BART (“Controversy Surrounds Ashby BART Task Force,” April 14) lists me as an applicant for a position on the force. I have not applied. My name was placed in nomination by someone else without consulting me. The first I learned about it was when I received an e-mail from Ed Church, on behalf of the South Berkeley Neighborhood Development Corporation. It informed me that I had been nominated, and asked, 1), whether I had read an attached flier and 2), “Do you endorse the process?” I am not in the habit of signing loyalty oaths, even if accompanied by the not quite reassuring statement that “Non-endorsement of the process might not disqualify your candidacy, but I believe it is a salient factor for the board of SBNDC to consider.” I declined the nomination. I do not, in fact, endorse the process, which has not been open to consideration of whether it is in the interest of South Berkeley to consume the last open space in the community with a multi-story development that will, despite protestations to the contrary, be the death of the Flea Market.  

Osha Neumann 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have mixed feelings about Robert Brokl’s April 18 commentary, “Another Transit Village in the Pipeline.” 

On one hand, I am happy that so many people realize that higher density around transit is needed to stop global warming and wars for oil. I hope that Brokl is not exaggerating and that this “smart growth rhetoric” really did dominate discussions in Oakland as completely as he says. I only wish that the discussion in Berkeley were equally idealistic.  

On the other hand, I sorry to see that the idea of smart growth is being used to justify a 20- and 22-story building at MacArthur BART. Most people do not want to live in an impersonal, high-rise city of the future. If highrise development is the only alternative to sprawl, then most people will choose to live in sprawl.  

Traditional European cities are the right model for smart growth. Santana Row in San Jose, modeled on Milan and Barcelona, is a good local example of new development in this style.  

If they build at this sort of European density around BART stations, everyone will see that smart growth makes these neighborhoods more attractive and more human-scale than they are now, cut up by parking lots. But if they build high-rises around BART stations, it is likely to lead to a backlash against smart growth.  

Brokl is certainly wrong to say that smart growth is a fad that will be forgotten in a few decades. Cities and towns have always been dense enough to allow people to walk—from pre-historic times until the 20th century, when we first began building suburban neighborhoods so low density that they are totally auto-dependent.  

Auto-dependent neighborhoods are the temporary fad. We can see now that they have failed in environmental terms and in human terms. The only remaining questions are how much damage auto-dependency will do before we decide to build more walkable neighborhoods, and whether the reaction against sprawl will bring us high-rises or traditional pedestrian-scale neighborhoods.  

Charles Siegel 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I got a good laugh out of the April 18 article by Judith Scherr titled “Council to Examine Gaia Bonus.” It mentions Mr. Kennedy’s lawyer threatening the city with a lawsuit. Well, I am not a big believer in lawsuits, but I do believe in grand jury investigations. Which leaves me wondering: Just how many affordable housing units were we promised and how many are there now? Just how did it get to be 116-feet tall when the use permit only allows 87 feet. Just where did those offices on top of the building come from and how were they permitted? How come the planning file is now so thin? Seven floors? Just how many buttons are there in the elevator anyway? Mezzanines? Just how big are the rooms they open up into? And this is just one property. So many questions, so few answers. Yes, I am definitely in favor of investigations. 

Tim Hansen 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

J. Douglas Allen-Taylor’s April 14 UnderCurrents column (“History Lesson: Making a Mess of Our School Districts”) correctly points out that county Superintendent of Schools Sheila Jordan is to be blamed. Another actor in the drama is the Fiscal Crisis and Management Team (FCMAT). That semi-secret organization was created by the Legislature in 1991 when there was an alarm about more and more school districts going bankrupt. 

It assigned to the county superintendent of schools the authority to closely watch over the spending of local school districts. But, as the Alameda County Grand Jury has pointed out, elected county superintendents of schools need not have—and most don’t—any experience in school finance or administration. That shouldn’t be surprising, because other politicians need not have qualifications to run other than to be a resident of their electoral districts. 

The Alameda Grand Jury pointed out that county Superintendent of Schools Sheila Jordan had allowed Emery and Oakland go bankrupt. She got her five-person $750,000 public relations department to churn out denials, blasting the Grand Jury and blaming the local school boards—and in the case of Oakland, Superintendent Dennis Chaconas—for giving her false data.  

She then called in the cavalry—FCMAT—to do the job she should have done. They, in turn, hire consultants without going out to bid. Of course, guess who picks up the bill for all this? Yes, we taxpayers. 

It’s all a very “old boy/girl” network: The county superintendent falls down on the job, then calls in FCMAT. They cover for each other. For example, when Jordan in a dilatory fashion allowed Hayward Unified School District to almost go bankrupt, she finally called in FCMAT. After it made its study, it had a press conference congratulating Jordan for doing such a fine job! 

Ernest Avellar 






Editors, Daily Planet: 

So the Republican-controlled Congress is at it again. The are determined to seek an amendment to any legislation that would allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Why they are in a zealous move to drill in a site which is home of the Gwich’in people is beyond me, other than letting greed cause them to do the bidding of oil companies. 

People should understand that the Gwich’in people are a sovereign people who live their own way of life. Also, they know how to preserve water and take the animals there. What would oil drilling in the Arctic accomplish? Nothing more than having the water be toxic with oil. That catastrophe will wipe out the Gwich’in people as a whole. 

The mainstream media should be held accountable for not focusing on the concern of the Gwich’in people who will be painfully impacted by oil drilling in their homeland. I urge people who are concerned about preserving the Gwich’in people’s way of life in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to fight Congress’ attempt to drill for oil there. 

Billy Trice, Jr. 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was shocked to learn of the proposed $12 million budget cuts in Contra Costa County’s health services. If the budget reductions are enacted, the county’s health services will be decimated. The loss of almost 90 full-time positions will be a disaster for the most vulnerable Contra Costa residents. 

As a West County resident, I am particularly concerned about the proposed cut of two positions at the Richmond-based Intensive Day Treatment program. The impact described on the website (“loss of art therapy services”) fails to describe the deleterious effect the loss of these two positions will have on the program’s clients. During the 25 years the Richmond Center has served the West Contra Costa County community, the expressive arts therapy program has played an integral role. The program’s primary purpose is to help people who are facing severely challenging mental and emotional crises to achieve or return to a fuller, more satisfying life in the community. The 40 hours per week of innovative therapy that only these two positions can provide are essential. They have helped the program’s consumers stay out of the hospital and off the street. The expressive arts component of the program is the core of the center’s program. There is concern that without it, the center itself will ultimately close. 

West Contra Costa County is one of the poorest, most disenfranchised and violent communities in the Bay Area, and needs programs like this. It will be very short-sighted if the Board of Supervisors approves these proposed cuts. Short-term savings will be replaced by long-term suffering by clients and higher taxpayer costs to pay for emergency treatment and hospitalization. 

It is difficult for the people receiving treatment at the Richmond Center to advocate for themselves. 

The Richmond Center art therapy staff provides an invaluable service. The program is a beacon among community mental health programs. Everyone should oppose the proposed budget cuts. 

Glenda Rubin 

El Cerrito 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Recently in response to a question about a nuclear attack against Iranian nuclear sites, President Bush stated that “all options are on the table.” Some may consider this a diplomatic ploy to strengthen the United States’ hand in negotiations. But given Bush’s past actions and his belief that god directed him to launch attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq we should be wary. 

While keeping Iran from obtaining the bomb is the window dressing that is being used to prepare us for war against Iran, the real reason for the war is regime change. Bush states, “The world cannot be put in a position where we can be blackmailed by a nuclear weapon.” But what he really means is that the United States intends to maintain its dominant position in the world. In order to do that it must control the vast petroleum reserves of the Middle East, which is also a strategic location at the intersection of Africa, Asia and Europe.  

For Bush and those that advise him, nuclear war is just one of many options for projecting U.S. power in the Middle East.  

In 2001 a panel sponsored by the National Institute for Public Policy issued a report that recommended the treatment of tactical nuclear weapons as an essential part of the U.S. weapons arsenal. It stated that such weapons are particularly useful “for those occasions when the certain and prompt destruction of high priority targets is essential and beyond the promise of conventional weapons.” Unfortunately several of the signers of this report are now high-level officials in the Bush Administration. Chief among them is Bush’s National Security Advisor, Stephen Hadley. They also include Under-Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone and Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, Robert Joseph. These are some of the people now advising Bush about Iran. 

The policy wonks describe such tactical nukes as “bunker busters” and consider them useful in attacking underground sites such as those they claim are hiding Iran’s nuclear facilities. But if such an attack were to occur it would be a disaster for the people of Iran and the world. We must do everything possible to prevent such a tragedy by driving the Bush regime from power now. The world cannot wait to see whether Bush will launch pre-emptive war against Iran, either nuclear or conventional. The consequences would be far worse than those already being seen in Iraq. 

For more information about this subject and also how to drive the Bush regime from power, please see 

Kenneth J. Theisen 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

It hardly seems credible that this administration would consider military action against Iran in the wake of the disastrous and constantly unraveling occupation of Iraq. Our government here in the United States at this particular point in history, whatever faith it may profess, has no faith in diplomacy. They seem to believe that bombing is justifiable when it is carried out on a massive scale by our own troops, but abhorrent when carried out by others. It is abhorrent in either case. It is time we insist that the United States stop asserting a global double-standard. It is time we step down our own nuclear weapons program, so that as we negotiate for a less dangerous world, those negotiations may be taken seriously. 

Clark Suprynowicz 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On Jan. 29, 2002, President Bush, in his State Of The Union Address, employed the term “Axis of Evil” and referred explicitly to Iran, Iraq and North Korea. After our invasion of Iraq, is it any surprise that both Iran and North Korea would refuse to consider surrendering any nuclear weapons they might already possess or to forgo seeking to perfect whatever processes are involved in developing a stock of nuclear weapons? What other defense might they have against the juggernaut that is a United States whose Commander and Chief happens to be George Bush? 

Irving Gershenberg 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Why does the writer of your Police Blotter seem to think it’s all so funny? I doubt that he has he been knocked to the ground and had his teeth kicked in by a gang of Berkeley thugs yet? Or has he, and suffered brain damage? I have a suggestion; Maybe a more direct, plain style of writing would be more appropriate- just imagine how a real journalist would write about crime and the victims of crime, there you go, not so difficult is it? So please save the insensitive and ill-advised attempts at humor for some other subject. 

Alan Jencks 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As we approach Earth Day, a big thank you to reporter Santiago Casal for reminding us of Cesar Chavez’s commitment to the environment, as well as to social justice (“Cesar Chavez and Environmentalism,” April 14). 

Daily Planet readers should also be aware that Chavez was himself an ethical vegetarian committed to social justice for animals as well as humans. Consider this excerpt from a letter that the great man wrote to me on Dec. 26, 1990 (copies available upon request): 

“Kindness and compassion towards all living things is a mark of a civilized society. Conversely, cruelty, whether it is directed against human beings or against animals, is not the exclusive province of any one culture or community of people. Racism, economic deprival, dog fighting and cock fighting, bullfighting and rodeos are cut from the same fabric: violence. Only when we have become nonviolent towards all life will we have learned to live well ourselves.” Words to live by.  

R.I.P., Cesar. You are sorely missed. 

Eric Mills, coordinator 

Action for Animals 

P.O. Box 20184 

Oakland, CA 94620 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The recent letters of John Gerz and Dan Spitzer are virtually fact-free. Israel, thanks to hundreds of billions from the American taxpayer, is the fourth strongest military power today. Not only has Israel never been in danger of annihilation but it is the Palestinians who have faced such a process beginning with the expulsion of over 800,000 residents in 1947-48. Even at that time “little Israel” had three times the armed manpower of the six pathetic Arab “armies.”  

In 1956 Israel colluded with the UK and France in an illegal invasion of Egypt which was condemned by the US and the UN. In 1978 and 1982 Israel illegally invaded Lebanon causing tens of thousands of civilian casualties and displacing hundreds of thousands. Only in 1973 did Egypt and Syria initiate the war and that was strictly for the purpose of trying to remove Israeli Occupation from their lands. Israel sponsored Hamas over twenty five years ago in an attempt to sidetrack the secular PLO. Now the chickens have come home to roost! Hamas, for all of its rhetoric, represents not the slightest military danger to Israel. Israel’s apologists did everything they could to discredit the PLO and thus open door for Hamas. 

The salient fact to remember here is that Israel is illegally occupying the Palestinians, not vice-versa. 

Clinton’s 2000 deal left the West Bank truncated into several Bantustans, gave Israel full control over water rights, left many settlements intact and gave Israel veto power over all decisions of the rump Palestinian governing body. 

Israel’s fanatical partisans resemble the old Stalinists of the Soviet era who were similarly diligent in defending their “Holy” State. The New Republic serves as a prime example here of backing both bad causes. 

I would urge the Editor not to be intimidated by these ugly apologists for Occupation. 

Kris Martinsen 

P.S.: For an excellent history of the Arab-Israeli conflict see The Iron Wall:Israel and The Arab World by Israeli historian Avi Shlaim. He demonstrates that much of the intransigence in this conflict has been generated by Israel from the beginning. 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Since time immemorial, enemies of the Jewish people have plied their prejudice through allegations that Jews engaged in conspiratorial efforts to corrupt good offices. Unfortunately, this justification for bigotry may also be seen in the DailyPlanet’s letters’ pages. 

On April 7, R.W. Davis used that old anti-Semitic code word “cabal” when referring to what he believed to be the undue influences of Israel on US policy. And in the Daily Planet’s April 14 edition, Palestinian propagandist Joanne Graham wrote of what she alleges to be the local “Jewish lobby": “A small, unelected Group is distorting city policy by exerting undue influence and would do so no matter who is in office.” Readers with any sense of history understand fullwell the dark place from which Ms. Graham is coming...  

On another matter, in his last column for the Daily Planet, Conn Hallinan cites a study by an Indian professor who maintains that currently in the subcontinent, “the per person food availability is lower now than it was during the horrendous Bengal famine of 1942-43.” Now how could that be, when the horrific famine to which Hallinan refers led to the starvation of 6-8 million Bengalis and today in India there is nothing remotely approaching that unspeakable tragedy? 

If the Daily Planet is going to run future columns by that old Commie Conn (surely I am not the only one who thinks his name is a most apt “double entendre"), won’t it be wise to diminish that ideologue’s copious errors through the employment of a fact-checker? Just a friendly suggestion, lest the Planet continue to maintain a credibility level rivaling KPFA’s News Department. 

Dan Spitzer 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Those who say they were surprised by Hamas’ victory at the polls, recently, have not been paying attention to the events of the world. They obviously are not aware of what happened in South Africa and how Mandela became a household name. He and his party the ANC, were labeled terrorists, murders, rapists and all the other names the Palestinians are called by America and Europe now. 

However, immediately after Mandela’s release from prison, still under some unrevealed circumstances, there were elections and his party won. Mandela and the ANC formed South Africa’s first democratic government. America and Europe immediately forgot that Mandela and the ANC were the most wanted terrorists in South Africa, no, in the world, dropped all their labels, poured money into South Africa and supported Mandela. George Bush invited Mandela to America in June 1990 after Mandela’s release from prison on Feb. 2, 1990. But before his arrest in 1962, Mandela headed Umkhonto we Siswe, an underground military wing of the ANC.  

Hamas is exactly in the same position as the ANC was in 1990. Before the elections, Hamas was merely asking to be included in the decision making of Palestine. After the elections, Hamas is now the decision maker for the whole country. These are two separate positions which use different methods of operations because their purposes are different. Hamas has been democratically chosen by the Palestinians, and as the decision maker, Hamas is now fighting a different war, which includes diplomacy both abroad and at home, working with international communities, international politics and international economics. This is one of the major political or survival lessons demonstrated by the Mandela and ANC presidency. 

Interestingly, when the ANC took power in South Africa, America and Europe never demanded that ANC should first denounce violence before they would accept its legitimacy as the ruling party. ANC never announced to Europe and America that it had denounced or it would never be violent again. Neither did the Boers when they were in power. Indeed, up to this day, South Africa is still one of the most violent places in the world, committed by all kinds of people—ANC or not. But accepting Mandela and the ANC’s leadership was the only way to bring economic stability and some sense of security. Similarly, the acceptance of Hamas by Israel and the west, maybe the only option available to give both Israel and Palestine the much needed peace and security. Thus, America and Europe must follow President Putin’s courageous lead and accept Hamas as the legitimate government of Palestine.  

Gaeage Moetse Maher 

El Cerrito  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Dear Mayor Bates and City Councilmembers: 

At last night’s City Council’s regular meeting, Andrea Segall, vice-president of SEIU Local 535, told you that she represented “the entire membership” of 500 Local 535 members who wished to submit a vote of no confidence in Library Director Jackie Griffin. You have seen in the local press and heard remarks by Local 535 officials in the past year about how Jackie Griffin has failed the Berkeley Public Library. It’s now time for those of us who feel differently to be heard. 

I have been the Administrative Secretary at the Library for the past seven years, and have worked closely with Jackie Griffin for four-and-a-half years. This is what I know about her: she’s honest to a fault, she’s ethical, and she cares deeply about providing the best service to the patrons of the library. She works on the Information Desk on Sundays along with the rest of the staff. She’s out there asking the community what they want from the Library, and she’s acting on that information. She examines seriously the issues facing our library both on local and national levels. She was among the first to speak out  

against the Patriot Act and the dangers it posed to the privacy of library patrons. She is extremely careful about the stewardship of public funds – in fact, she asked the City Auditor to carry out an audit, and made sure that the Library staff put the Auditor’s recommendations in place as quickly as possible. She has built a management team that works well together, and who have in common a desire to make the Berkeley Public Library the best of its kind. She has had an open-door policy for all staff from the first day she started working at the Library; as her secretary, I encouraged staff to walk in whenever her door was open, and made appointments whenever they asked for one. Her open, frank manner, and her sense of humor are qualities that many staff appreciate. 

I have, in 18 years of working in the Bay Area’s public libraries and public library cooperatives, seldom met a Library Director who so clearly had all the right attributes. It is a terrible shame that her reputation has been slandered both locally and in national library publications. It’s time for Local 535 officials to treat her respectfully, professionally, and honestly. 

One last thing: despite the April 11 article in the Berkeley Daily Planet, no staff were laid off in order to pay for the RFID system. This may be easily ascertained by contacting the City of Berkeley’s Human Resources department. 

Yvette Gan