Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday April 28, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have lived on Russell Street around the corner and down the block from Lenore Moore for over seven years. My wife and I were shocked when we heard what the neighbors were doing.  

I often would hitch my little trailer to my wheelchair and take a ride to the Berkeley Bowl. When we would get to California Street we would take a left and go the rest of the way up Oregon Street. It felt safer going this way right past Ms. Moore’s home where we would often get a smile and a hello from her or one of the kids. They especially liked our cart and always had something nice to say. The newer people on the block seemed cold and distant.  

I sat in Jon Rantzman’s courtroom. I heard an elderly woman explain how she loved her grandchildren and how they helped her take care of her ailing husband. I heard the white people wail about how they were afraid of the black people and how they were bringing down the property values.  

I have never been more ashamed of my race. There was Shirley Dean and the ever-politically maneuvering Zelda Bronstein; what did they do when Shirley Dean was in office? Absolutely nothing. I have to admit that when I see Shirley and Zelda show up I jam my wallet deeper in my pocket and put my backpack in front of me. But, if I had heard just one thing from those 30 white people and one black on the other side of the courtroom, I would have held my tongue. But it never came. Not one of those good neighbors ever said “Lenore, if your husband should fall out of bed in the night, just give us a call.” No, not one.  

Max Anderson is right to be alarmed. These neighborhood associations are scary. They smack of the “No Blacks Allowed” neighborhood groups of the 1920s (read Arc Of Justice by Kevin Boyle). I can’t remember the name of the legal hacks that helped put this lawsuit together, but does no one find it just a little suspicious that everyone they have gone after was in some way involved in helping the poor and homeless? I hear the boast by these people that the courts are on their side but anyone one who knows the scene here in Berkeley knows that a court ruling from Commissioner Rantzman is akin to a lawful order from Adolf Hitler.  

When I moved over here on Acton Street the first thing I heard from my “good” neighbors was how I should watch out for the black people down the street. They are loud, have a lot of visitors and may be up to something. I have a brother and I love him very much. He’s in prison for drugs but gets out soon. He is always welcome in my home. My home... Shirley, Zelda, Paul Rauber, Paul Lecky, and all the rest of you racist class bigots when you see me ride by, try a smile and a wave. You’re bringing this neighborhood down. 

Dan McMullan 

Disabled People Outside Project 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Hooray for Neil Cook! He’s come up with a brilliant solution to the Berkeley High School baseball team’s misuse and abuse of the baseball field at San Pablo Park—replace that open field with an enclosed stadium! If this happens, he will no longer have to worry about foul balls, foul language and foul behavior at his local park because these foul events will all happen out of sight. And since San Pablo Park is the largest park in Berkeley, there will be plenty of room left over for the neighborhood kids to play in the grassy areas, tennis courts and playgrounds not covered by the stadium. 

And thank goodness that we in the beleaguered neighborhood between MLK and Shattuck won’t have to deal with all this foulness, either. After all, unlike Neil Cook, we have no park at all in our neighborhood. To get to any green space, our kids have to cross one of those major motorways—MLK or Shattuck—and walk for blocks to Willard Park or to Oregon Street park. Plus, as Cook mentions, our park-free neighborhood is already used as an RV park. We deal on a daily basis with trash and foul behavior from some RV residents who use our sidewalks as a dumping ground for their discarded stuff and worse. 

The neighborhood between MLK and Shattuck hosts Berkeley Honda, the UC maintenance facility, a public health clinic, the Alternative High School, and Iceland. Our neighborhood’s only pleasant public amenity is the Farmers’ Market. Thank goodness for Cook’s stadium proposal. Not only will this stadium spare residents of both our neighborhoods the foul balls and foul behavior reported by Cook. It will also save the only pleasant public activity that we have here between MLK and Shattuck—a once-a-week Farmers’ Market. Thank you very much, Mr. Cook. 

Betsy Thagard 

Carleton Street 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

President Bush pretended for three years to be looking for the White House leaker, when all along it was him. America is saddled with a fast talking liar in the Oval Office. 

Ron Lowe 

Grass Valley 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On Tues., April 25, at 2:45 p.m., in front of the Free Speech stage in People’s Park, Berkeley Police Officer Uranus, badge No. 84, impounded a bicycle cart whose intended use was to distribute free clothing (it was empty at the time of the arrest.) University of California Police Officer Murray, badge No. 76, was assisting. Community activists were informed that the bicycle cart could be repossessed at the UC police station in Sproul Hall. When activists presented their request to Lieutenant Dillard, badge No. L8, they were informed, after much beating around the bush, that they needed a court order in order to procure the release of the alleged free box. 

Arthur Fonseca 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

As an Albany resident, I have received more than one letter from Caruso Affiliated asking what kind of development I’d like to see on the Albany waterfront. These letters imply that Caruso is here to help me realize my vision for the Albany shoreline, and they promise open space, breathtaking views, and coastal restoration. In more honest times, such letters were called propaganda. 

Caruso’s primary responsibility is not to me. Nor is it to any other resident of Albany. It is to Magna Corp., a $13 billion Canadian corporation that owns Golden Gate Fields and has hired Caruso to produce a development along the Albany waterfront that will mean big profits for Magna.  

So what kind of development would be most profitable? A public park? Open space? Environmental restoration? An expanded beach front? Recreational opportunities for all? Not exactly. 

A mega-mall and casino on Albany’s shoreline are sure to mean big profits for Magna, so this is what we can expect if we give Caruso a green light. And while Caruso’s current proposal for a mall does not include plans for a casino, this is not because Magna has your best interests in mind. Instead, this is because California voters recently rejected Prop 68 that would have allowed for a casino at Golden Gate Fields. Prop 68 was backed strongly by none other than Magna, to the tune of $2 million. But Magna will not be deterred. They continue to push for legislation that would allow racetrack casinos, and would like nothing more than to build one right here in Albany. 

In short, Caruso must answer to Magna, whose primary aim is to guarantee a return on their investment. And the profits will only roll in when visitors to the waterfront are spending money, be it on blackjack, a Café Latte, or a new pair of shoes. One thing is certain: If Caruso and Magna have their way, there will be no place at their “lifestyle center” for those of us who want to leave the credit card at home and simply enjoy the natural beauty of our waterfront. 

Michael Marchant 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

On April 20, the second-to-the-last day of the American Indian Movement’s Sacred Run from San Francisco to Washington D.C., I actually walked 13 miles! And, as you can imagine, walking through this great country is the absolute best way to get to know America first-hand. 

We learned about the hurricane devastation that still haunts New Orleans. We learned how to survive tornadoes in Tennessee. We learned about the grim cruelty of feed lots in Texas. And we also learned about the milk of human kindness that flows through America’s small towns. We learned that all across America, churches, city halls, National Guard armories and Indian casinos were willing to put us up for a night because many wonderful Americans across this broad country also believe in the Sacred Run’s motto that “All life is sacred.” 

And, as we trudged doggedly past the various Civil War battlefields between Fredricksburg and Arlington, Virginia, we also learned something else. Apparently some people are still having trouble learning one of life’s more obvious lessions—that war doesn’t work. Some 150 years after 17,000 soldiers were callously sent to their deaths by their idiot commanders at Fredricksburg, some people still think that war is a good idea. 

In the short space of time that it took us to walk past the U.S. Marine base at Quantico, Virginia—15 minutes max—we saw two military funeral corteges leaving the main gate on their way to the cemetery. One funeral every 15 minutes? Does this funeral production line go on all day? Every day? Or did we just come at a bad time. 

If Americans truly believe that all life is sacred—not just fetuses and the brain-dead—we need to make certain that not one more of our finest young men are being forced to die at the whim of the silver-tonged avaricious old liars in the White House. 

Jane Stillwater  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Bob Burnett’s “First look at the 2006 senate races” (April 21-24) has an odd nonsequitur: “To have the BB ‘solidly anti-war’ rating you have to say something like, ‘I was always against the war and now I support John Murtha’s position.’” 

The problem with this is that Murtha’s position isn’t “solidly anti-war.” Murtha wants U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq replaced by an “over the horizon” rapid deployment force which would attack from bases in other Middle Eastern countries. This isn’t “anti-war,” it’s continuation of war with a different strategy. 

This illustrates a basic political problem. To be a “progressive Democrat,” it seems to be necessary to pretend that things are what they aren’t. 

Marsha Feinland 

Peace and Freedom Party candidate for U.S. Senate 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Please choose your description of the Albany Bulb is more carefully and accurately. It is not a landfill, it is a toxic waste dump created during and after World War II and contains huge amounts of contaminates including petroleum. A trip out to the end will verify this by sniffing the many vent pipes in the area. When it was first opened to the public in the early 1980s, the stench was very, very strong and the adjacent shrubs discolored. All this is in Sierra Club home turf! 

Ronald Branch 


EDITOR’S NOTE: “Lady of the Landfill” was the name of the sculpture pictured on the front page of the April 25 edition. 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In response to Ruth Gordon’s April 25 letter regarding Judith Scherr’s article about recent events at the Berkeley Public Library, how Ms. Gordon could have gotten the history of the Berkeley Public Library mess so wrong is baffling. The Daily Planet’s reporting over the past couple of years must have been open to some upside-down interpretation that was not apparent to anyone else. 

When Ms. Gordon characterizes 77 signers of the no-confidence petition as “a small band of discontents,” does she mean small as compared to, say, the Normandy Invasion? Seventy-seven signatures represent a lot of people, more than two-thirds of the total library staff, including managers, who could not sign it, and to say that any of the signers was “afraid to speak out fearful of [Local] 535 threats should they disagree” is preposterous. The union has no powers of retaliation—that has been the library administration’s response to disagreement. 

In answer to Ms. Gordon’s question, “Has [Local] 535 filed grievances with the city,” the answer is a resounding yes, they have. The director has consistently chosen to “discipline” anyone who dares to disagree with her library policies. She has wrenched people from their home libraries, changed their duties, and found other ways to retaliate against staff members who questioned her totalitarian approach to administration. 

The “small band of unhappy leaders‚ [who] love the library so much that they are happily willing to kill it” Gordon talks about in her letter can only refer to the director and her handful of supporters, whose intention it is to reduce the library to a monolithic, computerized, depersonalized building, with drastically reduced hours and personnel, and as few books and services as possible. 

I have lived in Berkeley for more than 40 years and have followed the evolution of the library since Griffin’s appointment with anger and dismay. As a taxpayer I was outraged when she ramrodded through the RFID system at an outlay of hundreds of thousands of dollars, with costs escalating to more than a million dollars and no end in sight, money that could have been spent on improving the library instead of degrading it. 

Historically, the Berkeley Public Library has been a place where the community gathered to enjoy the interactions of a population as diverse as anywhere in the nation. Alterations Griffin has made to the structure and function of our library amount to distortions and corruptions of that ideal. 

Recent articles indicate that the Board of Library Trustees and the City Council are planning to terminate Griffin’s tenure with the library. If this is true, the sooner it is accomplished, the better for our library. As things now stand, it will take years to reverse the damage she has done. 

Shirley Stuart 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The mayor’s forum on teen violence fell short in many ways. Let’s hope the follow-up meeting gives parents a significant role in planning the event and allows for enough time to hear their concerns. In the 15 minutes parents spoke we heard details of violent incidents involving their kids and the conditions in our city and schools parents want to change. 

Do we have gang activity in Berkeley? Just look around, have you ever seen so much tagging? Check out Milvia Street, right across from Berkeley High School. Is there a need for anti-gang curriculum in middle and high school, and gang suppression strategies for West Berkeley parks? 

Do we have a consistent problem with rat-pack assaults? Just a sampling of parents’ stories reveal we do. Of equal concern is the high rate of underreporting to both the schools and police. Are rat-pack assaults the result of peer pressure and bullying or an initiation into criminal activity? What should the response be, considering the nature of theses incidents in which the victim is significantly outnumbered and the resulting injury is usually to the face and head? Why did we not discuss this at the mayor’s forum? 

Is there a connection between the politicians’ “spin” and the unwillingness of school officials to properly inform and notice parents/students so we can better prepare ourselves? Do we enable the normalization of youth violence by pretending it is not as bad as it is? 

I found it painful listening to the mothers from West Berkeley speak to the prevalence of gang activity, and hear the same answers from both city and school officials: volunteer. We pay some of the highest taxes, and we have questions. What needs to change so the extensive array of services and programs reach their intended clients and goals? How can volunteers affect services when there is a need for program evaluation and innovation? When will public officials show leadership in addressing these tough issues? 

As a long time parent volunteer on youth safety issues, I offer these questions in the same spirit as when I developed the Incident Reporting Guide for Berkeley High School. We are asking for a partnership based on mutual respect between the parents and the city/schools agencies to improve the conditions and circumstances for all Berkeley kids. 

Laura Menard 

Former chair of BHS Safety Committee