Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday May 09, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was one of the plaintiffs in the recent lawsuit. Regarding Dan McMullan’s race baiting and subsequent backpedalling: It has been such a struggle to be heard through the many voices available here in Berkeley hoping to speak as the “better angels of our nature.” 

I probably don’t have very good activist credentials. I was schooled in civics by the African-American founder of a 25-year-old neighborhood watch group, who, like Dan, was confined to a wheelchair. I wasn’t led by any politician, I was led by conscience and my late friend. My “civics” work included almost any activity that could stop 8- to 12-year-olds from being recruited into the drug trade. The straw that broke the camel’s back and prompted the neighbors to sue was a drug/weapons bust that included three generations of the family, including minors. 

My experience is first-hand and extensive. Regarding “terror” in particular, there was one incident that might be applicable: “Terrorist Threat” was one of the charges filed when I was attacked in (repeat: in) my home.  

No, we aren’t racists, political tools or terrorists. Who we are is representative of a diverse community simply trying to say “You can’t do that here” to a sub-culture that routinely exploits children and uses violence as a means of persuasion.  

Kevin Combs 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It was an educational experience reading the article on Berkeley Unified School District’s Maintenance Department. As co-chair of John Muir’s PTA, I have wondered why the many maintenance issues at our school were not being addressed and now I know why. The end of the article gives the impression that every thing is hunky-dory with maintenance issues at the schools and I have to beg to differ.  

At John Muir, for example, the door to the PTA’s exterior storage space has been eaten away by rats and a whole bottom section is now missing. (What fun cleaning up rat poop.) In addition, some one has used a section of the campus as a dumping ground with waste and debris piling up (including a refrigerator!). Needless to say, the neighbors are as unhappy about this as we are. We know that people in maintenance work their tails off and are doing the best they can under difficult circumstances, but the many problems in this department have impacted schools in the district negatively.  

Diana Yovino-Young 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am in full agreement with Mr. Wolfgang Homburger’s letter with regard to the possible reconfiguration of Shattuck-Center Street and North Shattuck areas. Who invented the perceived problems and who asked for any such studies to be undertaken? Clearly someone has too much free time on their hands to have to go out searching for such projects, when all we really need is to have our infrastructure maintained. We don’t need a new look or a new transit center downtown, unless of course the new look would include getting some of the panhandlers (I refuse to grace them with the salutation “homeless”) off our streets. 

To repeat Mr. Homburger’s question: Who exactly is it that’s not happy with what we have now, and who precisely was surveyed? Is this a consultant-driven project? The Shattuck corridor may not be the best it could be, but it ain’t broke, so don’t mess with it. Perhaps we should reallocate budget from city planning to the street maintenance department to help them repair the potholes. 

We don’t need another pork project, even if grant funding equals free money, for such should be available. It is still taxpayers’ money; let’s not squander it on unnecessary projects such as that infamous bridge in Alaska. 

Peter Klatt 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Becky O’Malley’s editorial about the Stephen Colbert performance at the White House Correspondents Association annual dinner is the most insightful and wide-ranging comment I have read. I saw the video clip on Rude? I don’t think so. Colbert was far more vulnerable than anyone else at that affair, and he is a brave man. To break through Bush’s insulation: an impressive accomplishment. If only it could sink in and make a difference. 

Joan Strand 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’d like to urge everyone to boycott products of the Sensenbrenner family. Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin) is the author/sponsor of HR 4437, which would turn 11 million undocumented immigrants into felons, punish anyone guilty of providing them assistance, and construct an iron wall between the United States and Mexico. Rep. Sensenbrenner is heir to the family fortune of Kimberly Clark, so purchasing Kleenex, Poise, Scott, Huggies, Pull-Ups, Kotex, Viva, Cottonelle, and Depend puts money in Sensenbrenner’s bank account. Now it’s our turn to build a wall around Sensenbrenner. We need to tell everyone here and everywhere in Latin America to boycott Kimberly Clark products. Support the Grand Boycott!! 

Estelle Jelinek 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Closing Derby Street is unfair and irresponsible to the Berkeley community as a whole. As an alumnus of the Berkeley Alternative School, Berkeley High School, and currently a parent of two children that attend Berkeley public schools, I am strongly opposed to this street closure.  

Though the issue of the funding for this project is an immediate concern, the message it sends to all of our youth is an irresponsible one. The students at the Alternative High School deserve our recognition, as our community’s lack of attention is what leads most of these students there in the first place. Closing this street for a fancy baseball field or your high “fences” and huge “lights” is a waste of time, money, and space. This proposal should be rejected for the greater good of all of Berkeley’s youth.  

Rachel Hart 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Another take on the Berkeley Alternative School: In 1998, my daughter, who was a sophomore at Berkeley High, convinced us to allow her to go to the Alternative School for her junior year. Why? She explained that she was bored in her classes and very tired of the teachers having to spend so much of their time in class making kids be quiet and pay attention! 

We were very hesitant, but she argued that it was worth a try. So she want to see teachers for about one hour each week at the Alternative School; she did her assignments every day, which took her about an hour. She decided to get a part-time job at McKevitt Volvo in the office; she graduated and, with money she had saved from working, took herself to Europe for two months. She traveled all over, mostly by train. She’s now attending Evergreen College in Washington and working full-time. 

The point is, Alternative School can be great for smart kids, kids who need more attention, kids who could work part-time, kids who are already parents. It’s almost like private school, but way cheaper!  

Colleen McGrath 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you, Wolfgang Homburger (Letters, May 5) regarding the BART Plaza proposals. 

Which “people aren’t happy with what’s there”? 

Is the goal to make Berkeley a destination? Or to make it easier to pass through? 

What’s the benefit of these plans? What’s the cost in time, effort and money? 

How better could Berkeley spend this? Repairing our sewers, filling our potholes. 

Judy Nakadegawa 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In the face of high gas prices, we should discuss the simple fact that if every driver stays off the road 10 percent of his or her time, others will get to their destination faster and therefore save money in gas. Few things are more wasteful than sitting in traffic. 

Hank Chapot 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Judith Scherr’s May 5 article on the deputy director’s departure from the Berkeley Public Library does an excellent job of depicting the relationship between the Board of Library Trustees (BOLT) and our City Council. 

However, it states that the BOLT is “self-appointing.” To be technically correct, it should describe the BOLT as “self-nominating” since the city council bears the responsibility for confirming (or denying) those nominations. Because the Council has tended to rubber stamp the BOLT’s decisions, the net effect is much as the article indicates, with the Council’s degree of involvement aptly characterized as “practically none.” 

This distinction is important because it points out the conscious decision of at least a majority of the Council to back away from the Library and its problems. 

Are these the same people who will want to raise your Library Tax in June? Very likely. 

Jim Fisher 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have relentlessly derided the old Peace and Justice Commission and Councilmembers Maio, Worthington, and Spring, and the Daily Planet for bringing a radical anti-Israel agenda to Berkeley. Daily Planet Executive Editor Becky O’Malley, has called me boring for harping on this one theme (some of my detractors have called me much worse in these pages). I confess that O’Malley may, in part, be right. There may be more important issues in this world. Take Darfur. While I, and lots of other contributors to the Daily Planet, focus on the Israel/Palestine conflict, the Jewish community has achieved remarkable internal consensus (get out of Gaza and the West Bank unilaterally, and leave the Palestinians to fend for themselves) and moved on to Darfur. You see, Jews have this thing about genocide. They hate it, even when it is Arab Muslims slaughtering black Muslims. That is, even when it might otherwise be none of their business, they just hate it. Open any issue of the Bay Area Jewish newspaper, “The J,” and it is filled with articles about Darfur. Last week’s issue, typically, had four articles published under the following headlines: 


Darfur and Auschwitz 

Day of Consciousness for Darfur Rallies Bay Area Jews 

Lantos Arrested at Darfur Protest 

Sudanese [i.e., Darur] Refugees in Israel Face Uncertain Fate 


So how does Darfur stack up to the Palestine/Israel conflict? Israel has killed close to 4,000 Palestinians since the start of the second intifada in 2000, in a war they initiated, perpetuated, and could stop anytime they choose. The vast majority of these were combatants (during the same period, Palestinians have killed more than 1,000 Israelis, the vast majority of whom were civilians). In Darfur, about 50 times more blacks than this have been slaughtered, and almost all of them were helpless civilians. That’s right, 50 times as many blacks have been killed in Darfur as all of the deaths resulting from the second intifada. Think about that. Although, I have not rigorously counted the numbers, I think it would be fair to say that the Daily Planet has published at least 50 times more articles about Israel/Palestine than about Darfur, including, admittedly, a number of pieces by me.  

As a city, where are our priorities? Perhaps this city and this newspaper should unite behind a cause that all, but the hardest of heart among us, can support. Maybe Berkeley’s passionate supporters of Palestine and equally passionate supporters of Israel could even break bread on this one. 

John Gertz 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Everyone tracking issues regularly raised in the letters and opinion pieces of this paper should read and consider becoming a signatory to the Euston Manifesto: 

It begins: 

A. Preamble 

We are democrats and progressives. We propose here a fresh political alignment. Many of us belong to the Left, but the principles that we set out are not exclusive. We reach out, rather, beyond the socialist Left towards egalitarian liberals and others of unambiguous democratic commitment. Indeed, the reconfiguration of progressive opinion that we aim for involves drawing a line between the forces of the Left that remain true to its authentic values, and currents that have lately shown themselves rather too flexible about these values. It involves making common cause with genuine democrats, whether socialist or not.  

Thomas Lord 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

It’s that time of year once again. Sample ballots and absentee ballots for the June 6 election are appearing in mailboxes throughout Berkeley. One of the more mysterious races is unique in that no one but registered Democrats have a say. It’s the vote for the 14th Assembly District members of Alameda County’s Democratic Central Committee. Though it may sound like some offshoot of the old Soviet Union, in reality the County Central Committee is a coordinating body that is supposed to advance the Democratic Party’s cause, bring out the vote for Democrats, find candidates for higher office, and inform the state party leadership of opinions held by the grassroots in Alameda County. 

At present, the committee could use some new energy. One candidate, Karen Weinstein, is running to provide that. Karen has been voted in as co-chair of the United Democratic Campaign in Berkeley. She is a tireless and committed worker at these entirely unpaid, volunteer positions. She advocates year-round precinct organizing, so that ordinary citizens have ways to consider the issues and convey their views to elected officials. She will strive for a year-round campaign to register new voters. She also will press the county committee to seek out and encourage new people to run for office. 

Karen is a firm believer in bottom–up democracy, which is what she thinks energizes politics and makes government responsive. She is an active SEIU member, a NWPC member and a member of the local, progressive Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club. That posture informs her eagerness to get the Committee to express the views of county residents to higher ups and elected officials in the Democratic Party. That includes opposing the Iraq war, advancing health care for all through single-payer, battling for advances in workers’ pay and rights, as well as protecting women’s right to choose. 

Be sure to vote for Karen Weinstein! You’ll be glad you did. 

Michael H. Goldhaber