Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday May 30, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

The City Council should withdraw the Caltrans grant application and rescind the SBNDC contract. This is the only responsible action based on what we heard last week from BART official Jeff Ordway. At last week’s meeting we learned that the Flea Market lease agreement is binding until such time that BART requires the west lot for a transit purpose. Without support for the project from the Flea Market there is no basis for discussion with the larger community. The task force and the community should recognize this and respect the Flea Market rights. We have no business considering potential development until such an agreement is made between the project director and the SOBA with the Flea Market board of directors. This is a futile and fraudulent process with the very real potential of damaging an already fragmented community. 

The only question left to answer is why is SOBA, the South Berkeley area (SBNDC, Ed Church, Max Anderson and the city) pushing this project? 

The City Council acted prematurely on misinformation from the grant applicants. Council members stated their support was contingent on the Flea Market considering relocating and alleged changes to BART replacement parking policy. Neither is true. 

In the city’s planning department initial report, the alternative to the SOBA partnership was for the city to work with the community on a vision and  

apply for the grant next year. With such a reasonable alternative available, what will it take to put a stop to this train wreck? 

Laura Menard 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I would like to call the attention of your readers to some recent developments at Berkeley High School. A few weeks ago, one of my young neighbors was assaulted by a large group of teenagers in downtown Berkeley. I have since found out that this was not an isolated incident and that there have been a number of unprovoked and random attacks taking place in and around the Berkeley High campus. My heart sank when I learned of these incidents. 

In the late 1960s, my children were brutalized by just such attacks at Berkeley High. Finding it impossible to get protection, or in fact any action at all from school authorities, we transferred our daughters to private schools. Two sons opted to stick it out at Berkeley High, out of concern about private school costs. Years later they confided that they felt sick with fear at some point every day. They became adept at finding safe routes through the school, they learned to walk with friends; in short, they learned how to survive. We breathed a sigh of relief when they finished high school. 

Now, thirty-five years later, I learn that the violence continues, and that the response of school officials is much the same as it was in the 1960s. Like that earlier time, children who are hurt are afraid to come forward with names of their attackers (as was pointed out in an article in the most recent issue of the Berkeley High PTSA Newsletter). 

The current policy by high school administrators not to talk about these incidents is not the answer. The school claims that violence numbers are down each of the past several years, but refuses to discuss them. In fact, several of the mothers of the children who have been assaulted recently had a surprisingly difficult time even getting the school to agree to meet with them. 

The police need to break up the gangs milling around the Shattuck BART station and around the perimeter of the BHS campus and stop minimizing the severity of the attacks that go on every week. 

On a positive note, my grandson attends an elementary school with a no-violence policy. What has happened in Berkeley that this policy does not extend to older children, whose risks are greater, and whose injuries are much more serious, even life-threatening? 

Let’s insist on a viable alternative for these troubled youngsters, away from the students that they have been preying on, that will attend to their critical needs and help them to succeed. 

Gloria Pihl 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

We face many problems, personal, social, ecological. Our careless and wasteful way of life is using up resources that cannot be replaced. Here in the United States we use far more than our share of the world’s resources—yet even here many are very poor and elsewhere there is great poverty and suffering. Many of us are lonely, anxious, despairing, often seeking distractions to avoid these frustrations. 

We need extensive change, both personal and social, to develop a more satisfying way of life that would include economic security for all, meaningful work, real community, real action to protect and restore our environment. However, we don’t have to wait for large-scale social change—we can begin by making changes in our own lives and situations, seeking companions who share our concerns We can live simply and frugally, sharing whatever we can. We can educate ourselves and one another about social and ecological problems and possible solutions. We can develop support groups, co-ops, and intentional communities. We can help each other develop an open-hearted, adventurous, loving way of life. Such personal and small-scale changes can be satisfying and valuable in themselves and can contribute greatly to wider social change. 

I hope for response. You can e-mail me at 

Arthur Gladstone 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

A “smart growth” advocate is best defined as someone who:  

a) Favors the construction of small, cramped housing units that they themselves would never consider living in.  

b) Is against allowing urban residents to have views of sky or trees or open space.  

c) Drives a car, but doesn’t want anybody else to own or drive one.  

d) Thinks city planning works best when citizens are excluded from the planning process.  

e) Continues to claim that infill development leads to a decrease in the amount of housing built in the suburbs—even though statistics show this is not true. (In fact, 90 percent of all new housing is still built in the suburbs.)  

f) All of the above.  

Please e-mail your answer to Mayor Tom Bates at I’m sure he will want to compile the results and report back to us in his next “Bates Update.”  

Doug Buckwald 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

We have a solid and effective foundation for protecting riparian areas in the Berkeley Creeks Task Force recommendations and these recommendations should be approved by the City Council on Tuesday, May 30.  

It is obvious by the mistakes made in the past that channelizing, rocking, culverting and building up to the edge of creeks are not a safe or logical means of controlling flooding and erosion on our creeks— rather, they exacerbate problems when homes sink into decaying culverts and foundations crack because they are built on creekbeds. 

This is no way to manage a precious natural resource, much less a resource populated by a threatened species. It is also no way to protect the residents of our city, who are frightened and angry because they can no longer be assured that their most valuable possesions—their homes—are safe. 

This city needs adequate protections and riparian buffers so that our riparian corridors can flourish and our homeowners will someday not have to worry about erosion and flooding. Do not allow structures to be built in the floodplains of creeks, and there will be no flood damage. Do not allow structures to be built on top of culverts, and there will be no lawsuits.  

We cannot erase what mistakes have already been made. But we can prevent them from happening and allow homeowners already in the unfortunate situation of being too close to a creek or on top of a culvert to have the same rights as any other homeowner, with the exception of building into the creek corridor. There is a balance, and it is the city’s responsibility to be the voice of reason and enforce that balance with integrity and equity. Otherwise, Berkeley will be nothing but another city full of crumbling infrastructure, that had the opportunity to protect its creeks and its people, and instead did nothing. 

I ask the mayor and City Council to please support the Creek Task Force’s recommendations in full. 

Kristen Van Dam 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Contrary to Conn Hallinan’s opinion, the United States and Britain were quite right to provide modern armaments to the Nepalese army in its fight against Maoist guerrillas. The Maoists are reminiscent of the Sendero Luminoso rebels of Peru. Similar to the Shining Path, the Nepalese Maoists have murdered both village headmen and school teachers in their attempt to purge “Western class degradation” from the peasantry. And given the rate of illiteracy and true poverty in the Nepalese countryside, the Maoists’ violence and indoctrination have resulted in considerable support from a rural populace vulnerable to pie-in the-sky socialist rhetoric because they have so little.  

The Nepalese peasantry who support the guerrillas may not realize the horrific straits they are inviting. But most of the Nepalese intelligentsia does. Having rightfully deposed from absolute power an inept and avaricious monarch, the Nepalese democratic movement is—thanks to the aforementioned armaments provided by the West—now in a position to rid the countryside of the Maoist scourge. 

As for Iran, I’m surprised that old Marxist comrade Conn would justify a dangerous theocracy’s development of nuclear weaponry. Well, I guess when it comes to lefties like Hallinan, any regime which castigates the United States is worth defending, no matter how odious the tyranny. 

Dan Spitzer 






Editors, Daily Planet: 

The May 26 editorial “Remembering the Cost of War” was incisive and true—until the last sentence. 

The easy thing would be to leave it to the political process that has served to keep the plutocrats in power. Since the 2000 election, it should be clear that those in power won’t yield power; as far as they are concerned, they are the only legitimate rulers here, and the rest of the world must bow down to them, too. Don’t expect them to honor—or even allow—any election that might depose them. Whatever it takes—crooked voting machines, insufficient voting machines, purging voter rolls, or canceling elections—they’ll help “God” keep them in power.  

The Democrats are pretty slavish in their support of the Republican agenda; witness its leadership’s reluctance to discuss impeachment, though it’s a popular idea; witness 

What it will take is a movement in the streets that forces the administration to step down.  

Robert Gruber 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Kris Martinsen’s May 16 anti-Israel heatmail provides perfect proof of the old adage that those who don’t read are no better off than those who can’t. 

Kris clearly hasn’t read Yitschak Ben Gad’s Politics, Lies and Videotape, which details: the nine-decade violent opposition of Arabs to the presence of Jews in what is now Israel; the seven-decade rejection by Arabs of proposals for peaceful co-existence with a Jewish Israel; the non-existence of “Palestinians” prior to the Arab defeat in the 1967 war; and the virulent anti-Jewish foundation of the PLO covenant. 

Kris also is obviously uninterested in reading the Arab media posting available by free subscription at, which as recently posted the Hamas covenant declaring all of Israel to be sacred Muslim land that no infidel has a right to; and an interview with a Hamas official supporting that view. 

It’s clear, too, that Kris has read things I have not. Given that Israel has the best record in the Middle East on free speech, women’s rights, freedom of worship, environmental issues, and medical aid to Africa, perhaps Kris can explain why, if not for anti-Jewish rage, so many leftwingers fulminate against the Jewish state of Israel. 

David Altschul 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am a longtime Berkeley resident (since 1989) who owns a rental property (my former residence) beside Strawberry Creek in Berkeley, at 1435 Allston Way. I am the founder and former president of Friends of Strawberry Creek, and have served on the Board of Directors of Greenbelt Alliance since 2002. Please note that I speak for myself and not these organizations. 

I am writing to express my strong support for the recommendations of the Berkeley Creeks Task Force. I ask the mayor, City Council, Planning Commission, etc., to please accept these as is and not accept any amendments that would undermine the integrity of the task force’s effort. I think they are a reasonable compromise that balances the needs of creekside property owners with efforts to restore and improve our local watershed resources. 

I am especially interested in seeing the city finally fund and hire a citywide watershed coordinator.  

Janet Byron