Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday June 06, 2006



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Whatever the conduct of the Oakland Police Department in chasing suspects may be, J. Douglas Allen-Taylor makes a fatal mistake in his criticism of the department by reframing the debate to make it appear that the police are responsible for the deaths of innocents in those chases (“Two More Innocent Bystanders Die in High Speed Chase,” June 2, 2006). He somehow manages to twist the facts—disputed as they are—to say that “. . . two innocent young people are dead and another is in critical condition in the hospital because the City of Oakland has decided that ‘blaring loud music’ is a serious offense. At least, it is in the sideshow zones of East Oakland.” 

At the end of the day, even for infractions as minor as playing music too loud from one’s car, our society operates on the predication that citizens, when pursued by the police, must comply. Does this assumption discredit the possibility that beat officers—and even command staff—enforce laws in an arbitrary fashion, profile suspects based on race, class and other factors, and treat certain communities as war zones, deserving of either neglect or brutal crackdowns? Absolutely not. Does it deny the rights of citizens to fight charges brought against them, to seek redress in the courts when the police abuse their authority? No. 

Just last week, I was pulled over by a BPD officer. Driving legally and under the speed limit, I did not know why I was being pulled over (it turned to be a fix-it ticket for faulty brake lights). Does Mr. Allen-Taylor really mean to suggest that if I had decided to run rather than pull over when the flashing lights appeared behind me and the siren “whooped,” I would somehow have been absolved of the consequences of my actions once the chase began, just because the police officer chasing me might not have been doing the right or legal thing? 

Make no mistake—when innocent people die because someone has decided to flee rather than comply when the police try to pull them over, there is only party responsible for those lost lives—the one who runs. 

Daniel Jimenez 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The West Berkleley Bowl project, as proposed, will bring more harm to the city than it will bring benefits. 

The City Council should reject the environmental impact report as prejudiced and inadequate. It starts with the unreasonable premise that the store, although near I-80, would not have a significant regional draw, and therefore arrives at the unreasonable conclusion that it would not have severe unmitigatable impacts on the intersection of 7th and Ashby. The EIR’s extreme underestimation of traffic congestion in that intersection is meant to mislead the public and the City Council as to the actual unmitigatable impacts: the enormous traffic jams that will harm many existing businesses, harm commuters, and harm the entire city. 

This project is much larger than any other supermarket in Berkeley. At the public hearing on June 11, I will urge Council to reject the proposal and to tell the applicant to resubmit it as a request for a zoning variance conditioned on the project scaled down to the size of Alternative C, which is in scale with Berkeley’s other supermarkets, and would cause commensurately less impact. 

The council should not change the zoning of the property. The industrial businesses of the area rely on the City to maintain a friendly environment, and to do this they need industrial zoning. West Berkeley is the only place in the city where industries and arts and crafts can exist. Their continued existence provides diversity and richness, and makes our economy strong. While much of America is closing and offshoring industry, Berkeley should be dancing to beat of a different drummer: instead of dismantling the zone parcel by parcel, we should instead be a leader in proactively planning an industrial zone for the 21st century. 

John Curl 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As one of many Berkeley citizens who care deeply about our town, our cultural treasures, and our future, I am requesting that you take a positive step on behalf of UC Berkeley students, faculty, and the entire city community by helping to keep Cody’s Bookstore on Telegraph Ave.  

Simply put, you can direct the UC Libraries to buy some portion of their books at Cody’s. Right now, as you may know, purchases are made through national book sources. This practice does nothing to support local businesses. 

There always is a symbiotic relationship between any university and the town in which it is established. The school needs the employees, public services and amenities of the surrounding community. The townpeople needs the jobs, the ambience, the cultural assets of the university. And students, especially, need the town for its offerings of bookstores, restaurants, movies, parks. It has always been this way—it’s a normal relationship. And the current contentious relationship between Berkeley town and gown needs some serious mending.  

Local business thrives from both communities. When the university withdraws any significant portion of its operating expenditures from the town, there is animosity, economic decline, and in this case, a significant loss of a cultural treasure. Since textbook stores sell only textbooks, a first-class book store is a learning opportunity where students, just blocks away, have the opportunity to browse the many gems of an extraordinary bookstore which offers not only the new books just out, but their authors who arrive 18 to 20 times a month to meet readers and potential readers. This is a valuable learning process for everyone. 

To some extent, every university within a small town is a “company town,” and that certainly is true in Berkeley. But the university’s recent policies of dominance and disdain for Berkeley citizens seem to be taking a leaf from the corporate goal of money uber alles. It is not an attitude conducive to good relationships. You have the power to repair that situation.  

If Cody leaves the Avenue, that area will be a much lesser event. We urge you to do your utmost to help the store stay where they have been for 50 years as a cultural icon.  

Joan Levinson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

How ’bout Stoney Burke’s Satire Hall of Fame idea for Cody’s!? With underground parking all the way to China. Personally, I would like to see it in the old KPFA/Eddie Bauer space. A nice little “lower Manhattanish” museum right at a BART stop. 

Arnie Passman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have sent the following letter to our President, Vice President, the First Lady, 50 Governors, 99 Senators, and 250 Representatives. Only about five have replied, all saying it was someone else’s department. No one cares. I know he can’t be the only one this is happening to.  


I am writing this letter because of something that happened last week. 

My son-in-law is Mexican. He has been married to my daughter for over six years. He has his A number and he has permission (or did have) to be in the U.S. He was in Tucson Arizona, when the police picked him up. He told them he had his A number, and had permission to be here. They told him they didn’t care; they put handcuffs on him and beat him. Finally, they put him across the border. He had to walk three days to get to his hometown.  

My grandkids, especially the eight- and seven-year-old keep asking when their dad is coming home. Do you have a good answer for them?  

What is he supposed to do now?  

He wasn’t supposed to be sent back there anyway, he was supposed to come back to his wife and kids. Are you going to let him back across as easily as the government threw him across to Mexico? 

I wrote a few people and no one has the guts to answer me or they just don’t give a damn. Is this how they are going to treat any of the Mexicans who become legal? If it is, why should they even bother to become legal in the first place? 

Thank you for any information you can give me. I would really like to see my son-in-law back home with his children where he belongs, he shouldn’t have been treated that away. He is a good decent family man. 

Kathy Charlton  


Ed. Note: If you have any ideas, we’ll forward them on to Ms. Charlton. 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

One would like to believe that the Berkeley Public Library Trustees are just as concerned with fact as fiction. However, Library Trustee Chair Kupfer’s Op. Ed. (”Berkeley Public Library is still a vibrant institution”, Planet 5/23-25/06) suggests otherwise, being filled with fiction: 

Fiction 1. “. . . library is on sound fiscal footing . . . There is an operating surplus for fiscal 2006”.  

The Library Fund Forecast In the 5/23/06 City Council Budget Packet shows a projected annual shortfall for 2006 of $479,703. The Library Finance Manager in  

her 4/19/06 report stated “the Berkeley Public LIbrary has a structural deficit caused by growing expenditures which are outpacing revenue . . . the Library cannot grow out of the structural deficit by adding more revenue. . .” 

Fiction 2. “. . . conflicts between staff and management . . . are personnel matters involving specific individuals . . .” 

64 percent or almost two-thirds of the Library’s employees have signed a statement of no confidence as follows: “We find the management of the Berkeley Public Library as provided by Library Director Jackie Griffin, to be a liability for the organization and a misuse of the public trust”. (Planet 4/21-24/06) 

Fiction 3. “. . . community feedback is being sought on a variety of proposed initiatives.”  

What initiatives and how is feedback being sought? 

Fiction 4. RFID “is . . . an attempt to eliminate repetitive injury of front desk staff, ease processing of increased limits on checkouts . . .” 

The repetitive injury is the Library Director’s and now a Library Trustee’s repetition of a totally discredited basis for RFID. Director Griffin told the Trustees in Dec. 2003 that there were $1 million in Workers Compensation claims for the past 5 years mostly due to repetitive stress injuries. Actually the total RSI claims for the 5 years were $167,871, and there is no evidence those were caused by bar code scanners. (See “RFID Should be Cancelled Immediately”, Planet 3/4-7/05) 

In the spring of 2005 a Library Manager touted the alleged ability of RFID self checkout machines to check out a large stack of books, CDs, DVDs all at once. Now patrons are instructed to place only one item at a time on the machine. Also patrons are asked to bring DVDs, CDs and videos to a library employee at the desk for checkout. 

Fiction 5. “RFID . . . can be impemented without invading our privacy rights . . .” 

The ACLU’s and Electronic Frontier Foundation’s vigorous campaigns against RFID suggest otherwise. They believe RFID contributes to an evolving Surveillance Society. Also see “The End of Privacy? a chip that could track your every move”, Consumer Reports (June, 2006, p.33).  

Gene Bernardi 


Berkeleyans Organizing for Library Defense  

Corrine Goldstick 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Here is a correction to the letter from Alan Collins published on 2 June. Cody’s building is not owned by Andy Ross. He has the same landlord that we had 29 years ago and pays a high rent. 

Pat Cody 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

So Ignacio De La Fuente considers Ron Dellums a “dreamer,” eh? Well, that’s not so unusual, especially when you consider that every living thing has been known to do that every now and then, from the earliest embryo to come into existence to those of us walking around today, whether dreaming of surviving a good long life, finding food, shelter, and heat, or liberating oneself from oppressive conditions (or persons), or founding promised lands of all sorts (our own U.S.A., for example). 

Dreams are a spark from which many things can and have come about—one might hazard a guess that De La Fuente himself has dreamed quite a few times, be it of leading a union, or becoming a city councilmember, or president of a board(!)—or even being head schoolhouse bully. 

Everyone has dreams; it’s part of maintaining one’s life and sanity to dream of better days and ways and of, as another “dreamer” Jesse Jackson put it, “keeping hope alive.” Those who dismiss or destroy dreams (or dreamers) are essentially schoolhouse bullies—and we have far too many of those in charge of things already (a big factor in the high proliferation of bullying referred to by P.R. Price [June 2-5]). 

Garrett Murphy 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I enjoyed Bob Burnett’s fine article on Al Gore and I intend to see the movie, An Inconvenient Truth. However there is one error in the article which should be corrected. He states “Of course, in the alternative universe where Gore won the 2000 election, 9/11 would still have happened”. 

I don’t think 9/11 would have ever happened. When President Gore was informed by the CIA briefing that Al Qaeda was about to launch attacks on American cities by airplane, he would have immediately picked up the phone and told the heads of all the airlines to instruct their pilots to keep the cockpit doors locked at all times. 

The hijackers could not have got into the cockpit. They didn’t have guns. Anyway, the FBI man sitting in front of the plane, sent by President Gore, would have wrestled the hijacker to the floor. In case a hijacking happened anyway, President Gore would have let NORAD do its job and fighter jets would have chased down the plane. 

The World Trade Center would still be standing. There would be no PATRIOT act, no war in Afghanistan or Iraq, and certainly no War Without End. Of course, Saddam would still be abusing the Iraqi people, just as the Bahdar Brigade is now doing in Iraq; the Taliban would still be abusing Afghan women, just as the U.S.-backed warlords are doing now. The hideous dictator of Uzbekistan would still be boiling people alive, as he is still doing, the Burmese junta would still be mistreating its own people, and Israel would still be abusing the Palestinians. It would not be a perfect world. 

However, the reputation of American would not be in shreds, and most Americans would still believe that their country had a future. 

Dolores Plumb 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I just saw the movie An Inconvenient Truth. It is an excellent production.  

It’s ironic that Gore, who “lost” the 2000 election, is now showing  

the leadership on global warming what we should be getting from Bush. Instead, Bush is trying to build religious intolerance into the constitution with his marriage amendment. Some of the religious right say that Katrina was divine punishment for allowing gay marriage. Will they see a message from God when the sea level rises all over the planet?  

Gore says he has been discouraged by widespread ignorance and denial about global warming. The movie makes it clear that carbon dioxide is climbing and the warming is happening. We may see a sudden rise in sea level, in the next five years. We’ll get a surge if a few chunks of shelf ice the size of Rhode Island break off and encounter a patch of heated sea water. The extra fresh water will also alter ocean currents; the California coast could lose its coolant.  

Meanwhile, Exxon-Mobil will keep on making money and paying for its propaganda. And most Americans will keep on paying Exxon whatever it asks for gas. Meanwhile, Berkeleyans will continue to ignore the TDM study, which called for a “modest mode shift” from cars to transit. 

Berkeley is one of the cities which ratified Kyoto but Berkeley keeps on favoring the car culture: Parking first! No dedicated bus lanes for the BRT! Maybe we’ll get serious about cutting emissions when the waves start lapping over the feet of the Marina’s guardian statue. If you see the movie, you’ll see that the sea could really rise that much. 

Steve Geller 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Oppose the federal marriage amendment.  

The constitution of the United States must not be amended to allow discrimination against our gay-born children. To do this is to criminalize the most beautiful document that our founder fathers created. “Freedom and equality for all citizens of the United States.”  

We do not know why our children are gay. Whether it is genetic, hormonal, or whether something occurs during the critical time of fetal development, we do not know. What we mothers can tell you with absolute certainty is that it is inborn. Millions of children were born, are being born and will be born sexually different. It can happen in any family and there is no choice involved.  

Homosexuals like all human beings need companionship. They have the right to marry and live a happy life of equality, respect and love, as much as any other citizen. If God did not want the existence of homosexuality, he would not have created it. The fact is, homosexuality exists in every sector of society, in all professions and trades. Even in the animal kingdom.  

We parents and relatives of our gay children have sat in silence with our hearts bleeding as we saw our children being harassed, persecuted, killed, injured and discriminated because they had the misfortune of being born sexually different. Also, we have seen the agony of our gay children wanting to be sexually normal, and their pain when they face the reality of their sexuality in their adolescent years—some committing suicide, others faking being straight to avoid harassment and discrimination, others trying to change into a sexuality that belongs in their physical bodies but not in their inner self, only to suffer silently at their futile attempts.  

Marina Vasquez  

Mother of a gay son 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I hear there is a proposal to require credentialing for pre-school caregivers. We all believe in credentialing, but we need to know what skill is most important for pre-school caregivers: that is sensitivity to the unspoken needs of a child. 

The second most important skill is the heart to give a child open attention even when the caregiver is stressed or worn out. The desire to reach out to the community for support is another important skill. 

Along with these skills, the pre-school caregiver certainly needs to know the developmental stages of the child and tested techniques for providing children challenges and opportunities. But the ability to make a child feel secure is essential. Pre-school caregivers should be selected not only on the basis of their credentials but also for their capacity for nourishing human relations. 

Romila Khanna 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In their respective May 26 letters, both David M. Wilson and John Blankenship (”Correcting Chris” and “Condo Response”) criticize me for suggesting that a coordinated, “calibrated campaign” is now underway seeking to dismantle Berkeley’s long-established condominium conversion public policy. 

With all due respect to both gentleman, rather than using the term “calibrated campaign”, perhaps “interesting coincidence” would have been more appropriate: two pro-conversion commentaries published several weeks apart in the Daily Planet, and then the recent launch of a pro-conversion ballot measure petition campaign.  

Reasonable people may disagree, but this series of above events strikes me, again, as a very interesting coincidence. 

The proposed ballot measure would allow the annual conversion of hundreds and hundreds of existing affordable rental units across Berkeley into condominiums. 

In a complaint directed at me, Mr. Blankenship states that he does “not belong to the Berkeley Property Owners Association (BPOA)”. At absolutely no point in my May 23 letter did I state that Mr. Blankenship is a BPOA member. 

I stated only that Mr. Blankenship’s op-ed commentary happened to appear at the same time as the recent launch of a pro-conversion petition campaign that includes individuals belonging to or associated with BPOA members. 

Chris Kavanagh 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Has anybody seen the speed limit sign on Colusa Ave in the Thousand Oaks area of Berkeley. Some enterprising individual has whited out the S and the D. It now reads “Pee Limit 25mph”  

I know the city of Berkeley is fanatic about regulating our lives, but this exceeds our personal limits of tolerance. Perhaps the city, in its wisdom, after careful study and environmental impact reviews in the costs of thousands of dollars, believes that individuals can actually pee at a rate of between 20 and 25 mph. I personally think these studies must be flawed and through personal experience and observation, at no cost to the taxpayers I might add, believe there is no individual whose flow can exceed 3mph.  

Another concern I have is enforcement. Who, among city staff, would want the task of enforcing this ordinance? I imagine there would be a high employee turnover rate and an unusually large amount of workers compensation claims. One can only imagine the nature of such claims.  

Has the Creeks Ordinance Committee even bothered to look into the significant impact such a flow might have on our creeks and waterways? Have they even considered the financial impact and limitations on property owners if one is not allowed to build within a certain distance of such a flow? And, of course, where are our concerns for the wildlife, the birds and fish, upstream and downstream?  

I do feel comforted that some enterprising nonprofit developer, who wants a free land grab gift from the city of Berkeley, will set up some sort of ecological or urological nonprofit corporation for the public good, throw in some public housing for the downtrodden, burden the taxpayers of Berkeley to pay for this generosity, and tell us we don’t really need a place to park our cars.  

Since I have not seen the pee limit signs anywhere else in Berkeley, I must assume that the city, after careful deliberation, decided that the residents of the Thousand Oaks area of the city are a more rebellious lot and need far more regulation than the more law abiding citizens of our other districts. I’ve even heard it rumored that the city is planning to seize all property along Colusa Avenue under eminent domain to insure that it will be a pee free zone. I can only hope these rumors are false.  

Remember folks, if you are pissed off, don’t be, its regulated.  

Paul M. Schwartz  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It was relatively quiet here in the San Pablo Park neighborhood across from the field where Berkeley High School practices and plays its home games. 

It seems the same coach that was here Thursday (5/25) at 1:20 p.m. is back this morning at 10:45 a.m. on the Memorial Day holiday pitching batting practice to several young men who bear a strong resemblance to members of the BHS baseball team. 

In an opinion piece published in The Berkeley Daily Planet on 5/19. In that article the head coach of the BHS team represented that “. . . San Pablo Park is a public park which our teams are generously allowed to use between the hours of 4 and 7 p.m. in the afternoon from February through May. Any activity that occurs on that field outside of those hours is not associated with Berkeley High School.” 

The fact is that such appearances, at various times during the day and on weekends, is fairly typical. 

But then, I’m sure there’s a perfectly logical explanation. 

Neil Cook 






Editors, Daily Planet: 

A few nights ago, May 25, the Zoning Adjustments Board did their customary rubber stamping on two of three cell tower applications. A total of 17 antennae were approved for the top of the Bekins Storage building at 2721 Shattuck, which already has at a few. Although the building is zoned commercial, the immediate area—excluding the strip of commercial buildings along Shattuck—is predominantly residential. My sympathies go out to those folks living in the shadow of this radiation hot zone. My hope is that neighbors will appeal this decision to the City Council and mount the kind of resistance brought forth by the St. Ambrose neighborhood.  

Much, if not most, of the public comment revolved around fears of the health effects of cell towers, but ZAB as a group were uninterested, claiming the familiar copout that their hands were tied because of the FCC rule that bars municipalities from denying a cell tower application on the basis of environmental considerations. They were determinedly unfamiliar or uninterested in the Supreme Court ruling of early last year that protects cities from legal damages for “WRONGFULLY” denying (i.e. for health and safety reasons) cell tower applications.  

Another no-fly zone in the heads of ZAB commissioners, as well as Berkeley City staff, is the well-established California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) concept of “cumulative impact.” It was briefly noted that by staff and ZAB’s current appraisal methods there is no cutoff as to the number of cell towers allowable in Berkeley, so full speed ahead and cumulative impacts be damned.  

BUT, in what I believe is a landmark decision, the ZAB denied the application for three antennae atop the steeple of St. Ambrose Church on Gilman St. The ZAB based their decision on the fact that this area is zoned as residential.  

My congratulations to the neighbors of St. Ambrose Church as well as my hope that, should the decision be appealed to City Council, they will again prevail. I think the potential public relations debacle for AT&T Wireless makes that a strong possibility.  

I also hope that they offer their stunningly well co-coordinated efforts in support of the neighbors of Bekins Storage on Shattuck. This is a city wide issue. Perhaps one day the many disparate neighborhoods will coalesce into one large irresistible political force to—yes I know it’s but a dream—prevent future towers and remove of existing ones.  

Power to the People. 

Peter Teichner