Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday June 09, 2006



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Your recent article on summer activities for Berkeley teens omitted one very important resource. The Berkeley Public Library’s database of local organizations and services, the Berkeley Information Network (BIN), can help teens easily locate organizations needing volunteers or summer camps or plenty of other entertaining summertime activities.  

Check out the library’s website at and click on Berkeley Information Network (or the link for Community Organizations). Enter the subject “volunteer” and you’ll find over 100 local organizations that seek help. Or enter “summer camps” for details on 65 nearby camps for teens and over 100 for children. And there’s lots of information on local sports and recreation possibilities, plus local museums, parks, bookstores, and fairs.  

If you don’t have internet access at home, come to the Central Berkeley Public Library or your neighborhood branch library for information, or call the BIN at 981-6166.  

Jane Scantlebury  

BIN Coordinator  





Editors, Daily Planet: 

In your recent issues Michael Katz has informed us of the many ways our city’s planners and politicians are closing streets, building “busways,” and eliminating parking in the downtown and along Telegraph Avenue. But while this is going on, our planners and politicians are ignoring the greatest peril of all: the Cancerous Car Concentration on 4th Street. Not only can cars drive and park on 4th Street, but behind the shops are free parking lots. The result? Hundreds of yuppies are invading our city, recklessly spending money on books at the other Cody’s, lattes at Peets, meat at Cafe Rouge, bibelots at the Gardner, and bargains at Crate & Barrel, thoughtlessly leaving sales tax in their wake as they drive away. Surely our city can save this part of town as well. Fourth Street is narrow but could be striped for bus-only and bike lanes if all parking were removed. Developers are waiting to convert the parking lots into five-story apartments with a proper compliment of them accessible to “low” income. With only a little effort this part of town can soon match Shattuck and Telegraph avenues. What is the city waiting for?  

Christopher Adams 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As Michael Katz states, an AC bus line lane though Telegraph is ludicrous: you would breathe the fumes. His example of a functioning cool neighborhood in Philadelphia is a starting point for a vision of a Telegraph that would make Berkeley proud. And, for success, parking must be a part of this vision.  

Al Geyer 




Editors, Daily Planet: Michael Katz’s May 30 opinion piece, “Downtown Will Be Berkeley’s Next BART Fiasco,” stated that the bike parking at the Civic Center Garage is “attended.” But is it? Or is it just that the bike parking is located within sight of the garage parking attendant? 

Truly attended bike parking involves a human being taking responsibility for the security of the bicycles involved. As I understand it, the Civic Center Garage does nothing of the sort. It’s park at your own risk. 

A bike rack within sight of a auto parking attendant is not my idea of truly secure bike parking. The Berkeley BART bike station does provide secure parking and doesn’t absolve itself of all responsibility if a theft or loss—an extremely unlikely possibility—does occur. 

Individual bike lockers also provide adequate secure parking for bicycles. Bicycle racks, however close they are to a garage attendant, have their place, but are inherently less secure than lockers or true attended bike parking,  

Scott Mace 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Ten days ago I encountered two petition-circulators for the proposed ordinance relating to condo conversions and terminating basic rent control protection in Berkeley. One was a group at a card-table at the Berkeley Bowl, the other a single young man (who said he was paid, when asked) at Andronico’s (Acton and University). Neither petitioner included a (required) copy of the ordinance, neither would provide a name and address of the source of the petition or a place where more information could be obtained, both displayed summaries of the ordinance that omitted its provisions relating to rent control, and the group at Berkeley Bowl flatly and specifically misrepresented these provisions verbally and also misrepresented the current status of rent control as the proposed ordinance bears on it.  

If this isn’t illegal it ought to be. What proportion of the signatures on the petitions filed were thus fraudulently obtained, one wonders? 

The proposed ordinance is itself decepetive, concealing the end of fundamental Berkeley rent control protections within the Trojan Horse of a supposed boon to condo buyers. The device itself confesses the bad faith of the proposal’s authors, who prefer to remain unidentified, at least by the two petition circulators I encountered. And I can certainly understand why. 

Jim Powell 




Editors, Daily Planet: Damn, Democrats are dumb! We offer California two WWMs (weaselly white males), one a developer’s flunky and the other a techie who job-hopped until he hit the jackpot, who then savaged each other until they both look like roadkill next to Ahnold. My private fantasy: given the state’s penchant for Hollywood politicos, the obvious choice should have been Allison Janney - tall, commanding, energetic. I can hear the slogan now: C.J. for Governor—THRIVE!  

Jerry Landis 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am a recent (one year) resident of Berkeley, and I appreciate access to reading this paper, especially Douglas Allen-Taylor. Another of my favorites is the Friday garden article. 

I would like to share my opinion about the June 20 article “The Place to Look for Unusual Garden Tools.” I would like to make a suggestion that in the future the writer and editors consider the audience they are writing to. As a person of part Asian descent i was surprised at some choice of words : esoteric, obscure, clever, kinky, cheap. I have found Hida Tools to be exquisite, well designed, carefully crafted and of good value. I have also found the people at Hida helpful to answer any questions I had about tools I am not familiar with. I ask you to consider if there is some unaware race/cultural bias. 

May Kandarian 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Last week a dear friend was hit by a car and thrown from his wheelchair while crossing the street, even though he had a green light and was in a crosswalk. This was the third time he had been hit in the Southside area, even though he only crosses major streets at signalized intersections and is extremely wary of approaching vehicles. 

I do a lot of walking in the North Oakland/Berkeley area, and I have learned to avoid crossing in front of waiting vehicles unless I have made eye contact with the driver, yet I have had dozens of near misses, one of which included feeling the rubber bumper brushing my calf and the driver entirely unaware that I was there. 

The problem is that defensive driving is not enough. A defensive driver is only looking out for vehicles as large and powerful as his own. What about the pedestrians, strollers, bicycles, pushcarts, and wheelchairs, which are smaller and more vulnerable and have to use the same roadway? 

Things have gotten so bad that nothing less than the level of public awareness campaign that has so greatly reduced smoking will make the streets safe for all who use them. Every entity on the road needs to be aware of all the other users, no matter how large or small, no matter how powerful or fragile. Sidewalk encroachments and obstruction violations need to be enforced, so that wheelchairs, strollers, and pushcarts do not have to detour into the street. Construction detours need to provide safe alternate routes for pedestrian traffic, bearing in mind that bus riders and others may need to be on a particular side of the street. 

One way to beat the rising price of gas is to encourage more people to walk, cycle, and use public transportation, but if the streets are not safe for those who are not sheltered by their personal metal bubbles, more and more cars will continue to fill the roads.  

Marcella Murphy 




Editors, Daily Planet: Regarding the Article “Free Tutoring Become Big Business in Public School” by Suzanne La Barre. For most parents who have search the maze of tutoring services provided by public schools, the story only touches on this complex issue. Tutoring service and the amount of monies allocated vary from county to county and school to school. The reasons for choosing services play a key role in the cost and fee for said service. For parents whose children fall within the No Child Left Behind and/or attend a school that have been named as Needs to Improve, there are a many choices. However, the funding is limited to a maximum of two years, when using services outside your public school.  

For a list of the tutors, start by going to the website, Click the “Parent” link, and scroll through the link to Options for parents guidelines for the services provided through No Child Left Behind. 

There is also a link that lists services provided by state. This link gives you a map of the U.S., where you then click CA, after which a county or school district link is then given. From there information and programs can be found for the school your child attends. 

Other options include the use of academic summer programs which can cost the same as a tutoring program for parent who are paying full price or sliding scale fees. Such programs include the Cal State East Bay program for children ages four years through high school and the Summer Young Writer Camps for middle-school children. 

A Charlene Matthews 





Editors, Daily Planet: In his commentary opposing AC Transit’s proposal to implement BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) on Telegraph Ave, Mr. Katz says—with approbation, I presume: “I can tell you that on South St. (Philadelphia commercial district) you’ll find: Cars, cars, cars on the street. Parking, parking, parking at the curb...” 

Mr. Katz has ignored an important bonus of transit oriented development on Telegraph, i.e. a reduction in pollution, congestion, and carbon dioxide emissions. A passenger on a bus produces one half the CO2 emissions per mile as a passenger in an automobile according to the American Public Transportion Association (“Conserving Energy and Preserving the Air We Breathe” (  

We can no longer afford to debate the merits of the automobile vs. transit. The threats from global warming make it urgent that urban planners make a reduction in CO2 emissions a top priority and this means finding a way to integrate transit into all urban designs in such a way as to reduce automobile travel. 

Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are now higher than at any time in the last 650,000 years. According to the National Resources Defense Council report “Global Warming and the Golden State,” increased CO2 levels will be responsible for the following changes in California: 

1. More precipitation will fall as rain than as snow, increasing the risk of floods. 

2. There will be a shorter snow season because snowfall will start later and snow will melt earlier. 

3. With less snow in the mountains, there will be less fresh water available in the summer, when it is most needed. 

4. Sea levels will rise, threatening low-lying communities and the many species that rely on California’s rich wetland ecosystems. 

5. Warmer coastal waters could cut of the supply of nutrients to California’s marine ecosystems, with harmful effects on the state’s ocean economy. 

Report can be downloaded from 

Transit is also important to older Americans: more than one in five (21%) Americans age 65 and older do not drive. 

I urge Mr. Katz to reconsider his opposition to BRT. 

Leonard Conly 




Editors, Daily Planet: This is an appreciation note to many of my North-Central Berkeley neighbors. Since my cat Spike went missing a month ago, I’ve received phone calls almost every day, responding to my posters with possible sightings or useful suggestions, including contacting Berkeley’s Animal Care facility, where staff and volunteers have also been helpful and kind. 

The only negative event was when some students of M. L. King School thought it would be amusing to phone me with a purported play-by-play of trying to catch Spike, only to see him hit by a car. This turned out to be bogus. 

His brother Butch is still grieving. I haven’t give up; Spike’s sturdy and kind people in this neighborhood (centered on Lincoln and McGee) set out food for cats, and there are fountains, etc. where he could get water. I think he’s making it out there, and just doesn’t know how to find his way home. He’s a long, lean grey and black tabby with very pronounced stripes on his face and back. If spotted, please call 548-1206. 

Dick Bagwell 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

My apologies to MICHAEL Katz for getting his name wrong in my letter. (I was taking Mr Katz to task for errors of fact and a gross mischaracterization of my father’s enthusiasm for the David Brower Center.) I had his LAST name wrong in a draft of my letter, which just goes to show it’s a good thing I’m a professor (where my written work is carefully scrutinized) not a journalist, who, writing for the Planet at least, can say pretty much anything that pops into his head. 

Barbara Brower 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In your June 6-8 2006 issue of the Daily Planet I was delighted and also saddened to read the letter to the editor “Public Libray” by Gene Bernardi. I am in total agreement with Mr. Bernardi’s note on the fictional success of the BPL and their inexpert, incompetent Director Jackie Griffin and her management of the BPL. While visiting North Branch last week, I noticed only two library assistants work there. When I worked there from 1989 to 1994, there were four of us and we worked our fingers to the bone: has the patronage of this libray lessened so much in the last 12 years? I think not.  

Furthermore, the visitations of a small number of teenagers have required patrons to request a security guard to deter this group of intractable and rude teenagers—a situation that never occured when there were more staff there as well as a teenage librarian, where today there is not thanks to Jackie Griffin. The 64 percent of the BPL staff that signed the Statement of No Confidence have company in the general public, to whom Ms. Griffin is also answerable. “We” are still watching you, Ms. Griffin, and your grade is still “F”. Do us a favor, Ms. Griffin, and Leave BPL. 

If the BPL is seeking an (over-qualified) replacement for Ms. Griffin, I can think of no one better than a certain library technician currently at West Branch whose exemplary spirit and knowledge of BPL would place BPL back where it belongs—in the hands of qualified librarians and technicians and assistants whose dedication to Berkeley and its bibliophiles would return to us what we have lost in the hands of a director whose lack of confidence is approaching that of another inept director, President George W. Bush. 

Mark K. Bayless 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The treatment of the Peruvian presidential election is indicative of the media’s manipulation of public perception. Two weeks ago the NY Times purveyed an article suggesting that if Alan Garcia beat out Ollanta Humala in Peru the cause would be the “intervention” of Venezuela’s leftist President, Hugo Chavez. Chavez endorsed Humala. Associated Press, June 5, ran with Alan Garcia’s victory chant that “Peruvians had sent an overwhelming message Sunday to Chavez that they wanted no part of the ‘strategy of expansion of a militaristic, retrograde model that he has tried to impose in South America.’”  

That’s all b.s. I visited Peru in September before Humala appeared out of nowhere. His rejection by many urban Peruvians was fairly predictable. Humala is from a military family which has advocated imprisonment of gays and killing of opponents. Peruvians had seen enough horrors from both sides during the Sendero Luminoso (shining path) period, including severe corruption and a dirty war of terror by their government. Humala scared them, and Garcia used the Chavez endorsement to increase fears. But Chavez is immensely popular in the region. He does not represent the militaristic politics that Garcia or the US claim. He has instead supported the education, empowerment, health and success of common people. That Chavez chose to endorse Humala because of his nationalism was Chavez’ big mistake. However, it is the US and Alan Garcia whose propaganda simplified this into Peruvians voting against Chavez. By their logic Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales of Bolivia only won elections because George Bush supported their opponents.  


Marc Sapir