Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday June 13, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

The dismissal of Jackie Griffin as Director of the Berkeley Public Library was good news indeed. It is unfortunate that it could not have come before so much damage had already been done to our library. Many excellent staff members who left the library rather than continue to serve with Griffin as director will not be persuaded to come back to their former jobs; we cannot get the thousands of books that she ordered thrown into dumpsters returned, nor can we get our money back from the installation of the RFID system, but we can hope that our library will be returned to a more humanized, community friendly institution, with a staff that is not being punished for trying to do a good job. 

Some suggestions for the revitalized library: 

Griffin may not have abused her dual role as library director and secretary to the Board of Library Trustees, but in future, to avoid even the possibility of inappropriate bias, the library director should not also be the board secretary. The position of secretary should be held by a person not otherwise connected to the library. 

E-mail and U.S. mail to the board should not have to be addressed care of (and therefore filtered though) the library director, but should be sent to individual directors or to a dedicated address. The board must function as a completely separate entity. 

The purpose of the Board of Library Trustees is not to back up the director’s decisions, but to oversee the director’s administration. In the past, the board has seemed to favor the director’s opinions and desires over the positions of both the public and library staff, and the board must bear at least part of the responsibility for the disastrous impact of Griffin’s years at Berkeley Public Library. She should have been supervised more carefully and judiciously. 

Shirley Stuart 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

The people of Berkeley seem to have no idea where money comes from. The only way to “Save Cody’s” would have been to provide easy parking near Telegraph, get rid of the runaways, and stop making it so generally difficult to do business in Berkeley. But too late for Cody’s. 

Now, West Berkeley Bowl is threatened by death from a thousand cuts, as the Berkeley political system seeks to micromanage every detail in search of the way life ought to be. The car dealers are ready to up and bolt. 

The city, meantime, is considering charging homeowners with extra sewer fees to upgrade the city’s ailing system. Sewers count as basic services, the kind of stuff cities are supposed to provide before funding anything else. They’re in the category of street tenance, fire protection, police services, garbage pickup, etc. 

Other cities are busy attracting business. Charitably, it might be said the Berkeley is struggling to hang on to existing business. More realistically, Berkeley is chasing business away. The result: costs go up, revenues can’t keep up, city services decline. 

The city had better rethink its business development strategies—because voters aren’t going to support new property or parcel taxes for the City of Berkeley. No way. 

Tom Case 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was impressed by the meeting called by Councilmember Kriss Worthington to discuss the future of Telegraph Avenue. The room was packed by a cross section of Telegraph players. Store owners, vendors, residents, students, People’s Park activists, advocates for the homeless, members of the religious community, to name a few. It was refreshing to see people really take a hard look at Telegraph’s woes and not just blame them on the homeless and young people. I was a little disappointed by the city’s proposal. For years now, every time there is a little dip in retail sales on the Avenue the city’s response has been to throw more cops at the problem and paint something. The last thing we need now is more cops on Telegraph.  

What we do need is to fix up the triangle at the intersection of Dwight and Telegraph. This is the gateway our storied section of Telegraph and it looks like some ghetto back alley. I’d love to see some kiosks that tell the story and history of Telegraph, some beautiful plants and flowers and a gourmet coffee stand. I’ve been asking for a permit for such a stand for years only to be met with profound silence. After Thursday’s meeting I was approached by merchants who asked if I would be interested in putting together more shows in People’s Park to draw more people up to the Ave. I think it would be great to get back into putting shows together and think it would be a good idea to establish a Telegraph event committee that not only puts together People’s Park shows but also brings in great street performers. Thursday’s meeting not only made me more hopeful that the ills of Telegraph can be corrected but that we can make Telegraph better and more prosperous than it has ever been. And all this can be done while respecting the rights and dignity of everyone whether young or old, rich or poor.  

Thursday night was a good start. Let’s keep the ball rolling. 

Dan McMullan 

Disabled People Outside Project 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Anarchists are all too familiar with the smug titters of authoritarians, who are too obtuse to conceive of any kind of organization created by anarchists. But to impute the situation of increasing disorder and escalating bloodshed in Iraq, as editorial cartoonist De Freitas has done, either to the political philosophy of anarchism or to those who identify themselves as anarchists is an offense beyond insult. Regardless of what one may think of the strategies of the various armed factions jockeying for power in the situation of political instability created by the U.S./UK invasion and occupation (should we then characterize these imperialist powers as anarchist?), it is obvious that none of them is proposing international anti-state anti-hierarchical federations of working class people. Indeed, if we are to believe the mainstream reports, the insurgents who are vying for state power in Iraq are driven by religious sectarianism and/or ethnic chauvinism—not by a desire to abolish the state and capitalism. To equate the universally recognized symbol of anarchism (the circle-A) with the chaos and horror of imperialist occupation and/or civil war is the height of bad faith and monumental ignorance.  

C. Boles 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am a retired teacher employed in a No Child Left Behind after school tutorial program run by the non-profit Art, Research, and Curriculum (ARC) Associates.  

On Wednesday, June 7, staff members from ARC met to plan ways we could improve on the success of our current reading and math programs. What we did not discuss was the possibility that we may or may not get paid for our time and expertise. 

I am proud to be a part of a program where children come first and not a program where the business model means that children are secondary to greed and profit. 

Nancy Kron 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’ve been reading all the letters in the Tuesday Planet “transportation issue”—about Ashby BART, Brower Center, Telegraph Avenue and the BRT. I think this literature shows a degree of disconnect from reality, similar to that exhibited by Republicans with regard to global warming. 

We in Berkeley need to connect with the reality that we’re too dependent on the automobile. We can’t have unlimited parking, accommodating an unlimited number of cars. Our cars are ruining our local environment, and in the process, directly contributing to a global climate disaster. We can see all the cars clogging the streets, waiting impatiently at traffic lights, filling the on-street parking spaces, lined up to drink more $3/gallon gas. But these scenes don’t seem to trigger alarm bells like disappearing glaciers, drowning island nations and swirling hurricanes, all of which can be seen in the movie An Inconvenient Truth. There’s a big graph showing the increase in carbon dioxide and temperature. Would we wake up if we saw a graph of the increase in cars, parking or congestion? 

Today I took the No. 9 bus to the marina. While I was there, I checked the toes of the Guardian. They are still above water, but I was impressed with how few feet it is from the toes to the waves. I had a vision of the fishing pier awash. 

I bought the book that goes with the movie. I’m considering sending a copy of An Inconvenient Truth to George Bush. I could send a copy of Donald Shoup’s “The High Cost of Free Parking” to Michael Katz, or one of the other Berkeley people who think we’ve got to have ever more parking. Berkeley “ratified” Kyoto, but a lot of our fine environmentalists are unwilling to give a lane to the BRT, or reduce the number of downtown parking spaces. They think local business will die if we don’t provide parking for all the cars that come. This is just as ideologically blind as Bush’s refusal to deal with global warming. 

OK, time to stop being negative. Here are some positive things we can do: 

1. Put a high price on downtown parking; use the revenue to improve the downtown environment (Don Shoup’s idea). 

2. Replace downtown all-day parking with short-term parking (TDM Study’s idea). 

3. Impose a “congestion tax” on cars found downtown (London UK’s idea). 

4. Set a maximum on the number of parking spaces downtown; make transit free downtown in “fareless square.” (Portland OR’s idea) 

5. Put in a bus-only lane for the BRT; shift drivers to bus-riding (AC Transit’s idea, and maybe UCB’s idea?) 

6. Implement a local package delivery service for stores on Telegraph, Shattuck and University (my idea). 

Steve Geller 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I hear there is a proposal to require credentialing for pre-school caregivers. I know we all believe in credentialing, but we need to know what skills are most important for pre-school caregivers. The most important skill 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: 

Does the field manual for high-ranking military officers require that they disconnect themselves from tragedy? Rear Admiral Harry Harris was asked about the deaths by hanging of “enemy combatants” detained for over four years at Guantanamo detention center in Cuba and blamed the victims. “They have no regard for human life, neither ours nor their own,” he said. Speaking of no regard for human life reminds me of the two dozen civilians killed by Marines in Haditha, Iraq, last November. 

Does the field manual also supply the new locution that enabled Admiral Harris to create his own reality? “I believe,” he said, “this was not an act of desperation but an act of asymmetric warfare against us.” Wonder of wonders! Two Saudis and one Yemeni, in total isolation for over four years, used fabricated nooses to commit war against their jailers. I can’t help but wonder why Patrick Henry, instead of talking about it, did not commit asymmetric warfare against the British over two centuries ago when he so eloquently pledged his liberty more dear than his death. 

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo