Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday June 16, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have learned the city manager has ordered the Wishing Well removed. It has been in my neighborhood since before I moved in 35 years ago. It is a great recycling tool. People can put things in they don’t want, other people can take them out. It is delightful. I live two blocks from it. Near my house, when people want to get rid of stuff they simply put it out on the parking strip with a sign: “Free.” I counted five such deposits in my short walk around today. I always admired the Wishing Well since it is such a neat, attractive, organized even elegant way to handle giveaways on a block. It should be replicated, not torn down. I want to know what kind of thinking has led to the present action. Really. It makes no sense. 

Joanne Kowalski 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Steven Donaldson’s opinion piece, “Is the West Berkeley Bowl dead?”, is really badly written, and riddled with embarrassingly illiterate grammatical errors: “who’s” for “whose,” “it’s” for “its,” “which” instead of “whom” when referring to people. No matter if one agrees with Donaldson’s opinion or not, his poor writing doesn’t help to advance his cause, or the Berkeley Bowl’s. If Mr. Yasuda is a client of Donaldson’s company, he might want to think twice. 

Aija Kanbergs 





Editors, Daily Planet:  

In his June 13 letter Steve Geller poses a prescription for the sure death of downtown Berkeley: limited parking with higher parking fees. OK—I have to shop for several items that are too bulky to carry on a bus or bike, so I choose to drive. My options? I can drive downtown, circle for blocks to park within walking range of a few scattered retail shops, and pay a high parking fee. Or I can drive an extra ten minutes to Emeryville or El Cerrito, find ample free parking, and be surrounded by stores with everything I need (at lower prices). And the suggestion that remedies in London or Portland might somehow apply to Berkeley is just silly. 

Jerry Landis 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Pope, and Christians in general, may be in for some discomfort. If and when Jesus returns, where do you think He might go to worship? 

Harry Gans 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Berkeley Daily Planet has published many un-truths in the past few weeks regarding the Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society and its tenant, Nexus Institute. For the record, here are the facts.  

The Nexus Institute was informed by their landlord, the Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society (BEBHS), in October 2005 that their lease would not be renewed because the property was being sold. They were invited to purchase the buildings they leased, and they said they were interested. BEBHS provided Nexus a term sheet in December and a draft purchase and sale agreement in February. The truth is that Nexus refused to commit to anything, and that, when BEBHS finally demanded that Nexus make a written purchase offer, Nexus stopped talking to BEBHS entirely. Instead, Nexus has chosen to concoct a sob story as to ill-treatment which they have been peddling all over town, at the same time as they have sued BEBHS for breach of contract – there is no contract.  

Meanwhile, with the Nexus lease expiration fast approaching on May 31, Nexus refused to respond to repeated inquiries from BEBHS’ lawyer as to whether Nexus would vacate without the necessity of legal action. Now it’s mid-June; they illegally occupy our property, and are doing everything they can to delay eviction.  

The property is for sale. The reason it is for sale is because BEBHS wants to build a new facility at its current location and needs the money from the sale to do this. If Nexus wants to buy the property, make us an offer, please! We understand that what Nexus really wants is to continue renting from BEBHS at 11 cents a square foot, and who wouldn’t? However, our commitment is to serve animals and their caretakers, not to act as a landlord providing deeply subsidized rents to an exclusive group of tenants with a well-coordinated P.R. machine and a highly developed sense of entitlement. Every dollar BEBHS has to spend in its defense against this tenant is a dollar less that goes to help animals. This is the truth the Berkeley Daily Planet should be reporting.  

Mim Carlson 

Executive Director, Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Daily Planet has the best letters to the editor section in these environs. It is a valuable resource for opinions, rants, differences of opinion. Newspaper articles, on the other hand, are supposed to provide unbiased information. So I was confused when Robert Brokl’s piece, “Eviction Threat Imperils Nexus Building,” was printed as an article. The piece was a clearly biased and incomplete account of the facts about the building owned by the Berkeley East Bay Humane Society and until recently, rented to Nexus artists. 

Robert Brokl is certainly entitled to his opinions, but opinions should not be printed as though they were factual news reports. 

Mary Milton 


EDITOR’S NOTE: The writer is mistaken. Robert Brokl’s June 9 piece ran on the commentary page, not as a news article. 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Your recent correspondent Paul M. Schwartz (June 6), in his good-citizenship mode, has called our attention to the pitfalls of an apparent new city policy manifested by the (vandalized) sign on Colusa Avenue which now says “PEE LIMIT 25 MPH.” (If you missed this Daily Planet exclusive report, I suggest you view the letters archive at 

Herewith a comment on three of his major concerns: legal, riparian and economic.  

He notes that our new city policy seems to target only the unruly residents of the Thousand Oaks area. I live on Colusa Avenue at Thousand Oaks (bulls-eye!) and agree with him that this is a clear example of illegal discrimination. (Ref. Bush’s “Relief of the Upper Classes Act” of 2001...and 02...and 03, etc). 

I think he is only half-right in calling attention to possible impact on our birds and fish “upstream and downstream.” There certainly may be p-endangered wildlife downstream, but upstream...? Most research shows that the only thing upstream is the p-perpetrator. This should relieve (some of) his worries. 

He may be further relieved to learn that the answer to his budget and enforcement concerns flows directly from his own data. Even if he doubts that Berkeley citizens will all mind their Ps and Qs, his own research shows that no one can pee 25 mph. 

Ergo, the city has wisely given us a new law that is constitutionally dubious, self-enforceable. and therefore without cost to our exchequer or our fauna uphill. 

Sounds to me like an ideal Berkeley policy. 

Victor Herbert 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As our standard of living continues to sink, it becomes more urgent than ever to shop at unionized establishments. The union density in the private sector has declined from around 35 percent in the mid 1950s to about 8 percent currently. As a result, a growing number of working people, including full-time all year round workers, are finding it more difficult and even impossible to make ends meet. In turn, purchasing power has stagnated, and the economy itself is rapidly becoming a candidate for bankruptcy court. 

Only a mass labor movement similar to the surge in the 1930s has the potential of lifting all boats. But we ourselves can accomplish a great deal NOW by patronizing unionized workplaces, one of which is Berkeley Honda. As a result of our victory at Berkeley Honda, workers are assured of a living wage that can support both themselves and their families. Also, the health insurance benefits are good and they enjoy a defined benefit pension plan, which pays a pension based solely on age and years of service rather than on the vicissitudes of the stock market. If all those who work for a living are able to achieve a similar situation, our quality of life would improve tremendously.  

A request to Honda owners; please bring your automobiles to Berkeley Honda for service and repairs. Doing so sends a very important message to other dealers, which in turn makes them more susceptible to a successful union drive. Not least, the contract requires that all the striking workers be offered their jobs back. But business must pick up to sustain these jobs. As a result of the boycott, repair business was cut by about 70 percent. These workers really need your help. 

Building a strong pro-union environment in Berkeley and vicinity despite the considerable barriers is an achievable goal but only with your commitment and involvement. 

Harry Brill 

Berkeley Labor & Community Coalition 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have lived in Berkeley for 45 years and have noticed continued decline in the downtown and Telegraph areas. All quality stores have closed and moved and replaced with “dollar stores” types of businesses. Soon, good restaurants will leave also and more cheap hamburger and burrito take-outs will take over. I feel there are many reasons for this decline to happen: unfair rentals which force owners out of business, more and more aggressive panhandlers at the tune of four or five on each block and total hostile attitude towards drivers and cars. Christopher Adams’ letter in the June 9 edition sums it all in his humorous letter on “cancerous car concentration.” The Fourth Street area is doing great but if city officials have their way, the free parking lots will be eliminated and access will be limited to mostly busses and bicycles. I personally love to walk and take the bus whenever possible. I truly believe, however, that cities that have done well in terms of providing free or low cost parking areas get their payback in increased sales and higher quality stores. There are a lot of older and slightly handicapped people who live in the surrounding areas who would shop in Berkeley again if we offered decent parking in the downtown and Telegraph areas. Right now these people have to pay for dropping a check at their banks and the one hour or half an hour limit is totally inadequate for a meal at a local restaurant. Wake-up, city officials! 

Andree Leenaers Smith 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Let’s hope that CALPIRG gets a box seat at DAPAC’s workshop (Berkeley High Library, Allston and Milvia, 1-4 p.m.) this Saturday for Downtown Visioneers. 

While many groups talk endlessly about the future of Berkeley’s downtown, the local chapter of the California Public Interest Resource Group is one progressive organization with the leadership and resolve to actually do something. 

Their vision? Simple. Downtown as a vertical surface—a backdrop on which to post brightly colored announcements for “Jobs to Save the Environment” as far as the eye can see.  

Thank you, CALPIRG! You are a leader in the fight for the right to blight. 

Jim Sharp 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I applaud Becky O’Malley’s reasoned editorial about the present Berkeley development scheme. The problem in Berkeley, like with so many other institutions, is a complete lack of transparency in city planning and development. What has been so woeful is that there are many in the city government who are trying hard to buck the trend, and kudos go to Kriss Worthington for his work on the Save Telegraph campaign. The meeting at Trinity UMC was followed even by Berkeleyans in the nation’s capital. Tom Bates and others are willful in their ignorance of the public’s right to know on many, many issues of social and urban development. With that, so many necessary moves to shore up our schools, our civic institutions, and our willingness to call Berkeley home are lost in a process shrouded in secrecy. As a journalist, I know sunshine laws in California are the strongest in the country and The Planet and every editor concerned with the administration of their city should be trying hard in court and in city hall to wedge open the doors of primitive, stupidly secret planning committees and their ilk. But sunshine laws are not just for journalists, they are for any person who willfully seeks the truth about their government. Why are we not doing more? 

John Parman 

College Park, MD 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you for printing Shirley Stuart’s letter on the situation at the Board of Trustees concerning the director of the library, and the article from last Friday on the progress in moving toward a healthier workplace at the BPL. I missed the paper on Friday, missed the meetings last week at City Hall, and thus missed the news. I went back to read the article online. 

When you do a Google search and call up the article up from the Daily Planet archive, the banner ad at the top has four links which all seem to promote RFID. I would be willing to help code the HTML so that the smallish print in white inside of the green header bar which says “Ads by Gooooooogle” was larger and perhaps in a flashier color to emphasize that it is an ad. Currently, to an inexperienced web viewer of your news it looks strangely like RFID is a good thing, as links to information on how to get it surround the article. 

There are no links to the Caspian website, to the ACLU, or to the Electronic Frontier Foundation website in this banner ad. Nor to the SEIU website. The ads in Google’s directory work off of keywords designated (perhaps) by the buyer of the ad—or perhaps the bigger the advertising budget, the more likely the ad is to appear near an article with RFID in the text. How ironic. RFID is invasive, expensive, harmful technology in this application and it served as a pivotal issue in the push to remove the director from her post. 

If the Board of Library Trustees can heed Shirley Stuart’s suggestions for how to proceed to organize communications to try to grow trust among patrons and staff in the oversight of the Director and the practices of the board, then the future of the library looks better than it has for over two years.  

If we can change the future by changing the way we “frame” the news we get from the mainstream media, could we emphasize that the “frame” we get in online news from the Planet is a frame? Otherwise some of us may miss it. 

Lynda Winslow 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

On June 27 the Berkeley City Council will decide whether to fund the Berkeley Sweat Free Ordinance. If Berkeley provides the $60,000 needed for Berkeley to join San Francisco and Los Angeles in enforcing wage and working condition guidelines, it will have a national impact and be the beginning of a coordinated multi-million dollar purchasing fund which will go only to suppliers who comply. There will no longer be a race to the bottom by competing businesses since they must meet fair wage and labor standards if they wish to sell their product. Since the cost of the labor component of a product is relatively small, maintaining higher uniform standards will not have a major impact on city budgets. The difference to the worker in China, the Philippines or Haiti, will, however, be profound. If ever there were a time for the City Council to think globally, but act locally it will be on June 27. This is the “war” we should be fighting if we wish to begin creating a positive image of the United States around the world. 

Tom Miller 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Let’s make it illegal to accept any election results until all of the votes are counted, and until the vote count is transparent and honest and open and provable. It is the responsibility of the election officials to prove by open means that the election results were honestly arrived at.  

Demand that the Busby-Bilbray election results in be 100 percent hand-counted to ensure that the results are accurate in light of improper procedures on Diebold machines used in the election. 

It has come to my attention that the Busby-Bilbray special election in CA-50 on June 6 was conducted on Diebold voting machines, many if not all of which were left unsecured in the homes, cars and offices of poll workers in the weeks prior to the election. Diebold touchscreen and optical scan machines have been proven by California’s own Secretary of State to be unreliable in the field and vulnerable to hacking in unsecure environments. Because improper procedures were used in this election, no one has proof that these machines were not subject to memory card switches or other easy tampering techniques such as manipulating the counters.  

I do not have confidence in the close outcome of the Busby-Bilbray election because of the use of Diebold machines and the fact that the chain of custody of the machines was broken and compromised by the failure of to maintain the machines in a secure environment. In another June 6 election in Pottowattamie County Iowa, optical scan machines showed one candidate winning while a hand count of paper ballots showed the other candidate winning. I believe that hand counting in CA-50 could also change the results.  

I am hereby demanding that all of the paper ballots from the Diebold optical scan machines and the paper trails from the DRE machines and any other absentee and early voting ballots be hand counted and audited, with proper oversight, as soon as possible. I ask that the results of the election not be certified until this hand recount is completed.  

Voters must have confidence in the outcome of elections or else the security of our elections and our democracy will be undermined. This election belongs to the voters in CA-50, and people all across the nation have an interest in its outcome. Neither candidate has the right to concede this election when Diebold vote machines were used in a manner that fails to comply with normal security procedures.  

Sandra Yolles