Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday June 20, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

There is a change in the way banks work that is very bad for seniors. If your bank balance is low or overdrawn, the bank takes the overdraft out of your direct-deposit Social Security check, charging a high interest rate. The bank does this without your permission or informing you. 

We have had several people call the Gray Panther office complaining that they did not know that they would be without rent and food money when their Social Security check was deposited because of this practice. In my case, they used to take the overdraft out of my savings account, which is OK with me. Now they take it out of my social security check and do not inform me. And they charge more! 

Is this legal? When did this come about? What can we do to change this? I think we should be able to tell the banks not to do this, or at least inform us when they do. 

Margot Smith 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I live in Supervisor Miley’s district and voted for Measure A to keep the county hospital open. I am approaching 50 and have had serious illnesses and in the event that I lose my health insurance I want to know that I can receive treatment in my county. I am now told that the county hospital since the passage of Measure A is being asked to subsidize the county.  

Is it true that Miley is asking the hospital to give the county close to $20 million (in debt repayment, interest and rent increases)? 

I hope that this is not true. If you ask the public to subsidize a hospital and then pull the money back out to pay for other services you have effectively lied to the public.  

I am outraged to hear that a hospital that my tax dollars support may be in a financial crisis because Supervisor Miley expects a county hospital to give money to the county for other services.  

Sethard Fisher 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

On the tree of life we humans rank high, “a little below the angels” it says in Psalm 8, verse 5. We have fallen from this lofty perch because, in pursuing the “global war on terror,” we behave like soulless beasts, evidenced by news reports concerning Abu Graib, Guantannamo Bay, Haditha and much, much more. That’s bad but we’ve slipped even lower. 

Brig. Gen. Richard Formica reported that keeping prisoners on bread and water for 17 days was too long but it takes longer than that to develop protein or vitamin deficiency, that “inadequate policy guidelines” and not “personal failure” were to blame and that the jailers did wrong but were not deliberately abusive.  

When officials excuse the inexcusable they abuse language and when they tell us that prisoners inflict “asymmetric warfare against us” with their “manipulative, self-injurious behavior” then we can no longer wear the “crown” of “glory and honor” awarded to us by the Psalmist.  

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It’s same old, same old at Berkeley High. Twenty-five or 30 years ago a woman started the first rape crisis center in the country, Bay Area Women against Rape, after her daughter was raped at the school and school authorities refused to call the police. 

Nancy Ward 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you for your fine coverage of the West Berkeley Bowl project. I am a frequent customer of the current (and previous) Berkeley Bowl. One problem: Since the store is so popular, and its parking lot usually full during business hours, delivery trucks double-park on Adeline Street, either in the bike lane or in the right lane itself. As I understand our traffic laws, double parking is always and everywhere illegal; in addition, the delivery trucks pose a safety hazard for those driving, biking, or walking by. As scarce as the street parking is around the Bowl, I’d rather see some of it restricted to loading zones than the current situation. Since the West Berkeley Bowl project includes a warehouse, I would hope that most deliveries will occur there, with goods shuttled to the current store off-hours, and that the congestion on Adeline will be mitigated. 

Robert J. Cohen 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’ve just become aware of the controversy over a new Berkeley Bowl in West Berkeley by watching the council meetings on channel 33. Apparently the Bowl owners are unwilling to agree to recognize a union and thus hire union employees. By this time, the Bowl owners are obviously worth millions and millions of dollars. Their parking lot on Adeline is always overflowing. The checkout lines are longer than any other grocery store in Berkeley history. So, what’s the problem with these Bowl owners? If they can’t give up some of their monstrous profits to benefit new employees they shouldn’t be allowed in Berkeley, the City of Light and Fair Play. Even Safeway and Albertson’s are unionized! Unions are the only protection employees have. Shame on you Berkeley Bowl for not guaranteeing union rights. And shame on you City Council if you allow them to start a new store without union employees. And lastly, I challenge the right of these Bowl owners to use the name “Berkeley” in their store. If no union, then it should be called the “Murky Hole.”  

Robert Blau 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

When Nancy al-Masri Pelosivich states that “she speaks for the American people,” clearly she does not! She speaks for a small minority of groups and not the majority of American voters. She speaks for the anti-war, anti-American, anti-capitalist, Marxist-Socialist (liberal-progressive) “groups” of Godless Communist Feminist, queers, eco-nazi’s, government plantation blacks, “illegal wet-backs,” and antique lame-stream media. And that is the very reason why Democrats “are the minority.” 

James Weaver 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a somewhat disillusioned former volunteer at the Berkeley Humane Society, I don’t doubt Robert Brokl for a moment when he states that Humane Society has been non-responsive and unilateral in their dealings with Nexus. But the reality is that they are in desperate need of a facilities renovation and have been unable to raise anywhere near the amount of cash required via a capital campaign to make the necessary updates to the facility. That the only way they can raise the money is to sell the Nexus property, most likely to a commercial client given the retrofitting that must be done to the unreinforced masonry part of the property, is really unfortunate. What needs to happen here is that the resources of some in the Berkeley community need to be directed towards providing a safe, secure, comfortable and attractive space for homeless animals waiting for adoptive homes (and I would add that there are also significant capital needs at the municipal shelter and the new Milo facility on Solano Avenue). This is an opportunity to put philanthropic dollars to work. It is not in the interests of the city of Berkeley to pit worthy organizations against each other. To shortchange the animals to service the arts and artisans is shortsighted and wrong. To do the opposite is no better. This is a lose-lose situation at the moment. Please, those of you with resources to spare, and I know they exist in our community, put an end to this silly standoff, and pledge the money needed to renovate the Humane Society. It can be done, and needs to be done for the good of our city.  

Tracy Rosenberg 




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: 

Talk of revival for the Telegraph and Shattuck business districts mentions problems of high rents, lack of bus service and absence of parking. On these three areas another old business stretch in Berkeley deserves mention for doing rather well.  

San Pablo Avenue has a string of businesses in “mom and pop” and non-profit mode. Store rents are not those of “uptown.” Property owners find it hard to charge a ridiculous rent when the property next door is an auto repair shop, or similar “industrial” type operation—of which San Pablo has many. So, San Pablo (and its the adjacent blocks), have cozy pubs, cozy dance venues, a candle shop, calendar shop, three small furniture stores, a hardware, shoe store, two small bakeries, three pet supply places, the ecology center, a medical marijuana center, the blues hall of fame, a number of “store front” churches, three recreation supply stores, supply stores for items from India and other Asian countries, and there are restaurants for the cuisine of India, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Mexico, China, Japan, and Thailand. You can also get pizza, donuts, fried chicken, and lattes.  

About a year ago AC Transit added to its 72 line on San Pablo, providing enough service for the bus to run nearly every few moments. The buses do substantial business, which one can’t say for lines that run once or twice an hour.  

Only a couple of blocks of San Pablo have parking meters, and there are sizable free parking lots by Gilman and University avenues.  

Amid the hustle and bustle the issue of those in poor clothes who are without homes is neutralized, for San Pablo is truly an avenue of Good Vibrations.  

Ted Vincent  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I usually don’t read the Daily Planet cover to cover, but I did this time (June 13 edition). I was so impressed with your coverage of current issues; I will be reading it regularly from now on. 

The article by Jean Damu on the book Sociology of the African-American Language fascinated me. I, too, have traveled to Cuba. Not that I identify myself with their politics, but I admire the egalitarian relationship of their people. They don’t call themselves African, Brazilian or Venezuelan Cubans. They are just Cubans. 

I am a naturalized American, not even native, and I would be insulted if someone would call me a “European American.” African Americans are not African any more than I am a Native American. Americans, ancestrally from Africa, are simply Americans. Let us stop being divisive. I mean all of us, stop being divisive! 

Edward J. Levitch 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

So Chris Gilbert’s brilliant rescue of the Berkeley Art Museum’s Matrix Program from puerile irrelevance will not be followed by more good work. In spite of winning every battle in his fervent war to support the dynamic of contemporary life with the dynamic of contemporary art, he resigned his curatorship. The only cost of staying on would have been a little less grandeur to the flourish of resignation at the peak of hostilities. 

Gilbert is right on almost every point. “Solidarity” and “alignment,” with or without “support” are much more accurate and eloquent, in describing the show and its relationship with the university than the staff’s (prolonged and unsuccessful) attempt to substitute “connection with.” The staff’s “neutrality” and “balance” are appropriate for litigation not for art. Their constant efforts to destroy and vitiate his ideas made his job more difficult—but they gave up. 

His defense of his tactics to the press is unfortunate. Even the most irrefutable truth, expressed solely as a generality, is platitude (hear Dubya). “Class struggle,” “capitalist imperialism,” “organized violence,” invoked in argument without explaining their application to the specific case, come off as merely quaint. There is plenty of case history in Now Time: Venezuela I and II. Handsomely presented, it is winningly, convincingly, case history. 

He might have explained, for example, why the university museum, like many other universities and museums, is “corrupt.” There is no institutional method in this country to support them. They need money for building and maintenance, staff, collection. They are forced to court the rich for gifts to the museum. The rich? They are trained in other ways, and depend, most of them, on dealers. The dealers know, create and control the art market, which depends to a great extent, on connection and on advertising. Using a little faux algebra to shrink the equation, the taste and program of most great museums is shaped by the dealer’s sense of what can be made (through advertising and “celebrity”) to appreciate in value by 15 or 20 percent a year. The dealer runs the show, and, to perfect the system, the givers get their money back through tax breaks. 

For a moving and hilarious recap of The System, including the removal of Diego Rivera’s mural from the New York City Rockefeller Center, see the movie The Cradle Will Rock. 

Ariel Parkinson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’d like to comment on the May 17 letter by Jessica Taal. She complained about the choices of places to buy groceries in the area and that “We should have a health food co-op that is on par with Rainbow in San Francisco.” I like Rainbow Foods in San Francisco and would definitely shop there if one showed up in Berkeley. That being said, businesses don’t magically appear just because we think they should. Starting and running small businesses are not easy things to do and may in fact be harder now than ever. The combination of competing with larger businesses, start-up capital, high rents, not enough parking and fighting the regulations that the City of Berkeley imposes can be overwhelming. Any one of those obstacles would be enough to stop a lot of potential small businesses from opening. The combination of all of them makes it borderline impossible. 

I also wanted to point out that, while not perfect, I think our choices of places to buy groceries is overall great. I had some visitors from back east recently that spent half an hour just staring in disbelief at the produce options at Monterey Market. People in most places in the world would love to have the options we already have in Berkeley! 

Rich Crowl