Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday June 23, 2006



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Spare the Air Day, but not in Berkeley. So I heard that the city of Berkeley wants to get serious about cleaning the city’s air. Get more people on bikes, car pooling, on AC transit, and convert all the remaining city vehicles to bio-diesel or hybrids. What about Berkeley’s #1 contributor to bad air—Pacific Steel! Not only are they pumping out green house gases that contribute to global warming, they release a large amount of PM-10s, which contribute to global dimming. And once again the city turns a blind eye. After all, Pacific Steel contributes to the Spare the Air Day fund! Therefore it should be able to continuing polluting on Spare the Air days. I smell their stench as I try to get a breeze through my window on this hot Spare the Air Day. 

Patrick Traynor 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Your story on the hotel to be built downtown reports that it is to be called the Berkeley Charles Hotel, named after a square in Boston which has little resonance with Berkeleyans. The developer president says that “we really care about communities” and “it will feel like it belongs to Berkeley.” To truly belong perhaps it could be named with more local interest—such as the Berkeley Maybeck or the Berkeley John Muir. 

Pat Cody 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Hello, I am Salvador Nieves Jr.’s sister. 

I read the article that was written about the accident that caused the death of my brother as well as Jessica’s. 

It is a great article with many details that go into high speeds chases by cops, and how nothing is done about that and that’s why they continue. 

My family and I plan to be very involved in all aspects of this case, so that justice will be served in Jr. and Jessica’s names, as well as for the other young lady who survived but will be scarred forever. 

I cannot go into details on what my family plans on doing, as advised by our attorney, but I can tell you that we will not rest until justice is served. 

Thanks again for a great article. We hope to be in contact with you in the near future. 

Rocio Nieves 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’d like to call to your readers’ attention the fact that the city of Berkeley charges half the normal rate ($15 instead of $30) for permit parking to anyone who comes with proof in hand or duplicated by mail that their income is below $29,800. Unfortunately, the Finance Department doesn’t include that information on the renewal notice. I wonder why? 

Estelle Jelinek 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

When I saw that Saturday’s Downtown Berkeley Vision Workshop would be held in the brand new Berkeley High School library, I thought “uh-oh.” I can’t climb stairs, and from previous experience I knew that the elevator might be, uh, somewhat problematic. Sho ’nuff, when I arrived at the elevator in question at about 1:20, there was a hand-lettered sign that read, “HANDICAPPED ACCESS—for elevator use see janitor or front desk [wherever that is]. BHS will not leave elevator unlocked.” (When that sign was put up is an interesting if irrelevant question.) 

After a few minutes, a city staffer came by, saw my plight, and went off to look for the janitor. After about 15 minutes, she came by for the third time and fumed, “you mean he’s not here yet? I’m as mad as you are.” At about 1:50 the janitor showed up, after apparently having his lunchbreak cut short, turned on the elevator and gave the city staffer his cell phone number. When it came time to leave, I went up to the city staffer (who was easy to find, fortunately), and she called the janitor; this time I only (!) had to wait 15 minutes to get out. 

When I complained to Dan Marks and Matt Tacker about having to wait half an hour to get upstairs, they complained in turn that the school district had promised that someone would always be available to turn on the elevator. This response begs two questions. 1) Even if someone is always available, how do you make sure they can be located? 2) Even assuming that someone with an elevator key can be easily found, is having to wait 5 or 10 minutes for them to come and unlock the elevator considered an acceptable level of accessibility? There are a number of suitable, perfectly accessible spaces (the senior centers, for example); why wasn’t one of them used? 

Then there is the question of why the elevator is key-operated in the first place. I’ve had similar maddening experiences when I’ve gone to the San Francisco Free Folk Festival at Roosevelt Middle School. It seems school authorities are averse to letting teenagers ride elevators. I’m curious as to how justified this aversion is; let's assume for the sake of argument that it is justified during school hours. Does anybody think it applies on evenings and weekends when very few if any teenagers are likely to be around? 

Hale Zukas 

P.S. On Monday, after I had drafted most of this letter, I was informed that the city planning department was sending a letter of complaint to the school district. While I am gratified that the city is responding expeditiously, I have not taken this response into account here, because I think the concerns raised here need to be addressed regardless. 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Zealotry in our two police departments—both UC and the city’s—has never been greater. We folks who drive on campus and city streets are in danger of being ticketed everywhere and at all times. Never before have the cops worked harder at public safety. Some recent examples:  

Meters begin to operate at 9 a.m. in most places. If your car is parked before 9 and you are hurrying to rescue it by 9, you better make sure you’re present, as the ticketing begins at 9:01 in many places. No leeway.  

Recently a friend of mine was leaving north Berkeley BART station and turned to enter Sacramento Avenue. She saw a woman standing in the middle of the northbound lane. She stopped for a while. The woman did not move, so she moved on slowly and close to the median to avoid hitting her and was immediately nailed by a police car that had been waiting at the intersection for just such an incident. The woman was a decoy. 

I have heard reports of stealth operations on Solano Avenue. A car stops in a red zone at 7 p.m. for 20 seconds near a restaurant to let out an elderly woman who has trouble walking. Though no police car is in sight, within seconds there is one ready to hand out those expensive citations. A spotter?  

And apparently the appeals process rarely allows appeals now. 

We all know the city needs money. We all want car safety to be a norm, and most of us do not flout the law. But this quick and dirty way to pay for the city’s needs is making drivers feel as if we are the enemy. Is this punitive attitude to become the norm? Has the wretched meanness of Washington wafted westward? 

And where are the police cars that could better assure public safety in those streets that need them for real crimes—drug dealing, teen gangs, gun violence. What are our priorities? 

Joan Levinson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The spin machine is off to an early start with Carolyn Jones’ snide article (“Landmarks Ordinance in Critics’ Crosshairs,” San Francisco Chronicle, June 18) about our Landmarks Preservation Ordinance (LPO). The Chronicle doesn’t print letters from Berkeley preservationists, unless their policy has changed, so I am sending my response to our local newspaper—the voice of the people—the Daily Planet. 

A picture of the Celia’s building is included in the article. Despite Ms. Jones’ insults, it looks great—interesting roof line, nice bay window, positively cute. By contrast, the drawings of the condo/apartment project proposed to replace it show a cheesy, characterless hulk, very similar to the Andante of Emeryville.  

I suggest that people bicycle or drive past the Andante, at the corner of 40th Street and San Pablo Avenue. Then check out Celia’s Restaurant at 2040 4th St. in Berkeley. Years of neglect by its owner have taken a toll, but it’s a cool little building, full of character and life. 

Brennan’s Bar and Restaurant next door, which is also in danger of demolition for the Hulk, is specifically mentioned in the West Berkeley Plan as a “part of West Berkeley history.” 

Both restaurants appear to be thriving, serving the community and contributing revenue to the city—the kind of locally-owned small businesses that Berkeleyans used to treasure and protect. 

Condos have begun to languish, unsold, here and in most of the bubbly real estate markets of the country. What will become of the limitless dot-condos and bubbleminiums already in the works? The building binge should be over soon—there’s no need to lose more of our history and vitality for mindless greed.  

Gale Garcia 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A fine article by Ms. Yamamoto about the exhibit at the Richmond Museum of History, “Siempre Aqui” (Berkeley Daily Planet, June 16-19), except that the portrait photographs were misattributed to Richmond High School students. 

They were taken by a young Latina photographer, Mariela Alcocer. Ms. Alcocer, whose parents are from Mexico and Venezuela, lives in San Pablo and is a recent graduate of the California College of Arts in Oakland. 


Maria Sakovich, Guest Curator 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I just read your article on page 11 of the June 20-22 edition regarding our City Council’s consideration of sewer fee rate hikes and a fee increase for refuse service. 

Our citizens need to know just what their getting for their money: 

1. City government that completely shuts down every month on VTO days (Voluntary Time-Off) and for a week in the winter. 

2. A refuse division that we are forced to pay for, with staff that works an “assumed work day.” This means they get off work when they are done with their routes. This takes them about 4-5 hours, but they are paid for eight hours of work. To make matters worse, they are paid overtime for anything they do after they finish their four-hour route.  

3. Worker’s compensation rates in the upper stratosphere with a Public Works director who manages the largest department in Berkeley and models herself for her staff by filing her own Worker’s Comp. Claim. (Guess which department has the most workers out on injury?)  

Should we pay more for city services? I think not, we should pay less because that’s exactly what we’re getting.  

Shame on our City Council for considering more fees, shame on our city manager for not corralling runaway staff and shame on us for allowing them to this to us time and time again. 

—Ken Lock 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

FDR was president when I was in grade school. I cannot remember our country in worse shape than it is in now. We need some good sound minds in charge, not ones who try to take all they can get from the American people.  

Mrs. Ina Boyles 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

If you could save a child from the harmful health effects of lead at little or no cost, wouldn’t you want to take action? 

Everyone knows lead poses health risks for kids. The National Center for Disease Control says there is absolutely no safe level of lead in the bloodstream of young children. Harmful health effects of lead include reduced IQ, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders, behavioral problems, stunted growth, impaired hearing, and kidney damage. Between 14 percent and 20 percent of the total childhood lead exposure comes from drinking water that flows through plumbing with too much lead.  

I have posed this question to my legislative colleagues with Assembly Bill 1953, which will phase-out the use of lead plumbing materials in both homes and large water utilities. Lead is commonly used as a component in brass water utility and household plumbing parts and fixtures. As water moves from the water main through the water meter and valves and into the household plumbing, lead can leach from lead-brass parts into drinking and washing water. As many as 20 percent of Californians are getting water with elevated lead levels.  

A.B. 1953 offers the solution to this problem. By phasing out the use of lead in plumbing materials, our water and our children will be safer. Passing this bill will not be easy. We won passage in the Assembly by a vote of 41–37, but we’re facing a tough fight in the Senate.  

Several major utilities in California, including East Bay Municipal Utility District, the L.A. Department of Water and Power, and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission have already begun voluntary programs to install plumbing parts that are lead-free. Furthermore, the San Francisco PUC offers lead-free household fixtures for sale to customers at a discount.  

Lead in drinking water should be a significant concern to the health of all Californians, especially to the most vulnerable, our children. With new lead-free plumbing materials available today, there is absolutely no reason California’s lawmakers should allow old-style lead products to be used.  

We know there is too much lead in our drinking water and AB 1953 offers the solution. Don’t our children deserve that? 

Assemblymember Wilma Chan 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Today’s newspaper front-page headline told us that Iraqi troops who our soldiers were training, shot and killed two American trainers. Clearly, anti-American feeling runs deep in Iraq. With each passing day it becomes clearer that we cannot “win” this aggressive war. We must get our troops out—the sooner the better.  


Ms. Roberta Maisel 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Look who the mouthpieces are for the Bush administration: Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, muckrakers with no conscience. Ghouls who strangle words, use contrived metaphors and extrapolate untruths.  

Religious right-wingers now control all processes and venues of the U.S. government. Uncompassionate conservatives who bury their greed and hypocrisy in Christian ethics. Ethics and honesty have taken a nosedive under the current administration? Any wonder why America is headed in the wrong direction?  

The GOP divides and polarizes with the help of its egregious pundits; it’s the only way they can hope to win elections and stay in power.  

Ron Lowe 

Grass Valley