Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday June 27, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

The title that your headline writer gave to Suzanne La Barre’s article regarding the Berkeley High Schools African American graduation ceremony was hateful and hypocritical! Your writer is a hypocrite! Where is the free speech? I believe the black graduates, their family and friends appreciated for once one of their own (I’m included) to have spoken truth to a hated generation that continuously is forced lies from the perverted people who think they’re in control of this city, particularly our community. Do you not have any shame? 

Rev. Manuel Scott, Jr and Rev. Dr. Robert McKinght, I thank you and praise Almighty God for your faith, for your love, and for your boldness in the Lord to stand against an evil and perverse city. May the Peace of God the Son Be Unto You. 

Lisa Owens 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Your article “Homophobic Speech Sours Community Graduation Event” caught my eye, as it was not the kind of speech one would expect to occur in Berkeley. The speaker, an African-American, defended his statement by stating that his interests were not with the “political correctness,” but “biblical correctness” of his content. I study the Bible and find much value in it, yet such biblical scholars as he should heed that the Old Testament clearly sanctions slavery, and it is my understanding that even Paul, who is most quoted as being the chief New Testament decrier of homosexuality, also delineates proper treatment for slaves rather than calling for its abolition. Given Paul’s close relationship with the slave in question, it is doubtful he entirely approved of the institution, so it raises the question: Was his acceptance of the slavery was out born out of “biblical” or “political” correctness? How many African Methodist Episcopal priests or Baptist evangelical preachers are preaching the “biblical correctness” of slavery today, and conversely, for how many centuries was slavery trumpeted in our country by ministers as being biblically justifiable and correct? Honest self-examination by the churches and their leaders would hopefully have them realize mores of homophobia and intolerance present in ancient times and today masquerading in the guise of sanctity as the real cause of this current cultural trend in Christian morality.  

Ethan Feldman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I found the story on the homophobic speech at a Berkeley High School event deeply disturbing. The fact that the speaker was paid for his hate speech is even more appalling. And I can’t believe that the chair of the BHS African-American Studies Department made the choice to import this hatemonger from Los Angeles. I believe that the Rev. Robert McKnight should apologize for hiring Mr. Scott to give the keynote speech at this event. If Mr. McKnight can’t find it in his heart to do the right thing, he should be fired. 

Our community needs to come together, not be divided by hate speech.  

Mark Pasley 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

L A Wood (no relation) has pulled back the curtain on what seems to me to be the obvious. This successful company, Pacific Steel, excellent as it may be, no longer should be in West Berkeley. I believe it could move to a more suitable location nearby, where it could thrive and expand and of course keep its current workforce intact.  

We could sue Pacific Steel Casting for polluting the air, land, and landscape, but this is a last resort if the following proposal is not accepted. I think a very large incentive could be favorably received by PSC and it’s quite simple and maybe cost free! The City of Berkeley can offer a one time rezoning of the PSC site and a one time offer to allow a “highest and best use” of the property. I suggest the city have certain design review of course but not much more because the likely use would be 10- to 12-story market-rate housing, even luxury housing, with Fourth Street retail extended north. PSC would have a one-time chance to move with a huge incentive which costs Berkeley really nothing and actually would bring huge benefits to the area and the city—the company would have this one time opportunity to fund not only the move but the cleanup of this site. It would be irresponsible for PSC not to accept this offer because the cleanup is an ongoing liability for the company with this one time chance to avoid it or shift it to a development project. I think PSC could be pleased to have this friendly offer of a huge contribution to an overdue move rather than lawsuits which don’t solve the basic problem. 

Phil Wood 




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, AC Transit, and convert all its remaining city vehicles to bio-diesel or hybrids. What about Berkeley’s No. 1 contributor to bad air: Pacific Steel! Not only are they pumping out green house gases which contribute to global warming they release a large amount of PM-10s, which contribute to global dimming. 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: 

J. Douglas Allen-Taylor needs to get a correction from OUSD Public Information Office Alex Katz for mentioning newly passed $435 million Measure B Bond money as a possible source for paying for the transformation of Carter Middle School into the Oakland Schools’ new central administrative offices. State Administrator Ward made clear during the Oakland School Board meeting that Proposition 39 did not allow for expenditure of School Bond construction money on administrative facilities. However, Administrator Ward said he was discussing with the State Department of Education if bond money not yet spent from the bond measure prior to Measure B could be tapped for paying relocation costs. Here relocation cost means transforming a school into administrative offices at a cost of millions and not simply moving costs. 

The following quotes Mr. Allen-Taylor received from Alex Katz contradict Administrator Ward’s comments during the School Board meeting: 

“OUSD Public Information Officer Alex Katz said he did not have an exact figure on the administration building relocation costs, adding that ‘it is still under discussion’ between Ward and State Superintendent Jack O’Connell over ‘whether that money would come from a draw-down on the state line of credit ‘or from the $425 million in Measure B bond money passed by Oakland voters in this month’s election.’” 

Jim Mordecai 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

For your information, the “Curvy Derby” baseball field has the wrong orientation. Proper field orientation is basic good design. The personal injury liability for public agencies shall be great and just one accident involving a pitcher and batter can result in a lawsuit and award (loss) of significant money. The partial use, complete lock down and even removal of the new baseball facility is then very real. 

Too, the basketball court orientation is not right. 

Who are these designers? 

Richard Splenda 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Here is a suggestion for the Berkeley Unified School District: 

Give the teachers a chance to take any day off they desire to be able to “stand up for yourself,” as a teacher stated. There should be no need to worry about work contracts. The school district should even apologize if the work day was an inconvenience to any rally or protest that a teacher may want to attend. Here is a better idea. Cancel school on the days when these rallies might even seem extra important so that even kids can be involved. 

Frank Price 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

If there is one political proposition we might think has universal acceptance, it would be that all Americans should be encouraged and enabled to exercise their right to vote free of caging and obstruction.  

Yet a handful of Republicans in Congress are holding up renewal of the Voting Rights Act, landmark legislation of the Civil Rights Movement, for reasons they aren’t willing to publicly discuss. 

What reasons could those be? Opposition to excessive democracy? Opposition to allowing people to vote who might vote against the kinds of Republicans holding up this bill?  

Indications are that the Rovian strategy for 2008 is to eliminate opposition by eliminating opposition voters, and this is being done by demographic purging of state voting registration rolls, among other underhanded tactics that renewal of the Voting Rights Act would go a long way to prevent.  

That seems to be the real reason for delaying renewal, and the main reason the VRA is still needed today as much as when it was originally passed a generation ago. 

Citizens, call your representatives to free this bill from bondage, so that the civil right which secures all others can be secured for every voter.  

Dan Ashby 

San Pablo 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Most cumulus commendations to our Berkeley Public Library for hipping me to the delicious works of Bill Fitzhugh, a contemporary satirical novelist messing with mystery—a true heir to the inestimable Richard Condon of Manchurian Candidate and Prizzi’s Honor acclaim. To wit, a Mississippi Delta FM blues DJ/private eye, a fired “Orkin man” named Bob Dillon, whose exterminations are highly sought by the global assassin world, a woman finally set for a heart transplant, only to be trumped by the president (a fainting spell is spun). Scandalously unavailable (found a total of two titles) in our best and other Berkeley book stores. Check out Bill Fitzhugh at Central.  

Arnie Passman 

P.S. Fitzhugh is one of “Five Mystery Writers Worth Investigation” in the June 26 issue of Time. 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The American people oppose this cruel war of aggression and war profiteering that is destroying our reputation and the goodwill of other nations! No candidate deserves to be in office who does not stand up to the lies and treasonous activities of the criminal Bush regime. The Democrats must also find the courage to confront the constitutional crisis of massive computer election fraud and systematic voter disenfranchisement that has been implemented by the Republican Party. The evidence that Bush was not the winner of the 2004 election is overwhelming and Americans are losing faith in our election system. Why are our Democratic Senators and Congresspersons so afraid to fulfill their oaths of office to “protect and defend the Constitution from all enemies both foreign and domestic”?  

It is time for a major change in our government! This nation belongs to “we the people” not to the corporations or their fraudulently “elected” cronies. 

Allen Michaan 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Some people enjoyed April’s “International Food Festival” in West Berkeley. Others had 90 decibels of it imposed on them with no warning. One’s enjoyment seems to be inversely proportional to the distance one lives from the portable toilets, the smoke from the outdoor cooking booths, the rude staff, and the enormous sound speakers trained directly on certain apartment windows. 

An asphalt parking lot next to four apartment buildings, where sound ricochets off the surrounding walls, is the worst possible location for an amplified show, unless your intent is to annoy hundreds of tenants, only a few of whom had any warning from the West Berkeley Neighborhood Development Corporation (WBNDC). 

The notice to the neighborhood for the “International Food Fair” didn’t mention using the Wells Fargo Bank parking lot for an amplified sound stage or putting two aromatic portable toilets right under dozens of tenants’ windows. A variance notice with some of this detail, or any detail, would have initiated some objections, entitling the neighborhood to at least a public hearing. When the City of Berkeley had this pointed out, Jay Ogden (Department of Environmental Health) responded, “that’s not our problem.” 

The owner of a nearby vacant lot next to no residences agreed to host the stage, but Willie Phillips, one of the board members of the West Berkeley Neighborhood Development Corporation, said changing their plans was too much trouble. District 1 representative Linda Maio’s office said “negotiations with the neighbors was not required.” Darryl Moore’s office didn’t respond, but showed up to get some face time on the stage, ignoring the issue of the imposition on immediate tenants. 

WBNDC hired an out-of-towner from San Francisco to do its leg work rather than taking the time to walk the neighborhood. Many merchants I spoke with told me they found her manner offensive, or weren’t invited to participate at all. Some merchants no doubt made money, and some people with apartments adjoining the amplified sound stage no doubt enjoyed the music, but only at the expense of hundreds of others who had no warning about the event, and had their work, their quiet, and their private gatherings suddenly and needlessly disturbed for hours. 

One of the event’s staff, Bruce Williams, tore down posters representing opposition, not to the event itself, but to the event’s lack of notice to the neighborhood, and refused to identify himself when photographed doing so. Betsy Morris, the chair of WBNDC, refused to intervene. Letters from tenants in all four of the apartment buildings testify to the difficulty imposed on some of the neighbors that day, but the WBNDC has yet to acknowledge the fact, let alone promise to plan a different location for any future events. 

Please encourage the West Berkeley Neighborhood Development Corporation to play fair, if there is a next time, so that hard-working people don’t suffer the burden of their bad planning. Nobody opposes a festival, or music, or great food, or dance. But if your event poses an imposition on others, it’s rude not to consult with them about it, and to respond by telling them to “enjoy” it. 

Carol Denney