Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday July 04, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I welcome the news that the Berkeley City Council has again taken the lead in addressing current situations of injustice by voting to impeach the president. It did so by calling for an end to our involvement in Vietnam and later by calling for a boycott of South Africa because of apartheid. In both those cases it was the beginning of the turning point in American public opinion, which ultimately led to the proper resolution of the unjust situations. Let us hope this most recent step is as successful. 

Connie de la Vega 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I applaud the Berkeley Public Library Board of Trustees for removing Ms. Griffith from her post as library director, and hope this same board will fully realize that they had a part to play in this directorial disaster, and should formally apologize to the staff and patrons of the library for their mismanaged mess. This would instill some much needed confidence by all concerned, and show all that in Berkeley there is still some decency left in those that direct to those they serve—that there are consequences for mistakes, and can begin to rebuild with a better footing for all in the years to come...with an apology.  

Mark Bayless 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

While City Councilmembers who voted against adopting “clean money” public financing (“Council Rejects ‘Clean Money’ Measure,” June 30) may believe it an unnecessary expense in Berkeley, where all politicians are as pure as new fallen snow, this is not the case statewide and nationally, where entrenched “pay to play” politics gets us into wars and channels hundreds of billions of dollars to special interests and away from the public good. Let’s hope they come to their senses this fall, and support the public financing measure on the November ballot for statewide offices. It will cost us about the same as the Berkeley measure ($5 per voter), and, if passed, the pay to players who have fed at the public trough for so long will find themselves beggars at the door.  

Tom Miller 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

I can’t sit back and let Zelda Bronstein, perhaps the most unfriendly person to business in the city, run down the city and the mayor and not place her comments in perspective. One look at Bronstein’s actions demonstrate her true beliefs. She is anti-business. She does not listen to the neighborhoods but rather tries to impose her personal views on neighborhoods. 

Zelda Bronstein was the Planning Commission chair for two years. During her term she brought no business-supportive issues to the Planning Commission.  

After leaving the Planning Commission, Bronstein promptly began leading the opposition to the West Berkeley Bowl, holding up the project for nearly a year and almost killing it with delays. She ignored the strong collective voices of West Berkeley residents (Bronstein lives in North Berkeley) who repeatedly requested and deserve a full-service market with reasonably priced fresh organic fruits and vegetables.  

Further proof of Bronstein’s deafness to the real desires of a neighborhood was her opposition to La Farine Bakery on Solano Avenue. As head of her local neighborhood association (TONA) at the time, she manipulated TONA into opposing La Farine’s effort to have outdoor seating or, in fact having any seating at all. TONA finally held a truly open meeting, reversed the position she had been representing as the neighborhood’s position, and voted in support of the La Farine’s seating. If Bronstein had her way, the bakery wouldn’t be the neighborhood asset that it is today. 

Bronstein’s actions on the Planning Commission and since her departure belie her words. Her actions speak louder. 

Harry Pollack  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Mayoral Candidate Zelda Bronstein was shocked (but not surprised) that Mayor Bates told the New York Times “it was a shock” that Cody’s Books was closing (Daily Planet, June 30). Apparently Zelda Bronstein is the only person in Berkeley who wasn’t greatly shocked and greatly saddened that Cody’s is closing. In her defense, it should be noted that she also wasn’t shocked by Sept. 11, or even by the assassination of John Kennedy way back when. That’s what we need around here, a mayor who can see it all coming, and just takes it all in stride. Unruffleable.  

Anyway, she then goes on for over 34 inches of steel-cold typeface saying why it’s all Tom Bates’ fault, not only for that, but for everything else as well. Everything. She goes on and on and on about all of the things that she would do if only she were mayor . . . just about all of which the mayor does not have the power to do. Clearly, her warped perception of the Great Evil that Tom Bates has wrought, and the Great Good that she would accomplish, bespeaks a marked lack of understanding and good judgment at best. Proving yet again, that it is difficult to make much political hay out of a load, even a very large load, of horse manure.  

The simple tragic fact is that independents are going out of business in droves all over the country, unable to compete with mega-chains and the Internet. Sadly, A Clean Well Lighted For Books on Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco has just announced that it is closing its doors due to lack of sales. Spiffy, bustling Van Ness—no hordes of drug dealers, no boarded up stores, no urban blight, and no Tom Bates. I really would have had more respect for Bronstein’s political agenda if it consisted merely of politely asking everyone to go out and buy a few books at Black Oak or Pegasus. That I could support. Absent that, I fear that the lady doth protest way too much. In fact, I am shocked!  

Ken Stein 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

J. Douglas Allen-Taylor writes that Ignacio De La Fuente, Jr. was arresting for “raping” Fruitvale area prostitutes. 

Shouldn’t “allegedly” be put in front of “raping”? This is sloppy writing and sloppy editing. 

Michael Hardesty 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

In two articles in the June 27 edition of the Daily Planet, Richard Brenneman makes numerous mentions of the area median income. You talk about people earning 120 percent of it, less than half of it, up to 81 percent of it—but never tell us what that figure is. Could you please let me know? It would clarify my understanding of the issues involved. 

Also, in May 19 edition of the Daily Planet, this headline caught my eye: “Markos Speaks: Berkeley Blogger’s Daily Kos Makes National Waves.” I thought I was going to learn why it’s making waves! The headline on the “continued on” page says “Berkeley Blogger’s Site Stirs National Sensation." But nowhere in the article does Brenneman explain why. Nor does it support the author’s claim that has become “one of the world’s most popular blogs” and the claim in the picture caption that “(Kos) runs the world’s most popular political blog.” Instead, I felt as though I were reading a People magazine article about a celebrity—lots of mundane and irrelevant info on this guy’s personal life, info on how he’s making money indirectly off his blog, and about his personal political passions. I know the author didn’t write the headlines, but shouldn’t the article address the claims made in them and in the article itself?  

Jessie West 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Nowhere in Richard Brenneman’s coverage of the Planning Commission’s OK of “in-lieu condo fees” (Daily Planet, June 30) is there any mention of how this decision will directly affect Berkeley residents seeking affordable housing units. Instead, the article is full of numbers and percentages and technical terms known best to developers and planning commissioners, without one example, one reference to what a condo might cost a buyer in actual dollars. Is it verboten to quote a range of actual or proposed prices? The overall tenor of the article serves to further mystify the proceedings of the Planning Commission for residents who would like to understand what the (bleep) is going on in the Berkeley housing arena and its impact on us as potential customers (I use the word advisedly) for the new housing. What’s missing in the mix of such terms as “in-lieu,” “inclusionary units,” “density bonus,” and “market rate” is any reference to what an condo/unit/apartment might actually cost a Berkeley resident in the market for housing. There is also a need to inform low-income buyers or renters of new units how and where to apply for apartments or condos in the ongoing construction of large developments. A friend of mine was told by the developer he should apply for a unit in one building, only to find that applications had closed the week before. Will this be another discouraging bureaucratic mess, or do planners and developers really want to sell/rent new units? 

Marianne Robinson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I usually enjoy Susan Parker’s column. In the June 20-22 installment, however, she (or your copy desk) used a tired and inaccurate phrase. The column states that her husband is “...confined to an electric wheelchair...” But he’s not chained to it, with padlocks. And I bet he sleeps on a bed. 

Don’t get me wrong. As a disabled person who uses an electric wheelchair (“...uses a wheelchair,” hmm..."), I don’t mind being called crippled, or lame. I am a lame cripple. I don’t claim to represent Parker’s husband: His opinion is his own. This is mine: As a former journalist, I do mind lazy semantics, and keyboards disconnected from the brain. 

Brian Hill 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Ken Lock (letters, June 23) complains about garbage collectors who get paid a full day’s pay when they complete their daily route, even if they finish it in under eight hours. News flash! Any work based on driving has variable hours due to traffic, weather, detours, and employee efficiency. Garbage collectors are paid a flat daily rate because to do otherwise would reward the inefficient who take longer on their routes, while penalizing those who are efficient, talented workers who finish their routes more quickly.  

If this wasn’t the case, Mr. Lock would be hollering about our city “rewarding slackers” instead of “paying an assumed work day.” I guess you can have it both ways! 

Jesse Townley 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Under veiled threats by Hudson McDonald to take their ball and go home by withdrawing their offer to bring Trader Joe’s to near-downtown, the Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) reluctantly referred the Trader Joe’s project at University and MLK on to the Design Review Committee (July 20) for a “shave and a haircut.” Meanwhile ZAB readies itself to take public comments July 13 on the adequacy of the project’s CEQA Initial Study that—surprise, surprise—found no significant impacts anywhere they looked; 1,600 extra cars through the University-MLK intersection and onto Berkeley Way every day? No problem there, put in another traffic light and everything will be just like before, or even better. 

After repeated requests by ZAB members the applicant and staff finally conceded that a zoning/density bonus analysis of the proposed project results in 123-unit project rather than the proposed 148-unit project, an “inconvenient truth” that neighbors have been pointing out for a year. This “inconvenient” project shortfall has called forth the resourcefulness of city staff and the applicant. Standard procedures determine that the applicant has no right to the project they want? Time to call in those imaginative, creative types from the Planning Department and the city attorney’s office who will dice, slice and chop city and state law until, voila—25 additional density bonus units will appear like magic after a laying on of (barely visible) hands by staff and the City Council. Normally a project’s density bonus entitlement under the city’s arcane procedures is constructed on a base of our zoning ordinance’s development standards and only then modified to accommodate state mandated density bonus units—here Planning staff starts their analysis from the applicant’s proposed project and through creative back-solving and vigorous back-scratching make the project just happen to be what the applicant is demanding. Will miracles never cease? 

What makes it particularly galling to ZAB and the neighbors is that we have been repeatedly told that this project absolutely, positively, must follow procedures in place at the time the original project was deemed complete (December 2004). Maybe our ever resourceful city staff will find a way to back-date their miraculous solution to the problem of how to bring Two-Buck-Shuck to the teeming downtown masses. But before writing your shopping list stop and think about precedent that will be set by the circuitous and curious path this project trail blazes through our zoning ordinance and think about all the questions a judge might be prompted to ask. 

Stephen Wollmer 

Neighbors for a Livable Berkeley Way 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I listened to an interesting discussion on the radio about the problems on Telegraph Avenue but found one remarkable hole in the conversation. When you walk the street and see garbage, broken glass, vomit, food scraps and sticky sidewalks from soda pop spills, citizens are inclined to blames the homeless and itinerant youths. When you read about shootings, car crimes, assaults and girlfriend bashing, you never think of the university. Nobody wants to discuss a prominent source of the southside ugliness; students. Homeless people do not have the kind of disposable income to throw away half a pizza or dump Coca-Cola on the sidewalk, the students do. 

On any Monday morning, the streets are filled with the leftover trash from a Saturday night without adult supervision. Check out the streets in Southside around graduation or winter break, the students dump their dorm room throwaways on the curb and the city has to go on double shifts to pick up all the junk. The best suggestion I heard on the radio was not a free box but an entire free store. However, nobody mentioned the student contribution to the Avenue’s seediness. 

Hank Chapot 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was searching the Internet for information on Karen Grassle’s recent play, Open Secrets, which is now playing at The Rubicon Theatre in Ventura, when I came across a wonderful article called, A Note of Thanks To Karen Grassle. Wow! What a story! 

I am a big fan of Karen’s and I have been since I was 8 years old. I am now almost 39 years of age. How wonderful that someone at the height of her fame— “Little House on the Prairie” was number one in the ratings at the time—took the time to personally answer fan mail, and help a fan in need. That was such a loving thing for her to do. 

Karen Grassle is one of a kind! What a rare talent she is! 

I wish Karen all the success in this world! 

God Bless you, Karen. 

Maggie Kennedy 

Alexandria, Virginia 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The gay bashing minister at the Berkeley High School African American graduation ceremony prompts me to wonder how a group suffering as much repression as does African America can tolerate this, and other ministerial spouters of hate, who condemn one of the major groups in the United States that has kept the issue of equal treatment and inclusion on the front burner since the gains of the Civil Rights Movement. 

Perhaps it is that some ministers in the black church see their bread buttered by brow beating their captive congregations that want some black culture, which the ministers define in stereotypes of “ghetto life,” i.e. drugs, violence, unwed mothers and rowdy behavior in general. The minister who badgered the Berkeley High students was in the middle of such a rant when he added gay behavior to his list of sinful activities. 

Black ministers who yell and shout about gays can be contrasted with black American elected public servants, who are mosty liberal minded individuals who seek to bridge differences rather than cement them. The ministerial gay bashing seems akin to the tirades against gays given by the Republicans in Congress. Are the ministers GOP? 

Ted Vincent 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

First of all, let me state that the minister who expressed bigotry against gays, lesbians, bi-sexuals, and other like-minded, was expressing his own opinions of GLBTs, not those of God. God/Goddess/Spirit is inclusive of all people, of all sexual orientations, races, colors, political bents, and opinions. I, Linda, pray that all us GLBTs learn to love ourselves and each other, regardless of what our sexual inclinations are. Everybody’s sexual, and everybody’s going to find somebody or something to be a turn-on. We might as well build a world where everybody is loved and everybody is included, respected, and nurtured. 

Second, I don’t believe that there aren’t any fairy tales or other cultural stories and myths from Africa. I betcha anything there are. We, and Disneyworld, probably just haven’t heard any yet. 

I’d be willing to volunteer to write a story about a little African Princess. My mind is busy on inventing a name and a plot, etc. I wonder, are there any other people out there, be they of African ancestry or any other “flavor” (as my 6th grade teacher, Ms. Mikova, referred to diversity in people), who know anything about African stories, myths, deities, and religion? 

I read somewhere, that traditionally, most African tribes didn’t write down their stories. Instead, they probably told them around a fire or in a circle, or they used masks, dancing, music making, singing, etc., to tell their creation myths. 

There is an African religion. It’s called Santeria, or Yoruba, or something. While I am certainly not an expert at African storytelling or myth, I have read stories of Orishas (deities or the main characters) such as Yemaya, Oluddamarre, Oshun, Chang-O, and even animals such as Tiger, Bre’r Rabbit, and other colorful characters. Why not research those tales, and write stories based on that? 

I’d be happy to help Disney or somebody do that. If nothing else, it’s one heck of writing exercise. 

You do realize, don’t you, that a culture’s stories and myths, tend to color our imaginations, our religions, and even our sexuality? Christianity is filled with stories, and so is every religion, culture, and tribe. Heck, Sponge Bob Square Pants might be elevated to mythological level someday. We tend to treat our Hollywood and rock star celebrities like they were Gods or mythological figures, even though they’re real, live human beings who resent invasive photographers or people who make an Olympic sport of bad-mouthing them. 

Linda M. Smith 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Where did Joanne Kowalski get the idea that city planners ought to pay attention to the everyday living experiences of real people? In her June 23 commentary, “Noise + Traffic = Flight: Saving Urban Neighborhoods” Ms. Kowalski makes the startling claim that “we should strive to retain residents already in the city by working with neighborhoods to determine what they need and want.” Does she really believe that Berkeley citizens have enough knowledge and experience to decide what living conditions suit them? Oh, please. 

No, today’s Berkeley city planners know what people really want, because they are very good at listening carefully to developers’ grandiose claims—and are equally adept at pushing little colored rectangles around on city grid maps. They have thought these things through, believe me. Wall-to wall high-rise buildings creating permanent shade on every major street? Perfect—just think of the money we’ll save on sunglasses! Constant gridlock as traffic is pushed onto fewer and fewer streets? How nice—we’ll finally drive out those irritating families who resist using bicycles to drop their kids at day care on the way to work! Replace trees downtown with concrete bus platforms? It’s about time! After all, trees require water, pruning, and raking—all of which significantly drain our city budget. Allow UC to control development in our downtown? What harm could that do? Less green space and more buildings and concrete everywhere? Of course, that’s what being a green city means now! Build the biggest damn building you can get away with today so that your profiteering buddies can build even bigger ones tomorrow! 

Joanne, honey, get with the program—quality of life is yesterday’s news. Today it’s all about social engineering. 

Doug Buckwald 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Every year the Fourth of July celebration of explosive fireworks reverberating from the bay to the hills results in hundreds of runaway pets. Berkeley Animal Care Services alone reports the collection of more than 20 dogs each year, frightened and separated from their owners. Many of these beloved family pets are never reclaimed; many others end up in shelters already overcrowded from the spring puppy and kitten season, and are ultimately euthanized. 

Please leave your pets at home in a safe place if you go out and celebrate; better yet, stay at home and celebrate with friends and family, comfort your pets, and watch the displays on television. 

Alice La Pierre