Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday July 07, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

May I second Brian Hill’s semantic quibble over the phrase “confined to a wheelchair” used more than once by Susan Parker. A wheelchair is not an obstacle, it is a tool, and a very useful one if you can’t walk. Like Brian and Ralph, I’m good and crippled, but the chair isn’t the problem, it’s part of the solution, and I wish the Daily Planet wouldn’t use language implying otherwise.  

Try “wheelchair user,” or “uses a wheelchair.” That’s not so hard, is it? 

Ann Sieck 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Christian Pecaut (Daily Planet, July 4) gives us all the data we need to decide the suitability of this mayoral candidate for that office. 

Pecaut offers a “Paradigm from California,” and asks: “What does the paradigm prove?” 

Lets look at a few of the candidate’s claims: 

(1) “Nature and...human behavior are geared for work out well for every” one. Pecaut apparently got to Stanford without reading “The Ant and the Grasshopper.” Nature rewards thrift and abhors lazy consumers. Nature also has many species in which sexual behavior does not “work out well for every” player. 

(2) “Protection is supposed to flow...downwards in hierarchies.” Hear the deafening laughter of queen and drone bees. Or read Fritjof Capra’s The Web of Life, which notes that Earth is not a hierarchy, but an interdependent network. “Implication?” When the United States enacted Social Security, our personal savings rate dropped to less than one per cent, banks had less to loan to businesspeople, less stuff got made and fewer jobs were created, and we owe a trillion dollars to China and Japan. 

(3) The notion of a single, fully knowable, real objective truth defies most current responsible scientific research into the human perceptual system. 

(4) “Demand what you want” is a mantra for adolescents, sociopaths, and people with insufficient education to acknowledge we live as community. 

Pecaut’s clear philosophical statement allows us to decide with our eyes open. In the words of the great American philosopher Geena Davis, “Be afraid. Be very afraid.” 

David Altschul 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding Ken Bullock’s June 30 review of Permanent Collection: I, too, came away aware that the author had focused more on characters’ points of view than developing Aristotle’s “dramatic action.” But on the drive home, my wife and I interrupted one another as we examined how the play made us feel and analyzed what the author had to say about how some racial issues stay the same and some evolve. Finally, what we learned from this production of Collection was that the excellent acting put the audience in the characters’ position so well that the dramatic action could go on in a Honda Civic hours after the curtain had fallen. 

Paul Heller 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A half-century ago, when I had exiled myself from my native California to get a sense of East Coast life in Philadelphia, I dated a girl who was not just an art student, but a member of the Communist Party. Those were heady times, politically and intellectually, and through the intervening decades my political position has drifted between liberal and libertarian. Is it due just to my aging pragmatism that I now find myself looking with some impatience at Berkeley’s sad old leftists, still dragging their tattered red flags behind them? 

I asked myself this after reading two items in the Daily Planet of June 27. First, John Curl again warns us that opening West Berkeley to real business (Capitalism!) will drive out artists and artisans because, as he rightly points out, many of them can’t afford the higher rents that would result from competitive use of that area. The question he doesn’t ask is why they should be practicing their arts and crafts in one of the most densely populated and costly cities in the state. Or why the other residents of the city should subsidize their choice to do that, by carrying the tax burden that West Berkeley should share. In the past, artists and craftsfolk formed their communities in rural enclaves where space was cheap and living was easy. Why not now? The hard question is this: do we owe them a livelihood just because they choose to spend their days at pleasant pursuits that the rest of us have to squeeze into hobby time? 

Then, in his article on the Arpeggio condo project, Richard Brenneman reports that Councilmember Dona Spring is irked that none of the inclusionary condos available to buyers with limited incomes are on the top floors. “Inclusionary units are supposed to be the same as any others,” she said, “but these units are the inside units that don’t have the views. That’s wrong.” So it’s not enough that those with lower incomes can purchase condos in a new luxury building at reduced (subsidized) prices— they should be entitled to the same views that attract premium buyers. Oh, those poor oppressed masses... Give me a break! 

Jerry Landis 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I thought Tom Bates was doing a lousy job as mayor, especially after he left the city’s taxpayers with most of the cost of University expansion. Then I read Zelda Bronstein’s “A Pro-Business Pro-Berkeley Agenda” (Daily Planet, June 30) and realized that the city’s finances could get worse. Much worse. 

It’s clear Ms. Bronstein, as well-meaning as she might be, knows nothing about business, and would move the city further toward financial crisis. 

For instance, she declares the importance of keeping auto dealers in Berkeley, then supports locking in the industrial zoning that prevents dealerships from locating near the freeway, their natural setting. She believes she can help solve parking problems by boosting meters to 90 minutes, not understanding that such a move would choke turnover, making parking problems worse. 

Bronstein says we need to debunk the myth that Berkeley industry is dead. No one is saying it’s dead. What people are saying is that new growth in manufacturing in Berkeley is practically dead, and pretending otherwise is hallucinatory. She believes that “a rich array of light industry, artists and artisans” can provide the new growth in sales tax the city needs to avoid big budget cuts. Does anybody else truly believe that fantasy? 

She wants to revive the Office of Economic Development. That’s all we need—more bureacracy. 

Why can’t somebody run for mayor that will survey the needs of business and potential businesses in Berkeley, and adjust policies to attract them? I feel sure the top priority will be cutting bureaucratic red tape, not adding more of it. 

Next time the city asks for property or parcel tax hikes, remember that our representatives are doing next to nothing to bring in business revenue. 

Tom Case 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Swiftboating of John Kerry during the last presidential election had an important lesson: Respond to smears in a timely and forceful manner. It is with that lesson in mind that I reply to Harry Pollack’s attack (letters, July 4) on my “Pro-Business, Pro-Berkeley Agenda” commentary. Pollack asserts that my actions, unlike my words, show that I am “anti-business” and anti- neighborhood. 

Actions do speak louder than words. Indeed, my actions refute Pollack’s claims, which in almost every instance grossly misrepresent my record. He does get two things right: As he states, I chaired the Planning Commission for two years (2002-2004) and was president of the Thousand Oaks Neighborhood Association (TONA). What follows are some of the facts he distorted or simply ignored. 

While on the Planning Commission for nearly seven years, I co-chaired the commission subcommittee that oversaw downtown streetscape improvements. In recognition of that work, I received the Downtown Berkeley Association’s 1998 President’s Award “for exceptional leadership and consensus building.” Joining with merchants and city staff, I helped start the Main Street Alliance in support of Berkeley’s independent, locally owned and operated businesses. I initiated and then helped guide the community-based planning process that led to the city’s first new General Plan in 25 years. I drafted the plan’s Economic Development Element, which was adopted in 2002 with only minor revisions by the City Council. I teamed up with planning commissioners Gene Poschman and John Curl to present the Planning Commission with a detailed proposal protecting West Berkeley artists and industry. And I helped convene and then served on the UC Hotel/ Conference Center Citizens Advisory Group, whose recommendations have been praised by the project’s developer. 

In West Berkeley, I’ve worked with the Traffic and Safety Coalition (TASC), composed of West Berkeley businesses and residents, for a neighborhood-friendly Berkeley Bowl. Thanks to TASC, an environmental impact report was done for the new store, which will be twice as large as the existing Bowl and generate 50,000 vehicle trips a week. 

Finally, contrary to Pollack’s claim, TONA and I welcomed La Farine Bakery onto Solano Avenue. We did ask La Farine and city officials to respect the Solano Avenue Commercial Ordinance, which promotes a diverse, neighborhood-serving business district. (I trust that Pollack, a lawyer, and the mayoral candidate he’s endorsed, the incumbent, think it’s a good idea to follow the law.) 

Zelda Bronstein 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

If politicians won’t work for you, make them pay for it! This week the Berkeley City Council declined to place a measure on the November ballot to publicly finance our elections for mayor and City Council. They ignored the fact that the Berkeley Fair Campaign Practices Commission (FCPC) appointed by them had just voted overwhelmingly in favor of the measure. They ignored the fact that there will be a similar (but not anywhere near as good) measure on the statewide ballot this fall. They ignored their own certain knowledge that corporations and developers control Congress and virtually every state and local elected body. They ignored the fact that publicly financed elections benefit everyone running for office, by giving candidates complete freedom to talk to and work with their constituents rather than raising money. 

The United States is the only industrial nation that allows legalized bribery in the form of “campaign contributions.” That’s why we had Enron, it’s why we are paying triple for our energy bills compared to seven years ago, it’s why our taxes go to war and corporate subsidies, and it’s why we have developers who run roughshod over our citizens’ wishes and city plans whenever they feel the need to make a buck. It’s why the Legislature, and even our own City Council, go along with whatever the wealthy and powerful want. 

You can do something to stop this evil system. Don’t support candidates who don’t work for you! If your elected officials won’t vote to eliminate legalized bribery, then don’t vote for them, and don’t give them money! Make them pay for their own campaign out of their own pocket. 

Take this pledge now: Raise your right hand and read aloud, “I pledge to make politicians pay. I will not donate money to any candidate who does not work for me. I will not give my money to anyone who does not support a civilized system of publicly financed elections.” 

Then call, write or e-mail your mayor and councilmember to tell to reconsider next week, or else pay for their own election. 

Bob Marsh 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The heading of the June 30 article “Council Rejects ‘Clean Money’ Measure, Adopts New Budget” is a tad misleading. Twice as many councilmembers voted for the clean elections (Bates, Moore, Spring and Worthington) than opposed it (Capitelli and Olds), indicating it wasn’t rejected. The problem is the council simply didn’t decide, because three members hadn’t made up their minds and abstained from the issue. 

This indicates that the council need revisit the idea. It does a disservice to the voters of Berkeley when the legislative process is derailed by withholding votes through abstention. There are three weeks left to get clean elections on the ballot, and decision time has arrived. If the abstaining members oppose clean elections in Berkeley, I ask them to say so, affirmatively, and decide on the issue by voting no. But, if they are truly for clean elections, as several have indicated both publicly and privately; if they stand with the League of Women Voters, the Sierra Club and the Fair Campaign Practices Commission; if they believe in better, participatory, accessible local government; if they recognize that your political worth is not tied to your net worth, I ask them to vote to place clean elections on the November ballot at the July 11 City Council meeting. 

The time is right for clean elections in Berkeley. While Measure H failed to garner enough support, much in 2006 is different. The League of Women Voters is now an active member of our coalition. The city is in better financial condition than it was in 2004. The scarcity of local ballot initiatives will allow voters to concentrate and consider this issue on its merits. And, most importantly, the state clean money efforts have gained tremendous momentum, both increasing voter awareness of clean money, and providing an opportunity to seize the day by simultaneously cleaning up California (Yes on 89!) and cleaning up Berkeley. 

We sent the members of the City Council to office to make decisions. It’s time to make a decision. Are you for or against clean elections? 

Sam Ferguson 

Chair, Berkeley Clean Elections Coalition 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

So Tom Bates supported public financing for the mayor’s race when he was campaigning but now opposes it? He’s concerned that 600 people would have to give $5. And the majority of the City Council is also opposed. 

Could the Daily Planet list the amount of contributions each candidate collected in the last race and who the big contributors were? 

Nancy Ward 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding “More Cars for Berkeley with New Caldecott Tunnel” (Daily Planet, July 4): I have enormous respect and admiration for Roy Nakadegawa, who has throughout his professional career as a transportation engineer espoused and advocated environmentally-friendly solutions, not least as an elected member of the boards of directors of, first, AC Transit and then BART. But I feel that he has got the issue of the fourth Caldecott Tunnel wrong. Let me explain while also stating that I am not enthusiastic about building this project. 

The congestion that the new tunnel is intended to alleviate is that experienced by the counter commute; i.e., east to the suburbs in the morning and west in the afternoon. At present, this traffic has available only one tunnel (two lanes), and backs up a mile or more for several hours each weekday. The major commute (westward in the morning, eastward in the afternoon) is allocated four lanes in two tunnels. The fourth tunnel would add two more lanes to the counter-commute direction, while the highway capacity for the major commute direction—and therefore traffic volume—would not change. 

Mr. Nakadegawa states that there “needs to be development in the east as dense as destinations in San Francisco.” Present conditions are not likely to attract large numbers of additional workers from west of the Berkeley Hills to central Contra Costa County; it would require the capacity of two more lanes on Highway 24, which the fourth tunnel would provide, to serve a much denser job concentration. Without the fourth tunnel, there would be reluctance by developers to build to higher work-place densities in and around Walnut Creek and Concord. 

My ambivalence about the fourth tunnel stems from the feeling that congestion, while bad for air quality and fuel consumption, serves to convince some travelers to switch to transit, and that this project would result in some loss of BART passengers going in the counter-commute direction. In the evening this probably includes persons heading to San Francisco for dinner, theater, etc., who prefer BART to the double challenge of the Caldecott Tunnel and the Bay Bridge. Also, I am somewhat skeptical about the likelihood that dense development will occur in an era in which it is often stopped by local opposition. 

Wolfgang Homburger