Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday July 11, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Jerry Landis (Letters, July 7) is right on when he points out the inefficiencies of artists, professional artists, and professionals fighting over space and housing in Berkeley. So what do you suppose we do about it? Here’s what I’ll do. I don’t have much, but I will give $500 to a group of Berkeley and other local residents who can find a place with reasonable land prices in California (Davis? Mt. Shasta? The Central Valley?) that could serve as an arts community. We will buy this land. I envision a non-profit organization running a tract with cabins, shacks, a group center, and tent sites with rules outlining no permanent residency but self- and foundation-funded tenancy and fellowships. We could limit participation to Bay Area artists. I’d bet you’d get a great mailing list out of this, too. Government land is still inexpensive and grants are available to groups interested in the idea of intentional artistic communities. So, Jerry, here is my $500. I only ask that someone scrawl (with permanent marker) my name on the bench on the patio of this proposed community. Who’s with me? 

John Parman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have been a wheelchair “user” for over 20 years now. I get out of my wheelchair to go to sleep, take a shower, swim, get into automobiles. If I did not have a wheelchair I truly would be “confined.” I would be confined to my bed. Thanks to both Ann and Brian. While some might assert we should lighten up and not take ourselves so seriously I would counter that language and its use or misuse is critical in forming how the public perceives everyone—male, female, black, white, heterosexual, straight, able bodied or disabled. Such terminology as “confined” to a wheelchair is not only inaccurate it is offensive. 

Ruthanne Shpiner 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was taken aback by a couple of recent Daily Planet letters to the editor criticizing Zelda Bronstein’s ideas for economic renewal. The comments of Tom Case, however, win a prize for spin-idiocy. In it he questions the need for an Office of Economic Development. While it is certainly true that Berkeley’s current Economic Development Office is next to worthless, many other cities around the state not only have full-time professionals in their OEDs but often have one employee per business district. The salaries of these professionals are returned to the city manyfold when appropriate businesses move in and when concerns of existing business are monitored and addressed. To state that this is nothing but “more bureaucracy” is no more logical than firing good salespeople to save on salaries. 

If you want to do a case study on failed municipal economics there is no better place to start than Tom Bates. His proposal to raise parking fees and solicit national chain stores on Telegraph Avenue belies a wholesale lack of business and economic sense. It should come as no surprise that the city has experienced double-digit declines in business revenues since Bates became mayor. His willingness to cut fire and police services, reduce parking, and raise every possible fee or tax, while spending millions to subsidize real-estate developers is a recipe for disaster. Imaging what Fourth Street will look like with no parking and empty storefronts, a scenario that will come to pass if Brennan’s and that area’s parking give way to the huge and ugly apartment blocks Tom Bates supports.  

There’s no question in my mind that Berkeley needs a mayor who understands business and economics and Bronstein is the only viable candidate in that department. 

John Felix 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’ve been wading through the volumes of detail in Richard Brenneman’s article on Gaia Building cultural uses. Not for the first time in reading his work, it is hard to get at the key issues before nodding off. 

But they seem to boil down to two, maybe three: fire safety rules, noise, and sometimes unruly and hard-to-manage crowds, including wannabe participants excluded—probably in turn because of fire regulations. These last issues seem more than a little reminiscent of similar problems long rampant at fraternity parties near the UC campus, and frequently lubricated or exacerbated by alcohol. Fire matters I will leave to the fire authorities. I suspect the noise and hard-to-manage crowds go together, and that as long as Anna’s Jazz Island is expected to coexist with rock concerts and parties featuring highly amplified music, no amount of sound-proofing could hope to prevent a parade of problems for De Leon’s business and probably for residents of the building as well. 

Of course I also have to wonder if city officials are loathe to rain on the parades of promoters with business ties to Patrick Kennedy and family ties to city officials. 

It seems to me that the kind of use made by the Berkeley Marsh is ideal. Certainly cultural by any definition, not unduly noisy. Not infrequently, people leave a Marsh performance and stop in at Anna’s for awhile afterwards. Maybe the Marsh doesn’t yet have enough of a following to use the space more consistently, but this seems like the direction to aim for. I for one can hardly wait to see in Berkeley more performers featured at the Marsh’s SF location. Meantime, I think the loud parties and rock concerts should be out no matter how well connected their promoters are. 

Donna Mickleson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Tonight, Tuesday July 11, the Berkeley City Council will once again take up the issue of whether it will refer the “Clean Money” proposal to the people, and place the question on the November ballot. 

The League of Women Voters of Berkeley, Albany and Emeryville strongly supports the proposal, which would provide for public financing of election campaigns for Berkeley Mayor and City Council. 

Berkeley’s Fair Campaign Practices Commission recommended, by an overwhelming vote of 7 to 1, to send the proposal to the City Council with a strong recommendation of passage and placement on the ballot for the vote of the people. 

At the last council meeting, an apparent lapse in understanding of a parliamentary procedure caused a split in the vote, with four councilmembers voting to place the measure on the November ballot, two voting in opposition, and three abstaining. 

The proposal will once again be before the City Council tonight (Tuesday), and because of time deadlines the council must pass it tonight or it is dead for at least two more years (the measure is a City Charter amendment, and thus must come before the citizenry at general elections). This provides a chance for the abstaining officials (Mayor Bates and Councilmembers Anderson and Maio) to commit one way or another on the question, rather than declining to reveal their point of view by abstaining (effectively, a “no” vote). 

The League of Women Voters urges all supporters of clean elections, where the money for campaigning comes from the people rather than from the lobbyists and election-time “friends” of elected officials, to immediately contact the mayor’s office and their councilmember, to tell them to vote to put the measure on the fall ballot—no abstentions, just a commitment to yes or no, up or down. 

If you can, please come out tonight to show your support of the concept. 

An initiative has qualified to place the question on the state ballot in November, providing public financing for state campaigns. With evidence of bias in favor of campaign contributors all around us, the time is ripe to seize the moment and pass legislation at the state and Berkeley levels. 

Sherry Smith 

League of Women Voters of Berkeley, Albany and Emeryville 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I wish to concur with Sam Ferguson’s excellent July 7 letter insisting that all nine Berkeley City Councilmembers explicitly vote their position—rather than abstain—on a proposed “clean money” campaign reform ballot measure for Berkeley candidate elections. The City Council will likely decide this issue today (Tuesday). 

More importantly, I would respectfully urge councilmembers to allow Berkeley’s 60,000 registered voters to decide for themselves—on Nov. 7—the merits of clean money election reform. 

It is imperative that the City Council provide Berkeley’s voters with the democratic opportunity to vote yes or no on this critical and groundbreaking issue rather than the council itself deciding. 

If the council is allowing Berkeley citizens an opportunity to vote yes or no on an impeachment ballot measure, then the council should extend to Berkeley citizens the same opportunity to vote up or down on public financing of candidate elections. 

Please permit Berkeley’s voters, themselves, to decide this important issue on Nov. 7. 

Chris Kavanagh 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I can’t sit back and let Planning Commissioner Harry Pollack run down former Planning Commission Chair Zelda Bronstein as unfriendly to business, and not place his comments in perspective. Which businesses are you talking about, Harry? When I was on the Planning Commission I saw Ms. Bronstein work hard to bring proposals before the commission in support of industrial and artisan businesses. I also saw Mr. Pollack work hard to undercut that effort, and to prevent it from even being discussed. It was Pollack who was anti-business. 

As an industrial business owner myself, I know that Bronstein is far from trying “to impose her personal views on neighborhoods.” She is guilty only of being one of the very few people in city government who has listened to the needs of the industrial business community, and who has tried to help. Pollack on the other hand supports the commercialization of the industrial zones in West Berkeley, and doesn’t appear to care that in many cases that means driving industrial businesses out of town. Harry, you may not consider us important, but we think we are. Push industries, artisans, and artists out of town and the character of the city is changed. Is that’s what you want? Bronstein, to the contrary, has supported our struggle to stay in town, and has argued that new West Berkeley shopping centers would draw business away from the existing commercial zones, which are already badly struggling. 

Ms. Bronstein was not “leading” the struggle over the Berkeley Bowl; it was engaged in by many people living or working in the neighborhood, both businesses and residents, and we remain very concerned about the impact that 50,000 cars per week will have on us. Twenty-seven local industrial, retail, recycling, art and artisan businesses employing hundreds of people joined together to request that the EIR also study the economic impacts of this project on local businesses, but this was never done. Pollack blames Bronstein for the time-consuming planning process for the Bowl. To the contrary, the city manager writes, “The unusual duration is due in part to the city’s decision, relatively late in the process, to prepare an EIR, and also to oversights and errors by the applicant’s traffic consultant and the city’s environmental consultant, which necessitated recirculation of the EIR and the extension of the review period….” Bronstein only joined in this experiment we call democracy. Pollack apparently would prefer everything planned quickly and quietly by developers, city staff, and commissioners, and get rid of the messy “delays” of citizen participation. 

Yes, Ms. Bronstein does not live or work in West Berkeley. But just for the record, Harry, you don’t have to live or work in our neighborhood to support the retention of industrial and artisan businesses. We welcome the support of all people, including you. How about it, Harry? Will you finally turn around and support our businesses? Will you listen to the neighborhood? 

John Curl