Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday July 25, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

David Baggins, in his July 18 letter, cites BUSD’s many Oakland students as one reason for the achievement gap. Much as it would be to my advantage to agree, I must respectfully disagree. Mr. Baggins is relying on out-dated, anecdotal, and inaccurate information in his assertion that Berkeley’s students “are substantially from Oakland.” In the last few years we have tightened procedures for non-Berkeley admission to Berkeley schools, demand at least two current proof-of-residence (utility bill, checking account, drivers license), and the public should know that there are legal, legitimate reasons for non-Berkeley students attending Berkeley schools (such as the state care-giver law).  

I am open to suggestions on how to improve our procedures, but short of spending scarce resources and sending already burdened staff out on “residence checks” that most likely would have limited effect, we have done everything legally possible to ensure that Berkeley schools nurture and instruct Berkeley students and those legally permitted to attend our schools. 

John Selawsky 


Berkeley School Board 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Mr. Caruso has made it appear that he is withdrawing his application for a mall on the Albany shoreline. With two other cities, Glendale and Thousand Oaks, he made similar gestures to obtain reversals of the cities’ positions. The Albany City Council has supported a citizens’ planning process for the shoreline and opposed the Caruso-driven request for special approval of his proposal. The planning for the waterfront should not be developer-driven. This will be a legacy for generations to come and should be planned for thoughtfully by Albany’s citizens. 

Joanne Wile 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I want to thank Susan Parker for her column on caring for Ralph. She opened my eyes to a world that was previously unknown to me. As someone who has never had the experience of being disabled or the responsibility of caring for a disabled person, I had not thought much about what that would be like. 

I have heard that disabled people often feel they are invisible—people don’t make eye contact with them, necessary special arrangements at public places aren’t made, accessibility to events isn’t available to them, they are forgotten in our society.  

Suzie has done a lot to destroy that invisibility in her columns for the Planet. After reading about Ralph and her life with him, I can never again look at someone in a wheelchair without considering the courage and determination and preparation that put him or her in a place where we can have a shared experience. 

Yes, Suzie, you go girl. You deserve a lot of credit. Ralph is damned lucky to have you in his life. 

Ruby Long 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

To Susan Parker: I find what you wrote to be a very brave, poignant account. I am inclined to believe that rather than abate the criticisms you’ve been facing as a result of your comment, you will probably see an escalation and another misaimed retort in an inevitable banter of what you should and shouldn’t say.  

So I wanted to share my opinion that your current piece gave most of us readers and unreserved, living, breathing day in the life of someone who is married to someone in a wheelchair. They way in which it was written—a droning laundry list that embodied the daily routine you have been undertaking, which culminates into a bold, erupted statement that serves as a vent for your frustrations—mirrored your emotions brilliantly and truly illuminated what you are experiencing to oblivious and interested readers like myself.  

Thank you for sharing a part of your mind and making your column human, in spite of the inevitable comments from people who always feel like they need to have the last word. 

Ashwin Sodhi 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

From one Bay Area working parent to all others: You must support the Berkeley Warm Pool. You care about the elderly and disabled, but you have your own set of problems and retirement is decades away. If it seems unfair to pay for something you don’t plan to use, please consider this: 

Suppose you put down this paper and set off on a walk with your child. Suddenly, it hurts to turn your head. You have joined the world’s chronic pain patients in the search for relief. In the weeks, months, and years that follow, you look the same to your boss, your coworkers, family and friends. But some days you struggle to complete simple tasks your 72 year old father can do with ease, not to mention parenting and all you’re other responsibilities. The drain on your time, finances, and quality of life is enormous. 

You start warm water pool therapy with low expectations. But one afternoon you realize you are feeling no pain: hope at last. However, the pools are in expensive private therapy centers open only during working hours, as if all pain patients were retired or on worker’s comp. Even with sick time and insurance, could you afford to miss six or more hours of work per week? What would it mean to have a warm pool on evenings and weekends, where for a few dollars you could even bring your child? 

I know the answers, because all of this happened to me in my 30s. If you don’t plan to use the warm pool, please remember—neither did I. 

Kim Fogel 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am baffled, that in his July 21 column, “Doing ‘Something’ About Violence in Oakland,” J. Douglas Allen-Taylor has not used his valuable platform any better than those whose motives he questions. He rightly speaks of the neglect to “understand the nature and cause” of the problem before seeking a cure, and he asks about the causes of this “bloody violence that is threatening to crush the East Bay.” I agree that “money and votes” are two obvious causes of this stagnation to proper action.  

However, he neglects to inform about at least one major cause of both of those blocks to healing: the billions of dollars that continue to be squandered in our draconian “drug war.” Has he forgotten the true reasons for ignoring this “wasted” money—that the legal-drug-sellers, the illegal-drug sellers, and probably the most powerful stalemate to change, the departments of law-enforcement and punishment, would all be losers if this “war” ended. When we add to this mix, those legislators who fear losing votes, I expect that lack of vital social services, such as treatment and education, will persist. 

There is a great irony, that those who are denied such services will continue to be desperate, and will continue to provide jobs for those who punish them. 

Gerta Farber 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I found Robin Henderson’s commentary in the Berkeley Daily Planet’s recent issue “Keeping the Arts in the Public Eye Proves Challenging Every Year” very accurate but omitting an important factor. I worked several years ago at the Berkeley Arts Center serving as a volunteer with Robin, who is the executive director. I found the shows quite elitist and extremely “avant garde.” The center is partially funded by the City of Berkeley but in reality, Berkeley artists have little or no access to the center. At the time of my volunteering the center was governed by a board of directors who did not allow me to attend one of their meetings, even though I was also serving on the Berkeley Arts Commission and the Design Review Committee. If the Berkeley Arts Center truly wants to serve the Berkeley community, it should open their doors to Berkeley artists, allow them to have solo or group shows without a lot of restrictions. This would create a lot of good will , encourage Berkeley artists to show their work in their own city and bring money to the center with sales which these shows would generate. In other words, this would truly keep the arts in the public eye in our own city. 

Andree Leenaers Smith 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

When I first heard that the new hotel planned for Center Street, in Downtown Berkeley, may be named The Berkeley Charles I was pleasantly surprised. I’m not sure if any other Berkeley buildings, parks or monuments are named after African-Americans, but it would be the first I was aware of. Imagine my surprise when I learned the name was a reference to the Charles Hotel in Boston, and not our internationally known, local celebrity, Mr. Charles, The Waving Man! Boston? The only place in the United States where I have experience more prejudice and bigotry than Boston was the Deep South, but that’s another story. 

We can still save the day, and make the developers from the East Coast and local Berkeley folks happy by naming the hotel the Mr. Charles. What better name for a place that will attract visitors from around the world than to be associated with a man who spent so many years greeting everyone just to make them smile. How many of you would occasionally change your route so you and your kids could wave in the morning? I know some kids that started out in a car seat waving, and eventually were driving on their own, smiling back at Mr. Charles as he said, “Have a nice day.” Hopefully we can locate his famous gloves and put them in a glass case in the lobby! What do you think? 

Winston Burton 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It seems to me that the traffic congestion in the area of Ashby and San Pablo could at least be reduced if there were left-turn-only arrows in all four directions. 

Of course this would probably take City Council’s saying something officially to the state Legislature because Ashby is a state route and traffic on state routes can’t be interfered with without action on the Legislature’s party. That was done not so long ago to the benefit of the Claremont ... surely it could be done to the benefit of the rest of Berkeley. 

And while city and state are on the subject, it would be a good idea to make all the left turns from Ashby signal-controlled: the turns at College, Telegraph, Shattuck and, to a lesser extent, Sacramento, are all messy, and frustrated drivers do stupid, aggravating things (blocking traffic by pulling into the middle of the intersection, starting turns after the light has turned red). 

Joann Lee 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thanks for insightful editorial by Becky O’Malley on the pending National Labor Relations Board, “Kentucky River” decision. As an RN at Highland Hospital (otherwise known as the Alameda County Medical Center), I have nearly 30 years of experience as a staff nurse and it’s true that nurses are frequently key to the decisions regarding patient care. I’ve acted as charge nurse, supervised LVNs and CNAs, and precepted countless staff nurses on the floor, yet never in my life have I ever been considered “management.” All these duties are routine for any staff nurse. We do not hire or fire. We do not formally evaluate our co-workers. We don’t do shift scheduling. We don’t attend “management” meetings. We have very little input in the many changes that effect our working conditions and job descriptions. At ACMC we are represented by SEIU, Local 616. The union management should be criticized for not joining with CNA to protest the NLRB decision. My co-workers had no idea that there was a rally held in downtown Oakland last week to protest this union busting attempt. Many nurses at ACMC, feel left out of any co-ordinated effort to uphold the union and draw public attention to this issue. Did Arnold’s sneaky little trip to Washington last week have anything to do with the “Kentucky River” cases? Could this possibly be retaliation against those so-called “special interest” groups that defeated Arnold’s special election? Consider nurses to be the canary in the coal mine for the rights of all organized working people. 

Merielle Olson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

With a population of approximately 3 million people, Lebanon is about one one-hundredth the size of the United States. Therefore, if the United States were being attacked and suffering the same level of devastation as that country, we would currently have 30,000 dead, 140,000 wounded and 50 million displaced. 

George Goth 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The root cause of the strife in the Middle East is the continuing occupation of Palestine by Israel. Or am I missing something?  

J. B. Neilands