Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday August 22, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

The blitz is on! On Thursday, Aug.17, Berkeley police cited one of our waitstaff for serving alcohol to a minor. Our written policies and training prescribe that our waitstaff ask for ID for all guests, regardless of appearance, that request alcohol, to eliminate errors in judgment of age. There is no excuse for this employee’s mistake. We are reviewing our practices to ensure that this first infraction is our last, and we continue to abide by the rules that accompany the privilege of our Beer & Wine license. 

Please allow me to take this opportunity to remind Berkeley parents that the development of responsible attitudes towards alcohol consumption begins at home. Spread the word. 

David Howard 

Co-Owner, The Caribbean Cove 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Good column by Conn Hallinan (Aug. 18)! I like how he said that if the British can negotiate with Sinn Fein and the IRA then Israel can negotiate with Hezbollah and Hamas. The British for years said that they would not deal with terrorists. Well now they’re in a devolved government in the north with two Sinn Fein MP’s who are former commanders of the IRA as well as current members of the IRA Army Council even though the IRA has called an end to their armed campaign. 

The IRA had to bomb Great Britain for 30 years in order for the British to sit down and negotiate with them. That was their goal and it worked. As a result, some of those former IRA bombers are now politicians with Sinn Fein in the Northern Ireland Assembly. 

P. Hanavan 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is important that a child remains stress-free while growing up. Parents and teachers should be calm and gentle. Even when things go wrong or are difficult, they should deal with the child in a peaceful manner. Dealing peacefully with children, even in stressful situations, will improve their behavior. This will inspire them to do as well as they can do. It may require a lot of awareness and thought on the part of teachers and parents to be good examples for children, but the results will be very fruitful. Children of today will be leaders of tomorrow, so any extra effort is worthwhile. The child’s environment itself, be it home or classroom, may be a source of stress for children. Children deserve the best we can provide in their formative years. They need routines and limits to grow without stress. They must have role models at home and in the school or daycare setting who make their space meaningful to them: a space where calm and security prevails and children feel that their curious and active minds can get all they need. These days, the jet fast pace of life around the children is making them worried and as a result they are not able to focus to learn and engage in positive social interaction. 

I like to introduce vocal music, dance, movement, acting and gardening to help the children be stress-free. When children get sufficient opportunities to interact as a group without holding anything back, it seems to curb behavior problems. 

No child should feel stressed growing up. It should be a top priority for parents and caretakers to help children stay stress-free. 

Romila Khanna 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

We used to be a country of laws. Now we have an administration that wants exceptions to illegal actions. Laws are what keep us civilized. Without law, there would be anarchy. If the INS does not go in and get her, there will be 12 million more illegals looking for churches. As for the illegal immigrant taking sanctuary in a church with her young son, I wish her luck. I think she has a bigger problem—her son alone with the priest. 

Norm Grudman 

Mattituck, New York 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

For several years in the early 1990s two of my grandsons attended a nursery school in West Berkeley. The overpowering, foul smells from Pacific Steel Casting were always present. The fumes are still there and so is the nursery school. It’s impossible to believe that such fumes are not harmful to all human beings, especially very young ones. 

Let’s hope that finally something will be done about it. 

Nancy Ward 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I read with great interest the article that several people are running for the BUSD School Board, including my colleague David Baggins. I am happy that we are going to have some informed discussion and meaningful choices in this election. 

As a parent of a BUSD student, I have become very aware that our district needs someone on the board that will ask tough questions and hold the district administration accountable for poor decisionmaking. 

James Forsher 

Associate Professor and Director, Broadcast Production Program 

California State University East Bay 

Department of Communication 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

When asked recently how he felt about Cliff Bar’s decision to move to Alameda, Mayor Bates commented rather naively that businesses come and go in Berkeley. Bates seemed satisfied that Walgreen’s has announced another store and that Peet’s will add another location in Berkeley. I do not feel the same comfort and complacency voiced by the mayor.  

Cliff Bar has 150 employees, many of whom are young professional people that have created a remarkably well run and environmentally conscious company. Walgreen’s is a drug store chain. I would enjoy playing poker with Bates as it appears he doesn’t know the difference between aces and deuces.  

Bates also was quoted as saying that it’s “Berkeley’s fate to nurture innovative businesses that finally outgrow us and have to move somewhere else.” “Have to move” Mr. Mayor? You are kidding us, right? Are you saying that you cannot do anything? How about nurturing and supporting innovative businesses so they do not want to relocate? In fact, the history of innovative businesses leaving Berkeley is explained mostly by city neglect and complacency from the Mayor’s office, not because they have grown up.  

Bob Archibald 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Sharon Hudson’s recent series “Notes on NIMBYism” contained some important points that should be considered by all those who seek to find a balance between preserving what we cherish about Berkeley and promoting new development that meets current and future community goals. I’m afraid, however, that many independent-minded folks (among which I count myself) will be so turned off by her over-the-top hyperbole and mis-characterizations that they will dismiss those points. 

Here’s one example: 

“Berkeley “environmentalists” would never advocate marginal, artificial environments for other species, but for humans they propose an unpleasant and inhumane urban environment, devoid of aesthetic and spiritual sustenance and often even the basic requirements of good health.” 

I’d be surprised if there is anyone in the local environmental community who remotely fits this description. Urban ecology as a planning paradigm seeks to promote the very opposite. No one in the discussion over development in Berkeley is proposing that Berkeley become like New York (which some find quite humane, of course!). In general, Ms. Hudson greatly overstates the degree to which the push for higher density in Berkeley (“smart growth”) is motivated by a desire to sacrifice quality of life in Berkeley for the sake of larger environmental goals. Urban ecology as a planning paradigm seeks to improve the urban fabric (attending to environmental as well as social concerns) and to support larger goals. Higher density, if designed with care and sensitivity for the affected neighborhoods, can help accomplish that. 

I know as a writer that it feels good (righteous) to pen prose like the above. The “choir” we usually preach to loves it. But more often than not, it’s counterproductive. Sharon, keep making your points about the unfairness of the outcome of much of the development we’ve seen of late. Give some consideration to realistic ways of dealing with this problem. But tone down the hyperbole and rhetoric if you want those outside your camp to listen. 

Steve Meyers 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It was sad to read that New Light Senior Citizen Center, created by the people in the South Berkeley community in 1968 is ending in this way with a debt of $40,000. The South Berkeley YMCA, known as the Y, (now the YMCA Learning Academy) was also a product of community commitment and foresight. New Light was one of many organizations, groups, clubs, etc., that met at the Y. The New Light Board of Directors and roster of members reads like a “who’s who” of the Berkeley/Oakland neighborhood and the many activities in those days reflected their interests and did benefit the community. The original name for the program is the South Berkeley New Light Senior Citizen Center. 

New Light was the name chosen to describe beginning and change and it was embraced by all who came for its “down home” friendliness and organized activities and pride in working together for success. New Light was all business from the start, whether on the sick, the program or fundraising committees, the knowledge and suggestions of the various members was welcomed and used. The records of the minutes show that in those days the board of directors, the director, by-laws rules committee, the officers’ positions, the membership rolls, and the various sub-committees were filled by active, volunteer participants. (Only the board of directors and the position of director is restricted to Berkeley residents). 

The first Berkeley senior center was in North Berkeley on University Avenue. New Light was the second. Maudelle Shirek was involved from the beginning. When my mother Lena Holland, called some friends and suggested a senior organization at the Y, Maudelle Shirek was the person who took both my parents to Sacramento, California and the New Light Senior Citizen Center was incorporated. The incorporation papers are faded but the evidence of accomplishment is there. 

During these years, Maudelle remained in a consultant position but she was available to New Light when needed, even though her neighborhood and world-wide commitment to people caused her to have a busy schedule. A few years ago, Maudelle was at the West Berkeley Senior Citizens and her balanced menu was not well received there. It was at that time, when she was still active and fulfilling her city council/vice mayor slot, that Maudelle slowed her pace and she came to New Light with her healthy meals. She bought the foods and supervised the preparation and with her reputation for good nutrition and her community and political comment, she was welcomed at New Light full time. 

As the years aged the original New Light people, the program changed. After the stable administration through the many years, there was constant turnover of directors and about five years ago, the program slowed to simply one hour, three days a week, and food only. The many services have deceased to in-home meals, three days a week for those who are shut-in. 

And, as New Light changed, the Y did too. They started as a church on an empty lot, progressed to a USO, then to the South Berkeley YMCA, and today, is a successful YMCA Learning Academy. My father, Kemper Holland, was part of that YMCA process and those memories in photos and written documents are also in my possession. 

Today the history of New Light is blurred with the use of the New Light name by some churches. Not everyone knows how the community came together with little resources, a lot of determination and loyal commitment and few people today were fortunate enough to experience the good times like those that were at the South Berkeley YMCA New Light Senior Center. 

Joy Holland 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

To blame Jews for their own enslavement, and for the Holocaust, just isn’t right; the fact that this kind of anti-Semitism rears its ugly head in Berkeley is particularly distressing. 

To say that Jews were oppressed by Babylonians, Egyptians, and Germans because of “their racist attitude that they are the chosen people” (Arianpour’s Aug. 8 commentary) offends, outrages, and disgusts me. Some might say those were just words on a page and free speech and free press protect the right to espouse this hatred. But while we protect the right of a free press to print stupid statements we also have an obligation to respond vigorously against harmful, hateful misinformation. 

Many religions believe in their own uniqueness or connectedness to the Creator, so Jews should not be singled out and castigated for their faith. One of the great strengths of our country is the goal of acceptance of many faiths co-existing. Please do not join in perpetuating the denial of the Holocaust, or in this case, blaming Jews for the Holocaust. The blame lies squarely on the narrow-minded prejudice of that time, which still survives today. I strenuously reject this attempt to blame the victim. Berkeley has had far too many cases of attacks on the Hillel, on the Jewish fraternity, and hate crimes against individual Jews, for us to close our eyes to the rhetoric which is the breeding ground of hatred, prejudice, discrimination and violence. 

I know the paper is “taking a break from Middle East letters,” but I hope that this letter is treated as a statement against anti-Semitism, not a statement on the Middle East. This letter that insults Jews and the Jewish religion disgusts me so much that I feel that I must respond. 

Whenever we read such garbage, let us re-dedicate ourselves to educating ourselves, and our society that victims are not to blame, and commit ourselves to speaking out against all forms of racism, sexism, ageism, anti-Semitism, and hatred and prejudice. 

Kriss Worthington 

Councilmember, District 7 

Founder, City of Berkeley Holocaust  

Remembrance Day 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was asked by the signers to forward this letter to you. 

Rabbi Ferenc Raj, PhD 

Congregation Beth El 


Free speech is a cornerstone of our society. Editors edit, however, and not every racist diatribe gets “airtime.” Unfortunately, the Berkeley Daily Planet helped to fuel ethnic hatred when it decided to print an explicitly anti-Jewish commentary by Kurosh Arianpour on Aug. 8. 

In Berkeley we are familiar with strongly worded opinion pieces that criticize the policies and actions of particular individuals, groups and nations. Arianpour’s commentary, however, crossed the line into a racist attack on all people of Jewish descent when he asserted that Jews have been the cause of every tragedy that has befallen them—from slavery in Egypt to the Holocaust. 

We are not surprised when hate-mongers make such statements or when neo-Nazi publications print them. Vulgar and hate-filled statements are written all the time—editors choose whether or not to publish them. We were, however, surprised to find them in a Berkeley “community” newspaper since racism of any kind violates all that our city and region stands for. 

We are also concerned to hear that the editor of the Daily Planet has refused to meet with representatives of the Jewish community to discuss their concerns. 

Surely the Daily Planet would never consider publishing an analogous commentary blaming any other racial or ethnic group for its suffering throughout history. And if such a commentary did somehow make its way into the paper, we wonder if the editor would turn down a request to talk with the offended group. 

Thus, we are deeply distressed that Ms. O’Malley found Arianpour’s hateful and all-encompassing opinions about all Jews acceptable to publish, and that she refuses to discuss it. This can only add to the anger and divisions in our immediate community and in the world. It pollutes the fragile reservoirs of goodwill upon which peace depends. 

We therefore call on Ms. O’Malley to apologize to the community. 

State Senator Don Perata, Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, Mayor of Oakland Jerry Brown, Mayor of Berkeley Tom Bates, Mayor of Emeryville Ruth Atkin, Berkeley City Council Members Laurie Capitelli, Darryl Moore, Betty Olds, Gordon Wozniak