Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday August 25, 2006



By Myrna Sokolinsky 


“The three little pigs are an axis of evil,” 

The Wolfowitz claimed in this story medieval. 

The first little pig had no nuclear bombs 

So the Wolf bombed his house with no remorse or qualms. 


The second pig saw what the first pig went through 

So to enrich uranium is what he’ll do, 

But he won’t have the time to produce his defense 

Before Bad Wolfowitz bombs his own residence. 


The third little pig had a nuclear bomb 

So the Wolfowitz was unaccountably calm. 

“Negotiations is what’s needed,” said he 

And so in his house pig number three lived carefree. 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thanks to the Daily Planet for alerting us about the attempt to close the excellent South Berkeley senior lunch program. It seems nothing we love is deemed worthy of preservation by Mayor Bates and company who favor a redevelopment approach to planning. Landmarks, trees, parks, playgrounds, our ice-skating rink, school properties, the warm-water pool for the disabled, branch libraries, senior centers—all are at risk and the list is growing! 

Tom Bates gave up his salary as mayor to keep his assemblyman’s pension. So why is he here? It seems fair to say, after observing him for many months, that he is not serving us from the kindness of his heart but for the chance to fulfill his agenda. His stated priority has been “to get Berkeley developed.” It seems that our above-mentioned treasures are being readied as opportunity sites for the mayor’s developer friends. 

Government’s duty is to serve the people, not to steal from them and pillage their community. Some people believe that Mayor Bates and company are trying to destroy our city as we know it, to rebuild it as a safe harbor for their supporters and ideologies.  

I believe Tom Bates has tried to do some very good things. Before becoming mayor, he planned a development which would have electric “Batesmobiles” for seniors. Sounds good to me! Seniors often need a lift; it can give them a new lease on life. And furthermore, Berkeley needs clean air vehicles desperately, because our downtown and corridors stink from pollution and worse. 

Merrilie Mitchell 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Steve Meyers, in an Aug.15 letter to the Daily Planet, made this claim: “Many, perhaps most, of the opponents of current building development trends agree that Berkeley needs more housing…”  

I certainly qualify as an opponent of current development trends, but could not agree less with this statement. While there might be an unlimited demand for rich historic buildings that people actually love and enjoy, the demand for “stunning new lofts” appears to be finite. 

A condo project on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, which has been on the market for approximately three months, is now advertising “New Prices!” Last Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle listed these units for sale, logically, in the Berkeley column of the real estate section. But the open house ad was also found under Emeryville listings as “Emeryville Alt” (alternative?). 

Is Berkeley the booby prize for those who can’t score a real Emeryville condo? A brief tour of Emeryville showed a town plastered with condo ads. “Human directionals” clutter the corners near half-finished projects, bouncing big signs pointing to the sales office. No dearth of new condos there. 

How are they selling? The real estate section of the Daily Planet featured an article about the Green City Lofts a couple of months ago. After approximately six months on the market, only 11 of 62 units had sold. According to the Alameda County Recorder’s Office, a total of 13 have now sold. I recently took a look at the building—nice, if you like ghost towns. 

Since no one is building historic houses these days, I’d like to see some evidence that Berkeley needs more housing of the variety that is being built. In the meantime, just call me a proud NIMBY who thinks we should protect and preserve the existing Berkeley, because that’s where we all live. 

Gale Garcia 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On Aug. 15, tenants in public housing and the Section 8 program in Berkeley received a notice from the Berkeley Housing Authority, inviting them to an Aug. 26 community meeting at the South Berkeley Senior Center at 2 p.m. 

This same meeting was originally organized by Save Berkeley Housing Authority, a group of local Section 8 tenants, until the city manager seized control of the event in an effort to squash the tenant’s movement. 

Among other things, the tenant notice states that Section 8 vouchers are not at risk, and the notice was written in such a boring way that most people would not even bother to cross the street, to go to this community meeting. 

In the notice, there’s no mention that the Berkeley Housing Authority is in a crisis, that it’s on the verge of a HUD take-over, that police liaison Taj Johns has been chosen by the city manager to moderate the community meeting tenants are invited to, or that in April of 2007, FMR’s (Section 8 contracts) in Berkeley will be reduced in value. 

For political reasons, Berkeley’s power elite have chosen to use the full power of the city to do everything possible to keep Section 8 tenants from organizing their own event. 

When Section 8 vouchers in Berkeley are reduced in value during April of 2007, landlords will receive less in rents, tenant’s may have to pay more in rents, and most others will probably receive a notice telling them that they have been downsized and will have to move into a smaller rental unit if they want to save their Section 8 vouchers. 

This same scenario has been playing out all across the country in other locations that FMR’s have been reduced. 

Berkeley’s tenants and landlords should be aware of what’s in store for them in the near future, so that the tenants have more time to save the vouchers that are at risk. 

The Aug. 26 event would be the time and place to discuss the future of the Section 8 program in Berkeley, and tenants would be better served if the political shenanigans of Berkeley’s political elite, came to an end. 

As many people as possible need to show up at the Aug. 26, event at the South Berkeley Senior Center to ask why the city manager has seized this tenants event, for political reasons that have not yet been revealed. 

Lynda Carson 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

It’s no wonder the Bush administration gets away with continuing to up the military ante. Most Americans (besides soldiers and their families) feel no real impact from the war. Emotional outrage is not the same as day-to-day reality. So why should anything change? 

Feedback mechanisms are basic to living organisms and systems. Where’s the mechanism to tell the president and Congress that carrying on business as usual during a state of war is not OK? 

I suggest freezing all tax cuts (obviously). Also freeze federal job pay raises at all levels, retroactive to the date when “we” declared war upon Iraq. It’s time to create an incentive for everyone. Please contact your congressional reps. Let’s get real.  

You don’t think this would work? Brainstorm the idea with your friends and come up with something better. 

Jean Hohl 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In each of the four pieces by Sharon Hudson on NIMBYism I have found myself cringing. How can she credibly attempt to argue for inclusiveness and respect for all in an urban setting and simultaneously not include over 50 percent of the population when she repeatedly refers to “man” (I assume meaning the human race) and “mankind.” Gender neutral language helps foster to kind of inclusiveness I presume she is trying to foster and promote.  

Ruthanne Shpiner 

El Cerrito 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Nothing these days raises my ire to the boiling point more quickly than the phrase: Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. Why? Because, quite simply, a flood is not the same as a hurricane. It was the flood that devastated New Orleans, a flood caused by the breach of the levees, a flood that, as everyone knows by now, was predicted and could have been prevented. 

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

American’s indifference is what keeps the corrupt and benign Bush administration in power. With midterm elections approaching Bush and Republicans are trying to make Democrats scapegoats for their indefensible war. What will the GOP subject Americans to at the midterm elections? More politics of fear or will it be border politics this year? 

And let’s not forget the “Rovian Factor.” You can pooh-pooh Karl Rove’s politics all you want but he pulls a new scare tactic out of the hat for every election. 

Ron Lowe 

Grass Valley 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Berkeley has a serious problem—its culture of tolerance is encouraging substance abuse in teenagers. 

I am writing this letter anonymously because I have a child, who is a Berkeley High School drop out, with a serious substance abuse problem. He began smoking marijuana in 9th grade, introduced to him at Berkeley High. He claims that there is nothing wrong with smoking it, because the police don’t care. He claims that he has had a friend, who was stopped by the police on MLK, driving, while stoned, with pot in his pocket, and without a driver’s licensed, with NO consequences. My son’s problem really got out of hand because my son’s also started dealing. And my son says once he is 19, he will just get a marijuana club card and can smoke and deal small quantities with impunity. 

Our family has lived in Berkeley since the 1970s. My children were born in Berkeley and attended Berkeley’s schools. I used to love it here. But I now see that this “tolerance” is in reality promoting substance abuse. 

I know that BHS students smoke every day in civic center park. I have personally seen police ride by on bicycles when a cluster of kids in the middle of the park were smoking. And of course the school does nothing. 

When I called the police, they told me that if my son was using narcotics (not pot), they recommended that I file a police report and they would arrest him. My son is now in a very expensive private center for teens with substance abuse problems. This is because there are no resources in Berkeley to help. 

The Mayor and Councilmembers have done too little to address this serious problem. What is the police chief doing? Crime is a major concern of mine.  

Why isn’t there enforcement?! Tom Bates, wake up!  

An anonymous and very upset parent 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

For a week and a half, we have been trying to schedule a south Berkeley mayoral candidates forum. The challengers have been cooperative, but we have not been successful scheduling the mayor. 

It took five days for Tom Bates’ chief of staff, Cisco deVries, to inform us that the first date we suggested, Sept. 21, was not available. It took him another three days to respond to us, on Monday, Aug. 21, that the second date we suggested, Sept. 20, was also unavailable. Mr. deVries’ Aug. 21 e-mail also stated, “it is probably better to look towards mid-October, as late September and early October are already quite full on [the mayor’s] schedule.” Then on Aug. 22, Tom Bates’ campaign manager, Armando Viramontes told our representative that he would have to get back to us to determine whether the mayor could make any one of the five new dates in mid- and late October that we had suggested. Yet on the same day, Aug. 22, Mr. Viramontes received and agreed to a request for the mayor to participate in a North Berkeley organization’s candidates’ night on Oct. 5. 

Why is Tom Bates giving South Berkeley the runaround? Is it because of the controversy over development at Ashby BART? Is he trying to minimize the publicity from our public forum by forcing us to hold our event as close to the Nov. 7 election as possible? Is he planning to show up at all? 

The neighborhood associations sponsoring this event represent thousands of south Berkeley households. 

Laura Menard, ROC Neighborhood Association 

Dan Bristol, Lorin Neighbors 

Robin Wright, Lorin Neighbors 

Kenoli Oleari, Lorin Neighbors 

Ozzie Vincent, South Berkeley Crime Prevention Council 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you for your story on the upcoming Berkeley School Board elections. To delve deeper into my candidacy, I would like to state that I am a candidate for the School Board because as a parent of two sons in Berkeley schools, I see the promise of what the BUSD can be—a model urban district that uses our vast community’s resources to provide our children with the opportunity and support to bring out their personal best and prepare them for the challenges of our 21st century world—academically strong and ready to thrive. And, as a long time volunteer in the School District and as a senior manager in local government, I have the skills and experience necessary to bring about this vision. 

I have been an active parent in the School District for 10 years and have a proven track record of bringing together diverse school communities toward common actions that benefit our youth—most recently, as co-president of the Berkeley High PTSA. I have held many other leadership positions, both at the school site and District-wide level, including serving on the BSEP (school tax measure) Planning and Oversight Committee, the District Advisory Committee, and the governance councils of Washington Elementary and Longfellow Middle Schools. As a senior manager in local government, I have extensive budget, policy, and organizational development experience and have regularly facilitated community-based planning efforts and interest based negotiations. I also have experience in securing millions of dollars of private and public funds—working with regional public agencies and the business community. And, I have established relationships with our city, county, state, and federal elected representatives that can form the basis for expanding the resources available to help our children succeed. I am also a graduate of Brown University (Asian Studies/Comparative Politics) and have a graduate degree from UC Berkeley in Political Science/Public Administration. 

If elected to the School Board, I will have two priorities:  

1) I will work with our school communities as well as the wider community to develop a district-wide student achievement plan that sets priorities and determines core programs so that all of our students are challenged and supported to do their personal best—whether they are students with special needs, underachieving students, average students, or academically gifted students and which is tied to a sound fiscal plan that includes partnerships with local government, private foundations, the university and community colleges, non-profits organizations, businesses, and community groups. 

2) I will facilitate the creation of a much more open and inclusive School District, by insisting on a user-friendly comprehensive district budget format; advocating for the institutionalization of public advisory and oversight committees; and stressing two-way communication with the school and wider community around district finances, educational priorities/programs, safety/discipline, and other issues. 

I have been endorsed by the Berkeley Federation of Teachers as well as numerous elected officials and a spectrum of school community activists, including Janet Huseby, Jessica Seaton, Rebecca Herman, Mary McDonald, Michael Miller, and Carol Lashof. 

Karen Hemphill 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It's amazing what intelligent and persevering citizens are capable of achieving. Laurie Bright and Roger Marquis, neither of whom is a lawyer, have managed to write and file a petition for writ of mandate and injunctive relief with the Superior Court of the County of Alameda asking for a rewrite of both the question and the city attorney’s analysis of the Landmarks Preservation Update 2006 Initiative, which is Measure J on the November ballot, adopted by the City Council despite vocal opposition by preservationists. The petition charges that the question and analysis are biased and contain untruths, and so should not be published in the Voter Guide. 

On this coming Monday, at 8:45 in Dept. 31 of the Superior Court, 201 13th 

St., Oakland (the Old Post Office Building), there will be a hearing on petitioners’ request for an expedited hearing, so that the writ can be heard before the Voter Guide is printed. Interested citizens should attend to cheer our citizen representatives on! 

Patti Dacey 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Our Constitution and American way of life are under assault from an arrogant, authoritarian regime in Washington with no respect for the values of our founding fathers. Senate Bill 2453 would give them more room to violate the Constitutional checks and balances, and the rule of law. 

Dr. Taigen Dan Leighton 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As an Italian-American concerned for family who try to endure and survive in the real Italy (as opposed to the romantic projections of American tourists), I appreciate your occasional articles on Italian culture and politics, including the brief, sinister view given on Aug. 18. To other interested readers, I recommend the new book about Berlusconi, with its enlightening parallels to the worst of our government, The Sack of Rome, by Alexander Stille. 

Dorothy Calvetti Bryant 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Just wanted to thank you for Conn Hallinan’s Aug. 18 column, “The Deadly Tales We Tell Ourselves.” He detailed Hezbollah’s point of view in ways I had no previous knowledge of, although I was quite familiar with Israeli motivations for war, as are well chronicled in larger media outlets. Perhaps the solution to the Mideast crisis is for us to read publications like the Berkeley Daily Planet more often. 

Karl B. Kelley 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is unquestionably true but nonetheless routinely forgotten that punishment is the least desirable means of influencing behavior. In Albany, however, political discourse has become punishing. Gushing self congratulations for their own right thinking, neighbors describe neighbors as corporate shills, mindless consumers, SoCal wannabees, good buddies of Karl Rove’s, Judases, and church burning racists. I have never before witnessed such repugnant rhetoric in municipal politics. 

Since it frequently comes up, I hope by means of this letter to clarify that drinking coffee, thinking some development on the waterfront is a good thing, and drinking coffee while thinking so are neither illegal nor immoral acts. Likewise, drinking coffee, thinking no development on the waterfront is a good thing, and drinking coffee while thinking so are equally normal behaviors. Any objections? If you’d like, substitute tea. 

And since it was asserted absolutely in a letter to the editor last week that I do not exist: I support CAN but never hosted or attended “a Caruso coffee” (again with the coffee!) or “spoke publicly in favor of waterfront development” (this too is a crime now?). I opposed the CAS initiative for the waterfront because it was unnecessary in light of Measure C, and it intentionally sought to rig a planning process with a particular point of view. I am nonetheless certain no initiative supporters burned down churches.  

People who are undecided about the waterfront are routinely dehumanized in Albany these days. No matter one’s beliefs in and actions on other social issues, waterfront politics are the acid test of righteousness. Here’s my prediction: if Albany someday decides there should be no waterfront development, CAN members and like-minded folks will step aside; if Albany someday decides there should be waterfront development, its opponents will cry foul and obstruct the decision.  

Paul Klein