Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday September 01, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing in response to several comments from the Aug. 18 Michael Katz op-ed piece regarding the Brower Center. First, speaking for the housing portion of the development (Oxford Plaza), the project is clearly not “too far in the red.” Oxford Plaza is currently within budget, with reasonable construction contingencies, has secured 97 percent of its required funding, and is scheduled to begin construction by the end of 2006. 

It is also wrong to say that the project has lacked serious scrutiny. Actually, it has undergone much greater risk analysis and public airing of potential downside scenarios at City Council meetings than any other city-funded affordable housing project. This is not inappropriate, given the size and complexity of the development. But we should not jump to the conclusion that a challenging project is one that cannot be built, particularly in light of the tremendous progress that has been made moving the Brower Center/Oxford Plaza forward in 2006. 

In February HUD committed a $1.76 million grant for the commercial component of the development. In April, Wells Fargo provided a commitment for $23 million in construction loan financing and $5.5 million of permanent loan financing for the Oxford Plaza Apartments. In June, Oxford Plaza received a loan commitment of $6.6 million from the State of California from its highly competitive Multifamily Housing Program. We recently received several bids from potential investors to provide up to $17 million in equity to the project in exchange for the Low Income Housing Tax Credits it will generate. These funders strictly underwrite both the viability of the project and the capacity of the sponsor to build it, and have many years of experience evaluating the feasibility of affordable housing projects and the strength of their developers. Over $32 million in permanent financing has been committed to the financing of Oxford Plaza by banks, foundations, government, and investors. Each of them will take on different risks and rewards, but all are excited to invest in a development that truly is being seen as a national model. 

Dan Sawislak 

Executive Director 

Resources for Community Development 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Becky O’Malley’s Aug. 25 editorial on Berkeley for the Berkeleyans is an astonishing defense of the school district’s policy of admitting Oakland students to Berkeley High with little apparent accountability. The numbers she cites suggest that about a fifth of BHS students are African-American kids from Oakland, whose schooling is paid for by Berkeley taxpayers. 

She defends this situation with the absurdly racist suggestion that the education of the Berkeley students would be deficient if they were surrounded by a student body made up of less than a third African-Americans, and were thus unprepared to function in the wider world. She then personalizes this contention by extolling the excellent education her three daughters received at BHS in the 1970s and ’80s. My personal response is that, like her daughters, my son and daughter both acquired an excellent education at BHS in the ’80s and both went on to college degrees. My daughter also received a broken nose from a belligerent African-American girl—which surely broadened her education, and for which I had to pay the cost of corrective surgery. For years it has been common anecdotal knowledge that there are certain corners and corridors at BHS that white students may not venture into without fear of physical abuse. I assume that the failure of the administration to deal with this situation is another aspect of an education broadening policy. 

O’Malley asks School Board candidates to address these issues, and I hope they will. Meanwhile, I offer a suggestion to satisfy her and others who may feel that it is Berkeley’s manifest destiny to educate the world, beginning with Oakland. Let the School Board determine a fair annual cost for attendance at BHS, then establish a policy whereby Berkeley residents, like Ms. O’Malley, can legally become the patrons of out-of-district students and pay their tuition. 

Jerry Landis 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Do you guys know that there’s a “back door draft” going on? Do you guys realize that Bush and the military are having an increasingly difficult time in getting people to join the military? Many of those who have already enlisted, including lots who have already fought in Iraq, are being re-deployed again to Iraq, whether they like it or not! This is a waste of taxpayer dollars. It negatively impacts American families. Lots of veterans come back from Iraq and other battle-torn counties, with severe mental health problems. People who kill, rape, torture, maim, and rudely break into other people’s homes or use guns, bombs, and deadly chemicals to kill and conquer, return to their home with severe mental health issues. They can end up divorced, homeless, hooked on booze and drugs, unemployed, medicated, in a mental hospital, or killing themselves. This is the price of war. Let’s all forgive us for being foolish enough to be talked into a war for no good reason. I wish that everybody had just “known” the truth years ago, before so many went off to fight. Do you realize that many sign up for the military not to kill or rape, but because they believe they will be of service? They are told, “Oh you will just inventory pencils and toilet tissues! You won’t even have to carry a gun! You get a free cell phone and laptop!” Thank God We the People are aware, doing something, and spreading the truth. I hope the military will get rid of the racist, sexist, neo-Nazi skinheads that they are said to have attracted. People who probably dislike Jews, blacks, women, and most of all, themselves. Pray for all of us. Pray for the skinheads and bigots. Pray for me and you. Know that war and suffering are an illusion, but if you’re caught in the middle of it, the illusion feels very intensely real and painful. Only when we substitute the reality of our love and essential unity for the illusion of war and suffering, will we eradicate war from Earth! 

The end of poverty is the beginning of everybody looking out for each other, and not just for yourself or the family and friends. What you and I do, affects the people living on the other side of the planet as much as the other side of the Bay. Our thoughts and feelings likewise affect all of life. Cleanse your thoughts and feelings of all anger, hate, grudges, holding on to old traumas and those who have hurt you. This makes room for new life, new friends, new love, health, prosperity, forgiveness, and fun. 

Linda Smith 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I wonder why people forget their social responsibility for fellow beings. I find sharp pieces of broken glass bottles all over the pavement, especially near bus stops and in front of the stores in Albany and Berkeley (especially in San Pablo). Is this to terrify people who want to enjoy walking or create a barrier for those would love to help others? Is it an expression of violence? I fail to understand why such uncivilized acts are tolerated. These pavements could be not just a walkway for pedestrians but a place to meet and chat for old neighbors and new friends. We must think about how our actions will affect others as we think about their consequences for ourselves. 

Romila Khanna 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding the Aug. 25 UnderCurrents column titled “‘Sydewayz’ Video Celebrates Sideshow Culture,” I wanted to point out a few points that were made by the author. 

1. The author refers to Spanish culture and how sideshows aren’t part of it. Is he referring to Latino (Mexican, Salvadorian, Guatemalan, etc.) culture? In addition, many Latino students at the high school where I work (in East Oakland) do participate in sideshow activity. 

2. The author refers to African roots of sideshows: rhythmic car maneuvers. Is he serious? What about Monster Truck Shows: pounding truck maneuvers. Perhaps a glimpse of Caucusoid culture? 

3. The author refers to “incredible talent hidden in our midst.” As an educator who works in East Oakland, I believe the debate has very little to do with what happens at sideshows. The debate needs to focus on the astronomical drop-out rate (black and brown) that Oakland is experiencing. Engaging youth in the classroom so that they realize the necessity of an education should be the community priority. Then we can see their true talents. 

David Castillo 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing in response to LA Wood’s Aug. 25 op-ed, “LBNL: 75 Years of Science, 75 Years of Pollution.” I am a graduate student at UC Berkeley, and I work in an LBNL building. Although my perspective is that of a peon in the system, I think at least half the blame for any environmental issues must be shared by people, like La Wood, who use inflammatory language ("self-righteous rhetoric,” “egregiously,” “environmental atrocity,” etc.) that results in a confrontational attitude that does not lead to satisfactory resolution of any issues. 

LA Wood can blame LBNL for the rest of eternity, but Berkeley is a city where the development of a second Berkeley Bowl, a locally owned grocery store championed by the city at large, was held up for so many years that its developer Glen Yasuda decided to give up six months ago (although thankfully he was cajoled back). Who can blame anyone for wanting to bypass that process? 

One significant point LA Wood seems to miss is that many of the environmental issues are “legacy” problems—the result of unintentional contamination 50 years ago or more by people who were not aware of the risks of what they were doing (many of whom died from cancers consequently). That aspect of science in general has changed, and today most risks are well-known and understood, and options exist for dangerous situations even when the exact nature of a hazardous activity may not be fully understood. Thus, inside the scientific enterprise, the nature of safe science is to understand, mitigate, avoid, and contain any hazardous activities. This process critically relies on trust and effective communication between all parties involved. 

From my admittedly low-level view of the system, the (extraordinarily) large safety bureaucracy inside LBNL would be open to dialogue, but La Wood, in my opinion representative of the city at large, seems torn in the op-ed between rational discussion and criticism and a hostile “self-righteous rhetoric” that will lead nowhere. Given the way things (don’t) get done when the city and activists of Berkeley are involved, and the hostile attitudes evinced by them, I am not surprised at all that both the campus and the lab choose to bypass both whenever possible.  

Modi Wetzler 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Jack O’Connell, Superintendent of Public Instruction, wants my vote in November so that he can close the “achievement gap,” a fissure superbly measured by an exit exam, a number-producing instrument that separates a class of poor, black. Latino and English-learning students from another class not so financially, culturally or linguistically down-classed.  

Twelve years ago I retired after 30 years of teaching and from the sidelines in my recliner chair I watch confusion and idiocy infect managerial levels of the California school system. Administrators who in my day were merely inept have advanced to become cost/effective, tough-minded business managers. They say they can’t manage what they don’t measure and proceed to deploy a variety of standardized tests to track the growth of young minds advancing toward the climactic high school exit exam. 

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude that the experience of four years in high school is not enhanced, advanced nor measured in a few hours of testing. 

It takes only common sense to appreciate that the high school diploma, like the flag, is a symbol of that for which it stands and, just as the flag is not the nation, a diploma is not an education.  

Every teacher worthy of the name knows that the ratio of right marks to wrong ones on multiple choice questions electronically scored no more encompasses achievement than a book’s illustrations encompass its content.  

Finally, Mr. O’Connell, it’s impossible to assess the efficacy of a system unless you understand it. Teachers, the heart of the system, work to affect the minds of students. Their tests measure the responses to questions, responses that may suggest but in no way measure the content and capability of their students’ minds. 

Marvin Chacere 

San Pablo 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Ms. O’Malley’s equating support of stricter residency requirements at Berkeley High School with racism misses the real issue for Berkeley: how to manage limited resources to provide the best education for Berkeley students of all races.  

In fact, my experience of transfer students from Oakland and Richmond is that white students, whose parents often have move resources to work the system, are overrepresented as students from other districts. For example, many Oakland kids come to BHS to take Latin, which is not offered elsewhere—is this a ruse or a need for these students? Should affluent kids from Rockridge, Montclair and El Cerrito get to come to BHS because they don’t want to attend their local high schools? Does this migration add to the educational experience of all students at BHS? 

O’Malley also opines that much of Berkeley’s renowned diversity is attributable to out-of-city students. However, there is no evidence for this position. Simply because 13 percent of Berkeley’s total population is African-American and the African-American school population is much higher does not support her statement. What percentage of school age children are African American?  

O’Malley should refrain from making race an issue and, instead, investigate the facts that surround this complicated issue. How many students are there from other districts? What is the cost to Berkeley tax payers? What is the effect of the magnet of BHS on students of all races and backgrounds? Is BHS cherry picking the best students of all races from neighboring districts and actually hurting those districts who desperately need committed students and their involved parents?  

O’Malley should base her opinions in facts—rather than speculation—and should certainly not accuse David Baggins of racism without more evidence for such an inflammatory label. 

Paul S. Lecky 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Becky O’Malley’s editorial comments about demagoguery and racial profiling in Berkeley public schools is right on target. 

It is illustrative to trace how we got to this awful place. Historically most school systems have reciprocal agreements with neighboring districts, i.e. a policy to allow students from near-by areas to attend each other’s schools. The same has been usually true of adjacent library systems. Under this agreement there are many students who live in Berkeley but attend Albany schools, provided that space is available. 

In the late l970s BUSD’s relationship with Oakland students took on a special dimension. At that point the number of Afro-American families in Oakland grew rapidly as they, like many other people before them, pursued the quintessential American dream of moving to California. Unfortunately, when the public schools began to reflect this new reality, the general White reaction was to flee to the suburbs. At this point many of those families who stayed in Oakland started to look to the Berkeley public schools as an educational alternative. Applications to transfer to BUSD climbed and quite a few parents used whatever means it took, legal and illegal, to get their children what they hoped would be a better education. Unlike 2006, there was no outrage about the non-residency of these new students. If anything there was a kind of co-conspiratorial silence, and frequently more than a few offers to allow Berkeley addresses to be used under the table. 

In fact, even today at the close of classes at Berkeley High, we can see many White students lining up for bus 51 or 7 on their return trip to Rockridge.  

Likewise, before the school day begins, many of Berkeley Afro-American students are boarding buses to hill or charter schools in Oakland. 

Incidentally one of the reasons that there are openings in the Berkeley public schools is that about 30 percent of Berkeley families opt to not send their children to Berkeley public schools. If they did, there would be almost no room for just about any out-of-district transfers. 

About three years ago I served as an aide to Councilmember Margaret Breland, for District 2. It’s bounded by Sacramento Avenue, and the bay, from University Avenue to the Oakland border. I became well acquainted with the large number of people from outside Berkeley, non-residents, who chose to use our excellent public recreational facilities. Almost never do we hear threatening outrage about denying them use of our parks and tennis courts because they are not from Berkeley. In some places in Berkeley, e.g. Rosa Parks Field, so many non-Berkeley residents rent the facilities that often the neighborhood people are literally shut out of its usage. Are the people so upset about residency of our BUSD students willing to extend that anger to other non-residents using our community resources that are financed by Berkeley tax payers? 

In summary, it’s time to stop harassing Afro-Americans who are merely doing what so many white predecessors showed them how to do, struggle for a better life for their families. 

Mel Martynn 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I want to describe as briefly as possible what its like to visit an inmate at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin. I think someone has to. 

First, there really isn’t a place for visitors to wait. We line up down a long cement entryway with no seats or benches--are not allowed to sit on the grass. This is in front of the building which houses the jail. Yesterday, (Sunday) visiting hours had two shifts: from 12 to 3 and 6 to 9 p.m. At about 4 (for the later shift) the deputies took pity on the scorching people waiting in line all the way down almost to the parking lot and took names sequentially and the unit each person wanted to visit. We were told to be back no later than 5:45, when we would be given numbers and pass forms. We all did so. Visiting hours are from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The deputies did not begin the processing until after 6. The first 11 people get to visit first—each for 20 minutes. I was number 13. I had arrived at Santa Rita at 1:30 p.m. just so I’d get in that day and be out by 9 when the last bus to BART leaves. I was able to get that bus—was at the bus stop at around 8:15. 

So, I—like many others—had arrived 5 hours before visiting was supposed to begin—to sit in the hot sun and either on the cement—searching for shade—or inside the lobby of the jail where there is one bench and lots of floor space upon which to sit—up against the wall. Is this a way to treat a visitor? 

The love and devotion of the crowd which gathers is as evident as the suffering and frustration.  

To spend 20 mins with a loved one, behind a plastic window, talking on the phone—there is hell to pay. 

Is punishment the way to help?  

Name withheld 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regime change in these United States is protected by our Constitution, and is mandated when the president oversteps his authority. The Bush administration has not only overstepped its authority in wiretapping innocent civilians for unprincipled data mining over private concerns outside the scope of any possible national security excuses, but has lied the United States into war, itself a high crime, punishable by impeachment. We the people rule this country, not the demagogues of the extreme right wing currently residing in power. We must take back our government, and we must begin now before it is too late! 

Ron Sullivan 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Joanne Kowalski should have done her legwork (“The University of Oakland: An Impossible Dream?” Aug. 29), instead of simply dashing off a commentary about the state of Oakland’s higher education. She would have answered her own question about the state of urban education, bilingual education, child development and public administration in Oakland and discovered there is already Pacific Oaks College, WASC-certified, that answers this call to service. They offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees in human development; master’s in marriage, family and child counseling (marriage and family therapy, MFT); MFCC specializations in African American and Latina/o family studies; and a teacher education program. Its marriage, family, and child counseling master’s degree satisfies all of the requirements of the Board of Behavioral Sciences for licensing in marriage and family therapy; and its teacher education program is certified by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC) for certification in education specialist credential, mild to moderate disabilities Level I and Level II and preliminary multiple subject English learner teaching credential. 

John Parman 

Berkeley and College Park, MD 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Associated Press reported Donald Rumsfeld’s concern that Islamic extremist groups are successful at “actively manipulating the media in this country… (because) they can lie with impunity.” The implication of this remark is that the propaganda of Mr. Rumsfeld and his group is at a disadvantage because U.S. leaders are held accountable to a higher standard when they lie. I surely hope this is true so that we may see Rumsfeld and others behind bars for their lies and crimes against humanity and Americas young recruits. That alone would lower the world burden of terror substantially.  

Marc Sapir 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

My colleagues at work have informed me that your paper ran incorrect information regarding an event on Sept. 19, 2006. I have been told you printed that tickets for this event can be found at the journalism school. This is untrue.  

Tickets will go on sale Sept. 1 at the Cal Performances Box Office: 642- 9988. General admission tickets for this event can be purchased for $10 and UC Berkeley students with ID can pick up tickets for free. 

Caely Cusick  

Event Coordinator 

Graduate School of Journalism 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have written to you before, but directed most of my concerns toward the local and world strife and local mismanagement goings on in Berkeley. However this time I wish to commend Mr. Joe Eaton on the excellent columns he has been writing—most frequently seen on the last page of your newspaper—on natural history miscellany, this last commentary was on the paper wasps that live in our area.  

The life habits of these fascinating paper wasps described by Mr. Eaton reminded me of the marvelous writings of Nobel Prize award winners ethnologists Niko Tinbergen and Karl von Frisch on their (respective) discoveries on how and why wasps find their way around and how they build their nests. 

Thank you Mr. Eaton. 

Mark K. Bayless