Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday September 08, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was surprised when reading today’s Daily Planet by the lack of response to Jerry Landis’ letter in the Sept. 1 edition. He claims that it is “common anecdotal knowledge that there are certain corners and corridors at BHS that white students may not venture into without fear of physical abuse.” Landis notes that his children attended Berkeley High in the 80s, so perhaps his anecdotes are out of date.  

I am a white girl who has grown up attending Berkeley public schools. I went to Washington Elementary and to Longfellow for middle school. I have never been the victim of or witness to any racial violence. In my four years at Berkeley High, I never once felt unsafe. I have passed plenty of time in the park across the street, been into every bathroom and down every hallway, and wandered through the campus both early in the morning and into the night. My younger sister, a recent Willard graduate, has just begun her second year at BHS, and her experiences have been similar to mine. In one way, my experience has been similar to that of Landis’ son and daughter: I, too, received an excellent education at Berkeley High and am on my way to a college degree.  

Elisabeth Newton 

BHS Class of 200 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I would like to thank Executive Editor Becky O’Malley for her free speech policy. I’m one of to those parents that lives in Oakland and is sending the child we are raising to a Berkeley school. Everyone knows the present problems here in Oakland with the schools. A while ago he looked up at me and asks how or where will he work or live? Children of the future will not have the same future that some of us have had! Getting into and finishing a four year collage is his only chance. US imperialism is on the decline today. Our unions are not the 37% of the work force that they were. Our wages have been cut by 60-70 percent. Because of the many hurdles in our lives, we will not have any wealth to pass down to him. He will not be able to buy a home like some of my friends in the ’60s did, (with a little help from their parents) for $25,000 and sell it last year for $600,000. What would you do School Board candidate David Baggins, if you were us? You speak from your class position in our society. Mr. Baggins, I must ask you if started life from humble beginnings, if so this is the time to remember where you came from. Don’t forget the struggle your parents faced to make life better for you.  

Name withheld 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It might be useful in thinking about the recent debate on out-of-district students illegally attending Berkeley schools to draw an analogy with the U.S. immigration issue. In both cases, people seeking a better life are crossing borders illegally, either to work or attend school.  

While studies have been done on the impact to the U.S. of illegal immigration from Mexico and other countries, recent coverage of Berkeley schools’ “illegal immigration” in the San Francisco Chronicle (“Give Oakland students a real choice,” Aug. 27) and the Berkeley Daily Planet have presented little factual basis for discerning the impact of these students on Berkeley schools. While most economists believe that there is zero impact on average U.S. wages and a minor negative impact on lower-wage workers (“Cost of Illegal Immigration Meets Less than Meets the Eye,” New York Times, April 16), the coverage on the Berkeley schools issue offers only opinions which range from the negative— poorly prepared, out-of-district students will soak up scarce resources for tutoring other services and drive down school-wide test scores—to the more positive—well prepared out-of-district students from Rockridge and other areas will add to the learning environment and raise test scores. 

Some of the same solutions proposed for the U.S. immigration issue are surfacing in the discussion over Berkeley schools’ illegal immigration, including more rigorous documentation efforts and “schoolplace” (as opposed to workplace) enforcement.  

As with U.S. illegal workers, illegal students are mostly using faked documentation. While workers must purchase social security numbers, green cards and other documents in the black market, out-of-district families have an easier time with the more informal documentation required to establish district residency. For this reason it may be even harder to stop. 

Another similarity to the U.S. immigration debate is the recent proposal by a current school board candidate in a recent Daily Planet column that Berkeley teachers be recruited to turn in suspected illegal students. While this kind of law for illegal workers was passed in Arizona—social workers and others are required to turn in suspected law breakers or face prosecution—Berkeley teachers may balk at such a role. 

And here is where the two issues—illegal immigration of workers and illegal out-of-district students in Berkeley—may converge. Students suspected of illegally attending Berkeley schools may turn out to be illegal immigrants from Mexico and other countries, as well. Will Berkeley citizens be as willing to return a student to his native country as to his native district?  

While the U.S. immigration issue breaks down along party lines, with emphasis being on some form of guest-worker or other amnesty program for Democrats and strict enforcement for Republicans, the politics of illegal out-of-district students in Berkeley schools may not be so well-defined. While Berkeley citizens overwhelmingly align with Democratic positions, many may find themselves on the other side of the “illegal immigration” debate when it comes to the perceived welfare of their children in Berkeley schools. 

Chris Gilbert 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I read with great interest and disgust about the millions of dollars UC Berkeley is spending on perks and bonuses to the wealthiest of professors and administrators. I also read about the protests on campus from employees and students who find that their parking fees have doubled or tripled recently. Now to add to the injury, the Transportation Department of UC Berkeley is imposing huge parking fees at the Strawberry Pool which is largely used by students and community which includes a great number of seniors on low income. Even though UC claims it is “ a separate department” it is still part of the UC system. It seems that the university is continuing to lavish large amounts of money to the “fat cats” at the expense of students and community. It is grossly unfair and should be stopped. 

Andree Leenaers Smith 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Merrilie Mitchell may be “a political gadfly” but her entrance into the Berkeley City Council District 1 race against Linda Maio is welcome by those of us who are sick of Councilmember Maio’s lackluster, self-satisfied approach to her position. If Mitchell is willing to tackle the tough issues facing our community—something Maio seems incapable of doing—she could very well hand the BCA powers-that-be an upset in November. 

The ongoing struggle of the community against Pacific Steel Casting (PSC) is the perfect example of why Linda Maio needs to go. In the article on Mitchell’s candidacy, I was stunned to read that Councilmember Maio, according to her chief of staff Brad Smith, has “rejected” the position that PSC, the major public health problem in our community, might have to close if it fails to address its pollution problems. How can Maio have rejected ANY position except the unacceptable status quo in this ongoing struggle for community right to know and an end to toxic air pollution? 

This privately owned company has steadfastly stonewalled West Berkeley residents for generations, fighting any modernization of its operations and any accountability to the public. Today, the company is in violation of its agreement with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and has failed to provide basic information about the chemicals its operations send into the community every day. PSC has let a legal deadline pass without providing the information it committed to providing and it has also failed to pay the fines it incurred from its illegal pollution during July’s heatwave. Linda Maio has been missing in action—she has never spoken up publicly to demand the company be a good neighbor. She has never used her position to get the company to the table in good faith; instead, she chants the old Berkeley mantra: clean environment and industrial jobs. She cannot grasp that while Berkeley does indeed have industrial jobs, much of her district has a toxic environment that will not be cleaned up until the company deals in good faith. Something that will not happen until she and the rest of the city’s power structure stand with the community, and not with PSC. 

Only after we know what PSC is sending into the air every day and what the health effects of those potential poisons are, can the process of figuring out how the company might substitute new greener chemicals and processes for the ones it uses now begin. And if PSC’s emissions are causing health problems, then the plant must be forced to adopt new technologies and materials if it wants to stay in our community. And if it refuses to clean up, it should not stay in our community. 

Once again, Councilmember Maio has demonstrated her total lack of understanding of the seriousness of the conditions under which many of her constituents live and her lack of concern for any party in this struggle except Pacific Steel. If Merrilie Mitchell will actually work with the community to make the reality of life in Berkeley the “green” paradise Linda Maio, Mayor Bates and the rest of the city’s powers-that-be claim it is, she has my vote and the vote of thousands of other District 1 residents who are fed up. 

Catherine Lerza 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Last Friday, after a long week of professionally facilitating enrollment and inter-district transfers for a neighboring school district and personally grappling with my own support and participation in my home school district, I sat down to retreat from it all by reading the Daily Planet. Initially, I was thoroughly disheartened and dismayed by the tone, sentiments and perspectives of letters addressing the issues in our schools related to non-resident students, the tax measure, and race. Now, after extended consideration, I am buoyed by the opportunity that such debate presents for Berkeley citizens and schools. 

Race lies at the core of what defines and divides Berkeley—especially in our schools. And, in this season of political campaigning, we are finally beginning to talk openly and honestly about it! Here’s to hoping that the talk continues and that everyone from every perspective will engage and participate in the dialogue. Rather than hearing from only the far left and right fringes, let us hear and read the opinions of the full spectrum of our community—from "those Oakland kids” and their parents; from “those private school people” who don’t choose BUSD schools; from African Americans, Latinos, Asians, and others; from teachers and students; from the “hills” and the “flats”; from everyone. Truthful dialogue and well-rounded debate about our issues can lead us to authentic healing and reform of how we in Berkeley do education. 

Wanda Stewart 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A teacher I admire advised that before I write or speak about what I think, I subject the thought to three tests: Is it true? Is it necessary? Does it cause no harm? 

Steve Reichner’s libel against me in the 8/29 Planet fails on all counts. 

After naming me, he writes: “All I ever see...are...letters...attacking ruthlessly, all the while accusing the Planet of not representing {the writers’} views.” 

My letters of Aug. 5, 2005; Aug. 16, 2005; Sept. 6, 2005; Sept. 16, 2005; Nov. 22, 2005; May 30, 2006 and July 28, 2006 never asked your newspaper to “represent” me, and never “accused” you of anything. 

The characterization of my lists of historical fact as “attacking ruthlessly” communicates a lot about Mr. Reichner. 

I appreciate his inviting me to comment on Lebanon. He apparently believes that Lebanese history began 18 months ago when Israel starting planning militray action. 

Since 1968, PLO operatives in Lebanon have ignored Lebanese government directives, assassinated Lebanese leaders, and turned southern Lebanon into a boot camp for terrorists. 

After 1970s “Black September,” Lebanon was the only country where the PLO could secure a military, political, and logistical base. 

In 1975, more than 100,000 Lebanese were killed in PLO-provoked battles against the country’s Christians. 

On March 11, 1978, PLO goons intercepted two busloads of Israeli civilians, slaughtering 35 and wounding 80. 

There’s more, of course. On a daily basis, Israel has ample reason to expect that forces from Lebanon will engage in acts of war (like soldier-kidnapping) against Israel. 

Reichner seems upset that Israel was prepared. 

Again, I thank him for his invitation. 

If he shares the Jewish belief that God judges us at this time of year, I invite him to write the Planet apologizing for lying, asking my (and your readership’s) forgiveness, and promising to confine his future communications to the truth. 

David Altschul 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Phil McArdle’s fine letter lamenting the loss of the Telegraph of Old reflects my own sadness for the loss of Shattuck Avenue of old. Strolling along that street yesterday I noted with regret all the empty store fronts. Then, passing the site of the old Hink’s Department Store, I was hit with a wave of nostalgia! How we all loved that store. There was such an air of graciousness and gentility the minute one walked in. I recall a saleslady with black, black air and heavy blue eye shadow at the cosmetic department, carefully sifting face powder to match the skin tone of her customer. Then there was the glove department, where one would prop their elbow up on the counter while a sales woman gently eased our fingers into the fine leather glove. Admittedly the women’s apparel department left something to be desired, but I still have the cotton duster I bought just before the store closed. The basement was a delight, too. There was a homey sewing and knitting class, fine dishes and wonderful yardage. Oh, yes, there was that great gift wrapping department for courtesy wrapping. Two or three times a year, Mr. Hink would send his charge customers lovely gifts—a box of pears from his orchard, leather address books, note paper, etc. Then, lest we forget, just across the street was that palace of sinful delights—Edy’s Candies and Ice Cream Store. How many times did friends and I settle into one of its comfortable booths, after shopping or a movie, and shamelessly consume gargantuan banana splits or hot fudge sundaes, lingering for hours! Where does one go now for such sinful pleasures? For sure, Shattuck Avenue has lost its charm of old! 

Dorothy Snodgrass 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Riya Bhattacharjee’s Sept. 1 story on ‘Green Machines” to clean up Telegraph Avenue is good and upbeat, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.  

Parking meter rates were raised on Telegraph Avenue to help pay for all the new services. I suspect many other restaurants on lower Telegraph are like ours – in addition to the student population, we have an out-of-town audience that would bring money, and tax revenue, to Berkeley, if only they could find a place to park when they get here. 

Increased parking meter rates and lack of a parking garage on lower Telegraph Ave. continue to hinder the success of many small businesses and restaurants in the area. We certainly welcome and appreciate the student business, but for every “student special” or “blue and gold” discount, we need full-rate paying customers from our ethnic community to sustain ourselves.  

Will candidates for District 7 attempt to address this come November? 

David Howard 

The Caribbean Cove 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

First off let me start with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “When people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews.” Also, if you want to be truly informed I recommend people look at this website for some more information on the “Pro- Israel Media Bias”: 

Also, I read the Berkeley Daily Planet for my weekly dose of Uber-Liberal Anti-Semitism; then I put it back where it belongs—in the trash! 

Tahoe Kamman 

P.S.: I know people may dispute the validity of the Dr. King quote, I’ve seen the counter arguments myself. On white supremacist websites! 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Though I live in San Francisco now, I’m a former Berkeley resident (14 years). I just read that piece by Chronicle writer Chip whatsisname. Please don’t let that get to you. I hope you will totally stand your ground about the article that you presented. The Zionist propaganda machine used to get away with guilting people into believing that criticizing Zionism is “anti-Semitic” or “anti-Jewish.” Fewer and fewer people are choosing to stay brainwashed by that guilt-trip. 

Sam Price 

San Francisco 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is the Irish peoples fault that potato’s failed to grow during the great potato famine. It is also all their fault that they were enslaved to work on the railroads of the United States. Those’s all their fault. 

Adam Ruho 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Kurosh Arianpour is certainly racist when he attributes to Jews some innate fault dating back thousands of years. However, it appears to me that the enormous flood of letters in the Planet against him is that he couples centuries old traditional anti-Jewish slogans with a litany of modern Israeli atrocities.  

Arianpour horrifies those who realize he is dead right when he states that millions around the world are coming to agree with him that Israel is an oppressor state, and that Israeli attacks in Lebanon were monstrous. “Have you not seen the photos of dead toddlers some with their pacifiers around their necks?” Such passion for an oppressed people easily wins coverts. And while Jewish suffering in the Holocaust and from suicide bombers on Israeli buses continues to win sympathy, the sympathy factor is tipping away from the Jewish state. The immense disparity in fire power used in the Lebanon war is a factor, and so is the cold blooded murder via airplanes that blast homes and automobiles of singled-out Palestinians in Gaza, and thereby test out U.S. neo-con plans for political control of the planet via space weapons launched to anywhere at the push of the emperor’s button. 

It is hoped that Israel stops playing the role of U.S. punk hoodlum for the Middle East. It only feeds the racist argument of Arianpour that Jews are self-centered opportunists. 

Ted Vincent 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The article by the Iranian student is a disgrace to anyone who would publish it. Publishing it is a disgrace to journalism. Why don’t you keep your day job and just parade in a Nazi uniform for recreation? We Jews don’t deserve this kind of abuse, have not earned it and are offended by its dissemination, especially by a commonly read news source. 

Shame on you! 

Richard Kaplan 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

When Pancho Villa raided an American town, we sent the army to invade and pursue. .....Hezbollah and Israel. 

In the war with Mexico the United States took Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and California. 

If Mexicans were Muslim, shouldn’t we give the territory back? 

Has any other country beside Israel ever given war-won areas back to the defeated? 

Harry Gans 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Though it is not known as such, most of us here in North America go about our fanciful, fairly comfortable lives living on occupied land. Essentially, we obliterated the opposition, with force, to enable this occupation many years ago. So the next time you hear the anti-Israeli lobby screaming bloody murder, remember that our comfort and safety has been ensured and established by just such means. Actually, the Israelis have an historical connection to their contested land that goes thousands of years beyond any moral claim that the large majority of Americans have to the terra firma we now stand upon. We have been able to survive upon the blood of the Native Americans and the Mexicans. If they somehow developed an armed militia with the intent of taking it all back, firing indiscriminately at our homes, would we just give it up, and become refugees in the name of peace? I don’t think so. 

Marc Winokur 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Half of the people in this country think that the biggest threats here are Islamic terrorists. That is a lie. Personally, the biggest threats in this country are right-wing Christian fundamentalists forcing their own moralities onto others. I am seeing their actions exposed on TV. For example, their involvement in the Terry Salvo case and pushing the president and the Congress for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. 

People should understand that these right-wing Christian fundamentalists learned from their ancestors about controlling people in the name of Christianity. Their ancestors forced their moralities in a brutal fashion against American Indians in this country several centuries ago. 

For example, in New England in the 1600s, the Pequot people were massacred by these same Christian fundamentalists because they refuse to convert to Christianity. Back then, these Christian fundamentalists attacked the Indians’ religion by claiming it was “the duty of good Christians to exterminate them.” 

This kind of thinking is what I’m seeing today by these right-wing Christian fundamentalists. Their madness needs to stop at once. 

Billy Trice, Jr.