Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday September 12, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Having just returned from Donald Shoup’s parking seminar delivered to an overflow crowd of transportation graduate students and faculty at the Bechtel Engineering Building, I was glad to see the Planet had covered his Wednesday night presentation to the Berkeley Transportation Commission (“DAPAC Talks Parking Issues,” Sept. 8). Shoup’s message is simple: As long as on-street parking is priced too low, people will find it worth their while to cruise for spaces, and parkers will overstay, creating congestion, pollution and the impression that a downtown shopping district is inhospitable and inconvenient. Just to show how far we need to go before people fully grasp the logic behind Shoup’s theory, in that same issue, a letter ran from Caribbean Cove owner David Howard blaming higher meter rates on his lack of business. Clearly, we need Shoup to make several return trips to spread the word further. 

Phyllis Orrick 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Why commemorate 9-11? That was the day we were sucker-punched, flat-footed, after our president spent a month vacationing in Texas instead of heeding intelligence warnings about Osama Bin Laden. Instead, let us remember that glorious day in May when our president’s jet landed on an aircraft carrier and out he popped, bedecked in his flight suit, to announce “Mission Accomplished.” Mission Accomplished Day! On that day, more than 90 percent of our solders who have since died in Iraq were still alive. On that day, we were proud to be American! 

Bruce Joffe 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I feel obliged to answer the anonymous letter from an Oakland resident justifying false registration into Berkeley schools. Everyone makes choices and I’m in no position to judge yours. However when so many people reproduce your choice and recognize Berkeley schools as uniquely unguarded and better, can you understand that this becomes a matter of public policy? Berkeley taxpayers have heavily given and expect service that false enrollment precludes. 

It is not good progressive politics for Berkeley to ignore millions of dollars of fraud against its residents. The original progressives stood devoutly for honest government. We must work together for a different system that rebuilds Oakland’s schools. Berkeley for its part gives a disproportionate share of its seats as valid transfers as compared to other successful districts. Please consider applying for such a slot. While however you are cheating the system, please at least try to make sure that your kids do not contribute to the at-risk rate by doing all you can to oversee their homework and actively parenting them to pass all the state tests. If out-of-district students were not exacerbating the achievement gap the consequences of running an invalid registration system would be far less. 

David Baggins 

Candidate for School Board  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I find it hard to believe that even Ms. O’Malley seriously believes there is a Perata-Bates machine. It is my recollection that Tom Bates endorsed Ron Dellums, who will shortly become the next mayor of Oakland, a fact that Ms. O’Malley has obviously and conveniently overlooked.  

It also seems her vendetta against Mayor Bates continues with praise for shop-worn, opinionated so-called progressives (better name would be “tiresome political hack aspirants for attention”). It is an unfortunate tradition in Berkeley that this kind of squeaky wheels get a lot of attention. In the present case, Ms O’Malley’s support of this negativism and the lack of regard for workable and progressive solutions is truly sad. While I now live in Albany, I still love Berkeley and wish better for this lovely city. 

Nancy Snow 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The silly season has returned but will end mercifully with nationwide mid-term elections on Nov. 7.  

Candidates of both parties, following their leaders’ strategy, have decided that they’re not going to talk about things that interest the voters but they’re going to get the voters interested in the things they want to talk about.  

Forget hostility abroad, torture of prisoners, illegal wire taps, immigration reform, global warming, corporate malfeasance, campaign finance, deficits, Katrina distress, gasoline prices, etc. Forget the death toll, scores of thousands permanently deformed. Forget the young, the infirm and the elderly. Forget the forty million unable to obtain medical care…and the poor.  

It’s the war on terror we have to talk about; we must defeat an ancient tactic resurrected as an evil enemy, Islamic fascism. No matter the cost, government must prevent another terrorist attack on the homeland… plus, of course, spread freedom and democracy.  

Because slaughter in the Middle East reinvigorates man’s inhumanity to man, recent silly seasons have delivered tears rather than laughter.  

This one, however, opens with a new beat. The administration demands that Congress make lawful things the world regards as unlawful. As a “nation of laws” the president must obey the Supreme Court’s ruling that struck down special military commissions. Accordingly, his attention fixed on the war on terror and with assurances by his lawyers that he has inherent authority to use any measures he deems necessary to deal with this “new kind of enemy,” Mr. Bush demands new legislation. They attack us unfettered by law so we must defend ourselves in like manner. Therefore, Congress must make it legal—a cynical extrapolation of the bible’s “eye for an eye” injunction. 

When the silly season ends there’ll be very few new members in the House and Senate and with few new members will come few new ideas. Will Congress then make wrong actions lawful?  

What worries me most is not the prospect of no new ideas but the evident demise of an old one, the one that holds an action to be wrong (or right), not because the gods (in this instance lawmakers) make it so, but the gods say it is right (or wrong) because it is.  

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

For years now, I have been disgusted by the conditions of filth and deterioration at the BUSD West Campus property. Along with broken windows and a junk-piled interior, the disgustingly dirty, sticky, smelly, and stained entryways and sidewalks around it are an insult to those of us who live in the neighborhood. I can’t imagine any other university town, much less one that attracts visitors from around the world, allowing such appalling conditions to remain completely unabated for so many years—especially since it takes up a full block along University Avenue, the main entryway to Berkeley! As it is, passers-by get to see long-standing urban blight surrounded by knee-high weeds and strewn with garbage! There was a time when someone mowed the sports field every now and then, but even that small attention hasn’t been given to the property lately. At the very least, while the building’s future is still being planned, we need the place cleaned up. I estimate that it would be one day’s work for someone to get out there with a weed whacker, pick up the garbage, trim the bushes, and run a mower around the sports field. After that, the entryways and surrounding sidewalks need to be power-washed. Simply doing that would show a little self-respect as well as some respect for the local community and those who visit us.  

Nicola Bourne 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I must make a correction to the heading the Planet gave to my recent letter, “High Density is Bad for Urban Fabric” In fact, in numerous writings, including the letter in question, I have stated almost the opposite. I believe high density, or at least moderately high density (in Berkeley we don't have high density like the skyscrapers in parts of many cities, and I have not thought extensively on how to handle that circumstance) can most likely be fine and good in parts of Berkeley, if done right. My whole point is that Berkeley is not doing it right, and until we change our approach, added density will continue to be bad. 

Sharon Hudson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Having participated in the demise of the previous Berkeley Consumers Coop, I am pleased but also concerned by the news that a new food cooperative is in the works.  

Berkeley Community Development Project Coordinator Dave Fogarty is quoted as saying: “In general, the situation in Berkeley is that we have a market that’s dominated by higher-priced kind of gourmet grocery stores, Andronico’s and Whole Foods.” That is a strange view: If Berkeley Bowl is not a dominant force Berkeley, what are those mobs of customers doing there? Any new food coop will have to provide some advantages over Berkeley Bowl and the farmer’s markets—unless they intend to only serve the high end consumers.  

Maybe serving the wealthy is the answer to founding a viable new food coop, but I doubt it. I think coops started in the days of company towns where workers had to buy from high-priced company owned stores. Their purpose was clear. What will be the purpose of a coop competing against the very reasonable prices of Berkeley Bowl and no-middle-man farmer’s markets? 

At this time, I do not see a clear sense of purpose. However, a very real need for cooperative food purchasing is likely to arise in the near future due to three trends: 

1. Oil prices will skyrocket as China and India compete with the United States for the shrinking, non-replaceable supply of petroleum. One of the major effects will be to make American large scale farming prohibitively expensive. This farming is done with petroleum-based chemicals and heavy machinery, and the product has to be shipped out in large trucks. A coop could develop the purchasing power to contract with small farms for reliable, low-cost produce. 

2. A major U.S. export is American jobs. An increasing population of unemployed and under-employed people will need help reorganizing their eating habits and methods of purchasing to maximize the efficacy of their spending.  

3. All the deregulated non-military aspects of our lives are subject to sudden unpleasant changes—e.g., home foreclosures have suddenly jumped. Informed cooperation could be a bulwark against the shock and awe of rampant capitalism. A cooperative movement that called on our finest thinkers to develop workable new strategies could become indispensable.  

Rev. Pondurenga Das  




EDITOR’S NOTE: The following letter appeared five years ago in the Daily Planet: 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

We all have the power and responsibility in our hands to stop the perpetuation of the cycles of violence and the economics of exploitation that create unspeakable suffering or we can continue on with the politics and economics that lessen and cheapen our human condition. Our political agenda from local to global, must move from provocation and the hubris that our fast track corporate globalization is the way to go with its extracting the energy and even blood of many to keep an economic machine going that few are actually benefiting from. Too many are being pushed to the edge along with the very ecosystems of life that support us. Financially and emotionally there is suffering as people have to keep cutting back—financially and in time we spend in building a supportive community while corporate profits obscenely rise.  

We here in the industrialized north live a lifestyle that has become the anomaly in a world where three quarters of the world’s population do not get enough to eat. We live in a world where corporate dream schemes are forcing people off their land and have the gall to patent the genes of plants, seeds and life itself.  

I still hold the vision that we can turn this around peacefully and not fall into the divisions caused by blaming and hate that comes after tragedy. I deeply hold the hope that we do not go along with the fear that is being generated to continue down the same path of bullying be it with words, economic or with nuclear threats. I hold a prayer that we can each look deeply into our own hearts, whether we are a governmental employee or work in the trades, whether we are a bus driver, a deli clerk, student or in scientific research—no matter what we do for a living – and ask what are we willing to do to take the higher ground, and to use our precious words to speak and teach a new vision that holds the value of the humans spirit and the earth as a sacred trust and not a commodity of economic profit schemes. How can we bring honor back to our daily relationships with each other?  

Instead of taking part in speculations about today’s horrible tragedy (where terrorism is daily life for many around the world) I found a quiet space and turned to some readings that I found solace from including:  

“The only way to have peace is to teach peace. By teaching peace you must learn it yourself, because you cannot teach what you still dissociate from. You can’t teach peace with a barrel of a gun.” As Gandhi said an eye for an eye and we all become blind. Gandhi also said “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”  

Redwood Mary  

Co-Founder, Co-Director, 

Women’s Global Green Action Network 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Recently on “Meet the Press,” Sen. Santorum (R-Pa) and his Democratic challenger Bob Casey Jr. engaged in a “debate” that allegedly outlined the differences between Republicans and Democrats vying for Congressional seats in November.  

While Santorum defended Bush and Casey attacked the president, on fundamental issues of keeping troops in Iraq and rejecting a troop withdrawal deadline, as well as targeting Iran with brutal sanctions in advance of war, there was basic agreement. And while they differed on the recent FDA decision to allow over-the-counter sales of Plan B, they both oppose legal abortion in most instances. 

With candidates such as these two, no matter who wins in November the people will lose unless there is a drastic shift in the whole political discourse. We must change the terms of debate from which candidate and party will be the most resolute in pursuing empire under the guise of the “war on terror” and curtailing basic rights at home to halting this course that more and more people recognize is a disaster. This can only be done by mass political protest in the streets. 

Groups such as The World Can’t Wait! Drive Out the Bush Regime! are building just such protests. This group and others are calling for a day of mass protest on Oct. 5.  

There are millions who are deeply distressed over the direction in which the Bush regime is dragging the world. People are outraged over the way this regime is arrogantly seeking to bludgeon into submission people in the Middle East, and throughout the world, while trampling on the rights of the people in the U.S. Millions care about the future and recognize the many ways in which the regime is increasingly posing a dire threat to the very survival of humanity and the planet. There are people who are stirred with a profound restlessness by these feelings but are held back by the fear that they are alone. Many say that they wish something could be done to reverse this whole disastrous course, but nothing will make a difference. Others hope that somehow the Democrats will do something to change this but everyday it becomes clearer that they will not. 

The Santorum-Casey exchange was just one indication of what’s in store if we do not act on Oct. 5. It is more urgent than ever to drive out the Bush regime. See for more information. 

Kenneth J. Theisen 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The members of Save Berkeley Housing Authority (Save BHA) offer our gratitude and thanks to the Berkeley Daily Planet for covering the issue of the troubled Berkeley Housing Authority (BHA). 

Through the years there has been no accountability placed on BHA director Steve Barton during the four years of failure while the BHA has been listed as a troubled agency, and it may be time to call for his resignation. 

It’s as though city officials have turned a blind eye to this disaster thats been taking place. We can do better! 

The disabled and elderly community in Berkeley have been getting the short end of the stick when it comes to budget funding policies of the City of Berkeley, and this has all been lurking under the radar screen of peoples awareness for some time. 

The budget cuts made to the camp for the disabled, compared to the millions being lavishly spent for budget policies regarding bicycles, has shed light on the priorities of Berkeley’s city officials. 

The resignation of BHA Director Steve Barton would go a long way to show that the City of Berkeley has become somewhat more responsible to housing it’s disabled and elderly community in the BHA’s housing assistance programs, and could make way for a new and better future to save the BHA. 

Community members will be appearing at the next 6 p.m. City Council meeting on Sept. 19, at the Old Berkeley City Hall, and the subject of Barton’s resignation will be on the minds of many. 

Lynda Carson 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Becky O’Malley’s depressing overview of California Democrats (“Singing the Blues about Cal Dems,” Sept. 8) evidences the underlying weakness—on all levels—of a political system founded upon legalized bribery. It is insane to suppose that politicians are not influenced by political contributions, yet demanding this human impossibility is what we do—unless voters come to their senses and back Proposition 89 which will free politicians on a state-wide level from donors, and make them responsible solely to their constituents (who, under the current system, contribute an average of only 1 percent of the money politicians use to get elected). 

Tom Miller 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

A few decades ago, under pressure from UC Berkeley, the Caifornia Schools for the Blind and Deaf were moved from what is now the Clark Kerr Campus of UC to Fremont. 

At the time there was a good deal of opposition on the grounds that there was a large support system for the schools nearby, including UC volunteers and interns. 

The online earthquake hazard and shaking maps set up by ABAG now seem to show us that the schools were moved from one of the safest places in the East Bay to one of the most hazardous. It would be interesting to have the commentary of one of the UC seismic experts on this fact, which may or may not have been known at the time. 

Susan Tripp 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The political atmosphere for the last six years has been rife with labels and name calling. This particularly on the part of Republicans. The administration calls itself “conservative” when it, and its cohorts, are really reactionaries. It doesn’t sound as good. but truth is good. 

My understanding is that a conservative wants to keep things as they are. This would include the environment, Medicare, Social Security, etc. Reactionaries want to turn the clock back and get rid of the programs that are not in their particular interest. 

We have been dealing with a reactionary administration, Congress, and Supreme Court. 

Harry Gans