Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday September 15, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing in response to your editorial “Unlearning anti-Semitism.” First of all, I want to thank you for distinguishing between Israelis, Jews and Zionists and pointing out that there are many Jews, indeed many Israeli Jews, who don’t consider themselves Zionist and that there are those that do consider themselves Zionist (Jews or non Jews) who resist the policies of the Israeli government. These are distinctions that are often blurred and I was grateful you addressed them. 

However, I want to point out a factual error in your editorial. You wrote, “The very term ‘Jews/Zionists’ is an insult to the memory of Rachel Corrie, who was a Jew and perhaps even a believer in the existence of the State of Israel in some form, yet opposed the current policies of the current government of Israel.” 

Rachel Corrie was many things; a daughter, a sister, a human rights activist, a writer, an artist, but she was not, actually, Jewish. She was raised by her parents, Cindy and Craig Corrie, with a great awareness of and sensitivity to historical suffering of Jewish people and this, I believe, might have helped to shape her belief about the necessity of resisting oppression and violence in all its different forms. In fact, in My Name is Rachel Corrie (a play culled by Alan Rickman and Katharine Viner from her diaries and e-mails growing up), there is a passage she wrote describing her fear as a non-Jew engaging in activism around Palestinian human rights that she would be labeled anti-Semitic. 

I thank you for wanting to honor the memory of Rachel Corrie. As someone who worked to allow her words and writings to be heard in the United States at a time when they were threatened with being silenced, I strongly believe that her memory and legacy should be treasured. But not for religious belief, or because of what she may or may not have believed about the existence of the state of Israel. Rachel should be honored and remembered as a compassionate human being; one who questioned the use and abuse of power in many forms, one who stood (literally) to protect the lives of vulnerable human beings, and one who had an incredible gift of writing, which she used to ponder the deeper questions of existence as well as using it to describe the horrible violations of human rights that she was witnessing in Palestine. 

Jen Marlowe 


EDITOR’S NOTE: More letters on the Middle East can be found on our website: 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

I enjoyed the commentary titled “The Policy We Dare Not Mention” and agree that a gas tax is an effective way to reduce congestion and address a raft of other issues. However, one of your assertions about raising the gas tax, that it will economically benefit most low-income people, is not necessarily true. Whether we like it or not. The structure of our communities make many places inaccessible by transit. Many of these places inaccessible to transit are also where good jobs are. By pricing lower income people out of cars, you essentially stratify the job market and restrict the access to goods and services. Lower fuel prices benefit mostly the poor by increasing their mobility. A gas tax is therefore a regressive tax. There are ways to address this, but the statement by the Daily Planet is misleading. Having said that, I do agree that increasing the price of fuel is the most efficient way to reduce congestion and pollution. The economic benefits are less clear for lower income people. 

Another statement is also misleading: 

Why not look to the future and embrace the “hydrogen highway”? Fuel cell vehicles cost $250,000 and up, 30 percent of the hydrogen leaks out of current generation tanks while they are sitting in the garage, the hydrogen fueling stations don’t exist, and the best current hydrogen source is natural gas. So let’s look to the future, but in the meantime.... 

Thirty percent of the gas does not leak out. This is grossly misleading and the way you phrase it makes it seem like it is leaking into your garage. This is definitely not the case. Perhaps for liquid hydrogen there would be leakage outside the garage, but not many companies are seriously considering liquid because of the planned leakage. Most companies are considering only compressed gas. In that case, the gas stays right in the tank until you use it. 

Michael Nicholas 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

There are two things this week I would like to comment on. 

Brit Harvey would like there to be a federal policy change, what he calls a “tax shift,” that he claims would have multiple nation and world-wide benefits. Brit cites several needed changes that this tax measure would potentially help to make. Among others, the stand-outs were reduced smog, traffic congestion, oil dependency, suburban sprawl, national debt, and foreign oil dependency. 

This tax shift is describes as increasing the state gas tax by X amount and reducing other taxes to match. How this policy change was described as “Federal” in the beginning of the piece, and “State” at the end, I don’t know. In this case I will assume it to be a state tax measure. My only question is, once there are more hybrids on the road, more EVs, less oil consumption, and hence less tax revenue as a result of this policy change... What then? A large decrease in state tax revenue would damage infrastructure. Do you think that Californians would really approve a huge non-gasoline tax cut one year, and then the Newtonian (equal and opposite reaction, I mean) tax increase a few years following? 

Secondly, Richard Brenneman’s recent article on Prop. 90 was more op-ed piece than article. I agree with him that voting no on prop 90 would be the way to go. However, the article was so biased I had to laugh. The attempted smear of Prop. 90 proponents, casting them as money grubbing bourgeoisie. The portrayal of the opposition as benevolent yet downtrodden environmental heroes. The implication that the evil greedy developers were only able to raise more money than the “NO” organizations by soliciting right-to-lifers and other right wing zealots. Oh the poor, poor proletariat that is the Sierra Club and the League of California Cities! 

Come on Mr. Brenneman. I understand your passion, I do. But please make an effort to keep it a little more news stand and a little less soap box. 

Matthew Mitschang 

South Berkeley 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

If the Sharon Hudson and Brit Harvey positions can’t be realized, the banning of overnight street parking would tend to limit the auto and improve livability. 

Robert C. Chioino 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Despite the fact I disagree with about half of the letters published in the Daily Planet, and am annoyed by 99 percent of Becky O’Malley’s editorials, I continue to be a loyal reader. The letters pages are a refreshing dose of Berkeley’s diverse points of view. They are entertaining to read, and it’s just the kind of open exchange our community needs. Keep up the good work. 

Dave Fogarty 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is with great sorrow that I have learned that the University of California is planning to cut down the oak grove at the stadium as part of the ill-conceived stadium building project. These trees are irreplaceable treasures. They should be protected, preserved and enjoyed by generations to come. As a child, I walked beneath these trees many times. As a student at Cal, I came home by way of the path that skirts them and enjoyed their shade. As a 68-year-old woman, I still enjoy walking beneath them. As the open spaces on the campus are steadily being filled, this has remained a quiet shady place. How can the University be so short sighted and arrogant as to believe that one football coach is worth breaking the law and sacrificing these ancient trees. This is the final straw in a really inappropriate plan to upgrade the existing stadium. A new site should be found that does not sit on an earthquake fault, where there is more space, where it does not so negatively impact the surrounding residential neighborhood, where it is more accessible to people who are driving or riding public transportation and where an ancient grove of California oaks is not thriving. The coach in question will probably get a better offer and leave before the stadium project is done anyway.  

Lucy Ratcliff Pope 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I must admit that I took a break from local news and the Daily Planet this summer—so much passion, so much detail, so many people venting at each other in the letters columns. Overwhelmed, I disconnected from my community. 

Alerted by a friend as to the controversy around the Planet and the Chronicle hit piece and curious about the Cody’s story, I picked up the Sept. 8-11 edition and felt as if I had rejoined the world, or at least my part of it. The local news and local activism were presented clearly and compassionately, the cartoon was great and the letters lively, and Becky O’Malley’s editorial “Singing the Blues About Cal Dems” and Zoia Horn’s op-ed “Sunshine is the Best Antidote for Bigotry” were outstanding. 

Thank you for a local treasure, a paper dedicated to free speech, social justice, and a good life for everyone in the Berkeley-Oakland-Albany area. 

I would love to see an article about the why our majestic native sycamore trees have been slowly dying for several years and what, if anything, can be done to save them. To put it anthropomorphically, they look like they are writhing in agony and flayed alive, with all the torments of Job and then some, and mirror the tortured unraveling of our social, political, and environmental fabric. The lack of concern for them (we are all too preoccupied to mention them, we see them suffering on our streets, no one speaks up for them publicly) bespeaks a resignation to the collapse of yet another species, a resignation that is close to despair . . . or indifference, which is even worse. 

Jeanie Shaterian 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was born and raised in Berkeley and would like to try and tell the story of what the reality of the Cody’s situation and “The Ave.” in general. It all started in the 1960s as is well chronicled. I remember all the happy hippies running around without a care in the world. Then time past and the happy hippy began to get into the highs too much. Then the hippies got to smelling badly for lack of a care in the world. Then came the realization that the hippy ideas sounded great (still do), but, are not livable in reality. 

The ACLU and other off-shoots were all about letting mental patients to have freedom as long as they were not going to injure themselves or others. Boy how great it would be for these people who are unable to care for themselves or do anything without proper supervision and medication to run around freely. The ACLU sure did win a big one there! 

So the owner of Cody’s is at fault? So he hoses people sleeping (as well as lord knows what else) to remove them/there mess from in front of his business? Who is really at fault here? 

It all goes back to the idea of some kind of Utopia existing in Berkeley. To think that Berkeley cannot live by what every other city does to remain viable still is not working. The only thing that I really miss about Berkeley and Telegraph is the bubble lady. The rest of the hangers on need to try and become more real than fantasy. 

Chris Fuller 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have lived in District 7 for seven years. I love my neighborhood and my neighbors, but unfortunately I have seen the quality of our lives deteriorate over the past seven years. Our neighborhood has the highest crime rate in the city, businesses along the once proud Telegraph Avenue are closing down and moving out, and homelessness has increased significantly. Our police and city staff have performed admirably, but the problems stem from a lack of leadership at the elected level. We need leaders with a vision for a safe and prosperous District 7, leaders who can conceive of and implement solutions to the problems we face. As president of the Willard Neighborhood Association, George Beier has demonstrated that he has the vision, the experience, and the character to improve the quality of our lives in District 7. Berkeley is changing rapidly. Let’s make sure it changes for the best. I support George Beier for City Council. 

Rich Walkling 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Only in Berkeley would a columnist offer the inane comment, as Bob Burnett did, that “where al Qaeda has a long history of terrorist attacks, Hezbollah does not....” 

According to the BBC, Hezbollah has been “synonymous with terror, suicide bombings and kidnappings.” Wikipedia notes that Hezbollah’s acts have included multiple kidnappings, murders, hijackings, and bombings.” 

Of course, mostly Hezbollah just kills Jews, and for many Berkeley lefties that is quite acceptable. 

Mark Johnson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The New Light Senior Center wishes to thank those of you who were so generous and helpful in our struggle to remain open. Your gifts and donations for our lunch program for at risk seniors made it possible that on three days each week we can serve and deliver hot nutritious meals. The New light Staff, Board members, Volunteers and lunch buddies want to say thanks a million for caring and sharing. 

Jacqueline DeBose 

Executive Director, 

New Light Senior Center 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In response to Rev. Pondurenga Das’ Sept. 12 letter to the editor, we would like to clarify some key points under which the newly forming Berkeley Cooperative Grocery is operating. If readers will visit our website, they will discover that we are interested in offering only organic, sustainable, and whenever possible, local products for sale at the CoG. We believe, as Rev. Das observes, sustainability is a crucial element for the success of our communities, both large and small.  

As a non-profit, we do not intend to “compete” with either Berkeley Bowl or local Farmer’s Markets. Indeed, many farmers who sell here have contacted us, eager to be able to distribute their goods through a small, cooperative setting. For those of you who shop at Farmer’s Markets, you might agree that saving money is not the primary motivator for shopping there. It is, rather, the sense of community that permeates the market that is so satisfying. Berkeley Bowl (as well as Monterey Market and Berkeley Natural Grocery, for that matter) are all lovely, family-run or worker-owned Berkeley institutions at which many of us regularly shop. The Cog will be a true alternative to all of these. By opening a non profit, working member co-op, we will be offering a way for members to save money on the organic and sustainable products they purchase by offering their labor to the cooperative. By saving on labor, we will be able to lower the markup that many stores must add.  

As we mentioned in the article, for many people, time is something they have less of than money, and the cooperative model will simply not work for them. But for many others in this area, trading labor for less expensive organic and sustainable products is something that might make it possible to be able to purchase those products in the first place. That’s precisely our main goal: to provide access to what are typically regarded as elitist products to more members of our community, and at the same time, build community. The CoG will belong to its members. Indeed, the fact that nearly 300 members have joined in the first month of going public truly speaks to how ready the East Bay is for this kind of endeavor.  

Serving “high-end consumers” we will leave to others; the CoG will be for ordinary folk who are looking for a way to participate cooperatively, make more sustainable purchasing choices, and save some money doing it. We invite you to learn more about us. Please visit our website at 

Julia Carpenter 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding last week’s headline, “Hawk Habitat Destroyed,” you completely missed the boat on the power and importance of this story. The City of Berkeley waited six months to take down a dead tree in order to give a family of Cooper’s hawks a chance to fledge their young. That’s the story! And for a supposedly environmentally conscientious community and newspaper, what a story to be proud of. 

As it was written, the headline is a slap in the face of city workers, particularly Jerry Koch, who has been deeply and personally committed to preserving opportunities for nesting hawks in our city. Even the article’s writer, David Gelles, e-mailed an apology for the flawed headline. 

In addition, I was misrepresented as saying that acacia is an ideal habitat for Cooper’s hawks. Acacia is a tree, not a habitat. For the record, Berkeley Cooper’s hawks seem to be able to use many species of native and non-native trees, none obviously better than another. For more info on Berkeley’s Cooper’s hawks, visit 

Allen Fish 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

This letter is in response to Phyllis Orrick’s Sept. 12 letter to the editor. In it she states that Donald Shoup who spoke at the DAPAC/Transportation Commission meeting thought that making parking in downtown Berkeley more expensive would help solve the parking problem. (I was not at the meeting so am relying on the letter writer’s summary.) If this is an accurate summary of his message, it sounds to me like Mr. Shoup doesn’t understand the point of having parking available.  

Most people who patronize businesses downtown get there by automobile and therefore need a place to park. They occupy their parking spaces for only as long as it takes to do their business whether it is to eat a meal, watch a movie, shop, or visit a city office. No one occupies a parking space longer than he or she needs to just because it is not that expensive. People factor the cost of parking and the convenience of finding a parking place near their destination into their decision where to take their business. As the cost of parking downtown and the difficulty in finding a place to park increase, people will go where they can do the same thing with less inconvenience and cost. 

Our family used to go to the movies in downtown Berkeley. But now that a number of the parking lots have disappeared, in particular the Hink’s garage (where parking cost more than on the street but it was always available), we drive to Emeryville where parking is either free or at most $1 and available near the theaters when we want to see a movie. As a matter of fact I do find that the lack of parking in downtown Berkeley has made it inhospitable and inconvenient.  

Mary Oram 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Come on now—that was surely meant in jest only. The same for the quote: “It’s a struggle, and I hope the Legislature will reconsider and help us find some immediate relief." Reconsider what? Building more prison beds when it is very obvious that more county jail beds, not prison beds, are needed? 

I guess he must be new to Corrections. Everyone who has been involved with corrections anywhere for more than 10 minutes knows that all Correctional agencies routinely deal with overcrowding by tinkering with inmate length of stay (LOS) so you have sufficient capacity to meet inflow. If the Department of Corrections (DC&R) had not implemented the Good Time Credits system to reduce LOS there would probably be a prison population of 250,000 or more. Counties release about 20,000 inmates monthly to make room for incoming inmates. Reagan simply ordered the release of all inmates a little early. Why would anyone ever consider closing prisons to new commitments and risk creating real crises?  

The DC&R is supposed to tell the Governor and Legislature what minor law change is needed to reduce inmate LOS so that capacity matches inflow. Its not complicated.  

Rich McKone 

Lincoln, Calif.  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

P.M. Price got it almost right in her Sept. 8 “View from Here” column. 

Shrinking MLK back to what it was when the streetcars took up the middle is a fine idea, but don’t stop at Dwight! Take it six blocks or so farther north—to Center, say, or Allston. I live on MLK opposite BHS, between Bancroft and Allston, and we’ve got all those same auto-related miseries up at this end, too. I regularly walk my bicycle to one end of the block because the traffic past my house is so heavy and freeway-like that I can’t ride out of my own driveway. I quit smoking in 1965, but when I look at the grime on the curtains, or anything kept outdoors, and realize that I’m breathing in that same stuff, I sometimes wonder why I bothered. MLK needs traffic calming big time, and it needs it now! 

David Coolidge 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Green Machine has certainly made a difference, and I think there are way fewer aphids dropping goo. (I’m a street craftsperson and have been for —whoa!—30 years, so I’m under the trees.) I hope they keep after the aphids. 

I have a suggestion about the parking problem that does not involve any construction or destruction. The yellow zones are posted “Loading Zone at all times.” The look on the faces of people who get a ticket on Sunday or after 6 p.m. says, “I’ll never shop there again.” Not much is being loaded anyway. My suggestion is at least to make the hours of enforcement like those for yellow zones everywhere else. Better yet would be to paint them green and make them 30-minute areas so people could grab a pizza or do quick errands without the worry of a ticket. The current bizarre and erratic enforcement is more like harassment than law enforcement and serves mainly to alienate people. 

Ruth Bird 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thanks for running Carol Denney’s commentary on Cody’s. Carol, thanks for telling it like it is. The homeless are the last group that it seems to be OK to trash in our politically correct city—it’s all their fault, seems to be the story, and besides, they’re responsible for their sorry situation. Try substituting African Americans in that argument— are you still PC? 

Oddly enough, crowds of people from Orinda and Lafayette and Walnut Creek and points east and south still crowd Telegraph on the weekends. They don’t seem to be scared to come here, and they come for the stuff they can’t get at malls: atmosphere, street vendors, specialty stores. Maybe Cody’s didn’t do well for the more obvious reasons—the convenience and deep discounts of Internet bookstores, the parking (yes, parking) and amenities at chains such as Barnes & Noble and Borders, changes in the interests and activities of students. Cody’s always had that “we’re an icon we don’t have to be friendly” vibe—it was often difficult to catch a staffer’s eye at the customer service counter. It would also not have killed Andy Ross to provide a few chairs among the shelves (no one is asking for syrupy coffee drinks here!)—sitting on the floor to read a book isn’t fun even when you’re young, and a whole lot less fun when you’re old and creaky. Small independents usually make up for higher prices and smaller inventory by being extra service-oriented—try Analog Books on Northside to see what I mean. Not so with Cody’s. 

So, as the PR (sorry, Green) Machines scoot unnecessarily down the sidewalks of Telegraph at taxpayer expense, Cody’s has been sold to a Japanese company, but no, it’s not returning to Berkeley—crocodile tears all around, even by the new owner. Don’t blame the homeless, blame greed. 

Aija Kanbergs