Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday September 19, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding Becky O’Malley’s Sept. 15 editorial on Berkeley’s efforts to improve the quality of food in our schools: I’m uncomfortable with the anti-sensualist strain in her words. As if the general dumbing down/de-sensitization of our palates is a good thing. Her argument sounds oddly akin to those in favor of spanking children (and, yes, I know she is not). The age of the blunt instrument is behind us. 

And, since I’ve got pen in hand, to Mr. David Baggins: Can you understand that a patronizing tone with parents will not endear you to them? 

Pamela Satterwhite 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was heartened that Becky O’Malley champions the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I do have one disagreement with her husband’s recipe. Whole wheat bread is out! Machine-sliced white Wonder Bread is imperative. The Virginia Bakery white loaf is a good substitute. It has the pillow-soft texture of Wonder Bread but lacks the exquisite silkiness. I have never frozen a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I’m afraid it might destroy the delicacy of Wonder Bread. In my mature years I have been converted to Acme bread by various hashslingers at Chez Panisse. 

I think Chez Panisse food is home cooking as it ideally should be. The simplicity of the dishes is one of the appealing qualities at Chez Panisse. When I went to my pen pal party at King School I was served strawberries on warm shortcake right from the oven made from scratch by the students in the Alice Waters-inspired kitchen. 

Sam Craig 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

There has been some public questions regarding exactly how much are Berkeley’s property taxes for schools. One letter to the editor opined that the average property taxes for the schools in Berkeley came to about $222 a year. This really piqued my interest. After considerable rummaging around, I found my 2005-06 tax bill. On my tax bills there are actually four separate taxes for Berkeley public schools. 

The left-hand column lists one tax which says “School Unified,” and the right-hand column lists three more called “Berkeley Schl Tax”; “School Maintenance,” and “School 2004 Meas BB.” The grand total on my bill is: $1,440.50, which is a very hefty amount. If Berkeley’s school taxes are not the highest in the state, then they must be close to the top. The school district has also written their new tax Measure A to be a 10-year tax so voters don’t get to have a say for 10 years. BeSMaart recommends the normal four-year term for this tax with some way for us to know whether the money reached the children in the classroom. Vote no on Measure A in November. Ask the School District to write a better measure. 

Stevie Corcos 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

President Bush, noted for his eloquence and command of the English language, favors modifying the Geneva Convention Treaty, thus easing the ban on torture of prisoners. What next? A re-write of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights?  

Dorothy Snodgrass 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’m a bit surprised you have not covered the latest endorsements in the Berkeley mayor’s race. As you may know, Zelda Bronstein has been on the Board of the National Women’s Political Caucus (Alameda North) and the Coordinating Committee of the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club. Yet both organizations have now declined to endorse her for mayor. The NWPC (which cannot endorse men under it’s rules) voted no endorsement; and the Wellstone Club (home of local progressives) voted overwhelmingly to endorse Tom Bates for re-election. Draw your own conclusions. 

Mal Burnstein 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Kriss Worthington has served the Southside neighborhood actively and honestly, representing the interests of students and neighbors alike. He busily attends meetings and gatherings and has an open ear. Unlike George, his challenger, who smiles pretty as your words go right through his head, Kriss is attentive and concerned and willing to get involved in real issues. 

George Beier is running on a platform trying to stir up antagonism over People’s Park. He advertises the park as a haven for drug users and dealers and then brags about working with UC to hire consultants to redesign People’s Park. Anybody with any sense of history of this neighborhood would know that such an approach is completely unworkable and will only lead to conflict over an issue that has been gradually healing and improving. Any redesigning of People’s Park must come from the community; from the students, neighbors, and people in the park. A democratic and participatory process is required in order to avoid the horrible conflicts we lived through when UC implemented volleyball courts in the early 1990’s. The Southside needs someone who is willing to protect the neighborhood from UC’s encroachment, not invite them in. 

George wants more cops, spy cameras and less parties. Don’t fall for the smile that hides the knife. Kriss is about finding the right solutions with the community. Re-elect Kriss, a rare honest politician. 

Cynthia Johnson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thanks to Randy Shaw for cutting through the spin to the dismal reality of Tom Bates’ mayoral administration (“Berkeley Mayor’s Race Reflects a City in Twilight,” Sept. 6). 

Actually, it’s even worse than Shaw says. Bates has not “had to pull back in response to community resistance” to the high-density, market-rate housing he’d like to build at the Ashby BART station. Despite eight months of intense grass-roots protest, he continues to ram this controversial project through south Berkeley. In July he got the council to approve $40,000 to fund a task force that was selected under secretive conditions by a private corporation. Shaw calls Bates “a strong housing advocate.” Make that high-end housing. The incumbent has repeatedly tried to weaken Berkeley’s affordable housing laws. In January 2004 he told the Council: “I don’t like those kind of constraints. I’m sorry. Maybe I’m a free market person.” 

Still, I wish Shaw had given my mayoral campaign as discerning a treatment as he gave the current administration. After noting that I am “Bates’ chief opponent” in the November election, he writes: “Bronstein has scored points against Bates’ record on land use and economic development issues, but is perceived by some as anti-business.” Perceived by some? How about the reality? 

The reality is that the “some” who see me otherwise are the very people Shaw assails—the big developers and their friends in City Hall. My “Pro-Business, Pro-Berkeley Agenda,” posted on my campaign website,, is filled with proposals for supporting the sort of businesses that make Berkeley Berkeley—independent, locally owned and operated enterprise, artists and artisans, and light industry. As a planning commissioner, I drafted the Economic Development Element of the city’s new General Plan. I also helped convene and then served on the UC Hotel/Conference Center Citizen’s Advisory Group, whose recommendations have been praised by the project developer. By drawing customers who are now staying in Emeryville and Oakland, the hotel will bring the city much-needed revenue and stimulate downtown commerce. As a journalist, I have written many articles promoting Berkeley business, including an admiring profile of the director of the Berkeley Visitors and Convention Bureau (tourism brings bucks to Berkeley). I’ve even written a few Berkeley Christmas shopping pieces. 

Also needing correction is Shaw’s portrait of a community totally sunk in political apathy. My endorsers include leaders of almost every major neighborhood association in town. It’s the neighborhoods who have put up the resistance to the developer-driven machine, and it’s neighborhood activists who are going to spur Berkeley’s next political renewal. My campaign for mayor is the start. 

Zelda Bronstein 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Mary Oram claims, in her Sept. 15 letter to the editor, that Donald Shoup’s plan for pricing parking cannot work in downtown Berkeley, because most customers come by car and will stop coming if we raise parking prices. 

Ms. Oram apparently is unaware of the facts about how customers get to downtown. The best figures we have are from a survey of downtown Berkeley shoppers directed by Elizabeth Deakin of the UC Berkeley Institute of Transportation Studies, which found that only 20 percent drove to their shopping destination, 28 percent took public transportation, and 42 percent walked to their shopping destination (many walking from work or school). 

Ms. Oram apparently is also unaware of the details of Donald Shoup’s proposal. Shoup says we should raise parking-meter prices to the point where some on-street parking spaces are available, and we should use most of the extra revenue for improvements to the shopping district that attract more customers. This has been tried in Old Pasadena: it has made it easier for shoppers to find short-term metered parking, it has reduced the congestion caused by people cruising around looking for cheap on-street parking, and it has increased business because the improvements have drawn many new customers. 

Finally, Ms. Oram apparently is unaware that automobiles are the number-one source of greenhouse-gas emissions in California. Imagine what the global environment will be like at the end of this century if the rapidly growing middle-classes of India, China and the rest of the world follow her advice and drive their cars every time they go shopping! 

If Ms. Oram does not care about whether we leave a livable world to our children and grandchildren, then she should keep driving to shop amid the ugliness of Emeryville. 

Charles Siegel 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Residential care facilities for the elderly (RCFEs) and nursing homes around the country are in desperate need of assistance. Aides and nurses, even LVNs and RNs, are paid far below their colleagues in hospitals. Even at Salem Lutheran Home, the certified nursing assistants (CNAs) and registered nurses (RNs) do not make the wages quoted in Carol Polsgrove’s otherwise excellent article in the Aug. 4 edition of the Daily Planet. The patient and painstaking care these assistants provide is even more remarkable considering there are no nursing ratios. CNAs must respond to emergency calls, reassure anxious residents and tend to numerous other demands while assisting with scheduled baths and medications. Assignments may include 12-20 residents, depending on intensity of care needed.  

Volunteers are needed to help provide care for this vulnerable population. Simply walking with a resident can promote well-being and protect him or her against a fall. Many residents need someone to sit and chat with them. All staff members spend time with residents, but often more urgent duties call them away. 

Residential care facilities for the elderly are regulated by the Department of Social Services. Rules meant to protect residents sometimes conflict with the resident’s right to independence and autonomy. For example, RCFEs need written medical orders for provision of all over-the-counter medications, and specific instructions to allow residents to keep them at bedside or in the room. Removing such controlled items as multivitamins and Eucerin cream takes away yet another thing that the individual did for his or herself and may increase the sense of loss and helplessness. Staff need the understanding and assistance of medical professionals to obtain orders that will recognize the individuals emotional needs while promoting his or her well-being.  

Families are also an important part of the older adult’s support system. Providing shoes with good soles, taking the individual shopping, and respecting the individuality of the older adult aids him or her in coping with decreased abilities and ongoing losses. Family and friends provide a link to the world and greatly affect one’s mental well-being. A huge thank you to all the caregivers that help to make the older years truly golden. May we all work together to make the older years truly enjoyable ones. 

Petrice P. Kam, RN, GNP 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Some have been saying that the Sierra Club is a “special interest group,” especially when it comes to the Albany waterfront. That point is well-illustrated by an article in the current issue of the Sierra Club Yodeler. The article reports on the court’s action taking the waterfront initiative off the ballot. It also contains a number of misstatements, probably specifically crafted to misinform its members/readers. However, many members have actually read both the initiative and the court’s judgment, and they know better. 

In the first place, the ruling was based on an accurate reading of State law, which was apparently beyond the faculties of the initiative’s sponsors. They themselves are responsible for failing in their promise to signers to get their initiative on the ballot because of the way they chose to publicize it. The real reason that “the voice of more than 25 percent of Albany voters” was “silenced” was that the sponsors didn’t want to make the text of the initiative properly available, as State law requires, for all to read and understand.  

Another striking misstatement in the article is the claim that one of the “major goals of the initiative” was to have an “open planning process” for the future of the Albany waterfront. On the contrary, it was designed to take over the planning process, cut the City Council, commissions and committees out of the process, and give total control and “final” decision-making to a “task force” that would not be accountable to Albany voters. 

Most of those who signed the initiative did so because of the reputation of the Sierra Club. They didn’t question whether they were getting the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth when they were urged to sign, because the Sierra Club is reputed to be a leading environmental protector.  

It is now obvious that the club is not worthy of our unqualified trust. Neither their leadership nor their local representatives took the trouble to examine the content of the initiative nor the impact it would have on our community as a whole, let alone taking the trouble to read State law. Let’s not be so easily swayed next time and show some skepticism when the Sierra Club asks for our signatures or our votes. 

Jean Safir 

Albany resident and Sierra Club member 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Berkeley Police Department Traffic Office is proposing to renovate and expand their office at 3192 Adeline St., the commercial street in South Berkeley’s historic Lorin District. A year or so ago the meter officers (aka parking enforcement officers) wanted their own designated and prime parking spots around the 3100 block of Adeline. Public opposition by neighbors and merchants got them to back off. The meter officers complained they didn’t want to park their cars on side streets because of a high number of auto break-ins in our neighborhood. In the end, a compromise plan gave the parking officers parking spots across the street near the Adeline post office a while back.  

Some neighbors feel that since crime around the so-called “police substation” is ignored by parking enforcement officers, this encourages a “free zone” for crime which exacerbates problems. The area around the substation is the worst for loitering, dumping and littering, apparent drug dealing and public drinking in the area. Police officers on Harleys and meter officers go in and out of the parking lot seemingly oblivious to what is going on under their noses. The parking officers have said publicly that they don’t want to report crime taking place around them. A surveillance camera is close by, but aimed at red light runners to earn revenue and enhance traffic safety, not deter other types of crime nearby.  

Now, the substation has an even more ambitious plan to expand and take over most of the 3100 block of Adeline for the traffic substation. An expansion of the use permit was discussed at a recent Zoning Adjustments Board meeting. Local merchants spoke up in opposition, and ZAB proposed police should work out concerns with neighborhood members who were present at the ZAB meeting. Two meetings were held but the police department had to cancel on short notice. Now a larger presentation is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 21 at the South Berkeley Senior Center.  

With an AC Transit bus stop in front of the substation, two short blocks walk from BART to the substation and designated parking across the street, why should parking enforcement take up a good portion of a commercial block on Adeline? Our neighborhood area has great potential with historic buildings, cafes, antiques, and arts and may be on the verge of a renaissance. Let them move the substation to an industrial area of Berkeley. The exercise averse parking enforcement employees could have plenty of parking if they don’t want to use public transit. They should not be allowed to take more space and hamper the rebirth of our commercial historic district. They wouldn’t even try this in other commercial areas of Berkeley. Is it any wonder sales tax revenue is down in Berkeley? Is this a wise use of our commercial district?  

The Lorin District already houses a large number of social services and low income housing. Let us have a chance for a healthy commercial district that can provide jobs, sales tax revenue and a pleasant atmosphere. We have a voice in South Berkeley if we will make it heard.  

Robin Wright 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am a member of the staff of the Pre-K Early Child Care Development Department in BUSD, for which I have worked in since 1980. During these 26 years it has been a great privilege to work with and for first head teacher, and later as principal, Mr. John Santoro, until his leaving our beloved department for a less stressful environment in the Oakland School District; we have lost a sincerely dedicated principal, co-worker, and friend. In our line of work, where we are the first to introduce children and parents into the school environment we teach many things more than just ABC, 123. We teach manners, communication vs. hitting, laughing rather than crying, along with the required state mandates and testing we partake in—and we teach these things to not only the children, but to some of the parents as well through example. We as staff learned this from our principal, John Santoro. You do not find people of his caliber in many places anymore. He is missed. Perhaps the next administrator will not have to do the job of three people as Mr. Santoro had to. As he told us at his Sept. 13 goodbye party, “You do the most important job there is, and you do it with dedication and love....You’re the best.” Needless to say, there were a few teary eyes that evening, and rightly so. I hope BUSD finds the next qualified administrator to lead this department with a sincere motto that “kids come first, all else second”—for that is truly how we feel in this school and in this department. Thank you, John. 

Mark K. Bayless