Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday September 22, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Berkeley needs a comprehensive and effective Sunshine Ordinance to promote openness in government and participation of all members of the public. Many other Bay Area cities, including San Francisco, Oakland, and Richmond, already have such legislation on the books. Mayor Tom Bates has promised that a Sunshine Ordinance will be a reality. 

Currently, there is a danger that the city council may adopt a weak, watered-down draft ordinance, authored by the city attorney. Councilmember Kriss Worthington has dubbed it the “Twilight Ordinance.” A truly effective Sunshine Ordinance would, among other things, require disclosure of settlement agreements prior to vote by the council. Such disclosure would have made the City’s secret deal with University of California impossible. 

Other benefits would be to: 

(1) Move public meetings to larger venues to accommodate citizens otherwise shut out by the police or by lack of access for the disabled. 

(2) Increase opportunities for public comment so that parents, working people, the disabled, and other members of the public may participate. It shows lack of respect for those who attend these meetings at considerable time, trouble, and expense if they cannot be heard. 

(3) Make copies of last-minute submittals of documents at public meetings available to the general public. 

Now is the time for the citizens of Berkeley to demand a Sunshine Ordinance that lives up to the name. Under the “Twilight” version, complaints have no remedy, and there is no provision for enforcement of the ordinance. We encourage everyone concerned with a genuine Sunshine Ordinance for Berkeley to attend the Sept. 26 City Council meeting, Old City Hall, at 7 p.m. 

Please sign up (prior to 7:00) to speak out for open government and full public participation. 

Gene Bernardi, Jim Fisher,  

Helen Wynne and Jane Welford 

for SuperBOLD 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Although Becky O’Malley seems interested in Berkeley students getting a better lunch at their schools, I’m afraid she doesn’t have enough information on which to judge what is happening with Food Services at BUSD (Berkeley Unified School District). Her editorial was probably motivated by the Sept. 4 New Yorker article by Burkhard Bilger, in which Ann Cooper, head of food services at BUSD, was described as working hard to change the meals to what our school district’s food policy says should be “fresh, organic whenever possible, and locally grown” (August, 1999). As a member of BUSD’s “Child Nutrition Advisory Committee” for eight long years, I want to tell you that our children ARE different from when your kids went to school with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and here’s why it matters so much. 

First, about half of the elementary school children get a free or reduced lunch at their school every day, which is terrific if a family is trying to make ends meet in this expensive Berkeley world in which we live. They always have a vegetarian choice on the menu if the entree has meat in it, fruit and milk. They need this lunch even more when you realize many kids come to school with no breakfast at all (or, possibly a bag of chips and a coke! some nutritious start to the day!). It was appalling to many of us on the Committee that none of the food was ever cooked at the Central Kitchen; it was only taken from one frozen container and put in another metal, small container that was then heated up for each student. Ann Cooper has changed that. She is actually cooking real meals like meat loaf (with Allan Lyman, the cook at Central Kitchen), and ordering real, whole wheat bread and organic lettuce for the salad bars (now at all 15 BUSD schools). Please take a break and go have lunch at your nearest elementary school, Longfellow or Willard middle schools, or the High School, to judge for yourself: the meals are so much better than a year ago, and in particular, I think, the salad bars are delicious, with at least 9 choices to put on your lettuce! 

Second, it is not “a bit silly” to be caring about the food that our children eat at school. We have an obesity crisis in this country that cannot be ignored. (Millions of dollars are spent in our state alone to deal with this.) Daily, there is direct pressure from the fast food industry to persuade our children to have at least one meal a day from their high fat, high sodium, high in calories restaurants. (And if you talk to the students as I have, as all our teachers have, you will conclude this industry is winning.) But Berkeley children are now learning in their garden and cooking/nutrition classes (thanks to the California Nutrition Network grant monies that BUSD receives from Sacramento) how to eat and live a healthier life. I like to say, “If they grow it, if they cook it, they will eat it!” We want our children to learn how to sustain themselves better, as well as learn that sustainable agriculture is important to the health of our planet. 

Beebo Turman 

Project Director, Berkeley Community  

Gardening Collaborative 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing in response to the article that was run in the Daily Planet earlier this month about the prospects of the new food co-op opening up in Berkeley. I am curious as to why there is no interest in bringing this co-op to our neighbors in West Oakland where 35,000 people reside, 70 percent of whom are below the poverty level, and there is only one major grocery store. While Berkeley is saturated with “gourmet grocery stores,” residents of West Oakland are hard pressed to find anything short of a liquor store to purchase their vittles. If the founders of the Co-Op are sincere in their statements about not making healthy food “elitist” and increasing access to affordable health food, they would consider offering this promising cooperative and community-based business to an underserved community in the Bay Area.  

Shamir Chauhan 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was in Santa Rosa last week, and got a chance to stroll around the downtown area. I was pleased and surprised to discover a fine transit mall. Yes, it can be done. Santa Rosa has a beautiful and lively downtown with a central park. Downtown looked like a destination. In the park there is a statue of Charlie Brown. On a park bench, a sign showed the presence of an Internet hot spot. 

I saw one guy sleeping on a park bench, and getting gently hassled by a local cop. I didn’t get panhandled while I was there. The Santa Rosa transit mall is a single street, about like Center between Oxford and Shattuck, or Telegraph between Durant and Bancroft. The whole street was dedicated bus lanes. Buses entered from a major arterial, similar to Shattuck. 

Multiple bus lines serve the mall. Besides the local Santa Rosa City Bus (I saw signs for 16 lines) there is Golden Gate Transit and Sonoma County Transit. 

There were several bus shelters and signs identifying which buses come to what stops. There was even a nice public toilet, part of one of the buildings. 

I rode Golden Gate Transit No. 80 to make my trip. On the way back south, the bus passed through Petaluma. A beautiful creek runs through it, with a river-walk. 

Steve Geller 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Having read the entire text of the pope’s recent speech, I found myself trying to understand why he made any reference to Islam at all. The words the pope quoted had little, if anything, to do with the main thrust of the pope’s speech. If the pope truly wants to foment “dialogue” between Christians and Muslims, then he should start by putting some universally acknowledged facts on the table. In my opinion, the pope’s speech should have more or less said the following: “In the great central tradition of Christianity, both Catholic and Protestant, Jesus has been and continues to be worshipped as the one and only Son of God. Jesus, as revealed in the Bible, is indeed God Himself, who became a fully human man, lived a sinless life, died on a cross to pay the penalty of God’s holy wrath against sinful humanity, and rose from the dead. Jesus is Lord of all and reigns over all the earth at the right hand of God. This is central to Christian revelation, to a Christian understanding of history, and to the nature of Christ himself.  

In the great central tradition of Islam, whether Sunni or Shiite, Jesus is generally held in high esteem as a great prophet, and yet is not held in the same esteem as Muhammad, the last and greatest prophet of Allah. Muslims do not even consider the possibility of actually worshipping Jesus, and they most certainly do not believe that Jesus was or is God incarnate; for God would never condescend to become a man as far as Islamic teaching is concerned. For Muslims, Jesus is not the Savior of the world, nor is he Lord over all creation, as in Christianity. Whether Islam is, at present, a violent religion is an altogether separate discussion (though one worth having, if people are truly interested in truth). But again, the main point is clear and must be dealt with: Christianity and Islam may share many things, but on the most important matter, namely, the nature of Christ and of God’s revelation to humankind, we are talking about two radically different faiths. All ‘dialogue’ must start here.”  

This is the message the pope should have made clear, whether it would be well received or not. Truth will out! 

Michael Duenes 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Robert Lieber and Brian Parker were the only two candidates in the 2004 City Council election who chose not to abide by Albany’s voluntary limit on campaign spending. Backed by The Sierra Club, Citizens for an Eastshore State Park (CESP) and Citizens for the Albany Shoreline (CAS), they exponentially outspent their opposition. Lieber won a seat on the council while Parker—who spent an astronomical $10,350 or so if memory serves—did not. While it is routinely asserted by Sierra Club, CESP and CAS spokespersons like Parker that Albany must be protected from corruption by “pro-development” dollars, nothing in fact could be further from the truth. Albany has already been corrupted by mega-spending “environmentalists.” 

This hypocrisy reached new heights at the Sept. 18 council meeting when Lieber—the sole councilmember who has failed to put his money where his mouth is in local elections!—asked the council to support Proposition 89, the California Clean Money and Fair Elections Act. While this proposition may in fact make good law, it’s rather silly of the council to involve itself in such matters, and downright laughable that Lieber suggested it. 

In the current race for City Council, only Caryl O’Keefe has had the courage to agree to abide by Albany’s spending limit, and to accept contributions exclusively from Albany individuals. One can only wonder, by contrast, where the “Save Our Shoreline Team” of council candidates—Joanne Wile and Marge Atkinson—are getting their campaign dollars. The catchy tagline makes their priorities clear, and their endorsement by Lieber and Parker speaks volumes on the campaign financing issue. 

Paul Klein 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Rosemary Reuther criticized the pope for implying that the penchant for Islamic violence voiced by a 14th century Byzantine leader was still with us today. But while Jews and Christians are villified daily by religious letters throughout the Islamic world, you don’t see the targets of their wrath responding as Muslims have to the pope’s commentary. After the pope’s statement, the world has seen bullets and firebombs violating five non-Catholic churches in the West Bank and Gaza by those fine, tolerant champions of the Berkeley left, the Palestinians, a 70-year-old nun was murdered in Somalia, and Islamic religious leaders calling for assaults on non-Muslims throughout the world. 

Gee Ms. Reuther, I guess the pope was indeed inaccurate in his assessment of the continuum of historic violence springing from Islam, wasn’t he? 

Dan Spitzer 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is a shame that Cynthia Johnson’s letter of support for Kriss Worthington just can’t help trashing George Beier. George is running a positive, hopeful campaign with a real vision of what People’s Park, Telegraph, and the entire district can become. Frankly, after 10 years in office, I have yet to hear Worthington’s vision. Instead of a different future for what People’s Park can become, Ms. Johnson claims the past conflicts over the use of the park have been “healing and improving”—suggesting that the status quo is desired. This will certainly be contested by the neighbors, businesses, and crime victims (many of them students and the homeless) who live and work in the area. Johnson mentions Worthington’s work on restoring police to Telegraph, but I have yet to hear what he envisions for the future of the Telegraph Avenue district. It seems to me that this is a reasonable expectation from the voters, and I believe George has done an outstanding job of spelling out his vision, which is available for review on his website:  

Here’s a novel idea—how about we find out the real visions and ideas both candidates have about Telegraph Avenue, People’s Park, development, crime, student representation, and other issues instead of supporting “our candidate” by trashing the “other candidate”? That would be a unique campaign in Berkeley politics! I hope George Beier’s supporters will continue to follow his lead and join him in his positive campaign for the future of District 7, and Berkeley as a whole.  

Gregory S. Murphy 

Willard Neighborhood Resident 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Ms. Corcos and others questioning the tax consequences of Measure A have only to refer to the campaign literature: $0.228 per square foot of residential property. Her school tax of $1440.50 suggests that she lives in a rather grand 6315-square-foot house. May I suggest she probably benefits from a generous federal Schedule A deduction bringing her net liability to approximately $100 a month (a nice dinner out for two with wine?). Other than a good meal, what do BSEP funds represent? For starts, support for a respected school district that contributes to high property values. More important, it provides an excellent education for our children. Without Measure A funds, deteriorating pedagogic quality would find concerned parents pondering private school tuition. I believe most would agree that BSEP is a bargain! 

As for the short-sighted suggestion the tax be renewed every four years, since a third of the funds go to class size reduction, imagine the insecurity and potential havoc of rearranging classrooms and hiring/firing teachers every four years, depending on what funds would be available with the fate of each measure.  

No Ms. Corcos and your BeSMaart short-thinkers flunk; the correct answer to this problem is Yes on Measure A. 

Tedi Crawford 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It seems the author of the Sept. 15 editorial has little respect for the good work of Alice Waters or of the fine journalists Gladwell and Pollan and that she actually has a vendetta against them. Her anger would be better vented on the industrial agribusiness than on people making a difference in the quality of food available to all. And while organic foods cost more, I rather think of pesticide-ridden foods as costing less—with good reason—they are shown in numerous studies to be worth less nutritionally. In her position, Ms. O’Malley’s could help see to it that everyone gets clean food, not just those who can afford it, as well as helping them to understand the difference that noncontaminated food can make. 

I wish it were true that merely washing produce removes the pesticides. But the synthetic chemicals used in industrial agribusiness actually affect the way the whole plant grows at the genetic level. It’s a great mistake to think that a little soap and water will make everything OK again after being drenched in poison, or even worse, being genetically engineered. 

Pesticide residues on crops exist at levels that have measurable affects on the human endocrine system. And while people eating this food don’t normally get sick immediately, there are ample data highlighting the possibilities such as steadily increasing rates of cancers; increasing problems with conceiving a child; rampant mental disabilities and developmental problems that are among a very long list of ailments that become evident long after the hit of poison. In general, the viability of the human species is diminishing at an observable rate with disorders in every area of the body on the rise. Many nonprofits with stated goals of curing said diseases have ties to the very industries that cause those same diseases.  

The cold hard fact is that diseases such as cancers will remain uncured until the poisons that cause them are removed from our lives. Pointing at one of them as “The Cause” is a mistake because they all act together in ways that humans will never fully understand. This is not to diminish the value of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers as causes of diseases because they play major roles in the list of characters that are bringing us to our knees.  

Paul Goettlich 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Charles Siegel misses the point in his Sept. 19 letter about parking in downtown Berkeley. He cites Elizabeth Deakin’s figures showing (among other things) that only 20 percent drove to their shopping destination. No wonder the number is low—it’s caused by the percentage of people who chose not to come to downtown Berkeley at all!  

Revan Tranter 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Kudos to the Daily Planet for the great commentary by Rosemary Radford Ruether, “What the Pope Should Have Said to the Islamic World.” As a practicing Catholic I would like to humbly apologize to my Islamic brothers and sisters for the disrespect to their beliefs voiced, by the titular head of my church, not because I have any idea of why he chose such an offensive quote, but because I believe that people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. To paraphrase my sainted grandmother, “If you (supposed Christians) had provided a better example, perhaps you might not have this problem now.” 

Mary Vivian Zelaya 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The White House issued a message acknowledging the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Mohandas Gandhi starting satyagraha, the non-violent movement in South Africa. It was dated Aug. 11, and was devoted moreto the 59th anniversary of India’s independence and its democracy. 

Nowhere was the Gandhian 9/11 mentioned.  

On that day, hundreds of millions celebrated, including Gandhi’s grandson, Arun, who has the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence in Memphis. He commemorated the day at the Lincoln Memorial in D.C.! With Representative John Lewis (D. Ga.), among others. 

To the best of my knowing, it was not reported in the Washington Post or New York Times, or even on Democracy Now, who interviewed Arun the week before but failed to note the Lincoln Memorial assembly, or report of it. If you like, the White House message can be seen by going to Gandhi Foundation USA. 

In the ongoing celebrations of the 100th anniversary of satyagraha, nonviolent soul force, Peace for Keeps will hold the first annual Gandhi Birthday (Oct. 2, 1869) Poems and Performances for Peace, Sunday, Oct. 1, 1-6 p..m., at the Gandhi statue behind the south end of the San Francisco Ferry Building on the Embarcadero. Come one, come awe!  

Arnie Passman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It was disappointing to see the Daily Planet giving such prominent first-page coverage to the grumblings of a few folks on North Solano. You know, I don’t live within hearing distance of Milo, but there’s some awfully barky dogs on my block, too. A pair on each side, actually and sometimes they drive me nuts. Is this really the most important thing when 500-plus creatures have been saved from untimely death, hundreds of people have brought new pet friends into their lives, and every week dozens more families volunteer together, visit together and build community?  

If you haven’t visited this place on a weekend afternoon, you should. You’ll see people coming to Solano Avenue in vast numbers from other parts of the Bay Area and more foot traffic than in stores three times its size. Yes, it is challenging to transform a facility from a pet supplies store to an animal shelter, and fundraising to make changes to the facility takes time, because there isn’t any profit margin caring for homeless animals. But isn’t this Berkeley, where we’ve made a decision that we value community-building and public service over Walnut Creek-style pristine isolation, where we meet only in the wide aisles of air-conditioned chain stores? How Berkeley can you be? Not very, apparently. Let’s try to assert our civic values here, instead of putting profit margins on $750,000 bungalows above all.  

Tracy Rosenberg 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Rosemary Radford Reuther, in a commentary carried in the Sept. 19 Daily Planet, chides the pope for his characterization of Islam as a warlike religion, and reminds us of Christian warfare through the crusades. She says, “... tendencies to war are deeply aggravated when religion and the name of God are wrongly used to foment violence and hatred between peoples. God desires peace and love, not war...” 

Setting aside the fact that neither she, nor the pope, nor all the priests and mullahs can possibly know what “God desires” (they can’t even know that “God” exists), she turns the nature of religion on its head by repeating a notion widely voiced by good liberals of many religious stripes—that religion is distorted or perverted whenever it promotes violence or warfare. In fact, our distant ancestors formed from their dark primal fear and mysticism the idea of a powerful force or supreme being that singled out their tribe to be the subject of its concern and protection. This idea evolved precisely as a stimulus to violence and warfare to preserve the integrity of the tribe from attack by outsiders, just as it does today. 

The persistence of this idea despite the lessons of history is attributable to the fact that it universally embraces another concept—that this force or being also watches over the individual person, protecting him/her not only through the vicissitudes of life, but beyond it. The human ego slavishly seizes on this monumental lie. The deep congenital flaw in the human psyche is the pathological refusal to accept the great centering, liberating and obvious truth of our existence: we live a while in the sun, then we die. After that... nothing!—no angels with harps, no virgins with sexual favors, no loved ones with welcoming arms... mere oblivion. 

Jerry Landis 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Your report, “Oakland Grapples with Measure Y Police Deployments,” went into a controversy over “how the police department will allocate the 63 additional police officers authorized and funded by Measure Y.” Readers should know that Oakland has not added even one of the 63 police authorized by Measure Y. When the measure was on the November 2004 ballot, councilmembers and other supporters of the proposal promised there was a floor—the 739 officers that the City almost had at the time. Citing this figure in the text of Measure Y, they insisted that the 63 officers paid by Measure Y would add to the roster, not substitute for general fund hirings. 

In fact, Measure Y money is being spent on officers while the city has 698 officers (as of Sept. 4). The city has hovered under 700 officers since April 2005. Measure Y revenues, collected as a regressive parcel tax, are simply being used in place of general fund money while the city is unable or unwilling to hire enough police. Instead, officers are so overworked because of understaffing that the quit rate is rising. For more information, see the website of our organization at 

Charles Pine 

Oakland Residents for Peaceful Neighborhoods 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Children need guiding from their youngest years. Parents and early childhood teachers have a great responsibility towards the newest citizens of the nation. It is important for children to receive the best from their family members and their teachers. 

Somehow, this does not happen every time. Many children hear abusive language and incorporate it in their own speech. Roughness and coarseness become habits. We know that young children try to imitate their parents and teachers. We know children are deeply affected by the media or environment around them. We may not be able to control what the media offers children but as parents and teachers we can practice restraint in our own lives. If we are conscious that our slackness will travel down generations we may choose polite language and civilized behavior over acting it out. 

Let our message to our children be: Do as I do. 

Romila Khanna 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

As an introduction, I would like to admit that I have not been a reader of your Daily Planet paper, and have only stumbled upon your skewed articles thanks to a recent news search which prompted me to peruse your archives. While there are many issues that I’d love to discuss, I will limit myself to only a couple.  

It’s obvious to me that your reporter J. Douglas Allen-Taylor writes his derogatory articles to pertain only to Oakland, perhaps, for lack of more positive local city news—after all, you are the Berkeley Daily Planet, correct? There is an underlying negative tone in particular when he mentions Jerry Brown and anything whatsoever pertaining to him. Additionally, Mr. Allen-Taylor reports on the Oakland crime situation, and the police in a very derogatory tone. I guess I must ask—is he specifically assigned to Oakland? and the bashing of Oakland? I would recommend that you look to your own backyard, and the insidious crimes within your own town. As a lifelong resident of Oakland, I resent your condescending opinions of the state of our city, and what we are doing to correct the problems. I have personally heard from my own boss, a Berkeley resident, of some particularly appalling crimes of assault and worse that happen quite frequently. Additionally—perhaps in the name of community fraternal concern—you might loan some of your police to assist us in our times of trouble, lest they migrate to your Emerald City. 

Cara Kopowski