Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday October 03, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am pleased and grateful for your excellent article endorsing Jerry McNerney in his race against Richard Pombo in the 11th Congressional District. I am an 83-year-old man who is postponing starting treatment for prostate cancer until Nov. 8 so that I will be free to travel to Tracy so that I can do precinct work for Jerry McNerney. I have also been contributing to his campaign and hosted a fundraiser in my home for him. 

If you live on Planet Earth you will be affected by the outcome of this election. There is no one in Congress who has done more to damage this little planet than Richard Pombo. At every opportunity he has used his power as chairman of a vital congressional committee to benefit those who are engaged in reckless exploitation of the environment motivated entirely by personal greed. In exchange they have helped Pombo to become very rich while in office and have made huge contributions to his campaigns. 

Because of the change in the national mood there will never be a better opportunity to rid ourselves of this corrupt enemy of the earth and replace him with an honest, progressive environmentalist. It will take money and most of all dedicated workers, please join us in this good fight! 

Dan Julian 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The City of Berkeley hides under cover of a progressive reputation it has, unfortunately, long ago outlived, if ever met, in the matter of honoring all members of the public’s First Amendment rights to speak at City Council, Library Board and commission meetings. 

Under threat of lawsuit, and abandoning equal opportunity, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates has changed from the limit of 10 speakers (at three minutes each) selected by lottery, to around 15 speakers (at two minutes each) selected in secret. He may then ask if there is anyone who completed a speaker card who would like to speak to an agenda item not yet covered. Only two such speakers per item are chosen by the mayor to speak, providing one is pro and one is con. His latest experiment calls for anyone who would like to speak to an item on the Consent Calendar, prior to the council’s approval of this calendar. If there should be any takers (there were not on Sept. 19) it is unknown how he would choose those speakers and how many. 

Over 30 Bay Area cities, unlike Berkeley, apparently have a greater understanding of California’s Ralph M. Brown Act, as they allow all willing individuals the right to speak, not only during an open forum, but prior to each agenda item (Chaffee v. S.F.Library Commission). In Richmond anyone who wishes to address the City Council on items appearing on the agenda must file a speaker card with the City Clerk prior to the council’s consideration of the item. Each speaker is allowed three minutes. Individuals may also file a speaker card to speak during open forum on issues not on the agenda. Time allowed for each speaker is as follows: 15 or fewer, two minutes; 16-24 speakers, 1.5 minutes; and 25 or more speakers, one minute. 

Oakland’s rules of procedure clearly indicate that members of the public may speak on any number of agenda items, providing the individual completes a speaker card for each item. They may speak during open forum as well. You are allowed two minutes for each agenda item and one minute during open forum. 

Earlier this year Livermore city councilmembers agonized over whether they should continue to allow speaker cards be accepted on a particular agenda item once discussion on that item has begun. Councilmember Reitter stated “I’m more concerned about someone who honestly decides after hearing public comment, that they want to participate.” Councilmember Kamena opined maybe they shouldn’t have cards and “suggested the council explore mechanisms to allow someone who didn’t sign a card but has something urgent to say to do so....” (“Council’s cards still shuffled,” West County Times, Jan. 25.) 

Do you think that Berkeley should comply with the Brown Act? Do you want to be heard at City Council, board and commission meetings? If so, come to a City Council meeting. Complete a speaker card prior to 7 p.m. (and hope you’ll be called!). Demand a legal and equitable public comment procedure be included in a Berkeley Sunshine Ordinance. 

Ordinance yes! Wish list no! 

Gene Bernardi 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was pleased to see the Berkeley Daily Planet support the Landmark Initiative Ballot Measure J. To add my opinion to your opinion: I also support a yes vote on Measure J. I am all in favor of the preservation of the unique Berkeley architectural heritage, and having traveled recently to other cities I realize that it is our good luck. And that this has come about not without some forethought and consideration by citizens in the past. (We can all conjure up in our minds the terrible houses and building of some other city!) It is my understanding that a similar citizens’ initiative was passed in 1973 (the Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance) when the city faced excessive residential demolitions. Our Preservation Ordinance of today is now under pressure, but luckily there are citizens in our midst today who worked hard on our behalf and gave us this opportunity to vote yes again to preserve our wonderful neighborhoods and exceptional collection of architectural treasures. I support Measure “J” and I would suggest every Berkeley voter do the same—or maybe we will no longer have such jewels as the library! The Victorian “Boudrow” house! The First Church of Christ, Scientist! The elegant gates of the Claremont Court! And many of our Berkeley brown shingles and little bungalows. 

I personally, loudly and clearly vote yes on Measure J. 

Wendy P. Markel 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

There is just over a month until the November elections. Please join me in supporting Aimee Allison for Oakland City Council. I will be volunteering a Aimee Allison’s headquarters every Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. at 3208 Grand Ave., next to the Grand Lake Theater. Other volunteer opportunities are below or call 277-0182 to help in other ways. 

After seeing Aimee Allison debate Pat Kernighan recently at Laney College it is clear that Aimee is a deep, inspiring and powerful young leader. She is someone who is in touch with the needs of low and no-income communities of color in Oakland. Like Ron Dellums, she will inspire others to take action and will bring a sense of movement and true democracy through participation. 

She had a fantastic knowledge of how Jerry Brown and those connected with him played a significant role in pushing out poor people of color from Oakland and what is needed to change this trend. She also showed deep connections with community organizations working for justice in Oakland; she was able to reference campaigns of organizations that I work with and care about deeply; groups like All of Us or None and the Ella Baker Center. 

In contrast Pat Kerninghan while a good person, has shown that she is often not willing to stand up against her wealthy campaign contributors or the Perata machine to stand with the people who need her support. I was present for her very first vote at City Council. We had organized with a group of youth to speak out against their criminalization for side shows, saying that the city needs to provide young people with activities, rather than incarcerating them because they don’t have anything to do. Because so many young people were there a motion was made to move the item on sideshows earlier on the agenda. Pat was the deciding vote and she voted no, making it so all the youth present were not able to speak (the item didn’t end up coming to the floor until after midnight!) Right after her first vote as a Councilmember a baby in the room started to cry. Aimee not only would have voted yes, she has shown that she would have lead the youth into council, speaking out at their rally beforehand. 

Particularly astounding to me at yesterday’s debate was that both in our one-on-one conversations and in front of the crowd Pat continuously stated that she was powerless to change the problems of Oakland, that it was the state and federal government that needed to make the changes. It made me wonder: Why was she running for City Council?? 

I asked her during and then again after the debate if, as a former civil rights activist and someone who says she believes in equality, if she would drop out of the race to support a young person of color. I explained that this was especially significant because it was clear from polling that if poor people in Oakland voted at the same rate as rich people that she would have no chance at winning. She recognized that this was true!! However, still stated that she was going to run and that is was our responsibility to unseat her. Let’s take that challenge!! 

This campaign, just like Ron Dellums’ campaign is not about Aimee Allison, it is about our movement and about the voice of the people of Oakland.  

Please get involved in Aimee’s campaign, stop by their headquarters: 3208 Grand Avenue next to the Grand Lake Theater or call at 277-0182 or go to  

Jonah Zern 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It isn’t every day that a successful professional decides to devote as much time to a community as it takes to hold local office. In Alameda, however, engineer Eugenie Thomson is running for city council to do just that. What an opportunity for Alameda! 

In working with Eugenie on traffic issues related to a proposed Berkeley development, I found her to be impeccably honest and straightforward. She created a credible infrastructure analysis that required the city to dig for information instead of letting a project slide through on superficial assurances. She understands how to protect natural environments and neighborhoods and won’t sacrifice quality of life. 

Eugenie can analyze development situations both quickly and accurately. She cuts through the blather with tact. She maintains a calm atmosphere during discussion of controversial issues. Most importantly, she formulates creative strategies and suggests policies that can provide for the best interests of all parties.  

Eugenie will be a refreshing presence and constructive force working for the public good. If Alameda residents elect her, they will be glad.  

Mary Lou Van Deventer 

on behalf of Urban Ore, Inc. 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I agree with Richard Walkings’ assessment that the quality of life on Telegraph Avenue had deteriorated in recent years (“Back in the Mix,” Sept. 15), but that is not because of Kriss Worthington. Rather, it’s in spite of him. 

Worthington voted against cuts to police and social workers on Telegraph Avenue. Although he was outvoted that time, he correctly predicted that defunding these crucial services would lead to exactly the kinds of problems Walkings’ enumerates. But guess who voted FOR these cuts? George Beier’s main endorsers on the City Council: Betty Olds, Laurie Capitelli, and Gordon Wozniak. 

To his credit, Worthington continued to fight for this money and spearheaded a successful campaign to restore it. Telegraph Avenue is now beginning to turn around. Worthington is also working to simplify the labyrinthine process involved in issuing business permits, so that vacancies on Telegraph Avenue, or anywhere else in Berkeley, can be quickly filled. 

Beier presents himself as a progressive, using many of Worthington’s bedrock platforms as his own. In his campaign literature, he promises that he will work to “increase drug and alcohol addiction outreach” and “build long-term affordable rental housing,” two things that Worthington has not only passionately advocated, but successfully implemented. 

But aside from the origin of “his” proposals, does Beier really mean what he says? If you look at three of his most enthusiastic supporters—the landlord lobby, the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce president, and the Berkeley Property Owners’ Association president—this question answers itself. Beier is allied with the most conservative forces in Berkeley. Believe what you see, not what he says. 

Judy Shelton 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The alternative to San Francisco’s version of instant runoff voting (IRV), in which people are limited to ranking three choices, is not “having to rank all the candidates” as stated in your Sept. 29 article on Jason Overman’s challenge to incumbent city council member Gordon Wozniak. Instead, without this limitation—which is a matter of voting machine design rather than policy—voters can rank as many or as few candidates as they wish. 

Among the places where IRV and choice voting (IRV’s sibling for multi-seat elections) are used, the only one I know of that requires you to rank all the candidates is Australia. 

Bob Richard 

Californians for Electoral Reform 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Where has George Beier been? He has suggested building a cafe in People’s Park. Most neighbors remember the Catholic Worker Cafe trailer that was in the park for about a year. It was an interesting experiment but I don’t think million-dollar businessman George is talking about an actual FREE cafe that helps people. There are plenty of commercial cafes and vacant buildings in this neighborhood and very few parks. It would be foolish to choose our open green space to plop down a cafe. Our current local businesses need support and a good councilperson would work to defend them rather than take business from them. Also any citizen with a little historic memory would realize that building on People’s Park is the last way to bring peace and prosperity to our community. 

Douglas Foster 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On Nov. 7, voters in Berkeley City Council District 7 face a very stark candidate choice: between incumbent Councilmember Kriss Worthington and repeat challenger George Beier. District 7 encompasses the neighborhoods directly south of the UCB campus stretching to the Oakland boundary. 

Mr. Beier’s considerable dot-com era-generated wealth has apparently enabled him to launch a second campaign attempt against Councilmember Worthington. Eight years ago, in 1998, Mr. Beier sought unsuccessfully to defeat the current incumbent.  

The 2006 City Council election provides District 7 voters with a clear, explicit contrast: between a Councilmember who strongly supports—and vigorously defends—rent control and affordable housing, and his opponent who has significant associations with Berkeley’s local real estate industry.  

It is no coincidence that on the very day that Mr. Beier formally announced/launched his 2006 City Council candidacy, he was the featured speaker at the Berkeley Property Owners Association’s (BPOA) annual dinner event in May. The BPOA is the city’s largest and most powerful rental property owner/real estate organization. 

The reason this association is significant is because the BPOA has been traditionally hostile to Berkeley’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance (rent control) since the ordinance’s 1980 passage by Berkeley voters. In fact, the BPOA has opposed nearly every affordable housing policy—even the very existence—of the elected Rent Stabilization Board and its corresponding oversight agency. 

The city’s rent control program regulates nearly 19,000 renter households across Berkeley providing tenants with a shield against arbitrary, unanticipated or unwarranted rent increases, including “no fault” eviction protections (eviction without a reason). The Rent Stabilization Program is the city’s largest and single most important affordable housing public policy. 

BPOA members and associates are also responsible for initiating, collecting signatures and currently campaigning for passage of Berkeley Measure I on the Nov. 7 ballot. 

In a nutshell, Measure I, if passed, would potentially convert thousands of affordable rental units into expensive condominiums leading to the eviction of renters and families from their homes (in the current market, Berkeley condos sell for an average price of $500,000). 

On Nov. 7, District 7 voters have a very straightforward choice: Councilmember Worthington or Mr. Beier. 

Chris Kavanagh 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Mal Burnstein insinuates that Zelda Bronstein’s failure to get certain endorsements, including that of the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, says something about her qualifications to be Berkeley’s next mayor (Letters, Sept. 19). 

As a former member of the WDRC, I can tell you that the club’s endorsement of Tom Bates says far more about WDRC’s disdain for Berkeley politics than anything about Zelda’s credentials. Few Wellstoners take any interest—much less any part—in Berkeley public life. That may explain why they thoughtlessly endorsed the incumbent, whose stock campaign speech is mostly devoted to his long-ago record in the state Assembly. 

In 2002 many of us supported Tom, based on his Sacramento reputation. In fact, we had little idea of how he really operated. Now we’ve had a good look at his political style and at what our city means to him. It remains to be seen whether he will be held accountable for his failure to live up to his promises, to run an open and honest government, and to include the people’s interests in his dealings. 

Those of us who care about Berkeley’s future would do well to question the endorsements of groups that slight democracy at home. 

I’m voting for Zelda Bronstein. 

Bonnie Hughes 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

For five years Berkeley citizens, clergy and politicians overwhelmingly supported the local chapter of UNITE HERE (Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees) in its successful boycott of the Claremont Resort. San Francisco just celebrated the conclusion of similar boycotts there. 

During this same period, the union has been contributing tens of thousands of dollars to the Congressional campaigns of anti-labor and anti-environment Republican Rep. Richard Pombo of Tracy. No contributions were made to Democratic or other party candidates. They are the only union to contribute to Pombo’s campaign (  

Project Vote Smart ( rates Pombo poorly on labor and the environment. 

While it is true that Pombo chairs the Congressional committee that regulates Indian gaming, and that casino workers make up a significant number of UNITE HERE members, it is short-sighted and destructive to support someone so blatantly against the interestes of members and other workers. 

UNITE HERE should contribute to Democratic opponent Jerry McNerney’s campaign ( McNerney is in favor of raising the minimum wage and other pro-labor positions. Those who supported this union during the Claremont boycott can contact: UNITE HERE, Local 2850 Oakland, Jim Dupont, International Vice President/President at 893-3181. Ask that a matching contribution be made to Jerry McNerney’s campaign. 

C Gilbert 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Proposition 90, advertised as a cure for misuse of eminent domain, is a fraud. Marketed and sold as “necessary” after a bad U.S. Supreme Court decision, the proposition does cure some misuse of eminent domain. Unfortunately, items attached to the law also have a host of other side effects that make the cure worse than the disease. 

Poisoned by right-wing backers, Prop. 90’s redefinition of “taking” is reminiscent of the redefinitions of “freedom,” “prisoner” and “warrant” that have become popular of late. Under Prop. 90, any law of decision that affects the potential profit of a business or value of property is considered “taking” and requires that payment be made to those who claim that they would have made more money in the absence of the law. 

The most obvious effects are those related to real estate. A law limiting coastal oil drilling—either a new one or an old one which requires that government make a decision to enforce it—would require that taxpayers pay developers the profit that could have been made via sale of oil from the property. 

While this is bad, the worst effects of Prop. 90 stem from its not being limited to real estate law. Under Prop. 90, an anti-identity theft measure that prohibits businesses from selling social security numbers to potential identity thieves would force taxpayers to pay the data brokers for what they would have made by selling their information. Ditto car lemon laws and the like. 

Just as importantly, a loophole-closing decision or minor action required to enforce an existing law could trigger Prop. 90 and put taxpayers on the line for billions. It also encourages questionable lawsuits by banning judges from forcing lawsuit abusers to pay both sides’ attorneys’ fees. Oregon, which passed its own version of Prop. 90 (without looking) is struggling with this right now. Over 4 billion dollars worth of lawsuits have been filed in just a few months. Let me remind you that 4 billion dollars is about 80,000 teachers or 40,000 firefighters. 

Prop. 90 is being marketed as a cure for eminent domain abuse. Unfortunately, the things attached to it make the cure worse than the disease. While eminent domain abuse does happen, it is rare in California (we have plenty of ways to recall elected officials when they do something wrong). Odds are that we will have another special election in 2007 to cover the new propositions that come up. Lets cancel Prop 90 and run a real property rights initiative for the next election. 

Tom Angelton 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

While the complaints and concerns addressed in the recent Berkeley High Beat column titled “Berkeley High Beat: Start of the New Year Worries” reflect the experiences of many students at Berkeley High School, I feel that many of these concerns were based on incomplete or incorrect information. As a senior at Berkeley High School I have had my fair share of schedule mishaps, but this past year I had a unique opportunity to work with Berkeley High’s Master Schedule Advisory Group on the master class schedule for this year. In this capacity I learned a great deal about the complexities and challenges of the master scheduling process.  

To begin with, I will briefly review the actual scheduling process. Because of the sheer number of students enrolled at BHS (approximately 3200), the school uses a program called SASI to assign classes. Because this is primarily an automated system scheduling errors inevitably occur. For example, many upper level language classes and general electives are only offered for one or two periods because of the small number of students who have signed up for these classes. If a student signs up for one of these classes in the spring, the computer moves the rest of their classes around in order to accommodate this request. If requested classes are scheduled during the same period the computer will attempt to prioritize the classes for the student and will drop one of the classes. For example, last year I requested AP Art in the spring and discovered in the fall that this one specific class request had disrupted my entire schedule. Once I dropped AP Art the rest of my course requests fell into place. 

The second concern raised by the Daily Planet column was the issue of student access to counselors. Berkeley High has a severe dearth of counselors—eight to be exact, or approximately one counselor for every 400 students. Given these limited resources, I feel that our counseling staff does the very best that they can. As mentioned in the Jacket article, the 180 students without schedules at the start of the school year had first priority with the counseling staff. However, the article failed to mention that the majority of these students were without schedules not because of any human or technical error, but rather because they were late registration or transfer students.  

Once every student has some kind of schedule, the school begins to process the swelling piles of student course change request forms. This year alone, Berkeley High’s eight counselors had to process approximately 2400 schedule change requests. Apparently, the reason why everyone had to sit around in their undesirable classes for so long wasn’t because of the “dysfunctional system” at all—it was because three out of four students at Berkeley High weren’t happy with the schedules they had requested and received. The number of courses offered, and the number of teachers hired, is entirely determined by the classes students register for in the spring. If students are unhappy with schedule delays at the start of the year, they should recognize the fact that these delays are a direct result of their own indecision. It is impossible for a school the size of Berkeley High to be as flexible and as responsive as we all would like. There are just too many students and too many variables in the equation to make this a simple process.  

Theo Wilson 

Senior, Berkeley High School