Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday October 06, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Just a quick note to let people know that I appreciate Doug deHaan, Pat Bail, and Eugenie Thomson for standing up for Alameda and pledging not to use Alameda City Council as a stepping stone to higher office in Sacramento or elsewhere. 

Thank you Doug, Pat, and Eugenie. 

Rosemary McNally 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

PawPAC, California’s political action committee for animals (since 1980), has just released its 2006 Voting Record for the state Legislature, along with its endorsement recommendations for the November election. 

Find out how your state representatives did on legislation to protect animals and the environment. You might be surprised. 

For a copy of the chart, please visit our website at 

Eric Mills 

PawPAC board member 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In his recent guest commentary, Robert Cheasty decries proposed development on the Albany Waterfront, and calls on all Albany “environmentalists” to support his position. The irony of all this is that no development on the Albany waterfront has ever been proposed. The Caruso proposal (never formalized) was initially 200 feet from the water, and then, in response to community input, was increased to 300 feet. All the land between the development and the shoreline was designated as open space, and would have included a Bay Trail connection through Albany. 

If Mr. Cheasty really does not like waterfront development, he should concentrate his energies in rounding up enough money to buy out Chevy’s in Emeryville, His Lordships and Skates in Berkeley, and the Berkeley Doubletree Hotel—buildings that really are on the water. For far less money than he would need to buy out the Golden Gate Fields race track and build a park on that land, he could move all these buildings to a location next to the freeway (where he seems to think development belongs) and free up all the waterfront space these buildings formerly occupied for whatever he (and the Sierra Club) think people should be doing there. The fact that people seem to like the connection to the water that these buildings provide should be no obstacle to the true believers. Just don’t count on my support.  

Howard McNenny 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Does Becky O’Malley know Raudel Wilson? Does she know that he is a branch manager for a locally owned and operated bank, one committed to the community; not a corporate giant? 

I wonder where Becky O’Malley banks. Or does she keep her money under the mattress? I ask because the tone of Ms. O’Malley’s commentary seemed to suggest that being a bank manager was a bad thing; something an honorable person would not aspire to. 

With the upcoming election, we have a choice to make; stay with the status quo and continue to see Berkeley decline, or attempt to affect some positive change and hopefully revitalize Berkeley. I know Raudel to be a kind, caring and thoughtful person. I have every reason to believe that he would bring these same attributes to the City Council. Maybe it’s time for a change in Berkeley politics. Maybe Raudel Wilson is the right person to help bring about a positive change. 

Stephen Southern 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In a few weeks, at the ballot box, we will face the high cost of cheap labor. Proposition 1B, the “Highway Safety, Traffic Reduction, Air Quality, and Port Security Act,” asks taxpayers to become obligated to pay $38.9 billion (including more than $1 billion in debt service) for some needed infrastructure improvements. Much of the pressure for improvement and expansion is the result of approximately 500,000 new California residents each year. Illegal immigration and high birth rates, the two primary factors in population growth, are beneficial for consumers and businesses in the short run. But we cannot escape the long-term costs. 

The bond amount of Proposition 1B is probably excessive, and it will certainly not improve the State’s bond rating which is among the lowest of all the states. Nonetheless, most economists predict that we must somehow pay about $5 billion per year for the next 25 years to meet projected traffic demands. This does not include other needs for schools and hospitals. A partial solution: Stop the war in Iraq, sanction employers who hire undocumented workers, start a “Marshall Plan” (equal to the cost of the Iraq war of $134 billion) for Latin American countries. 

Robert Gable 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Since 1996 when Kriss Worthington was first elected, overall sales on Telegraph Avenue have declined 30 percent, major businesses and institutions have left the area, and major crime in District 7 has increased close to 40 percent (while decreasing in most other parts of the city). The stress on neighborhoods has increased due to crime, development, traffic and the lack of residential parking. 

Is it all Kriss Worthington’s fault? Of course not, but after 10 years of leadership the time has come for fresh ideas and new leadership. George has developed detailed positions on such issues as: Crime, Telegraph Revitalization, Student Issues, and Affordable Housing and Homelessness. 

It is not ideological battles that need to be waged in Berkeley, but realistic and comprehensive solutions to the problems that we all face. While supporting mass transit, George also sees the need to increase parking and is opposed to cutting two traffic lanes on Telegraph (as part of the Bus Rapid Transit proposal). His platform on crime does not blame the homeless, but does recognize the concentration of criminal activity in the district mirrors the social problems we face at People’s Park, Downtown, and on Telegraph. 

District 7 residents deserve a councilmember who is willing to come out clearly on controversial issues and vote accordingly. In addition to George’s position on the Telegraph Bus Lane proposal, he supported the West Berkeley Bowl, opposes the Condo Conversion initiative (Measure I), and supports the Landmarks Preservation initiative (Measure J). Clearly George is not an ideologue or political partisan, but an independent thinker who studies the issues, reaches his own conclusions, and is not afraid to take a position. 

I support his positive energy, his candor, and his willingness to work with everyone to get things done. It is time for new leadership in Berkeley and George Beier the one to provide it. 

Gregory S. Murphy 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing to urge all Berkeley voters to vote yes on Measure A. Measure A continues the current parcel tax that supports Berkeley public schools. It is not a new tax, or even a tax increase. Measure A just ensures that recent improvements to Berkeley public schools—in terms of class size, music instruction, libraries and more—are not discontinued. 

With two daughters in the schools, I see firsthand how Measure A helps kids learn. All of the libraries that my kids and their classmates love are funded by Measure A. The revenue generated by the measure keeps their classes to a size that allows each student individualized attention. And Measure A funds music instruction for all students beginning in the fourth grade. 

The renewal of Measure A is critical to the City of Berkeley’s future for all residents. Quality public school means a better-educated population, higher graduation rates and increasing property values. 

Please vote yes on A. 

Victoria Eisen 



PROP. 90 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Supreme Court’s 2005 5-4 decision in Kelo v. City of New London favored the government’s right to use the “eminent domain” clause to take land away from private property owners in favor of the greater good was dead wrong. It was a vastly unpopular ruling that put too much power in the hands of the government, giving the government authority over the private citizen. The Kelo decision gave government the power of evicting homeowners for not only things like needed infrastructure but possible economic development. 

So when I saw Prop. 90, I was immediately attracted to it. Giving homeowners a 180-day right to trial to have their day in court from the government kicking them off their land seemed only fair. And if Prop. 90 stopped there, I would be in favor of it. However it does not. 

In fact Prop. 90 helps the very developers who already bathed in riches from the Supreme Court decision. Billions of dollars will come from taxpayers pockets and a nearly bankrupt state government because developers and other cash hungry forces will be able to sue the government claiming “economic loss.” 

Because of “economic loss” rights created under Prop. 90, the government’s ability to regulate things like size of developments, kind of development, and other zoning ordinances would be severely limited because law suits brought by developers. Things like historic preservation, noise restrictions for bars, limits on development around parks and wetlands, uncontrolled development next farm and ranch land, right-to-farm laws, and flood control would all become to costly to implement because a developer could claim “economic lost.” The way we design our cities and towns would no longer exist and our tax dollars would go to lawsuits instead of programs and government services. The result of all these changes is that citizens will no longer be able to decide how to govern their cities and towns. 

At first Prop. 90 seems to be some what of an answer to the Supreme Court’s 2005 decision that broadened the “eminent domain” clause. However, upon further reading, one realizes that Proposition 90 is a ploy that will take away the citizens’ right to govern and, in the process, will surely cost the government billions upon billions dollars—all going into lawyers’ and developers’ pockets. 

David Callahan 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Judith Scherr’s excellent article (Oct. 3) outlining the situation suffered by its employees, particularly immigrant workers at the Woodfin Hotel in Emeryville reminds us of how essential it is to work and agitate together to address serious economic and social abuses. EBASE, which is organizing the protests at the Hotel, is a labor based organization that addresses issues of low wage poverty and economic inequality by working in coalition with other progressive organizations and individuals. EBASE played an important role in winning a contract for workers at the Claremont Hotel. The Woodfin hotel employees, who are non-union, are being intimidated and retaliated against because they are defending their rights to build a better life for themselves and their families.  

Last November Emeryville voters approved Measure C, which is a living wage requirement for large hotels. As Scherr mentions, it guarantees hotel workers a decent income, a reasonable work load, and a modicum of job security if the hotel is sold. A particularly unique feature of the referendum is that the city can revoke a hotel’s permit to operate if the provisions of Measure C are not implemented. But although Measure C was supposed to take effect nine months ago, the hotel management has been nevertheless ignoring every one of its provisions. 

Moreover, management is stopping at nothing to discourage its employees from demanding compliance with the law. Its most recent outrage is especially troubling. Although employers are only required to check immigration documents for new hires, they are now demanding that all employees, including those who have been employed by the hotel for many years, produce documentation. The idea, of course, is to scare them into submission. 

Because of the hotel’s irresponsibility, it is urgent that the Emeryville City Council enforce the law. With at least some prodding, the hotel owners may realize that they as well as their employees will benefit in the long run from a favorable settlement. But if management rules out negotiations, a more extensive battle will have to be fought mainly on public terrain, on the streets. If you would like to join other protesters on the sidewalks of the Woodfin Hotel and at Emeryville City Hall if necessary, please e-mail me at so that I can let you know the dates when rallies will be held. 

Harry Brill 

Berkeley Labor and Community Coalition  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I want to express my thoughts on the political climate in Berkeley. I am a native of Berkeley and have been a resident at the same address in District 4 for 25 years. My neighbors and I are still “the beleaguered residents of flatlands districts.” We make our neighborhood as pleasant as we can without the help of the City Council. In our neighborhood, we contend with BHS students getting stoned before school, traffic anarchy at the corners of both MLK and Channing and MLK and Dwight and kids as young at 10 vandalizing our cars and threatening residents. Walking downtown is risky, dodging rude students, litter and cars. These problems are systemic and are beyond politics. 

I am growing weary of the same old voices that tout themselves as progressive, open minded and tolerant. The way Becky O’Malley describes the opponents of Spring and Worthington is condescending. I am suspect of those who would suggest that they alone speak for the downtrodden, the disenfranchised, the poor, the weak and those unable to speak for themselves. I find the jargon of the so-called progressives to be mere endless rhetoric. 

The opponents of Spring and Worthington are accused of being those “who’d like to remake Berkeley in their own image.” I ask you, what is the image of Berkeley now? The streets of Berkeley are filled with inconsistencies and more. The same issues are with us day after day, year and year. Where has all the rhetoric and symbolism of the progressives gotten the citizens of Berkeley, including those who have and those who have not. 

Symbolism over substance; this is the reputation of Berkeley. It doesn’t help anything to continually put down others who sincerely believe that they can make a difference (especially when the odds are against them). This is why I am supporting Raudel Wilson in District 4. I respect his willingness to challenge the incumbent with a genuine desire to take our city in a positive direction. 

Sherry Markwart 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

For those of us who have gone to some trouble to attend a City Council meeting to speak our concerns to our elected representatives, to have waited and not been called, the Oct. 10 Berkeley City Council meeting will hopefully give us the opportunity to push for an all inclusive public comment period. The Sunshine Ordinance in the works for the last five years, should include a strong public comment section that would allow each person to speak. Our city representatives need to hear from us, whether they know it or not. City Council would be permitted to reduce the amount of time each person talks depending on the total number of speakers. Come early to get a seat and sign a speaker card. Meetings begin at 7 p.m. in Old City Hall, 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. 

Jane Welford 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was also at Berkeley Citizen Action’s endorsement meeting, although I wasn’t there when the votes were tallied. Judging from John Curl’s commentary piece, it’s clear that the electoral weirdness is not due to instant run-off voting. It’s due to the confused execution of the IRV system by BCA. The recent Progressive Coalition endorsement meeting used IRV flawlessly, in part because a couple of us IRV folks met with the organizer beforehand and worked out all of the details. Further evidence that IRV is not the problem can be seen in the many countries, states, cities, and organizations world-wide which successfully use IRV. 

If Curl’s description is accurate, there’s a couple of points where the BCA process went awry structurally—by dropping 2 of the lowest vote getters after the first round and by not dropping “No Endorsement” before the second highest vote-getter. After all, since “No Endorsement” is a choice that only received nine votes, it should’ve been dropped before a choice that received 20. 

Thanks for the continual coverage of local politics. 

Jesse Townley 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a non-profit, community based organization, City CarShare is focused on improving the environment while bringing affordable car sharing services to all neighborhoods. Recently, the Planet has covered issues of controversy at the UC Storage building, where City CarShare has recently introduced a vehicle. We are writing to make our position on the matter clear. 

City CarShare is a Bay Area non-profit, dedicated to providing alternatives to private car ownership. City CarShare vehicles are parked in neighborhood areas, and at major public transit connection points on both sides of the bay. Members share all the cars, reserving only the hours that best meet their needs. Studies have shown that City CarShare helps to reduce car ownership, demand for parking and the emission of greenhouse gases. 

Earlier this year, developer Patrick Kennedy offered to donate a parking spot at the UC Storage building, and we accepted. We felt the arrangement would be beneficial to City CarShare members and to the neighborhood. We chose to place a truck here because the proximity to storage and moving supplies makes sense. The truck is available to anyone who reserves it, for any purpose (related to UC Storage or not). We delayed installation for several months, to discuss community issues brought to our attention, and proceeded with the encouragement of our members, the City of Berkeley and neighborhood residents. 

In late September the truck was installed, and almost immediately vandalized (with acid on the windshield and damage to all body panels), resulting in an expensive repair bill. Unfortunately, residents who depend on availability of vehicles were harmed, as was City CarShare. Despite this incident, we intend to stay in this location so that we can serve the neighborhood and our members in the East Bay. 

City CarShare is, and always has been, open to discussions about neighborhood desires, needs and issues. Our goal is to have a positive impact on all the neighborhoods we serve. 

Thanks for sharing, 

Rick Hutchinson, CEO 

City CarShare 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

At the request of an Alameda citizens’ group, I carefully reviewed the 465-page environmental impact report for the proposed Target at Towne Centre. These concerned citizens were baffled at the report’s conclusion that this project would have zero impacts.  

The answer is simple: The study did not evaluate a 145,000-square-foot Target store as proposed. It looked at the effects of a generic shopping area one-third that size. And, the report consistently used unrealistically low traffic assumptions to reach its flawed conclusions.  

One has to wonder: Why was only one third of the store considered and why was the lowest-range of assumptions used repeatedly? 

Neither I, nor the citizens who asked me to review the report, are against a Target store on Alameda Island. A retail store of this magnitude should not be located on the beach, where vehicles must travel through neighborhoods to get to their destination. Typically, Target stores are located near freeways. Preferable locations for a Target store would be closer to the estuary such as the site near the Alameda tubes or closer to Interstate 880. 

A new, reality-based environmental document is needed to give the citizens a clear picture of the impacts on our community, particularly for those who live along Park, Broadway, Otis, 8th, Willow, Gibbons and in the neighborhoods adjacent to the project. Traffic does not impact roadways; it impacts people. It impacts quality of life. A complete copy of my report is available at via e-mail 

Eugenie Thomson 

Consulting Civil and Traffic Engineer 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing because I’ve gotten to know George Beier. Kriss Worthington is well known: He has been Councilmember for 10 years. For the seven years I’ve lived in District 7, crime has gotten worse. Telegraph Avenue has gotten worse. Relationships with UC have gotten worse. Beier thinks he can turn that around. This is what I think of Beier: He is straightforward, honest, smart, experienced, energetic, enthusiastic, and upbeat. I like his vision for our city. I especially like his plan to deal with the biggest problem in our city, the elephant in the room, that is generally ignored—people don’t know how to solve it or think that it is a problem for the individual to deal with. I am talking about addiction. Underlying crime, violence, truancy, the loss of our young men to juvenile hall, the high cost of social services, and the largest cause of homelessness, is substance abuse and addiction. According to Berkeley Police, our addicts commit 3 to 5 crimes a day. But there are answers. A Berkeley organization, “Options,” that for 10 years has been operating quietly out of a building near city hall, just received the Organizational Achievement Award from the National Association of Addiction Professionals for excellence. On average, every dollar invested in addiction treatment programs yields a return of $4 to $7 in reduced drug-related crimes, and some programs can exceed costs by a ratio of 12 to 1 (reported Aug. 19 in the Washington Post). We need to put more city resources into treatment. Beier is on the board of Options, and he has seen this first hand. His plan to revive Telegraph Avenue and People’s Park, to reduce crime and address homelessness, includes getting addicts effective treatment. I am supporting Beier not only because I have seen his compassion and his energy, but because I have watched how he looks for and finds intelligent, cost effective solutions and has the business sense to get things done. I am not against Kriss, but it’s time to try something new. 

Faith Fuller 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Let Representative Pelosi begin a thorough investigation into who was involved in this Foley scandal. Since the Republicans who knew about this did nothing, perhaps they were also involved in the same activities, which needs to be proven or disproven beyond a reasonable doubt. 

Why else would our elected officials not take action when crimes against children are involved? Certainly those who knew could only choose to act, unless it is a hidden agenda that perhaps more officials are involved in this behavior, and somehow wished to evade discovery and publicity and justice. 

Certainly to fail to act condones the acts themselves, and further endangers the public, and further brings disgrace to our government, by showing the cynical or criminal or both elements working within our supposedly sacrosanct officials, undermining our credibility at home and abroad. 

We must have a full investigation and it must be fairly done, and immediately, or our nation becomes a pariah before the world, condoning torture and pedophilia by hiding it instead of rooting it out. 

Are we so depraved and cynical that we no longer care for anything beyond political power, no matter the cost? 

We must take strong action, and show the world and our nation that we respect the law and justice, not officialdom over justice. 

Richard Hiersch