Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday October 27, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

On Oct. 10, I submitted a letter and supporting documents to Albany’s city attorney requesting that the city take action to halt violations of Albany’s Campaign Finance Reform Act by the organization Concerned Albany Neighbors (CAN), Francesco Papalia’s Albany First, and the Committee to Elect Caryl O’Keefe. Albany’s Campaign law’s set rigid limits on amounts that can be contributed to local campaigns and require that only individuals may make these contributions. If one follows the paper trail of Form 460 and 410 statements as well as the partisan attack flyers that CAN has been dropping on Albany doorsteps, it appears that CAN is illegally funneling money into the Papalia and O’Keefe campaigns. These violations are being made to benefit a candidate (Ms. O’Keefe) who claims to be running her campaign within the voluntary limit and by some the same folks who have complained the loudest about others improper behavior and/or violations of California’s Initiative law. It was my hope that the city attorney would promptly look into this matter and bring the campaign back to the discussion of issues. At this point it is unclear what the city is willing to do in regards to enforcement of this matter. What is the point of Albany’s campaign finance law if it is not enforced, and if this law is not enforced, what is to stop mega millionaire race track owners or L.A. developers from channeling revenues into Albany and subverting the democratic process? 

Peter Maass 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The City Council election in Albany this cycle is a microcosm of the national elections: Two progressive candidates, Marge Atkinson and Joanne Wile, are challenging two from the “incumbent” ruling group—which for too long has held majority power on the Albany City Council in support of large-scale development on the waterfront.  

For the incumbents, Mr. Papalia through his organization “Albany First,” raises fears of outsiders controlling Albany (although he supports a mall by L.A.’s Caruso and Canada’s Magna Corporation) and imminent financial bankruptcy (Albany is currently in the black and running million dollar reserves going forward). His campaign manager recently was on the payroll of Rick Caruso, the Republican developer come to Albany to build a mall next to the racetrack. In a letter to residents last week, Golden Gate Fields for the first time in 25 years interfered in the City Council elections by attacking Atkinson and Wile by name. 

The second “incumbent,” Caryl O’Keefe, hopes to split the progressive candidates, Atkinson and Wile, by claiming to be against the mall and running within campaign finance limits. Voters should not be confused.  

First, O’Keefe hosted Mr Caruso in her living room to pitch the mall; not once, but twice. Then, contrary to her claim that she abides by Albany’s campaign finance limitations, excessive donations were made to a front group, “Concerned Albany Neighbors” (CAN). Formed in part to support and oppose candidates, CAN has distributed numerous flyers personally attacking Marge Atkinson and Joanne Wile, and endorsing O’Keefe and Papalia.  

These flyers neither disclose that O’Keefe’s husband, Alan Riffer, is CAN’s assistant treasurer, nor declare that O’Keefe’s campaign accepts donations (apparently in excess of the limit) through CAN.  

Further, using CAN to attack her opponents allows O’Keefe to create the appearance of being ethical and even-handed while using swift-boat tactics against her opponents.  

The City Council and City Attorney should investigate these violations of the Albany Campaign Reform Act. Otherwise, we may expect more “hit pieces” designed to split the Save-Our-Shoreline team and sway votes to the pro-mall candidates at the last minute.  

Bill Dann  

Co-Chair, Citizens for the Albany Shoreline  

Albany WaterFront committee member  



Editors, Daily Planet: 

El Cerrito’s 23,000 citizens have a virtual news blackout about city issues, with local newspaper coverage minimal and slanted. Our town has the second-highest crime rate of Contra Costa County, it is among the six worst of 107 Bay Area cities in pavement maintenance. Lighting, sewers, the library, the senior center, parks are all neglected. Without citizen approval, the council has systematically deprived other programs of funds and bonded the city, all for a new City Hall. Paying off the bonds will cost $650,000 a year for 30 years. 

Our local paper, the El Cerrito Journal, dutifully quotes council and staff comments, but ignores residents who spoke against the huge future debt. The editorial staff has endorsed the right of the current mayor to run for a (locally) unprecedented third term. They refused to report that challenger David Boisvert is supported by 16 former city council members, 14 of them past mayors! The paper’s editorial page banners Jefferson’s exhortations about a free press being the bedrock of democracy, yet it promotes one-sided pro-council views. They have a right to state their editorial preference, but not at the cost of stifling their reader’s comments and the citizens’ right to make informed choices. 

Rosemary Loubal 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is very difficult to run a city-wide campaign on a $300 dollar budget. Without Becky O’Malley’s mean-spirited defense of $10 million of annual theft against the city in the form of false registration, I’m quite sure the false registration issue would not have emerged as a defining concern of this year’s election cycle. No School Board member or candidate is defending the status quo. Hence it could have been difficult to initiate needed dialogue in this important area of policy. Ms. O’Malley has performed a public service, intended or not, by creating the conditions for a consensus to emerge that something must be done to fix the broken system. Once the issue was highlighted it took off because the effects of mass false registration are something people involved in the schools experience regularly. 

Despite the contribution she has made in highlighting this issue, her content remains in error. Last time I corrected that “every demographic group feels entitled to cheat, including of course well off neighbors in Rockridge and Kensington. Berkeley’s Students and tax payers are the losers.” The harms to Berkeley from running a famously false registration system are numerous (see San Francisco Chronicle article on my web site for footnote). They include: loss of locally raised tax revenue, increase in the achievement gap, violence, potential liability, loss of community and complicity of the district in illegal conduct.  

David Baggins 

Candidate for School Board 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was shocked and dismayed to read Jane Tierney’s attack on the Milo Foundation’s Solano location. As a dog owner, I am painfully aware that many people do not share my concerns, but that was the most mean-spirited op-ed I have seen outside of politics. 

As to the concern over health risks, I sincerely doubt that my vet, puppy class teachers and dog day caretakers were lying when all agreed that my dog did not have to wait “several weeks or months” after immunizations to interact with other people or dogs. Although I will not claim any authority to speak to the research on communicable diseases, for anyone concerned or at risk—use common sense—don’t kiss the dogs or roll around on the sidewalk. (I was given the same advice as a child about the alleyways full of needles, broken bottles and crack vials—don’t go there). I would venture to guess that there are plenty of other areas that are highly trafficked by people (and dogs) where I wouldn’t want to touch anything either—why pick on the Milo Foundation? The Milo Foundation is and has been providing a valuable community service in rescuing abandoned, lost, abused animals and in educating the public about responsible care. It’s disheartening to see such a negative response to all their hard work. 

Karen Eisenstadt 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Why I cast my vote for Kriss Worthington for City Council for the third time: 

Because he makes me feel safe as an old woman when he shows up at Berkeley Gray Panther meetings on a regular basis. 

Because he was the only City Council member to stand by the accusers of Lakireddy Bali Reddy when nobody else would, and was instrumental in getting the rest of the city interested in the matter of sex slavery perpetrated by this largest rental property owner in our city. 

Because he initiated tenant protection for elder residents and long-term residents so they could not be evicted by owners claiming they wanted their units. 

Because he is a strong supporter of the arts and helped obtain money for the Berkeley Poetry Festival. 

Because he pays attention to the needs of his constituents no matter who they are or where they come from and he respectfully returns phone calls and is willing to have extended conversations on issues. 

Because he does not require 3 paid political consultants to help him run his campaign for reelection. 

Because he lives modestly and rides his bicycle everywhere. 

Because he shows up at all the progressive meetings and demonstrations that I go to. 

Because he cares about his community which is my community which is all of our community—the city of Berkeley. 

Because he is inclusive in his attention to his constituents. What other City Council member has put as many students on various boards and commissions as he has? 

Because he instituted Holocaust Remembrance Day and has made it an observance which honors all of us so as to prevent another tragedy from hurting any other group. 

Because he cares about affordable housing. 

Because he cares about the environment. 

Because he cares about healthcare for all. 

Because he supported instant runoff voting and knows this is the most democratic form of holding any election so all our voices can be heard. 

And just because he is a nice guy and no he is not responsible for the decline of Telegraph Avenue—I have lived here and watched it happen since the ’90s and I do recall mayors and others on the City Council cutting back on services and the funding needed to deal with the problems that have developed—when Kriss was calling for help. 

I suggest the residents of my district join me in re-electing a true progressive who talks the talk and walks the walk—Kris Worthington— a man truly worthy of the esteem in which he is held, for living a principled life and being a responsive political representative. 

Thank you, Kriss. 

Sheila Goldmacher 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I admire the Planet’s commitment to the First Amendment, but reading some of the recent letters about Berkeley issues on the Nov. 7 ballot makes me wish the Bill of Rights had guaranteed “responsible” as well as “free” speech. 

I’m amazed in particular about the opposition to Measure A, the parcel tax renewal to support local schools. What a load of inaccuracies! Voters, please look further than the Planet to inform your decisions. 

This year the ballot pamphlet is not much better, as demonstrated by the letter run in the Oct. 23 Planet from Johnnie Porter, past president of the Berkeley NAACP. “… Though my name is on the ballot argument against Measure A … it was initially misrepresented to me and upon further research …I have now rescinded my original position and … both endorse and fully support Measure A.” (Thank you Mr. Porter—that took courage.) 

The best source of accurate information for all these ballot issues may be the endorsements. We’re all getting deluged with campaign mailings, so access to this information is easy. Endorsers are generally trusted community leaders and organizations (it’s up to you to determine which ones you trust), most of whom have heard out the various positions and made responsible decisions. This is going to be a prime source of decision-making for me on the issues I haven’t been personally involved in. 

One more thing: the work Mayor Tom Bates has done on local youth issues was recently described in the Planet as little more than “baby kissing.” That unfairly trivializes the important results he and his capable staff are achieving. In the 13 years I have worked on local school issues, Tom Bates is the mayor who has brought different forces together to bring meaningful improvements to our schools, cash-strapped community agencies, and the children they serve. Baby kissing isn’t a bad start, but I know first-hand that Tom Bates is working to bring all our babies health and opportunity, lifelong.  

Trina Ostrander 

Executive Director, Berkeley Public Education Foundation 

Past Chair, Berkeley Fair Campaign Practices Commission  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have never in my life voted against a school tax measure. But this year I will be voting against Measure A. I’ll be voting against Measure A because I think that in its present form it works against the best interests of our children and their education. How so? It’s not because I think the measure asks for too much money. It’s because it is fundamentally undemocratic. It limits public input. It allows the BUSD administration to avoid public accountability. It asks for the right to take away our rights. Whether you are liberal or conservative or anywhere in between, I believe you should vote against Measure A, too. 

The problem is that the measure sets the parcel tax in concrete for ten years. There are only two effective ways the public can influence policy at the BUSD. One is by voting for School Board members. The other is by voting on taxes. Do we, the residents of Berkeley, really want to hand so much power over the school administration for 10 years? 

Everyone knows that public education is in crisis, in Berkeley and around the United States. All voters—parents, teachers, property owners, renters—need to preserve a democratic voice to influence policy and an ability to say no if they see the administration taking a bad turn. 

The BUSD is forecasting disaster should this measure not pass. There will be no disaster. The district can come back to the voters within months with a measure that doesn’t grab so much power away from voters. The standard period for similar measures in most other districts is four years. Four years is reasonable. Ten years is far too long a time.  

A no vote on Measure A is a vote for school administration accountability. A no vote is pro-education and pro-democracy. 

Russ Mitchell 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As the co-executive director of StandUp For Kids, Berkeley I would like to say that StandUp For Kids works hard to reach out to homeless kids here in America. But, at this time I would like to bring attention to the crisis that is happening to kids and their families in Africa. It is important that we hold our Public Officials accountable for the 400,000 men, women, and children who have been killed in Darfur. This genocide is being called the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today and it shall not be ignored. Candidates running for public office this November have an agenda to accomplish, stopping this genocide should be at the top along with the prevention of youth homelessness here in our nation’s streets, where 13 kids die everyday as a result! I am asking you to let these candidates know we care about kids all over the world and that we need them to StandUp For Kids! 

Nikiya McWilliams 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Over 80 percent of sexually abused children never tell anyone, mostly because their abusers are within their own families or someone trusted by their families. Only 10 percent of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by strangers. Prop. 83 (Jessica’s Law) is well-intentioned, but is severely misguided. Among it’s faults is that it will make children even more reluctant to tell what they know. 

Research shows that sex offenders in a stable environment (with stable housing, jobs, and social support) are less likely to commit new sex offenses compared to those offenders who lack such stability. Unfortunately, residency requirements reduce this stability. Under Prop. 83, most convicted sex offenders will be forced to relocate to rural areas where they will be far away from treatment and support services. Access to treatment and support services is critical toward the protection of children. 

In Iowa, where there is a similar law, there has been a 50 percent drop in the rate of sexual offenders who register with authorities. 

These organizations have come out against Prop. 83: 

• The California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, a statewide victim advocacy coalition of 84 rape crisis centers and sexual assault prevention programs, 

• The California Coalition on Sexual Offending,  

• The Child Molestation Research & Prevention Institute,  

I hope everyone who reads this will tell everyone they know how important it is to vote no on Prop 83. 

Susan da Silva  

CMRPI Volunteer 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a parent, grandparent, teacher and Berkeley taxpayer with over 30 years involvement with the BUSD I strongly support Measure A, which funds renewal of the Berkeley Schools Excellence Project (BSEP). Passing Measure A will not increase taxes. We have been paying these taxes since 1986. These funds have made a dramatic difference in the quality of our children’s education. Here’s how: 

Class size: When my children attended elementary school in BUSD they frequently were in classes with 32 children. When I first started teaching elementary school in BUSD my classes often had 32 children. By the time I retired, thanks to BSEP, my classes had 20 students. The difference was dramatic: more time for targeted teaching, more time for attention to individual student’s social needs, more time for engaging projects to encourage critical thinking, and greater student success. As I volunteer now in my grandson’s kindergarten class, the benefits of teaching to a class of 20 are reaffirmed, as I watch his teacher being able to work successfully with an increasing number of English Language Learners and the new BUSD Special Education model. 

Site enrichment funds: In my early teaching years not only did I spend part of each paycheck to provide classroom materials, but there were endless sales of candy, stuffed animals, and T-shirts to enable my class to participate in special projects. This took teaching and planning time away from students, and meant that enrichment was up to individual teachers. With site discretionary funds BSEP supports enrichment programs so that students receive equity in classrooms, schools can plan an articulated model of enrichment, and teachers can focus on teaching—not fundraising. 

Staff development: When I was hired by BUSD in 1984, staff development was limited to presentations by textbook publishers and volunteer mentor teachers. The hours I spent in sink-or-swim teaching and seeking out solutions to already solved problems were legion. This is no longer true. Berkeley teachers participate in staff development programs at all levels of their career: from BTSA for beginning teachers to study groups and alternative assessment programs for experienced teachers. Professional development in curriculum and instructional strategies such as Guided Language Acquisition Design (GLAD) is part of every teacher’s career. Measure A helps fund professional development. 

Oversight: In the early years of BSEP I served on the Planning and Oversight Committee and as chair of the class size subcommittee. The process was both time consuming and invigorating. In addition to meetings there were always documents to be read, people to be consulted with and time needed to think through complicated issues. Yet it was invigorating because this representative body spent the time to be reflective and arrive at difficult decisions. Having a Planning and Oversight Committee has always been an essential part of BSEP’s success. It is retained in this measure. 

I find that most of my taxes, especially on the federal level, are used in ways I deplore. Voting Yes on Measure A is a small affirmation of my values. 

Louise Rosenkrantz 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’ve been struck by the extraordinary amount of letters published in support of George Beier. But what really seems to stand out is that the letter-writing campaign seems to focus almost entirely on the personal “fan club” type of testimonials designed to persuade people that if the candidate is a good and essentially decent person his politics do not really matter.  

But when all is said and done, I thought George Beier was running for a City Council position. So when the elections are over, we are going to have to live with the person elected and the views, politics, vision, and votes of that elected official.  

I haven’t heard anything but positives about Kriss Worthington as a person either. And so when deciding to whom to really vote, how about voting for Berkeley’s present and future based on electing the person who would make the best council member? 

From what I gather, Beier is pro-development, pro-business, and has easy sound-bite answers to hard choices facing the City Council.  

In contrast, look at Kriss Worthington’s actual record. Kriss has been an extremely hard working council member who has proven over and over again that his views, vision, energy, commitments to social, political, and justice issues, and his actual votes as a councilmember, make Kriss the only real choice. 

So even if you think you’ll have more fun at lunch with George, when the councilmember’s work begins, and the councilmembers’s votes count, I hope you voted for the best candidate and elected Kriss Worthington. 

Stephen M. Mackouse 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was disappointed to read the outright lies being circulated about Measure J. Here are just two examples: Important development on the site of Celia’s Restaurant, on Fourth Street, is being held up because it has been designated as a landmark and that owners of property on Otis Street went bankrupt because of its designation as a “structure of merit.” 

Livable Berkeley and Mayor Bates are saying that the reason they recommend against Measure J is because ridiculous and unfair landmarks decisions have been made. This doesn’t make sense to me because I watch City Council meetings and have heard to the public comments in opposition to the council’s proposed changes. It took me awhile to piece together the information but here it is. Every decision by the Landmarks Preservation Commission is automatically placed on the City Council agenda for approval before any decision becomes final. Any “ridiculous” decision is the fault of the council, not the law. So what happened in my two examples? The LPC approved Celia’s as a landmark, the City Council disagreed, so the building never was designated as a landmark. The request for demolition of that building and others on that site is on hold pending the project’s meeting the state law requirements to do an environmental impact review, not because of Berkeley’s Landmarks Preservation Ordinance. 

The council also disagreed with the Otis Street decision so that property never became a structure of merit. The neighborhood, opposing the conversion of a single family home into a multi-unit project with a paved over backyard to meet parking requirements, purchased the property giving three developers $80,000 each to walk away from the project.  

Let’s not be misled by special interests that simply want to grease the wheels of demolition and inappropriate development. We can prevent throwing out an ordinance that has served this City well for 32 years by voting Yes on Measure J on Nov. 7. 

Maggie Reid 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a Berkeley citizen over 40 years I asked the question, how can the city who is suppose to represent all Berkeley citizens continue to show its hate by denouncing Christ-based organizations like the Sea Scouts, but will quickly promote destructive, anti-family organizations that are bent on homosexuality, atheism, anti-U.S.A. and such?  

When will we citizens elect and hire people who truly represent the citizens of the City of Berkeley? When? The demographics in Berkeley have changed overall for the worse over the past 20 years. It’s become anti-Christ, anti-family, anti-Black American, anti-American and anti-right! 

COB leadership please continue to support the Sea Scouts who along with the Boy Scouts of America promote life and stop promoting organizations that value sickness and death. 

Lisa Robin 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was born in 1961 in Berkeley and have lived there most of my life. The only thing that I remember about People’s Park is that it was a hangout for the scum of the world and all that entails. All of you pony-tailed liberal/yippie/hippy/whatevers need to take off the rose-colored glasses and realize the ’60s was nothing but a bad experiment that failed. Give it up already! That means the drug dealers paradise known as People’s Park and put in condos, or anything. It is far better use than an open-air sewer and a pit for the rags of society to hang out. 

If these people choose to live this way they should do it somewhere else. This is what is really what’s killing south Berkeley, specifically from Sather gate to the triangle.  

Christopher D. Fuller 

Rocklin, Calif. 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Arlen Stahlberg’s recent letter repeats some very important misunderstandings. We acknowledge and respect the spirit of the volunteers, but it is the impact on our neighborhood which needs to be addressed and how MILO handles the obvious sanitation issues is not our problem to solve. That this situation has gone on for so long is also not in any way relatable to us, but rather MILO’s own negligence.  

The issue is not nobility of the idea of pet adoption; we all acknowledge this. The problem is trying to fit a regional service which gathers animals from a huge part of Northern California into our densely-populated neighborhood. MILO doesn’t even have a yard of any kind at this facility! We are, in good faith, attempting to reach mutually-agreed operating conditions which will help MILO operate peacefully while preserving our long-established neighborhood, and all this name-calling rhetoric is counter-productive. We hope MILO supporters as well as challengers will calm down and allow the mediation process to work. 

We are being mischaracterized and the issues have been shifted time and again to “with us or against us.” which sounds much more like the Bush administration, don’t you think? 

Robert Yoder 

Solano Avenue Neighborhood  





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Is there anyone out there besides me who has not received a property tax bill yet? 

I thought the bill was supposed to arrive before the election so we could read the bad news before voting.  

Frank Greenspan 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am compelled to write to correct an inaccurate statement reported in the Berkeley Daily Planet’s Oct. 24 edition. Mayoral candidate Zelda Bronstein responded in a discussion regarding who should qualify for “workforce housing” by remarking, “The police in this city are averaging $124,000 per year.” 

As a public organization, Berkeley police salaries are a matter of public record and are arrived at via negotiations with the city manager’s office. In addition, our contracts must be approved by the City Council before they are valid and binding. Our contracts are intended to be appropriate compensation for a demanding and often dangerous job. They are comparable to and competitive with the salaries of similar sized agencies in the Bay Area. The top pay for a senior officer is substantially less than the figure quoted by Ms. Bronstein. Unfortunately, she is misinformed about this issue. Even more troubling, is the appearance of using inaccurate information to satisfy immediate political aims. Either way, she is wrong on this issue. 

I would encourage Ms. Bronstein and those who would like to know more about Berkeley police officers to look up the information on web at and make an informed opinion about this core public safety issue. 

Henry Wellington 

President, Berkeley Police Association  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Please get your facts straight when reporting on major issues that affect Berkeley! Richard Brenneman “reports” in his article regarding the last Design Review meeting that developer Hudson-McDonald suggested the traffic barrier for the project at 1885 University Ave. Au contraire! It was, and still is, the Berkeley Way neighbors who proposed the barrier, much to Hudson-McDonald’s dismay. They have finally openly admitted, after pretending to go along with the concept for expediency’s sake, that they oppose the barrier. Please do not give them any credit for trying to salvage our neighborhood. As I pointed out in a previous commentary, they have had been given every opportunity to mitigate their project’s damage to the neighborhood. They brazenly refuse because, as they frequently like to point out, they can. 

Regan Richardson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

We are all indebted to Susan Parker for increasing our awareness of the disabled community—both disabled and care givers—and doing it with a respectful, pitch-perfect tone, with informative good humor, neither exploiting Ralph’s condition nor demanding pity for him or for herself. I hope she also provided some sense of visibility and solidarity for the disabled and their loved ones, as well. Now that Ralph is free, I hope she is free to think of happier times they had together. Good luck, Susan.  

Dorothy Bryant 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am outraged by the constant pollution to our air quality in Berkeley thanks to Pacific Steel Castings—the largest steel foundry on the entire West Coast. They continually violate their agreements with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District by operating night and day with their doors wide open-allowing all of the toxins to freely escape into the surrounding community. On top of that they use city streets like their private property—allowing their castings to cool and off gas on public streets. Where is the city to crack down on this? If they were on Shattuck Avenue and they put their work out on city sidewalks they would be shut down in five minutes. Where is the city on this? What is Mayor Bates doing? What is Linda Maio doing? 

And what is the public doing? The residents of Berkeley need to come together in this time of a public health crisis and demand that this is not allowed to continue. Anyone reading this who is concerned for their health and the health of their families should attend the planned public rally and protest set for Nov. 11 at 11 a.m at Ninth and Gilman streets in Berkeley. Come out and make some noise! 

And for those of you unaware, here are a few facts:  

1. PSC dumps over 250,000 ponds of toxins into our air every year. 

2. Our of over 2,000 stationary pollution sources in six Bay Area counties, PSC is number 12—ahead of the Richmond Chevron refinery! 

3. PSC dumps known carcinogens into our air such as maganese, lead, zinc, copper and many other toxins. 

4. Berkeley has a real public health threat on it’s hands with PSC and it cannot be allowed to continue. 

David Landon