Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday November 14, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Now that the election is over perhaps you will reflect on your role in the campaign. Story after story, allegedly news, was laden with digs and attacks on Mayor Bates, usually quite gratuitous. It was all capped off by your (in my opinion) illegal in kind-contributions to those candidates you endorsed by your (to put it mildly) unusual home delivery on Nov. 4. in an excess of partisanship I think you violated your trust as a newspaper and I believe you owe Berkeley an apology.  

Mal Burnstein 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Revitalize Telegraph” it said on the marquee. “Vote George Beier.” That would be the marquee of the Fine Arts Cinema. The name plastered on the hideous building constructed on the ruins of Berkeley’s best local independent arts cinema. The cinema that was promised to have their theater rebuilt in the huge development. The cinema that instead became a casualty of this development. If that is what George Beier and his developer buddies think revitalization is, Berkeley was just spared.  

Jon Jackson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Recently you wondered whether Planet readers might be willing to pay for a subscription to your paper. My response is: “no,” for quite a few reasons: 

• Paying for the Planet would be like making a political contribution with none of the rules and regulations that govern money in politics. There would be no public accounting and no accountability. 

• It would mean giving free rein for the use of my subscription dollars to an editorial staff that evidently regards slanted, incomplete, and misleading articles to be OK in the service of their causes. 

• And it would mean that funds from subscriptions could be used for tactics such as the recent free door-to-door deliveries of the paper in neighborhoods that were evidently judged to be receptive to the unabashed adulation of the Planet’s favored candidates and its unrestrained attacks on their rivals.  

The election results show that the paper’s tactics were not successful. The candidates and causes most heavily touted by the Planet lost, and an incumbent who received hearts-and-flowers treatment in articles and editorials for months before the election came perilously close to losing. Now we hear whining from the Planet that the results are all due to the inability of their favored campaigns to raise funds in the amounts spent by their opponents. But think about it: the value of twice-weekly political promotions by the Planet must have been worth tens of thousands of dollars. No political campaign could possibly raise enough money to counter the free advocacy provided by the Planet.  

Without question, the Planet has only been exercising its free speech right to political advocacy. But its editorial and reporting judgment would be more widely respected, and readers might even consider a subscription, if the editors demonstrated responsibility and even, at times, restraint. Winning the hearts and minds of smart Berkeley voters requires more than propaganda. 

Mim Hawley 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Fear the stadium attacking our neighborhood. This should have been the main issue in the City Council race! If you are concerned about noise, trees, traffic, health or safety in our neighborhood you’d better speak out now! Contact Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau at 642-7464 or 

Check out to contact neighbors and students organizing against the destruction of the grove of hundreds of years old oaks. 

Cyndi Johnson 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Although the Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber of Commerce PAC may be different entities, they seem to share the same office. Filings of campaign expenses show no record that the Chamber of Commerce PAC paid any rent to the Chamber of Commerce for that space. So, the Chamber of Commerce may have given more than its good name to the Chamber of Commerce PAC; it may also have contributed the use of expensive commercial office space with all of its amenities. 

Because of this, the unethical behavior of the PAC reflects on the entire membership of the Chamber of Commerce. If Chamber of Commerce members really want their good names back, they should do more than try to distance themselves from the PAC; they should denounce the PAC for lying to further its own agenda. Anything short of that suggests approval, not to mention complicity. 

Gus Lee 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

You might be interested to know that I voted against Measure J and for George Beier even though I didn’t read one single piece of campaign literature and wasn’t swayed one way or another by the amount of money spent on the recent election. I find it extremely insulting that you would discount my vote and that of the majority of voters (in the case of Measure J) because these campaigns apparently raised and spent more money than their opponents. The article by Richard Brenneman, “Meaure J Defeated, Supporters Vow Fight,” is nothing but a compilation of sour grapes from a pathetic gang of anti-democratic leftover hippy leftists whose self-righteous totalitarian attitudes have led to making Berkeley one of the most anti-business, anti-property owner communities in the entire world. Mao Zedong smiles down upon you! But even more ridiculous was Becky O’Malley’s trashing of George Beier along with the complaint about the Chamber of Commerce using a “non-union Carlsbad mailing house” to print some of their brochures which no one reads anyway. The Planet’s juvenile political playbook seems to say “cry foul” when you lose and “kick your opponent in the groin” when you win.  

David Bunnell 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Berkeley Daily Planet article essentially offered a fair, if pedestrian, assessment of the terrain in the current KPFA board elections (“KPFA Listeners Race for Station Board Spots,” Nov. 3). While controversy in governance is fairly common in both corporate and non-profit organizations, there is a tendency to act as though KPFA’s travails are anomalous or peculiar. What is of paramount importance in my view is to not allow the acrimony to be used as an excuse to justify any reversal or co-option of the democratic structures currently in place. KQED listeners recently relinquished their right to participate in that station’s governance. Apparently there is a school of thought that radio listeners should be passive supplicants and not have role in framing the discourse that informs them. Hopefully, this will not also prove to be the case at KPFA. As it happens, among the many excellent candidates running for the KPFA board is Sasha Futran, a veteran of the long struggle by many progressives, including Michael Parenti, Maria Gilardin and Norman Solomon to gain a foothold on the KQED board. I hope that at the very least this election serves as an affirmation of KPFA listeners’ belief in the idea of participatory governance, and I ask KPFA listeners to please vote and stay involved. Many readers are doubtless aware of Henry Kissinger’s statement (“the issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves”) about the right of the Chilean people to elect a government of their choosing, With respect to KPFA, and democratic participation in general, the issues are clearly too important to be left to the few to decide. 

Joe Wanzala 

Listener Representative 

KPFA Local Station Board 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On Nov. 14, I urge the mayor and City Council to vote to adopt the Berkeley Creeks Ordinance as it is currently drafted. Our city does not need more crumbling homes and concrete-lined creeks—it needs forward-thinking legislation that inspires residents to think about their natural areas as more than space to be paved over or built on. Berkeley needs to retain the little green space it has—and its laws should reflect the views and desires of its overwhelmingly progressive and environmentally conscious populace.  

Those who attack the Creeks Ordinance for being “anti-homeowner” do not understand the purpose of the ordinance, and do not have the best interest of their neighbors and Berkeley’s natural areas at heart. The current stipulations for rebuilding and for expanding or remodeling existing homes are perfectly adequate for a city so short on space as Berkeley.  

Our waterways have had enough of concrete, riprap and other forms of mistreatment; creekside homes are already crumbling because there were not adequate creek setbacks when they were built. We do not need to put current and future property owners at risk of flooding, erosion and their associated repair costs by enabling uninhibited expansion into our riparian corridors. I urge the council to adopt the Creeks Ordinance in full and protect homes by requiring a variance for development within 25 feet of the creek centerline.  

I thank the mayor and council for protecting our riparian areas and the people of Berkeley. 

Kristen Quay 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’ve worked the half a dozen elections since 2002 as a poll worker, most of them in my home precinct in North Berkeley (I’ve only missed the November 2004 election since I was a candidate in that election). I haven’t moved, re-registered, gotten a replacement drivers license, or taken any other action which would affect my voter registration information. Yet when I took time out of my lunch break Tuesday to vote at my polling place, I found that I had disappeared from the voter rolls. My wife appeared, as did my neighbors. I had just voted in June’s primary with no problem. We searched the absentee list, the “late registration” list, the “infrequent voter” list, but no dice. I was not registered to vote in my precinct.  

What did I do? I followed the proper procedure and cast a provisional ballot. As part of the provisional ballot process, I am automatically re-registered to vote—I hope. I don’t know if my vote will count, which is extremely disturbing. Since I didn’t take any action to remove myself from the list, how did this happen? 

I was not the only one who had screwy experiences with the voter rolls this election. My experience in this precinct over the past regular and primary elections (thanks to the recall election and last year’s special election, we’ve had at least 1 general election every year since 2002) showed that there’s always a number of provisional ballots cast. Usually they’re cast by an absentee voter who didn’t turn in their absentee ballot when they came to the polls or by a voter who doesn’t trust whichever electronic voting machine is being used in that election. This time, about half of the 28 provisional ballots in our precinct were caused by voter roll irregularities. Multiple people were registered as absentee voters even though they claimed to never have requested to switch to absentee status. Others had been switched from the regular list to the ‘infrequent voter’ list, even though they, like me, hadn’t missed a primary or general election in years. While I understand that a lot of times new registrations take a couple of applications to show up, these problems affected voters who did not take any action to change their voting status or their address.  

What’s going on? Is this merely an Alameda County problem or does this reach up to the Republican secretary of state in charge of our elections? Was there a half-assed purge of voters? A computer glitch? As a poll worker, I’m really sympathetic to the incredibly complex work that the Registrar’s Office does, but these questions need to be answered and this problem needs to be resolved quickly before we become the Florida or Ohio of the 2008 presidential election. 

Jesse Townley 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thankfully District 7 will continue to be honestly represented by our hard working Kriss Worthington. I was upset by not only the huge amount of money George Beier poured into his city council bid, but by the absurd issue of Weapons of Mass Needles that he campaigned on. People’s Park has been steadily improving since Kriss took office. The riots have ended, the dirt has been transformed into grass and plants, picnic tables and murals have been installed by volunteers. It’s actually a very nice place.  

Except for its reputation.  

George Beier added gas to that fire with the absurd claim that 1,000 needles were found there. This negative propaganda scares away students, families and neighbors who would otherwise enjoy the park and add to its safety. False and exaggerated charges are counter productive to the hard work of volunteers who improve the park and encourage its use. Claims are made, often by people who don’t in fact go to the park themselves, that there is massive crime, or drug dealing, or “its just gross” or best yet has been the 1,000 Points of Needles of Mass Destruction. Please, don’t believe the hype. 

Go to the park, bring friends, enjoy the facilities, participate, make the park what you want. Its true that one may encounter all kinds of people there, including some less fortunate or socially groomed. But you may be able to help or learn something from these real members of our community who will still exist even if some just see them as problems rather than neighbors with problems. People’s Park has an amazing history and is a special opportunity for community creation. Whining to authorities or asking the University to redesign the park are the completely wrong approach. It will only create conflict in our neighborhood. George should know better than to spread false negative propaganda and propose putting buildings on the park. 

Doug Fost 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

“Berkeley was one of the few cities of any size in the state to remain solidly in the Republican ranks in yesterday’s election” ran the lead in the Nov. 9, 1932 “Berkeley Gazette” report on the Franklin D. Roosevelt defeat of Herbert Hoover.  

Had our alleged Athens of the West thrown enlightenment aside to vote for retrenched reaction? Actually, the city voted for Hoover in 1928, too. While we had a socialist mayor back around World War I, there have been periods, such as the Hoover years, when it could be said that the town was run by stuffy alumni, aloof professors, and the social crowd that the doorman allowed into the Berkeley Women’s City Club—i.e., holier than thou snobs. To a degree, it can be conjectured that a nose in the air posture is a persistent Berkeley trait. It is expressed in our superiority complex vis a vis Oakland. A united shout of joy fills the city over the thumping Bush took in our recent election, yet at the same time factions who believe they have all the answers push their elitist policies. 

These days, we have nature-radicals who demand a park out by the Marina that is so very very natural that humans aren’t allowed in. Our warriors against traffic congestion forego comprehensive plans and throw up barricades called traffic islands. Rather than join the cities across the nation that are installing public wi-fi to democratize Internet access, our militants declare wi-fi towers radiation hazards. 

While we may not be Republicans (capital R), we are not always democratic (small d). 

Ted Vincent 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Considering the content of my campaign, it seems there’s strong interest among a few people in the issues it raised. I’d like to facilitate further investigation of those with some thought as to how we can develop them to serve our local community—and then, beyond. 

School obviously is no way ours, good—on the overall, able to do what it says it would do—for most of the community it commands; nor do we want it to do what it does do—maintain the status quo, serve capitalism, serve competition and the universal brutality of millennia-old imperia. 

I hope people contact me, to see about carrying the campaign forward. 

Norma J F Harrison 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding Rio Bauce’s complaint in the Planet about the Sea Scouts being denied free access to free berthing at the Marina because of discrimination against atheist and gay kids, there are solutions. He admits the Sea Scouts “are serving two masters: the city government and the management structure of the Boy Scouts---an impossible situation.” So why not disaffiliate from the bureaucratic bigots of the BSA top hierarchy and operate independently or under a more fair-minded organizational umbrella? Then Berkeley Sea Scouts could also freely bring along their atheist and gay buddies to enjoy the benefits of their boating interests, and in keeping with our Berkeley values. 

Harry Siitonen 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thankfully, San Francisco is not New York City, and Berkeley is not the Jersey Shore. Not yet, at least. 

I have read Mayor Tom Bates’ Nov. 3 commentary in the Daily Planet carefully and respectfully. 

I agree with some of his points and certainly acknowledge the benefits of affordable housing, but the combination of a university with an insatiable desire for more land to build upon, a mayor generally enthusiastic about development, and persons in city governance with a financial stake in development is a troika pulling us toward a tipping point regarding density that we should be apprehensive about.  

Does anyone notice how many residential non-arterial streets in Berkeley are jam-packed with parked cars 24/7? 

Phyllis Henry-Jordan 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The landmarking of Berkeley High School’s gymnasium was a page-one story in your Tuesday paper. The expert (structural) analysis I trust the most seems to say that the two big pool rooms easily could be saved, but that the rest of the complex could not be saved except at extravagant expense (maybe the facade of the gym facing Milvia could be incorporated into the design of new classroom building or other useful function at its prominent current location). 

The two pool rooms are worth millions; this must be taken into consideration by the school district before any decision is made regarding their future, including function and remodeling. Just look at the current estimates to replace the warm pool: $7-9 million. Demolition would be an act of criminal negligence. 

The district has been misguided in the past by so-called experts (outsiders and insiders) and must avoid making decisions that hurt the city or itself. Time must be given to listen to users of the warm pool. The district is at risk of acting in a panic, desperate about budgetary matters, and forgetful about the community in which it lives, if it destroys the old pools. 

Terry Cochrell 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Was it the war in Iraq that caused voters to turn against the GOP; was it the lies, scandals and corruption that Republicans subjected Americans to for six years or was it that the GOP had become the party of religion in the political arena? 

Could it be that voters rejected Republicans because they are no longer Republicans? The GOP has been taken over by religionists and evangelical activists. The White House, Congress and U.S. government had become a vehicle for the fundamentalist right, and anti-abortionists. No problem now! 

Don’t think for a second we have seen the last of these religious zealots and their stealthy infiltration into all facets of society. They would rather die in their self-induced Armageddon than give up their ingrained hypocritical and intolerant views. 

Ron Lowe 

Grass Valley 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Nov. 23 is the day when many people will be celebrating Thanksgiving Day with families and friends. They feel that it is a holiday where people can be thankful. However, many people still don’t know about the first Thanksgiving in which it wasn’t pleasant. Many people feel that the first Thanksgiving was about harmony between American Indians and white settlers who landed in this country several centuries ago. 

The truth was when the settlers arrived, they were hungry and suffering from illnesses from which many of them had died. American Indians such as the Tisquantums and Samosets taught them how to survive. The Massasoits also taught the settlers how to plant corn in the fields. 

What reward did the white settlers offer to these American Indians who were generous toward them? The settlers colonized and massacred them and took their land, and it has been going on for centuries, including now. So when people think about Thanksgiving, they should think about the first Thanksgiving in which it wasn’t pleasant. 

Billy Trice, Jr.