Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday November 21, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

What is your image of a building “towering over” other buildings? Only negative images come to my mind. So, when Daily Planet reporter Richard Brenneman writes in the beginning of his article on plans for a new downtown hotel that “ would tower above the current reigning monarchs of the urban skyline, the Power Bar and Wells Fargo buildings,” I sure imagined New York-size buildings, or a San Francisco Transamerica pyramid-like building. 

But then, upon reading more of his article and viewing the sketch in the paper of the proposed building, I had to scratch my head. A building, across a major street, Shattuck, and part way up Center Street from Shattuck, is shown to be 25 feet higher than the already 180-foot high Power Bar building. Twenty-five feet higher, wow. 

Now I can’t believe Mr. Brenneman has a built-in bias for this project, or if he does, as a self-respecting journalist, he would certainly keep his biases out of his “news” articles. 

So, how is one to interpret a story that begins with an inflammatory and/or skewed portrait of this very important project in the heart of our city, possibly a key in the revitalization of our downtown? 

Your guess is as good as mine. 

Terry Doran 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The 19-floor tower doesn’t bother me. I think the Hotel Conference Center will be a fine facility and a great landmark. I just wish the design did not include those layers of underground parking. Even if the water table problem is solved, the underground parking lot is a bad idea. Berkeley does not need another huge generator of car traffic in the core of downtown. The traffic from UC’s LRDP is going to be bad enough. Do the planners expect that most conference attendees will be coming from too far to walk but too close to fly? If most conferences involve people who fly in, then these people can catch a BART train at either OAK or SFO and get off across the street from the Conference Center. They don’t need to rent a car. Would conferees need a car to visit sites on the campus? Of course not. Right now, people who work at UC can get everywhere on campus by UC shuttle buses—even up on the hill. There’s a shuttle bus stop right in front of the Conference Center. Special buses can be arranged for large groups. Maybe the parking is for the condominiums, which will take up a large part of the building. How about, for once, creating some car-free housing downtown among the buses and BART? Removing the underground parking would be a major cost saving for the project and a major betterment for our environment. 

Steve Geller 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

At last Tuesday’s Berkeley Housing Authority/City Council meeting it became apparent that Section 8 had not passed its HUD certification procedure. Courtesy of the City of Berkeley’s irresponsible oversight and landlord friendly board over the last four years tenants will now get Section 8 rent gouges that they cannot afford. 

A BHA assistant manager, recently told me that each Section 8 renter—disabled, elderly, poor families—has to come up with an average of $100 a month or leave the area. If poor people don’t have money to stay, do they have money to move? 

Last Tuesday Mayor Bates was assigned to appoint a BHA/Section 8 Oversight Committee. Will Mayor Bates appoint the usual landlord/developer cronies? Will Mayor Bates continue to endorse the two sitting “rubber stamp” tenants already on the board? This could lead to a literal blood bath as Section 8 renters are helplessly dumped on the streets? The poor, and those of us who were once middle class—who had one illness, or one too many birthdays—have no money to relocate, thus turning Berkeley into a combination of Silicon Valley and Calcutta. 

I propose to fill this Oversight Committee by selecting active Section 8 tenants for the board. A tenant advocate nominating process can be instituted now so that by the first of the year an appropriate group of tenants can be identified. It’s only well qualified tenants, with a background of experience of the poor, that will help to give fixed income people at least one last chance to save their own lives. 

Vita Viola 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I found it amusing, and a bit frightening, that Mal Burnstein suggested this paper apologize for it’s outspoken role in our recent local election (Letters, Nov. 14). Considering the writer supports a mayoral administration that continuously seeks to silence opponents (trashing Daily Cal papers endorsing his opponent, using an agenda committee to squelch debate on council, etc.) I guess I should not be surprised at the lack of appreciation for the First Amendment (that pesky constitutional clause protecting freedom of press and free speech). Still it amazes me when seemingly intelligent people ask the press to apologize for fulfilling the very role the Constitution assigns to citizens and publishers! Clearly, the Daily Planet would be a lot more to the liking of the mayor and some of his supporters if only the Planet would emulate FOX TV. For some strange reason the Planet refuses to conform to conventional corporate standards of reporting on crime and acting as a cheer leader for development and the powers that be. Instead the Planet has the bizarre notion that the role of a newspaper is to report, comment upon and demand accountability from our local elected officials. My apologies in advance, for daring to write this letter! 

Elliot Cohen 

Peace and Justice Commissioner 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I like shopping at Trader Joe’s as much as the next person, and I would be happy to see one closer to home. 

But I’m amazed at how the potential traffic and parking problems associated with a TJ at MLK and University are being minimized. This project seems to be receiving far less scrutiny than the West Berkeley Bowl—at this point only the immediate neighbors have spoken up—yet this could easily have a major impact on anyone who travels through central Berkeley. 

A couple of months ago, I was visiting a friend in San Francisco who wanted to pick up a few things for dinner at her local TJ (at Masonic and Geary). To my shock, she pulled into a line of idling cars that sat unmoving, literally waiting to enter the parking lot one at a time whenever someone exited. I was amazed and wondered if it was just because of the time of day—she said “No, it’s always like this.” No wonder it was decided that a parking entrance on University would “increase congestion.” 

The Nov. 14 article states that the project would include 157 parking spaces in a two-level garage, but doesn’t clarify whether these are all for shoppers. If this parking also serves the “148 residential units and 22 below-market-rate units”—um, do the math. 

As for the rosy predictions of TJ reducing car trips and becoming a pedestrian destination—well, I love the idea of moms with toddlers strolling in, and I’m sure there would be walk-in business from the immediate neighbors. But, with all respect to Tim Southwick of Toyota of Berkeley, his remarks about how TJ would “turn University into a street more like Solano because ...Trader Joe’s...would help attract pedestrian traffic” show a fundamental misunderstanding of how pedestrian-friendly shopping areas work. It’s the convenient proximity of individual, interesting businesses (preferably selling small, light items) that makes people want to leave the car at home and walk around—not a big supermarket, however appealing. 

I would love to be proved wrong, but until everyone who is so ecstatic about the prospect of Trader Joe’s in Berkeley is honest about how they plan to get there, I don’t think it’s possible to say that this project would not increase congestion. University is already often at a standstill at rush hours and on weekends. 

Alice Jurow 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In a “slap in the face” move to Democrats, President Bush on Nov. 15 re-nominated six conservative judges to the federal appellate bench. All had been previously blocked from receiving a Senate floor vote by the minority Democrats in the Senate due to their extremist views. It is highly unlikely that the lame duck Congress will act on any of these nominations before it adjourns, so Bush is obviously sending a clear message to Democrats in Congress and his base that he will not be deterred from trying to shape the federal judiciary in a more fascist direction. 

And even though they will not receive a Senate floor vote in the next month, Bush can re-nominate them again in January. Federal judicial appointments have been a priority during the Bush regime. Bush nominated John Roberts and Sam Alioto and got them on the Supreme Court to the delight of most reactionaries. On the lower federal court level, Bush has also managed to put most of his people on the bench with only minor opposition from the Senate democrats. 

And the Bush White House spokesperson did not sound conciliatory to the Democrats in the Senate when she stated, “We are hopeful that the days of judicial obstruction are behind us. We are hopeful that President Bush’s nominees will receive a fair up or down vote.” This is an open challenge to the Senate Democrats and belies any words uttered by Bush about bi-partisanship after the election. For Bush it appears that as long as the Democrats give him what he wants, he will consider that bi-partisanship. Anything else is “obstructionism.”  

The shape of the federal judicial bench is critical to the Bush regime. Federal judges will rule on much of the regime’s program. Everything from the right to abortion, outlawing gay marriages, the ruining of the environment, anti-immigrant legislation, to the Military Commissions Act which allows torture and deprives defendants of their legal rights, etc. will come before the courts. The Bush regime wants its fellow fascists on the bench to rule in its favor. 

Many people who voted for the Democrats in the recent elections hoped that Bush would be forced to become more “moderate” after his party suffered defeat. But the re-nomination of these judges would indicate that these hopes were mere illusions. Bush is still Bush. 

Bush has two more years in which to continue to nominate conservative judges to the courts. The world can not afford to wait two more years to get rid of him and his entire rotten regime. To find out how you can hasten Bush out of office, please see 

Kenneth J. Theisen 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

In response to the current events around Iran I am writing to urge the public to not get caught up in another frenzy of fear surrounding this issue and to stop, think logically and use what resources we have at our disposal. 

First off, I think it is important to understand that the biggest threat is the possibility that Iran is developing nuclear weapons and then decide to attack the United States or any other country and igniting another war. So, what is the best way to avoid this? Diplomacy and proper action from our congress and the current administration. And we all know that congress hasn’t had a great history of acting on issues like this without response from the public. Basically what I’m getting at is, if you want to feel more protected or if you understand that this is a serious issue that could lead to disastrous consequences we must make our voices heard. Call or write your congressperson and representative and talk to your friends and family members about the issues. 

The most disastrous thing that could happen would be for the United States to respond with military force and sanctions against Iran. We’ve seen, throughout history, that these are tactics that simply don’t work. For example, in 1981 Israel attacked Iraq in an attempt to stop them from developing a nuclear program and all this achieved was Saddam’s increased lust for the bomb. And, with sanctions, it’s not the weapons programs or those in charge that suffer, it only hurts the innocent civilian population and creates resentment towards the U.S. which could likely lead to more incidents of terrorism. 

Again I am stressing the need for diplomacy and action from Congress generated by the voice of the people. If you could take the five minutes to call and/or write your congressperson and representative it could make all the difference. The number for the Congressional Switchboard is: 800-614-2803, or if you have Internet access you can visit your congresspersons website and write them an e-mail or find their address and write them a letter (recommended). This is a pivotal point in history and I ask you to stand up and speak your voice! 

Flynn Gourley 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Very very odd… I’ve been reading the letters to the editor and I can’t seem to get it… Hello??? Jim Jones or the Branch Davidians come to mind when I look upon Berkeley as a whole. Homogenized and singular in most respects… 

Ernest Grouns 

Bloomington, IN 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Back in the days of the civil rights movement—SNCC, SDS, Black Muslims and Panthers, et al.—there was a popular slogan that went, “What goes around comes around.” For the benefit of today’s 30-somethings, this meant, like, you know, if you keep pushing and oppressing you eventually must confront the folks you push and oppress. Picture a wheel (vertical) or a merry go-round (horizontal). The aftermath of the recent election has given new life to this aphorism. 

Democratic and Republican leaders appeared triumphant and dejected on center stage and offstage veterans in both groups maneuvered for leadership positions. Meanwhile, in the audience we the people were treated to bursts of news reports popping one after another like firecrackers: Gates to occupy the hot seat vacated by Rumsfeld; Abramoff imprisoned and Lott reborn; Murtha loses to Hoyer, Baker drafted to help stay a changed course in Iraq and blah, blah.  

Oh, sure, come January when the 110th Congress gets going the Dems will hold a majority. But hold on, there’ll be just 65 new faces, Dems and Reps combined. Consequently, nearly 90 percent of the new Congress will be old Congress. That ain’t much of a change. What goes around comes around and, what comes around goes around. 

Marvin Chachere 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I want to express appreciation for the fine articles written by Richard Brenneman on the Zeneca site in Richmond. This site may well lead the country in the citizens’ fight for a toxic-free living environment which is surely one of our foremost inalienable rights. Those who pollute must be stopped and those who take no accountability must surely be held accountable.  

Keep up the good work. There is nothing more important to me than my spiritual base and the well being of my family. I feel it is my responsibility to protect myself and my family from harm. My perception is that the activities of the developers at the Zeneca site are a danger to myself, my family and my community.  

M. Child 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

John Parman is right about the early history of the Republican Party in his letter of Nov. 17, and certainly right about the history of the Democratic Party. (During the entire 19th century, not one single Democrat, North or South, voted for a single civil rights bill.) He misses, however, on the 20th century history of the parties. The shift of Black voters out of the Republican Party and into the Democrats began during the 1920s, well before the New Deal. The Republican Party, in a precursor of Nixon’s later “southern strategy,” began allying itself with the Ku Klux Klan when that organization moved north into Indiana, Illinois and Ohio after World War I. This was primarily an opportunist anti-immigrant stance, but the racial baggage came along with it in the party of “white Anglo-Saxon Protestants.” This coincided with a move of Blacks into northern cities where they allied themselves with the Democratic Party machines against the Republican—big business—Klan alliance. By that time, the “party of Lincoln” hadn’t given Blacks much besides lip service and a few patronage jobs in decades. They didn’t get much out of the Democrats either, but that’s another story. 

Tom Condit 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing to bring up the loss of the People’s Park free box, once again. It has been gone, now, roughly, for about seven months. For those of you, who don’t know: Volunteers have built numerous replacement boxes, which have been confiscated by the UC Berkeley police and Berkeley police. 

This has made a very real emergency situation, for people who are already having a hard time, dealing with life, on a hand to mouth basis. Besides the fact that homeless people, and people on SSI, and others, in low-income situations, do not have enough money to launder their clothes, plenty of homeless people will now have innumerable problems with their health, due to wet, dirty clothes. And this is happening for no good reason.  

George Beier (Willard Neighborhood Association) says there is “better ways of distributing clothes,” but I have seen no signs of alternative, 24-hour accessible clothing. Having been homeless myself for a year and a half, and now working with homeless, and mentally ill people, I think I have a good reason to give an opinion on this subject. 

The other evening, I rode my bike up to Telegraph, to see some of my acquaintances. I came across an old friend, who was huddled awkwardly on the ground. I asked him what the problem was. He said his pants had ripped-out, in the back, and he was afraid if he got up, one of the numerous, hostile acting bicycle cops, would write him up a ticket, for indecent exposure. I knew his fears were valid, as I had been written a ticket by one of these cops, for crossing the sidewalk, on my bike, while exiting People’s Park. 

I think lots of people can empathize with what it feels like, to be cold and wet. We don’t have enough bed space, in the shelters, here in Berkeley, and now, this winter, with no clothing and bedding, in the free box, many people here in Berkeley are really going to be in danger of hypothermia, due to this cruel and unjust removal of an invaluable asset to our community. 

Katy Blau 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

In your Nov. 14 story about Oakland’s Homeless One-Stop event you briefly touched on Youth Connect and YEAH!. Daily Planet readers should know that YEAH!—the only nighttime shelter in Berkeley dedicated to 18-25-year-old transition-age homeless youth—is opening for the winter on Nov. 20 at 8 p.m. As you indicated, hot showers are available. But instead of the peanut butter sandwiches you mentioned, we have home-cooked dinners and breakfasts, more than 50 welcoming volunteers and mentors each week, as well as a clinical program providing referrals and counseling. And on Dec. 4 from 2-5 p.m., YEAH! and the City of Berkeley are hosting a multi-service opportunity for these young people. It takes intention and effort from all Berkeley citizens to ensure that today’s street youth do not become tomorrow’s street adults. Join with us. Visit our website:  

Adrianne Bank 

Co-Founder, YEAH! 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In our Nov. 17 commentary, “Bad Process, Wrong People, Outsourcers,” the names of the two members of the seven-member advisory committee of librarians were incorrect. The correct names are Susan Hardie, formerly of Alameda Public Library, and Carmen Martinez, Oakland Public Library. 

We also reported from a “reliable source” that all four library director final candidates are from RFID libraries, except the candidate from Oakland, where RFID is being removed from one trial branch; we subsequently obtained information from the libraries in question that, although two said they may consider RFID for future use, none currently operate RFID. 

We relied on our source because the library released the names Nov. 15, and not on Nov. 13 and 14 when we asked for them, resulting in insufficient time for independent verification. 

We regret these inadvertent errors. 

Peter Warfield and  

Gene Bernardi