Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday November 24, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Becky O’Malley’s recent editorial, “A Few Rays of Sunshine Pierce the Fog,” incorrectly posits that Tammy Duckworth ran for congress in Ohio. 

In actuality, Ms. Duckworth ran in Illinois’ sixth district. 

Danny Moss 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In your Nov. 21 article “UC Extension Building in SF May Become Mall, Condos,” you write “UC Berkeley’s controversial plans to convert its historic six-acre Laguna Street extension campus in San Francisco into a private development featuring condominiums and a shopping center are moving forward.” Further on in the article you describe the development as having affordable and market rate rental housing with one restaurant. This does not appear to be condominiums and a shopping center. You also note that the project is opposed by neighbors. You fail to mention the more than 400 letters of support for the project that have been sent to the Board of Supervisors. If you would like to talk to the developer of the proposed project, I would be happy to discuss it with you. Thank you for your consideration. 

Ruthy T. Bennett 

Vice President,  

AF Evans Development 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

In last Tuesday’s Daily Planet, J. Douglas Allen-Taylor’s article on instant runoff voting implementation incorrectly stated that “different forms of IRV have different methods of elimination that can have widely varying effects on the eventual winner,” claiming that eliminating more than one candidate in each round as under Oakland’s recently passed Measure O could result in a different winner than eliminating only one candidate in each round. 

In fact, the version of IRV specified in Oakland’s Measure O and the version where only one candidate can be eliminated in each round will always produce the same winner from a given set of choices by the voters. A group of candidates is eliminated simultaneously only when, if candidates were eliminated one at a time, they all would inevitably be eliminated before any other candidates (because the total of votes for all candidates in the group is less than the number of votes for the next lowest candidate). 

For example, if the first choices in an IRV election gave candidate A 10 votes, B 15, C 20, D 200, E 230 and F 300, candidates A, B and C would be eliminated simultaneously because their total of 45 votes is less than D’s 200 votes. Even if second and third choices from eliminating A and then B all went to C, candidate C would still have only 45 votes, fewer than D’s, E’s and F’s, so C would be the next candidate eliminated. The only potential differences would be the order of finish of losing candidates (in the example, which of B and C finished fourth and which fifth) and what would be in the reports for the official election results. This might matter to a few losing candidates who are desperate for a slightly bigger small accomplishment to claim, but in the real world, the only difference is the specifications the elections software vendor has to meet. 

Dave Kadlecek 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Your article listing 22 rounds for the KPFA board election results was one of the stupidest things you have ever run (“KPFA Elects New Board,” Nov. 21). What does it mean? Is the Planet into running press handouts now? 

What is important is knowing something about who the winners are, why the election matters, and what a new board means to the station not each round in, what could politely be called, a boxing match. The voting system the station uses means that one top vote getter on a slate drags most others on that person’s slate onto the board with them. Other slates and individuals have a tough time winning a seat. It precludes the possibility of a diversity of people or ideas and is a winner takes all system. You could have at least explained that if you are going to list “rounds” in lieu of reporting. 

John C. Sanderson 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The proposed changes in the present Oakland condo-conversion laws by Councilwoman Desley Brooks will eventually drive thousands of poor tenants out of the city and either into housing in the cheaper cities of the Central Valley or into the streets as new homeless. Contrary to her assertions, her proposed changes in the present condo conversion laws will not create one additional “housing opportunity.” It will merely change the rules and conditions for occupancy by making it two or three times as expensive. Assume that a tenant is currently paying $1,200 per month rent for a modest Oakland apartment. If this unit is converted into a condominium priced at $375,000, the new mortgage would be about $2,866 per month, based on a 5 percent FHA down payment of $18,000 (the normal real estate down payment is 20 percent, which would be about $75,000). 

This calculation is based upon a 6 percent mortgage simple interest rate that would amount to $1,875 per month plus a straight-line payoff of a 30-year mortgage principal of $357,000 at $991 per month. This totals to $2,866 per month. Also, where would a poor tenant get the $18,000 needed for the minimum down payment? Any financial “help” provided by the City of Oakland in this area will take tax-payer funds and neatly deposit them into the mortgage lender’s bank accounts and the landlord’s bank accounts… 

All of this additional expense and onerous new debt load for the dubious privilege to continue to live in a modest apartment in Oakland! Condo-conversion is the proverbial golden parachute for a landlord to cash out of being in the rental property business. Somehow, the waving of the condo-conversion wand does not turn an apartment into a “home.” To me, a home is stand-alone single-family house with its own front yard, side yard and back yard. 

Please note that the above rough calculations neglect the additional costs of mandatory property insurance, condo association monthly dues, the compounding of mortgage interest (banks love to charge interest on interest…) and other closing costs. The streets of condo-conversion are lined with landlord-gold. This plan sounds like it was designed by the Bush gang to drive poor people out of Oakland. 

James K. Sayre 






Editors, Daily Planet: 

Terribly sorry I frightened Mr. Cohen with my letter (not really). But then, he seems easily frightened. And, like others of the mayor’s opponents with no real issues, Mr. Cohen also seems fixated on Mayor Bates’ brief lapse of judgment four years ago.  

But of course, I’m always ready to be enlightened by experts about the First Amendment, which I cherish. I guess my years of civil liberties law practice, including defense of the Free Speech Movement in 1964-66, left gaping holes in my knowledge. For example, I naively thought that the First Amendment was not absolute in the area of election reform, and that contributions (“political speech”) to candidates could be regulated by amount and source (which does, now that I think of it, seem to be the law). Thus, it seems to me that by deviating from its normal practice of offering the paper only at news racks, the Daily Planet’s election issue which was home delivered, constituted an unreported (and therefore illegal) in-kind contribution to those candidates and measures. After all, that paper contained prominent endorsements (in addition to it’s slanted news stories) at no apparent charge to its endorsed candidates and initiatives. Perhaps I am wrong (I think it may be a close question), but I thought it appropriate to raise the problem directly with the paper rather than making a complaint to the local regulatory body. And to anyone who bought the paper’s reply that, inferentially, the practice was unrelated to the election or it’s endorsed candidates (some of whom I also endorsed), I have a couple of bridges I can let you have, cheap.  

Mal Burnstein 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Paul Rockwell continues his quest for a nefarious explanation for Pat Kernighan’s victory in Oakland’s District 2, this time accusing the Oakland Tribune and San Francisco Chronicle of “white press journalism” and of setting a different standard for an African American candidate because they are members of the Oakland Chamber of Commerce. 

First off, the obvious: The Oakland Chamber of Commerce has repeatedly endorsed African American candidates for both local and state races, including Assemblymember-Elect Sandre Swanson and Oakland City Councilmembers Desley Brooks and Larry Reid. If the Chamber, and by Rockwell’s implication, the Chronicle and Tribune, opposed Aimee Allison simply because she is black, he should at least explain what the Commerce was doing in the three cases I site above. 

Secondly, despite Rockwell’s outrage, Allison is indeed fairly “associated” with hit pieces and a push-poll because both were done on her behalf. “Associated” does not state that her campaign did them, but rather that there is some connection, which there is. If Rockwell holds Kernighan accountable for OakPAC’s actions on her behalf, which I think is fair, the street should run both ways. 

Thirdly, Rockwell is supposedly shocked that Chip Johnson did not believe Allison knew nothing of campaign activities done on her behalf. Chip is a columnist and gets to be opinionated and his opinion is nowhere near as ethically-challenged as Allison’s own public statements that she did not believe Pat’s same denials. That’s mud-slinging, my friends. When one candidate calls another a liar, how can that candidate take the moral highground? Where is Allison’s evidence? 

Fourthly, despite Rockwell’s paranoia, both articles he sites spend considerable space legitimizing the Allison campaign and pushing their framing of the race as “establishment” vs “change.” Indeed, just three days before, the Tribune dedicated a whole article to Aimee, providing space for her to declare her opposition to big business and big developers, alleged backroom deals in City Hall and to tout her promise to be an independent voice on the council. If the Tribune and the Chamber wanted her campaign dead, I can’t see how that article helped their case. 

Fifthly, the Pat mailer Rockwell mentioned slammed 4 candidates, not just Aimee. The comment about Aimee was something along the lines of her being big on rhetoric with no concrete experience. That remained true through her third loss, and the Allison campaign never once contested that Aimee had no actual record in District 2. The race issue in the flyer had nothing to do with Aimee, but rather concerned Shirley Gee, whom columnist Peggy Stinnet, charitably described by Rockwell as “respected,” openly supported. Gee eventually lost the race, but outpolled Allison. 

Rockwell needs to encourage Allison and all her allegedly “progressive” supporters to go back to the drawing board and create a real campaign. Allison can obviously motivate people to campaign for her, but she has nothing concrete to show to voters as evidence of her declared effectiveness. Until she has that, opponents as strong as Pat Kernighan won’t need some outrageous conspiracy to keep their seats--it’ll continue to be as easy as shooting fish in a barrel. 

Jerome Peters 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Even though California has some of the best election laws in the country, there are still significant issues. In the Nov. 7 election the touchscreen machines paper trail had problem after problem. Paper jams, inadequate training on loading the paper rolls, and difficulty in reading the rolls for the mandatory 1 percent manual audit are just a few. These machines should be outlawed. Optical scanning machines are far superior in many respects. With a sufficient audit of their results and open source software, these systems will fix many of the problems faced by voters, Registrars of Voters, and election integrity advocates. 

Michelle Gabriel 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

On Oct. 7 at about 8 p.m. I was struck by a car at Hearst and Ninth. I would like to thank all the people who stopped to help me. It comforted me to know that there were people around and that help was on the way. Again thank you everyone who stopped what they were doing to help me.  

That being said, I would like to talk about how the flower circle at Hearst and Ninth played a part in this unfortunate hit and run. First, the signs are vague. The continuous black indicator line, with directional arrows, does not have a break where the stop line is. This gives drivers the impression that they can continue without stopping. There is a stop sign at the intersection, but the ambiguous flower circle sign is the one that is right in front of drivers. The black circle should be a stop sign to reiterate to drivers that they must stop first then proceed. Making small changes to the flower circle signs should clear up any confusion as to how to proceed when confronted by your neighborhood flower circle.  

Second, the City of Berkeley should regulate the plants that are planted in the flower circles. Currently the city leaves the planting of the flower circles up to anyone who wants to plant something there. The flower circle at Hearst and Ninth has some tall plants in it that partially obscure the view across the circle, this is especially dangerous at night. When views over flower circles are obstructed it creates a dangerous situation for drivers and pedestrians alike. It is irresponsible of the city to leave something as important as pedestrian safety up to civilians. I agree with the police woman who stayed with me in the hospital and took my report. She said the flower circles should be cement discs, not nearly as pretty, but much safer.  

Third, the crosswalks need to be clearly marked. It just so happened that the one at Hearst and Ninth, on the south side of the circle, has a full crosswalk, but many only have a stop line. This makes it very unclear as to how pedestrians should proceed to cross the street. If we walk on the inside closer to the circle, then we are placed in the way of traffic entering the circle. If we walk on the other side of the stop line we are placed in the way of oncoming traffic. The city needs to be consistent and clear when marking crosswalks, especially around these flower circles that seem to be sprouting up everywhere.  

I would like to finish by saying, “keep your head up,” the life you save may be your own. There is no way this accident could have happened if the guy who hit me had his head up and was looking forward. I was clearly in the crosswalk, only a few steps from the other side of the street when he hit me. There are so many people in the world today; we no longer have the luxury of being distracted drivers, cyclists, skateboarders, or pedestrians. Let’s all try to watch out for one another, because next time it may be your grandmother, mother, sister, or daughter who is left lying in the middle of the road.  

Lastly I would like to say to the guy that hit me: Karma Muthafucka. 

Brenda Benson 






Editors, Daily Planet: 

Your editorial comments regarding Tammy Duckworth were laughably inaccurate. First of all, she is from Illinois, not Ohio, and was influenced to run by Senator Dick Durbin, who was Assistant Minority Leader, also from Illinois, not Ohio. Secondly, she was very progressive on Marriage Equality and advertised the Human Rights Campaign endorsement of her. She also refused to take to back away from equitable immigration reform, despite its portrayal as “amnesty” by her Republican counterparts. Finally, she lost by less than four percentage points, whereas the last candidate who “almost won” lost by three times as much and was far less targeted by her opposition. 

Kap Pratt 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Tammy Duckworth ran in IL-06 not Ohio. I volunteered for her. The rest of your post is just as off target. Christine Cegelis didn’t come close in 2004 and never would 

have won in 2006. 

In 2004 Hyde spent $804,000 defeating Christine with no help from the NRCC. God knows how much he donated to other candidates that year. He hardly campaigned because he was old and infirm then. He’s in a wheelchair now. Christine raised all of $189,938 in 2004. She got 44 percent in the district when compared to Obama’s 67 percent and the thoroughly swiftboated Kerry 47 percent. 

For 2006 she continued right on running after 2004 hoping to discourage any other challengers and raised all of $363,331 before closing her books in June. 16 months. Roskam who was unopposed in the primary raised a million by the primary after declaring in May 2005. 11 months. Duckworth raised about $750,000 before the primary after declaring in December 2005. 4 months. Tammy didn’t get a dollar from the DCCC before the primary. She got $250,000 each from Hillary and Kerry for commercials with Obama to give her name recognition. The rest came from all the free media she earned. 

Cegelis’s vaunted groundgame failed her on March 21. She lost by 4 percent when Lindy Scott the rightwing candidate got 16 percent of the vote. The moderate - by your standards - Duckworth got 44 percent and the supposed progressive Cegelis got 40 percent. I’ve never seen so much as a peep out of any Cegelis supporter against Scott even though he entered the race in August 2005. No wonder. In a two way race with Duckworth Cegelis would have been crushed. 

Rahm didn’t pick Duckworth. Dick Durbin coaxed her to run. In exchange she got a promise from him to get her enough financing to win both the primary and general. He then brought in Obama, Kerry, Hillary and Rahm. BTW what office has Cegelis ever held? What race has she ever won? 

If she expects to try again I suggest she go the Melissa Bean route. Buddy up to the Chamber of Commerce and milk it for all it’s worth. No single House candidate raised as much money as Bean this year. Repubs spent about $10 million defeating Duckworth robbing their other campaigns of desperately needed money and staffers. There’s no way Christine can win without a fundraising effort like Duckworth had. In the end Tammy outraised Roskam by about $400,000.  

Mark Garrity 

Downers Grove IL