Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday December 05, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Much opposition to the Trader Joe’s project understandably focuses on the prospect of added traffic congestion in that area. I suggest that this offers a significant opportunity. MLK/University is one of many major Berkeley intersections that suffer from lack of modern traffic control. I propose that congestion from the TJ project could be almost totally offset by providing adequate control signals—coordinated left-turn arrows in all four directions at both University and Berkeley Way. Though Berkeley seems disinclined to spend money on modernizing our traffic control system, which is at least 50 years out of date, to bring it up to the standards of Albany, El Cerrito, or Emery-ville, let me suggest that you make it a condition of the TJ project that the developers be required to pay for the traffic control system. 

Jerry Landis 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I can’t agree more with Art Goldberg’s opposition to the North Berkeley Plaza! Anything that will make Berkeley more like Paris and less like the San Fernancdo Valley must be stopped! Join us for our march and protest song: 

Asphalt forever! 

Where the car is king. 

Asphalt forever! 

Never change a thing ... 

Mitchell Gass 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Concerning “Community Ponders Planned Changes to People’s Park” (Daily Planet, Dec. 1), it seems there are all kinds of annoying weeds lurking behind those berms! How long before we, who are lucky enough to hide our behaviors behind house walls, are subjected to such police abuse? 

Gerta Farber 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I continue to read in Riya Bhattacharjee’s coverage of the Trader Joe’s project at 1885 University Avenue that “those in favor of the project had said that it would reduce the number of daily car trips by a large margin.” At no time has any one of these pro- 

ject supporters satisfactorily explained how this miracle might occur. The Bay Area has the highest per capita car ownership of all of California, not to mention the entire United States. There is no guarantee that tenants of this project will not own cars, nor is there any guarantee that tenants of 1885 University will work in the immediate neighborhood and use public transportation. The continuing  

fantasy of a pedestrian-only housing project is but a pipe dream. 

Further, according to the traffic study attached to this project, a residential project of this size containing a Trader Joe’s will generate an estimated 1,300-plus extra car trips per day in this neighborhood. So please, Ms. Bhattacharjee, I implore you to investigate further the transparently false claim that car use will be dramatically reduced by this project. This is clearly fuzzy math! 

Regan Richardson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The dissolution of Berkeley’s traffic and small claims courts is indeed a disaster, for all of the reasons given in the Daily Planet article. And the experience of attending court is going to be far more arduous to unsuspecting Berkeley drivers than Pat Sweeten at Alameda County Superior Court is letting on. 

According to Richard Brenneman, Ms. Sweeten asserts that the experience in Oakland is convenient—supposedly because Oakland has more parking. But convenient for whom remains to be seen. My occasional liberties with traffic laws in recent years have lead me to sample the service in both courts. If you are used to settling up in Berkeley, you won’t like going to Oakland. 

Oakland handles a lot of “cases” (people). It has a bigger building with more sheriffs, who use a noticeably higher profile to “make ’em behave” than the quiet crew in the lobby at Berkeley. It is really crowded. And seriously cold in the morning (late fall through early spring) at 6:30 or 7 a.m.—which is when you must get there for same-day court. Cold air from the Alameda Estuary, funneled by the police building on one side and the Manuel W. Wiley Courthouse on the other, picks up speed right where you wait on the sidewalk for the sheriffs to process you. Which takes a while. You find yourself praying that a guy 10 people in front will finally get through the metal detector, so that in 10 more minutes you can step halfway into the breezy doorway, which you hope is better than the breezy sidewalk but isn’t really until you get all the way inside. 

Commissioner John Rantzman is a fair and compassionate judge who goes as far as he can to put people at their ease while discussing the business at hand. He and the helpful Berkeley court clerks are an irreplaceable loss to our community, which every day I reach out to feel for, as if in a dark room. 

Richmond is beefing up police and fire services. The CHP is hiring. And Oakland expands, while incredible, shrinking Berkeley wastes away under the eagle eye of Tom Bates, et al: stalwart and silent in the game of keep-away from the public vital decisions about our city and society. 

And all due respect to Mr. Silber-Becknell, for whom the only word that stood out in a diatribe about the homeless was “gypsies”: a stock term in our language for those not served or bound by societal conventions. 

Glen Kohler 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The position of library director seems very important these days, with our recent history of the old director installing a very expensive “surveillance” technology, radio frequency identification (RFID), against the wishes of the public and cutting hours and staff at all the libraries in Berkeley, not to mention throwing out thousands of books so as not to have to put in the 60-cent RFID tags. So I was quite alarmed to hear that Dubberly and Garcia had been chosen by the advisory committee of librarians to select among a number of director candidates. (Dubberly and Garcia is a head hunting firm know for its role in privatizing libraries in the United States.) 

I was at the library early on Saturday Nov. 18 to hear statements by the four candidates winnowed down by some secret process from the 13 chosen by Dubberly and Garcia and to see for myself who they were and ask  

some questions. I heard an announcement over the PA system about some other event about to take place somewhere in the library that morning, however, it was never announced over the PA system that the public was invited to hear and question the candidates running for director. 

The only announcement I had come across about the meeting was on the calendar page of the Berkeley Daily Planet amid all the other events going on in Berkeley that week. Were the trustees really taking seriously what the public’s reaction to the candidates was and will they take our opinions and desires into consideration? Doesn’t look too hopeful. 

Jane Welford 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Board of Library Trustees, in their rush to select one of the candidates for director of our public library, have shunned the public by failing to properly notify members of the public of a candidates forum followed by a special closed meeting and a soiree held in connection with the candidates selection process. Failure to notify persons who have requested that a copy of the agenda of any meeting of the Board of Library Trustees be mailed to them, is a violation of Section 54954.1 of the 


Brown Act. Persons, requesting notification by mail, did not receive a notice of the Saturday, Nov. 18 special closed meeting preceded by a 20-minute public comment period held to discuss the selection of a new library director. 

Some may consider it iffy whether members of the community, who have so requested, should have received notification by mail of the Saturday, Nov. 18 candidates forum at which the candidates made presentations to the public and answered questions. However, since all five trustees were present at that forum, it was, therefore, a meeting by definition in the Brown Act, requiring prior notification, including by mail, to those so requesting. The Brown Act states a “ ‘meeting’ includes any congregation of a majority of the members of a legislative body at the same time and place to hear, discuss or deliberate upon any item...within the...jurisdiction of the legislative body.…” 

And, again, there was the Nov. 17, 7p.m., Friday night wine and cheese soiree in the lobby of the Berkeley Public Library to which the four candidates for library director, the members of the three review panels (held Thursday and Friday), members of the Friends of the Library, the Berkeley Public Library Foundation and the library trustees were invited. A majority of the trustees attended this occasion. But, could it be said to be “purely social” considering the party was wedged in between two days of interviewing candidates until 6 p.m. Friday and more candidate presentations on Saturday? According to the Brown Act [54952.2 (c) (5)] even if an event is considered “purely social” it is an illegal meeting if a majority of the members of a legislative body are present and they discuss among themselves business within their jurisdiction. At least four of the library trustees were present at the party and trustees Moore and Kupfer were observed having a “pow-wow.” Considering the circumstances, can it be credible that no trustees discussed the matter at hand, selection of a new library director? 

If you are concerned about the selection of a new library director, we heard via the grapevine, over two weeks ago, that there will be a third special closed meeting of the library trustees preceded by a public comment period, on Wednesday, Dec. 6, possibly at 7 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center. Please call Library Administration at 981-6195) to confirm time and place and attend and express your concerns. 

Gene Bernardi 

SuperBOLD (Berkeleyans Organizing For Library Defense) 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Many of us in the community are following with interest and some trepidation the process for selection of Berkeley’s next library director. Thanks to last Friday’s commentary piece in this paper, as well as an articles in the Nov. 17 and Nov. 21 issues, we know that the four finalists gave presentations two weeks ago. Most comments coming to light since then are not enthusiastic. 

Meanwhile, the Board of Library Trustees who are entrusted with making the selection, have met twice: once on Nov. 18 (from 3 p.m. long into the evening) and again on Nov. 29 for at least several hours. Still, there’s no decision. What is taking them so long? At this point in the process, it should be absolutely clear! What’s going on in those hours and hours of closed meetings? What’s clear is that there’s no front-runner. What’s clear is that Berkeleyans are concerned. 

Our fear is the Board of Library Trustees is debating the lesser of the four evils. After three years of struggle and damage to our library, including cutbacks in hours and an unwanted expenditure of $1-2 million (depends on who you ask) on a useless RFID system, isn’t it worth a few more months to go out and look for the undeniably right person for the job? Undeniably, the wrong person for the job is candidate Rivkah Sass who is quoted in Library Journal as saying she cleaned out a floor of her currently library in Omaha, because it was “filled with old junk.” We’ve had enough of that in Berkeley. Let’s preserve our history, our library, our community. Surely, if we can pay $150,000 plus, annually for a library director, there must be better candidates out there. 

The Board of Library Trustees meets again this Wednesday, Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. (though they sometimes change the time at the last minute) at the South Berkeley Senior Center. The meeting begins with 20 minutes of public comment, so please, come out and speak to this issue.  

Rosemary Vimont, Sarah Kotzamani, H. Garabedian, S. Culver 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Art Goldberg claims that the proposed North Shattuck Plaza is a “stalking-horse for high-rise development” because “Laurie Capitelli, a prime mover of the plaza project, annexed a stretch of city property into his condo development on Hearst Street between Milvia and Henry Streets.” The facts belie this claim. 

When Capitelli proposed that project, he expected to get it through the Zoning Adjustments Board without delay, and he was disappointed that it was sent to mediation after neighborhood residents (including me) asked him to widen the sidewalk and add landscaping. It was only later that he began to back the neighborhood proposal and helped to move it through the city bureaucracy. At the time, I got the impression that he backed it because he was convinced it was a real improvement to the city, and all his work for the city since then confirms my impression. 

Before this change, this stretch of Hearst had four lanes. Traffic was fast, dangerous and noisy. Between Henry and Shattuck, there was no parking on the south side of Hearst, so traffic passed only a few feet from residents’ windows. 

After the change, this stretch of Hearst was narrowed from four lanes to two lanes plus bicycle lanes, slowing traffic and increasing the distance between the traffic and residences. The change has made the neighborhood quieter, safer, and more attractive. 

No land was “annexed” by the condo development: there is a fence at the property line that divides the development from the public right-of-way, which is in the same location as in the original proposal. The added landscaping did not allow more development: the condo development itself is no different than it would have been if the roadway had not been narrowed. The only differences are in the public right-of-way, where on-street parking has been restored east of Henry St. and a 10-foot-width of asphalt has been replaced by a ten-foot-width of landscaping west of Henry Street. 

It seems that Art Goldberg dislikes development so much that he even dislikes improvements in the public right-of-way that a developer provided because local residents said they would make their neighborhood more livable. Or maybe he just dislikes grass and trees and prefers asphalt. 

Charles Siegel 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

On Wednesday, Pearl Harbor anniversary eve, Random House Inc. will publish the Iraq Study Group report just in time to become the essential gift for the political junkie on your Christmas list. 

Pre-publication hoopla started two weeks before the November elections and quickly moved past the Woodward precedent to that National Book Award stature attained not long ago by publication a prequel in the same genre titled The 9/11 Commission Report. Expectations are again stimulated by assorted page one leaks and peeks—pull back as many as 15 brigades, enlist help from Iran and Syria, etc. 

IGS will almost certainly outsell 9/11, not because it’s cheaper and shorter or because it may be brutal in rejecting current policy but because the stars who produced it have long out-shown all others in the political firmament. Your Christmas present is guaranteed, therefore, to get a gleeful reception; celebrities know how to sell.  

Grouped with James A Baker III (intimate of presidents) are two tokens: Sandra Day O’Connor (female) and Vernon Jordon (black), two Democrats: Leon Panetta and William Perry. plus five top-flight Republican formers: Guliani (mayor), Gates (CIA), Simpson, Hamilton and Robb (Senators). The convergence of persons of comparable experience and versatility for an independent bipartisan endeavor is rare. If there were some procedure for measuring collective experience and political brain-power, like a group IQ, this group would rate in the genius category. 

Caveat emptor; let the Christmas shopper be aware, however. Like many bestsellers the title is slightly misleading for despite our nation’s widespread ignorance of Iraq the group did not study Iraq itself but rather they pondered what to do about the ongoing tragic bloody mess. Rumors have it that the ISG report will set down alternatives for a change of course. Wow! 

Rumors aside, the nation’s history with investigations, commissions and study groups, on every conceivable subject—education, crime, medical care, drugs, security etc. indicates caution. Whether independent, partisaned, bi-partisaned, or blue ribboned, all reports arrive in the end at exactly the same conclusion. “Further study is needed,” which, like “Amen,” actually means “to be continued.”  

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a progressive who became all too familiar with the Black Panthers, I find it appalling that institutions of higher learning—such as the recent “celebration” at Merritt College—continue to create the illusion that there is much to celebrate about that less-than-admirable organization. While the Panthers’ articulated goals were honorable, and some young, idealistic black people joined the organization, in reality the Panther leadership exhibited a level of corruption, misogyny and outright murder that render fraudulent the many attempts, such as the recent Merritt colloquium, which depict the Panthers as praiseworthy. Young, impressionable students deserve the truth about the Panthers, not a ”whitewashing.” 

Merritt’s students should be encouraged to read honest reports about the Panthers, by fine journalists like Kate Coleman, among others. They should be told of numerous viscious crimes committed by that organization such as the well-known story of a young bookkeeper sent by Ramparts magazine to help the Panthers with their accounting. Not long after she determined that the Panthers were cooking the books for their ballyhooed breakfast program, the body of the single mother of three was discovered floating in the bay. This and innumerable other stories of the violence attendant to the Panthers’ leadership and its patently phony revolutionary rhetoric do not merit the praise professors like John Drisson and former Panthers continue to promulgate. 

Dan Spitzer 





Editors, Daily Planet: Revan Tranter’s Dec. 1 letter challenging my earlier Nov. 28 commentary on the Green Party of California’s election successes, missed the proverbial forest for the single tree in his criticism of the party. 

Mr. Tranter correctly states that elected municipal and county-level offices across California are—technically speaking—“nonpartisan” positions. However, it is an obvious axiom of politics that most, if not all, elected offices (at any level) are inherently political, and the purpose of political parties is to democratically win these positions. 

In fact, the very definition of “political party” is “an organization seeking political power” ( 

California’s “nonpartisan” status for municipal and county-level offices is a direct legacy of the state’s Progressive Era reforms between roughly 1910 and 1920. At the time, California’s political parties and their elected officials were transparently corrupted and controlled by railroad and oil companies like Southern Pacific and Standard Oil that dominated the state economically and politically. 

Elected municipal and county-level offices such as Sherriff, Auditor, Fire Chief, etc were also controlled/tainted by these same corrupt political parties and corporate monopolies. Progressive, clean government reformers such as Governor Hirim Johnson (1910-1918) spearheaded the effort to rectify this situation. One reform measure established that all municipal/county-level elected offices be declared nonpartisan. 

Another Progressive Era reform measure is California’s current ballot proposition system: the idea at the time was to enable voters to circumvent the power of corporate monopolies over politicians and legislation, and allow the voters themselves to pass necessary legislation directly by ballot. 

Finally, regarding Mr. Tranter’s claim that Florida Green Party voters purportedly enabled George W Bush to win the 2000 presidential election (by voting for Ralph Nader): this myth represents the bitter and hypocritical musings of frustrated Al Gore supporters. It needs to be remembered that roughly half a million Florida Democratic Party members voted for George W. Bush rather than Al Gore during the 2000 election. 

Chris Kavanagh 



Save the Oaks for the Whole Team 


Without a doubt, UC Berkeley’s Jeff Tedford is one of the most talented and dedicated coaches working in collegiate athletics today. His record of success speaks for itself. As a teacher, I know how difficult it is to gain the trust and respect of young people, and then inspire them work as hard as they can to reach their true potential. Coach Tedford is the real deal, and his players and assistant coaches know it. He genuinely cares about the program and is trying to do his best for the team. 

The problem is this: Coach Tedford has forgotten that the community is also an important part of his team. As taxpayers, we provide Coach Tedford’s salary. In fact, we provide the salaries of all of the assistant coaches, trainers, and athletic medical staff—not to mention the funds to maintain Memorial Stadium. We pay to maintain the roadways that fans use to drive to the game, and our neighborhoods provide the parking spaces for thousands of fans for each game. Many of us must plan our schedules around the football games, because we have limited access to our residences due to the major traffic jams that accompany each home game. We must also contend with noise disturbances from parties that last for hours both during and after the game—and often extend until the early morning hours. Now, blasting noise also accompanies many of the practices in the form of “simulated crowd noise,” so the noise disturbances extend throughout the week. The talented football players that represent UC Berkeley are only part of Coach Tedford’s team: we, the members of the Berkeley community, are also an important part of his larger team. We’re all in this together. 

Coach Tedford certainly understands the he would not achieve any success on the field if he responded to the needs of only half of the football players on his team. When he ignores the interests of the larger community, he is ignoring the needs of the members of his larger “team”—including most everybody living in Berkeley, to be sure—who are impacted by the decisions he and his staff make about our lives.  

Coach, the vast majority of the members of your larger team do not want you to harm the oak grove by Memorial Stadium. They would like you to find another way to build a new gymnasium—one that does not require the destruction of this irreplaceable grove of trees, the last remaining oak woodland in the entire Berkeley lowlands. Because there are good alternative sites available for the gym that will not require the destruction of the oak grove, they would prefer that you pursue one of these alternatives and spare these beautiful trees. It will be impossible for you to achieve the success you dream of if you ignore the wishes of half your team.  

Doug Buckwald 



IDs Come Home to Roost: The UCPD Taser Case in a Global Context 

By now many people have seen the shocking YouTube images of a UCLA student being tasered by UCPD while refusing to be “escorted” out of the library because he didn’t have his student ID on him. Several weeks out, an ironic twist has emerged in the case. 

Since Mostafa Tabatabainejad, the student who got electro-shocked multiple times by UCPD, is an Iranian-American, the Iranian government has been quick to express shock at this show of US police aggression against “one of its own.” 

The twist is that Mostafa is a Baha’i, which is a religious minority in Iran that is heavily persecuted by the Iranian state, clergy, and your run-of-the mill zealots. Routinely denied civil rights and frequently arrested and even killed for identifying as Baha’is in their homeland, members of this faith, are part of a world-wide diaspora. Their crime: belief in Baha’u’llah and his teachings of oneness and unity, under a state that mandates that Muhammad was the Seal of the Prophets. 

The fact that the Iranian state would express consternation at the ill-treatment of a Baha’i is one layer of irony. The fact that Mostafa’s ill-treatment is a result of failing to show his identification is even more poignant, since Baha’i’s in Iran are persecuted precisely for failing to renounce their identification. 

To speak nothing of the Iranian police violence against non-Baha’I students at Tehran University a few yrs back, the ongoing harassment and penalization of Baha’i’s there, adds an amazing twist to the Iranian government’s intervention in Mostafa’s case. Even while they may very well have plans to throw his (hypothetical) Baha’i cousins in jail next wk for simply practicing their faith, the minister of foreign affairs or whoever is busy faxing Washington about their “outrage” at Mostafa getting tasered. 

Note: At this writing, the UN confirms that a new governmental surveillance program has been initiated to monitor the activities of Baha’i’s, and that 129 Baha’is are awaiting trial on false charges, targeted solely because of their religion. 

Ruha Benjamin 


Alameda Landing. 

Action Alameda urged Alameda citizens today to appear at the city council meeting Tuesday night to ask council to defer approval of the new proposed Disposition and Development Agreement (DDA) for Alameda Landing until both citizens and city council have had sufficient time to review this new agreement. 

Although the concept of re-development of the property has been discussed in public for some time, on Tuesday, Dec. 5 the council is being asked to approve a new financial proposal that has not had sufficient circulation to allow a full review by citizens. 

Action Alameda co-founder Denise Brady said “We are not necessarily opposed to the project. Our biggest concern is a process that negotiates agreements with developers behind closed doors, then announces the agreement while at the same time asking for approval of the agreement. While there has been public input on the concept of Alameda Landing, there has been no public input on this new agreement.” Brady recommends a public workshop to allow citizens to understand the true cost to the city of the proposal and to determine if it helps accomplish the goals of the city. 

At the same time Action Alameda announced some specific concerns related to the proposal itself, including: 

The city also has plans to develop Alameda Point which will rely on the same traffic corridor and access point as Alameda Landing. Alameda Landing traffic may consume much of the available capacity leaving little for Alameda Point. 

The original proposal called for Catellus to provide a “Tinker Avenue” connection to their development which would route traffic more efficiently to and from island access points. The current proposal calls for Catellus to pay "in lieu fees." Instead of in lieu fees the developer should pay for this infrastructure upgrade to Tinker Avenue. 

The current “revised configuration” includes 300 new homes with increased retail space and reduced commercial office space. The newly proposed retail mix includes potential for several big-box-type stores which tend to bring mostly minimum wage job opportunities. Commercial space would bring higher paying jobs that would allow more Alameda residents to live and work on the island, reducing traffic pressure on our access points. 

The city council meeting takes place at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 5 at City Hall at 2263 Santa Clara Ave. 

Action Alameda is a grassroots community action group that welcomes Alameda residents of any race, home ownership status or political party registration. 

David Howard