Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday December 08, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am saddened to learn about the move of the Berkeley Traffic Court to Oakland. As the Berkeley Trial Court administrator from 1997 through March of this year, I worked closely with city and county officials to develop the kind of programming most needed and desired by the community. With the help of Supervisor Keith Carson, Mayor Shirley Dean, Dion Aroner, Loni Hancock and various members of the City Council, the Superior Court entered into a negotiated agreement with the City of Berkeley and the County of Alameda that would provide for a beautifully refurbished courthouse to remain at the foot of Center Street for the next 50 years.  

The Berkeley Courthouse was specifically constructed with one large non-jury courtroom for traffic matters, and one smaller non-jury courtroom for small claims and domestic violence matters. Clerical offices were designed to provide public services in the areas of civil/small claims, traffic, and court collections. The civil office was authorized to accept any type of Superior Court filing including family law, probate, and unlimited civil litigation as a convenience to the local bar.  

The Traffic Court served a much greater role in the community than just a forum for persons accused of motor vehicle violations. It also served persons accused of violating open container laws, incidental drug use, homelessness, trespassing, and even unlawful skateboarding. It was truly the People’s Court of Berkeley. Once moved to Oakland, it will no longer have ties to the community, nor will it serve in that capacity. 

I am hopeful that this change is merely temporary, driven by a need for the Superior Court to quickly vacate a court building in Oakland recently deemed unfit, and that the Berkeley Courthouse will return to its former level of service once a new courthouse is completed in Pleasanton. 

Benjamin D. Stough 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Here in Berkeley we talk about getting out of our cars, but there is no plan for a practical transportation system that would really get us out of our cars. For example, in Paris as in other cities there is a Metro station every 100 yards with trains that run often and on time. In Mexico City they have one-peseta and two-peseta taxis that travel the mail drags and stop wherever hailed. Here, we have only cumbersome AC transit which runs late and infrequently. Our wonderful Arts District in downtown Berkeley is not served by AC transit after 6 p.m. 

We need to think of ways to provide good public transportation—beyond AC Transit. I would love to see a shuttle/jitney that goes from the base of Solano Avenue, down Shattuck to the Ashby BART station, another that goes down University Avenue, down Dwight Way, down Ashby, and maybe even Cedar, across Sacramento, etc. With this kind of system to give a local service for BART, being car-less would be more possible. 

The taxi scrip system for seniors and disabled people is only half-heartedly funded by the city. We have to fight for continued funding, and they constantly chip away at it—now it is only for low-income people, and the taxi drivers no longer have the convenience of cashing scrip often, so they are reluctant to honor it. Why not have taxi scrip for everyone? That would really reduce cars. 

I know about CarShare and bike routes, but that is for the able and well off. We need a transportation system that would serve working people and seniors and disabled that would feed into the business districts and the Arts district. Everyone would benefit. 

Margot Smith 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

We never had a true reason to invade Iraq and there are only two reasons we are there now: 

1. To secure oil for the large oil/energy moguls in the USA and possibly Saudi Arabia. 

2. Because leaders are afraid that they or the United States will appear weak. 

There is no graceful way to admit a tragic mistake of this magnitude. If we can’t be graceful, at least we can attempt to be honorable by owning up to what we’ve done and doing the right thing, which will be leaving now, wait for the dust to settle and offering aid to repair the damage we created. 

If this seems a bitter pill for us to swallow, think of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi’s who have lost their lives or had their lives shattered. Think of the Americans who have given their lives, their bodies and all to what purpose? Oil and ego? There is no real purpose and most soldiers in Iraq and most Americans will tell you that. Knowing this, how can we ask Americans to lay down their lives for one more day? 

This war must stop and apparently the only way this can happen is fro Congress to stop funding the war. 

P.S. This administration tells us that Social Security is going broke, yet they have developed billions upon billions of dollars to fight this war in Iraq? 

Lawrence Arsenault 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regan Richardson’s Dec. 5 letter asks for an explanation of the “miracle” that the Trader Joe’s project would reduce the number of daily car trips. It might be a draw, but has Richardson considered the exodus of Berkeley traffic on their way to Trader Joe’s in Emeryville or El Cerrito? 

Gerta Farber 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

What a relief! After reading the last bit of Glen Kohler’s letter I feel liberated from the usual PC-enforced respect. Now I can safely use the formerly derogatory insult “gypsy” to refer to anyone “not served or bound by societal conventions.” Of course Kohler should probably have made it a little more specific, saying something about thievery and hygiene, for instance. I wonder how soon the rest of us will be able to reclaim other choice “stock terms” like “nigger” and “spic” and “gook” (meaning anyone not served or bound by white conventions), “kike” (meaning anyone not served or bound by Christian conventions), “faggot” and “dyke” (meaning anyone not served or bound by heterosexual conventions). Certainly these other “stock terms” are as devoid of hatred and dehumanization as “gypsy.” So thanks Mr. Kohler, for opening the door and allowing us to use such neutral terms in public again without fear of scorn or rebuke. 

C. Boles 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The recent drug war and homeless attack on People’s Park by the UC police and Berkeley police wanting more clear lines of view into the west end of the park so the cops won’t have to get out of theirs cars must be exposed as what it is—an attack on the park and an ongoing attack on all of us. 

With the prohibition of drugs comes the high price of drugs, which has made it a very profitable trade, and because there are very few good paying jobs, our homes, streets and parks have become market places. In today’s newspaper reports, there are over seven million of our sisters and brothers “in the arms of the law,” one of every 32 American adults. A third of the seven million are in prison, which is up from last year. The children and families of the drug war casualties are hurt forever. According to the Sentencing Project reports in the age group 25-29, the racial disparities are one in 13 black men incarcerated (7.7 percent) verses 2.6 percent of the Hispanic population and 1.1 percent for white men. From 1995-2003 “inmates in federal prison for drug offenses have accounted for 49 percent of total prison population growth.” This only amplifies racism, division, and hatred among us. Worse of all the drug prohibition does not solve the problem. Drug use is at the same levels. 

The attack on the homeless is for sure an attack or war on all of us. The government has taken away the housing subsidies for the people and gave it to the landlords. The Western Regional Advocacy Project really lays it out how the feds stop giving $53 billion per year over the last 25 years for housing. 

Just like the war in Iraq is to steal the wealth of the people of Iraq, the drug war and the war on the homeless is to bring in big profits for the corporations by bringing down our wages and destroying collective solutions and our unions. Everybody is afraid of going to jail or being thrown into the street.  

Michael Delacour 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

People’s Park cruelly neglects the needs of the rich.  

Two representatives of the wealthy Willard Neighborhood Association came to a Dec. 4 People’s Park Community Advisory Board Meeting to insist that while they appreciated People’s Park’s greenery and gardens, they still worry that most of their neighbors don’t feel “comfortable” there.  

Let’s admit it: Long-time park activists have sorely neglected the needs of the wealthy in the user-developed design of the park. Basketball, for instance, is offered as a recreational option, while polo is nowhere to be found.  

There’s no reason that the park can’t have a free-box with warm, clean clothes for the poor, while also offering financial counseling and tips about hedge funds for the rich. Let’s work together to make sure the needs of the wealthy are given equal weight in a new, fresh design for People’s Park, so that homeless people and people with time-share condos in Cabo can all play canasta together.  

Carol Denney 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was disappointed to read Christopher Cherney’s laundry list of complaints about our neighborhood. It would be far more helpful to hear about what people are doing—maybe Christopher himself is doing something—to help improve the situation. 

Michael Carreira 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Jerry Landis, in his Dec. 1 letter, asks, “And where does the council think that electricity [for electric cars] comes from?” In replying that it mostly comes “from coal-burning generating plants, far more polluting than cars,” Landis perpetuates the myth that electric cars are connected by long extension cords to the electrical grid while they drive, and thereby depend on coal-fired generation plants. 

Most electric cars are powered by batteries which are re-charged overnight, at a time when power companies can scarcely give electricity away. When I leased an electric car from Honda (for four years), PG&E installed a time-of-use meter in my house, charging one-third of commercial rates between midnight and 7 a.m. My total electric bill actually went down! At night, moreover, it is as likely that electricity is generated by wind or hydro as by coal. 

Of course, the more fanatic electric-car owner will install solar panels, contributing to the power grid during the day, and drawing power back from the grid at night. What could be more green? 

Alan H. Nelson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Sen. Hillary Clinton is considering a run for president in 2008. I like Hillary Clinton but she has negatives dogging her. She automatically loses tens of millions of votes from the religious and conservative right. Clinton is a divisive figure even though it’s not of her own doing.  

What about other Democratic stars who wouldn’t start the presidential campaign with a lot of baggage. Evan Bayh, Bill Bradley and John Edwards are proven winners without an entourage of negatives.  

With Hillary Clinton as presidential candidate, Democrats would be shooting themselves in the foot before the race even began. 

Ron Lowe  

Grass Valley  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The world is facing huge ecological catastrophes. Our universities should be radically re-directing our resources to studying ways to turn around the causes and find solutions to get as many species through this collapse as possible, most notably our own. 

Spending millions of dollars to build an elite training gym on a precious oak grove is complete insanity! 

UC is so manipulated by corporate financial interests that not only is its contribution to solutions of humanity’s pressing problems minimal but it is unfortunately actively plummeting us in the direction of doom. Nukes, bio tech, and nano technologies are far more likely to harm than help the delicate ecology we need for survival. And don’t be fooled by a new proposed bio-fuel research mega-project. It will be in the vein of the disastrous industrial agriculture practices that are the problem. 

Of course there are voices of reason and hope within the university: Miguel A. Altieri, Ignacio Chapela, Patrick Archie, the Agrariana student group, the organic garden, the projects for sustainable Ag at Gill Tract (and the struggle to preserve it), the Save the Oaks Student group, some elements of the College of Natural Resources etc. It is toward these efforts the University should be directing it’s resources.  

We have so much to lose if the university is allowed to aggressively head down the tracks of doom fueled by a blind corporate greed. The building plans UC has, as reported in the Dec. 5 Berkeley Daily Planet, are very alarming. Please, sane reverent people, speak up. 

Cyndi Johnson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was appalled to read that Jane Brunner had blocked an appointment to the Oakland Planning Commission because she objects to the nominee’s positions on abortion and gun control. The planning commission never makes a ruling that has any bearing on those issues. It is this sort of behavior that has created the polarization that is plaguing the nation. If you don’t like his stance on those issues, it makes sense to oppose him for positions that involve health care and police policy, but there is no good reason to keep him off the planning commission that is not directly related to urban planning. 

Marcella L. Murphy 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was dismayed to read about the ABAG quota for new housing units in Berkeley. Although I agree that Berkeley needs affordable housing, we also need to remember why we love living in Berkeley. Personally, as a resident of the flats and a neighbor to Ashby BART, I enjoy walking through residential streets, admiring the gardens of neighbors, and knowing most of the other residents of my block. When huge increases in density are proposed (such as the ridiculous transit village idea) I know it will directly affect me. As usual, they are suggesting that these 2,712 units be built downtown, along major corridors, and close to public transportation (why do they never propose higher density in the more upscale neighborhoods?). In the past affordable housing was built to fit in with Berkeley. For example, Savo Island (bordered by Adeline, Stewart, Milvia, Oregon and Ward) has 57 units that were built for families, seniors and disabled people. Even at that size, it still feels somewhat densely populated as compared to the surrounding neighborhood. However high rise apartments, condos etc. will not enhance the quality of life in Berkeley. Here’s what really gets me: ABAG can dictate to member cities and counties our public policy. I thought that if policies are required which impact our daily quality of life, that we could vote to throw the suckers out! However, ABAG is not an elected board. While I appreciate a “regional approach” to transportation and air quality issues, I certainly don’t want city policy dictated by an unrepresentative board. I look forward to the Planet doing some further reporting on who and how people are appointed to ABAG, and what their agenda is. 

Nora Goodfriend-Koven 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Instead of shopping at a mega-mall, I consciously decided to patronize a locally owned merchant in downtown Berkeley on a recent visit to the area. Figuring I was safe, I parked in a spot flanked with “90 minute parking” signs. As I returned to my car well within 90 minutes, my stomach sank as I noticed the small white envelope stuffed under my windshield wiper. Thanks to the arcane City of Berkeley parking regulations, I was slapped with a $30 visitor’s tax, AKA parking ticket. Merchants take heed: your city creates an uninviting environment for visitors wishing to patronize your stores. Next time, I will spend my dollars with local merchants in my own town rather than risk another encounter with Berkeley’s guerrilla parking department.  

Lisa Hill 

Reno, Nevada