Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday December 12, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Why didn’t the Daily Planet report on Berkeley Public Library’s new “Berkeley History Online” service? The Daily Cal had a front page story with photos on Thursday, 12/7. The East Bay Daily News also reported on this wonderful website that offers historical images of Berkeley. (Go to for the link.) 

Many readers are tired of the constant divisiveness fomented by the Daily Planet. The paper should present some news on issues and culture that build community rather than encourage bickering and false differences. 

Jane Scantlebury 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

While I think the suggestion for a modern traffic signal system at the MLK/University intersection is a good one (Jerry Landis, Letters, Dec. 5), it will do little to reduce the bottleneck that will occur particularly during rush hour as shoppers idle in the street waiting to get into the lot in order to pick something up on the way home. It also fails to provide additional parking for nearby stores which will be stressed by the development. 

And it does it little to encourage foot traffic. As a car-less shopper, I know that lugging groceries home by foot or on public transit is an onerous task most shoppers are loath to try. 

Therefore, I would like to offer the following additional suggestions (to be paid for by the developer and/or store, of course): 

1) Require TJ’s or any store that locates in the commercial space to provide free, same-day delivery service to all Berkeley shoppers. 

2) Require the developer to provide for ample street level parking for bikes, particularly bikes with trailers. 

3) Turn University from MLK to Oxford into a two-lane street with angle parking along the curbs on either side. This would not only increase parking for nearby businesses, it would slow traffic into downtown (as recommended by the experts) and could provide downtown with a sense of place. 

Joanne Kowalski 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I noticed that the Berkeley Daily Planet ran several articles about Berkeley Honda’s labor dispute, and thought you might be interested in the sad story of our maid friends at the Woodfin Suites Hotel in Emeryville. The Berkeley Honda activists are partnering with us to protest what’s been happening at the Woodfin Suites Hotel in Emeryville. 

Our family has lived at the Woodfin for two and a half years because a condominium we bought developed mold. The developer hasn’t fixed it for more than two and a half years. About 20 other families have been displaced by the mold in our building and live at the hotel; we affectionately call ourselves “the moldies.” 

Over the time that we’ve lived at the hotel, we have made friends with the workers here. I voted for a local Emeryville law, Measure C, that gave the hotel maids a living wage. One morning I woke up to a noisy demonstration by the hotel workers because the Woodfin management not only did not pay the maids their living wage as mandated by Measure C, but also threatened them with firings in retaliation for asking about their rights under Measure C. 

My young daughter and I ran out to join the demonstration, and have since joined up with East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE) to fight the firings. The maids, who are largely single moms, are being threatened again with firing, just in time for the holiday season. The “Scrooge” aspect of this situation is appalling ... it’s very sad for the maids’ children to have no Christmas. 

We are having another demonstration in front of the Woodfin on Monday, Dec. 18 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. and we would be overjoyed to others from the community there. Many familiar Berkeley Honda activists, including the Giant Rat, will be present. 

Juanita Carroll Young 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Whoo boy! I am so passed by the Iraq Study and “our representatives” responses. Here is what I need to get of my chest. The problem is not just Iraq, it is American Foreign Policy and I mean all of it. Unless we consider U.S. foreign policy historically, in its entirety, we will not understand 9/11, Iraq, Vietnam, North Korea, Venezuela, the U.S. Congress approving torture, the loss of habeas corpus, and indefinite detention. In short, why do terrorists want to hurt us and why we have we lost our democracy? Answer: Foreign policy. 

When you hear the members of the Iraq Study Group saying things like “How we got here is no longer important. What is important is how we get out of here,” think of The Wizard of Oz when Toto has pulled back the curtain and hear “ignore the obvious, just pay attention to what we are saying.” 

An arc can be infinitely divided and each piece considered individually; so too can history. It can be said that our foreign policy has rendered successes and failures, but these are just pieces of the great arc. The trajectory of the arc of our history is obvious when viewed as a whole. As long as the foreign policy of this nation is to advantage the “homeland” at the expense of the world’s people, using any means necessary, we will eventually destroy both the world and our democracy. Iraq and the Military Commissions Act of 2006 are just the latest examples of our ultimate destiny unless we change our foreign policy. 

Harry Wiener 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

This week I read Mr. Taylor’s opinion piece/article on the Jerry Brown regime. Mr. Taylor is right-on about a lot of stuff. I disagree though when he tries to blame Brown and the Oakland police for the spread of sideshows. Last time I checked, spinning donuts comes under reckless driving and is likely not an approved youth activity in cities outside of Oakland. The writer insinuated that sideshows spread because police moved the activity from Eastmont Mall. Perhaps Mr. Taylor can host a sideshow on his block. 

I hate to sound like a grumpy right-winger hills dweller, but the reason sideshows spread is because of the lawless thugs who partake in them. That old phrase “personal responsibility” applies in this case. Note to Oakland parents: Do you know where your kid is? In many cases, the answer from parent(s) is : who gives a rat’s butt? My 10K a year in property taxes is most likely being eaten up in police overtime trying to stop these activities and other lawlessness all around Oakland. 

Jerry and Oakland cops can take blame for lots of problems but they are not the ones glorifying sideshows and they certainly did not spread them. 

Michael J. Spencer 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I would like to congratulate the community for coming out in support of People’s Park. The University of California has stepped back from the foolish plan to bulldoze the edges of the park. Thank you everyone. The standing-room-only crowd at the advisory board meeting on Dec. 4 showed an active citizenry concerned about this special park.  

And yes, there are a variety of ideas about what is best. I believe the spirit of People’s Park is best served by promoting dialogue and finding the common ground for improving our park. I am looking for others to help organize bringing together different people in the spirit of real listening and sharing with the goal to come to common understandings and ideas. There are also at this time many positive suggestions for events at the park that could help build community. Are there any takers out there who may be interested in organizing a jazz concert? Tea party? Book swap? Movie series? Art show? Yoga? 

And lastly, I would like to invite anyone who has ideas or concerns with the community garden on the west end of the park to come join the gardeners for a tour and idea sharing for improvements. If we can change our park through collective will and effort and the joyful work of volunteers, it will strengthen not only the history and uniqueness of People’s Park, but our community as well. We want your participation. Please join us in the garden on Sunday Jan. 21 from noon-4 p.m. (Jan. 28 if it is raining). 

Terri Compost 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The UC Regents’ Committee on Grounds and Buildings green-lights UC Berkeley’s latest mega-building manifesto (beginning with god-coach Tedford’s contentious Student Athlete Tree Removal Center).  

Berkeley’s mayor and council threaten legal retaliation (see Richard Brenneman’s “UC Regents Approve Controversial Projects” piece in the Dec. 8 Daily Planet). 

Is this déjà vu all over again, or what? 

Welcome to this town’s newest spectator sport. Any citizen can play. No binoculars or skybox required. All you have to do is anticipate what will remain after municipal resolve melts down.  

For example, back in early 2005, who would have predicted a clandestine capitulation that forged, among other things, a downtown area plan advisory committee (DAPAC) from the university’s ambitious long-range development plan (LRDP)? 

Forget holiday gift-giving lists. Here’s the start of my own post-meltdown scenario list:  

The city withdraws its threatened litigation against UC in return for: 

• Three stoplights on the congested Gayley-Piedmont corridor. 

• Fresh UC Nobel laureate banners along Telegraph and University Avenues. 

• Lawyers’ fees for the city’s hired legal beagle, Harriet Ann Steiner of the Sacramento law firm McDonough, Holland & Allen. 

• All-expenses-paid tickets for the mayor and three councilmembers (Brown Act limitations apply) for the eight-day “Walk Croatia with Sandy Barbour” excursion with Cal’s athletic director during the final week of June 2007. 

• Two part-time aides to assist Planning Director Dan Marks and staff plan city-university mixed-use, transit-friendly development around the North Berkeley and Ashby BART stations.  

• A new hook-and-ladder truck for the Berkeley Fire Department. 

• Preferred-seating Big Game tickets for the mayor and three councilmembers (Brown Act limitations apply) in 2008. 

• A Goldman School of Public Policy chair for the retired mayor, beginning January 2009. 

Feel free to supply your own scenarios. Be creative. Be imaginative. But, above all, be realistic.  

You don’t want to suggest anything that would undermine or reverse that “giant step forward toward a lasting and equal partnership,” crafted in late May 2005, “between one of the world’s great universities and one of its most livable and progressive cities.” 

Go Gown! Go Town! Go Spectators! 

Jim Sharp  



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Far from being a super-religious person, I think Mel Gibson just loves violence in all its guises. Even if his movies are historically accurate, his preoccupation with blood and gore is gratuitous. I say this because his Passion of the Christ has always bothered me. If it was meant to bring the heathen to Christ he should have concentrated on the resurrection aspect of the story. It was the so-called resurrection that supposedly gave people hope for salvation not the crucifixion. Many, many people die from execution, not many rise again to go to heaven to be with god. His latest movie is just more of the same minute inspection of torture and death. Mel would fit in well with the current administration where torture is standard practice and seemingly just begging for a Mel film treatment. Mel Gibson and his movies should be shunned by decent people. 

Constance Wiggins 



"Kudos for Kennedy" 


Developer Patrick Kennedy always seems to get a bad rap for things like shabby construction and ambiguous agreements allowing additional floors based on proposed “cultural” spaces. 

However, now seems a good time to thank him for the transformation of the former Bekins Building into UC Storage. This four story cube now has a completely new paint job plus a three dimensional “mural” of metal seaweed, fish, turtles and even giant birds adorning the Shattuck and Ward sides plus the roof. Most dramatic of all is the projected “high tide” somewhere between the second and third floor (a “global warming warning”?) 

While the outside is indeed strikingly beautiful (except for the billboards atop the north side) there is the matter of all the electronic equipment inside, ready to power up microwave antennas focused on three sides into our LeConte district. 

Volunteers have checked for cellphone “dead spots” throughout our area and have found none. Therefore, why should these new antennas be located here instead of in the hills where they would reach a larger area while filling known dead spots? (Recently the reporting of a fire in the hills was delayed because no cellphone service was available and a home was destroyed.) 

Thus we praise Mr. Kennedy for his excellent exterior while questioning the need for the highly profitable microwave antennas focused on our residential neighborhood. 


Karl Reeh 


LeConte Neighborhood Assn.