Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday January 26, 2007


Editors, Daily Planet: 

This sunny clear afternoon I paid a visit to UC Berkeley coast live oak grove just north of the football stadium and International House on Piedmont Avenue and met the tree-sitters. I had time to chat with Redwood Mary who shared that she was given the Ronald Dellums Scholars Award, 2002-04 at Mills College; she is extremely dedicated and articulate about their protest. Thanks for your front-page coverage of Shirley Dean and elders tree sitting. 

I can imagine my parents who met at UCB in 1930, watching games from Tightwad Hill where the still majestic, sweet-smelling, shade-providing, healthy oaks stand, as habitat to a myriad of mother earth’s species thrive including ourselves. 

UC Regents, please build your sports center elsewhere; one earthquake fault line is here. Find a safer place for our future Olympic sportspeople to train. 

Sylvia P. Scherzer 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Judith Scherr is an excellent writer for your exciting paper that truly serves our community. She did a good job on her Jan. 23 front-page piece, “Dismissal of Survey Complaint Questioned.” Spring and Worthington are the kind of politicians that come along rarely, and we need to be sure that all is done to keep them in office, in spite of the money and nasty things done to stop their working class supportive agendas. 

This last election is the stinkiest politics I have smelled in my many decades filled with the hope that goes with believing in what Berkeley stands for. Money, land, greed, power, all add up to what happened in Worthington’s district. Forget the average working stiff, forget the needs of students, just suck up to the money that can get you elected, oh yeah. Follow the money. I miss the good old days when Berkeley voters got out into the streets and raised hell when there was something wrong. However, as many times as I have disagreed with 86-year-old Betty Olds, gotta give that woman credit this week for when she and the 90- and 71-year-old women risked their lives to climb into a tree to keep it from being killed by UCB. What the heck is UCB thinking? I thought that school was supposed to have great minds there. But the murder of the Oak Grove will put UCB at the very bottom of the Neanderthal thinkers. If anything is in your way, just kill it. Right, UCB? I hope better minds than UCB seems to have working for them prevail, and these venerable trees are not lost forever. 

And, Betty and gang, you go girrrls! 

Patty Pink 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Here is my little idea on how the oak trees can be saved: Build a brand new stadium closer to downtown and BART. A football/track stadium where the current track stadium sits. You could knock down the building where the ticket office sits. The building has been condemned anyway. You could save money because you would not have to bus people around on game days. It is closer to the rec center, Haas Pavilion. Plus the class celebrating the 50-year reunion will find it easier going downhill than uphill. The one major thing is that it would move the stadium of the fault line! 

What to do with the current site on Memorial stadium build a world class earthquake research center. You save the trees and gas on Saturday game days. 

Sergio Blandon 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Black Oak Books has other options besides selling or closing. Here are some ideas: 

(1) Move into a smaller space. 

(2) Move to a lower-rent neighborhood. 

(3) Swap spaces with another store. The other store could be in a smaller space or a lower-rent neighborhood. 

(4) Find a way to buy out the landlord.  

This could involve: 

(a) getting donations from neighborhood residents 

(b) getting a foundation grant 

(c) getting money from a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving alternative bookstores 

Eckhard Festag 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Right now, Congress has an incredible opportunity to continue saving millions of lives in the world’s poorest countries by fully funding the fight against global AIDS and extreme poverty. 

The last Congress left nine critical spending bills unfinished and now the new Congress is left with the hard work of deciding our budget for 2007. They’re facing tough decisions and at stake is $1 billion vital to continuing to provide clean water, education and life-saving medicines to people in Africa and the world’s poorest countries. There are few places in the U.S. budget where dollars translate so directly into lives saved. Without this funding, 350,000 people will not receive life-saving AIDS medicines, nearly 1 million anti-malaria bednets will not be distributed and 120,000 people will not receive treatment for tuberculosis. 

As a member of the ONE Campaign, I encourage Congress to protect this funding and ensure America’s continued commitment to the fight against extreme poverty and global HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. America’s leadership in development assistance reflects the best American tradition of compassion and generosity. Together, we can give the world’s poorest people the tools they need to beat extreme poverty and the chance for a hopeful future. 

Carol Suveda 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

For those of you who regard public libraries as a bit stodgy and restrictive, you would most certainly have gained another impression had you wandered into the Main Berkeley Library this past Monday afternoon, where, in the Third Floor Conference Room, the first “Jazz on a Monday Afternoon” was unveiled. This was the first of a six-part series which will run through June. Due no doubt to Galen Babb’s article in the July 19 Berkeley Daily Planet, the room was jammed, with people sitting on the floor, along the walls, practically swinging from the rafters.  

No one was more surprised by this huge turnout than Dr. Dee Spencer of San Francisco State College, who hosted the event. Expecting a small crowd, she planned to have participants sit in a circle and had printed only twenty handouts. She was clearly flabbergasted at the packed room. Dr. Spencer kept her remarks to a minimum, but traced the evolution of jazz from its beginnings in Africa to the mainstream forms of work songs, spirituals, country blues and New Orleans traditional marches. She also played a bit of rag time on her Wurlitzer. This was followed with tapes of Scott Joplin and Jelly Roll Morton.  

But the highlight of the afternoon was the showing of ancient Louis Armstrong footage, dating back as far as the 1930s. With his broad smile and the familiar white handkerchief wiping his brow, Louie had the audience yelling their applause for his dynamic trumpet solos. The program ended all too soon with the singing of “Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home?” and “When The Saints Coming In.” All in all, it was a joyous afternoon and thanks should go to Dr. Spencer, Librarian Michelle McKenzie, and the American Library Association, to name just a few of the contributors to this fabulous series. 

The next session will be on Feb. 26, “The Jazz Age and the Harlem Renaissance.” Mark your calendars! 

Dorothy Snodgrass 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing in response to Riya Bhattacharjee’s Jan. 23 article “Community Launches One Last Attempt to Save Iceland.” 

Many issues are at stake for Iceland. Berkeley residents of all ages have a wonderful unique recreational facility which has been part of the community for many generations. It is too good to lose now.  

What makes a sensible solution is a “partnership” between the city, the school district, and University of California with a community-oriented business who wants to contribute and make a difference.  

Children (and adults) of all ages benefit from learning to ice skate—coordination skills, strength, and flexibility are natural outcomes. Everyone learns, benefits and enjoys skating at every age.  

This facility can be reborn, revitalized and used all day every day by all ages for years to come. School children can take lessons, high school and college students can practice and hold meets, adults and seniors can keep in shape.  

It’s time for the entire community to step in and support the current owner who should not be forced to close. Its worth much more than the asking price as a community-wide benefit. Why not enroll college team students to coach high school students in hockey and other ice skating skills? It’s time for UC to find new and positive ventures that benefit this community and not only make plans that tear down—good will, trees or structures, but instead find new and innovative solutions to solve traffic, parking, recreation, education, health, crime, business and other issues that affect us all—citizens, students, teachers, agencies, and commercial interests.  

What we do in Berkeley is after all a microcosm for the rest of the world. Let’s lead by example instead of giving lip service to “commitment, caring and community.” 

When I was growing up we skated at the Queens (NY) Ice rink where the World’s Fair was held. It was a special place for skating, music, fun—everyone had a great time. I thought about how fortunate we were Parks and Public Works Commissioner Robert Moses saw the potential of building parks and recreational facilities.  

Iceland is special to the East Bay. It’s a Berkeley treasure. Its value in human terms is worth much more than the millions needed to restore and revitalize. Everyone can benefit and find out how much fun it is to skate, keep in shape and keep healthy. We all have a stake to keep skates flying around the Iceland rink. Let’s Save Iceland! 

Stevanne Auerbach 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Having just seen the staff report on 2721 Shattuck Ave., I have to second Ellin’s comment. It is the most dishonest piece of trash to have come out of the city yet. City staff’s latest interpretation of both the Zoning Ordinance and history of 2721 Shattuck are nothing short of flat-out lies. They should all be ashamed of themselves. Every Berkeley resident should be angered that our tax dollars are being spent on staff like Mr. Wolf to work against the very people who pay his salary. 

City staff has been in constant contact with Mr. Kennedy and the wireless companies, however not once in this entire process has any city staff tried to seek information from residents or been willing to meet with us.  

This latest interpretation of the Zoning Ordinance clearly show the depth of corruption going on within the City of Berkeley.  

It needs to stop! 

Jim Hultman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

When Councilmember Moore provided the fifth vote to instruct the city attorney to draft legislation to bar Berkeley citizens from serving on more than one “major” commission, he explained that “putting a person of color on several commissions is tokenism, not diversity.” I’m Latino, and I’m the only person threatened with removal from office by the change. I don’t think Moore consciously meant to label me a token appointee, but I do think his comment detracted from the quality of the council’s discourse. 

I was appointed by Councilmember Worthington, who is known for his commitment to diversity, and also known for the most rigorous interview process for potential commissioners. He put me on the Zoning Board and the Housing Commission because he thought I was the best person for the job in both cases. I’m proud of the work I’ve done promoting affordable housing while protecting the quality of neighborhood life, and I take a twisted pride in being the focus of a Council majority so concerned about my effectiveness that they’re considering passing a special law just to rein me in. 

Jesse Arreguin 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I couldn’t agree more with Tami Holzman of the Anti-Defamation League (Letters, Jan. 12) that anti-Semitism is a serious and growing problem. Yet I believe the conference she plugs as a remedy is seriously flawed and that that Holzman is not accurately describing it in her letter. 

According to Holzman and the conference website, the conference will address anti-Semitism from a progressive perspective. Yet when one looks at the lengthy list of co-sponsors of the event the most prominent and visible Bay Area progressive Jewish organizations (Jewish Voice for Peace, Tikkun, Progressive Jewish Alliance, and Brit Tzedek) are missing. Instead, the list is dominated by mainstream and right-wing Jewish organizations and groups such as the Blue Star PR and AIPAC, whose primary mission is to support the decidedly unprogressive actions of the Israeli government. 

My organization, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), has a strong record of standing up against anti-Semitism in the Middle East peace movement and has published a book called Reframing Anti-Semitism. This book, now in its fourth printing, has been used as a text in university classrooms and has been distributed internationally. My own essay in that book is precisely about anti-Semitism on the Left. Yet the ADL never consulted with us, asked us to co-sponsor, or invited us to present at the conference. (Though one of our activists will be on a panel there, she was invited by a third party, not by one of the conference co-sponsors.) 

Holzman claims that the Finding Our Voice conference “is not about Israel.” Yet the keynote speaker is touted as having been instrumental in overturning British boycotts against Israeli universities. Conference workshops include: “Dealing with Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions,” (against Israel, I presume), “The Israel You Don’t Hear About,” “Emphasizing What’s Right in Israel,” “Keeping Blue and White [the colors of the Israeli flag] Part of the Rainbow,” etc. 

A conference to examine anti-Semitism from a progressive perspective is sorely needed. Yet a truly progressive conference would involve bona-fide progressive organizations in the planning process, and include co-sponsors that strongly oppose Israeli policy, including those that believe sanctions, boycotts and divestment campaigns are a legitimate tool to pressure Israel to end its decades-long occupation. (Perhaps Holzman can explain why “criticizing the decisions and actions of the Israeli government is not anti-Semitic,” but backing up these criticisms with non-violent economic or diplomatic pressure is.) A truly progressive conference would examine the connections between anti-Semitism directed at Jews and anti-Arab and anti-Muslim racism, and look at how Jews, Arabs and Muslims, can work together to end both oppressions. A truly progressive conference would look critically at the role of U.S. imperialism in fomenting anti-Semitism, would examine the difference between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, when these forces are coming together, and when they are not. 

In the meantime, the ADL should not be misleading people into believing that this conference will be something that it is not. 

Terry Fletcher