Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday January 30, 2007


Editors, Daily Planet: 

In his Jan. 23 commentary, Gene Zubovich calls Nancy Pelosi “the most powerful woman in the world and the major obstacle for George Bush’s war powers,” then goes on to complain that she got there by being a politician. Duh! 

He is dismayed that she has returned to Baltimore. That is her family home. Her father, also a career politician, represented that city for five terms in congress, then served for twelve years as its mayor. Her brother also served as mayor. Is it unreasonable that Baltimore is her home base, or that she has followed a career as a politician with eastern roots? 

Now that she has attained a position from which she can greatly influence this country’s foreign and domestic policies, as well as the next election, Mr. Zubovich grumps that she is not sufficiently focused on the parochial problems of San Francisco. He also suggests that this dazzlingly dynamic woman lacks charisma. What world is he living in? 

Jerry Landis 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Your vile crime reporter must be stopped, regardless of the like-minded who write in to say “aw, don’t be a spoilsport,” insensitively approving his cavalier attitude towards victims of crime. These people don’t know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of physical violence. If they did, they’d save the oh-so-cute language for other occasions. Your writer is like a little boy disciplined for meanness who cleverly hides for awhile, then lets the verbal abuse fly again, proving he learned nothing. Let somebody else write that column. He covers other things well. Street crime is not film noir—and although he and his fans can’t understand that, the paper could. 

Sandy Rothman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Your newspaper is getting better all the time! You represent my City of Berkeley fairly, and in light of people’s needs and objections. As a Berkeley architect, builder and resident since 1951, I have observed the city changing from bad to worse. I empathize with the manner in which you portray the good and the bad. 

The case in point is the brothel replaced by the new condominium building at 2628 Telegraph Ave. You stated in your Jan. 9 edition how the afternoon sunlight cast a blinding reflection from the metallic southern wall. To my chagrin, you went on to mention that the Planning Commission is scheduled to vote on a key document needed before the one and two bedroom units can be sold. You pointed out in the article on page five that oxidation should eventually turn the exterior into a duller turquoise green. I hope! However, no comments were made about the shape and form of this structure. 

I wonder if Mr. Bob Allen, architect, who chairs the city’s Design Review Committee, would be kind enough to tell us publicly what he thought of this project when it was approved. Would he call it eclectic modernism? 

It is my opinion that the former brothel, had it been left intact and cleaned up a bit, its service personnel legalized and offered medical attention, would serve our community better than this glaring mix-up of shapes will ever do. 

Edward J. Levitch 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing in response to the article “Community Launches One Last Attempt to Save Iceland” (Jan. 23 by Riya Bhattacharjee). 

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, Unified 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: 

While I applaud J. Douglas Allen-Taylor’s insistence in “tracking down what actually happened...” at the mayoral inauguration ceremonies, I can’t help but suspect that he is more interested in disproving the reports of bad conduct toward Mr. de la Fuente. This disappoints me. After all, Mr. Taylor has acknowledged that “ least one prominent Bay Area media outlet...” has reported that racial epithets and curses were hurled at Mr. de la Fuente. I read accounts of this behavior in both the San Francisco Chronicle and the Oakland Tribune, both of which I consider to be responsible newspapers. In fact, one of the most vociferous critics of the behavior was offered by Chip Johnson, an African-American columnist in the Chronicle. Mr. Taylor seems to infer that if we did not personally witness the behavior in question, we cannot believe the accounts of it. I think this opinion is misplaced, to say the least. Does Mr. Taylor have such skepticism of all news outlets and all news reports? The point is, some people heard them. Even our new mayor was embarrassed enough to take the stage and call for civility. It must be kept in mind that crude, cursing, and even racist comments toward Mr. de la Fuente were out of line, no matter whether Mr. Taylor heard them or not. I’m a progressive, too. I love Oakland, but I don’t kid myself; I know racism exists on all sides of the city’s population. The sooner we all quit trying to excuse it and begin trying to eliminate it, the better off we all will be. 

Jim Puskar 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

What a wonderful experience marching in the anti-war parade on Saturday. The march was serious; the mood was festive. It was heart warming marching with thousands of people who very much care about making a difference.  

It was also an unusual event, one which I hope will set a new standard for future demonstrations. It made the immensely important connection between the violence of the war abroad and the violence of the war at home. That’s right. To deprive working people and their families of decent jobs is a form of violence. 

The march ended at Pier 33, where long shore workers lost both their union status and their jobs. Just several months ago the National Park Service awarded a ten year exclusive contract to take tourists to Alcatraz. The company, Hornblower, immediately got rid of the unions and the vast majority of its workers. Members of the striking unions wrote up an excellent leaflet that spells out how the war has contributed to the current mess at home. 

International issues are also local ones, which those who organized and participated in the massive demonstration understood and acted upon. That was the underlying meaning of the march. 

Harry Brill 

Berkeley Labor and  

Community Coalition 

El Cerrito 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Neighborhood residents have complained about the removal of the Telegraph Avenue median strip, which makes it less safe to cross, and Councilmember Worthington has suggested that AC Transit should improve pedestrian safety when it improves the street for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). 

It is important for residents to understand that a full implementation of BRT, with dedicated bus lanes, will make the street much more safe for pedestrians, for two reasons. 

First, it will slow traffic by leaving only one traffic lane in each direction instead of two. There would be no fast lane: all drivers would have to go the same speed as the most prudent drivers. 

Second, the curbs around the bus lanes could easily be designed so they are also safe places for crossing pedestrians. There would be two pedestrian refuges at each intersection instead of just one median. 

I expect that the safer crossing would also help to revitalize business on Telegraph south of Dwight, as it would become easy for people shopping on one side of the street to cross to the stores on the other side. 

In addition to the global benefit of reducing carbon dioxide emissions and the regional benefit of providing a more efficient transportation system. Bus Rapid Transit would provide the local benefit of increasing pedestrian safety. 

Charles Siegel 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Alert: AC Transit is planning to buy 50 more Van Hool buses and to sale and/or trade-in 71 of the not-so-old buses most riders prefer. To stop this come to a board meeting at 10 am sharp (public comment is 1st) on Wed. Jan. 31 in the Conference Room on the 10th Floor of AC Transit Headquarters at 1600 Franklin in downtown Oakland. The board has three new members who may listen.  

For more info contact me at  

Joyce Roy 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I grew up in this country and was taught about democracy from a very early age. Democracy is what makes the United States of America so great, I was told. Now an undergraduate student thinking on my own, I’ve begun to see things differently. I don’t think we have much of a democratic process in this country. Decisions are made by very few that are meant to represent the will of 300 million people. On Friday Jan. 26, President Bush declared “I’m the decision maker” on the subject of sending more troops into Iraq. The setup of the government under the U.S. Constitution makes it very clear that this is not the case. What about what I learned in grade school about ‘checks and balances?’ 

Another realization that led to a loss of faith in our version of democracy was that politicians and therefore policies could be bought (or at least strongly influenced) by corporations. The lobbyists and campaign contributions of corporations have no doubt had a huge influence on the outcomes of countless elections. Democracy means governance by the people, not corporations. It used to be a federal offense for a corporation to give money to a political campaign. Now corporations are given the same (if not more) rights as people, and have made it much more difficult for people to govern themselves. Factual information about issues is difficult to come by since most “information” in campaigns comes from advertisements funded by corporate dollars. 

It is time we take back the rights guaranteed to people under the Constitution and take them away from corporations. Originally corporations were chartered to serve a specific need in a society. Now, huge corporations have taken on a life of their own, and exist to serve the bottom line of company share-holders. People need to govern people. If people can’t claim more rights than corporations at the national scale, then maybe it’s time to look at smaller, more manageable scales of sovereignty. 

Kevin Spears 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In his speech, President Bush referred to ways to increase the number of people covered by health insurance. But his plan fails to cover many people, including those who are not employed. 

And why should the insurance companies be involved to take their cut? Why not simply have a single payer system, as they do in Canada. It costs less than does our haphazard system, and it also covers all of the people. Oh, yes, the insurance companies wouldn’t like it. 

Karl Ruppenthal 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On a recent visit to the Bay area, from Cape Cod, my son and I spent a few days driving down to Monterey and Santa Cruz and north to Mt. Tamalpais and Point Reyes. After climbing hills and towers in San Francisco on a spectacular day (Friday, Jan.), we ended up in Berkeley—my first visit in at least 15 years. So many things have changed, and yet Berkeley remains one of my favorite places—Berkeley is incredibly diverse: the great mix of people, topography, architecture and businesses make it work. (I don’t know where all the great East Coast bookstores and music stores have gone!) 

We ended up at the grand old Hotel Shattuck Plaza with a nice room at a reasonable rate, with Saturday morning seeing me comfortably reading your great paper in the hotel lobby. Topping off this long overdue Berkeley visit was the forgotten computer charger—but no problem, management quickly dropped it in the mail for us. Now if I could just get the rest of my family to agree to move to Berkeley... 

Steve and Lloyd Gould 

Cotuit, MA  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Jan. 23 op-ed by Joseph Lifschutz, a retired professor, debunks the notion that being an academic guarantees that one is careful and even-handed when writing about a topic he has allegedly researched. Contrary to Lifschutz’s assertion, it has been Palestinian leaders, rather than the Israelis, whose policies are the primary obstacles to a Palestinian state. As Clinton envoy Dennis Ross has frequently noted, at Camp David talks in 2000, President Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak presented a proposal to Arafat for a Palestinian state which would consist of Gaza, 96 percent of contiguous West Bank land, and a capital in East Jerusalem. Arafat rejected this, saying it would abrogate the Palestinians’ “right of return” to land in Israel proper. Arafat thereafter initiated the murderous Second Intifada, scuttling any hopes for peace. And now, of course, the Palestinians have elected a Hamas-run government which consistently says the only acceptable Palestinian state would include all of Israel. So Professor Lifschutz, who is really standing in the way of a Palestinian state? 

Lifschutz claims I didn’t substantiate my criticisms of Jimmy Carter. In fact, in my letter to this publication I quoted the critiques of Carter by his former confidant and the very first director of the Carter Center, Professor Kenneth Stein, the Dennis Ross op-ed in the New York Times, and the letter penned by 14 members of the Carter Center’s board who resigned in disgust at the numerous untruths and one-sided commentary found in Carter’s book. And to say that my criticism of Carter reflects my support of the policies of Benjamin Netanyahu, for whom I hold little respect, is indicative of Lifschutz’s simplistic analysis. Unsurprisingly, Lifscutz makes no mention of the fact that I took pains to note that the revolting term “apartheid” ascribed by Carter to Israel was as utterly inappropriate to Israel as it was fully applicable to the Palestinian treatment of women, homosexuals, and intellectuals. 

Dan Spitzer 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am a foster parent. Being a foster parent is a lot of work but it also brings a lot of rewards. I highly recommend it! 

Did you know that one of the best foster care agencies in the world is located right here in Berkeley? It’s true. I went to a meeting at the agency last night and they said, “We really need new foster parents. If you know any people or have any friends who might consider becoming foster parents, please let us know.” 

I know people! I know the readers of the Berkeley Daily Planet! So. If you are reading this, consider yourself my friend. And here’s a friendly suggestion -- because there is such an urgent need for foster parents, you could enrich your life by helping a child and helping save the world “One child at a time". Plus you will receive $23 a day to cover the child’s expenses. Plus you would feel all good about yourself for having done good deeds. Both small children and teenagers (who are easier to take care of) are looking for homes. And there is also a foster care-to-adoption program too. 

If you want to know more, please call me at 843-0581 and I will gladly give you the 411 on this outstanding agency and foster care program. 

Jane Stillwater 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Can tuition fees for teaching credential courses be reduced for low-income people who are inspired to teach so that they can enter the ranks of teachers? We need more teachers whose life experience draws them to share their learning with others. Yet there is the reality of food, children, a roof over one’s head, some dignity among one’s neighbors. Can no one invest in future teachers by lowering tuition for students enrolled in teaching credential courses ? 

Romila Khanna