HOMELESS IN WILLARD PARK
Editors, Daily Planet:
As a concerned Willard neighborhood resident, I implore you to help bring attention to the problem of the homeless who reside in Willard Park. Berkeley’s tolerance of this problem is historic, and our police (or at least the dispatchers at BPD) cannot do anything. WHY? They regularly receive calls about this problem, however, they won’t dispatch until there have been about 10 phone-in complaints. When pressed for explanations they have stated that because Willard Park is open until 10 p.m. the homeless can reside there.
What legitimate reasons are there for allowing a park in a residential neighborhood to stay open this late? We don’t have a basketball court and the few residents who are served by the tennis courts do not justify the problems that occur at nightfall.
I have regularly called the numbers listed in our city’s directory that work with homeless. It has been a definite lesson in futility. Apparently the only way to change this is to put pressure on our city. If you are bothered by this problem, PLEASE let Mayor Tom Bates, the City of Berkeley’s recreation department, and our police know. It is not all right for the city to ignore this problem any longer.
Editors, Daily Planet:
What makes Berkeley such a wonderful city in which to live?
It’s a combination of so many wonderful things, such as its proximity to open space, its climate and its setting between the hills and the Bay. However, what truly makes a city buzz are the people who inhabit it, and Berkeley, like San Francisco, has a diverse mix of cultures, yet on a smaller and more manageable scale.
People from different parts of the world bring a little bit of their culture with them and that enriches each of our experiences. We can go to Berkeley Bowl and have the choice of 10 or more different kinds of mushrooms, or several different kinds of eggplants, any variety of tomatoes, potatoes, bananas, etc. We have a range of exciting restaurants and stores to equal S.F. Our city Berkeley, however, is so much “greener” than San Francisco and it’s so pleasant to walk and smell all the fragrances from the variety of plants.
When I heard about the proposed plan to make a “walking plaza,” i.e. one without cars, on the service road next to Shattuck, between Vine and Rose, I was thrilled at the idea. Who wouldn’t support it, I thought? This will be Berkeley’s “piazza”—the place in so many European, South and Central American cities, where everyone congregates. It’s the place that “throbs” with life on the weekends and on holidays, where children can play safely, where teenagers can hang out with their friends. It would be a place where the locals can eat their take-out food from the Epicurean Garden, or Cheese Board, or The Collective, or Massi’s or any other eatery in the neighborhood, a place where we can hang out with our friends, and an area set up already for the Farmer’s Market, without having to close the street, a place for our artists and musicians.
Who would not want this?
Well, there are some loud opposing voices full of prophecies of doom and gloom. There are some valid issues that they raise, but all these issues can be addressed. Please don’t let these negative voices put a stop to a wonderful idea, that I think would revitalize and enhance this neighborhood. Berkeley, let’s come together to make our city an even better place.
NOT SO PUBLIC WEALTH
Editors, Daily Planet:
Did you know that a gift of approximately $17 million in public wealth is being given away in Berkeley? Yes, the Tom Bates-Loni Hancock political machine is giving away the largest downtown surface parking lot (over 1 acre) to a private developer, who is their friend and political supporter. This is not only improper but is probably illegal in California, since it is not legal for public officials to give away the public’s wealth to their personal or political friends.
This is the main reason behind the referendum petition being circulated to stop this improper giveaway. If the referendum drive is successful, the community will be able to think about and discuss whether the public’s wealth should be handed over to Loni Hancock’s and Tom Bates’s supporter.
During last week’s City Council meeting, late at night, Mayor Bates had this extremely valuable Berkeley City property given to his friend for the incredible price of one dollar. It is obvious that Bates timed this for the beginning of the rainy season, which he knows is an almost impossible time to collect the necessary signatures required in a thirty day period. Bates wanted to prevent the public from discussing this serious matter and possibly overturning this giveaway.
There are only two weeks left to sign the petition. Only if 4,000 Berkeley citizens sign it will we have an opportunity to decide whether or not this $17 million property should be given away to a private developer. Berkeley City staff claims that this property is only an $8 million giveaway, but that is a ridiculously low amount for this Berkeley asset.
Twenty, thirty, or forty years ago, Loni Hancock and Tom Bates were active supporters of most referenda and initiatives in Berkeley. Unfortunately, now that they are entrenched in power, they are trying to violate the rights of the citizens of Berkeley to gather signatures and are refusing to discuss the issues that I am raising here. The Bates political machine assigned a low-level political operative, Rob Wrenn, to personally attack and harass the people circulating these legal petitions. This is a violation of the rights guaranteed under the Constitution of the United States of America. This is certainly not the first time that Mayor Bates has violated the people’s rights. Think about the recent time when Bates destroyed the newspapers that did not endorse him. This is proof that the Tom Bates and Loni Hancock political machine is no longer democratic.
Please help stop this illegal and improper transfer of Berkeley’s public wealth by signing or circulating the petition for the referendum.
A COMPLEX ISSUE
Editors, Daily Planet:
This letter is in response to Joshua Greenbaum’s opinion that the BDP has become a forum for intolerance, racism, ad hominem attacks and anti-semitism.
While I do not agree that this is the role that BDP serves, I do want to validate that sentiment.
In addition to that, it is true that this issue (Palestine/Israel) remains a complex issue. I do not think it is urgent that people see eye to eye on it. That is part of the problem. There will always be two versions of history. Jews and Arabs will likely never see eye to eye. This is, I believe where we all get stuck. And until we can move past finding common ground on historical facts, we will never resolve the unnecessary and illegal DAILY, CURRENT suffering of both peoples. This is what we need to bring the focus to. What cannot be argued is what continues on a day to day basis for both Palestinian and Israeli civilians. Is it anti-semitic to talk about the apartheid-like conditions that Palestinians live under? Is it anti-arab to talk about the fear that Israelis live under from potential violence against them? It is not.
The truth that no one can refute is that Palestinians have not been given their rights under international law, nor have they been given their rights to their land, water, education, borders or air space. Israelis, on the other hand, do live in fear. That is truth. No one can refute that. None of these statements are either anti-semitic or anti-arab. What they are is truth. If we can get past debating the history, perhaps we could see eye to eye on the human suffering level. And, isn’t that what counts?
Tracie De Angelis Salim
JEWISH VOICE FOR PEACE
Editors, Daily Planet:
I would like to correct Jane Litman’s assertion that the Anti-Defamation League did not exclude or censor Jewish Voice for Peace, a major Jewish progressive organization, from the ADL conference on anti-Semitism on the left.
I am a Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) board member. I did speak on a conference panel about anti-Semitism in the queer community—but I was invited not by the ADL but by a conference presenter. And the ADL did everything they could to conceal my JVP affiliation. They expunged my JVP role from the bio I sent them for publication in the conference program, thus hiding my accurate organizational identity from the media who were trying to find JVP panelists there to interview.
Additionally, the ADL conference website invented a non-JVP affiliation for me, listing me as representing the “LGBT Alliance of the Jewish Federation.” Even after I protested, the ADL continued to post the misleading affiliation on its website, and even reprinted it on the schedule taped to the front door of the conference. While it is true that some JVP literature was allowed to remain on a conference table, this ADL conduct makes plain its disregard towards truly progressive Jews generally, and towards JVP in particular.
Penny Rosenwasser, PhD
Secretary, Board of Directors,
Jewish Voice for Peace
Editors, Daily Planet:
Joanna Graham obviously did not attend the conference on anti-Semitism on San Francisco last month. If she had, she would have learned the difference between mere criticism of Israel’s government or policies, and true “neo-anti-Semitism”—which is opposition to the very existence of the state of Israel. Just as criticism of the U.S. government is not anti-American, opposition to Israel’s policies vis-à-vis the Palestinians does not make one anti-Israel. However, when the underpinnings of such criticism include false claims that Israel is an “apartheid state,” that it is the “greatest human rights violator in the world,” that it is committing “genocide” (how is it that there are twice as many Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza as there were in 1990?), and when the critics of Israel have as their goal the destruction of the world’s only Jewish state—that’s when the line is crossed into anti-Semitism.
No speaker at the conference made the claim that criticism of Israel is, in and of itself, anti-Semitic. For that matter, no major Jewish organization or opinion leader in this country has made that claim. It seems that critics of Israel are pre-emptively playing the anti-Semitism card in order to muzzle substantive, factual responses to their mistaken claims. After all, if all pro-Israel voices are dismissed as “you’re just calling us anti-Semitic”, then that straw man argument draws the attention away from their original mistakes.
As a Jew, Joanna Graham’s column of Feb.9 gives me the shudders. It is full of conspiracy theories, innuendo, false statements and suspiciousness that echo rhetoric all too familiar. In addition, she rationalizes the admitted “rise in anger against Jews,” including Arianpour’s anti-Semitic screed, as merely “rough and tumble” response to a war that, may I remind you, is Israel’s, and not a religious one. This is the very sort of thing—conflation of criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism—that the thoughtful ADL conference sought to distinguish, and whose existence Graham denies. I guess she just thinks it’s OK! I applaud Rabbi Jane Litman, who Graham excoriates, for her part in the effort.
Even Kriss Worthington, a darling of the left, can’t get away with a peep in support of the Jews from the Daily Planet, which seems obsessed with us. I don’t purport to represent the entire Berkeley Jewish community. I trust and pray that your paper doesn’t represent the wider Berkeley populace!
Jane Falk, Ph.D