Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday March 02, 2007


Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a former Teamster, and a believer in “Justice for All,” I was saddened to see the El Cerrito Council ditch their previous Prevailing Wage policy and buy into a developer’s cynical ultimatum “Affordable Housing or Prevailing Wages.” 

On Feb. 5, the council approved the Olson Company’s plan to build apartments at the old Mayfair site on San Pablo Avenue. The developers said they would not adhere to El Cerrito’s previously stated policy of paying prevailing wages on city sponsored projects. They claimed that paying union wages would raise costs by 30 percent, and make building “affordable” apartments unaffordable. 

The council accepted this argument though refuted by speakers for the Unions, and did not challenge them. They did not consider other methods of raising the alleged shortfall, like from Redevelopment’s incremental taxes. They agreed, in effect, to a “Sophie’s choice: affordable apartments or prevailing wages.” Nor did they ask the developers to return some of their profit for a affordable housing fund. 

I think this is wrong, it comes close to union busting, and violates the city’s earlier prevailing wage policy, which many other cities still follow. Why should El Cerrito, which prides itself on being liberal, cave in to spurious arguments by developers? Is this what El Cerrito voters want their Council to do? 

It’s hypocritical for senior city staff and council to cut workers salaries by 30 percent yet keep their own. To practice “Justice for All,” senior staff, attorneys, consultants and the council should have a similar reduction in their pay and benefits, in favor of affordable housing, for any work on such projects. 

Rosemary Loubal 

El Cerrito 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I call upon the Bay Area community to take urgent action to stop the closure of East Oakland Community High School (EOC). It is a tragedy that our un-elected state administrator is trying to shut down this innovative community school as part of a nationwide trend to shut down and privatize public schools. It is through a mass movement that we can stop this type of policy and return Oakland schools to local, democratic control. 

EOC is important to us because Education Not Incarceration (ENI) is working with the National Education Association’s 3.2 million members to stop students from being pushed out of school and into prison. EOC represents our four point program to stop pushouts in real world terms.  

1. EOC emphasizes support of positive behavior, rather than punitive actions such as expulsion and suspension.  

2. EOC provides a strong, culturally aware staff, and curriculum that empowers youth by relating learning to their lives.  

3. EOC supports the growth of the whole child by involving the entire community in the education of each student.  

4. EOC prepares students for higher education or living wage jobs by carefully connecting students to opportunities based on their individual passions. 

EOC is not only about preparing students to pass a test, it is about teaching students to be positive, caring, successful members of our community. 

Please become a decision-maker and contact School Board members, Mayor Ron Dellums and the state-appointed administrator. 

Nuri Ronaghy 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The UC/BP agreement should be of concern to all Berkeley residents. 

The University of California Berkeley’s $500 million dollar deal with BP (formerly British Petroleum) is generating much needed concern on the campus. This concern has centered on the secrecy of the agreement, the content of the research, and the implications for academic freedom, all serious concerns. The genetically modified organism (GMO) research will impact our agricultural and ecological future, mostly in developing countries, in unknown ways. 

But the deal should also be of concern to all Berkeley residents. It should concern us not only because of the questionable research using genetically modified organisms taking place in our city, but also because of the cost to the city. 

The city of Berkeley already subsidizes the university $11-$13 million per year for sewer services, fire and police protection, street maintenance, street lighting and all the other municipal services we as residents pay for through our taxes. 

The university does not pay property taxes. The university does not pay the fees and assessments on its buildings. We, the residents of Berkeley pay for the university’s municipal services, and we do this because they are a tax-exempt educational organization. 

But why should we subsidize BP’s research labs? The are a major for-profit energy company doing research under the umbrella and perhaps protection of our state university’s premier campus. This umbrella does not disguise either the controversial work they will be doing, or the fact that this work is for their own profit. 

Berkeley residents and Berkeley elected officials must make it clear to the university that we will not subsidize this for-profit activity, especially controversial for-profit activity, in our town. 

Anne Wagley 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Berkeley has a long tradition of community organizing and activism, and to this day the tradition continues. For example, the university’s plan to build a new athletic center on a fault line, at the cost of a grove of oak trees, has sparked much debate. Tree sitters are using their right to protest until the situation is resolved. Yet, on another side of community organizing we have your neighborhood canvasser. These often young and idealistic people knock on your door to raise the visibility of issues, whether they be environmental or political, they knock on your door to increase the level of grassroots contributors and ultimately they knock on your door to get you to take concrete actions like writing or calling representatives, attending rallies, or pressuring industry to have people’s interest in mind over profit. Going door to door has long been a strategy to achieve positive social change and yet again we are faced with a global record of environmental degradation that demands attention and therefore has many canvassers working on the issue. The time is now to answer the call of canvassers who come to your door by not only writing a check, but by changing your lifestyle and spreading the need to quickly change our over reliance and consumption of fossil fuels. When a canvasser comes to your door, take a few minutes and listen to what they have to say. The experience and issues they work on are worth your time. 

Joshua Sbicca 

Canvass Director 

Environmental Action 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

This year the Ecology Center’s Berkeley Farmers’ Markets will celebrate our 20th anniversary! We have a long and exciting history representing a generation of excellent eating, community building, food justice, and free speech! The current attempt to derail the David Brower Center will undoubtedly be written into this history, as a noteworthy debate and a moment where our dedication to free speech continued to outweigh our organizational support for the creation of this environmentally and socially responsible development. 

Despite the many complaints we have received about allowing the petitioners a space in the market, we feel it is important that diverse viewpoints be allowed to express themselves in civil and appropriate ways. While we find the arguments related to the petition campaign highly questionable and misleading, and we believe that there have already been ample opportunities for dissent, we continue to offer space to voices different from our own. This is representative of the many other wonderful things our markets offer in addition to amazing food from amazing farmers—diversity, education, community engagement, and tolerance. 

For those of you who are annoyed by whole thing, don’t want to be bothered while you shop, or feel these issues have been adequately addressed in publicly noticed meetings over the last three years, we express our deepest apologies, and hope you will continue to support the many dedicated and outstanding farmers at our markets anyway. As a consolation, you can look forward to an exciting season of amazing and edible celebratory events in honor of our 20 years at the heart of your local foodshed!! 

Food for thought. 

Martin Bourque 

Executive Director 

Ecology Center 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Has there ever been a period in this nation’s history, when both the president and vice-president were so heartily disliked, and with equal intensity? This sad fact was very evident yesterday at a Kensington luncheon attended mostly by UC faculty wives and Cal alumni, hardly your firebrand Birkenstock radicals. During the course of the luncheon, someone at my table voiced the opinion that Bush should be impeached. This brought indignant response from two or three women, “Oh, God, no! Then we’d have Cheney!” That led to a discussion of Cheney’s near assassination the day before in Afghanistan. One woman commented wryly, “Too bad they missed!” But aware of the total impropriety of this observation, she hastily added, “I shouldn’t have said that, should I? All this country needs is another assassination.” We all agreed with that, of course. But the fact remains that the sentiments expressed by these women echo the frustration of millions of concerned Americans, dismayed by the escalating death rate and horrendous injuries of U.S. soldiers and innocent Iraqi civilians, yet powerless to stop the carnage. Will those two obstinate, arrogant leaders in the White House ever get the message that we’re fed up and sick to death of this hellish war? 

Dorothy Snodgrass 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a Cal alumnus, I am disturbed by the arrest of Zachary Running Wolf and the manner in which campus officials are refusing to listen to the concerns of the community and of the First People, not only on the specific issue at hand, the preservation of the Memorial Oak Grove, but on many other issues. I do not know Mr. Running Wolf well, having met him only once. I do know him by reputation as a dedicated and respected activist for the local community and for Native American issues. 

As an anthropologist, I have spent many years working the members of the Gabrielino/Tongva and Juaneno/ Acjachemen people of Southern California in their efforts to save the sacred creation center of Puvungna on the Cal State Long Beach campus. During this time, I have come to have great respect for Native American activists such as Mr. Running Wolf who are attempting to preserve their heritage while educating the rest of us about the importance of that heritage. After many years, campus officials at Cal State Long Beach have finally come to recognize the wisdom of listening to the voices of the community and of the First People of California. Steps are now being taken to properly honor the Puvungna site. 

In the interest of justice and for sake of the university itself, I hope the UC administration will drop whatever charges it may have against Mr. Running Wolf. The concerns he is raising are widely felt, and he should be honored, not condemned, for his commitment. 

Campus officials need to listen to the people. 

Eugene E. Ruyle 

Emeritus Professor of Anthropology 

California State University, Long Beach 

Cal class of ‘63 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am an eighth grade student at the Athenian Middle School in Danville. In our science class, my group and I conducted a research report on a type of pollution that we feel is overlooked far too often. This pollution is called “food miles.” 

Food miles is a serious issue. Food miles is the distance that food travels from food to plate, from the farm to the consumer. The idea is that there is a lot of unnecessary transportation that occurs. The actual pollution is from the planes, trains and automobiles used in the shipping process. Basically, to make ketchup for example, a tomato can be picked in a field, put on a truck, driven to a packaging center, then driven to a distribution center, where it is distributed to stores, and then the consumer drives all the way to the store and back home. Often times, foods are imported from far away by plane, especially fruit, because it is so perishable. Planes give off ungodly amounts of carbon-dioxide. The basic kiwi found at Safeway is imported from New Zealand, and the tomato from Mexico. This is silly, as here, near the Central Valley, we have some of the best agriculture available. Also, foods are often bought out of season, which isn’t necessary. 

It’s not just foods that are contributing, but other products as well. Bottled water is horribly inefficient, as the bottling is done before shipment, and water can be imported from very far away. Sparkling water is even worse. The top sellers, Perrier & Pellegrino are from France and Italy, whereas Calistoga is from here in California. Beer is similar; Heineken for example is imported all the way from Amsterdam. 

In terms of prevention, there are many things the consumer can do. First off, the consumer needs to be aware. They need to look at where foods are bought from and buy more local foods. Secondly, then need to try to shop at local farmers’ markets as much as possible. If not markets, then some stores feature more local foods, such as Whole Foods, which buys their produce form Happy Boy Farms in California. The consumer needs to know what foods are in season and stick to those groups as much as possible. They can drink their tap water, to reduce bottled water consumption, or if it’s bad, they can get a filter for around 30 dollars from any local supermarket. Once again awareness is the key. Food miles is a serious issue and needs to be treated accordingly. 

David Young 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Outside Zellerbach auditorium, where critical journalist Michael Pollan has just debated the C.E.O. of Whole Foods, audience members are suspicious that this fight was rigged, its champions giggling away their time in “I’m for choice” banality. And why wouldn’t they? Both speakers, and a jubilant majority of the audience, agree in a fundamental way that it’s high time to vote with your dollars—a lot of them. 

The problem is that voting with your dollars, like voting in general, isn’t doing anything other than shuffling allegiances between our masters whenever it’s in their interest to cast the illusion of choice. What of using our human faculty to create something new and better, which will correspond perfectly with our beliefs and give back to us more than the energies we happily put in? 

Alas, most of us are cursed to chase these scraps of green paper which stuff the ballot box of our discontent late after a long night of work. 

But this is the worst problem of all: some of us don’t have as many dollars to vote with. Some of us, maybe farmers of certifiable mangoes in the desert that violent greed is so quickly pacifying fertile Earth into, must desperately trade our sweat, mangoes, farm, everything, in need of the bleached, subsidized and “humanitarian” flour which by ruthless exportation conquered our ancestor’s agriculture, or desperate to enroll children in a school, to do better than this. 

The people with votes to spare are the rich few, and we already know that in their hands, nothing of substance will change. How easy it is for us to find contentment in the decision to buy only products rated highly by this very rich man and his very rich company. What “intelligence and discipline” we display. Come on, my people! This is the same old emperor. As a wise old Panther once told a room, “They’ll paint the White House black if they can keep making a buck.” As ever before, kings today are busiest extracting wealth and hoping to leave us helpless to do anything but follow their decrees. 

I’ll pose a real alternative, which Tuesday’s debate was lacking: Vote with your own creativity and energy. 

Maybe spend a few hours a month helping make real food real cheap at one of the co-op farmstands in Berkeley, plant some collard greens at your community garden, write your deep thoughts on the signs for United Fruit Co. garbage at your grocery store—and refuse anything short of complete freedom, complete justice, and complete equality! 

Adam Wight 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

After reading the confusion caused by a simple typo (“tresspass instead of trespass”), I provide this entry for the Beware-of-Spelling-and Double-Meaning File:  

Once on a London Tube platform I read a sensible warning sign: DO NOT CROSS THE RAILS, followed by a wag’s reasoning: IT TAKES US HOURS TO UNTANGLE THEM. 

Thanks again for being serious but never stodgy, 

Patrick Fenix  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Where is the compassion and unity as new hard-core and mean-spirited immigration proposals take shape in Texas. Is blaming and demonizing hard working immigrants the most pressing problem the state is facing or are we seeing a distraction from failed policies? 

Republicans and anti-immigration forces are attacking the most vulnerable members of society denying American born children of immigrants benefits and services. Leave it to the GOP to come up with immigrant-bashing legislation to stoke the fires of its conservative constituency. Why does this still feel like racism and discrimination? 

Ron Lowe 

Grass Valley