Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday March 23, 2007


Editors, Daily Planet: 

It was a shock to so many of us when Cody’s closed their Telegraph store. We all know that local bookstores are in jeopardy throughout the country, endangered by chains and online book sellers, but are you aware that another Berkeley institution, Black Oak Books, is also endangered and could close? 

Black Oak not only provides quality books, one of the best selections of the classics anywhere, used books for the budget-minded, and a wonderful selection of children’s books, but it has consistently provided a lectern for important local, national and international writers—a true service to our community. 

Black Oak is looking for new partners and infusions of money, but there is something we all can do: Try Black Oak first, the next time you are browsing or looking for a particular book. If they don’t have it you then have a choice to have them order it, or obtain your book elsewhere. Books ordered from Black Oak take a week to 10 days to arrive—perhaps a couple days longer than online orders at high shipping costs that reduce savings—but unless you are in immediate need of a book, why not give them a chance? The other thing you can do is bring them unwanted books for resale, and receive either cash or trade. 

I am neither an employee of Black Oak, nor a relative—simply a Berkeley resident who has enjoyed Black Oak as my neighborhood bookstore for many years. Black Oak’s address is 1491 Shattuck, near Vine, the number is 486-0698, and you will find their website online. 

Please, let’s be community-minded and preserve this cultural resource. 

Leah Shelleda 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Amidst the ceaseless blizzard of global bad news this rainy Tuesday you have printed two delightful letters from women, Amy Thomas and Doris Moskowitz, who own and manage between them four bookstores. Each of their stores is an honest business, a cordial gathering place, a distinctive cultural asset, and a provider of such public services as selling tickets without fees. Another such enterprise is Cody’s, whose veteran events’ producer, Melissa Mytinger, regularly offers free or remarkably inexpensive presentations by the best authors writing books. If we value these stores—and all of our other independent bookstores—we must give them the money, or most of it, that we spend for our books. It’s that simple. That’s the support needed. The way a healthy community supports its schools and parks and gardens, its air and water—that’s how we should support our remaining bookstores. They are an inextricable element in the community web, the tangible one, more fundamentally essential and far more personally responsive than that other one. 

Bob Baldock 

Former owner, Black Oak Books 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On March 8, the San Francisco Bay Area Water Transit Authority solicit comments on the scope of the environmental impact report/environmental impact statement (EIR/EIS) to evaluate potential impacts of four proposed ferry terminal sites in Berkeley and Albany. Comments from this meeting and from the second March 15 scoping session held in Albany will be fully evaluated in the EIR/EIS, along with all written comments received.  

In response to the March 13 commentary, it is important to understand that federal and state environmental guidelines require that the WTA fully evaluate the impacts of all proposed sites under consideration. Accordingly, the economic considerations of a potential site near the Doubletree Hotel will be fully evaluated in the EIR/EIS. 

The commentary also expressed concern about schematics that depicted what a new ferry terminal could look like at four locations. Over the next several months, the potential layouts of all potential terminal locations will be refined to reflect comments received at the hearings and potential environmental impacts. The draft EIR/EIS that will be released in early 2008 will reflect the additional analysis. Public hearings will be scheduled to solicit public comments on information included in the draft EIR/EIS.  

The vessels referenced in the commentary are not for the Berkeley/Albany service, since the WTA can not order these boats until the EIR/EIS is completed. WTA has ordered two vessels that will be spare vessels, initially put into service to launch the South San Francisco–Oakland route until the boats specified for that route are delivered. These 149-passenger, 25-knot boats, built to 46CFR Subchapter T standards, will interchange quite well among our routes that range from seven to 11 miles. These boats cost around $8 million each and are scheduled to be delivered in September of 2008 and January of 2009. They will be 85 percent better than EPA emission standards for Tier II (2007) marine engines.  

Throughout the environmental process the WTA will continue to evaluate ridership and cost issues to ensure that Berkeley or Albany ferry service provides a cost effective transit option that increases regional mobility. For more information on WTA go to 

Written comments should be submitted by March 30 to 

Shirley Douglas 

Manager of Community Relations 

San Francisco Bay Area Water Transit Authority 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

For the letter I submitted, and you published, I did not write Chancellor Heynes was a “great president.” I wrote that his eco-friendly deed of saving a grove of majestic, old trees serves as a great precedent for Chancellor Birgeneau to follow. 

Mitch Cohen 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

It was clear from the public comments at this event that a universal single-payer health care system is what most of us want and need. So, it is depressing to hear from our state’s legislative leaders that “I don’t know how much we will be able to get done” about moving towards such a system (Perata) because there are so many “difficulties and political realities to be overcome” (Nunez).  

Let us be absolutely clear about exactly what these political realities are. They have nothing to do with “lack of political will” among ordinary Californians, who realize that insurance companies do not deliver health care and in fact prevent people from getting health care and drive up the costs. They have everything to do with lack of political will among our elected officials, who continue to depend on the generous donations of insurance companies to finance their election campaigns. The political realities really are that simple. 

It is difficult to imagine getting an affordable, universal health care system until we can offer an alternative to the financial lifeline between the insurance industry and our elected officials. Assemblywoman Hancock’s Clean Money bill—AB 583—being re-introduced this year, provides an alternative to these “political realities” bemoaned by those who find themselves unable to disassociate themselves from the interests of the insurance lobby. 

Lynn Davidson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Further to your various comments on the state of the streets, and what to do about the decline in Berkeley’s business districts, one prominent example of a single individual creating a street nuisance that I am surprised has not yet led to violence is the case of the panhandler—who I’m sure many people will recognize from my description— who parks himself on many occasions outside the Peets at the Berkeley end of Solano Avenue, with a doubled-up coffee cup to collect money. 

This black guy literally pursues every single person who walks on the sidewalk or goes into Peets, for hours at a stretch, with his aggressive and loudly annoying requests for money. I have asked the Peets manager on many occasions to ask the police to get rid of the guy, but he keeps coming back. He makes shopping, or even being, on that stretch of street completely unbearable. And people are even stupid enough to give him money! I feel like standing behind the guy—and I would do it if I had time—with a big sign saying, “This person is a professional parasite—don’t encourage him by giving him even a single dime.” I have talked to many friends about this particular person, and all agree that he is the most annoying and unbearable street person that any of us has ever encountered. What’s the solution? I don’t know. Probably a stern warning from the police, followed by arrest if he doesn’t take any notice. But something needs to be done to encourage this guy to desist, and to put him on some kind of alternative track! He imposes his problems on the rest of us.  

Andrew Ritchie 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I applaud Mayor Bates and the Berkeley City Council for taking a pro-business stance and moving us in the direction of finally eliminating the human vermin that pollute downtown Berkeley. The rights of commerce must take precedence over the “rights” of those who choose to live on the street. Thank God Berkeley is following the rest of the nation in applying this truth. Once the living garbage is entirely erased, our shopping experience in the city will be freed of unpleasantness, discomfort and guilt. God bless you, mayor, and God bless our valiant troops! 

Evan Magers 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Berkeley Transportation Commissioner Rob Wrenn said: “Bus riders here need to get unionized just like they did in Los Angeles.” (“Workshop Examines South, West Transportation Plan,” March 20). Your story on the community transportation workshop turned that into bus drivers.  

AC Transit bus drivers are already organized. The Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 192 fights hard for both the drivers and the entire community. Among other things, ATU 192 has taken MTC to court to challenge its discriminatory under-funding of AC Transit.  

Commissioner Wrenn was making a different point: Organized bus riders can create major change. Wrenn was referring to the Los Angeles Bus Riders Union (, which won a civil rights law suit against the LA MTA, and achieved massive improvements in bus service.  

A bus riders union in the East Bay would be a powerful weapon in the struggle for affordable, reliable, and accessible transit service for all. 

Xochitl Marquez  

Michael Russell  

Public Advocates, Inc. 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

No one will believe me, of course, but I’m convinced that my iMac is Republican! Either that, or my e-mail is being censored by Homeland Security or the FBI. Listening to the news this morning I was so riled up by the president’s defiant refusal to allow Rove to testify under oath regarding the Gonzales affair, that I went directly to my computer to complain to a friend. In my message I rather rudely, but accurately, referred to Bush as an_________. Well, I wish you could have seen my screen light up. That word came out in bright, blood red. So, I chose another fitting description: ________. Same thing. I couldn’t send the e-mail nor could I print it. A small symbol, resembling a red pepper, appeared at the top of my e-mail indicating that it was censored! Heavens to Elizabeth, whatever has happened to free speech? Am I now on a “non-flight list?”  

Dorothy Snodgrass 

Note to editor: I’ll call in the two unaccepted words. 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am a resident of South Berkeley and live just around the corner from McGhee’s Market. The recent shooting outside this well-trafficked local market is just one more of the many episodes of gang and drug-related violence that besiege our South Berkeley neighborhood. Where is the outcry from the Mayor and the entire City Council, especially Max Anderson? Where is the call from city leaders for a community-based, well-funded, multi-pronged initiative to both stop violence in South Berkeley in the short-term and comprehensively and effectively address its root causes in the long-term?  

When at a mayoral debate last fall I asked (then candidate) Mayor Bates about violence in South Berkeley, he tepidly replied that compared to the murder rate in Oakland, Berkeley is not doing that badly. At any rate, thanks a lot for your leadership and engagement with the acute problems confronting this part of town. Thanks also for your compassion for the families of victims of violence in South Berkeley. I’m sure that the next time residents in South Berkeley duck bullets as they try to simply enjoy a spring evening or buy a gallon of milk, they’ll find comfort in the thought that at least they don’t live in Oakland.  

By the way, I am currently working in Gulu, Uganda, the epicenter of a brutal civil war between rebel insurgents and the Ugandan government. For the record, I’m safer walking around in Gulu than I am in my own South Berkeley neighborhood. How ironic to be sending my family e-mails from Gulu warning them not to walk a block and a half to the corner store. So Mayor Bates, for your information, Berkeley is doing worse than Gulu. Hope that helps put things in perspective for you.  

The human right to life and security extends to all, regardless of race, ethnicity, class, gender, etc. All residents—long-timers and new—living in the vibrant, multi-ethnic neighborhoods of South Berkeley deserve to have these and other fundamental rights respected. The ongoing failure of Berkeley elected officials to ensure respect for these rights is compounded by the failure of Berkeley community members “across town” to show as much concern for their South Berkeley neighbors as they do for anti-global warming and “impeach Bush” initiatives.  

It’s time for Berkeley to come together as ONE community to address the human rights crisis at our own door. Think globally. Act locally. But most of all, stop being by-standers. It exposes a deep blind-spot, callousness and hypocrisy among the otherwise caring and engaged leaders and citizens of an otherwise famously progressive city.  

Phoebe McKinney  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am a resident of the 1700 block of Oregon Street in Berkeley. On Sunday March 11, sometime after 6 p.m., five shots were fired near McGhee’s Market located on the corner of Oregon and McGee streets. 

This is one block down from where myself, my husband and my two children live. This is one block down from the Youth Center and Grove Park. 

It was a beautiful, beautiful, early evening—unseasonably warm. So many people were enjoying the tot lot at Grove park, the baseball field, the ad-hoc soccer field on the outfield of the baseball field, the tennis courts, the basketball courts. People of all ages, ethnicities and races were lounging, talking, riding bikes. The scene was so peaceful, almost bucolic in nature. Babies, older folks—a kind of harmony. Berkeley at its finest, some would say. 

So my husband and I decided to let the kids walk over to Walgreens, about two blocks east down Oregon Street. The children left, and about five minutes later, we heard the shots. At first, I wishfully thought, “Firecrackers?” 

But my husband said, “No, gunshot.” He could hear the recoil of the guns.  

In a panic, my husband and I went outside to the porch. Thankfully, even though the children were heading east, and the shots were down the street just to the west, our children had turned back when they heard the shots. But what if Arturo, aged 12, and Rosa, aged 9, had been walking to their other favorite neighborhood destinations—McGee’s Market? What if they had been doing what they love to do on a warm evening—go to McGee’s for an ice cream? What if any of the hundreds of people who were out and about on that beautiful sunshiny Sunday, what if any of them had happened to be walking by Oregon and McGee, sometime after 6? 

I fear an impending tragedy in our South Berkeley neighborhood. There have been more drive-by shootings than usual, lately. (Yes, “than usual.” Isn’t that sad?) 

What are we to do? To be honest, I have no proposed solutions. However, I would like you to seriously listen to and consider the proposals of others who might have some effective ideas. I would like you to hear my pain, and the pain of all the other parents in Oakland and South Berkeley who fear for their childrens’ lives and wonder if they can let their children taste even a modicum of freedom, a developmentally appropriate measure of independence—just a walk to the corner store. On a beautiful, sunshiny evening. In South Berkeley. 

Diana Rossi 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

How was it possible for millions of us who knew before the war started that the war that this administration was planning was illegal, but the administration started the war based on lies, anyway? By now, over 2000 American deaths and over 650,000 Iraqi deaths later, almost all Americans are aware of the facts, and the administration with the help of our so-called representatives are still “staying the course”! This is outrageous and we should all be on the streets of our United States and shout these so-called representatives (with very few exceptions) down! 

Ilse Hadda 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

There’s no doubt that the Berkeley Daily Planet supports the anti-war movement. Numerous positive, accurate articles about the struggle to end the war and occupation of Iraq has made that clear. (Though I’m unclear about where exactly you stand on the occupation of Afghanistan. More on that some other time.) 

So I was especially stunned to read in your otherwise supportive editorial “Ending the War and Beyond” the assertion that “3,000 people did show up” at the March 18 San Francisco anti-war mobilization. Yeah, 3,000 did show up. And at least 27,000 others!  

It was the strongest showing of the anti-war movement since early 2003. One indicator of the size of the march was the snail’s pace with which we moved down Market Street. The Labor contingent I was with left at about 1 p.m. Due to the sea of humanity clogging the street we didn’t reach the Civic center until about 2:30 !  

I expect such low-balling from the San Francisco Chronicle, who originally came up from with the absurd 3,000 figure. During the build-up to the Gulf War in 1991 the largest anti-war coalition at the time actually hired an aerial photographer to counter the Chron’s notorious downplaying of our huge demos.  

But please, don’t allow this to happen again in your far more honest publication. It undercuts our efforts to end the this Imperial adventure in the “cradle of civilization.” 

Stan Woods  





Editors, Daily Planet: 

What’s the excuse this time? Why the obscene spike in gas prices over the past three weeks? The oil industry hasn’t given us any of its usual list of excuses. 

The November elections saw corporate Republicans lower gas prices in an effort to help the Bush team and the GOP retain control of Congress. Is the latest round of price increases an effort by the oil cartel to recoup losses (lower profits) suffered in its political power play of November? 

Ron Lowe  

Grass Valley 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

I know it is important to educate our children in mathematics and the sciences so that Americans can compete in the global economy. At the same time we need children who have a strong sense of themselves who will choose an ethical way of life. Art and literature are very important in the curriculum. They exercise the imagination of students and give them an opportunity to think about life values. Without art and literature in the curriculum, we can have citizens who are employed but who lack an independent sense of the meaning of their lives. In early years of their education these are the most important subjects for the young children to build the meaningful connection with the wider world and express their true feelings. 

Romila Khanna 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A political question much discussed by the philosophers of ancient Greece and Rome has been emphatically answered in our times, at least in theory, by the notion of democracy.  

They asked: Who shall guard the guardians? [Quis custodiet …?] and we answer: We, the people, of course.  

Increasingly, however, the people’s voice fails because government agencies and departments are now prone to outsource work of public benefit to private contractors whose ears are not tuned to the people. 

For example, my brother lost his home to the Katrina disaster, then lost his rent subsidy when FEMA turned disbursement over to a private company; his landlord refused the subsidy check as being from a “third party.” This, together with more widespread Katrina/ FEMA debacles, suggests a publicly funded government/broker that puts the needy in touch with profit-greedy providers. 

In Iraq and Afghanistan there are tens of thousands of civilians engaged in military work—armed guards escorting VIPs and convoys, cooking, building, driving trucks, etc. —collecting salaries from companies under contract to the military but not bound by military regulations.  

At Walter Reed Army Medical Center deplorable conditions were due, at least in part, to the failure of a company owned by Halliburton to do the job it was paid to do.  

As privatization proliferates, a buffer grows between the elected guardians, and their guards, the people…us.  

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

We’re tired and we just want to be left alone. Nationally, we want Bush and Cheney and their criminal gangs removed from the White House and then punished for treason. We want all of the U.S. troops and contractors and miscellaneous Hessians removed from Iraq, Afghanistan and other parts of the Middle East. 

We want Iran left alone. 

We want an immediate return to 100 percent hand-counted paper ballots for all elections. We want an immediate end to right-wing Republican-owned corporations “counting” our votes electronically with secret proprietary computer software. 

We want federal taxes returned to the levels that they were under President Clinton. We want a universal single-payer federal health insurance system. We want an immediate end to the greedy gouging of our pocketbooks and wallets by HMOs, insurance companies and pharmaceutical corporations. 

In California, we want an end to left-wing liberal legislative busybodying and bullying about our light bulbs, our cats, our dogs, our fireplaces and our old cars. Assemblyman Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys), please note: cats pooping in neighbors’ yards is not a major public health issue. We want the Democrats in the state legislative to concentrate on the important issues: getting us universal single-payer health insurance and balancing the state budget each year without floating bonds, and thus sticking our tax bills onto our children and grandchildren. 

And finally, we want corporations to stop trying to put their obnoxious intrusive advertising into any public places. We do not want to be bullied with yakking video ads while we pump our gas or when we use public bathrooms. Are these corporate marketers completely insane with greed? We are already up to our eyeballs in consumer credit card debt… Any yet, they keep telling us that we need to buy more, more, more… We’re tired and we just want to be left alone.  

James K. Sayre 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Back in February 2005 your paper as well as others ran the story about Lonnie Torres. I submitted letters to many of these organizations at the time telling them that they had the wrong guy and assured them that I was correct. Well, that time has come. Finally the truth can be told. Berkeley police never had the correct suspect in custody, and now he’s finally out. Two years later and all charges dropped. Isn’t that interesting, especially for the officer that got the award for identifying Mr. Torres as the suspect? Also, the remark that something about this arrest being the product of some kinda police work or something to that effect. Funny that I don’t see any news coverage about Mr. Torres’ release from custody. This just may be an oversight, I’m not sure. But it would make for some interesting reading on how in this day in age that this could happen to someone—spend two years in jail because someone says your the one. Especially when it happens to be a cop, who also gets an award for his efforts. Have your name slandered by every news outfit in the region, only to have the entire thing dropped, with nothing said at all by anyone. I would urge you to revisit this incident just to see what happened. Like I said, it should make for interesting reading. Thank you for your attention.  

Dave Farias