Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday May 04, 2007



Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Berkeley community has an opportunity to contribute to a regional, East Bay response to the collapse of the MacArthur Maze this past weekend. The contribution would be to support use of the Ashby Avenue exit as a detour for traffic heading eastbound from the Bay Bridge to I-580. If the Ashby Avenue exit is closed to local traffic and a temporary connector is paved from the northbound ramp to the southbound flyover ramp, then traffic heading east on I-580 from the bridge would continue east on I-80, loop around on the Ashby exit ramps, then return to the open I-580 ramp from westbound I-80. 

From an operational standpoint, moving 30,000-plus vehicles per day through city streets in West Oakland is likely to be a nightmare. Even though traffic would be slowed, with proper lane announcements eastbound I-580 traffic could move more quickly and steadily via the Ashby Avenue exit detour. And since the exit would be closed to local traffic for the duration of the reconstruction project, none of this traffic would enter Berkeley proper. In addition, it would prevent the use of Ashby Avenue as a detour for Highway 24 traffic. In the long term, offering the Ashby Avenue exit for a detour would give Berkeley a powerful argument for funding its alternative transportation projects. 

Perhaps the strongest reason to support this detour option is environmental justice. Sure, I’d like to see every driver who uses the Bay Bridge switch to public transportation because of the collapse of the Maze. But until such occurs, using the Ashby Avenue exit as a detour for I-580 traffic will have two important environmental impacts for the region as a whole. First, traffic detoured via Ashby will not need to use city streets. Traffic detoured via Grand Avenue will add 30,000 cars to local streets and make West Oakland neighborhoods nearly unlivable. Second, the type of stop-and-go city street traffic that will take place on the Grand Avenue detour will use more fuel and contribute to higher overall pollution levels than if traffic used the Ashby Avenue exit. 

Share the impact. Reduce the impact overall. Don’t just shove it off on West Oakland. 

John Egan 

Buffalo, Wyoming 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In her rant of wrong assumptions, Ms. Torrence utterly missed the whole point of the story. For one thing, I think 12-step recovery is awesome. For another, I routinely pay a higher price for my concoction, usually in the San Francisco Financial District Peets branches I frequent. And I’m absolutely stumped as to why she assumes that people who like stronger brews must habitually fail to tip. The outrageousness was that no one, under any circumstances—never mind that the young man was supposedly holding what’s known as a “service” position—[and lest Ms. T go off on another screed, let me assure her, I’ve held many of those myself, and in fact have a strong spiritual practice in which service writ large is considered sacred...] no one should ever speak to another human being in such a derogatory fashion. This fellow was not just inappropriate, but inflammatory—“old, lonely and desperate” is a paradigmatic example of hate speech against older women. 

When I saw him in the vicinity of these meetings, I retrospectively realized it was a safe bet he’d been either “on” something to incite such aggression, or desperately jonesing for it. All the free coffee in the world means nothing when what’s needed and required is an apology, and, to use the language of “recovery,” an amends. In which the insult is acknowledged and atoned for. Not paid off or bribed away. 

Clearly Ms. Torrence, having no use apparently for civility in society, is a fish out of water in such a conscious, aware, savvy city as Berkeley. 

Eileen Sheryl Hammer 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

So many smart and interesting people are trying to brainstorm solutions to the various problems Telegraph Avenue has been experiencing. Area residents, merchants, property owners/managers, city officials, advocates for homeless, police—all want basically the same thing in the end- a crowded, fun-filled retail strip with lots to look at and experience. Everybody wants it to be safe, colorful, user-friendly, and with a strong sense of identity. As one of the few busiest retail strips in Berkeley, the city should be keen to keep it healthy and help provide whatever a city as rich in resources as Berkeley is can provide. What was once a destination for tour busses, thousands of tourists, and a huge regional draw, is now little more than a pedestrian corridor for often uninterested/busy students and barely enough locals to keep the place looking vaguely populated. A small handful of mentally ill people have had a huge impact on Telegraph’s destiny. Each day dozens, if not hundreds of shoppers/strollers decide not to come back due to encounters with these sometimes rude and scary folks. For some reason, city staff appear to have no way to enforce politeness/civility among this small population. Everybody on Telegraph knows who these people are, and would love to find a caring way to help them find a better way to be than to play out what is often a power trip by someone who knows no other way to express their personal power! I know one particular guy who’s on Telegraph daily, who’s never hurt anybody that I know of, but has scared the living sh*t out of many, many a shopper, student, and local worker.... and this has been going on for many years. 

Cannot this brilliant community/city find a way to deal with this first-in-a-series of hurdles between here and a beautiful future for Telegraph ? On “community policing”—should not any merchant expect to be able to get to know the beat officers responsible for watching over their district without having to “fight” for that right? Instead, the merchants and residents are being treated like that’s some kind of ridiculous notion. Every business district should expect police that are actually interested in building rapport with the locals, right? What about the simple idea of providing the officers with cell phones for their shifts, why is that so controversial? 

Beyond trying to build a sense of community amongst the various players and the image of a safe place to be, there’s improved street lighting, access to parking/transportation, public restrooms, and most importantly, attracting new businesses that will help define the Telegraph Avenue of the future—all of this requires not only the heartfelt interest of everybody involved, but some serious support from the city government. 

Marc Weinstein 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have been proud reader of the Planet for years now. I am a disabled person (spinal cord injured for 20 years) and a disability rights activist for much of that time. 

I have been proud specifically of the Planet’s printing all of my letters to the editor when I have addressed disability rights and the paper’s occasional use of language that is offensive to disabled persons. I have been impressed by the position the Planet has taken with respect to accessible transportation. As a Jew, I have been proud of the position you have taken with respect to Israel and its occupation. 

I have been additionally proud that Becky O’Malley, as editor, came out in favor of the warm water pool in Berkeley and that the Planet was the only progressive media source that was not primarily disability rights focused to take a position favoring Terri Schiavo’s parents’ appeal to keep her alive and that you stated you felt the disability rights community were the only ones, in your view, who “got it” about what the true issues were in her case. 

So I was disappointed that in the April 6 edition, in your editorial piece you chose to use the euphemism “turning a blind eye.” This is extremely offensive to all disabled persons (as is “turning a deaf ear” or “crippled by such and such”). I was surprised given my sense of what I read as your support of disability rights over the years. 

This was coupled by a letter to the editor in the same issue by Dmitri Belser, executive director of the Center for Accessible Technology, speaking to the lack of coverage of issues pertinent to the disability community in the Planet (the fact that Berkeley received recognition as the “most accessible city in the United States” and the Planet made no mention of it). 

I’m going to venture a guess that you do not have someone on staff who has a disability beat assigned to him or her and no one who edits pieces for correct (or politically correct) language use whether it be over gender or disability status. Since Becky O’Malley is editor in chief, I’m assuming this responsibility falls on her. 

Please try to be more cognizant of language use by those on your staff and those whose articles you print. I realize that you have no jurisdiction to change language use in a letter to the editor. But in other areas I believe you do. 

Ruthanne Shpiner 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

One man, out of touch with the country, vetoes troop withdrawal legislation thus thwarting the will of tens of millions of Americans. Is democracy great or what!  

Bush got us into this mess in Iraq and now vetoes any effort to get us out. What’s going on inside the mind of George Bush? 

President Bush: “Iraq timeline could cause chaos.” It already is total chaos in Iraq. 

Ron Lowe  

Grass Valley 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Its amazing I have worked for more than 25 years, own a home in east Oakland for more than 18 years pay taxes among other things. I tried to secure employment via the city of Oakland and was denied employment. Not because I was not qualify . Now I hear the new mayor from Washington expressing his concern that felons are not given jobs opportunities after they did time. I am not a felon I am unemployed no meds and have to decide health care or welfare. I hope the next time they need votes or posting their signs in my home they do not ring my bell. I have given up on politicians with amnesia.  

Dennis Foreman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A letter to our honorable politicians: 

As a library patron since 1977 I implore you to respect the nobility of your collective offices and stop this childish and thoroughly irresponsible Bush inspired mockery of the due process and fair judgment of the pressing needs of our community library system after its wholesale slaughter by the carpetbagging Jackie Griffin. You need to get back to playing by the rules or you all will be carted off to a guillotine somewhere where the enemies of the people meet their just deserts.  

All library patrons want an orderly and democratic process to determine the board of Trustees. Not a flim flam Roberts Rules of Order bamboozle. Look beyond your paychecks and the hustlers who give you campaign donations for the purchase of your souls and think like human beings instead of Republicans.  

We are watching and we know all about you and are quite disgusted with this latest turn of events regarding this Susan Kupfer affair. Reject this odious maneuver and regain our respect. Sensible due process to allow qualified candidates the ability to compete is an American value that apparently most of you have abandoned. Get it back, and don’t waste any time, because we are very tired of having to fight with every stupid decision that you folks are making regarding the Berkeley Public Library. Stop this crap and become caring human beings once more.  

Mike Jordan 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A fast-tracked new building under construction in the East Richmond Heights has taken several houses’ views and is causing a huge controversy among surrounding neighbors and residents. On a recent Sunday morning, the house was two stories high and by the afternoon it had grew to an appalling three stories. This has become a great issue in the community because none of the neighbors surrounding the gigantic house has ever been notified of its construction. In addition, the new house overlooks neighboring properties and could be considered an invasion of privacy. It is apparent that the builders are trying to outrun any actions of the neighbors as well as the county. The outraged neighbors and residents have been calling county authorities and have visited Contra Costa County Building Inspection. As a result, a neighborhood meeting is being planned to avoid the situation. We encourage local attention and support on this issue. If three-story homes blocking several other residents’ views is allowed here, it could set a precedent for this whole area—a very bad precedent. This is not the issue of the East Richmond Height anymore. It is an issue for all the areas of the Bay area with great views. 

Mimi Matsumoto 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The best thing on TV these days is the seldom watched C-span channel which has “hearings.” Now that the Democrats are in the majority, they are holding a hot flurry of investigations on six years of Republican naughtiness. And what intrigues me most and irritates me most of all, is the new vocabulary of “evasiveness.” Recent examples, Gonzales responded with phrase, “I cant recollect,” almost 500 times in his soft Texanese. Or the Tillman scandal with testifiers for the military saying essentially, “that someone, somewhere in the chain of command (Lord knows where) might have or haven’t done something inappropriate....bla-bla-bla.” But the phrase which most enrages me to apoplexy is the hypocritical: “I take responsibility for...” Doctor Phillism has entered the world of politics with a vengeance! “Taking responsibility for...” has the panache of nobility, of integrity, of 12-stepism, of pop-psychotherapy. The phrase has become enormously popular for persons on the hot seat. In politics it manages in a tricky, clever and hypocritical way to escape the smell of corruption, of stupidity of immorality and just plain greed. I would much prefer those who “take full responsibility” to say instead truthfully and honestly: “I’ve been corrupt, or, “I’ve ashamed of what I’ve done,” or, at least: “I am a truly greedy bastard.”  

Robert Blau 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding Sweena Aulakh’s May 1 commentary on fighting obesity in Berkeley by creating more high density development in downtown Berkeley: 

Although I take issue with every single point in Ms. Aulakh’s case for creating more high-density development in downtown Berkeley, I would like to focus on changes to the built environment as a way of fighting the overweight and obesity epidemic which continues to skyrocket in California; along with the number of people with chronic conditions associated with overweight and obesity such as heart disease, type II diabetes, certain cancers (e.g. breast, colon), osteoarthritis, and respiratory conditions. 

In Berkeley and its environs, right now we have a chance to fight obesity by re-opening the centrally located Berkeley Iceland. Over the years my family, friends, and myself, as well as countless seniors who have ice skated in childhood or earlier adulthood, have frequented Iceland and enjoyed every aspect of it. We skate for hours and burn calories, and create whole body toned muscles. The social aspect embodies everything Berkeley stands for: diversity, friendliness and helpfulness of the staff and everyone; an inexpensive place to have parties and go for nonviolent socializing every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. (I can’t bear to use the past tense.) 

During the week and in the summer, the sessions and camps provide a place to build real skills and artistic appreciation—for music, dance, and exercise—using peer-to-peer mentoring, and one-to-one and group instruction. 

If you combine swimming at the YMCA and local school and public pools with ice skating at Iceland, you will combat obesity and gain cardiovascular protection and isometric strength, as well as calorie combustion and a streamlined well-toned and muscled body. Yes, no one can deny that biking and walking are wonderful, but so is iceskating—and it is uniquely social and perfect for rainy days and nights.  

Please write Mayor Bates and UC Berkeley (whose hockey team needs to play at Iceland) to try to find the money to buy and reopen Iceland and maintain it as a safe place for neighbors and other users. Check out and send them donations. 

Just think of all the car exhaust pollution this will save, if we don’t have to drive to ice rinks in Oakland or elsewhere. 

Please remember that increased density, no matter how you slice it, breeds more cars, more pollution, more overuse of our limited resources, and creates cement jungles. Density’s original argument was to have urban infill and distant greenbelts: Did you ever go to the greenbelt? By the way, Brentwood and other formerly alluded to greenbelt destinations are now giant amorphous exurban enclaves. It is hard enough to get to Tilden Park by public transportation or walking or biking. But Iceland, for the bulk of Berkeley and its surroundings, is just a hop, skip and a jump away. 

Stay trim: Re-open Iceland! 

Wendy Schlesinger, Chairman,  

Gardens on Wheels Association  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Today I watched a hearing on C-Span. I didn’t turn it on at the beginning, so I do not know what agency was holding the hearing.  

The subject was the failure of Iran to stop supporting terrorism in neighboring countries, primarily Israel.  

Testimony was given by the head of the New York Employees Retirement Fund who said he had $90 billion to be invested, with some of it going to Iran. Companies who have investments in Iran include Halliburton and Shell Oil in Holland. 

This caused me to decided to publicize the matter, using the tactic I have used while handing out leaflets since 1950 at San Francisco State College. I made two sandwich board signs saying” Shell Supports Terrorism.” The letters were over three inches high, which is large enough to be read about 150 feet away by persons with 20/20 vision. 

I went to the Shell station at the corner of Marin and San Pablo avenues in Albany. I put on my sandwich boards and went into the office and introduced myself and told the lady what I was going to do. 

I then went out to the northeast corner and stood where persons in passing vehicles could read my signs. I stood there about 40 minutes, turning to be seen the most while the signals changed. I would estimate 150 vehicles passed by during this time. About 10 percent beeped at me and many of them waved their hands. 

I then went back into the office and asked for the name of the station manager. I told her I expect to go to other Shell stations tomorrow. I plan to send this report to the manager and any person within Shell whose name I get from him. I hope this message reaches the top management of Shell. I think they will examine the sales of their gasoline in this area. 

Charles L. Smith 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Bush administration seems to be drawn to killing and being killed, not themselves but our brave young people in the military. Perhaps the hierarchy should go to the front lines. If they thought they would have to their attitude would change. It’s much easier when it’s someone else they are sending to war. 

Attacking Iran would be another huge faux pas. A diplomatic approach must be taken with Iran. Hasn’t Iraq been bad enough? Do we want to increase regional and global tensions? 

Dialogue and diplomacy, not war, is what the Bush/Cheney crowd needs to learn quickly in order to increase global security. The American people do not want to attack Iran. Is anyone listening? 

Shirley Taylor