Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday May 08, 2007

The Berkeley Daily Planet accepts letters to the editor and commentary page submissions at and at 3023A Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, CA 94705.  

Letters should be no more than 400 words in length; commentaries should be no more than 1,000 words in length. Deadline for Tuesday edition is 5 p.m. Sunday; deadline for Friday edition is 5 p.m. Wednesday. Please include name, address and phone number for contact purposes. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The front-page Daily Planet photo of Danny Glover boycotting UC Berkeley’s graduation ceremonies showed a UC janitorial employee who has three children. She works two jobs to support her family. Understandable. Children are expensive. Based on U.S. Department of Agriculture data, the cost of raising a child for 18 years and through a public college is $535,318. For a calculator that can be customized for a particular family situation, check out 

Because it is unreasonable to expect parents to afford such expense, society as a whole has an obligation to help. We all benefit from a diverse, talented, healthy, and crime-free community. The general social obligation is particularly salient in California where half of the babies born are from Latino immigrants who are young and have more than the average number of children. Unfortunately, the majority of tax revenues go to the federal government, but the majority of expenses for public services (such as education, emergency medical service, subsidized housing, prison costs) are paid at the state or local level. 

Social custom and religious doctrine that discourage contraception is, in part, responsible for toxic impact of high birth rates and over-population. Because there is a positive correlation between college education, agnosticism, and smaller families, it is important to keep tuition at public universities as low as possible. That way, the children of the janitorial employee will have a greater opportunity to enjoy a life that their mother is struggling so hard to provide. 

Robert Gable 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have seen plenty in the news about how much the highway catastrophe is costing the Bay Area in dollars. On the flip side, I would like to see what quantity of carbon emissions is being saved now that ridership for public transit has risen as a result of the highway closer. I think this is a great pressure point to show how more people can use mass transit. 

Andy Waggoner 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In the May 4 Daily Planet both Richard Brenneman and John Kenyon discuss the planned transformation of Center Street, including the prospect of daylighting a portion of Strawberry Creek, an idea promoted by some Berkeley creek-fanciers. The problem with this idea is that the creek is not there to be daylighted. It doesn’t run under Center Street; it flows through culverts under Oxford, then west under Allston Way. In a related article in the May 5 San Francisco Chronicle, Carolyn Jones cites Will Travis as saying that to re-direct and elevate it would require a complicated and expensive series of pumps and pipes, especially because the underground BART station is at the end of the block. Thus, the “restored” creek would be an entirely artificial structure, in Kenyon’s words “a few yards of railed-off ‘demonstration nature’ in the middle of a busy mall”—no more natural than the Marin Circle fountain. So, if people really want a water display in the mall, why not just put in a re-circulating pond and fountain, and leave Strawberry creek where it is? 

Kenyon further points out that “on the UC campus, starting immediately across Oxford Street, there is approximately a mile of beautifully landscaped natural creek waiting to be strolled along and enjoyed,” In fact, Berkeley provides public access to natural creeks in the Rose Garden, Codornices Park, Live Oak Park, and John Hinkle Park—not to mention the larger bounty of the East Bay Regional Parks. That’s 90,000 acres of natural habitat laced with endless miles of creeks for us to explore. But I guess there will always be special interest groups in Berkeley eager to promote their little ego projects—so long as someone else is paying for it. 

Jerry Landis 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

John Kenyon’s “Visions of a Future Downtown” (May 4) made three especially welcome points. First, regarding the Berkeley Art Museum’s planned relocation to Oxford at Center Street, he wrote, “Perhaps the most interesting program suggestion made so far was incorporation of the existing University Press building,...a City of Berkeley landmark...on the grounds that the original signatory copies of the United Nations Charter were printed there in 1945.” 

Having offered that suggestion in these pages last year (“Designing an Ideal UC Art Museum: Back to the Future,” Public Eye, Dec. 15, 2006), I’m grateful for this expert validation of its merits. If only UC would seriously consider those merits. Museum staff has yet to respond to a formal written proposal from our group, Friends of the U.N. Charter’s Birthplace—even though they’ve adopted our proposal to use the printing plant building as a projection surface. 

Second, Kenyon usefully reminded all of us who want a greener city core that “on the UC campus, starting immediately across Oxford Street, there is approximately a mile of beautifully landscaped natural creek waiting to be strolled along and enjoyed. A far cry from a few yards of railed-off ‘demonstration nature’ in the middle of a busy mall.” 

Indeed, given the huge expense, disruption, and uncertainty involved in “daylighting” Strawberry Creek for just one extra block west of Oxford, wouldn’t it be wise to instead focus on literally “greening” downtown—with amenities like an expanded tree canopy and more usable park space? 

Finally, Kenyon wisely invoked “the splendid twin-towered Federal Building in downtown Oakland, with its clever interplay of windows and heavy structure.” In fact, the whole area that Oakland designed around that Dellums Building and the nearby City Hall— namely, Frank Ogawa Plaza—is a wonderful model for Berkeley. 

Its structural design and its landscape architecture unify old and new buildings in beautifully successful ways, creating an unexpectedly welcoming heart for a rejuvenating city. At sunset, its harmony of unobstructed sunlight, glowing brick, and shining glass is simply magical. 

Michael Katz 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Concerning the city’s sellout to UC in the secret settlement and the continuing litigation surrounding the Long Range Development Plan, the one big question I keep getting asked speaking to Berkeley residents is: If we do win the appeal, then what? The one liner is: Berkeleyans get a seat at the table.  

The next question is: What will I get? Not a one liner.  

Secrecy in government is wrong. You will get a better quality of life. You will re-establish the fact that even great institutions like the University of California will have to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act. The city will have to protect its residents against institutional abuses. The city will get some muscle to prevent the taking of more and more properties from the tax rolls. (The real reason we have high taxes and fees here in Berkeley.) The city will be able to insist that UC pay their fair share of the services and imposed costs that they lay upon the people who make Berkeley their home. There could be a temporary halt in the city’s continuing campaign to increase taxes and fees. There could even be improved city services. The window of opportunity would be opened for better town/gown relations. We could have more trust in what is a public trust. A message will be delivered to UC that they are beholden to the people they serve. Even great universities, as demonstrated elsewhere in the United States, have a real responsibility to the community that hosts them. Just maybe, if you are a property owner, and if the City Council has any backbone, you may even save several hundred dollars per year on taxes and fees. And last but not least, just sitting at the table will give us (the people) enormous power over any negotiation. 

How much and when? If everyone who currently calls Berkeley home contributes just $5 now, we can see this through the Supreme Court. 

How? Make your check out to the: “Law Offices of Stephan C. Volker” and send it to: 


Law Suit Fund 

c/o Dean Metzger 

1 Hazel Road 

Berkeley, CA 94705 


Thank you very much, 

Carl Friberg 

Lead Plaintiff in Friberg vs. Bates,  

RG 05230715 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Ms. O’Malley’s May 4 editorial cherry picks a single initiative from the comprehensive scheme touted by New York Mayor Bloomberg for his city, intended to make New York greener and greater by, among other items, adding 265,000 housing units by 2030, to accomplish “the most dramatic reduction in greenhouse gases ever achieved by an American City.” 

Here at home, ABAG’s regional growth projections are intended to protect more than 83,000 acres of greenfield lands that would be converted to urban use by 2020 if current Bay Area development trends continue. Adding housing to Berkeley is part of our own regional grand scheme for a sustainable future. 

Also, the number of new parking spaces proposed by the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and UC Berkeley are available to all. Under the settlement agreement reached with the City of Berkeley on the 2020 LRDP, UC Berkeley’s proposed net new parking, excluding the replacement Underhill parking structure scheduled for operation this fall, is 1,270. (The entirety of the settlement agreement is on the web through The total net new parking proposed by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is 500 ( faq.html). 

Jennifer McDougall 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

This year, Berkeley’s Jefferson Elementary School celebrates its 100th birthday! We welcome the entire Berkeley community, and especially Jefferson alums, to join us on Saturday, May 12, between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., to celebrate 100 years of a great school during our Mayfair. Having the celebration coincide with the Mayfair is no coincidence! For many years, the Mayfair has been one of our most important events, featuring performances, a carnival, a benefit drawing, a silent auction, delicious food, and a beautiful plant sale. Lots of fun for the entire family! This year, we are planning a number of Centennial-related activities in addition: 

• Assembly honoring Jefferson community, past and present, at 1 p.m. 

• Beginning at 1:30, a showing of “Junior Traffic Patrol” by Les Thompsen (Jefferson was one of the first schools with traffic patrols) followed by a slideshow of photos and memories 

• There will also be continuous displays of intriguing photos and memorabilia, a preview of the new centennial tile mosaic and centennial garden, tours of the old Jefferson School (now Crowden), and the benefit drawing supporting school activities. 

Please join us! 

Joann Sullivan, Historian 

Jefferson School PTA (1996-97) 


Chris Hoffman, Centennial Historian 

Jefferson School PTA (2006-07) 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The use of the Reagan Library for the Republican presidential debate is a bitter irony amid the current Iraq war and battles with right-wing fundamentalist jihadists. This is because the 1980s Reagan-Bush administration, which included Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, was a strong supporter and financier of the Saddam Hussein dictatorship and fundamentalist jihadists, like Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network, whom Reagan aided with billions of dollars. The Reagan Library itself contains pictures of Reagan graciously hosting jihadists in the White House. Pictures of Reagan’s emissary and recently Bush’s Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld smiling and negotiating with Saddam Hussein are in the National Archives. 

Reagan’s support of Hussein and bin Laden’s forces accompanied Reagan’s support of brutal dictators around the world such as Noriega, Somoza, and Pinochet in the Western Hemisphere, Pol Pot’s ruthless regime in Southeast Asia, and still-standing Middle East oil dictatorships. Reagan’s legacy represents hypocrisy and betrayal of democracy around the world, whenever such betrayal benefits powerful oil cartels and wealthy elites. This dangerous legacy should be rejected in favor of honest policies that support real democracy, not rule by the rich, powerful, and dangerous. 

Patrick T. Keilch 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thanks so much for publishing Ruth Rosen’s superlative article “The Care Crisis” in your May 1 edition.  

Rosen is the author of the ground-breaking book The World Split Open: How the Modern Women’s Movement Changed America. She was a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle until they fired their only two feminists, her and Stephanie Salter. 

In your same issue you printed an article about a Mexican journalist who is exposing child porn rings. How could we get along without the Planet? 

Nancy Ward 


Oakland/East Bay National Organization for Women 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Bob Burnett is right that we have become “a nation of violence junkies,” and that today’s conservatives embody this problem. But his condemnations of the ideas that “the best government is no government” and “the market will provide” miss the point. Conservatives do not favor a free market or smaller government. They have expanded the federal government by about 50 percent since Bush took power. They have given us the worst war and police state since the Cold War and have also increased domestic spending—the prescription drug benefit was not just corporate welfare but the biggest expansion of entitlements since the Great Society! Government is, as Gandhi put it, organized and concentrated violence. We shouldn’t look to state violence to solve society’s problems, whether in Iraq or at home. Everything the government does it ultimately backs up by throwing non-compliers in its inhumane institutions called prisons. The ripples of aggression from government looting and murder poison civil society. 

Conservatives don’t believe in smaller or no government, and probably never did. From Nixon and Reagan to the Bushes, they have long been the true promoters of more government and higher taxes—many of which are hidden, such as with inflation, and hurt the poor disproportionately. The answer to random acts of violence is not more state violence, bigger budgets or more cops. Nor are individual liberty and the common good at odds with each other, for only through freedom can peace and community thrive.  

Anthony Gregory 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Remember the story of the blind persons who from touching an elephant tell what kind of animal it is? Each gets it wrong because each mistakes a small part of the creature’s anatomy for the whole. Every report I’ve read or heard about the nature of our engagement in the Middle East reminds me of that.  

Because of carelessness or intent, public discourse is blind to two obvious contextual facts: 1) A military engagement is not necessarily a war. Our mighty forces in Afghanistan and Iraq are occupiers, not warriors. 2) We’re not wanted. Iraqi people of every stripe, unequivocally and understandably, want all armed foreigners to leave their country.  

The reasons our leaders and the press call it “war” is to distract allies from our desire to control that region, and to make our military presence there acceptable to voters here.  

The reason our leaders and the press ignore Iraqis’ pleas to leave is to blame their government, the government we created, installed and protect, for not controlling the sectarian violence, violence enabled by our armed presence.  

To end a war implies surrender, irrespective of timetables or benchmarks. To end an occupation we simply have to withdraw.  

How do you say “Yankee go home!” in Arabic? 

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo