Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday May 11, 2007


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Have you noticed? It’s suddenly gone! Gone to Nestle USA in Glendale, we can presume (see Riya Bhattacharjee’s “PowerBar Moves To Southern Cal” in the Aug. 8, 2006 Daily Planet). 

Will anyone miss the 140-square-foot yellow snack-food advertisement which adorned the uppermost eastern face of Berkeley’s tallest downtown building for nine years and four months? 

Perhaps, if anyone still believes the words of the late PowerBar magnate Brian Maxwell who in 1998 defended his company’s sign by arguing that it “overlooks both the tennis court and the track at the university” and that “there are several people who have told me that the sign is an inspiration to them.” The rest of us have lost a rooftop reminder of how, in their zeal to accommodate and reward private-sector employers, Berkeley’s public servants occasionally stretch municipal rules and manage to circumvent public process. 

Goodbye and good riddance, I say. No doubt moving day for the monster sign would have made a great Planet photo-op. 

Jim Sharp 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

I decided to be a consumer of conscience and patronize an independent store instead of Amazon. So I rushed across town to the Musical Offering, ready to spend serious money. I got there ten minutes before their stated closing, knowing exactly what I wanted, The store was closed. Very annoying since I get there so rarely. How are local businesses going to survive if they don’t observe their stated hours? 

Rachel DeCarlo 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In the interests of full disclosure the Daily Planet’s coverage of Jimmy Carter’s appearance on the UC campus should have mentioned that more than 80 percent of the Carter Center’s budget is paid for by the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Carter has denied that he is influenced by the Saudi government paying his bills. The Daily Planet should leave it to its readers to decide whether we believe that or not.  

Jack Kessler 

El Cerrito 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In the northwest corner of the Orchard Supply parking lot near the corner of Ninth and Heinz there stands a high, large water tower bristling with cellular antennae. I count at least 26 attached to structure pointing in all directions. There are about seven antennae pointed directly at the French School situated about 150 feet away. 

Is it prudent of the City of Berkeley to allow the continued electromagnetic irradiation of adolescent children in their formative years? Has there been any attempt to do an epidemiological survey of this student population? 

Is there any anecdotal evidence of unusual or increased health problems in this population? 

While city planning staff assert that there is no potential for injury from exposure to electromagnetic waves, they are relying on an FCC safety standard that has been called into question by many reputable scientists. 

The City of Berkeley bases its cell tower approvals on radio wave engineers who work closely with the cellular industry. Does this not call into question the independence of the consultant evaluations? Is this prudent? Have these engineers/consultants ever seen a cell tower they didn’t approve of? 

Peter Teichner 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

When it’s your family, the abortion debate stops being academic. Let me backtrack a little. In 1914 Margaret Sanger gave out information on birth control, which was illegal at the time. Though arrested numerous times, in 1921 she formed the organization that became known as Planned Parenthood. In 2007, anti-abortionists and Republicans on the right are still trying in earnest to make contraceptive information hard to get. 

Where are the Margaret Sangers’ of today and why do Christian conservatives feel they have the right to tell a woman what she can and can’t do with her body and why are nine of 10 GOP presidential hopefuls intent on overturning Roe v. Wade? 

Ron Lowe  

Grass Valley 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am currently an Oakland resident who lives one block from Grand but who travels along Ashby Avenue between Adeline and Telegraph often enough to understand the concerns in one Becky O’Malley’s recent editorials.  

However, if O’Malley wishes to compare her Ashby corridor air quality concerns with those of West Oakland residents, it is only fair to mention the approximately 5,000 trucks that drive through West Oakland to pick up and deliver shipping containers to the port every day. Even living near there, I did not fully appreciate the impact of these trucks until I actually went down by East Shore Park where some of these them are loaded and saw how they are lined up by the scores, idling their motors as they wait, to take their turn beneath a shipping crane. I’ve not measured the air quality other than by my own experience breathing, but I do not find the current circumstances along Ashby Avenue compete for poor quality with the output of all those trucks—and I am not even taking into account the additional pollution West Oakland residents now experience as result of detouring three lanes of east-bound traffic along West Grand.  

I do not actually wish to contest O’Malley’s fundamental concerns. They are both legitimate and very serious. I just don’t find her approach as savvy or as thoughtful as it might be. Pushing for improved public transportation would seem more appropriate. I would prefer to be able to reach central Berkeley and the university efficiently by public transportation, but do not live very near the BART station and usually drive because it takes me less than half as long to get to my destination by auto than by any of the public transportation alternatives available, even given Berkeley traffic and parking.  

Julie Bongers 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Daily Planet comprehensively reviewed the policy aspects of the Oakland Chamber of Commerce/McKinsey report (“Oakland Begins Sparring Over Economic Development,” May 8). The real news in the document was the survey of Oakland businesses. They told the Chamber and McKinsey that the number-one constraint on doing business in Oakland is crime; that the understaffed police department cannot be relied on; and that common crime imposes significant costs on doing business in Oakland. For the details and what they mean, see 

Charles Pine 

Oakland Residents for  

Peaceful Neighborhoods 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

With all the serious gnashing of teeth in and around Berkeley Public Library administration and services, wouldn’t it be nice to have a complaint to which library staff could answer, “sure, no problem!” and make everyone happy? Here’s one. 

For a couple of years now, I have encountered more and more lower, floor-level library shelves with books or videos shelved on their sides. The reason is obvious. Shelvers need only bow slightly to see the call number at the lower end of the spine, in order to shelve or remove a book or video. However, browsers must actually read a title, which requires deep, prolonged bending or kneeling, pulling the books out, one by one, to see the title. With my aged, aching back, I can go through this ordeal only briefly before I must give up. (Indeed, those unfortunate, neglected authors on the lower shelf have really hit bottom.) 

I mentioned my problem to a South Berkeley librarian, and never even got into gory descriptions of my back surgery before he interrupted me. “You’re absolutely right, even the kids won’t flop down on the floor in order to pull out and read the hidden titles on that bottom shelf.” 

Two days later, all books on all shelves at South Branch, were standing upright, titles on bottom shelves easily visible when I stepped back and slightly cocked my head. 

Thank you, overworked staff at South Branch! 

But then there is Central Branch. I have sent e-mails, I have fed notes into suggestion boxes. I have spoken to staff. 

No action, no response (unless you count shrugs), nothing. So I’m forced to go public. I urge others to join in my plea to Central. Please! 

Dorothy Bryant 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The recent spate of letters and editorials regarding the situation at KPFA, coupled with the onset of yet another interminable fundraising period, moves me to write this. I have followed the internal disputes there pretty closely, starting with the Pacifica-KPFA battle in 1999: I was there protesting when Dennis Bernstein was dragged out of the station and the staff locked out. But what I feel now can pretty well be summed up thus: “a pox on all your houses.” 

Since there seems to be no end in sight to the endless bickering, vituperation, back-stabbing, squabbling, whining about process, whining about how the process is broken, accusations and counter-accusations of sexual harassment, racism, sexism, elitism, and every other evil in the pwogressive catalog, I am about ready to just throw my hands up and simply tune it all out, literally and figuratively. 

I’m certainly not suggesting yet another letter-writing campaign, boycott or other Berkeley-type agitation here. I’m just pointing out to the combatants that I’m certainly not alone in reaching the saturation point. And don’t expect any more money from us: Why should we continue to fund you, when you only seem to fight over it and piss it away? While I’m at it, how about taking a look at the uneven quality of what gets broadcast at 94.1? (I’m being charitable here.) Sure, there are some outstanding programs (Democracy Now and a few others spring to mind), but a lot of the rest, particularly the locally produced shows, sounds like what one would expect from a mediocre college radio station training neophyte announcers. 

It’s a pity, really, because it would be really nice, not to say essential, to have a functioning voice for progressive politics and all that that entails here in Berkeley. But keep it up, and you run the risk of becoming irrelevant and being tuned out by more and more folks. 

David Nebenzahl 

North Oakland 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Great commentary by Marc Sapir in the May 5 issue! I have been following the Maher Arar story since the Canadian government decided he was hard done by. Therefore I know all the details.  

However, how could anyone not know his name and his role? And why did so many not know of Italy’s action against CIA agents?  

I too would like to know where those people “buy their ignorance.”  

David Ferrier 

Edmonton, Alberta 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have lived in Berkeley for more than 40 years, and have been active in politics for a good deal of that time from being a spear carrier in the Free Speech Movement to being a delegate to the founding convention of the California Peace and Freedom Party, to working for Rep. Jerry McNerney in his campaign to unseat Richard Pombo and turn one Congressional seat from Red to Blue. 

I want to support Mayor Bates’ effort to curb anti-social behavior on the streets of Berkeley. The “in your face” attitude that is so prevalent on our streets is one of the least attractive parts of our town. A lot of that behavior comes from people who need help, and incarceration is not the way to solve their problems. But neither is letting them do anything they want on our streets no matter how rude or injurious it is to them or to us. 

We must find ways to keep our city civil and at the same time to make sure that we remain a bastion of free speech and free thought. I believe the mayor’s proposals find that balance in almost every case. Berkeley is unique. We need to make sure it is not unique in being a city done in by its lack of will to remain civil. 

Vincent Casalaina 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

“The Movement” may soon come to its final sputtering end. If the puritanical forces of retention and denial have their way our dear denizens of darkened doorways will be deprived of the joy of completing their morning constitutional on the sidewalk. Will the city add a steaming pile of defecate to the tacky banners lining Telegraph Avenue? Right next to the yellow flower. Thus adding the final human touch to the sweet nostalgia for days gone by. Mario Savio rolls in his grave. Karl Marx said “people do not have the right to sleep under bridges.” In other words the state owes a responsibility to those that cannot take care of themselves. Here in the land of the 10-cylinder SUV we still have the right to lay down in the street and die. Shame on you heartless hypocrites that blame the illness of this malignant society on the poor. How many of those of you that would run the homeless sidewalk poopers out of town work for or have some connection with “Bayer” or UC Berkeley? Smells to me that those organizations along with Chevron and Pacific Steel have been taking a giant crap around here for along time.  

Herb Gardner 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I live on that block of Sacramento between Ashby and Russell and since I wasn’t able to attend the ZAB meeting regarding the matter, I’d at least like to put my two cents in here. I’ve lived in that neighborhood for about a year and a half and I’ve seen just about everything that goes down on that block. It’s probably the “shadiest” part of Berkeley, if you ask me. To get to the point, I don’t think shutting down B-Town Dollar is going to help the neighborhood or retard the amount of drug dealing that is going on.  

The reason I think this way is because, truthfully, they deal drugs everywhere on this block. In front of both barber shops, in and around the 24 hour laundry, all around the apartment units at 2924, and just about everywhere else there’s a shady spot to duck into. What is going to happen when they shut down B-Town? The “d-boys” are going to migrate elsewhere. Meaning our homes and businesses will be even more unsafe. 

I think this is a police presence issue and not a “drug-dealing nexus” issue. Maybe if the BPD added more patrols to southwest Berkeley then the dealers wouldn’t be so bold as to infest the block the way they do now. As a side note, I shop at B-Town Dollar fairly regularly and my quality of life hasn’t been significantly impacted by this issue.  

Name withheld 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Can we design micro parks in our cities where smoking is allowed? We can kill two birds with one stone. We can keep other public spaces healthy for non-smokers. At the same time by providing attractive green sites for smokers we can remind them that they have a choice about smoking. When they come to these micro-parks ? just four trees and two park benches they will inhale a lungful of fresh air before lighting up.  

Romila Khanna 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

A recent Drill Team practice had to be canceled again, due to the weather. This might not sound so unusual except for the fact that we have never had this problem before. Thank you Scott Ferris. The Flaming Five Drill Team has been practicing at Frances Albrier Recreation Center for nearly 20 years. We provided a safe activity for at risk youth. A organization they could belong and not worry whether or not their family could afford it, for some over the years the drill team became their family. Then along came Scott. I was told in November that we could no longer use the space for free and I was given Three options: 1) Pay the rental fee for the space; 2) Turn over the team to the city and become a volunteer; 3) Turn over the team to the city and perhaps be a paid instructor. He suggested I think about it over the holidays. In February I informed the site director Deborah Jordan that I decided to go with option no. 1. She gave me a breakdown of how much it would cost and when it would be due. It was going to be hard but I was not about to turn the team over, not by force. We practiced during Spring Break ,when it ended we were informed that we had already had our last use of the center. Our space had been given away. Scott changed the options, he decided option no. 1 was only available after hours. Did I mention that the children on the drill start at age 5. I have met with the mayor the I been asking our councilmember for help but no one seems to be able to do anything. Here’s how it stand for now we sit outside with our drums and our new recruits that we are unable to properly train while inside for the first 30 minutes there is a empty auditorium and for the last hour the city has hired someone to come in to teach less than eight children dance. We could be in there providing that service and more at no cost to city. Like we have been doing for almost 20 years. We are now in jeopardy of not being able to compete at any event this summer or even be performance ready. Here’s a bit of irony, last week Ms. Jordan asked if the team could perform at an upcoming event.  

Denice Cox 

Director, Drill Team 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

According to a Pentagon study 40 percent of marines and 55 percent of army personnel say they would not report a fellow member for killing or injuring an Iraqi. On 60 Minutes (April 29) black hip-hop performers and fans alike declared that if they witnessed or knew about a crime, they would not report it.  

The military and the black devotes of hip-hop are closed communities in which, evidently, a similar moral value prevails, a value antithetical to standards advocated by society at large.  

In hip-hop society a black person who snitches commits the same kind of “crime” a military person reporting a crime in Iraq commits. May we old folks, to this extent, consider soldiers in Iraq akin to blacks in hip-hop land? 

Marvin Chachere  

San Pablo