Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday May 25, 2007


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I just read your piece about how the city of Berkeley has put out for several dumpsters for students to put their furniture as they move out. While this has its advantages for the reasons you’ve mentioned, you missed out on a key point: recycling. This program blindly trashes all furniture with the threat of getting fined for leaving something on the sidewalk; however, with students moving out, there are other students moving in, and many of these students rely on free, previously-used furniture to decorate their new apartment or house. I, myself, have used these “services” for all three years I have been a student here. While the program instituted by the city of Berkeley eliminates littering and alleviates the headaches of the cranky Berkeley elderly, the fact that it completely prevents recycling may, in fact, make it more wasteful than not having the program in the first place. I am writing this because I feel this is a key point that you should address on this topic—not only that, but it is a key point that should be made aware to the Berkeley City Council, because I feel they are responding to the complaints of Berkeley residents without consideration of the students. 

Noah Grant 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

What’s the best way to keep teenagers off the streets, away from drugs and on the road towards success? Give them jobs. Although filing papers for hours or picking up dog excrement may not exactly epitomize success for many of us, this is precisely what the city of Berkeley believes. Several city council members are lobbying for over $400,000 to pay for youth jobs. This comes partially from Mayor Bates’ campaign promise to “create a city that supports…young people” and partially from the fact that Berkeley could employ only 120 of 350 teens looking for summer work last year. More kids in the office (or day camp or McDonald’s), less on the street.  

As a Berkeley teenager, I must agree with them. Obviously, you can’t make drugs or underage drinking any more illegal than they already are, and there are only so many suspensions you can give one loser kid, but helping them reach a position where they must learn responsibility and maturity or face a pay cut, is much more successful. A job inherently teaches lessons a professor, policeperson, or counselor never could. The city council would be doing itself a favor by passing these measures, keeping kids busy and developing the economy of Berkeley. Hell, who else are you going to get to pick up dog crap? 

Emma Floyd 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was impressed by the article in March in the Daily Planet on the City Council’s new policy on the state of the homeless and loitering. I agree with the initiative to get them into employment, but I don’t know if it’s such a good idea to penalize them for loitering.  

Some would say that the homeless need to be penalized for causing businesses to lose money, making the street less attractive, etc. However it isn’t a good idea to penalize all homeless for this reason unless they are harassing someone. In reality, at this point the homeless really have no other options than to be out on the street. In 2006 Berkeley cut funding for the homeless because of the amount of local churches responding to the crisis. If the homeless are penalized for their condition it will only make matters worse. It must also be taken into consideration that realistically it will be extremely difficult to enforce any policy against loitering because of the many homeless in Berkeley, especially in the downtown area. (It is not likely that many of those in law enforcement would take the time to respond to that kind of call).  

In my opinion, the city should continue their positive efforts such as the ones that will be provided in the City Council’s initiative. Getting the homeless into employment (and hopefully, housing eventually) will make the citizens happier because it will ultimately prove to them that their tax dollars are being spent on things that are of concern to them. Obviously it will be beneficial for the homeless.  

Finally, we should treat the homeless with respect. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, right? 

Kimberlee Cox  





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The recent letters published in the Planet objecting to Berkeley’s high taxes are most interesting, I find, because they don’t necessarily come from conservative writers. My impression is that a good number of progressives in our city share the view that their taxes are being wasted by city officials. Many Berkeleyans are realizing that City Hall, under the influence of wealthy real estate entrepreneurs and developers, has been promoting development projects in our neighborhoods that are detrimental to residents’ quality of life and safety. 

The consequence of this new awareness on the part of citizens across the political spectrum may be the defeat of all future Berkeley ballot proposals to raise taxes. There is a tax rebellion of sorts going on in our city. Almost all of us recognize that taxation can serve the common good. Berkeley has historically used its tax dollars to support some worthwhile causes, and I personally have supported these expenditures for decades. Aware that our lives are bound up with the lives of others far and near, many of us continue to support involvement of our city in the affairs of the state, nation, and planet. Berkeley should, for instance, join with other city governments to change federal priorities, shifting funding away from the military economy to address dire civilian needs. Our tax dollars at the federal level should be used to beat the proverbial swords into plowshares. 

We perceive that our local taxes are being misused too. When residents’ and merchants’ tax dollars are placed in the pockets of special interests, resulting in wasteful, developer-driven, neighborhood-detrimental policies, and when protest against those policies goes unheeded by City Hall, then it’s not surprising that citizens become unwilling to pay additional taxes. 

Raymond Barglow 

Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I concur with Gus Lee’s letter of May 18, “A Taxing Situation.” Berkeley homeowners can’t keep paying increasing taxes to fund huge salaries and benefits for non-emergency staff. 

I recently heard that our City Council voted to give Planning Manager Mark Rhoades a 10 percent salary increase. Would that be the same Mark Rhoades who, according to a letter published in this newspaper in 2003, falsified a document to help Patrick Kennedy secure a few of his millions of dollars in ABAG loans? Those particular millions were used to build the Touriel Building at 2004 University Avenue, one of the ugliest of the Kennedy creations. The letter, entitled “Doyle House” and dated May 6, 2003, can be found in the archives of this publication. 

Ten percent is a hell of a salary increase for someone who seems to be using our tax dollars to work directly for developers, rather than for us. Why would the City Council select this employee for financial favoritism? 

Ed Johnston 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Your paper does a wonderful job of presenting the current news to our city; in the May 22 edition we were able to read about the mayor’s program to “cut local greenhouse emissions.” Our mayor’s initiatives to “green” Berkeley create a phantasm of the imaginary—Berkeley is Oz, a wonderful place where everyone puts the environment first and it goes without saying, people’s health as well. Unfortunately this is not true.  

Pacific Steel Casting has been polluting Berkeley for over 25 years. Haven’t you smelled it? And let me remind you can smell this polluter up in the hills, on Allston Way, on a lovely Saturday morning as you purchase your organic vegetables, and at the local restaurants that provide down home cooking on San Pablo, and Gilman, and even at REI, another venerable Berkeley institution that makes us feel good about our environment and our values in the world. The smell is there. Yet, worse, much worse, are the hidden pollutants that have been documented and are continuing to be documented (for more information, please go to the West Berkeley Alliance website, as well as the city’s Community Environmental Advisory Commission’s website).  

The good news is the CEAC (Community Environmental Advisory Commission). These dedicated people know that we are not living in an imaginary, ideologically constructed green environment. Pacific Steel Casting is dangerous for our local citizens. Go to any local citizen’s group meeting and hear the citizens speak; yet we, the citizens, are asked to get more data and get more data. 

Most horrific of all is that PSC gets a free ride. (Oh, OK, not entirely free, they do have slapped hands, and fines to pay, but hey, what’s that compared to being given free reign by the mayor and City Council of a green city!). The City Council voted in March based on CEAC recommendations to help clean up PSC. Now, the mayor says that the city won’t act on the CEAC recommendations until PS’s Health Risk Assessment (HRA) is completed. It was due in April and now the state agency, Bay Area Air Quality Management District, is allowing PSC until July to get the report in! What is going on here?! 

PSC constantly and consistently misses its deadlines and gets slapped, gets fined and goes on polluting our neighborhood. Hey, if you missed a deadline at work as many times as PSC has missed its report deadlines, you would be out on the street. 

We, the citizens of Berkeley, demand that the CEAC’s recommendations get funded now! We cannot wait again. I, for one, do not look forward to another summer of staying in doors.  

Meryl Siegal 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Some of the good stuff on and near Telegraph Avenue: 

Peoples’ Park now has beautiful flower and vegetable gardens, lovingly tended. Because it’s sheltered from the winds off the bay, many plants bloom earlier and better than they would have in other locations. 

It’s also a great birding spot. Many bushes have been selected because they are favorites of hummingbirds. Anna’s Hummingbirds live there year round. I’ve seen many warblers, chickadees, plain titmice with their cute little crests, house finches, goldfinches, the ubiquitous rock dove, and more. 

The fourth annual Berkeley World Music Weekend takes place June 2 and 3, noon to 9 p.m., various locations, free! Schedule of great music is at and 

Caveat: Loading zones directly on Tele are sometimes enforced on Sunday. You can contact the city if, like me, you think this is pointless and silly, or a great idea. 

Enjoy the art, music, interesting people, flowers, birds, shops, coffee, food! 

Ruth Bird 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Does the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce, the police and the merchants on Telegraph Avenue think the Berkeley City Council is on their side regarding reduction of homelessness and begging? In what may be the worst tenant eviction scandal in Berkeley’s history, the city is preparing to put 750 households consisting of possibly 1,000 or more elderly, disabled (including veterans) Berkeley citizens on the street this year. This is done by secretly giving the funds HUD provides for poor Section 8 folk to developers instead. In Berkeley Housing meetings, which are now called “special” meetings and are held at 5 or 6 p.m. before City Council meetings, most of the City Council has been giving away Berkeley citizens’ homes to the highest bidder.  

The developers promise “affordable” housing, but the joke is that in Berkeley the definition of affordable is: You must make $60,000 a year. Debra Ward, Assistant Manager of Berkeley’s Section 8 Housing promises a 2007 $60 a month rent increase for disabled, veterans and elderly living in one bedroom units, and a $50 a month raise for those living in studios. Other members of the housing authority sadly back her up, as they must follow the incompetence of Berkeley Housing Director Steve Barton and City Manager Phil Kamlarz as they pant after developers’ money. While this is against state and city law, most of the City Council continues to give only minimal funds and lip service to the homeless cause. So that people will not see which hand is taking away citizens’ homes, the City Council is setting up a shell “housing” group that includes at least two tenant rubber stampers. In practice, the City Council majority is the direct cause of the coming tidal wave of Berkeley homelessness by failing to use HUD or Housing Fund monies for the purpose they were intended.  

Steven Yee 

Berkeley Citizens for Fair Housing  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Many thanks to the Berkeley Daily Planet for running the recent commentary I wrote about the Berkeley Housing Authority! I can only hope that all the attention they are getting lately, will finally put enough pressure on the city to produce the results needed to get that agency back on track. It was not my intention to see anyone get fired, although I called for Steve Barton’s resignation a while back. There’s no way that he cannot know what’s been happening in that agency. My opinion... 

Lynda Carson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Anti-war protesters marched into the Port of Oakland on Saturday, May 19 and picketed a war profiteer, Stevedoring Services of America (SSA). “The war is for profit—Longshore workers can stop it,” read our signs and banners. We asked the longshoremen to honor our picket line, and they did. One ship sat unloaded at the dock, and two more ships waited in the harbor. Cargo did not move that day. Themes and issues of the action were: Stop the shipping of war material; bring the troops home now, and give them the healthcare they need; Port money for schools and social services. It was at this very same SSA Terminal that protesters and longshoremen were attacked by police four years ago, on April 7, 2003, when 59 people were injured. Fortunately, this time all went well, and the war profiteer was successfully shut down for two shifts. This does not happen often—not every year, not every decade. Possibly not even during the war in Vietnam. It was more than just another major news story; it was an historical event. Several TV and radio stations reported it, but most of the print media somehow missed it. 

Daniel Borgström 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Green with cash, that is. Dirty oil money is behind the Terminator’s slick efforts to terminate high-speed rail. Chevron has greased his palms with large reelection contributions. Chevron spent millions to defeat the 2006 ballot proposition on clean alternative energy. Throw in another $2 million in other campaign contributions from other oil companies. The governor’s office has become like a cash register at a gas station—money comes in from the oil companies and out of the pump comes policies against clean air and energy independence. 

Schwarzenegger is a gasoholic. The cure will require throwing out the office cash register, selling the six Humvees, and getting new friends. The road to recovery is lined with rail. High-speed rail. California’s first, state-wide, public transit system will unclog freeways, halve travel time from San Francisco to Los Angeles, and help clean the air. 

Arnold’s first step is to recognize he has an oil abuse problem. Next, become a Friend of Al’s (as in Al Gore). Join the Sacramento chapter of Gasoholics Anonymous. Wash the dirty oil money by supporting high-speed rail. Don’t be in denial about the last best hope for California public transit. 

Paul Page 

San Francisco 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It pains me to witness the vitriol that is rapidly becoming the agenda on both sides of the pro and con arguments relating to the issue of Measure A. It is dividing the citizenry in a very unhealthy way.  

It needs to be clearly understood that all of us who favor retaining Measure A act solely for the current preservation of our Treasured Island. That is our only agenda. We are not paid or subsidized nor influenced by any outside pressure. 

In my view, the proponents of striking down or revising this Alameda City Charter Amendment are misguided and, in many cases, influenced by the corporate culture and real estate factions involved in that attempt. I have never bought the ‘affordable housing’ ploy and never will. I view that to be obviously phony. The future of Alameda is at stake.  

I implore the Planning Board, City Council and city staff take some serious unbiased time to thoroughly investigate who/what precisely is behind the anti-A movement. I find their documentaries lacking in forthright disclosures, We need some honesty in that respect. 

One example—I am suspect of HOMES. My logical side prompts me to ask, who/what is dollar-backing them and certain other anti-Measure A antagonists? Furthermore I have witnessed backing of the Sierra Club siding w/the Anti Measure A discussion. That, to me is a mind boggler! Is not that organization pledged to preserving what’s left of the Bay Area? 

We need clarification and honest disclosure as to backing of the these factions that appear to be adamantly determined to either strike down or revise/alter Measure A. Alameda Point is being used by those entities to covertly strike down Measure A for that particular area. Lookout! It won’t stop there.  

Margie Joyce 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The U.S. Commitment to Global Child Survival Act was introduced in the House and Senate. This bill promotes the use of effective, affordable preventative measures such as immunization, antibiotics, clean drinking water and vitamin supplements, which would save the lives of those almost 30,000 children under age 5 die who die each day from preventable, treatable diseases, such as diarrhea, pneumonia and measles. 

In addition, our leaders introduced the Education for All Act, which would expand access to education by training teachers, building infrastructure, promoting life skills training as well as supporting initiatives that reach the most disadvantaged populations, like the almost 77 million children worldwide who lack access to basic education up to the sixth grade. Some children, in our own county, go un- or under-educated. 

Every child deserves to live. Every child deserves an education. Every member of Congress should hear from us on these issues. I hope that all of us will visit to learn more about why these bills are important, and then write or call our representatives and encourage them to support these important bills. 

Rev. Gregory Schaefer 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Poor Mr. Tratner hopelessly perplexes himself trying to find a logical thread in Becky O’Malley’s May 18 editorial (“Rude, Crude and in Your Face”) which concludes with a seemingly incongruous reference to Israel. Put simply, the state of Israel and the so-called Zionist lobby in the United States, what Pat Buchanan, David Duke and Joanna Graham regularly denounce as its “Amen corner,” are to the Berkeley Daily Planet what the destruction of ancient Carthage once was to Cato the Censor in his speeches before the Roman senate. All his speeches ended on the same tiresome, redundant theme, no matter what the nominal topic at hand. But perhaps the most cogent comparison of all is that Israel represents to Becky O’Malley what Chief Inspector Clouseau did to former Chief Inspector Dreyfuss? Does anyone recall one of the Clouseau films which ends with Dreyfuss sequestered in a white padded cell in a straightjacket, eye furiously twitching, lying on his back with a crayon perched between his bare toes painstakingly scrawling on the padded wall the name “Clouseau”? For her sake, with her dotage clearly approaching, I hope a similar fate does not await Ms. O’Malley! Perhaps it’s not too late to get help? Modern psychopharmacology offers many miracles (and not every local psychiatrist is a “Zionist”!). Please check with your insurance carrier (who might well be a “Zionist”) to see if you qualify for a negotiated rate. 

Edna Spector