Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday June 01, 2007


Editors, Daily Planet: 

In your May 22 editorial, you wrote that Kitchen Democracy is “an east-hills-oriented URL funded in part through Councilmember Gordon Wozniak’s office account.” This is misleading. Kitchen Democracy is a non-profit, all-volunteer organization whose only agenda is to promote healthy civic discourse. Last July the full Berkeley City Council unanimously approved a $3,000 grant to Kitchen Democracy proposed by Councilmember Gordon Wozniak. Our 2,000 users live in all eight Berkeley districts, as well as Kensington and Oakland. Any resident can post any issue regarding any neighborhood or the whole city at — there is no “orientation” enforced by Kitchen Democracy staff. If the Daily Planet disagrees with opinions expressed by users on a Kitchen Democracy issue, and wishes to promote civic discourse in Berkeley, it should publish civil arguments directed at the issue—not misleading statements directed against the forum itself. 

Robert Vogel 

Kitchen Democracy 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Noah Grant’s May 25 letter to the editor criticizes the current student move-out clean-up campaign co-sponsored by the city and university—and the Planet’s coverage of it—as having “missed a key point: recycling.” I’m afraid it’s Mr. Grant who missed the point, which was clearly stated in the earlier Planet article: “Door hangers were also hung up on the north side and the south side which alerted students about ways to recycle their trash . . . a drop-off recycling center will be set-up on the Clark Kerr campus. Non-profits such as the Alameda County Food Bank and the American Cancer Society will be there to pick up stuff. Computer parts and anything with a plug will be picked up by computer resource centers.”  

In addition, there has been a considerable amount of informal scavenging from the debris boxes, which is fine as long as the scavengers do not leave a mess behind. Finally, when the debris boxes are taken to the city’s transfer station the contents are sorted and recycled to the extent possible. 

There are some individuals who assume they can leave furniture and mattresses on the sidewalks of Berkeley and “someone will take it.” But too often no one does and the items are left to clutter the neighborhood until the city eventually hauls them away. In some cases, the items left curbside are toxic. It is everyone’s responsibility to prevent this kind of environmental pollution.  

Irene Hegarty 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

On May 17, just after noon, I took a spill while going down Marin Avenue on my bike, near the intersection of Monterey, when I hit an “invisible” pothole. 

While unconscious I’m told someone in a van stopped behind me, preventing others from possibly doing me further injury and stayed until the Berkeley police arrived. I assume this person also called 911. He or she then left without giving his or her name to the officer. 

To this Good Samaritan: I would very much like to thank you in person. If you see this letter please contact me at If you still want to remain anonymous, I hope you at least see this letter in the Daily Planet and thus receive my heartfelt thanks this way. 

David Bergen 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I feel I must respond to the May 22 letter from Peace and Justice Commissioner Elliot Cohen in which he again accuses me of racism for criticizing people who teach their children to hate Jews. I realize Mr. Cohen is motivated by his own narrow personal and political agenda which has nothing to do with me or the video clip, but I must object to his assertion, also made by this newspaper in the original story, that I called the prophet Mohammed “a rambling desert nomad with a psychological disorder.” Anyone who takes the trouble to listen to the video will hear that I’m referring to non-Muslims in the UK who, emboldened by the success of Muslims in demanding special treatment in British society, are now much more vocal in demanding respect for their own unprovable beliefs, and in fact I am referring to whoever wrote the Old Testament, not the Koran. I hope Mr. Cohen and the editor of this newspaper will both be big enough to review the video clip to establish what I actually said, and then offer a full retraction and apology for this important inaccuracy. 

Pat Condell 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The latest Senate proposal of a new points system for immigration is just another attempt to exploit people in the name of “economic progress” and “security.” As is often the case, those with the fewest options will be exploited the most as those who come from more impoverished backgrounds will have to leave when we have taken what we can from them and given them as little as possible. Just as predictably, the debates quickly lapsed into a discussion on how to further eliminate the rights of non-citizens with a proposal to do away with certain aspects of judicial review. Let’s not forget that the Supreme Court has said “the Due Process Clause applies to all “persons” within the United States, including aliens, whether their presence here is lawful, unlawful, temporary, or permanent.” It’s sad that our Supreme Court needs to clarify that “aliens” are, indeed, people. When we start valuing people based on their education and ‘productive value’ at the expense of recognizing that they are human beings with families, we have failed in setting our priorities as a society. How can we talk of “family values” and then value the family so little? Why is it that we are so willing to eliminate rights that are supposed to be (ironically) “unalienable”? So much for “give me your poor…” 

Drew Sieminski 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On May 25, a commentary published by the Daily Planet stated it was submitted “on behalf of the Ohlone Dog Park Association.” Without commenting on the article’s content, which was satirical, we would like to clarify that its author did not have authority to speak on behalf of the Ohlone Dog Park Association.  

The Ohlone Dog Park  

Association Board of Directors: 

Chris Bohnert 

Larry Gritz 

Eileen Harrington 

Michael Isaacs 

Dawn Kooyumjian 

Tim McGraw 

Grant McGuire 

Lewis Stiller 

Laura Young 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing in response to Sally Tarver’s letter about a pit bull that allegedly injured her sister’s poodle. Supposedly, the pit bull was being walked on a leash when the poodle ran off leash up to the dog. Tarver makes a point that the pit bull was not wearing a muzzle, which I find interesting since there is no law in Berkeley requiring any particular breed to wear a muzzle while being walked on leash down the street. However, there are generally laws throughout most of California requiring that dogs be on leash when not on their property. At the time of this incident, according to Tarver, the poodle was out of its yard, off leash, and it (“being the friendly sort”) charged the pit bull. Of course, just about every owner of an off leash dog that has run up growling or barking while I walked my dog past has claimed their dog to be “friendly.” That’s great. Leash laws, however, are in place for a reason. I like to think I have a right to walk my on leash dog down the street without being accosted by all those “friendly” dogs. 

While it’s terribly sad what happened to the poodle, if Tarver’s account is accurate, she should look more closely at the culpability of her sister. I walk my dog regularly throughout my neighborhood, and I’ve lost count of the number of times some dog runs out of its driveway or out of the open garage and charges, barking and growling at my leashed dog. Sometimes the owners make a half hearted attempt to call their dogs back, sometimes they don’t. I would very much like to be able to walk my dog on leash without being accosted by other people’s off leash dogs. On one occasion, two loose dogs charged me and my dog, knocked me down, while the owner sat in the front yard pretty useless trying to call his dogs, whom he likely believed were just “being friendly.” I suffered scrapes and bruises while my dog was obviously put on the defensive being restrained on leash while I was knocked to the ground.  

People, please, keep your dogs on leash when they aren’t on your property. By doing so, you will prevent injuries to your dog and to other people and their on leash dogs.  

Dawn Capp 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Charles Smith questioned the travel time estimates on the Caltrans signs. 

The information is taken in real time by reading any visible FasTrak transponders in the traffic stream and aggregating the point-to-point time results. They apparently tried the idea and were surprised at the accuracy of the results. (The program discounts likely idiosyncratic stops, exit and re-entry, and so on.) Once discovering its effectiveness, they put it up in several places on low priority, and it’s all automatic. 

Even “stuck in traffic” people can get a good idea of likely arrival time and perhaps call ahead, or be reassured the trip looks good. Some might decide to leave that route, easing traffic. And Caltrans can use the remote information as a heads-up. 

Cost of the system should mostly be limited to installing some FasTrak readers, since the signs themselves and their controls were already installed for other purposes. Any FasTrak users who don’t like the idea of being traced for this purpose can cover or remove their transponders when not needed. 

Actually, I think it’s pretty neat. 

Janet Foldvary 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Downtown Berkeley is afflicted with ever-fewer parking lots and ever-increasing meter rates. The “message” to drivers is to stay away. The only socially approved means of access seem to be by foot, by bicycle, or by public transit. 

Lost in the noise is the fact that a lot of residents live too far away to walk downtown, cannot/will not bike in hilly areas, and don’t have convenient public transit. (My area in the hills has infrequent bus service, and the getting to bus stops requires walking blocks up or down hill, something you don’t want to do if you’re lugging packages or kids or are simply older.) AC Transit is cutting back, not improving bus service. The logical result? People like me will stop coming downtown; we’ll shop elsewhere and rent movies. We’ll also feel unwelcome in our own city. 

I wish the hostility to drivers—exemplified by all those “Stop Driving” signs—would go away. In light of the fact that there’s no good alternative, the criticism is unfair. 

Laura Spurrier 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Your reporter writes that, at the recent Transportation Commission meeting, “the only hearts and minds Bus Rapid Transit seems to have captured ... were those it already possessed.” 

But he should have said the same thing about the opposition. Virtually all the speakers against BRT at this meeting were the professional kvetches who work against everything proposed in Berkeley, from Brower Center to infill housing to environmentally sound transportation. 

There was a roughly equal number of speakers for and against BRT at this meeting. It is true, as you report, that the only applause during the hearing came when speakers opposed the plan—but that is just because the professional kvetches are in the habit of being noisy and disruptive. 

Charles Siegel 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Citizens of Berkeley, beware: The Daily Planet will publish opinion pieces or letters that contain unverified, scurrilous statements about you, presented as facts, as well as publicizing the block you live on. 

I am referring to Sally Tarver’s May 25 opinion piece headlined: “People Injured in pit bull Attack.” From the headline to the closing statement complaining about not getting an apology, the facts presented are arguable; but I am aware that my own opinion may be considered biased. I know the woman who is fostering the dog who bit the poodle; and I know the dog, who is half or pit bull or less. I have been a volunteer dog walker for about a decade and have attended shelter-offered seminars by trainers Bob Gutierrez, Ian Dunbar and Kathy Kear, as well as a Bad Rap presentation. And I have received countless excellent, knowledgeable tips from this foster/rescue activist for socializing and healing shelter dogs. She knows her dogs, and she knows how to handle dogs. Her work fostering as well as finding homes for shelter dogs make Berkeley’s euthanasia rate among lowest of any comparable shelter in the entire state. 

Because what I have been told about the attack and Floy’s medical condition may be deemed hearsay or biased, I won’t go through Tarver’s piece paragraph by paragraph. But my understanding, as a member of the rescue community informed of the incident, is that there has been an apology and that the foster mom paid 75 percent of the bills. As for the dog’s throat being ripped out, it is unlikely an old dog would have survived if this were the case. Stating all this is not to deny or withhold sympathy for the poodle’s suffering; of course, dog-on-dog bites are traumatic occurrences. The question is whether the incident occurred as Tarver related it; her piece contained as much reporting of alleged facts as expression of opinions. Has the Daily Planet corroborated Tarver’s statements with the veterinarian who treated the dog?  

The more mundane lesson from this incident is that all cities need leash laws. Furthermore, according to Tarver’s own account, Floy’s owner was the party in violation of the leash laws when her dog left her property and she didn’t or couldn’t call it back. Off-leash dogs on public property are meant to be under strict voice control--to protect dogs and people. 

There is much more to say generally on the plight of shelter animals, which most citizens seem to want to avoid, but it’s probably better treated in a separate op-ed piece. For now, I would urge the Daily Planet, even regarding your opinion pieces: check the facts. 

Alexandra Yurkovsky 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Joanna Graham is a piece o’ work. Let me say first that I am a Jewish Lebanese (born of Syrian Jews)-American, who immigrated from Lebanon in 1949) so your readers can judge where I come from. She writes “Have you heard about the Arab Peace Initiative lately? No and you won’t.” 

For everyone’s information, Joseph M. Segal, president of the Jewish Peace Lobby, co-author of “Negotiating Jerusalem” (2000), and director of the Peace Consultancy of the University of Maryland’s Center for International and Security Studies, sent a recent mailing to American Jews, in which was reprinted an article he wrote and published in Haaretz, a major Israeli newspaper, on Feb. 16, titled “Final status in a new era” and “Who’s Afraid of 194?” (the Saudi Peace Initiative), published in English and Hebrew on YNET, March 20, the online edition of Yediot Aharanot, Israel’s largest daily paper. 

What’s your problem Joanna Graham, and where do you come from? 

Carmel Hara  

(first name Hebrew, family name Arabic) 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Let me get this straight: Back in 2002, HUD said the Berkeley Housing Authority was “troubled” and needed fixing. For five years, the Mayor and Council got reports from Housing Director Steve Barton, describing how he had tried, and failed, to fix the problems. Four BHA managers served under Barton, unsuccessfully. Reports of outright fraud surfaced in the papers more than a year ago. Now, facing an imminent shutdown of the BHA by the feds, the City Council preemptively fires everyone and “reorganizes” the mess. A bit like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, isn’t it? 

So who is accountable? Not the mayor or council, who conveniently replace themselves with their own appointees, people who can be trusted not to investigate what came before. Not Steve Barton, who has suddenly stopped writing memos, and who now says he didn’t know (didn’t know!) what was going on right under his nose. Not the middle managers, who are long gone. And not even the staff: management has conveniently blamed them collectively but punished no individuals, and every full timer “fired” will, per their contracts, simply be “rehired” elsewhere in the city at the same pay. Collective guilt, collective ignorance, collective forgiveness. 

Someone(s), somewhere(s), did something(s) very wrong. Twenty-five million dollars managed “incompetently” is nothing to sniff at, especially when that money is intended to house the poor. If the Council cannot or will not investigate this matter, then the Alameda County Civil Grand Jury ought to do it for us all. 

Laurel Leichter