Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday June 22, 2007


Editors, Daily Planet: 

A recent letter in the Daily Planet claimed that those of us who oppose legalization of undocumented immigrants engage in “self-serving intransigence.” Another letter asserted that we are “a fringe minority of law and order types...who barely disguise their discrimination and contempt for Mexicans and Latinos.” But there might be other motives and reasons. I certainly did not legally adopt my immigrant Hispanic son because I had a contempt for Latinos. My reason for opposing illegal immigration is primarily the burden that overpopulation puts on regional infrastructure such as transportation, housing, water resources, medical services, air quality, educational systems, and so forth. According to a study by David Hayes-Bautista, professor of medicine at UCLA, almost 50 per cent of the children now born in California are Latino. Unfortunately, we North Americans have exploited the cheap labor of our hard-working southern neighbors for our short-term benefit without considering the long-term cost. We should stop the exploitation. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 was a failure, in part, because it did not require the payment of a fair living wage, nor did it apply strong employer sanctions. Equally important in the long-term will be capital investment and ecologically-sensitive economic development in Latin America.  

Robert Gable 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It’s amusing to read the discussion about the Jazzschool and its place in music education/race relations. Anyone who has met and spoken with the director of the school must realize that she is not a racist, an elitist, a sexist, or anything else other than a great musician who had a vision that was designed to keep alive the tradition of jazz. To blame her, or Yoshi’s, or any other institution for the lack of equal representation seems to be a rather narrow perspective. 

The Jazzschool is a business. You pay the money and you can take the classes. Without the student tuitions to help pay the overhead, there would be no school. Having been an instructor there for nine years, my observation was that the largest percentage of students, at least in the vocal department, were adults—with jobs. People with money get to do the fun stuff, no matter what color they are. Is that a revelation? The color of money is green.  

One of the realities inherent in this pay-to-learn environment is that if you pay, you’re in, regardless of whether or not you have any musical talent, motivation, discipline, or even a love of jazz. I met many wonderful and talented singers in my classes there, but an amazing number of them regard their experience at the school as yet another thing that money can buy. The motivation is primarily recreational: pay the dough and take the “jazz singer” ride. If the theme park experience doesn’t live up to the fantasy, then it’s the teacher’s fault, or the fault of the school. Currently there now exists a sizable population of vocalists who have taken the short cut route to the stage, many of whom have little or no curiosity about the study of music as long as there is a spotlight nearby. There is nothing wrong with that choice if it’s seen with some perspective, but this is not music education. 

Musicians of any race, age, or gender, if they have anything interesting to say, are musicians in their hearts and souls. Without the Jazzschool they would be no less inspired or accomplished. It doesn’t matter what color you are, you still have to practice to become skilled. You can practice your butt off and still suck. The singers and instrumentalists who were there at the inception of this musical tradition were not taking classes at the Jazzschool. They were inventing this music and participating in its evolution by listening, playing, practicing, and following the inner voice that moved them forward in the expression of their art. There was no pedagogy, no Jamey Aebersold, no singers’ open mic. There was a fervor that ignited the motivation to work hard and learn to really play. A musician’s success or failure in the world of performance is a result of the talent, desire, and hard work they bring to the music. 

Stephanie Bruce 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have been researching tidal energy mechanisms that can be used universally, are of very low cost, and can be created in a short time period. A small amount of money could cover the necessary research, development, and implementation of this new mechanism. My own research or that of our able scientists at UC Berkeley should make it possible to achieve our clean energy goals very quickly. 

All along the coasts of the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian Oceans and the Mediterranean Sea we can establish stations to generate electricity. One tide could lift a vessel, ocean liner, or any floating weight. One tide could turn hundreds of generators.  

This is an opportunity for Berkeley to lead the way to clean energy—even before San Francisco—by investing in a simple, low-cost solution. 

Yahya R. Mayeri 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was profoundly disappointed to learn that Housing Department Director Steve Barton summarily resigned with out notice recently after eight years leading one of the city’s most important departments. 

As one of the most respected and skilled affordable housing proponents in the nation, and the financial architect for scores of affordable, mixed-use housing developments across Berkeley, Mr. Barton’s housing record is unprecedented in city’s history. 

Under Mr. Barton’s tenure, hundreds of affordable housing units were built in the city along with hundreds of rehabilitated/reconstructed units also. No other city in the country comparable to Berkeley’s size can match this record of achievement. Mr. Barton deserves commendation and a debt of gratitude for his service to the city. 

Mr. Barton’s call for an independent investigation of the Berkeley Housing Authority and the role of the City of Berkeley should be acted upon by the City Council as soon as possible. Such an investigation must be allowed to follow whatever course it may lead to. 

Briefly, to respond to John Parman’s June 18 letter to the editor (“Reform Housing Policy”): Mr. Parman claims that the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Agency’s activities and services have been “diminish[ing].” In fact, the agency receives over 10,000 inquiries/contacts each year in addition to providing a formal mediating process to resolve renter/landlord disagreements.  

At another point, Mr. Parman states that there are “about 40,000” rental units city-wide. Actually, there are roughly 24,000 units total of which nearly 19,000 are regulated under the city’s voter-approved Rent Stabilization Ordinance. The non-regulated units include UC or student-operated housing and other forms of institutional or non-traditional housing.  

Also, unlike Oakland or San Francisco, Berkeley’s rent control program monitors and documents the rent level for each of the city’s 19,000 regulated units, In other words, rather than an “honor system”—as exists in Oakland and San Francisco—both Berkeley renters and property owners know exactly what the rent level is for each regulated unit. The agency’s computerized data system prevents confusion, misunderstandings, misrepresentations, etc. between renters and owners. 

Chris Kavanagh 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’m responding to David Schroeder’s outstanding analysis of racism and how it continues to affect the lives of black Americans here in Berkeley and elsewhere. This is the first time I’ve read an article by a white male who has a depth of understanding of racism. I commend you Mr. Schroeder and wish your thinking could be cloned. 

All black people have stories to share about racism and the cumulative rage and pain it has caused them. I’m just going to describe a couple of my experiences ranging from high school to graduate school. Although I received an A on my four-year French Regents in New York City, everyone in my accelerated French class received honors at graduation, except “moi.” I was only 17. Then, as an adult in graduate school I was part of a group team of five submitting a group paper. I stayed up all night putting the final touches on my section of the paper along with a team member who wound up spending the night. Well, once again what I term “educational racism” reared its ugly head. All others on my team received an A, and guess what? I got the B+ (“black plus”).  

Racism is rampant, and yes, it is right here in Berkeley covertly hidden beneath a fortress of liberalism. I frankly don’t have the time or energy to deal with “BERacism” in this letter. It hurts too much.  

I highly recommend the following reading: Black Robes, White Justice; Gordon Allport’s The Nature of Prejudice (especially the section on “competition”); and Toni Cade Bambara’s “The Children Who Get Cheated” in Redbook Magazine (1970.) 

Thanks again Mr. Schroeder. Your letter gave me hope and inspiration. I know there’s got to be other like-minded people somewhere out there in space. In the meantime, here’s to the hope for a peaceful, anti-racist future Planet. 

Carole Ann Brown 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Being in favor of the bus rapid transit (BRT), I was dismayed to see those letters opposing BRT. I hope those people don’t think the BRT is being built for bus riders like me. I don’t want to be blamed for taking away their car lanes. I think the BRT is a great idea, but I personally don’t need it. I can get around just fine on the 40L/1R and the other buses which serve Berkeley. 

Personally, I don’t need the bus-only lanes—and I don’t need the guilt trip. No, the BRT was never proposed for people like me who already ride the bus. It’s for the car drivers. The whole purpose of the BRT is to liberate people from cars, by providing drivers with an alternative which is fast, safe, convenient and comfortable. I like these things too, but the 51, 40L, 72R already provide me with good enough service. 

A lot of BRT opposition seems to come from people who won’t consider any other transportation option than a car. The pollution, asthma, carbon dioxide, oil consumption, traffic congestion, anger, frustration and cost associated with owning and operating a car are evidently well worth it to these drivers. Not to me. I’d rather ride the bus and not be part of those pollution problems. 

But don’t build the BRT for me. Build it for the car drivers who want to be liberated. 

Steve Geller 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The City Council recently approved three low-cost but possibly life-saving measures which our commission, the Disaster and Fire Safety Commission, has been pushing—and we are very thankful that they were able to do this. Those were the Seismic Retrofit Measure written in large part by Councilmember Capitelli and myself, an updated survey of a second road from Panoramic Hill to Dwight Way, and the final approval to buy the Mobile Disaster Fire Protection System (the portable water pump system which will run from the bay up to the hills). The latter is paid for from pre-existing bonds (I think Measure G?), while the two other items only cost about $15,000 each. Only the first item was mentioned in our annual commission report, which was delivered to the City Council at the May 8 meeting. 

Now the real decisions have to be made to protect ourselves and our families. Our report outlined six items which, if funded, will exponentially increase our community’s preparedness. The report, along with the city manager’s cover letter, has been referred to the budget process.  

Please strongly consider funding all of the following items which have fiscal impacts as identified by the city manager. They’re all priorities in our eyes but we’re not sure which ones have secured funding or not. I’ve marked them as “one-time” or “recurring.” 

1. Add two FTEs to Office of Emergency Services. This is the major one. Current budgeting is penny-wise and pound-foolish with just 1.7 FTE in OES. Even adding just one FTE would mean a large expansion of planning/preparation! ($260,000 for two FTE, $130,000 for one FTE, recurring)  

These next two are unfunded parts of the city’s official Disaster Plan curated by David Wee/Health and Human Services: 

2. Stock city shelter supplies (I believe it’s in the HHS budget request). ($53,000, one-time.) 

3. Map critical structure systems in existing city shelters. ($50,000, one-time.) 

4. Study rearranging bottleneck at southeast corner of Memorial Stadium, work towards a city/UC joint project to complete work in future. Regardless of whether or not the stadium’s used for football in the future, the choke point endangers emergency access to the surrounding neighborhoods and wilderness. ($15,000 one-time.) 

5. Provide emergency caches to more neighborhoods in exchange for those neighborhoods taking CERT classes. This is an incredibly effective tool to train us laypeople to take care of ourselves post-earthquake/pandemic. ($27,000 recurring.) 

Jesse Townley 

Chair, Disaster and Fire Safety Commission 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have two minor quibbles with Richard Brenneman’s otherwise illuminating pair of articles in the June 19 Daily Planet on last Saturday’s downtown planning workshop and the lawsuits concerning UC Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium oak grove. In the first piece Mr. Brenneman writes: “DAPAC members aren’t drafting the final plan—that will be the work of city staff, the Planning Commission and the City Council—but they are drafting the policy statements city officials say will constitute the basis of the plan.” Actually, as per Section II of the infamous Settlement Agreement of May 25, 2005, between the City of Berkeley and the UC Regents, the Downtown Area Plan (DAP) is a joint plan to be prepared by “at least one FTE dedicated city planner and one FTE dedicated UC Berkeley planner.” Further, “...because the DAP is a joint plan, there shall be no release of draft or final DAP or EIR without concurrence of both parties.” Moreover, “UC Berkeley reserves the right to determine if the DAP or EIR meets the Regents’ needs.” In the second piece Mr. Brenneman refers to the coalition of plaintiffs who had challenged “the adoption of the of the university’s Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) 2020, which includes the SCIP projects.” Actually, the Southeast Campus Integrated Projects were omitted from the LRDP settlement—partly why there are now four lawsuits pending over SCIP. My thanks to Mr. Brenneman and Planet staff for their continuing reportage on legacies (unsavory and otherwise) stemming from the Berkeley City Council’s “clandestine capitulation” in May 2005.  

Jim Sharp 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Old West Gun Shop, just around the block from where I have lived for seven years, is unarguably complicit in the killings of Kevin Morrissey, his wife and two daughters. The shop is especially implicated in the deaths of the two completely innocent young girls. How can there be any other logical conclusion!!?? The shop should be sued out of existence in the courts. 

What tragic idiocy that a depressed man can buy a gun so easily, and legally! It’s all so familiar, and so unintelligent, that in the U.S.A. lethal weapons are so easily available! 

Old West Gun Shop should be permanently closed and removed from our community. Where are the civic and social leaders who will step forward to state and organize what every sensible citizen can see—that legally selling guns into the community in the 21st century is dangerous and anti-social and should be stopped immediately? 

Andrew Ritchie 

El Cerrito