Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday July 03, 2007


Editors, Daily Planet 

I frequently hike on the Strawberry Canyon fire trail, and was recently dismayed to see a sign posted announcing the use of herbicides along the trail. It is particularly ironic because at the beginning of the trail is a prominent sign that says “Ecological Study Area.” It then lists the things that are forbidden, including firearms and bicycles, but makes no mention of herbicides. I guess that makes them OK. 

Carol David 




Editors, Daily Planet 

Professor Chapela is on track. There is an increasing number of serious scientists whose works are being dismissed or even ridiculed by the “mainstream” scientists in the academic-industry-government complex. We notice that burning biofuel does little to curb global CO2 emissions because it is, like gasoline, a hydrocarbon. Notice also that the only way to produce necessary levels of energy in an emission-free manner is to employ nuclear energy. However, the large energy-producing powers that be—petroleum, coal, and ethanol—are dead set against the expansion of nuclear energy use. This is because if we were to employ nuclear energy at the level that, say, France does, it would greatly curtail our need for these CO2-producing sources. In fact, the BP grant of $400 million to UC to study alternative fuels makes no money available for research and improvement in our nuclear energy production. This even though UC has one of the nation’s few nuclear engineering departments. 

Peter Fowler 





Editors, Daily Planet 

My thanks to Carol Denney for her courteous and totally convincing account of the many problems that have beset the empty lot at Telegraph and Haste. I would, nonetheless, plead: “Tear down that fence, City Council!” 

Dorothy Snodgrass 



Editors, Daily Planet 

I tend to agree with Becky O’Malley (“Taking the Pledge, One More Time,” June 29) that promising to abstain from sex until after marriage or not drink alcohol before age 21 is not the most effective way to develop a healthy attitude toward sex and substances. I took both pledges as a youth, good Catholic that I once was, and am pleased to admit that I failed at both—in part because by age 30, I was still not married. 

What puzzles me about the rest of Becky’s column is why she criticizes the city’s effort to raise local awareness of global warming and our individual contributions to it. What is the point exactly? The city and many others are engaged in an outreach campaign that is intended to educate and to engender in the population a sense that global warming can be addressed. How that happens takes a number of forms. The personal reduction pledge is one of many tools. For example, we’ve had a Measure G kick-off event to which everyone in the city was invited, a number of city commissions are hosting workshops on climate change to which the public is invited, the city is embarking on an effort to extend renewable energy into the residential and commercial sector funded in part by a grant from the Department of Energy, the mayor has already brought together 10 of the county’s 13 cities into an alliance to address climate change on a regional level, as a board member of the Bay Area Air Quality District the mayor has made climate change a top priority for that institution. The list really does go on. And from my view, it is all intended to get us closer to the level of greenhouse gas reductions that good science tells us we have to achieve in order to avoid irreversible harm to the planet. 

We’ve got a very long way to go to achieve an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and not a lot of time in which to do it. As we are challenged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions further, our individual and collective actions will have to go beyond light bulb replacements and Energy Star appliances. The Berkeley Daily Planet is a valuable community resource that could play a significant role in encouraging its readers to become more responsive to the problem and offering its own positive suggestions for how to reduce our impacts. The Planet could do its part by becoming the first newspaper in Alameda County to become a certified green business. That would demonstrate the positive, can-do approach that will give us a chance. 

Tom Kelly  





Editors, Daily Planet 

Some opponents of Bus Rapid Transit argue that it will duplicate BART. Not really. The two services would serve different sets of trips. BRT would more likely feed passengers to BART than bleed them off. 

The right question is not how close the routes are but how close the stations are. BART stations along the corridor are a mile to three miles apart (except for 12th to 19th Street in downtown Oakland, which is almost half a mile). The BRT stations, depending on the alternative, are much closer to one another. There are only 10 BART stations along the corridor versus 35 to 51 BRT stations. 

The routes themselves are quite far apart along much of the corridor. For example, it is a long half-mile from Ashby BART to Telegraph Avenue, the equivalent of almost nine football fields. Try hiking it on a hot summer day or during a winter storm. Alta Bates Medical Center, one block further east, will be convenient to BRT but not to BART. 

These differences are important. Most passengers do not walk far to transit. Consistent research over the decades has shown that fewer than half of rail transit passengers walk as much as 10 minutes (about half a mile). They walk less far to bus stops. We have no data yet on how far they will walk to BRT stations. 

BRT is intended to serve trips that BART does not. Cash customers whose origin and destination are both close to BART stations will probably choose BART. It will be faster and more comfortable, in some cases, cheaper. Those who have a 31-day ticket or a student pass may prefer BRT. BRT will offer some advantages. Stations will have no stairs or escalators, service will be more frequent, and the buses will be quieter inside than BART cars currently are. 

For the most part, BRT will serve one set of travelers and BART another. There will be some overlap but not much. 

Robert R. Piper 




Editors, Daily Planet 

I would like to suggest an alternative to Bus Rapid Transit by using local microbus or jitney services at each BART Station to supplement BART. But first, some background. 

Data on walking distances to transit locations is hard to find. Part of the confusion is that as the walking distance becomes greater, the collection area becomes greater with the square of the distance, but the probability of somebody willing to walk that greater distance decreases dramatically. According to information on Sierra Club’s website, 70 percent of walkers will walk 500 feet, and 40 percent will walk 1,000 feet, but only 10 percent will walk a half-mile to public transportation. 

BART is comfortable, sleek, modern, and fast, traveling on average close to 35 mph. BART was terribly expensive to install, but is now relatively cheap and cost-effective to operate. The problem is that the stations are located typically a mile or more apart in most of the East Bay. Normal city buses travel a poky 9-11 mph, but conveniently stop every couple of blocks. Bus frequency can be an issue, but the slow speed is not a significant factor if the trip is short. 

The proposed Bus Rapid Transit route essentially parallels BART at 2-3 blocks distance for most of its length. BRT will have stops every half mile or so, and will apparently travel only 30-40 percent faster than local buses. The disadvantage is that BRT will eliminate two lanes of traffic on very heavily used streets like Telegraph Avenue, and will eliminate significant amounts of parking for passenger loading platforms. Bus Rapid Transit will also cause major disruption at several busy intersections that apparently cannot be ameliorated. Although BRT will reduce particulates, the overall advantages for speed, fuel consumption, and global warming gases are relatively insignificant. 

I would like to suggest that the local cities and BART get together to consider a local microbus or jitney service that would pick and deliver people locally to each BART station. A jitney making pickup circles or figure eights at five or six blocks distance would theoretically increase the number of BART’s passengers by a factor of ten. Furthermore, since BRT path is so close to BART path, the jitney service would cover virtually the entire BRT path, providing most of BRT’s advantages, but without the disadvantages of lost traffic lanes, lost parking and $300 million investment. This may be worth considering. 

Ozzie Vincent 




Editors, Daily Planet 

There are obvious errors in the June 29 op-ed about Bus Rapid Transit by Mary Oram and others. 

First, they claim that BRT will slow emergency vehicles. In reality, emergency response will be much faster when there are two dedicated center lanes just for buses and emergency vehicles. 

Second, they claim this plan will not work for traffic. In reality, AC Transit’s environmental impact report shows that all intersections on Telegraph will work. Automobile traffic will be a bit slower, because there will not be a fast lane and all drivers will have to travel at the speed of the safest drivers, but traffic will flow smoothly, according to the people who have analyzed the numbers. 

Third, they reveal their gasoholic bias by saying that Telegraph works well today, thinking only of how it works for cars. They should look at pedestrians hesitating at the cross-walks, afraid of the aggressive traffic, to see that this street does not work for everyone. BRT will make it easier to cross, and businesses will benefit when people shopping on one side of the street do not hesitate to walk across to the other side. 

Some shop owners seem to think that this plan will hurt their business. I don’t know why they believe that aggressive traffic and dangerous pedestrian crossings make a street a good place to do business. In reality, businesses will benefit when BRT makes Telegraph more pedestrian-friendly and brings more people. 

Charles Siegel 




Editors, Daily Planet 

I will not get into a point-by-point rebuttal to John Gertz’s rambling rant of June 29, but only point out that he again misrepresents the resolution passed by the City Council nearly four years ago, requesting a full independent investigation of Rachel Corrie’s death. Gertz says that the resolution ignored all Israeli casualties in the conflict, while in fact it said: “The City of Berkeley supports peace and justice and opposes the senseless killing of innocent Palestinians, Israelis and others.”  

The full text of the City Council resolution can be found at (see “Response to Gertz”). There is also a full list of the 77 members of the House of Representatives (including Congresswoman Lee) that also supported a similar resolution in 2003.  

Mr. Gertz also states, without a shred of evidence, that Kriss Worthington regrets his support for this simple resolution. Kriss is a tireless supporter of peace and human rights for all, locally and globally, whether it be homeless youth, exploited garment industry workers, military resisters of the Iraq war, and all the victims of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. He has never said he regretted his vote on the Corrie resolution. This does not prevent Gertz from rewriting history. Gertz goes on to direct his wrath on Linda Maio and demonizes her, merely because she joined the majority on the city council (including current member Dona Spring and former members Maudelle Shirek and Margaret Breland), 77 members of the House of Representatives, Amnesty International and numerous other human rights organizations, in calling for an independent investigation into Corrie’s death.  

An independent investigation into the death of Tom Hurndall, a British activist killed while protecting children in Gaza just weeks after Corrie’s death, was demanded by the British government. That is why Israeli soldiers were eventually held accountable for Tom’s murder. Would a similar investigation result in similar conclusions in the case of Rachel Corrie? Thanks to obstructionists like Gertz, we may never know.  

Jim Harris  




Editors, Daily Planet 

I was struck by the thoughtful letter from David Knauer on the subject of gun control. One sentence in particular caught my eye. It begins, “Those who own and carry guns usually have studied the gun laws quite thoroughly,” and goes on to paint a placid picture of sober, responsible citizens who have studied and trained with firearms before carrying them. David Knauer asks us to refrain from generalizing about the attitudes and habits of gun owners. Fair enough. 

I support gun control because it seems to work for other western nations that have fewer firearm fatalities per capita than we do. I do believe that most gun owners are law-abiding and responsible. I’m much less inclined to feel that way about gun dealers and firearm manufacturers. I have no wish to abolish our right to bear arms, and I really don’t mind if my neighbor owns a shotgun or a deer rifle. I do want the government to prevent her from owning a tank, rocket-launcher, flame thrower, or anti-personnel mines, and I have no objection to legal limits on type of gun, allowable ammunition, rate of fire, and magazine capacity. 

I have to say that while the idea of an armed citizenry acting as a deterrent to criminals has a certain “sounds good” appeal on the surface, the more I think about it the more scared I get. Our sober, responsible citizens all seem to think they can use a cell phone and drive at the same time... 

Paul Mackinney 





Editors, Daily Planet 

Regarding Mr. Hourula’s response to Mr. Hardesty’s letter: These numbers are taken from the FBI Crime Statistics for the year 2005. (2006 is still preliminary.) These numbers are of course rounded. Murders and non-negligent manslaughter, 17,000. Forcible rape, 94,000. Robbery, 400,000. Property crime, 10 million. Burglary, 2.15 million. Larceny, 6.8 million. Motor vehicle theft, 1.23 million. So for the latest year completed, there were over 20 million crimes reported, or over 2,281 per hour.  

Suddenly, an additional 228 crimes stopped is put into a little better focus. With those numbers, and the fact that some crimes, especially rape, are under reported, I suspect that Las Vegas would probably back Mr. Hardesty over Mr. Hourula on Mr. Hourula’s bet.  

As for Ms. Snodgrass’ comments, my small 5’3” 90-pound daughter with a 9mm pistol is the equal of a 300-pound man with or without a gun. In last class I took, the two women attending both shot as well or better than the men. And that is a consistent finding by most instructors.  

Doug Hawkins 




Editors, Daily Planet 

The fact is that millions of people use guns every year in this country as a deterrent to crime. The New American regularly publishes a column titled “Exercising The Right” which gives concrete examples of such deterrence. Organizations which support a citizen’s right to self-defense such as the National Rifle Association and the Second Amendment have also recorded a great many documented cases of self-defense over the years. We have over 300 million people in the U.S.A. and the estimate of several millions acting in self-defense is reasonable. Even a brainless lib can figure this out, most of the time if you deter a criminal with your gun, are you going to report to the cops ? In many jurisdictions you would be in more trouble than the would-be criminals, this one included. 

After reading Mr. Hourla’s figure of “billions” of false claims in the media, I defer to his obvious expertise in this area. 

Michael P. Hardesty 





Editors, Daily Planet 

My long career as a teacher tells me that we need to change our parenting styles. I know parents face challenges in their daily lives. But they need to learn how to offer open attention whenever their children need attention. Parents should learn how to focus on what their child is trying to say but cannot say clearly. Children need to feel they can try to express their inner feelings and be supported as they try. 

Romila Khanna 





Editors, Daily Planet 

The office of the vice president, as well as that of the president, should not be above the law. The administration of justice, and application of law should be without regard to political partisanship, and should not be run with political bias, as it is now. 

John Schaeffer 





Editors, Daily Planet 

Fourth of July, freedom’s call, and yet George Bush just recently (May 9) issued a “presidential directive” that allows him to assume control of the federal government following a “catastrophic emergency.” 

Wait, it gets worse. The directive doesn’t specifically identify the types of “emergencies” that would qualify as catastrophic. In fact, the directive is so broad that it could include anything the public is led to believe might have a major impact on the country. 

This directive follows on the heels of a bill which gave the president the power to declare martial law. This couldn’t happen in America. Have you forgotten so quickly the takeover and power grab of the U.S. government orchestrated by Bush and the Republicans?  

How does George W. Bush, dictator-in-chief, sound? 

Ron Lowe  

Grass Valley 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Why was the great Dr. Kevorkian given eight years and called a killer by the system when the little turtle in the White House is allowed to maim and murder our troops at the toss of a coin? 

Dr. Kevorkian was a mercy doctor with great compassion for the terminally ill. The little turtle is a sick schizo, who is still allowed to practice his role as our president. Happy Fourth of July? I don’t think so! 

Alice Noriega 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Your recent article, “Food Festival Spotlights West Berkeley’s Cultures,” says deli owner Luis Arango “came to California from Calexico 16 years ago...” 

Unless the border recently shifted northward, I believe Calexico is still very much a a part of Imperial County, California. 

Paul Slater 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The poor, the homeless and the addicted came to the City Council meeting with hats in hand, begging for their programs to be funded at past rates, as all of them have been cut, a la Bush. This at the same time Mayor Bates is trying to push them out of town. 

On the other hand, Bates has recommended hiring a transportation planner for $225,000 for 18 months. With all the consultants Berkeley hires one would think we have no employees. It’s sort of like Bush hiring contractors to do the work of the regular army for five times their pay. 

Meanwhile services that help the poor, homeless and the addicted have had to reduce hours, reduce days and reduce staff. For shame. 

Rosemary Vimont 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In response to Esten Sesto’s June 5 letter regarding traffic diverters, oh do we ever hate those things! It would take up the entire paper to list all the reasons, so we’ll just write about the diverter at Ninth Street and Delaware. 

First of all it sends all the cars to the 1800 block of Ninth Street. At commute time that block must have hundreds of cars whizzing by. But the 1700 block has its own woes. The diverter is evidently a challenge to those drivers aspiring to the Indianapolis speedway. Three times in recent memory two cars and a truck have gone at top speed and either careened around the corner and hit a parked car, or in the case of the truck, tried to go around the diverter using the sidewalk. (It hit a city tree.) When the police are called, they shrug their shoulders and go on their way.  

In our opinion, the roundabout at 10th Street and Delaware should have been placed at Ninth Street. Or better yet, omit the roundabout and install a four-way stop at Ninth and Delaware. We see cars using the sidewalk to avoid the diverter on a regular basis. 

Carol Beth and Kathleen McCarter 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Your articles about the “fired” employees at the Berkeley Housing Authority (but wait, “we can’t fire them”) reminded me of when I worked at the City of Berkeley in the 1970s. There was a slice of the workforce which had little to do. I used to bring a library book with me to work because on some days there was nothing to do. Then, someone decided I needed two assistants. They didn’t have anything to do either. 

There was another slice of the workforce which was always “on leave,” “disabled” or “out sick.” Nobody cared. Then there were numerous well-known (among employees) of those so incompetent it was painful to watch. Nobody did anything about that either. The mayor at that time openly stated that one of the main aims of city government was to provide jobs for folks such as the above. 

It doesn’t sound like much has changed. And we can pat ourselves on the back by remembering that we will be paying pensions to these folks (and their spouses) for life, as well as lifetime medical care. 

Rob Snodgrass 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In mid-June there was a report on the BUSD and city discussing issues, one of which was garbage. Mayor Bates called people “slobs.” I resent that. I have tried for years to have more garbage cans around Berkeley. I was passed around various levels of highly paid bureaucracy to no avail. Other clean and busy towns have four cans at an intersection. This way you need not walk down a whole block or cross a busy street to deposit your garbage. Our garbage cans are often overfull. We need many more garbage cans as on Solano, Hopkins and Gilman, outside schools (public and private), near all bus stops, and many other areas. 

The stylish new cans with upper trays for recyclables get unrecyclable drink containers. People don’t understand what is recyclable since every city recycles different things. 

Today the garbage collectors left my neighbors’ diapers in the gutter as they collected things. Follow the trucks. This is common. 

I suspect that the homeless and less than mature young folks also deposit things on the street. Maybe our beloved neighbors do too or am I the only one to notice? Dismissing us all as slobs is short-sighted and disrespectful of the people who live here. 

I think we fail in our education about recycling. We also fail in handling the homeless problem. They could be picking up the garbage in exchange for a place to sleep. Instead we pay some far-off techy entrepreneur for sophisticated street sweepers that employ one person each and who wake everyone up. This is line with Bates’ vindictive and disparaging comment, however. 

I have spoken with a barely-speaking-English speaker on San Pablo Avenue for putting a drink can in the gutter. She insisted it was where it was supposed to go. I have witnessed six gardeners suited for protection dump garden toxins from back tanks on a bluff over the ocean (south of Stinson). Inquiries about both events were futile. 

The Alameda Clean Water Program and local and state waste “management” programs lack any effort to address the reality of our population. Flyers, pencils and other educational devices are almost exclusively in English. The parks in Marin passed the buck for so long that when someone finally checked out the area they found nothing. My photograph of the people and the truck with the license plate did not suffice. 

I’m tired of folks passing the buck. Carry a plastic bag and pick up the garbage when you go anywhere, folks, and stop blaming everyone else. If you have any influence, Tom Bates, get the waste agencies to educate the less than privileged hard-working folks, so that congenial outreach reaches them. Or is that just too inconceivable? 

Wendy Weikel 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

An article appeared in your paper concerning a white male ex-cop who hit and killed an 82-year-old female pedestrian. According to the article he was also arrested on suspicion of drunken driving. The most amazing fact in the article was that his bail was set at just $30,000. 

I’m currently in the process of filing a citizen’s complaint with Supervisor John Gioia’s office, concerning the excessive bail levied against African Americans; other people of color; and, of course, poor people. Let me explain what I believe is disparate treatment. About two weeks ago, an African American mother of two small children got into a domestic dispute with her male companion. Her offense was that she accidentally scratched him while trying to wrest her keys from his fist. Her bail was set at $50,000. 

The facts are that she did not kill anyone and wasn’t arrested for a DUI, but she accidentally scratched someone. Something is terribly wrong with this scenario. In my view this incident reeks of bias and points to the two-tiered system of punishment that minorities and poor people face every day. This kind of bias is not acceptable in our communities.  

Nicole J. Williams