Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday August 14, 2007


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding “Popular Car Wash Faces Eviction” (Aug. 10): I know that business reality for small firms is always richly complicated—there’s no such thing as a “simple” idea. But, really, am I the only one struck by the thought here that a detailing shop and a biofuel depot could make fantastically great partners to co-locate at Ashby and Sacramento? These seem to me to be services that complement one another and that should have only a little bit of logistical trouble sharing the space—if some business structure/system of contracts, etc., can be worked out.  

Just a suggestion, anyway. 

Thomas Lord 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Cyclist Michelle Lerager’s letter complaining about the alleged severity of the Berkeley police was plaintive, a bit sad and, well, repetitive. I’m not sure you were justified in taking up three columns with it since she said the same thing at least three times. 

I will just make a couple of points, once. For the sake of good cyclist-motor vehicle public relations, and your own safety as a cyclist, it is always a good idea to obey the rules of the road. As far as police are concerned, you use your eyes. You do not ride through a stop sign or a red light when you have any whiff of the presence of a police officer. If there is no police officer, in a quiet backstreet situation, for example, then you use your common sense, and hope for the best. You are not obligated by law to get off your bike, ever, while legally on the road. 

Andrew Ritchie 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Mr. Parman’s concern over the cost of shopping at Trader Joe’s is not consistent with my experience. Over the past year my household has averaged $25.33 per person per week for food and household supplies (toilet paper and so on). This includes meals at restaurants, so our household definitely meets the USDA thrifty budget of $31.10 per week for a single man. Ninety percent of my expenses were approximately evenly split among three stores: Trader Joe’s, Berkeley Bowl, and the Grocery Outlet. Less than 4 percent of our expenses went to a supermarket (Safeway). For the items that I am interested in, most of the prices at the supermarket are simply not competitive with the prices at the other stores. I shop at several stores because no one store has the best prices or products for the range of items that I buy. I wouldn’t be surprised that for some people the food they buy is more expensive at Trader Joe’s than at a supermarket, but that by no mean implies that this is true for all of us. 

Robert Clear 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Charles Siegel, in his Aug. 7 letter about the July 24 Transportation Commission meeting on Bus Rapid Transit, presents a grossly distorted view. Other than city staff, city commissioners (led by the flagrantly biased Sarah Syed), and AC Transit employees, I counted only three supporters of BRT (that is, until one of them stomped out). Contrary to Siegel’s letter, citizen opponents of BRT vastly outnumbered supporters.  

Mr. Siegel seems to think the election process in Berkeley is a perfect expression of democracy, rather than a money-soaked political machine specializing in mendacious last-minute hit pieces.  

Regarding the unsuccessful referendum of the giveaway of the Oxford parking lot for the “Brower” project, Mr. Siegel fails to mention the vicious disinformation campaign against it, led by employees of the site’s developers. While gathering signatures at the Farmers’ Market, we were often surrounded by aggressive disinformers, including Chris Kavanagh, well-known champion of campaign truthfulness. Even the Sierra Club engaged in misinformation; I have lost all respect for this organization. 

I bike down Oxford Street to work, and therefore had to witness the destruction of 12 large trees for the “Brower” construction project. A convoy of trucks then lined up for weeks, spewing diesel exhaust, to remove an astounding amount of Berkeley soil. The crater that was formed will soon be filled with concrete. 

By the time this development is complete, I’ll bet the term “green building” will be considered little more than the greenwash spin of the times. Construction is intrinsically polluting—the reuse of existing buildings is what makes ecological sense in a mature town. 

If the “Brower” project doesn’t turn out to be what was promised (and which development in Berkeley has?), then it will be just another polluting construction project with a $90 million price tag. Ninety million dollars could have gone a long way to benefit Berkeley citizens; instead it is benefiting developers, consultants, lawyers and concrete companies. 

Gale Garcia 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was glad to see Zelda Bronstein’s article on the AC transit re-routing. Has AC transit gone mad? On Cedar Street, we have been re-routed to get the No. 19 bus, which originates in Oakland-San Leandro. The bus is needed there, but not on Cedar! This bus is destroying our community on Cedar Street, A big, huge, lumbering diesel-fueled bus lumbering down Cedar Street with fewer than five passengers is wasteful and unnecessary! Even the bus drivers realize that this huge bus is not necessary for narrow, tiny Cedar Street. Why has AC transit created this mess in my community and why has the Berkeley city government been complicit with this? Before the re-routing there was a bus that ran up and down the street, at less frequent times. It was for commuters and worked well. Now, this bus is a constant force on the block. I hope that someone at AC transit can stop this neighborhood wrecker and will realize that progress does not have to mean diesel pollution and destruction of a community. 

Meryl Siegal 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Mark Rhoades is moving on! That’s great to hear, maybe I’ll apply for the job, after all I’m highly qualified for it, and a Berkeley native to boot. But I wouldn’t expect to make friends of the likes of Becky O’Malley who wrote the recent article that characterizes the planning profession in a very poor light.  

I pick up the Superman rag every now and again to see what the “Anti’s” are up to, but could not resist writing back after reading the hit piece by Becky, who attacks an entire profession based on her limited opinion and experience. Planners throughout the region should be offended, if one can conceive we have the power she thinks we have.  

First, no planning department is perfect, since it really is after all made up of humans, and their human supervisors, and their human political heads. It also bears pointing out that Becky is ignorant of how planning departments are funded since you would be hard pressed to find one that is cost-covering—permit fees don’t cover our salaries and most have to dip into the General Fund. Although most finance directors don’t like this, it is a fact of life that if we wanted to be cost-covering we’d have to charge $10,000 for a simple use permit—not a real option.  

Secondly, planning is not science, but more like an art. That’s why it’s its own college up at Cal. It’s a set of ideas on how to grow cities, design buildings, and make land-use decisions to improve the quality of life for all—not a few, for all. This means the urban fabric and the spaces between buildings become very critical in how they create or hinder opportunities for inhabitants to reach public self fulfillment. Good city planning is something you feel! 

Finally, I don’t know Mark Rhoades, but I think Berkeley has gotten much better in the last several years. I love the mini-Manhattanization of downtown and all the high-rise going in along San Pablo Avenue. I eagerly await more of it—that is Smart Growth. Yes Becky, putting more people in downtown so they don’t need a car is a smart idea. Could affordability be better? You betcha, but that is more a failure on all us for not looking out for the less fortunate.  

I too would probably be friendly with developers. It comes with the job. After all, they are getting something accomplished with their precious time and being productive. I’m so sick of what I hear in this paper coming from the angry, crunchy liberal elites of Berkeley who are constantly fighting development. If you were in Mark’s shoes, which group would you want to sip a latte with?  

Albert Lopez 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’m impressed with Obama’s Oakland visit and cooperation, for the “Walk A Day In My Shoes 2008” campaign. Also asked about Oakland’s violence, he echoes what we all know: “If we can strengthen these communities with jobs, education, preventive healthcare, that will make all the difference.” 

He could have added that a first step in that endeavor could be decriminalizing drugs; the present laws providing a major crime incentive! This is another seemingly endless ineffective “war,” which wastes billions for drug-crime apprehension and incarceration—funds which could provide us with these obvious solutions. Obama apparently joins our other lawmakers in being blind to this ongoing obscenity. 

Gerta Farber 



43 MORE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Forgive my incessant ravings about the heat in Iraq. That subject has been foremost in my mind year after year, summer after summer, since the start of the war. My blood pressure rose to alarming heights when I read that the Iraqi parliament is taking a month-long vacation, that Congress has left for its traditional August recess and that Himself is headed for the cool climes of Kennebunkport, not a care in the world! So our soldiers are suffering in blistering heat? Ho hum, it’s a matter of little consequence. And my spirits were definitely not lifted Sunday morning when ABC’s “This Week” announced the death of 43 American servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan. Dear God—43! I’m praying for the day that American citizens finally shake off their lethargy and demand the return of our troops now—before they come back in flag-draped coffins. 

Dorothy Snodgrass 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Woe is me! Woe is us! No, I was not left laughing by Peter Laufer’s command of his most mundane trivial pursuit of Becky O’Malley’s socks concluding his chat with her last “Some Day.” What utterly thoughtless use of priceless KPFA air time! 

Does ironic even apply to Laufer using Einstein’s claim of not wearing socks as taking up valuable daily time needed to put them on and take ‘em off? And Laufer being such a disciple, zealot. Becky, I wish at that time you had just said “Thank you for the people’s time,” and hung up. 

Personally particularly galling was for months I have been proposing to Laufer, an experienced radio guy and author of Talk Radio, and admirably a dozen or so more books, that last weekend was rife ‘n’ ripe to discuss the state of morning radio, as the annual Morning Show Boot Camp (!) was gathered in Chicago—thousands of Imus/Stern wannabees. 

Talk Radio are the Titans to the historically overwhelmingly talented and programming leading Morning Show Gods. (Described in 1936 by Variety as “a typically American, or typically American radio aberration, wacky humor in the morning.”) Yet, this depiction and currency seems to be taboo for even media worthies.  

How We Hate To Get Up In The Morning just isn’t given any consideration—even as Imus departs and Sacramento wake-up ha-has kill a woman in a how-much-water-can-you-drink-without-pissing contest, ad nauseum. Like an aging academic who cannot bear or afford to have his field of study rethought, Laufer won’t incur to get it—even if I’m wrong.  

There is an expression “You can’t talk about the music business without sounding a little mixed up.” Maybe also the 75-year legacy of cock’s crow, time crying morning radio—if talked about. 

Beats me, says my heart. 

Arnie Passman 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Middle-mush Kitchen Democracy has posed another “voting” opportunity, this time about the institution used to further stratify our citizens, UC Berkeley. Capitalism’s requirement for excellence is ruinous for too many of us. Many people achieve excellence at what they do—sometimes at several things they do. These go comparatively unacknowledged as the STARS super-achieve. Concentration on one achievement as the way to do well leaves us thinking, as did the Chinese of the Cultural Revolution, that all must be given over to that one path, kind of like the yeshivah-bochers, the so-called students at yeshivah, at Jewish school—the men—and only men—who only “study”—make up/develop/support the oppressive rules of that caste—and are supported by the surrounding people, rather than actually working. 

Yes, some will say their study contributes to the community. But it’s being discovered that this is a more-or-less willing self deception, that good work is the production of ways of maintenance for all in the community, not the elevation on some hallowed pedestal of what might or might not be an actually worthy activity. 

I suggest that super-perfectionist performance is of questionable value—to the performer as well as to the people around. A whole life involves many behaviors. Working at an assembly line 40 hours a week is also undesirable. We are all violinists, ball players, students, producers all our lives, and all deserve the opportunity to do all, and to change what we do. 

There needs to be profound questioning of the system to which we’ve enslaved ourselves. This is one place to look—the elevation of a very few people to a stardom we’re to venerate while we keep on at our middle-level of functioning as though we are less than they. 

Norma J. F. Harrison 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Today the public is rejecting “American food” in favor of ethnic and health food, while a venerable company, that represented both, folds. Violence, corruption and mismanagement have ended Your Black Muslim Bakery. Three decades ago, when many a present day “health food” enterprise was but a pipe dream, the bakery had its wares in “hip” places such as the Berkeley Coop Grocery. In its inception, Your Black Muslim Bakery also represented the movement for equality. It was the “self-help side to the struggle for economic uplift, and was founded not long after Bay Area sit-ins that integrated many a retail establishment.  

The protest side won “equal opportunity” hiring at such places as Safeway, Albertson’s, Denny’s and Mel’s Drive-in, not to mention at the low-pay fast food outlets. On the “self-help” side, however, regarding the “step up” that is entrepreneurship, the family owned Your Black Muslim Bakery remained a rarity in a community where despair is rampant and a high incarceration rate makes a steady job appear more practical than saving to buy a business. Meanwhile, other ethnic groups spout a profusion of family run businesses and it seems almost monthly that another nation is added to the dozens represented among East Bay eateries. 

Regrettable, as more food outlets go ethnic and mom and pop take their revenge on Safeway, opportunities for African Americans in food service employment are increasingly relegated to the low prestige world of fatty, greasy, sugared, chemicaled “American food.” 

Ted Vincent 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

For those who like their news short and simple, here in 14 words is the cause of California’s current budget crisis: Tom McClintock and his posse of redneck Republicans have bushwacked the state budget again. End of story! 

Ron Lowe  

Grass Valley  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

This might be a good venue for voicing some puzzles about Israel. In the late forties, my college classmates thought that Israel would be a good place to have a reunion sometime, in one of those utopian socialist kibbutzim. Like many ignorant Americans (and our president at the time) we thought it was a healthy response to the Holocaust. We didn’t know what Einstein and his Jewish intellectual friends knew in 1948, and wrote on Dec. 4, 1948 to the New York Times, that one of the founding political parties was based on the Irgun, “a terrorist, right-wing, chauvinist organization” “similar to the Nazi and Fascist parties.”  

They preached “an admixture of ultranationalism, religious mysticism, and racial superiority.” We didn’t know about the massacre at Deir Yassin, as Einstein did. Only recently have Israeli historians discussed these events. Now, we have to ask some questions about what Israel stands for, besides the reaction to European racism which incorporated its own form of racism. Israel welcomes and provides land and housing for two categories of people: Jewish believers and new converts, and non-believers whose ancestors were Jews—like the Nazi definition. Within Israel, Arabs are unable to get permission to build housing for their families or to serve in the army. The houses they build on their own land for their families can be destroyed even within Israel. Israel is praised as a democracy, but it commits ethnic discrimination, so its democracy is tainted. As the demographics within Israel continue to change, it can only retain this kind of dominance by ethnic cleansing. Yet in 1948, in its declaration of independence, it was said: “it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants... it will be based on freedom, justice and peace... it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture... it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.” How naive we were to believe these statements in 1948. From 1987 Israel has repeatedly violated United Nations resolutions in continuing the occupation of Palestine in violation of the Geneva conventions. It was Nazi practice in occupied territories to dispossess the locals from homes and to confiscate land. While Palestinians were once respected for their education, the Israeli occupation and checkpoints have destroyed access to schools and universities. And death has rained down on West Bank and Gaza homes, as B’Tselem has documented, through state terrorism against civilians. How can Israel be the model of democracy for the rest of the middle east when it violates its own founding principles? Can anyone justify these anomalies?  

Susan Tripp 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

To respond to Dorothy Snodgrass’s rhetorical question with my own, do I believe that a potential attacker is deterred by armed victims ? Yes, I do. Readers can consult Chicago scholar John R. Lott’s book More Guns, Less Crime for details.  

Michael P. Hardesty 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

“Weakness allures the ruffian, but arms, like laws, discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property. Horrid mischief would ensue were the law-abiding citizens deprived of the use of them, and the weak will become a prey to the strong.” Yes! None can say it better than Thomas Paine, our founding father. People having the freedom to own guns is a people power issue. Why let the government monopolize the possession and use guns? Let people have the power too.  

The Second Amendment says, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” But some people completely subvert the Second Amendment when they mis-interpret it by claiming that since we have state National Guard, they are the “militia.” Actually, militia means a people with arms or “posse comitatus.” And the idea was that if the government turned tyrannical (like the British colonial administration in America had been), the people with arms or the “militia” would use their guns to overthrow the oppressive government (like what the minutemen did).  

Irshad Alam 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

From my seat in the retirement bleachers I see things that make me numb with rage. Here’s one.  

Near the end of its play the Bush team has done more than any before it to hasten the demise of open government. It hurts to see Bush/Cheney stamp “the end” on an experiment that has survived, despite ups and downs, for over two centuries. They must be impeached.  

But history offers little encouragement. The House voted bills of impeachment only sixteen times and the Senate had enough “yeas” to remove just seven judges from office. It didn’t have enough to remove presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton.  

Given this record it is unlikely that the current White House residents will be removed. They have so little time left maybe it’s better just to leave them to heaven.  

There is plenty of time, however, to penalize them.  

Speaker Pelosi must reverse herself and allow the House to vote on a bill of impeachment regardless of the sad fact there are not enough vertebrates among them to win it. The alternative, no action, would make the peoples’ representatives complicit in executive abrogation of authority, the equivalent of legislative suicide 

No action allows the next president to inherit a situation in which the fears of the Founders are realized, the Bush/Cheney regime having shredded checks and disrupted balances with tyrannical effect.  

No action means the Bush/Cheney team leaves behind autocratic powers: to lie the country into war, to evade “quaint” humanitarian commitments, to disdain world opinion, to process “enemy combatants” in military tribunals, to enrich the rich, to suppress dissent, to spy on citizens and, with the collusion of the mass media, to create whatever reality will justify executive actions.  

The Congress must find some way to punish Bush/Cheney or else we can wave “goodbye” to our most cherished ideals. 

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I just have to comment on the hoopla surrounding Barry Bonds’ besting Hank Aaron’s home run record. Even President Bush, the great prevaricator, congratulated Bonds on breaking the home run record. I hope that San Francisco will think twice about giving the key to the city and a celebration to a steroid user. 

Remember, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on Dec. 3, 2004, that Barry Bonds testified before a grand jury that he used a clear substance and a cream given to him by a trainer who was indicted in a steroid-distribution ring. Bonds claimed he didn’t know they were steroids. Some have argued that because Bonds has not admitted to the knowing use of steroids, there is a Constitutional presumption of innocence. While this may be true in a court of law, it is not necessarily true in the court of public opinion where Bond’s lack of credibility and the substantial circumstantial evidence have persuaded me and others, that Bonds knowingly took steroids. See “The Truth About Barry Bonds and Steroids” by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, in the March 7, 2006 issue of Sports Illustrated (excerpted from their book Game of Shadows.) In 1991, Fay Vincent, then baseball’s commissioner, released a Commissioner’s Policy that said “the possession, sale, or use of any illegal drug or controlled substance by Major League players and personnel is strictly prohibited … This prohibition applies to all illegal drugs and controlled substances, including steroids.” 

But does it matter? In this age of wide scale cheating and lying by public officials, researchers, students, etc., Bond’s use of steroids appears irrelevant to a lot of people. After all, baseball is just entertainment and “everyone” was doing it anyway. It does matter because steroid use is up among high school students and even eighth graders. 

I suggest that San Francisco reconsider celebrating Bonds for breaking the home run record because of the message it sends to our young people. 

Ralph E. Stone 

San Francisco 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Ms. Bronstein could drop some of her anguish (and venom) if she’d only tried 

Once on their site hover on the “Transit” drop-down menu and select the first entry “Take Transit Trip Planner,” which will take you to the “Plan Your Trip” page. From there you fill in your starting and ending points (or nearest intersection), when you want to start or arrive, and a few more options; select “Plan Your Trip” and then check the results—you may wish to change some of the options (“Revise Your Trip”) if something seems disagreeable.  

Hope this is helpful to all public transportation riders. 

Gregory Poynter 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

In reference to Zelda Bronstein’s The Public Eye column in the Aug. 10 issue regarding finding bus routes and schedules: 

Ms. Bronstein: It’s too bad that when you pulled up the AC Transit home page ( you didn’t notice that under “Maps and Schedules” was “Trip Planning.” If you had clicked that category you could have keyed in where you wanted to leave from, where you wanted to go, what time you wanted to leave or what time you wanted to arrive, and your routing preference. In response you would have received detailed instructions on what bus to take, where to catch it, what time to catch it, the fare, and an icon to click if you wanted a map. It’s a great system. I’ve been using it for the three years I’ve lived in Berkeley. The only confusion I’ve ever encountered was when I didn’t know if a street name was Avenue, Boulevard, etc. But it gives you its computer’s best guesstimation, and you can click on that or give it more information. When I’ve asked to see a map, however, I’ve sometimes been disappointed—even confused—with the result. 

If you do want to start using the bus more frequently, if you click on the “Customer Assistant” category, then on “Request Timetables,” you can order up to 10 maps and schedules to be received in the mail within five working days. The System Maps are indispensable for figuring out what bus to take to your destination. 

I agree that it would be nice to have real, informed people available to answer questions, but in today’s world I guess we have to give up that nicety. Another one of your suggestions is to have copies of the schedules available on the bus. AC Transit does attempt to do this, but I more often find the schedules for routes other than for the route I’m on. This is most annoying. Some bus stops do have schedules posted, and yes, it would be nice if they all did. But rather than more schedules posted, as I acquire more aches and pains of aging, I’d like to have more bus benches. 

Hope you, and others, find this helpful. 

Diane Capito 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I read with interest Zelda Bronstein’s frustrating transit experience in her Public Eye column, “I’m Trying to Get On the Bus” (Aug. 10-13). 

From my own experience, traveling by public transit in the Bay Area isn’t so difficult. In Ms. Bronstein’s case, I believe that instead of starting with “Maps and Schedules” from the AC Transit website and then getting bogged down using the call center, she should have instead gone directly to “Trip Planner” (the bar directly below “Maps and Schedules”). “Trip Planner,” which you can access from the AC Transit website or 511 Transit, ( ) is easy to use. You don’t have to read charts or pour over maps. Here’s how to do it: 1. You enter in your starting and ending address, when you want to leave or arrive, and a couple trip specifics, like how far you’d be willing to walk; and 2. Trip Planner tells you the fastest way to get there on public transit. The systems works faster if you enter the full name of the street. For example, enter “Solano Avenue,” not just “Solano.” Ms. Bronstein wrote about wanting to take a bus from her house near Solano and Colusa to downtown Berkeley to see a movie. I tried Trip Planner, using her case example, to see if I could get better results. I entered in her approximate information: starting at Solano Avenue and Colusa Avenue and ending at Shattuck Avenue and Center Street in downtown. In that instance, the system identified AC Transit Bus No. 18 as the one to take from the southeast corner of Solano and Colusa. The trip, including walking and waiting time, would take 17 minutes and cost $1.75. It took me less than a minute to get this information. If I’d wanted to, I could have from there called up specific maps and schedules which conformed to my request. 

I commend Ms. Bronstein on her efforts to support and use public transportation over the private automobile when she can. I’ve been pretty much car free for over two years now. I live near a good grocery store and have a folding bicycle that I take on BART. If I really need a car, I rent one for a day or two. I live in a neighborhood with a high percentage of car free residents, many of them seniors and students, and even some families with kids. It works for them, and me, because most everything we need is within walking distance. 

Kirstin Miller 

Executive Director 

Ecocity Builders