Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday August 17, 2007


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Let me get this straight; The Berkeley Housing Authority decided to have a meeting at the plush Doubletree Hotel in Berkeley. 

Public speaking started at 8:45 a.m. and some preachers were there in praising the lord didn’t seem to get it that “to do unto others” is a fair and honest thing to do. Some people who have Section 8 housing vouchers called me and said they were upset because they could not get to the meeting in time because they didn’t have a car or cab fare. The meeting could have instead been held at the Berkeley Housing Authority. 

The average Section 8 tenant receives about $10,000 a year while the director of the Berkeley Housing Authority makes $100,000 a year. 

What’s next? Meetings and/or banquets at Chez Panisse? And why not? It’s only taxpayer money! 

Diane Villanueva 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Friends of BRT supports the rerouting of the No. 19 bus line from University Avenue to Cedar Street in Berkeley because the rerouting improves transit service, at little extra cost to AC Transit, for residents along the Cedar Street corridor in Berkeley who are either unable to drive, bike, or walk—or prefer not to do so, by providing bus service to downtown Berkeley, the North Berkeley BART station, the Fourth Street shopping district, and other destinations along the Cedar and Sixth Street corridors in West Berkeley, as well as in Emeryville and Oakland.  

The voters of Berkeley recently passed Measure G which calls for Berkeley to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by the year 2050. Public transit has an important role to play in reducing these emissions. According to a report released by the City of Berkeley in June, “Climate Action in the City of Berkeley: A Framework Report for Community Review and Engagement”: “Gasoline and diesel consumption in our automobiles accounted for 47 percent of Berkeley’s total emissions in 2005, almost 293,000 tons of greenhouse gases. In fact, emissions from gasoline engines alone account for more emissions than all the residences in the City. This may well be the most difficult area for our reduction efforts. While overall population in the City has actually decreased in the last few decades, the number of vehicles has increased. 

Vehicle emissions are not just a problem from the perspective of global climate change, they also have serious local health impacts. Air pollution from cars contributes to respiratory problems, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. In the United States, as many as 100,000 deaths a year are blamed on vehicle emissions. Serious reductions in emissions from our automobiles will require an increase in vehicle fuel efficiency, a shift to cleaner fuels and a change in lifestyle. That is, we should expect technological improvements, but will still need to drive less.” Report is available at See page 12 of report. The improved bus service will hopefully encourage some residents on the Cedar Street corridor who have lacked convenient access to transit to leave their cars at home and use public transit, thereby reducing pollution and congestion in Berkeley. 

Len Conly 

Co-Chair, Friends of BRT 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

This is simple.  

In what city does Chris Kavanagh sleep at night? 

Bob Marsh 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have read the stories in the San Francisco Chronicle and the Daily Planet about Rent Board Commissioner Chris Kavanagh living in Oakland. Certainly, if he does not live in Berkeley, he should be forced to give up that job. 

What is also disturbing is that he appears to be represented in the eviction action by an attorney who received considerable funding from the Rent Board. It sounds like the contractor who does a big job at City Hall also doing a room addition for the mayor’s house. Someone should investigate that as, hopefully, Berkeley’s public money is not paying for any portion of a Rent Board member’s legal costs in a matter arising in Oakland. 

William J. Flynn 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Doug Buckwald finished his piece in the Tuesday Planet with the following: “I say we’ve had enough misrepresentation and argument by logical fallacy. Why not debate the issues and stick to verifiable facts? I hereby challenge Mr. Geller or Mr. Siegel or anyone else, for that matter to participate in a public debate on this issue. All I ask is that we choose an impartial moderator. Will anyone accept my challenge?” I accept that challenge. But after watching Doug Buckwald in action at numerous public meetings, I don’t want to waste anyone’s time with his interruptions, grandstanding, calls for a show of hands, speaking past his allotted time, poetry and general buffoonery. After his dishonest criticism of Sarah Syed, I don’t think any moderator would be willing to take the job. 

So I’d be delighted to debate Doug Buckwald right here on the pages of the Planet, where there will be a public record, and the editors can use their blue pencils to do the moderating. 

I’ll even start off the debate right now, with an issue of verifiable facts. Mr. Buckwald, his neighborhood friends and numerous fear-mongers among the Telegraph merchants have been claiming that the BRT will somehow harm retail business. I would like to know the factual basis of this claim. Are there any BRT implementations in the US which have harmed retail business along the route? This does not appear to be the case in Eugene, OR, for example. The dedicated lane for the N-Judah line in San Francisco does not appear to be destroying the shops and restaurants along Carl, Irving and Judah. 

I think the only real business harm could come from loss of parking, and AC Transit has promised to replace parking taken by BRT. If a BRT’s dedicated bus lanes harms business, I would like to know where this has actually happened. 

OK Doug, your bluff has been called. Since you want to stick to verifiable facts, tell me in what city has a BRT has hurt business by taking away car lanes. 

Steve Geller 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Saving our mature trees is the most important thing we can do to stop global warming and save our planet. This is because trees grow by absorbing CO2 from the air and they produce the oxygen we breath in the process. The destruction of one 70-year-old tree returns over 3,000 tons of carbon to the atmosphere, according to the International Society of Arborculture, and the USDA Forest Service. 

Our mature trees are in big trouble all over the world because of development, ignorance, and global warming. These trees lower the air temperature by evaporating water during photosynthesis, and provide amazingly cooling shade. Save our trees! 

Merrilie Mitchell 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is going to take a major effort to solve Oakland’s ongoing crime and violence problems. Adding CHP officers to the streets will do little; it is akin to throwing a couple of bricks into a flowing stream, the water will simply flow around these additional barriers. Rededicating city parks to “peace” will do little, if anything. 

We have thousands of poor people, mostly minorities, who are uneducated, jobless and severely depressed.  

We need to:  

1. Decriminalize possession, use and sale of all plant-based drugs (opium, marijuana, coca). We need to end our Puritan attitudes about personal use of drugs for pleasure and pain relief. Drug addiction should be treated as a medical problem, for that is what it is. Prices of agricultural commodities such as opium, marijuana and coca, will fall to very low levels, if they are decriminalized. This will end drug-dealing as a source of profit and conflict and violence. 

2. We need to remove all guns: hand guns, shot guns and rifles from the inner city neighborhoods of Oakland and from all other Oakland neighborhoods, too. We need to move to the Swiss model of arms control and have all weapons stored in local armories, where they can be signed out for target practice or for hunting purposes. Guns will not protect us from the threat of internal tyranny and government dictatorships; only the respect and enforcement of our Constitutional rights and rules will protect us from governmental tyranny. 

3. We need to ensure that every adult resident of Oakland has a full time job, at a living wage, say $12.50 and hour, with full benefits, including health care, vision care, hearing care and dental care and four weeks paid vacation per year. Having full-time employment will keep people busy, occupied and relatively happy. The crime and violence rate will quickly fall to near zero when steps I, II and III have been taken. 

Of course, there will be massive resistance by the illegitimate Bush regime to decriminalizing plant-based drugs and removing all guns. Who will pick up the trash along the freeways every weekend, if not our millions of prisoners in jails across America? 

The Bush gang will probably not care if we increase our taxes to fund a jobs program for all Oakland residents. And obviously, raising property taxes to fund this 100% jobs program for all adult Oakland residents will cause many to cry out against it. The real question is, are we willing to pay the price to end crime and violence in Oakland? Or do we prefer continuing with our traditional liberal lip-service and hand-wringing? 

James Sayre 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is not Michael Hardesty’s opinions that provoked my comment about his honesty, it is that he presented them as facts: “The fact is that guns are used in self-defense millions of times every year in the United States.” Presenting opinion as fact is dishonest, and is all too common in political discourse. It is pernicious, in that it cuts off debate because you supposedly have the facts. Even worse is when people lose the distinction between fact and opinion, and feel entitled to dismiss the arguments and competence of anyone who challenges their assertions. Every one of Hardesty’s gun self-defense letters has at least one sweeping dismissal that is suggestive of this attitude: “... an example of the liberal mind taken to its reductio ad absurdem. ... even a brainless lib can figure this out. ... the essence of modern collectivist liberalism in all its intellectual bankruptcy. ... laughable on its face. ... another left liberal excuse to rationalize crime.” 

I am aware that there are many unreported crimes, and in my last letter explicitly described why I felt that this did not prove that guns make people safer. I did not say people without guns are more able to walk away from bad situations. I said they were more likely to. There used to be a murder a year within a block of my house, and I have waited for help at the side of a man who had been shot a minute before. I have had the need to avoid potentially dangerous situations (although in one case I had to move at a lot faster than a walking pace), so I know that it can be done. It won’t work in all situations, but then neither does having a gun. 

I listed some of the social factors such as poverty and unemployment that are correlated to murder rates in my first letter. An expert could probably list more. 

Mea culpa with regards to my attribution of the fraction of adults with guns. I took Hardesty’s numbers, deducted out children from the total, and rounded the fraction up to account for assisted living adults who are not exposed to most felony crimes. The attribution should have been to the numbers, and not the computed fraction. I agree that people should take lessons in gun safety, and that no victims is a desirable outcome. I applaud Hardesty’s ability to protect himself with a gun without injuring anyone, but I must confess wonderment that he would encourage, and not just trust, “brainless libs” to be able to do the same. 

Robert Clear 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Democratic leaders are worried that Hillary Clinton, as a presidential choice, will drag down other party candidates in the 2008 election. You bet she will, from top to bottom. The Republican evangelical base will be energized and they will vote overwhelmingly against everything Democratic.  

Hillary is a polarizing figure, no fault of her own, and will lose big in middle and conservative America, in white religious communities around the country. Clinton will be a nightmare for Democratic congressional and state legislative candidates and it will translate into a voting resurgence for the GOP. There will be no love lost on Hillary when it comes to the Jesus Is Lord crowd. 

What is wrong with Democratic leaders—Hillary is viewed unfavorably by 49 percent of Americans—are there no other candidates in the party with less negative numbers than this?  

But hey, I could be wrong. I spent a whole year before the 2000 presidential election writing that George Bush was a menace. 

Ron Lowe  

Grass Valley 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a consumer of journalism rather than a practitioner I can enunciate unrestrained by professional standards the Evolutionary Rule of Journalism: All news evolves and the longer it survives the more layers of meaning it acquires. 

Watergate began as a third rate burglary morphed into a popular televised series staring Senator Sam Erwin and ended with the first and still the only resignation (abdication?) of a president.  

Katrina began as a hurricane then, on account of weakened levees, became a flood and after that, because of incompetence, it evolved into a federal management debacle and currently it is a shabby weave of ineptitude and greed with corruption.  

When it comes to Iraq the Evolutionary Rule of Journalism yields more levels of meaning than Watergate and Katrina combined for Iraq has endured as a leading news event for four and a half years.  

At first Iraq was reported to be threatening us with WMDs and “mushroom clouds,” so we ousted its dictatorial leader, then its freedom became “untidy” (Rumsfeld), its insurgency entered “the last throes” (Cheney) and its government endured “birth pangs” (Rice). At the moment we’re waiting for General Patraeus to tell us how well or poorly the troop surge is working.  

The sad part about the evolution of news from Iraq is that through all of its excretions Iraq is in worse condition today than it was before we invaded. 

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I certainly agree with Ms. Susan S. Pownwall that the university is “our city’s greatest asset.” But in her letter, hostile to those of us who want to save the oak grove, she does not refer to the teaching, learning and research, but to the football stadium and the controversial athletic facility. Is that what higher learning is about? 

Peter Selz 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am deeply disappointed that the Alameda-Contra Costa Transportation District still has the price of a bus pass at $20 a month, for both the seniors and the disabled. Both seniors and the disabled use the bus as their only transportation. With a price of $20 a month, they have to make a choice: buy a bus pass or buy food. 

The majority of seniors and the disabled are loyal passengers. Because they take the bus instead of cars, they are playing their part in fighting global warming. So I urge the district to show some balance by lowering the price of the bus pass for seniors and the disabled. 

Billy Trice, Jr. 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

What’s up with sticky sidewalks on University Avenue? Any comments? 

Kathy McCarter 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Suppose they gave a press conference and no one came? 

Phil Allen 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I recently attended a film at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas, and, as per usual, a substantial portion of the small audience booed an on-screen advertisement for a Mercury hybrid SUV. 

I would like to propose to my fellow moviegoers that, pending the revolution, Landmark’s marketing of advertising space might not be such a bad idea. Given the current pressures (Netflix, cable, home video) upon public commercial cinemas, especially those like Landmark which still show decent films, such advertising might represent the only way to remain open. Particularly for those of us who support the union at Shattuck Cinemas and its effort to obtain decent wages, benefits and job security for Landmark workers, opposition to Landmark’s efforts to seek additional revenue sources (besides raising ticket prices yet again...ouch!) seems counterproductive. I’d happily sit through five more corporate ads in return for a dollar off the ticket price and decent jobs for those tearing the tickets! 

Ironically, the only other on-screen ad that night was for HBO, which is one of the main threats to public cinema. It was rather like the PA system for K-Mart running an ad for Target. Yet nobody booed the HBO ad! Hmmmm. 

Dave Linn 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

The movie house at the Elmwood has opened under new management and promises a new mix of films. A recent screening of a documentary on the life of Simon Weisenthal delivered on that promise. This fine movie made me realize how poor has been our opportunity to see the world’s documentary films over the years. I hope we get a chance now. 

Bennett Markel 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Please read a petition’s summary before signing it. A current petition being circulated is entitled “Government Acquisition, Regulation of Private Property” — ie, eminent domain, but the third line of the summary states that it “prohibits rent control and similar measures.” 

This tip is brought to you by TIPP—Truth in Petition Presentation. 

Catherine Barnett 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

You and other papers decry the Supreme Court’s recent pro-Bush 5-4 decisions, but neglect mention of an easy action the Congress could now take to prevent Bush’s compounding the imbalance by placing a sixth Bush adherent on the court—or totally replacing the court if were wiped out at once. 

Except to establish the court and a chief justice thereof, the Constitution leaves other important details to action by Congress. Without amending the Constitution, Congress can by majority votes in both houses pass law, even to apply to incumbent Bush, to forbid any president’s replacing more than two Supreme Court justices—three in the event of court extinction. If a justice resigns or dies before November 2008, a third Bush justice will surely be rejected by our Democratic-majority Senate. Knowing this, Bush would sign the proposed bill. 

We should limit presidential replacements now and then in 2009 impeach at least one justice. Thomas comes to mind as the easiest; at his confirmation hearings he proved he is not suited to be a lawyer, let alone a judge. Asked why he signed a policy paper he later disavowed he said he didn’t first read the paper! 

Judith Segard Hunt 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In 1985 Point Isabel was a wild, weedy, windswept place favored by drug dealers. It was a good place to run your dog and let them have a swim in the canal. A woman ranger was menaced by one of the dogs and the East Bay Regional Park District ordered all dogs on leash. In response to this restriction a meeting of dog owners was called and 75 dog owners came. Officers were elected and the organization known as Point Isabel Dog Owners and Friends (PIDO) was born. 

The officers requested a meeting with the Operations Committee of EBRPD. Head Ranger John Perry and Assistant General Manager Jerry Kent and other district employees met with PIDO frequently. We settled on the dog rules for the park. PIDO promised 1) to buy biodegradable bags and place them in all the containers on a daily basis, and 2) to educated the park users to responsible dog ownership and to obey the park rules, especially the picking up of poop to keep the park clean. 

The park district was to maintain the boards, poop bag containers and benches and promised never to spray herbicides or pesticides at Point Isabel. This was a verbal agreement, and for 22 years the promise was kept. This summer, without discussion with any members of the public who use the park on a daily basis, a contractor hired by EBRPD has sprayed the area with Roundup Pro on several occasions, the first time without the required 24-hour notice, the second and third times when the wind was gusting through the area. 

We are told that there is no record of our agreement, but I was at the negotiating meeting and this promise was made to PIDO. Their claim is that Roundup is “safe.” We have documents from the Environmental Protection Agency stating that it is not safe for birds, fish, dogs, wild life and many humans. The chemical, glyphosate (Roundup), causes the most damage to workers of any other herbicide now in use. Two experts from the University of California are willing to testify to that. Another spraying is scheduled for later on. I have also learned that EBRPD is responsible for the upkeep on sections of the Bay Trail in the East Bay and they regularly use Roundup. The public should be aware. 

Sylvia Schild 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Hallelujah! At last the Berkeley police are enforcing the bicycle traffic laws! However, your citizen commentator Michelle Larager, either thinks she is above the law, or else is truly unaware that California law does indeed mandate that bicyclists come to a full stop at stop signs, as indeed they should. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had bicyclists go whizzing through intersections, right in front of my car, with no warning whatsoever. 

Can you see what it would be like if automobile drivers decided not to stop at stop signs anymore? It would be like the incident I once witnessed at the intersection of Le Conte and LeRoy one morning at 5 a.m. That intersection had a four-way stop sign. There were two cars, each proceeding at a great rate of speed along their respective streets. As they approached the intersection, neither car slowed down. Each driver assumed there would be no cross traffic at such an early hour. The drivers neither saw nor heard each other. The two cars zoomed through the intersection, missing each other by only the barest of margins. 

Martha Colburn 

El Cerrito 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is my very strong conclusion that most of the stop signs in Berkeley should be changed to yield signs. Except those on major streets, of course. 

Having to stop when there is no one coming from either side, on the chance that there might be a policeman nearby, is an utter waste of time and effort.  

In the case of the small circles, everyone else in the world already has yield signs at all entries. 

We do it now, so why not make it official? 

Charles Smith 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’ve been in the Allston House apartments almost 20 years and like growing pains, people will complain. But never before has this place been this quiet and feels safe (relatively) in the time I’ve been here. The renovation is uncomfortable for a lot of people just like it was to clean it out. The reward though—wow—it is finally getting done. 

Michael Timberlake 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Berkeley City Council recently voted to uphold the Zoning Board decision to close the B-Town Dollar Store (Daily Planet, July 20). The article reports that neither neighboring residents nor business owners attended the Council meeting. Instead, six Berkeley police officers and a code enforcement officer made the case to close the store. The article mentions that the property is managed by a San Francisco police officer. 

With the present state of Berkeley property development the actions of the Berkeley police officers is curious. Twice recently the Fire Department inspector has found extensive code violations that served the interests of the property owners. The decision to close B-Town appears to be another case in which city employees are using their office to assist their associates. 

Greg Wells