Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday September 11, 2007


Editors, Daily Planet: 

We don’t need a special legislative session. Tell your senator: Sheila Kuehl’s AB 840, the California Universal Healthcare Act—is the single payer plan that serves everyone, is affordable, and does not interfere with provision of medical services. Private insurers do not provide broad access to healthcare. The government can—as in Canada, France, and Britain—by eliminating private insurance’s duplication of bureaucracies and profits. California businesses will benefit by being relieved of the costs of paying into employee health insurance plans. AB 840, passed by the legislature but vetoed last year, has passed the Assembly again and is before the Senate. The Legislature’s obligation is to the people of California, not to private health insurers. They should pass AB 840 now by a veto-proof two-thirds majority and show us who they’re working for. 

Charlene M. Woodcock 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was surprised to read in the Sept. 7 Daily Planet (“Council Postpones Vote on Contentious Community Benefits District Plan,” Sept. 7) that the meetings of the West Berkeley Community Benefits District steering committee have not been public. Since the City Council authorized $10,000 in funding, and the steering committee is acting as an advisory group for the City Council with regard to the proposed district, that is a violation of the Brown Act. 

Robert Lauriston 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Earlier this week the state Assembly, to its ever-lasting shame, and despite major public opposition, voted 44:27 to overturn the 37-year-old ban on the importation of kangaroo products into California. Senate Bill 880 (by Ron Calderon, D-Montebello) now awaits the governor’s signature. Or veto. 

The kangaroos (Australia’s national symbol) are spot-lighted at night (illegal in the United States), then massacred. Many wounded escape, to suffer a lingering death. The joeys (babies) have their little heads crushed, with governmental approval. Endangered species are likely to get into the mix, too, for once dead and skinned, it is nigh-impossible to tell one species of kangaroo from another. Enforcement will be a nightmare. And for what, pray? Soccer cleats, pet food and “novelty” items, God help us. Are you ready for coin purses made from kangaroo scrotums, or backscratchers and bottle openers made from severed forelimbs? They’re coming. Imagine the public outcry if we so crassly commercialized our own national symbol, the bald eagle. 

EVERY organization supporting this travesty has vested financial interests: various chambers of commerce, sporting goods stores, soccer clubs, etc. Reportedly, Adidas has spent nearly $4 million in recent years promoting this abomination and buying off legislators. Must money and greed always trump decency and ethics? So it would seem. Democrats and Republicans alike have lost their moral compass on this one, no thanks to term limits. 

Urge Governor Schwarzenegger to veto this cruel and regressive legislation. Call his office at (916) 445-2841, then press 1, then 5. You can express your concerns to a live person. Or fax the governor at (916) 445-4633. Rumor has it that Arnold plans to run against Barbara Boxer for the U.S. Senate. His signing this bill won’t help that campaign. May compassion rule. 

Eric Mills 

Coordinator, Action for Animals 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Funny how The Daily Planet goes to so much trouble to defend Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums against criticism of his relations with the press, with columns by J. Douglas Allen-Taylor and Randy Shaw, yet no mention anywhere in the paper of the resignation of the mayor’s press secretary a few weeks back or of the many other staff changes reported in the San Francisco Chronicle. I thought the role of the press was watchdog, not lapdog. 

Steve Reichner 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Steve Martinot’s discussion of Kitchen Democracy misses the point. For Berkeley residents, Kitchen Democracy is a way to express their opinions and be more involved in city issues. The City Council can use Kitchen Democracy as a way to gauge public opinion on a topic in the same way it uses public hearings. I doubt that many people “voting” on Kitchen Democracy think they are “taking part in any formal decision making process.” They are simply making their voices heard on issues that matter to them in an arena in which they feel comfortable. Many residents do not attend Berkeley City Council meetings because they occur at inconvenient times and because there are often many people that are uncomfortably hostile to those with opposing views. Thus, many people’s voices are not heard. Kitchen Democracy is simply another outlet for those attempting to take part in the democratic process. I am appalled at Steve Martinot’s attempts to marginalize this new democratic medium. 

Dave Schlessinger 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

While the mayor’s office, the city manager’s office, the Office of Economic Development, the Police Department, the City Council, area residents and merchants are doing everything they can to help bring about a glorious comeback for Telegraph Avenue, out-of-town evangelical preachers and their sizable entourage of prosthelytizers regularly pull a $35 permit to disrupt traffic and business at Telegraph and Haste. 

With a full-scale PA system, keyboards, guitars, microphones, and large signs indicating there is but one way to find “god,” these folks manage to alienate absolutely everybody who comes near that corner. 

Too bad if you’re a merchant on that same corner paying over $30,000 a month in rent (that’s a thousand dollars a day, every single day). Too bad if you’re one of the many area merchants working hard to make something great happen down there. Too bad if you happen to work outside anywhere near that corner, as many do. Too bad if you’re one of a number of newly opened businesses in the immediate area. Too bad if you’re one of the hundreds of residents who live within earshot (many of whom, like the merchants, have been complaining about this for many years—anyone remember Andy Ross and Cody’s Books?) Too bad if you’re anyone in Berkeley who’d love to see Telegraph keep improving, as it has done this past year. Maybe someone at City Hall can figure out what to do? 

Marc Weinstein 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On Saturday, Sept. 15, from 1-2:30 p.m., I and hundreds of others will once again be using our bodies to spell out the word “IMPEACH” (and probably a couple of others), this time at Crissy Field, in San Francisco.  

In the introduction to his 1974 book Impeachment, a Handbook, Yale professor Charles L. Black, Jr. noted that “the Framers of our Constitution very clearly envisaged the occasional necessity of this awful step, and laid down a procedure and standards for its being taken. Their actions on this matter were, as the records of their debates show, very carefully considered.”  

If the devastating assaults on our Constitution during the past six years aren’t enough to instigate impeachment proceedings, I can’t imagine what would be. As a naturalized citizen, I completely disagree with our elected representatives who argue that pursuing impeachment would be at the cost of important legislative action. I appeal to my fellow citizens to join me and to give voice to millions of others in telling Congress that there is no business more important right now than rescuing and preserving our Constitution.  

No, we won’t be naked! Of course, if we were, the mainstream media would probably cover us (figuratively speaking). However, the more of us who gather to speak up for this country’s highest values, the more likely it is that the event will be reported and thus stimulate our fellow citizens everywhere to demand that Congress fulfill its duty and save this nation’s future as a democracy, once again being governed by the rule of law. A helicopter flying over the event will create video and photos of the event, with our beautiful Golden Gate Bridge in the background.  

You surely don’t need me to remind you that if we all sit back and say “Nothing can be done,” nothing will be done. Contact info can be had at Video of two previous events is at  

Hope to see you on the 15th!  

Nicola Bourne 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

There are a lot of good reasons not to build a new sports training center adjacent to Memorial Stadium, including saving some irreplaceable trees and the fact that this stadium is a seismic disaster waiting to happen. But let’s take this one step further. At the risk of being run out of town by a gang of over-zealous football fans, I suggest that UC Berkeley, in the interest of education and research, eliminate its inter-collegiate football program all together. Take the step the University of Chicago took in 1939 by the forward thinking President Robert Maynard Hutchins who felt that big time athletics detracts from academics. Let’s take a lesson from Hutchins. Education isn’t about beating UCLA at football. How much of the resources of this school are being wasted on this one game? Are the players getting an education? Is Berkeley becoming a muscle-headed jock school? 

Name withheld by request 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Sharon Hudson’s Sept.. 7 commentary, “The Myth of Cooperation,” is the clearest most realistic assessment of the continuing relationship between the ever-expanding behemoth called the university, and the relatively less powerful City of Berkeley. 

Like a company town that dominates the economic and social rules for its workers, the university comports itself like the colossus it has become. The current legal arrangements of responsibilities between the two entities were formulated a long time ago when neither the city nor the university were growing at the current pace and the demands for infrastructure—water, fire, police, sewage—were far more modest and could be accommodated. Since this earlier time, the university was exempt from taxes and by law the city provided these services gratis. 

In terms of numbers of buildings, persons, and services this is no longer the case, and although the university does provide a percentage (how big?) of actual cost it is made on a ‘voluntary’ basis. A perfect example of noblesse oblige. True cooperation for mutual satisfaction on both sides has not appeared despite the essential interdependence of the two entities. Where oh where is the fairness element in these two clusters of well informed, highly sophisticated people in our small geographical space? Thank you, Sharon Hudson, for making the obvious even more obvious. 

Joan Levinson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Within the past few weeks I wrote a letter to Barbara Lee, whom I hold in some respect. I received no answer. How does one make one’s voice heard in this so-called democracy of ours? Below is my letter for any reader who may have some special access. 


Dear Congresswoman Barbara Lee, 

My wife and I, who reside in your district, would like you to introduce a bill in Congress that would obligate President Bush to inform, consult with, and have a vote of approval from Congress before he carries out a major aggressive act against Iran (a pre-emptive strike, euphemism for a sneak attack). Even if you are the only one voting for your own bill, it would mean that you are the only Member of Congress who understands our Constitution and what our country is supposed to be all about. You have been in a similar spot before. 

Whatever the practical consequences as far as Iran would be, such a bill would force each Congressman out of the closet on the various Iraq issues, serve as a general litmus test for credibility, and focus voters’ attentions in the coming November elections. In The Declaration of Independence where the obligation of people to oppose tyranny is discussed, it states “.....when a long train of abuses and usurpations...evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, their duty to throw off such Government.” The tyrannous misuse of power is exactly what we are witnessing in our country at this very moment. The Founding Fathers would not be very happy. Nor is the present electorate at all satisfied with Congress standing by. 

Bennett Markel