Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday September 14, 2007


Editors, Daily Planet: 

The housing that the Association of Bay Area Governments is pressuring the city to build would do nothing to reverse the trend of lower-income Berkeley residents being priced out of the market, since virtually all of the so-called “affordable” rental housing constructed in Berkeley by for-profit developers is rented at market rates. 

The currently allowed rents for “affordable” studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom apartments are $961, $1,160, and $1,375 respectively. Despite this being the hardest time of year to find an apartment (since UC Berkeley students just returned from summer break),’s Berkeley listings include cheaper apartments in all three categories. 

Outside of buildings owned by nonprofits, the supply of genuinely affordable (that is, below-market-rate) housing is limited by the city’s Section 8 budget. 

Robert Lauriston 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Is Riya Bhattacharjee on BUSD’s payroll, or is she just building up a portfolio for a job as BUSD’s official spokesperson? Her article on Superintendent Lawrence’s retirement announcement read like a cheerleading piece. I don’t think that with all the money we pour into our public schools that having test scores 1 percent above the state average is anything to crow about. (Not that the article mentioned anything untoward.) Neither is the fact that Berkeley has one of the highest achievement gaps between white and black students, and a very high drop-out rate at the high school. From my review of the recently released achievement scores, our high school has dropped significantly achievement in the scant six years of Lawrence’s tenure. I am reminded of how unfriendly and unneighborly our school district is every time I drive down MLK and see that lovely green field completely fenced off. Maybe it’s time to do a balanced piece that is well researched. I guess if one is on the “friends” list for the Planet, one can do no wrong. I guess it takes more than newsprint to be a real newspaper.  

Sandra Horne 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The debate over the UC stadium renovation plan has taken on a surreal quality in which the extreme left is lifting pages out of the play books of the extreme right. During any of the Bush election campaigns, Karl Rove would have drooled at the chance to manipulate such a compliant group as those willing to believe that UC is an evil and corrupt institution bent on destroying the environment and taking over the city, among other evils. However, in this case, it is the liberal left, not the right, that must confront some “inconvenient truths."  

First, the trees by the stadium are not an ancient or rare grove of oaks. In fact oaks are quite common in the Berkeley flatlands at places including Live Oak Park, John Hinckle Park and the UC campus. Take a stroll across the Cal campus and then out into the town of Berkeley and ask yourself who is a better guardian of trees, UC or the city of Berkeley. While I’m at it, trees are a renewable resource, there are no burial grounds near the stadium, and the oaks are not a memorial grove, but are the landscaping for a memorial stadium. When the city and other activists claim that the project designed by one of the best engineering schools in the world to improve student and public safety is actually compromising safety, one is reminded of the Swift Boat Veterans propaganda claiming that Bush was a war hero and Kerry was a coward. And when the mayor paints a scenario of doom in which the stadium’s structure fails with catastrophic consequences, a picture of Colin Powell addressing the UN with a small vial of white powder emerges. Clearly, the city has on its agenda a confrontation with the University over this issue just as Bush had on his agenda an invasion of Iraq. 

People in the end will believe what they want to believe. However, no matter how many times a lie is repeated, it is still a lie. What might motivate the city to take on the university over these contrived issues? The answer is simple. Demonizing the university and challenging its aspirations is red meat for the tofu set, who are convinced that the greatest public university in the world is actually an evil organization. Moreover, a confrontation with UC makes heroes of the city’s leaders to the extreme leftists that currently dominate City Hall. Until a voice of reason emerges in our city government, we will be left with a legacy of deep wounds in city- university relations, and taxpayer dollars will continue to enrich the pockets of the lawyers representing both sides. 

David Drubin 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’m a big fan of Coach Tedford. How nice it is to see 70,000 smiling and excited people headed to and from the stadium. As opposed to the dreary and dispirited sad-sacks from the previous regime. Tedford is a brilliant football coach, by any standard. And yet, football coaches, with their obsessive attention to the minutiae of Xs and Os, endlessly studying the smallest detail of film, deep in the bowels of sports complexes, are also notorious for suffering from tunnel-vision. Very few coaches—such as the beloved Bill Walsh—combine that attention for detail with a vision of the bigger picture, a picture that encompasses the entire community, and not just wons-and-losses on a stat sheet. 

I don’t now much about the oak grove issue, except that those oak trees nestled in front of the stadium are a lot of what gives that stadium its rustic charm. To have some monstrosity of modern architecture jammed in there, all the way to the sidewalk—against the will of the majority of the Berkeley community—would be a fatal mistake. And might I remind you, Coach Tedford, that its a community that includes not just a bunch of scruffy punk and hippie protesters, but a former mayor of Berkeley, as well as countless other prominent Berkeley citizens who stand firmly against this ill-fated, and poorly thought-out project. 

What is the average tenure of a Pac 10 football coach? About three or four years? Soon, Coach Tedford, you’ll be going on to bigger and better and higher paying things. Do you want your permanent legacy in Berkeley history to be that of a carpet-bagger? Please reconsider your position.  

Ace Backwords  





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Kudos to Hank Gehman for so cogently spelling out the folly of the university’s plans to intensify use of the Memorial Stadium site, and for pointing out that this beloved but very dangerous building is occupied by hundreds of students and employees every day contrary to the university’s own advisors.  

After reading a July 9 San Francisco Chronicle op-ed by two eminent architects, a geologist, and a structural engineer—all retired—about the perilous condition of the stadium, I visited it myself. Like a recent visitor from Tennessee quoted by the Chronicle, I was shocked by what I saw. Throughout the structure I witnessed exposed aggregate and rusting rebar, twisting girders, and rotting wood seating and decking. How did this building reach such a state of decay, and why is it daily occupied, let alone with tens of thousands of people at a time? Is the university unaccountable to any official charged with protecting public safety?  

As Gehman states, I suspect that the university does not want to reveal its plans for retrofitting the stadium because that is impossible. Nothing but a virtually new replica of the present structure will suffice to make it somewhat safer in that location than what is there now, and the priority and cost of that would shine klieg lights on what the “greatest public university in the world” has, in fact, become.  

Gray Brechin 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Petition to put Al Gore on California Primary Ballot 

Starting in early October, the California Draft Gore Ballet Initiative will begin collecting signatures in the East Bay and all other congressional districts in California. We need 50 signatures per district to get Gore on the California Primary Ballot in February 2008.  

Many people admire Gore for his integrity, his strong stand against the Iraq war before anyone else and his climate change campaign. He has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Many other states are also mounting a Gore Ballot Initiative. Check out the website at or join us at a meet-up on Saturday, Oct. 13 at Central Perk Cafe, (next to the El Cerrito Speakeasy Theater) at 11 a.m. We need your help getting signatures. 

Maureen Farrell 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

First of all, why is UC Berkeley so intent on killing all those trees for six football games a year? The 49ers and Cal need a new football stadium; if they build one together it will be 14 games a year not including Niner playoff games. Earthquakes never happen on Saturday afternoons anyway. 

The Golden Gate Bridge District is going broke. Why can’t they just give the bridge to Caltrans? It is the easiest solution. 

Imagine $10 to cross the McDonalds Golden Arches Bridge. All the toll takers would be required to dress like Ronald in clown suits. 

At the expense of the rest of downtown Berkeley Telegraph is looking better. Five blocks of retail shopping. If you get off the BART train in downtown Berkeley you have to walk by countless storefronts that sit empty before you get to Telegraph. Every empty store front reeks of urine. You get the old Telegraph crowd hanging out on Shattuck panhandling for change but smoking pot all day long. Downtown Berkeley is not just Telegraph. 

UC Berkeley needs to support the downtown area . All those Tennessee fans going to the game walking around the downtown area got to see all of the above. Not everyone takes that glorious route to the stadium. From the Claremont Hotel driving buy all those big houses, wow, what a nice town. 

To all you Cal students from out of town, please look before you cross the street because the campus ends at Bancroft, Fulton and Heinz. When you get hit by a car it will hurt if your lucky. 

To the Berkeley Police Department, if you’re going to enforce the pedestrian laws by the campus you need to enforce them on the rest of Berkeley.  

Enough said. 

Sergio Blandon 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’m proposing that UCB construct an elevated/dedicated “express” bike pathway to connect Memorial Stadium with the existing Recreational Sports Facility and Hass Gymnasium. The distance is so short the ramp would provide a connection between these facilities of perhaps 60-90 seconds bicycle ride. The ramp could be beautifully landscaped with ivy or other plantings to be aesthetically pleasing. The new bikeway (and a fleet of dedicated to this purpose bikes) to issue the athletes could all be done and paid for with less than 10 percent of the monies the distinguished Mr. Barclay Simpson so generously donated, particularly since it would need to bear little weight and could be constructed quickly and cheaply with “recycled” green plastic lumber, which is extremely light and durable. Students might even volunteer to create this beautiful solution to an ugly controversy. 

This would provide “exercise” for the athletes, excellent lessons in mobility and ecology by bicycle, and save the university millions in cash, greenhouse gas credits for less cement, fewer trees cut down, injured and stressed town/gown relations, damaged public relations, Academic Senate exhausting controversy, and major legal expenses for UC to defend a rash of pending lawsuits. The saved funds could and should be plowed into desperately needed scholarships.  

Canadian bicycling advocates have seen to such bikeways, and UCB’s distinguished Canadian Chancellor Birgenau should be well aware of the many, many exercise and ecology benefits of bicycling by now. Also he should be aware of the statewide prohibitions on construction within “Special Studies Zones” for seismicity, created years ago by the state Legislature to prevent dangerous and wasteful construction in, on, or directly adjacent to, very active earthquake zones, via the Alquist-Priolo Act. Whether or not the proposed “Athletic Sports Facility” violates the letter of that law within a few inches or not, it certainly violates the spirit of the law. The Geological Survey ( has deemed the Hayward Fault one of the fastest “creeping” faults known on earth. A recent string of major tremors on that Hayward fault during the very controversy of these senior oaks, adds emphasis to the truths of this letter. 

I studied the charter of the University of California recently in Doe Library; the very purpose of UC as decreed by the Legislature is to provide higher education free to any California student who shows promise and works hard. My theory as to how this has disintegrated to a situation where students graduate with as much as $50,000 in debt for a BA (allowing for tuition, books, room and board) is that somehow the cement industry, developers, and the highway robbery, er lobby, have mesmerized the California Legislature, particularly in the peculiar era of our Sen. Don Perata, to spend itself into earthquake-risky cement oblivion with bonds for highways, bridges, and tunnels (to accommodate gasoline tanker trucks?) instead of spending on education and ecology. 

This tragedy does not have to be; nor does an entire grove of remarkable senior oak trees showing natural resistance to Sudden Oak Death Syndrome have to be clearcut. Sudden Oak Death threatens to wipe out oaks throughout California and arborists are mystified, horrified, and helpless against it to date. 

James G. Doherty 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

If another Republican is elected to the White House in 2008 this is what you can expect. Four more years of war, death and destruction thanks to unrelenting pressure from the GOP. Another Republican president will bring in new lifetime justices shifting the Supreme Court all the way to the right for a generation. There will be four more years of lies and dirty tricks and secrecy from the Republican executive in the Oval Office. The Constitution will continued to be trampled be a party that cares more about its ideology than the American people.  

Four more years of a Republican president and you can kiss Roe v. Wade good-bye. A word of caution for Democrats, independents, progressives, liberals—join together, work together. 

Ron Lowe  

Grass Valley 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

“In August 2007, over 600 medical, dental, scientific, academic, public health and environmental professionals signed a petition to Congress urging a moratorium on fluoridation until hearings and additional research are conducted. Signers include Dr. Arvid Carlsson, winner of the 2000 Nobel Prize for Medicine, who said, “Fluoridation is against all principles of modern pharmacology. It’s really obsolete.” (FAN 2007.)” 

The Environmental Working Group reports that the fluoride in drinking water is linked to bone cancer in children, the 3rd most common cancer for children. “the American Dental Association (ADA), scientists at Harvard University, and the prestigious National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences have all raised serious concerns about the safety of fluoridated water for infants and young children. This steady stream of science represents a growing consensus within the mainstream public health and dental community that the health risks of fluoride in tap water may substantially outweigh the modest dental benefits of tap water fluoridation.” 

It is time for our government to rethink the mandatory addition of fluoride into our drinking water. Please sign a petition asking the government to end fluoridation of our drinking water. 

Yolanda Huang 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

My husband and I are regular readers of the Planet. We usually go to at least two shows a year at the Berkeley Repertory Theater. We often bring family and friends. I am not sure why the folks at the Rep believe that Planet readers don’t go to the Rep. 

This is not the only example of the Rep’s misguidedness. At one point, we stopped going to the Rep after their fundraising staff persisted in asking us for money even after we informed them of the impending death of a loved one. After the incident, we e-mailed the Rep and received no response. 

Ultimately, we decided not to fault the actors, writers, and other artists who put together the Rep’s wonderful offerings for the behavior of its fundraisers.  

However, I believe the Rep has a lot to learn about how to treat its patrons and its community. 

Debra Sabah Press 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

This open letter is to discuss the drawbacks associated with Berkeley’s new combination garbage/green collection plan. While the idea and urgency of reducing our total landfill volume is quite noble and probably essential, this new approach seems fraught with potential problems. Just imagine, for example, that after each weekly pickup of the green can(s), there will be the possibility of dripping debris of un-packaged foodstuffs coming off the garbage trucks here and there throughout the city. 

What an image. 

Then, too, there will always be some food residue remaining inside the green can after pickup. Assuming we’re really diligent and would like to keep our cans really clean after they’ve been picked up, we’d hose out the can periodically. But, where will we dump the water after it’s flushed out of the can? Oh, that’ll go into our garden(s) or may run down the gutter in front of our home or apartment. Now we have food residue everywhere. If we don’t clean out the can regularly, things could get even more scary. Either way, how exciting it’ll be for the rodents and other crawly critters! I don’t even want to imagine the havoc that would likely ensue. We already have rodent issues throughout the city, though they’re rarely openly discussed or acknowledged; we’re near water, so rodents are always about. But to invite them this way seems reckless and foolish. 

My suggestion is to continue disposing of any/all foodscraps and food-soiled paper, etc. the usual way, into our regular gray garbage cans or dumpsters. The garbage would, hopefully, continue to be enclosed in some sort of bag and not loosely thrown into a can, as is proposed and condoned by the new “green scheme.” 

This whole project needs much more review and more thorough re-evaluation. Yes, the goal of reducing total landfill is noble, but the very real side-effects are too serious and risky to ignore and must be considered. 

Doris Nassiry 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

For four years, the Bush administration keeps on asking for more time, and a lot more money, to keep its failed war-of-choice going. It is always the same prediction, “in 12 to 18 months the Iraqis will be able to govern without us." The truth is that we can not “win” this war. No “victory” is possible for us in Iraq, only continued shame.  

Yet, Sen. John McCain has a point when he says that leaving Iraq in retreat would be a disaster. So, what is the way out of this mess that Bush and Cheney put us in? 

We should separate ourselves, our government, and our country, from the corrupt leaders who got us into this war through their deception and lies. We should prosecute these officials, who usurped our government, for being the war criminals that they are. Then we can leave Iraq in an orderly manner, with apologies for having confused Saddam Hussein with Osama bin Laden, and find redemption through bringing to justice the people who committed these war crimes in our name.  

Bruce Joffe 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I don’t read the Planet for lifestyle coverage or entertainment news, unless one deems the antics of the Planning Palace entertaining. It’s the hard news stories generally uncovered elsewhere that make me pick up the Planet first thing in the morning. 

As for the reviews, the Planet needn’t focus on the already well-publicized organizations with large budgets. The smaller, perhaps semi-amateur or struggling groups are particularly worthy of coverage. The gardening, building and preservation articles are also real gems.  

As the author a few years ago of an article on “The Celebration of Roses,” the festival held every May in El Cerrito, I urge the Planet to persist in its folly.  

John McBride 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you so much for J. Douglas Allen-Taylor’s article on State Sen. Don Perata’s SB67 sideshow vehicle tow bill. I share his concern about the unwillingness of most media to examine this bill’s proponents’ unsupported claims that it has kept Oakland safe, or safer. I am so thankful that this excellent writer and the Daily Planet are paying attention. 

Our rights are now so fully eroded that I often feel as though I’m watching a wave go out to sea that doesn’t ever seem to come back. 

Carol Denney 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As you read this letter with your breakfast or lunch, more than 11 million Americans are carefully watching what they eat and how their food is prepared. You may be thinking that they are trying to lose weight, but that’s not the reason—it’s because they suffer from life-threatening food allergies.  

The statistics are frightening—particularly among children. Each year, allergic reactions result in 30,000 emergency room visits and over 150 deaths. The average school has 10 children suffering from food allergies. Between 1997 and 2002, the number of children under age five who suffer from food allergies doubled. 

Food allergies are a disease, and there is no cure. The only recourse is total avoidance of the foods that generally cause these allergies—everyday foods like milk, peanuts, eggs and shellfish. This is easier said than done. If your child attends a birthday party, the home-made milk- and egg-free chocolate chip cookies may have been baked in a pan that once cooked peanut brownies. Or perhaps her classmate spills a drop of milk on the school bus—if she touches or even inadvertently smells that dried drop, it could cause her severe harm. The favorite family restaurant? Out of the question for most people with severe food allergies. 

Everywhere you go and everything you do, you must be on guard. One slip-up could be fatal.  

Why have scientists been unable to develop a cure to a disease that has become so prevalent? It’s not for lack of trying, and it’s not for lack of hope. Using existing science developed to treat asthma, airborne allergens and bee sting allergies, researchers are confident that a vaccine for major food allergies can be found within a decade if the research receives sufficient funding. 

And that’s the catch—funding. Our federal government must treat this disease with greater urgency by dedicating needed funding to finding a cure. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) spends less than $10 million per year on food allergy research; by comparison, Attention Deficit Disorder receives $107 million and Diabetes receives $1.2 billion per year. These are all important diseases that deserve attention. 

It is much more cost-effective to fund needed research than to continue asking families and schools to unilaterally shoulder the burden of this burgeoning public health danger. Congress should take action now to help millions of American families and children who live in constant fear—and give them hope that soon they, too, can enjoy a carefree meal while they read the newspaper. 

Dr. Peter Xiao Jian 

San Francisco 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A growing body of scientific studies indicates that radio frequency radiation (RF) emitted continuously from cell phone antennas may pose a health risk to residents, particularly children, who live close to them. With 14 antenna locations in South Berkeley and an unknown number of emitters at each location, we already suffer unequally from this form of pollution.  

Yet, Verizon is suing the City of Berkeley. It claims the city’s ordinance, which seeks to protect residents from unnecessary antennas, is unconstitutional. It also demands that applications for permits at the following three locations be approved: 2721 Shattuck Ave., 1540 Shattuck Ave., 2002 Acton St. 

It believes it has the right to put up antennas anywhere and everywhere in order to expand its business as long as emissions from these antennas are within Federal Communication Commission (FCC) guidelines.  

However, many concerned citizens, as well as many scientists, believe that these guidelines (100 times less protective than Switzerland’s) are too permissive and outdated.  

We urge the following actions: 

1. Boycott Verizon in Berkeley. 

2. Defend Berkeley’s Telecom Ordinance and our Zoning Board’s decision to deny unnecessary permits to telecom companies. 

3. Denounce the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and the FCC’s standards as unsafe. 

4. Support the Precautionary Principle and the right of citizens to protect their health and safety. 

5. Demand full disclosure of health studies of wireless technology and discussion of safer alternatives. 

Stop Verizon from bullying the City of Berkeley with slap lawsuits and subverting the democratic process of local government. If you have a Verizon contract, please call the Verizon store. Tell its representatives to drop its lawsuit against the City of Berkeley. Beware: If we don’t stop them here, radiation will soon come to your neighborhood too!!  

A protest against more cell phone antennas in South Berkeley will be held from 10”30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15 at UC Storage, 2721 Shattuck Ave. For more information, e-mail BNAFU at: 

Michael Barglow