Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday September 25, 2007


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you for publishing my letter on Sept. 21 regarding Steve Barton and the mess he leaves behind.  

Unfortunately, there was a significant typo which took much of the meaning out of the paragraph dealing with Eleanor Walden. She told the Rent Board (in writing) that she had lived in her rent controlled apartment on Milvia for 20 years, not for 2 years as the printed version has it. Since Walden has benefited from Section 8 vouchers at Derby Street since 1997, that twenty year residence at Milvia is very significant. 

Thank you again. I appreciate the Planet’s willingness to publish the opinions of all parts of the population, even when they may run counter to your own editorial views.  

David M. Wilson  





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The media has made a lot of glib comparisons between the situation of Berkeley Rent Board Commissioner Chris Kavanagh and San Francisco Supervisor Ed Jew and even though Jew is accused of far more serious crimes, both he and Chris are still innocent until proven otherwise and deserve their day in court. 

The difference is that Ed Jew was able to appear at the Hall of Justice for a quick booking and release, while Kavanagh, a civic-minded citizen and not in hiding (he attended a rent board meeting last week), was reported on by the 63rd street landlord and subjected to the humiliation of being handcuffed in public and dragged away. He is lucky the DA didn’t set up a perp walk to further the humiliation. 

Landlord Lynn Tidd has been quoted, gloating that she alerted the cops because, “he had been observed there infrequently over the last couple of weeks.” Could this mean maybe he doesn’t live there? And Tidd said she “had the pleasure of seeing him arrested.” I guess there is more than one way to win an eviction fight. I doubt she is a good-government type, probably just another venal landlord, seeking any excuse to evict a tenant. I wonder; is she being advised by the Berkeley landlord mafia who’ve been out to gut the Rent Board for years? 

Regardless of what Kavanagh’s housing situation is, he still deserves respect for his work on behalf of an endangered Berkeley species, low- to middle-income renters, and if he found himself in a difficult housing struggle, it should be seen as an example to every renter in the San Francisco Bay Area, still the hottest real estate (and displacement) market in the west. 

And before we demand our pound of flesh, let him have his day in court. 

Hank Chapot 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

As the independently elected performance auditors of the cities of Oakland and Berkeley, we would like to congratulate the Oakland Unified School District Board for taking an important step towards enhanced governance and accountability. 

That step was the creation of an Audit Committee independent of management, and the appointment of three board members and four community members. 

The Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) recommended this step some years ago. Independent audit committees are now required for publicly traded companies, and highly recommended for local government agencies. Typical audit committee oversight responsibilities include: 

• Selecting (or recommending to the board) the commercial accounting firm who performs the annual financial statement audit and monitoring the work of those auditors. 

• Quality and timely financial and compliance reporting. 

• Examining, supporting, and reporting to the board regarding accounting and business controls (internal controls) to safeguard assets, ensure compliance and avoid fraud. 

• Directing special investigations for the governing body. 

• If the organization has an independent staff audit function, providing support and oversight for those auditors. 

We would like to offer the School Board our support and assistance in taking this important step forward.  

FCMAT also recommended establishing an independent staff audit function “supervised by an independent body, such as an audit committee.” We also suggest that the board continue to consider establishing an independent performance audit function. Government auditing is a cornerstone of good public sector governance. Performance auditors, financial statement auditors, and inspector generals increase your ability to hold government accountable.  

Additional support and information about local government auditors is available from the Association of Local Government Auditors (ALGA) at 

Ann-Marie Hogan,  

Berkeley City Auditor 

Courtney Ruby,  

Oakland City Auditor 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

To add to the “Save the Oaks” and “Don’t Build on the Fault Line” and not “on Sacred Burial Grounds,” I thought to add one more reason for disrupting the additional sports building on the UC Berkeley Campus. 

In both UC Davis and now UC Berkeley sports construction is a major project for builders. UC Davis has a new expanded stadium, UC Berkeley must want to match it and the construction companies want to rake in more tax dollars. 

When I remember the time I was an incoming graduate student at UC Berkeley the then-Chancellor Berdahl opened his welcoming speech with “You are the best and brightest.” It sounded military; nevertheless, I looked around and didn’t notice anyone that looked like a footballer midst the 150. Then I heard Ignacio Chapela, at that time a favorite researcher at the university, speak on how graduates should open their minds and mouths to ask all sorts of questions; it was the function of an important university. He had come from UNAM, Mexico’s prestigious school. I wondered if he went there because of the football team? If UC Berkeley is the “best of this and that” are football and sports arenas the factors that makes for an elite school? Do people who apply to—and the few who get into—Harvard go there because they have a humongous stadium? 

I also thought to ask Lawrence Ferlinghetti if he went to the Sorbonne because of the football team? 

R.G. Davis 

San Francisco  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

After reading some of the letters here, one might think that the purpose of Bus Rapid Transit was to interfere with car traffic on Telegraph Avenue. I thought that BRT was supposed to reduce traffic, on Telegraph and elsewhere, by getting people to use the buses for more trips, instead of contributing to car congestion. 

Now it looks like most of the car drivers of Berkeley don’t plan to become bus riders, so naturally they see BRT and its bus-lanes as an obstacle to their continued car use. Somebody suggested we put the BRT on the ballot. If we get a majority vote for banning BRT and continuing our car culture, Mayor Bates can write a letter to the feds suggesting they give their BRT money to some other district, because Berkeley doesn’t require better bus service. 

Also, if the mayor knows the cars are going to continue to spew CO2, he can discontinue Berkeley’s otherwise feeble efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions. 

I’ll continue to ride buses, but I’m wondering if I should make any effort to use better light bulbs or cut down on shower water, given that the cars will continue to contribute as much as 50 percent of our greenhouse emissions. 

Steve Geller 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On Thursday night, Sept. 20, there was the Design Review meeting to study this plan. There were five people to oppose these antennas; plus there were 6-10 e-mails. 

The chair of the meeting told us that we could only talk about design issues, but not health, etc. You know, sir, health does matter. There were people who wanted to express their concern about the health risks of these antennas. But, the chair shut them up. In the city which is the birth place of Free Speech Movement, people are not allowed to talk. Berkeley has become the graveyard of free speech. What kind of democratic process is this? After all, this country claims that it has surplus of democracy and is trying to export it to other countries. Right from the beginning, things appear to be dishonest. The Public Hearing Notice for the Sept. 20 meeting was not posted on French Hotel. It was posted in the median of Shattuck Avenue. Berkeley police have posted a sign there saying “Keep Off Median, BMC # 14.32.040.” It is against law to be on the median or make people go there. City of Berkeley has broken its own law. Do you remember the city attorney and her office were throwing laws at us in 2002-2004? In particular, you were telling us that because of the law the City Council’s hands were tied up. 

By posting the sign in the median of Shattuck Avenue, people were kept uninformed. I mentioned this to the Planning Department. Ms. Anne Burns wrote to me that this was just a mistake. There was Mark Rhoades who was making these little mistakes and now Anne Burns. You know, sir, these innocuous mistakes will become monsters few months down the line. I requested the chair of the Design Review Committee to postpone the meeting for a month or two so that neighbors of French Hotel would be notified. He did not agree.  

Perhaps, there are 20-50 people who want to talk about the superficial aesthetic issues. Before, going to a ZAB meeting, the plan should be studied carefully and the public should have chance to make comments.  

Are the City of Berkeley and Verizon going to play yet another 15-month charade on the neighbors of French Hotel, and at the end approve these 12 antennas? If this is the case, please let me know. I can save lots time and effort. I would move out of this town. 

Shahram Shahruz 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I propose instead of installing hardscape platforms and designated lanes for one AC Transit line, that we instead simply designate one lane of major streets as “Bus, Carpool and Turning Lane Only” during rush hours. Paint diamonds and put up signs like in San Francisco and on the bridge entrance. It encourages actions that reduce traffic and allows the buses to flow efficiently. We could then use the money earmarked for hardscape to increase service or reduce fares. 

I also have a suggestion for people fighting Bus Rapid Transit, that they start actually using AC Transit now. Figure out when you can run an errand or get where you are going on the bus. If we can get ridership up we won’t need BRT. 

Doug Foster 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding the BHA Housing List, it is actually not that hard or expensive to tabulate a list. You pick a person from the list, you check their eligibility, and if eligible you’re done. There is absolutely no point in checking people’s eligibility when they go onto the list because if three units a year is a representative turnover, with 500 people waiting you’re going to wait an average of 167 years anyhow. (Or 83 years for a sequential list.) My suspicion is that eligibility will change in the interim. 

All this hoo-hah for 61 units of housing? Ridiculous. 

John Vinopal 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Perhaps I am making a mistake somewhere, but I have tried to evaluate the relative merits of Bus Rapid Transit versus alternatives such as car pools, and I don’t see a clear advantage to BRT. Consider fuel use. I found a study that claims that commute buses can get four to six miles per gallon. If the bus carries 30-40 people, it gets on the order of 180 passenger miles per gallon. This is impressive, but no more impressive than a Toyota Prius with three passengers. 

Now consider road carrying capacity. The BRT is supposed to run every five minutes, and will carry maybe 40 people per bus, for a load rate of only eight people per minute. Compare this to a system that is designed to speed all traffic. Assume that timed lights are installed, and left turns are restricted to major intersections where there is room, and/or non-commute hours, so that vehicles can actually move. Assume that traffic moves at 20 mph, and that the space between cars is two car lengths, or approximately 30 feet. This implies about 40 cars per minute. At one person per car, this is 40 people per minute. If car pooling is moderately successful so that the average car carries two people, we get 80 people per minute, or 10 times the carrying capacity of the BRT per lane. The calculation is moderately insensitive to speed if people maintain a space between cars of about one car length distance per every 10 mph (one second). 

Many commuters to San Francisco carry passengers because they get a free trip across the bridge. An equivalent incentive for drivers that don’t cross the bridge would be access and perhaps a discount for parking. The city or transit district could set up a system to provide tickets for riders that could be exchanged by drivers for parking. City parking structures that were primarily for car pools would increase the availability of existing parking, and thus please the retail business community. By increasing car pools, it would reduce congestion and greenhouse gas emissions, and thus also please drivers and the rest of us. 

One last note. I want it to be clear that I am not against buses. Buses are very useful and convenient for people like me, who, for whatever reason, do not own a car. 

Robert Clear 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Last night I saw In the Valley of Elah, a heart-wrenching film about a father’s dogged efforts to learn the true circumstances of his soldier son’s death. After days of frustration dealing with bureaucratic government agencies, he discovers the bitter truth. Worse than the gruesome death of his son, not in battle, is the realization that his boy returned from Iraq, a robot, a walking corpse, devoid of human feelings (as with so many soldiers today suffering the traumatic experience of their service in that country). 

Then this morning, watching ABC’s program, “This Week,” I waited with dread the all too-familiar roll call of American soldiers killed in Iraq; today it was 19! And here our great leader insists that there be no withdrawal of troops until the summer of 2008. That means 10 months—or 40 weeks x 19. Do your own mathematics—and, for God’s sake, demand the end of this senseless killing of American youth! 

Dorothy Snodgrass 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was aroused by a 9 a.m. call Saturday that was a recorded message saying this was the last time to reduce my credit card whatever to 6.9 percent, get protection, who knows. No identification, so I pressed one to speak to a “relationship manager.” When I asked who was calling me, he said “Freedom for Today,” representing 51,000 service something or others. 

When I asked him why they didn’t identify themselves, he answered: “You didn’t have to answer the phone.” 

I replied: “It’s time for you to move to Iraq.” 

He hung up. 

No e-mail listing for “Freedom for Today.” The problem, of course, they know who I am, but I don’t know who they are. 

Arnie Passman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

AT&T discontinued their “Time Lady” because of their assumption that people will be able to get the time on their cell phones and computers, and because they don’t want to maintain the circuitry. Why retain a service that many without these devices have relied on? What about having to reset time after one of our increasingly frequent power outages? Join me in calling AT&T to complain: 800-791-6661. 

Rachel DeCarlo 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Between the Spring Equinox, March 21, and the Autumn Equinox, Sept. 23, days are longer and nights shorter. It makes sense to shift the “extra” morning daylight to the afternoon with daylight saving time (DST). Now, after the equinox, there is no extra daylight. DST sets our clocks for a later sunrise and darker mornings than standard time. Children have to walk to school as the rising sun glares into the eyes of sleepy commuters. Extending DST to well past September is dangerous. In 2005, the Republican-controlled Congress extended DST until the first Sunday of November. Now we should change back to Standard Time. 

Bruce Joffe 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you, Becky O’Malley, for writing insightful editorials. I also enjoy your sense of humor. 

You editorials are the first thing I read. I remember how Berkeley sorely missed local coverage before the Berkeley Daily Planet. You and your newspaper make a big difference in the quality of our lives. 

Jane Harada 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The GOP, i.e., the party of religious white folk, is up to its old tricks, stealing elections. They have an initiative in the offing that would give a Republican presidential candidate a good percentage of California’s Electoral College votes. Electoral votes are those pesky things that decide elections, not the popular vote. Remember the snakeoil salesman who slithered into the White House in 2000 and didn’t win the popular vote.  

The heist of California’s electoral votes would be perfectly legal if the Republican initiative passes. And how could a sham like this pass? If the GOP confuses the voters enough or an apathetic electorate sits on its butt going duh!  

What will happen if the GOP puts another president in the Oval Office, via California’s help, for the next four years? The Republican president would stack the Supreme Court with more religious right-wingers like John Roberts and Samuel Alito. You could kiss Roe vs. Wade goodbye. War would continue full tilt for four more years. This could never happen! No. Have you been paying attention to the crop of GOP presidential pretenders? Anti-abortionists, anti-gay, anti-immigration, pro-war, pro-gun. Go ahead, ignore this dirty-trick initiative and see what it gets you. 

Ron Lowe  

Grass Valley 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is very important for parents to set a good example in order to instill good values in their children. I am pained to see that some parents of young children still find it difficult to stop smoking in front of their children. The parents smoke to relieve the daily fatigue of long work hours. But instead of asking for help with stress from their employers or doctors they unknowingly pass on secondhand smoke to their children. 

I have noticed memory lapses and irritability in children who routinely inhale secondhand smoke. I also see children dozing off as early as 8:30 a.m. or 9 a.m. I asked some children if they need extra rest or extra walking to feel better. I was told they went to bed late after watching a movie with their parents. I support children cuddling up with their parents but the thought of a parent smoking at the same time fills me with horror. 

Romila Khanna