Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday September 28, 2007


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am responding to the letter from Hank Chapot, 

My name is Lynn Tidd and I am Chris Kavanagh’s landlord. This is unfortunate. I never intended to be a landlord. Six months ago I bought a house a block away from my mother-in-law, in which to live with my large blended family of five children ranging in ages 3 to 23. 

Chris Kavanagh and Johnny Spain were served owner move-in evictions. They both wanted to negotiate. Johnny wanted money, Chris wanted to live there another year. I just want my house. 

I am a long-time Green Party member. I am not coached by anyone and am new to the neighborhood after moving here from the suburbs to raise my children in a neighborhood that seems to match our family’s values a bit more. I am not a good government type, or a venal landlord, just a mom who wants to raise her kids in her own house. I don’t want tenants.  

I was thrilled to see Chris in handcuffs. I have lived with his smug, entitled presence in my backyard for six months. A weekend off of his lurking about and the possibility of justice being served was thrilling to me. His infrequent appearances were notable after he had been a constant presence at the house. The explanation? It appears Chris finally found a job. 

I can’t wait until this is over and I can let my children play in my backyard. 

Lynn Tidd 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Now that Chris Kavanagh, Berkeley Rent Board member, has been arrested and charged with several felonies, one must ask the obvious question: How can it be that his friends and cohorts on the Rent Board were unaware of his deceit? Here is an agency that spends millions of dollars a year keeping track of ‘who lives where’ but they failed to note Mr. Kavanagh’s questionable residency claim? Perhaps it is time for the grand jury to look into this! 

One notes that the owners of the Oakland home where Kavanagh resides have already paid out $10,000 to another tenant for the “privilege of living in their own property.” Such extorted funds are regularly paid to tenants thanks to Bay Area rent and eviction laws that support a virtual industry of extortion.  

When I referred to these payouts as “extortion” to a Berkeley tenant’s attorney he did not object to the characterization but quipped “That’s how things are done in Berkeley.” Of course, he was in line to collect 33 percent of the take from my client, a single mother with a moderate income unable to move into her own home. 

Point is, rent control and eviction laws in Berkeley and Oakland are not about justice and fairness but rather about the blind, wholesale entitlement of tenants at the expense of a falsely demonized group, property owners. It is a tired class delineation based on an erroneous ideology. 

Kavanagh has been a mouthpiece for this uninspected ideology which, unfortunately is regularly disguised in “progressive” rhetoric. But there is nothing progressive about a system that generalizes and demonizes, a system unable or unwilling to ever turn a critical eye upon itself. 

True “progressives” honor the rule of law, fair elections, and open-mindedness. Kavanagh made it clear a long time ago that open-mindedness is not one of his virtues. Apparently he doesn’t think much of the rule of law or fair elections either. 

This is the latest corruption case brought to you by Berkeley’s affordable housing machinery, all good “progressives” with “high ideals” apparently willing to violate the law as often as they violate common sense. Pretty soon we should realize that policy should be built on sound and fair principles not ideologies. Government needs to work to protect the interest of all citizens equally, not pit one group against another. 

Kavanagh will have his day in court. Until then, he is presumed innocent. I only hope, for his sake, that his judges be more open minded and fair than the one-sided, prejudicial rent board he serves on.  

John Koenigshofer 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

4:15 p.m., Wednesday Sept. 12, by the BART entrance at Shattuck and Allston Way: Six or seven black teenagers are socializing on a sunny afternoon after school, leaning on their bikes, laughing. Behind them, two Berkeley police are leaning on their bicycles, staring at the young men in a studied, menacing manner, for what must have been 10 minutes. 

I had to rub my eyes. Suddenly, without any provocation, Officers Jeremiason (Badge 94) and M. Meredith (Badge 102) moved in on the young men, aggressively manhandling them, threatening to issue citations for various offenses including, if you can believe it, “having a bicycle on the sidewalk.”  

There was plenty of cop-drama lip: “You have a problem with your hearing?” etc. Finally, after four or five more police had appeared on the scene, two of the young men were handcuffed and driven away. 

What’s going on here? Since when has it been against the law for youth to congregate on the streets of this town? These are our streets—we have a right to use them.  

The national trend of criminalizing young people, particularly black and Latino youth; the national epidemic of out-of-control police—have these come to roost in Berkeley? We need to come together and take a stand on this important issue. 

David Welsh 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

To Doug Buckwald: Doug, I don’t think you are a bad person and I really hope you mean it when you talk about compromise and finding middle ground. But I find it hard to believe that if the university wins in court that the tree sitters will vacate the trees and leave peacefully. If the university loses so be it. I agree life is not black or white but that is how your first commentary came across, us vs. them. Take a deep breath Doug and I will gladly buy you a glass of Zinfandel one of these days.  

Oh, and before every football game a video is played asking all Bear fans to treat our visitors with dignity and respect. Good night and good luck.  

Matthew Shoemaker 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The San Francisco Chronicle recently reported that the real estate market is hot for $65 million mansions in San Francisco, tempting all those discerning billionaires. I can tell you that the market is much hotter for low-income, non-billionaires. Working recently with one stalwart Berkeley resident, a long-time volunteer at our local park, senior and pretty sick, we’re having a heck of a time finding even the tiniest place where she can lay her head each night and have a little meal. Waiting lists for people like her—no family, on a small fixed income, too aged and ill to work—are so long as to be a joke. Her prospects, the street or the city shelter if there is room, will surely do her in. Meanwhile, that discerning billionaire, perhaps one of those who needs to add a 31st house to the 30 he already has, will drop $65 million and come up with an additional $10 million to customize that mansion to an adequate level of comfort and luxury. Where the dickens is Dickens when you need him? 

Linda Maio 

Berkeley City Councilmember, District 1  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

We call the club TOP—why? because they are Thousand Oaks Pedalers, so the acronym works, but also they are kids ages 5 to 10 that start at the bottom of the Berkeley flats and ride up the hill one or two miles to Thousand Oaks Elementary School to arrive in time for a 8 a.m. bell. For them and their families this means leaving at 7:30 a.m. every day, something several parents thought they could not do for a school bus, but now offered true community, health benefits for aging and growing bodies, life lessons, independent transportation options for those who will soon enough be adolescents, and meaningful family time they are rising a little earlier and making the bell. And along they way they are reducing greenhouse gas emissions and roadway congestion—gifts these children can proudly claim to willingly, even joyfully, give their community. Some of the kids drag their parents out to ride—others get dressed a little faster so they can ride, when before they dragged through the morning ritual.  

Why are they doing it? Maybe the national creed of Safe Routes to School rings all too true: “When it is safe, kids should ride or walk, when its not, our community needs to work to make it safe.” These kids cross Gilman, Marin and Solano through morning rush hour commutes. Their mothers watch carefully and hope that you will too, and they hope too you might slow down for the little riders, their wheels are, after all, rather small.  

Wednesday, Oct. 3 is International Walk or Roll to School Day, and TOP is planning to be out in force recruiting new members and taking to the streets with the rest of the Walking School Buses and Bike Trains spanning Berkeley in multiple participating elementary schools. Have kids in school? Walk, bike or carpool with them to school this day it can be the first of many new habits that stall Global Warming and add sanity to your day. Live by a school? Come out and watch over those crazier crossings, it will be safer for you too, if everyone slows down and looks around. Commute by a school? Please slow down, look out for the shortest of riders and walkers and give the kids a break—they are trying to improve our community for all of us.  

Amber Evans  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In response to Laura Menard’s Sept. 18 letter: As a parent of a 19-year-old and a 16-year-old, I would like to say she hit a number of things right on the head, but also missed a few important points. 

Since the death of Juan Ramos last year, the safety parent group at El Cerrito High School has tried to address some of the very issues Ms. Menard brought up. We hosted an alcohol awareness night with guest speakers, and a child safety informational meeting with a judge and lawyer from the juvenile court system who agreed to come as guest speakers to address this and many other issues, and guess what, maybe five parents came to these informational meetings, and I’m being generous. 

In El Cerrito, and WCCUSD, our public figures, school board, ECHS administration, and our superintendent of schools have recognized teen drinking, and teen violence as a major issue. The bigger issue here is why aren’t the parents? My kids have been a victims of the very “code of silence” Ms. Menard refers too, in fact as a parent so have I. The number of parents at our high school that think teen drinking is OK, sending your child off to a party not knowing if it is supervised is OK, or allowing them to roam the streets past curfew is OK, is appalling.  

I wonder if the parents having these parties, or even the ones going out of town while they are occurring, realize that they can be held responsible for anything that happens at their home? Most likely the majority of parents think that these things are OK until something happens to their child. A good question would be how would these same parents feel if it was their house hosting a party while they were gone? If parents are unwilling to work together, to talk to each other, check up on the parties our kids are attending, and discuss reasons why it is not OK to do these things with our kids then this issue will never be completely resolved. We do need to make these things more public and publicly address the issues with each other, our children, and our local government. Your son did the right thing, and I believe my kids would too. Unfortunately they are part of the minority. 

Michele Jawad 

El Ceritto High School  

PTSA Safety Chair 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I don’t know Steve Geller, but I certainly see his letters in the Daily Planet often and can figure out he supports Bus Rapid Transit. 

Steve, I am the “somebody” who suggested in a letter to this paper that BRT be placed on the ballot so as to gauge if the good citizens of Berkeley really support BRT. 

We may not agree on BRT but I certainly hope that, your sarcasm notwithstanding, you do believe in democracy and the will of the people. 

Frank K. Greenspan 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Recent weeks have seen a flurry of public arguments both in favor of and opposed to the Bus Rapid Transit proposal in Berkeley. While such debate is healthy, it is also largely premature. The decision on whether or not to build BRT in Berkeley is not imminent, so the premature focus on that final decision has obscured what the city actually needs to do in the next few months—get all the information and analysis possible for a decision that may still be a year away. 

The current need is simply to help AC Transit complete the final environmental impact report, which will be used as the reference document when we make the actual project decisions. In order for AC Transit to do that, the Berkeley City Council needs to select its “preferred local alternative” (PLA)—the scenario that will receive the most study and attention in the final EIR document. Along with the PLA, the final EIR will also consider alternatives (including a “no build” alternative), as well as describe potential mitigations for any negative impacts which the project might create. 

Thus the task of the council over the next few months is simply to select the Berkeley PLA, not yet vote the project up or down. So the question to ask is, “what is the most helpful PLA at this point?” Since the no build alternative is automatically considered, what’s needed is a choice of the alternatives which would make the most sense IF the BRT project were to be built. 

The point is important: The council will only be choosing what to study most closely, not deciding whether or not to build. Selecting a central “build” alternative will not signify that it will be approved next year. So the council will be setting up a process to best help the PLA selection—once again probably centered in the Transportation Commission. That process will look closely at the alternatives that have been most controversial so far—mainly the different proposed routings and station options for the proposed BRT segments on Telegraph, Bancroft and in the downtown core—and will recommend choices to the council. Again the narrow focus should only be on which of these alternatives would best benefit from intensive study, in the context of other possibilities for those same segments. There will be no recommendation before the council on the overall worthiness of the project at this point. 

The best advice to the City Council is therefore to keep the process narrow and focused rather than open-ended and diffuse. Concerns of council members such as Kriss Worthington about some wider issues—for example, extending improved bus service down University or encouraging bus ridership via subsidized passes—are certainly legitimate and worthy of study. But they are not germane to the decision before us now—which BRT choices make the most sense to study further? It’s therefore time to tone down the hysteria for awhile at least, and to focus on what best helps us make a wise decision next year. For now that’s doing a great job choosing an informative preferred local alternative we can all scrutinize together. The cities of Oakland and San Leandro—also with proposed BRT projects—are making their PLA choices with little controversy. Berkeley should, for once, be able to do the same. 

Alan Tobey 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I absolutely applaud the latest investigative piece by J. Douglas Allen-Taylor on the very controversial AC Transit Van Hool bus purchase. It appears that AC Transit General Manager Rick Fernandez has been a naughty boy indeed. Thank you Mr. Allen-Taylor for using a FOIA document request to uncover how Mr. Fernandez made a statement about this plan to the AC Transit Board that, as Mr. Allen-Taylor graciously put it “...may not be true..,” and got away with it.  

This story is jaw-dropping. It concerns a huge purchase of new busses that we do not need and that riders and drivers dislike intensely (e.g., the seats are tiny and force riders to face each other with knees touching), from a foreign manufacturer at the expense of business and jobs suffered by a local manufacturer. Now, thanks only to the Daily Planet, we have discovered that Mr. Fernandez is frantically back-filling with the FTC and MTA to cover his obfuscating, incomplete and misleading reports to the Board regarding the underlying financial facts of the deal, including that he has no good answer for the source of rebates of millions of dollars of previous grant money that must be repaid now to the federal government, and which are owed only because Mr. Fernandez was hell-bent for leather to close this Van Hool purchase immediately. Except for Board President Greg Harper who last March had the good sense to vote against what now appears to be some kind of caper by Mr. Fernandez, the AC Transit Board of Directors were asleep at the wheel. What happens to an AC Transit driver who does that? 

I sincerely hope Mr. Allen-Taylor will continue his great work, and eventually find out what is at the bottom of this. Who knows, he may sufficiently embarrass the AC Transit Board of Directors into carrying out their duty to discover why Mr. Fernandez schemed and obfuscated the financial facts to push this Van Hool purchase through, especially when the riders hate them.  

Dennis J. White  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It will be interesting to see how the green kitchen waste cans the city recently provided to homeowners actually work over time. Despite the positive effect of reducing landfill volume and recycling nutrients as compost, several factors may need further thought:  

1. For as long as the city has provided yard waste collections, some plant residue remains on streets after collection. The collectors are careful and work hard. But inevitably bits and pieces of yard waste are left behind to end up in gutters and storm sewers. With yard waste alone, the nuisance factor is minute. With food wastes now included, such residues may well attract rodents and small animals. Is the city monitoring this effect? If so, how?  

2. Keeping the small green containers clean requires water. More water than used before the cans were distributed will be needed to keep these containers clean. Keeping cans clean and conserving water are contradictory. And water used in these cans should not be used on outdoor plantings as it will contain residues that will attract rodents.  

3. Where are these containers to be stored? Under the sink? No room. On top of break-the-bank-newly-installed marble, granite, and limestone counters? Definitely not aesthetically compatible with such modern amenities. Or, on kitchen decks, vulnerable to raccoon attacks?  

Thoughts, ideas, and experience-to-date all sought. 

Barbara Witte 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you, John Smith, for your eloquent commentary on the anniversary of the introduction of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Act, a bill that has still not yet been passed, after five-years in Congress (“Searching for a Cure for Spinal Injuries,” Sept. 25). 

I am the president of the Well Spouse Association (, a group that offers support to husbands, wives or partners of people with chronic illness and/or disability. Over ten percent of our members are caring for spouses with disabilities. They, and the WSA support this bill, which potentially could lead to a lot more effective treatment for spinal cord injuries. We also support the work of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, and its Paralysis Resource Center ( 

Richard Anderson 

President, Well Spouse Association 

Freehold, NJ 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

It’s about time we had a good tongue-in-cheek lashing commentary like Edna Spector’s Sept. 25 exposition on Berkeley’s leadership role in the “voluntary extinction of the human race.” Then again, perhaps she is serious? But not to worry. I’m sure Berkeley, in it’s inimitable way, will take credit for either victory or defeat. After all, we’ve been on the cutting edge of so much technological and social change for the last half-century, why not give up the ghost and surrender to failure, rather than admit that “the revolution” has gone amuck....not just in Washington, but in our own backyard, as well. 

Marc Winokur 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

“No, the time for bolder self-sacrifice has arrived. The only real, long term hope for the eco-sphere is a massive human population collapse, hopefully leading to the voluntary extinction of the human race. Already, a new urgency and groundswell of support is building for the idea that humans are a type of super toxin which the planet cannot sustain or support in the longterm.” 

Methinks that Edna has watched The Matrix too many times. I also think she needs some serious psychological professional help. Also I sincerely hope that Edna is the first to volunteer for self eradication, if she continues down this path. 

I am frightened that the Berkeley Daily Planet would print and by proxy advocate the eradication of the human race. Please tell me that it was a slow news day. 

Hal Grisham 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Defense Secretary Robert Gates asked Congress to allocate $190 billion for war next year and President Bush threatens to veto a five-year $35 billion expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Is war in a distant land more important than the children of American? Bush and Republicans seem to think so. The insurance bill passed in the House 265-159. Who were the 151 “family values” Republicans that put party ideology ahead of 10 million American children? 

George W. Bush and Republicans live in an upside-down world of fuzzy logic. 

Ron Lowe  

Grass Valley 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a pet guardian and Berkeley resident, I am grateful to live in a city that values the well-being of animals. In that regard, I would like to share with my fellow residents that Oct. 4–10 is World Animal Week, a global event uniting the world in celebration of animals and aiming to raise the profile of animal welfare worldwide. This week is your chance to help make the world a safer, more compassionate place for all animals. There is no limit to what you can do for World Animal Week; the important thing is to take part. 

The World Society for the Protection of Animals offers a few simple suggestions of ways people can celebrate this event and make the world a better place for animals:  

1. Help reduce animal overpopulation by adopting your next animal companion from a shelter or rescue group instead of buying from a breeder or pet store—and get your new friend spayed or neutered. 

2. Report animal cruelty to Berkeley Animal Control: 


3. Create a haven for wildlife in your backyard by providing appropriate habitat and find ways to control “nuisance” animals humanely. 

4. Make more humane food choices by purchasing organic, free range, pasture raised and humane food labels; make an effort to reduce the amount of meat and other animal products in your diet.  

5. Buy cruelty-free products like cosmetics and household cleaners that haven’t been tested on animals. 

6. Reduce your consumption of non-renewable energy resources and recycle as much packaging and waste products as possible.  

7. Never buy gifts or souvenirs that involve the cruel death of an animal or are made from endangered species. Avoid establishments that keep wild animals in captivity, including roadside zoos or other venues that house captive wild animals for entertainment. 

8. Include arrangements for your companion animals in your disaster planning. 

9. Add your name to the global petition to obtain a Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare from the United Nations at 

You can learn more about how to take these steps by visiting Thanks to everyone in Berkeley who tries to make this a better city for people and animals. 

Mara Guccione