Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday October 02, 2007


Editors, Daily Planet: 

What Becky O’Malley says about Move On may or may not be true, but she must admit that if it hadn’t been the “Betray Us” nonsense, the folks who make sure that that sort of thing overwhelms real issues would have just invented another equally meaningless tempest. 

The bottom line for folks who believe the general actually did betray his country is not to blame Move On for stating the truth, but to stand up to the media goons who marginalize it. 

As you correctly stated, the spineless presidential candidates and members of Congress who condemned this particular act of free speech should have instead come out swinging (as did Bill Clinton) right away.  

The more they cave in, the more likely it is they’ll be next on the “swift boat” to election hell. 

Dale Sophiea 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Some questions about the Cal tree controversy: 

1) If this stand of oaks is truly the last of its kind within the Berkeley city limits, why is that? 

2) What part, if any, did the city government play in the removal of all those other trees? 

3) What is the city doing to create new groves of oak trees so that this one is not the only one? 

4) If it is really all that dangerous for a building to sit atop the Hayward Fault, is the city condemning as unsafe all those buildings atop the fault and under its jurisdiction? 

5) How many members of the Panoramic Hill Association bought homes that they knew straddled the fault? Why? 

Andy Rodriguez 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

This is with regard to Becky O’Malley’s Sept. 28 editorial, “Bashing the Poor is Back in Style.” 

Becky, you’ll forgive me, but what the hell are you getting at? Let’s break down your column: 

• You watch the birds. Hummingbirds. Chickadees too. Pretty, pretty birds. 

• You read the New Yorker. You’re not pleased with the hoity-toity nature of both writing and subject. 

• You turn back to the Stellar’s jays. 

• You attempt an epiphany: “And there’s a political lesson to be learned too. Solutions to perceived problems, come in cycles just as hemlines do.” 

• You insert some cynical pap about what will and will not be done about the city’s homeless. 

• You conclude with a giant sigh. 

This column was disorganized and cryptic. What is it you’re trying to tell us, and can you just distill it down? If not, please just occupy yourself with watching the birds. 

Allison Landa 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

San Francisco Supervisor Ed Jew was suspended for corruption. The next day, here in Southern California, Lynwood Mayor Louis Byrd and three councilmembers are recalled. We’ve learned recently that Los Angeles County Supervisor Yvonne Burke lives out of a mansion in Brentwood far from her South L.A. district and everybody who is “somebody” around here acts like it’s funny.  

I’ve been following the controversy about Berkeley Rent Commissioner Chris Kavanagh because I used to live in the Bay Area. Let’s be fair. There is no comparison between the Chris Kavanagh’s sins and the crimes committed under the general culture of corruption in California’s “liberal” Democratic cities. Democratic State Senator Don Perata, has forgotten more shady deals than you or I or Chris will ever know. Nevertheless, for some “mysterious” reason, nothing sticks to “Teflon Don.”  

Remember the 2003 election for Mayor of San Francisco? It was a cliff-hanger between Democrat Gavin Newsom and Green Party upstart Matt Gonzales. Democrats spent lots of money and brought in heavy hitters to boost their pretty candidate while pundits screamed it would be “crazy” to elect a Ralph Nader “greenie.”  

From my vantage point it appears every California coastal city could use a few people like that fearless, incorruptible “crazy” Ralph Nader.  

Chauncey Bailey, distinguished African-American editor of the Oakland Post, was assassinated on a downtown street in broad daylight. Links between the accused killer and a black nationalist institution called Your Black Muslim Bakery should prompt soul-searching about Oakland’s legendary Black Power tradition, but most likely won’t change my fellow blacks who are “True Believers” in the unholy alliance between Democratic Party Machines and the worst elements of the civil rights/Black Power movements leading to the promised land.  

I see the same phenomenon in Los Angeles where the Martin Luther King/Harbor Medical Center in Watts closed because of gross incompetence by the Los Angeles Democratic Party Machine. The Los Angeles Unified School District is a never-ending train wreck.  

In the South Bay, San Jose is still recovering from the adventures of disgraced Mayor Ron Gonzales.  

Richmond’s Green Mayor Gayle McLaughlin was elected after inner-city voters finally had enough. Reform will only come from an independent progressive and inclusive party like the Green Party. Republicans are a cruel joke and Democrats are as incapable of reforming themselves as they are of stopping Bush.  

Alex Walker 

Los Angeles 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

All this fuss and a potential $400,000 promotion about a rapid bus on Telegraph... What we need to get us out of cars are reliable and quick ways of getting us where we’re going via buses. When we need to wait 15 to 30 minutes for a bus to turn up AND we sometimes need to transfer to a second bus and wait a similar time, the incentive to switch is pretty low. 

After my first year as a daily bus rider I would suggest the following: 1) Greater frequency of buses; 2) A for-real published schedule; 3) A small fleet of jitney buses for those routes and hours where ridership is low and intersperse them with the larger buses for rush hours and/or heavily trafficked routes. We all see those huge Van Hools and sometimes the double ones with six or seven passengers taking up all that space, gas, and air. Not exactly an example of green consciousness. 

Suggestion: The AC Transit’s top decision making executives who probably never ride a bus should spend one week coming and going from their home to work, talking to the passengers about what they like or don’t about the current fleet and the system. And be sure to take a trip that requires at least one transfer. 

My own assessment is that the new Van Hools are very hard to maneuver for older or disabled people with their climb-up seats and lack of any seats at the front end of the bus, plus their jerkiness in stopping and starting. 

If you have a good efficient system people will come and it won’t be necessary to waste $400,000 to make something that is not an alternative to cars into a PR campaign which is bound to fail. 

Joan Levinson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Cheers to Edna Spector for her Sept. 25 commentary advocating “a massive human population collapse, hopefully leading to the voluntary extinction of the human race.” But I fear even her bold prescription is too little, too late. Even in dire poverty and privation humans stubbornly pursue the urge to breed, and population reduction will be a slow, ugly process of migrations away from submerged coastlines and massive starvation as fertile farmlands dry up. I submit that the best hope for the planet would be the timely arrival of another asteroid to eliminate this murderous, forest-burning, ocean-fouling, sky-polluting cancer on the earth we jokingly call Homo sapiens. Meanwhile, I heartily endorse her proposal that Berkeley should become the model for creating free euthanasia clinics around the world.  

Jerry Landis 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In your recent article about the Inclusion Program at James Kenney Park, Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Director William Rogers stated, “At no time do we require one staff member to push two wheelchairs,” and characterized James Wells as “misrepresenting” occurrences in the Inclusion Program.  

While it may be true that he does not “require” this, when the fall term of the Inclusion Program began on Sept. 4, the staff member assigned to one of the youth who uses a wheelchair had not returned from medical leave and thus was not available to push his wheelchair. That week, we were also short another staff person who declined to come to work at the last minute, leaving a gap. With two staff out that first week (and no provision made to replace them), all staff had to take responsibility for extra children. While I have not seen Mr. Wells push two wheelchairs. I have seen another staff person pushing two wheelchairs when we were shorthanded—I begged him to stop for fear that he would injure himself or one of the children.  

If I were Mr. Rogers, I would offer Mr. Wells an apology.  

Sharyn Dimmick  

Recreation Activity Leader,  

James Kenney Park  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The building-construction department at UC Berkeley might not meet your approval, but the rest of the university is indisputably a world-class educational institution. And anyone of us can use it everyday for free. On any given weekday there are about 20 or more lectures that are open for anyone to attend. Not infrequently they are presented by world-class figures. I myself have heard talks by Richard Dawkins, Tim White (early bones), Stephen Hawking, Jack Horner (dinosaurs), David Remnick (New Yorker), Molly Ivins, Howard get the idea. 

And, to repeat, all this for free (not counting your tax dollars, of course). It used to be a bit tricky knowing who would be talking about what and when and where. Happily, this is no longer a problem. A meticulous and altruistic local, Lowell Moorcroft, goes through all the available information and posts each week’s talks on his website: 

Most lectures are in the afternoon, a few in the evening. In addition to bio-science, astronomy, etc. you will find talks on politics, history, philosophy, and now there are talks on environment/energy research almost daily. All good stuff. 

And my heartfelt thanks go to Mr. Moorcroft. 

Victor Herbert 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The question of whether Berkeley wants to see BRT as it’s currently being proposed by AC Transit disrupt our lives and our city lies at the heart of the debate that has been going on in these pages and throughout the city. Alan Tobey is the one who has it wrong. Why should we spend any more time, energy and, yes, money on BRT if it’s never going to happen in Berkeley? 

I think a much better solution is to look at how we can make public transit better today. Let’s help AC Transit find ways to speed up the buses and get more people to ride them. Let’s not create an environmental and social disaster that will surely follow from making Telegraph Avenue into the same stop and go nightmare that plagues streets like College Avenue. 

Let’s make Rapid Bus a reality today by fully implementing the two things that AC Transit promised us with the new bus service on Telegraph. Let’s make sure that buses have traffic signal priority at every light, slowing the buses as little as possible at the traffic lights all along the route. Then, let’s make sure that every bus stop has real-time bus arrival information.  

Once we’ve done the easy stuff, let’s implement what AC Transit’s Jim Cunradi stated is the key to further improvement in bus speed—proof of payment. The reason the proof of payment system speeds up the travel time is that it greatly decrease the time needed to board and discharge passengers by eliminating the bottleneck at the fare box. This system allows all bus doors to be used for loading and unloading simultaneously. 

The next big step in increasing the ridership of Rapid Bus would be to decrease the time between buses, and decrease the size of each bus, from the 12-minute headway for the 60-foot buses currently on Telegraph to something approaching the projected BRT headway of less than five minutes with much smaller buses. 

All these things can be done without dedicating a lane of traffic to BRT. We can keep cars and buses moving in mixed use lanes while at the same time increasing the speed and frequency of the buses. Its a solution that costs a fraction of BRT and will greatly increase the likelihood of people switching over to a faster and more convenient transit system. 

Vincent Casalaina 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Your Sept. 28 story, “Code Pink Protests Marine Recruitment Center,” quotes Dianne Budd, one of the protesters, as saying of her actions, “It’s my First Amendment right. Who’s going to stop me?” 

Ms Budd is correct; her actions in protesting the Marine recruiting activity are indeed her right, and no one will try to stop her. But has she no curiosity whatever about the fact that she enjoys that right just by being an American, when so many of the world’s people have no such right? If she ever stopped demonstrating and protesting long enough to ask that question, she might discover that the answer has something to do with the United States Marines. 

Mark Halpern 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I just read Matthew Shoemaker’s recent letter (“Take a deep breath, Doug”, Sept. 28) written in response to my commentary. While I appreciated the conciliatory words, it is unfortunate that his message was undercut by a persistent condescending tone. Tone really does matter, and it typically serves as a reliable indicator of our sincerity. 

Even so, Mr. Shoemaker did raise some issues that I want to address. First, I am the director of the community-based organization called Save the Oaks at the Stadium (SOS). We have been engaged in education and outreach about the threat to the trees in Memorial Oak Grove for about a year and a half now. The tree sitters, who began living in the trees in December of 2006, are not part of this organization and I do not represent them. They speak for themselves, and make their own decisions about what actions they will take to protect the trees. 

Second, Mr. Shoemaker completely misconstrues my first commentary by characterizing it as an “us vs. them” argument. My criticism was directed at a particular kind of behavior that is disrespectful and destructive, no matter what side of an issue you are on. I hope he will reread it with that idea in mind. 

Third, there is a viable compromise available to the university and the community in this situation, which presents the opportunity for a true win-win solution. The new gym/office complex could be built at an alternate location (for example, Maxwell Field, beside Edwards Field, or at the University Art Museum site) and the irreplaceable urban woodland containing over a hundred beautiful, healthy trees and all the animals and birds that live there would be preserved. 

Finally, while I do appreciate Mr. Shoemaker’s offer of an intoxicating beverage, it is really not necessary. I am quite willing to meet with anyone to discuss these issues—UC administrators, Berkeley city officials, community members, football players, fans, students, alumni. I welcome the opportunity to listen to your views and share my own.  

Doug Buckwald 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I want to assure Frank Greenspan that I intended no sarcasm in my remark about his idea of putting BRT on the ballot. I’d welcome a vote. I’m quite serious: If a majority of Berkeley really doesn’t want the BRT, then the project should be abandoned and the federal funds given to some town less tied to the automobile. Doug Buckwald claims there are places where BRT destroys retail business. I know of none. Here on these letter pages, I challenged him to name a place where BRT has been the bane of business. He hasn’t replied; perhaps he’s been too distracted by the oaks and the football fans. 

Not all the stores on Telegraph display that nasty “No BRT” sign. I saw none at the new Upper Playground across from the Hat Shop. The Playground sold me a T-shirt with a picture of an AC Transit bus. It wasn’t a BRT, but it did show a headsign “1 Telegraph.” I wore it proudly to How Berkeley Can You Be. 

Steve Geller 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In the last issue, David Walsh wrote a letter expressing concern about police hassling black youth in downtown Berkeley. I wasn’t there so I can’t speak to the incident he wrote of, but I can say that on a recent shopping trip to downtown Berkeley I witnessed a group of black youth standing around, one of whom for two hours kept his hand on his crotch underneath his pants. I wish there had been a couple police officers nearby to hassle him, regard him with “menacing looks” and later to lead him off in handcuffs. Likewise when I had to make my way to the door of the Berkeley Main Library amid a group of teens yelling obscenities to each other and glaring aggressively at passers by: a couple menacing police officers would have helped a lot there.  

I once followed an inebriated man who had stolen a ladder in my neighborhood, reporting his whereabouts to police. When they finally stopped him, (after he’d sold the ladder to a passerby) a young white woman, a good Berkeley liberal, stood nearby, expressing to me her consternation that here yet once again the police were harassing a black man who had done nothing! It is important to be aware that when police act to arrest/question someone, not all the facts of the case are necessarily apparent to a casual observer.  

Deborah Cloudwalker 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

According to the latest nationwide poll, 76 percent of Democrats want Cheney impeached. I think if you polled Berkeley citizens that number would be through the roof. The Berkeley City Council voted for impeachment last year, so did the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and the voters of San Francisco. Our Representative Barbara Lee, along with 20 other representatives, has done the right thing in cosponsoring House Resolution 333 to impeach Cheney. But Congress, and in particular, Nancy Pelosi and John Conyers, unilaterally took impeachment “off the table,” as if they have the power to eliminate our Constitutional right to impeach criminals in public office. We set the table. We want Cheney impeached now, for his many crimes and before he commits an even bigger one: bombing Iran—which it looks like he’ll do shortly, with or without Congressional approval. How can we be silent in the face of this menace? How can we express our outrage? How can we get Cheney impeached? Well, we’re not going to take this standing up. Instead, about 1,000 people are going to lay down at Cesar Chavez Park in the Marina this Sunday, Oct. 7, at 11 a.m., to spell “IMPEACH” in 100-foot-high letters. Helicopters will be flying overhead to film and photograph this human message to the world. This is the fourth Beach Impeach event and the first in Berkeley. Thousands of people have participated; it’s a glorious way to spend a couple of hours in the sun, with families, kids, neighbors, grandparents, dogs—everyone acting in unison to call for impeaching the vice president—because if we want to save our democracy he’s got to go. Register at (where you’ll also see film and photos of previous Beach Impeach events.) 

Cynthia Papermaster 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I would like to offer some advice to those who are worried about food scraps in the green bins, both large and small. Use Biobags. They are made of cornstarch and are completely biodegradable. We have used them in our home compost system for years, and the 10-litre size works quite well in the small green bins. These are available at Elephant Pharmacy and on the Internet. 

I keep my small green bin on my counter. It’s not esthetically pleasing, but there are many worse things. I am quite happy with the new system. The quantity of our trash has been greatly reduced.  

Jenifer Steele