Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday October 09, 2007


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you for mentioning my book in your recent article on Nicole Sawaya. The correct title of the book is Uneasy Listening: Pacifica Radio’s Civil War, not Easy Listening... . 

Matthew Lasar  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have a correction to your Oct. 2 article, “The Theater: ‘Turn of the Screw’ Set in Louisiana” by Jaime Robles. The article said: 

“After two months of auditions, the role was double cast for two pairs of children: Brooks Fisher and Madelaine Matej, and Nick Kempen and Kelty Morash. All four children have sung the roles before; Nick and Kelty appearing in the 2007 Adler Fellows production at the Lincoln Theater in Napa.” 

Madelaine has not sung the role before—this is her first solo role. 

Elisabeth Thomas-Matej 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Yolanda Huang most certainly is entitled to her opinion, expressed in her Oct. 5 letter to the editor. In fact, she was on an interview panel of community members that the school district put together, and had ample opportunity to express those views. 

However, I want to point out to those not familiar with Ms. Huang’s history with BUSD that she actively campaigned against our recent measure ensuring reduced class sizes, teacher training, music and art in our schools, library services and other programming for our Berkeley public schools. Her words of concern for our kids do not seem to correspond to any real financial support. And lest anyone believe the State of California adequately funds our public schools, our children and our teachers, I have one fact as witness against: California is 44th of the 50 states in per pupil monetary support. 

John Selawsky 

Vice President, Berkeley School Board 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In his “Open Letter To Code Pink,” Captain Richard Lund rhetorically asks what he has done to be considered a traitor. Certainly Mr. Lund has shown “honor, courage and commitment” to his country. However, we are all living members of the human family as well as being Americans. In our larger, more inclusive family, we also have a responsibility of honor, courage and commitment. We also value peace, love and unity above war, hate and division. At our dinner table, Mr. Lund sits alone. 

Michael Bauce 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Too bad Sam Herbert had a restless night from the noisy helicopters. I have a “strong hunch” the friends and family of Gary King have more than their share of wakeful nights. I read the Berkeley High School Jacket report of the killing and thought it was excellent. Ms. Herbert objects of their use of the word “murder” to describe the killing of Gary King, age 20, shot twice, in the back, by an Oakland police sergeant. Perhaps that is not technically, legally correct. Maybe the word should be execution. Whatever you call it, that child is dead. Yes, I’ll call him a child. My own grandkids are not that much younger.  

Ms. Herbert accuses the Jacket of being “tortuous and libelous.” Yet, she herself states that young Mr. King drew a gun on the officer. To my knowledge that has not been confirmed. An unnamed police spokesman stated that a gun was found at the scene. The story from the police is that the policeman thought King was a murder suspect, and was trying to question him. As it turned out, he was not the suspect at all. Ask yourself why would King attempt to fire on a policeman when he knew he was not the suspect in question. This is the third shooting by this policeman. Two have resulted in death. The third is permanently paralyzed.  

Ms. Upstanding Citizen Herbert, you may think Gary King and his ilk are just worthless criminals. Why don’t you go down to the corner of 53rd and MLK and take a look at the lovely shrine of flowers and candles that remain to this day? Apparently, this boy was loved. Now he’s dead. Sleep on that. 

Barbara Henninger 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

After the Summer of Love, police dragnets swept Haight, rousting homeless youths as well as drug dealers. Many escaped to Telegraph. Moe (of Moe’s Books fame) raised money to fund the Heroin Emergency Life Project (H.E.L.P.) which sponsored the Berkeley Free Clinic. Janis Joplin died at a Los Angeles hotel in October 1970 at the age of 27 owing to an injection of too-pure heroin. “The stampede of misfits to the Bay Area, the heavy drugs that were passed, the lack of human services,” says the caption to an article published in the Cal alumni magazine, “all contributed to the Summer of Love’s short-lived celebration.” Country Joe was indeed one of the “more concerned and prescient and cause-committed of our generation.” The “summer” may be said to have started Jan. 14, 1967 at the Human Be-In at Golden Gate Park, and may be said to have finished January 30, 1968 at Pauley Ballroom, where Country Joe, Mad River and Charlie Musselwhite raised a tidy sum for H.E.L.P. I know because they needed to form a Cal student club to reserve Pauley, and Moe buttonholed me for the job because he knew I was then enrolled.  

Incidentally, the Berkeley Lothlórien co-op is but the pale shadow of the notions popularized in the ’60s, although maybe they embody the hippie virtues: drugs, free love, vegetarianism, and rock n’ roll.  

Richard Thompson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding the response to “Cheers to Edna by Jerry Landis: Mr. Landis, if you truly believe your own words, and are a man of your convictions, then by all means lead the way by example for population reduction, otherwise your convictions carry no weight in reality. This kind of self-loathing is the ultimate in human racism. There are indeed terrible people, environmental degradation, catastrophe and “stubborn breeders,” as you say. There has also been, in the last 120 years, amazing advances in medicine, science, agriculture, technology, spirituality and a myriad host of other amazing, life giving and life enriching leaps forward. I might also add, importantly, that these things do not come without sacrifice, without ill side effects or birth pangs. Goodness does not operate in a vacuum, and yes, the road to hell is often paved with good intentions, so to speak. Our human experience will ultimately be weighed by our efforts to minimize the strain we place on ourselves and our planet while moving forward, but make no mistake, we are moving forward, albeit awkwardly and at times stumbling backwards. The minds we have been blessed with (the only ones in nature with the ability to self loathe, as Mr. Landis so tactfully demonstrated) are a miracle of evolution, precious, fragile and filled with promise. Let’s use them for more than musing upon the desire to self destruct. 

Ernest Grouns 

Minneapolis, MN 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As the great Fats Waller famously remarked, “One never knows, do one?” Certainly one never knows just what veto power President Bush will exercise next. This week it was the Children’s Health Insurance Bill, which comes as no great surprise. Having requested nearly $200 billion dollars in supplemental financing for war operations, no way was our “Decider” going to approve this insurance bill which would increase the program’s cost by $38 billion over five years. 

Democrats have pointed out that this equals the cost for about three months of operation in Iraq. Many prominent Republicans have expressed their dismay at this veto. 

Claiming that the bill is too costly, that it would amount to government-run health care, Bush callously dismissed the fact that 10 million poor children in this country are in need of health insurance. So what if there’s an alarming rise in the rate of children afflicted with asthma, birth defects and autism? This is of little concern to Mr. B., who chooses to sacrifice thousands of American military and wreak havoc in Iraq in his determination “to bring democracy” to a country which fervently wishes we’d get out! 

Dorothy Snodgrass 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In a recent issue, Robert White writes a disingenuous response to my report about offensive behavior on Shattuck Avenue. Since I reported that a man stood around with his hand inside his pants on his crotch in downtown Berkeley for two hours, he assumes I stood there for two hours continually watching the man and makes a personal attack on me based on this disingenuous assumption. Robert, would you also term “voyeuristic” the unfortunate San Francisco pedestrians who observe and report to police the sex acts or urination/defecation taking place in public on San Francisco sidewalks, as described in stories on the homeless in this week’s San Francisco Chronicle?  

In this case I saw the offensive behavior three times during a two-hour period and it is a reasonable assumption that the behavior was constant during that period: a period during which hundreds of other people were also confronted with this man’s lewd behavior as they unfortunately had to walk by him. Having a forum as the Daily Planet provides for public discourse is quite valuable. I suggest that people bring their best selves and thoughtful writings to this forum, rather than using it to make personal attacks or disingenuous comments.  

Deborah Cloudwalker 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In a recent issue of the Planet, you printed a letter from one reader (Robert White) which attacks another reader (Ms. Cloudwalker). I feel strongly that media should not publish letters which are absent of meaningful argument and whose sole purpose is to make snide remarks or mean-spirited accusations about another individual, particularly someone who is not a public/political figure.  

Robin Goldman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Your reporting of the three lawsuits about the student high performance center and other South East Campus projects is far superior to that of any other newspaper. Thank you. The lawsuits in part assert the university violates the Alquist Priolo Act. The Alquist Priolo Act governs construction on or near earthquake faults.  

Curiously, although the university in its environmental impact report states that the university is subject to the provisions of the Alquist Priolo Act, university counsel asserts in court that the university is not subject to the act. Which is it? It cannot be both.  

Certainly the university did not comply with the Alquist Priolo Act when they built the Foothill Housing Project on top of the Louderback trace of the Hayward Fault. Most likely, the parents of students living there were never informed. I bet they would like to have known that fact before they signed contracts for the most expensive student housing at UCB. 

Now, some 20 years after that violation, and in face of all the increased knowledge about earthquake faults and the damage and loss of life from earthquakes, the university asserts its right to violate this safety act once again. 

Apparently, the euphoria of a winning football team so intoxicates and drugs the public and the reporters, they are blind to the violation of good public policy and common sense. To them I say: “Get real!” The football team can train and win anywhere, if indeed winning football games is the most important activity for a university. 

Ann Reid Slaby 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It would be nice if the news media would at least scratch the surface of the issues. It only takes a moment’s thought to see the folly of the “biofuels” promises. 

1. It’s obvious that no amount of biofuels can begin to replace our huge appetite for oil. Just look at the number of vehicles on the road, and multiply by the number of roads and the number of cities in the world. 

2. It’s obvious that the growing of biofuels has to replace either (a) wildlife habitat or (b) land used for producing food. Neither is in such large supply that we can afford to lose it. 

3. It’s well known that invasive, exotic species are one of the major causes of the worldwide extinction crisis. Switchgrass should be left where it is native (China?), and not let loose in other environments, where it would be impossible to contain it. 

4. Solar energy is also no panacea. Unless solar panels shade only man-made structures (e.g. roads and rooftops), they will destroy more wildlife habitat. 

That leaves conservation as the only feasible solution to the alleged “energy crisis.” 

Mike Vandeman 

San Ramon 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Would you consider buying an elegant home from realtors with garbage filling the walk outside their offices? Or patronize a bakery, in the same office building, with so many fragrant garbage and recycling cans in front, six days out of seven, that patrons and passersby play dodge-can to get through? Would you then eat your goodies on a bench ogling and sniffing this heavenly delight? Apparently, for some people, the answer is, yes. Amaze your senses. Walk up Colusa to Solano. Check out the scene. 

Unfortunately, resident neighbors in this mixed use area have all too ample opportunity. Andronico’s and a six-unit condo on the same block manage to avoid a public health, safety and pollution problem simply by bringing cans out at collection time, then putting them away. Several of us have suggested this to tenants and landlord on our corner—several times. Any ideas? 

H. Bruner 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Almost everybody in Berkeley agrees that the city’s street dwellers should not be allowed to defecate or urinate on the sidewalks. The City Council won’t take action against this practice until there are enough public toilets meet the need. This should be a very easy problem to solve. There are already many portable toilets around the UC stadium. Surely, the university would allow the street people to use some of these. The city could install others in People’s Park and on public property near downtown. Portable toilets are not expensive to rent; the supplier would service them; and there are many suppliers who could deliver and install them on a couple of day’s notice. 

This would be a stop-gap measure. Permanent public toilets could come later. The city needs some, especially if it wants to realize its dream of becoming a world-class convention city. 

John G. McGarrahan 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

We were faithful attendees of Oakland Metro Opera, performing in an old bar at First and Broadway, until the hot, crowded, airless Sunday afternoon Bob passed out (doc called it “just old church-lady syndrome”) and we decided we had to give up the work of this fine company. 

But then last week’s Daily Planet alerted us to their new venue at 630 Third St. at MLK Way, a big old warehouse that still presents formidable challenges and minor discomforts, but not suffocation. Their performance of Benjamin Britten’s Turn of the Screw there is truly impressive. This is not a review, so I won’t go into detail. I just urge everyone to go and enjoy the work of these talented, accomplished folks before Turn of the Screw closes Sunday, Oct. 14. 

Dorothy Bryant 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Berkeley needs a new vision to reinvigorate our public aquatics programs. As of Oct. 6, two of Berkeley’s three outdoor public pools will be closed once again for seven months for the winter. The outdoor pools have serious deferred maintenance problems that could require any one of them to be shut down at any time because of safety issues. Attendance at Berkeley’s outdoor pools has been taking a plunge for over two decades; due to neglect, shorter hours, schools neglecting aquatics, elimination of fun features like high dives, and more. 

Meanwhile, the Warm Water Pool, used by many for warm water therapy, must move from the Berkeley High campus and find a new home and the money to build it. 

Berkeley’s public pools are on school sites and were built to teach children to swim. Unfortunately, BUSD has largely abandoned the pools. King and Willard students have perfunctory “swim lessons” a few times a year by their gym teachers, not aquatics coaches. Many if not most children sit out. 

Pool users have noticed some recent improvements in management, staff and day-to-day maintenance. However, small changes will not be enough. Berkeley needs a new vision for its pools that will reinvigorate public aquatics and make it a source of water competence, fun, exercise, and community for a much larger portion of our population. 

We think the existing outdoor pools will need to be fixed up, but that won’t be enough. Berkeley’s weather is cool in the winter, and a year-round aquatics center with an indoor element, fun features for the kids like slides, and plenty of room for aquatics exercise classes and lap swimming for adults would attract several times more users than our existing aquatics system. For example, the City of Newark, population 42,000, has an indoor Aquatic Center that attracts 180,000 visits per year and has lap swim 15 hours a day, extensive aquatics classes, and a line out the door for recreation swim. 

The most likely location for an aquatics center is BUSD’s West Campus site on University Avenue. The City already runs an existing outdoor pool at the site, the site has plenty of room for expansion, and a large part of the site is potentially BUSD surplus. Shared parking, freeway, transit and bike path access, and proximity to West Berkeley, with the largest concentration of Berkeley’s children, are all pluses. 

We need you, swimmers and non-swimmers alike, to help create and promote a vision to reinvigorate Berkeley’s aquatics programs. Please come to our public meeting about the West Campus aquatic center concept this Wednesday, Oct. 10, at 7 p.m. at the City of Berkeley Corporation Yard Public Meeting Room, 1326 Allston Way. More information can be found on our website at 

Bill Hamilton, Barbara Steuart,  

Stephen Swanson 

Pools for Berkeley 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thanks Berkeley for the food scrap recycling service. I second Jennifer Steele’s suggestion (Letters, Oct. 4) to use BioBags from Elephant Pharmacy to line the small green food waste bins. I leave my green pail on the kitchen floor next to my chopping table. It’s simple to toss scraps in the bin as I cook. The bio bags make it easier to take out scraps to the large green trash outside before they get too ripe smelling. 

I’ve always wanted to compost food scraps, but never mastered the backyard compost business, so thanks Berkeley for helping out! Nice to have those green bins picked up every week as well. 

Robin Kirby 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Little green compost bins are a good idea. When I put it under the kitchen sink, two days later there was a loooong trail of ants in there, ugh! So then it went on the back porch, off the kitchen. Still ants, and the neighbor’s cat came to investigate. So the little green bin got washed, and put in a closet to store rags.  

Now, I take my small covered plastic bin with “compostables” every day and put that into the big green debris bin, which works fine. I do notice that some folks in the apartment up the street think one is to put out that little green bin for the recycle guys to pick up; they don’t get the “put into the large green debris bin” concept! 

Colleen Houlihan 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Today’s college students face many responsibilities throughout their college lifetime: grades, social life, and of course, textbook affordability. That’s right. A recent study conducted by the California Public Interest Research Group concluded that textbook prices have risen at twice the rate of national inflation, and the average public university student spends a quarter of his/her tuition on textbooks. The problem lies with the fact that many textbook companies frequently print unnecessary new editions, bundle extra materials, or fail to disclose their prices to faculty. Only 38 percent of the 287 surveyed professors reported that sales representatives always released their prices. This omission of information seems trivial, but in fact, violates a basic freedom, or the ability to make informed decisions based on information provided. An overwhelming 94% of professors said that they would choose a cheaper textbook if given two similar options. To combat this disturbing trend, a bill called The College Textbook Affordability Act, SB 832 (Corbett), has been introduced and is sitting in the governor’s office right now. As a college student, I believe that the Governor should sign this bill because it will give professors the opportunity to make a comprehensive decision while keeping their students’ best interests at heart. 

Xiao Song