Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday November 06, 2007


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Sometimes at the end all we can say is that the process was our most important product! 

Robert C Chioino 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Both J. Douglas Allen-Taylor and Chip Johnson miss the point. It doesn’t matter whether Jerry Brown or Ron Dellums is mayor of Oakland, or how many cops Oakland employs. Because the criminal justice system is broken. The system is primarily focused upon providing more jobs with unaffordable salaries and benefits for lawyers, prison guards, prison construction personnel, and police officers. The system as presently constituted provides California with a skyrocketing population of lawbreakers and more prisons with cost overruns. 

The East Bay needs a justice system focused primarily on protecting people from crime and on effectively motivating criminals to respect others. Perhaps Allen-Taylor and Johnson can quit cheerleading for their favorite local politicians long enough offer some help to East Bay residents who really are suffering from lawbreaking. 

Nathaniel Hardin 

El Cerrito 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It’s amusing in a morbid sort of way that pied piper Bill McKibben and his merry followers continue to peddle the fantasy that an 80 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions in the United States is compatible with stopping the worst effects of global warming. 

As Guardian U.K. journalist George Monbiot convincingly argues in his brilliant treatise “Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning,” if we are serious about keeping global warming under the apocalypse threshold, we’ll need a 94 percent cut by 2030 in the United States in concert with an average 90 percent cut across the so-called “developed world.” Monbiot says doing something without doing enough is equivalent to doing nothing. That is to say, if our cuts are insufficient, we’ll still pass the tipping point where global warming accelerates without our help as a result of positive feedbacks, perhaps leading to the end of Earth’s capacity to sustain life (and in the best case, resulting in hundreds of millions of environmental refugees and ecological disaster so enormous it’s hard to imagine). The tipping point is generally recognized as two degrees centigrade of warming over pre-industrial levels, and if Monbiot is to be believed, McKibben’s target doesn’t keep us on the correct side of that perilous line in the sand. 

McKibben must somehow be aware of the futility of his efforts, as he’s asking Step It Up campaigners to scuba dive whilst holding banners announcing the insufficient target. “Congress: cut carbon 80 percent by 2050” proclaim the signs; they should be amended “and we’ll still end up underwater.” 

Hey, McKibben and friends—step it up! 

Matthew Taylor 

P.S.: Remind me, what goals did Berkeley’s Measure G set? Oh... also 80 percent by 2050? Glad to hear that Berkeley’s planning to turn my Gourmet Ghetto pad into a beachfront property. 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Between November 2002 to February 2004, neighbors in the vicinity of 1600 Shattuck Ave. were fighting the installation of antennas on the top of this building. Now, in the past 18 months, people on the south side are doing the same to stop antennas on the UC storage. Fighting wireless corporations brings immense hardship to neighbors. 

The fact of matter is that people are rightly concerned about the health risks of radiation from these antennas. There are papers in many scientific journals that report microwave syndrome among those who live close to cell-phone antennas. For instance, see, the paper entitled “The Microwave Syndrome: A Preliminary Study in Spain,” in Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine, Vol. 22, pages 161-169, 2003. There are several major hurdles to fight wireless facilities.  

1. People are kept uninformed about the existence of cell-phone antennas in their neighborhood. Wireless facilities are usually hidden. Since the radiation from them is silent, odor-less, and invisible, people would never know that they are being irradiated.  

2. Reports from research institutes that warn the health risks of wireless facilities are marginalized.  

3. People are so much attached to their high-tech gadgets that are not willing to think twice. Using cell-phones is of course an artificially created demand by corporations. Ten to 15 years ago, people were living happily without being on cell-phones constantly. 4. In the United States, the Telecommunication Act of 1996 appears to guarantee unlimited power to wireless providers to install their antennas almost anywhere they wish and as many as they want. They always claim that there is not adequate coverage, there are no health risks from these facilities, etc. Such claims are mostly false. As Councilmember Anderson said in the public hearing, Verizon is not in Berkeley for the health of people.  

5. In Berkeley, in particular, the office of city attorney does not have the courage to fight corporations. 

A major question is: How many antennas can be installed around the town? This question was also raised by several councilmembers in the public hearing on the Oct. 23. There was no clear answer. But, by common sense, if wireless providers install 10-20 antennas in every two three blocks, then soon the level of power density from them will exceed even the lax limits set by the FCC. 

I believe that the City of Berkeley should make sure that the level of power density from these antennas in a neighborhood remains well below the FCC limits. This could be achieved by denying permit to wireless facilities when there are already some of them in the area. A proposal from Council Member Wozniak as people can cover their windows by aluminum foil is certainly not welcome. We should not jail ourselves in dark rooms because corporations like to make profit. 

On Tuesday, Nov. 6, the City Council will decide on the antennas on the UC Storage. Neighbors and the public should come to the Old City Hall to let the City Council and Verizon know that we do not want these antennas pop out like mushroom around us. 

Shahram Shahruz 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is refreshing to read the letter from Dean Leakas, who uses his common sense to correct the “transportation experts’” claims about Bus Rapid Transit. 

The planners at AC Transit have looked at the traffic counts on Telegraph Avenue, they have looked at studies of how many drivers shift to transit in projects like the proposed BRT, and they have looked at each intersection on the route individually to see how many cars intersections could accommodate with mitigations to improve traffic flow. As a result of this study, they have concluded that, with mitigations, BRT will not cause a significant degradation of level of service at any intersection in Berkeley if we adopt the two-way Shattuck option. There will be one intersection that cannot be adequately mitigated if we adopt the Shattuck-Oxford loop option. 

Without going through all this transportation-expert nonsense about traffic counts and capacity at each intersection, Leakas is able to look around, use his common sense, and tell us that BRT will really cause gridlock. I’ve got another set of experts for Leakas who are even worse than the transportation experts. Mr. Leakas, do you know that there are astronomy experts who actually claim that the earth is round like a ball, when we can all look around, use our common sense, and see that the earth is really flat. 

Charles Siegel 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Do you think that it is fair for Dow Chemical to kill U.S. troops and people in other countries, and then say that they hand nothing to do with it? Well, I call it blood money, because I am one of those people dying from Agent Orange cancer made from the chemical that they made, and there are thousands of more people in other countries dying from it too. 

Herb Mathis 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Two comments on plans for People’s Park. 

First is on the idea of adding new buildings to the park. Why not turn all the struggle which has occurred over this park through time into a positive, which is that a net result of all of this is that it has eked out an open space resource in an area where such a resource is sorely needed and which otherwise would have certainly been developed long ago. As density increases, this becomes more of an issue that was not anticipated in the past. MK Think’s Art Taylor stressed himself in their initial reconnaissance research that this area is impoverished for open space and this makes the open space aspect of the park a valuable resource which shouldn’t be undone. Any new buildings, be they museums or whatever, will effectively reduce the open space aspect of the park. Why do it? That is a mistake. 

Second is a feeling of unease about efforts to “memorialize” the park pre-humously. Celebrating the park’s history is one thing, and a good thing, but treating it like a memorial to something which was in the past and is now dead is another mistake. This mistake would be extremely disempowering to those who keep working on the park and who keep it alive. But still, People’s Park is not dead—it is alive, so burying it with an honorary commemorative funeral is not appropriate. An important part of its life which still goes on is embodied in the fact that community people still work on the gardens. Preserving this dynamic is crucial towards preserving the life that People’s Park has left in it. Replacing these efforts with those of professional landscaping services which would “exclude” user development is perhaps the worst idea I have heard proposed for anyone who cares about the meaning of People’s Park. As with any valuable resource, historic or otherwise, you don’t try to kill the resource when you still have it and then say “What a valuable resource we had. Let’s erect a plaque for it.” Let’s focus on options which keep the resource alive and does not “take the park away” from those who tend it in order to "transfer ownership” to those who want to mend it. 

Joseph Stubbs 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was a participant in the annual “Day of the Dead” procession in the Mission on Friday night. It was a beautiful and moving event. 

As I was going home, I saw two people with signs that read: 

“Dia de los Muertos is Not Halloween.” 

“Stop Mocking Our Traditions.” 

I was surprised that someone felt we were stealing their customs. I thought about how many different ethnicities participate in the Chinese New Year’s Parade. Then I watched as one sign was turned over, and it read: 

“Culture Vultures and Hipsters Out of the Mission.” 

It became obvious the sign-holders felt their district was being invaded by others and maybe they felt threatened. 

I was raised in an Italian/Polish Catholic family. Death was never talked about. Once a person “went to God” we never spoke of them again. 

Three of my closest friends died horribly from AIDS in the 1980s. I had no way to cope with that—their bodies were jetted away to their graves. About six years ago I attended my first Dia de los Muertos, and I made an altar for them. I did my research, so my “ofrenda” would be respectful of the cultural norms. 

I can understand, to a point, the sign-makers. I too saw the “fashionistas”—those who dress up in fancy clothes and seem to model their skeletal costumes. I also sense more of a “Burning Man” presence.  

But this is San Francisco. Everything that happens here becomes larger than the original. How many thousands of Spanish, Italian, heterosexuals, or other people go to the Gay/ Lesbian Pride Parade? 

The beauty of the Bay Area is the way we learn about other cultures and lifestyles. Done with respect, how can that be faulted? 

R. Tony Haze 

San Francisco 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I keep reading this nonsense in the Daily Planet about Berkeley’s population supposedly decreasing. All you need to do is step out onto the sidewalk and you can see with your own eyes how much more crowded and congested it is than it was 20 years ago. Do these erroneous population surveys take into account the thousands of homeless in Berkeley? Do they take into account the thousands of illegal immigrants? Do they take into account the thousands of recent legal immigrants (who are traditionally under-counted and difficult to count)?  

Well, here’s some indisputable facts. The UC Berkeley student population is growing by leaps and bounds every year. (Last year’s freshman class was an all-time record. Next year’s class will be even larger.) The California population is growing at the rate of one million new people every year. The California population is now growing at a faster rate than India! Does that give you an idea of what’s in store for us if we don’t stabilize our population growth? If you’re not bright enough to figure it out, just look at what’s already happened to the quality of life in India, China, Mexico and all the other countries that failed to stabilize their population. The answer isn’t useless nonsense like the falsely-named “Smart Growth.” The answer is no growth. We either stabilize our population or face the bitter consequences. 

Ace Backwords 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Steve Geller’s Nov. 2 op-ed failed to note a couple of crucial differences between Eugene, Oregon’s EmX system and A/C Transit’s proposed East Bay Bus Rapid Transit project. 

The EmX reserved lanes don’t significantly worsen traffic congestion because there are still two or three lanes in each direction left for cars and trucks, plus lots of alternative routes. On Telegraph Avenue, the proposed East Bay BRT would leave only one lane in each direction; since most alternative routes are blocked to through automobile traffic by Berkeley’s “traffic calming” measures, at peak times this would result in the sort of gridlock we already see on College and Shattuck. 

The EmX provides fast service between downtown Eugene and nearby Springfield along a five-mile corridor that previously had only regular bus service. The local transit agency considered light rail, but went with BRT because it was cheaper. The proposed East Bay BRT would run between the Bayfair and downtown Berkeley BART stations, with stops at or within a few blocks of the San Leandro, Fruitvale, 12th Street, 19th Street, and MacArthur stations; no EBBRT stop would be much more than a mile and a half from a BART station. 

Rather than building a BRT system that would mostly duplicate existing BART service, we should invest in services that would increase BART ridership, such as more shuttles like the Emery-Go-Round and easy bike rental a la Paris’s Vélib.  

Robert Lauriston 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I used to imagine that KPFA somehow ran itself, and that it was a place where people worked together for common goals, made decisions collectively and got along pretty well. Then, about two years ago, I started attending KPFA’s monthly board meetings. The situation, as I see it today, is like this: 

The station is run by a group of people who operate autonomously. They do not respond to listeners, or even to volunteer workers at the station. In August the station announced that it will no longer recognize the UnPaid Staff Organization (UPSO ). I find it maddeningly painful to see a progressive institution adopt policies that resemble those of a union-busting corporation. 

The de-recognition of UPSO is only one example of their exclusion of others from participation. Their decision-making and management style is top-down and cloaked in secrecy. 

It was to prevent excesses such as the above that KPFA has a board of directors which is elected by listeners and staff. The board’s job is oversight. This has brought the board into conflict with people who don’t want anyone looking to see how the listeners’ money is spent. In 2004 and ‘05 there was a successful year-long fight for transparency, led by members of the People’s Radio slate. (And for that I must say I do like People’s Radio.) 

Today, even the candidates on Sherry Gendelman’s slate pay lip service to transparency and accountability. In a leaflet they say: “We’ve strengthened the LSB’s financial oversight, bringing an unprecedented level of transparency to KPFA’s budgeting process.” But in reality, members and allies of Sherry’s slate generally opposed transparency. Some fought tooth and nail against it, which is why it took over a year to achieve. 

The station has had a series of general managers, but the real power always seemed to lie elsewhere. A clue to the identities of the power holders came out in the fall of 2005, when an intriguing e-mail came to light. It was addressed to eight KPFA people, including one who has since become the interim general manager. 

“[W]e need a general strategy session,” the e-mail read in part. “[H]ow do we make our enemies own the problems that are to come? Alternatively, should we be recalling LSB members/dismantling the LSB?” At first I was inclined to think that “dismantlement” wasn’t intended to be taken literally. The author of that e-mail impresses me as a capable person who’s done some good work at KPFA. Nevertheless, what I’ve seen in the last two years convinces me that he and the others are not being open with us, and that they are indeed working to neutralize the board. 

Although the e-mail was posted on websites, most KPFA listeners probably never knew of its existence until the current election when People’s Radio candidates wrote a collective statement for the voter pamphlet which included that e-mail and a detailed analysis of it. That statement drew blood. Both KPFA/Pacifica as well as Sherry Gendelman and others on her slate responded with howls of pain, characterizing their opposition as nasty, hateful and unfair. 

I think the People’s Radio statement was fair and appropriate. They said something that needed to be said. That’s how democracy works. 

Daniel Borgström 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Reading Matthew Hallinan’s “The KPFA Flap” (Oct. 30), I find the People’s Radio slate characterized as “nasty characters,” “attack dogs,” and “true-believer bullies,” capped by “they...substitute paranoid and baseless attacks on others to avoid spelling out what they really want....” Rather than engaging in exactly what he accuses the People’s Radio slate of, Hallinan would have done well to educate himself about the station on whose board he wishes to sit.  

“There is no danger of management turning the clock back to 1999,” he writes. “The power of the Local Station Board is now written into the bylaws of the Foundation.” But a central point of the People’s Radio fact-based candidate statement is that virtually all of the station’s current governance problems stem from intransigence regarding the bylaws by those holding power within the station. Contrary to statements made by some Concerned Listener candidates, the democratized bylaws do invest the Program Council with decision-making powers. When the Program Council decided to move Democracy Now! forward one hour (basically so that working people could listen to it during morning drive time), what was the overall reaction inside the station? Well, they didn’t agree to try it out on a probationary basis subject to evaluation. And they didn’t call for open discussion of the issue, in which the different viewpoints could be aired with the goal of reaching consensus or compromise. No, instead key staff simply refused to implement the decision. This signaled the beginning of post-hijacking actions by power brokers within the station to block and subvert any attempt to implement or create truly democratic process within KPFA, obstructions that continue to this day (witness the station’s current string of election violations).  

Like many current KPFA administrators and long-time insiders, Sherry Gendelman appears to know that it’s not politically feasible to admit to anti-democratic bias when it comes to station governance. KPFA management’s dirty little secret—not so secret now thanks to People’s Radio—is that they adamantly oppose democracy and transparency from taking hold within the station. That so many Concerned Listener candidates seem willfully oblivious to post-takeover station politics comports with an LSB intended to function as a rubber stamp to an increasingly secretive station administration, where top-down decision-making is the order of the day and power is unhealthily concentrated among a very few.  

Steve Gilmartin  






Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have read all the listener candidates’ statements in the KPFA voters’ pamphlet and all the Planet commentary and letters about the current KPFA Local Station Board (LSB) election. I have listened to most of the on-air election speeches. When candidates talk about what they WANT at KPFA, I find myself in agreement with most, if not all, of their ideas and proposals. I do wonder how some of these suggestions could possibly be implemented without a more serious approach to fund-raising, so statements that don’t emphasize (or don’t even mention) fund-raising trigger my skepticism. Likewise, the assumption that if we expand the KPFA listenership, fund-raising will just take care of itself. Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? 

Beyond that, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that the entire collective statement of the People’s Radio (PR)group in the voters’ pamphlet, rather than a statement of what they are FOR, is an attack on another slate of candidates, the Concerned Listeners group. The voters’ pamphlet is the one opportunity that all candidates have to explain, in print, why they are running for the LSB, not to anybody who happens to tune into KPFA during the candidates’ forums, but to those of us who take the time to read the pamphlet and can actually vote in this election. People’s Radio folks chose to use that opportunity to attack other candidates, rather than tell us what THEY are about. 

What is the basis of this attack? A memo found in a trash basket at the station, suggesting a meeting that never actually took place. This memo has been used to accuse some staff and some board members of trying to “dismantle” the LSB. Sorry, but that’s not evidence of any plot to dismantle anything, much less a democratically elected station board. I wish Dan Siegel had not removed candidates’ statements from the Pacifica website, but it wasn’t wrong for anybody to bring to his attention the fact that some candidates had violated election rules that prohibit the use of KPFA resources to attack other candidates. 

Having said that, it is true that any board that is on a path that can lead to dysfunction, needs to change, if the organization is to survive. Several people, such as Carol Spooner, have urged KPFA listener voters to vote for the I-Team candidates, who are purportedly independent, although that’s not at all clear from their voting records. Spooner, in her recent Planet commentary, devotes a lot of space to attacking Dan Siegel, the now-infamous “dismantling” e-mail note, and the Concerned Listener candidates. But again, no discussion about the many and complex issues KPFA confronts in its attempts to reach a broader audience, to raise desperately needed funds, to diversify programming, and to build civility and truly respectful behavior within the LSB, the management, and the staff. And Spooner’s suggested voting strategy is aimed at defeating Concerned Listeners. It’s not about balance on the LSB. And it won’t promote free speech and open debate. This listener isn’t buying that argument. Concerned Listeners took the high ground and did not attack other candidates; they have a program that cares about expanding and deepening KPFA’s programs and outreach. Vote for them. 

Nancy Polin 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The analysis by Noelle Hanrahan, Adrienne Lauby, et al, published in the Oct. 31 SF Bayview, as well as the Berkeley Daily Planet, is right on the money in describing the situation at KPFA. The main problem with it is the voting recommendations. 

There are only four people on the I-Team slate, and without additional allies they are not going to be able to influence the direction of governance and the effectiveness of LSB decision making. While the Concerned Listeners on the LSB were divided in supporting the Unpaid Staff Organization against the interim general manager’s attempt to decertify it, this may have been because they have been directed to “support the staff,” those who “abstained,” in effect casting a No vote, understand that it is not the staff per se that they want to support, but the ruling clique of insider staff we have called the “entrenched staff.” The Concerned Listeners still constitute a voting bloc which follows leaders such as Sherry Gendelman in such votes as continuing to allow cutting edge speakers’ presentations in KPFA sponsored public events to be withheld from listeners and other progressive media as well, in order to raise money in KPFA fund drives. Only those who can afford to donate a large sum of money can hear the full talks, which are sometimes played in their entireties months later, if at all. This seems to be a clear violation of KPFA’s role as non-compromising source of information. The Concerned Listeners do not often “chart their own paths”, and we need to offer more pro-democracy candidates for people to vote for. 

In the meantime, the solidly progressive group which is already there, People’s Radio, has had its standing weakened by a long history of attacks by its opponents, and their more recent charges of election violations for using their campaign statements to lay out the power situation at the station. Complaints were made that this was merely personal attacks to those mentioned for their undemocratic stances, when it was an attempt to reach listeners with facts, listeners who were reached en masse by the CL sending out a mass mailing, which only they could collect enough money to do. The interim executive director of Pacifica himself in a clear violation of election procedures then characterized the PR statement as “personal attacks,” “hate speech” and “toxic,” and advised people to vote against them. 

Even Carol Spooner recognized this as a threat to progressive governance and chose to suggest that, as well as the I-Team slate, people should also vote for People’s Radio candidates. 

People’s Radio candidates are: Richard Phelps, incumbent; Stan Woods, incumbent; Attila Nagy, incumbent; Gerald Sanders; David Heller; Bob English; Mara Rivera. For more information on People’s Radio and the situation at KPFA please see People’s Radio website: 

Mara Rivera