Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday November 23, 2007





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing this letter in respond to tobacco companies’ attempt to manipulate research findings in UC campus. The University of California should reject any grants from the tobacco industry because that industry has a history of undermining academic freedom and distorting re-search results. The acceptance of grants from the tobacco industry creates a negative image of the UC system and significantly reduces UC research credibility. Besides, tobacco companies have been earning profits at the cost of public health. Both tobacco companies’ nature and practices are against the University’s fundamental missions of public service. As UC students, we feel obliged to persuade the university to forbid any academic units accepting tobacco grants in order to preserve the value of our university’s reputation and stature, which always outweighs short-term financial benefits. Money should not stand in our scientists’ way of seeking the truth. 

Junjie Liu 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Fifteen years ago the I-80 freeway was widened between University and Ashby avenues, adding four traffic lanes, moving the nearest lane 40 feet closer to Aquatic Park and removing the hedge that previously separated and hid the freeway traffic from users of the west side of the park. This mile-long voluminous hedge had been a remarkably effective baffle against the sight and roar of traffic. Before the freeway was widened the west side of Aquatic Park was frequented by walkers, joggers, bicyclists, birdwatchers, idlers, readers in shady nooks, etc. Removing the barrier of the hedge, adding four lanes of traffic and moving the ten lane total of its roaring, stinking, hurtling turmoil, with no intervening baffle 40 feet closer to the park has rendered the mile-long west side of Aquatic Park entirely desolate for 15 years. Hardly anyone uses this half of the park at all any more— a radical change in patterns of park use, for obvious reasons. 

When the freeway was widened the City of Berkeley conducted public hearings which concluded that, to address this obvious problem, a sound wall should be constructed between the park and the freeway. Later, city planners were persuaded to pursue the idea of a “natural” wall decorated with living plants, which after several years delay was rejected as impractical by Caltrans. Nothing has happened since—if you don’t count the 15 years of ruin of the west side of Aquatic Park. 

The decision to put up a soundwall along the west side of Aquatic Park was never revoked, just put aside and ignored, without any visible public process. When the I-80 to I-580 interchange was reconfigured in the late ’90s, the soundwalls in El Cerrito came down and went up again in a matter of less than three weeks. Now it is rumored that funds available for the Aquatic Park soundwall project will instead be diverted to other purposes. Whether the rumor is accurate or not, this matter is overdue for a public discussion, which includes the now well-demonstrated fact that continuing postponement of construction of a soundwall entails the continuing sacrifice of half a city park. Why? 

If Caltrans prohibits a “wall of nature,” maybe Berkeley can get away with a wall of art. Rather than leave it blank, it would be amusing to parcel the park side of the soundwall into about 130 40-foot segments surfaced to enable creation, over the years, by donation of artists, of an ongoing free public museum of mural art—with a quarter-century’s worth of panels set aside for Berkeley High Senior Art Class projects. 

Jim Powell 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Re: “Housing Surveys” Letter to the editor from HAC Commissioner Casalaina: 

Making the housing recommendations short survey available at the Berkeley public libraries, on the second floor of City Hall 2 and online is a positive step. It’s notable that the city’s senior centers were not included among accessible well-trafficked pick-up places. A pile of surveys at the front desk of each of the city’s senior centers will reach not only seniors but also people attending meetings at these community senior centers as well. 

Helen Rippier Wheeler 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The solution to climate change problems would also stop the pollution destroying our land and health. Slowing down climate change and pollution is not a solution that lasts. 

We are going the wrong way. Employment is not the goal, retirement is. If we turn to a retirement lifestyle of making a garden paradise with edible landscaping and useful pets, of goats, sheep, cattle and chickens, we can save our world and bring peace and joy into our lives. Foods would not need to be processed and transported. The multitudes of people who planted fruit and nut trees would make quick work of adding trees to the environment. 

A garden paradise solves many world problems. Thanksgiving Day is celebrated for the family gathering together with an abundance of food. We can have that all year long. 

Marie Devine 

Kansas City, MO 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The SCHIP bill that is currently in Congress, and vetoed by the President, is a strong bipartisan bill that would invest $35 billion over five years to provide health care to 10 million children. 

The purpose of SCHIP is to provide health coverage to children of working families who make too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford private insurance. 

According to the Congressional Budget Office, it costs $3.34 per day to cover a child under SCHIP. One day in Iraq costs $300 million. 

Gene Ulmer 

Fort Bragg 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In support of the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board and in answer to recent criticism: 

During the past year, we have been tormented by the shady and unethical behavior of our landlady who has seemed to “fly beneath the radar” for many years in her disrespectful treatment of both her tenants and any requirements of the codes of The Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board or Housing Departments. 

Our occupancy was never reported, according to the code, and therefore, in the eyes of our landholder, the rules just didn’t apply. 

Because we are not as naive as she presumed, we have had the consistently good counsel of the Rent Board who made us aware of the rights and responsibilities of both parties (landlord and tenant) and our landlord has had to behave accordingly. Accountability, by the way, that would never have occurred to her without our awareness of proper and legal decorum. 

To assume that the Rent Board is irrelevant is a ridiculous posture. The codes set by Berkeley Rent Stabilization actually “level the playing field.” Both tenant and landlord are expected to abide by the reasonable codes which support honorable correctitude on both parts. The tenant is treated and acts as a respectable and respectful occupant and the landlord is asked and obligated to provide healthy and safe environs at a reasonable rent and to repay the tenant’s investment in security with a fair rate of interest in a timely manner. Adequate time and consideration in writing is required for increases in rent and resources and appeals are available for either party. 

These may seem trivial expectations. Hardly. We have gone two years without our interest repaid; we have lived in sub-standard conditions (with numerable code violations) and have had to deal with countless mortgage holders, independent and bank, looking for the landlady or one of her pseudonyms. We have been asked for an unreasonable and illegal rent increase without suggestion in writing (due process) and have had to collect gas and electrical money from an adjacent tenant because the utilities were aligned without proper installation or code considerations. We have had no fire egress and unworkable and unsafe bathroom (a room included included in our rent) and other problems too complicated or covert to mention. 

Although, both of us are educated and consider ourselves worldly-wise, we have never had to deal with such unethical performance on the part of a landlord before and without the guidance and advice of Nick Traylor at the Berkeley Rent Stabilization we would have been just another pair of victims of a unscrupulous landholder. 

Kindly understand: The Rent Stabilization Board is neither an advocate for the tenant or the landlord. It does, however, keep watch that both parties treat one another decently and within the very realistic parameters of the codes. 

I would advise perspective Berkeley tenants and landlords to know your rights regarding the safety and comforts of your home and the financial terms of your agreement. Be aware that, as a tenant, you are entitled to receive the interest on your security funds yearly from a landlord and that penalties apply when not repaid to you in a timely manner or if your health or safety is jeopardized within your rental unit or if your rental price is not that registered with the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board. 

The Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board works when all parties want it to work; when both the tenant and the landlord honor their contracts with one another clearly and honestly. 

Unfortunately, the reality of our “dog-eat-dog/what-the market-will-bear” society makes the role of The Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board necessary. Of course, I wish this weren’t the case, but it is and fortunately for us, the Board enlightened and empowered us to get off the landlord victim list, utilize the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board codes and hold our landlady accountable to those codes. For this, we are grateful. 

J. C. Robinson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

According to the S.F. Police Officers Association president, all law enforcement agencies are having trouble finding recruits who can meet the required zero tolerance for drug use. That is for illicit drugs, not alcohol and tobacco, which cause more deaths annually than all illegal substances combined. 

We should welcome the common sense approach being initiated by California cities where there are 11,000 unfilled law enforcement jobs. Zero tolerance is not a realistic standard, and never has been, at any level of society, whether it’s in a public high school or police academy. 

If police and criminal justice resources were focused on serious crimes, the shortage of police officers would be less critical and police officers’ jobs would be less difficult…and less dangerous. Too much of our police effort is wasted on expensive drug busts chasing non-violent offenders. I agree with the Drug Policy Alliance that drug abuse is actually a health issue not one of criminal justice.  

The raids being conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration (the notorious "Feds"), in cooperation with hundreds of local police, on harmless marijuana dispensaries smacks of terrorism. 

Our nation spends an estimated eight billion dollars on marijuana enforcement annually while arresting over 800,000 of our fellow citizens, 89% of whom for simple possession alone (FBI Uniform Report). 

Where are our public officials and our representatives in Congress? Our politicians? Are they afraid of alienating the powerful interests who benefit from the status quo? 

John Wagers, Oakland  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

KPFA fails the public in a major way by its restrictive policy on announcement of demonstrations. As Henry Norr pointed out in the November 20 Planet, you must send your announcement weeks in advance. Any morning now, Bush could invade Iran, and KPFA would be loath to interrupt "Music of the World" to announce the noon rally. 

Every day the KPFA policy fails the Tree-Sitters in the Memorial Oak Grove. The cops take actions against the Sitters on very little notice. The Sitters need to rally supporters quickly to come to the trees. Presently, the Sitters use a phone list. How much more efficient, and politically educational, it would be if KPFA could give the word. But without long prior notice, KPFA rules ensure it proceeds with regular programing. 

Ted Vincent 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A concrete proposal to stop funding the war 

David R. Obey (D-Wis), chair of the House Appropriations Committee, is spearheading a drive to stop all appropriations for the war from leaving his committee unless a deadline is set for withdrawing the troops. John Murtha, chair of the Defense Appropriations subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee agrees with him. They and all members of the Appropriations Committee need to be lobbied not to give in to pressures to relent. Please let them and the other members know that you support this effort, and urge all your friends and family all over the United States to do the same. 

Most members can be emailed from the link on their websites. You can contact your representative, all of them in your state, and/or those out of your state in various ways. Via e-mail, they prefer to hear from constituents and will e-mail replies to them, but not to others. Still, they may notice a glut of e-mails on the subject. 

Other ways to reach them are by calling or faxing them at 202 225-3365. Or you can write to them. You can find all the information for each representative (plus district number) at or 

Please contact members of both parties. 

Estelle Jelinek