Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday November 27, 2007



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Words of praise for the City of Berkeley seldom come trippingly to the tongue. Here they are, and the topic is nothing less than...trash. The city has gifted everyone with their very own personal-size trash bin for recycling kitchen garbage. The bin’s bright green color is just right—cheery, a bit cheeky, and evocative of Balanchine’s Emeralds ballet. This cook/dishwasher’s companion is not too big, not too small, but just right. The plastic is hardy, and comes up gleaming after its bath. And to top it all off, the city is good enough to pick up its contents and compost them every week. Is this place heaven, or wot? 

Rita Maran 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding the “Public Commons for Everyone Initiative” to be discussed by the City Council this week: Contrary to the apparent assumptions of many opponents, not everyone who hangs out on the street is homeless. Case in point: A few years ago, one of the loiterers was my 15-year-old niece. She found it more fun to hang out on Telegraph and get high than to stay in her home town and go to high school. Thanks in large part to Berkeley’s laissez-faire attitude, she got pregnant by some loser she met on the Ave, and now she’s a dropout and single mother. It seems clear to me that enforcing minimal standards for civil behavior on the street would reduce the extent to which Berkeley enables that sort of self-destructive behavior. I don’t see how doing so would harm those who are out there due to substance abuse problems or mental illness. 

Robert Lauriston 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

For the cost of the Guantanamo-style fence and lights UC wrapped all around the west of Memorial Stadium we could have sent a dozen kids or more, with fully paid tuition, to UC. Add to this the costs for police overtime, lawyers’ fees and the like, and we are talking easily another dozen students or so. Let’s not forget, all this is done on our dime, yet what are we paying for? “To protect our police officers” as one of UC’s mouthpieces proclaims? There’s a cancer spreading through UC’s system, all the way down from the president. 

Jurgen Aust 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Richard Brenneman’s Nov. 20 article contains a careless error. Soybeans may be grown for food or fuel, but when the oil is to be used for fuel that fuel is not generally ethanol—it’s biodiesel. And soy meal—the residue left after oil is separated—is, itself, a valuable commodity. 

Mr. Brenneman is clear what he is against, but does your readers no great service by failing to state clearly what he favors. Does he favor BP and other oil companies getting their advice from sources less competent that the scientists and thinkers at UCB? Or does he favor doing nothing about greenhouse gas emissions that most responsible scientists seem to agree have something to do with climate change? How does he suggest addressing fuel and environmental emissions issues, especially when an increasing fraction of these fuels and emissions are coming from sources outside the United States and used by people outside the United States? 

It is easy to rail against change. And not all change is for the better. But the long sweep of human history should be enough to convince even Mr. Brenneman that change is inevitable. The important questions have to do with what changes we want to occur, how we guide them, and how we monitor and regulate them. The ethics and bioethics of fuel supply and environmental protection are too important to be left to politicians or oil company executives—or irresponsible journalists. 

Charles G. Scouten 

Senior Associate, The Fusfeld Group 

Warrenville, IL 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have lived in Berkeley now for 26 years, the past 13 of which have been in District 8. I am one of Gordon Wozniak’s constituents, and I am a strong proponent of the concerted efforts to block the construction of the so-called high performance sports center at Memorial Stadium. Such a construction is ill-advised at that location, and opposed by the vast majority of Berkeley’s citizens. I’m sure Mr. Wozniak realizes this. Also, I would like to remind him of the illegality of destroying California living oaks, such as the ones UC Berkeley proposes to destroy. Can Councilmember Wozniak explain UC’s appalling, unmitigated arrogance? Can he explain their disregard and disrespect for ordinary Berkeley residents? The barbed-wire topped fence they have erected around the grove is an alarming and grotesque eyesore. Their treatment of the activists is becoming increasingly inhumane. Now, according to the Daily Planet, they propose to cut large limbs from the oak trees, thereby causing further blight, damage, mayhem and abuse. My sense of outrage is beyond measure. UC’s reckless ambitions and greed are destroying the quality of life for ordinary Berkeley citizens who deserve a livable and attractive environment. Enough is enough! As one of his constituents, I implore Mr. Wozniak and his fellow city officials to get off their knees and begin standing up to the university. They must demand that UC Berkeley cease it’s arrogant and thuggish conduct, and begin respecting the wishes of the city and it’s good people who act as their hosts. 

Kevin Moore 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am a member of the local branch of the IWW and have been involved in organizing with the union for several years now. My response is to Christine Staples Nov. 16 “commentary” on the Metro Lighting situation. I am not an official spokesperson for the union, nor am I involved at Metro, though I have stopped by the picket line several times. 

I wish to make two points here: 1) Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act guarantees workers the right to engage in “concerted activity” for “mutual aid” with co-workers and to bargain with an employer over “Hours, wages, terms and conditions of labor.” It does not say that in order to do this a worker must sign a card, petition for an election, negotiate a contract or even join a union. Exercising these legal rights nearly all employees at Metro have taken out membership in the IWW and worked with the union to present their issues and concerns to the owners. But unfortunately the owners have refused to recognize this or sit down and discuss workplace issues. Metro owners are currently facing over a dozen Unfair Labor Practice charges before the National Labor Relations Board federal agency. 

2) On the subject of improving the lives of working people, the IWW has a number of current and recent successes to speak of in the Berkeley and local community. At our two organized recycling operations in Berkeley many workers are immigrants with families. What they have achieved in negotiations includes higher wages, improved health care and better working conditions. Also the IWW has attempted to bargain a contract with Shattuck Cinemas, a part of Landmark Theater Co. There is no agreement yet, but the workers have received four raises over the course of a year and a half with the union. The starting wage was $7.25, is now $8.75 and will go up to $9.25 on Jan. 1. The Shattuck workers have demanded time-and-a-half on Thanksgiving and just this week the company agreed to grant this to all Landmark workers at 60 or so cinemas nationwide. 

The workers at Stonemountain and Daughter Fabrics on Shattuck Avenue are also members of the IWW. Among other improvements, the workers won the removal of black mold throughout the store. Management met with us, agreed and had the mold removed. My point here is that, yes, the IWW may have lofty goals but there should be no mistake the IWW has supported workers locally to consistently win immediate improved conditions and wages. Staples has a right to her opinion. But I will refrain from discussing the issues she raises specifically regarding Metro, as I believe the workers/organizers are much better suited to do so if they choose. Ultimately the IWW should be given a chance to respond to Staples on the “commentary” pages of the Daily Planet. 

Bruce Valde 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing to express my sincere hope that Berkeley will not lose its Warm Pool until there is a new warm pool officially underway. I am not a senior nor am I permanently disabled; however, I suffered a serious leg injury last year and have not been able to exercise very much until now. (I have been unable to use regular pools because my injured leg is extra-sensitive to the cold.) 

The Berkeley Warm Pool has solved that problem for me, and on my first day there I could see that it is an important resource for many people. The pool was busy: of the adult swimmers, two of us were wheelchair owners, six of us were not. Then there were more than a few children, trying out their water wings and practicing kicking in the water.  

Of course many people enjoy swimming in colder water. But some of us can’t, or prefer not to. 

People form communities so as to more efficiently provide for their emotional well-being, physical health and safety. Children, seniors and other potentially vulnerable individuals deserve to feel safe, comfortable and provided for. This includes having meaningful—not just theoretical—access to recreation. We depend on elected officials to ensure this.  

I thank the City Council very much for their actions on this issue to date. I hope the council continues to act until a new, fully-funded warm pool is built. And remember that Berkeley, with its progressive policies, is a role model for other communities across the state. We have enough retail, market-rate housing, sports facilities and restaurants in the East Bay. Can the City Council use its power to ensure that those who need it have their one warm pool? 

Heather Holbrooks-Kuratek  


EDITOR’S NOTE: Below is the  

correct version of a letter that ran in a different form in the Nov. 20 edition. 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Master Bates’ latest public display of moral fecal matter regarding his refusal to let disabled and senior users of the warm pool speak early in the City Council agenda is yet another disclosure of what the man’s all about.  

His manic emphasis on the city’s green proposals reveals still another pattern as well. Democratic Party (read DLC) strategy for the 2008 elections is to brand themselves as environmental leaders and throw a few eco-bones to the faithful who, apparently, can’t think of where else to vote.  

The trade-off for the eco-bones will be Democratic Party support for reconfiguring the Middle East continuing under various spins; growing income disparities won’t bring forth legislative calls for progressive tax legislation; forget about single-payer health care; the herding of minority youth into the prison system will continue. Indeed, our very own Loni Hancock voted for the last round of prison construction funding in September. But we’ll all have solar panels.  

The solutions are out there. One tiny example: Berkeley could have installed portable toilets for the homeless and others who need them years ago. But with a smiley green face, the Democrat political class will do what they can to maintain the status quo. To deeply challenge it would mean losing their jobs. 

Maris Arnold 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I saw Lions for Lambs, and would like to urge your readers to see it. I’m sending this letter to the Daily Planet rather than to the San Francisco Chronicle because Planet readers are the sort of people it is addressed to. It is preaching to the converted, because Redford knows full well that no one in favor of the Iraq war is going to see it. But it is not telling the converted what they want to hear, which is what makes it interesting. Tom Cruise’s imaginary Republican senator is by far the most articulate and convincing character in the movie, far more so that the two main leftist characters played by Streep and Redford. Redford is relying on the fact that his viewers will already disagree with Cruise’s character, and be shaken up by the fact that they have so little to say in response to him. The movie’s main point is that we are in time where, in Yeats’ words, “The best lack all conviction, and the worst are filled with passionate intensity,” and that unless someone gets off their butts, the worst will continue to do the damage they are doing. 

What Redford is trying to do is get the converted out on the streets and active again, not change the minds of those who are still pro-Iraq war. I think it will have that effect on the few people who do see it, and that is exactly what Redford expected. He knew that this movie would probably have a negative effect on his box office aura, and lose money. But he also felt he had to do something, and because he makes movies, he made a movie. I think that was a heroic thing to do, and I think it will do some good. Hey, it got me to write a letter to the editor. I know that isn’t going to have much effect, just as Redford knows that his movie isn’t going to have that much affect. But each of us has to do what we can do. Otherwise, people like Cruise’s character will continue to run things. 

Teed Rockwell 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

No more funds for Iraq, except to assure orderly and prompt withdrawal. Use Pentagon funds for high-priced weapons systems that have no military value since the demise of the Soviet Union. Some of these weapons are still being built so as “not to loose the expertise of how to build them.” That ridiculous reason is based on the belief that American know-how couldn’t rise to the need, if the occasion ever presents itself in the future. Meanwhile, our kids need education, our families need health care, our environment needs stewardship, and our infrastructure needs repair. Also, our dollar needs strengthening, wasting dollars on imperial wars can not be afforded. 

Bruce Joffe 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

If I hear one more mention of “Black Friday,” I shall slit my wrists! I wonder what hotshot advertising genius came up with that name, which is clearly a contradiction in terms. Presumably desperate merchants and retailers are attempting to lure customers into their stores for blockbuster bargains—so why Black Friday? Doesn’t the very word “Black” cast a somber, foreboding tone? 

On further reflection, however, after watching television and newspaper coverage of the mad rush this past Friday when consumers practically broke down department store doors as early as 5 a.m. in their feverish haste to swoop up merchandise—pushing, shoving, grabbing as many items as they could hold—“Black Friday” seemed an entirely appropriate phrase. Fighting over desktop computers and DVD players, greed reared its ugly head and shoppers suddenly turned into savage beasts, fighting over a dead hawk! Piling their carts with as much merchandise as they could handle, they forked over credit cards, adding to an already astronomical debt, with little thought as to how they would pay for these fabulous bargains. No, this is not a pretty scene, but one which occurs every year the day after Thanksgiving. How else can it be described other than Black Friday? 

Dorothy Snodgrass 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

When Republicans cheat to get their candidates elected, we do our best to expose the violations and make noise. But what about when we see our fellow progressives cheating? That’s the dilemma facing KPFA listener-activists after the recent election for the board of directors. KPFA’s management team controlled the mic and openly intervened in the election to tip the playing field in favor of a slate of candidates whom they had recruited for the purpose of packing the board with rubber stampers. As in Ohio and Florida, the cheaters won. They will now have close to a two-thirds majority on the board. 

Complaints of the numerous violations were filed, but, without an enforcement mechanism, the election supervisors were powerless to do much. For example, when a prominent ex-programmer illegally used a station e-mail list to call on listeners to vote for the pro-management slate, the election supervisor ordered as a remedy that each of the opposition groups be allowed to send out a message of their own over the same list. But, as with so many other election procedures designed to ensure fairness, this order was not implemented by KPFA management. The election supervisor also imposed a penalty on the culprit, banning him from the station’s airwaves for the remainder of this year. However, only three days after the announcement of the penalty, the offending programmer was a guest on the Morning Show. He’s also scheduled to host a segment on the upcoming KPFA crafts fair. In this and other instances, the election supervisors were unable to enforce regulations, remedy violations or impose penalties on offenders. Without such powers, fair elections won’t happen. At this point, remedies won’t be easy. There will be the inevitable polarization, bitterness, pain, disgust and bad feelings, and no matter how it may come out in the end, we progressives are going to look bad. It’s messy, and it’s tempting to forget the whole thing, pretend it didn’t happen. On the other hand, if nothing is done, the cheaters will go on cheating; they’ll control KPFA, and what kind of community radio will that be? 

Daniel Borgström 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Holidays are approaching with a message to us all that giving gifts without the feeling of sharing does no mean anything special. A word of comfort has more meaning than wrapping the store-bought gift out of traditional obligation. I went to an area where homeless people sit in the sun. I was carrying woolen clothing and some chocolate filled nuts. I gave the bag of food and clothing to a middle-aged woman and said, “Please share this with your neighbors.” The woman looked up in the cold winter weather and said, “God bless you.” 

I pray daily that I should be the person who can share with others rather than be the receiver. 

Romila Khanna 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding J. Douglas Allan-Taylor’s recent articles on crime in Oakland: Many Oakland residents believe the city’s biggest problem is the crime rate. They have a right to be upset, and they were naturally dismayed when the mayor responded to their concerns by describing the police as “an oppressive presence.” 

The Oakland Police Department is too small, even at full strength (803 officers), to fully protect the community’s safety and civil rights. Changes in deployment and work shifts are unlikely to solve the problem. The size of the department is one of the last remaining legacies of the Knowland era. The Knowlands were anti-tax, conservative Republicans. In those days the city could get by with an underfunded police department. In the 1950s, for example, there were only about 15 homicides annually. The lowest number after World War II was 8, in 1955. All that changed after the drug era began, and the homicide rate rose to its current average of 100-plus per annum. The lowest number of homicides in recent years was 72 in 1998, under Chief Samuels. He lost his job because his spending on community policing rocketed way beyond his budget. 

Most cities the size of Oakland have about 1,400 officers. My own belief is that Oakland should have a minimum of 2,000. If a new measure is proposed to increase the number of police officers, I hope liberals and progressives support it. A larger police department would be a blessing for ordinary people everywhere in the city. 

Phil McArdle 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Your columnist J. Douglas Allen-Taylor quotes Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums’ public safety task force co-convener Jason Victor Serinus denouncing the alleged practice of “locking up more and more young black and brown people.” Mr. Serinus needs to check the numbers. The rate of arresting youth ages 10-17 in Oakland fell from 2,491 per 100,000 in 2000 to 1,387 per 100,000 in 2005. That’s not “more and more;” it’s fewer and fewer. These rates were computed from California Dept. of Justice tallies by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice. 

The basic number that both Serinus and Allen-Taylor ignore is the fact that Oakland has half a police department. Most major cities have 35 to 45 officers per 10,000 residents; Oakland has 18. We need at least 1,100 police in Oakland, up from the 722 we had as of Nov. 2. Then we can implement community policing (Mr. Serinus’s special concern) as well as have enough officers to drop Oakland a few spots down from its current rank as—if you will permit me one final number—the fourth most dangerous city in the country. 

Charles Pine 

Oakland Residents for Peaceful Neighborhoods 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was pleased to read that Doug Buckwald, notorious nay-sayer on Bus Rapid Transit, has seriously studied the EmX BRT in Eugene, Oregon. He even called an LRT official—who said that “they would have encountered far greater difficulty getting their BRT system implemented if they had displaced parking to any significant extent.” When I was in Eugene, I saw very little on-street parking along the EmX route. 

Sure, we don’t need dedicated bus lanes on all of the route. All we need is some way to ensure that the BRT will run faster than the cars. That means bus lanes in places where car congestion slows the buses now. Some people can’t seem to conceive of the BRT actually reducing car traffic—but that’s just what should happen if enough car drivers ride the BRT. If 60 people ride one bus, that’s 60 fewer cars blowing CO2. 

It would be nice to have free fares on our BRT, like the free fares on the Emery-Go-Round, but we’d have to tax businesses to pay for it, as Emeryville did. Eugene’s free fares are only for the first year; after that, they may have to charge. The rest of Eugene’s bus system requires a fare, and does not yet use proof-of-payment—even though most riders have some kind of pass. 

After hearing the truth about Eugene’s BRT, perhaps Berkeley could work on fixing the flaws in our BRT plan and go on to have Eugene’s BRT success. 

Steve Geller 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A stem cell shocker—skin cells can be used instead of embryonic cells to duplicate organ parts—thus defusing the debate over ethical standards. Not so shocking once you realize that each cell contains a DNA replica of the whole body. 

In the movie Star Wars, Luke Skywalker’s adventure begins when a beam of light shoots out of the robot R2D2 and projects a miniature three-dimensional image of Princess Leia. The image is a hologram. A hologram is a specially constructed image which, when illuminated by a laser beam, seems eerily suspended in three-dimensional space. The most incredible feature of a hologram is that any piece of it provides an image of the entire hologram. In the same way the information of the whole body and all its organs is contained in each cell. 

Ron Lowe 

Grass Valley