Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday November 30, 2007


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Last night I watched the Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board’s hearing on allowing a bio-fuel installation on the corner of Ashby and Sacramento. It’s presently held by a car-wash operator who is behind on his rent. He is black. The hearing was heated and became a racial clash, black vs. green white women who wish to run the fuel station. Some black folks screamed and yelled about the possibility of racism, etc. It seems to me that the obvious “Berkeley” solution should be for both operations to join forces: bio-fuel and car-wash together. It would be mutually beneficial to both. You know, the popular song: “Black and white to-geth-er-er.” Seems like of all the cities in America, we should be able to work this conflict out “together.” 

Robert Blau 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In Jean Damu’s article about the eviction of Kandy’s Kar Wash, he uses the term “ethnic cleansing” to refer to the anticipated displacement of a black business by a business owned by white women. I cringe at the inappropriate use of this term, which is a euphemism for genocide. A Wikipedia listing reads as follows:  

“Ethnic cleansing refers to various policies or practices aimed at the displacement of an ethnic group from a particular territory in order to create a supposedly ethnically ‘pure’ society. The term entered English and international usage in the early 1990s to describe certain events in the former Yugoslavia. Its typical usage was developed in the Balkans, to be a less objectionable code-word meaning genocide,...ethnic cleansing has become improperly used to describe a situation wherein poorer ethnic groups are being displaced economically, by other, generally more affluent ethnic groups.” 

It is not genocidal when a business is evicted from its location, sad as that may be for those who have patronized it. Nor is every misfortune which comes upon a black business necessarily “anti-black.”  

Deborah Cloudwalker 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding the Nov. 27 article by Steven Finacom about parks in Berkeley, a correction is in order: While the author states: “In 1974, Berkeley voters approved Measure Y, which provided $3 million for new parks. The late 1970s and early 1980s saw the planning and creation of Cedar Rose Park, Strawberry Creek Park, Ohlone Park on land that had been cleared to build BART through north-central Berkeley, and the purchase of the old Santa Fe Railroad right-of-way,” Ohlone Park was actually created in the summer of 1969, in the spirit of People’s Park. Both represent the beginning of the modern communitarian ecology movement, which the late Karl Linn recognized in our brief but intense friendship and conversations when he asked me to devise a plan for gardener safety in the parks along the BART path in North Berkeley after a spate of robberies in the gardens. 

If Karl were alive today we would split the MacArthur Grant he expected to receive, and we would have continued to join forces as the male and female sides of the druidic park building impulse. 

Wendy Schlesinger 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I can’t help but notice the behavior of many Cal students and football fans during parties on game days. Individuals at these parties typically drink heavily in public; assemble in groups that block the sidewalks; leave piles of food wrappers, cans, and bottles everywhere along the streets and sidewalks near the stadium; allow underage drinking; frequently urinate in public; and generally act in a very noisy and sometimes belligerent manner. All of this occurs with nary a peep from our law enforcement personnel—who duly observe much of the activity. 

Coincidentally, many of these behaviors are the very same ones condemned in Mayor Bates’ “Public Commons for Everyone” initiative! So, the solution is apparent: Dress the street people on Telegraph Avenue and downtown in proper Cal regalia, and let them have at it as they wish. For added merriment, Oski can even teach them a few Cal drinking songs. There you have it—a major social problem solved for the price of a few T-shirts and caps. 

Doug Buckwald 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

What is disturbing about the Commons for Nazis Initiative is that it constitutes one more step in the slow but relentless march toward fascism. What has been set in place is a mechanism whereby the fascists in our midst can get whatever they want from government whenever they want it. With a convincing act of pretense at compassion by Linda Maio, who abstained, the steamroller of local fascism just flattened a few hundred more lives. But it is not the damage to those lives that is most disconcerting; it is the acceptance of fascism by many citizens of Berkeley that is doing inestimable damage to everyone. 

Peter J. Mutnick 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I recently took a day trip to Yosemite, and was upset to see contrails over El Capitan. In previous years the public was able to enjoy national parks that were completely pristine, but now worsening pollution threatens their natural beauty. At the rate we are going future generations will remember the pollution of national parks more than their awe-inspiring beauty. That is why it is absolutely essential that Sen. Feinstein votes to fully fund California’s National Parks. 

Jon Peaco 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Richard Brenneman’s two-part report gets at the heart of the matter in exposing the fact that genetic modifications would play a role in producing biofuels. The media has played down the fact that, in this context, synthetic biology is the same as genetic engineering. Language substitution to minimize public opposition was used during the 2004 California stem cell proposition 71 campaign when the term somatic cell nuclear transfer was used instead of embryo cloning to deflect criticism that human embryo cloning would employ the same techniques. 

Whether the food or husk part of the crop is genetically modified is irrelevant in terms of damage to the environment from gene-flow associated with large scale GM-crop plantations, for example, or in terms of creating new patentable agri-fuel crop germplasm. By any terminology, the socio-economic impact to the already marginalized poor is undeniable and cannot be masked. 

Nazreen Kadir 

Institute Scholar in Science and Public Policy 

Western Institute for Social Research 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Day by day now, the assault on nature takes a devastating effect on Cal football. Have you noticed we can’t seem to gain any ground since the UC police started enforcing the criminal UC Regents edict to cut the oaks down? Let’s not play down the Oppenheimer curse, where shortly after the atom was split by the good Doctor, Mother Earth said “Whoa, that’s enough winning for a while.” 

The oil spill in the bay, the Save the Oaks tree sitters, and BP’s secret contracts all beckon a looming face-off with Mother Earth. Come Dec. 2, it will mark one year since the Berkeley tree-sitters have stymied UC Goliath into thinking twice before slashing and burning their way to a new “state of the art” athletic training facility. Perhaps this will go down in Berkeley history as how the courageous, yet simple act of tree-sitting could make the UC bomb makers pause in mid earth raping mode. Bravo to bravery! 

Where was BP when the oil spill in the bay took place? Why weren’t they showing by example what pitching in together to heal the earth is all about? No , instead we should have chanted “BP or Be Free” the minute they crossed into the Berkeley Free State. Could it be they are just another profit seeking parasite seeking to drain a public university of it’s sense of rage? Or just jaded in their own history of oil spills as in Alaska? 

BP = Bad People, BP = Beautiful Profit. 

Has anyone taken notice that there are thousands of acres of parkland behind Memorial Stadium where potential athletes can run, hike, and sweat their way to a trophy season? No matter how much money he has, and it’s up to $3 million, or a million per loss and counting, one can hear Napoleon Tedford bellowing into the wind about what it takes to “compete,” and the sacrifices we peasants and nature lovers must endure. Gimme a break! 

Stoney Burke 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is ironic when we hear that the United States is “using its influence” to bring about a peaceful resolution to the Israel- Palestine conflict, and an end to the occupation of the Palestinian Territories. 

The reality is that the occupation would end immediately if the United States stopped its massive funding of the occupation. 

This talk of the United States being an “honest broker” is so cynical. It’s not a broker. It’s the major financier of the occupation enterprise. 

Carolyna Marks 

Founding Director,  

World Wall for Peace  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is my greatest fear that Kucinich’s resolution HR-333 will be buried and lost in the House Judiciary committee, when it is the only symbol and gesture of hope for this country getting back on the path to freedom, justice and the American way. The United States is purportedly a nation of laws which no man or entity is above. How nauseating is it that our vice president and president disregard the nation’s will, silence our elected officials, and do not hold themselves accountable to the Constitution. Both of them lie and twist the truth constantly and against reason: The Downing Street memos reveal that the president fixed the facts to match the policy which lead us into a five-year illegal occupation of Iraq; the FISA courts have been a blunder and it would seem that 80,000 American citizens are being spied on without warrants—many, one presumes, holding office a la Watergate; and an N.O.C. CIA agent’s identity has been revealed, apparently as political payback. This last act is considered treason. Seventy-five percent of the American populous believe this vice president has committed high crimes and misdemeanors. What will it take for this Congress to begin to act on behalf of the people’s will? 

Tara Daly 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I read with great interest Mr. Buchwald’s kind description of Lane Transit Districts (LTD) EmX bus rapid transit system. The system has been very successful attracting a large number of new riders: since opening in January, ridership has increased by approximately 90 percent over the service the EmX replaced. 

I wanted to provide some comments on the EmX service that may be helpful to the discussion. 

The EmX route is four miles long and consists of approximately 63 percent exclusive right of way. The LTD Board of Directors goal was and still is for 100 percent exclusive right of way. In the development of the EmX project certain compromises were made as a result of limited right of way, property impacts and trees. To ensure that the project was built, the LTD Board of Directors reluctantly agreed to run in mixed in the general purpose lanes along certain sections of the corridor. The largest section of mixed traffic operation occurs in the Glenwood area, which is about to undergo a complete urban renewal. As part of the vision for the area exclusive EmX lanes are proposed. 

The loss of on-street parking was a particular issue during the development of the EmX project. Where possible, alternative parking arrangements were sought, however the project resulted in approximately 70 parking stalls being eliminated. 

Currently no fare is charged on the EmX service. The reasons for this decision were that a small number of passengers currently pay cash, and the limited extent of the EmX route requires that most passengers transfer to a regular bus to complete their trip: thus paying a fare on the regular bus. LTD plans to introduce fares on the EmX service on opening of the second route in 2010. 

The introduction of the fare will likely result in a dip in ridership: a recent survey estimated that between 10 and 15 percent of new riders would not continue to ride once a fare is imposed. 

I trust that the above will help in your communities dialog about bus rapid transit. While l know very little about AC Transits plans to develop a bus rapid transit system l would encourage the community to be open to ways of providing as much exclusive facility as possible, as only this will ensure that the bus rapid transit is reliable and rapid well into the future. 

Graham Carey 

BRT Project Engineer 

Lane Transit District 

Eugene, Oregon 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Bush administration and Homeland Security Department couldn’t convince Americans that using cable employees to spy in our homes was OK so now the White House is using firefighters to act as Big Brother, to spy and inform on Americans, with pilot programs in cities throughout the country. The reasoning behind the latest move is that unlike police officers, firefighters can enter hundreds of thousands of homes legally and with no warrant. Since when have Americans become the terrorists and let’s hope that firefighters don’t harbor any prejudices. 

Doesn’t the Fourth Amendment prohibit the illegal and unlawful and unwarranted searchers of residences? 

Ron Lowe 

Grass Valley 


Life is Much Better in Jail 


A humble submission inspired by the Public Commons for Everyone Initiative, with seasonal greetings. 


I was a junkie I lived on the street 

I had no money and nothing to eat 

A kindly policeman came by one fine day 

And changed my perspective on living that way 



In jail! In jail! 

Don’t bother paying my bail! 

Give me a blanket and three squares a day 

Life is much better in jail! 


I had no direction when I was a kid 

I loved to be free didn’t care what I did 

My civil rights were just weighing me down 

But now getting busted has turned me around 




My civil liberties I have to say 

Just clouded my judgment and got in my way 

Pull up your bootstraps and reach for the stars 

Life is much better by far behind bars 




I was a treesitter up in the grove 

They told me to leave but I just wouldn’t move 

I had no respect for the cops til I saw 

They could take me to jail for no reason at all 




By Carol Denney