Public Comment

Letters to

Friday December 07, 2007


Editors, Daily Planet: 

On Monday, Oct. 1, Judge Richard Keller issued a UC-requested injunction against the tree sitters who were protecting the disputed oak grove. Within two weeks, Saturday, Oct. 13, the Bears—almost ranked number one nationally—lost to Oregon and continuing losing five out of the next six games. The UC Athletic Department should pause in its pursuit of the grove’s destruction. It took the Boston Red Sox 87 years to shake the Curse of the Bambino!  

Don Santina 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

An e-mail from Kitchen Democracy this week asks “should Berkeley City Council affirm that free speech and assembly rights apply to U.S. military recruiters?” Is this a survey about the Marine Recruitment office controversy, and if so, why is it incorrectly framed as a free speech issue? This question will produce survey results that are irrelevant, misleading, and useless. Even worse, the results could be used to convince the City Council to allow the recruitment office to remain open. Free speech is not at the heart of this issue, and I urge City Council members to disregard the results of this survey. I’m also asking Kitchen Democracy to pull the survey right now and instead ask a question that provides meaningful information. 

Our community wholeheartedly supports free speech for everyone, but a “yes” to free speech rights doesn’t mean “yes” to the recruitment office. 

In my view, this isn’t about the First Amendment rights of military recruiters, who aren’t merely handing out literature, holding meetings, or writing letters to the editor. They are operating a business and are subject to the laws governing any business. No exceptions for the military. The fact is, we don’t allow some businesses in Berkeley, particularly when the business is immoral, unethical and illegal. The nature of this business is war, killing people and destroying lives, including lives of military personnel and innocent civilians, and squandering our tax dollars. But morals aside, this business employs illegal business practices, including lying to potential employees about their job descriptions, luring recruits to sign up by promising benefits they don’t get, unilaterally extending the length of service specified in the employment contract, and discriminating against employees based on sexual orientation. We have an obligation to require businesses operating in our community to obey the laws. 

I wondered why the recruiters aren’t located on the UC campus if, as they say, they are strictly interested in hiring college graduates? This item from the upcoming Dec. 10 issue of the “National Law Journal” may provide the answer: At Stanford Law School, 80 percent of the law school faculty, including the dean, signed an e-mail asking students to meet with recruiters off-campus, because the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy violates the nondiscrimination policies for job recruiters of nearly all law schools. 

I encourage you to join Kitchen Democracy and let your views be known at 

Cynthia Papermaster 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Wendy Schlesinger writes in the Nov. 30 Planet that I erred in my Nov. 27 article on Berkeley parks by placing the planning and creation of Ohlone Park in the “late ’70s and early ’80s” rather than 1969. 

I’m guessing she’s referring to the creation of an instant “People’s Park Annex” by demonstrators on the land which had been cleared of houses so the BART tunnel could be dug. 

That was certainly an important milestone in the process of making the land a permanent city park. 

The Berkeley park centennial exhibit organizers dated the city’s official approval of plans for Ohlone Park to 1978, the dedication to 1979, and the final acquisition of the surface land from BART to 1990. 

In her Nov. 29 talk on the exhibit and Berkeley park history, one of the exhibit organizers, Louise Mozingo, noted that accurate dating of the creation of parks—even those established in the relatively recent past—is a challenge. 

There are often several relevant dates. They include when the idea of a park on a particular site came about, when the idea was incorporated into city plans or policies, when the property was formally acquired or designated as open space, when park acquisition or “improvements” were funded and took place, when people could finally use it as a park, and when it was “officially” dedicated. 

In Berkeley, as Wendy Schlesinger suggests, the dates that community members took independent action to turn a vacant space into public open space are also quite relevant in park history. 

These events extend over years and, sometimes, decades, making the creation of a park an evolutionary process, rather than a single moment in time. 

The exhibit organizers—Mozingo, Marcia McNally, and Sadie Graham Mitchell—are very open to expanding and amending their park history and chronology as community members supply further information and insights. 

Marcia McNally suggests that comments and information on the history of Berkeley parks can be sent to her at 

Steven Finacom 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have worked and managed several businesses in downtown Berkeley since 1978.  

Occasionally there have been complaints about panhandlers and street people, and naturally I’ve had positive and negative experiences with many of them myself over the years. These complaints have been few and far between, and more often than not come from folks who already have a bee in their bonnet about how “unruly” Berkeley is anyway.  

But in the last few years the resounding complaint from our patrons, which we hear over and over and over, is how unpleasant downtown Berkeley has become because of the lack, and high cost, of parking. 

The notion of moving to greater reliance on mass transit is appealing to all of us and a necessary goal. However, forcing people to drive all the way to places like Emeryville and El Cerrito to do their shopping and moviegoing will do nothing to save the environment—nor freshen the “stagnating business climate” of downtown Berkeley. 

Instead, the city could try making it much easier to come to downtown, by lowering—not raising—parking rates, by adding longer hours and more routes to mass transit schedules, and by offering vibrant local businesses that provide necessary goods and services. That might just do the trick. 

Dale Sophiea 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’ve been queried about my reference to the “Queen Elizabeth’s depths” in the Nov. 27 edition of the Planet. Regarding friends who had enlisted, I wrote: “Another was shipped overseas in the Queen Elizabeth’s depths and stationed outside London…”  

During her World War II career, the RMS Queen Elizabeth carried service women and men across the Atlantic—without convoy, zigzagging every seven minutes, with no air-conditioning and very little ventilation. Figures vary, but on most voyages as a converted troop ship, she carried between 13,000 and 15,000 persons, with lifeboat accommodations for 8,000. A Canadian veteran recalls a four-day voyage in 1943 between Halifax and Scotland with 17,000 aboard. On stormy days it was not possible to walk without being shifted from one side to the other; on good days, a few minutes’ exercise and fresh air were possible. 

Cunard’s QE liner had been launched in 1938 with luxury accommodations for 2,283 passengers; at 83,637 gross registered tons, she was the largest passenger ship afloat… and fast. But on her River Clyde wharf, the QE was a target for German Luftwaffe-pilots and saboteurs. She was painted gray, and on March 3, 1940 headed for open waters. False rumors were spread that the QE was going to Southampton; some guessed that she would head for Halifax. Once out at sea, Captain John Townley opened his sealed orders to head for New York at full speed with a crew of only 400. Four days later, the “gray ghost” arrived in New York. 

By 1942 the Admiralty planned to convert both Queens (Elizabeth and Mary) into aircraft carriers, but their troop-carrying role was deemed more important. Accommodations were altered to provide for 10,000 personnel. Installation of degaussing gear was completed. In August she began shuttle service between New York and Gourock, Scotland.  

The QE’s high speeds enabled her to outrun German U-boats. Troops aboard were told that her top speed was a military secret. Adolf Hitler offered the Iron Cross and $250,000 to any U-boat commander who could sink the Queen Elizabeth or Queen Mary. Winston Churchill declared that they shortened World War II by a year. They could transport almost an entire division to Europe, usually in four to six days. 

On one trip in 1944, 500 WAACs and 18,000 men were crammed onboard the QE as she sailed out of New York headed for Europe. Viola B. Smith had enlisted in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (later the Women’s Army Corps): “We were chased by German submarines, and we weren’t told where we were going. To conserve fresh water, we washed with salt water, and I bunked with the four other women officers in a former bathroom. I was on the bottom underneath four hammocks. … Without an escort, the ship relied on its speed and arrived about a week later in Scotland to the news that the European invasion had begun.” Thirty of these women, including Captain Smith, were assigned to the 5th Army Airways Communications System, providing air traffic control for the 8th Air Force. 

By the end of the war in Europe the Queens’ next duty was to redeploy troops for the war against Japan. Repatriation of American troops continued until October 1945, when the QE was released from U.S. service and allocated to the repatriation of Canadian troops. 

Helen Rippier Wheeler 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

People blocking sidewalks and using public areas as toilets do make areas uninviting and difficult to navigate. But using language like “cleaning up the streets” in reference to individuals may be part of the problem. We read and hear often about “street sweeps,” but what is being “swept” are individuals. Street cleaning once meant literally cleaning the street—not disposing of humanity. Humans are not filth. This (mis)use of language cannot be ameliorated by prescribing treatment as a remedy. C. W. Nevius and Chronicle editors challenge the mayor to “Clean up the streets.” I assume that if the mayor and other elected officials accept this challenge (basing their acceptance on the dangers these particular people on the street pose), they will certainly include “sweeping the streets” of and forcefully medicating all individuals who, due to cell phone use and/or skateboarding, etc. pose a hazard to others. Sidewalk cell phone users, double parkers, and sidewalk skateboarders/cyclists are clearly not aware of their surroundings or the hazards their behaviors pose. Perhaps they are suffering from “selfish “disorder” and Medicare, MediCal and private insurance will pay for their treatment. 

Kathie Zatkin 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a neighbor of Kandy’s carwash, I believe I too need to voice my observations about this neighborhood business. There’s been a great deal of emotional energy shared, but there’s a few pieces of information that have rarely made it to print. Such as:  

1) The property owner, Craig Hertz, has offered current tenant Kandy Alford, who lives in Oakland and is six months behind on his rent, several other suitable locations to relocate to. Mr. Alford has turned those down. 

2) Because of some sort of “grandfather” loophole, the Kandy’s business has been allowed to dump their toxic chemicals directly into our Berkeley sewage system. It’s doubtful that many other businesses are permitted to do this. 

3) Both walking or driving past Kandy’s, I’m surprised that this business has been allowed to exist as long as it has. The music is often distracting to motorists, and the area looks and feels dangerous because of the continued blight. 

4) Finally, I’ve used Kandy’s cleaning service once (and only once). I wanted to support a local business, and have my car cleaned and detailed. Well, their promise of a cleaned vehicle wasn’t fulfilled. After assuring me of both removal of bumper stickers and my satisfaction, the stickers remained and I was left feeling cheated. After that, I had no intention of ever supporting that business again. 

When our neighborhood meeting heard about the biofuel station moving in, everyone cheered. Of the 30 or so people in attendance there were plenty of questions, but we knew that it would be a vast improvement over the current eyesore that exists on that corner. This is not a black/white issue, this is a quality of life issue. 

Name withheld 

(A neighbor of ROC) 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Dick Bagwell, in his recent letter entitled “Allegation of Anti-Semitism,” characterizes former Congresswoman Cynthia Mckinney and Venezuelan President Chavez as anti-Semites. 

Cynthia McKinney and Sr. Chavez are hardly anti-Semitic. Mr. Bagwell is conflating their criticism of the Israeli governments’ disastrous occupation of the West Bank over the last 40 years with criticism of the Israeli people. 

It is same as conflating the criticism of Bush and Cheney administration’s disastrous policies in Iraq and elsewhere with criticism of the American people. 

Scoundrels everywhere wrap themselves in their respective flags, and unfortunately even well-meaning people, like I am sure Mr. Bagwell is, fall for it. 

Akio Tanaka  





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’ve been pondering my feelings about the holiday lights around the area and the range of what they may mean to those who of us who are displaying them. For me, the holiday lights express the brightness of what Jesus introduced to the world through his devotion to God and mankind. The lights point to the joy and gratitude, comfort and peace which this season evokes. These qualities of thought and expression are the epitome of a Christian’s hope and purpose, but they belong not exclusively to one religion, philosophy, or another. They stand as way marks by which to measure the good we do, the practical application of our ideals. In the Bible, God said “Let there be light” and Jesus said to let our light shine. I look to the lights of the season as reminders of how high the human spirit can reach when inspired by good works and good will towards all. 

Marilyn McPherson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Mary Oram thinks I’m dismissing honest objections to BRT. Here’s what I think are some honest objections to Berkeley’s BRT plan: 

• The bus-only lane on Telegraph between Parker and Bancroft will indeed increase congestion. What slows down traffic on this part of Telegraph is the numerous unsynchronized traffic lights. 

• Removal of street parking at BRT stations is unavoidable unless we have stops instead of stations, but it’s possible to provide nearby replacement parking. Eugene appears to have dealt successfully with this issue. 

• Motorists who decide not to commute by car are supposed to make a major contribution to GHG reduction. This is unlikely to happen unless BRT travel really becomes more attractive than car driving—which probably requires bus-only lanes. 

• All-day parking should be eliminated and converted to short-term parking for Berkeley visitors and shoppers (ref: the 2000 TDM Study). All-day parkers should get bus/BRT passes from their employer . 

• Stores, restaurants and theaters should be planning to provide day-passes to encourage patrons to come by BRT, instead of adding to our parking problem. 

• Local bus service should be improved to complete the transportation network and serve the BRT stations. 

• The BRT should be planned to extend down University Avenue, ready to connect with the Ferry at the Marina. 

One objection that I do not regard as honest is the claim made by Doug Buckwald and a few others, that BRT will destroy retail business along its route. This sure doesn’t need to happen, and to my knowledge there are no BRT deployments where this has happened. I repeat my challenge to Doug to cite even one example of BRT becoming the bane of business. It sure didn’t happen in Eugene. 

BRT should provide faster and more frequent bus service, which will motivate a major mode-shift among motorists. My vision includes fewer vehicle miles traveled, reduced consumption of oil, less traffic on our streets, more people doing business in our stores and less bad gas in our air. Should this vision be dismissed? 

Steve Geller 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Never let it be said that churches and religious organizations in the Bay Area are indifferent to the sad plight of the homeless and low income citizens in our community. Quite the contrary. Many churches in Berkeley and Oakland provide hot meals and a warm atmosphere of camaraderie—some daily, others weekly, or monthly. To mention just a few, there’s St. Vincent de Paul, the College Avenue Presbyterian Church, and my own parish, Newman Hall/Holy Spirit. 

Newman Hall has, over the years, sponsored a very active program called, appropriately, “Loaves and Fishes,” held the first Saturday of the month. Last Saturday, Dec. 1, was the occasion of a festive Christmas party, attended by 120 guests. Feeding that many people is no easy task, but thanks to wonderful organization by the many volunteers, directed by Debbie Tatto, the event was a huge success. I might add, in all candor, that the mood was somewhat somber at the beginning, not exactly an animated party atmosphere. When the doors opened promptly at 12, there was a rush for seats, but little conversation. Guests were mainly men, though there were a few women and children. The men were carrying with them bulky bedrolls, knapsacks, even a couple of shopping carts (perhaps containing the owners’ worldly possessions). Children were seated in the lounge, with volunteers offering them toys and games. 

Since I’m a total klutz in any kitchen, I was assigned the role of host at one of the l7 long tables. My job was to make guests feel welcome and to start a dialogue. Once everyone was seated, servers rushed in with large plates of cheese and crackers and bottles of Martinelli Sparkling Cider, followed by bowls of green salad. Little by little, conversation developed and diners engaged in small talk, jokes and sports. Then came the entree—generous slices of ham, mounds of creamy mashed potatoes and green beans, with rolls and butter, of course. Though portions were exceedingly generous, servers came around with seconds which were eagerly accepted. The meal was topped off with gigantic pieces of cake and ice cream. 

Next came the entertainment and awarding of gifts. All those born in December had their own special birthday cake and presents. Then came the Christmas carols with nearly everyone singing lustily. There were some excellent voices; “Go Tell it to the Mountain” was clearly a favorite. The party came to a happy conclusion with the always eagerly awaited raffle, everyone having received a ticket during the course of the meal. On a long table at one end of the room were 18 very large holiday shopping bags filled to the top with attractive and useful gifts—warm scarves and gloves, gift certificates from Ross, BART tickets, etc. It appeared that everyone went home with a gift. And where the mood had been somber at the beginning of the event, there was now the sound of laughter and high spirits. 

But even more than the warm meal and gifts they received, the 120 people attending the Loaves and Fishes Christmas party took with them the warm memory of having been treated with respect and affection, not as objects of pity. 

Dorothy Snodgrass 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A demographic of white conservative Christians has vaulted Mike Huckabee into the lead in Iowa caucus polls. This is not representative of America. 

Mike Huckabee is a social conservative, anti-abortion, pro-war and anti-immigration; did someone say a George Bush carbon copy. But wait, Republican presidential hopeful Huckabee doesn’t believe in evolution. Is this who we want 60 million American school children to look up to; a president who is an anti-evolutionary? That America would be the laughingstock of the rest of the world with Huckabee as president is an understatement. 

Be clear about the upcoming presidential election and its field of candidates. We don’t need a repeat of the 2000 election when George Bush misled the electorate. 

Ron Lowe 

Grass Valley