Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday January 29, 2008


Editors, Daily Planet: 

In the last two weeks, Berkeley Unified School District has sent around two e-mails to its parents. One claims that a budget crisis is looming, and wrongfully claims that California ranks 46th in the nation in public school funding. It’s the same old outdated false fact, being used to raise fear among parents. The second e-mail circulated hails a “State of Urgency” Community Forum organized by Assemblywoman Loni Hancock regarding public school funding. Both urge parents to take action to protect public school funding. 

So these two “public” e-mails have started banging the gong of stress and alarm, the same old cry of “poor,” under-funded public schools. The truth is, according to the Public Policy Institute, California ranks 26th in per pupil funding, right in the national average middle. And according to Ed-Data, the website by the California Department of Education, teacher salaries are the highest among the populated states, but teacher pupil ratios are also high. California, is far from being in the bottom of U.S. public school funding. 

At the same time, Mark Coplan the PR voice of BUSD, has sent out an e-mail asking people to buy $75 tickets for a party and gift for departing superintendent Michelle Lawrence with a optional “special lodging rate” of $135 at the Berkeley City Club, with an added request for donations for “scholarships” for this event. 

This sounds rather over the top. Maybe Michelle Lawrence should have the same goodbye party with cake and vegetables and dip, in the Council Chambers that Board of Education members have had in the past.  

With Berkeley schools’ high drop out rate, violence at the high school, and achievement gap, it doesn’t seem that our school district’s priority has been educating students. But they sure know how to ask for more nickels and dimes. 

Sharon Bauer 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Politicians, pundits, and opinion-makers do not agree on the proper classification of very important events. They argue about whether the savagery in Darfur is actually genocide, whether water-boarding is torture, whether the mess we’ve made in Iraq has plunged that long-suffering country into civil war, and they can’t decide whether the down turn in the nation’s economy is actually a recession. 

When you get right down to it our nation’s leaders are hung up on definitions – genocide, torture, civil war, recession. And yet as anyone who has a passing acquaintance with logic knows, definitions are good only to the extent of their usefulness.  

This means that genocide, torture, civil war or recession resides in the minds of the beholders. The subjects of their beholding—human beings in western Sudan, prisoners in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq, and every American except the very rich—don’t care about how their plight is defined. They suffer and die irrespective of how they are beheld. 

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Jan. 25 article “West Berkeley Zone Changes Linked to UC, LBNL” represents me as telling the Planning Commission that “changes in zoning rules had become more crucial because of ‘technology transfers that occur here’ resulting from research at the university and LBNL.” In reality, I did not argue for zoning changes in West Berkeley but reported on employment trends in West Berkeley, which is what I had been requested to do. I showed that manufacturing had declined as a source of employment in West Berkeley as elsewhere, but made a point of saying that this did not mean that the sector was disappearing or becoming less important but was a sign of how productive it was. I said that manufacturing was essential to the national and state economy and said that many jobs in the service and other sectors depended on the continued strength of manufacturing. In that context, I said that for the future of manufacturing in California and the nation as a whole, what was important about Berkeley in particular was innovation from research at UC Berkeley and LBNL and how technology was transferred to the private sector. Berkeley is an important place for technology transfer in fields like biotechnology and the development of biofuels, whether or not the manufacturing of new products occurs in Berkeley. 

Richard Brenneman construed me saying that “it is less important that traditional manufacturing activities continue in the city’s only industrial and manufacturing zones.” I suppose it is not unfair of him to derive this as an implication, but it is nothing that I intended to say. What I did say was that the expansion from research intensive firms, including some that are classified as manufacturers and already allowed to operate in West Berkeley would put pressure on land values and drive up rents which might threaten some traditional manufacturers and other businesses. I said that the pressure on land values came from within manufacturing itself, and not just office or retail firms, and that the city needed to find some other way than zoning to protect businesses that could not afford higher rents.  

David Fogarty 




Dear Hillary, 

Your actions over the past weeks have ensured that I will not vote for you in the primary. I am a California voter. 

I was sickened to see the tarnishing of McCain’s reputation in 2000 by Bush’s subversive whisper campaign. I was sickened to see Kerry’s service to this country swiftboated to oblivion while Bush sat by tight lipped. These campaign tactics foreshadowed what history has shown: Bush’s lack of respect for the truth during the campaign was mirrored in his presidency. 

Now you are engaging in those tactics. 

From the fairy tale, the teacher’s union suit, to Reagan—you have shown that you are more interested in playing hardball politics with a passing glance at the facts than you are at debating the issues and proving that you are the best choice for the American people. 

I was leaning heavily towards voting for you after you displayed your policy acumen at the League of Conservation Voters/Grist forum on global warming. 

Your hardball tactics have succeeded; Barack Obama is in a tactical box and on the defensive while your misrepresentations have been fact-checked on the back page, the accusations are in the front of voters’ minds. 

Global warming, health care, the Iraq war—these are the crises our country confronts. Get your priorities straight. 

Daniel Bell  





Editors, Daily Planet: 

She was known as Rosie the Riveter during World War II when she was building ships and planes to serve her country. Most have gone, but many still abound in this area. They are all invited to hear Betty Reid Soskin who, while not a riveter herself, was on the scene and is still on the scene at the Rosie the Riveter/Home Front National Park in Richmond where she catalogs their stories. Now a cultural anthropologist, Ms. Soskin will speak of that experience and of the discrimination faced by both black and white in the community while doing their part to end the war. Join Oakland Eastbay NOW and six co-sponsoring women’s groups at the Rockridge Library, 5366 College Ave., on Saturday, Feb. 2 from 2-4 p.m. as we celebrate Black History Month. 

Carol Norberg 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding Becky O’Malley’s Jan. 25 editorial “Where Have All the Critics Gone?”: O’Malley expresses disappointment that local theater organizations don’t give part of their revenue to the Daily Planet in the form of advertising. She writes, “It might seem unbearably crass for a publication like ours to announce that we will no longer review productions by theaters which have consistently refused to advertise with us, but the temptation to do so is strong.” 

Using Berkeley’s Aurora Theatre as an example, O’Malley’s uninformed point of view ignores the fact that Aurora provides the Daily Planet’s Theater Reviewer with two $55 tickets to each production. I am also on that very long press list and can tell you that many of us arts and entertainment writers from small, local papers appreciate Aurora’s generosity and wouldn’t be able to pay for tickets out of pocket. And if you think comp press tickets are a given, think otherwise. “Best of Broadway,” which has packed the large Curran Theater in San Francisco for years, cut their press list in half a while back. I know, I was one of the writer that was deleted. 

Joe Kempkes 

Laney Tower 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Wow, and Gosh almighty! I’m in a state of heightened euphoria waiting for my $300 check from Bush and Nancy! With that $300 I’ll be able to buy enough alcoholic beverages, sufficient to numb my critical faculties, which otherwise, would be telling me that $300 is a cruel joke. 

Robert Blau 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Why is Bill Clinton so involved in the front lines of trying to persuade the American people? Is he running for a third term? After Obama’s 28 point win in South Carolina, Clinton compared him to Jesse Jackson, saying that Obama only appeals to blacks. He doesn’t get it. This seems like the return of the southern strategy. It’s disgusting. During a speech, he said that had he not been married to her, he would still vote for her. This strikes me as false and disingenuous. 

He has said that Hillary knows how to unite Republicans and Democrats for a working majority, yet Hillary herself wants to continually “turn up the heat” on Republicans. 

These comments beg the question: Is the Clinton campaign merely about getting back in power? When a candidate is more about power and status than change, we suffer. Let us not shoot ourselves in the foot. 

If people are not troubled by Bill’s interference with voters’ ability to receive unfiltered messages and opinions from the candidates themselves, I must take issue. If people aren’t trouble by the trotting out of “slash and burn” tactics by the Clinton campaign, I must take issue. If people give Hillary credit for “experience,” without really saying what experience she has, I must take issue. 

People can support other candidates because they don’t believe Obama has had enough Washington DC experience- that is fine. 

However, don’t trash Obama’s experience as a community organizer (when he could have left law school and made thousands at a top NY law firm), as a constitutional law expert (and Professor at the University of Chicago), as an 8 year Senator in the Illinois legislature (where he passed death penalty reform, a universal healthcare commission bill, an ethics reform package, and a mandate for energy companies to buy energy from renewable sources). 

I am proud of the Obama campaign for sticking to the issues, and hope that people don’t vote for Hillary on Feb. 5 merely because “Bill will get back in the White House.” Don’t get me wrong; Clinton had a successful Presidency that inspired many Americans. It is unfortunate that his wife will not do the same. I will never forgive her for voting to go to war in Iraq. This campaign is not about Bill—he is living history. 

Obama is a transformational, inspirational and experienced figure. He’s ready to lead. Just ask President Kennedy’s daughter, Caroline; she just endorsed him. 

Nicholas E. Smith 

Former Chairman,  

Berkeley Labor Commission 

New York, NY 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In your Jan. 18 issue J. Douglas Allen-Taylor wrote eloquently about South Carolina, its deep-rooted racism, and the unholy triad of John Calhoun, “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman, and Strom Thurmond. I read the article with special interest because between the ages of about 1 and 3 I lived in that beautiful/terrible state, learning to walk and talk in the little town of Hardeeville. So maybe I’m to some degree a South Carolinian, though I’ve often been sorely tempted to say that Sherman had the right idea about the place. 

But Barack Obama’s stunning victory in the South Carolina primary suggests there may be hope even for my almost-native state. Messrs. Calhoun, Tillman, and Thurmond must be rapidly spinning in their graves. 

John English 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is not the only method that is capable of reducing traffic congestion and pollution, and for the East Bay, may not even be the best method. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, it may even be possible to use increased parking to meet these goals. In particular I’m suggesting the construction of off-street structures or lots that provide preferential or discounted parking for car-pools, car or bike-shares, and bikes or motor-scooters, plus space for shuttle/local bus pick-up and drop-off. 

A shift from single occupancy cars to multi-occupancy cars, or to bikes or motor bikes, could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A Prius with four people gets 180 passenger miles per gallon of gasoline, which is equal to the most optimistic claims for BRT. Furthermore, increasing the occupancy of the vehicle directly reduces the number of vehicles on the road, without the need for a dedicated bus lane. 

To actually make the parking preferential would require a method of verifying that a vehicle is carrying more than one occupant. Possibilities include a parking lot attendant, video checking, or a driver’s license or other ID check. The first two would provide entry level jobs. Providing a discount, or a reasonable chance to find parking, would be incentive for a driver to offer car pooling. If a car-pool matching system is put in place the riders may even get a ride to and from their house, and if there is a shuttle in place at the other end, both driver and rider get almost direct service to their destination. 

Having off-street parking would relieve pressure from on-street parking. In residential neighborhoods residents would be less likely to have to fight with commuters to park at home. In some business districts some of the on-street parking could perhaps be converted to pedestrian walk ways. Done properly, preferential off-street parking would result in less commute traffic, but possibly more shopping traffic. However, system-wide, shopping in local business areas reduces shopping in malls, and thus reduces overall traffic.  

In short, the preferential parking scheme may let you have your cake and eat it too. 

Robert Clear 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’ve tried very hard to keep quiet about Berkeley City Councilmember(s) who keep harping about people other than Berkeley residents using the warm water pool in Berkeley and thereby invalidating the need for the city’s financial support to save the warm water pool. 

I am a regular warm pool user who just happens to live in Oakland now; however, my roots are deeply embedded in Berkeley where I spent my formative years. I attended Longfellow, Willard and am an alumnus of Berkeley High and in my mind, heart and soul I am and always will be a “Berkeley girl.” This being the case, I feel it gives me an inherent connection to the city which cannot be broken merely by where I may physically reside. Also, four generations of my family have attended Berkeley High. 

I left Berkeley because I married an Air Force officer who subsequently lost his life on a bombing mission over North Vietnam. In my travels all over the world with him I always wore my being “from Berkeley” with great pride and was always very proud to extol the uniqueness of my home town—even to a U.S. president on one occasion and a couple of four star generals on another and even though we were together for a very serious matter, they all got quite a kick out of my ramblings about Berkeley. 

Most or all people who live in the Bay Area pay absolutely no attention to boundaries. They shop, dine; play, etc. in all of the numerous surrounding cities on a regular basis. I’m sure if you ask any one of them if they were ever asked where they live before they paid their money in these cities you would receive a resounding no. Likewise, have you ever had a Berkeley merchant ask you where you live before accepting your money? I think not. Bottom line, bigger picture where people live who use the warm pool is a very, very weak and petty argument for being against the warm pool and it’s possible out of town users. If you’ll please excuse the attempt at humor and a little levity, this argument just does not hold water. Further, Berkeley is known world wide for its diversity, freedom of spirit and has won national awards for its deep caring and compassion for the disabled. Are you going to allow a couple of individuals to taint and destroy this legacy? 

While it is understandable that the mayor and City Council would have concerns about Berkeley bearing the preponderance of financial responsibility for the warm pool while it is, in fact, a regional pool, is this really a valid argument against supporting the pool when one considers the hundreds, maybe, thousands of people from all over the Bay Area and the world who shop, work and/or spend money in Berkeley who don’t physically reside within Berkeley city limits? It is a great and wonderful effort to support “shop locally” and support the local merchants, etc. However, in a place such as the Bay Area no one city has everything one might want and/or need and part of the culture of being here is having a myriad of choices all over the East Bay as well as across the bay down the Peninsula and up to Napa Valley, etc., etc., etc. Need I go on? 

Last, but by far not least, all of you who are against saving the warm water pool which serves the elderly and disabled should really, really, think about “there, but by the grace of God, go I.” You may be able to say this now but what about later? Eventually, it could be you in need of warm pool therapy. 

Juanita Kirby 

Warm Pool User 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

We hear an echo of the first Bush presidency’s disastrous economy happening in America today, but the root cause for our crisis is not the same. Unlike his father, George W. Bush has succeeded in shifting much of our country’s wealth from the middle class to the upper one percent of the economic elite. The magnitude of this shift has not been seen since the turn of the last century. 

So when people say Americans have not given our current placeholder his just due for a surging economy, it is not because we have been consumed by an occupation of Iraq that that may well last another decade, it is because the average person in this country is much worse off economically today than they were 10 years, or for that matter 20 years ago. 

While the wealthiest Americans have seen their income increase dramatically and their percent of income taxed go down, most American families are barely keeping pace with inflation and the primary reason they are holding steady is because both wives and husbands are working today. Real wages in this country have stagnated under George W. Bush. The poor are more numerous and there are fewer services available for them. 

Its no wonder that when the average American looks at the economy they don’t see it as a rising tide lifting all boats. If our next President wants to help America recover, (s)he must make sure that any recovery benefits all the people. Our country has been strong because we have a work ethic and a spirit of entrepreneurship ingrained in us. Our leaders need to unleash that so we can rebuild the middle class. 

That will be an economy about which people can say “Yes, I believe that America will be strong again!” 

Vincent Casalaina 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you, Rebecca DePalma, for your letter about how crucial it is to impeach, for the sake of our trust in government and the Constitution and to hold our elected officials accountable for crimes. Whether there are 12 months or 12 minutes left of this administration, if Cheney has committed crimes we need to know the truth. Pelosi and Conyers have basically said to Cheney—we’re not going to impeach you, so go right ahead and violate the constitution, steal from us, manipulate Congress to attack Iran, and so forth. Berkeley voters passed a measure calling for impeachment in 2006, and the Berkeley City Council voted for a resolution to Impeach Bush and Cheney. Each of us can take immediate and effective action to get Cheney’s impeachment hearings to start. Nine members of the House Judiciary Committee are calling for Cheney’s impeachment hearings to open immediately, and they need our support. Senior Judiciary Committee member Robert Wexler (D-FL) has a petition that now has 214,000 signatures. Go to to sign the petition. When you’re there, watch Wexler’s stirring five-minute speech to Congress last week. It’s true statesmanship—not the wimpy cowardice Pelosi and the Democratic “leadership” have shown so far. We can impeach Cheney, and we must. Finally, our own Representative Barbara Lee is a co-sponsor of Kucinich’s House Resolution 799 to impeach Cheney. With over 50 percent of the country wanting him impeached, we should be able to get it done. 

Cynthia Papermaster 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Many years have passed but the theory has not changed. Love thy neighbor to get the best out of our shared human connection. War stirs fear and hatred; it cannot succeed as a method for turning neighbors into friends. Maybe we should begin to practice Gandhi’s method. Whenever he went into a troubled situation he listened deeply to everyone involved. He talked to those who were oppressed and he talked to the oppressors. He provided an example of what thoughtful listening was like. He understood each point of view before feeling his way to human justice in a tense situation. 

To everyone involved in the tense situation he provided the cooling example of open listening. Can we begin right from home and school by becoming open listeners? “Listening deeply to a fellow human being I brought peace to the world.” 

Romila Khanna 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

In the 35th year of Roe v. Wade religious protesters are still intimidating, harassing and stalking abortion providers, women and opponents of their self-serving crusade 

Over the past three decades children of anti-abortionists have been brainwashed, indoctrinated and programmed into believing a doctrine of deception, secrecy and the elimination of a woman’s freedom of choice. 

A clip about an abortion opponent at the Washington, D.C. rally caught my eye as it provides a view of the future. A man was marching with his wife and four children, ranging from 1 to 10. Anti-abortion proponents put their small children out in front of protests carrying grotesque and obscene signs bigger than they are. 

President Bush and leading GOP presidential candidates all support this vocal minority and fringe movement. 

Ron Lowe 

Grass Valley