Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday April 01, 2008







Editors, Daily Planet: 

In Toyo Ito’s rendering of the proposed art museum, the sidewalk on Oxford Street in front of the museum is filled with people. But that sidewalk is empty today, and the rendering shows nothing that will attract all those people. 

In the rendering, the Oxford Street facade of the museum is made up of blank white walls rising up behind small lawns with abstract sculptures on them. Anyone who understands how to create lively urban places can predict that this will be an empty, unused space. 

If we want this to be a lively space, we should replace the small, unusable lawns with cafe seating, and we should add a couple of stands nearby selling coffee, tea, and food. 

Artsy architects are attracted by blank white walls rising up behind small lawns, but ordinary people are not. If we want people here, we need something that will attract people. 

Charles Siegel 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

My friend, Bill, at North Berkeley Senior Center just had a second bike stolen at the senior center. It was securely locked to the bike rack in front of the senior center. I got the second bike for Bill from a friend who had an unused biked in his garage because his kids upgraded to more expensive, mountain bikes. 

Bill is an 81-year-old, low-income senior, and the bike was his sole source of transportation. This seems like a very mean thing to do. I understand that saws are available now that cut through metal like butter, and/or there are jacks that can open a lock. 

Anybody out there have an unused bike they would like to donate to Bill? 

Thank you for your consideration. 

Catherine Willis 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It was invigorating to see Berkeley’s spirit of protest alive in the Eagles Up and MAF protests on Telegraph Avenue last week. The demonstration seemed to bring out the full diverse range of the pro-war contingent, from the overweight bikers to the slightly less overweight bikers. The fact that most of these people made the trek with a debilitating medical condition makes it all the more impressive. 

That is, I assume they all had invisible debilitating medical conditions. Since the army’s maximum enlistment age is 42, and these guys were “pro-war,” I can’t think of any other reason why they wouldn’t be in Iraq holding a rifle, or at least in military training somewhere. I just think the Daily Planet should have made a bigger deal over the heroism these young and middle-aged men showed by rising from their wheelchairs to travel to Berkeley and stand up for what’s right. 

Hooray for Eagles Up, MAF, and above all: Hooray for America. 

James Wiseman 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

When American soldiers die in Iraq, do we punish the medics and doctors who try to save them? 

No, we recognize that our soldiers are in harm’s way, their injuries are often catastrophic, and sometimes no amount of medical intervention, even the truly heroic, will keep them alive. 

The children in our poorest neighborhoods, under the freeways, closest to the toxic dumps, living with the most crime and the fewest police, with more liquor stores than supermarkets, more check cashing businesses than banks or savings and loans, where good job opportunities are as rare as good health care—the children of these neighborhoods are also in harm’s way, living on the front lines, subject to catastrophe. 

To punish the teachers and schools that struggle to educate these children makes no more sense than punishing a doctor for not saving the victim of a roadside bomb.  

The destructive effects of extreme poverty cannot be cured by our schools alone. 

This does not absolve our schools of responsibility, but it means that our schools can only provide part of the solution. 

The tactic of blaming schools for the educational divide in California is a way to avoid taking responsibility for the malignant neglect of our poorest communities. 

Governor, step up. 

Drop your plan for a ten-percent budget cut to education. 

Drop your plan to punish so-called low-performing schools. 

Help California get out from under the misguided constraints of the No Child Left Behind Act. 

Instead, lead the way in supporting our teachers with adequate resources. 

Face the fact that new revenue will be required. 

Proposition 13 gutted the education system in California, and some kind of adjustment is necessary. 

Our most prosperous businesses and our richest citizens have been contributing too little for too long. 

We have wealthy school districts where the community is able to supplement state funding with lavish private contributions. And we have school districts where the meager state funding is all they’ve got. Your current proposal punishes the schools with the greatest need and the least money. 

We can’t continue to neglect and then punish our state’s poorest families. The fate of all our children is bound up together. 

Please raise the budget for education in California. There are children in harm’s way, and they need help. 

David Schweidel 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

At about 9:30 this morning, my doorbell rang and through the crack in the curtain I saw silver badges on dark blue uniforms. After a frantic search through some questionable escapades in the late 1960s, my mind returned to the present and my heart resumed a normal beat. As I opened the door, my eyes focused on a familiar object in one of the officer’s hands. What is your name? He asked. I answered honestly. Do you have any identification? He said. I said that all my identification was (I hoped) inside the wallet he was holding. He handed it over and asked me to check the contents to see if everything was inside. Everything was. Even the $24.73 I had left after Fosters Freeze last night. Even my Kaiser card and my recently replaced debit card. Even the tiny silver pen that had come with my brand new Levenger wallet. The officers, who were growing more handsome by the minute as they stood there on my patio, explained that a woman on Grant Street had found it and turned it over to them without even opening it.  

Thank you, honest woman. Thank you, handsome policemen. 

Martha Dickey 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Only a couple weeks ago, over 10,000 teachers were informed that they would be laid off to partially account for California’s 4.4 billion dollar budget deficit. Gov. Schwarzenegger, who had strongly advocated for education prior to his election, needs to consider the long-term effects of this plan. The lay-off of 10,000 teachers while our population continues to grow will lead to large increases in class size. Second, the dismissal of teachers, increasing classroom sizes and the huge cuts to education will lower student’s test-performance on standardized tests, which will limit the amount of funding students will receive at the Federal level. California is already 47th of 50 in per pupil funding for education, this cut will surely bring California down the final notches for last place. Lastly, the worst hit schools will be those who can least afford it, the most needy children, with the weakest PTAs, which are least able to adjust their budgets and to fundraise. Our students are the working class of the next generation; our failure to support them is a failure to secure the economy and social health of our community in upcoming years. Sacramento needs to find another way to address this budget issue other than at the expense of our students. These cuts are a bandage, and a dirty one at that, it will worsen the situation in the long term.  

In the meanwhile, local government must address the local needs of their community and their schools while standing up for those teachers being so unjustly hit. Berkeley Unified school district is laying off over 50 of its teachers. While there are other districts which are extremely hard-hit, I am very disappointed in Berkeley’s response to the situation. Districts such as San Francisco and Oakland have been working hard locally to ensure that the students in their community do not suffer due to budget decisions made at the state level, not to mention to ensure that their teachers do not have to face the insult of being tossed aside. Local government needs to make education among its top priority, they need to step in to protect our children’s educations and they need to advocate for our students and our teachers as our elected officials.  

Debra Wong 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In your March 28 report on what the council did, Judith Scherr showed her lack of knowledge about a project at 161 Panoramic Way. She wrote in part, “The neighbors said the new home would create dangerous conditions, especially while it was being built. Numerous conditions were placed on developer Bruce Kelley’s project, but that did not satisfy neighbors.” 

A simple search of earlier Planet articles would reveal much information as to why there has been so much opposition to the project. The 3,000-square-foot, exceedingly steep lot is in a subdivision that was created when developers paid no attention to the topography of the area. Developers were also not required by law to put in the infrastructure. Anyone who has driven up Panoramic Way knows that there is a stretch of road that is functionally one way but has two way traffic just past the hairpin curve at Dwight Way. Panoramic Way is the only paved road to access the neighborhood.  

While in the past the city has required individual property owners to widen the road, and build the house from the property line, the city is not requiring developer Bruce Kelley to do that. They allowed a slightly less than 1,500-square-foot house. The current zoning is the most restrictive in the city. Minimum lot size has been 9,000 square feet since Feb. 13, 1975. Kelley’s lot in an antiquated subdivision is “grandfathered.” Unfortunately, we are not living in the late 1800s. There were no cars at the time the lot was created. We do not use horses nowadays. 

One of the councilmembers voting against the appeal, Betty Olds, stated at the hearing that she used to drive up the road to visit her friend, Doris Maslach and that the Kelley project will widen the road. Olds seemed to have forgotten that Mr. Steve Maslach testified that his father, retired UC Provost George Maslach, had a stroke and his transport to the hospital was delayed because the narrow section of the road was blocked. Getting to the hospital as quickly as possible is essential when a person has a stroke. Mr. Maslach died. And Old’s friend, Doris Maslach, moved off the hill because of continual problems with the narrow section of the road. The council also seemed to have forgotten the Berkeley/Oakland firestorm of 1991 when 25 people died. Some of them died on a narrow Oakland road, Charing Cross that was blocked by a stalled car. The council also forgot that Safety Commissioner Dick White testified that it took a fire engine 14 minutes to drive to the 300 block of Panoramic Way. The council apparently did not read that Berkeley fire officials have told individual residents that the area is not a safe one to live, even thought the Fire Chief testifies that the area is safe.  

As a former member of the Zoning Board I know that it is easy to stipulate conditions. However, my experience is that the city does not enforce the conditions. In fact, the city does not enforce the zoning once the project is built and a certificate of occupancy signed.  

Ann Reid Slaby 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

We see and hear the news about everything from the war to the economy, public shootings, etc. 

My suggestion: Forgive Absolutely Everybody for Absolutely Everything. Just clear out all the resentment from your body and mind! Clear out all the anger, fear, “hard feelings,” etc. It helps to make a written inventory a la Step 4 of Alcoholics Anonymous. “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” Of course, you can’t take this step out of context with the other 11 steps. Anymore than you can remove a heart from a human or animal, and expect either the heart or that person or animal to survive long apart. 

I kid you not. 

Clearing all resentment, anger, bitterness, abject fear of people or financial insecurity out of your body and mind, leads to great lovemaking, not to mention miracles of all kinds. Cures cancer, makes needed money appear right when you need it. Even helps prevent unjust evictions or foreclosures. Did I mention it is faster than a speeding locomotive and can outrun a bullet? All you need now is the cape.... 

Linda M. Smith 

Human angel, former Berkeley resident, Queen of Her Own Universe (or Mind, same thing), and sexual healer extraordinaire (yes I am one of those people who thinks that Sexual Healing Cures War and Loneliness.... and mighty proud of it, too!) 

P.S.: I forgive you, Berkeley, and all of America and the World, for all those times when you or I behaved in less-than-Godlike and glorious ways..... I AM God’s orgasm.... 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

War is over. 

U.S. budget is balanced. 

Bush and Cheney finally come clean and admit, that yes, the war in Iraq is all about oil. 

Anti-tax Republicans state that they will stop gifting the rich with tax breaks. 

Fundamentalist and evangelical anti-abortionists say they will stop interfering with a woman’s right to choose. 

Racists and white supremists will stop hiding their egregious activities under the guise of God, country and patriotism. 

Anti-gay activists will adhere to Christ’s teaching; love thy neighbor as thy brother. 

Gas prices will dip below $2 a gallon this summer. 

The real estate industry swears off greed and unconscionable loans. 

April Fools Day! 

Ron Lowe 

Grass Valley