Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Thursday May 22, 2008 - 09:41:00 AM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’ve noticed that the city of Berkeley and the University of California, Berkeley have continued aggressively watering lawns, median strips, and the like. This activity results in a great deal of runoff onto sidewalks and into gutters, even though Berkeley is under mandatory water rationing, and even though private citizens have been asked to avoid wasteful watering. Whether or not this activity on the part of the city is legal, it is certainly disheartening. I believe citizens would be more willing to conserve if they noticed public agencies doing the same, and not being profligate with our essential water resources. 

Ari Rabkin 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It’s time to pay for the free lunch, again. When will we learn that California cannot sustain a population growth of approximately 500,000 people per year? Most of the growth comes from immigration, legal and illegal, and the higher-than-average fertility rate among Hispanic immigrants. Population growth fuels an economy temporarily while the long-term costs remain mostly hidden...until it is time to pay the bill for health care, education, transportation infrastructure, environmental protection, and so forth. Gov. Schwarzenegger is gambling on the lottery to bail us out of a $17.2 billion hole. Do I have a solution? Not really. My extended family has been able to maintain a net zero population growth yet include two legal immigrants (from China and from the Dominican Republic). Now my hope is that the Pope issues an encyclical encouraging condom use. But the chance of this is about the same as the lottery solving the state’s budget deficit. 

Robert Gable 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I got a call recently from one of Loni Hancock’s volunteer fundraisers. As soon as the young man on the line finished reading his telephone script, I told him in no uncertain terms just how disappointed I am with Loni Hancock now. I lamented how she has entirely abandoned the neighborhood causes that had been her springboard into politics in the first place, and declared my utter disgust that she now happily accepts huge contributions from the irresponsible developers and unaccountable corporations that she had railed against in her past political life. 

I went on to criticize her focus on doing everything she can to further entrench the Bates-Hancock political machine that has such a stranglehold on Berkeley politics. It seems that all Bates and Hancock want to do is support people who can help them and their cronies get re-elected to office. Power is the be all and end all. Progressive ideals? Ha! For Loni and Tom, they went out the window years ago—all that remains is the green window dressing. I ended my speech by telling the young man that I thought he should quit working for Hancock’s campaign. 

His response, and I am not kidding, was, “I’m thinking about it.” 

Loni Hancock is indeed fortunate to have such a perceptive and forthright young man working for her campaign. We can all hope he sets an example for her other supporters. 

Doug Buckwald 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

An Arkansas couple is being sought by police in several states after they allegedly took a young child’s pet miniature donkey for a walk and then did not return. The child, Faith Goodheart, said the couple was white, middle-aged, and seemed very nice. They promised to return her pet donkey to her as soon as they reached their goal.  

This just in: the couple and the pet donkey were sighted by police but made their escape in a hot-air balloon. The police are giving chase in their vehicles and are in contact with the couple by radio. 

The couple is threatening to harm the pet donkey if their demands are not met and a hostage negotiating team has been called in. Late developments: the hostage negotiators have been engaged in a running dialogue with the couple, trying to get them to land the balloon safely. The process seems to work but then the couple begins to describe the rightness of their cause and list their demands for releasing the donkey. Then the hot-air balloon starts to rise higher and higher and goes out of radio range. Sources close to the negotiation say the problem is compounded by the couple’s support staff on the ground who keep yelling encouragement to the couple during the negotiations, keeping the couple from hearing what the negotiators are saying. Negotiators hope that as the sun sets and the day ends, the hot air balloon will naturally come to earth and the pet donkey will be safely returned to her rightful owner.  

Brad Belden  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Becky O’Malley’s editorial “Fraternity Row Brawl Has Predictable Outcome” blames the dead stabbing victim for the crime. My understanding is that this killing happened on private property, where the killer had no right to be. How is this the victim’s fault, that someone went onto private property uninvited, pulled a deadly weapon, and killed him with it? Maybe Ms. O’Malley can explain this for us. The fact that someone saw students buying beer in the victim’s neighborhood has nothing to do with this killing. I have seen what appear to be drug dealers and prostitutes down on Ashby and San Pablo, in the killer’s neighborhood. Does that mean that he was on crack, meth, or heroin when he committed the crime? Not necessarily. Ms. O’Malley’s hatred for fraternities is clear in her editorial. But I guess that spewing hatred toward a group of predominantly white, male college students is acceptable in our society. It is a wonderful example of a double standard.  

Russ Tilleman  





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Although proponents of “Rapid Bus Plus” present their views in the form of a carefully-considered package, quite a few questions about it remain—especially when it is compared with the full Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project that AC Transit has propounded. Here are just a few: 1. Who has decided what the definition of ”Rapid Bus Plus” is? Is this a recognized configuration used by transit-planning professionals, or is it just a catch-all marketing term invented by opponents of BRT in Berkeley to help stop the project? 

2. More than 30 cities in North America have implemented, or are now implementing, BRT projects. Has “Rapid Bus Plus” (or an equivalent set of features) ever been selected anywhere in the world after a dedicated-lane BRT project was proposed by transit professionals? 

3. Disabled people and the elderly are disproportionately heavy users of bus transit. Since BRT stations would provide level boarding (like BART) for wheelchair users and people with mobility impairments, why would the disabled and elderly communities ever think that “Rapid Bus Plus” is better? 

4. In its Long-Range Development Plan, the university commits to building 500 fewer new parking spaces on campus if a BRT project is begun by 2011. How will “Rapid Bus Plus” help reduce the number of new parking spaces on campus? 

5. Excessive through traffic has been an ongoing problem in Southside neighborhoods for many years, and effective solutions are needed today. BRT will have to mitigate any increase in spillover traffic it would generate. Couldn’t the mitigations that AC Transit is required to provide be designed to make neighborhood streets less impacted by traffic than they are today? How would “Rapid Bus Plus” help meet that need? 

6. AC Transit has promised to replace parking lost to a BRT implementation in Berkeley. Given no net loss of parking, can you present any evidence from any community in the United States or Canada that the implementation of BRT with dedicated lanes has ever been bad for local business? 

The truth is that “Rapid Bus Plus” is being used as a smokescreen to cover the real agenda: fear of dedicating a lane of automobile traffic on much of the BRT route to public transit, in consonance with the city’s firmly established “Transit First” policy. So when you hear the phrase “Rapid Bus Plus,” be sure to listen to the mantra in the background: it’s the lane, stupid.  

Alan Tobey 

Friends of BRT  





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Mayor Tom Bates and Councilmember Linda Maio talk big about bike safety and other green things. But like every member of Bates administrative staff, the entire City Council has ignored many thoughtful proposals for actually making Berkeley safer for bikers. I speak from the standpoint of having been “doored” last year, and managing to avoid the bike for a year. In the two weeks I’ve been back in the saddle, I’ve had three near misses with car doors and another with a moving vehicle running a red light.  

Bates and Maio have ignored the following suggestions for the past three years: 

1. Place signs at all parallel parking locations that say: “Look in the door mirror–don’t hit a biker.” 

2. Pave and re-pave the so-called bike thoroughfares. They have some of the roughest pavement of all streets. 

3. Create a helmet availability program for those who can’t afford it. 

4. Stop constructing the so-called “traffic calming circles,” which present grave hazards to cyclists and pedestrians. Remove them from narrow streets so traffic can flow in a straight line again. 

5.) Start enforcing the helmet law. 

A casual survey reveals that more than half of Berkeley bike riders do not wear helmets. I sometimes get sanctimonious and yell out, “Hey I had a helmet on when the car door hit me in the head.” The responses vary from “Yea, you’re right–to fuck you asshole.” 

Liberals are just as stupid and vulnerable to hot button issues as are conservatives. In Berkeley, if a politician crows “green,” voters buy it without the most casual challenge or assessment. So, let’s start looking into these grandiose proclamations by the mayor and his minions and challenge them to make good. Bates and Maio talk green, but their actions are very brown. 

Three years ago I started e-mailing the mayor, city manager and all councilmembers about the need to create smoke-free zones in the commercial districts, where doors are less than 20 feet apart. I never got a reply from anyone–ever. But it’s gratifying to see that they acted on my proposal even if they made the effort to avoid communicating with me about it. Every occupant of City Hall needs instruction as to where to find the “reply” button on their computers. You’re welcome.  

H. Scott Prosterman 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The anti-bus rapid transit activists don’t actually seem to use public transit except for BART. In their proposal, they suggest emulating Muni’s N-Judah or Los Angeles’ Metro Rapid buses. Their proposals, comparing “Rapid Bus Plus” to the N-Judah, make it clear that they’ve never ridden the N-Judah at rush hour or L.A.’s Metro Rapid. I’ve ridden both. Metro Rapid and the N-Judah do provide better service than your ordinary bus, I’ll freely admit, but compared to the L.A.’s Orange Line BRT, there’s no comparison. The Orange line runs reliably, runs on time, and never gets stuck in traffic. There’s simply no comparison. 

Jacob Berman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Richard Brenneman opens his May 15 article with “The safest place to be in Berkeley on Wednesday night last week was ... in the community center at San Pablo Park.” Gee, I thought the safest place to be in Berkeley on Wednesdays is in front the Marine Recruiting Center in downtown Berkeley where no fewer than five Berkeley police officers were sighted this week watching over that raggedy bunch of nutcase misfists, Code Pink. Could I suggest that, since Code Pink’s offices are in Albany, the city of Albany volunteer their own police department to come up to Shattuck avenue to keep them from burning bogus magik (sic) potions while the BPD carry on with their real job, that of keeping our neighborhoods safe from crime? Better yet, why doesn’t’ the Berkeley City Council stop by each week to baby-sit these cartoon clowns they so fervently support? 

Heather Wood 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Berkeleyans for Better Transportation Options claim that their proposal for Rapid Bus Plus has been tried, and they give exactly one example: “San Francisco’s venerable N-Judah streetcar line is basically Rapid Bus Plus on rails. It runs in shared lanes, and uses simple POP....” 

A member of Friends of Bus Rapid Transit who lives in San Francisco read this claim, and he commented: 

“I take the N Judah at least twice a day, at least five days a week. It only runs in traffic for very limited portions of the route (Irving Street and Ninth Street between Irving and Judah) and those portions act as bottlenecks for the system. For the rest of the route, the N Judah gets its own ‘lane’’ (tracks on a slightly elevated/mountable platform). This is the case in the tunnels, and all along Judah St. and Duboce. 

“Actually, the few places where mixing of the N with traffic occurs cause serious headaches for Muni riders, and for residents who live along the mixed portion of the route, who must listen to the trains honking their horns to get oblivious double-parked car drivers out of their way. Along this slow portion of the route, passengers (like me) have time to hop off the train, jog ahead of the creeping train, do an ATM transaction, and then hop back on the same train again at the next stop. 

“It is not an example of successful Rapid Bus Plus, and instead is a lesson in the value of dedicated lanes in keeping transit running smoothly.” 

I would only add that San Francisco is currently planning to implement Bus Rapid Transit with dedicated lanes on three routes—which shows that, based on their experience, they have concluded that dedicated lanes are valuable. 

I hope BBTO keeps using the N-Judah as its one and only example of existing Rapid Bus Plus, then everyone will have the opportunity to see the benefit of designated lanes, just like Bus Rapid Transit will offer. 

April Mitchell 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am dismayed and disheartened to learn that Berkeley City Councilmember Darryl Moore called and held a meeting at the San Pablo Park Community Center Wednesday night to discuss the recent shootings in South Berkeley. 

I am dismayed and disheartened because how can a community meeting be held without informing the community? I live just half a block from where the Sacramento shooting took place, I know most of the facts surrounding the shooting and I know personally both youths who were targeted as well as the man who was shot on San Pablo Avenue the same evening. So I have some interest in what goes on here. 

To the best of my knowledge no one informed black South Berkeleyans that a meeting was scheduled. Otherwise how do you account for the fact that mostly white people showed up? From reading some of the comments made at the meeting it sounds as if an element of vigilantism surfaced. Why wouldn’t the mother of the two targeted youths, apparently around whom much of the discussion focused, be informed of the meeting? Is it Berkeley public policy to talk about people behind their backs?  

For instance, why was it necessary so mention the names of the youths involved in the Bob’s Liquors shootings? It was a targeted shooting. Don’t people think there is an element of security involved? 

This is the second time a meeting has been held around this shooting where the black community has been held in the dark. When the Berkeley police announced they had photographs of the shooters they held a press conference in the neighborhood to make the announcement—but they held it without doing any outreach. Same with Wednesday night’s meeting. 

When folks in Berkeley want to have a garage sale they plaster the neighborhood with leaflets, everyone knows about it. When a black kid gets shot, it gets swept under the rug, apparently. By the way, have the police interviewed the man who was standing outside Bob’s Liquors while the shooting was taking place? Why are there no leaflets in the neighborhood with the photographs of the shooters? 

The next time I have a garage sale I’m certainly not going to ask Darryl Moore or the Berkeley Police Department to organize it. And I’ll try to find someone else to vote for in the next election. 

Jean Damu 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

To answer June Brott’s rhetorical question, if I had gotten my property by forcibly ousting the previous occupants, I would expect them to try to avenge the situation. The fact that some distant ancestors may have occupied the area for brief periods thousands of years ago is both morally and legally irrelevant. 

Nor am I impressed with Israel’s industrial progress. Since 1967 alone the United States has given tens of billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars to Israel. 

We know it’s at least $150 billion but it could be much higher. Maybe a quarter trillion by some estimates. In any case it’s one hell of a lot of money, much more than we give to any other country, and unlike most foreign aid, it is unsupervised. 

If Brott had lived for 41 years under military occupation she might resort to drastic action herself. 

Eighty percent of the American people believe in angels, “god” and other fairy tales. Many still think Saddam Hussein was behind 9-11! 

All the “70 percent” figure Brott cites proves is that we have many misinformed folks here in the U.S.A. But we knew that anyway. 

How proud Israel’s supporters must to be see our moron president as the most pro-Israeli state chief executive ever! 

I call on both Christian and Jewish Zionists to stop the mindless agit-prop for not so little Israel before we get in a nuclear war on Iran. 

Michael P. Hardesty 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On May 15 the House of Representatives recognized American suffragist Alice Stokes Paul (1885-1977) for her role in winning women’s suffrage by passing legislation to award her the Congressional Gold Medal. Along with close friend Lucy Burns and others, she led a campaign that resulted in the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920, giving women the right to vote, and penned the early version of the Equal Rights Amendment. This long overdue honor recognizes Dr. Paul as one of the great women in history for her work to promote women’s rights, freedom and equality. 

Representative Joe Baca (D-Calif.) gathered 412 bipartisan sponsors for H.R. 406. The House passage of the bill is the first step toward honoring Paul with a Congressional Gold Medal. Work is underway towards with the bill’s counterpart in the Senate, sponsored by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), with the goal of having the Gold Medal awarded posthumously to feminist hero Alice Paul. 

It was only 89 years ago that women had no voting rights and little Power; married women had no separate legal status. With the help of tenacious Paul’s working to do what was right, women now can not only vote, but own homes, run businesses, play sports, become U.S. senators, and aspire to become the first women president. 

To honor Paul is to honor her life and work. She was the author of the Equal Rights Amendment, founder of the National Women’s Party, and a lifelong activist for women’s equality. Until her death at the age of 92, she fought tirelessly to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, and though the ERA is still not part of the Constitution, Paul’s legacy continues today. 

Helen Rippier Wheeler 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was surprised to see Nancy Carleton’s May 15 endorsement of Kriss Worthington include a reference to being a strong supporter of small businesses. Quite the contrary—Worthington has gone out of his way to make Berkeley an unfriendly place for small businesses. 

During the dispute last year between Metro Lighting and disgruntled workers, Worthington took the reprehensible step of putting forward an item on the consent calendar condemning the owners of Metro Lighting for a variety of offenses without making any effort to verify that they were true. The accusations were false and Worthington was forced to withdraw the item. As Worthington stated during the Nov. 27, 2007 council meeting “...somebody just asked me to put this on and I didn’t actually research it. I think it needs a lot more study and is very poorly written and doesn’t reflect the realities of the situation.” 

The crux of the issue is Worthington’s approach to this dispute. You see, he never even bothered to contact Metro Lighting to get their side of the story. Metro Lighting’s owners found out about this consent item only because a friend stumbled across it and called them. 

Metro Lighting is a long-time member of the Berkeley business community and it would have been very easy and sensible for Worthington to contact them to hear their side first. Perhaps if he was really interested in solving problems, he could have offered to help mediate, as did councilmember Darryl Moore. Worthington tried none of that. His approach was simply to put forth a flawed consent item without so much as fact checking it and choose to oppose a locally-owned and well established business. 

After withdrawing the consent item, Worthington promised the owners a letter of apology, but he has never delivered on this promise. That withdrawn consent item is still being referenced by the people who wrote it for him. Worthington’s words continue to do damage and he has taken no further interest in making amends. 

Perhaps Mrs. Carleton should not take Worthington’s approach and instead she should do a little more due diligence on just how much Worthington truly supports small businesses. 

David Weisz 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

BRT sure has been providing plenty of “Berkeley silliness” stories. 

We introduced our Climate Action Plan with great fanfare, but did not include BRT in it, knowing well that reducing automotive traffic is the best way to reduce greenhouse gas. 

In the Farmer’s Market, signatures are collected to “let the voters decide” how to deploy the BRT. We don’t need no steenking commissions or council—right? Perhaps we should let the voters should decide on other stuff—like the Climate Action Plan, downtown parking fees or even the city budget itself? 

A neighborhood group is pushing “Rapid Transit Plus,” which is BRT minus the dedicated bus lane. I’d call this “BRT designed for failure.” We are not going to get any big number of car drivers to become born-again bus riders unless the buses are allowed to go faster than car traffic. All BRTs elsewhere in the country have bus-only lanes in some places. It’s the only way to beat the cars. 

Good old Berkeley—nutty as ever. 

Steve Geller 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Here I am, the third time since I have been in the greater Bay Area, presented with water rationing. I recall very clearly having to send our precious water to Marin County via a pipeline placed on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. I recall the kind of saline taste that resulted from that time. This was during the 1970s. Then I remember the great 1980s and further rationing. This was interesting since I had just reroofed our house that had suffered from water damage from earlier rainy years. Six years of rationing really hurt. 

Well, here we are again. I am not very pleased with the decision to curtail everybody’s water usage by 19 percent. Why not just establish a baseline for an average family and then clamp on a surcharge for any excess? I feel like a fool for not putting in a pool or elaborate garden during the good times so my sacrifice will not be so harsh.  

Now I come to the good part. When will the East Bay Municipal Utilities District stop allowing new hookups to make the playing field fair? When will they and the people in the greater Bay Area know when to stop building and creating new shortages? This might be a good time to rethink all this so-called urban infill and its purported advantages to the Bay Area. Water has always and will always be in short supply in California. You only need to check the weather records from say the last century for validation. 

I don’t seem to see our great civic leaders in the forefront canceling large projects like, maybe the Trader Joe’s fiasco until the water emergency subsides. This is just my opinion.  

Mary Sawatzki 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

According to the insect pundits, plus my intensive Google research, the light brown apple moth, or LBAM, is, or is not, a threat to us all. The best solution for those who seem least cruel for the eradication of these hungry, winged fliers, is to use “sticky traps,” which would be full of mothy sex-pheromones. Thus, the hapless male moth, overpowered by synthetic sexual lust, would, without thought or independent sense of purpose, dive bomb himself into a sticky-death. Even the tiniest bit of empathy would seem to beg the question: “Isn’t there a more humane way to ward off this questionable invasion?” I put it to the corporate orchardists: “Have you no pity, have you no shame? Are you thinking of nothing but the bottom line at the expense of a beautiful, light brown, winged miracle of several million years of evolution? I, for one, am gripped by a feeling of insect brotherhood. It’s a guy thing.  

Robert Blau 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

This year marks the 149th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. Darwin’s theory of evolution set forth in this publication is considered the foundation of biology. However, even after 149 years, his theory, which has been tested again and again over time, is still anathema to many Americans. The Bible (Genesis) tells us that God created heaven and earth and all contained therein in six days. Genesis is treated by most scholars as an allegory, not literally true. Remarkably about one-third of Americans do believe the Bible is literally true. While most Americans probably agree that God was responsible for the creation of life on earth, many disagree on what happened next. About 49 percent of Americans believe that humans and other living things evolved over time (Darwin) while 48 percent believe that humans and other living things have stayed the same since creation (creationists). (“Intelligent design” is repackaged “creationism.”) Only 48 percent of American adults accept evolution (even if guided by God) and only 26 percent are convinced of the validity of Darwin’s theory of evolution by means of natural selection.  

The courts have ruled that the teaching of creationism and intelligent design in our public schools is unconstitutional and should be taught, if at all, in Sunday school, not in our public schools. 

What is most troublesome about creationism and intelligent design is that it espouses pseudo-science and anti-rationalism and discourages critical reasoning, contributing to a dumbing down of Americans. For example, 38 percent favor replacing evolution with creationism in public schools. How are we going to keep up with the rest of the world in innovation and scientific discovery when adherents of pseudo-science wield so much influence in our society? Even more troublesome, there are creationists teaching science in our colleges and universities and in our high schools. Junk in, junk out. 

Ralph E. Stone 

San Francisco 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Is everybody ready for the 2008 presidential season? President Bush gets things started by intimating that Barack Obama would appease terrorists like politicians of the past who appeased Hitler. Is this another Bushism? Obama would open lines of nuanced dialogue and diplomacy, something totally alien to the Bush administration. 

Bush’s alter-ego, John McCain, says Hamas would prefer Barack Obama as president. How does he know; has he got an inside line to Hamas? Actually, John McCain is borrowing from the Bush playbook of 2004 when George and Republicans used the same soundbite against John Kerry. 

And then there are the twisted conservative and right-wing pundits using Barack “Hussein” Obama to stoke the fears of their “red state” constituency. 

Republicans, McCain and Bush are taking the low road while Barack Obama stays above the fray. 

Ron Lowe 

Grass Valley