Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Monday June 02, 2008 - 04:09:00 PM



Editors, Daily Planet: 

I want to set the record straight on the misinformation that has been circulating on these pages regarding Berkeley Bowl’s use permit. The characterization that the City Council had the option to place a requirement on Berkeley Bowl’s use permit to give workers the ability to achieve union representation is simply false. The assertion that the council or community members who supported the rights of workers to unionize argued against such conditions or voted no on Berkeley Bowl’s permit is also flat-out false. At the council meeting when the Berkeley Bowl’s land use permit was discussed, many councilmembers and community members like Nancy Skinner spoke during public comment and favored conditioning the Berkeley Bowl’s use permit to benefit workers. 

However, City of Berkeley legal staff ruled that the council did not have the legal right to add such conditions to a land use permit. As a result, the council discussed introducing a separate resolution urging the Berkeley Bowl ownership to honor their employees’ right to representation and to pursue an expeditious and open process. 

On the first action—the council’s vote on the land use permit—Councilmember Kriss Worthington, as well as two other councilmembers, abstained. No councilmembers voted no on the Berkeley Bowl’s use permit. The second action—urging the Berkeley Bowl ownership to pursue an expeditious and open process for employee representation—was not even considered on the night of the permit vote. I submitted it along with councilmembers Capitelli, Anderson and Worthington, and it was voted on at a council meeting a few weeks later. The City of Berkeley did not provide any funding or subsidy to the Berkeley Bowl. Had the city provided public monies to the proposed West Berkeley Bowl, we could have put a condition on such funds that the Berkeley Bowl ownership refrain from any anti-labor actions. The fact that the only action we took was the granting of a land use permit is what prevented us from legally placing such conditions. 

Nancy Skinner spoke before the council on the night we voted on the land use permit. In her comments, Nancy decried the Berkeley Bowl owners’ anti-labor actions and expressed support for requiring such conditions. Referring to the city staff’s ruling, Nancy acknowledged that it appeared the council did not have the legal right to put such conditions on the land use permit. She went on to express that it would be necessary that she, councilmembers and supporters throughout the community would have to once again join with the workers to ensure that employees at the new Berkeley Bowl could achieve collective bargaining rights without harassment. None of Nancy’s comments to the council were in opposition to the mandating of labor friendly conditions on the use permit which I and other councilmembers, had we been legally able to, would have gladly supported. 

Darryl Moore 

Berkeley City Councilmember, District 2 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I cannot remember the first time I fell in love with Kriss Worthington, who we know is running for the state Assembly. Of course, I am one of the many who knows the goodness of his soul for he is not only the most humble man I have ever known, but I could go on and on—protector of the poor, the needy, the disabled, women the workers, and artists. Please vote for him on June 3. 

Diane Villanueva 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing to urge voters on Tuesday vote against Kriss Worthington. Worthington votes for the current configuration of Marin Avenue a couple of years ago. 

This is an attempt by Berkeley’s bicycle coalition, or Bike Reich, along with brigands in the City of Albany to deprive residents of North Berkeley two lanes of traffic. No matter what you think of the outcome, the procedure reeked of arrogance, with this noisy minority believing in their ordination to make policy for everyone else. Worthington supports this and deserves punishment and denial of higher office. 

Frederick O. Hebert 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Loni Hancock writes many great-sounding bills—thirty-two—but passes few—six. 

She gets great publicity for good bills she writes, but little follow-up on those that fail, those she pulls ( ex: universities and their communities), and those she fumbles (ex: aerial spray). 

Merrilie Mitchell 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I cannot possibly be the only one to observe, day after day, the extent to which AC Transit has flooded some routes with numbers of buses, increasingly the massive articulated buses, often traveling in tandem, sometimes side-by-side on our major thoroughfares. I see these buses daily from my office on Telegraph Avenue and frequently try to count the number of passengers and often see totally empty buses following other totally empty buses. Comparatively few buses are even moderately full, even during so-called commute hours, and often empty or nearly so at mid-day, when demand is at its lowest level. Often these buses are traveling at higher speeds than necessary and have become an increased danger to bicyclists and pedestrians crossing the wider thoroughfares. 

Is there some conspiracy by AC Transit to make Berkeley residents so accustomed to this greatly increased bus traffic that the creation of special bus lanes will seem to be a relief? Why is it necessary to have such large buses? And where are the statistics to show that they are needed now, let alone in the future, even if there were reduced automobile lanes of traffic?  

It seems to me the entire BRT plan and the purchase of large numbers of super-sized buses is simply a case of needing to find a way to spend the grant monies being offered for mass transit programs. There must be better alternatives. 

I always thought AC Transit was a well-managed public transportation system. I am no longer convinced this is the case. 

Michael Yovino-Young 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Is it only me? Page 11 or your much-appreciated print edition is a destination reminiscent of the 13th floor of the Hilton: I just can’t get there! Forty inches of J.DA-T, with the inevitable “remains to be seen” hook, stands in stark contrast to your team’s many serious efforts at news and opinion—a figurative barbershop amid a small town mall for the mind. Weekly, I am delighted at the opportunity to cultivate an appreciation for the perpetually underpowered “UnderCurrents” column. Weekly. And not unlike Sisyphus. 

Lured again Thursday, hopeful for a perspective on the local struggle for safe neighborhoods and sane neighbors, albeit tempered by election-year finger-pointing and modest multi-level marketing propositions from a self-serving city hall, I was neither prepared for a treatise on the number “803” nor an encore of the previous week’s hit “50.” Fine vehicles they may be, but surely now better served by a graphic or a few choice bullet points, no? And, hmm, when will Allen-Taylor cease tagging the weaker artistry of Chip and Phil? Inquiring minds want to know. 

But imagine my frustration, teased mid-column by references to Measure Y street-level intervention, community-based re-entry, youthful diversion, and mayhem prevention programs—“solid, and defensible” he smoothly opined—to find the pathetic escape, “needs some time to jell.” This, after a full week of local headlines about one of Mayor Dellums’ test cases: a recent homicide long employed City-side and oft-diverted from criminal prosecution? Oh, Jesse, you leave me so unsatisfied! 

Jay Tharp 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In “South Berkeley Cell Antenna Dispute” ( May 29) Michael Barglow writes that “In many cities, high wattage antennas which face directly into lower income neighborhoods often serve high income neighborhoods much further away.” This dynamic is playing itself out right now in Kensington, where wealthy and politically connected residents have mobilized dramatically to block an antenna proposed above Colusa Circle. 

I urge city and county planners to step into the role of antenna planning, defining multiple sites based on objective criteria (such as equity, height, aesthetics, coverage, and distance from occupied building floors). These sites then need to become veto-proof, so that politically savvy neighborhoods can’t shift the burden. As Mr. Barglow states, having many smaller tower sites reduces the peak radio power needed to provide vitally beneficial cellular services. Excellent antenna sites, like the unoccupied top floors of a storage building, mausoleum, or utility building should be identified and cataloged. 

Every cell phone user should be willing to accept some of the burden providing cell service requires. Antennas must be close to cell phone users. And only governments can effectively ensure the burden is shared. 

Bryce Nesbitt 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’m tired of spotty cell phone service in Berkeley. I understand people are complaining that cell phone towers are disproportionately placed in poor areas. I live in North Berkeley, in the hills. If any major cell provider would like to erect a tower on my house, please let me know. 

Russ Mitchell  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am sending this letter to let the people in North Berkeley know that there are plans to install so many cell phone antennas in Gourmet Ghetto and vicinity. There are already three antennas on the roof of Barney’s Restaurant at 1600 Shattuck disguised as chimneys. They are operating for more than three years. Four antennas were installed recently on the roof of the building at 2095 Rose St. (at Shattuck). They are across from the Jewish Community Center. 

There are plans to put 12 antennas on the French Hotel and eight with seven pieces of related equipment on the roof of the building at 1625 Shattuck, next to the parking lot of Elephant Pharmacy. So, within three to four blocks in North Berkeley, there will be a concentration of 27 seven antennas and many corresponding equipments. This is too many for such a small area. As many in Berkeley argue now: (a) there should be a moratorium on the installation of wireless facilities till a workable ordinance is put together; (b) antennas should be spread evenly in all neighborhoods. 

Mina Davenport 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Nobody should be fooled by Doug Buckwald’s latest attempt attempt to torture the facts. Mr. Buckwald thinks the tree-spassers are “a visible example of the concern that many in our community feel about the fate of this special natural place.” This ignores two undeniable facts. First, a handful of noisy hippies does not comprise “many” in our community. Second, the oak grove is an artificial creation of the university—not nature—as the trees were planted when Memorial Stadium was built. 

Next, Mr. Buckwald claims that the judge issued a preliminary injunction because she believed that the leftist Armada (including the turncoat mayor) was “likely to prevail in a hearing.” Not true. The standard is a “likelihood”—not “likely.” Given the fact that the “harm” sought to be prevented could not be undone absent the issuance of an injunction, I was not surprised to see Judge Miller issue the injunction. I would, however, be quite surprised to see her rule in the extortionists’ favor. 

Mr. Buckwald further exposes his ignorance of the law by arguing that “it is long past time for the university to agree to obey our city laws.” Why? A city is, by definition, subordinate to the state. Under Mr. Buckwald’s view of the law, the City of Topeka’s policy of separate but equal would have trumped federal law. Of course, zealots usually ignore the hypocrisy of their positions so I can’t say I’m surprised. The City of Berkeley has no authority to regulate the State of California. Case closed. 

Finally, Mr. Buckwald calls the trees a “special urban woodland.” Once again I have to wonder whether this self-proclaimed Cal fan has ever been to Memorial Stadium. This isn’t Muir Woods—we’re talking about a handful of trees lining a street. As for it being an “irreplaceable natural resource for the entire city,” I suspect the university’s plan to plant three trees for every one that is removed will create a better and equally natural make-believe “forest” for people to ignore in the future. And as for the “good of our children,” I guess that “our” doesn’t include the parents of our athletes who are forced to use seismically unsafe facilities because curmudgeons like Doug Buckwald and Tom Bates continue to use the courts in their dastardly attempt to thwart progress at Cal. To paraphrase one of Berkeley’s favorite presidents: Mr. Buckwald, cut down those trees! 

Jeff Ogar 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

You’ve got to hand it to the governor: Just as the public began calling for raising personal and corporate income taxes to close the budget gap, Schwarzenegger came up with a truly madcap scheme instead. If he has his way, Wall Street will loan us $15 billion to expand the state lottery. The increased profits, if they materialize, will go into the general fund and into the pockets of our Wall Street saviors. As usual, the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer with every lottery ticket they buy.  

There are dozens of fair and sensible ways of closing the $17 billion budget shortfall. Here are three: First, impose an oil severance tax on the production of crude oil. We’re the only oil-producing state that doesn’t do so and, at the modest rate of 6 percent (compared to 12 percent in Alaska and Louisiana), such a tax would generate a billion dollars in new revenue. As crude oil prices continue to soar in the years ahead, the state will reap even an even bigger windfall.  

ExxonMobil posted the highest profits in industry history last year to the tune of $40.6 billion, roughly the same as the gross domestic product for Serbia. I think this company and its peers can spare a bit of their loot without suffering too terribly. 

Next, legislators should raise the current 9.3 percent tax rate on the richest one percent of taxpayers (couples with joint incomes above $544,460 a year) to 11 percent and increase the rate on joint filers earning more than $272,230 to 10 percent. This adjustment would generate $5.3 billion in new revenue the first year and $4 billion in subsequent years, according to the California Tax Reform Association. Assemblywoman Loni Hancock has introduced a bill (AB 2987) that would do just that, generating in one fell swoop three times the revenue of the state lottery. 

Finally, if we really want to free up some cash, we can cancel the $15 billion prison expansion bill passed last year. On the other hand, if we keep cutting social services and education programs, we’ll need those 53,000 new prison beds to warehouse all the poorly educated, unemployed folks who resort to crime and substance abuse to cope with their position on the margins of society.  

There are plenty of ways to shore up the budget. If only we had a governor with the courage to make the rich and powerful pay their share instead of pretending that California can gamble its way to fiscal security. 

Erica Etelson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I want to commend the teenagers and two teachers on the 88 bus today, May 30. They were going from a school on Alcatraz Avenue to St. Joseph the Worker to do community service and help clean it up. I’m writing this because there are so many negative things said and thought about that age of young adults. To my and other passengers delight they were respectful and relatively quiet on the bus. There were 35-40 kids and two teachers. I thought, oh no, when I first saw them get on, but by the end of the trip my spirits were lifted up. One boy helped an elderly woman when she got off! 

Please print this so they might see it. I had a happy day because of them and their teachers. 

Ellen Levin 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

President Bush, at the Alpine height of hypocrisy, has abjured playing golf out of consideration for our dieing and dead men and women in Iraq. This is Bush’s claim to empathy. Rumor hath it that Bush’s golf scores have been embarrassingly high lately. Need we say more? He kills two birdies with one stone. The record needs “putting” straight.  

Robert Blau 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In reading Judith Scherr’s article (“LaRouchites Try for a Foothold in County,” May 30), I couldn’t help but be puzzled by the apparent inability of “local Democratic Party activists” to understand my own and fellow LaRouche organizers’ “attempted entry into the local party structure.” As the name of our Franklin Roosevelt Legacy campaign slate clearly indicates, and as we have repeatedly stated in campaign leaflets and at public events, we are seeking to restore the policies of FDR within the Democratic Party. This includes a revival of the historic grassroots coalition of “forgotten men” and women, farm and industrial labor, minorities—and youth. Each of us running have demonstrated this political commitment, through our campaign to stop the Recall of Gov. Davis; our persistent organizing from 2003-2007 for the impeachment of Dick Cheney; our successful mobilization to stop the privatization of Social Security; our role in organizing campus youth to deliver a Democratic landslide in the 2006 midterm elections; and our recent efforts to organize grassroots support for a proposed Homeowners and Bank Protection Act, to freeze foreclosures and reorganize the chartered banking system. 

Because these are national issues, we have been accused of not doing “the nuts and bolts work of building the party and supporting the candidates.” But just what exactly constitutes the “nuts and bolts” of the Democratic Party, if not to fight—at all levels—on the issues that define the livelihoods of the majority of our citizens? 

Perhaps more to the point of why this article was even written, is that the very policies named above are opposed by a corrupted Democratic leadership that has acted against the will of its own base, while serving powerful financial interests like investment bankers George Soros and Felix Rohatyn. It is a leadership—under the disastrous Nancy Pelosi—that has squashed the prospect of impeachment, and therefore any serious action to end the war policy of the current administration. It is a leadership responsible for near criminal negligence in failing to address the very economic survival of the population, as we face the worst foreclosure and banking crisis (compounded now by a worldwide food shortage) since the Great Depression. 

The Democratic Party will not survive unless it returns to the basic commitment embodied by FDR’s policies on behalf of the “forgotten man.” Those who see our candidacy as a threat—as “anxiety-provoking”—either fail to comprehend this basic fact, or do not share that commitment. 

Oyang Teng, Candidate, Alameda County Democratic Central Committee, 16th Assembly District,  

along with Ian Overton, Jon Stuart, Ramiro Bravo, John Craig, and Ben Deniston 





Editors, Daily Planet: 


I hope Joann Conrad and the BCC Urban Anthropology Class have followed up their guerilla planting at Hearst and West by notifying Berkeley’s Department of Public Works of the planting, or better yet, asking the helpful neighbors to notify them. A friend of mine worked hard to plant and maintain an area of native plants at her child’s school only to come one day and find that a maintenance crew had mowed them down, thinking they were weeds. 

Otherwise, great story! 

Nancy Schimmel 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Aquatic Park is a lovely albeit noisy place, nestled between freeway and railroad tracks. There are actually three bodies of water. The main body is long and is home to waterfowl, rowers, water-skiers, walkers, runners, and the odd homeless person. The two “upper” ponds are smelly wrecks. What all three ponds need is fresh water and just down the (rail) road is a great source. 

EBMUD’s water treatment plant is situated about a mile south, between the railroad tracks and the southbound Nimitz (is it still called that?). It discharges, according to its website, 80 million gallons of treated wastewater into San Francisco Bay every day.  

Why not use that (waste) water for purposes of clarification and beautification? Why not extend a mile of pipe north to the southernmost pond? The water could be discharged into the pond using whatever pressure the plant can supply. From pond one, solar-powered pumps could discharge the water over or under the highway on-ramp to northbound 80 into pond number two. Another set of pumps could move the water into the large pond.  

I know there will be objections to treated wastewater. However, not too many people, water skiers excepted, expose themselves directly to the water in any of the ponds. If there are other objections, please feel free to state them (nicely, please!). 

Waterfalls don’t have to be expensive or fancy. They can be made of rough cement–the point is to have falling water, both to look at and to hear.  

I haven’t heard too much recently about the “Living Wall.” Maybe a beautification project with waterfalls could jump-start that issue again. Maybe we could also let the state build its version, then we could build our version right behind it. A sound wall for the freeway and a living wall for the lakeside. 

Aquatic Park needs work. We have the water resource to make it better. Maybe a nice financial agreement between EBMUD, the city of Berkeley, and the state of California could provide us with some relief to smelly, murky ponds, livening up an underused area. 

Jack Jackson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

“The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men” are sometimes brought to light. From the start of his presidency George W. Bush thought that if he could take the nation to war he would achieve greatness and a lasting legacy. 

Now, former press secretary Scott McClellan’s tell-all book, says that the president and his cadre misled the nation into war through a process of deception and propaganda. 

Each president is remembered for something; Richard Nixon was, Bill Clinton will be. George Bush will be remembered for lies and the death of untold numbers of human beings. Not a pretty legacy. 

If the pall that President George W. Bush has cast upon the world isn’t crimes against humanity, what is? When do they convene the International Criminal Court in the Hague? 

Ron Lowe  

Grass Valley 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

This week, Dr. Marilyn Dudley-Flores of Petaluma of Petaluma began Human Terrain Team training at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. After a month there, she will go to one of three other bases for an additional three months of training, then she will deploy either to Iraq or Afghanistan. When she was accepted into the program, I submitted my application, hopefully to share the danger and to watch her back, so I am still waiting on acceptance. I should hear one way or another in a few weeks, with a reporting date in late June. We have been advised to be prepared to move with the troops in 120-degree heat and wearing 40 pounds of “full battle rattle,” including a sidearm. In our mid-50s, we are going to war alongside soldiers one-third our age. 

Having successively lost several academic positions on North Bay campuses during the past few years, the Human Terrain Team program was Marilyn’s last, best opportunity. It is not what she would prefer; rather, it is an indictment of the deterioration of the American post-secondary education system and the militarization of the American economy. But, given the situation, and having served in the 1970s under Lieutenant Colonel Norman Schwarzkopf as the U.S. Army’s first female infantry soldier trained for arctic and mountain combat, she will do what she must. Her old unit, the 172nd Arctic Light Infantry Brigade, regularly deploys to Iraq as the 172nd Stryker Brigade. 

On the morning of 2 July 1863, brigade commander Colonel Strong Vincent inspected the position of the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment on Little Round Top, south of Gettysburg, Penn. He explained to regimental commander Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, who had been a professor of rhetoric before the Civil War, that his position was the southern end of the Union line, to be held at all cost, for to lose this position would be to lose the battle, and probably the war. “Now we’ll see how professors fight.” 

Thomas Gangale