Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday June 03, 2008 - 02:00:00 PM



Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am disabled and have been using Paratransit for the past two years. In many ways it has been a God-send. For $3, I’m able to travel to anywhere in Berkeley or Oakland. Most of the drivers do their job well and are friendly and compassionate. 

My complaints are with management. The pay is too low and the scheduling often makes it impossible for drivers to be on time. It’s hard to be in San Leandro at 3 when your previous pick-up is at 2:45. 

Another serious criticism I have is that the best-conditioned and newest vans unfortunately do not go to the late shift drivers. One week, a driver had to bring back three vans because they mal-functioned. On too many occasions, vehicles have broken down twelve, one o’clock in the morning. At that time, everyone has gone home except the dispatchers. They’re not mechanics. They can’t fix transmissions or engines or anything else. So seriously disabled passengers are left in the lurch. One driver told me that all he could depend on when something went wrong was his wife. “Why would you give someone a good bus who’s coming on at 5 p.m. and has all the help in the world, when the person that’s gotta be out there ‘till 2 o’clock, gets a raggedy bus.” 

It seems a “no-brainer” to provide the late night drivers with the newest and best equipment, like such neighboring cities as Richmond and Hayward do. 

The supervisors of Paratransit have known about this serious problem since the beginning of the year. They have talked about getting new buses but so far nothing has been done. Saving money is a sad excuse for endangering the health, possibly lives of disabled passengers. 

It doesn’t make sense. 

Daniel Rudman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The 2007 calendar for Berkeley City Council meetings, updated July 5, 2007, indicates that the council’s plans were to meet for 23 evenings in that year. It appears that they took 14 weeks of recess or vacation time in 2007. That leaves 18 additional Tuesdays on which they could have met. In the name of sunshining City Council procedures, 18 more meetings would allow for a more respectful integration of public participation in the democratic process. 


Gene Bernardi 

Jane Welford 

Jim Fisher 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The picture of Berkeley High School Principal Jim Slemp cajoling his students to street action (and skip classes) made my jaw drop! This is the job of a principal? No wonder the academic scores are so absolutely miserable! 

We accept UC students demonstrating, as a right of passage to adulthood. But young teens have no judgment, and propagandizing them is despicable. We protect minors. We have laws against pedophilia. But what about “pedo-politicking?” Jim Slemp is unfit to lead children! 

This picture eerily recalls photos of Albert Speer striding to inspect his Hitler Youth, and Stalin his Young Pioneers, except that these two were better dressed! 

Juergen Hahn  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Berkeley’s aging neighborhood pools are now nearing the half-century mark, and the wrinkles are showing. The necessary major repairs and the improvements in energy use and purification systems require an infusion of funds over and above what is currently in the budget. The warm water pool is soon to be demolished. Its absence will be devastating to the disabled who need water therapy, the injured who require rehabilitation, the seniors whose arthritis is debilitating, and the infants and toddlers who need to learn a relationship with water that is safe. 

Berkeley’s swimming pools are maintained by the city’s dedicated and diligent Aquatics Staff. Because of their efforts, many of us maintain our health with lap swimming, masters’ classes and senior water aerobics. Middle school kids learn to swim in P. E. classes. Children of all ages learn to swim and play safely in the water. Some of them move on to join the Berkeley High swim team. 

A city with a shoreline needs facilities (pools) where kids (of all ages) can learn to swim and understand how to survive in water. 

We can prevent drownings. 

I urge the citizens of Berkeley and the City Council to place a bond measure on the November ballot, and to vote for that measure. The City of Berkeley needs to continue to provide pools for swimming and water therapy, as well as for water recreation. Even in economically troubled times, we all need to maintain our health, and kids need to learn to swim. Let’s provide funding for our pools. 

Sally Nelson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Two recent incidents of police violence against peaceful war protesters—one to a mother in front of the Berkeley Marine Recruitment Center and another injuring Code Pink founder Medea Benjamin at the Commonwealth Club—need to be addressed. Neither incident occurred after the protester had “crossed the line” so as to interfere with the rights of others: one was bending over a baby carriage, and Ms. Benjamin was yanked out of her chair and thrown out by an off duty police officer simply because he recognized her. Except for Code Pink and those families directly affected by the war, Americans are largely in a state of numbed silence, but let us not be so numb that we allow violence against those few who refuse to give up. 

Tom Miller 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The entire staff at Herrick Hospital is deeply concerned at the possibility that Kathleen Van Sandt, our full-time classroom teacher, may be moved. We are devastated by the letter of reassignment Kathleen has received from the Berkeley Unified School District. We wish for the school district to find an alternative solution. 

We are asking the Berkeley community to support us to this end. We are sending the Berkeley Unified School District a signed petition to urge a reversal of any decision to move Kathleen Van Sandt.  

We have listed a number of crucial points:  

• Kathleen has developed a comprehensive and engaging curriculum to support the hospitalized students served at Herrick. 

• Kathleen averages between 17 to 20 students daily. Students in day treatment and hospitalized students are able to continue their education. Independent study is offered as well. 

• A typical primary teacher in Berkeley has a top class size of 20 students.  

• Kathleen generates the same ADA (average daily attendance) monies that a K-3 teacher would generate.  

• The hospital census on the adolescent unit continues to fluctuate. However, our excellent physicians are actively seeking to increase the number of adolescent patients needing treatment.  

• Her personality and teaching style mesh remarkably well with the students and staff at Herrick. The students adore her. She brings multicultural awareness, scientific inquiry and Shakespearian language to our classroom. 

• The classroom has a long history of teachers with varying degrees of success. Kathleen has been the most successful. The classroom environment is enriched with technology, art and literature. 

• Herrick’s classroom has enjoyed a delightful renaissance since Kathleen’s arrival in 2005.  

Alta Bates-Summit is a major donor to the Berkeley Public Education Foundation. Herrick Hospital is a major community entity in Berkeley and supports the Berkeley Schools. We are asking for their support in return.  

We insist that Kathleen be permitted to remain in her present position at Herrick, until the hospital moves to Oakland in 2012. She is, in essence, irreplaceable. 

Please voice your opposition by contacting Bill Hyatt, the new Berkeley Unified School District superintendent at 644-6147 and/or Associate Superintendent of Educational Services Neil Smith at 644-6257. 

Contact Information for the BUSD Board of Directors: will send your message to all of the board. 

Voicemail: 644-6550. 

Bart Foley 

Mental Health Specialist 

Herrick Hospital 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thanks for the nice commemoration of the old U-Save Market. Another thing to mention, of interest to curious students who know there’s no source of all-night groceries within the city of Berkeley, is that the U-Save was 24 hours. Circa 1967, a co-owner and I had one of the first lunch carts at Sather Gate (brown rice and vegetables, another whole story) and we did all our shopping at Tay’s Produce, a concession inside the store. The late “Uncle Tay” was a fine and friendly greengrocer who sold us everything we needed in the way of reasonably-priced vegetables for our cooking in the early morning hours to be ready for lunch at 11 a.m. While it’ll be good to have a TJ’s in Berkeley (perhaps ideally not in that location), much of the chain’s produce is wrapped and packaged; Tay’s legacy of fresh fruits and vegetables is carried forward by his relatives at the long-lived Monterey Market, Berkeley’s friendliest and most reasonable produce shop. 

Sandy Rothman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It was a little startling to read Matthew Lasar’s rant against the Daily Planet in last week’s edition. I always thought Berkeley was a place that valued dissent, not one that implored newspapers to censor criticism. I am a member of KPFA’s board and hopefully not one of those described as “wanting power and pandering,” but regardless, his point is not well-taken. 

KPFA’s premiums are pretty darned expensive, ranging from $60-$120. I understand why, costs are always going up, and financial times are tough. For those who can afford to subsidize a voice for the voiceless at that rate, four times a year, that’s wonderful. God bless you and keep it up. You’re making an important contribution. But we all know not everybody can afford it. Nor does everybody have a fast, powerful computer that can handle fat audio streams. So if you’re really trying to get voices out to places that don’t have a lot of resources, the FM band is important, as are CDs you can toss into any $25 boom box. 

So Phelp’s point about making timely (not three-year-old) material accessible via the radio band is reasonable. It deserves consideration. There’s nothing distorted or incendiary about it. 

Fundraising is always a challenge. How do you do it so it blends with your mission and doesn’t detract from it? It’s a tough question. No easy answers. 

But its very dispiriting to see genuine questions about how money is gotten, the digital divide and class in American society greeted with such defensiveness. And such begging the question. 

It contributes to an atmosphere of slinging op-eds when we need to do better than that in order to meet the challenges. I don’t want to see KPFA staff “forced” to author combative op-eds. I don’t think that’s their job. I think its their job to acknowledge fair criticism, and try to work out solutions. I think it’s the job of the Planet to provide a forum for points of view to be aired and rationally discussed. And its the job of the stations community to engage with hard questions and try to figure how we want our local, listener-sponsored media to interact with us: those of us with the resources and those of us without. So we can get the maximum bang for the buck out of the progressive media we have left. 

Tracy Rosenberg 

Managing Director, Media Alliance 

KPFA Local Board Member 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

In response to those who are holding up the N Judah light rail line in San Francisco as a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) style model for Telegraph, I have something to say. I grew up right next to the N Judah line in the Sunset District where it uses dedicated lanes on a slightly raised track bed. But it is not necessary to be as intimately familiar with the N Judah as I am to understand why it works there. Along it’s dedicated section (from Ninth Avenue to 48th Avenue), Judah is mirrored two blocks away by Lincoln Avenue, which is a four-lane major artery and an excellent example of a close parallel redundancy. When they made the N Judah tracks bed dedicated lanes, the majority of Judah traffic merely switched to nearby Lincoln Avenue. Today, a relative minority of cars use Judah here because it is so slow. The point is that Telegraph does not have a close parallel redundancy like Judah. There is nowhere else for the cars to go. This makes it clear to me that AC Transit does not appear to understand or is plain out not telling the truth about how traffic works in Berkeley when they predict that traffic congestion increases would be “not that bad” if BRT went in. As 

for the notion that people will switch from driving to buses because of the speed of the bus, can’t we please start thinking about the real reasons that people don’t take buses? I am on my knees begging. 

Joseph Stubbs 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As the contest for the Democratic party’s nominee for the next president seems more and more likely to go to Senator Obama, the issue of whether Senator Clinton should seek the vice presidency becomes increasingly interesting. 

No one doubts Senator Clinton’s sincere desire to be our president. Would becoming vice president help her chances?  

Historically, a number of vice presidents have, of course, become our president or made a strong run for the presidency. 

Most recently, the first President Bush was VP under President Reagan. President Reagan was shot by a would-be assassin in 1981 and survived. GHW Bush was later elected in his own right and became President in 1989 after Reagan had served two full terms in office.  

Gerald Ford was President Nixon’s VP and became president in 1974 when Nixon resigned after Watergate. 

Hubert Humphrey was President Johnson’s VP and made a strong but losing run for the presidency in 1968. (Johnson had declined to run for a second term because of the Vietnam War.) Humphrey was only .7 percent behind the winner in the popular vote count. 

Richard Nixon had been VP under President Eisenhower but lost when he ran for president himself in 1960. He ran again and won the presidency in 1968. 

President Johnson had been VP under President Kennedy and became president in 1963 when President Kennedy was assassinated. 

In the last 45 years, four prior vice presidents have become president: two were elected in their own right, one succeeded a resigning president, and one after an assassination. And one VP (Humphrey) came quite close to being elected. 

In the same time period, no senator who ran for president was elected. But four governors became president (GW Bush, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, and Jimmy Carter). 

While none of the above predicts the future, such considerations might have some weight in the thinking of a senator who seeks the presidency but who may be denied the nomination for president. 

Senator Clinton would only be 61 in 2009 and would still be young enough to be a serious contender after either four or eight years of an Obama presidency.  

On the Obama side, what qualities do presidents tend to look for in a vice president? Two such qualities may be loyalty and competence. If Senator Clinton can demonstrate those qualities in her dealings with Senator Obama, her chances of reaching the presidency through becoming vice president may increase. 

Brad Belden 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Have you seen the bumper stickers “Stop the Aerial Spraying,” placed mere inches away from the cars’ toxic exhaust? We don’t know if the synthetic pheromones from aerial spraying are harmful, but we definitely know that the carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, particulates, and nitric oxides spewed by automobile drivers kill tens of thousands every year. I trust that spraying opponents Robert Lieber and Dick Andre, writing in the Planet, will tell us how many years ago they gave up emitting aerial toxins from their personal transportation choices. 

Then there are the locals protesting the impact of immigration raids on Berkeley High, even though the agents never set foot on school property. Wait a minute. Aren’t these the same folks who want to spend more and more money on education while they ignore that the flood of immigration has overwhelmed California’s schools, destroyed the fine educational system we once had, and created the problems they want to spend money to fix? 

Berkeley hypocrites. Don’t you love them? 

Mark Johnson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On May 27 a special teleconferenced public meeting of the UC Regents’ Committee on Grounds and Buildings was held in Oakland, to receive public comment and to vote on two big building development projects proposed to be constructed up on the steep hillsides of the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL) and on the north side of Strawberry Canyon. The regents’ committee received considerable public comment, all requesting that these two projects be built elsewhere nearby, where there would be far less environmental damage, earthquake safety hazards and traffic congestion problems. However, after very little discussion among the regents themselves, they voted unanimously for the immediate approval of both projects. 

Edward Denton, the UC campus vice chancellor for planning, design and construction, stated on May 27 something to the effect that the proposed building sites are more than a half-mile away from the Hayward Fault. If he’s doing his job, then he had to know that assertion is false. Back in 1975, when I was the principal engineer in the campus Office of Architects and Engineers, we retained Civil Engineer B. J. Lennert, working conjunction with geology Professor Garniss Curtis, to trace the Hayward Fault. He traced it right through UC property, between LBNL and the campus. Dr. Curtis recently wrote the following admonition: “No! Major buildings of any kind should not be built in either of these canyons (Strawberry or Blackberry Canyons) bordering this huge block of unstable rock.” 

Many of the regents appear to be influential people, whose concern seems primarily biased in favor of private financial interests, with little concern for environmental problems and public safety. The Helios project, proposed to be located on the edge of Strawberry Canyon, is primarily funded by foreign oil money, BP (formerly British Petroleum), at an estimated half billion dollars, to do yet poorly defined research. As public support for university sponsored research dries up, the trend is to shift to corporate support. This clearly compromises the integrity of the research and the scholarship of the university. 

In my opinion the Tuesday meeting of the regents committee was a sham. I suspect the approval of these two big projects was privately discussed and decided well before the public meeting. Nonetheless they had to conduct a public meeting, to be in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The regents’ action is now on a 30-day hold pending their publication of the May 27 meeting minutes. Now is the time to pursue legal opposition to the proposed LBNL locations for these projects. 

John R. Shively