Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Monday June 16, 2008 - 11:59:00 AM




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Barbara Miller, the judge in the Memorial Stadium oak grove case, will announce her decision on Wednesday, June 18. So, after all these months, this is it! The “Save the Oaks” community asks that everyone come join us outside the oak grove on Tuesday night (June 17) for a joyous candlelight vigil starting at 8 p.m. Bring a candle, a song to share, and a musical instrument if you have one. 

On Wednesday, we will gather at the oak grove beginning at sunrise to await the judge’s decision. Please tell your friends to stop by, even for a short time. This may be our last chance to save these beautiful, irreplaceable, giving trees—including the spectacular 200-year-old “Grandmother Oak,” which was living here long before the university was built.  

One thing remains true: These precious living trees are not standing in the way of the university’s ability to build a new gym. Other sites are available that would be safer and more suitable. It’s time for the university to do the right thing and choose one of these sites. Can we save these trees? Yes we can! 

Doug Buckwald 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I see considerable confusion among the Daily Planet's anti-cell tower and anti-Bus Rapid Transit letter writers. 

Mina Davenport (June 5) asks both for cell towers to be spread evenly over more Berkeley neighborhoods, and for a moratorium on installing new cell towers. It's hard to see how the cellular companies could install cell towers in more locations as she requests, if the moratorium she requests is enforced. 

Michael Barglow (June 5) succumbs to a different sort of confusion by adding up the transmission wattage from several antennas to come up with a total number of watts of radiation being beamed into neighborhood homes. The antennas involved are directional, and he says they will be mounted on three sides of a building, so we can assume that the signals will be aimed in different directions. Combining them into a total makes no more sense than declaring three streets with 30 mile per hour traffic to have a combined 90-mile per hour traffic speed. 

While quoting wattage numbers, Mr. Barglow might also bolster his credibility by looking at signal decay and determining what the power levels would be where the signals would come into contact with people, instead of at the antenna. The Wikipedia article on radio propagation might be a good place to start. To put the numbers in perspective, the 1,200 watts Mr. Barglow claims as the output of the larger antennas is also the power output of my microwave oven. Nobody would want to be inside a microwave oven when it's running, but few people scrutinize the shielding of microwave ovens across the street. 

Meanwhile, on the Bus Rapid Transit issue, Joseph Stubbs (June 5) argues that there are no parallel routes to Telegraph Avenue for car traffic to use. Yet, Anne Wagley (June 12) uses the argument that BRT would parallel BART (which runs on Shattuck and Martin Luther King) too closely. Are the anti-BRT people asking us to believe that Telegraph, Shattuck and Martin Luther King are so close together that pedestrians would have no trouble getting from one to a public transit line on another, but too far apart for people to get between by car? 

Please, letter writers: I'd really like my phone and my local public transit to work well. Failing that, can I at least ask that if you re going to be obstructionists, you get your stories straight? 

Steve Gibbard 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Is there any way Berkeley voters can amend the BRT ballot measure? Rather than simply voting yea or nay on making mass transit more convenient, several closely related measures could be part of a more comprehensive measure. 1) Berkeley voters can prohibit Planet Earth from manifesting global warming, such as conditions which may have abetted the recent and inconvenient Oakland Hills fire. 2) How do other populous countries have the chutzpah to think they deserve to emulate the American lifestyle?! Only Americans can waste the Earth’s resources: Americans wear U.S.-flag lapel pins and sing “God Bless America.” Let our ballot measure also prevent other nations from following our examples. 3) While Berkeley carnivores appreciate Sacramento politicians diverting most of California’s fresh water into the heavily subsidized hamburger-export agribusiness industry, our ballot measure should demand EBMUD allow unlimited water use for washing the cars and SUVs we idolize. Freedom of religion: Why deny BRT a dedicated lane if we can’t show off our shiny gas-guzzling idols? 4) And, Berkeley voters can simultaneously repeal the law of supply and demand, which inconveniently abets higher gas prices just because Americans are addicted to gas, other nations emulate our addiction, and the ethanol crop was flooded (possibly by global warming manifestations…what a waste of potential carwash water!). Why not have one rational and comprehensive ballot measure for Berkeley voters? Hurray for the power to vote for our own extinction! 

Mitch Cohen 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Another amazing load of crap from Mr. Phelps. 

Greg McVicar 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

To: Equity Residential 

Attn: Cindy O'Hara 

2 North Riverside Plaza 

Chicago, IL 60606 



Dear Ms O'Hara, 

I am writing to inquire about leasing the office space advertised at 2561 Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley, California, for the Pepper Spray Times for use by our editorial and features department and would like some clarification about the site. 

Your project information notice describes 2561 Shattuck Ave. as "...previously approved for theater space." 

If a zoning variance is required I can testify on your behalf to the need for office space previously approved for theater. Though there is no shortage of office space previously approved for theater in downtown Berkeley, such facilities are highly valued for overcoming the debilitating height restriction challenges driving so much business to other cities. 

By leasing office space previously approved for theater to the Pepper Spray Times, Equity Residential can show how a commitment to theater and the arts can be a wise business investment regardless of its impact on the theater community. The health of downtown 

Berkeley's business community depends on a plentiful supply of office space previously approved for theater and the office workers served in the inappropriately tall buildings that make it all possible. 

Thank you for providing prime retail commercial and office space previously approved for theater in Berkeley's downtown arts district. 

Our staff looks forward to moving in to 2561 Shattuck Ave. and "acting out" inappropriately on casual Fridays. That's the kind of theater we really like. 


Grace Underpressure 

Editor, Pepper Spray Times 


P.S.: We would love an autographed picture. 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A man in the last row of the Berkeley Community Theater yesterday played pool on his cell phone, while a few seats down a young boy slept, snoring lightly. It was a long ceremony. The theater was full, the lights were down, the microphones worked most of the time. Thirteen students, mostly girls, spoke—chosen to honor the fact that each of them had gotten straight As, no A-minuses allowed—during their academic careers at the school. The school symphony played and a group sang, with soloists in each showing promise for extraordinary futures in music.  

Behind the seating area half a dozen or more parents and friends who use wheelchairs gathered to try to shoot pictures with their long lenses, since the front of the auditorium was blocked off for the graduates. Balloons and horns marked the granting of each diploma, as an orderly procession of girls in beautiful dresses, and boys—some in suits and some in tee shirts or hoodies, each with a carnation—filed across the stage. Some, due to various disabilities took longer to navigate the route, and they were cheered loudly for this extra effort.  

The diverse audience included people in suits and people in tee shirts, parents, family, friends, social workers, teachers, a juvenile commissioner, women in shorts and women with their heads covered—all there to cheer on the kids. The audience clapped and cheered enthusiastically through out the ceremony—after obediently turning off their cell phones and lowering their balloons so that everyone could see, until the very end, when the roughly three hundred strong eighth grade class chanted " '08, '08!" before filing out. They are high school kids now, starting again on the long road that will determine their futures. They are a fine looking bunch. 

Perhaps most impressive, though, in the Martin Luther King Junior Middle School graduation that took place Thursday afternoon, was the initial welcome to the audience in the thirty native languages of the 300 students, only the final one of which was English. For the Spanish greeting the crowd cheered, nearly everyone being able to understand. But there was also Ibo and Finnish, Russian and Czech, not to mention Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese and Hindi, and 22 others. 

So this is us, folks: the Berkeley demographic—unique, diverse, creative, interesting, talented and proud. And these are our kids who, if anything, are even more so. Congratulations to the MLK class of '08, and congratulations to us, the Berkeley Demographic. Berkeley is the greatest.  

Kristin Baldwin Seeman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In her June 12 musings on the recent primary election Becky O'Malley opined that Nancy Skinner's campaign had been "orchestrated by an expensive San Francisco agency." While "expensive" is simply inflammatory and conjectural on her part, we are definitely Los Angeles-based.  

Without being too defensive I would like to suggest that Nancy won because she had more volunteers and small donors than her opponents—and the best articulated and most substantive policy proposals. While O'Malley rightly pointed to one of her mailers as having a soft focus (it was an introductory, biographical piece) other mailers laid our detailed and specific proposals for addressing the state budget crisis, reforming schools and improving health care.  

Parke Skelton 

SG&A Campaigns 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am thinking about how to bring back students who are alienated from public education. I believe that if we offer more useful subjects to them like music, arts, computer science, business management and health sciences, students may get renewed interest in finishing school. Art and music are healing and relaxing subjects. 

These subjects can help them think on immediate and future goals. We have been forcing students to join classes that have no meaning for them. 

Once I had a class where most of the children (ages 5 to 12) came from broken homes. They had anger and unhappiness reflected on their faces. I decided to bring beads, string and scissors to the worktable. I announced that any one who could make something within an hour could take their handiwork home. To my surprise three hours passed without any disturbance or fight among the 30 children. The only time I heard a voice was when some one asked me if I had any more blue beads. The classroom had a CD player. The soothing background music plus the bead work served as a mind and body medicine for that group. 

This example shows that working attentively in a group can bring back lost feelings of togetherness. When students are relaxed naturally, they may be able to decide what to do next. It should not be difficult for the educators to be flexible and change the curriculum for the benefit of the average or low achiever students. This may help us improve the over all learning standard our students. 

Romila Khanna 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

While I agree with many of the points Sharon Hudson made regarding Bus Rapid Transit, I absolutely choked at her suggestion that the place to concentrate new regional development is in Oakland, particularly in low-income neighborhoods, which she thinks would welcome development dollars more than Berkeley’s “comfortable, middle-class neighborhoods.” Residents of single-family neighborhoods flanking International Boulevard don’t want giant ugly condo boxes going up on International any more than Berkeley residents near San Pablo, Shattuck, or Telegraph. In either case, development dollars do not benefit the residents, nor do condos increase property values. In fact, Oakland’s current condo glut is depressing values as developers resort to auctions to get rid of them. It may be true that lower-income residents can be fooled into supporting development that is not really in their best interests if developers and politicians promise jobs and/or affordable housing, as happened with the huge Oak-to-Ninth development, but then many highly educated middle-class citizens in both cities have drunk the Smart Growth Kool-Aid and really believe that “density near transit” will somehow save us from the coming global climate change catastrophe. 

That Ms. Hudson believes this development could be “intelligently integrated into new planning” shows a lack of knowledge of Oakland’s planning process, which is just as dysfunctional and developer-driven as Berkeley’s. Also, her assertion that Oakland has only one-third the population density of Berkeley is simply untrue—Berkeley has 9,823 persons per square mile, Oakland has 7,162 (about 75 percent). 

I do not see why Oakland OR Berkeley should bear the brunt of dense development. BART goes to Contra Costa County, and AC Transit serves other cities as well. Let’s see some huge condos in Concord. How about some density in Dublin? In any case, Oakland isn’t taking the fall so Berkeley’s middle-class neighborhoods can remain pleasantly uncongested. 

In reality, we cannot build our way out of the climate crisis. Unlimited population growth combined with unlimited economic growth on a finite planet is simply not sustainable, yet the majority of people (and certainly governmental entities like cities and AC Transit) just go on thinking that somehow we have to accommodate increasing population, or that if people just stop driving it will all be OK. It won’t. 

Jane Powell 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

As another brave attempt at impeachment by Dennis Kucinich was politely ignored by the alleged "people's representatives" in the halls of Congress, I sent Speaker of the House Pelosi the following e-mail: 

"Dear Congresswoman Pelosi, 

I am again disappointed to hear that the leadership in the House will again table articles of impeachment against the two traitors in the White House. Must they have sex with prostitutes to be accused of wrongdoing? The president has broken laws he swore to uphold. He is a criminal and needs to be prosecuted for the sake of our democracy. 

Perhaps the title "President Pelosi" frightens you. Nevertheless it is your duty to bring Bush to justice or be stamped by history as failing your country when She needed you most." 

Anyone else out there disgusted enough to send her a nudge? Or should we just expect Team Cheney to politely leave the halls of power come January?  

Chuck Heinrichs 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Yesterday evening a polite and presentable, albeit nervous-seeming, young man rang our doorbell. My partner answered the door, with me just a few feet away in the den, listening to the conversation. 

He introduced himself as representing the Democratic National Committee and launched into a canned speech about the great need for fundraising to keep pace with the Republicans. My partner gently explained that we had already given an amount we felt we could afford directly to the Obama campaign. 

The fundraiser, trained to be persistent, then jumped to the part of his canned presentation which he was trained to say in response to someone having already given funds to Obama. My partner listened patiently (a lot more patiently than I would have) to his whole spiel. When he finished up, she repeated that although the reasons he presented may be correct, we had really given as much as we could at this time. 

The fundraiser then jumped to the response he was taught to give to someone who said they had given as much as they could afford. Though my partner continued to show patience, I was losing mine. I stepped to the front door and tried to gently tell the fundraiser that, while we were on the same political side, I really thought he needed to hear what my partner was saying—we were unable to give more money at this time. 

Instead of realizing that he had best leave because he had been turned down, the fundraiser started one more time to go into his pitch. At that point, hopefully not too meanly because he really seemed a nice young man, I more forcefully told him he needed to stop asking us for money and that he should tell his supervisors that, as a loyal Democrat, I was greatly concerned that this approach of badgering people to give money was counterproductive and could well turn out to lose the Democrats votes. 

His response? He said that if he told his bosses that, he would get yelled at. He had been taught, he explained, to keep asking for a donation until the door was slammed in his face. 

Well, to save this nice young man from having to tell his bosses what they don't want to hear, I will say it here. Don't bite the wallet that feeds you. If we say we are supporters and that we've given already, perhaps leave a brochure which explains why there is a need to give again. But that's it. Don't keep badgering. And certainly don't wait to have the door slammed in your face. Otherwise, I fear, the voters may slam the door on the Democratic candidates in November. 

Dan Alpert 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was at the Breast Not Bombs peace demonstration this past Friday in front of the Marine Recruiters Office at 64 Shattuck Square in Berkeley. I was totally shocked that the Berkeley police would go ahead and arrest a Code Pink member for exercising her First Amendment right to bare her breasts at a public demonstration even after I told the police that a topless peace demonstration, even a totally nude one for that matter, was protected by the First Amendment as declared by U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks in a 2003 legal decision that was supported by the ACLU. 

Middlebrooks' decision barred the State of Florida from trying to block plans by a group of women planning to gather in a state park, strip nude and form a peace symbol with their bodies in protest of a U.S. war on Iraq. In his 11-page order he stated that "nude overtly political speech in the form of a ‘living nude peace symbol' is expressive conduct well within the ambit of the First Amendment." 

As a past member of the Peace and Justice Commission in Berkeley I plan to contact the Berkeley major's office and all members of City Council that it is both ironic and hypocritical that the city most noted for birthing the Free Speech Movement would arrest a woman for exercising her right of free speech. 

If the major, city attorney or council do not take action then we can bring this to the attention of the Peace and Justice Commission and get a resolution adopted to present to council. 

I would also like to point out that I have accompanied Sherry Glaser, founder of Breasts Not Bombs, to at least a half-dozen previous Breasts Not Bombs demonstrations, including ones in Santa Rosa, San Francisco, and Sacramento and only in Sacramento were there any arrests. In that one the California Highway Patrol was forced to drop all charges when they realized they would lose their case in court and didn't want to risk setting a legal precedent that would expose and guarantee the legal right for women to bare their breasts in public or for anyone at all to be totally nude for that matter at a public demonstration. 

I would also like to note that when Berkeley resident Debbie Moore was arrested numerous times for exercising what she considered her right to be totally nude the City of Berkeley could not get a jury to convict her. That is why Berkeley stopped arresting people for being nude in public as a criminal offense and instead made it an infraction of law punishable by a fine only. This way they could avoid having a jury trial that would only lead to an acquittal. 

I totally agree with the group slogans: "Put the Marine Recruiters Under Abreast" and that "The issue is soft tissue." 

Alan Moore 

Musicians and Fine Artists for World Peace 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you for your frequent coverage of the issue of the planned aerial pesticide spraying of the Bay Area for light brown apple moth (LBAM). Your most recent article “Reedley Says OK to Aerial Spray Plan for Bay Area” (June 5) touched on many aspects of the controversy, including a new study showing even greater health risks from the product that was used over Santa Cruz and Monterey. It is critical to point out that the Bay Area is still on target to be sprayed; lawsuits in Santa Cruz and Monterey that require the state to complete an environmental impact report (EIR) before resuming the aerial pesticide spraying apply only to those counties and not to the Bay Area. The state is required to provide only 72 hours notice before they spray an area, and Aug. 17—just two months from now—is still the date dictated by the governor when spraying can resume in California. 

In response to this impending crisis, Stop the Spray-East Bay and Pesticide Watch are sponsoring a free Town Hall to Stop the Spray on Monday June 23 from 7-9 pm, at Lakeside Park Garden Center at Lake Merritt, 666 Bellevue Ave. (off Grand Avenue), Oakland.  

Concerned East Bay residents will have the chance to learn about the latest legal and legislative strategies to protect our communities from the LBAM spraying program. Experts will present the most up-to-date science and health information. There will be an opportunity to get involved in the local movement to stop the spray. 

Our speakers will include Oakland City Attorney John Russo, providing the most current information on legal strategies to stop the spray in the Bay Area; Douglas MacLean, communications director for Assemblyman Sandré Swanson, reporting on legislative strategies and state politics; Daniel Harder, Ph.D., executive director of the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum, providing scientific evidence the moth is not a threat; and Lawrence Rose, MD, MPH; UCSF Occupational/Environmental Medicine Department, discussing toxicity of the spray and health effects. For more information go to 

Rachella Grossi 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing in response to the June 12 article by Kristin Bender in the Oakland Tribune regarding the murder of Anita Gay by officer Rashawn Cummings of the Berkeley Police Department on Feb. 16. I have sent this letter to the Tribune, but I want to share it with Planet readers as well, because the Planet has dutifully and responsibly covered this issue (unlike the Tribune).  

As an active member of the community, I was outraged by this article that was so slanderous towards the family of Anita Gay. The article made it seem OK to shoot this woman in the back in cold blood because of perceived personal problems as she walked up stairs to her apartment. The quotes from Gay’s daughters included in the article were taken from late-night interrogation sessions following their mother’s murder, interrogation sessions that went on for hours without any legal representation present and in which there was blatant room for coercion. The article served as a callous pardon of criminal police behavior, justifying the shoot-to-kill policy and directly implying that this policy was appropriate to enact in the face of no immediate threat to either police or civilian lives. In the last 10 months, we have seen four people murdered by the police in Berkeley and Oakland. In each situation nobody’s life was threatened except those of the innocent people murdered by the cops. What this shows is that the murder of Anita Gay was not an isolated incident but rather an alarming pattern of conduct by the Berkeley and Oakland police departments. The fact that officer Cummings has been cleared of any wrong doing gives a green light for the police policy of shooting first and asking questions later. I will not sit back any longer while police terrorize our community. Perhaps it is naïve, but I believe strongly that the newspaper of record for this community should not either. The article published by the Tribune was not only grossly inaccurate, but unconscionably so. The Tribune owes our community fair and honest reporting about the issues directly affecting us, not some disgusting and ridiculous smokescreen for the police. I write this article to demand accountability from both the Berkeley and Oakland police forces and the Tribune. 

Rachel Reynolds 

Oakland ANSWER Coalition 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Summer of 2008. Anti-tax Republicans, to the detriment of tens of millions of Americans, blocked a bill that would have taxed windfall profits of oil companies. Big Oil will continue to yank our cord as long as they can get away with it. 

The majority of those locked up in World War II internment camps were Americans who "looked" Japanese. Is the same thing happening again as the Homeland Security Department and law enforcement round up citizens who look Mexican and Hispanic? 

McCain calls Obama bad for business. Now, that's the pot calling the kettle black. John McCain and Republicans have turned the U.S. economy on its head over the past seven years. 

Gay marriages haven't affected my marriage or anybody else’s I know. It does seem that the narrow-minded and conditioned folk who are steeped heavily in a particular set of moral and/or religious precepts, have been greatly bothered by the alternative marriages. 

Ron Lowe 

Grass Valley 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Back in 1991 I was halfway through graduate school when I started watching "Meet the Press." I was completing a master’s degree in public administration with the intention of running for Cleveland City Council in 1993. Over the next seventeen years I have never missed a show and have always been awestruck by the method used by Tim Russert to question his guests. My feeling was that if I could ever ask those types of questions {and be able to answer them as well} I would develop into an excellent public servant. Furthermore, the energy he exuded when hosting the show went far beyond any talk-show host. Tim portrayed a level of intensity that never appeared intimidating but yet kept everybody's attention focused on what was really important. He was businesslike but nice. He cared not just about the issues of the day but those he interviewed as well. "Meet the Press" was never about attacking someone but rather getting to the heart of what they believed based upon what they would say. It was not "gotcha politics" but rather an honest attempt at clarification which is so often lost in these days of sound bites. 

Tim was not only a great father but a great son as well. There are not too many public figures who would write about their relationship with their father and be so candid and honest about it as well. He truly loved his family. He also loved his extended family: the citizens of the United States of America. To all of us he will be remembered as a brother making us adopted sons and daughters of "Big Russ." Tim set an incredible example for all of us by living his Catholic faith. Here was a man of virtue who always maintained dignity and respect for his fellow citizen. He fought the good fight and has finished the race. We are overwhelmed with sadness at his sudden departure but will never forget what he did while he was among us. Our lives must strive to set similar examples. Today and tomorrow we shall morn him but the next day and the day after we shall miss him. Thank you, Tim. We love you. 

Joe Bialek 

Cleveland, Ohio