Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Monday June 23, 2008 - 03:57:00 PM




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I love New York—the sprawling cement, the bustle of the non-stop traffic, the throngs of people pushing through the sidewalks, as long shadows are cast on the street below from enormous skyscrapers. I love New York but I love California more—the sun, the trees, the relative quiet of Berkeley in comparison. All of that seems to be changing at a fast clip as every iota of open space is quickly being renovated into a five-story/multi-unit/multi-use complex. Take for example 1500 San Pablo Ave. In the relatively quiet North Berkeley neighborhood a plan is being proposed for a five-story, 170-unit building, complete with a grocery store on the bottom. Just wait until rush hour on San Pablo as the already bustling street tries to accommodate another 340 or so drivers plus shoppers as they try to pull in and out of San Pablo Avenue. What does it matter that this massive building will be out of place as 90 percent of San Pablo is one- and the occasional two-story building? Let’s build something tall to block all views and the sun! Hey, and all the drivers on San Pablo can fan out to all the neighborhood streets to avoid the gridlock, thereby adding more congestion onto the sidestreets like Kains, Cornell, Stannage, and Tenth street. Every California city is concerned about growth, environmental impact, traffic, and the preservation of open space. Why are the City of Berkley, the mayor’s office, and the city planners hell bent on letting developers overdevelop Berkeley? What’s wrong with a little open space, or even a little unused space? Just for fun drive down San Pablo Avenue on a weekday at 5, or even on Saturday at 5 and imagine a lot more cars, you will end up wanting to image a whole lot more open space. 

J. Fisher 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Now that the judge has slowed down the sports center, a win-win alternate would be to build a multi-use sport facility at the Albany G.G. racetrack. There is plenty of parking. UC Berkeley’s housing, Richmond Field Station, and campus are all close by. Horse racing tracks are being abandoned. 

As a long time Berkeley resident, UC Berkeley’s continual expansion has made life unbearable. There’s no quality of life, living in a high-density, limited-area city. 

Ray Quan 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing about an unsafe condition on the median strip on Shattuck Avenue between Cedar and Vine streets in North Berkeley. I have been surprised the City of Berkeley has allowed this condition to exist. At various times during the day, primarily during meal hours, numbers of people, especially young people, use the median strip to lounge, socialize and eat. They think they are invincible. There are numerous restaurants and food take out businesses on that block. The city should allow them to set up tables and chairs on the sidewalk so the patrons don’t need to congregate on a dangerous median strip. 

It is a dangerous condition that can result in serious injury or death to the users of the median strip. The median strip is approximately three to four feet in width and is not meant as a gathering place. It was designed as and meant to be a landscaped decorative divider strip between north and south bound traffic on Shattuck Avenue. There are no warning signs on the strip and there are no barriers to errant traffic.  

If an inattentive driver of a truck or car jumps the strip (the curb is not that high), there will be serious injury or death to one or several of the users of the strip.  

The City of Berkeley needs to post warning signs on the strip and have the police enforce a no use policy on the strip for the protection of the users of the strip and for protection of the city from liability claims. 

As a personal injury attorney I am very aware of dangerous conditions, especially those allowed to exist by governmental entities. To avoid exposure to liability the City of Berkeley needs to stop the use of the median strip as a gathering place. I don’t believe Shattuck Avenue is a state route. Consequently the State of California would have no liability. 

Recently a car in Santa Monica driven by an elderly gentleman crashed through barriers and plowed into several people on the Santa Monica pedestrian mall. The defendants in the wrongful death and serious injury claims were the City of Santa Monica, the managers of the mall strip and the driver of the car. Judgments and settlements amounted to millions of dollars. Guess which defendants had the deep pockets and paid the majority of the monetary claims to reimburse the victims and family members of this tragedy. 

Our situation is worse. Our strip is not meant for the use which the city is allowing to occur and the City of Berkeley would be the main defendant on claims. Most drivers don’t carry that much insurance coverage, especially in cases of wrongful death and crippling injuries.  

I don’t know how much money the City of Berkeley has in reserve for these types of potential claims. It is time the City protected itself and most importantly the users of this strip.  

Paul M. Schwartz 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

For the past six months Congress has been squabbling over how to pay for expiring clean energy tax incentives. These incentives are bringing down the cost of installing, building, and manufacturing the renewable energy systems and energy-efficient products our nation so desperately needs. If these incentives expire in December over 116,000 jobs in the wind and solar industries are placed at risk next year. 

The Senate has a chance to get us to end this protracted debate by voting HR 6049 into law. This bill passed the House in late May by a bi-partisan vote. It includes an $18 billion package of renewable energy and energy-efficiency tax credits that would be paid for by postponing an obscure tax break for corporations with foreign operations that was supposed to take effect next year, and by cracking down on hedge-fund managers who are currently able to avoid billions of dollars in taxes by diverting money to offshore havens. 

Thus in exchange for closing wasteful tax loop-holes that would stop an unchecked gravy train for select, wealthy taxpayers, our nation will continue to enjoy clean energy tax incentives that benefits all Americans by creating local jobs in green energy? fields, enhancing our energy security, and helping us fight global warming. That sounds like a trade-off all wise politicians would support. 

I call upon our Senators to think seriously about our energy future and immediately extend these clean energy tax incentives. 

Emma Poelsterl 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

A June 19 Oakland Tribune headline reads, “Search is on for sexual assault suspect.” This brief article describes a crime that occurred in Berkeley on Sunday, June 15 at 7:20 p.m. near Dwight Way and College Avenue. A Latino assailant in his 20s approached a lone woman, exposed his genitals and pushed her up against a parked car. He then tried to pull her into the front entrance of an apartment building. She screamed, pushed him off and he fled on foot. This article quotes police as reminding people not to walk alone or talk on cell phones or listen to iPods as they walk, remaining aware of surroundings. Although this is mostly common sense and known safety practices it is very alarming to be warned by police not to walk alone.  

With the astonishingly high cost of gasoline, costly and time consuming-inconvenient public transportation, and a significantly overweight population suffering from too little exercise and too much of the wrong kinds of food and beverages the prevailing financial advice, professional medical advice and environmental advocates urge people to leave expensive and polluting transportation at home. Few people have a buddy system that allows for companionship to go about their daily business using their feet to get around. It is counterproductive and appalling that the limited resources of law enforcement have deteriorated to the point that the police seem to be capitulating to the grim fact, that even in broad daylight, law abiding people are not safe walking on even some of our busiest streets in neighborhoods perceived as relatively safe. Roving thugs, engaging in random acts of opportunistic crime, now thwart everyone’s basic safety. Hazards of walking normally include very poorly maintained-fall inducing sidewalks as well as ever increasing pedestrian safety concerns due to heavier traffic and less conscious-more distracted, often substance-abusing drivers. Society is degenerating to conditions that soon will require, law-abiding citizens to stay behind locked doors or venture out only in protective packs of armed or mace carrying peers. The social fabric of our society is badly shredded and the near and distant future appears very bleak indeed. 

Carol Gesbeck DeWitt 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

This is getting ridiculous. How many times can Congress continue to miss the opportunity to extend the Renewable Energy Tax Credit? It seems that they’ve missed yet another chance, and every week they fail to renew this legislation, the greater the impact on the planet. The solar industry will fall apart (for most intensive purposes) if this tax credit does not get an extension. The current policy will expire Dec. 31, and the implications of this will likely grind the entire commercial solar market to a halt starting July 1 because very few solar projects will be able to be built out in time to collect the 30 percent tax credit if they’re not begun in July. How can we subsidize oil, beef, agriculture, milk, eggs and so many other industries, but in the time of rising gas prices, failing power plants, projected spikes in the cost of electricity and tremendous public interest in renewable forms of energy (solar, wind, geothermal, hydro, etc.), can this Renewable Energy Tax Credit policy fail to be extended? It boggles my mind! It seems so entirely stupid that our Congress cannot get this one right. It’s not just the fault of Congress of course, because the Bush administration is dead-set on striking down any policy that takes money from their precious oil cronies, and they’ve stated that the renewable energy tax credit will be vetoed if it intends to get funding from oil subsidies. So, with six months left in the current tax credit policy, and the window rapidly closing on commercial entities being able to lower the cost of solar by 30 percent with government support, we see our leadership failing us. 

Climate change issues are the number one national security threat we face as a nation, but our government continues to support/fund foreign wars for oil and ignore the problems we face at home. Our government is failing the people’s demand for clean power, sustainability, and the policies that promote a lifestyle that will keep our country strong. So the answer must be to vote them out of office. Millions of people want solutions to climate change problems, rising energy costs, smart environmental technologies, yet our government is blowing it time and time again to make responsible policy changes. Let’s turn up the volume. Let’s make some noise about the importance of solar, wind, geothermal, and other forms of renewable energy. The oil era is over, and it’s time we started living that way by supporting, funding, and promoting the smart technologies that will make the United States people leaders again. 

Jeremy Pearl 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have been reading the latest news coming out of Israel with cautious optimism: the ceasefire with Hamas, an offer to begin talks with Lebanon, and the ongoing talks with Syria and the Palestinians. It looks like Israel is heading in the right direction in its quest for security and peace. 

I have been struck, however, by the absence of public expressions of support for these recent peace efforts, most notably from the pro-Israel community that is normally such a vocal advocate for Israel and its policies. 

As an American who believes that the security of Israel, its neighbors and the United States is enhanced by a peaceful Middle East, I strongly support these initiatives and hope that the United States will do more to facilitate their success. I hope that those who consider themselves to be friends of Israel will join me in this strong expression of support. 

Michael Sherman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

While it may only lie in the California past “when most children had at least some exposure to music at school” (June 12 editorial), students in the Berkeley Unified School District today benefit from a rich introduction to that culture. My two daughters, like all Berkeley fourth graders, were offered (and issued) instruments last year and this, and twice played with members of the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra. Last year one daughter sang at school with members of the San Francisco Opera a la Carte. The three of us just returned from three days at Berkeley’s Cazadero Music Camp in the Sonoma redwoods, where the program concluded with the fifth graders’ precise hour-long symphonic concert, and where our children took home warm introductions to the entire Berkeley schools’ music staff from whom they will learn in the middle and high school years ahead. Of course we are indebted to the taxpayers, music institutions, and donors whose generosity has enriched the Berkeley schools, and the foresight of civic leaders to have acquired and resurrected the Cazadero camp site decades ago. 

Antonio Rossmann 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Way back in 1986 the supposed wise and visionary citizens of the City of Berkeley declared itself a “No Solar Zone.” Oh, wait minute...that was: “Nuclear Free Zone!” 

How ironic my slip...for we might as well have declared ourselves a Solar Free Zone being that, in well over 30 years since the 1973 oil crisis, only a handful of alternative energy installations exist in Berkeley. 

It is not unreasonable to expect auto companies to have been building massive fleets of 50- or 100-mpg vehicles by now. And by the same token, with all of our brain power, wealth, and rooftop acreage, the City of Berkeley should have, by now, become a shining beacon to the region, and to the rest of the world, in the implementation of solar technologies. Sadly, shamefully, this is not the case. 

The City of Berkeley is now entering into another tiresome era of political leadership consisting of the same handful of machine-politicians who have presided over us for decades. Well, yes, we voted them into office, but, dear citizens: Their victory is only half of the bargain. 

It is of the highest moral imperative to demand real accomplishment on issues such as energy policy (not to mention the numerous other problems that have plagued our city for over 30 or 40 years). 

It is time to get off of our high horses, take a break from the redundant celebration of our supposed superiority, and demand results. 

John Herbert 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

We read with interest Becky O’Malley’s recent “Editor’s Back Fence” column no the Daily Planet website regarding the whole Memorial Stadium brouhaha, and several of her colorful phrases caught our eye: 

• UC Berkeley continues to embarrass its graduates. 

• Huge and hideous Mussolini Modern athletic building. 

• Kafkaesque labyrinth of dark underground corridors. 

• Quintessential Old White Guy. 

• No-neck conformation that identified them as The-Jocks-in-Charge. 

• “Oozing charm from every pore, he oiled his way across the floor.” 

We have wondered if all your advertisers would be pleased with your oddly puerile, stereotyped aspersions, and if they really want to spend their advertising dollars on your personal opinion paper. Are any of your advertisers pale white guys, or ex-athletes? We’ll ask them. 

Leo J. Gaspardone, Sr.  

UC ‘57 

Sandy Bails 

UC ‘68 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding the June 19 article on the Marines Recruiting Station protest: Will somebody please tell Pam Bennett and Sherry of Code Pink to put their shirts on? 

I’ve spent years of my life trying to effect peace and progressive change and believe we have to keep asking ourselves two questions: What do we want to change? How can we achieve it in a way that works? (And not be dismissed as “those crazy bitches?”) 

All I can say is exposing your breasts ain’t the way. Just what portion of the electorate did Pam imagine she was reaching? 

True, a faction of The Choir applauded, probably those who still long for the romance of the 1960s. Some of Pam’s supporters say, “She got attention for the anti-war cause.” Yeah, like the sexual humiliation inflicted on Abu Graib prisoners made them hand over great intelligence. Is all attention good? Ask any mother of a 3-year-old. 

For that matter, the vast majority of the electorate are already against the war. We could have given them the message to contact elected officials to cut off war funding. But, yawn, that’s so dull. What message did the shirtless ones actually send? 

I suspect what Pam is looking for is a kind of exciting them versus us fight—them, guys filled with testosterone, and us, righteous women. Cops are obviously filled with testosterone and must be bad. Tribal warfare of this sort just increases bitterness and stunts such as Pam’s and Sherry’s are self-indulgent. Besides that, Pam’s description of cops sounds a bit sexist. 

My informants tell me another tactic was considered for the demonstrations—the use of Winter Soldiers testimony. That sounded red hot to me. Did it happen? 

Meanwhile, I’d like to hear of a single person persuaded to resist the militarization of these United States by Pam and Sherry’s action. No, I ain’t new to this cause. My pacifist grandfather came out against flag-waving and militarization in 1918. I suspect he had plenty of testosterone. He also was elected to office and promoted women’s voting. How I wish some of my fellow progressives were as sensible. And that someone would bring this country together without prejudice against women, blacks, gays or even working class men. 

Avis Worthington 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

When I was in my first few years of adulthood, I spent too much time reading comic books, playing video games and watching movies, while not spending enough time trying to cause positive change. My younger brother is also a comic book fan, but as a young man entering adulthood, he chose to follow his heart and save some trees. My younger brother climbs and traverses to save a public park, a public memorial, a beautiful slice of nature a short walk away from city life. 

For those who weren’t there, on June 17, a private arborist firm was given orders by UC Berkeley Campus Police Chief Vicky Harrison to cut the traverse line he was suspended on. If they were successful, if they chose to fulfill those orders, I would have lost my brother, my friend. 

He’s stuck in the trees right now, and I miss being able to talk to him, and going on walks with him. But I know he doing what he feels is right, and I support him wholeheartedly. He chose his tree name because of a T-shirt I gave him when he was on the ground once. I miss him, but I expect him to come down after his mission up there in the canopy is successful and over. I expect him to come down safe and not coldly plummeted to the ground by a mercenary tree trimmer from Watsonville. When my brother is back on the ground, I want to buy him a stack of comic books, not a bunch of flowers for his grave. 

I don’t know what is going to happen between the time I type this and the time this gets to print. But I would hope Vicky would not value her $2.1 million scandal, nor a gym, over my brother’s safety. 

Go Sonic, go.  

Name withheld 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

As an alumnus of the University of California at Berkeley, I strongly urge your newspaper to express its support for discontinuing the legal action that the City of Berkeley has initiated to challenge the construction of a new athletic center on the campus. The historically strong partnership between the University and the City has significantly benefited both the citizens and the University, and improvements to the University’s athletic programs can not only benefit both but can also bring substantially increased business and sales tax revenues. The City has made its point in this litigation, but now it is time to cease this expensive and divisive action. 

Bill Russell 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding Richard Brenneman’s April 29 story, “Week’s Second Shooting Alarms North Oakland Neighbors”: 

As the mother of the victim of that shooting, I was appalled as I read the story about the shooting in your newspaper. No investigating about this crime was actually done by the newspaper or the police. My son was not a shooter in this incident. He was the victim! He was ambushed while dropping off a friend as a favor to him. He had no gun and was not and never has been involved in that type of gun violence. He does not steal...he has integrity...and, although he is not afraid to defend his self, he doesn’t initiate violence!  

He had been driving the little Hot Wheel-looking yellow Dodge Charger when a man came out of nowhere and shot into his windshield. My son believed it was an attempted robbery. He had attempted to make an blind escape by driving the car off with his head down, which resulted in the crashing of the vehicles described in the article.  

He had a friend with his 3-year old daughter in the back seat. To divert attention from them, he jumped out and ran. The shooter ran after him shooting as he pursued. The only thing that saved him is tore off his gold chain and emptied his pockets of all his money while he was running. The shooter stopped to pick up the goods.  

In the meantime, his friend jumped in the front seat and drove off to safety. And my son jumped the fence into someone’s yard to hide from his assailants. He said he could hear at least two guys looking for him. He waited in fear and pain because he had been shot. He doesn’t know if he had been shot before he ran or while running but by the time he found a place to hide he knew he had been hit.  

He stayed there until he saw a police car ride by and then he came out of hiding. By that time, the police car had left. He walked down the street begging for someone to help him by taking him to the hospital and no one would. Finally, when one young guy was ready to take the risk of his father’s scorn, the police found him. 

The officers questioned him while he lay in pain believing he was dying. But after that, we never saw any more police. There was no interest from anyone in what had happened...what had really happened. There was no investigation...nothing. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. He is a young black man, age 25. He is considered one of them...the shooter, expendable, deserved of this kind of lack of interest, just not worthy! That is where I became appalled.  

He shouldn’t get the same care and interest as any body else. Don Perata was carjacked in that same area. He is no more worthy than my son! Is that the only time people notice? My son was a victim!  

I have grown very weary of the treatment of young black men as a whole. My son has to deal with stuff no one else should have to. He was picked up last year by the San Leandro police and kept in jail over night because he was suspected of attempting to steal a car which belonged to his friend, he had his permission to drive it, he had gotten locked out of it and the police had talked to the owner. No charges were ever made. And, they kept the key to his car which they said was a shaved off key, so he had to pay to get a new one. 

He is a young man like so many others that is trying to find his way. He is in and out of school and jobs. He is young and a little unstable. But, he does not deserve to be treated like a criminal or worse as if his life is not as important as the next guy...or the Don Peratas.  

Please make attempts to get the stories right! My son was not just a crime victim but also a victim of a perception that when you are a young African-American male you must be at fault. 

Frustrated Mother 

Monique Shaifer 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have always looked to California as being the leader in protecting nature. The University of California, Berkeley is giving the entire state of California a horrible image throughout the entire United States. 

It is ironic that I am writing about your namesake, our one and only planet, which the tree-sitters are trying to protect! I was appalled to read in the June 19 New York Times that the University of California, Berkeley wants to kill a necessary part of our planet’s environment. I am so thankful that the city of Berkeley and the Save the Oaks organization have more sense than whoever cooked up this selfish, irresponsible idea. I keep praying that the whole idea will be scrapped. Right now, the coast oaks are not endangered. Why do we have to wait until something is endangered to protect it?  

Annihilating nature is contrary to all the wonderful environmental decisions that California has been making. The tree-sitters and the city of Berkeley are my heroes and are representing the true heart of California! 

Isn’t it a little suspicious that the arborists were hired by the university, and are incognito? If there are so many objections, maybe there is a reason. 

Thank you for your time and for using your vast influence to encourage people to save your namesake.  

Phyllis Hale 

Tipp City 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

For years now, I’ve witnessed downtown Berkeley lose its vitality and much of its diversity, and the variety of its offerings narrow to the choice of posh restaurants and designer fashions or the growing number of cheap eats and thrift/dollar shops that now segregate our community’s social interactions. At the same time, our city government has been selling out the town’s interests to those of the university and private developers while imposing policies aimed at making life unreasonably difficult for many of its citizens. 

A few years ago, the Planet ran an article about the town’s budget, from which I inferred that a decision had been made to make parking fines a reliable source revenue rather than continue as a punishment to encourage a violator not to offend again. Now I see how that works. A few weeks ago, while helping a disabled person, I pulled over and parked for a short time behind another car on a residential side street. When I returned to my car about 10 minutes later, I found that my act of helpfulness would cost me $36 because of street cleaning. The “disabled” sticker in my car was obviously trumped by the town’s commitment to generating revenue because the street was already clean when I parked there, which the meter-person could have as easily observed as I did (after the fact). This grasping for money from parking violations is further evidenced in that we now have no alternative to paying (such as offering to work it off). And there’s no point in pursuing the matter at a hearing because doing so requires that one send in the amount of the fine at the same time! 

Now that I’m finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel that will, I hope, extinguish the meanness and avarice that has distinguished our national leadership for so long, I look forward to the day when Berkeley government returns to promoting human rather than economic values again. 

Nicola Bourne 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Ever since White House intern Monica Pelosi took impeachment off the table, she’s been looking for new ways to please her man. So, on Friday, June 20, she revealed her latest enticement to George Bush: a FISA reform bill with guaranteed immunity for law-breaking telecoms. From past experience, she was absolutely certain that this craftily negotiated legislation eviscerating the Fourth Amendment and granting unlimited presidential powers to spy on innocent Americans would be more irresistible to the GOP and President Bush than a blue dress. She was equally confident that the attractive young presidential nominee, Barack Obama, and most of the Democratic House caucus with low self-esteem wouldn’t be able to resist her charms. Dazzled by the prospect of a presidency unfettered by Constitutional restrictions, Senator Obama promptly forgot his previous protestations of principled opposition to “immunity before marriage,” and he guiltily endorsed the so-called “compromise” legislation. 

From such seedy beginnings are dictatorships born. 

Taylor Bennett 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is almost certain that President Bush will leave office before anything is done to hold him responsible for impeachable acts.  

Last week Representative Dennis Kucinich, put impeachment back on the table from which it had been removed by Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, almost two years ago.  

Kucinich caused the details of Bush’s impeachable actions to be read into the Congressional Record. Although it is unlikely that his motion will come to a vote, he deserves the thanks of everyone who cares about our reputation as a nation of laws.  

A few days before the invasion of Iraq in March, 2003, Representative John Conyers hosted a meeting of a few dozen legal scholars and public servants, including former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, to discuss and weigh the prospects for impeachment. 

In January 2006, Elizabeth Holtzman, who voted for the impeachment of President Nixon, examined President Bush’s systematic abuses of powers and his egregious disregard for “the rule of law” and concluded that impeachment was warranted.  

Last Friday, Congressman Conyers chaired a meeting of the House Judiciary Committee in which Scott McClellan gave sworn testimony about the manipulation of facts, the lies and dissembling he witnessed up close as Bush’s press secretary. 

One more example: In a long-awaited report to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence the acts of deception used to justify an unjust war were made public. 

There is more, much more.  

Thus, if impeachment now is not politically feasible, too late or too distracting then indictment must come later. If it does not then we will forfeit forever our claim to be a nation of laws. 

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo  



Editors, Daily Planet: 

As many warned our neighbors and the Berkeley City government initially, the suit against the new UC athletic facilities was frivolous chest-thumping and a waste of the taxpayers’ money. The funds spent on this lawsuit by the city could have been much better spent on other needs of the people of Berkeley. Now that a legal ruling largely favorable to UC has been handed down by Judge Miller, I urge the mayor and the City Council in the strongest terms not to waste any more time, effort, or money on this issue. Further legal appeals will only delay the inevitable outcome. Too much attention and too much money have already been spent on this distraction. The City of Berkeley has everything to gain by allowing these facilities to be built, and truly nothing to lose. 

Jeremy Thorner 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a registered Berkeley voter, I am urging the Berkeley City Council and Mayor Bates not to appeal Judge Miller’s recent ruling in the stadium lawsuit. 18 months of legal proceedings and briefs was long enough for someone of her judicial caliber to make an accurate decision. I would be appalled if the city decided to continue to use taxpayer money in a reckless and open-ended way to fight a losing battle against the university that never should have happened.  

The university is a beacon of progressive thought and is a leader in environmental research in the world, and is seeking promote the safety of its students and its staff by constructing the SAHPC. I am appalled that my city is so opposed to the notion that its citizens and representatives at the University should be subject to unsafe conditions when a judge has now clearly stated that its plans for construction of the SAHPC comply with Alquist-Priolo and numerous independent surveyors have deemed the site construction worthy. 

Issuing a city ordinance that granted one group exclusive rights to protest a military recruiting center was embarrassing enough. Please don’t compound the city’s public relations problem by needlessly dragging out a lawsuit with the university at the expense of taxpayers. The university is the main reason Berkeley is such an interesting and diverse place. It brings in people from all over the world who seek out knowledge and competition, and many stay because of the city’s liberal leanings and beautiful surroundings. I 

The stadium isn’t going anywhere, and neither is the university. It is time to accept those facts and reconcile that it’s in both sides’ best interest to promote the safety and competitive advantage that the SAHPC and the overall Memorial Stadium retrofit project will supply to the university, the City of Berkeley, local businesses, and the students. 

Jeff Patmont 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In last week’s editorial “Another Opening, Another Show,” you blame “self-satisfied…complacent…small-c conservatives” in the hills for maintaining the status quo in Berkeley. 

The class difference between the hills and flatlands is historic, but you are correct in calling the latter our “urban sacrifice zones” where neighbors vainly struggle to protect their historic residential enclaves from oversized development. 

Why do flatlanders feel so powerless? The root cause is not personal but structural: district elections. In 1986 this self-mutilation of the Berkeley body politic was imposed on the urban flatlands by hills voters who wanted a cozy relationship with their councilmember while crushing slate politics. It was CNA VS. BCA, but the neighborhoods only succeeded in shooting themselves in the foot. 

Now, instead of voting for the entire council, we get to vote for one person plus the mayor. If the councilmember fails to support or protect our interests, we only have the mayor. And if s/he fails, then no other elected official is accountable, and the citizen is effectively disenfranchised. 

Thus incumbency becomes the rule, as voters are afraid to alienate their one person in City Hall. Citizens turn instead to unelected staff employees, who are perfectly content in running the city according to what they see as their “professional” inclinations. 

If the district map is superimposed on zoning, it is obvious that the job of the suburban residential hills councilmember is far easier than s/he who represents the complex interests of the many zoned districts, especially West Berkeley. 

Council neglect was shockingly evident in March, when the Planning Commission held an important tour of the manufacturing zones, and Darryl Moore was the only councilmember who showed up to survey the problems of an area that fuels the city’s economic engine and where small business and artisans confront well-heeled developers. 

How can we restore a vibrant, citizen driven democracy in Berkeley? Here are the options: 

1. Overturn district elections and restore the old system of everybody gets to vote the entire council. 

2. Increase the size of the Council by adding flatland districts, generating interest and attention to our urban and economic problems. 

3. Add two-at-large members. 

4. Institute term limits, stimulating greater fresh debate in replacement elections. 

5. Some combination of the above, although prudence would dictate acting on one at a time. 

Toni Mester 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I haven’t read much about the expansion of the perimeter around the UC Berkeley oak grove next to Memorial Stadium. What ordinance allows UC Berkeley police to currently barricade the city sidewalk along the eastern side of Piedmont Avenue, even though no construction is underway? Are the proper approved permits for the current closure of this sidewalk on file at Berkeley City Hall? 

Scott Mace 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Republican presidential hopeful John McCain showcases his environmental side in a new commercial while at the same time the GOP stalls a bill that would give renewable energy firms tax credits. Republicans give billions in tax credits to oil giants but a few billion in tax credits for renewable energy and the environment at home, oh no! 

Sen. McCain, in another move, rejected a windfall-profits tax on oil companies. Just whose side is McCain on? 

In an about face Bush has changed his stance on offshore drilling. More of those unsightly drilling rigs are in coastal areas. Will McCain follow the Bush lead? 

It looks like John McCain’s environmental policy is coming out of both sides of his mouth and is an oil lobbyist’s dream. 

Ron Lowe 

Grass Valley