Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Monday July 07, 2008 - 03:54:00 PM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Judge Barbara Miller issued a ruling on June 18 that was neither here nor there. The sitters are still in the trees. The university has not broken ground. The city has not taken advantage of the potential to win by responding to university efforts to negotiate an end to the standoff.  

After 18 months, you'd think the judge could settle this thing. But she has repeatedly taken the maximum allowable time to make a decision at each stage of the case. Now she's asked for more information, and along with it comes another 60 days of decision-making. If her most recent ruling sends any clues, the university will ultimately prevail, leaving the city with nothing but an enormous bill from its lawyers. 

Two entities are being hurt here: the university to the tune of an estimated $11 million in construction delays and the taxpayers who pay the bills. Those bills are running close to half a million dollars in city and state expenditures on legal fees. 

It's time for all the involved parties to act responsibly and settle among themselves. If the past is an indicator, Judge Miller won't bring this all to an end for several more months. It's time for some courage and responsibility from all sides. 

Linda Schacht 

John Gage 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Is this really about the trees? I’m perplexed that the mayor and City Council continue to support small fringe groups like the tree-sitters and Code Pink, despite the fact that the public is obviously in opposition. I live in West Berkeley and know of no one—not one single person—who supports the tree-sitters anymore. Berkleyans for Cal, a new group set up to give people like us a voice, has gathered almost 9,000 signatures. Yet the City Council is responding to the whim of a few people to continue this madness.  

Why do I call this madness? Their actions are not giving us any alternative and they’re not raising awareness of a serious deforestation problem in this country. Even if they were to succeed their actions are only going to save the equivalent of someone’s backyard full of trees. Meanwhile, we can do things as a community and set an example for the country. On example of many: In concrete construction the West Coast happens to be the laughing stock of the United States. All of the lumber is here along with the tree huggers, yet California somehow refuses to embrace re-usable formwork and instead builds concrete forms out of raw lumber. These forms are subsequently damaged by stress and chemicals to the point where they can’t even be recycled. We have a second problem with the tons and tons of trees that are cut down every second and delivered to our mailboxes in the form of junk mail.  

By not looking at where we have the power to make a difference we’re simply barking up the wrong tree. 

Brian Webb 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Had BUSD been allowed to transform Berkeley Community Media's public access studio into a "dedicated classroom" from it's current use as a public access facility it would no longer be possible for the space to function as a three-camera public access facility. BUSD's initial offers to share the space with BCM after school hours were disingenuous because the code restrictions for a "dedicated classroom" are incompatible with code restrictions for a public use TV studio facility.  

Thanks to Councilmembers Dona Spring, Linda Maio, Kriss Worthington and Berkeley Daily Planet coverage of complaints from the user community, BUSD Superintendent Bill Huyett stepped in and made Lew Jones, the head of BUSD facilities, change the project designation from a "dedicated" classroom space to a "shared use" space which may or may not solve most of the incompatible code restriction issues. We will see come September if the contractor also got the message along with a “change order" from Lew Jones. (Jones had already submitted the space conversion plans to the state architect’s office for approval before BCM users were notified on May 30, to clear out their sets and props in June.  

The superintendent has now promised that Berkeley residents will still have a fully functioning three-camera public access capability once construction work is complete at the end of summer. We will see come September.  

Though destruction of the region’s second-largest public access facility was averted at the 11th hour, BCM is not out of danger. No paid employee of the BUSD or any future BCM landlord for that matter, should ever be permitted to sit on the BCM board of directors let alone serve as its chairperson when BCM's public access mission is in conflict with the education mission of its landlord, the BUSD.  

Berkeley residents almost saw its public access studio negotiated away to the school district by Mark Coplan, a paid employee of the BUSD currently acting as the BCM board chair.  

The Berkeley City Council and the BCM board have got to act fast to correct this obvious conflict of interest or BCM's nonprofit status could be put at risk while keeping public access hostage to the shifting institutional priorities of other worthy institutions like the BUSD.  

George Coates 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I know well of the oak grove tree -sit, because UC Berkeley has decided to contribute to the growing light pollution of this town. You can see the grove from miles away, just because of generator lights. And what are these lights doing? Keeping away evil spirits? Bedtime monsters? Other various creepy crawlies? 

Please UC Berkeley, Turn off the lights so we can all get some rest. 

John Dougherty 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Writing from a state where the effects of global warming can be seen by just looking out the window at the smoke from forest fires, it is obvious that the time to act is now. As California is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases in the world we are especially obligated to commit to positive change. Though the future of our environment often seems bleak, there are solutions.  

The governor’s A.B 32 draft plan is definitely a step in the right direction. It is ambitious and has the potential to serve as a template for other states to follow. However, the lack of specific guidelines regarding how some of the initial recommendations should be carried out is somewhat worrisome. It seems to leave the path open for large polluters to obtain free carbon emission credits and thus to continue their contribution to global warming without obstacle. It is exactly these polluters that should be targeted the most.  

By the time this plan is finalized on Jan. 1, 2009, I sincerely hope that this section has been addressed so that California can reach its goals to make huge reductions in global warming pollution and set a successful example for others to follow.  

Catherine Farrell 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On behalf of Butte College I’d like to thank those in the Berkeley Fire Department who responded to the Humboldt fire in Butte County. They not only saved Butte College from serious and devastating destruction, but they protected our communities we all live in. Without their great efforts many more people would not have homes to return to, and much of our campus would not be available for providing education to those in our community. We’re very grateful for all of their help…they’re the greatest! 

Diana Van Der Ploeg 

President, Butte College 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I love reading the Daily Planet—the hilarious coverage of the tree-sit saga has afforded countless hours of laughter at the delusional "progressives" who chose to make this whole thing into a "cause." 

I nearly choked with mirth the other day when Martha Nicoloff called the tree-sitters "saints." No, Martha—they are turd-tossing, urine-dumping infants. And I hear that "Millipede" is on her way to Santa Barbara on outstanding warrants for theft. We sure could use more saints like her. 

Katlin Moore's ludicrous commentary, "City Must Continue Lawsuit Against UC," was the topper. She claims "international" support for the tree-sit. Really? Details, please. She claims to represent "tens of thousands of Berkeley residents." Where are all those people? Certainly not protesting—more likely they’re at Berkeley Bowl or down on Fourth Street shopping like good, upscale American consumers. There is zero evidence that the actual supporters of the tree-sit number more than 100, if that many. 

There is no "indisputable" evidence of any "sacred" burial grounds—only a single skeleton of undetermined ethnicity found in the 1920s. The only native "leader" calling UC's actions a "hate crime" is that unemployed loudmouth (and vandal of public property) Zachary Running Wolf, who is probably the most entertaining nutcase of all, especially when he and Ayr fight over who gets in front of the TV cameras first. 

But why rely on facts and reason when lies and emotion are so much more fun? 

How far Berkeley has fallen from the Golden Era of the 1960s, if this is what passes for activism these days. 

They say we get the elected officials we deserve. I urge all Berkeley voters to replace Tom Bates with Running Wolf ASAP. Let the circus continue! 

Michael Stephens 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Seeing the Thai Temple in the news again for violating various permit laws reminded me of the very sad fact that they are responsible for decimating the adjacent South Berkeley Community Garden of which I was a longtime member. This community garden, which is still laying fallow all these years later, was a beautiful and much needed space for gardeners and community members to enjoy. Local community gardeners worked hard to save the garden, but in the end, the money from the Thai restaurant was a more powerful force. I hope the city doesn't allow the temple to continue to increase their illegal profits even more. 

Rachel Aronowitz 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding J. Douglas Allen-Taylor’s July 3 UnderCurrents column: 

First, it's Michael Krasny, not "Kransky." I know, this is fussy attention to detail, but you are a newspaper and your article is about getting the facts. I think it matters.  

Chip Johnson has hardly been conducting a "vendetta" against Dellums. If you'd read his columns, he was circumspect and very slow in his escalating criticism of the mayor, running well behind the rising dissatisfaction of other Oakland residents. He held a "make-up" interview with the mayor some time ago and wrote a favorable column following it.  

While I disagree with Johnson's idea of Perata for mayor, I hardly think that this indicates that Johnson is undercutting Dellums toward that end, which you seem to imply.  

The corruption in Oakland city government is certainly nothing new and is ongoing. And it is nothing new in city governments. The Edgerly affair has highlighted this matter in a way that ties in with the issue of crime, which has most of us very, very upset. It is a very small step from the hiring of friends and family and circumventing civil service-type controls, to possible connections to criminal enterprises outside government.  

This confluence of weak leadership, an overreaching administrator, and the appearance of deep corruption may provide the impetus for action. I certainly hope so. 

Jason Mundstuk 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Is there any way of stopping the sale of cigarettes altogether? I know we do not want to see more and more young people die of lung cancer. Cigarettes are still advertised as props for a cool lifestyle. 

Can't we encourage young people to discover that life is too precious to devote to self-destruction? 

Romila Khanna 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

For the past two years I have inquired of the City of Berkeley staff in the city manager’s office as to why west of Gilman from San Pablo Avenue to the I-80 east entrance hasn’t been repaved yet. Gilman east of San Pablo Avenue was repaved and that didn't haven't the same type of damage like numerous huge potholes west of Gilman does.  

My Volvo can no longer stand being jacked around by the potholes and cracks on Gilman. The city will be getting a bill for the continuous damage my one and only car is receiving. I have no other options and shouldn't have to waste more gas to drive to Albany to use their smooth freeway entrance. 

I saw an article in the San Francisco Chronicle about the destructive Gilman Street to I-80 East entrance. 

Please do not blame this on Cal Trans. This is your problem. Fix it! 

Robyn Christian 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was a bit taken aback by Kevin Moore’s letter detailing his unpleasant experience with the motorcyclists in downtown Berkeley. Apparently he mistook the gathering for a pro-war rally.  

Having passed by that day and seen all the men in studded leathers, revving up their noisy, but colorful Harleys—well, naturally I assumed it was a Gay Pride parade! And that blond lady on the stage—Melanie, you say—I’m pretty sure she was one of the famous Dykes on Bikes. She certainly looked rugged! 

It was wrong for the man to punch you, Kevin, but are you sure it wasn’t because you perhaps looked askance at his outfit? Yeah, they were wearing some pretty loud clothes—talk about rainbow colors! But that’s the Castro Street lifestyle, you know? 

It does sound like the Berkeley police need more tolerance training. They should have intervened when he hit you. Doubtless the problem lies in their archaic belief that leather boys just slap people. You learned some of those gay guys are pretty tough!  

I hope we all can learn from the experience and let folks have their little alternative lifestyle parades in peace. It’s all in fun. Leave your protest signs at home—the people who really support the war are all away fighting it.  

Chuck Heinrichs 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

Regarding the July 3 article, “Neighbors Oppose Safeway Expansion”: 

Neighbors are always complaining about density or the architecture or the need for housing. Whatever. As a resident of the neighborhood and of the larger community, there is really only one question, which wasn’t addressed in the article. 

Is it going to have upscale pricing? We don't need another Andronico’s in that neighborhood, with ever-inflated prices and overpriced "organic" produce from Mexico. People can't afford gas and groceries. And things are only going to get worse, disastrous for many. At least Safeway has reasonable prices on the basic staples. If the massive expansion is going to massively impact the pricing at that store (regardless of the architecture or the density or the housing) then I say forget it. Now is not the time to deepen the gouging. No doubt the Safeway powers-that-be regard themselves as the smartest guys in the room, and see that Gourmet Ghetto neighborhood as ripe for picking, reaping them a very bountiful economic harvest. But at whose expense? Yikes.  

Ken Stein 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Protesting China's long record of human rights abuses, many world leaders— i.e., Britain, France and Germany—have announced they will not attend the opening of the Olympics in Beijing. Not so with President Bush. The White House has confirmed he'll be there; the reason offered, in his own words, "I like sports." So much for the trivial issue of human rights. 

But let's not be too hard on Mr. Bush. We all know he's given up golf. When asked if this was related to Iraq, our leader replied: "Yes, it really is. I don't want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the commander-in-chief playing golf. I feel I owe it to the families to be as—to be in solidarity as best as I can with them. And I thinking playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal." 

Golly gee, doesn't this bring tears to your eyes and put a lump in your throat? 

Dorothy Snodgrass 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

I want to make an unsolicited public nomination of Asa Dodsworth to run for the Rent Stabilization Board. 

Asa Dodsworth is a kind, outgoing, incredibly charitable person who has opened up his house to Berkeley and its citizens on numerous occasions. As a member of the Garbage Commission he has been a real consensus builder and worthwhile participant. He has an active mind and is grounded in the spirit of well-thought action. 

Asa Dodsworth is many things: an activist, a homeowner, an organic farmer, a wonderful chef, a friend, a son, a brother, a lifelong Berkeley resident who has great ethics and a strong mind for the common good. Although this letter is unsolicited, I urge you to join me in calling for Asa Dodsworth to run for the Rent Stabilization Board.  

John E. Parman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Kevin Moore's July 3 letter is quite a call of alarm and shame on Berkeley's cops. Mr. Moore reported getting gut punched by one of a group of bikers who were in town to protest against criticism of the Iraqi invasion and its policies at the Marine Recruitment Center. Mr. Moore reported that when he was attacked, a Berkeley cop stood 10 feet away and did nothing. Later Mr. Moore observed some cops laughing with the bikers. When Mr. Moore reported the attack to another cop, he shined him on to nowhere. The cops clearly favored the bullies and warmongers. 

The cops' behavior brings to mind a similar pattern when Berkeley High students were pawed by cops at the pro-MRC resolution rally in the spring. Added to the above, is the scandal of the long denial by police brass over drug use by a Berkeley cop in charge of seized drugs. 

At a minimum, BPD must maintain a politically neutral stance. However, there have been too many incidents to claim impartiality now. It is clear that on this core determinant, Berkeley cops aren't "protecting nor serving" its citizens and salary payers. Perhaps patrol cars should add "when we want to" to their motto. 

Is our City Council blind to errant police behavior? Is no one on the council outraged enough at police partiality to speak out? Is the council afraid of being accused of being "soft on crime" if they assert civilian control? Is the Berkeley Police Department under civilian control? A corrective solution is required immediately.  

Maris Arnold 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

"Citizens For Eastshore State Park" will be holding their next monthly meeting at 7:30 p.m. on July 16 at 520 El Cerrito Plaza. Until recently, I, like most Berkeley citizens, didn't know such a group existed or how it was connected to the so-called park being closed to us. 

As you know I've written to you several times about the area, but I hope you will allow me to repeat what I said to your readers who still may not know what's been happening there. 

Like its neighbor, the present Chavez Park, which is a true park, it was originally part of the Berkeley dump along the marina. When the landfill ceased it soon became a wilderness where I and many others enjoyed its wildness for more than 30 years. Then one day it was partially clear-cut and enclosed by a chain-link fence with a sign that said, "Keep Out, Resource Protection Area." 

Most Berkeley citizens were not informed that this was about to happen, let alone that a "citizens group," none of whom seem to have personally enjoyed the area, would be in charge of it. Nor has it been clear to me how it happens that such a vast land can be controlled by a such small group in the name of the public when the public doesn't even know who they are and why they are doing what they do. I assume it is connected to the vast redevelopment projects that have been happening in the meadowlands, but how and why the part now called Eastshore Park came to be closed to the public is still a mystery to me. 

I have asked the Citizen Group to put on their agenda in the next meeting a place for me and whoever else cares to join me in order to ask that the area be opened for us to enjoy it along with the wildlife. Both the plants and the animals, including birds, which I love as much as anyone, were perfectly content with us humans, and I see no reason why we can't live with each other in harmony again. 

I hope those of your readers who may be concerned will join me at the next meeting. The address seems to be difficult to find if you enter El Cerrito Plaza from San Pablo Avenue. I was told that you are to drive to Longs Drugs and make a right at the circle to the parking lot at Shoe Pavilion and there is at the back of Trader Joe's a stairwell that goes to the offices above Trader Joe's, then you go up to a mezzanine and there is an office marked "Citizens For Eastshore Park." I don't know the plaza well, but I assume that if you go in from another entrance you go straight to Trader Joe's. I was told the meeting may start a little late since a private meeting about the meadowlands will be held first. 

Thank you for allowing me to write to you again. It's a beautiful area and it's been very sad that I and many others have not been allowed to enjoy it as we once did. Hopefully one of your staff writers, or Joe Eaton, who never replied to my previous open letter to him, can attend and maybe write about just what has been happening and help make it clear. 

Pete Najarian