Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Monday July 21, 2008 - 02:20:00 PM




Editors, Daily Planet: 

One of Dona Spring’s final efforts was to help rescue Berkeley Community Media from an attempt by its landlord, the Berkeley Unified School District, to convert the Bay Area’s second largest public access TV facility into a “dedicated” high school classroom.  

When Dona discovered that architectural plans had already been approved before a public hearing could be held to examine community impact she moved quickly to alert her allies on the council and school board and the plans were subsequently changed preserving community access to city owned media resources for the immediate future.  

George Coates 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a tribute to Dona Spring, when you are faced with a choice, say to yourself, “What would Dona have done?” And if once in a while you follow her lead, a little bit of Dona lives. No one can replace her. No one can even come close, but in her memory let us be a little more principled and try a little harder to make Berkeley the place she worked for with such dedication.  

Bonnie Hughes 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I loved Dona Spring the first time I met her. I saw a strong light in her eyes that profoundly moved me. Dona was beautiful even when she was angry at Mayor Tom Bates and her other fellow members on the City Council when they voted against the principled resolutions she and Kriss Worthington championed. She held her own ground. She was an enlightened goddess, a sage and saint. She was a defender for the most vulnerable, needy, oppressed, the disabled and the homeless. It pained me to witness how much she and Kriss Worthington struggled for the city of Berkeley to uphold a strong commitment to human rights. It is easy now to say how much we loved Dona Spring but to show that love means action. Yes, let us mourn, but to honor her we must organize and thusly heal from our sad loss. Our mayor and the City Council need to do a lot more to honor the city’s long commitment to human rights, such as the need to house the poor. Like Dona, they of our City Council and we the people of Berkeley need to more to firmly confront UC Berkeley on saving the oak grove trees (as called for by city ordinance), the human rights of the tree-sit protesters to truly adequate food and water provisions and the right to public access to our city sidewalks. Like Jesus Christ overturning the tables of the moneychangers at the Temple, Councilmember Dona Spring often confronted the corrupt greed of the powerful who gained profit at the expense of the common folk and the greens and its creature dwellers (all of Divine Creation). She was our familia.  

Diane Villanueva 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Especially at this time, a few words about the hell that is rheumatoid arthritis seem appropriate. RA is a chronic disease, mainly characterized by inflammation of the lining, or synovium, of the joints. It can lead to long-term joint damage, resulting in chronic pain, loss of function and disability. RA differs from osteoarthritis, the arthritis that often accompanies old age. RA can affect body parts besides joints, e. g. eyes, mouth and lungs. RA is an autoimmune disease, meaning it results from one’s immune system attacking the body’s own tissues. Its cause is uncertain. Genes, environment and hormones may contribute.  

Of the 1.3 million Americans affected, two to three times as many women as men have the disease, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Why, you may ask (as you should), has there not been significant headway in curing RA? 

There is hope for tomorrow, as researchers begin to apply new technologies such as stem cell transplantation and novel imaging techniques. (Stem cells have the capacity to differentiate into specific cell types, which gives them the potential to change damaged tissue in which they are placed.) 

There are numerous RA-related websites. I suggest MedlinePlus which is available in Spanish and provides interactive contact. A “service of the U. S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health,” it can be found at www. nlm. nih. gov/medlineplus/rheumatoidarthritis. html#cat57.  

Helen Rippier Wheeler 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I just received my copy of the New Yorker with the controversial cover showing Sen. Obama wearing a turban and long robe, Ms. Obama with an AK-47 rifle slung over her shoulder, and the couple giving each other a fist bump, and a photo of Osama bin Laden hanging on the wall. I must take issue with the criticism of the cover. For quite some time the cowardly among us have been spreading disinformation and misinformation about Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama. We’ve heard him called that “boy,” “magic negro,” “Osama” instead of “Obama,” a Muslim, equating Muslim with terrorist, and so on. If you repeat these whispers and lies often enough, people will begin to believe them or at least have second thoughts about the target of these remarks. What the New Yorker has done is taken these whispers and lies and co-opted them by saying: “Is this what you mean?” Don’t you see the irony? 

Ralph E. Stone 

San Francisco 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Larry Rosenbaum, the head of SOS Ministries, claims that “a small minority” of people have a problem with “the content and not the decibel level. “You’re lying again, Larry. And I don’t think Jesus takes kindly to people who lie in His name. It’s true that any group that comes out proseletyzing on a street corner about politics, religion, race, or any other sensitive subject, will find plenty of people who don’t like the content. But that’s not the issue. And it never was. (Though having to listen to that no-talent on the guitar play the same five songs week after week after week does leave something to be desired, content-wise.) You can come out here and preach on a soapbox (sans amplification) and no one will try to shut you down. Christian groups, in fact, have been doing that for years. The issue is the amplification. And the fact that you’re a public nuisance. And the community—the overwhelming majority of the community—is trying to rally its forces to do something about this nuisance.  

“There’s a few people that don’t like us. It’s the message they don’t like.” You’re lying again, Larry. I’ve had hundreds of people complain to me about your group just over the last few months. I’ve had hundreds of people sign my petition. You must be too busy talking, and not busy enough listening, Larry. Have you asked my friend who lives across the street in the apartment building on Telegraph directly facing your amplified performance? (I doubt it.) She says the sound echoes throughout her apartment for hours on Saturday, non-stop. She can barely think straight thanks to your racket.  

Larry goes on to claim it’s a “free speech issue.” You’re lying again, Larry. This isn’t a free speech issue. It never was. You have to pay for your permit for amplified sound. This is paid speech, not free speech. With all sorts of limitations and restrictions on it already. And these restrictions don’t come about by some fascist dictator that wants to crunch your righteous freedom (sorry, Lar, you make a pi-poor martyr), but by the entire community who comes together and tries to decide what kind of environment we want to live and work in.  

And by the way, Larry, there is plenty of support for Christianity in Berkeley. Haven’t you noticed all the churches? (Or does only your lunk-headed version of Christianity count?) In fact, Christianity is probably the most popular religion in Berkeley. Myself? My father is a Methodist minister. I support the right of all religions. Even the obnoxious, noisy ones like yours.  

Ace Backwords 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Dean Metzger, the prime sponsor of the anti-BRT initiative claimed in a discussion on KPFA that BRT would not provide much reduction of greenhouse gases. However, AC Transit’s website directly contradicts his erroneous claim: 

“BRT reduces auto travel by 9,300 single trips per day, 21,000 miles per day and reduce fuel consumption by 690 gallons per day. These reductions also lead to reduced emissions and greenhouse gases.  

“C02 (Carbon Dioxide) emissions by 18,400 pounds per day” or 6,700,000 lbs per year! However, “The figures presented relate to the reduction of auto trips only, and do not include emissions from BRT bus trips.” 

To include the BRT trips operating at 10-12 minutes interval and down to five minutes during peak periods, the total daily trips will be around 220 and will emitting about what 440 cars would. Therefore the CO2 emissions reduction including buses would roughly be 94 percent of the 18,400 pounds per day or 6,313,000 lbs per year.  

Furthermore, since the buses will be operating on exclusive lanes at faster uniform speed without delays from traffic congestion, the bus emissions will be even le. Also, it is certain that AC Transit will be replacing the clean diesel-powered buses in the near future with even cleaner buses such as hybrids or possibly with zero-emitting hydrogen-powered buses a few years after the BRT is fully implemented, which would be no sooner than six years from now.  

If 81 percents of Berkeley citizens are committed to supporting the Carbon Reduction Plan, we should seriously consider that transportation produces 50 percent of our emissions. With the belabored Carbon Reduction legislation being proposed, it will be difficult to reach Berkeley’s reduction goals without coordinated individual lifestyle changes.  

Roy Nakadegawa 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

OK, let’s agree with what J. Douglas Allen-Taylor says in his UnderCurrents column. Jesse Jackson still does not have the right to use the N-word. He is a minister and Allen-Taylor’s column, posted days after it was revealed, simply ignores that aspect of his whispered conversation.  

Allen-Taylor must think it’s proper language too. I don’t, and I do not like the derogatory “F” word used to describe myself or used by other gay friends and associates. Ignore Jackson’s words if you must; but to me, there is a lot more going on.  

Roy Brown 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I love Berkeley. Berkeley has been good to my family and I’d like to think I’ve been good to it. My dad moved there in the ‘60s. My mom in the ‘70s. I was born at Alta Bates, as were my brother and sister. My brother, sister, and I have all lived in Berkeley for years at different times. My wife lived in Berkeley. As did her mother and father decades back.  

So, you can imagine my frustration at seeing Berkeley’s current condition. Roads, falling apart. The downtown, crumbling. Businesses, fleeing. Education system, in shambles. These are tough times for us all, but I trust the Berkeley City Council to work on behalf of all Berkleyans to solve the problems that they all face.  

I feel it is important to focus city resources on important problems and not focus them on leer important problems. I speak, in specific, about the Cal gymnasium project. And look, I don’t know too much about the court case. It is very confusing; I’m no lawyer. My vague understanding is that, going in, all the City Council could accomplish was a delay. Just a delay.  

What I do know strongly is that the City Council could help return Berkeley to one of the finest cities in our country. We could be the leaders in the modern environmental movement. Berkeley’s potential is unlimited. But when Berkeley is facing all these naive problems, the council needs to efficiently distribute its resources to biggest problems first. Is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money for a judge to tell us that Cal had it right 98 percent of the time the most efficient means of spending Berkeley’s limited taxpayer resources? I might not know a lot about the court case, but I know the answer to that question is a resounding no.  

And is spending hundreds of thousands more to lose at another court level, the most prudent distribution of city resources? I again feel strongly the answer is no. This is not about saving 40 lovely trees. This is not about protecting a sacred grove. This is about ensuring limited city resources focus on Berkeley’s biggest problems first. I call on the City Council to use its taxpayer money to work to put stores back on Shattuck Avenue, to fix potholes all across Berkeley, to improve facilities at all levels of the Berkeley public school system.  

Council, I call on you to end this lawsuit by not joining in any appeal. Please, focus city resources where they matter most. We all love Berkeley; let’s get to fixing it. Let’s make Berkeley the utopia we all know it can be. Let’s return Berkeley to its prior glory! 

T. Nathanial Hook  

San Francisco 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In order to be a barely adequate transit system, AC Transit must arrive on time, have enough routes to serve the entire service area at about quarter-mile intervals, and operate enough hours to get passengers to their destinations and back. Any new ideas that compromise those core necessities needs to be rethought.  

I am fully in favor of taking steps to get the buses running faster and more frequently, but not at the expense of their continuing to serve all the neighborhoods (although routes may need to be reconfigured from time to time), nor at the expense of reducing hours of service. If people cannot use the bus to do all their traveling within the area, they have no incentive to get rid of their cars, and if you have a car, you find yourself using it, even if a bus is available.  

The BRT concept puts the cart before the horse. It may become necessary someday for buses to have a dedicated lane, but it certainly is not now. Even the so-called rapid buses are delayed more by passenger boarding problems than by traffic problems. The odd configuration of the seats in the Van Hool buses, and the fact that the driver has to leave the cab to operate the lift only makes them worse.  

If AC transit wants to make improvements, they need to see the system from the point of view of the users. No matter how popular the Van Hool is in Europe, it doesn’t cut it in this area. I saw how the Van Hool is used in Paris, and there are two whopping differences. First, they have almost no seats, like a New York subway car. Secondly, they do not provide for disabled passengers, except that the jump seats are reserved for seniors.  

I am not at all suggesting that the seats be configured like the European coaches. The cultures are different, so our buses need to reflect our culture. Americans like to keep a greater distance from strangers when face to face, so half the facing seats go unused while people crowd into the aisles. Also, I don’t know who decided it was a good idea to have seniors climb up onto raised seats, but trust me, it is not.  

I wonder what happened to the Bus Riders’ Union. The union could conduct a real rider survey, asking the questions that the riders actually want to be asked and making sure the sample truly reflected the entire composition of the community, and publishing the results in general circulation pre so that everyone could see them.  

I resent the implication that anyone who is opposed to BRT or the Van Hools does not want the bus service to be improved. Many riders just don’t think the BRT concept or the Van Hool buses are an improvement.  

Marcella Murphy 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Pacific Center here in Berkeley has to make an effort to reach out to those who are queer and poor. A “Center for Human Growth,” as it proclaims to be, should extend a communal welcome to everyone, not just those who have a little something-something in their wallets.  

If the Pacific Center really cares about the poor, it will hook up with the Suitcase Clinic (or some-such organization) and work out a way to offer a safe-space once a week for homeless and quasi-homeless (or otherwise downtrodden) queer people to gather, talk about problems, get a free meal, et cetera.  

For the oldest queer community center in the Bay Area to omit an entire segment of queer society is disgusting. There is no excuse for it.  

Living on the street is not easy to do as a queer person. You have to be more closeted than in “mainstream” society, it can be harder to meet other queer people for friendships or dating, there is more exposure to drug and alcohol abuse, and so forth.  

I don’t want to just merely pick on the Pacific Center (and by extension its elite 20-somethings program called “X-20s”). After all, Pride ‘08 came and went. So how many queer people reading this letter went out on Pride Weekend and gave a homeless person a meal, a shirt, first aid kit, or even a smile? Or did Pride extend to only those who “made something of themselves”? 

There needs to be great change for the queer community in Berkeley (and the Bay Area in general); there needs to be more compassion, more humanity. And what better place for that change to start than at the Pacific Center? 

Nathan Pitts 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

San Francisco’s own Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives, was interviewed on CNN last week (July 17) and when asked about the president’s criticism of Congress called Bush “…a total failure.”  

She was wrong. Bush has succeeded in lying this nation into an unprovoked war, in authorizing warrantless wiretaps and retroactively immunizing telecommunications companies, in approving torture, denying due process. It now appears that he will succeed in evading accountability for these and other “high crimes and misdemeanors.”  

Failure is in the eye of the beholder.  

Marvin Chachere  

San Pablo 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Here we go again! The Oakland City Council voted to place a measure in November to institute a parcel tax increase to boost the police force. I agree with Mr. De La Fuente asking us to reject the tax increase. City Hall needs to get a grip and manage the affairs of the City without wasting anymore of the taxpayers’ money.  

Is anyone surprised at the latest revelation that Oakland’s budget deficit is on course to more than triple the $15 million shortfall that Deborah Edgerly figured in the City’s current spending plan, according to new projections obtained by the Chronicle? 

Almost daily there is yet another revelation regarding the mismanagement of the city’s affairs by incompetent administrators. If it were not for journalists like Chip Johnson, Matier and Ross, Courtney Ruby, Kelly Rayburn or Christopher Heredia we would not learn what is really going on at City Hall. Mr. De La Fuente is the only one who has stepped out of his comfort zone and expressed the outrage we all feel at the mismanagement and lack of accountability that prevails at Oakland City Hall.  

No more taxes. We’ve had enough.  

Tori Thompson 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have little doubt that Chuck Siegel’s recent characterization of smart-growth opponents as “anti-environmentalists” will generate an angry counterattack, and—as happens so often in Berkeley—an important discussion will degenerate into name-calling. As I see it, a big part of the problem is that the two sides have each created a caricature of the other.  

The smart-growth advocates (of which I am one) often fail to see that many of those who denounce the development plans and policies of Mayor Bates and city planning staff are not against the basic idea of having a moderate increase in density in the downtown and along major transit corridors. Most of these people supported the very same DAPAC downtown plan that Chuck argues for in his piece. And many of them would support the mixed-use projects along University, Shattuck and San Pablo if those projects were less intrusive on the surrounding neighborhoods.  

At the same time, many smart-growth opponents fail to see that well-designed urban development can promote successful human-scale neighborhoods that will allow Berkeley to begin the transition away from a car-dependent way of moving around. They want good bus service, but not the population density needed to make it viable. And some of them seem to wish that Berkeley could stay like it is, despite the fact that California’s population is growing by leaps and bounds and Berkeley is one of the most desirable places to live.  

If both sides could stifle the urge to denounce the other, perhaps a space could emerge for some fruitful dialogue.  

Steve Meyers 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A few readers responded to my op-ed about “Berkeley’s Anti-Environmentalist Movement” by giving the reasons that they are against Bus Rapid Transit. They missed the point of my article, which was about development issues as much as about transit, and which criticized people who are against all of the changes in urban design that environmentalists agree are needed to deal with global warming.  

My article said very clearly: “They come up with a long list of excuses for opposing each project, but when you see the same people leading the opposition to one thing after another, it becomes clear that they are simply against everything.” 

The most transparent excuse for opposing BRT, one that we have heard over and over again, is: “I am an environmentalist who supports public transportation, but I support a better project than this one.” Then they go on to support Rapid Bus Plus, which would leave buses stuck in traffic. Or they go on to support more service, more eco-passes, or more shuttle buses, which do not conflict with BRT, which I would also support if there were funding for them, but which will not happen because there is no funding.  

They use this as an excuse to oppose BRT, which can be built soon, which will speed up bus service enough to shift 9,300 trips per day from cars to buses, and which will (according to recently released figures) reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 6,700,000 pounds per year.  

At least 98 percent of BRT opponents have never come forward in the past to support any public transportation projects that could actually be implemented. They have suddenly become born-again supporters of public transportation, now that they can use it as an excuse for opposing BRT.  

Charles Siegel 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Becky O’Malley’s recent editorial, “Could Cody’s Rise Again?” has inspired me, an alumnus of UC Berkeley living across the world in India, and having re-visited Berkeley in 2006, to support whole heartedly the initiative O’Malley has taken to revive Cody’s Books. She needs to be congratulated for holding disunions with the various stakeholders, including the citizens of Berkeley. I am confident that with a positive approach, this renowned bookstore will re-open soon.  

Keppler’s, which faced a similar situation and was closed briefly, has been re-opened with a new outlook. Exactly in the same way, Cody’s has to be replanned to meet the requirements of the need of present-day book lovers, particularly as a community bookstore, where there must be adequate space for the whole family, so that the children and the parents can spend time in their niche without being disturbed. There must be an ambient and relaxed atmosphere with cozy seating where you can help yourself to coffee, tea and cold drinks. As an architect, I am planning such facilities for the new and renovated bookstores that are being set up in India. Oxford Books in India has a chain of such stores, with such facilities for the whole family in major cities around the country.  

The bookstores such as Cody’s and Keppler’s need to be preserved not only because they are loved by the people, but because they are heritage institutions as well, and they need to be preserved and maintained; they are as important as the landmark buildings. The City Council should come forward to support the positive approach initiated by the Daily Planet.  

Jane Jacob, in her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, has practically pleaded for preserving such heritage bookstores and the corner grocery and drug stores in order to preserve the identities of cities, since the images of stores and landmark buildings can be easily visualized and identified with a particular city. She even mentioned that since these stores are managed by people who are well known to the local people, at times of emergency the local people take the help of these store owners.  

As a newcomer to Berkeley, when I started my graduate course, I would visualize the images of Cal Book Store (which has already been closed), Rex’s Drug Store, Cody’s Books, Blondie’s Pizza, and of course the International House (where I stayed) in order to find my bearing when I was lost. Easily identifiable images are quickly stored are in our memory.  

It is expected the citizens, business community of Berkeley and the Bay Area will come forward to raise the resources required to re-open Cody’s Books soon.  

Krishna P. Bhattacharjee  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

How fortunate many of us felt when we saw that someone as courageous and inspiring as Barack Obama had secured the Democratic nomination for president over the compromised and calculating political ambitions of Hillary Clinton. Now that Obama has become Hillary Clinton, um, is it too late to change our vote to Dennis Kucinich? 

Doug Buckwald 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The old, ugly Safeway building on Shattuck Avenue in North Berkeley is about to be re-built. Finally! We’ll have a worthy competitor to expensive Andronico’s! 

What else could we get from this developmental change in our neighborhood? Could we possibly have affordable, accessible housing as part of this new construction? Affordable, accessible homes? In our own city? Is this a wonderful dream? What if there were apartments above the new Safeway supermarket? They would certainly be close to shopping! They would certainly be close to bus lines! They would certainly use less energy to heat than single-family houses! 

Berkeley needs apartments for more people: apartments that are accessible, affordable and energy-efficient—apartments that people can live in without needing to drive their cars (or even needing to own a car). And where can we build such apartments? The Safeway site is a perfect location.  

Safeway has said that it would consider a housing component to their rebuilding project if the community wants it. Housing coupled with a better Safeway is a good community-strengthening idea. Please let me know if you agree by sending me an e-mail: david@stoloff. com. If enough people care, we may persuade Safeway to build something other than just a bigger store.  

David Stoloff 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am a resident of Ashby Place and witnessed a robbery at Safeway on Claremont and College on Monday night, July 7. When I returned to the store, I learned it was a successful robbery where the two thieves netted $900 and fled. I had just left the store after buying my groceries when two African-American youth approached the clerk behind the register. One had a shirt or cloth covering his face. I looked around for security and instinctively said to myself “I’ve got to get out of here, this looks dangerous.” I wondered, “Is this really happening, that I am in the presence of a robbery?” Moments later the boys fled the store and ran down the street.  

Most of all, I feared for my safety and wanted to get home as quickly as possible, not get involved in any way. Tonight, the clerk and security guard described how one of the guys shoved a pistol into the clerk’s ribs and demanded money from the drawer. Of course, they are taught to hand it over rather than endanger their own lives or the lives of patrons.  

Are we to tolerate this madness? Is this the society we want to live in, where one segment pays for food while another must steal for rent, or meals or a god-forsaken drug habit? Where is the social responsibility that says enough is enough? Instead, what I see are numb reactions with business as usual. The clerk and security guard continue their shifts. The robbery tallies as just one more crime statistic. No one cares.  

Would a parent allow a child to continue with deviant behavior or would he redirect that behavior? Where is society to step in as parents to take responsibility for our wayward children? We cannot turn away, because it only will get worse. Yes, people will steal, no matter what the security or hidden cameras, but society can be proactive.  

As a social work student in the MSW program at CSU East Bay at Concord, I am studying cognitive behavioral therapy techniques. The strategy of “positive reinforcement” applies here. Opportunities for advancement, as in education and jobs with positive role models offer incentives for growth. Without these opportunities for people to project into their future, we in conscious, hip, laid-back Rockridge, California may end up with a bullet in our backs.  

Mark Solomons 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I own 2 Panoramic Place with my husband. It is a beautiful lot which sits at the end of Panoramic Place and butts up against the Jordan fire. I am writing to you with a sense of incredulity and outrage that the City Council would even consider a moratorium on building on Panoramic Hill. A moratorium of this nature would be financially devastating to me and my family.  

Is the council aware of the rippling effect this decision will have on me and my family? With a moratorium in place, our property is useless to us. Do they realize this means major financial ruin and hardship for my family? Our son is dealing with multiple health problems, and we had counted on our property to help us during this difficult time.  

Who is behind this movement to gut the rights of property owners? Perhaps neighbors who wish to enjoy our property as open space adjacent to their property? Neighbors who are in violation of city code themselves? 

The Panoramic Hill Neighborhood Association is a small group of people on a mission to stop people from using their properties (note the struggles of the owner of 161 Panoramic Way). This group will say anything and use any means at their disposal (including fear mongering) to stop others from freely using their property. They get to use their property, some as illegal non-conforming multi-family dwellings and/or illegal rooming houses, but we can’t even build a modest-sized, single-family house on ours? 

Because this moratorium would make it impossible for us to use our property as we have every right to use it, then the least the city can do is buy it from us. Barring that, we ask that we be granted a written exemption from this moratorium by the city so that we can freely use our property. This action by the city would justly restore our basic property rights.  

I can’t believe that anybody, least of all the leaders of Berkeley, would knowingly inflict this much distress on a middle-class family just trying to get by. I can believe that the Panoramic Hill Neighborhood Association would act this heartlessly, which is why I am appealing to the mayor and the City Council to please consider their vote on this issue. Please consider the effect it will have on me and my family, and please vote your conscience.  

Grace Gillies