Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday July 29, 2008 - 08:39:00 AM




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Berkeley and the East Bay do not need a replacement for Cody’s. What we need is to throw more of our support behind the remaining independent bookstores that we have to ensure that they stay in business. These remaining stores are still struggling even with the closing of Cody’s. They cannot afford for the citizens to open up a book co-op or the like. Any less business for them and we may not have any bookstores left to walk into anymore.  

Support our local independent bookstores; don’t help put them out of business. 

Scott Parker 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Taking a Saturday stroll through the farmers market a few weeks past, I came upon a Code Pink member exhorting the shoppers to help out at the Marine recruiting office because "the bikers were in town." While flattered to be considered for an extra spot in our monthly remake of The Wild Ones, I've already been subjected to enough noise on that block. My lack of enthusiasm must have shown because as she passed she muttered, "unless you're pro-war." 

To clarify, it's not pro-war—it’s anti-jerk. 

Now that the Scientologists have moved into Shattuck Square perhaps they, the Marines, Code Pink, and the leather vest-wearing bikers from Lafayette can have an epic Jerk Fest. Those SOS jerks from Telegraph are invited too. I'll spring for the "music" permit. 

John Vinopal 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding Becky O'Malley's July 24 editorial, "Appeal is the Prudent Choice": Honestly? I knew the Daily Planet was known for provocative work, but comparing the University of California to Hitler might not be part of "all that's fit to print." Really, Ms. O'Malley? Really? 

Phil Parent 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Comparing UC Berkeley developing land which it owns to the Nazi occupation of Poland...classy. 

Then I'm guessing you equate cutting down 44 trees (and replacing them at a 3 to 1 ratio) with the slaughter of six million Jews, right? 

And here's another take: 

Your understanding of history is embarrassing because you have the analogy completely backwards. Poland was once a part of Germany but it became a sovereign country just as the United States was once a part of the British Empire and Kuwait was a part of Iraq. Things change as time moves on, in spite of how much people like you don't want it to. 

The land on which Memorial stadium was built once belonged to the city, but it was purchased legally and it no longer does. It was Hitler that said he would completely ignore Poland's legal claims to the land and take it back by force, regardless of the devastating consequences to the Polish people. 

Many decades later the terminally idle of Berkeley are completely ignoring the legal rights of the students and taking back the grove by force, regardless of the cost to the students. 

Did the rule of law stop Hitler from acting out his selfish and evil desires? No. Will the rule of law stop the selfish trespassers in the trees? If Hitler has taught us anything, the answer is also no. 

Will Rohrer 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

After having read Becky O'Malley’s July 24, editorial, “Appeal Is the Prudent Choice In UC Decision,” I fail to see her logic. I understand the various anti-stadium groups’ basic positions. However, there is no way that an intelligent person who has followed this situation can say that an appeal is a cost-effective measure, as Ms. O'Malley seems to do.  

She bases her position the following: (1) the judge ordered the city to pay the lion’s share of UC’s costs, (2) a successful appeal would make it so the city would not have to pay UC’s costs, and instead recoup its own; and (3) an appeal would most likely be successful.  

First, she underestimates the cost of an appeal. While it would be cheaper than what the city has already spent (a fortune), it is still very expensive to put all of the documentation supporting the appeal together. Further, she does not include the fact that the city will have to continue paying large fees to its attorneys for any appeal to go forward.  

Finally, she misrepresents the likelihood of a successful appeal. Any objective commentator would know that any appellant in a civil case is fighting an uphill battle from the start. Even worse, the judge found that this case was not even close. Chances are that an appeal here would be a loser.  

Ms. O’Malley states that the worst-case scenario for an appeal is that the city loses, and the stadium gets built. The real worst-case scenario is that the city loses, the stadium gets built, and the city pays for the costs of the appeal as well as the costs that they have been ordered to pay already. Apparently, Ms. O’Malley’s philosophy is that when you are in a hole, its best to keep digging.  

The last thing we should want is the city to get gun-shy from the prolonged, costly, beating in court and then shy away from the other upcoming battles with UC. It’s important to fight like a brave for the causes you believe in. However, it is equally important to know when you have lost a battle, and to pull out and prepare for the next one. Trust me, there will be others. For the city to sink its limited resources in this particular battle is foolish.  

Darrell W. Spence 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

As I read Doug Buckwald's distorted and misleading commentary about the Berkeley City Council's decision not to pursue an appeal against UC Berkeley, I felt as if I was in Orwell's 1984. 

Buckwald writes how the tree supporters spoke "one after the other, with impassioned and well-reasoned arguments," but he fails to point out how they shouted down anyone who tried to offer a different viewpoint. The tree supporters were in full mob-rule mode. Not one person who spoke against the appeal was allowed to speak without interruption—not one was saved from insults and jeers. That's well reasoned? 

Buckwald writes how the City Council "stole democracy." Ridiculous. The City Council listened, didn't agree, and voted their conscience. That's what democracy is. Democracy is not winning just because a foul-mouthed, unshowered group packs a meeting because they do not have jobs to perform or children that need dinner made. Just because these non-Berkeley misfits have nothing else to do in their life does not make their large number at the meeting the only factor that the City Council should vote on. 

And Buckwald refuses to write about how his wonderful democratic supporters dealt with the City Council's decision. They screamed and hissed. One woman chased the mayor into his office screaming at him with extreme foul language. 

Buckwald should be ashamed to lie in print and try to make his tree-sitting mob anything related to democracy when it is clear they are just unwashed thugs trying to intimidate others. 

Sherman Boyson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The letter from the university to the City Council was so "secret" that one of the councilmembers showed a copy of it to a group who visited mid-afternoon Thursday. It was so "secret" that it was posted on a website. Councilmembers were talking about the letter to many people throughout the day. But that really isn't the point. 

The tree -sitters and the Save the Oaks supporters spent 95 percent of their time at the council's public comment session talking about saving the trees, ignoring the fact that the city's lawsuit was never about the trees. It was about health and safety at the stadium. I'm surprised the council didn't label their testimony irrelevant from the beginning of the meeting. But democracy, far from being "subverted" by the council, called for listening to all who came forth, no matter their position. 

Mr. Buckwald claims the council should have let people know about "the topics that they would be focusing on" in closed session. The topic of that session was obvious and listed publicly. They'd be discussing issues pertinent to their lawsuit, not the Save the Oaks lawsuit. That's why the university's letter wasn't addressed to the Save the Oaks Foundation or the Panoramic Hill Association. It was addressed to the City Council and concerned topics related to the city's lawsuit and possible appeal. 

I and thousands of other citizens of Berkeley are gratified that the council acted responsibly and courageously. Litigation on the public's behalf should never be used as a political tool or a weapon. If the city's chances of prevailing on appeal are slim to none, and the potential damage and cost of pursuing an appeal high, the city must take responsible action and move on. 

Linda Schacht 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Although I'm a Northside resident, I sympathize with the plight of Doug Buckwald and his Southside neighbors in trying to cope with the rowdy behavior of all-too-many Cal students. I'm curious what measures they suggested to the Chancellor's Task Force that received a cool reception. I'm a Cal alumnus, and would be happy to write to the chancellor on this issue. Probably others would as well. Let's face it, though—the more students there are in an area, the more they see it as a neighborhood where “grown-ups' rules” don't apply. Perhaps the Southside residents could prevail on Cal to provide some compensation for the aggravation caused by the growing multitude of students that the university is housing in the area. Season football tickets, at least—and if you don't like football, you can always scalp the tickets. 

Steve Meyers 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As nature, the economy, civil rights, and news content tank in tandem, as diseases and nukes spread, as food, fish, and fresh water run short, and as we find that our only energy policy is to invade places that still have what we have used up in order to accelerate climate change, what a splendid metaphor the officials of "the world's greatest public university" provide us with their hugely expensive plan to expand a game facility on one of the most dangerous sites in California in order to distract spectators and their children from what is coming at them. 

Gray Brechin 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

White-haired men in suits from the university (all rise and bow) are telling community activists/environmentalists that a grove of oak trees, some over a hundred years old, will be cut down to build exercise rooms for football players. Unfortunately, not too many people give a damn about this kind of thing anymore. Apathy has set in even here in Berkeley. The chains saws will rip these trees out in the next few weeks and an ugly glassy structure will rise up. I'm really disappointed with the youth of this generation if they can't get out there and breathe a little tear gas. It was the best part of my education.  

(Hint to the more creative protesters: I swore I saw some endangered species of insects at the oaks the other day.) 

Name withheld 

(works for the university) 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

If you are a regular customer at the McDonald's at Shattuck and University in Berkeley, then you may have noticed a change. As of March 18, a new owner took over. Committed and loyal staff were laid off, some relocated. The new owner appears to have decided that he did not need to employ some of those workers who had worked there for over 11 years, some who had worked there for 20-plus years. The employees who were let go were given as little as one day of notice. This location, well known for its employing of older and or disabled staff, has been altered.  

My 83-year-old mother, who wore her uniform with pride, was given one day of notice—"tomorrow will be your last day"—after working at this location for almost 12 years. Heartless. To make the situation feel even worse, the new owner placed a "Now Hiring Crew" sign in their Shattuck-facing window almost immediately. How does he think this made the "leaving crew" feel? Guess he didn't care. I for one, will never patronize this location again, or any of the franchises that he owns; I will take my business elsewhere. There are plenty of other McDonald's to patronize. So, when you look for the cute lady with all her sports/holiday pins...she won't be there. Shameful! 

Cindy Woo 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

We are calling for a demonstration in support of the three workers that were fired for being disabled at McDonald's at Shattuck and University in Berkeley. The time is 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday July 29. We need everyone to come in solidarity as a community to stop wrongful terminations against mental and physical disabilities at the work place.  

Michael Pachovas 

Michael Delacour 

Gina Sasso 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Bus Rapid Transit is estimated to cost $400 million. That amount of money could buy 10,000 new hybrid cars. If those cars were given away to East Bay motorists, a gasoline-use reduction of roughly 10,000 gallons a day could result. This is over 10 times the reduction in fuel use predicted for BRT, and it raises the question of what the BRT supporters really want. If they want to improve the environment and reduce greenhouse gases, giving away new hybrids could do that 10 times better than BRT, for the same dollar cost. If they don't want to improve the environment and reduce greenhouse gases, what do they want? 

Why should we waste 9,000 gallons of gasoline every day, over 3 million gallons every year, by spending $400 million on BRT rather than on improving automobile fuel economy? That doesn't sound very green to me. 

Russ Tilleman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Alan Tobey's July 24 commentary reminds me of the Bush administration's approach to science: Let the eggheads do their studies. Then, if you don't like the result, either attempt to discredit the scientists or discredit or suppress their study. 

Mr. Tobey would have us believe that AC Transit paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to a huge team of transportation planners, environmental planners, and engineers just to get a report that "generally describe(s) the (BRT) project." What nonsense. The professionals who worked on the BRT draft environmental impact report used all the tools at their disposal to try to predict the impacts, costs and benefits of BRT. Mr. Tobey doesn't like the results. So he resorts to questioning the validity of the report. 

Here are the findings in the draft EIR that Mr. Tobey doesn't like: (1) BRT would result in a minuscule number of new transit users. (2) BRT would result in no reduction in fuel use. (3) BRT would have a negligible impact on pollutant emissions. (4) BRT would cost taxpayers at least $250 million. These are not my conclusions; they are the conclusions of the professionals who wrote the DEIR. 

Mr. Tobey would have us ignore the draft EIR and take it on faith that BRT would be a "good thing." Sorry, Mr. Tobey. The fact is that AC Transit has produced four BRT alternatives and studied each extensively. Even a cursory reading of the draft EIR shows that each alternative is a bigger financial boondoggle that the last. Now AC Transit is asking the City of Berkeley to select one of these lemons as a "preferred alternative." The only rational, fiscally responsible, response from the city is "none of the above." Let AC Transit go back to the drawing board and come up a project that can be studied by professionals and is actually projected to accomplish something. 

Jim Bullock 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding the proposed suicide barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge, I strongly oppose said barrier. More people die in car accidents just crossing the bridge than by jumping. Yet nobody is clamoring to install car barriers to prevent head-on collisions or other methods to make it safer for motorists who have to drive across daily. 

Tori Thompson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The mostly white responses to the mostly black, angry responses to the New Yorker magazine cover in which Barack Obama is portrayed as a Muslim cleric and his wife Michelle as an AK-47-packing Angela Davis are mostly racist. 

African Americans are snootily informed that the magazine cover is political satire and that Obama, as the presumptive Democratic Party nominee for the presidency, black or not, is fair game for political satire. Fair enough. We’re all for political satire. 

The racist assumption here however, seems to be that black folk are too politically naive to understand political satire and their angry responses to the magazine cover are out of bounds. 

However, if you look at the historical record, very few segments of American society have a longer record of political and social satire than African Americans. America’s long drama of oppression and betrayal of our interests and needs has made this so. 

The 19th century’s wildly popular dance craze, the Cake Walk, was political satire of the slavocracy’s cultural and morale standards. Black comedians too numerous to name, but most recently Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle, have pushed political satire way beyond the boundaries of most late-night talk show hosts. African Americans don’t need any arrogant lessons on what is political satire. 

On the other hand it seems some “other” citizens of America need lessons on what is racism. In the midst of a national presidential campaign, images that portray African American candidates in styles of dress that conform to most Americans' worst fears of terrorism are racist, and to expect the general public to see this as political satire and not racism is itself racist and naive. 

The irony in all this is clear to see. However, the question should be, “Don’t you see the racism?” 

Jean Damu 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On July 23, California, six other Western States and four Canadian provinces released their plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, called the Western Climate Initiative. Unfortunately, in this plan, it is not specified whether carbon credits would be given away for free or sold in auction. As a resident of El Cerrito, every day I see pollution billowing out of the Richmond Refinery Plant, and every day I wonder if the people creating this pollution have to pay for contributing to global warming. With the help of the Western Climate Initiative the polluters will have to pay, but only if these carbon credits are sold at auction. So as Californians, and as people of the earth, we must call on Gov. Schwarzenegger to revise the Western Climate Initiative, and make polluters pay for every ton of global warming pollution they produce. 

Wesley Hrubes 

El Cerrito 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

George Coates writes that Dona Spring helped "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." 

Excuse me, but the Bay Area's second-largest public access TV facility is occupying space that belongs to Berkeley High School. This school is sorely lacking in classrooms. Please, Mr. Coates, go find your own facilities. Berkeley High School is horribly overcrowded and needs every single classroom it can obtain (of course the space in question was originally a classroom and should be returned to its original purpose). Go take a look at students in hallways, in portables at the nearby elementary school, in moldy rooms in the gym, in the foyer of the theater, and then ask yourself if you should really be taking classroom space away from the high school on its own property. Go ask the Berkeley High School teachers, 30 percent of whom quit every year because they don't have a classroom of their own, if you have any rights to high school classrooms. 

What is it with our city and local groups that think they have the right to pressure our schools into giving them space that's desperately needed by the schools themselves? It's nuts. 

Peter Kuhn 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In the July 24 Planet Bob Burnett is perplexed that McCain continues to run close to Obama in the polls. He alludes to the obvious factor of endemic racism, which, if admitted, would probably make the poll numbers even closer. What he may overlook, like many of us in Berkeley, is the simple fact that we live in a nation of semi-literate dolts who have no ear for the subtleties of Obama's balanced and nuanced reasonings, but respond reflexively to McCain’s jingoistic simplifications ("winning" or "losing" in Iraq). McCain may win the presidency, as Burnett warns. And to those spiteful Hillites who can't accept the election of the first black president before the first female, consider what a McCain presidency may do to the balance of the Supreme Court—you may well overturn Roe v. Wade. 

At the center of the Republican Party there is a black hole of right-wing power and money that has penetrated and manipulated every aspect of the Bush administration, and despite whatever virtues of character John McCain may exhibit, it will subvert and manipulate his presidency as well. 

Jerry Landis 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I attended the "General Board Meeting" of "Citizens for Eastshore Parks" on July 16 and it was confirmed what I had assumed, that the fence around the "resource protection area" is to keep out the occasional dog-walker who would disobey a leash law. 

I was informed that the area is owned by the State Department of Parks and managed by East Bay Regional Park district. CESP is only an advisory board of those who were part of workshops held about 10 years ago to help the state decide how to manage this land. These workshops were open to the public, though of course I and many others never heard of them, so there were not a lot of people who disagreed with the fence, leaving those who wanted it to get their way. 

I have written about this before and I don't want to harp on it, but I need to say for the last time that the area extends from University Avenue to what would be Cedar Street and the frontage road to the marina, and to exclude the public from it all because of an occasional disobedient dog-walker is not only draconian but unjust. 

I admit the dog problem is serious, but the fence is more than a terrible solution. I'm all for giving birds the space to nest, but surely they don't need all of it. They love me, too, I'm sure, and with the help of creative planners instead of the unimaginative we might live together in peace. In my view the wildlife and wildlife lovers were just fine before meddling led to yet another development that has been fenced like private property. Yes, there was a dog problem but education would have been better than imprisonment. 

However I am just one voice in a wilderness and I give up crying about it. Were there others who would join me in petitioning the State Parks Department and the park district, then maybe things might change, but it doesn't look like this will happen. I haven't read any other letters about it and I feel alone in my complaint. So never again will I be able to enjoy what was once a wonderful meadow, which is a great loss to me personally, since I paint plein air and used to spend many pleasant hours there. 

Pete Najarian 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

According to recently published research, happiness is based more on two factors—helping others and participating in something larger than oneself —than seeking positive emotion ("Happiness: A better path that may be greener, too," Christian Science Monitor, July 23).  

Citing the World Values Survey ( and Happy Planet Index (, the research reveals that beyond a certain point, people who value material good and wealth are treading more heavily on the earth while not getting happier. It turns out that being environmentally conscious—recycling, conserving and implementing sustainable practices—also makes us happier than valuing wealth, power and fame.  

Engagement with community and family, fostering strong social institutions, and seeking adventure and meaning, are all linked to well-being. With only 5 percent of the world’s population, North America accounts for 22 percent of the human footprint, while Africa, with 13 percent of the population, accounts for 7 of the footprint. The United States is 16th on the happiness index, a ranking that has been flat for the past 25 years. All that stuff? We’re not getting happier. In fact, aspiring to a lot of materials goods is unhappiness-producing, while contributing to ecological destruction.  

Not too surprising, then, that as we seek to enrich our lives with the intangibles—beauty, goodness, justice and love, while pursuing a lighter impact on earth’s resources—we’ll find a happiness that is worth pursuing. 

Marilyn McPherson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

If we change the existing style and teaching methods and our class curriculum to make it more meaningful to our students, we may become more useful for the student community and will bring more interesting and meaningful subjects in our classroom for them to become interested in learning and acquire the real-life skills to grow and develop as useful persons for themselves and the society. 

Romila Khanna 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Clearly the place to be this past Saturday was the new East Bay for Obama Field Office in Berkeley. To say that the joint was jumping would be a masterpiece of understatement! Located at 3225 Adeline St., the headquarters was hard to miss because of the soaring archway of red, white and blue balloons, which stretched along the street. Throughout the day hundreds of people crowded into the office, where they were greeted by volunteers, given Obama stickers and registered for various volunteer assignments. In marked contrast to the apathy and somber mood that's permeated the White House in recent months, there was enough enthusiasm and raw energy in this gathering to provide electricity for the entire city. Obama supporters were in high spirits, sporting colorful T-shirts and caps (I liked the slogan that read "The End of An Error") and chanting, "Yes, we can—yes, we can." 

Not only was there nourishment for the spirit, there was a bountiful buffet with food and cold drinks generously provided by local merchants: Domino's Pizza, Sweet Adeline Bakeshop, the Cheese Board, Nomad Coffee, etc. Children had their own table with crayons and paper for creating very imaginative posters. It was also a field day for dogs. 

At 3 p.m. people gathered outdoors in the brilliant sunshine for brief speeches. Mayor Tom Bates urged supporters to bring cell phones to make out-of-state calls. Barbara Lee had appeared earlier in the day. Cars speeding along Adeline Street honked their horns in approval of the event. 

All in all, it was a wonderful energizing day and one can only hope that the optimism so evident on this occasion will spread around the country, resulting in the election of a charismatic, intelligent and compassionate young man, the total opposite of our present "war president," George W. Bush. 

Dorothy Snodgrass