Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Thursday August 21, 2008 - 10:13:00 AM






Editors, Daily Planet: 

We would like to thank all of the friends of Dona Spring who attended her memorial service Aug. 10 at the Civic Center Plaza and the celebration of her life at the North Berkeley Senior Center. Thank you all who helped setting up and cleaning up, with bringing chairs, to those who participated in and organized the speaking, showed the DVDs of Dona’s life, brought food, flowers, and cards, wrote their names in Dona’s memorial books, and those who gave the heartwarming tributes, both written and spoken. We especially thank the City of Berkeley for letting us use the Civic Center Plaza and the North Berkeley Senior Center for the event. We also thank all those who called and sent cards of condolence and those who wrote so many nice things about Dona in the local papers, especially in the Berkeley Daily Planet. We completely understand why Berkeley was Dona’s favorite place on earth, and Berkeley residents were her dearest and best friends. 

Dona Spring’s family:  

Paula, Chris, Robert and Dennis 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I love that Alan Tobey’s defense of density infill as being no threat to vegetables is in the paper in conjunction with John English’s parsing of the Planning Commission’s wholesale destruction of years of citizen planning. It is such a touching expression of faith. 

Carol Denney 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was a student of Ms. Mistry’s. She was the only teacher from whom I actually learned something and didn’t forget it two days later. She was so nice and cared for all her students. She was not only a teacher, she was a friend. I sometimes would come after school with my friends just to chill in her room. She was a great person.  

Gabe Rios 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Big Oil, their cronies in Congress, and the Bush administration are exploiting the pain we are feeling at the pump by touting drilling as a solution, even though they know drilling will not lower prices at the pump. 

Big Oil wants you to believe that drilling is a quick fix, when the reality is that Bush’s own Energy Department has said that any new drilling will have no effect on gas prices now, and an “insignificant” effect on gas prices 15-20 years from now. 

The U.S. uses 25 percent of the world’s oil supply, but holds only 2.6 percent of the world’s oil reserves. No matter how much we drill, we could never provide consumers with real relief. 

Big Oil holds leases on almost 70 million acres of land that they are not drilling on. This latest move is just a greedy land grab before their friends in the Bush administration leave office. And, since oil companies are not drilling on the land they have access to now, there is no guarantee that they will drill on newly acquired leases. 

Rather than being feed the false claim that drilling will lower gas prices, Americans need real choices, like cars with better fuel efficiency, tax incentives for riding mass transit and telecommuting, and consumer rebates funded by repealing billions in tax breaks for Big Oil. 

Oklahoma oil man T. Boone Pickens even said “I’ve been an oil man all my life, but this is one emergency we can’t drill our way out of.” 

Jennifer Wilde 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

JC Pence in his/her letter of Aug 14-20 complains about the downtown sidewalks that have numerous black spots on them. He/she holds the local business owners responsible for scrubbing the sidewalks and uses some choice words in demanding this. 

What JC Pence must not know is that this condition is a seasonal one caused by little sap-sucking bugs (aphids or whiteflies) in the street trees. They suck sap from the tree leaves and excrete a sticky solution that falls to the ground. Dirt sticks to the sticky spots and make the black marks that are so unsightly. People that walk through this will soon discover that the soles of their shoes have become sticky and prone to pick up more dirt, leaves, bits of paper, etc. Cars left parked downtown soon acquire a fine coating of little sticky spots that must be washed off with soap and water. 

The trees that Berkeley planted downtown seem to be especially prone to this seasonal problem. The business owners have no control over the situation and should not be required to scrub the sidewalks on top of the sweeping most of them already do. The city scrubs the sidewalks occasionally, though not often enough. 

Several solutions to this problem come to mind. We could cut the trees down. We could strip the trees of their leaves to make them less attractive to the bugs. We could spray chemicals on the trees to kill the bugs. We could forbid people to use the sidewalks or to park downtown until the seasonal problem passes on its own. Or we could do what we are doing now, which is to live with it for the short period of time the bugs are active and ask the city to scrub the sidewalks in the areas where the problem is most visible. 

How about it. Does anyone out there have a better solution to offer?  

Janet Winter 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I strongly agree with Janet Winter, though I’m less certain than she is that the trees downtown are more susceptible than average. 

I’ll also point out that this year appears to be worse than most for aphids and such in Berkeley street trees. I’ve noticed those telltale black sticky swaths under trees on streets that usually don’t have such a visible marking of Bugs at Work. It’s always nasty on west University Avenue, but the tulip trees on Addison near Andronico’s, for example, and the ash trees on Sacramento north of Dwight and even under Chinese elms in a few places are so liberally frosted with, as it’s called, honeydew that I’m surprised we haven’t had reports of pedestrians stuck to the street as to flypaper and getting run over. 

It would be civilized of the city to steam-clean or at least run the sidewalk Zamboni over the downtown sidewalks more often in response to this year’s bug boom. 

Ron Sullivan 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Myself and others started SAVE Berkeley Housing Authority (SAVE BHA), after the BHA failed to make a passing score for a number of years in it’s reviews of the SEMAP reports sent to HUD on an annual basis. 

The annual SEMAP reporting system determines whether or not a housing authority is operating it’s Section 8 and public housing programs properly. 

SAVE BHA placed pressure on Berkeley’s Mayor and City Council to keep the BHA under local control, and the city chipped in around a million dollars to cover some HUD funding shortfalls that threatened the programs. 

The BHA was reorganized, and we managed to keep it from going into receivership. 

Things got real dicey after I discovered a report detailing how the BHA was making rental payments to apartments where the tenants were deceased.  

The members of SAVE BHA, are still around and trying to keep an eye on the BHA, in case it gets itself into trouble again. 

Lynda Carson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

If the Berkeley High student newspaper is having financial woes, and if their major expenses are printing and postage, they should consider going online only. They could still sell ads—in fact, they might be able to sell more (using Google’s ad service). And because so many kids and parents are online these days, it could potentially reach more readers. Most importantly, because the future of journalism is online, it would be better training for the student journalists. 

Dan Miller 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

GOP politics of deception trumps honesty once again as Republicans pick offshore drilling as their wedge issue for the 2008 presidential election. If you fall for this high gas price—offshore drilling scam—you deserve another four years with a Republican in the White House. 

Fifty-one percent of Americans believe that removing restrictions on offshore drilling would reduce gas prices within a year. No less an authority than oil magnet T. Boone Pickens says that offshore drilling will have no appreciable affect on the oil crisis at hand. This is a Republican ploy to confuse voters. And have you noticed how John McCain’s campaign has become a mirror of the two prior Bush campaigns; down and dirty. 

The GOP offshore drilling campaign is about subtle lies and distortion of truth. Will the American electorate be bamboozled by the masters of deceit again? 

Ron Lowe 

Nevada City 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Candidate X has done a good job in setting forth an energy policy, both short- and long-term. But one policy/strategy is lacking that can impact our energy use both short- and long-term. Reducing the number of cars being driven will do more to save on energy use than all other alternatives and this can best be accomplished, immediately, by getting more of us to car pool. Car pooling can best be arranged within neighborhoods. Holding neighborhood block parties, exchanging driving schedules with our neighbors is the way to go, especially since most of us seem to be less than amiable to driving with strangers. Car pooling should be encouraged by our elected officials and by transportation authorities limiting highway/bridge access to automobiles carrying three or more persons.  

Irving Gershenberg 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Marie Bowman wrote in her recent commentary “What the District Doesn’t Want You to Know About Berkeley High’s Master Plan,” that there is a false/manufactured need for more classrooms. Perhaps Ms. Bowman is not aware of the fact that BHS students are hiking to Washington Elementary School to attend classes in portables. Maybe she hasn’t heard that students are attending classes in the foyer of the Community Theater and in mold-encrusted rooms in the old gym. It’s possible she hasn’t seen teachers move from classroom to classroom every 50 minutes because there aren’t enough classrooms for every teacher to have a base of operations. Berkeley High lost 26 classrooms when the B Building burned down eight years ago. Those classrooms have not been replaced. Ms. Bowman does not mention this critical fact in her commentary. 

Maureen Burke 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The very idea that it’s necessary to discuss torture is horrifying. Another aspect that’s been haunting me is blowback. There were rumors that the Nazis, at least some of them, enjoyed observing torture—that it was a sexual turn-on. The current interrogators are young, separated from their normal lovers, and likely to get the rush that any extreme activity provides. Is it difficult to think that some few of them will imprint the experience as erotic and try to reproduce it when they return home? 

Unintended consequences happen. 

Ruth Bird 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

For the first time in years, the City of Berkeley is re-paving some streets. Too bad they’re not the ones that really need it. Bike safety has been a key part of the script for every Berkeley politician since the Free Speech Movement. The problem is that no one seems willing to hold our mayor, council and public works staff accountable when they crow about it, but do nothing.  

If Berkeley politicians were serious about bike safety, they would pave the so-called “Bicycle Boulevards” that are full of ruts, holes, divots, grooves, gravel and pock-marks. They would get rid of the asphalt moguls that decorate intersections around University and Shattuck avenues, and the other side streets that intersect University, such as Berkeley Way and Hearst. If they were REALLY serious, they would act on prior suggestions to place signage in parallel parking areas reminding drivers not to open the door on a cyclist. Instead, they responded by not responding on this one. 

The following streets are favored by bikers to avoid heavy traffic, and are in abominable condition. They flatten tires, bend rims, cause falls, and back injuries from sudden jarring into potholes: 

• Addison, between Oxford and MLK. 

• Milvia Street from MLK to Dwight Way. 

• Virginia Street, from San Pablo to Shattuck. 

• The shoulder of Delaware Street between San Pablo and Sacramento—the car thoroughfare is in good shape, but the “bike lane” is full of big, embedded gravel, ruts, grooves and pock marks. Last time they paved Delaware Street, they left the bike lane untreated; yet they call this a bike-friendly town. 

• Stadium Rim Road, leading to Centennial Drive (steep hill, many pot holes, big curve; God help us!). 

• Bonita Street—the entire street. 

• Ada Street—all of it. 

• Most of the north/south side streets bordered by San Pablo and Sacramento and between University and Marin Street, including Curtis, Belvedere, Kains, Cornell, etc. 

• Most north/south streets south of Dwight Way and north of Ashby Avenue. Oh yeah, the east/west streets in that area are just as bad. 

• Centennial Drive between the Lawrence Hall of Science and Strawberry Canyon has a huge oil slick on a steep curve that has taken down at least one friend of mine. This has been reported multiple times to the city and UC but no action has been taken. 

It’s fine for politicians to crow about bicycle safety. Now we need to challenge the mayor, City Council and Transportation Department to remove hazards and make good on all their “image advertising.” 

A casual inquiry has revealed that street paving in Berkeley is determined by a software program that minimizes human input. Experience makes me skeptical of any traffic management or street improvement plan that relies solely on wonk-formulas and wonk-manuals, while ignoring human input. So, if bikers want to have smoother rides on the so-called “Bicycle Boulevards,” we will have to make more noise than the tree-sitters supporters do at council meetings. That is, after all, the determining dynamic of Berkeley politics—whoever packs the council chambers and makes the most noise wins. 

H. Scott Prosterman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Stunning, mind-bending, spectacular, terrific, multiple wows!  

Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee ought to consider adding gold, silver and bronze non-competitive awards for elevated levels of achievement attained in the opening ceremony. 

In my opinion the gold award should go to the 2,008 drummers who executed a stunning countdown to 8/8/08 at 8:08 Beijing time. 

Give the silver award to the displays centered on a mammoth scroll depicting highlights of high culture and science spanning several dynasties—Tang, Sung, Ming, Yuan.  

And the bronze must go to the complex and inventive figure-making executed by thousands in a variety of colorful costumes with split-second precision uniting the scenes separated by commercials during two hours, primetime, on NBC.  

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo