Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday August 26, 2008 - 09:59:00 AM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Imagine a loud two-ton cigarette going 50 miles per hour, then parking to leave an oil pool near the curb for animals to drink from after an acid rain. This doesn't require much imagination. 

Let he who casts the first stone do his tossing in a secluded glass house. 

Ove Ofteness 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It's understandable that Russ Tilleman (Aug. 21) has concerns about AC Transit's Bus Rapid Transit project for Telegraph Avenue and downtown. We are, even after seven years of planning, still only halfway through the environmental review process, so it's still not possible to know exactly what the final project would be if approved and built. Only after the City Council chooses among several project alternatives will AC Transit be able to complete its final environmental impact report —and only then will we be able to study both potential impacts and their potential mitigations. In 2009 facts will replace fears, and we can then have a more informed conversation. 

That said, it is possible even now to look at Mr. Tilleman's BRT concerns with a dispassionate eye.  

Start with the issue of traffic in the neighborhoods. It's true that some drivers have been "cutting through" the neighborhoods south of campus from the major streets—for many years. That's why neighbors advocated for traffic controls such as diverters, designed not to "force traffic onto the major streets" but to keep cut-through traffic out of the neighborhood streets. That benefit does come at some cost—diverters do "complicate driving around the neighborhoods"—but most residents continue to favor that tradeoff. Some neighborhoods, however, made a different choice: the Willard neighborhood voted down the installation of diverters, and many residents there complain to this day about ever-increasing cut-through traffic on Hillegass and other streets.  

The BRT project actually gives us a chance to make neighborhood traffic better. AC Transit has committed to mitigating any potential increase in neighborhood traffic that would result from its project—and effective mitigations, which the city can't afford on its own, have the potential to decrease cut-through traffic below even today's levels. Neighbors should be deeply involved in ensuring that any future tradeoffs required are optimal ones.  

We can also address Mr. Tillman’s other concern: that BRT will "complicate navigating" by cars on Telegraph because of changes to signals and left-turn lanes. Right now there's no way to evaluate that, since Berkeley has not selected the actual routes that need to be designed for effective traffic management. The subject will receive detailed evaluation in the Final EIR, but until then it's simply not fair to assume the worst. Traffic engineers know how to optimize flow in transit corridors; we should give AC Transit's staff the chance to propose actual final plans before condemning the entire project. 

Mr. Tilleman asks, "Is there anything we will be able to do to limit [BRT's] impact on traffic?" The answer is certainly yes—work with the city and AC Transit to require vigorous and effective mitigations of potential traffic impacts as part of the BRT implementation. In the end, an ounce of mitigation will prove much more helpful than a pound of ungrounded fears. 

Alan Tobey 

Co-chairman, Coalition for Effective Government 

(A campaign committee working for a no vote on anti-BRT Measure KK) 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Once again Berkeley cops have demonstrated how out of control they are. On Wednesday, Aug. 20, someone in KPFA management (name to be revealed when KPFA finalizes its spin) called the cops to report a "trespass" by a KPFA volunteer, a pregnant single mom, who just happens to be African American. He called them because she wouldn't get off the phone when he so ordered. She was finalizing a ride home and told him so. 

The cops hog-tied her and broke her arm. Yes, it is happening here. Shame on them, KPFA, and on all Berkeleyans for putting up with this behavior for so long. 

To Berkeley cops: It is possible to have law enforcement without brutality. 

Since there have been so many cop over-reactions recently, one must conclude that population control by any means necessary, and especially minority population control, is a priority for our city government. 

As for KPFA, the first statement from Interim Program Manager Sasha Liley was that she had nothing to do with it, i.e. abdication of responsibility, instant state of denial, and no sense of outrage. 

There is this phenomenon among many so called progressives: they talk the talk and have the oh so correct analysis but in their daily lives, they share the same bullying mind set as Bush and Co. with one exception: they're Green. 

Who's gonna write "What's the Matter with Berkeley"? 

Maris Arnold 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am fed up with bicyclists who act as if traffic laws don’t apply to them and ride as if they’re only ones who have the right to be on the road. 

There have been countless times when I have nearly been hit by bike riders while walking across the street in a crosswalk. Around 7 yesterday evening, for example, I was crossing Telegraph at Oregon. All four lanes of car traffic came to a gentle stop, respecting the crosswalk. However, as usual, a bike rider refused to slow or even alter their path and came within a few inches of hitting me.  

I had always thought that being environmentally responsible was about looking out for the greater good. Apparently these riders are so wrapped up in their own egos and arrogance that they forget traffic rules also apply to them; especially the laws protecting pedestrians from harm. I have to say, there’s something perverse about pedestrians feeling safer around cars than bicycles.  

Steve Berley 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

John McCain is out of touch in understanding the economic realities of ordinary Americans, like myself. Imagine not being able to answer when asked, "How many houses do you have?" His economic situation is in stark contrast to the millions facing foreclosure, who can no longer answer "one." He doesn't have to worry about the bank foreclosing even one of his eight houses. 

In another interview, McCain gaffed when asked "What is rich?" "About $5 million," he managed to stumble upon. By his standards, he and Cindy are well above being rich, they are "super rich." 

Mr. McCain accuses Mr. Obama of raising taxes. But Obama does not plan to raise the taxes of those middle-class families with incomes below $150,000. In fact, he will cut their taxes by $1,000, and will offer students who perform community service a $4,000 tax break to pay for college tuition. John McCain's tax plan does nothing for middle-class families. Barack will also set minimum wage to rise with inflation. McCain has voted against minimum 19 times. 

Now, I ask you, who is more in touch with the average American? Barack Obama. 

Mertis Shekeloff 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

While I agree with Ms. Leyva-Cutler that Berkeley residents must "join together in a comprehensive approach" to solve the dismal academic performance of Berkeley High students, her faith in advisories is puzzling. Advisories will reduce academic instructional minutes when students, particularly in small schools, need all the academic instructional minutes they can absorb. Advisories do not qualify as instructional minutes. The thought of reducing English and math instructional time and replacing it with advisories is simply ridiculous. 

Advisories were voted down a few months ago by our school board. I find it remarkable that the BHS principal applied for a grant to implement advisories when the school board said no. Further, advisories will require many more classrooms than are available at the currently space-crunched high school. And I can't imagine how they can possibly provide what they claim to offer, which is an adult who can look out for students' interests, when teacher loads will increase on average from 150 students to 170. 

Advisories are part of the small school orthodoxy, none of which has proved successful. Take a look at the test scores in the small schools compared to the rest of Berkeley High. They are significantly lower, with a downward trend since small school inception. Why the blind faith in small schools when they have as few as 4 percent of their students achieving proficiency or above in math and students from the main body of the school achieve over 35 percent proficiency or above in math? Across the board, small school students score much lower in both English and math than students in the main body of Berkeley High, and it's getting worse every year. 

Let's join together in a comprehensive approach to ensure our students acquire the basic literacy and numeracy skills they'll need for any path they choose to take. Advisories are the Emperor's New Clothes of education trends. 

Peter Kuhn 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thanks are due to Beatriz Leyva-Cutler for clearly explaining why the BUSD needs to implement an academic advisory program for all students at Berkeley High (Commentary, Aug. 21). Here's a small example of how easily a student could be knocked off course for graduation.  

Yesterday my daughter picked up her class schedule for her senior year at Berkeley High. At first glance, the schedule looked more than fine—she had been assigned to all the exciting electives that she had requested. Later, however, she took a second look and realized that there was a serious error: She was not registered for one of the few courses that she absolutely needed to graduate and maintain UC/CSU eligibility, namely American government and economics. Since my daughter understands how to navigate the system, I'm sure she will manage to get her schedule fixed expeditiously, but if she were less informed, the error could have been utterly disastrous. A comprehensive advisory system would ensure that all students were informed and on track for graduation. 

Carol S. Lashof 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Further to Bob Burnett's “Framing the Election” (Aug 21), here is a simple ad that might save the Dems, if they had the courage to blanket the country with it: 

“John McCain says he wants diplomacy not war. But McCain’s idea of diplomacy is exactly like Bush’s—bullying other nations into doing what he tells them. It’s a recipe for more conflict, more blood, and either higher taxes or national bankruptcy.” 

Fred Matthews 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Nightmare is back on the north side. Verizon plans to put 10-12 cell-phone antennas on the French Hotel at 1540 Shattuck. Verizon's application to get a use permit is moving forward. It will be up for consideration at the Zoning Adjustments Board Sept. 11. Before the ZAB meeting, Verizon is organizing a meeting with the neighbors of the French Hotel to let them know of their plan. The meeting is on Sept. 3 at 7 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center at 1901 Hearst Ave. 

There are already many antennas in this area. Three at 1600 Shattuck, four more at 2095 Rose. If there more antennas get installed in this area, the level of radiation will exceed what is set by the FCC, 

Neighbors of the French Hotel are encouraged to come to the Verizon meeting. But, please do not go inside the room where Verizon has its display. Instead stage a protest outside this room. Wireless providers count how many people attend such meetings and make a report to the Planning Department that the meeting was a success and was attended by so many people. 

Perhaps this time, people will be able to stop the Verizon Corporation. 

Mina Davenport 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is so absurd and so offensive to the decency of all Americans—and especially Barack Obama—that there continues to be cynical commentary about the need for Hillary Clinton to be on his presidential ticket in order for him to prevail this November. The Clintons wrapped up their tenure in presidential politics as a national disgrace: he the philandering pervert and she the pragmatic first lady who sacrificed her self-respect and integrity among women by staying with her disgraced and deceitful yet politically popular husband so she could win a senate seat in New York. 

Bill Clinton was a devil to the Democratic Party. He abdicated much of the platform in order to win the White House and gave away the economic well-being of the middle class to big business. Bill Clinton achieved NAFTA. He will be remembered for that effort in the same vein that Howard Jarvis will forever own the consequences of California's Proposition 13. 

Above and beyond the damage and scandal, President Clinton exhibited the epitome of hubris by allowing himself to be glorified as the "first black president." How foolish, and how embarrassing. The Clintons both have made great efforts to capitalize on that, as if blacks weren't qualified to produce the first black president and the job needed to go to a white person. Proof of that is the furious response President Clinton had to the results of the North Carolina primaries, as if to say that Carolinians had no business voting for a black candidate when they already had the wife of the “first black president” on the ticket. That sort of mentality is the remnant of growing up in Arkansas during the heyday of the Klan, and the Clintons aren't as far removed from such stuff as they'd wish, or like us to believe. 

We will all be better off without another Clinton in the Executive Branch—or for that matter, slumming around Washington in dark sunglasses while blowing a saxophone and bragging about his exploits as a black president. 

Michael Minasian