Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday September 30, 2008 - 12:28:00 PM




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was clearly misquoted by your reporter in the article about the dispute around the Thai Temple's permits. Part of what you printed is not what I said, does not reflect my opinions and I want to distance myself from this very clearly. 

I never said: “Just a few blocks down there’s gangs and drug dealers hanging about." 

What I said was, "There have been problems with drugs and even shootings in this area and the temple seems to be a peaceful influence." 

I am asking you to clarify this. The difference between what I said and what you printed makes a big difference and I take this very seriously. I never said that there are certain people hanging about somewhere, which is a stereotyping and prejudiced statement that makes me very uncomfortable. I have never seen drug dealers around here and have no idea how to even recognize a gang. 

Therefore please protect the integrity of your journalism and my good name. Especially since I was willing to answer questions for your report. 

Helge Osterhold 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I like Mr. Klatt's opinion piece about not having taxes pay for the libraries since most of us have our own libraries and access to or own PCs where all information is available and correct. Since our kids are out of Berkeley schools at the end of this year I don't think I should have to pay for them either. Now that I think of it, we don't use the parks all that much now so maybe we could get out of 

paying for that too. I've never had to call the Fire Department (and I have insurance anyway) so maybe I could do without taxes for the 

Fire Department and just pay when we need them. 

What a wonderful city we'll have—full of purely self-serving and self-satisfied individuals without a sense of community and 


Bill Newton 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I just want to correct an error in J. Douglas Allen-Taylor's Sept. 25 article, "Analysis of Regional Ballot Measures." Measure WW is not without opposition. You can check to get more details. Measure WW is flawed on many levels, but the crux of the issue is that the East Bay Regional Parks District is a bad steward of the parks it owns, and giving it more money would only fix the pretty dismal state of our East Bay parks. We would be better off raising money for the state parks system, as it is definitely better managed and in more dire need of funds to maintain its vast land holdings. 

J.C. Poussin 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Contrary to J. Douglas Allen-Taylor's Sept. 25 article, Measure WW faces strong opposition—from local hikers, bikers, and environmentalists like myself who are appalled at the EBRPD's terrible stewardship of the public lands it controls. 

For example, over 85 percent of park "trails" are steep, erosive dirt roads for trucks, not paths for people on foot, bicycle, or horse. Nearly two-thirds of EBRPD "park land" is used for private industrial cattle and sheep production—not conservation or recreation. We don't have a park system—we have a highway system and an agribusiness operation! 

Instead of rewarding the EBRPD's neglect with $500 million, we should instead support our cash-strapped city and California State Parks systems, which does a great job running beautiful parks like Joaquin Miller and Mt. Diablo. 

For more information, and shocking pictures of the EBRPD's destruction of our parks, please visit our website: 

John Grigsby 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

There has been misinformation circulated that the Sierra Club supports Measure LL, the ballot measure that would change the current Landmarks Ordinance. The Sierra Club has taken no such action and made no such endorsement of Measure LL. The Sierra Club has not taken any position on Measure LL. We ask anyone who has passed along this information in error to officially retract the information that has been given out.  

Kent Lewandowski  

Chair, Sierra Club Northern Alameda County  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Whose brilliant idea in Berkeley city government was it to tear up all four lanes of Telegraph Avenue between Ashby and Woolsey, and leave them torn up for days? The results were chaotic—fine, nasty dust raised by cars on this major traffic artery chokes pedestrians, makes outdoor seating at restaurants impossible, and settles on cars, trees, sidewalks, gardens and homes for blocks around. EBMUD tells us not to use water for cleaning, so the dust stays. Bicyclists have been forced onto the sidewalks. Lack of parking also affects the many businesses along these blocks. 

So why didn't repaving start right away? It should be pretty simple—shut down the street, repave, reroute traffic along Shattuck, and back up on Alcatraz. Or, if need be, repave two lanes at a time. Anything would be better than the dust. Eventually the road was wetted down—too little, too late. 

Aija Kanbergs 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Foes and friends of Bus Rapid Transit should have taken a look at Telegraph south of Ashby over the past week or so. They repaved the street and one lane was closed at a time. That's what Telegraph will look like if BRT becomes a reality. And the traffic in Elmwood, Willard, Halcyon and LeConte today is a preview of what is to come. 

Peter Shelton 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Your Sept. 25 story on Berkeley Thai Temple referred to it as "one of Berkeley’s oldest religious institutions." Correction: Berkeley Thai Temple is only 32 years old and has only spent seven years at its current address. Previously, it had spent 25 years at a different location in Berkeley. My source? An article by Matt Lorenz, "Thai community dedicates temple," in the June 26, 2001 edition of the Daily Planet. 

Check the facts, they may just be in the archives! 

John Parman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I would like to express my disappointment, in relations to Riya Bhattacharjee “Anti-Israel Graffiti” story. 

While I applaud the story's effort to raise awareness about what I find to be an unacceptable choice of images questioning the BlueStar PR advertisement, I was disappointed to find a lack of alternative viewpoints. 

Aside from an unrelated reference to a talk by Kifah Shah, no voices were heard from organizations representing the Palestinian viewpoint. No copy was dedicated to raising awareness of those issues, to presenting the views of those who have concerns regarding BlueStar funding sources, and of the actions of its allies. 

No, I am not pushing for Ms. Bhattacharjee to secure a defense for the scrawling of swastikas. What I am asking for is a story that provides additional context, viewpoints, and explanation behind the language found on the BlueStar PR advertisement with the hope of creating an open, honest dialogue. 

J. Smith 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

This is in response to the Sept. 25 article about the anti-Israel graffiti: First of all, the article claimed that the ad that was vandalized promoted peaceful coexistence. But in fact, the ad tries to portray the state of Israel in a positive light as a place where equality and integration prevail. 

When China tried to portray itself in a positive light by hosting the Olympics, we thought it only natural for some people to counter the propaganda by protesting the Chinese occupation of Tibet. But Israel is our big Sacred Cow—any criticism, no matter how marginal, is heresy, and warrants a front-page article. 

Wake up, folks. Blind support for this sacred cow does a lot of harm—backing a brutal occupation, spending tax dollars to maintain the military machine that the occupation requires, turning a blind eye to the Israeli nuclear arsenal, stifling dissent in this country. 

Helen Finkelstein 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

UC spokesperson Dan Mogulof often stated that the Berkeley campus' most important concern has been safety. Dan Mogulof must have been speaking only about the trees in the Memorial Stadium grove, not the forest. The Berkeley campus has neglected fire prevention in the forest of conifers and oaks in the ecological area above the oak grove in this most dangerous fire-prone year. 

Year after year UC has done fire prevention in the forest above the stadium. This work includes clearing dry flammable brush. In the mid 1980s UCB performed a control burn. Because of complaints about a control burn starting a fire, UC then began to use goats and individuals cutting grass. But not this year. 

Several residents of the area telephoned UC. One personally visited UCB offices. But no fire prevention actions have been accomplished. There is abundant dead grass growing underneath water-starved trees and immediately next to residential areas. 

UCB says it is concerned about safety? How about some rudimentary fire prevention in this year when so many acres in California have been destroyed by fire? Or does UCB for some unknown reason think that this area is not vulnerable to fire as then Vice Chancellor Dan Boggan told me prior to the firestorm of Oct. 20, 2001?  

Ann Reid Slaby 




Editors, Daily Planet 

Ted Vincent, in his letter to the Editor was being somewhat tongue in cheek with his plea to “Scotty” to beam me back to the 14th century, but mainly he ignores my premise about the merits of free public libraries and he has no valid rebuttal to the point I made in my previous opinion piece on the subject of free libraries. Actually, I am somewhat disappointed that there was not a valid rebuttal (at least not published in the print version of the Daily Planet)  

Most of us agree that modern libraries, on their own, have added all sorts of cultural— and not so cultural—enhancements to their original scope of activity. That’s a natural phenomenon in many organizations; every business and institution is constantly seeking growth. That was exactly one of my points. Libraries have expanded their mission way beyond the original intents of offering free printed media in the interest of public literacy. Keeping teaching libraries apart from this discussion, free public libraries presently serve more as a cultural enhancement and an entertainment or a recreational venue. If Mr. Vincent wants to hold, fondle, or smell books—OK! Just don’t expect taxpayers to foot the entire bill for such a peculiar fetish. Lord knows, there are enough tax dollars being spent on libraries already, just look at your tax bill. 

Like it or not, the Internet has shifted the paradigm. 21st century American society is literate and most people agree we get more information that we can handle or want. Those who desire such life enhancements as public libraries offer, should be prepared to contribute at least to some of those costs. 

Mr. Vincent says that “Klatt is anti-public services in general.” I will not dispute the usefulness or necessity most of those public services and entertainment or business activities, whose decline he cites in his list of causes for the collapse of Rome. The cause and effect argument could be debated by Latin scholars ad infinitum. However, I will dispute that rate payers should exclusively pay for “harbors, halls, theaters, libraries” etc., as Mr. Vincent is advocating. Those should be paid for, at least in a substantial part, by user fees. Does he think that he can get a free berth at the Berkeley harbor? or a free latte? I don’t think so, nor should he. 

A one-year unlimited use, library card for $35? Sounds like a bargain to me, given all the marvelous things that our public libraries have to offer.  

Enough is enough! Vote no on bond measure FF! 

Peter Klatt 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The terms of Oakland Measure N calls for the proceeds from the parcel tax to be allowed “in the following proportion: teacher compensation at district-run schools: 85 percent; charter school programs: 15 percent.” 

However, most voters reading the Alameda County Voter Registrar short statement of Measure N in their voter pamphlet will not find any mention of 15 percent of the tax proceeds allowed to charter school programs. 

Alameda County Registrar statement: "Measure N: To attract and retain highly qualified and credentialed teachers for 

Oakland’s District-run public schools, and to support successful educational programs at Oakland’s public charter schools, shall Oakland Unified School District levy $10 per parcel per month ($120 per year) for 10 years with an exemption for low-income residents, mandatory annual audits, an independent citizens’ oversight committee, and all money spent to benefit Oakland Schools and all Oakland students? (Two-thirds vote required for passage).” 

I believe Measure N was written to mislead voters into thinking that this tax is entirely for teachers’ salaries. Furthermore, the short version of Measure N sent to the county registrar of voters was written to hide the fact that 15 percent (approximately $1.8 million yearly) is a tax to support charter schools. 

Oakland taxpayers don’t be fooled; vote No on Measure N and its hidden charter school tax. 

Jim Mordecai 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Rob Wrenn makes a number of obviously true statements in his Sept. 25 commentary (“Why BRT Will Work”). Transit riders generate less greenhouse gases than automobile drivers. Check. Bicycle riders and pedestrians generate even less. Check. “Transit-dependent population should not be treated like second-class citizens.” Check. 

But in his zeal to build a case for Bus Rapid Transit, Mr. Wrenn slips in a “fact” which is not a fact at all: “Where dedicated lanes for transit vehicles are put into effect, transit ridership rises and generation of global-climate-change-inducing greenhouse gases falls.” This has undoubtedly happened in some places. But this is exactly the problem with the BRT plan for the East Bay that I (and others) have been trying to point out for several months. AC Transit's BRT proposals were extensively studied by transportation engineers, transportation planners and environmental planners in a draft environmental impact report. They came to the conclusion that none of the BRT proposals would generate a significant number of additional bus riders. Because BRT does not generate additional bus riders it won't have an effect on greenhouse gases. This, in a nutshell, is the tragedy of this BRT proposal. It will soak up $250 million in precious transit funds and, according to the experts, accomplish nothing. 

Mr. Wrenn and other BRT supporters believe with all their hearts that somehow BRT will generate more transit use. Based solely on this belief they would have us spend $250 million on this project. On the other hand, a team of professionals in the field studied this BRT proposal for several months and came to a very different conclusion—that the number of increased riders would be very small. We might as well throw that $250 million down a hole. Who's a person to believe? 

Finally, Mr. Wrenn you are absolutely wrong in your sweeping generalizations about BRT opponents. Not all of us espouse the “cars-come-first mentality” as you claim. It's just that we aren't blinded by the word “bus” in the title of this proposal. Some of us have taken an objective look at the proposal and have decided there are better ways to spend these transit dollars. 

Jim Bullock 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Let’s look at what new burdens Bus Rapid Transit’s dedicated lanes will really place on the disabled and mobility impaired AC Transit riders.  

Here's what April Mitchell didn’t bring up in her letter last week touting level boarding of BRT buses: If BRT does away with local bus service, then almost every person, including the disabled and mobility impaired, will have to walk or wheel themselves a good deal further to get to the BRT stations. On average, BRT stations located in the middle of the street will be three to four times farther apart than current local bus stops. That’s a whole lot of extra steps riders will need to take. 

I think we should be asking the mother who’s pushing her stroller and carrying packages or groceries, the disabled person in the wheelchair and the older person walking with a cane or walker, "How many extra blocks are you willing to walk in order to get level boarding?” I expect their answer is “I don’t want to walk farther.” 

There is another aspect of putting the stations in the middle of the street that will cause problems for the disabled and mobility impaired: Each time they get on or off the bus, they must cross a very busy lane of auto traffic at a location with no traffic signal in order to get to the safety of the curb. This is putting people in harm's way so AC Transit can reduce the boarding time at each stop. If the boarding remains at the curb, as it would if Rapid Bus Plus were implemented, then its possible to continue running local service that will stop at all the current curbside stops. It will also mean that people don’t necessarily need to cross busy traffic lanes to reach the curbside bus stop. April is simply wrong when she says that level boarding is impossible at curbside. What we need is ingenuity and design expertise to make it work at a price that we can afford. 

Vincent Casalaina 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Am I the only voter in District 4 who finds it rather shameless that both Jess Arreguin and L A Wood are falling over themselves mentioning Dona Spring as often as possible in there respective campaigns? 

I'd prefer to be represented by someone who can present their own positions and think for themselves. I don't want a councilmember who, before deciding an issue, has to stop and think "now what would Dona do?" 

Frank Greenspan 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I found Marcy Greenhut’s Sept. 25 letter most interesting. She implies that I claimed that Berkeley is the only city with any portion of BART underground, and states that parts of the Oakland and San Francisco tracks are also underground. 

What I actually said was “That’s why Berkeley alone has BART underground, while the rest of the East Bay has noisy, unsightly BART rails screeching through town.” I regret that I did not specify that Berkeley’s BART is “entirely” underground. (Note: San Francisco in not in the East Bay). 

Oakland’s BART configuration is exactly the same configuration that Berkeley was threatened with in 1964—massive aerial rails through town, except in the central portion. Berkeleyans vigorously rejected this plan, and voted to underground the entire route in 1966. 

Ms. Greenhut continues, “In fact, Friends of BRT membership stands at over 120 individuals, in addition to the entire Sierra Club. . . .” The “entire” Sierra Club? Perhaps Ms. Greenhut should check her “facts.” 

Gale Garcia 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is extremely disappointing that Gov. Schwarzenegger has again vetoed two bills—AB 2937 and SB 1589—that would have helped prevent and remedy wrongful convictions. 

The death penalty is a failed policy for public safety. It does not deter crime and it does not make us safer. 

There is no humane way to kill a prisoner, and since the United States is one of the few remaining democracies that still murder prisoners, including minors, this state should do no less than should join with other civilized nations and immediately abolish the death penalty. 

James Vann 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I don’t mean to besmirch the wartime courage and sacrifice of presidential candidate John McCain, but at the same time I do. His 

hectoring accusations that Sen. Obama is “naïve” and that it is a “dangerous world” are not observations or judgments, but a symptom. 

Sen. McCain spent five horrendous years in captivity. Maltreated and tortured with no real hope of rescue, he finally succumbed and confessed to war crimes, and the confession was recorded and broadcast throughout the POW compound. He was also given better treatment than his fellow soldiers because of his father, four-star Admiral John Sidney McCain Jr. At one point, this prize prisoner was offered unexpected repatriation because of the propaganda benefits Hanoi would reap for their generosity. 

It is clear to me as a Vietnam vet that McCain’s subsequent worldview was shaped by the harrowing experience of captivity. When he emerged, both traumatized and relieved, he found himself received as a hero, but one whose heroism was privately colored by shame and guilt as well as pride. 

I served with many brave soldiers in Vietnam, some whose bravery was a spontaneous response to the moment’s plight, and some whose bravery was ingrained in their gut; brave was what they were (and are). Their deeds of bravery were performed and laid aside; they were not the stuff of compulsive retelling and they were not continually revisited as proof of some higher spirit. 

But what of the hero who falters? Yes, this can happen. There are moments of weakness, moments of doubt, even among the brave. But the brave man who falters has no recourse but to be ever braver, to be constantly vigilant and on guard, to be assured that the next time harm comes his way it will be met with unwavering courage. Thus the hero who falters comes to view the world as an omnipresent threat, a challenge and a danger, a pending match for his mettle.  

This then became the lens through which John McCain views the world, first and foremost as a hostile place, colored by menace, predation, and adversity. 

It is not Obama who is naïve. Rather it is Sen. McCain who is bound by the stunted myopia of his long-held trauma. 

This is not an aspect of character that makes him fit for the presidency, a besieged personality that by its own nature holds diplomacy as suspect and leadership as a form of swagger. 

With McCain as president, the world will not be a safer place. 

Steve Seid 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Although I'm not a Republican, I'm appalled by the virtual witch-hunt of misogyny, lies, and ridiculous rumors by many on the Left toward Gov. Sarah Palin. Although we're all enraged by the horrors of the last eight years, it's still not acceptable to target and bully. If we're now behaving like our adversaries, regardless of the outcome in November, they've won. 

Stacy Taylor 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On Sept. 10, on Fox News, President Bush lauded Sarah Palin's executive experience and said "That's what it takes to be a capable person in Washington, D.C., in the executive branch." Palin too, during her speech at the Republican Convention, touted her executive experience as mayor and governor as a reason why she was a superior candidate than either Barack Obama or Joe Biden, who only have legislative experience. She failed to mention that John McCain, her running mate, has only legislative experience since entering politics in 1982. Just what is this "executive experience?" 

Palin served two terms on the Wasilla, Alaska city council from 1992 to 1996 and then was elected mayor in 1996. She served six years as mayor. Wasilla has a population of about 5,400 residents, which makes it the fourth-largest city in Alaska. To ward off a recall campaign for abrupt firings of city employees, she was forced to hire a city administrator to actually run the city government.  

Palin ran as a fiscal conservative. When she was sworn in as mayor, Wasilla had no debt. When she left six years later, the city had a deficit of $22 million. Palin's performance is much like President Bush's, only on a smaller scale. Under President Bill Clinton, the United States from 1998 to 2001 had surpluses of $692 to $236.2 billion. In eight years, Bush converted this surplus into a deficit of almost $9.7 trillion. With performances like this, both Bush and Palin should be expelled from the fiscal conservatives' club. 

In November 2006, Palin was elected governor of Alaska beating an unpopular incumbent. With a population of about 633,478, Alaska ranks 47th among the 50 states in population. By comparison, San Francisco's population is about 764,976. She has been governor for about 20 months. She is quite popular in Alaska mostly because she used unprecedented oil wealth to give a $1,200 rebate to every resident. Senator McCain praises her as a tax cutter, despite the fact that Alaska has no state income or sales tax. Palin is a good friend of the oil companies; she has strongly promoted oil and natural gas resource development in Alaska, including in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. By the way, our current vice president is also a very good friend of the oil companies. 

Palin's executive experience and background pales alongside of Obama's and Biden's. It is simply a question of substance over form. 

Ralph E. Stone 

San Francisco 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin is as far right as you can get. Palin opposes evolution, sex education, abortion, gun control; does this sound mainstream to you? She opposes universal health care, global warming predictions, abolition of capital punishment and is for abolishing the separation between church and state. 

This is a religious kook right out of the Middle Ages who Republicans have selected for the second spot on their national ticket. Better wake up America—Sarah Palin makes George Bush look like a choir boy. 

Ron Lowe 

Nevada City