Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Wednesday March 11, 2009 - 07:25:00 PM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

In the future, caregivers who routinely guide children from Emerson to Clark Kerr Campus should use the far superior yet equidistant route: Continue along Piedmont, which fronts the school, crossing Derby northward a block down from the tragedy. Barricades there mean very little traffic passes right through that intersection. Walk one more block along quiet Piedmont, then right up Parker. This leads directly into the most visible of crosswalks in the area. Due to the wide entrance to the campus, northbound cars stop 30 feet back from the crosswalk, southbound about 50 feet back. 

The organization seeking improved crossing safety would be wise to research and advise other school-to-daycare guides on route choices, even if it means a bit longer walk. Visibility is key. 

Kathy Horn  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The death of the 5-year-old Zachary Cruz highlights a problem in Berkeley that has existed for years but seems to be getting worse, unfortunately. Crosswalks are dangerous in Berkeley. As a seasoned pedestrian, I always wait for a break in traffic before crossing. I was even encouraged by a police officer once to step out of the curb to get them to stop, even though I only did it that one time in front of him (we had been waiting forever). Even if a car stops at a stop sign there is no guarantee that it is stopping for you. 

Close calls happen every day in Berkeley. Deaths happen every year. Unfortunately, people on most roads are trying to beat the clock. We have great through-roads here: MLK, Shattuck, Dwight, Ashby, University, Marin, Telegraph. They get you to where you want to go fast, and yet they still pass through residential neighborhoods and there is often very little cooperation at the crosswalks.  

I’ll admit that the pedestrians in Berkeley are just as bad as the drivers. People always jay-walk, saving that extra 30 seconds of waiting. However pedestrians and drivers alike are afflicted with the same hostile attitude that often defines our city. How nice it was to go to Los Angeles recently (that’s right, Los Angeles of all places) and have pedestrians and drivers respect intersections. How nice it was to go into a grocery store there and not have to worry about extremely rude aisle hogs who plow right into you as they do at Berkeley Bowl ( or “Berkeley Brawl,” as some call it). Despite our “liberal” attitude, I think it would still help to recognize that there are other people around. Street signs and intersections were not put in by “the man” because he is authoritarian trying to uphold a hierarchy. They are there to keep people safe and make things move efficiently. While we like to think of ourselves as embodying higher ideals, we can’t understand the golden rule and the basic social skill of sharing the road. Take one walk across town and you’ll see: the death of Zachary Cruz is hardly surprising. 

Saul Crypps 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

On Feb. 25, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates took a courageous stand to protect jobs and guard social justice in our communities. Mayor Bates represents the cities of Alameda County on the Metropolitan Planning Commission (MTC), which is responsible for spending billions of dollars of transportation money in the Bay Area every year.  

The MTC staff originally brought forward a disastrous proposal for how to spend the $1.4 billion in transportation money from the federal stimulus that is designated for the Bay Area. The proposal suggested diverting $225 million that would otherwise go to support transit operations and instead spend the money on expansion projects. These expansion projects would have come at the expense of existing service. This is like building an addition to your house while it is in foreclosure.  

Genesis, a regional faith- and values-based community organizing group in the Bay Area, took an early stand against the MTC’s proposal. Clergy and leaders in Genesis said that it was wrong for the MTC to cut funding needed for AC Transit and BART service. Every job created through construction of new projects would have meant two transit operations jobs lost. Furthermore, these service cuts would hit hardest those who need public transit the most, the thousands of youth, seniors, and working class people who depend on operators like AC Transit as their only means of transportation. 

Through the activism of Genesis and its allies such as Urban Habitat, along with the leadership of Mayor Bates, the MTC eventually restored all but $70 million of the money they originally proposed to divert from transit operations. Further still, even when all the other MTC members were satisfied to still allow the $70 million to be diverted, Mayor Bates had the courage to cast the single vote against the diversion. 

Genesis salutes the courage and wisdom of Mayor Bates and will now turn its attention to some of the other Commissioners who would do well to see things as he does. 

Rev. Scott Denman 

President, Genesis  

Rector, St. John’s Episcopal Church 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In a recent letter to the editor, Ms. Pulido asked, “So what should they [illegal immigrants] do? Give up driving?” I, for one, am awed by the simple, insightful brilliance of her question, and the obvious answer: yes! 

Here is a simple understanding of cause-and-effect: When one enters a country illegally, and operates a motor vehicle without an operator’s license and insurance, one shoulders the risk of consequences when asked to produce said license and proof of coverage. 

Any further clarification necessary? 

Jeffrey L. Suits 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Well, my goodness, in these anxious days, Milton Friedman must be squirming in his grave, and Karl must be giggling! It always, always, goes back to that old mantra: “Capitalism can never be successfully regulated.” 

Robert Blau 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Clearly, our goal as a community is educational excellence, opportunity and equity for all children, not just for some children at the expense of others. I applaud state Superintendent of Schools Jack O’Connell’s ongoing work as a champion of public education—working to reduce the achievement gap and to fight for education funding. It is within this context that I am alarmed by his recent unilateral decision to redirect nearly $500,000 away from the Oakland Unified School District to charter schools. The decision runs counter to O’Connell’s role to help the district achieve its multi-year recovery plan, jeopardizes years of positive mutual efforts to return the district to local control and, above all, sets bad precedent for future actions of state administrators. 

As county superintendent responsible for fiscal oversight and charged with working collaboratively with the state takeover in Oakland, I object to the recent mandate issued to Administrator/Trustee Vince Matthews to reallocate $60 per enrolled student to charter schools. The priority of the state administrator is to develop a multi-year fiscal recovery plan and ensure that it is implemented. O’Connell’s directive to Vince Matthews contradicts the goal of fiscal recovery of the district—the sole reason the district was taken over by the state. 

Schools throughout California are struggling to make ends meet in light of increasing cuts to education. As superintendent of Alameda County schools, it is my charge to work proactively to support the financial stability of every district in the county. I question the mid-year transfer of nearly half a million dollars out of district schools as an unnecessary hardship for a beleaguered district. 

The question of student equity is an important one. I think O’Connell and I both agree that every child in Oakland deserves a quality education. In these tough economic times, it is important that we work together to ensure that charter schools serving Oakland youth get a share of parcel tax funds through a planned process that will not jeopardize the financial stability of the district. 

I call upon Superintendent O’Connell to suspend this directive and work with district officials on an alternative plan of action. Particularly during this time of unprecedented mid-year and ongoing cuts, we are all stressed to find ways to stay afloat. There are difficult decisions to be made. Let’s take this opportunity to work together to develop a stable environment with solid systems to return the schools back to local control on a sound fiscal basis. 

Sheila Jordan 

Alameda County  

Superintendent of Schools 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I don’t always agree with Rep. Ellen Tauscher. She’s too conservative for me. But when she introduced the bill to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” I cheered her on. Besides being silly, the rule is ugly. You can volunteer to fight and die for me, but you must pretend to be someone else. Heroes in disguises belong in our entertainment, not in our armed forces. 

Julie Keitges 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding the Daily Planet’s request for support from the public: Whether it’s worth $100 per year, who knows, but it’s worth paying for meaningful content. I would pay the same for online-only or paper. If doing without paper is needed for the Planet to survive, then do it, though of course losing the “rag” is sad. But we should be willing to belly up to the bar to keep the content going, to keep the reporters eating. If the Planet needs more than $10 a month per subscriber, I would try to find ways to enlarge the subscriber base—but your paper I think, has a shot to do so. My impression is that you have a high news density compared to other papers.  

I’d hate to see them go if other people cared, but you don’t need to run the funnies, if that’s not cost-effective. That content is available elsewhere. 

Now that I have opened my mouth, I owe you a check. 

Long live the Planet. Keep up the good work. (Your platitude here.) 

Eric Dynamic 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Existing labor laws are already leveraged by unions. The EFCA invites misuse. I know from first-hand experience. 

In 2007, our small progressive green business, Metro Lighting, was targeted by the IWW. With three employees, a dozen paid picketers protested in front of our shop, making many false accusations and filing a dozen frivolous unfair labor charges. 

Under the EFCA, such charges would carry the burden of $20,000 penalties. As it was, all the charges were thrown out, but we incurred huge legal debt in order to defend our life’s work. Under the additional financial threats of the EFCA, we would have closed our business, and seven employees from our community would have lost fairly compensated skilled employment and full health benefits. And why? Because we had treated anyone poorly? No. Because one worker, in a quest for personal power, had abused the system to his own benefit. 

The consequences of this legislation are huge. We must shield the engine of our economy from the abuse of power enabled by the EFCA. I would propose a 50-employee minimum and penalties against unions making false accusations. Yes, employees deserve protection from unscrupulous businesses, but employers also deserve protection from unscrupulous unions. 

Lawrence Grown 

Metro Lighting 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Don’t get me wrong, indiscriminate sales of alcohol to minors are wrong and should not be tolerated. I also agree that underage drinking is a problem and vigilance and age enforcement are warranted.  

However, as our case illustrates, care needs to be practiced when applying enforcement actions, else the Law of Unintended Consequences comes into play.  

In our instance, due to our carelessness, enforcement will cause the closure of a business, the loss of nine jobs, the loss of business license revenue to the city, the loss of sales tax and income tax revenue to the state, the loss of income tax to the federal government, the loss of a substantial private investment in a local business and last, but not least, the loss of federally guaranteed funds used for improving an underprivileged area of Berkeley. 

Why? you may ask. Allow me to explain: Over the last two years, Spud’s has been targeted several times by the Berkeley Police Department’s undercover alcohol age enforcement task force. Funded by the state, BPD sends an underage decoy into licensed establishments to purchase alcohol. Licensees that slip and serve the BPD decoy get cited and after a hearing by the state’s Alcohol and Beverage Control Department (ABC) get their license revoked for varying periods of time. 

Now, it must be mentioned that Spud’s is more a family restaurant than a post-college-age hangout. In three years of having our beer and wine license, we have never had any drunk and disorderly incidents that necessitated police action, nor have any complaints been filed against us for indiscriminate sales of alcohol. I would say that we ask for ID from 99 percent of young adults, even people in their 30s and 40s, and we have never had an attempted purchase of beer or wine by anyone under 21, other than by the police decoys that have been sent to our establishment by BPD. 

In fact, because attempted underage purchases never happen under normal circumstances (only during police stings), we have been probably less vigilant and more likely to be tripped up by BPD’s undercover operation. 

Now our goose is cooked. We have been tripped up three times by BPD and, save for a public outcry that might convince the powers that be to not prosecute our slip, we are about to have our beer and wine license permanently revoked. This would impact our revenues so significantly that we would have to close down and all the unintended results described above would happen. 

Is this fair? Does the punishment fit the crime? Is this what you, citizens, intended? 

You be the judge. 

Andrew W. Beretvas 




Thank you so much for all you have done for journalism in the Bay Area. I am donating $50 to the Planet as a token of my esteem, and also as encouragement to the Planet to continue its practice of making available new voices with fresh perspectives on events. So much of what we read these days is stale and just a rehash of what the major media outlets are gushing out. Outfits like NPR, the big TV stations and newspapers (e.g. the calcined Chronicle—good riddance!) and the “Associated Press” (whatever that is) keep doling out an endless series of predictable propaganda ad nauseam, most of it self-reinforcing. 

I especially appreciate your many pages of letters to the editor. It is essential to read what people say, however contentious (and even sometimes repetitive). No other publication gives such a voice, even though surveys have shown that a large percentage of readers of mainstream newspapers turn to the letters page right afer they read the top headlines on the front. 

I am also speaking of fresh voices on your op-ed pages, like that of the astute observer “Steve Tabor,” who wrote about global cooling replacing global warming. I really apppreciate an opinion like that, so contrary to the orthodoxy (but soon to become common knowledge). Voices like Tabor’s on your op-ed pages area a real treat! Keep them coming, and let’s see more! 

Your paper is a genuine asset to the community that should not be allowed to die. 

Steve Tabor 




Once again, Diebold voting systems is the poster child of what’s wrong with e-voting. If it weren’t for the courageous Humboldt County registrar of voters, who allowed a group of transparency project volunteers to review the last election, a long-standing but little-known bug in a Diebold system that counted then later dropped almost 200 votes would not have been discovered. And if it weren’t for our great Secretary of State Debra Bowen and her office just doing their job of seriously investigating what happened, we wouldn’t have known about another shocking problem in the Diebold system, an audit screen “clear” button that all too easily would allow an insider committing election fraud to erase audit logs that could prove a theft - something they stumbled upon and were shocked to find. The Secretary of State’s Office will meet on March 17. And hopefully this time they will decertify Diebold and not conditionally re-certify such an incompetent at best voting system to count our sacred votes. No more Russian Roulette with our elections! 

Richard Tamm