Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Thursday April 23, 2009 - 06:26:00 PM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

As much as I’m delighted that Mr. Russell took note of my earlier letter, “banning all guns,” I must clue him into this: it was a satire! The “turning in family members” failed to tip him off? The “return to the nurturing, pre-gun society” raised no flag of irony? 

I’d have thought this was a newsprint, elbow-to-the-ribs, “Get it?” 

Jeffrey L. Suits 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Obituaries of local sports figures aren’t a Daily Planet specialty, but I’d like to convey my sorrow on the death from cancer of former Cal football head coach Bruce Snyder. While Cal, the price of its recent gridiron fortunes, and expansion of its home venue annoy many of the paper’s readers, including me, Snyder was a decent man and a class act who didn’t require all the Pepto-Bismol he could drink as a clause in his contract. 

Even so, he arrived out of somewhere and quickly built a nationally ranked “program” (a horrid word). His great team of ‘91 finished as high as no. 7 in the polls. In an epic contest played in Memorial Stadium on a miserably hot Saturday, that squad came within a hair of knocking off eventual national co-champ Washington. The next day saw the Oakland-Berkeley Firestorm. Some years later, he took no. 2-ranked Arizona State to the Rose Bowl, a trip denied Cal since ‘59, when our dear mayor played for the Bears. 

Hail and farewell, Bruce Snyder.  

Phil Allen 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

If I weren’t on such a tight budget I’d donate some money to the Daily Planet. The paper is refreshing and above all GOOD. I would especially like to commend Mr. Allen-Taylor for his thoughtful columns on Oakland. I’m glad he hasn’t joined the baying pack of Dellums-bashing junkyard dogs. 

David Bolaños 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have in my hand a list of 47 McCarthyists in the Republican Party. 

Ove Ofteness 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

What does it say about our government when it allows criminal acts to go unpunished? To me it says that those governing officials have no moral sense and therefore have no right to expect us to do what’s right.  

Ever since Jan. 21, Obama’s first day in office, I’ve been holding my breath. That breath was knocked out of me when I read that those responsible for torturing their fellow human beings would not be prosecuted. 

I desperately hoped Obama would lead us out of hellholes created by his predecessor. I deeply feared that the job might be too much for such a young, inexperienced chief. 

It now appears that my tion and fear were justified.  

To my mind, torture itself is not as grievous as the crime of the attorney general who refuses to prosecute it.  

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In 1619 a Dutch ship brought the first 20 African slaves to Virginia. By the American Revolution this nation held over 560,000 slaves. More than a third of the signers of the Declaration of Independence which declared the self evident proposition that “all men were created equal,” were slave owners. Four of the first five presidents of the United States were slave owners. By the Civil War this nation held more than four million slaves. By the end of the Civil War, when slavery was destroyed, many states of the union began a system of legal discrimination and oppression known as segregation. For nearly a hundred years after the death of slavery, most African-Americans could not vote and were kept in second class citizenship through both a system of “law” and the threats of white economic, legal, and physical violence. This did not seriously begin to change until the 1960s. 

All of which, apparently, to some of your columnists and readers, seems in some way to “justify” the murder by Lovelle Mixon of four Oakland police officers. It is wrong and crazy and suicidal to sanction or “understand” the killing of police in a society already plagued by too much violence and crime. It is insane. To justify in any way the killing of police is to condemn your own children to an ongoing nightmare. 

Help me here—how would Martin Luther King have felt about the mass murder of police? 

Michael Steinberg 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Is this city serious about again raising refuse rates? Why are we to be punished by higher rates when we diligently manage our households to consume less and less while our city’s management intends to consume more of our resources? Our refuse bills have gone up every year! They should be going down! Ya Basta! Its just another sneaky rip-off of community people! 

Instead of passing by the need to audit the management of the Refuse Division to downsize, we are bombarded with the zero waste goal which we are already practicing at home.  

Why not cut back on staff and equipment hours for the same quantity of waste? The waste stream to the landfill has gone down, hasn’t it? The Refuse Division budget must decrease.  

Many of us are conservative in our shopping, doing reuse, recycle, repair and restore, grow our food, do composting contributing less and less for the goal of zero waste to the land fill. 

In this cooler climate, why not ask city leaders to give homeowners an option for pick ups every other week? And cut back on the plant debris pick ups to every other week?  

I recall that former Councilmember Betty Olds commented on 32-gallon and even larger refuse bins in her neighborhood that had hardly anything in them and encouraged us to downsize to use the 13-gallon bins, the smallest.  

If you don’t fill your 32-gallon bin, when you next pay your bill at the Finance Office, try a formal request for a 13-gallon bin. (Of late, the city’s refuse website has removed the list of costs and sizes). Ask for a list of prices and sizes.  

An example, for a 13-gallon bin, my around the block neighbor (a family of four) pays $9.39 a month ($28.18 quarterly) compared to 32 gallon bin at $22.58 a month—($67.74 quarterly) per the cost as reported in the Planet April 16. 

The little green compost bins the city gave out are cute, but require using scarce water to clean them as they don’t have liners and the liners we can find do not fit their shape. They also do not close tightly, thus smell and come apart. It is not smart for the city to charge us so the city can replace them. People can buy cheap ones at Ikea that have cheap liners and are designed to not smell. 

Anamaria Sanchez Romero 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The charges made against teachers of small schools at BHS by three people of the science department have been widely contested in the past few weeks. I want to add my voice to those parents and members of the public that have contested such charges.  

I am the mother of an ex-CAS student. Names such as Ms. Rasiah, Oliver Aguirre, Bill Pratt, Dana Moran, Rick Ayers, and a long list of other dedicated teachers come to my mind, and I pity the three teachers that have acted with such a lack of professionalism and, what is worse, seem to not have a grasp or sense of what they are, where they are, and what they do. Berkeley High School is an educational institution, and as such, it has its administrators and organisms to deal with the internal issues there may arise. Why would these three people tarnish colleagues publicly? What are they expecting the people of Berkeley to do about it?  

Behind symbols like CAS and AHA and CPA, behind BHS at large, there are people, professionals with different perspectives on what education is and how it should best be provided to an overwhelmingly large number of teenage kids with, what may be considered, overwhelmingly diverse backgrounds. As a high school teacher of many years, I can’t imagine airing in front of a community of tens of thousands of people and in the form of accusing colleagues of malpractice all the frustrations and anxieties that we as educators may have. What transpires through the accusations of those three teachers is a sense of frustration and impotence. Let us not look for culprits in our own colleagues. Or, if we do, let us look for solutions in the realm of the organisms provided. We are all trying to make education work. 

I would like to end by saying that we all have a story to tell about our kids’ teachers at BHS. Mine is one of great respect for the teachers of CAS in particular, and for all the teachers of BHS in general, that try to do the best they can with the instruments they have. 

Victoria de la Paz Párraga Tello 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

This is in response to Joe Eaton’s column about me. 

Though my open letter was a passionate disagreement with his position, it was legitimate. I apologize for making him so angry, but it was unfair of him to use his column to insult me with his sarcastic remarks and distortions, as if I were alone in my complaint about the meadow. 

It is Mr. Eaton who is in “willful ignorance” in ignoring the many others who are “discontent” with what has happened there, and as part of a community paper he should be aware of this fact. 

Once again he evades the main point of my letters which is that the meadow is public land and, yes, contrary to what he says, the public is virtually “locked out” of it, except for an ugly narrow fenced-in trail that hardly anyone ever uses except as a short cut. 

This lockout is the work of individuals whom, again contrary to what he states, I did name. They are those who run the Park District and Citizens for Eastshore Park. 

Because Mr. Eaton ignores my main point I have to repeat it: the so-called Eastshore Park is not a true park but a restricted area. Since it is almost the size of the UC Berkeley campus, to fence the public out of it in order to protect it from an occasional disobedient dog-walker is not only draconian but unjust. 

With a creative landscape design there could be more than enough room to have protected areas for wildlife and for people to enjoy it. 

It is clear from Mr. Eaton’s column that he didn’t enjoy the meadow when it was free and open to the community, but plenty of others did, and he is wrong to ignore this fact. 

The word “restore” means to “bring back,” and by ignoring this definition he forces me again to repeat that the meadow was originally a dump that became a wilderness. It is not a restoration that is happening there but an attempt to develop a wetland. 

I am not, contrary to what he implies, against a wetland. I am against the fence, and as part of a community newspaper Mr. Eaton does a disservice to the community by taking sides and supporting it. 

Due to his distortions and evasions I must repeat that those in power have taken over a public land and indifferent to the entire community they have turned it into a kind of private garden for their own special interests. 

I love wildlife as much as anyone and I have nothing against its protection, but if the meadow is to belong to only those with a special agenda while locking everyone else out, then this should be stated. 

Clearly the loss of a free and open meadow doesn’t matter to them nor to Mr. Eaton. But it does matter to many others, and it is more than an insult for him to ignore this fact. 

In reply to Christopher Fisher’s list of birds, those same birds were present before the clear-cut and the fence, and some, like the finches and blackbirds, in greater number. 

Pete Najarian 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Despite Paul Sawyer’s use of the royal “we” in his April 16 commentary, “The Untold History of People’s Park: The Untold Revolution,” he does not speak for me, particularly in his last paragraph. 

When I was invited to the Founder’s Forum via an e-mail from Terri Compost, she stated that the forum would be a chance to discuss memories of creating the People’s Park, past and present, and of old acquaintances saying hello. 

I will answer questions at the Founder’s Forum in an unmoderated way about the joyous, largely apolitical creation of the People’s Park (except for the political veneer of the so-called leaders, starting back with Stu Albert’s Robin Hood Berkeley Barb announcement and continuing with the attempted hijacking of the Founder’s Forum agenda by the overly-exuberant Paul) as the direct inspiration of Earth Day exactly one year later, and its historical primacy as the first wave of the modern communitarian ecology movement, ahead of the opening of the Berkeley Ecology Center, ahead of the EPA, and after Rachel Carson. 

Please come to the Founder’s Forum to hear the other untold story about the creation of People’s Park: the one by and about the women and barefoot servants who came and went, as Bob Dylan said in “All Along the Watchtower.”  

Wendy Schlesinger 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In his response to my essay, “Notes From the Occupied Territories: Black America and the Police,” one Daily Planet reader informed me that my commentary contained classic elements of the Stockholm Syndrome, and Marty Price raised serious doubts about my assertion that half the prison population in the United States comprises blacks. 

The figure relating to the current U.S. prison population can be found in the Department of Justice Bureau of Statistics reports. In its 2005 report the Department of Justice said the U.S. black prison population “was approaching” 50 percent of the total. Furthermore this is a figure our mutual friend Angela Davis uses in her frequent writings and speeches advocating abolition. 

The figure relating to the incarceration of free blacks during the era of slavery I took from President Jimmy Carter’s former Assistant Secretary of Commerce Claude Anderson’s edition of Powernomics, wherein he cites the incarceration rate of blacks in New Jersey and Pennsylvania in the early 19th century. 

Jean Damu 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Does the name Luke Song ring a bell? This would be the very talented and prolific South Korean designer who created the spectacular hat worn by singer Aretha Franklin at the Obama inauguration on January 20, 2009. What a glorious hat it was —gray wool felt, bow-tied with Swarovski crystals on the bow. A long time customer, Franklin came to Song asking for something to go with a coat she had picked out for the occasion. 

Minutes after Aretha had finished her rousing rendition of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” Song’s phones started ringing and by the next afternoon hundreds of hats had been sold all around the country and even overseas. The designer, who specializes in bold, statement-making church hats for African-American women, will not make an exact duplicate of the hat, but is selling a near replica for $179. 

East Bay residents will have the privilege of meeting Song this coming Friday, April 24 at noon, when he visits the Berkeley Hat Company, located at 2510 Telegraph Ave. The store’s owners, Carol Lipnick and Ed Dougherty, are eight-year customers of Mr. Song’s Millinery, a family-owned business in Detroit. According to Carol, the media attention to Aretha’s hat has breathed “new life” into the hat as a fashion statement. And the New York Times, in a March story, reports that more than 5,000 versions of a spring version of the famous hat have been sold. 

If you haven’t visited the Berkeley Hat Company, you’ll be awed by this unique store, the largest in the Bay Area, with hundreds of styles and brands in stock. So do drop in this Friday noon and meet the very talented, personable Luke Song. 

Dorothy Snodgrass 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

At about 8:45 a.m. on Tuesday, April 21, four or five workers from the city’s Department of Public Works valiantly removed the villainous free clothing box from People’s Park. A UC Berkeley think tank had conclusively proved that the People’s Park free clothing box was not only the true cause of global warming, but had also been irreparably polluting the groundwater of this community with its high-level nuclear research, and other technologies that it has been eager to market without proper testing. 

The workers were escorted by Berkeley police officers, supervised by Sergeant Kenney. 

Resident of Oakland Stephen Brady was arrested and charged with misdemeanor obstruction. I found it extremely edifying to see the Tom Bates administration organizing so effectively to combat the corruption that has permeated the highest levels of our community. Not to mention prohibiting that dastardly environmental polluter, the People’s Park Free Clothing Box, from continuing its reign of environmental destruction. 

Arthur Fonseca 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’ve been appalled to read the cheers for the death of Lovelle Mixon OR the death of the police officers. Every violent death is horrible: Oscar Grant, the baby seals, the numerous victims and perpetrators of school, family, work, and other murder-suicides; the poor dupes who kill and die for the Empire thinking that they’re defending their country; the few Israelis and the many Palestinians; all other victims of genocides.... 

I saw some of my lefty-peacenik-anti-death penalty friends celebrating the death of police in several instances, and I’m horrified. Some people see my peace symbol as an antique, a souvenir. I tell them that while there’s war and killing, it’s very, very current. 

When violence ends, it will be a keepsake. 

Ruth Bird 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I went to the April 22 Berkeley City Council meeting to see if I could snag some of that Obama stimulus package money for Savo Island Cooperative Homes, the South Berkeley housing project where I live. And as I sat there for over two hours while waiting my turn to ask for money to repair my home, I was forced to listen to speaker after speaker, all of them asking the council for money. And after listening to all these speakers describe all kinds of projects geared to make people’s lives better and realizing how many of these helpful and wonderful projects are funded by our city, it suddenly hit me. Berkeley is truly an amazing place.  

Some of the worthwhile groups helped out by our city are a foster agency called A Better Way, Lifelong Medical Care (they fixed my teeth!), the Berkeley High School Bio-tech program, Berkeley Boosters police athletic league for kids, Strawberry Creek Lodge senior housing, BOSS assistance programs for the homeless, an Alzheimer’s center, a program to help deaf children, I forget what all else.  

If you had sat there for over two hours, you would have been amazed too. 

Earlier this week, I had gone to a People’s Park anniversary event, and had thought to myself, “Those days are long gone. Berkeley just isn’t like that any more.” But after listening to all the wonderful people speaking up for their wonderful groups that help all sorts of people here in Berkeley, I suddenly realized that Berkeley hasn’t changed all that much after all. 

Berkeley is still a wonderful, caring place—a place that takes great pains to make sure that those in need are taken care of and that we Do The Right Thing. I was very proud of my city tonight. 

Jane Stillwater 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Clearly Mayor Bates was running a game. Not football, this was the April 21 Berkeley City Council meeting. Fifty-four consent items, three public hearings, two EIRs, and a 5 p.m. final City Pools Workshop--enough important items for weeks of meetings! 

So naturally there was no room in City Council Chambers for most of the public, and three each friendly firemen and policemen barred the entrances so at least 100 residents went home when told they could not go in and speak, which was untrue and probably not legal. 

The mayor was protecting his Climate Action Plan (CAP) from proper public scrutiny and comment by jamming the agenda. Bates clearly did not want his Big Development, Big Transit, Big Brother Climate Action Plan subjected to real public process. 

His timing was excellent for passing this plan for environmental review just after midnight, with councilmembers exhausted from seven hours of meeting, and only a few minutes for discussion. Most media had gone home. 

Livable Berkeley was there in force, the Friends of BRT, Dorothy Walker, former UC property development manager—folks for which the big development ideal is often like Manhattan, and BRT is a tool for a redevelopment. 

But paving our earth is not saving it; instead overdevelopment is destroying our urban forest, wetlands, and our oceans which naturally remove carbon gases from the air, cooling earth, and creating fresh oxygen. 

This Climate Action Plan is significantly different from previous drafts, and was made available to the greater public only last Thursday with the City Council agenda. No time, no workshop, no public hearing, although the public could comment for one minute if they were there, for this last most important item.  

At 12:10 a.m., Councilmember Maio made the motion for the Climate Action Plan to undergo environmental review. 

Merrilie Mitchell 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I urge people to write a letter to President Obama, urging him to support the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was adopted two years ago by the United Nations General Assembly in New York. This declaration will recognize the rights of indigenous peoples to maintain their institutions, cultures and traditions. 

It also recognizes their identity, language, employment, health, education and other issues. Plus, it will prohibit discrimination against them and promotes their full and effective participation in matters that concern them. During former President Bush’s tenure, the United States joined with Canada, Australia, and New Zealand as the only four countries that voted against it. 

In conclusion, I hope that people will write a letter to President Obama urging him to support the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  

Billy Trice, Jr. 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Bob Burnett, in his recentPublic Eye column, is furious about CEO salaries. He fully agrees with the “widespread anger about colossal CEO salaries.” Bob says that “in 2008, the average CEO’s salary was more than 300 times that of an average worker.” That is true if you include stock options in a CEO’s salary. 

Bob Burnett is a hypocrite, but a lucky one. He is a very wealthy man because he once was a Cisco Systems vice president, just about as close to a CEO as you can be. Bob retired in 1992 with a huge number of Cisco stock options. By 2000, when Cisco was the most valuable company in the world, these stock options had increased in value by more than a 100 times. None of this increase was due to Bob’s hard work or brilliance. 

Now that Bob is very wealthy, he can cast stones at other CEOs. I’m sure that he has rationalized why he deserves his wealth, but they don’t. 

Leo Hansen