Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Thursday July 09, 2009 - 09:58:00 AM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am sad to announce that the “How Berkeley Can You Be?” Parade and Festival will not be happening this year. There simply is not enough money to produce it. For the first 10 years I produced the event along with Karen Hester. Because I was the founder of the event, and I considered it a labor of love, I worked for free and Karen was paid a modest fee.  

A few years ago, Epic Arts took over the event and did a splendid job, but after losing their home on Ashby and MLK and the staff having to get full time jobs to support families, they decided this year that it was no longer feasible for them to produce the event. In addition, whereas the City of Berkeley has always been extremely supportive in supporting the event with a $10,000 grant, they have also felt obliged to charge for city services provided, and so we got hit with an $8,000 bill for police and public works.  

So what we received with the one hand was taken away with the other. As you can imagine, it takes an incredible amount of time, energy, and money to produce an event with the scope of “How Berkeley.” Unfortunately, we were missing all three ingredients this year. So perhaps it will happen next year, perhaps not. We’ll see.  

But if you have any ideas as to how we can raise sufficient money in the future to hire proper staff and pay performers, I would love to hear them. Feel free to e-mail me at Since 1996, I feel that the “How Berkeley” Parade and Festival added much to the fabric of the community and I hope that over the years there was something you enjoyed, that made you laugh, that was stimulating or that even outraged you. I know I will miss marching up University Avenue with all the other celebrants. I hope you will miss us too. 

John Solomon 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I would like to congratulate Victoria Peirotes on her detailed and comprehensive June 25 commentary, “Berkeley City Budget 101.” As a Cal graduate, I am distressed at the kinds of cuts the City of Berkeley has enacted, especially to many social service programs, without looking first at their own budget for city employees. I concur with Ms. Peirotes that the City of Berkeley needs to address the “disproportionate number of city employees in Berkeley” and their generous salaries and benefits. When the California Citizens Compensation Commission voted to cut state lawmakers and elected officials salaries by 18 percent, couldn’t the City of Berkeley consider even a 12 percent reduction in city employees as proposed by Ms. Peirotes? To have a city employee for roughly every 62 residents should jump out at once as something to be addressed. Also when a retired city manager will enjoy an annual compensation of about $270,000 as stated in Ms. Peirotes’ commentary, something needs to change. I hope that these kinds of issues will be addressed moving forward in the budget process. 

Marilyn Smith 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I want to commend you for publishing Ms. Peirotes’ commentary. That, and the three following letters to the editor based on her op-ed are all good ones—ones which the City Council ought to have embedded in their Tuesday night folders. 

I was out of town and only just got a chance to read the above, but am struck by the thought expressed in all of them: no input from citizen’s groups seems to be listened to, entered into the discussions about budget, and never show up in presentations by council members. 

Along with Ms. Peirotes, I attended two councilmembers’ district budget meetings. A total of 40 people attended —seven in one district, 33 in the other. In neither case were minutes kept, no offer of conferring with other councilmembers came from either councilmember, nor were any of some of the very good ideas presented visible in City Council’s Tuesday’s charade discussions. 

I’ve asked why more neighbors didn’t attend the meetings, and received the reply, “What meetings?” On the other hand, why announce a meeting if you’re not going to pay any attention to what is said, or spread the good ideas presented? If the process is a forgone conclusion, why not just say so? Just say “We know best how much money you should pay us, and we certainly know better than anyone in Berkeley on what projects to spend it.” 

Our city’s budget process is probably a good one—on paper but not in action. I’m ashamed of our City Council for many things, but not really listening to willing constituents about their budget ideas takes the cake of arrogance. 

Tim Wallace 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you for publishing Paul Gackle’s fine tribute to Ted Vincent, a true working stiff’s renaissance man. I knew Ted from the 1970s as middle-age jocks with the Dolphin South-End Runners in San Francisco, a fun club for the average bloke. DSE’s motto and main coaching tip was “Start slowly and taper off.” We also had a common interest in labor history and political activism, besides our Sunday morning schlepping, sometimes called running. I must confess I’ve never read Ted’s important scholarly books on African-Americans and on the black influences in Mexican history. But I did enjoy his Mudville’s Revenge on the commercialization of sports. Ted was a good-natured chap who was always a pleasure to hang out with. I’ll miss his informed commentary in his letters and op-ed opinions to the Daily Planet. I know I won’t be the only one. 

Harry Siitonen  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It seems to me that one of the latest, greatest, ironies, too thick to cut even with a chain saw, is the long drawn-out lawsuit against the EPA by the Center for Biological Diversity, saying that the use of pesticides (74 of them), is endangering certain species of newts, foxes, shrimps, etc. Insecticides, fungicides and herbicides, as we all should be aware, are used rampantly, to grow all our vegetables, all our livestock, fruit, etc. My heart goes out to the kit fox and the shrimp, but, our species, homo sapiens, is certainly threatened as much as these other species! Question is: how come there’s no Agency, say the “Center for Poor Buggers Like Us,” which would insist on banning lethal pesticides that we ingest each day? Is it because corporate farming would loose money? The use of the word “green,” as in the “Green Revolution,” is another great irony. What it actually means is the use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizer to grow cheap crops and thus maximize profits in a way detrimental to our health.  

Robert Blau  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Another incredibly stupid column by J. Douglas Allen-Taylor on Oakland crime. 

First we are treated to the profane rantings of street “poets” and then, as always, the apologies for the criminal youth element. 

It’s everyone’s fault except the criminals who commit the crimes! For years the same columnist had windy op-eds celebrating the violent sideshow culture which resulted in mayhem and death as any sane person could have predicted. We are supposed to be neighbors and partners (!) with people who get their kicks out of hurting others? No thanks, Jesse. 

I have always opposed Three Strikes as well as the death penalty and feel that prisons are yet another failed socialist program. However we cannot have barbarians freely walking the streets looking for victims. Maybe swift street trials with immediate public hangings is the answer. Obviously a death penalty that takes 20 years to enforce is not a deterrent. One thing is guaranteed, when a particular killer is executed he will not be killing again. It’s a 100 percent sure thing. 

Allen-Taylor is right that we do need to consider radical (fundamental) alternatives to the current failed policy. However the endless apologias of left-liberal idiots do not constitute the desired radical change. 

Michael P. Hardesty 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

What is humane about allowing people to sleep on the curbs and sidewalks of public streets? This has been one of the worst summers for the overflow transient population from People’s Park coming into the neighborhoods at park curfew. The sanitation has become unmanageable with dumpsters and stairwells becoming bathrooms. The 3AM domestic disputes, aggressive behavior and personal items strewn down the street have made living here a daily exercise in frustration. I’m embarrassed to have out of town visitors see this degradation because I have always been very proud of Berkeley and its diversity. I’m sick and tired of the few ruining it for the many. Let’s clean up our streets. 

Gary Cooper 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have a vision that in this country no child will grow up to feel unwanted by the community in which he or she lives. But I wonder if, during this time of shrinking budgets, investment in the caring for and encouragement of children will remain a high priority. How can we teach our children to show caring for others and practice mutual support of one another unless we go out of our way to show caring for them? Remember our children don’t just need to learn the skills to become employable, they need to learn how to make one responsive community out of differences in wealth, race, gender and ethnicity. Cutting education budgets today will create social alienation tomorrow. 

Let us resolve that even in this tense economic time we will make the nation indivisible by investing in the education and well-being of our children. 

Romila Khanna 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Because the care for Earth cannot be achieved in a for-profit, competitive system, the Peace and Freedom Party of California is holding a meeting at its regular State Central Committee meeting, to bring together people to put socialism on the ballot throughout the United States. The National Organizing Conference to advance this effort urges your participation. Please join us. 

We well understand that we cannot win socialism via the ballot box. We want to enable it to rise from all of us. As well as being on the streets and in the meeting halls, we use the popular, conventional device, elections to contribute to people knowing what socialism is, defusing it—from the people’s standpoint, and getting people to agree that whatever we call it, work for the justice we seek is socialist. 

On the ballots, as candidates, we are interviewed , present our ideas at forums, are given a bit more air- and media- time besides our usual work. 

We are preparing an agenda for the day, directed at enabling the people who come to begin to form a foundation for our work. While building socialist struggle, putting it on the ballots, is our only stated intention, the many facets of doing this will be the basis of our plans. Contribute your ideas. Let us include them in our program. Come and put them together with others’. 

We expect an exciting result. Our work is to bring forward people’s goals so we can ALL live lovely lives, live as well as The Rich in gentle care of Earth, no one excluded; no distribution of the results of our labor by merit, but just by our being here, being together, working through toward fulfillment of these goals. We want to share our resources that will enable more of us to work toward attaining ballot status for socialist movements for the 2010 election cycle. 

Aug. 1 at the Hiram W. Johnson State Building, Milton Marks Conference Center (Lower Level), San Diego Rooms, A, B and C, 455 Golden Gate Ave., San Francisco. Wheelchair accessible. 

Norma J F Harrison