Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Thursday July 23, 2009 - 09:54:00 AM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

If you want to kill yourself and/or make a statement, please don’t throw yourself in front of an Amtrak train, a car, BART, or anywhere where you are going to impact others that have nothing to do with you and your problems. If you need suggestions, I’d be happy to oblige.  

On that same note, I am appalled that the families of these people would ask for anything! Money, a bridge, etc. Excuse me, the estate should be reimbursing the involved innocent parties and taxpayers for the expenses their relative has incurred. When and where did people start thinking they could profit or should be owed money for something that their relative did wrong? If we all lived in a small village, people would not behave this way or expect something without giving. I’m ready for a do-over of our entire social system. We can not keep going like this much longer. 

Terry MacDougall 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Although much has been made of the speech Judge Sotomayor delivered here in 2001, Sen. Cornyn (R-TX), in an attempt to characterize her as out of whack in front of his national audience, went out of his way to associate her with “Berkeley.”  

Good job everybody! From ’60s Free Speech through tree-sitting grandmothers and Marine demonstrations, and we’re still number one! 

David Jaber 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

To those who have turned “socialism” into a four-letter word in this ongoing debate about a “single-payer” health system; to those who would prefer insurance agent’s decisions over doctor’s decisions about health care needs; in recognition also, that many are attempting to privatize our (questionable) wars, most of you seem to honor our socialistic American military. 

Gerta Farber 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I applaud the Berkeley City Council for voting to condemn domestic terrorism by urging the Senate to denounce violence against providers of reproductive health care. The murder of Dr. George Tiller was unconscionable and I think other cities in the United States should join the call by condemning this violent act of domestic terrorism and supporting Resolution 187.  

Ellen Bartow 

Summer Intern for 

Council Member Kriss Worthington 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thanks for the article on the new UC Berkeley Student food co-op, and best wishes to the students for a successful venture. The new co-op is not, however, UC Berkeley’s first. As an undergraduate in the late 1980s, I was a sometime volunteer with a student food co-op housed in even lower Sproul—our space was in the underground garage. I don’t know how long the co-op existed, but it was going for a few years before I graduated in 1989, and likely existed a couple of years more. Anyway, it’s great to see this idea resurrected! 

Charles Margulis 

Food Program Coordinator 

Center for Environmental Health 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am a retired Assistant Fire Chief from Berkeley, a third-generation Berkeley Firefighter and second-generation assistant chief. I negotiated four union contracts with the city over 14 years. I have had relatives living in Berkeley since 1880. On April 29, I presented a proposal to Assistant City Manager Dave Hodgkins that I had spent three months developing and I firmly believe would save the city a minimum of $5 million a year, without any elimination or changes in the number of employees, or any reduction in city services. It also works out to be an employee benefit. Dave Hodgkins said he would present it to Phil Kamlarz that evening and promised to get back to me within a week, but never has. He has not returned my calls.  

If my plan works for Berkeley, it could also have a major impact towards balancing the state’s budget. 

The plan I call “VESP” is self-building and to date the city has lost $1.3 million by ignoring it. I also offered to oversee the set-up and implementation of VESP.  

Robert G. Petersen 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Finally catching up on a month’s worth of Planets, I was surprised to see Norma Harrison’s letter announcing that the Peace and Freedom Party proposes that its organization put socialism on national ballots without indicating any awareness of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). As a longstanding member of DSA, I would suggest that she invite its national director, Frank Llewellyn, to Peace and Freedom’s Aug. 1 meeting. DSA polled its members a few years ago concerning the feasibility of running people for office versus focusing on building a grass-roots movement. The resulting decision for the latter course has led DSA to conduct a wide range of activities that perhaps Peace and Freedom might be interested in learning about. 

Nicola Bourne 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Is there anyone else who is as disgusted as I am about the air and noise pollution coming from the small planes that tow around the big Geico insurance banners? I went out to sit in my backyard and enjoy a peaceful breakfast, but no such luck with this plane circling overhead. It was spewing out probably a week’s worth of car emissions (anybody know the statistics on that?) so that some company owners could make a profit. Even over the A’s games, that’s not excusable—the air quality and traffic noise there are worse than here. Why is this kind of plane even given clearance to fly? And if this company can do it, what’s to stop all the others? There are places that belong to all of us, and that should remain, if not always quiet, disturbed only by a greater necessity than sales pitches. 

May I suggest that anyone who shares my anger and concern also contact Geico. It has a website through which you can send e-mail, and a phone number for reaching a live representative: or 1-800-861-8380. It takes just a couple minutes, but it’s important in protecting our common resources. 

Peggy Datz 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

While I welcome open debate on issues, I believe Ove Ofteness’ “cute” little ditty last week on Johnny and his teacher being unable to read is a cheap shot. I would be glad to discuss any issue of education, including teachers’ qualifications, but I am tired of the cheap shots and the looks askance I get as a kindergarten teacher.  

For the record, all teachers in California must have a bachelor’s degree and a credential which takes one to two years to receive. I myself graduated top of my class from UC Berkeley, have a master’s degree from Harvard, and chose to become a teacher instead of going on to become a professor. I believe I can make more of a difference there and I enjoy the ongoing learning I get from teaching all subjects.  

Yes, I learn from the kindergarten curriculum and yes, I can read, in four languages yet. My students, all low-income, facing problems such a foreclosure, parents losing jobs, etc. this year, reached grade level and will be reading by the end of next year. Many are already reading this summer.  

I urge the community to forego cheap shots at teachers and instead to support education so that we may do our job and do it well.  

M. Wheeler 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In an opinion piece attacking the proposed laser accelerator at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, Mark McDonald refreshes our memories concerning the former tritium research facility there. Presumably to convince us that we can’t trust the LBNL scientists, McDonald avers that “clouds of tritium” streamed out of a stack “10 feet” from the Lawrence Hall of Science play area. He goes on to say that the independent study by Bernd Franke impugned the “professionalism and integrity” of the tritium lab scientists, described their records as a “shambles” and stated that the risks to children attending the museum were underestimated. 

These are serious allegations which deserve comment. Regarding the “clouds of tritium”: The stack which vented filtered air from the tritium lab was 130 feet from the Science Museum, not 10 feet. A study by the Senes Center for Risk Analysis concluded that the amount of radiation from this stack was so small that “no additional cases of cancer” would be expected even for full-time employees working at the museum for 30 years.  

Regarding Bernd Franke’s report: At the time it was presented to the Berkeley community, I was chair of the Community Environmental Advisory Commission and I had ample time to talk with Mr. Franke. In his report he reviewed past practices and suggested a number of alternative methods to monitor the future work of the lab; neither in our conversations nor in his report did he criticize the lab scientists and their work in the harsh fashion McDonald describes. 

Regarding radiation risk for children: Franke recalculated for a variety of worst-case scenarios and concluded that radiation exposure would still be well below dangerous limits. As the previous safety study had concluded, any increased risk to anyone from the tritium lab “would be difficult to distinguish from zero.” 

What I remember most vividly from Franke’s presentation at the public meeting were his statements “I’ve never seen a situation where there was so little risk and so much anxiety,” and “If I lived here and had a child, I would let him attend the Lawrence Hall of Science.” 

Elmer R. Grossman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

“The administrator certifies that all necessary collective bargaining agreements have been negotiated and ratified, and that the agreements are consistent with the terms of the improvement plan specified in Section 7 of this act.” 

The above is quoted from SB 39, the law that governs the steps necessary before returning full power to the Oakland School Board. 

Unfortunately, Oakland State Administrator Vincent Matthews did not certify “…that all necessary collective bargaining agreements have been negotiated and ratified…” 

Because State Administrator Matthews did not perform this step, the memorandum of understanding that was signed by both Jack O’Connell, superintendent of public instruction, representing the state and Noel Gallo, president of the Oakland School Board, is out of compliance with SB 39, the law governing the process for return of local control of Oakland schools. 

The question is how will the state and the board cure and correct this required step that was skipped? 

Jim Mordecai 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I saw your recent article on the UC Stadium development plans. My opinion is that UC should be stopped somehow—because their overall plan is to turn the Stadium into a major year round commercial venue which is not supported or wanted by the neighborhood.  

Kathy Dittmer