Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Thursday September 10, 2009 - 12:02:00 PM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding the $200,000 price tag for the brown-jacketed “Berkeley Guides,” Mr Fonseca either doesn’t mention or doesn’t know what most street people in Berkeley suspect: that the “Guides” are actually paid extra sets of eyes and ears for BPD. In other words, while patrolling the street for runaways and probation/parole violators from other counties and states to recruit into the city’s very profitable homeless grant money industry, they are also on the lookout for those dimebag cannabis dealers, hookers and other dangerous street hustler types that congregate downtown (except the alcohol and hard drug dealers in the park by BHS and the police station. They’re apparently on special assignment from Mayor Bates). 

Wm. Henry Fenderson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It’s been a pleasant respite, this period when your paper has given the Police Blotter job to someone other than Brenneman. As of the current issue, he’s back—and obviously hasn’t received any sensitivity training. As before, he slings his cheeky noir slang—heist, stickup (multiple times), braced, packing, made off, brandished—and his usual dramatic prose (”Finally, at two minutes after midnight, a lone robber...”; “A solo stickup artist produced a pistol and demanded...”) as though he was writing a screenplay instead of reporting traumatic, potentially life-changing incidents experienced by real people. Why did you take this uncompassionate guy off the column only to put him back on it? He hasn’t learned anything. 

Yes, you will probably get letters from people who disagree—who find Brenneman’s crime writing “entertaining.” Don’t listen to them. They are just as insensitive as the writer. 

Sandy Rothman 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

I read Steven Finacom’s piece about the Parker Place development, and I couldn’t disagree more over the general tenor and perspective of the piece. Overall I found the article to be extremely one-sided. From what I can see, the proposed project appears to be appropriately to scale—four stories is a reasonable increase in density for this area—and I personally find the design to be creative and attractive. If this is going to be a battle of taste, put me down strongly in favor of the appearance; and if it’s going to be a debate about social merit, I’d argue that a moderate increase of density along a heavy traffic corridor like Shattuck is exactly what both Berkeley and the planet needs. 

Theo Posselt 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’m grateful to H. Scott Prosterman for clarifying that Mayor Tom Bates, Councilmembers Linda Maio and Max Anderson, Transportation Commissioners Marcy Greenhut and Eric McCaughrin and Eric Anderson, the city’s professional bicycle safety coordinator/ consultant, are part of the reason Berkeley doesn’t have a mandatory helmet law.  

It is so easy to cite statistics: 58 percent of Americans don’t wear helmets while cycling, 92 percent of riders killed while cycling in 2007 were not helmeted, etc. The medical and societal costs of these deaths and head injuries are in the billions.  

It is even easier for people to joke about being eager to rid the gene pool of the helmet-free riders one meets constantly riding to work and through town.  

But the best reason, the most selfless reason for wearing a helmet, is that you are influencing kids with your behavior. It is hard for kids to figure out what’s safe, what’s cool, and what weight to give vanity in a sometimes shallow world.  

If we abandon the legal obligation to wear a helmet at 16, or 18, as many laws allow, we give the impression that helmets are child’s attire, and that mature riders no longer need them. This is a deadly education.  

Helmet hair is cool. Walking into your office or the grocery store with sweat-smashed locks sailing every which way is sexy. Forget the spandex riding togs and the pricey cycling gear—the really attractive quality a bike rider can communicate is that he or she simply recognizes that our community’s children are priceless, and that anything, any simple $40 thing they can do to help keep them safe is worth it.  

Just as we’re slowing ridding our parks and public places of smoking, let’s rid our streets of the destructive message sent by riding without bike helmets by wearing them and being an inspiration to the community we love.  

Carol Denney 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’ve been long intrigued by ads on TV and the printed media who demand “Ask your doctor!” I’ve never had the nerve to ask my doctor to use any of them, like Lepitor or Viagra or those pills for ladies who have osteoporosis, etc. 

But then it occurred to me that millions of Americans also don’t have the nerve to ask, because they don’t have a doctor.  

Robert Blau  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A few of your readers write letters from the viewpoint that government is bad and government services should be opposed. One writer who frequently rails against Oakland’s mayor, not without good cause, states that Obama’s health reform would “unalterably abridge” our rights and freedoms. Perhaps he should consider a country with no government: Iraq. 

The Bush administration invaded Iraq and dissembled its social structure, resulting in neighborhoods being taken over by armed thugs who terrorized the population and executed anyone who “didn’t belong.” That’s what happens when there is no government.  

Health insurance companies are not run by thugs, but people needing health care have as little control over their policies and procedures as the neighborhoods of Iraq. Oh sure, you have the choice of taking your business from Blue Cross to Blue Shield, but their health plans and their constantly rising costs aren’t much different from each other. And if you have a “pre-existing condition,” forget about changing health insurance companies.  

What should we call anonymous bureaucrats who deny someone a medical procedure or a life-saving drug? Death panels” would be appropriate, and that’s what we have today, right now, with profit-making health insurance companies. Their profit depends upon denying claims. Approximately 18 percent of our health insurance premium money goes for the company’s administrative cost, of which nearly half are people employed to deny claims. Compare that with the two percent administrative cost of government-run Medicare. Oh, and don’t forget an additional 12 percent of our premium money goes to outrageous executive bonuses and corporate profits. It’s like a tax except we get no services for our money. 

Would government bureaucrats do a better job? They will do only as good as their employer requires of them. But, their main purpose will not be to squeeze profits by denying services; government’s primary purpose is to serve people. If they do it badly, they are answerable to our democratically-elected representatives who can fix the problems. Who can you turn to, to fix an insurance company problem? 

Americans pay nearly twice as much for health care as do citizens of the other industrialized democracies, yet our health statistics are far below theirs. Why? Because 30 percent of our costs go to profiteering. In our country, health care is privatized, so if you have money you get health services, if you don’t, you die. That is rationing; one of the crudest and cruelest forms of rationing.  

Let those who like their insurance company keep it, but let those who want a government alternative have the choice. It’s a matter of life and death. 

Bruce Joffe 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

“Some second-hand smoke, as I puff?” 

“Oh, no—I’d prefer chewing snuff. 

Either one makes me ill. 

I would run from a pill, 

And your first-hand exhaust is enough.” 

Ove Ofteness 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

To the whining complainer who wrote about people who smoke outdoors. Since you don’t consent to people “raping” and “molesting” your lungs and sinuses do you offer your consent to all the cars that fill your lungs and sinuses daily with tons more deadly carbon monoxide then a single person smoking a cigarette next to you? I myself am not a smoker but it drives me crazy all these people who constantly whine and complain about other people smoking outdoors or around them and how it affects their health while completely ignoring the fact that they are inhaling constant CO emissions from cars. 

Tell you what, if I put you in a windowless room with 100 smokers for one hour you will walk out of that room. Granted you will feel awful but you will be alive. Now if I put you in that same windowless room for one hour with a single running car. I can guarantee you will not leave that room alive. If you don’t want to be around people who smoke, it’s pretty easy to avoid them since smoking is banned in all those location that you wrote about. Granted people can still smoke walking down the street and that’s their right to do so, if the smoke bothers you just by having someone pass you while smoking then you have much bigger issues to deal with. 

Next time you want to complain about someone smoking a cigarette or marijuana around you just take a look at the sky above the Bay Bridge during rush hour. 

Kristy West 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Scott Prosterman made many important points about safety. I would like to underline the following in particular, and urge the mayor and city council to address all the issues he has raised. 

1. There should be more frequent and obvious marking of bike lanes on streets with heavy traffic like Oxford at rush hour. I almost killed my son by opening my car door there in front of him because I had not noticed the few and faded bike logos. Because there has been for good reason gradual expansion in bike lane creation, we should remind drivers in every possible way and mark more densely. 

2. There should certainly be a helmet law. 

3. Bicyclists are not, I think, required to have driver’s licenses, and we find some of them violating laws by riding the wrong way on one-way-streets, riding fast across stopped intersections, and riding on the sidewalk, creating hazards for pedestrians. Downtown Berkeley near the BART station has such bicyclists on the sidewalk frequently. For anyone walking who has trouble with balance, this is a danger. 

I am not sure what the solution should be. I have even seen cops on bikes fail to stop at pedestrian crossings. I confess I have been tempted to assault the sidewalk bike with my cane. 

Susan Tripp 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I just unsuccessfully contested a parking ticket, on the grounds that the metermaid(man) marked my tire so close to the pavement that one had to literally lie down on the street to see the mark.  

The fact that the city has never before marked tires like this did not faze Ann Miley, the hearing officer. Obviously, she was interested in funding her paycheck, without regard to civic fair play. 

This another low, underhanded City of Berkeley technique for extorting revenue. 

And yet, University ave. is being repaved. It had such Third World charm for so long, I thought it would forever be misrepaired at various times and places with the city’s standard practice of turning a pothole into a bump..... They’re all so conscientious, aren’t they?  

Eric Rhodes 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Carl Wilson, and grateful for Linda Rosen’s thoughtful tribute to a great man. I was fortunate to have worked with Carl on the board of the Berkeley Historical Society when he was its president, and I knew him to be one of the most optimistic, good hearted men I have ever met. Our community has lost a wonderful spirit, and I am grateful to have known him. Thank you for recognizing his contributions to our community. 

George Rose 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

H. Scott Prosterman’s commentary in the Planet, Sept. 3, is a good starting point for a rational discussion of bike safety. Let’s consider it “Mobility Safety” to include consideration to pedestrians and, even, motor vehicle drivers.  

Mobility safety has several aspects: 

1. Enforce bicycle rules and regulations already on the books. Treat bicycle scofflaws as errant motor vehicle drivers are treated by ticketing, fining, and, when necessary, revoking their licenses. Too many bicyclists do not stop at stop signs red lights. Too often bicycle riders, without looking in either direction, blithely breeze right through stop signs and red lights in neighborhoods, commercial districts, and where BART bicycle paths cross streets. There is never a day when I do not see a bicyclist do something foolish—like today—when one sped from a sidewalk via a blind driveway directly in front of me without looking right or left in full violation of BMC 14.68.170. Then, without slowing, whizzed right through a nearby stop sign. 

2. Make pedestrian safety a priority. Bicycle riders can cause serious damage to pedestrians on crosswalks and, particularly, on sidewalks in commercial districts in violation of Berkeley Municipal Code 14.68.130. By and large this code is ignored. It is not fun to be plowed to the pavement by a bicyclist as I was some years ago in front of Radstons. Regardless of age, anyone hit by a bike can be maimed and debilitated for life.  

3. Add streetlights throughout the city, particularly in currently low-lighted, residential areas. Mr. Prosterman makes a good point—“improving lighting conditions in residential neighborhoods.” Too many streets in Berkeley are simply too dark for safe pedaling and walking. This safety issue affects bicyclists, vehicle drivers, and pedestrians. Darkness, often passed off as “charm” is, in fact, dangerous to life and limb. Yet the city claims that it doesn’t have the money to add lights. How many accidents is it going to take for the city to set protective priorities for its residents and visitors? 

4. Impose parking fees on bikes in the same way parking fees are imposed on vehicle parking. Mr. Prosterman asks for more bicycle racks at parking meters. He’s correct: bicycle racks are needed. I rail at paid parking whether meters or public garages. But, if the city imposes parking fees for motorists, it also should charge bike riders to use bicycle racks. Bicyclists save money otherwise spent for gas, automotive maintenance, and insurance; Parking fees for bicycles would help support bicycle regulation enforcement.  

Bicycles can cause bodily damage as motor vehicles can; it is reasonable to subject bicyclists to the same rules and regulations, fees and fines.  

Barbara Witte 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Already hopelessly addicted to chocolate, I now discover that I have a brand new addiction. This one is for coupons. Show me a coupon—any coupon—and I’m ecstatic! Now this would appear to be a relatively innocent obsession, wouldn’t you agree? Not so in my case. 

I should mention that, for obvious reasons, Sunday is my favorite day of the week—the day that the hefty San Francisco Chronicle is delivered to my front door. It weighs a ton, I might add. Newspaper under my arm, armed with scissors, I spread the paper out on the table in my breakfast room. Do I read the news, literary section and Datebook? Actually, no. I put those to one side for reading later in the day. What I go for are all those glossy inserts and advertisements. Not the Macy’s or J.C. Penney’s ads, but rather the ones for Walgreen’s, Long’s and RiteAid, in that order. Mind you, clipping out all those coupons is not an easy task, but it’s one I relish. By morning’s end I’ve cut out dozens and dozens of coupons, which will wind up stuffed in my wallet and on the floor of my car. 

This Sunday’s Walgreen’s advertisement was especially alluring. There were coupons for everything—coffee, peanut butter, paper towels, white tuna, Halloween candy, etc. Unfortunately there was no coupon for the Neckline Slimmer, priced at $19.99. I’ll have to think about that one. And I had strong reservations about the Boy/Girl Gender Prediction Test, marked down from $29.99 to $24.99. Really, now, isn’t Walgreen’s venturing into a biomedical ethics issue here? 

I noted in the Business Section of the Sunday paper that there are now electronic coupons arriving by cell phone, Twitter, and Facebook, enabling some shoppers to cut their monthly grocery bills from $500 to $300. Good for them, but I’ll happily settle for Walgreen’s advertisement. I’ll definitely use most of those coupons I cut out today. While I don’t really need more coffee, peanut butter and white tuna, how can I pass up such bargains? I simply won’t let those coupons go to waste! 

Dorothy Snodgrass 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

John Yoo spent the spring semester at Chapman Law School in Orange, Ca. His public debate with the faculty is online at He can be heard to say, at 57:40, that the president’s highest constitutional duty is to protect the country from attack; overlooking the duty to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution. There was one arrest of a demonstrator for trespassing, with a summary acquittal on First Amendment grounds. Lucky that some people remember the Constitution.  

Martin Gugino 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

When the Board of AC Transit decided to buy Van Hool Belgian-built buses, did they consider the fact that they were helping to pull down NUMMI, an important part of the Bay Area econmy? 

Albert Scott 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In response to the article about the Berkeley school district not offering in-house clinics for swine flu, I disagree with the decision, because, as a graduate of Berkeley High, I remember students using the health center as a major resource in their helth care. As a former student, I believe students will go to the health center and use the services. In addition, students do not take the time to go elsewhere for medical attention. This in-house clinic for the swine flu shot will increase the number of young children and young adutls who get immunized. 

The article states that the target groups for the vaccinations are “children aged six months to young adults up to the age of 24; staff in K-12 schools and child care centers; pregnant women; and anyone taking care of babies.” In order to stop this flu, everybody needs to get the vaccination leaving no one left behind. How are we going to get through this, if we are just focusing on people paying for it, and where they can get it? Everybody needs to be vaccinated whether they have money or not. It should be given in schools, because that is where it is going to hit the hardest. 

The article also states that students should get the vaccines from their own health care provider. I feel that people who cannot afford the cost of medical attention should be able to get the vaccination for free. Some students and their parents are unable to afford the rising cost for health care coverage. I believe the swine flu is very serious and every school, health clinic and hospital should carry the vaccines for easy access. Money, or no money, lives are important. 

Angelia Spikes 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am a physician living in the East Bay. Last year I became eligible for Medicare and signed up for both part A and B. My insurance premiums were cut in half, I no longer have to pay a co-pay, and there are no out of network doctors. As a self-employed physician I was paying close to $10,000 a year for my family coverage. My wife, not yet 65, is now paying $7,000 per year for her individual coverage. 

I have the same freedom of choice I had with my extravagantly expensive private policy, which by the way went up every two years by 6-8 percent. I have no problem seeing any doctor I want in any institution I choose for my care. I feel an extraordinary sense of relief to have this fantastic coverage that I can afford. I cannot tell you how important this is to my especially now that I am approaching retirement age. 

The plans before congress that my friends and I have paid careful attention to, do not in any way curtail the current excellent benefits of Medicare and in fact look to make good and positive changes in the administration of care that will make services even more easily accessible. 

Ray G. Poggi, M.D. 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Any hope for bipartisan support of real healthcare reform is illusory. The Democratic congress must act boldly on single-payer healthcare reform, or at minimum, a strong public option. For me and most of my colleagues, a strong public option is a deal-breaker, and the basis for re-election support for both the president and democratic congressmembers. 

James E Vann 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

For too long too many Americans have been without health care and this has caused unnecessary suffering for families and loss to the economy. 

I support the current plan the Obama administration is proposing. It will strengthen Medicare by cutting down on paperwork, emphasize wellness and prevention and reward doctors for the care they provide instead of how many procedures they do. 

It is an embarrasment and a shame that our country, as rich as it is, does not protect the welfare of its citizens with a national plan for health coverage. 

Robert Warwick