Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Thursday October 01, 2009 - 09:18:00 AM


Editors, Daily Planet:  

In the Sept. 24 Planet, J. Douglas Allen-Taylor reports that the AC Transit manager is proposing that they use BRT funds to hold off service cuts. 

Since BRT would require spending large amounts of money for very little gain, I think pulling money from it to keep AC Transit going now is a great idea. In addition, I think most bus riders, merchants, street vendors and neighbors would agree with me. 

Sal Levinson  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Joanne Kowalski “Not In My Backyard” Sept. 24 provides an engaging and informative mini-history of urban renewal after World War II. Interesting as it is, I fail to see how massive dislocations in Chicago and Detroit relate to the prospect of cleaning up a dozen city blocks in Berkeley. 

In the same issue, Gerry Tierney provides a clear and professional insight into the options we may consider here. It is required reading for anyone who frets over the “Manhattenization of Berkeley,” however silly that may be. 

Jerry Landis 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have some very serious issues with the editorial that Gerry Tierney wrote for the Sept. 24 issue; I do not know if he is seriously misinformed or what but I am having a hard time seeing how a resident of Manhattan has a smaller carbon footprint than a campesino living in the mountains of southern Mexico. Really, sir, you need to back statements like this up with facts, otherwise we will all know that there is no possible way that you can build a 22-story building, and that people can live in such, in an environmentally sustainable way. 

If I do not recieve a response in print, backed up with facts and genuine research, your opinion is not worth the paper that it is written on. 

Arthur Fonseca 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

The AC Transit Mess: the $450,000,000 BRT delusion of grandeur meets the $10,000,000 annual operating budget deficit. Oops. As Gary Larson’s brilliant cartoons used to say, “trouble ahead...” 

Mr. AC Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) plan, may I introduce you to Mr. AC Annual Operating Budget Deficit? It seems that with the discovery of an annual operating budget deficit for AC Transit of almost ten million dollars, that cooler heads are finally beginning to have their doubts about this notion of “bus rapid transit,” planned to run from Berkeley down to San Leandro, running parallel to the existing BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) line in the same area. 

First, the notion of a bus system that operates on city streets as somehow being “rapid” is absurd on its face. If buses speed on city streets, they will be a serious threat to the health and safety of pedestrians, children, old people, pets, squirrels, birds, insects, bicyclists and motorists alike. The terms, “bus rapid transit” truly constitute an oxymoron, when combined. 

Second, what is the sense having AC Transit trying to duplicate the existing BART rapid transit service; BART trains can actually go 75 or 80 mph between stations on their dedicated train tracks. I know this from riding in the front of BART trains when they first opened some thirty-five years ago. There is no way that buses operating on crowded narrow city streets can duplicate those speeds. 

Third, AC Transit planners should give up on their delusional dream of tearing up Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley and creating two bus-only lanes and thus forcing car drivers to ride the bus by producing local gridlock in the downtown areas. Can’t you transit planners just wait until gasoline hits ten dollars a gallon? 

Fourth, maybe AC Transit should take a break from their endless “planning.” Why does everything have to be constantly growing and expanding? Alameda County and Contra Costa County are not expanding, at least in terms of land area. It seems to me that “transit planners” are basically bureaucratic troublemakers, who can’t seem to leave well enough alone. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. How many millions of dollars each year could AC Transit save by laying off all their planning staff? 

Fifth, maybe AC Transit could simply concentrate on running their present bus lines, without any changes. Just keep the present bus fleet mechanically tuned up and run as per the schedule. No worries, mate. 

James K. Sayre 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

For reasons that the BRT would negatively impact the neighborhood—with zero benefit to Berkeley or to Telegraph merchants—and in support of the transfer of funds to sustain the AC Transit operating budget, we want to say no to the BRT and yes to finding creative ways to use AC Transit funding—e.g., negotiating with the MTC that involves moving $35 million in CMAQ funds and $45.6 Million in RM2 funds from the BRT Capital funds into operating funds to avoid service reductions. 

Mark and Nelly Coplan 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Enough is enough! Where am I supposed to park? 

The City of Berkeley has decided that the best way to raise money is to issue as many parking tickets as it can. I am a delivery driver for a small Berkeley business. I drive a van with commercial plates, our company logo and the little bumper sticker that allows you to park in yellow zone. I got a parking ticket on Friday while parked in the yellow on Allston Way. The ticket was for “no visible activity.” I was delivering a package but the parking enforcement person said that I need to be loading or unloading my van. The ticket states that my tires were marked at 1:35 p.m. and the ticket issued at 1:49 p.m. I did not get to Allston Way until 1:41 p.m. I had three delivers on Center St. and I have the meter receipt to prove it.  

I know if I fight the ticket I will win but that not the point. I have talked with other people who can legally park at yellow zone and every single person I talked to has been issued one of these tickets. Hey Mr.Mayor where am I supposed to park to make a delivery? Should I just leave my van wide open so some activity could happen while I am doing a delivery? Meanwhile large commercial trucks can double park on Shattuck and block traffic. UPS and FED X can park anywhere they want. Meter maids park in the yellow zone in front of Peets Coffee and go get coffee. The yellow zone is for loading or unloading so they can’t do that. You guys remind me of the tax collectors in the Robin Hood cartoon,  

Parking citations cannot support the city!  

I want to hear from more people who have been issued this kind of ticket. 

Sergio Blandon 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Your story “City Council Approves Berkeley’s First Enterprise Zone” is not exactly true to the facts. 

Readers should know that in the mid ‘90s Berkeley approved a recycling enterprise zone for West Berkeley. The city’s first designated enterprise zone allowed the California Integrated Waste Management Board to lend three-quarters of a million dollars to the Pacific Steel Castings foundry for the construction of a waste incinerator. With little more than a nod from Berkeley’s zoning and no demand for a CEQA review, the incinerator was placed up wind and within a block of residential housing and a childcare facility. 

The recycling zone enabled the West Berkeley foundry to save on disposal fees by authorizing them to conduct the onsite burning of chemical binders from sand-casting molds. The incinerator, more like a Trojan horse than not, was touted as a “green recycler” that would limit the amount of the company’s generate waste traditionally destined for landfill. 

The supporters of this “burn barrel” technology—they prefer the term “thermo recycler”—say incinerating the molds on site also saves the immediate area from fugitive emissions when trucks had to haul away the molds and casting sands. What residents have learned is that the stack emissions composed of chemicals and particulates from the ten-year-old incinerator are simply being more widely distributed across West Berkeley’s neighborhoods and beyond. 

For a decade, Pacific Steel’s incinerator has resulted in grossly degraded air quality for the Oceanview district, an area that had already been identified nationally as an asthma hotspot. This waste treatment process has also produced more airborne chemicals and odors. 

It is hypocritical of our city officials to prohibit cigarette smoking within twenty feet of commercial doorways, while refusing to address the steel mill’s inappropriate zoning of their incinerator and its deleterious effects on nearby residents and schools. Perhaps this resistance by our city, regional air district regulators and CIWMB is a direct result of so much being vested into this project, especially politically. 

PSC’s incinerator is a clear case of profit over environmental protection, enterprise over health. 

L A Wood 

Editor’s Note: In response to a query from the Planet, Michael Caplan, with the City of Berkeley, responds: It is true that part of West Berkeley did get a designation as a Recycling Zone in the 1990s. We shared that designation with Oakland. The thing to note is that a Recycling Zone is a completely different program than a standard Enterprise Zone with very distinct features and incentives. 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Probably because I’ve been readily approachable at almost all of the three hundred plus KPFA public events that have been presenting writers in the Bay Area over the last 22 years, I am often asked for an opinion on the best candidates for KPFA’s Local Station Board. When this occurs at the event itself, usually I shrug and apologize, as election rules forbid in this context any response that could be interpreted as campaigning. 

As those rules don’t apply here, I get a modest say. It’s simple enough. In my opinion, candidates should not be voted for who: show only hostility to the station’s devoted staff and management; offer no credible pragmatic ideas for improvement; are unprepared to provide or obtain financial support for the station; clog the air with negative rhetoric; merely want power. 

KPFA’s serious imperfections need the attention of candidates with proven skills. 

While I don’t personally know any of the candidates named here, I know enough about them to urge you to consider voting for them: Conn Hallinan, Andrea Turner, Adam Hudson, Banafsheh Akhlaghi, Virginia Rodriguez, Dan Siegel, Jack Kurzweil, Sharon Esbenshade, John Van Eyck, Pamela Drake.  

Bob Baldock,  

KPFA Public Events Producer 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The statistics quoted by Mark Wetzel in the Sept. 24 issue of the Daily Planet regarding fatalities in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict were deliberately meant to mislead. 

  Ninety-five percent of Palestinian fatalities in this conflict are male. This simple fact completely contradicts assertions that Israel has indiscriminately targeted residential areas. If Israel were specifically targeting civilians, the expected ratio of women to men killed would be much closer to 50/50. 

  The overwhelming number of “child” fatalities in the West Bank and Gaza are older teenaged boys because the Palestinians have been using them as combatants. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the UN Security Council Resolution 1261 describe the use of children as soldiers as a “violation of international law,” yet the Hamas and Al Qassam Brigade websites routinely list “children”—older teenaged boys—among their ranks. 

  In contrast, women and girls account for 31 percent of all Israelis killed in the conflict and nearly 40 percent of the Israeli noncombatants killed by Palestinians. Overall, 80 percent of those killed in Israel have been noncombatants. 

  The cynical use of Palestinian children as shields and as soldiers is the real issue and the main contibuting factor in the statistics Mr. Wetzel quotes. Children should not be encouraged to participate in violence and acts of agression. Unfortunately, until this practice is discontinued in places like Gaza, more children will die.  

Faith Meltzer 

El Cerrito 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Marcus Gardley is a brilliant playwright and he has gifted the Bay Area with another beautiful portrayal of our history. World in a Woman’s Hands humanizes the incredible times during World War II and the many women who built the ships in the Richmond ship yards. And how that history weaves into our present. This play and his previous “Love is a House in Lorin Station” are theater at it’s finest. They show us where we come from, who we are and what is important.  

Many thanks for this great musical performance, The Shotgun Players, The Ashby Stage and all who have brought this gem to us. I’d love to bring all the East Bay on a date to see it. 

Terri Compost 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Last night we went to the first 20 minutes of American Idiot. Our arm muscles became exhausted from trying to hold our ears closed against the blast of noise, relieved only by the 15 seconds of dialogue—and even that was unnecessarily miKed. There was so much noise that we couldn’t make out any of the lyrics—if “lyrics” is the right word—and so, we had no idea what was happening or why we were there to see it. I liked the stage sets and lighting until bright lights started flashing at the audience, when I had to shut my eyes to prevent blindness. I wonder if the flashing lights triggered any epileptic seizures. 

As far as I was concerned, the worst part was the noise. I wish I had brought my decibel meter. I am sure that the show did permanent damage to the hearing of some of the people in the audience. If theatres were covered by OSHA hearing conservation regulations, as they should be, I am sure that Berkeley Rep would have been in for a large fine. 

Add to that, the “play” was incomprehensible because no-one could hear anything on account of the noise. 

My husband said that the worst part for him was that the “play” was not in the least theatric—that it made no sense, was going nowhere, and consisted only of alienated youths. I guess we will never know if there was a point or a drama to American Idiot, because we would never be able to glean the words from the noise. 

At any rate, we long-time subscribers to Berkeley Rep were appalled. I understand that they want to bring in younger audiences, but it seems to me pretty cold if they bring them in just to turn them prematurely deaf.  

We walked out after 20 minutes. I kept thinking that they would have to get to some dialogue sooner or later. We wasted our two $46 tickets, plus the $10 parking fee, plus our valuable time. Ugh!  

Martha Luehrmann 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Berkeley City Commons Club has, week after week, year after year, presented topknotch speakers at their Friday Noon Luncheons. Held at the Berkeley City Club on Durant Street, lunch is served at 11:45, followed by a discussion by the featured speaker, and a question and answer period. There have been many lively and stimulating programs over the past years, but last Friday’s was without question one of the more memorable ones. The speaker that day, Hans F. Gallas, spoke on “Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas: Debunking the ‘There There Myth.” Clearly an authority on the subject, Mr. Gallas regaled us with fascinating stories of these very, shall we say, “eccentric” women. 

It’s a well known fact that Stein, an expatriate U.S. writer, and her family lived in Oakland for several years, moving from one neighborhood to another. It should be noted that her famous, but misinterpreted remark, “There’s no there” was not an unkind reference to Oakland, but rather to the house where she once lived, no longer standing when she visited her old neighborhood. She attended Franklin school, later lecturing at Mills College and the University of California. 

Stein went abroad to live in 1903. Her home in Paris, at 2 rue de Fleurus, became a salon for artists and writers (i.e., Picasso, Cezanne, Ezra Pound, etc.). Over the years she and her brothers acquired a priceless art collection. One brother, a dedicated collector, purchased the first Matisse ever sold. Stein, a German Jew, was living in Paris during the Nazi occupation, but managed to survive, thanks to the help of friends and protectors. 

Mr. Gallas spoke briefly of the friendship between Stein and Alice B. Toklas, the latter famous for her Cookbook containing a recipe for hashish—a book that U.S. publishers shied away from, but not London publishers. As proof of the deep bond between these two women, Stein left her fabulous art collection to Toklas. Bureaucratic red tape resulted in the collection being taken away from her, thus leaving her financially destitute. 

Art lovers in the Bay Area will soon have the good fortune to view Stein’s magnificent art collection when it goes on display next year at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, moving next to the Museum of Modern Art. 

Gertrude Stein died in 1946, and was buried in Paris. Her parents, I was astonished to hear, are buried in the Jewish Section of Mountain View Cemetery on Piedmont Avenue. So, for the connection of this famous woman—she of the close cropped hair and plain dress—to the Bay Area and California, we owe a note of thanks to the City Commons Club and its speaker, Hans R. Galler. 

Dorothy Snodgrass 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

As a tax paying citizen of Berkeley I was alarmed and emotionally shaken to read that apparently while on a field trip to neighboring Oregon this Saturday past, the entire Cal football team came down with the flu. That is to say, how else to explain the nation’s sixth ranked team getting beat down 42-3 by an unranked team? 

  Clearly, in my mind, we have witnessed the birth of an incipient pandemic that if not struck down at its root may infect the entire city and perhaps, god forbid, beyond. 

  What are Berkeley’s political and Health Dept. officials doing to protect the rest of us from this rampant, Ebola virus-like disease? Has the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta been notified? Have the team and the Athletic Dept. training facilities been quarantined? God help us all! Where are the tree sitters when we really need them? 

Jean Damu  




Editors, Daily Planet:  

I live in a residential apartment building adjacent to the soon-to-open, gigantic new restaurant in the David Brower Center, which is supposedly dedicated to sustainable environmental standards.  

The owners of this new restaurant have applied for a permit that will allow them to blare live, loud, outdoor acoustic music from noon to 9 p.m. 365 days of the year. They propose to turn a patch of downtown Berkeley into a live, outdoor music venue. 

I have a personal agenda here but live outdoor music permitted nine hours daily, 365 days a year will affect several thousand immediate residents. I do not want to be subjected to live music nine hours of every day, 365 days of the year. Live music played on Terrain’s outdoor patio amounts to music in my back yard. I invite everyone reading this letter to imagine their next door neighbor playing live outdoor acoustic music for nine hours every single day. 

For anyone sympathizing with the guys opening Terrain, in a building dedicated to sustainable living, try to imagine a live, outdoor music venue in your backyard for nine hours every day. 

Live, outdoor music, nine hours daily, 365 days a year. I can scarcely wrap my mind around it. How could the city planning department consider such a thing? 

Tree Fitzpatrick 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I find it interesting but not particularly surprising that Zoning Compliance says they will investigate the property of the person making the complaint about a neighbor’s non-compliance. I view this as harassment. I would certainly like to hear from others who have had this happen to them. 

Ann Slaby 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

The letter-writer in your previous issue who didn’t like my feeling about Richard Brenneman’s crime writing misunderstands in several ways. He’s wrong to characterize my opinion of the noir-style writing (and its fans) as “disdain”; rather, it’s an objection to a theatricalization of real events, sometimes life-changing and tragic, that affect real people. 

“Conciseness, easy word flow, and...accuracy” are not part of my criticism, unless we stretch “easy word flow” to encompass a glib attitude, something I often do feel from Brenneman’s colorful framing of people’s negative experiences at the hands of criminals. My focus here is the Police Blotter, not his news reporting in general. 

Saying it would be better to “wage serious tirades against the real merchants of journalistic baloney” citing TV news sources misses the specific point. It might be important to do that, but I’m not familiar with the programs he mentions. I read the local paper and care about the local community. 

I think the letter-writer’s most telling misunderstanding lies in his own words: he refers to the Blotter as “crime stories.” Precisely wrong. These are not “stories.” They are reports, and they need not be juiced up with fictional spin. You had some good people covering this for awhile. Please bring them back. 

Sandy Rothman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Iranian Government claims that their nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only. 

Do we believe them? 

This reminds me of a cartoon which I did awhile ago. A shoplifter is walking out with a fishead sticking out of his jacket. The manager stops him, saying either you steal a smaller fish,or wear a larger jacket! 

The Iranians claim peaceful purposes, yet build secret and heavily armored facilities. Hey! 

Either it's peaceful and aboveboard, or stop the silly claim. 

Harry Gans 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

General Stanley McChrystal’s appearance on 60 Minutes, Sept. 27, came close to an ultimatum to his commander-in-chief: Give me more troops or we’ll lose the war in Afghanistan! At the very least his prime-time performance seemed designed to increase pressure on the White House to go along with his recommendations. 

  McChrystal, a seasoned warrior, claimed surprised at realizing that military prowess – firepower, helicopter gunships, drones, etc.—sewed the seed of its own demise; each collateral civilian deaths created new enemies among the survivors.  

  He insisted that his soldiers show the population they recognized Afghanistan’s plight and simply wanted to help anyway they could. Leading by example, McChrystal, socialized unarmed everyday with ordinary Afghans and forbad his heavily armed body guards from standing closer than 20 paces. His goal was not to persuade Afghans to accept him as one of their own but rather, it seemed to me, to let him be their savior. 

  President Obama hesitates to endorse McCrystal’s  “secret” request for more troops.  Perhaps the president sees the inherent contradiction between sending more troops in order to win a war that cannot be won by military force. Or perhaps the president understands the Founders’ reason for designating him, a civilian, commander-in-chief.   

After all, “War is too serious a matter to be entrusted to military men.” (George Clemenceau, Premier of France, 1906-09 and 1917-20) 

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo