Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Thursday October 22, 2009 - 09:32:00 AM

Animal Shelter 

Editors, Daily Planet:  

I concur wholeheartedly with Jill Posener, “Animal Shelter: Still A Doggone Dilemma” Oct. 15, that the current design for Berkeley’s new animal shelter is deeply flawed. In my view, the design process should be terminated and new site chosen. Nearly all of the major flaws in the design are a direct result of flaws of the site, including the tiny footprint and extremely close proximity to the University Avenue off-ramp from I-80. 

I attended several Humane Commission meetings for the design review and quickly grew dismayed that the project manager was attempting to push the design through with major flaws that will be detrimental to the well-being of animals in the shelter. The review process was flawed as well; little public participation was actively solicited. Many volunteers for the animal shelter, who should be considered significant stakeholders in the design of a new shelter, did not even know that a site had been selected and a design advanced to review phase. At these review sessions, the design began to be presented as inevitable so that the construction phase could begin, even though the design was known to have major flaws, including having fewer dog kennels than the current shelter. 

In my view, the process should be stopped and the site decision revisited. The most important thing is to get an excellent shelter, one that Berkeley can live with for quite a long time, one that is in almost every way better or much better than the existing shelter. The current design and site does not qualify, in spite of the fact that most of the people involved in the site selection and design process are deeply committed and passionate about animal welfare. 

Citizens of Berkeley expressed their concern for animals with their remarkable choice to fund a new animal shelter. It will be unfortunate to use their money to build a shelter as problematic as the current design. Berkeley should be a national leader in human and animal welfare, and should not build a second-rate shelter that will in some ways be inferior to the current shelter just because of an unfortunate choice of site. 

Kenneth Worthy 



Obama’s Nobel 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

You are entitled to your opinions, Ms. O’Malley and I tend to agree with you. But I disagree with what you say in this week’s editorial about Obama receiving the peace prize. 

I wasn’t a Hilary supporter. As a life-long, bleeding-heart liberal, I was thrilled to support and then vote for an African American for President. I think Obama’s single greatest contribution, throughout the rest of human history, will be the fact of his racial background. He broke barriers and inspired new dreams for people of color all over the planet. His election demonstrates to the world that, once in awhile, this country gets things right. Keep in mind that this country re-elected George W. Bush, knowing what he was doing to this country and the world. We don’t always get things right. 

Once I began to pay close attention to Obama, I disliked him. I don’t think he is very different. I think he skillfully used his race to position himself as something new and different but that, ultimately, he is all about maintaining empire. If you have any doubt, remember that he appointed Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers to critical economic policy positions. Or keep in mind that his stimulus package bailed out Wall Street, not Main Street. The guy is all about image control. 

I am sickened that he has received the Nobel Peace Prize on such a short record. It looks like the Nobel Prize Committee gave him extra points for being black, similar to how the University of California, and many other public universities, used to score black applications to the university with different standards than for other applicants. A person needs to do more than be black and say some good stuff to receive such a prestigious honor. 

After he took office, I tried to maintain hopeful expectations. But when I read that the Obama White House had scored a privte deal with drug companies related to health care reform, I lost faith in Obama. He is all about maintaining empire, mainstaining the status quo. He wants to keep the rich people who put him in office in power, maintain the capitalist, dominator empire.  

Paying some lip service to goals for peace is great. But talk is cheap. So far, Obama is all talk. I think he capitulates even easier than Clinton did and I loved Bill Clinton as President. 

I’m glad Obama got elected, given the other choice. I’m glad we have an African American as President. And I hope Obama turns out to be the man he promised us he would be when he sought our support. 

But he has done nothing to deserve that Peace Prize. Since you seem to have scanned many stories commenting about Obamah’s receipt of the prize, then you, like me, have read lists of some of the truly awesome work that was really and truly done, that yielded real results in the real world beyond lovely rhetoric, there are just too many deserving candidates for the prize to give it to the new kid on the black. It smacks of racial preference. It demeans the prize. It demeans Obama’s racial background. 

Let the guy do something before you give him a big prize. Having won the White House should be plenty at this point. 

Tree Fitzpatrick 



Downtown plan 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

  In the aftermath of the successful Downtown Berkeley Plan referendum petition campaign—recently certified by the Alameda County Registrar’s Office—it is important to acknowledge the significant role played by both the Green Party of Alameda County and the Berkeley Greens in the referendum campaign’s success. 

According to Greg Jan, a Green Party County (or Central) Council member, at least 60 local Green Party members actively participated in the referendum campaign over the summer, including those providing signature gathering, media outreach, and financial contributions among other activities. 

Several high profile elected Berkeley Green Party officials also provided their endorsements and energy to the referendum campaign, including: Rent Stabilization Board chair Lisa Stephens, former School Board president and current School Board Director John Selawsky, and Rent Board Commissioner Jesse Townley among other elected Green Party officials. 

The original Downtown Plan—before the Berkeley City Council voted to deform it beyond all recognition—was the culmination of literally hundreds of hours of committee and sub-committee meetings and discussions over a two year period by a citizen-appointed committee representing all downtown Berkeley viewpoints: adjacent neighborhoods, local environmental and public space advocates, the UC Berkeley administration, and the city’s business community. 

The final compromise draft that resulted from the above citizen committee participation was effectively ignored or voided by a majority of the City Council. This is the reason why the referendum campaign was launched in the first place. 

All of the community members and organizations involved with the successful referendum campaign—including the Green Party of Alameda County and its Berkeley Greens affiliate—deserve praise for their commitment and dedication to pursuing a grassroots, democratic response to the City Council’s egregious Downtown Plan decision. 

It is crucial to get the Berkeley Downtown Plan right. A future ballot measure giving Berkeley’s voters—not the pro-development members of the City Council—this democratic option is the right step in this direction. 

Chris Kavanagh 



double traffic fines 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Electric signs warning of doubled traffic fines on football game days made me curious about the law, so I searched the Berkeley Municipal Code published on the City of Berkeley web site as follows: double fines, double traffic fines, football game day traffic fines, football game day double traffic fines. The result for all of these searches is “Chapter 14.66, Double Fines.” That brief chapter says that doubled fines is not permitted after January 1, 2007. Here is the text of Chapter 14.66, extracted verbatim from the City web site: Chapter 14.66 (Ordinance No. 6,828-N.S., adopted Nov. 9, 2004) sunsets on Jan. 1, 2007, and as of that date is repealed. 

Chapter 14.66 seems to be the defense in court against tickets that exceed the normal fines for moving and parking violations on game days. 

Glen Kohler 


lack of bus shelters 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was driving south down San Pablo Ave. Monday in torrential rain when I noticed a lone man holding an umbrella waiting for a bus with no bus shelter to keep him protected from the rain. C’mon Berkeley! With all the money spent on roads, and asphalting, and our citizen’s obsession over fixing potholes—why is this poor guy standing in a furious downpour with nothing over his head? It makes me sick. Location of site: San Pablo, west side, a little north of Grayson Street. C’mon Berkeley! Work a little harder for those who aren’t as polluting and privileged as the rest. 

Ilona Sturm 



options for some at BHS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

During my efforts to obtain a math choice for my daughter, as promised by AHA in their literature, web site and presentations, I discovered that a few people had already either been allowed to transfer out of AHA, or allowed to stay in AHA, while given an option to take an alternate math course. When I asked BHS officials about this, I was told everyone within AHA was required to enroll into IMP (Interactive Math Program), with no exceptions. The information regarding previous actions in this regard was deliberately withheld. I persisted, and to make a long story short, my daughter was recently offered an option to enroll in Honors Geometry. While I am happy that my daughter was finally given this option, this fact does not address the central issue at all. As far as I know, no options have been offered to all the other students and parents who are equally affected by the sudden denial of these options in math and that have been steadily seeking to obtain the same options for their children. 

BHS administration needs to own up to the mishandling of this issue and to do right thing by every single student and parent who thought they would have an option in math as promised. The way they have mismanaged this issue so far gives the impression of favoritism, which will only create additional controversy and deepen the anger parents already feel over this incident. The school should act without delay. I have filed a formal complaint on behalf of all the students who have been affected by this breach of contract. I urge all who are concerned to send a note to the BHS Principal and the School Board Members urging a swift, equitable resolution to this issue.  

Charles Bryant 



Tournadot in Beijing 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am responding to the recent article about the “lavish production” of Turandot at the Bird’s Nest Stadium in Beijing. I’m sure the production looked great from the floor where the very privileged were invited to sit, or paid hundreds of dollars to sit. For those of us, and the many Chinese people, who paid over 100 dollars to sit in the second tier it was abysmal. The sound quality was terrible, overwhelmingly loud considering you could not see anything. My companions could not even read the subtitles, they were so far away. Many near us were furious, because 100 dollars is a great deal of money for them. I paid for three friends to go and I felt I made a bad choice in how to honor them. 

Lynn Huntsinger 

El Cerrito 



Bhs Graduation 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

In the spring you presented a couple pieces concerning the controversy about the proposed charge to parents for extra tickets to attend the Berkeley High graduation ceremony. 

In both of these pieces it was mentioned that the expected cost of this ceremony would exceed $100,000. There were not many details describing the elements of this cost. 

  I am interested in this expenditure, and would like some details. I have sent an email request to the Public Information Office of the BUSD, and I have telephoned the business office. Nothing returned. 

Perhaps your clout could be applied to find out this information, and for you to present it to the public. 

  It may be that most people think this level of expenditure to be appropriate. I do not. However, it would be again appropriate to allow the public to see the facts. 

Transparency, I believe, is desirable. 

Bill McIntyre 



parking in ohlone park 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Why not park in the park?  

The need for parking is great right now and the need will even get greater in the future. Trader Joe’s is under construction now will be open this next fall. So, the need for additional nearby, parking two city blocks away calls for parking in the park. The park property I am talking about is a Ohlone Park on the northwest corner of Hearst and Martin Luther King Way directly across from the North Berkeley Senior Center. The North Berkeley Senior Center is the busiest of the three Berkeley senior centers from 150 to 200 seniors age 55 and older patronize the center five days a week, with a small group of seniors to meet there every other Saturday. The Berkeley Adult School holds classes at the center daily and the instructors have difficulty finding parking near that the center and have had to cancel classes due to no available parking. The center caters to 80 seniors who come to lunch daily and well over 100 seniors come to the center to enjoy birthday parties, celebrations and special holiday events. The center also hosts the Grey Panthers meeting on the fourth Wednesday of the month and at times the guest speakers have been as late as they have had difficulty finding parking.  

The senior center is also used by the city of Berkeley for community and commission meetings most evenings and parking is critical. On weekends residents hold their weddings parties and other private functions, and there is not enough parking to accommodate the participants. So, imagine what will happen to the meager parking in the area when Trader Joe’s opens next fall! Therefore I am beginning the discussion to solve the parking problem in this area with a win-win solution by proposing parking in the park! As we know, the city of Berkeley is currently considering the 2010-2011 budget and what better way to increase city revenue than by installing parking meters in Ohlone Park? I am aware that this proposal is controversial and an emotional topic for some but let’s begin the debate now! 

Nella Sorts 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Oakland Trib, in reality the Contra Costa Times, ran an Oct. 16 story, whose byliner has a Mercury-News e-mail address, with the feel-good message that we’re getting a one-time PG&E refund. Whee. Well, not quite all of us, as it happens. I sent them this letter: 

Once again the conscientious and energy-efficient among us are getting the back of the hand from our local utility monopoly. 

  Once again, our local daily press monopoly is shoveling the utility’s PR at us unanalyzed. 

  The Oct. 16 headline “Refunds coming for PG&E customers” omitted the relevant adjective “some” after the first three words, although I suggest that “wealthier” or “more wasteful” would convey more truth. 

  Look: as a low-income, fixed-income person following every bit of energy-saving advice I hear of, I am not, and have not been, “insulated from recent rate hikes,” unless PG&E flack Eisenhauer’s definition of “insulated” bears no relationship to the utility’s own energy guidelines. 

  When the rates go up, the increase is right there on my bill. If I use the same amount of energy as the previous bill, my costs are still higher. As one of the large and growing group of ratepayers for whom this economic crisis spells harder, not easier, times, I’m not real happy with a utility management and a regulatory structure that make me subsidize folks with big, comfortable houses. 

  And we’re not real happy with media that treat PR fluff as if it were issue-free.  

M. Hall 



OBama is trying 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Imagine how much more President Obama could have gotten done if he didn’t have such a no-nothing congress. No one wants to transfer Guantanamo prisoners to their states although federal prisons are full of heinous criminals. No one wants to grant universal single payer health care to American citizens so something ridiculous has to be cobbled out of many stupid pieces of ridiculous legislation to satisfy Olympia Snowe. No one wants to stand up for bringing the troops home so likely as not the war in Afghanistan is going to be escalated and America will once again be mired in an unwinnable war. No one wants to raise taxes so money has to be borrowed to get out of this recession and everyone hates that. How can the president accomplish anything in the least bit idealistic and peaceful when he is thwarted at every turn. President Obama may not be perfect but he at least is trying, we haven’t seen that in eight years. And by the way the President has kept this country safe for one month longer than the previous one did. The Republicans act as if 9/11 didn’t happen on their watch. 

Constance Wiggins 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’m going to continue to write variants of this letter until y’all get it. Contrary to widely held beliefs, the vast and overwhelming majority of men of color are not, repeat not criminals. 

The likelihood of your being mugged on Shattuck avenue in broad daylight are slim. This pathology of victimhood is venal fiction rooted in the primitive and discredited notion of white supremacy or more fittingly african savagery. Remember it wasn’t Africans who committed atrocities and genocide on six continents. It’s my duty to try to alleviate your stress so next time a guy approaches you on the street carrying a bag of groceries you don’t have to jump out of your skin. Thank you for your consideration. 

Zac Morrison 



Hippie radio 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Ahoy, listeners to morning media commentators—some of whom were mentioned in Becky’s editorial of Oct. 15th—I begin my weekday with 3 reality-check doses—at 7, 8, and 9—as provided by Travis T. Hipp on KPIG/1510-AM, the Bay Area’s radio gem. 

Thanks to a repeater tower in Piedmont, of all places, this wonderful country-rock/dusty-hippie station from Santa Cruz—actually Freedom, of all places—can be clearly heard up here. 

Travis has popped up here and there since his “Rawhide Reality Review” talk-show at KNEW/AM in the late 60s. He’s sardonic, pithy, almost leathery, and he knows before he speaks. 

But wait, there’s more: Jim Hightower makes an appearance at, oh, 7:30 a..m. And don’t forget the stock-market report at noon. 

Phil Allen  



disagreement in letters 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

As usual, in the Oct. 15 issue of the Planet, there are several letters demonizing Israel and people who support a Jewish state as well as twisting the truth to further their own misguided and dangerous agendas. Thank you for printing the letter from Rfael Moshe who points out that Fouda’s commentary from Oct. 8 is inaccurate and does little more than put forth his pro Palestinian ideologies. The letter from R Kanter is appalling in its absurdity. I have read and re-read Faith Meltzer’s letter from Oct. 1 and I do not see anything “rabid” in her statements and certainly nothing that even remotely justifies killing Palestinian children. Just the opposite in fact, Faith’s letter states: “Children should not be encouraged to participate in violence and acts of aggression. Unfortunately, until this practice is discontinued in places like Gaza, more children will die.” Faith’s statement reminds me of the well known quote by Golda Meir, “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children, but we can never forgive them for making us kill their children.” 

And then there is Jim Harris’ so called facts concerning Olmert. He uses the pronoun “we” throughout his letter. Not sure who he is speaking for besides himself, certainly not me. The letter he references supposedly signed by Einstein turns up on many pro Palestinian websites but I have not been able to find an independent source that verifies it. Harris conveniently describes Olmert as a “war criminal” but fails to mention even one example of Hamas’ brutality, crimes against humanity, and refusal to help the poor people in Gaza attain any life of dignity or security. Rather, Hamas continues to use the citizens to build hatred of Jews and Israel and as pawns in its violent struggle to delegitimize and destroy the Jewish state. To all Israel’s haters I can only say never again. 

Susan Sholin 



The Chosen 

Editors, Daily Planet:  

The Chosen, adapted from the novel by Chaim Potok at Theatreworks is a must see! Readers of the Daily Planet will gain insights relevant to the recent controversy surrounding the antagonism over the State of Israel. 

We are blessed to have the opportunity to experience such a rich personal and historical evening of theater. The dynamic between fathers and sons, between two friends who share the same soul combined with cultural and historical tensions regarding the founding of Israel, offers a perspective which resonates even today.  

If you like theater, The Chosen at Theatreworks is a gem! A rare find of seamless directing, by Aaron Davidman from A Travelling Jewish Theater and Shotgun Players fame—brilliant and phenomenal acting by veteran performer Corey Fischer, as the Hasidic rabbi, in addition to nuanced and rich performances from the rest of the cast. 

I had the pleasure of seeing My Name is Asher Lev, also by Potok, at the Marin Theater Company and making the trek to Theatreworks in Mountain View not only enriches the Potok mini-festival, but also satisfies the soul. Asher Lev is the story of young man driven to express his true soul through painting, while The Chosen depicts Jewish culture responding to the aftermath of the Holocaust in post-World War II America on a larger canvas. 

Mark Solomons 



Response t Kantor 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

This letter is in response to the Oct.15 letter by Rob Kanter. Mr. Kanter, a well known local, committed “Anti-Zionist” interestingly enough elects to identify himself by his ancestry as a “Jew,” rather than by his personal politics. Mr. Kanter’s letter seems to take a very odd position that even if the Palestinians utilize child-soldiers in contravention of the Geneva Convention, that when these child-soldiers are killed while engaging in the conflict, it is Israel wantonly killing children. Mr. Kanter seems inclined to defend the practice of cynically listing the child-combatant casuaties as simply as “children,” in order to create the misleading impression that Israel is randomly killing children. It is however, why Palestinian “child casualties” are overwhelming older, teenage males rather than a balanced mix of genders as would be the case were the phenomena random. Its not surprising that the Palestinians manipulate and distort statistics and news coverage for political advantage, after all we have the slang phrase “Pallywood,” but why do people like Mr. Kanter feel compelled to defend such misleading practices? It seems that if one truly would prefer less Palestinian child casualties, they should be focusing on condemning the use of child-combatants in the conflict. Mr. Kanter’s appologia seems disingenious.  

Rfael Moshe 



orly taitz award 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

And the Orly Taitz award goes to: Janna Sundeyeva, for the Oct. 15 racist tirade against local activist Hassan Fouda for his defense of the U.N.’s Goldstone report and exposing Israeli soldiers’ actions and attitudes toward the Palestinian people of Gaza earlier this year. Perhaps Fouda’s only error, though, was in not providing the source of his findings, which was not only Israeli newspapers and Human Rights groups, but widely reported in US newspapers including the SF Chronicle. 

Sundeyeva states that the Palestinians are a “people who definitely do not understand human language, their ethical system is different.” Also, “life is not important at all in Islam.” One can only imagine the reaction if someone said such a thing about Jews or Judaism. But the key nugget and reason for the award is this: “’Palestinian nation’ is creation of the Soviet KGB, nothing more.” It really boggles the mind. 

So who is Orly Taitz? She’s the Israeli-American activist who’s a driving force behind the right-wing “birther” movement which claims that President Obama is not a U.S. citizen. Among her other claims are that Obama is a threat to Israel because of his support of radical Islamic groups, such as Hamas, and his “radical socialist” policies that will bring the U.S. to “totalitarianism and Stalinism,” and that FEMA is building internment camps for “anti-Obama dissidents.” Congratulations, Sundeyeva, you really earned it! 

Robert Kanter