Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Wednesday November 25, 2009 - 08:52:00 AM



Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am a student at UC Berkeley. Last week there were widespread protests regarding pending student fee increases. Last Friday I was forced to abandon my biology lab and wait in the rain while authorities responded to multiple false fire alarms set off by protesters. 

I support the right of my fellow students to protest the current financial debacle. They have the right to skip their classes if they so choose. However, I have the right to attend my classes if I so choose. 

These protesters are allegedly asserting the value of education, yet they are stopping those of us who wish to go to class from doing so. They self-righteously decry their right to free speech while simultaneously hindering the right of others to disagree. 

They are not freedom fighters protecting public education. They are petulant children who have discovered money will not be given to them merely because they have demanded it be done. Now they are throwing temper tantrums. 

As a Berkeley undergraduate, I would like to state unequivocally that these protesters do not represent me. 

Monica Snyder 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It’s clear to all that you are not getting anywhere near the support from contributions that you think you should have. Your handling of the Dellums tax issue is a great reason why. Your paper has no fairness or inte-grity. There has been absolutely no mention from your staff about the ridiculous situation that the mayor of Oakland is a tax cheat. And J. Douglas Allen-Taylor, who has been such a Dellums apologist who immediately challenges the Chron’s Chip Johnson anytime he writes negatively about Dellums, has been so silent on this issue. One has to wonder if Allen-Taylor is on Dellum’s payroll. 

Your lack of coverage and silence on this issue is just one example why people do not support you with their dollars and why your paper will be out of business soon enough. 

Javier Melendez 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The new ferries built for the Water Emergency Transportation Authority carry 149 passengers at 25 knots using 2820hp per boat. 

  They are averaging 30 percent full, consistent with WETA’s projections and typical for a commuter service where nearly-empty reverse runs are necessary. 

  At this power, speed and passenger count, we have achieved the equivalent of 8.1 mpg for each occupied seat. That’s right, far less fuel would be burned and far less carbon would be released if every passenger drove an SUV to work all by themselves. 

  If each passenger drove a high-mileage car they would burn about one-fifth as much fuel per passenger as the ferry. If they commuted in a three-person carpool they would use only one-fifteenth as much fuel as the ferry. 

  WETA does deserve some credit for spending an extra million dollars per boat to reduce NOX and particulate emissions by more than 85 percent compared to marine diesels with no emission controls. But remember, this is expressed as a percentage of exhaust gas constituents. The actual amount of pollutants released increases in proportion to fuel consumed. So even the NOX and particulate emissions per passenger-mile are right back up there with cars and SUVs. 

  In all fairness, the next two WETA boats will carry 199 passengers at about the same speed and power. And let’s be optimistic and assume 50 percent passenger loading. We’re up to 18.3 mpg per seat. The carpool lane still wins by a factor of five. 

  Ferries provide a wonderful travel alternative, and we should proceed with plans for a terminal at the Berkeley Marina. But let’s apply a little common sense here. The ferries need to be designed for the route: It’s only 5.6 miles, and they would be about twice as fuel-efficient if designed to go 18 knots instead of 25. It only adds five minutes to the transit time. 

  We don’t need to spend $34 million on the terminal—a much more modest facility comparable to other East Bay terminals— can serve. And we don’t need a 199-passenger boat leaving every 30 minutes—the site doesn’t have enough parking to support that level of service anyway. Much better to have a departure every hour with the savings used to run a coordinated feeder bus line. This would have the desirable effect of diverting some of that profoundly wasteful ferry subsidy to a public transportation mode with far more utility and would also add a badly-needed east-west bus route that would serve many more Berkeley residents than those lucky enough to commute by ferry. 

Paul Kamen 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Gas-powered leafblowers are illegal to use in the city of Berkeley, but you’d never know it. On a typical morning the sparkling air is full of the dust they blow and the chainsaw noise they make with their two-stroke motors. This “green” city seems fine with it. 

Right now a Berkeley citizen who observes leafblower use must write down the time of the use, the address of the physical location where the leafblower was used, and the license plate number of the vehicle of the user, and send this information to the Department of Environmental Health, which claims to contact the user and tell them the policy. After which it keeps happening, and the citizen gives up. 

Leafblower users tend to be through with their job inside of five or 10 minutes, so this can be challenging. But despite the law outlawing their use, almost every landscape maintenance crew in Berkeley uses them and gets away with it, including city crews. 

My experience is that by the time you find a piece of paper the use is over, the vehicle is gone, etc. There’s almost never an officer around when it’s happening, and if you did find one to flag or called one they’d only give them a warning unless you had your sheaf of papers with you proving it had happened before to precisely this guy with this truck. 

If you try speaking to the user, be prepared to hear that they had no idea about the law, that they don’t speak the language, etc. If you move swiftly into the appropriate language to discuss the matter, the shower of profanity that follows will help you spice up your vocabulary of contemporary slang. 

The city of Berkeley could send a letter to all the landscape maintenance services—and their own city workers, who also use them—giving them notice about the law but also giving them notice that the piece of paper they were holding serves as their first warning. 

Without the first warning policy, which the police don’t use anyway, residents of the city would have a prayer of enforcement, because until it costs leafblower users real money to ruin our respiratory function and our peaceful enjoyment of an afternoon, they’ll keep using them. 

For some people its simply an annoyance. But for others with tenuous respiratory function, it is life or death. 

Carol Denney 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Some points about the BRT commentary by UC professor of environmental planning Matt Kondolf: 

1. True, car ownership in Berkeley is more common than in Bogota; yes, might be more effective in Latin America than here. But in Curitiba, Brazil, 28 percent of riders previously traveled by car—i.e. they own a car but choose to ride. This is the attitude we need in Berkeley. 

2. True, what we really need is to get people out of their single-person cars and into mass transit. But Berkeley residents are supposed to be so very concerned about the environment; we just passed a Climate Action Plan. BRT should motivate the car drivers among us to move to transit. This goal is not being motivated by any other current transit project—we need BRT. 

3. BRT does not duplicate BART. Just ask yourself whether you can get to, say, Telegraph and Alcatraz on BART. It would be just as nonsensical to say that AC Transit bus 51 duplicates BART because it has stops near five BART stations. The 51 goes places that aren’t close to a BART station; so does BRT. No riders will be poached from BART; plenty of riders will board from BART at MacArthur. 

4. BRT will definitely reduce greenhouse gas emissions because those 60 or more people aboard a big articulated bus are no longer driving alone in a car for all their trips. 

5. Don’t ridicule the polar bear; think of him like the miner’s canary. 

6. Yes, grade separation at intersections would make our BRT design much better, but we’re having enough of a hassle making sure we have the bus-only lanes. We have to start somewhere. 

Bottom line: BRT will not create worse traffic problems on Telegraph if a substantial number of the people now causing the traffic in their cars, switch to BRT. This is the really important question. 

Steve Geller 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was shocked and dismayed to discover that our city fathers and mothers—let’s just call them our “parents”—have voted to allow downtown establishments to continue their revelry well into the night, thereby infringing upon the ability of our city’s hill dwellers to enjoy the peace and quiet that is their right under God and the constitution. It is indeed “unconscionable”—a word our more elevated citizens love to fling over the ramparts of reasoned debate in our fair city—that the council should fail to submit to the hysterical self-interest of the privileged residents who inhabit our hillsides, and once again pander to a few special interests—everyone but them—who wish to make our downtown a place that people actually want to hang out in. Unconscionable indeed. 

It saddens me how no one in this town seems to appreciate the plight of those who live in the hills. Does anyone understand how hard it is to be constantly on the lookout for neighbors who want to build additions that get in the way of their bridge views? Does anyone know what it’s like to have to always worry about leaves choking the gutters or deer eating the petunias? And now this? Now they must submit to the faint echoes of laughter, random saxophone trills and the clink of beer steins wafting up the hill? It’s an outrage, another example of the vox populi horning in on their ability to enjoy the benefits of not living in the flatlands—gunshots and police sirens drive the dogs to distraction—in peace and quiet. 

This persecution of the privileged is not a new thing. Why, just a few years ago I met a man at an AC transit meeting who had gone to protest a plan to run a bus up his tree-lined lane (imagine!), and when he got up to testify to the hardship this would pose—he liked to park his BMW on the street, and it was narrow, you see, and then the noise—how is one to listen to Wagner when the damn bus is pulling up the hill?—he had the feeling that the grandmothers in the audience, who had come to the meeting to protest cuts in services that were going to make it impossible for them to get to their jobs, wanted to kill him, or at the very least emasculate him. They would have thrown tomatoes at him, if they had thought to bring tomatoes, but being without vegetables, they just glared. The poor man was near tears. 

No, it’s time the hill people took back the night. This unconscionable travesty of justice must be met with fierce resistance. I do submit to you, my downtrodden hill brethren, that it is your solemn duty to protest the relaxation of these noise restrictions by staying home. Every night. Leave the reveling to them what knows how. 

George Rose 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Power concedes nothing. Demonstrations did not influence the czar of Russia or Louis of France. 

It seems to me that the appointed regents view the university as a business in which students and scholars are liabilities because they generate no profit. We need the opportunity to elect directors who value the expansion of the human mind and spirit and regard the advancement of knowledge as the primary goal of any educational institution. The original goal of this university was the free education of anyone who could benefit from it. The state of California was understood to be enriched by an educated population. 

Democratize the Regents! 

Ruth Bird 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The word on the street, in the gutters, is that the UC Board of Rejects—really Stanford Reprivatean archetypes—bribed the football team into throwing the Big Game. The reasoning? The dejected student-athlete-pit ghouls could then be used to control campus insurrection. You read it here first. 

Arnie Passman  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Berkeley High School Orchestra and Band successfully passed the audition for the Los Angeles International Music Festival to be held in June 2010.  

This achievement reflects a great deal of hard work by these young musicians, under the excellent direction of Ms. Karen Wells. 

Festival activities include a group workshop, interactions with other musicians from around the world, and culminate in a performance at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Symphony. 

The students now need to raise funds quickly to ensure that all of them can actually travel. A benefit concert and silent auction are planned for Thursday, Dec. 10, at 6:30 p.m. at the Berkeley High School Auditorium 

Donors to the silent auction (tax deductible) are welcome to email Bonnie Borucki at 

We thank all generous donors and silent auction shoppers for your assistance, and look forward to seeing you at the benefit concert at BHS on Dec. 10! 

Casilda Rubio 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The sit-in protest at UC Santa Cruz is over, there is some costly damage to attend to, some students will be held responsible and nothing has changed. Perhaps the process was flawed. 

OK, students in the UC system are among the best and brightest, some grad students, quite possibly tomorrow’s leaders. I had neither the grades nor the money to go to UC, so I settled for a Cal State education, so I assume these students have more going for them than I had. 

Given all that, what was the plan, the goal of this time- and money-consuming venture? Can any of them point to a person at UCSC who is responsible for the fee increase? I suspect that most of the university staff is sympathetic with their cause and plight. After all, if students can’t afford to attend, the university will need fewer instructors, fewer support staff, etc. 

Rather than dramatic but ineffectual gestures, perhaps these already organized, bright students can use the momentum they’ve built up for some meaningful changes, even though it would require more effort than sitting in a UC building, singing old John Lennon songs. 

These students should address the primary problem first, our state in financial disarray. The system of governance needs repair, and it doesn’t seem to be happening in Sacramento. Organized, energetic, educated young people might be able to start to steer our massive political ship in a better direction. 

Then, on a different level, they should take a hard look at the UC system. Like almost organizations these days, both public and private, I’d bet that UC is top heavy. Administrative costs almost everywhere have gone up faster than revenues. 

This is a systemic problem, and while the voters can’t do much about private industry, our public agencies are ultimately under our control. Students could organize and get some studies done regarding what percent of the budget each public entity actually needs to administer their programs, from local school districts, to UC, to the state government itself. Once this percentage is determined, these passionate students could work to get these limits put on the ballot. 

Sitting and singing is easy; solving complex problems is hard, but real solutions are the only way to avoid a 32-percent fee hike. 

Meade Fischer 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’m writing in response to Maris Arnold’s opinion of Nov. 19. Arnold is protesting the hiring of our new police chief Michael Meehan. Arnold states, “Additionally, any intelligent person who calls marijuana a drug, and especially a police chief to be of our city, is revealing his own ignorance. Arnold should know it’s a mild euphoric that even the APA states is non-addictive. It’s the prohibition of marijuana that’s dangerous. Legalize it and that’s the end of the crime surrounding it.” 

I invite Maris Arnold to meet the many former Berkeley High School students who have dropped out of school after becoming addicted to marijuana. I invite Arnold to visit the park across the street from Berkeley High School and the Berkeley Police Department and the Berkeley Unified School District Headquarters where teenagers cut school and smoke pot on a daily basis, while the city and the school district turn a blind eye. I invite Arnold to talk to the parents of these teenagers who have tried everything—including drug treatment programs—to help their children, only to have them lost to drugs. The drug culture of Berkeley is destroying families and children. Whether one can become technically “addicted” to marijuana or not, it is ruining the lives of many Berkeley teenagers. I fully support our new police chief in his statement, “I don’t want to send a message to kids that drug use is OK.” Even if marijuana was legalized, it wouldn’t be legal for children under 18. Why do we tolerate its daily use by children in downtown Berkeley? 

Lindsay Schachinger 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In recent weeks the Daily Planet has written that the Berkeley Public Health says that Berkeley residents can get H1N1 flu shots at Kaiser in Oakland. That has been far from being true for weeks. I call the Kaiser flu hotline for adults daily to see if they have any H1N1 flu shots available. They don’t, unless of course, you are healthy, between the ages of 18–49, and can get the nasal spray. Being a diabetic means that I can’t get the nasal spray. I don’t know when California will get another batch of H1N1 flu shots for people who need it, not just for healthy people, who may not need it as much. I have nothing against healthy people, but right now, without an H1N1 flu shot, I could get very sick. The state of California seems to be missing the boat on many fronts this year, taking away money from people on fixed incomes, and other sorts of things that aren’t going to change anytime soon. 

If Kaiser does get the seasonal and H1N1 flu shots in stock again, I’ll be right there, waiting. They are out of the regular flu shot too. Luckily I got my flu shot as early as possible. For those who want to call Kaiser’s hotline for updates on flu vaccines for adults The number is 1-800-573-5811. 

Anita Fiessi 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

By now it’s commonly accepted wisdom that lobbyists who represent wealth, i.e., corporate America, donate huge amounts of money to our local, state and national representatives to further their clients in the taking of profit, no matter the consequences. However, what is seldom known is that it’s “de rigeur” that if a donee doesn’t want to go along with the lobbyist’s instructions, donations may be given to the politician’s opponent in an upcoming election! Shades of coercion, and extortion. Given this kind of corporate power, how can we ever expect our reps to truly represent us? There should be a law, to quote an old cliché. 

Robert Blau 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Robert Kanter sites as proof of his assertion regarding the size of Israel’s military. According to the site, Israel is ranked first in “weapons holding” per capita. He fails to mention that number two on the list is that global powerhouse, Dominica, an island in the Caribbean. Number three is mighty Cyprus. Rather than bore the Planet readers while I attempt to educate Mr. Kanter on the definition of “per capita” in terms of statistics and rankings, I’d like to suggest that he take this little debate away from the pages of the Daily Planet, and perhaps meet me for coffee. I’ll guess he knows where to find me. 

Israel is not powerless, and no one asserts that she is. But the conflict in the Middle East is not simply Israel vs. the Palestinians. This is a regional problem. Earlier this month, a ship smuggling tons of weaponry en route from Iran to Syria was intercepted just 100 miles off of Israel’s coast. The ship carried 50 tons of advanced weaponry and missiles, including Katyusha rockets, assault rifles, mortar shells, grenades and anti-aircraft platforms. It was to be delivered to the terrorist group, Hezbollah. In 2002, the Karin A terror ship was stopped attempting to smuggle tons of Iranian weapons into Gaza. This is a regional problem, Mr. Kanter, and one exacerbated by Iranian sponsorship of Hamas and Hezbollah terror. 

Let’s leave the Planet for discussion of local issues, Mr. Kanter. With fees at Cal rising 32 percent, with unemployment high and local businesses struggling, let’s leave the pages of the Planet available for discussion of what matters most to Berkeley residents. Meet me for coffee, Mr. Kanter, and I’ll be happy to explain “per capita” to you. 

Faith Meltzer 

El Cerrito 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The health care debacle reminds me of my favorite book, Alice in Wonderland. I love the book, but not the hatters and hares in Washington, D.C., who tell us we are getting “reform” when all we are getting is another dirty plate left behind by the insurance companies and their lobbyists! Our representatives seem to be nothing but a pack of cards. I am in favor of Medicare for all, or nothing! 

L. D. Pratt 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On national television Nov. 9, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pleaded with the government of Iran to show compassion for the three young U.S. citizens who may be facing charges of espionage.  

It is ironic that the very same secretary of state has turned a deaf ear on the international cry for compassion for the wives of two Cuban men serving long sentences in U.S. prisons. Gerardo Hernandez and Rene Gonzalez were convicted of conspiracy and other related charges for monitoring the activity of known anti-Cuba terrorists in Miami. They did this to protect lives in Cuba and are heroes in their country. Since 1998 Adriana Perez and Olga Salanueva, wives of these men, have been denied the basic human right to visit their husbands in U.S. prisons. Thousands of postcards, petitions and letters from Nobel Prize winners, members of Parliaments from all over the world, U.S. unions, intellectuals, local elected officials, etc., have flooded the office of Hillary Clinton asking her for compassion and to grant humanitarian visas to these two Cuban women. While calling for compassion in Iran she should remember that humanitarian gestures go both ways.  

Alicia Jrapko  





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I remember a recent President of ours saying, “the terrorists hate us because of our freedoms.” Our freedoms to do what? Legally hate a certain segment of humanity just because they love and care for someone of the same gender? 

Fifty-eight percent of our states have laws allowing the firing of otherwise competent and qualified employees because they are lesbian, gay or bisexual. Transgender people suffer the same hate and punishment from 75 percent of our states. 

“They” hate our freedoms? My rear end. Only when we pass a federal law protecting our fellow LGBT Americans from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, then we might barely be able to talk about “freedoms.” 

We’ve got to grow up. My family has two gay members, we don’t discriminate against them because they’re not only our blood but human! It’s who they are, not who they choose to be, and that’s why we don’t ostracize or marginalize them. We shouldn’t do it to our fellow humans either. 

Please support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (HR 3017) to make it illegal to fire, refuse to hire, or refuse to promote employees based on their sexual orientation or gender equality. 

We’re not asking for special treatment, we’re asking for equal protection. Please, help our country be a little more free, or else the terrorists have won. 

Rick Pickett 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Isn’t it time to talk about religious discrimination in reported news stories? All this talk about “Fort Hood Muslim killer, Major Nidal Malik Hasan.” 

What about the religion of Jason Rodriguez, the killer in Orlando? Shouldn’t we refer to him as “Catholic killer Jason Rodriguez”? Or to Scott Roeder as “Christian fundamentalist Scott Roeder, killer of George Tiller, MD”? 

Alexandra Andrews 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

An old woman presenting herself so candidly is to be admired. 

Sheila Goldmacher’s report does not appear to be “a fictitious narrative.” And yet, she or, more likely, the editors, captioned it “Another Sad Tale.” Why not, “Another old woman victim?” 

Three factors potentially surround her experience of elder abuse: age, race and sex. Plus, of course the perpetrator’s confidence that there would be no retribution. Unfortunately, Goldmacher apparently was aware that reference to her/his/their race would be unacceptable. 

Helen Rippier Wheeler