Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Thursday January 21, 2010 - 09:26:00 AM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was confused by Zelda Bronstein’s commentary entitled “Save The Alameda” online today. I drive on Marin Avenue nearly daily and like pretty much everyone I’ve ever heard, think it’s much nicer for motorists now. Making a left turn onto Marin is much easier than before; you only have to clear one oncoming lane, and you’ve got a clear lane in the center to pause in if necessary.  

I suspect pedestrians are happier with it now too. I know I am better able to see them when they’re at in the crosswalks or waiting to cross because there are fewer lanes of cars blocking the view of them.  

So I can’t understand why Ms. Bronstein’s not in favor of a similar reconfiguration of The Alameda. I think it would be a great idea! 

Bob Muzzy 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

When I hear Berkeley’s motorheads oppose the plan to restripe The Alameda to make it safer for residents, I can only think one thing. If they lived on a four-lane street with high-speed traffic, if they had young children who walked around the neighborhood, if they had to worry about whether those children would get home safely, they would be shouting their heads off demanding that the city restripe the street to two lanes to make their neighborhood safer. 

I think we have a new definition of NIMBY: someone who believes 1) on the residential street where I live, the city should do everything possible to control traffic and protect residents’ safety, and 2) on the residential streets where I drive, the city should do nothing to control traffic and protect residents’ safety. 

Charles Siegel 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you for Paul Gackle’s comprehensive coverage of the upcoming decisions regarding Albany’s waterfront. I am one of the many who want to preserve what remains of our beautiful Bay shoreline. Walking “the Bulb” and playing with our dogs on the beach by the racetrack parking lot are key reasons that make living here so special.  

Carol Bledsoe 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Why does commentator Leon Mayeri (“Free Speech vs. Hate Speech,” Jan. 7, 2010) think that the mere mention of Zionist contacts and connections with Nazis is “hate speech” rather than “free speech”? As a Jewish college student, I learned about such historical facts in the 1970s from articles in the U.S. media. Why hasn’t Mr. Mayeri learned about them, too? 

The Israeli press and citizenry certainly have discussed contacts between Nazi Germany and Avraham Stern and his “Stern Gang” (or “Lehi”). There have been books and articles written about those and other contacts. Letter writers to the Daily Planet have not made up these historical facts. The facts are real. Reading the Wikipedia summary about the Lehi group is a good start for those who want to see some of the published sources. 

The reasons why Stern wanted to seek any sort of agreement or alliance with the Nazis may never be completely understood. Did Stern want only to manipulate the Nazis for his own Zionist, anti-British ends? Or was there something even more sinister behind his attempts?  

Whatever the real history, covering it up or—even worse—trying to censor it completely is not “free speech” at all. 

Marc Herman 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding Pope Pius XII’s canonization: The Jewish neighborhood of Trastevere is within a stone’s throw of Vatican City. Over 1,000 Jews were deported from there to Auschwitz, right under Pope Pius XII’s nose. Only 16 came back. What do you think Jesus would have done if he had lived next door? Pope Benedict claims that the Vatican worked quietly to save Jews from the Nazis during World II. But the Vatican has refused to open its secret archives relating to Pius’s papacy, which would allow scholars to clarify this controversial period in Church history and Pius’s position during the Holocaust. Reportedly, these materials will not be released for another five or six years, well after Pius’s likely canonization. And it is my understanding there is no recall procedure for a Roman Catholic saints. No wonder the Jewish community and many non-Jews are angry. 

Ralph E. Stone 

San Francisco 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I would like to respond to the Jan. 7 issue of the Planet, where it is stated that the Berkeley Housing Authority will sell off public housing stock, so developers can buy the housing units.  

This is both cruel and absurd because they are taking Section 8 housing away from poor and needy people. To privatize Berkeley’s public housing makes no sense at all, as the Section 8 people would have to move out.  

  Tia Ingram, Director of BHA, claims there is a need to provide quality funding for private housing. Many of us know, including former mayor Shirley Dean, how some so-called nonprofit developers have cooked their books. To give an example, Jubilee Restoration, is said to have been praising the Lord and passing the bucks. What they did is in the public record. They even got city money while they were investigated by the feds. 

  There are other housing directors who know the truth about the fraud in the BHA and some of them are too fearful to go tell it on the mountain. I know from past experience that I was threatened, assaulted, robbed and almost killed in Section 8 units for holding Crimewatch meetings.  

  There are many people who want to speak out, but are afraid to do so. Some who spoke out were killed. But, it is not clear-cut, as some of the tenants in these buildings engage in drug dealing and violence. These buildings possibly are being privatized in an effort to reduce crime, but I feel for the innocent Section 8 recipients who do not participate in these activities. In my building these kinds of activities were going on, until I called the drug task force, as well as my neighborhood association. The rest of the story is a very long story that I want to tell on National Public Radio, as it involved my physical and emotional health. 

Diane Villanueva 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It’s absolutely absurd that Murkowski and her lobbyists from Big Energy are pressuring to destroy the clean air act and any authority that the EPA has. As a Berkeley resident, I’ve seen the damage of pollution from fossil fuels and breath it everyday. I want clean air and clean water for myself, my neighbors, my family, and my children. We need to remove ourselves from fossil fuels and into the health and beauty of renewable energy. I want our Senators to oppose the efforts of Murkowski to undermine the Clean Air Act. 

Charles Humes 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As one of two people on Berkeley High’s School Governance Council who voted against supporting the proposal to defund the 0 and 7 period science labs, I was interviewed and quoted in the Planet.  

Lesson learned. I will never again try to make a nuanced argument to a reporter with three imminent deadlines. 

Untangling the resulting mash-up, first, it would be hardly be “insane” for the SGC to evaluate whether our kids are well-served by the extra science instructional time. If we’re going to figure out how to successfully educate every child, we need an atmosphere in which people can feel safe questioning existing patterns and practices so we can figure out which ones work and which don’t. However, no such evaluation was done. The SGC did not request a presentation by the science teachers on the strengths and weaknesses of the existing program or on the logistics of moving lab into the regular school day.  

Second, “we don’t have to fly blind” in this decision because one of BHS’s small schools, SSJE, is already teaching science without the extra lab time. We should have asked our science teachers to report to us on whether there’s any statistically significant difference in how the SSJE kids master the information versus cohorts of comparably able students who have the extra class period each week.  

Third, the AP science program is currently delivering the following pass rates relative to the national average: 

AP Biology BHS pass rate 90% national average pass rate 50% 

AP Chemistry BHS pass rate 82% national average pass rate 56.1 %  

AP Physics BHS pass rate 96% national average pass rate 61% 

It takes less than 2 FTE’s, or two teachers’ worth, to provide the extra lab time that makes these results possible. Further, the extra time allows the teachers to support kids through the material rather than just rush everything, which is why BHS kids can take AP sciences without first taking the high school level course. With those results, on so little funding, at a time when Academic Choice is working to increase the participation in AP’s by students of color so more kids can benefit from exposure to challenging curriculum, I just can’t see the logic to cutting that time. We should be celebrating these results and figuring out how to encourage more kids to embrace the extra work and benefit from the challenge of these courses.  

Margit Roos-Collins 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Each state’s two Senators fight for their states. Good: that’s their job. But when a Senator pursues a self-serving (and lucrative) campaign to deprive her state’s citizens, as well as all Americans and neighboring Canada and indeed the globe now of her own Sovernment’s power to protect the very air that we breathe and the water that we drink, her obvious disregard for science and humanity, rather than her rabidly perceived need to fill her campaign war chest (if not her pockets...) must be seen for what it is and it must be stopped. 

I’ll drag out an old evergreen... it didn’t work so well the first 30 years or so I tries it, but as I survive into 4 and 5 decades post-event, it seems to be gaining traction: I spent a year in the fetid Mekong Delta in the Tet Offensive of 1968, proudly serving with a ‘draft’ military commanded by career professionals. Upon returning in 1969, I saw the beginnings of anti-litter campaigns, sad Native Americans with tears in their eyes, “Don’t Be A Litterbug” rollouts, etc.: America was cleaning itself up. Pittsburghers could breathe fresh air again and see the blue sky above the Monongahela once again. San Francisco Bay started to be cleaned up and restored, same w/Chesapeake Bay. Earth Day was born. Natural Foods Stores blossomed (including my own in DC, starting in 1972). The ‘lonely blue planet’ photographed from the moon in 1969 and later showed just how precious our ‘pearl in the dark void’ really is: this is it, there’s only one of us. 

The evergreen: I’ll be damned if I fought a year in the Hell of war facing death, heat prostration, snakes and bugs to face lunacy now, in the form of a greedy, anti-science, anti-environment, corporatist Senator, more than 40 years later. 

Senator Murkowski represents a throwback to the bad-old days of non-stop smoke-belching industry, “unfettered” by rational regulation. Well, we saw how that works out for Wall Street vs. Main Street. If the Fed Gov hadn’t banned lead in car gas decades ago, where do you think we’d be at this point in time: healthier, or more lead-poisoning and lung problems than one can ever imagine? 

On Jan. 20, the Senate was scheduled to vote on an amendment introduced by Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski that would strip the EPA of its ability to limit most carbon pollution. The proposal would effectively block action authorized by the Clean Air Act, mandated by the U.S. Supreme Court and recommended by scientists and public health experts.  

I know where Senators Boxer and Feinstein stand; and having lived in New York, Virginia and Maryland, I know that their present Senators agree—and will vote accordingly—stop Murkowski! We vote, and we’re watching. 

Pat Dwyer 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

California State University (CSU) responded to a 20 percent budget cut in 2009 by making plans to reduce enrollment by 40,000 students. Part of the reduction comes from not admitting any transfers for the current semester. “This year, because (CSU) closed transfer and the UC system hasn’t, I would think there’s every reason in the world why UC has seen an increase in applications,” said Susie Williams, a spokeswoman for the Los Rios Community College District, which includes Sacramento City College. Most Los Rios transfers go to UC Davis, Williams said. 

The new data from UC show that the number of transfer students applying to Davis went up by 26 percent compared with last year. Williams and Frank Wada, executive director of undergraduate admissions at UC Davis, touted the transfer agreement between their institutions, which guarantees that Los Rios students can transfer to UC Davis if they take certain classes and earn at least a 2.8 grade-point average. “We are the UC that’s been offering those agreements for the longest time with our community colleges,” Wada said. Last year, the UC Regents decided to admit 500 more transfer students. “That sends a very welcoming message,” Wilbur said.  

It is also irredemably stupid. Students applying to UC Berkeley for next fall have slightly higher grade-point averages than in the past, with the average among current applicants at 3.85. Applicants’ SAT scores to any of UC’s nine undergraduate campuses were up, too, averaging 1,731 out of a possible 2,400. Scores rose two years in a row at every campus, with Berkeley again attracting the top scorers. They averaged 1,841. Test scores are required only of freshman applicants. 

Richard Thompson 

San Diego 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is very unfair to label as looters the Haitians who remove food from collapsed stores and distribute it to their friends and community. These are desperate starving people in a place where the commercial infrastructure has collapsed, aid is only slowly trickling in and the bags of rice they are finding will be destroyed in the first rain if not protected from the elements. These people are scavengers doing important and dangerous work to feed their struggling community, not pillaging looters. Put yourself in their shoes before you label them. 

Tom Lent 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a graduate student at UC Berkeley focused on developing clean energy solutions for the world (bioenergy, specifically), I am appalled by the proposed amendment to the Clean Air Act. Too little is being done to address the most serious issue of our time—global climate change. The Clean Air Act finally gives the EPA power to limit carbon pollution, which plays a major role in this climate crisis. Senator Lisa Murkowski’s proposed amendment appeals to the demands of lobbyists from energy companies which contribute most to carbon pollution. This amendment would significantly weaken our ability to protect our air, water, and climate for generations to come. 

To those in office—we, the American people, are watching your vote. When the Senate votes on this amendment, make the right choice. Allow the United States to finally reduce our dependence on foreign oil and dirty energy sources and transition to the myriad clean energy solutions for which scientists like myself have dedicated our lives to make a reality. 

Meera Atreya 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have just received a “robo” call from a Washington, DC front group for the Insurance Lobby asking me to call tell my U.S. senator that they should not remove Medicare Advantage. They have it set up that if you want to tell your Senator to support “your rights” they connect you directly to the Senator’s office. 

Of course, this is an affront to our rights and to democracy. It should be illegal for health care dollars to be used to mislead people into supporting more profit for the Insurance industry. As you know Medicare Advantage is one of the big loopholes through which the Insurance giants have been stealing public health care money. I pressed one and left an appropriate message supporting the effort to eliminate Medicare Advantage. You and many others will be receiving these same calls. I think that if we spread the word and tell people to go ahead and press one and go ahead and tell our Senators that we are appalled by the use of tax dollars and health insurance dollars to lobby for higher profits by this technique of misleading “robo” calls and that they should ignore the flood of voicemails that come from the misunderstanding this propaganda is creating we might counteract the process a bit. 

Marc Sapir 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Once a filibuster required you to commit to bringing the machine of government to a halt because an issue was so important that a Senator was willing to stake his or her reputation on it. Now, it’s just obstructionist. What kind of system allows Lieberman and Nelson to control a vote? 

Clyde Leland 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a resident on Monterey Ave. I am dismayed that the city is proposing re-striping the Alameda by my home. It is the one breath of fresh air I look forward to on my occasional drives down MLK. It seems the city council has decided we should all take the bus, walk and bike at all times. I do take the bus daily to work and walk whenever possible—in fact my car sits in the driveway for five days in a row during the week. The idea that somehow this will improve the quality of life here in North Berkeley is dubious at best. If anything it will bring in more traffic and result in more smog and stalled cars at the stop light by my home. 

The Marin Avenue restriping is a perfect example: Basically the restriping has done nothing. I see about four bicycles a year using the bike lanes. A complete waste of time and worse pollution and traffic. 

I bet if you actually asked the citizens in this neighborhood what they would like you would get about 90 percent saying NO! There are enough real problems in Berkeley already, please stop wasting everyone’s time with this proposal and leave well enough alone! 

Dan Gordon 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

If you’re inclined to make a donation to help with earthquake relief in Haiti and haven’t done so yet, may we suggest Partners in Health? It’s the organization that Dr. Paul Farmer founded, and that supports and extends his work. Its website is (You may be familiar with Paul Farmer through Tracy Kidder’s book Mountains beyond Mountains.) 

Partners in Health has a long history of doing effective and principled work in Haiti, in “pragmatic solidarity” with the people there. So it’s in position to quickly get help to where it’s most needed. Its website details its ongoing programs and what it’s doing in the wake of the earthquake—securing medical and other supplies, setting up field hospitals in Port-au-Prince, gearing up for the increased flow of patients to its existing facilities in the countryside, etc. 

PIH’s principles and practices are explored in Kidder’s book and Farmer’s own writing (Pathologies of Power and Infections and Inequalities among others). Among its principles are that everyone has the right to good health and state-of-the-art health care regardless of the ability to pay, and that efforts to provide good medical care must also strengthen communities and address the structural causes of poverty. Its practices are briefly outlined on this web page: 

This is not the sort of e-mail we would ordinarily send out. But the earthquake has created an extraordinary situation and we have become deeply impressed with PIH’s work. Many thanks for considering it. 

Don Larkin and Cissy Freeman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

One of the recognized tactics of propagandists is name-calling. Jerome J. Garcia relies on this technique in his Letter to the Editor titled “Berkeley Ferry” (Planet, Jan. 14) claiming “…only people with NIMBY attitudes do not want this public project to happen.” 

  Garcia’s position appears to be based primarily on nostalgia and is short on facts. He trashes environmental concerns about the ferry project as making no sense, citing vague historical generalities—as though it is not germane to question practices that are neither environmentally nor economically appropriate.   

  Fact-based critiques of WETA’s ferry proposal have been published by a cross-section of concerned citizens. Paul Kamen, a local marine architect and member of Berkeley’s Waterfront Commission, has calculated that WETA’s “cleanest diesel ferries in the world” with their projected ridership will have a larger carbon footprint and burn more fuel per passenger mile than a single-passenger SUV (public communication). Brad Smith, a former Waterfront Commissioner, has documented (Planet, Nov. 25, 2009) the excessive public subsidy that this project will saddle California taxpayers with. Roy Nakadegawa, traffic engineer and former BART Director, stated (Planet, April 20, 2007) that: “Overall, from public cost, usability and benefits, we will be better off improving our bus service than funding a new ferry.” I have documented (Planet, Oct. 22, 2009) that WETA’s projected Berkeley ridership could be accommodated simply by running five additional BART cars (not trains) per day. 

  In conclusion, just as there are obviously projects that should not be built in back yards, there are projects that should not be built in Berkeley’s Marina Park. The negative environmental and economic impacts of this proposal have been well documented in this and other forums—again, based on facts rather than nostalgia.  

  Mr. Garcia, substantiating the problems inherent with this project does not make one a NIMBY. 

David Fielder 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The current “health care reform” bill shows exactly why America is in such serious trouble: our so-called leaders are working full-time for corporate profiteers against the interests of American citizens. 

Glen Kohler