Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Thursday January 28, 2010 - 08:36:00 AM


Laurie Bright 

I was profoundly saddened to learn earlier this week of the passing of Laurie Bright. 

Laurie was a longtime West Berkeley resident and business owner as well as a community leader. Laurie loved Berkeley and the character of the community and fought hard to preserve it. He was involved in many of the fights that involved historic preservation and the quality of life of neighborhoods. 

He was also actively involved in the community as a member of a number of city commissions, including serving as chair of the Landmarks Commission and was also the president of the Council of Neighborhood Associations. 

Laurie was someone with steadfast dedication and incredible intelligence. He spoke directly and spoke truth to power. I had the privilege of working with Laurie in a number of capacities including serving with him on the board of the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association and working with him on several campaigns including the successful effort to defeat Measure LL (the mayor’s proposed undermining of the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance) in 2008. 

One of my fondest memories was when Laurie and I worked with a broad coalition of Berkeley residents last summer to successfully referend the City Council’s Downtown Plan. I remember staying up with Laurie and his wife Tamlyn late at night at his house verifying voter registration of petition signers and talking with Laurie about Berkeley politics. Without Laurie’s help we would not have been successful and his advice was absolutely critical. 

Laurie strongly opposed the direction that the mayor and City Council majority are moving the city towards. He felt that the Downtown Plan, the proposed revisions to the West Berkeley zoning and other planning proposals were not being done for the people and would undermine the social, economic and historic fabric of our city. 

I wish that Laurie were still here to continue the fight, but I cannot think of a more fitting tribute to Laurie than to continue his struggle for a livable and just city. I like many other people will really miss Laurie and I am happy to have had the opportunity to know him. My thoughts and prayers go out to Tamlyn and his family at this time. 

Jesse Arreguin 

Berkeley City Councilmember 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

The relationship between the university and the surrounding residential area, like all relationships, is based on trust. The lawsuit filed recently against all of UC Berkeley’s fraternity houses undermines this trust and is not fair to the campus community. 

This is not to say that the concerns of some Berkeley residents over neighborhood disturbances and quality of life are not valid. The problem here is the avenue by which some residents have decided to deal with these concerns. 

By suing all fraternity houses in Berkeley, the South of Campus Neighborhood Association risks compromising the good will and hard work of responsible fraternities who pose no threat to the quality of life of Berkeley residents. 

The current lawsuit is against all of Cal’s fraternity houses, but if the logic behind the lawsuit goes unchallenged, who is to say that similar lawsuits will not be filed against the co-ops—of which I am a resident—against the dormitories, or against student apartments? It’s not fair to fraternity houses, and it wouldn’t be fair to anyone else. 

I encourage students and fair-minded community members to voice their own opposition to this lawsuit and to dialog with concerned residents. 

Issues of community should not be settled in court. 

Ricardo Gomez 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am sorry to see that Raymond Barglow failed to seek a diversity of voices in his article or confirm what some individuals stated. Peggy Scott says the School Site Council should have voted on the redesign plan. What she fails to state is that even if the only people voting on the plan were SSC members, it would have still passed. Only she and another parent voted not to support it, and that would not have changed the outcome. If Evy Kavelar’s statement about bloc voting were true and that many teachers don’t like the small school representation, then why didn’t they vote against supporting the plan? The small school reps did not vote as a bloc for the trimester plan in December. Their opinions are just opinions, not backed-up by facts. 

Linda González 

Co-chair, School Governance Council 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Your Jan. 20 article regarding the change in bus service at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory contained a number of errors. Here are the facts: 

• The 13 career bus drivers at Berkeley Lab have not been laid off. Each bus driver has taken an AFSCME-represented job at the lab with exactly the same pay and benefits as before. 

• Of the 13 jobs, seven are as drivers in various transportation activities, five are custodial and one is in groundskeeping. 

• The lab has not laid off any custodial workers. The five new positions are in addition to the existing jobs in custodial services. 

Our goal has always been to provide safe and more fuel-efficient transportation for our employees, students and guests as well as protect the jobs of our career bus drivers. After exhaustively analyzing all alternatives, we strongly believe that we have struck a fair and responsible balance. 

Paul Alivisatos 

Director, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was “shocked and appalled” by the letter from the directors of the Free Speech Archives. For starters, they put police violence outside Wheeler Hall on the same level with late night petty vandalism at University House. 

The FSM elders write, “We are appalled” at the police violence, then add, we are “shocked and appalled” at the “assault” on University House. Huh? Young people, some hiding their faces, have a grudge against the system and want to “get even” while “show(ing) their anger,” and these former FSM activists cluck their tongues ... Have they forgotten the analysis? To suggest that state violence is in any sense equivalent to minor property damage is so tone deaf that I am glad they represent an archive and not the movement today. 

Somebody should tell them that student activism at UC is in very good hands in 2010. Those who sat-in at Wheeler and their supporters were politically astute and overwhelmingly non-violent. A solid coalition of students, workers, teachers and community supporters stuck to the message for that entire flammable week in December 2009, even after the police beat people with clubs. Our demands remain current: No fee increases, no layoffs, no privatization. 

During the morning of the day the FSM proprietors decry, 50 or so people, students and workers, rallied against the arrests at Wheeler Hall. Some of that group, probably others, marched around during the afternoon. Some remnant of that marching made it to the chancellor’s doorstep. Big deal. We can’t let Schwarzenegger (or the Regents) label students as terrorists. Even though unions do not openly condone property damage, we’ve made house visits part of our strategy, and while the trashing of U-House is kind of extreme, it is on a continuum. 

As for the property damage, it was dramatic and not politically valuable, but the anger is real and we’re talking about young people mostly, out after 11 p.m. on a Friday night, riled up and hell bent on challenging authority. Plus, never rule out provocateurs. Besides, we must not allow anyone to divide the “good” protesters from the “bad,” because soon it will be the “good” unions from the “bad,” then the good faculty from the bad. The FSM taught me this lesson. 

Hank Chapot 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I went to the Berkeley Daily Planet’s benefit event on Sunday and had a wonderful time. The venue was interesting (lots of history), the food was fabulous (lots of veggies and whole grains for us Berkeley types), the music was great (jazz and stuff) and the people were interesting. A good time was had by all—and hopefully money was raised to save the Planet too. 

But the absolute highlight of the entire evening was Becky O’Malley’s amazing whipped-cream-covered birthday cake. That cake was delicious! Where did you get that cake? 

Jane Stillwater 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Undemocratic “instant-runoff” voting is a giant step in the wrong direction. 

Can you imagine the cries of outrage across the country if millions of Republicans and teabaggers had been forced to rank-vote for the Democratic candidate Senator Barack Obama in last November’s presidential election? 

With instant-runoff voting or ranked-choice voting, I will be forced to vote for a candidate that I do not like. In the coming Oakland mayoral election, I will be forced to rank-vote Ms. Jean Quan, whom I considered to be unqualified to become Mayor. Several years ago, in 2005, there was a big dispute about a plan to spray toxic chlorinated hydrocarbon herbicides over vast areas of the Oakland Hills to try to kill off some dreaded “non-native” plants growing there for the dubious notion of “fire prevention.” (note: since all these plants are grown from seed in California, they are California native-born; let’s grant them citizenship, just as we do for human babies born here). Ms. Quan turned out to be a big cheerleader for spraying herbicides all over the hills, willy-nilly. She seems to have no environmental training or consciousness in her background, so I do not want to see her become Mayor of Oakland. With this new ranked-voting system in place, I will have to write-in several other names to avoid giving Ms. Quan a relatively high “ranking.” It is extremely undemocratic to force voters to vote by ranking for candidates that they don’t like. 

The City Council of Oakland, has approved the so-called “instant-runoff” voting method as a way of skipping the traditional primary election in June and supposedly saving taxpayers money. Eliminating primary elections is not a step towards more democracy, it is a step towards less democracy... 

Let us return to holding our traditional primary elections in June. Cutting corners in our election process is a false economy. 

And don’t forget how ranked-voting gave us the convicted criminal Ed Jew, former San Francisco supervisor. His short reign ended with multiple charges of election fraud and other corruption. So, ranked-voting is no panacea for our many civic ills. 

James K. Sayre 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On behalf of Save Berkeley Iceland, I want to thank the Daily Planet for the focus you have given to the community efforts which will lead to the reopening of our historic rink, Berkeley Iceland. We appreciate the actions of everyone leading up to this week’s City Council meeting and we are optimistic about the opportunity the results provide. 

 I do want to clarify SBI’s position on the landmark designation. An article in the Jan. 21, 2010, edition, “Berkeley Iceland Gets Another Chance,” there is a quote from Zack Cowan which could leave the wrong impression:  

“Cowan said correspondence between East Bay Iceland and Save Berkeley Iceland suggested that both sides might support modification of the landmarks designation.”  

We believe and stand by the landmark designation. We believe that any changes in the site need to follow the process in the Berkeley Landmark Preservation Ordinances that apply to Berkeley Iceland. Our support of any modifications or changes will be based on what projects might be proposed for the site when they are brought before the Landmark Preservation Commission (LPC). It is important that the community, through its legal representatives, be given the opportunity to review plans for an important part of the Berkeley cultural landscape. 

Again, thanks to everyone for their support of our goal to return Berkeley Iceland to the community. We look forward to the day when the party will be on the ice. 

Tom Killilea 

Save Berkeley Iceland 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Jan. 22 Chronicle article regarding the state’s single-payer health care bill must have warmed the cockles of the hearts of insurance company executives. The writer and Chronicle editors conflate the Democrats’ confusing public option debate in Washington health reform legislation with single payer—a system proven throughout the world as the best way to provide full access, maintain quality and control costs. The Chronicle must know that the two ideas are in conflict. It’s no secret that for the past year the single-payer grassroots movement has been sharply divided internally and fighting bitterly over whether or not to support the Democrat’s moving target of a half-baked reform that might make things better or might make things worse. Every Congressional option kept the high profits and dominance of the Insurance industry in place. Single payer, on the other hand—Medicare and the Veterans Administration health system being outstanding examples—would eliminate the private insurance companies in one stroke and let doctors, hospitals, patients get on with the business of health care for everyone, unimpeded. Government does not intrude into Medicare as I can testify as a Medicare patient. 

As one of the 17,000 members of Physicians for a National Health Program I must take the San Francisco Chronicle to task for this overt misrepresentation and the failure to expose the real problem of excessive profits which requires denial of care and promotion of suffering that Wallstreet imposes upon us all. If you continue this tactic you simply make any useful changes in this country impossible and doom us to Third World status. Is that what you want? 

Marc Sapir  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

 To whom it may concern at code enforcement: 

Why are all of the newspaper racks disappearing from my neighborhood—north of University on Shattuck? Are there plans to replace them? I hope so, because it has become mighty inconvenient to get a copy of any one of several papers I read regularly. These racks were quite well-used in my neighborhood, regularly emptying themselves of papers; for the dailies, within hours, for the weeklies, two to three days. I never saw them becoming any kind of littering problem and I don’t buy into this idea that they were somehow dangerous. Unless someone with power in political circles sees an informed citizenry as dangerous but that’s just silly; this is Berkeley and we take pride here in traditions about freedom of speech, information and education. Additionally, it looks stupid for a sophisticated urban area to lack newspaper racks that are [temporary] home to a variety of local papers, many free and some not. When I arrive at a city that’s new to me, the first two things I locate are the coffee shop and the papers I’ll read there. I’d like some kind of response to this inquiry. Return of the newspaper racks would suffice. Thank you for your attention to this matter.  

P.S.: I am an able-bodied person who finds the situation I’ve described difficult and mostly annoying during recent stormy weather. I’ll bet it’s worse than annoying for some of the fragile elderly and people with mobility difficulties I see in my neighborhood.  

April Corsiva 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Let me try to help you with this Mr. Herman. It’s a matter of perspective, proportion and distorted perceptions. Avraham Stern, the founder of the tiny, fringe, radical, anti-British organization, called “Lehi” which never had more than 200 members, was a minor player in a large situation. To focus on the minimal contacts by a tiny, fringe group creates the mis-leading impression that contacts with the Nazis were the governmental policy of pre-state Israel. The saying at the time was “we will fight the Nazis as if there were no White Paper and we will fight the British as if there were no Nazis.” Remember at this time the British held tens of thousands of Jews behind barbed wire in camps on Cyprus At the same time, it minimizes in a manner that smacks of amoral, “moral relativism,” the alliance between the Nazis and the then leader of the Arabs of pre-state Israel, the Grand Mufti Haj Al Amin Al-Husseini, later indicted in absentee as a war criminal at Nuremberg. Simply “a half truth can become a whole lie.” That’s why. 

Rfael Moshe 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A while back, I was surprise to read in the Planet that BOCA was promoting the establishment of a charter school in Berkeley. My church is a participant of BOCA and I thought that a plan of such import would be discussed by the church as a whole, or at least one of the committees. 

I checked with our BOCA representative and she had not brought the proposal to Trinity. I believe she may have missed the meetings when the proposal was brought to BOCA. I also checked with other members of our church council and learned that the charter school was never discussed or voted on. 

I therefore want to clear up the misimpression that may have been made by the listing of Trinity United Methodist church on the Dec. 10, 2009 commentary from BOCA outlining their support of the Berkeley charter school plan, soon to be voted on by the school board. 

I have no doubt that my pastor, Rev. Kim Smith, signed the letter. I am not accusing BOCA of fraud. But BOCA should have made sure that the name of the congregation was put by her name as identification. As it appears in the website, the names of the clergy and the names of the congregations are all mixed up together, followed by a brief description of BOCA. 

Furthermore, by stating that BOCA represents all the 10,000 families of the 18 congregations making up BOCA, the misimpression may be being made that all the families are in support of a proposal many of them may not have had a chance to study. 

If the vote were not coming up next week, I would be content to wait until my BOCA representative worked to get a BOCA-wide discussion of the pros and cons of the charter school proposal, hearing from all sides of the matter. But the School Board is voting Feb 3, so I don’t feel I have any more time to wait. 

Carolyn S. Scarr 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I enjoyed your article, “Cell Phones: Hazardous to Your Health” by Raymond Barglow. I did, however, sense a certain amount of waffling on his part. I would encourage all of your readers with Internet access to Google this report: “Cellphones and Brain Tumors—15 Reasons for Concern.” 

The problem with most studies of cell phones and their hazards is that the research is conducted by scientists who work on behalf of the cell phone companies. They deliberately cloud the whole issue with junk science that builds up a straw man just so they can knock him down. Most cell phone manufacturers will tell you (in very small print) that these devices should not be held close to the body, yet it seems that everybody ignores this advice and keeps their “celly” right next to their skin at all times. I would advise everyone to be very cautious with cell phones and keep them off whenever possible. 

Paul Griffin 

El Cerrito 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Many thanks to Arthur Blaustein for revisiting—for the benefit of a new generation and/or new arrivals, and for older residents with short memories—the Jarvis/Gann initiative of 1978, which divided California into two eras: the pre-Prop. 13 era of good schools and other public services and the post-Prop. 13 era—30 years of deterioration. 

Granted, it took Prop. 13 to panic the legislature into offering Prop. 8 to protect aged owners of modest homes from being taxed according to the wildly inflating price of property in California. I begged family and friends, “No on 13, yes on 8!” reciting reasons. In vain. They—liberal and conservative, educated and not—were angry and scared, ripe for big business to saturate the media with pro-Prop. 13 promises of what Blaustein rightly calls “fools’ gold.” 

Later efforts to amend Prop. 13, whose main beneficiary is big business, always failed, while some loopholes have been enlarged and exploited by home-owners who manage to pass a house onto their heirs with a tax rate only a fraction of the house next door. Or to build a new McMansion, preserving only a fence or wall or gate from a delapidated old cottage, then calling it a “remodel” and keeping the pre-Prop. 13 tax rate. Hence, the law has made cheats of some home owners and made bitter divisions among citizens, while impoverishing vital public services like schools. 

The initiative process in California is notoriously easy compared to other states. As Blaustein points out, initiative measures are “typically reflexive, emotional reactions to an issue, poor substitutes for the . . . deliberations that distinguish the legislative process.” 

I wasn’t fooled by Prop. 13, but I have lived to regret giving my signature to some of the other initiative petitions that confront Berkeley citizens, it seems, on every corner, every day. That’s how I learned never to sign an initiative petition unless I know all its provisions in detail and feel strongly enough to personally advocate for this method of bypassing our elected legislative bodies. (As I did about 25 years ago, on a local issue, when an especially obtuse and arrogant Berkeley City Council was screwing my South Berkeley neighborhood.) 

I am especially resistant to the signature-gatherer who says,”You don’t have to agree with all of it. Just sign so we can get it on the ballot; that’s our democratic right.” Well, no. Signatures on an initiative petition are supposed to mean that, despite inaction by a legislative body, these many citizens support, even demand this change, and are using this method of bypassing usual legislative processes to correct the errors of negligent elected representatives. 

Thanks to Blaustein for again urging some long-overdo methods to reverse the process of deterioration started in 1978. The first and foremost: “amend Prop 13 by removing its protections of commercial property while retaining the benefits of homeowners.” We can’t go back to “the good old days,” but we can begin the process of trying to stop our schools and public services from getting worse. 

Dorothy Bryant 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On Saturday, Feb. 6, the City of Berkeley will hold an open house to get ideas and discuss possible ways to provide open space in the downtown. The public meeting called, “Street and Open Space Improvement Plan (SOSIP) is from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 

Did you know a plan for a “Berkeley Town Square” was presented to the City of Berkeley, as early as May 5, 1994, then again in Jan. 2006, and repeatedly thereafter? It was also prepared for presentation to DAPAC and teh Planning Commission, but the city never followed through. The plan provides open space and creates a plaza by closing West Shattuck Avenue, between University Avenue and Center Street. You can view the plan by googling “Berkeley townsquare proposal.” The Berkeley citizen who submitted the plan, Jurgen Aust, is a professional ACIP. 

Everyone who has seen the plan has been very enthused about it—except the city staff and elected officials. During all of the meetings and time spent (money) on the downtown plan, this proposal has not even been exposed to the public for discussion by the planning staff. 

As the city conducts public meetings discussing the downtown and open space, it would be a good time to present the Berkeley Town Square Proposal. This idea would not distract from the discussion on closing Center Street and rerouting the creek (a good idea) in the middle of the proposed plaza—but very costly. On the other hand, the Berkeley Town Square Proposal could be completed at a much smaller cost. 

The plan would make the mess that exists today on the two blocks of west Shattuck a pleasant place for shops, to browse, walk to the Arts district, and eat out at a downtown restaurant. The plan would be so easy to implement and at a low cost—it needs to be considered for adoption by the city.  

Dean Metzger 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

For the last l8 months, Albany residents have been engaged in a process to develop a shared vision for the city’s waterfront, which has come to be called “Voices to Vision.” 

I appreciate the Daily Planet’s recent coverage of this unique effort (”Albany Hopes Community Input Will Resolve Waterfront Debate, Jan. 14), as well as the opportunity to share a few of its positive early outcomes.  

Since May 2008, more than 1,100 unduplicated Albany residents have participated in “Voices to Vision.” They have shared their perspectives in a variety of ways – through facilitated and informed dialogue that took place in specially-designed, small group sessions held during the spring of 2009, and, more recently, on Jan. 9-10, and via an online survey.  

Not only did a significant number of people turn out to discuss their concerns, hopes, and ideas—they did so with a spirit of open-minded collaboration. Whether they were long-time neighbors or strangers, residents participated in “Voices to Vision” based on a shared interest in the future of the waterfront. And, though the long history of this issue has been characterized by divergent points of view, Albany residents demonstrated that they are united in their resolve to come together to discuss and address a significant community issue.  

I’m confident that, as a result of “Voices to Vision,” the city will soon have a coherent vision and set of guidelines for Albany’s waterfront. And I’m not alone in this perspective; in evaluations of the recent community meetings, 90 percent of respondents said they expected, or were hopeful, for such an outcome.  

I encourage anyone with interest in the process to visit the “Voices to Vision” website at www.voices and to look out for the final report to be released in the coming months.  

Joanne Wile 

Mayor, City of Albany 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The City Council meeting of Jan.19 gave proof to what many people in Berkeley have long suspected. Our mayor and city council have completely forgotten that they are servants of the people and responsible to them for their actions. To label legitimate questions by one of their own and by members of the community as a “witch hunt” and “McCarthyism” for inquiring why a decision was made behind closed doors with a wink and a nod between Loni Hancock’s staff and the mayor’s staff and completely by-passing any public input on a controversial issue of public safety and potential danger to thousands of lives smacks of a “doth protest too much” stance. By any measure SB113, which exempts construction of the UC stadium from the requirements of the Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Safety Act, is in the interest of no one but the self-serving. Does anyone doubt it is time to clean house? 

Joan V. Barnett 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

First, the City Council should consider a scaled back version of the task force’s “Preferred Alternative” that builds the three main pool types—outdoor lap/competitive, indoor instructional/ 

rec, and warm pool—at three sites at a cost of around $25 million. Berkeley can live without a second outdoor public pool in Berkeley as originally proposed. 

Second, the city should review all options for the warm pool including building a smaller pool, partnering with the Downtown YMCA to invest in a new warm pool facility, and actually negotiating with BUSD concerning its location.  

Third, and last, the city should hold off on any bond measure until the economy and mood of the voters improve. The worst mistake would be to rush forward an eviscerated pools plan that might past muster with voters in June but seriously short-change aquatics users for generations to come.  

The recently floated “Baseline Proposal” represents one such folly: It proposing building a brand new Warm Pool and simply rehabbing the existing outdoor pools for roughly $20 million. This proposal turns common sense and sustainability on its head by earmarking roughly 50 perceent of capital and operating costs towards the warm pool that is more expensive and environmentally unfriendly to operate and serves only a small fraction of the population.  

A few years ago voters approved a bond for $3.5 million to build a new Warm Pool. This new proposal allocates roughly $10 million for the same purpose—an increase of nearly 300 percent. In these difficult economic times, such an inflation of costs and deflation of services seems unfair, unwarranted, and illogical.  

In classic demagogical fashion, proponents of the “Baseline Proposal” are positioning its $20 million price tag as more appealing and palatable than the more ambitious $30 million “Preferred Alternative” or even a scaled back $25 million alternative. But don’t be fooled. Future generations of swimmers and citizens will thank us for investing—at the right time in the right manner—in this vital community asset. Let’s not sell them short by substituting short-term political expediency for long-term sustainable investment. 

Build three pools for Berkeley; it’s as easy as 1–2–3. 

Charles Banks-Altekruse 

Former Pools Task Force Member 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Every year I look forward (as a spectator) to the “How Berkeley Can You Be” celebration, but was a bit saddened about the cancellation of last year’s festival. 

An idea: I say that we take it a step further, to the annual “How Berkeley Can You STAND It” parade.  

I’d put it together, but have no organizational skills.  

Of course, I’m out of meds, and we’ll see how this great idea sounds after my treatment. 

Ove Ofteness 




Mix Alzheimers 

and world rhymers 

and nickel-and-dimers 

with old-timer 


and good old 

Permanente Medical Group 


and you get hopes 

and even healings 

and revealings 


of more life ahead 

than you might 

have worried over 

on-and-off in bed. 


And each day 

seems to say: 

Yesterday, today 

and tomorrow: 

All know the way 

—in time. 


—Bill Trampleasure