Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Thursday February 04, 2010 - 08:46:00 AM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was happy to see the article regarding the UC Printing Press building at Center and Oxford streets. I spent 25 years of my life in that building, and when the plant moved to its new location I was hopeful the building itself would remain intact for whatever purpose the university determined.  

I was saddened to think that the Ito monstrosity would have replaced what is history itself, so in that I can see a silver lining in this bad economy. Ink that has been used to inform the university community about events and information needed and useful to staff, students and administration is permeated in the grain of the floor in the wood blocks in the main part of the building. Hundreds of employees toiled daily to produce top quality, award winning printing, from the letterpress days of the UN Charter to the high-speed, high-quality, multi-color presses. We bled from cuts we received, a few lost tips of fingers from the old time machines without the safety guards, and there were some who even found love on the shop floor.  

So with my familiarity of every nook and cranny of that building, from the top of the elevator shaft on the front end to the sump pump in the basement in the rear, I am gladdened to know that one day I might return to it and see not only what’s commonly known as a “museum,” but to see it as I know it, a monumental building where I and many others toiled, sweated, strained and reveled in the printed piece we brought to the university system. 

Ben Raineri 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

I wish to second the motion of Dean Metzger in the Jan. 28 Daily Planet. Eternal vigilance is the price of preventing a Manhattanization cabal from changing forever the character of our town. Last August, Berkeleyans signed a petition in sufficient thousands that we deflected a developers-politicians’ scheme calling for downtown skyscrapers as much as 22 stories high. Now it is necessary for us once again to let the Manhattanizers know we feel strongly about the nature of Berkeley, its livability, and its future. On Sat., Feb. 6, starting at l0:30 a.m., there will be an open forum at the North Berkeley Senior Center, Hearst Avenue and MLK, to discuss a “Street and Open Space Improvement Plan” for the downtown area. The “Manhattan Project” cabalists are keeping a low profile for the moment; Saturday’s agenda apparently contains no mention of skyscrapers, luxury apartments, or the big boxes favored by UCB in its march to the bay. But, obviously, any decisions on streets, sidewalks, parks, watersheds, bike lanes, and the like, will powerfully affect the high-risers’ ambitions—either constraining Manhattanization or opening the door to it. 

I suggest that those who signed the petition last summer should try to attend Saturday’s gathering, and that they should prepare themselves by downloading and studying a Berkeley Town Square Proposal, which is readily available on the Internet. 

Henry Anderson 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

I was appalled to read Andrea Pritchett’s Commentary, in the Jan. 21 Planet, of the Jan. 14 arrest of an African American man on Telegraph Avenue who was hooded despite the fact that his legs were restrained in a wrap device and his arms bound behind him. I received my entire education in Berkeley since kindergarten, and learned you are innocent until proven guilty. Isn’t that why we have a right to a trial by our peers? Why was an innocent man hooded, to say nothing of the other restraints? Also, are five police units necessary to arrest one man?  

A friend and I observed the arrest on June 25, 2007, around 9:30 p.m. of an alleged shoplifter at the University Avenue Andronico’s. The suspect, who had not yet left the store, was a slight African-American woman. Four police cars, two police vans and a fire engine arrived. Of the six police present, three at once were “subduing” this slight woman. Why was this woman being arrested before she left the store? Why are our tax dollars being wasted on over-response by the police and fire department? It appears the departments are either overstaffed or the staff improperly coordinated.  

If our government carries out targeted assassinations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, etc., is it possible it could happen here, with injured observers considered collateral damage? (Remember New Year’s early morning, January 1, 2009, at the Fruitvale BART?)  

What have we come, to with secret police review commission hearings whose findings are confidential?  

Gene Bernardi 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The article headlined “City Might Close Willard Pool” states that “the only way the pool can be saved is if Berkeley voters approve a $19 million pools ballot measure in June.” This amount includes “building a new warm water pool to replace the one in the Berkeley High School gym.” The article continues that “The Berkeley Unified School District plans to tear down the seismically unsafe Old Gym and replace it with classrooms in June 2011.” 

It should be pointed out that the BUSD did not investigate the feasibility of seismically upgrading the Old Gym and creating the needed classrooms within the landmarked gymnasium building. Such adaptive reuse was the subject of a design workshop including 22 volunteers, most of whom were architects, engineers and landscape architects. 

As a member of that workshop, I recognized that a unified plan needed to be developed. Incorporating many ideas generated by the workshop, I have made a plan showing that everything the BUSD is proposing to build new could comfortably be accommodated within the existing building. The warm water pool, which was recently upgraded by the city, would be retained. A bond issue of $3.5 million, specifically for the warm water pool, was approved by Berkeley voters a few years ago. This amount should be sufficient to improve locker facilities and other upgrades at the existing pool. This contrasts dramatically with the estimated $10 million for building a new warm water pool, over half the $19 million “Baseline Proposal” for all the pools, as was pointed out by former Pools Task Force member, Charles Banks-Altekruse in his recent Daily Planet letter. 

In a city professing to be green, it should be acknowledged that demolishing buildings is enormously wasteful of energy and natural resources. Even if new buildings incorporate every energy-saving strategy, recent studies have shown that it would take an average of over 50 years to recoup the energy wasted by demolition, disposal of waste and new construction. 

It is time for the BUSD to revisit the decision to demolish the Berkeley High School Old Gymnasium and its warm water pool. 

Henrik Bull 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A recent letter writer apparently did not like the results of a poll taken in early January among likely voters in a June 2010 ballot measure on our public pools. Key results were clear: First, that even in these tough economic times, a remarkable majority supports the building of a new warm pool to replace the one that will be torn down at Berkeley High School in 2011. Second, some 63 to 67 percent are willing to spend $19 million for both the replacement warm pool and preservation of our aging outdoor pools. (Support was far lower for higher figures.) Third, those polled placed a high value on teaching all our children to swim. 

The Planet letter writer suggested that delaying the election is a realistic option—which for warm pool users it simply is not. Without a successful ballot measure, they will have nothing after July 2011, and for many of these people the pool is an absolute lifeline. Nor is delay feasible for swimmers at Willard is delay feasible for swimmers at Willard Pool, which is scheduled for permanent closure in July 2010 if a ballot measure is not passed this June. 

Further, the writer said that a suitable warm pool could be smaller than the current one is. This ignores the many uses to which the pool is already put—often at the same time—including aquatics programs for special needs children, senior/disabled use, the parent-tot program, various classes, and lap swimming. (A pool that is too small also rules out lap swimming because of wave action.) 

Equally important: a warm pool at 92 degrees is an ideal temperature for teaching young children to swim. This could be lucrative for the city, and with different and expanded hours—possible at the new location because it is not shared with the high school—this pool could also serve recreational needs much of the year as well. 

Finally, this past fall I sat in on classes at Willard Pool, where swimming was taught—I believe two days a week for a month—as part of the P.E. curriculum. It included children who had never learned and might otherwise never have. Ideally, the program would have lasted longer, but it was a step in the right direction. Clearly it was no accident that outdoor pools were put at middle schools. 

At this writing, the exact shape of the June bond issue is not clear. But the limit to be spent is. As I write, city staff, pools campaign advocates, and some councilmembers are working hard to come up with a viable ballot measure that will respect voter sentiments during tough economic times, yet bring home a win—for swimmers, warm pool users, our youth and our whole city. 

When they do, I hope we’ll all work together to get it passed. 

Donna Mickleson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Berkeley City Club was abuzz with activity last Sunday afternoon, celebrating Julia Morgan and the 80th year anniversary of the building. On Jan. 31, the Landmark Heritage Foundation hosted a reading of a new work in progress, a play about Julia Morgan, Arches, Balance and Light, by Mary Spletter. The play, ably directed by John Wilk and performed by five talented actors, was not intended to be a documentary, but rather a personal interpretation and fantasy of what happened during Morgan’s years in Paris, 1898-1902, and her struggle to gain entrance into the Ecole des Beaux Arts. The play was followed with a period of feedback from the audience. Watching Arches, Balance and Light in the lovely Venetian Room, one could gaze out the leaded glass windows into the interior courtyard. What better setting for a play about this tiny architect and her great masterpiece, “The Little Castle?” 

Over the 79 years of faithful service one of the majestic front doors had begun to sag, and it was decided that repairs were badly needed. So Arthur Horn, a local metal and wood specialist, was charged with the responsibility for this formidable task. In late December, with the use of a crane to lift and reset the door and with three helpers, the delicate job was completed. As Mary Breunig, from the Landmark Heritage Foundation, stated, “These entrance doors are the centerpiece of Julia Morgan’s ‘Little Castle.’” This six-story structure, which opened in 1930, has been compared to Morgan’s other masterpiece—Hearst Castle in San Simeon.   

    I am pleased to have been one of the many visitors who heard the play in this most remarkable building.   

Dorothy Snodgrass  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The December issue of Biocycle magazine reported on their recent survey of local public agencies in the U.S. and noted that now more than 90 cities and towns, including all of the Alameda County cities, offer residential food debris collection services that includes all types of soiled paper. This is double the number of two years ago and shows that progressive communities around the country are realizing the significant waste reduction value of introducing these new collection programs.  

In the Toronto area, the introduction of these programs has been accompanied by reducing trash collections, now free of rotting materials, to every other week, creating immense savings in residential trash collection costs, upwards of 25-30 perceent. Sadly, U.S. cities are not yet moving in this direction, no doubt influenced by private haulers not wanting to see their business shrink and local elected officials not thinking ahead.  

To develop data that will help move this change forward, I received a small grant to identify 300 families that are currently practicing intensive recycling who will weigh their garbage, their organics and their recyclables weekly for three months so that I can receive and report that data from those families. We expect this data will convince policy makers that immense reductions in garbage are possible through this type of program and that will encourage less frequent collection for trash/garbage, now that the rotting stuff is in the green cart. Bathroom scale-type numbers will be sufficient; we expect persons will save up their different materials in a standard container and then weigh that container full and empty to determine the net weight of compostables, recyclables, and trash discarded in each week of the study. Data from people who are willing only to weigh their rubbish/trash/garbage are also welcome. 

Families interested in participating in this study are invited to contact me at 

Arthur R. Boone                  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Can a knowledgable person(s) help me better understand: First, assume recent advertisements are true that Bank of America (BA) loans on average almost $3 billlion daily (e.g., 1,000 loans of $3 million each or 6,000 $500,000 loans every day). In a year BA bank loans would exceed one trillion dollars (e.g., $3 billion x 365 = $1.095 trillion). 

Assuming $17 billion is paid in bonuses to bank employees, does that not mean that less than 1.7 percent of the total amount loaned is paid in bonuses? Assuming these are basically good loans (a big, hopeful assumption), is that percentage too high or unreasonable as compensation for skillful managerial oversight? Do not real-estate and investment brokers routinely get paid a percentage of deals made?  

  Second, assuming the current graduated federal income tax and a $10 million bonus paid in one year to some fortunate loan manager or director, does not the federal government realize more tax revenue by taxing the income of that individual, as compared with corporate taxation of a $10 million profit with the remainer distributed as a dividend to stockholders? What am I missing here?  

Edward C. Moore  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I finally understand why I got so fat over the holidays and can’t lose the weight: Barack Obama. 

I know that Obama was inaugurated in 2009, yet I also know that he is responsible for the 2008 TARP bank bail-out, for the $2.5 trillion deficit racked up 2001–2008, for the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for the rich that are paid for by the deficit, for the 2.5 million jobs sent overseas 2001-2008, and for the 2008 recession that is still costing us jobs, so—eureka!—I realized that Obama is also responsible for my getting fat. Thank goodness. I almost blamed myself. 

The best part of this is that, being a typical fat, lazy American, I don’t have to lift a finger in order to become slim again. All I have to do is sit on my big behind until Obama is voted out of office, then my body will magically transform itself into the slim, muscular, younger man of my imagination. Is this a great country or what? 

R. E. Baldwin 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Obama’s speech was a Capitalist’s wet dream! Who is this guy?  

Robert Blau 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was both impressed and inspired by Obama’s speech to Congress and his conversation with the Republican Congress. I think he’s ready to fight for what he wants and so am I. Like so many Americans I am thoroughly disgusted with both the Democrats and Republicans in Congress. The Democrats are running scared with their tails between their legs. The Republicans have stayed right on course with their single nihilist goal of defeating anything Obama proposes. Their behavior boarders on treason. 

I have supported Obama’s focus on health care from the beginning and I continue to support it as an absolute first priority. I own a small apartment building. A few years ago, my tenant, living in the apartment below me, died of cancer because she was self employed and couldn’t afford health care. For several months before she died I could hear her crying at night. I have written letters, manned phone banks, donated money and attended rallies to support the health care bill. While I have always supported the single payer plan, I agree with Obama. I would rather see something pass that gives relief to the millions of Americans without access to care, than quibble over the details. This must pass. 

My next priority is to see this country focus on the small and local and end its love affair with large corporations and Wall Street. It may have been true that to not bail out the banks would have reeked havoc. But we should have not been in that position in the first place. I applaud Obama’s focus on small businesses and community banks. It is a proven fact that local businesses provide the best and most secure jobs for local workers. Their profits filter out to the local community instead of to a bank in Switzerland. I would like to see the large banks and corporations thoroughly regulated and see the country return to a system of values where we see these entities, if they must exist, as there to serve their customers and their community, not the other way around. 

Finally, I believe that one of the best functions that the federal government can perform, one that can’t be done locally, is to finance infrastructure. Investment in rail service, which Obama has just given money to in California, provides jobs and helps save the environment. To wed infrastructure to environmental issues is a three-for one. Jobs, renewed infrastructure, a cleaner environment, all for one targeted investment. 

I campaigned for Obama, and while I have sometimes disagreed with him, I have never regretted voting for him, nor lost faith in his desire to see this country move forward. I see him as one of the rare politicians that honestly cares and listens. I want to see us all, especially liberals and so-called “progressives” put aside their pet grievances and get ready to fight for this country again. 

Mary Snowden 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I saw and highly recommend the movie Creation. To me, Charles Darwin is one of science’s superstars. Shockingly, a recent Gallup poll revealed that only 39 percent of Americans believe in evolution, even though his theory is supported by information that has been tested again and again for over 150 years. The discovery of DNA further confirmed Darwin’s theory and explains how traits are passed on. Genetics also confirms the most controversial part of Darwin’s theory: that humans and apes have a common ancestry. 

The ignorance of the average U.S. adult of basic scientific facts has been well documented by surveys, finding that fewer than one in five Americans met a minimal standard of scientific literacy. Hopefully, Creation will enlighten more Americans about evolution and its important place in science. 

Ralph E. Stone 

San Francisco