Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Wednesday April 07, 2010 - 11:03:00 PM

The Tea Party Movement Examined 

The Tea Party movement. Who's in charge? Living in the same town as Mark Mekler, founder of the Tea Party movement, gives me a little more insight on this subject than most people. 

The Tea Party is hardly a grassroots or non-partisan group as it is financed and directed nationally by Republican PAC's Freedom Works and Americans for Prosperity. The Tea Party is essentially an arm of the GOP. 

The Tea Party cult is primarily composed of older white, conservative, anti-everything Republicans. The Tea Party has shown itself to be partners with Sarah Palin, Fox News and "hate radio" gurus Glen Beck, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh. The ranks are filled with anti-abortionists, anti-immigrationists, anti-tax and anti-gay activists who are bent on pushing their extreme views on all Americans. 

Tea Party patriots, what an oxymoron! Patriots only if you believe white domination and white privilege is right. Don't get caught up in Tea Party hypocrisy. 

When Medicare came before Congress in 1965, conservatives warned it would lead to (gasp) socialism. Ronald Reagan threatened that if we didn't stop Medicare, we would one day be telling our grandchildren what it was like to live in America when men were free. Conservatives ranted and raved that Medicare would be the demise of American freedom. 

Medicare was passed and the sky did not fall. 

Flash forward to 2010 and health care reform. History seems to be repeating itself, this time with Fox News, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, the Tea Party fringe and virtually every Republican in Congress warning us of dire consequences if every American has access to health care. It already seems otherwise. 

No one seems to care or notice if the truth is constantly being bent and broken by Sarah Palin, the GOP and Tea Party extremes. Have we become a nation of Chicken Littles? 


Ron Lowe 

Nevada City, CA 


* * * 

Refuse Fee Collections in the Dump 

Berkeleyans have actively embraced recycling, one of many expressions of local action to improve the environment. Significant reduction of our collective refuse stream would naturally call for a significant redesign of our collection program, since the greater our success at recycling, the less refuse needs to be collected. This redesign should have been built into our refuse and recycling program so that as usage decreased, the program would adapt appropriately. 

Instead of reevaluating the program and making the necessary adaptation to our success, in July 2009 the Council approved a 32% fee increase to commercial and residential refuse fees and transfer fees. No changes were made to the poorly managed program, running a shortfall of $5.5 million at the time.  

Residents and commercial property owners offered numerous suggestions on cost containment and making the program greener -- supposedly one of City Government's top values. Council proceeded with their preconceived plan, disregarding community input as usual. Result: Berkeleyans said enough is enough, quietly exchanging their refuse containers for smaller ones. Despite the massive fee increases the refuse revenues have plummeted. 

The City plans to double down on its mistakes by raising refuse and recycling fees further. Watch for another under-the-radar Prop 218 increase. Remember, silence equals consent, so the City will run this play option again. They boast about having worked with the stakeholders--unions, staff and the Zero Waste Commission. The main stakeholders, taxpayers and the community at large, are left out of the discussion. Once again your suggestions to manage cost will be ignored. 

The Ecology Center will continue to increase its carbon footprint, picking up from one side of the street and then driving their trucks back along the same street a second time, to pick up from the other side. This is wasteful on so many levels! More exhaust is spewed into our air, more fuel is consumed, unnecessary wear on tires, brakes, vehicles and streets -- to name but a few of the many inefficiencies. It's time for the City to talk to their primary stakeholder and seek viable alternatives, such as contracting this service out to Waste Management as other cities have done. We need a viable service, one that doesn’t require constant massive fee hikes, PERS fund increases, and gratuitous truck-miles driven through our city. 

Marie Bowman 

* * * 

The Lau Fiasco 

I beg to disagree that Mr. Ryan Lau, being a first time homeowner, would not know Berkeley’s zoning and permitting process. On the contrary, as a member of the powerful zoning adjustment board, he is expected to know or be familiar with the nuances of Berkeley’s permitting process. He sits on a board that deals with zoning and permitting issues in Berkeley. So, how can he just ignore the very same process that he is supposed to oversee? There is no other explanation for Mr. Lau’s act but a deliberate attempt to circumvent the permitting process, maybe thinking that he can get away with it. Too bad, he got caught! Thanks to Mr. Fred Dodsworth and the Daily Berkeley Planet for exposing such abuse of public thrust.  

The irony of it, the same zoning adjustment board penalized our landlord by citing him with zoning violation based on a new requirement they passed 18 months after our landlord’s house was built even with approved building and zoning permits and signed off.  

It is also unbelievable that even Mr. Lau’s boss, my current Council Member Moore is willing to forget about it, and hopes that “he meets all the requirements of the city process and it will be the end of the incident”. Why is it that for Mr. Lau the whole incident can be forgotten, but for a common person like our landlord, it is a never ending process and the iron hands of City officials were very much evident in the way they have treated our landlord and the tenants. Not only did they evicted us from our house, jeopardized the operation and activities of our non-profit IIBB and non-denominational temple but worst of all, kept the keys of the buildings as if the City owns the property. 

A person of your employ breaks the law and the comments we read from you were “Lau is a great guy… it was poor judgement…” Come on, who are you trying to fool here. 

Indeed, truly, Berzerkely! 


Rosalie Say 


Re:New Group Tackles Offending Newsracks in Berkeley,April 1.  

Kudos to the Bay Area News Group (BANG) for 

taking the time and making the investment to clean up news racks on city sidewalks. Too many are ugly messes. With many trade and real estate freebies going out of business, it also makes sense to downsize some of the SuperUnits boxes and provide more sidewalk space But, according to the article, the Planet's old racks will be restored and re-installed. Why? The Berkeley Daily Planet is now a net-only "newspaper". Restoring and re-installing its boxes doesn't make sense.  

Barbara Witte 


Protect the Public  

Every time I read the news, there seems to be yet another layer of American families and small businesses succumbing to the devastation caused by the greed of Wall Street and big banks. Reckless behavior--whether through unprincipled lending or manipulation of toxic assets--has marked the modus operandi of the financial institutions that dominate the private sector. I'm appalled that it is they who have garnered government relief rather than the families and small businesses they have damaged. The Senate must vote to ensure that the perpetrators of these abuses be held accountable and that new regulations be instituted to protect the public. No more unconscionable 

bonuses, sweetheart deals, or loopholes! If our financial system is not completely overhauled, and an effective consumer protection watchdog put in place, there will be far more devastation in the years to come. The time for change is now! 

Elizabeth Claman 



AS OF TODAY, FOR SEVEN YEARS We citizens, but mostly our ruling class carelessly threw hundreds and thousands of billions of dollars into the deserts and quicksands and quagmires of IRAQ, AFGHANISTAN, PAKISTAN, IRAN, and the like; then Congress and the President expect the citizens to applaud when they toss a paltry, measly couple tens of billions at the U.S. joblessness dilemma. I just don’t get it; give me a break.  

The Bush family and their circle, a veritable pack-of-thieves managed to create two crises: the financial meltdown and the 9/11 demolition of three giant well-engineered steel-frame buildings, where blame was instantly assigned to “enemies” they had for years prepared to attack. Why are they, monsters that they are, not facing war-crimes and other charges? 


Terry Cochrell 



Great Editorial  

The late Israel Shahak used to say that the Hebrew language press in Israel was more revealing than the sanitized English editions. Many Jews, like my partner of twenty two years, do not agree with the Likudnik fanatics who tried to silence you. 

She's very critical of the Christian Zionist armageddon nuts whom Mother Jones exposed at length in 2001 or 2002, summer issue. 

At this point I may emulate her and vote for Kucinich. The conservative and Objectivist movements have been completely taken by fundies who probably think that Netanyahu is soft on Arabs. Ron Paul is still ok here but then there's his anti-abortion and "god" hangups. 

Most libertarians are narcissists and solipsists whichis why Rand kicked them into the garbage. 

The Naomi Klein letter on divestment was welcome too. 

Glad these punks have not intimidated you. I wrote a letter in your defense to the Express but they won't publish it and I need to go back to my boycott of them.  

The economic self-serving nature of the Express's coverage of the BDP is self-evident. 


Michael P. Hardesty 



The KPFA News Department Does Bad Journalism Over the GM “Resignation” 

and Uses its Airwaves to Promote Internal Factionalism 

The KPFA General Manager was fired over a financial matter (“dispute”), we are told by the KPFA News Department. Although the cause of her dismissal is supposed to be confidential information, it was widely known that she had failed to deposit a huge endowment check for over a year, losing money for the station. 

So the report is not hard to believe. 

However, the firing was done in closed sessions at the Local Station Board and the Pacifica National Board. It seems her supporters on the LSB improperly leaked the information to another supporter, who sent out a letter early in February trying to enlist help in pressing for a reversal. 

The dismissal was finally officially announced on March 4th, and the very next day, the KPFA News announced it twice, in a biased “news item” deploring the event, which was clearly an editorial, but unidentified as such. 

March 31st, I heard one more such announcement; there may have been more. 

The announcements were a partisan spin, making a case that the dismissal was unfair, factional, and supported by many paid (“unionized”) staff, not mentioning that a large part of the unpaid staff were not supporters of Rijio. 74 people, mostly of the unpaid, volunteer staff who are 75% of the total staff, had signed a Statement of No Confidence a year and a half ago, asking that she not be chosen as General Manager. 

Shortly after, she was so chosen, by an Executive Director on her last day, and 21 mostly listeners sent a letter, as did other individuals, asking for a rescindment of this appointment. 

Under Ms.Rijio’s managership features of democratic governance at KPFA, so necessary to a community radio station, and mandated by KPFA’s bylaws, were undermined and eliminated. 

The news item presented no other view, as most news items do, and as an item on KPFA governance requires, since any other reporting on it will be nonexistent – unlike reporting on other public affairs. 

It is not acceptable for a faction which has control of the airwaves to use them unilaterally to broadcast only their attacks on KPFA governance, without fairness and balance. Yet this happens repeatedly. 

Attacks on KPFA democracy run counter to the health of the station, since democracy needs an informed electorate, not a propagandized one. 

Mara Rivera 


Stubbs on BRT 

Like most Berkeley residents who believe in transparent government that represents the will of the majority, as opposed to leaders like Mayor Bates who believe that elected leaders should impose their visions, and the visions of their wealthy cronies, onto the people, I despise Mayor Bates. He displays ongoing contempt for collaboration with the citizenry as a whole, repeatly manipulating political process in Berkeley in a manner that , as Councilperson Worthington recently observed when Bates manipulated the BRT discussion to take place near midnight, disrespects the people. 

It is an ongoing shock to me that Bates got re-elected, suggesting to me that the local citizenry fell down on the job. How can it be that Berkeley has a mayor with such contempt for transparent government? 

As a guiding principle, if Mayor Bates likes something, I assume it is bad for Berkeley, although, probably, good for some rich and/or influential people who hang out with Bates at cocktail parties. 

I am mindful that the Berkeley Daily Planet is now relying on free citizen journalism and I am grateful that Mr. Stubbs offered Planet readers his report about the BRT shenanigans taking place, with Bates and the council suppressing public participation in the process. I assume Mr. Stubbs was working for free, since Planet publishers told us last week that, given their tax witholding theft, they can't pay people to write for them. 

But Mr. Stubbs, in my humble opinion, took his reporting too far when he tells us that he could 'tell' what Mayor Bates wanted to say. Stubbs says that Bates clearly wanted to say certain things but Bates did not say them. And then Stubbs proceeded to tell us what it was that Stubbs was sure Bates wanted to say. That is not really reporting the facts. That is Stubbs reporting his speculation. 

Don't get me wrong. I have only contempt for Mayor Bates and how he conducts the business of this city, with what sure looks to me like his complete disregard for democratic participation. I am sure Stubbs' speculation regarding what Bates wanted to say but did not is more reliable than anything our smarmy Mayor does say. I do not believe our mayor can be trusted to speak the truth to the public or in public. But Stubbs went too far when he presents his, which is to say Stubbs' projections of Tom Bates thoughts. 

Perhaps citizens of Berkeley might consider adopting my approach to any pubic statements Bates makes or are attributed to him in the media: I distrust everything he says. But when reporting on a public meeting, I don't think the Planet should have to stoop to fictional speculation posing as citizen journalism. Even citizen journalism should, um, stick to the facts. 


Tree Fitzpatrick