Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Thursday April 15, 2010 - 12:16:00 PM

Police Call for Boycott 

Today I attempted to patronize a Berkeley merchant on my way home from work (at Herrick Hospital) at 5:45. (see enclosed receipt from Stone Mountain & Daughter fabrics at 2518 Shattuck Ave Berkeley) 

The pay station dmt meter dispenser was broken, and no one in the parking island was able to get it to accept any money. It has been broken for over a week I was told. 

Officer Blackmon, who was explaining herself to a small gathering of those ticketed who had parked in the island when I finished my purchase and left the store at 6pm, acknowledged that she knew the payment devise was broken and “had been for over a week.” But she added gleefully, “it is not my job to worry about the devise, I just write the tickets” per Blackmon; everyone could write the court in lieu of paying the ticket. 

With all due respect, this seems an odd public policy on the part of the city of Berkeley; to assign public resources to harass drivers attempting to make purchases in your town for "failing" to pay money your machinery cannot accept while legally parked. 

I have never seen a tax base thrive where a boycott of the local merchants was initiated by the police. Nor can it plausibly be a good use of city resources to pay city employees to act as vigilantees to shake down those who frequent local merchants, when the city will likewise pay the salary of the person who reads this, checks the meter, voids the ticket, etc. all of which will result in no revenue. 

So, I request that you set aside this ticket. The collection machine was/is broken, and your staff knew that when she falsely and knowingly cited me for a failure to pay into the broken device. Even in Berkeley I am pretty sure you are not allowed to claim someone has broken the law for not being able to get your broken pay meter machines to work. 

Thank you in advance for your consideration, and I will certainly promise to increase my future diligence at remembering to boycott your town’s merchants. I forget from time to time, but I will try to drive straight through to Oakland before making any impulse buys from now on. I will try not to make another purchase in Berkeley in 2010. 


Ellen Starbird 



Architecture Review: “Trader Joe’s” Reconsidered 

Thanks for the review of the new downtown tenement. 

How much you want to bet the low-income apartments will be the ones with no view of sky and poor sunlight conditions?! 

It is a travesty that our city planning department and/or the city council approves so many zoning variances, typically giving things away for easily-broken promises that the real estate developers almost always seem to renege on. Why do our public servants make choices that benefit a few investors instead of making choices that take into consideration the wellbeing all the whole city? Why do we citizens allow our public SERVANTS to repeatedly override the popular will and make concessions to people who use the city to make money and then skedaddle (or, using GAIA as an example, sell the property as soon as they can)? 

Tree Fitzpatrick 



Just Love the Hysteria! 

The main reason I love to read The Daily Planet is because it provides a forum for all-too-typical Berkeleyites to indulge in one or another form of hysteria. Kevin Moore's confused, paranoic diatribe about U.C.'s "plan to destroy Smyth-Fernwald" is a perfect example. I lived in the Smyth-Fernwald dorms when I was a Cal student in the 1960s, and it's a very pretty location, albeit a long haul uphill from campus. But since virtually no residents of Berkeley even know it exists and certainly will never visit it, it hardly consitutes "an irreplaceable treasure." As for the ecological significance of this patch of land and the 63 trees, given that the space is directly adjacent to thousands of acres of protected parkland along the crest of the hills, I'd say it's minimal. Mr. Moore contends that "Berkeley cannot withstand yet another assault on the integrity of its natural beauty and vulnerable ecosystem." Pardon me for laughing out loud, but that is just nonsense. Perhaps a seismic installation -- if that indeed is all that UC plans, and Mr. Moore has no other suggestions -- would be a better use of the property than keeping it a private photography preserve for this sensitive soul. 


Michael Stephens 


One More Time Without Feeling or Wisdom  

When will it end? It's hard to say, but once again the City of Berkeley's decision-makers seem to have forgotten something basic. This time regarding raising parking fees and fines.  

My March 11th comment on the Public Works Department's decision last fall to raise refuse rates substantially and then being puzzlingly surprised when revenues actually fell as a result of the higher prices also applies to the current situation. [see ] Now, due to budget problems, the City Council has (again) increased parking fees, parking fines, parking enforcement, and is even considering extending the operating hours of the meters to raise more revenues. It's not likely to happen the way the Council expects, because the city astonishingly once again has forgotten basic economics – every change in prices that people face (and parking fines are one of those) creates consequences on the demand-side not just the supply-side of the market.  

The city decision-makers seem to have forgotten that folks who chose to shop where the meters operate in Berkeley have choices beyond Berkeley. If Berkeley again raises the meter fees and more strictly enforces parking, potential customers will simply go elsewhere. The higher parking fees and fines could end up reducing city revenues (there's already some evidence to this effect), and importantly, will cause Berkeley's retail businesses also to lose revenues. Berkeley isn't an island unconnected to other places. The Operations Director of the Downtown Berkeley Association sermonized that "Many people have grown up with the suburban concept of free parking," – implying that these folks need to change their worldview and realize that paying $1.50/hr at a Berkeley meter is OK. Au contraire, these people merely have to change their location (to El Cerrito or the malls) to avoid the Berkeley parking fees, not change their minds to be at one with $1.50/hr. I truly lament the plight of Berkeley retailers trying to stay in business despite the overly-narrow, quite parochial views of City decision-makers who are making Berkeley even less friendly and supportive of commerce. Everyone in Berkeley may lose from this lack of wisdom and understanding.  

Bruce A. Smith 


Elections in Sudan  

This weekend Sudan will hold its first meaningful elections in 24 years.  

These elections are a crucial component of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which ended more than twenty years of war between north and south Sudan. A failure to legitimately see through the promises made in the CPA could be very dangerous and lead to the resumption of that war.  

As Sunday quickly approaches, we know that these elections will not be free or fair.  

The International Crisis Group (ICG) paints the electoral process as “fundamentally flawed.” The European Union has deemed it “impossible" to observe elections in a credible way and has pulled its election monitors from the Darfur region  

As Americans, many of us are concerned with our own families and communities during this tough economic time in our country.  

Nevertheless, we have a moral obligation to act when we sense danger and possibly egregious violence approaching beyond our borders. Already an unprecedented number of Americans and dedicated elected officials, including and especially Congresswoman Barbara Lee, have refused to give up on the people suffering in Sudan.  

Now, more than ever, it is important we raise our voices.  

As Americans, we must seize this moment to advocate for the survival of families and communities in Sudan. We must call on the Obama Administration not to recognize the results of Sudan’s elections since they are not free and fair.  

We cannot give up now.  

Charlotte Hill 


Response to Last Week's Editorial about Gossip 

In a recent editorial ³Spreading rumors, or why gossip counts,² you obliquely refer to a report about the two Berkeley teenagers who died March 31 when their car crashed into a bus on the Richmond Parkway. was the first to report that the car had reached 100 mph before the crash and was probably going 60 mph at the time of the accident, higher than the posted 50 mph speed limit. 

You suggest that this information was the ³opinion² of the Richmond police and that reporting it made you ³uncomfortable² because it was based only on eyewitness accounts, rather than actual measurements of the speed of the vehicle. You suggested that it might have ³been wiser to omit speculation which cast aspersion on a victim.² 

As the reporter who wrote that story, I take issue with your suggestion that it was based on anything other than sound information. Richmond police waited a week after the accident before they provided information about the car¹s speed, and they only did so after an investigation. You also question how police could have determined the speed of the car if they only interviewed witnesses. That¹s how police conduct an investigation: they talk to people who saw an accident and combine that with hard evidence to determine the cause of a crash. 

I have covered crime stories for more than 20 years for newsgathering operations such as the San Jose Mercury News, the New York Times, and People magazine, and I can attest how difficult it is to get information from police until they are ready to release it. 

You also suggest that Berkeleyside should not have reported the speed of the car because the news would hurt the family. The deaths of Kyle Strang and Prentice Gray, two teens who by all accounts were thoughtful and compassionate youths, was a tragedy. But it is the job of news organizations 

to report the news. I am sure that the Strang and Gray families knew about the car¹s speed before the information was released to reporters. In addition, when people die prematurely, those left behind are always seeking to understand why. If other teenagers now see there can be serious and permanent repercussions from speeding, perhaps they won¹t do it. That alone is sufficient reason for a news site like to report the details of the accident. 


Frances Dinkelspiel 



Editor’s Note: 

As I said in the editorial, it's a judgment call, not easy to make. I didn't mention where I saw the story that made me uncomfortable because I certainly don't think the blog should be blamed for calling it as they see it. We mentioned the speed too, in our first story, though less specifically. I did get a note from a relative thanking us for our coverage and contrasting it with coverage somewhere else, not necessarily on, which they didn't appreciate.  

And I do think there's a difference between 60 in a 50 zone and 100 anywhere. Evidence always has to be evaluated for credibility, by the police, by witnesses and by the press. Often enough eyewitnesses get facts quite wrong, as per the standard demonstrations done in every law school evidence course, including mine, where an event is staged in front of the class, students are asked what they saw, and their reports differ widely.  

For all that I complain,as the letter writer does, about how hard it is to pry information out of the Berkeley police, I think their reticence is often motivated by laudable caution about making accusations without hard evidence, and the culture of the Richmond police seems different in that respect. Perhaps if the blog had separated the accident story from the memorial story it would have sat easier with me, but I do understand that opinions about what’s appropriate can differ. 



Berkeley Needs Pools  

The Berkeley public pools are a vital recreational resource for our whole community. They have been fully and enthusiastically used for many years. Marie Bowman (“Pool Bond Floats Special Interest Groups,” 4/8/2010) would have us believe that the non-public pools in Berkeley could absorb the recreational needs that the Berkeley public pools have been providing for over 40 years. This is patently ridiculous.  

Willard Pool, which will be shut down if Measure C doesn’t pass, is used for P.E. classes for Willard Middle School; it is used by the afterschool programs of the elementary schools on the south side of Berkeley; it is used by summer camps and preschools on the south side of town; it is used by Berkeley youth from the entire south side of Berkeley for swimming and diving lessons and summer recreation; it offers a free shower program for the homeless; and adults use the pool for lap swimming. All these people simply cannot be accomodated by the YMCA, even if all these people could afford the membership fee. The YMCA pools are overbooked as it is, with childrens needs competing with the needs of adult swimmers.  

The reason for building a bigger pool at the existing King Pool site is not only to accommodate competitive swimmers. King Pool is the most heavily used of the three public pools, and it is too small for the numbers of people who use it. The new pool at King would provide much needed space for all of the programs that take place at King Pool (adult and youth competitive swimmers, swimming and diving lessons, adult lap swimmers, water aerobics, tiny tot time, family swim time, senior water exercise, etc.).  

Berkeley homeowners don’t tend to have pools in their backyards. Where are the children and grandchildren of Berkeleyans like Marie Bowman, who don’t want to pay any taxes for pools, going to learn to swim? 

Dove Scherr  


Health Care Reform 

I wish to state my gratitude to the members of the Senate and Congress who voted to pass health care reform. It is time that we move forward toward a rational, compassionate and fiscally responsible health care model and this is a step toward that. 

The purpose of a republic is to further the well-being of it's people. Citizens that have severe illnesses should have their care addressed. Citizens that change jobs deserve to take health care with them. Citizens who fall ill should not lose their homes to finance their care. 

To the naysayers, if they claim to be religious, I ask what would Jesus do? What would Moses do? 

What would any of the great teachers do? They would "do unto others" and vote for the compassionate care of their neighbor as we have done. It is a proud moment for a great country. 

Candace Hyde-Wang 


Health care  

I'm thankful, after so many decades, there is a beginning towards health care for all. Our children will have the protection from the insurance companies denying them health coverage if they have pre-existing conditions. I believe health care is a right not a privilege. 

Thanks to all Congressional members who voted to begin health insurance reform and hopefully push for Medicare for All creating a healthier nation. 

Jan Volz-Kelly 



Hooray for Health Care Reform!! 



Wow, to be an American alive in these historic times is quite a thrill ride! 


Many thanks to our devoted California Senators, Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer for standing firm with President Obama's health care plan, we Californians can now be assured of 'equal rights' when it comes to our health and we can watch the end (hopefully) of organized crime rings, i.e., the insurance companies, who have been extorting American citizens for decades. 


Personally, I find it sadly comical that Republicans and greedy right wing interests think they can delude the public with their blatant heinous divisive lies about what health care is or does or does not do for the people of America. 


Let's remember what the Republicans gave us before the election of Barack Obama: a country that systematically shut down our schools and built prisons; that shipped crack cocaine and guns into the inner cities to put into the hands of our young African American, Latino and other non-white American children to keep them on drugs, dead,or in prison by voting age; that shipped our jobs overseas; that stripped the EPA of all controls and protections and put in charge the very criminals who had criminally violated the environment; who allowed the banks and Wall Street to steal from everyone throwing the world into financial devastation; who started two wars, one illegally, etc., etc., etc. The list goes on and on. And all we hear from them is excuses or the blame game. 


Now we have a president who has actually read the Constitution, taught Constitutional Law, and really cares about ALL the American people. He can see that we no longer measure up globally to other countries; it has become clear to all of us that the wealthy self-entitled narcissists in this country only care about themselves, e.g. Bernie Madoff, et al. 


And here we are...Health Reform has passed! And the Republicans and right wing special interest groups are trying to spoon feed their mindless racist hatred and ignorance to American citizens by intentionally distorting the facts. And they will be the first in line for health care services if they or their children become ill. 


The Republicans seem to think we have all been properly and systematically dumbed down, so we should be malleable and ready to receive their distorted reality as fact. Revisionist delusions are only good for comical material on the late night shows; or for what passes as news on Fox. 


This victory is a victory for all Americans, whether they realize it or not. History will prove that. 


Lark Ashford 



Health Care Reform 

Thank goodness we Americans can look to getting healthier as a nation. I never understood why other countries like Canada or Australia could provide medical care for ALL their citizens but the United States could (or would not). 

Must be the insurance companies and the drug companies (the special interest groups looking out for themselves). 

Fortunately, I have good health at 63. And I'm not on any medications, and learned early on that prevention is the best medicine. Let's get our nation healthy. 

Thank you Mr. President and all of you who fought for this. 


Beverly Young 

American Citizen 



Lange Collection Online  

Thank you for publishing Dorothy Bryant's thought provoking review of the new Dorothea Lange biography. 

Reading this review reminded me of a fabulous Dorothea Lange resource that your other readers might like to know about. The Oakland Museum has a collection of nearly 25,000 Dorothea Lange negatives, plus hundreds of prints. This huge collection includes her best known work as well as her earlier San Francisco fashion portraits, photographs of the Native Americans of the Southwest and their landscape that she took while traveling with the painter Maynard Dixon -- her first husband -- in the 1920s, and also her family photos. Best of all, this entire archive is available -- free -- to anyone who has access to a computer. Just look at 

It is an amazing collection of the work of Berkeley's own Dorothea Lange. 

The Oakland Museum should be thanked for making it available. 


Roger Moss  



Equal Enforcement of Zoning Rules 

I live very close to the corner of McGee and Dwight, where Bengal Basin Institute has been established. While I support the aims of the Institute, I do not support their building. 

Both the building on the corner and the one next to it on McGee include additional stories that were not built with permits, nor according to Berkeley's strict construction rules. I and my neighbors have to get permits for major renovations, including in some cases, surprisingly expensive dry wall inspection. I understand those regulations, and accept them as part of living in Berkeley, but I expect everyone else to follow them as well. I watched the construction on the corner of McGee and Dwight, and saw that it mainly consists of sheets of plywood painted white -- they are still very evident. I assumed that this was done according to code, but was not surprised to find that it was not. 

In addition, I saw flyers advertising that the Institute building was available as a rental for seminars, lectures, and parties. We did not get any announcements or notices of this usage, which we would have resisted: it would have been a parking nightmare. 

Perhaps it's easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission, but we have laws and regulations for a reason, and the owners of the Institute chose not to follow them. I'm sorry they were mistaken, but believe they should follow regulations like the rest of us. 

Gail King 



Israel/Palestine:The Heart of the Matter 


No public utterance is more likely to bring showers of vehement reaction than criticism of Israel. If the critic is a Jew he or she is immediately branded a self-hater and if the critic is a gentile he or she is immediately label an anti-Semite. This makes Israel’s position among other nations simple: they’re with us or against us.  

From where I stand, 7,400 miles from Jerusalem, Israel’s position is anything but simple.  

I am neither a Semite nor an anti-Semite but I have criticisms, not focused on Israel as a wayward nation, ego-centric and mired in exceptionalism but on its privileged relationship with my country, a relationship that resembles in simplistic terms nothing so much as the tail wagging the dog.  

In the late 1940s Ralph Bunche replaced the assassinated Count Bernadotte, and as special UN agent persuaded Arabs and Jews to accept a partition. Bunche received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950 but there was no peace before and there’s been no peace since.  

Today Israel is by far the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid dollars; $2.3 billion in 2006, almost all for the purpose of buying armaments from us - a bonanza for our armaments industry. Israel, therefore, in addition to being our best friend in the region, acts as a kind of surrogate U.S. military force. Speaking on March 23rd to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Secretary Clinton declared that “…when we strengthen Israel security we strengthen American security.”  

The U.S. has been Israel’s sponsor, protector, arms provider and although US policy since the time of Ralph Bunche pays lip service to a two state solution, in every dispute it takes Israel’s side. Again, in her AIPAC speech Secretary Clinton assured her audience, “Our commitment to Israel and Israel’s future is rock solid, enduring and forever.”  

Every nation in the region is infected like a cancer by this growing hatred between Semitic cousins and the U.S., wedged in heart of this matter is in a position to enforce a healing two state solution but fumbles every opportunity to do so.  

The U.S. stood silent when Israel invaded Gaza a year ago and left 1400 Palestinians dead mostly women and children (and 14 Israel soldiers) and a few months later the U.S. sided with Israel in its rejection of the Goldstone Report, a report that accused both sides of crimes against humanity.  

Even though we know that Israel’s brutal behavior towards the people of Gaza and the West Bank and its recent plan to build apartments in East Jerusalem, fuel recruitment of Islamist extremists (General Patraeus) and “…undermines the security of our troops …in Iraq and Afghanistan” (Biden). 

Our blind support renders us impotent and like glue keeps us fixed and powerless at the heart of the matter.  


Marvin Chachere 



New Justice  

How tough can it be for President Obama to pick a new Supreme Court justice? If it was a sitting Republican president we know exactly what we would have on the table. Another anti-abortion, religious conservative in the mold of John Roberts. 

Obama's choice for a Supreme Court justice needs to be a person of compassion with backbone, an independent thinker and a liberal to balance John Roberts right-leaning Supreme Court. 

You don't have to be a deep thinker to know what the Supreme Court needs now. Do American's want to see any more disputed elections decided by the Supreme Court? 


Ron Lowe 




WARM-POOL ROOF TRUSSES could fairly easily and should be redeployed into a new warm-pool building roof structure to save millions, two and maybe three million dollars worth of savings, which savings could go into upgrading the design of several planned existing pools plus making the new warm-pool a little nicer, assuming that the pools-bond passes in the rapidly upcoming June election;  

…given this prospect, it would truly seem criminal of the public school district to sell them, reusable truss-work to china as scrap metal for a mere couple hundred thousand or even less.  

The very inconsequential rust layer at extreme ends of trusses can easily be blasted away and epoxy-coated to last for centuries. (Some extra beef for seismic can easily be added by welding or bolting as needed.) 

The mosaic ceramic tile lining the pool itself, recently regrouted and acid-cleaned, gleaming pure white, likewise should be redeployed, by cutting pool walls and floor into squares and transporting them and combining them with new pool walls. 

Likewise the beautiful low- to non-slip tile floors should be sawed into large squares and used in a new designed building. This type tile-work these days is enormously costly; otherwise we will be forced to grit our teeth and accept bare concrete pool and deck floors to save dollars at a new building. 

Saving the white-tiled wainscot would possibly be too expensive. 

The tilework at the warm-pool made and makes the otherwise utilitarian, industrial building bearable until the very recent cleaning and painted-walls efforts by the industrious aquatics dept chief. 

But why not just save the whole building? This would seem sensible to most thinking, educated, responsible, economy-minded souls. 

Now is the time to make sure the public school district had not already made plans to sell these elements as salvage scrap for a paltry few dollars (to their buddies?), and to begin planning a new building structure to accommodate the existing (exceedingly clever two-way truss system almost a space-frame) at the two old pools at BHS, which truss-system now provides column-free interior space of about 12000, twelve thousand square feet. 

A ton of money has already gone into plans for a new building, then comically later into site planning studies; a little more effort to make realistic the reuse of valuable existing building elements would be an investment that would reap great reward: treasured tile finishes and the most expensive portion of the building structure can find a second life here in Berkeley rather than in landfill or steel furnace. 


Terry Cochrell,  




Fairness to Bankers?  

As a proud citizen and independent voter, I consider remaining informed and objective about this nation’s politics my duty. I feel further obligated to disseminate my view when I believe a public official has acted unscrupulously.  

On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell lambasted the Democrats’ proposed banking regulation bill, which aims to reinstate fairness on Wall Street by repressing consumer predation, eliminating the manipulation of fine print, and holding executives accountable for their part in generating the current recession. McConnell bluntly renounced the bill, claiming that its sole purpose is to create for future bailouts. Though the bill is still only in draft form, he also sharply threatened a future filibuster in order to prevent the passage of the legislation.  

I was taken aback by such a vehement and premature objection from the Senator, especially considering that this is a widely supported reform proposition.  

However, I began to understand his motivation when I encountered a February edition of the Wall Street Journal, which includes an article how Republicans were "stepping up their campaign to win donations from Wall Street…[by] striving to make the case that they are banks' best hope of preventing President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats from cracking down on bankers."  

Actually, McConnell and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn recently held a private meeting with twenty-five of Wall Street’s most powerful executives. Though the details of the meeting were not publicly disclosed, the Republican duo were likely requesting pecuniary assistance from the bankers leading into November—in return for obstruction of the Democratic legislation. Since the Supreme Court has eliminated the ban on corporate campaign spending, it could be a lucrative deal for the Republican Party. 

In my opinion, opposing this legislation under the false pretense that it could hurt the American masses is simply exploitative. With millions of families struggling to make it through the recession, the least McConnell could do is be transparent about doing favors for the exorbitantly wealthy. I believe that this calls into question both McConnell’s values and that of his party.  

Robert Geoffrey Loebl 


WSJ Article: 



wild parrots in Albany? 


Re: Wild Neighbors: In Search of the Wild Parrots of Berkeley 

By Joe Eaton 

Wednesday January 14, 2009 

Pretty sure I saw a group of maybe a dozen flying west to east, in the 500 block of Talbot, Albany, late afternoon 4/13. 


Bill Lanphier 



I was in a car accident 

After may 2 ,2003, my life changed drastically. 

I had no real medical insurance to speak of and the 89 year old woman who rear ended me at a dead stop had just enough to cover a few doctors visits. 

Here is where things get hairy.... 

I could not work. Period. 

I could not bend, lift, stand or sit for long periods. 

(I still can’t do most of this today.) 

I signed up for the medically indigent health care that was offered by the state. 

They covered my doctors’ visits and prescriptions for one year. but obviously I had a ongoing condition. 

What were my choices? Be homeless to pay for my meds, or go back to work and lose my healthcare. 

I went back to work. 

And because of this I was never eligible to get the benefits I was supposed to receive from work, because of my "PRE EXISTING" condition. 


Passing health-care reform, may give me a 2nd chance at the surgeries I need, and the medications to live a thriving existence. 


Andrew McGinness