Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Sunday February 20, 2011 - 02:40:00 PM

Global Warming; Book Vans: Mental Illness; The Role of Aladdin? In response to your op-ed re: the Berkeley Public Library; In Response to the Letters about the Libraries 

Global Warming 

With regards to concerns about global warming, the book “Common Wealth” by Jeffrey Sachs (2008) claims that about 18 billion tons of current human carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are absorbed by natural sinks on land and in the ocean per year. This suggests that we can begin to limit potential climate problems by restricting our emissions to this level. With almost 7 billion people on the planet this works out to 2.6 tons of CO2 per person. 

This value can be used to set personal goals. For example, in the U.S. about 1/3 of our national energy use goes to residential and private vehicle use - or about 1730 pounds per person. For a family of three, splitting this target evenly between electricity use (assuming normal utility power - not solar power), gas use, and gasoline use leads to individual targets for annual use of 1300 kilowatt-hours, 150 therms of gas, and 87 gallons of gasoline. Trade-offs between the three categories are obviously allowed. You can also have an impact on your share of the other 2/3 portion of energy use (commercial, industrial, and and commercial vehicle use) by your choices on spending. Take vacations closer to home, buy art or go to concerts instead of buying the latest manufactured goods, reuse, and recycle, eat less meat, and so on. 

Yes, we need to restart the debate on global warming, but we also need to recognize that all of us will need to be involved in the solution. There is no reason not to start doing our share now. 

Robert Clear 

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Book Vans 

Regarding San Francisco resident Peter Warfield's negative comments about the Berkeley Public Library's book van, I would like to set the record straight on the library's plans to maintain service for the city 's library users while the branches are closed for renovation. The book van will give library users access to books they want and need during these renovations. The van is a flexible and cost effective solution for Berkeley's neighborhoods. Mr. Warfield, from his vantage point in San Francisco, says the library should be moving into temporary fixed locations for the duration of the closures. Such a plan would not meet the needs of the Library, the library's users or the community. A temporary site would be expensive, and impractical. ADA accessiblity would be difficult. We could not guarantee adequate bathrooms. The costs to remodel temporary sites could easily exceed original estimates. 

Book vans are proven and effective solutions to temporary library closures. They've been used in many communities, including San Francisco, where Mr. Warfield lives. . While the library branches are closed for remodeling, the Library's collection will be available online. Order a book, the book van will bring it to you. Log on at 

My neighbors and I welcome the book van to our neighborhood while the branch closest to me is closed. I appreciate the library's efforts to make sure its services continue for my neighborhood. I'm sure Mr. Warfield would be appreciative too if he lived in Berkeley. 

John Gage 

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Mental Illness 

Jack Bragen's articles on mental illness are informed and enlightening. His perspective as a writer with experience in being occasionally afflicted by an attack of a chronic mental illness is invaluable. I raised my children (none with mental illness, luckily) during the days when parenting, especially mothers, were blamed for everything from skin rashes to autism (remember Bruno Bettelheim?) in their children. Thank God those days are over. Bragen's pointing out that genetic predisposition plays an important role is a reassuring return to the folk wisdom of my grandparents, who used to say, without blame, sadly shaking their heads, "It's in the family, in the blood." 

I hope Bragen gives us more concrete examples of how a mentally ill person experiences the world during an episode, either from his own experiences or those of afflicted friends or acquaintances, and how his friends and family can best help. We could also learn something from his evaluation of present treatments and general comments on how, as a community, we help or hinder the lives of those who suffer these still-mysterious disorders, which, despite occasional headlines, are 99% more dangerous to the sick person than to the rest of us. Maybe a question and answer format, like: 



  • Why do mental patients resist taking medication?
  • What services does our community provide, and which ones are helpful?
  • Is it true that recreational drugs may trigger attacks in the genetically predisposed?
Dorothy Bryant 

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The Role of Aladdin? 

How does Gaddafi fit the role of Aladdin? Gaddafi himself was a poor little Arab boy born in a tent, the son of a nomadic camel trader who roamed the poverty-stricken desert throughout most of his childhood. Significantly enough, he did his early studies by the light of an old Arab oil lamp. In his early teens, he became active in political demonstrations in favour of Egypt's Nasser, procuring the necessary materials for his flags, banners and slogans by personally provisioning them from different merchants, and was often harassed by his enemies 

At the youthful age of only 27 in 1969, He led a successful revolution of the poor as a young army officer, ousted Libya's corrupt monarchy and became her new head of state. He also promptly ousted the foreign scientific magicians, who had helped discover Libya's lamp of oil far beneath the sands of her desert, and began rubbing that lamp vigorously to produce its black gold and force its powerful genie of foreign oil companies to pay him more than double their former prices, from one billion dollars in his first year of 1969 to over two billion in 1971 and approximately three billion in '73, amassing the largest gold reserves in the Arab world, and giving him a distinct place of leadership amongst its one hundred million Arabs, second only to that of Egypt! 

He used the Magic Genie of its power to accrue more wealth and power for both Libya and himself, although the Western magicians would certainly like to bury him alive if they could! But he himself seems to wear some uncanny ring of spiritual authority which causes him to lead a nearly charmed life in opposition to his enemies. To their disgruntled and frustrated chagrin, he keeps gleefully rubbing his new magic lamp and producing its black genie of oil which has now brought him so much wealth and power. 

Ted Rudow III, MA 

* * * 

In response to your op-ed re: the Berkeley Public Library 

I attended many many public meetings regarding the plans for the West and South Branches of the public library. Hundreds of neighbors from those two communities attended as well. The process was completely transparent. Anyone who thinks otherwise is seriously paranoid. The costs of the plans were discussed. Residents, neighbors, librarians all had their say. We discussed the costs of keeping the old buildings. Architects tried to plan for that choice. The decision among all was that new buildings in those locations are the best use of city money. In other words, the taxpayers' money. It is misleading to say otherwise. I don't know why your correspondent wants to mislead the people of Berkeley. What is her motivation? Perhaps her opposition to RFID's in the library? Could she be trying to use the leverage of Judith Epstein's lawsuit to persuade the Library to drop RFID's?? What the lawsuit will in fact do is delay construction of WEst and South, and perhaps mean that costs rise, legal fees will have to be paid, and the new libraries at West and South will never happen. 

The Library's plans for the West Branch on University Ave are innovative and look to the future, not the past. One may love some parts of the old buildings, but the new one speaks to tomorrow, not yesterday. It will be the first Zero Net Energy public library in the United States. That means annual savings on energy costs...much lower construction costs. The design also adopts historic practices. When West was built, architects had to rely on design to achieve light and moderate temperatures. This building will do so with zero carbon emissions. South and West will finally be ADA accessible and seismically safe for users, staff , the disabled. The union that represents library workers, SEIU, has come out in favor of the plans for new buildings. This is an opportunity for Berkeley , not the boondoggle described by your correspondent. 

Berkeley residents use their libraries at three times the rate of other California cities. Let's reward library users with the buildings they have told the city they want. New , improved library branches for all -- that is exactly what I expected when I voted for Measure FF! 

Linda Schacht 

* * * 

In Response to the Letters about the Libraries 

I would like to respond to the two letters about the libraries, above, one from John Gage and the other from his wife, Linda Schacht Gage. These letters, which were published earlier in the Planet preview, contain numerous errors, both of omission and commission. 

Ms. Schacht is the Capital Chair of the Berkeley Public Library Foundation and has been conducting a campaign of misinformation about the Concerned Library Users (CLU) Lawsuit, which challenges the planned misuse of Measure FF funds. Along with the foundation’s Executive Director, David Snyder, she has engaged in an aggressive campaign of inciting fear and spreading untruths about the library projects and lawsuit. This behavior reflects badly on the foundation as a whole. A charity should be beyond reproach. 

Ms. Schacht alleges that the lawsuit would delay the South and West Branch projects. This is untrue. They are not scheduled to start until 2012, after the Claremont and North Branch projects are completed, because the City plans to close only two branch libraries at a time. The bidding process for the Claremont and North Branches isn’t finished yet. No use permits have been granted for the South and West Branch projects; whatever the outcome of the lawsuit, it will be over long before these projects begin, since parties are required to agree to a timely schedule for court. 

In other publications, Ms. Schacht has alleged that Measure FF bond funds would be expended in the defense of the lawsuit. This is categorically false. The City Attorney’s office receives a generous budget from the taxpayers. No Measure FF funds have been used in connection with the lawsuit, nor can they be used for such a purpose. 

It’s also misleading to suggest that partial preservation projects would necessarily be more expensive than new construction. As part of the environmental review process, CLU submitted alternative designs by preservation architect Todd Jersey, who saved the Richmond Plunge. His South Branch design would cost significantly less than the City’s plan, and his West Branch design would cost no more than the City’s plan, while providing much more space for a growing community. His designs renovate only the most historic portions of these libraries, while adding new construction to each for a Children’s Room, a Teen Room, and extra space for computers, patrons, and staff. Mr. Jersey’s designs are ADA compliant and seismically safe, all as required by law. 

By comparison, I have less in the way of disagreement with the content of Mr. Gage’s letter. I do in fact support the use of Measure FF funds for the library van, although I find the tone of his letter unnecessarily mean-spirited. Peter Warfield lived in Berkeley for many years and made some fine points about how the library may have done a better job in making its purchase, and these might have been addressed, in addition to the issues raised by Berkeley resident, Steve Finacom. 

I find it interesting that Mr. Warfield’s residence continues to be a point of discussion, while David Snyder’s is not. Mr. Snyder does not reside in Berkeley. At one Board of Library Trustees meeting, he handed out unsigned leaflets with my address. When he came to the microphone, he didn’t even have the courage or integrity to divulge his own city of residence, but he read my address into the record. This is behavior not unlike that employed by anti-abortion groups and is not fitting for someone whose salary is paid by the charitable donations of others. 

I would like to encourage Ms. Schacht and her allies to engage in civil and factual discourse about the issues. This would show a genuine respect for the topic and the people of Berkeley. 

Judith Epstein