Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Wednesday May 25, 2011 - 12:27:00 PM

"You Choose Bay Area"; Berkeley's Plan to Consolidate Commissions; Standing Up for the Right to Sit Down in Berkeley; Will Berkeley's City Council Downsize Local Democracy by Cutting Volunteer Commissions? Arrest Warrants for Syria's Addad; Rapture; Ace Hardware Building; Jewish Americans and the Fate of Israel; Confrontation; Confessions of a Chocaholic; Panoramic Resident Replies; The Reporter Responds 

"You Choose Bay Area" 

I recently attended the “You Choose Bay Area” meeting in Berkeley, part of a series of meetings organized by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. I found that while they purport to offer us a choice they present the most important choice as a simple assertion: Bay Area population will grow by 2.2 million people by 2035. 

It is not inevitable that Bay Area population grows so much. What if voters stand up against this massive development scheme and don't allow 900,000 more housing units to be built? Do you think all those people will materialize on the streets like Kirk and Spock from a Star Trek transporter and mill about with no place to live? No, if we don't build those units, the population will not grow. 

So the important question is do we want the population to grow that much? 

If it does, the quality of life here will fall against a backdrop of strained resources, congestion and bulky new high-rise apartments. Our roads, downtowns, parks, transit resources will all be more crowded. As our streets are lined by 6 and 7 story buildings, we will lose the sense of being surrounded by the hills and the Bay. 

Most importantly, our Global Footprint (our resource use and carbon emissions) will rise. Each person requires a certain amount of productive land world-wide to support their lifestyle. Most of that has to do with food, clothing, shelter and waste processing. Only a small amount has to do with transportation. 

These developers claim that “transit based development” will magically reduce our global energy use. But adding 33% more people to the Bay area will vastly increase our Global Footprint, whether by 33% or some slightly lesser amount. 

Let's not yield to the green-wash of transit based development. You can choose Bay Area. 

Searle Whitney\ 

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Berkeley's Plan to Consolidate Commissions 

Dear Mayor Bates, City Manager Kamlarz, Members of the Berkeley City Council and Members of the Media, 

The City of Berkeley's current Commission structure is possibly the most democratic structure in Berkeley government today. Attending a Commission meeting allows members of the public to have an intimate setting where we can freely voice our concerns, opinions and ideas on important topics, and pending policies and programs in City government. 

I have attended numerous Community Environmental Advisory Commission (CEAC) meetings to express my concerns regarding Pacific Steel Casting Company (PSC) in West Berkeley and the serious health effects community members risk from its toxic emissions. The cumulative impact and synergistic effects of the multiple sources of pollution in West Berkeley are a major concern to many of us in Berkeley. We cannot immediately decrease the level of pollution from heavy traffic on nearby freeways, but the City can regulate PSC much more effectively (issuance of use permits, adding more stringent conditions on City permits,etc.) 

My experience has been that a number of Commissioners on CEAC have listened closely to my concerns and have taken appropriate action as a result of community public comments. The Commission has written several very strong, health protective and well considered letters of recommendation to the City Council regarding actions the council can take to better protect the helath of the community, to better regulate PSC, and to encourage the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to better regulate PSC as well. 

Consolidating commissions will disempower them further in their advisory capacity, decrease the number of volunteer commissioners in this crucial process, and reduce the democratic process Commissions so effectively provided people in Berkeley. 

I feel very strongly that Berkeley's current Commission structure must remain as it is for the following reasons: 

-Commissions provides a very low-cost structure of conducting city business based on free volunteer labor 

-Commissions give relief to Council members and city staff, providing the City expert advice on technical and policy issues, and drafting legislation 

-Commissions are a nationally-renowned example of democratic participation in addressing social problems 

-Commissions give government the opportunity to take the popular pulse and meet the needs of the community 

-Commissions give community members a forum to influence city policy and programs. 

As a member of the West Berkeley Alliance for Clean Air and Safe Jobs, I applaud the dilligent work of the CEAC, as well as the many other vital City Commissions in Berkeley. Please don't consolidate and/or eliminate any commissions in an effort to save a small amount of money. The Commissions are part of a structure that actually works! 

Janice Schroeder 

* * * 

Standing Up for the Right to Sit Down in Berkeley 

After reading Ms O'Malley's opinion piece on the banning of sidewalk sitting, which she is obviously against, I would like to respond: 

1. It is not only local businesses who support this. I am a long term resident, and I frequently have to run an obstacle course around large, rowdy crowds of street people; particularly on the stretch between Dwight and Haste. It's pretty obvious from the townhall meeting at Moe’s in the last local election that many local residents feel likewise. 

2. The rather clean, bucolic photos of clean happy folks (moms and kids) accompanying your piece stand in stark contrast to the dirty, loud, scummy never-do-wells, who have blankets, dogs, litter, and of course the all too familiar sprawled out bodies in semi conscious states (the list is not exhaustive). This is hardly a stretch; I invite the skeptics to visit the avenue, especially in the later hours of the day. Even worse on the weekends. 

3. At the moment there is a group of very loud African American thugs who gather in front of the now vacant Sharks (next to Peets) and lounge on the AC Transit bench; they seem perfectly at home "owning" that space; and that includes late night drinking, yelling, vandalizing the windows. Recently as I tried to maneuver through so I didn't have to step off the sidewalk to get around, I heard one thug go on about how I was too close to his kids. (I ignored him.) 

Telegraph is truly gritty and repulsive, and I really dislike walking down that avenue. I feel for the people trying to make a living there, as well as the residents trying to live normal lives. To sit in the comfort of some office and opine about trampling the rights of those who show no respect for anyone or anything is really disingenuous. 

Dean Covello 

* * * 

Will Berkeley's City Council Downsize Local Democracy by Cutting Volunteer Commissions? 

Nine Berkeley volunteer Commissions are slated to be merged, and four to have meeting frequency reduced by nearly half. This is item 39 on the May 31 City Council agenda. 

350 Commissioners donate thousands of hours of free labor to our City, so downsizing local democracy by cutting them would be penny-wise/pound foolish. Though Commissions receive some staff assistance, they generally save the Council and staff far more than they cost, and the service they provide is priceless. 

A former City Clerk is quoted in the Commissioner’s Manual: "Without the assistance of the various boards and commissions, the City Council could give many complex and significant matters only a perfunctory review. The detailed studies and considered advice of boards and commissions are often catalysts for innovative programs and improved services... If we are to have government ‘of the people, by the people and for the people’ we must have the continued participation of the many dedicated board and commission members." 

Those who attend the meeting Tuesday night will see that, for practical reasons, public comment at City Council meetings is severely limited, so people sometimes hold up signs to express themselves. Volunteer commissions get to listen more extensively to public concerns, and they research recommended responses. 

Berkeley Commissions are internationally renowned and emulated for helping ensure that diverse community concerns are heard, giving residents an actual voice in the governmental process, and serving almost like volunteer City Council subcommittee members in crafting potential solutions. They should be appreciated, not hushed nor hamstrung. 

Phoebe Sorgen, writing on my own behalf 

For identification purposes: Peace and Justice Commission Vice Chair, Disaster and Fire Safety Commissioner 

* * * 

Arrest Warrants for Syria's Addad 

Earlier this month, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) requested arrest warrants for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, his son Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, and his brother-in-law Abdullah Al-Sanousi who is Libya's head of intelligence for involvement in various crimes against humanity, including the shooting of civilians, massive arrests, torture, and forced disappearances. What about Bashar al-Assad, the President of the Syrian Arab Republic? The Syrian government has killed about 900 people in the last eight weeks in the Syrian uprising and has jailed about 10,000 anti-government protestors and activists. Surely, Assad and other Syrian leaders have committed crimes against humanity to quell the uprising. Perhaps, it is time for the ICC to issue arrest warrants for Assad and his key underlings. 

Ralph E. Stone 

* * * 


Part 1 

The audacity of one man and his self-deluded followers telling us what God is thinking and planning is mind blowing. I'm either writing this posthumously or I'm one of the lucky 144,000 people who were saved and carried up to Heaven. But, seriously, there is one thing that bothers me about the latest evangelical and fundamentalist end-times foray into fantasyland. Their prediction posited that 144,000, of their kind, would be saved at the Rapture. What was to happen to the remaining 61/2 billion people on the planet? The end-times scenario, that we see over and over, seems to be very self-righteous and ungodly. 

Part 2 

It gets weirder and weirder. Harold Camping and his far out cult of end-timers have moved the Doomsday date up to October 21. Didn't you just know this would happen when the May 21 'end of the world' date didn't pan out. 

The new date will will amp up the anxiety level again and keep people on edge of their seats for another five months. 

Camping and his fellow believers are searching the Scriptures to see why their prediction was wrong. Earth to end-timers, God makes the plans and sets the dates, not Harold Camping and his followers. 

Unless, of course, Harold Camping is God. How blasphemous! 

Ron Lowe  

* * * 

Ace Hardware Building 

Mr. Bagdikian and others have complained that it would be too far to drive from the Claremont neighborhood to a good, full service hardware store if the Ace Hardware on University Avenue goes out of business. It is 2.45 miles from the Claremont Hotel to Ace Hardware Berkeley; it is 2.33 miles from the Claremont Hotel to Ellis Ace Hardware, 5424 MLK,Jr. Way, Oakland. There doesn't appear to be a reason to drive all the way to Orchard Supply (6.03 miles further from Ace Berkeley). Even Pastime Hardware, El Cerrito is closer at 4.94 miles further from Ace Berkeley. 

Ednah Beth Friedman 

* * * 

Ruth Rosen: Jewish Americans and the Fate of Israel 

I believe that Ms. Rosen misspoke herself in paragraph #11 regarding the proposed Museum of Tolerance building in Jerusalem. I believe she should have said that when the Kingdom of Jordan controlled East Jerusalem, Jewish gravestones were dug up and used as paving material. She called the gravestones "Israeli"; these graves predated the State of Israel. 

Ednah Beth Friedman 

* * * 


Unfriend Prime Minister Netanyahu who has confronted President Obama. There have been demonstrations on both sides. The pro-Israeli side emphasizes Obama said he could understand why Israelis would protect htheir families, as he would protect Malia, Sacha, and Michelle -- with force if necessary. They also support a theocratic state. 

I don't think that because Israel is a theocracy that the U.S. should be, too. 

I recently wrote to my leader, the Commander-in-Chief, instructing him that the price of my vote in the next election was freedom for Pfc. Bradley Manning. Will the U.S. President’s numbers continue to soar when the Israeli Prime Minister speaks to Congress on Tuesday? Won’t it look like one too many trumpets? 

The Israelis held off when hit by Scud missiles during the Iraq shock’n’awe. Will they return home and stay there for the continuing Osama post-mortem? 

And for the unsupported assertion that torture helps: If the Pakistani secret service were protecting Osama bin Laden (as is conceivable because of the proximity of Islamabad) why would law professor John Yoo of UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall claim — as the CIA Director and/or the most recent clone thereof also claim with complicity — that the U.S. identified one of the brothers as a courier with connections to the former number three of Al Qaeda and a mastermind of the September 11 attacks who was captured in 2005 and so forth (meaning that the incarcerated individual was tortured)? 

Will Yoo claim he is legally entitled to the reward money for the big kill, or the extraction of the corpse and its burial at sea, since he wrote the waterboarding memo for Obama’s immediate predecessor? 

Richard Thompson 

* * * 

Confessions of a Chocaholic  

Determined to shed twenty-five unwanted pounds so that I can once again fit into the size 10 outfits in my closet, today I'm starting a Slim-Fast regime. I picked up three 6 pack cartons at Walgreen's last week, all Rich Chocolate Royale. (I must confess I'm a chocoholic.) According to instructions on the carton, one should have two Slim-Fasts a day, plus a "sensible" 500 calorie meal. That's all very well and good. I generally have a Slim-Fast about noon and find it very satisfying. 

But then, driven by an irresistible force, I soon thereafter head for my nearby Peet's Coffee at Telegraph and Dwight Way, where I indulge in a Caffe Mocha and a huge chocolate cookie. Realizing that I have a serious problem, one that must be dealt with, I decided to google "chocolate addiction." Not a good idea! 

The scientific studies I brought up scared the living daylights out of me. Evidently when we eat chocolate serotonin is released in our bodies. Don't ask me what serotonin is. Northwest Medical School claims that chocolate is the single most craved food. I could have told them that. A Princeton University researcher found that when rats are denied sugar and chocolate they show such symptoms as chattering teeth and the shakes. So far I haven't noticed such signs in my own case. He believes that this craving is emotional, often relating to feelings of low self-esteem or depression. Brother, do I have those feelings! 

So what's the solution to this troublesome addiction? It could very well be treatment, in a beautiful setting, at Duffy's Napa Valley Rehab Center, where for a mere $14,900 I could be cured of my addiction in 28 days (this addiction being similar to alcoholism.) But unless I win a Publisher's Clearing House prize, I'm afraid Duffy's Rehab is out of the question. 

Well, I see it's time for my next Rich Chocolate Royale Slim-Fast, after which I'll head for Peet's Coffee. 

Dorothy Snodgrass 

* * * 

Panoramic Resident Replies 

I question the honesty of your reporter in his article about Panoramic Hill. I am trying to imagine what driveway the volunteer reporter began to climb thinking it was a continuation of Panoramic Way. Having lived on Panoramic hill most of my life, I can see the environment in my mind. I can think of no driveway that appears to be Panoramic Way. Nor can I think of any driveway that appears to be one of the roads that branches off Panoramic Way. There are many places from which your reporter could have obtained factual information, but apparently did not even try. 

Your reporter's article is a very ugly hate piece and I have no understanding why you published such trash. 

Thank you. 

Ann Reid Slaby, Ph.D., MSc, MSc, MS
Attorney at law
former president Panoramic Hill Association
former vice president Council of Neighborhood Assocations
former vice president BAHA
former Berkeley zoning commissioner 

The Reporter Responds 

I prefer to be vague about the street name out of fear you might sue me if my tormentor is identified. 

Sad but true, I reported what I saw and heard. 

"Ugly hate piece?" Some of my readers were amused, some laughed out loud. 

Hate piece? I am embedded in "Camp Hate," presided over by Hate Man in People's Park. Hate ain't all bad. 

Ted Friedman