Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Wednesday June 08, 2011 - 03:45:00 PM

More about the Branch Libraries Controversy; Catholic Laundries; Republicans; Interfering; Shrinking Meat; Fair Share; Prison Overcrowding; Public Servants  

More about the Branch Libraries Controversy 

My recent commentary about the branch library replacements elicited a response from Gail Garcia which bears further discussion. 

I had noted that the West Branch was described as rotting and unsafe; Ms Garcia asked “Described by whom?” and suggests the description was used by “library officials” to justify demolition. In fact the phrases “structural decay and rot” and “not seismically sound” appear in the Environmental Impact Report . Todd Jersey, the architect of the alternative replacement proposal, quoted this (on page 200 of the Final EIR) as “generally acceptable to all parties.” 

I pointed out that only part of one facade of the West branch would be saved, but Ms Garcia says the majority of the old 1923 building would survive. In fact, even the facade I mentioned would be altered: the original front entrance would be sealed and a new entrance constructed west of the old building. The restoration of the remainder of the 1923 building would involve new foundations and repair or replacement of much of the remaining interior walls. Many of these changes appear to fail to meet federal standards for the restoration of historic buildings, standards that are used by the federal government as well as local governments, including the Berkeley Landmarks Preservation Commission. (See pages 309-313 of the Final EIR.) 

Ironically, the alternative preservation proposal championed by Concerned Library Users calls for the replacement of more than half of the West Branch building. Under the Berkeley Municipal Code section 23F.04.010 this would qualify the entire project as a “demolition” and we might expect those opposing the present plans to find this plan equally unsatisfactory and illegal. But Ms Garcia says that Berkeley’s “definition of demolition is irrelevant” as “are the federal criteria for rehabilitation.” Whose laws and whose criteria does she suggest should guide us in this matter? 

Elmer R. Grossman, M.D. 

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Catholic Laundries 

On June 6 a U.N. panel urged Ireland to investigate allegations that for decades women and girls sent to work in Catholic laundries where they suffered physical, emotional abuses and other ill-treatment." It has asked for compensation for victims. Many of the victims were teenagers who arrived as punishment for petty crimes or for becoming pregnant out of wedlock. In this regard, I highly recommend the 2002 film "Magdalene Sisters, which three young Irish women struggle to maintain their spirits while they endure dehumanizing abuse as inmates of a Magdalene Sisters Asylum otherwise known as the Magdalene laundries. 

Ralph E. Stone 

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The Republican 2012 presidential campaign swings into high gear. Mitt (my health care plan was not the inspiration for Obama care) Romney has thrown his hat into the ring of GOP presidential contenders. As has Rick (abortion is the issue) Santorum R-PA. Perennial Republican politician Newt (always seeking power) Gingrich is running again for the GOP top spot. Barack Obama won North Carolina through a strong turnout of early voters. So, what have N.C. Republicans done to negate this happening again - passed admeasured limiting early voting. Jim Crow lives on in North. Carolina. Florida and Georgia have also passed measures to restrict early voting. Give the GOP a high-five for their on-going voter suppression and discrimination. 

Republicans have taken on the aura of the Tea Party crazies they are pandering to. That any business types, corporate types or Wall Street types would continue to support the GOP's political grandstanding of threatening to shut down the government and undermine the still recovering economy, is inexcusable. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Tim Pawlenty (presidential contender from Minnesota), Eric Kantner (R-VA) and others in the anti-tax Tea Party gang are saying shut 'er down, using the lame excuse that the U.S. can't get its financial house in shape by raising the debt ceiling. Would the Republicans rather the house burn to the ground than raise the ceiling? It is time for the business community to step up to the plate and put pressure on these outlaws to the American way of life. Yes, I'm perturbed. Raise the debt ceiling and stop horsing around with America’s future.  

Ron Lowe  

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"Plainly, the U.S. and its allies are not going to want governments which are responsive to the will of the people. If that happens, not only will the U.S. not control the region, but it will be thrown out." Noam Chomsky 

When Central American War going on somewhere in Central America, and it's not at all uncommon for the U.S. to step in and change things there if it doesn't like it. When Guatemala elected a Communist president, the U.S.A. sent in the Marines!--Like that. The U.S.A. feels they have a right to interfere in the affairs of Central America. 

Of course, they did exactly the same thing in Lebanon years ago! When they elected a pro-Communist president, Eisenhower sent in the Marines!--And Lebanon's had nothing but grief ever since. And the same thing happened in Vietnam. When they looked like they were about to have a pro-Communist government, the U.S. stepped in to make sure they didn't! 

"We heard was President Obama, immediately after the coup, did say that it was a military coup and that the President, President Zelaya, must return with no conditions. He was the democratically elected president. They got to President Obama, and he did not use that word ever again, along with Secretary of State Clinton and others. Those who used that word "coup" when it actually—what do you call it when the president, democratically elected president of a country" Father Roy Bourgeois 

Ted Rudow III, MA
Palo Alto

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Shrinking Meat 

SDA’s new MyPlate dietary logo illustrates graphically the shrinking role of meat and dairy products in our national diet. It replaces meat with a tofu loaf, and shunts dairy off the plate. 

The new logo provides a fitting conclusion to a 30-year record of the Dietary Guidelines recommending replacement of animal products and other fatty foods in our diet with vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains (see 

The recommendations reflect widespread concern with the growing epidemic of obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, and other killer diseases. 

There is an historic reason why health authorities have not taken a stronger stand against meat and dairy, as they did with tobacco products three decades ago. 

In 1977, the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs published Dietary Goals for the United States, recommending reduced meat consumption. The meat industry forced the Committee to destroy all copies of the report and to remove the offending recommendation from a new version. It then abolished the Committee, voted Chairman George McGovern out of office, and taught government bureaucrats never to challenge meat consumption again. (Food Politics by Marion Nestle, 2007). 

Harold Kunitz 

Walnut Creek 

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Fair Share 

\ Nobody points to the waste of our tax dollars by government officials in the name of public works. Also, some people are not paying their fair share of taxes. Many people don't tell the truth about the wealth they have accumulated. The lack of willingness to pay our fair share for services provided by the government leads to our current budget hole. 

If criminals from overpopulated prisons are let loose in society what will happen to our children? How will innocent people be safe to move about in public places? We are cutting down on safety officers for budgetary reasons. At the end of all this reaction against the public good what kind of community will we have left? 

Romila Khanna

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Prison Overcrowding 

We were encouraged to see the Berkeley Daily Planet's' in-depth coverage of the Supreme Court's landmark ruling on California's corrections system on May 31st - and the prospect of privatized prisons being used to ease over-crowding. 

In the May 24th decision, the Supreme Court found that the state of California violated the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment, and abdicated its responsibility for its inmates by producing "needless death and suffering" by running an overcrowded corrections system that failed to deliver even minimal care. The trouble is that the preferred strategy for lowering costs and easing overcrowding has historically been privatization, basically handing the problem off to corporations, whose business practices and facilities aren't held to the same meager level of accountability as those of government.  

While the privatization trend has been sold to depressed communities as cost saving, or even profitable for local economies, the Times own front page story revealed that savings are minimal while the possibilities for corruption or abuse are rife. In order for this ruling to have teeth, we clearly need a push for privatization to end, especially with newly elected mayors and governors in a handful of states pushing for expansion. How can the Supreme Court's admonishment that government is failing to police itself be addressed by continuing to farm out responsibility to corporations?  

It is our hope that California and the nation will take this as an opportunity to explore alternatives to an expansion of the prison system including: drug courts; probation; community corrections or halfway houses; electronic monitoring; restitution; community service and restorative justice programs. In a nation that incarcerates at a staggering rate and holds one quarter of the world’s prisoners, we desperately need to find a way to both reduce incarceration and be responsible for the humane treatment of the prisoners we do hold. 

Donna Red Wing 

Executive Director 

Grassroots Leadership 

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Public Servants 

The Alameda police officers and firefighters that stood by and did nothing while a man drowned should be ashamed.Aren't these men public servants ? What happened to the idea of ''to serve and protect''? If one of those government employees had saved this man, they would have been called a hero.  

If a public servant [or private citizen] has a chance to save a life he, or she, should try to do so. Just following orders is no excuse.  

Chuck Mann