Keep Beth El
I know that the question of whether or not Beth El should build a new synagogue on the property on Oxford Street is an issue your paper has been following. Certainly there are arguments on both sides that deserve careful thought and consideration. I want to address one of the positions of the opponents to the synagogue that I find very troubling.
At the ZAB meeting on October 9 the neighborhood group’s attorney criticized the EIR as inadequate primarily due to the failure to consider relocating Beth El somewhere other than Berkeley. Thus, the position of the neighbors appears to be that Beth El should move out of Berkeley. I can only hope the implications of this position have not been thought through and that if they were, the position would be withdrawn. Proximity is a central reason for joining a synagogue. Much of what Beth El offers is a pre-school, religious school and camp. Most people are not going to send their children to school in a city in which they do not reside.
I lived in South Berkeley for many years and resided within a few blocks of several churches with active African American memberships. Had one of these churches found a nearby site to expand to, and had another community group suggested they move instead to, perhaps, Orinda, this would have clearly been understood to be an inappropriate and perhaps racist suggestion. Such a move would no doubt destroy their community and they could hardly be expected to thrive, as a black community, in a primarily white area. The same is true for Beth El. Do neighbors really expect us to move to a place where there are few Jews? I hope not.
Berkeley is Beth El’s home. I hope those neighbors who do not support us moving to Oxford Street (many neighbors are supportive) will open their hearts and find a place for us without acrimony.
LPC commissioners’ preservation work adds to their value
Your recent coverage of the Berkeley City Attorney’s opinion on conflict of issue matters regarding the landmarks commission and the synagogue complex fails to recognize the important work of the individual commissioners in question.
Had it not been for their years of work as preservationists, both on and off the commission, some of Berkeley’s most beloved buildings would have been dust. These include Old City Hall, Finn Hall, the Heywood House and Ghego House in West Berkeley, the naval architecture building at UC Berkeley and the Julia Morgan Theatre, to name a few.
Only through intensive historic research and writing, long hours in the libraries, many oral interviews and hard work did these matters come before the landmarks commission for designation. It was this research/writing work coupled with their gracious persistence in working with property owners to persuade them to consider preservation and adaptive re-use instead of demolition that led to these restoration projects. The business community’s loathing of these preservationists is really without grounds.
The Berkeley City Council should overturn the city attorney’s unreasonable directive and allow these commissioners to continue their good work on behalf of the city.
U.S. plays role in other countries’ economy
Franz Schumann’s perspective: “Is there a recession coming?” that U.S. recessions are triggered by external destabilizing world events was enlightening. However, as we contemplate the next recession I feel Schumann slights important internal excesses that destabilize our own system and slights the destabilizing force our hegemonic power has on other world economies.
For example, Schumann cites Nixon’s decision to end the draft, cut the military budget, then invade Cambodia as decisive. More important I believe, was Nixon’s decision to abandon the gold standard in 1971-73 at Bretton Woods, introducing volatility into currencies that has favored only arbitrageurs and has led to predatory currency speculation that wounds foreign economies.
Also, he says that “...the world power balance is more destabilized than since 1991.” There is no world power unless we successfully fashion China as the next “Evil Empire.”
Furthermore, the IMF and the World Bank intrusive edicts seeks to convert all the world economies into U.S. lookalikes, i.e. more “transparent”, so investors can invade their markets more easily. Malaysia had the nerve to say no thank you, and China no doubt will resist this hubristic exercise - others can not.
Schumann hopes that we will resume a position as “unwobbling pivot.” Unfortunately, this investor driven, cookie-cutter mentality may simply eliminates the only remaining “econo-diversity” in the world that might retard rolling worldwide recessions of the future. Face it, our “bubble” is now much bigger than Japan’s was, and when ours bursts we will probably take down many more dependent economies than Japan’s did.
Need to retrofit Bay Bridge, add rail and stand up to Caltrans
Thank you for publishing Bob Piper's excellent letter regarding how Caltrans has mishandled dealing with the seismic issues surrounding the Bay Bridge's east span. It is refreshing for us mere activists to have someone with such credentials stand up to the bureaucracy and call out how irresponsible it has been in its duty of serving the public. Indeed, noting that engineers may be placing their egos above the needs of the public they are to serve in directing us to build something unknown at exorbitant cost, rather than retrofit the existing structure for much less. And we must thank him for spelling out that the Army Corps of Engineers has not had proper time to evaluate all data, and that the data is questionable. I am greatly heartened that he mentions rail, which I completely support as the most efficient and environmentally sound mode of urban transit. Indeed, as Caltrans has stated that the new bridge will be something to carry us through the next century, how can they not include rail? The question this bring up for me is, is it feasible to put rail back on the existing bridge, once retrofitted? It will move a lot more people a lot more quickly, and without all the pollution and rage. We could even sue the car, tire and oil companies, who stole the rail systems from all the American urban centers, to pay for it..
dave wedding dress
Piper’s right about bridge retrofit
Here's another view of the Bay Bridge seismic replacement project addressed by my fellow Sierra Club member, Robert R. Piper, in a Dec. 11 Perspective. Robert is a devoted transit advocate and a retired transportation engineer, whereas I've never even impersonated an engineer. However, I did closely follow this project's development.
First, Robert is quite correct that the new Bay Bridge east span will have the same motor-vehicle capacity as the current span: five lanes in each direction. That three-year-old decision may ultimately prove either wise or foolish, but it is exactly what the Sierra Club's San Francisco Bay Chapter requested in 1997. Second, Robert is again correct that Caltrans did not directly incorporate rail into the new east span's design. That decision may well be seen as foolish some day. But let's focus on what can happen after that realization: The new span will be strong enough to support future light rail -- up to about the weight of BART cars, or the old Key System's Pullman cars. The new span will also be wider than its predecessor, so that rail can be added down the center. After reviewing the assumptions and 1999 cost estimates compiled by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), I conclude that the new east span can accommodate added rail for perhaps $800 million less than any retrofit of the existing span.
Third, Robert is correct, yet again, that the new east span will include a bicycle/pedestrian path. This path (plus an eventual west span connection to San Francisco) will create exciting new commute and recreational alternatives, helping to give San Francisco Bay back to Bay Area residents. The MTC and Caltrans deserve credit for accepting bicycle and pedestrian advocates' arguments that the new span -- which will have a 150-year lifetime -- should no longer be a barrier to nonmotorists. But here's the important point: this path is designed into the new span. To my knowledge, there is no technical plan, budget, legislative authority, or political momentum for adding bike/pedestrian access to any retrofit of the existing span.
“Fourth, when the MTC approved this project in the summer of 1998, its price tag was about $1.4 billion. Of that, almost $400 million and covered aesthetic features such as like enhanced lighting and a graceful cable suspension tower. These features were favored by design advisors and the public alike, and were advocated particularly strongly by the City of Oakland. Any cost increase since that date is due solely to the delaying tactics of a few regional elected officials.
Finally, the new east span will indeed be more cost-effective than any retrofit, even if it initially costs a bit more. This is because the new span will last longer, and will be designed to newer and higher seismic standards (meaning that it will be more likely to survive a major earthquake). By comparison, a retrofit could well mean pouring more than $1 billion into San Francisco Bay only to have the span fail again in a future quake. Then we would have to build all over again – at sharply inflated construction costs, while unthinkable traffic snarled alternative routes.
The project's draft environmental impact study is at http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist4/sfobbdeis.htm.
Concrete won’t protect kids at skate park
It is not to the surprise of many in the city of Berkeley that high levels of hexavalent chrome and solvents were found at the excavation for the Harrison Street skateboard park.
$25,000 was spent by the city for testing the soil and groundwater. Why? To make sure it was safe.
Why are we not surprised that the contamination of cancer-causing agents were deeper? Now the city has moved to spend upwards of $100,000 for pumps and treatment equipment and a study to find any health impacts.
I do not believe raising the level of concrete will be the answer. Do we want our kids skateboarding in concrete bowls that supposedly cover up contamination?
And then there is the Harrison Street playground. How much money has been spent to prove that the area is not toxic for our kids?
Doug Fielding campaigned long and hard to convince the city council and many city commissions that the Harrison tracks were safe. The only commission to not support the playing fields was the commission on disability.
Doug Fielding, who convinced the city to OK these parks and playing fields, has the contract to build the park through the Association of Sports Field Users. He still claims the concrete will protect the kids from contamination. I didn’t believe him the first time and I don’t believe him the second.
What is wrong with this picture? Wake up Berkeley. This is a city where free range turkeys and fair trade coffee are important to us. We cannot trust anyone who is making money off the health of our children and future generations of Berkeleyans. What kind of legacy is that?
Reduce energy use
The Daily Planet received this letter addressed to Gov. Gray Davis:
As a visitor to your area, I am amazed and appalled to see that as your state closely watches energy availability to insure there are no brown-outs to your constituents, your constituents are not mandated to abate and reduce their intake of energy. As I drive the streets of San Francisco’s suburbs the term that comes to mind is “conspicuous consumption.” Christmas lights on commercial buildings; Christmas lights on malls; one street I drove had nearly every home lit with Christmas lights – one had Santa in lights including all of his reindeer and the house fully lit. I wonder how many of your government buildings are currently a glare?
I watched the nightly news and your plea that Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chief James Hoeker step in and insure that your state is supplied with all the energy you demand. I thought of several things: California’s attempt at control of energy costs; attempt to control property taxes; swelling economy and population. One need only look at New York City apartment rent controls or California's own Property Tax controls to know how effective these are; let's leave our legacy to our children. I guess the principles of CAPITALISTIC SOCIETY shouldn't apply if you live in California.
Why should the rest of the country be asked to help California find a way to buy their way out of their prosperity? Why doesn’t California use simple economics and let the market bare what the market will bare? If there is a shortage and the state isn't smart enough to force some type of control or allocation; then the constituents should suffer and the brown-out occurs.
Much Ado? -- Time to Move On
I have held my public tongue as long as I can, but after reading the latest missile from Carol Denney blasted into the print arena of the Harrison Park controversy I am compelled to comment. The controversy is about a process that has as its primary goal, the building of a public park for the citizens of Berkeley.
It seems to me that once again we have the classic Berkeley conundrum of trying to determine fail safe answers to complex problems and in the process creating a political circus to the max and sacrificing progress for absolutism. We are smart people. We should know by now SIMPLE ANSWERS AND NO RISK SOLUTIONS ARE NOT POSSIBLE.
We have used, and yes in many cases misused this land, for at least 150 years. Many vocal Berkeley citizens (in an effort to be responsible for the health and safety of our children some generous people would say) focus on the dark side of humanity. However, the side of humanity that is so often overlooked here is the brighter side. In this case it is the products of scientific research and public agency oversight and planning.
This is not a movie. The (prematurely) “sainted” L. A. Wood is not Erin Brockovich. Science and monitoring WAS in place. When problems were found preventive measures WERE taken. Children were NOT harmed or even put in danger. Most importantly the hazard that has surfaced CAN be cleaned up easily with science and technology that is available.
In this situation, we can have it all. We can mitigate the pollution (which I’m told is not so bad on the scale of it), protect the Bay and provide a park for the citizens of Berkeley. The issue of blame, looking for villains and heroes, diverts energy from the real task, which is to support positive actions for the citizens. If there is a hero here, it is the City (elected, appointed and hired) which took a chance and built a park on that site. The villainy unfortunately is more pervasive than a company, an official or any other identifiable source or act from the past. I’m willing to write it off to the dark side of our collective human nature and instead say let’s get on with it so that the plans and dreams so close to completion can be realized. Finish the skate park.
Berkeley, CA 94710
Susan McKay participated in the design of the project.
In the Beginning There Was the Word!
It’s 12:51 am Thursday morning, December 14, 2000 and I’m angry and I can’t sleep. My stomach roils when I imagine that on January 20th, 2001 I will be the citizen of a country whose president is George W. Bush. Oh my God! Oh my God!
On November 7, when George Bush was first announced president elect, I and I think most everyone knew George W. Bush, by hook or by crook was going to be the next president of these United States of America. At the same time I thought I held out hope that maybe all things being fair, maybe Al could pull it out. I realize now it was denial. I, like many other optimists in Berkeley was in denial. First, this irregular an election can only have taken place in two places-Texas or Florida, for obvious reasons. Texas, we all agree was too obvious. Florida on the other hand was much more subtle and mysterious. What I didn’t know on November 7th was to what extent Republicans controlling Florida would go to insure George W. Bush becomes the 31st president of the United States of America. The Irony of ironies for me was the party of states rights using the Supreme Court shamelessly to subvert the will of the majority of the people who voted in the State of Florida (whom by the way we all know most voted for Al Gore).
When I first heard what the supreme court had done, I was so angry I wanted to go picket somewhere and carry a sign that said Bush sucks or Supreme Bull----! I want to yell and march and sit in somewhere. I wanted to cry in public and join an action group. I want to do something about this. And I will! But before I do let just say a little more on this subject before moving on.
The opinion of the five conservative supreme court justices, especially Scalia and Rhenquist, was wrong, unfair, partisan and petty, in my opinion. I think most right thinking, non-republicans would agree. Yet we’re told there’s nothing we can do about it. Why not. Is the supreme court unassailable, can we only criticize in abstract and after the fact, their lack of justice and integrity? Again I want to do something. Let’s picket them until they can’t stand it anymore and retire all five in masse. Oh God! George W. Bush may get to pick new supreme court judges.
Had George W. Bush lost the presidency by hand count (not recount; these votes were never counted, the machine spit them out as not voting for any presidential candidate) the religious right, the centrist and every other republican would be out in the streets, calling in on talk radio, clogging the internet with vitriolic rhetoric and manipulation of words to justify their intention to have, by hook or by crook, George W. Bush as their next president. (He’s not my president by the way.) I think we all know this to be true. Now we’re supposed to accept what happened and build bridges and try to work together. Of course we will move on and some of us may forget, but I wont. In fact I plan to organize and register as many voters as I can in the next four years. I will write letters and stay abreast of current events and keep my eyes on George W. Bush. I trust I won’t be alone. Every civil and social rights activist on the planet should be seeing red right about now. Look out George W. Bush, were watching you. And don’t try to make your brother Neil Governor of Texas either!
Let’s doing something folks. Let’s organize and collaborate and present a united strong loud voice against the unlawful subversion of the will of the people. Let’s drop the Electoral College, get decent voting equipment for everyone, re-commit to the idea of voting rights for all and give back the power to the people!
Finally let me say with assuredness, this ain’t over. It’s just beginning. Don’t forget this is a bunch of happy, employed lawyers were talking about. How many lawyers does it take to elect a president? All of them!
Joy Moore is a resident of South Berkeley.
(Phone 510 548-8838
1317 Ashby Avenue, #E
Berkeley, CA 94702)