Letters to the Editor

Friday June 11, 2004


Editors, Daily Planet: 

What great timing. The very day after a friend and I were stumped trying to name these flowery showstoppers your Ron Sullivan comes to the rescue (“A Paperbark Writer Talks of Trees that go ‘Oof!’, Daily Planet, May 25-27). They are melaleuca trees. 

This is the second time she has pulled a name out of the hat—the last time was her column on Red horsechestnuts that I had encountered near the Monterey Market. 

I look forward to more of her serendipitous columns in the future. For now, a big thanks from this grateful reader. 

Tim Aaronson 

El Cerrito 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Where, for goodness sake, did you find your Police Blotter writer? His yuk-yuk, har-har style is an embarrassment to your paper. The guy writes as if he’s just sprung, full-blown, from the pages of a Sinclair Lewis novel, probably Babbitt. My god, get this person a stand-up gig at the local Rotarians or Elks Club. He’d be a sensation there. He doesn’t belong with the Planet. Next thing you know, we’ll be getting weekly excerpts from the “humor” columns of Reader’s Digest! 

Peter Hubbard 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In response to Charles Smith and his admiring portrayal of Ralph Nader as a necessary gadfly (Letters, Daily Planet, June 8-10): Dear Charles, given that we already have a rat in the White House, why oh why should we consider a fly? Have you considered that by dividing the progressive vote, Saint Ralph right now, is doing absolutely everything he can to ensure the election of the one man (Bush) who will do in turn absolutely everything he can to ensure that absolutely everything Ralph Nader believes in will never happen. Got it? 

Mike Steinberg 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It was interesting to note last week that Mr. Donaldson chides you and others for being poorly informed and self-appointed and then proceeds himself in that manner (Letters, Daily Planet, June 1-3). I think the situation at Rosa Parks School calls for more information and accountability. 

I have been “informed” that almost half the teaching staff is leaving and that number is divided between those asked by Superintendent Lawrence to transfer and those leaving on their own accord. Two teachers did not return from spring break. Mr. Donaldson says he was informed that “observations of both the principal, the superintendent and other educational experts who observed, over a period of many months, the teaching in individual classrooms” lead to recommended changes and teachers unwilling to change were asked to leave. My sources tell me the observations are questionable and that the only plan was that Ms. Herrera would remain as principal. 

Ms. Lawrence continues to stick with this despite the fact that almost all classroom teachers asked that a new principal be appointed. She has also not addressed issues raised by Concerned Citizens of Rosa Parks School which include unreliable leadership, inequitable treatment of students and staff, and lack of knowledge and support for some policies, programs and families. Ms. Herrera’s lack of experience as a principal has also been cited as an issue not addressed. 

I do agree with Mr. Donaldson that this important Berkeley public school must get beyond the gossip and criticism. Transferring experienced and well-respected teachers under the present circumstances only increases gossip and criticism. Scapegoating the teachers is not the answer. I urge Superintendent Lawrence to speak publicly and informatively on these issues. 

Nora Wellstone 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding your June 8 “Hot Air” editorial on Reagan: Reagan presided over the most murderous period ever of U.S. actions in Central America, when hundreds of thousands of peasants, labor leaders, nuns and other grass roots activists were tortured, raped, and brutally murdered. People in El Salvador and Guatemala remember him as the butcher of their region. His administration harbored the Iran-Contra scandal which armed Iran and killed tens of thousands of Nicaraguans and destroyed its popular democracy. He initiated a new U.S. arms buildup, attacked tiny Grenada and watched its president, Maurice Bishop, killed. Reagan’s CIA helped set the stage in Afghanistan and Pakistan for the current disaster in the Middle East. Because of his ignorance or senility, the practice of deniability became acceptable policy, preventing the accountability of the presidency. 

On the home front Reagan started the massive redistribution of wealth upwards, which removed funds though taxes and legislation from the public sphere, laying the groundwork for the impoverishment of our schools, hospitals and other public institutions. As governor of California, he closed the mental institutions and put thousands of mentally ill onto the streets. I credit him with making it feel OK to pursue personal wealth at the expense of social and community needs. 

As president he watched thousands die of AIDS and did nothing, actually worse than nothing because he blamed the victims. 

I could never stand to listen to the meaningless blather from his lips, and it’s a mystery to me how others can view him as a slightly flawed but harmless and genial old man. I did not expect such treatment of Reagan by you. Readers need real information on history, not personality and blanks. 

Karen Klitz 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing to express my opposition to the 100-unit high-density housing development proposed in the University of California’s 2020 Long Range Development Plan. The contiguous area is zoned for low-density single-family housing, and for good reason: It is one of the most high-risk fire zones in the United States. It is essential that we maintain adequate egress from our neighborhood, as well as access for emergency vehicles. The addition of 100 high-density housing units, along with the automobile gridlock they will create is simply not acceptable. 

It is also crucial that we stop further destruction of the upper Strawberry Creek Watershed. Impermeable surfaces, such as buildings and parking lots, increase run-off and detrimentally impact the city’s aging infrastructure. Sections of the proposed development site sit on an aquifer that, in times of emergency, such as a break on the EBMUD water line at the Caldecott Tunnel, could provide potable water for the entire city of Berkeley. Additionally, there are three fault lines that circumscribe the area — hardly a logical place for new housing.  

The City of Berkeley is experiencing an historical residential vacancy rate as well as a boom in construction of condominiums and townhouses, all of which are within walking distance to campus. It makes much more sense to utilize available housing within the stated objectives of the LRDP (“within one mile from campus”) than to begin an environmentally unsound, costly and potentially dangerous project.  

Andrea Pflaumer 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I too am very sad to hear about the verdicts in the Reddy family sex slavery case. In my opinion, the whole family should be deported and their ill-gotten fortune should be confiscated. To my amazement, people still eat in their restaurant! At the very least there should be a total boycott of the Pasand restaurant. It’s a very sad comment on our “justice” system when rich people like the Reddy family can get off with such light sentences for such horrible crimes, and were it not for the quick thinking of Marcia Poole, the family might have gotten away with murder, literally. The citizens of Berkeley owe her a debt of gratitude for her civic spirit and moral courage. All too often people just turn their head and pretend not to notice. Thanks to Marcia and to the Daily Planet for shining the light of truth. 

Paul Griffin 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Central Labor Council and Building Trades Council of Alameda County support the recommendations of the task force appointed to study the proposed downtown hotel/conference center project. This project has the potential to be a major benefit to the city and the local community.  

Through a process that has been both open and thorough, the task force has had the opportunity to consider issues of concern to a broad cross-section of the community, whose support for the project will be essential as it moves forward.  

In particular, the recommendations relating to labor and employment will help encourage the creation of good, living wage jobs consistent with the City of Berkeley’s commitment to social justice and equitable and sustainable development. They will also help to avoid lengthy labor disputes, such as the ongoing fight at the Claremont Resort and Spa.  

The Central Labor Council and Building Trades Councils also support the maintenance of the task force as an active body as the project moves forward. When the developer submits a formal proposal, the broad expertise of the task force puts it in a good position to review and comment on that proposal, thus providing valuable feedback to the Planning Commission and City Council. 

This project can be a win-win for Berkeley residents, workers and businesses. The City Council adopting the entire set of task force recommendations and forwarding them to the developer would be an important step in this direction. 

Judy Goff 


Central Labor Council of Alameda County 


Barry Luboviski 


Alameda County Building Trades Council 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I would like to correct an error in Matthew Artz’s article “School Board Moves Toward November Ballot Tax Measure” (Daily Planet, June 4-7). Mr. Artz erroneously states that BUSD has staffed school libraries with library media teachers, rather than “licensed” librarians. 

Library media teachers are “licensed” librarians: credentialed classroom teachers who possess a second credential in library science. A school librarian is therefore a teacher qualified to teach students information literacy, promote student literacy, and deliver curriculum standards, in collaboration with the regular classroom teacher. I believe Mr. Artz intended to recognize that BUSD does not have credentialed librarians in most schools. 

The confusion arises because our K-5 libraries, with the exception of a site-funded librarian at Malcolm X, are staffed by library media technicians (same initials— LMT’s), but these para-professionals are not credentialed librarians, i.e., teachers. Only the secondary schools have credentialed library media teachers, although the staffing allocations vary by site. 

What do our schools need? A professional library staff that includes credentialed library media teachers and library media technicians. Why? To improve student achievement, and enrich and support the K-12 curriculum. 

Kristin Collins 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

You may drive along University or San Pablo avenues, and never see the wonderful neighborhoods just around the corner. Made up mostly of small cozy homes, amazing flower and vegetable gardens, fruit trees, little creeks that become raging water in winter. The low, down-to-earth scale here gives us sunshine like nowhere else in town. 

This is Berkeley’s melting pot of ethnic and occupational diversity. Fixer-upper homes are still affordable here although the fixing may take a lifetime! In our neighborhoods young families are having a baby boom such that our elementary schools north of University Avenue do not have adequate capacity. 

There are delightfully walkable neighborhoods here, but also some streets we avoid. The crime there generally seems to diminish only in election years. We wonder why the city tolerates that and why drug dealing and prostitution occurs in various locations on University and San Pablo avenues regularly. 

Why is the city imposing out-of-scale development next to our modest homes? Why does the school board have plans that may destroy schools, community resources, and pave over playgrounds for parking lots? Why are University Avenue sidewalks filthy and rarely cleaned? Why does it feel that the city does not care about us? 

In the Flatlands neighborhood of LeConte, where Mayor Tom Bates lives, things are done quite differently. LeConte Elementary School would never be sacrificed although the density of children in LeConte Neighborhood is one fourth that of the Franklin School neighborhood. When developers want to build on Telegraph or Shattuck avenues near LeConte, they go to the LeConte Neighborhood Association and work out all the details—design, parking, use, etc, and only after neighborhood approval does the project go to the city. 

In our neighborhoods we get a “done deal” landing on us, and over time, the “magic box” of development often changes to become even worse than what was approved. There is something terribly wrong here. 

We want our neighborhoods to be treated as responsibly and fairly as Mayor Tom Bates’ Neighborhood. 

Merrilie Mitchell 

Coalition for University-San Pablo 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The democratic process got mugged in Oakland last month. Despite overwhelming public support, on May 18 the Alameda County Board of Supervisors’ “Fair Liaison Committee” (supes Scott Haggerty and Keith Carson) abdicated their responsibility to their constituents and killed a proposed ordinance banning wild animal acts at the Alameda County Fair. 

In the past the fair has featured elephant rides, demeaning tiger and bear acts, alligators and photo ops with a baby chimp. Bad for the animals, bad—and potentially dangerous—for the public. And inappropriate for a county agricultural fair. The endless travel, unnatural living conditions, and the stresses of performance-on-demand are harmful to the animals, as are the often brutal training methods. 

The board received some 200 letters in support of the ordinance, and not one opposed. A dozen animal welfare organizations representing more than 100,000 members in Alameda County (the Oakland Zoo, the SPCA, the Humane Society of the U.S., et al.) submitted support letters, as did State Sen. Don Perata and Assemblymembers Wilma Chan and Loni Hancock. Even County Sheriff Charlie Plummer was on board. 

Mr. Haggerty wasted a good deal of time extolling the alleged virtues of the fair’s 4-H program, his daughter’s dedication to her ailing pig, and his close ties (!) to fair boardmembers—all irrelevant to the matter at hand. He should have recused himself due to conflicts of interest. More than 30 ordinance supporters were not allowed to speak. 

Those concerned should express their dismay to Board President Gail Steele, an avowed animal lover. This matter deserves a public hearing before the full Board of Supervisors. Further, the ordinance should cover all of unincorporated Alameda County, and all county-owned property, not just the fairgrounds. The animals and the public deserve better. 

Eric Mills 

Action for Animals, Oakland 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

While many who would deify Ronald Reagan praise his being “tough” against communism and terrorism, I am thinking about the 241 Marines who were killed when their barracks were bombed in 1983. President Reagan’s tough response was to abandon Lebanon. It is only now that we know this was a seminal event in Osama bin Laden’s career; it was the moment he saw the United States as a paper tiger. The larger-than-life image of a president who secretly sold missiles to terrorists in exchange for hostages and who used the money to conduct a war prohibited by our United States Congress deserves adulation for just one thing: the stagecraft of a Hollywood icon. 

Bruce Joffe 





Editors, Daily Planet:  

I’m still trying to get it straight. The chairman of the Rent Control Board is opposed to means testing tenants because it is “an Ashcroftesque invasion of privacy” (“Rent Board Chair Chides Control Foes’ ‘Rant,’” Daily Planet, May 25-27), despite the fact that means testing is used to determine eligibility for many social welfare programs such as student financial aid, subsidized medical care and public housing. 

In response to my request for clarification (Letters, Daily Planet, June 1-3), one of his fellow commissioners, Chris Kavanagh, writes that anyone who supports means testing for tenants must also support a “parallel or reciprocal rental or property means testing process” without further describing such a process. He then states that such a process of “counterproductive and legally untenable” again without offering specifics (Letters, Daily Planet, June 4-7). Yet both tenants and landlords pay state and federal income taxes which rely on a process of means testing. 

It seems to me that rent controls redistribute income from a landlord to a tenant, regardless of whether the landlord can afford it or the tenant needs it. Instead of regulating rents, why not impose a tax on landlords whose net incomes exceed a certain amount, and use those taxes to help pay the rents of tenants whose net incomes fall below a certain amount? This would produce a more equitable redistribution of income than current rent controls do. And as the tax would be based on net income, it would encourage landlords to invest in maintaining and improving their rental properties, increasing the city’s property tax base, thereby reducing projected budget deficits or property tax rates. 

I am still hopeful for clarification, both from Commissioners Anderson and Kavanagh, regarding their comments opposing means testing. 

Keith Winnardˇ