Letters to the Editor

Friday November 19, 2004


Editors, Daily Planet: 

The re-election of President Bush means four more years of rollback of American Indian sovereignty and environmental destruction that President Bush supports. Plus, the majority of religious conservatives can use their faith in an abusive way and have allies in both President Bush and a conservative Congress. I hope some people will fight back against these reactionaries in Washington. 

Billy Trice, Jr. 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Designed by no less an architect than William Wurster, the Jensen Cottage at 1650 La Vereda Road does indeed appear to be historically significant. But it seems that when a zoning application was filed proposing a major addition to the house, nobody in city government even noticed that likely significance. The long subsequent dispute over the zoning proposal teaches some important lessons. 

An effective screening system in needed to identify—early on—projects that could impact historic resources. And as the La Vereda case itself illustrates, this needs to involve residential properties, not just commercial ones. 

The Landmarks Preservation Commission has worked very hard to craft such a system. It is an integral part of the potential ordinance amendments which they recommended this summer, and which are now being discussed by the Planning Commission. 

If the LPC’s recommended system had been operative at the time, the Jensen Cottage’s significance would have been grasped right from the start. 

John English 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

David Brower should be honored. 

Perhaps the giant ball could be placed on top of the UC Campanile like a giant golf ball. 

If it were half buried, it wouldn’t be so imposing. Fran Segal’s ideas are good. 

If it were designated as a “Memorial” rather than “Art” it wouldn’t be subject to stringent state laws. 

I have read in a science magazine that the human brain acts as an advocate or lawyer rather than as a truth seeker. Therefore, if we have an idea or position we will defend it, in spite of information or evidence to the contrary. It is important to keep this in mind. 

Richard List 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

There have been widespread reports of voting irregularities in the recent election. In particular, I am concerned that prevalent use of electronic voting is subject to hacking and implanted tallies. When I requested a paper ballot at my polling place, because I had read about the ease of altering e-votes, the worker at my precinct didn’t know about my right to demand a paper (provisional?) ballot, and had to get confirmation. But why was my vote “provisional”? I was not reassured that my vote and others would be counted correctly. I support the demand that voting irregularities and the reliability of e-voting be investigated by Congress. 

Dr. Mina D. Caulfield 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In his Nov. 16 letter assailing Berkeley’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance program (rent control), rental property owner Sig Cohn remarks that he would be “happy to pay” into a program that is “beneficial to the community,” rather than support the city’s rent ordinance program. 

In actuality, the rental unit fee that Mr. Cohn tenders contributes directly to the single largest—and most beneficial—affordable housing public policy program in the entire City of Berkeley: the city’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance program. 

Under the city’s rent program, nearly 19,000 units are regulated. This provides rent level stability, affordability and housing security for tens of thousands of Berkeley citizens—the overwhelming majority of whom are low income—including seniors and disabled on fixed incomes, single mothers, working families and students among others. 

Mr. Cohn declares that the “necessity for Berkeley rent control certainly now is a thing of the past.” Given that the Bay Area region has some of the highest rent levels in the entire nation, comparable to New York City and Honolulu, I would suggest that the city’s rent stabilization program is more critical than ever.  

Chris Kavanagh 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I gave a year of my life to the Nuclear Weapons Freeze 20 years ago, and it was one of my best years because of that work. This week the Senate will consider funding President Bush’s research into new nuclear weapons, so-called bunker busters and “mini-nukes.” Despite his claims to the contrary, he has no “mandate” from the American people to build new nuclear weapons. According to a recent poll by the Program on International Policy Attitudes, the vast majority of our citizens believe we should not develop new nukes. Even Republicans in the House of Representatives have rejected funding for these weapons. The Senate must do the same. New nuclear weapons put America at risk. We don’t need them. They could not have prevented 9/11 and only increase a sense of insecurity in nations that don’t have them, thus fueling a renewed arms race. This endangers us all. Stop the madness, a thinly veiled gift to corporate interests that helped re-(s)elect Bush. 

Phoebe Anne (Sorgen) 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I really enjoyed running for the Berkeley School Board, although due to a death in the family, it was a very short campaign for me. 

I believe it was unfair for Daily Planet reporter J. Douglas Allen-Taylor to trash my candidacy (“Incumbents Face Stiff Challenge in School Board Race,” Daily Planet, Oct. 15-18) and to give readers no clue about my reasons for running. 

My issues were important: kids first, politics last; school sites as a public trust—not development opportunity; safe schools, neighborhoods, and routes to schools; excellent schools for all our kids—not just for political favorites; and much more. 

My issues were different from those of the other four contenders, who were “progressives.” My understanding is that “progressive” strategists wanted to re-elect the incumbents, while giving the other two candidates (both associated with Terry Doran’s “small schools plan”) name recognition and a head start for the 2006 election. 

This kind of strategic planning succeeded in electing long time BCA Executive Director Terry Doran to the School Board in 1998, and then electing Green Party/BCA member John Selawsky the following term. Quid pro quo, Doran got the Green endorsement to win in 1998, and Selawsky was given the BCA endorsement to win in 2000. Selawsky also became executive director of the BCA. He remained Green enough to get the Green Party “bullet vote” endorsement this year: Vote for John Selawsky and don’t vote for Joaquin Rivera or Merrilie Mitchell.  

I had to run against Berkeley’s political machine, a process so ugly that few will participate. They use cold-blooded strategies and tactics like the “Exclusionary Principle” which tries to close out everyone else. I was not invited to some candidates forums, including for example, “Candidates Night and Berkeley School Board Forum,” organized by Zelda Bronstein for Thousand Oaks Neighborhood Association. Only incumbents were invited! Zelda is a special reporter for the Planet, and was a longtime Planning Commission appointee of Linda Maio. 

Although most independent candidates were marginalized in the press, I felt particularly wronged by Daily Planet reporter J. Douglas Allen-Taylor. He disposed of me cleverly on page one, and my response and correction was buried on page 20. Editor Becky O’Malley did give a fair and equal chance for each candidate to provide a statement, but that could not make up for being trashed on page one.  

Reporter J. Douglas Allen-Taylor deserves credit for being a talented writer on local politics, but not on Berkeley politics! In his “Undercurrents” column he goes after FCMAT, Oakland Schools’ issues, and Mayor Jerry Brown. See “That Old Brown Magic….” (Daily Planet, Aug. 1-4, 2003) a terrific expose of Jerry Brown bragging about the Oakland School takeover. Taylor sums up: “The trick for the astute politician is not to actually solve problems, but to keep up the nice slogans while continuing to spend all the money.” Hey Jessie, that sounds just like Berkeley! But Taylor doesn’t criticize Berkeley’s “progressives.” 

Berkeley is run by a machine, which makes a mockery of democracy. Mayor Tom Bates has made it worse by implementing Sacramento-style politics: Agenda Committee, special City Council meetings before the regular meetings, “moving–target” meetings of the Housing Authority and Redevelopment Agency, where millions of dollars vanish into massive political-base housing projects, and school properties are eyed for sites. As Mr. Taylor excluded my independent campaign from his school board coverage, he also excluded Housing Authority and Redevelopment Agency when he covered City Council meetings. I feel he is protecting the “progressive” agenda and showing his active disrespect for the majority of people in Berkeley who deserve to know what is really going on in their hometown. 

Merrilie Mitchell 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I read your Nov. 16 editorial (“Richmond Takes a Piece of Pie”) on describing your recent interest in Richmond. Your rationale is that you “see the whole bayside corridor, at least from Richmond all the way don to the southern reaches of Oakland as part of a web of interlocking issues which concern all of us.” You go on to suggest baysiders are alike and “those on the other side of the hill” are different, but your rationale on why you take politically correct but simple minded positions on very difficult issues strikes me as thinking from “the other side of the hill.” 

You see the environment as good, development as bad. You see open space as good, but fail to consider how the public might be allowed to enjoy the open space. I lived in Berkeley for 30 years and always saw issues in black and white. I now live in Richmond and now see issues a bit grayer.  

Your “seasoned reporter plus the part time efforts of another one and a good effort from a diligent student” have failed to provide a balanced picture of the open space component of Upstream’s offer for Point Molate development, Chevron’s history with regard to open space on the western half of the Point San Pablo Peninsula, the history of the Reuse Plan for Point Molate and the efforts of the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Advisory committee for Point Molate which recommended a residential component, Chevron’s strong opposition to any residential at Point Molate and the coincidental odd conclusions of the Environmental Impact Statement that found Chevron was far to dangerous a place to have residential on the other side of a 500 foot hill and 1.5 miles from their ammonia plant (little comfort to the residents of Point Richmond or the newly built housing on the Richmond Parkway), the efforts of the San Pablo Peninsula Open Space Committee’s feasibility study to develop a comprehensive open space plan for the San Pablo Peninsula, the need of the city of Richmond to be able to generate revenue from this property, the relationship of the city property at Point Molate to the city property at Terminal Four at the tip of the peninsula or the private property at the Point San Pablo Yacht Harbor, or a plethora of other salient and dicey questions.  

I too hope that Gayle McLaughlin will bring a fresh perspective to the city council, but not I sincerely hope, the perspective of outsiders that don’t want make the effort to do their homework and would like to see Richmond’s issues either through the simple lens of political correctness or through the more calculated lens of a “regional (read egocentric) perspective.” 

David Dolberg 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding Tomio Geron’s “Parchester Village Residents Fight to Preserve Breuner Marsh, Open Space,” (Daily Planet, Nov. 12-15), Breuner Marsh and Point Molate present opportunities for open space and public access to the bay shoreline. 

Breuner Marsh is one of the last bay wetlands still connected to undeveloped upland that provides habitat for the endangered California clapper rail and salt marsh harvest mouse. Without upland connected to the marsh, these animals would drown during high tides. This weekend at Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline, twelve clapper rails found refuge on the park’s lawn due to high tides. During high tides, these reclusive creatures are forced onto upland—a housing development or road at the marsh’s edge spells their doom.  

At Point Molate, public recreation and Bay access are “endangered.” The Base Reuse Plan allows development on the existing developed “footprint” and open space including a 40-acre shoreline park, 156 acres of public parkland, and a Bay Trail easement. Astonishingly, the developer’s current plan would have the Bay Trail go through a hotel lobby! The city should ensure that public access and open space are central to planning at Point Molate.  

With more than 90 percent of the bay’s wetlands diked, drained or filled, isn’t it time the bay’s shoreline and wetland habitat are top priorities for shoreline communities? Other cities around the Bay are seizing the opportunity to reconnect their residents with the nay shoreline through shoreline parks and open space. Richmond’s City Council should do the same.  

Jen Jackson 

Community Organizer, Save The Bay 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Planning Director Dan Marks thinks there’s a housing glut (“Housing Boom Ending, Says Berkeley Planner,” Daily Planet, Nov. 12-15). Perhaps for studios and one-bedroom apartments. But there’s a shortage of housing for families. Berkeley is certainly capable of designing solutions for multi-family housing. But is Berkeley willing? 

Ignacio Dayrit 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Last December there was a memorial in Berkeley attended by a thousand people honoring the life and death of Father Bill O’Donnell of St. Joseph The Worker Church, Berkeley. Father Bill was an activist who protested the School of Americas many times. The last time he was arrested and spent six months at the Atwater Federal Prison.  

Thousands of people of conscience will stand in solidarity this weekend, Nov. 20-21 at the annual vigil in Fort Benning, Georgia to close SOA.  

In Father Bill’s honor it is time to contact your congressperson and urge them to the support HR 1258, a bill to close, investigate, and prevent another cosmetic remake of the SOA.  

Helen and Frank Sommers  





Editors, Daily Planet: 

As president of the Ed Roberts Campus (ERC), I want to correct the inaccurate statements in Rosemary Hyde’s recent letter (Daily Planet, Nov. 12-15). 

Contrary to Ms. Hyde’s assertions, the ERC will improve pedestrian access from Tremont Street to the BART Station. ERC will provide a new ramp and staircase from Tremont as well as a safe, well-lit and landscaped pathway across the parking lot to Adeline Street, where a new staircase and elevator will provide disabled access to the BART concourse below. 

Ms. Hyde is also incorrect about ERC and BART parking. Visitors and staff who drive to the ERC will park onsite in an underground parking lot under the Campus. The ERC garage will have the capacity to provide 21 more spaces that the estimated peak parking demand because we are committed to discouraging parking in the surrounding neighborhood. While it is true that the BART parking lot will see a net loss of 16 parking spaces, this is the necessary trade-off to save mature redwoods on the north edge of the property, which was very important to most neighbors and the Design Review Committee (the DRC approved the project’s design on a 6-0 vote). 

The ERC has responded to the desires of the residents in the Ashby BART neighborhood by reducing the overall size of the project from 130,000 to 80,000 square feet, providing more than enough parking onsite, and creating a new vehicular entrance to the BART lot from Adeline Street, thus reducing BART patron traffic on residential Woolsey Street. 

On Nov. 15, the Zoning Adjustments Board recognized the ERC’s commitment to the community by approving the ERC’s use permit application. We look forward to continuing to work closely with our neighbors in the years ahead, and I encourage anyone with questions about the ERC to contact me at info@edrobertscampus.org or call 841-4776. 

Jan Garrett 

President, Ed Roberts Campus 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am saddened by John Kerry’s concession of the 2004 presidential election prior to a full count of the votes. The Democratic (and the Republican) Party should—in victory or in defeat—work with unwavering commitment to a scrupulous and methodical count of every vote.  

Letting hurry guide the process fosters a disheartened electorate and facilitates voter fraud. Kerry’s early concession helps birth a brave new world of probabilistic voting—where races are decided by exit polls and media analysis, rather than by certified vote counts informed by citizen dialogue. Voting the United States of America has become a statistical process, rather like craps, and the odds of effecting meaningful social change through the ballot box have suffered accordingly.  

The Democratic Party must protect the integrity of the voting process. The Democratic Party should safeguard voters’ rights by refusing to concede defeat or accept victory until all votes are counted. I urge the Democratic Party to set a democratic precedent: to ensure that all votes are counted and that any grievances regarding voting irregularity are heard and addressed.  

Susan Lynn Fischer 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

To make a positive impact on developments in the Middle East and encourage the development of a serious Palestinian post-Arafat leadership the press should stop treating the Palestinians as if they were savages leading an uncontrollable mob and instead show them respect by actually expecting proper behavior. 

It is not acceptable for Palestinian leaders to call for a continuation of the Intifada against Israel, nor can Palestinian violence be tolerated. It is not acceptable that illegal militias continue to operate. And the list goes on. 

Each time so-called friends of the Palestinians engage in apologetics instead of expecting and demanding Palestinian progress they make it just that much more unlikely that the Palestinians will ever get their act together. After all, why should the Palestinian leadership take the heat for complying with agreements when compliance is not actually required—just verbiage and photo ops. 

Ted Cohen 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I arrived home from work on the Wednesday after the election to find a cartoon on my refrigerator door. It had North America divided in half. The top part was labeled “The United States of Canada,” the bottom “Jesusland.” Every time I approached the fridge it jumped out at me, mocking me. I pondered it as I made my salad, why did it bother me so much? In a way, I could see how it was true. Since the election, the talk has been about how the Republicans won the election based on Christian values and morals. I don’t doubt that the appeal to conservative Christians in Florida and Ohio did influence the way those states swung, but I keep hearing that the election results are “the Christians fault.” Well then, where does that put me?  

I struggled with my faith, growing up in the conservative Bible belt with a concern for the poor, a distaste for hatred and violence, a hope for equality and justice, and a belief in the value of human life (for those already born, as well as those unborn). Luckily I grew up in a church and a family where those things were valued as Christian. I have struggled with the Christian Right and the common mis-belief that it defines Christianity. From my perspective and the perspective of many other progressive Christians out there, these values are not incompatible with Christianity. In fact, they are the very essence of who my Jesus is. As I grew up I was lucky to discover a whole group of progressive Christians that feel the same way and hold similar beliefs.  

Then George W. Bush became president. He began to openly talk about his faith in the public arena and claimed to act almost with a power instilled by God. Churches told their parishioners that the only way they could vote in good conscience would be for GW. When did God become a registered member of the Republican Party? Now Bush has been re-elected, by the Christians, based on the values of preserving life for the unborn, but not innocent Arabs, and pushing marriage for moms on welfare but preventing marriage for people of the same sex who are in love. What about loving thy neighbor, about serving the least among you, about fighting against social injustice being the fasting that God asks for? Aren’t these Christian values too? What made gay marriage and abortion into the definition of Christian values?  

If Christianity is about loving those who love me back and do what I want, and about condemning those different from me, then what am I? If the United States is Jesusland and the foreign policy decisions it makes are Christian decisions, then do I have to give up my faith because I have a different political opinion? Do the identities of progressive and Christian have to be self-exclusive? I guess now George Bush and the religious right have helped me to define what I am not. Now who is going to help me define who I am? 

Deanna Eberle 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Kim Linden, organic gardener and member of Friends of the Gill Tract, asks us to use this year’s funding hiatus of UC plans to uproot the 100 years of continuous cultivation of community gardens at the historic Gill Tract as an opportunity to mobilize to avoid having the currently situated Albany Village Little League fields moved to the garden site (Letters, Daily Planet, Nov. 12-15). 

While the City of Albany Parks Master Plan is close to incorporating Gardens on Wheels Association’s request that community gardens be included in every Albany park, including the Gill Tract owned by UC Berkeley via the UC Regents in stewardship for the taxpaying citizens of California, there is another, more subtle, but also important reason for maintaining the Little League fields current location: 

Right now, they sit as far as possible away from car and truck pollution caused by the heavy traffic on San Pablo Avenue and Buchanan Street. My son is going into his third year of Little League and I have had a chance to attend many games. The current site has good air, so the kids are not harming themselves playing there, as they might if they are as close to San Pablo and Buchanan as they would be should Gill Tract community gardens be destroyed. The current fields are contiguous to the creek and a restored native plants and fruit tree garden on the creek lovingly tended by residents. The fields and open space between the fields, the foot traffic ingress and egress, all contribute to a homey, intimate and yes, organically historical feel that once destroyed, can never be duplicated. 

Is there even one Albany Little League parent who does not like the current fields? Think about all the good times we have had there. Think about trekking in from the North side on the crunchy gravel, passing the Snack Shack where we have all put in so many fun volunteer hours getting to know each other and living the small town good life. Think about walking up the creek path and plucking a ripe plum or apricot on the way to hearing the loudspeakers announce each team. If the Little Leagues replace the Gill Tract, you won’t be able to hear anything but traffic and your kids will be breathing noxious fumes as they exert themselves running the bases. 

Why bother? 

Wendy Schlesinger Stephens 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Polar Express is now playing at Renaissance Oaks Theater on Solano Avenue. It has unique animation and a cute story line, but some really creepy characters and wild swings of emotions. Not recommended for people with bi-polar disorder. 

Bob Gable 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Any illegal immigrant elected to a governorship or to the presidency should be afforded automatic immunity from deportation. 

Al Durrette 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Come on now, there are worse places to live than Yuba City. 

I have lived there all of my life. I have been to many places around the country, Washington D.C. and those areas for example, and in other places in the world. The point is that I have been out of this little area and have seen a few places. I would like to know what is the reason behind the rating of “the worst place to live.” Is it crime statistics? Unemployment? Things to do? What the hell is it? This place is so rich in history, culture and people who want to run their own lives without their government telling them what to do, taking their money, giving it to the people on welfare sitting on their ass. We here in Yuba City are 30 minutes away from night life in cities like Chico and Sacramento, and hour away from the mountains and two hours away from the ocean. I think it is a grand place to live because we are so close to fun things, without being in the middle of it. And those who don’t think it is great, for whatever reason can kiss our Republican asses.  

Bruce Smith 

Yuba City 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Mr. Smith is apparently referring to a Daily Planet article called “Don’t Blame City for State’s Woes,” which cited a Rand McNally survey naming Yuba City the worst place to live in the United States. The article ran in our Jan. 2, 2004 edition. Apparently, even the news is reluctant to travel to Yuba City. ?