Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Wednesday February 18, 2009 - 06:16:00 PM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Neighbors of the Thai Temple in South Berkeley never sought to shut it down or even end its Sunday fundraising restaurant. The Temple’s extensive campaign, therefore, to “save” the Temple and protect it from “religious intolerance” and “racism” was irrelevant to the actual issues. Indeed, the Temple had never before sought a permit to sell food every week, so its security was perhaps undermined by its own failure to operate legally. However, neighbors were only seeking mitigations for the usual impacts associated with any large-scale operation—noise, crowds, cooking odors, and parking. The Temple’s campaign only impeded constructive communications about issues far more mundane than “religious intolerance.”  

Even the majority members of the Zoning Adjustments Board joined in to proclaim at their Feb. 12 public meeting they were “protecting religious freedom” by voting to approve the Temple’s use permit without examining the need for mitigation beyond what the Temple itself proposed. Did ZAB believe that the new Congregation Beth El synagogue in north Berkeley needed to be saved from “anti-Semitism” because neighbors sought a reduction in parking and traffic impacts? The Temple and ZAB’s behavior was simply theater with no foundation in zoning matters.  

The Temple shares a backyard fence with residential homeowners who are heavily impacted every weekend of their lives by a fundraising restaurant serving hundreds of people who come for lunch, not religious purposes. The Temple missed an opportunity for true neighborly communications, and ZAB ignored its basic civic responsibilities.  

Carolyn Shoulders 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In “Melee at the Gaia Building,” Dorothy Bryant asks, “what has changed in the definition of fun?” The answer is absolutely nothing. Teenagers still, as in “the good old days,” attend dances to see and be seen, meet and make friends and enjoy themselves. But it’s well known to public safety personnel that certain types of dances are likely to end in mob violence. And when police and city administrators allow those dances and mob violence results, those public safety personnel as well as dance promoters and the rioters themselves are fully responsible for any resulting deaths, injuries and or property damage. It is clear that Berkeley municipality stupidity, negligence and or incompetence is allowing these dangerous dances to take place downtown at the Gaia Building. Will we have to wait until we have deaths on our downtown streets before the municipality does its job which need they be reminded is to protect the safety of the public? 

Nathaniel Hardin 

El Cerrito 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Strange things are happening to the law of supply and demand. Along with recession and economic collapse a subplot is unfolding that involves the whacky interplay of prices and profits. Gas prices at the pump rise and fall, rise and fall, and go on rising and falling. The price of crude oil oscillates also but not necessarily in harmony with gasoline. Meanwhile, the profits of big oil companies move only in one direction. Up. 

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Really a great picture of Mario and Rosalinda Tejada in your last issue, though the closing of La Fiesta isn’t happy news. I was there when they first opened in 1959, having enjoyed Don Paquin’s before them and Telegraph’s third Mexican restaurant later run by Mario’s sister. Incidentally, the name of the location's prior establishment was “The Door” (singular, unlike the band). It’s great to know the Tejadas will continue their traditional cooking and atmosphere at 2506 Haste, the former location of several businesses including Barry Olivier’s folk music shop The Barrel and Campbell Coe’s Campus Music Shop. The late legendary guitar repairman/musician/record collector/raconteur/photographer was Mario’s tenant as well as frequent customer who even had a plate unofficially named for him: the “Photo Special,” a beef tostada dinner without the tortilla. Campbell preferred his maiz in the form of tostaditas (chips) which he unfailingly added to a steaming bowl of the restorative Tejada chicken soup, still curing what ails you somewhere near the corner of Haste and Telegraph. 

Sandy Rothman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Despite the “In the Other Room” [sic] review (which, unfortunately, I read before seeing the play), I enjoyed In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play). The reviewer rambles on about the “dilettantish writing” and “desultory action”— perfect adjectives for his scribbling—and reels off space-filling authors and titles. Some genuinely related titles might include Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper (1892) and Kate Chopin’s The Awakening (1899). In the Next Room continues at the Berkeley Rep through March 15, and Issue 4 of the Berkeley Rep Magazine 2008-2009 is no mere playbill. 

Helen Rippier Wheeler 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Peace for Keeps will celebrate the 51st anniversary of the peace symbol at 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 21 at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way with an in-progress showing of last year’s Berkeley Peace Symbol Golden Jubilee video. Featured in the video are Wavy Gravy, Michael Rossman, Carol Denney, Hali Hammer, Stoney Burke, Gary Lapow, Helen Holt, Peacenik and Arnie Passman. Tickets are $5 and up. 

The peace symbol was created in England in 1958 for the nuclear disarmament campaign, and by the mid 1960s had spread worldwide. This year’s celebration will be a benefit for the newly formed United Front Against Made-in-the-USA Overkill—No More War Weapons Development and Experimentation, and survivors of Khan Yunis, Gaza, one of the cruelest civilian bombings in history. 

The event will encourage demonstrations at congressional district offices with the largest military budgets, including California’s 8th (Pelosi), and 9th (Lee). For further information, contact Arnie Passman at 845-5481 or  

Arnie Passman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A long time ago, a friend of mine told me about the idea of citizen’s arrest and my first thought was, “Anyone could arrest anyone else!” I had thought this was a job solely for the police. Well, I didn’t think of it as a realistic measure, being a kid of only 8 or 9 years of age, just kind of a funny idea. You know, arresting your friend.  

Today, I was thinking of a pseudonym that would reflect my ethics and values and the concept jumped into my mind, “Citizens Arrest,” and I believe it’s time to use this power we possess. We need to show our dissent for the criminals wrapped up in high offices pushing documents and buttons that affect our lives and well-being. We cannot be passive while the Regents argue that they need to raise our tuition fees and cut unnecessary expenses, which mainly include new faculty, student services, and a variety of other non-administrative costs. The media resource center no longer rents out cameras to students, the university photography dark room is closing, the librarians are being paid salaries that are not comparable to their services and the list can go on.  

To add to this misfortune, we continue to buy overly priced coaches and spend increasingly more money on sports and recreation and support corporate and violent science (British Petroleum and nuclear warfare). This is incongruent with the pressing economy. What does it mean when a society stops funding for an educated citizenry? Or starts cutting good investigative reporting for entertaining reality shows and misleading linear commentary on macro politics as self-professed objective news?  

Thomas Jefferson believed that the public needed to be freely educated so it would not be lead blindly by group hegemonies. Too many students trust the staged history that UC Berkeley will fight against injustice whether we do anything about it or not. This is not true, when injustice is present we must stand up and put our time and meat in front of it, or the powers at hand will continue endlessly. We cannot blindly trust what we do not do. Is the machine of the University of California administration becoming so powerful that we no longer hold the reigns to readjust its malfunctions? Now it’s time to take our powers as citizens and students at UC Berkeley, and obstruct the overpaid administrative figures that would rather raise our tuition than cut their own salaries. This bureaucracy that binds us to their system must be broken if we expect to have a free and open education served to the public, from the pubic, for the public. 

Sebastian Groot 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In the summer of 1964, I was a Texas transplant, living and working in San Francisco. Cheap and tasty Tex-Mex food was what I grew up eating, and on North Beach, where I lived then, the Mexican food was something quite different: weirdly highbrow and very expensive. 

One afternoon, a friend called me at work and asked if I liked Mexican food. I said yes, so he picked me up after work, and to my surprise, headed for the Bay Bridge. That was the first time I visited Berkeley and the first time I ate at La Fiesta, and I remember it as if it were yesterday. 

The food was not Tex-Mex, but it was Mexican food, the real article, and absolutely terrific. That fall, after I moved to Berkeley and went to work at UCB, I had flautas at La Fiesta at least once a week, and was never disappointed. 

Times have changed, and most of the old standbys are gone, but I can’t imagine Telegraph Avenue without La Fiesta. 

Shirley Stuart 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The thought that keeps nagging me, as I listen to the TV pundits and the newspaper columnists and our representatives in Congress, who all speak excitedly about the collapse of the economy and joblessness, and their solutions, is their “well-off-ness.” None of them are jobless or worried about losing their job or home! The only person I can think who truly represented the hapless, the homeless and the “main streeters” years ago was Fannie Lou Hamer. She was poor; she knew what it felt like to be downtrodden. She was the last person whom I recall wasn’t privileged, who wasn’t a lawyer, wasn’t rich, wasn’t a college grad, who got some attention from the media for representing the “have-nots” in America. Isn’t it time for more Fannie Lou Hamers to be on TV; to be in Congress; and to be in our newspapers, who would genuinely represent the almost one third of us who are in serious trouble facing the difficult years ahead? Or am I being naive? 

Robert Blau 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thanks for Zelda Bronstein’s wonderful exposé of Tom Bates’ claims to have “the highest bond rating in the United States.” 

He’s said it several times before, and I always wondered how it could be true—given even the most basic facts about Berkeley’s finances. Now, thanks to Zelda’s investigative reporting, we know it isn’t. 

Jim Fisher 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

President Obama’s administration hoped to find a more collaborative way to negotiate governance of our great country. After the Republicans’ “winner take all” steamroller politics, power has now swung to the Democrats. Obama’s leadership tried something different: listening respectfully, including Republicans in policy development, and compromising to accommodate Republican concerns.  

The final version of the Economic Recovery act has cut proposed spending by over $100 billion over the previous version, just to accommodate Republicans and gain their votes. The act also increased tax cuts for the wealthy in spite of ample experience that this doesn’t do much to help the economy. These compromises were made to include Republicans in solving our common problems, yet, only three voted with Democrats to pass the act. Republicans remain obstructionist.  

Democrats would be well-advised to use the political power they currently have to fix the massive problems caused by years of Republican hegemony, and not to dilute their cure with Republican snake oil. Collaboration is a two-way street, and Republicans have shown deceit in working toward effective solutions.  

In California’ legislature, six Republicans are paralyzing the state budget with their stubborn ideology instead of pragmatic governance. 

Bruce Joffe 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

On facing pages in the Feb. 5 issue we learn that: (1) of the two pedestrian routes across Ashby Avenue adjacent to the grade school, one intersection is unguarded and without protective marking or signage, and (2) State Highway 13, aka Ashby Avenue (except in the Hills, where it’s Tunnel Road) will receive CalTrans funding for “traffic signals and signal timing, and for improvements that make the road safer for cyclists and pedestrians.” 

Hello, FBC and other neighbors involved in prioritizing this funding: Duh, or what? 

At a minimum, how about some long overdue graphic signage about little scampering bodies and elderly halting bodies? Maybe a zebra crossing with pavement flashers, as on Bancroft? And while you’re at it, get CalTrans to bring its King Street bike route signal timing into compatibility with the other crossings in Berkeley. (That is, why should it take three times as long to get a signal change so kids and bikes can cross Ashby at King as it does to cross University at California, for example?) 

M. Hall 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Zelda Bernstein, in her Feb. 12 Public Eye column, “The City Manager’s Raise: Fact and Fiction,” should not use the story to pick on Susan Wengraf, who abstained with reasons on the salary increase. 

Zelda even included that Wengraf lives in the “fiscally conservative north Berkeley hills,” which caused me to remember that Zelda lives in the fiscally conservative north Berkeley foothills. 

To contrast Wengraf with Kriss Worthington, dis Wengraf, and praise Kriss, was a bit much of a fiction factor in the article. What mattered most was getting five votes not for the raise. Susan gave hers. Kriss might better have spent his speech-making energy getting the two more no votes needed for the “principled position.” 

After watching Worthington and Mayor Tom Bates’s dynamic Pro-Bus Rapid Transit team at the Feb. 17 BRT policy meeting in Oakland, I do not think the word for Kriss should be principled. Political is better, and leaves plenty room for principled decisions.  

Merrillee Mitchell