Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Saturday May 29, 2010 - 10:16:00 AM

Save Our Pools—Vote No on Measure C; No on C; Measure C: No; Charity; City Employee Pay and Pools; Election Stolen; Loving the Berkeley Rep; No More War! Tea; Afghan Women; Republican Fearmongering; Thanks; Democracy and Education 

Save Our Pools—Vote No on Measure C 

The “Save Our Pools” on blue and white posters dotting the city imply that supporting Measure C, a $22.5 million bond measure on the June 8th ballot, is the only way.It is not and our well-meaning swim-community has been duped.Berkeley citizens overwhelmingly support pools and swim and learn-to-swim, and senior swim and Barracuda swim programs, and will continue to do so, yet we should all strongly reject the fatally-flawed Measure C. 

Consider these facts: 

(1)$10 million, or nearly ½ of this bond measure is ear-marked to build a new, city-owned therapeutic pool. The current and decrepit warm pool facility is leased from BUSD, not owned by the City.That is fortunate because over the years the drain on our General Fund to maintain these rented premises has been costly, exorbitantly so considering that only about 100 Berkeley residents use it.We should be grateful that BUSD has chosen to take it back.Instead, this measure proposes to spend over $100,000 per current user of taxpayer’s harder-than-ever to-come-by dollars on a white-elephant facility to serve 0.01% of our population. 

(2)There are two therapeutic pools at the YMCA and other possible resources at UCB.Thus warm-pool users can be entirely accommodated without a new pool. In fact, because of council-approved taxpayer-fronted subsidies to the YMCA, all 1,600 + city employees have free membership to the Y.Revoke that “perk” and 1,600+ therapeutic pool users could be accommodated at zero cost or indebtedness to Berkeley taxpayers. 

(3)Measure C also includes a Trojan-horse, a $3.5 million component for “maintenance”, inflated annually.Ordinarily this is a General Fund expenditure.For the city manager and council to foist off these expenditures as a special tax on business and home property owners is unprecedented and devious.Even worse, unlike the ill-conceived construction portions of this measure, this levy on taxpayers does not expire after 30 years, but is an ever-increasing tax in perpetuity. 

Berkeley citizens will vigorously support pool programs and the revitalization of the pools we have, perhaps by a new bond measure presented in November, but the June 8th Measure C is definitely a NO-NO!  


Victoria Peirotes 




No on C 


On June 8th Berkeley voters will have a chance to vote on Measure C. It proposes a 22.5 million dollar 30 year bond, and a maintenance component in perpetuity in the amount of 3.5 million dollars. 

This latter figure would be part of your "special taxes" forever and indexed for inflation. 

The bond is earmarked for the construction of a new pool and the replacement of three others. 

At the May 26 NEBA membership meeting, where this Measure was being debated, an audience member characterized the "maintenance" component as a Trojan Horse. 

The current pools maintenance budget is almost one million dollars and the Council, when writing the measure, loaded an additional 2.5 million (the Trojan Horse). I suspect the Council wants to use this to partially make up for present and future deficits (four million this year, 16.5 million for 2011). It indicates that our city is not up to the task to reduce the out of control spending and are using kids and the elderly as a front to raise money. They are afraid to confront the powerful unions representing overpaid and overcompensated municipal employees. 

This is the same Council who raised our refuse fee via the "protest" vote. This undemocratic move worked as follows: they sent Berkeley property owners a letter for them to respond on whether the City should raise the refuse fee 30%. Not responding was considered a yes vote. Imagine a ballot where a candidate is running for office and if you stayed home it would be construed as your voting for said candidate. Outrageous. 

I recently helped a friend in Ukiah remove some trash from his property in Ukiah, We drove the laden truck to the transfer station and it cost a mere fourteen dollars. I told my friend that Berkeley would have charged over $60. Given that both cities use the same process of carting refuse to a faraway landfill, what does Berkeley do with the $46 overcharge? 

See the pattern? On June 8th send this council a message and vote no on Measure C. 


Robert Cabrera 




Measure C: No 


Kudos for publishing opinions by Barbara Gilbert and Shirley Dean in the May 20 issue. While at first blush the two pieces seem to clash, they are really two sides of the same coin. 

Gilbert’s far-ranging essay takes us from trash collection to animal shelters and public pensions, uniting these disparate elements in a compelling picture of the self-inflicted wounds bleeding red ink from Berkeley’s budget. 

Dean writes in favor of Measure C (thus far supported by wobbly arguments, the usual politicians, and the cheering special interest group that crafted it). She informs us that the Mayor and School Board are against rehabilitating the current warm water pool. Yet Dean herself says rehabbing would have been better than the expensive new construction proposed by Measure C. And she’s right about that: not only does rehab reduce costs by 2/3, it produces less landfill, uses less energy, and has a smaller carbon footprint. Acclaimed architect Henrik Bull has shown the School Board’s desire for classrooms can be met by rehabbing the landmarked gymnasium building, again saving the environment and the checkbook simultaneously. 

Dean says the wrongheadedness of our public servants must be accepted as a given. If we don’t agree to higher taxes and do what they want, they’ll take away our pools! Some would call this cravenly rewarding bad behavior and encouraging more of the same. Measure C supporters console themselves with self-congratulation: our values are wonderful! Discussion of the actual ballot measure is unworthy by comparison. 

On the one hand, we have public officials doing the wrong thing and not being held accountable. On the other, voters patting themselves on the back in order to avoid dealing with the financial consequences of their votes. Gilbert could hardly have asked for a better illustration of her argument than Dean unwittingly provides. 


Robert Baum 






Dorothy Snodgrass, you are either incredibly naive or, God forbid, not very smart. The "forlorn" woman counting her bounty at Starbucks would not be there were it not for you and others who feel pity for her. If she is one of "God's forsaken creatures” , it is because she chooses to be there. Yes, she may be mentally ill, and that is a tragic problem.But there are no lack of food and other services in Berkeley and the greater Bay Area.. Why do you think so many homeless, or people such as this woman are here? Not because they want to take advantage of the cultural diversity and community available here. They come because people such as yourself support them while they shout and scream at people passing by and otherwise behave as malignant growths on downtown Berkeley and other areas. I have been spit on, screamed at and shoved by these people. Pity? I don't think so. They are not hungry. They are beggars, some are sick, many have chosen this lifestyle for reasons incomprehensible to many, myself included. Please don't enable them to continue littering the streets of Berkeley with your "generosity". 


Susan Sholin 




City Employee Pay and Pools 


Going back in time to around 2007, the City of Berkeley had well over 350 employees that made over 100,000 dollars. You know it’s higher now! If you review this site

You will be shocked to see the largesse bestowed upon the myriad of workers and it’s amazing that a majority of these non-professionals rake in 120-150 thousand a year. Plus $200,000 for Mayor Tom Bates’ buddy, the City Manager Phillip Kamlarz. Every person in Berkeley pays him $2 dollars for his “wizardry” and today we see the magical results of his handiwork—a 14+million dollar budget HOLE. The excessive pay, pension liabilities and per capita employee-per-resident statistics are enormous. 

It’s remarkable that the Mayor, city workers and machine politico hacks like former mayors Dean and Hancock still try to squeeze the dead middle class taxpayer with over-the-top bonds and parcel taxes like Measure C. They want this measure so badly, they will resort to no end to get the bond money. 

The City is near a 14+ million budget deficit or MORE. 

The Pool Bond would raise 23 million in instant bond money to go to the “pools.” 

If the City builds the pools at a cost similar to Orinda or other cities’ pools, each pool would cost 2 million not the requested 5.5 million. 

There would be leftover money of 3.5 million per pool or $14 million dollars left over if construction is bid at market rates. 

Add in the 3.5 million in parcel taxes to begin paying off the 30 year bond and paying the maintenance (will it really cost that much?) 

The City could have near 17 million in leftover money to “do with it what they may” which is probably plug up the budget gap and keep paying those hefty 150,000 dollar salaries. 

The City can legally get MORE than 3.5 million from the square-footage rate. 

Moral Hazard is abound as the City slews off millions in interest payments to the suckers (homeowners and businesses) and the City kicks the can down the road. 

Mayor Bates jumping in the pool just isn’t enough. If city employees are part of the “team” they should take a salary haircut and donate some of that absurd money to the pool cause and keep the city solvent. Do you believe in miracles or the predictable entitlement greed of the government class? The bond needs to be cut at least in half, the payment period needs to be much shorter and the parcel tax is 50% too expensive as written. 


Justin Lee 




Election Stolen 


After all the anomalous election results—votes shifted from polls and exit polls always in the same direction –one must be in complete denial to think that our elections have not been compromised. The Conyers committee report amply illustrated how the presidential election of 2004 was stolen in Ohio. The circumstances of the 2002 HAVA act should give any legislator some pause. Why did Abramoff's firm (fueled by Diebold's contribution) lobby for this bill which facilitated the takeover of most of our electionsby eminently hackable voting machines? It's all amply documented if we have the courage (or good sense) to open our eyes. If we are to remain a democracy, we must take action. The Holt bill could be a start.We dodged the bullet with the Obama election, but the grave threat of election theft is still there. 


Dr. Harold Lecar 




Loving the Berkeley Rep 


I couldn’t disagree more with Ms. O’Malley’s description of the Berkeley Rep as a “downtown pre-Broadway tryout house with a bridge-and-tunnel audience”. Wow.I *walked* to American Idiot (the Green Day-based rock play) and it was AWESOME.The lush, layered arrangements were really stunning.And yes, it went on to Broadway to rave reviews – and this is a great thing!To dismiss the Rep as a “tryout house” – really, wow. It craps all over one of their greatest achievements which they somehow managed to pull off in budget-cutting, payroll-reducing, nail-biting times.I also recently saw “Girlfriend” -- a gay coming-of-age story and happened to sit next to the choreographer of the show, which was a real treat. Some of my friends said it was short on plot, didn’t have a central conflict, etc., but I also thought this little definitely-not-for-Broadway play was terrific.It captured the hopefulness and hesitancy of teenagers in love and I have to say that it really moved this middle-aged gay guy.To Susie and Tony and all the folks at the Rep – thank you for all you have brought to this city and what you have brought to my heart.May our wonderful, walkable, home-grown theater live on forever. 


George Beier 




No More War! 


We now have one trillion reasons to oppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. On May 30, those two wars will have cost $1 trillion for operations alone, not even counting the interest on the debt of that borrowed money or the health care costs for returning vets. It is an amount so incomprehensible that it can only be understood in terms of what it could have bought rather than missiles and destruction. For $1 trillion we could immediately give every one of the 15.4 million unemployed people in the United States a $50,000 job and still have $235 billion left over. We could provide free public university education for the next 24 years to the 2 million of our children who typically enter college annually. And those are what we can quantify. What could $1 trillion do for cancer research or alternative energy discoveries or any of a myriad of problems we would like to solve but cannot because of lack of resources. 

If we are not stable economically, then we are not secure as a nation. 

We are now on our way to the next trillion. This hemorrhaging of our collective resources for war has to stop now. 


Mrs. Nasira Abdul-Aleem 






Dorothy Snodgrass (May 25) says she's lived in London "for extended periods of time," and that "..... high tea, if you don't know, is something special, one you might enjoy at Harrod's or Selfridges Department Stores. There you're served from a two-tiered tray with dainty cucumber and watercress sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, and, of course, a large pot of tea." 

Having grown up in England, I can tell you that the words "high tea" aren't going to get you far in either of those great stores.What Ms. Snodgrass refers to is afternoon tea.What we call Main street, the British call High street, and that's the sense in which the term high tea is meant to be used: it's a main sort of (traditionally working class) meal.Here are a couple of web sites (there are scores of them) that help to explain: 

High Tea is often a misnomer. Most people refer to afternoon tea as high tea because they think it sounds regal and lofty, when in all actuality, high tea, or "meat tea" is dinner. High tea, in Britain, at any rate, tends to be on the heavier side. American hotels and tea rooms, on the other hand, continue to misunderstand and offer tidbits of fancy pastries and cakes on delicate china when they offer a "high tea." lists many superb places to get good afternoon tea while in London. Cheers! 


Revan Tranter 




Afghan Women 


Afghan President Karzai’s recent visit to the US has been in the news, but stories about the reality of life for Afghan women have been missing.I recently heard the story of Bebe, a young Afghan woman, through my support of MADRE (, and I will never forget it. 

Bebe was only 12 when her family forced her to marry a member of the Taliban.The abuse started immediately.She was regularly beaten and forced to sleep with the animals. 

Finally, when she was 17, Bebe tried to escape, but her neighbors reported her to the police.She was forcibly returned to her husband. 

Days later, Bebe’s husband cut off her nose and both of her ears.This was her punishment for running away. 

She barely survived the attack.But after receiving treatment, she found a safe haven at a women’s shelter supported in part by MADRE’s Afghan Women’s Survival Fund. 

This is the type of story we must remember, of courageous Afghan women demanding their rights.As Afghan people work to build their future, it will depend on the bravery of women like Bebe and the support we in the US can extend to them. 


Sian Taylor Gowan 




Republican Fearmongering 


Must be an election time again—Republicans are rolling out the old familiar anti-immigration, fearmongering and hatemongering—in efforts to divide and confuse the electorate. 

To show you how bad it is, Republican John McCain who with Ted Kennedy proposed comprehensive immigration reform, has gone over to the forces of nativism and xenophobia. 

Republicans are targeting Hispanic and Latino immigrants this election season instead of blacks. Is it any wonder that there are so few African-Americans in the Republican Party and will it be any wonder that few Hispanics and Latinos will flock to the GOP "Big Tent?" 

Republicans have to fall back on "wedge" issues every election because they have nothing to offer. They won't touch the real issues like jobs, drugs, education, crime and the Gulf oil spill except to talk about them and spin the subject. 

And heaven forbid you say "we're all in this together" when there is a conservative or Tea Party Republican around. 


Ron Lowe 





I wanted to express my gratitude to Becky O'Malley and the staff at the Berkeley Daily Planet for their efforts in keeping the paper alive.How in the world, are people going to find out what is going on in this town if it weren't for the Planet's informed news? All of a sudden, there is new construction on the South Bart station and empty apartment houses keep mushrooming all over this town, but most of us don't have a clue as to what made it happen.Thanks also for offering an opportunity for people in this town to vent out their feelings through the letters to the editor. 

I have been very distressed, however, by the despicable attacks on the paper by a small group of Zionists who are bent on destroying the paper.Having been brought up in Belgium during World War 2, I had first hand exposure to the horror of the Holocaust and the persecution of the Jews.Unfortunatetely, I believe that groups of people who have been persecuted often persecute others afterwards.There is no excuse for the harsh treatment of the Palestinians by Israel, their perpetual expansion into Palestinian land and their hoarding and acquiring lethal weapons which is a dangerous threat to the whole world. 

I wish I had a lot of money I could donate to the Berkeley Daily Planet so it could be openly published again and I hope that some wealthy readers will make it happen.In the meantime, thank you and keep up the good work. 


Andree Julian 




Democracy and Education 


Schwarzenegger's latest cuts to all Californians prove that we need democracy in our state government now more than ever. 

Because a minority of the legislature can hold the budget process hostage, we'll have another costly, late, and reckless budget that doesn't represent the people. It's no coincidence that the only state with minority rule on both budget and revenue also suffers from the worst deficit and the most painful cuts. We need 50% votes on both budget and revenue now. 

The governor has shown that he's scared of the student movement to save public education, but he can't appease us by while harming our families and communities instead. A real commitment to education and to California means an investment in children and the working class. That kind of crucial support can never be delivered while California's revenue stream is in the hands of a minority of legislators. 

As Cal students, we care about the wellbeing of all Californians, not just our own fees. I want my younger siblings and little cousins to have the opportunities I have, but will they be able to reach higher education at all in a state that denies neessary medical care and childcare? We need sustainable solutions for California that don't just alternate between cutting social programs and education. Funding for both is required to produce a well-educated work force, and the only way to get funding is through a democratic budget and revenue process. 


Eli Wirtschafter 

UC Berkeley '13 

Berkeley HS '09