Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Monday September 27, 2010 - 08:30:00 PM

Where Have All the Drugstores Gone? 

Has anyone noticed that Berkeley is effectively without a decent drugstore? Ever since Longs left the area I have been increasingly dissatisfied with its replacement. I do not shop at Walgreens for the most part because they aren't unionized and I don't particularly like their selection. CVS has slowly and relentlessly substituted their brand for most of the merchandise I like to buy, nothing exotic just the usual brand name things I have bought for years and years. I ask the manager if for instance, they aren't going to carry original Jergens lotion anymore and he says, "if it isn't on the shelf then we aren't, CVS wants to sell their brand." I have tried some of the CVS brand items and don't like them. It feels like the USSR. No choice. There are no other drugstores in the area. Elephant Pharmacy went out of business and maybe it was because they were too specialized but I feel lost because there is a CVS on every corner but no place to go. I remember Bills Drugs, and Pay 'n' Save, and Payless, I even long for Longs? I want an independent drugstore that caters to the ordinary customer.

Constance Wiggins 



Renewable energy independence now! 

Please. Thank you. 

Val Laurent 


No to Marijuana 

Proposition 19 on the California ballot in November will legalize marijuana use for residents over 21 years of age in the state. Field polls show that voters in favor of this proposition are now gaining ground. There couldn't be a worse time to pass a liberal law like this. 

Who is going to enforce the law for users under 21? Even now, you see kids openly using the drug at high schools and no law enforcement is anywhere to be seen. Marijuana is a highly addictive drug because of the improved methods of cultivation used today. A good portion of our high school kids are losing their entire education because they are so zoned out they don't care. 

In my opinion, a vote in favor of Proposition 19 is a vote to destroy education for a good portion of our kids. I say shame on the voters of California. 

Beverly Doane 


A School on the Hill 

There has been a lot of dialog at Oxford Elementary School about racism and bigotry between parents. As a white father, disabled, I feel it is a lot deeper than racism. 

And a lot deeper than just Oxford. 

I have two little boys, they are very bright, good boys. They have never had a babysitter and maybe I have been a little over protective. But their innocence is refreshing. 

They do not understand that when a bigot sees that our car is kind of dated, and our address is in the flats and they are snubbed for a play date. That it is not about them. It's about the crappy soul of that parent. Personally I am happy my kids are not playing with kids raised by such creeps. But I know it hurts the boys, and hence it hurts me. 

I hate going to Oxford events to stand next to such awful people. I relate more to the people of color that get the same rub. 

I have to wonder. What is it about your fantasy land of a life, where you consume so much more than you are worth. That makes you so full of yourself? 

Spare me your airs. They are a lot more smellier than you might ever imagine. 

Oxford asked us parents not to look at the class list and point out children for them to invite to play. Let them pick their own friends they suggest. We have always been this way, but it is not without pain. One kid who my youngest liked in class lived right around the corner. 

We called a couple times, but they never even returned our calls. Not being pushy people. We just gave up. 

A few days back, one of these kids asked my son if wanted to play and then stopped embarrassed. "Oh, yeah, my Mom does not like your Mom " He blurted out. "How could she not like my Mom? They have never even talked." My little boy asked. 

My son also asked him what they did after school and the poor kid answered "Nothing, it's so boring." I felt bad for both boys. It seems that living off of Ashby was all it took. 

The lady didn't like how I had let the plants (and yes some weeds) grow to ward off the dust and pollution that assails my sons every day from Highway 13. I winced. It's painful to see someone you love and care for being rejected because of you. Because you are disabled. Because you don't have much money. Because you live in a place where you are contantly fight for their well being. They suffer. 

The next day at the bus stop I asked this Mother about this. At first she denied it. Then went on to say. "I'm sorry you had to hear that." 

I'm not. It's not like we haven't been feeling it for a long time now. Here we are 4th. gereration Berkeleyans being snubbed by the Ghettobetterthans who bought up their house in a foreclosure sale. See, now I'm doing it. It's very easy to get into the "betterthan" mindset. But it is not reality. 

Reality is we are all just people. Reality is that our kids deserve to be able to play together. Reality is we are good people that work hard to make Berkeley and our world a better place, and so are a lot of other folks. 

Dan McMullan 


The Obsessed and Addicted 

Tobacco addiction is a tragedy, but those who take mental shortcuts to make their points, and are unwilling or unable to get OFF the topic have THEIR issues to resolve. 

Ove Ofteness 


People’s Blighted Park 

Who should I contact concerning the "homeless" peeps who, once Peep's Park is "closed" for the night come over to my front stoop? Public drinking, noise violations, drug use, every type of bodily excretion imaginable left behind, litter, and then sleep it off until the Peep's Park opens again in the morning. Why are the peeps that are unable to care for themselves allowed pets, which also sprawl across the sidewalk and then run free and defecate wherever in Peep's Park? As a law abiding tax paying life long (50+ years) resident of Berkeley I must say the current (last 10 years) have been abysmally, disgracefully, and shamefully negligent with concern to the south side of campus. So much so that one begins to believe, that "Peoples Park" has become a needed protagonist for the City and the University. As I walk all over Berkeley I see much beauty and wonderful aspects of life in Berkeley that are certainly world class and easy to extol positively. Then I return to my home on the South side through the trash waste blight infested area around "People's Park" Despite claims of individual rights being abused one must look at "People's Park" and realize that the physical place is not even a fading shadow of it's once social presence. What exists between Bowditch, Telegraph, Haste, and Dwight is a mockery of People's Park. I for one am disgusted; not with the "Homeless" who inhabit my front stoop every night smoking skunk weed and drinking Pabst & Old Grand Dad and then rolling around in their misery until 3, 4, 5 am and then sleep it off and aggressively panhandle in order to continue the cycle. Murder and Mayhem that is what City and University are allowing and is what we all must live with because for some lame reason or other the people empowered to do the right thing refuse to do the right thing. This codependent acceptance on the part of law and policy makers is not healthy in the least for anyone. Let me take a stab in the dark here; as I see the beauty of the campus grounds and magnificent houses and parks within easy walking distance of “People’s Park” I realize that this abomination is necessary. The collateral damage caused by standard operating procedure is by far less costly than the financial/political repercussions from letting the vermin scatter like cockroaches into adjacent neighborhoods. If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it probably is a duck. 

Erich Frisch
Berkeley Resident
UC Berkeley Staff 


Republican Goals 

With control of the House, the Republicans will make its goals include a permanent extension of all the Bush-era tax cuts, repeal of the newly enacted health care law, a cap on discretionary federal spending and an end to government control of the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. 

They too must be won over and convinced to overextend themselves little by little. It is a gradual process of boom, then downturn, then bigger boom, then another downturn. And there is a rebound, for there are still people to be convinced that things will keep going up—indeed, must keep going up. 

And one day, when and his people have prepared accordingly, the downturn will become a recession, the recession will become a depression, and the depression will become the Crash. It is the same thing that happened in 2008. They will never learn! 



"And your country is an example, in which the one percent of the Americans, you know, are doing better and better and better, and the 99 percent is going down, in all sorts of manifestations. People living in their cars now and sleeping in their cars, you know, parked in front of the house that used to be their house—thousands of people. Millions of people, you know, have lost everything. But the speculators that brought about the whole mess, oh, they are fantastically well off. No problem. No problem."--Chilean economist Manfred Max-Neef.
Ted Rudow III,MA 


U.S. Navy Expansion of Warfare Testing over Northern California Coast 

How many readers of this newspaper know of the U.S. Navy's intention to expand their Warfare Testing Range to the Northern Coast of California? Unfortunately, investigative reporting is hard to find now. Newspaper racks are disappearing and the daily papers that are left contain a large percentage of pages of underwear advertising. The U.S. Navy has violated laws by not informing the majority of the citizens of the United States about their program. If people knew they would be outraged. 

The Navy will be utilizing mid and high frequency active sonar sources and explosive detonations in missile, gunnery, bombing, sinking and mine exercises . Among the chemicals to be used will be depleted uranium, red and white phosphorous, cadmium, lead mercury, and numerous others highly toxic to ocean life and humans.
The EIS talks of "taking" (defined as harming maiming or killing), approximately 2.3 million marine mammals per year over five year permits from NOAA. In addition, highly classified weapons systems are to be employed over both land areas and in all of our oceans. 

Sounds unbelievable doesn't it? If you happened to be watching KTVU Channel 2 News on May 31, 2009, you would have seen a report by John Fowler on this scary proposition. You can still view this report at

Please inform yourselves and call your congress people and demand that Congressional hearings be held to protect public health, air and water,supplies, fish, birds, ocean habitat, marine mammals, other threatened species. NOAA should not be issuing permits for these horrendous actions. 

Time is of the essence. The final comment period on the EIS ends on October 11, 2010. Please comment at: www.NWTRangeComplexEIS. 

Vivian Warkentin 


Ratepayers Probably on the Hook for PG&E’s Neglect 

On Monday, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) released a list of its top 100 "projects," or aging pipelines, in need of replacement or repair. The San Bruno pipeline segment, which exploded on September 9, 2010, wasn't even on the list. As the September 21st San Francisco Chronicle noted, regulators had approved PG&E's request for $4.9 million to repair the South San Francisco segment of the pipeline, but PG&E spent the money elsewhere, and then in 2009 came back with a request for $5 million to do the job. 

Consider that PG&E enjoys a near monopoly over much of Northern and Central California with 15 million customers. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) allows the company to charge 30 percent higher than the national average and as a regulated utility, the public traded company's shareholders benefit from a guaranteed 11.35 percent return on equity, which is also above the national average of about 10.5 percent. 

Given these facts, who do you think should pay for the aging infrastructure identified by PG&E? 

But remember the 2003 record bankruptcy bailout that put ratepayers on the hook to pay PG&E's creditors and resuscitate the corporation. It added to the $8 billion in previous bailout funds already paid to PG&E by its ratepayers since 1998, bringing the bailout total to over $16 billion. The bailout plan was approved by the CPUC and the Bankruptcy Judge despite accusations that PG&E's officers siphoned $4 billion to its unregulated holding company, PGE Corporation, out of the $8 billion in "Competition Transition Surcharge" funds already paid to PG&E by its ratepayers between 1998 and 2000. 

And to add insult to injury, just weeks after handing out $50 million in bonuses while on the verge of financial collapse, PG&E received the judge's permission to award $17.5 million in additional payouts to the management team that guided the utility into bankruptcy. 

Reportedly, State Senator Mark Leno with help from the consumer rights group The Utility Reform Network (TURN) is crafting a bill that would block publicly regulated utilities from seeking a rate increase to cover the cost from fires or other catastrophes that were the cause of their own negligence. Leno stated: “Ratepayers should not be on the hook to provide utilities with an open checkbook to cover excess expenses when catastrophic damages happen because the utility failed to do its job to protect the public.” 

However, given PG&E's history vis -a-vis the State, guess who's actually going to pay for the repair of the aging infrastructure that PG&E neglected for decades? You guessed it. We ratepayers. 

Ralph E. Stone 


Fear Republicans 

Tea Party and Republican candidates are a scary bunch. What amazes me is that so many people want to restore power to the same people and party (GOP) that created our present problems. Add to this, Republicans are blaming Obama for everything, when, in fact, he caused none of it. 

The midterm election is a choice between moving ahead and going back toad GOP agenda that has proved disastrous. We don't have to guess how the Republicans will govern because we're still living with the results of teatime the GOP governed. 

Republicans want to regain power so desperately that they've made decision to do whatever they can to make certain that Obama can get as little of his agenda passed as possible. If Obama is successful in pulling the country out of the hole Bush put us in Republicans know they'll lose again in 2012. 

Ron Lowe  


Ecology Center Recycling Program – a Model Green Collar Employer 

When the Ecology Center emerged as the first provider of curbside recycling services in 1973, all of the positions were volunteer. During the 1980s,we worked to institutionalize recycling to make it ubiquitous and mainstream. Even though the term, Green Collar job had not been coined at this time, the Ecology Center was well on the way to becoming a model Green Collar job employer. 

An important component of our approach was to ensure that our recycling workforce had Union representation. Since 1989, the Ecology Center’s recycling workers have been members of the Industrial Workers of the World Local 670 (IWW). Over the past years, we have worked with the Union and employees to progressively improve the salaries, benefits and training programs for our recycling workers, making the Ecology Center a better place for its employees to work. 

Over the past couple of years, the nation’s economy has been locked in the worst recession since the 1930s and we have witnessed rising unemployment and declining salaries and benefits across the Country. Despite these conditions, the Ecology Center has improved salary, health care, retirement benefits and overall working conditions for its recycling workers. In January 2010, we signed a three-year agreement with the IWW. As a non-profit, public benefit corporation, we have been able to do this as profits do not need to be distributed to owners and shareholders. 

Specifically, over the last decade we have been able to do the following: 

• Increase wages by over 70% from 2000 to 2010 (40% more than inflation)
• Add an employer paid retirement and savings plan
• Purchase safer vehicles with reduced soot emissions
• Improve worker equity by elevating eligible loaders to driver status with significant pay increases
• Provide high quality medical and dental benefits despite escalating costs
• Implement improved safety programs and worker training to reduce injuries and accidents
• Improve the physical plant and crew room
• Provided a crew computer with internet access
• Offer English as a Second Language (ESL) classes 

In October 2010, we will introduce a rolling cart collection program, which will make the work much easier. This is projected to reduce worker injuries. 

The Ecology Center constantly balances the needs of its employees with the overall well being and financial stability of the organization. Negotiating this balance is a challenging process for our Board of Directors, management team, employees and union representatives. Our track record of improvements in salaries, benefits and training is a testament to our commitment to Ecology Center employees and a model for the growing Green Collar economy. 

Martin Bourque 



I Have a Nightmare 

Rev. King had a dream. I, unfortunately, have a nightmare. What’s worse, my nightmare will likely be shared, in waking reality, by much of the world’s population in the decades to come. And my nightmare will prevent us from ever reaching Rev. King’s dream. You may well ask: What sort of nightmare could be so terrible? How about unpredictable growing seasons leading to periodic regional famines, resultant mass starvation, disastrous flooding, disappearing coasts and islands, increasingly frequent and more intense tropical storms, massive epidemics in the wake of these disasters and famines, unparalleled forced migration of millions of refugees in both hemispheres . And all of this in a world with nuclear weapons and other WMDs, a world obsessed with military solutions and so-called “homeland security”.  

Make no mistake: there is no security for any homeland in my nightmare. My nightmare is the future of this planet if we do not make any serious effort to control our output of greenhouse gases NOW. Congress has totally failed us here. However, our state legislature and governor, in a rare moment of bipartisanship, did pass AB 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act, in 2006. This is an admittedly imperfect law that is at the same time the best existing step toward the control of these emissions in this country. However, Texas oil refiners, and their corporate and political allies, are trying to effectively repeal this vital law with Proposition 23.  

If this passes, we may not see any serious climate laws passed in North America for years. Canada has already indicated they will abandon their regional and national attempts if 23 passes. In addition, a golden opportunity to encourage the creation of green jobs will vanish in the haze of pollution. The health of countless Californians will be negatively impacted by dirtier air, and the clean energy technologies we need to face the devastating effects of peak oil will become harder to attain. For the sake of our common future, please vote no on 23.  

Ben Burch