BART strike mustn't happen
Getting around the Bay Area when you're disabled is tough enough. Getting around the Bay Area without BART is virtually impossible.
A simple elevator outage at BART can easily make a person in a wheelchair late to a doctor's appointment. Without BART, it means you are probably not going to make the appointment at all.
For those of us with disabilities, BART isn't just a transit service -- it's a lifeline service. Many disabled live on limited incomes and are either incapable or cannot afford to drive. Other options, such as paratransit, are either scarce or too expensive.
BART remains the fastest, most efficient, most reliable and most affordable transportation option for most Bay Area residents.
As a member of several local transportation planning agencies and committees, I know how scarce transit dollars are and how hard it will be to invest back into the 40-year-old system and its employees.
However, it is important that BART management and its unions reach a fair settlement before the coming Aug. 4 deadline and avoid another strike. The disabled community, and the region as a whole, is depending on it.
Abelson is a member of the El Cerrito City Council.
Lessons from Florida verdict
The verdict in the Trayvon Martin case teaches us three things:
We have learned nothing in the last 50 years.
There is no IRS 'scandal'
A recent forum contributor's letter harped on the Internal Revenue Service "scandal." He opined, "Targeting a group based on their beliefs has the ring of World War II Germany."
That claim is outrageously inappropriate, and he knows that stooping to such an obscene analogy is far worse than that. Coupling President Obama to Adolph Hitler is inexcusably despicable.
The IRS investigation is ongoing, but premature conclusions have been offered by numerous partisans. What is known thus far is that requests for tax-exempt status by most conservative groups were processed carelessly. The bungled handling is intolerable, but what is known hardly constitutes a scandal.
The IRS's long-standing rule granted tax-exempt status only to groups that were "exclusively" engaged in social welfare activity. Years ago, that standard was altered to require that such groups only be "primarily" engaged in such activity.
But the organizations in question aren't even superficially engaged in such charitable activity. The groups exist to prod the Republican Party further right, and they have no legal right to ask taxpayers to subsidize their partisan cause.
Public unions and strikes
In a recent editorial about costly public pension subsidies, the Times suggested the elected officials who continue to agree to the costly deals should be voted out of office.
It is extremely unlikely to have different results by replacing the elected officials. The reason is that there is little difference between the majority of the voting public and the public unions. As a consequence, the public unions are negotiating with their mirror image.
What is needed is a ban against public employees striking, or to privatize all public supported works.
Will this happen? Perhaps when the public unions kill the goose that laid the golden egg, but then it will be much too late.
We should help Egypt with vote
Egypt's crisis is the result of an outdated election system, which is even worse than our own local elections were before Berkeley, Oakland, San Leandro and San Francisco passed reforms.
Egypt's problems can also be solved with the same improvements: District representation and Instant Runoff (Ranked Choice) Voting.
The "parliament" proportional election system itself motivates voters to vote along sectarian lines so that their ethnic/religious group will be represented. Only with district representation and ranked voting are politicians motivated to overcome sectarian divisions and promise to focus on improving their district's future instead.
To win, they cannot risk alienating any ethnic group because they will need all the second- and third-choice votes they can get. This is why Oakland and San Francisco now have the first big-city Asian mayors in the United States, along with nondivisive, policy-oriented political climates.
We should be sharing these benefits and helping Egypt get proper voting equipment before new elections are held. This is the ideal opportunity, while Egypt has no incumbent government to resist/prevent modernization.
Real progress in recycling
News that California's per-capita creation of wastes has decreased from 4.4 pounds per person per day to 4.3 pounds (June 30) in the last year masks that the population has increased by 300,000 people, so the volume of wasted materials may stay about the same.
State staff erroneously (in my opinion) switched to a per-capita system of measurement about six years ago that fails to show serious progress in waste reduction during a depressed economy.
What's more interesting is the behavior of some businesses and families that make ounces of waste a day through careful purchasing and careful management of their used materials.
Eight of the 10 largest cities in California have established zero waste goals, but the numbers don't show much progress.
Arthur R. Boone
Boone is the owner of Center for Recycling Research in Berkeley.
Engineering colleges at UC
Shankar Sastry, dean of the College of Engineering at UC Berkeley, announced his frustration at the ineffectiveness of Berkeley at fulfilling incoming students' first choice to be engineers. Bravo Sastry!
UC Berkeley's leaders misapply resources into dated programs while Sastry could instead double the number of engineering graduates.
Many qualified students and applicants don't even apply because of the intense competition for existing slots. Because of limited funding, it currently takes a 4.4 grade-point average to be admitted into Berkeley's vaunted engineering programs. Only valedictorians need apply.
Sastry could readily admit another 700 students per year just as qualified, doubling the output of amazing talent, if the chancellor would demonstrate executive discipline to reallocate his existing operating budget more wisely.
Instead, many disappointed Bears take what they can get, often studying for nonexistent or poorly paying careers, while the promise of a career in engineering that they desire is lost. Meanwhile, Provost George Breslauer advocates increasing tuition -- the total yearly cost to attend approaches $35,000 -- while denying capable students their career of choice.
It's time for wisdom at UC Berkeley.
Pedrotti is a graduate of the College of Engineering at UC Berkeley.