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Jakob Schiller:
          Eva Bluestein, a local Berkeley senior, shows her support Monday during a rally to save low-income senior housing. The rally was held at a proposed low-income housing site located at 2517 Sacramento St.
Jakob Schiller: Eva Bluestein, a local Berkeley senior, shows her support Monday during a rally to save low-income senior housing. The rally was held at a proposed low-income housing site located at 2517 Sacramento St.


Seniors Rally For Low-Income Housing

Tuesday July 13, 2004


Some of Berkeley’s oldest residents came out in force Monday to rally on behalf of the city’s long-delayed affordable housing project. 

Construction has been postponed on the five-story, 40-unit Sacramento Senior Homes project at the former Outback clothing store at Sacramento and Blake streets pending the resolution of a lawsuit filed by opponents two years ago after the City Council first approved the project. 

Next Tuesday, a three judge Appeals Court panel will hear oral arguments on the appeal of a case that the city won in Alameda County Superior Court last year. 

The opponents, led by nearby resident Marie Bowman and six other plaintiffs, argue that the city approved the project without adequate parking and without a report detailing the environmental impact of the proposed development. 

Their charge is common among critics of Berkeley development projects, but their ability to stave off construction by sustaining a legal challenge in Superior Court and now in the Court of Appeals is rare. Bowman said she has been funded by “supporters,” but that she didn’t expect to mount a further appeal if she lost this round. 

About two dozen seniors and their supporters said they want Bowman to give up immediately. Led by the grey-haired a cappella outfit, the Raging Grannies, seniors argued the wait for construction to start at Sacramento Street was mirrored by their wait to get a slot in one of Berkeley’s ten senior homes. 

“This has been in the works for five years, but it keeps getting held up by a small group of people,” said Margot Smith of the Berkeley Gray Panthers. Although the political debate on the project has long ended, Smith defended the rally as a way to publicize the conflict and put pressure on the opponents. 

Councilmember Linda Maio, who organized the event, said it was necessary to highlight construction delays that have already added an extra $750,000 in carrying costs, construction costs, and legal fees to the project’s $10.5 million price tag. Since the project is being developed by the non-profit Affordable Housing Associates, most of the added costs will come from the city’s Housing Trust fund. 

“We could have used that money to finance a new housing project,” Maio said. 

Outgoing AHA Executive Director Ali Kashani said that, assuming the appeals panel rules in the city’s favor, he hopes to start construction in September. Should opponents win, or file an appeal with the California Supreme Court, however, Kashani said construction would be delayed until at least next spring, adding an additional $450,000 to the cost of the project. 

Jaye Scott, a 69-year-old former video store owner who pays $750 rent on a monthly fixed income of $930, said the shortage of affordable senior housing had made it tough for her to get by. 

“I’m barely making it,” she said. She has placed her name on waiting lists at some senior housing facilities but has been told the average wait for an available unit is two years. 

Berkeley has 642 units of affordable senior housing to accommodate just under 1,500 elderly low income renters, said Housing Director Steve Barton. 

Most of the city’s senior housing stock is financed through the federal Section 8 housing program, which requires that tenants pay 30 percent of their income towards their rent. Under the rules of a Section 8, when the buildings were constructed, the Section 8 vouchers and waiting lists are managed by the developer and not the Berkeley Housing Authority. 

The project on Sacramento Street is one of the first of a new type of Section 8 vouchers that are tied to the building, but managed by the Housing Authority. Barton said the Housing Authority already has about 200 Berkeley seniors on its waiting list for the proposed project. 

Bowman said that despite what she views as attempts to demonize her, she isn’t opposed to affordable senior housing, but to what she sees as the city’s refusal to follow it’s own rules for development. 

“The design doesn’t fit into the neighborhood,” she said.  

The proposal would cover 90 percent of the lot, more than double the normal coverage, she said. It would also stand 15 feet above the 35-foot height limit and the proposed 13-car parking lot necessitated a parking waiver, which Bowman said municipal code outlaws for Sacramento Street. 

Bowman maintained the concerns opponents raised required the developer to perform an Environmental Impact Report for the project, which the city has maintained is not needed. She further claims that the city has acted in bad faith throughout the process. 

When the Council first approved the project in 2002, Kashani and opponents were in the midst of mediation. 

Superior Court Judge Bonnie Sabraw invalidated the project’s use permit and forced the council to approve the project a second time. 

“As a resident if the city has a general plan you want it to administered it correctly so you have a sense of what to expect,” Bowman said. “We believe the city needs to comply with it municipal ordinance and state law.” 


University’s Foothill Bridge Still Provokes Controversy

Tuesday July 13, 2004

Sixteen years ago former Berkeley City Manager Hal Cronkite wrote UC Berkeley officials that the city had “no known objections” to a pedestrian footbridge suspended over Hearst Avenue. Tonight (Tuesday, July 13)—three aborted attempts to win city approval and $600,000 later—the bridge that would connect both halves of the Foothill housing complex is finally coming before the City Council. 

But it’s coming with plenty of baggage. In May the Public Works Commission, charged with presenting a report to the council, voted 6-2 to oppose the plan, charging that the university failed to meet the city’s criteria for obtaining the needed encroachment waiver. 

UC Berkeley Planner David Mandel contends that the bridge is necessary to safeguard dorm residents from the hazardous pedestrian intersection at Hearst and Highland Street and open La Loma Dormitory on the north side of Hearst to wheelchair-using students. 

Even though the dorm has 16 wheelchair-accessible rooms, no wheelchair-using student has ever called La Loma home. The problem is accessibility and distance. Since the terrain around the complex is so steep, the only path to the mail boxes, commons, and dining hall on the other side of Hearst that is flat enough for a wheelchair takes students on a half-mile journey all the way to the Greek Theater and around the complex.  

UC wants the bridge so badly it has even indicated its willingness to meet city staff’s conditions that the university provide $200,000 towards infrastructure improvements around Hearst and give the city’s Public Works Department final say over the bridge’s design. 

But, as in years past, the bridge is running into a buzz saw of opposition from neighbors, who see it as the “Arc de Triomphe” of university encroachment onto the northside of campus. 

“I think the university wants this to brand Hearst for themselves,” said Jim Sharp, who lives a few blocks from the proposed bridge. “I can see them hanging a banner ‘Bear Territory’ across it.” 

In the 15 years Sharp has lived just north of the central campus, he has watched as the city sat by powerless to regulate a UC building boom that is heating up again this summer with the start of construction of the new Davis Hall North at Hearst and Le Roy Street. 

“It’s like the university is marching towards our doorstep,” he said. 

Only in the matter of the bridge, the city is in the driver’s seat. To build a bridge over the public right-of-way, UC needs an encroachment waiver from the city. Approval has not come easily. 

UC withdrew applications in 1992, 1997, and 2000 under heavy pressure from neighbors, design advocates, and even its own Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which feared the original bulkier, lower hanging designs would impede ladder trucks and collapse in an earthquake. 

Last year, UC revived the bridge with a new scaled-back design and a new rationale. To comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act, UC argued it has to make sure all of its dorms provide access to disabled students. 

If the city rejects the bridge this time around, Mandel said the university would scrap the project entirely. Originally budgeted at around $400,000 from a $65 million state bond measure, UC has already spent $600,000 on its rejected designs and would have to spend roughly another $600,000 to build the bridge. 

So far, official reaction to the new proposal has been mixed. The city’s Commission on Disabilities voted unanimously to support the project and the Planning Commission voiced its approval in a 5-3 vote, before the Public Works Commission weighed in on the other side. 

In a report to council, the Public Works Commission faulted the university for failing to study other solutions that would benefit all residents—such as a tunnel or leveling the crosswalk—and argued that the bridge failed to solve all disabled access issues, blocked the views of several homes and offices, and—in an era of university expansion—set a precedent for future encroachments. 

Patricia Dacey, a Public Works Commissioner, agreed with Sharp that the bridge was more about branding than disabled access. 

“If the university cared about disabled access they wouldn’t have built [the dorm] there or they would have made for easier access to get to central campus,” she said. “The bridge won’t do a damn thing to change that.” 

Public Works Commissioner Linda Perry, who sided with the university, said the majority had let their biases against UC obstruct the key issue. 

“This boils down to a matter of civil rights for the disabled community,” she said. “It’s hard to believe that people are so blinded by their anger towards the university they are willing to sacrifice disabled students.” 

As a compromise measure, Public Works Director Renee Cardinaux has proposed setting conditions that the university pay $200,000 towards an infrastructure project of the city’s choosing and give Cardinaux final approval over all technical issues and the design. 

Initially the university conceived an ornate Bay Region style structure, 18-feet off the pavement, complete with a slanted roof and wooden pillars that opponents complained would block many views and looked like it belonged in Disneyland. The new modified design proposes a steel and wood structure suspended 21 feet off the ground, measuring 11 feet tall, with a slightly arched green top and bottom.  

The design would minimize visual intrusions, but utility has not yielded beauty, critics say. The city’s Design Review Commission voted unanimously to oppose the design and the Landmarks Preservation Commission, though not opposing the bridge, which would obstruct the view of the original Phi Delta Theta house, a national landmark, requested the university redesign it. 

Cardinaux said the current design won’t suffice. “It has to be a piece of art or it shouldn’t be there,” he said. Although there’s little precedent for Public Works being the final arbiter of style, Cardinaux pointed to the I-80 pedestrian overpass, approved by the department, as an example that he is up to the task. 

The $200,000 mitigation money, he said, came in response to a request from the Public Works Commission that the city be compensated should it grant the waiver.  

Sharp, however, wants more money, and thinks initial payments should go to the roughly six property owners whose views will be impaired by the bridge. 

“They’re treating this like an inside deal,” said Sharp, who wants the university to make annual payments for use of the city’s airspace. “The city is trying to get something out of it, while the neighbors get a mess.” 

Opposition from neighbors like Sharp could impact the council’s vote. Councilmember Dona Spring, who uses a wheelchair, said she won’t be able to support the bridge proposal with the current design and without studying a possible tunnel. 

“We shouldn’t sacrifice aesthetics just to get $200,000,” she said.?

Developer Gives First Look At West Berkeley Project Plans

Tuesday July 13, 2004

A San Mateo developer has presented city staff with plans for a 212-unit, five-story West Berkeley housing complex with ground floor commercial space, which would fill the entire block between University Avenue and Addison Street and between Third and Fourth streets. 

Of the two major retailers now on a lot largely devoted to parking—Celia’s, a popular Mexican restaurant at 2040 Fourth St. and Brennan’s at University and Fourth—only Brennan’s is included in the new plans, relocated to Fourth and Addison. 

“We’re working closely with Elizabeth Wade of Brennan’s,” said Dan Deibel, director of development for the Urban Housing Group, which is proposing the project. 

While Brennan’s holds a long-term lease, Celia’s rents from month to month, and their future is uncertain, Deibel said. 

Under the plans filed with the city, Brennan’s would remain in continuous operation, with the first phase of construction to include new facilities into which the restaurant could move before their premises are levelled to build the second phase. 

The project also encompasses the landmarked Berkeley train station, which would be restored with a part of the structure to serve as a station and the rest to house offices and a fitness center for project residents. 

Kava Massih, a noted Berkeley architectural firm, is designing the project for the San Mateo-based Urban Housing Group, headed by President/CEO Daniel E. Murphy. 

Urban Housing, in turn, is a subsidiary of Marcus & Millichap Company, a leading national real estate investment brokerage firm, headquartered in Palo Alto and with offices across the country. Corporate chair George M. Marcus serves as an advisor to the Haas Real Estate Group of UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. 

Deibel said Urban Housing specializes in transit-oriented urban infill development projects.  

“We have four projects currently in the pipeline, two in San Francisco, with one on Mission Bay and one adjacent, another near the South San Francisco BART station and the Berkeley project,” Deibel said. 

He added that his company’s projects “are a little different from the Patrick Kennedy Panoramic Interests project,” with individual units larger than Kennedy’s and “a couple of steps up.” 

Though the project is being designed as a condominium complex, initial plans call for the units to be rented out as market rate apartments in the short term, Deibel said. 

The property is now owned by Steven and Dale Block of Orinda and Overaa Ventures of Richmond, the latter headed by Gerald A. Overaa, who heads the Richmond-based C. Overaa & Co., a major construction firm. 

“We have a purchase contract for the property,” Deibel said, adding that the Overaa firm may have a future role in building the project. 

Architectural renderings submitted with the application are only preliminary, Deibel said. “There’s more work to do on design, and we have a strong desire to work with the Landmarks Preservation Commission and other community groups on design issues.” 

Deibel said he hopes for final city approval by spring or early summer of 2005, with construction to start soon afterwards. 

The first phase of construction would include 140 housing units, Brennan’s, a smaller commercial space and 182 parking spaces in a 125,446-square-foot building. 

The second phase includes 72 residential units, 6750-square-feet of commercial space, and 84 parking spaces in a 64,516 square feet of floor space. 

The final stage, the railroad station, adds an additional 10 parking spaces.  

Plans reserve 20 percent of the housing units for low-income residents. 

The proposal was unveiled to the West Berkeley Project Area Committee (PAC) last Thursday, though the project lies just outside the redevelopment area covered by the committee. 

PAC member John McBride said the committee is concerned about the project’s impact on bus and rail service in the area, and on bicycle traffic.  

“A lot of us felt that the esplanade along the railroad tracks would connect to the bikeway and Aquatic Park,” McBride said. “The bikeway is now planned to go up Addison and down Fourth Street,” which border the project. 

Deibel said he and his staff will devote considerable time to working with community groups to forge a consensus for the project. 

“We’re working closely with Iris Starr and the city on restoring the railroad station to functionality in conjunction the new West Berkeley transportation village,” Deibel added. 

One group with a strong interest in University Avenue projects—PlanBerkeley.org—hasn’t seen the proposal, said member Kristin Leimkuhler. 

“We need to look at the project before we can comment,” she said.

City Manager Gives Thumbs Down to Ballot Measures

Tuesday July 13, 2004

A proposed November ballot initiative billed as an antidote to Berkeley’s strict laws regulating the cultivation of medical cannabis plants would also allow cannabis clubs carte blanche to sprout along commercial corridors, according to a critical report released last week from City Manager Phil Kamlarz. 

Two other citizen-initiated measures heading for the November ballot also received hostile reviews from city staff. 

Berkeley could become the Bay Area’s “prostitution destination point,” Kamlarz wrote, should citizens pass a measure that among other things would make police enforcement of prostitution its lowest priority. A third measure to create a Berkeley Tree Board regulating public trees is of dubious legality and would cost the city up to $250,000 a year, according to a separate report from the city manager, contested by the ordinance’s author. 

None of the initiatives is expected to win approval from the City Council, which—if it doesn’t pass the initiatives outright—is required to place them on the November ballot for voters to determine their fate. 

Marijuana and prostitution are no strangers to the City Council. In previous sessions, the council rejected compromise proposals that didn’t go as far as the current initiatives. 

Last May the council tabled a proposal to raise the limit on marijuana plants a licensed patient is legally able to grow from 10 to 72, the same number permitted in Oakland. 

In response, cannabis advocates have produced the Patient Access to Medical Cannabis Act of 2004. The measure abolishes limits on plants, requires the city to provide medical cannabis to patients if federal authorities crack down on dispensaries, gives legal standing to a peer review committee to oversee the clubs and—perhaps most significantly—gives cannabis clubs by-right use permits in commercial zones. 

Zoning rules in Berkeley for cannabis clubs have been murky ever since California voters passed the Compassionate Use Act of 1996. The city’s three established marijuana distributors and any new clubs are labeled as miscellaneous retail establishments and require an administrative use permit that can be appealed to the Zoning Adjustment Board. 

Earlier this year, the city’s oldest dispensary, The Cannabis Buyers Cooperative (CBCB), ran afoul the city’s Planning Department and South Berkeley neighbors when it sought to move its operations from Shattuck Avenue to a blighted section of Sacramento Street near Ashby Avenue. 

The city revoked CBCB’s administrative use permit on Sacramento Street, costing the operation about $10,000, according to cooperative member James Blair. The CBCB opted not to appeal its case to the Zoning Adjustment Board, but after witnessing the council reject previous zoning suggestions from cannabis activists since 1996, the organization is counting on the measure to make its next move less of a hassle. 

“Eight years is a long time for the City Council to do nothing,” Blair said. “It’s their own fault. If they have something better, I suggest they put it forward quickly.” 

The concern over zoning is so acute that Councilmember Dona Spring, traditionally the staunchest supporter of liberal medical cannabis laws, opposes the initiative. 

Also, with Oakland having recently passed a law limiting the number of pot clubs, Councilmember Linda Maio has expressed concern that Berkeley could face a parade of Oakland clubs setting up shop in Berkeley. 

Don Duncan, director of the Berkeley Patient’s Group, counters that the peer review committee legitimized by the measure would keep clubs in check. 

“The city assumes a certain degree of ill will from dispensary operators, but that’s not the case,” he said. The committee would never have allowed the CBCB to relocate to Sacramento Street, he said. “No one thought it was a good idea except for a couple of people at that dispensary.” 

City staff also offered dire warnings on a proposed prostitution initiative. The measure, authored by the Berkeley-based Sex Workers Outreach Program, would require the council to lobby Sacramento to decriminalize prostitution and make the world’s oldest profession the lowest priority for Berkeley police.  

Kamlarz argued that local decriminalization would result in an influx of prostitutes and johns, higher levels of robberies, sexual assaults, thefts, batteries/assaults, noise and disturbing the peace calls in South and West Berkeley. 

Although the report argued the initiative could limit police enforcement activities, Berkeley Police spokesperson Joe Okies said the department would continue to operate stings in areas that receive complaints about prostitution. He said the BPD has received approximately 275 complaints this year and has made 48 arrests of prostitutes and johns. 

When it comes to saving the city’s 40,200 public trees, the staff said a proposed tree ordinance would cross cut city laws. With the city failing to stop the destruction of numerous trees in the downtown several years ago and with more trees slated for removal in the near future in the Berkeley Marina, local environmentalist Elliot Cohen decided to take the long battle for a city tree ordinance to the people. 

Dubbed the Public Tree Act of 2004, Cohen’s proposal creates a new board to encourage the planting of healthy trees and regulate changes to trees on public land. Anyone who wanted to work on a public tree would have to get a license from the tree board, and any development that might affect a public tree would require a “tree impact report.” 

But according to the city attorney’s office, the proposed ordinance would interfere with the council’s authority over city property, forcing it to get tree board permission to remove public trees. Also, by specifying that the Tree Board receive two staff members and mandate a specified number of trees be planted annually, the ordinance would interfere with the city manager’s charter authority to administer city departments and personnel. 

Kamlarz estimated the cost of the proposed new Tree Board would run to $250,000. To provide staffing, he said, the city would have to transfer two Parks and Recreation Department employees. If those employees came from the Forestry Division, the result would be 20 percent less maintenance work performed on public trees, the city manager wrote. 

Cohen, however, argued that city staff had misread his initiative and were inflating the cost as part of a campaign of scare tactics.  

He said his proposal capped staffing at two full-time employees ($200,000) but under normal circumstances the Tree Board would only require about one quarter to one-half time for one staff member. He also said the board shouldn’t require $50,000 in administrative overhead costs, as the city projected, since the initiative calls only for using existing city resources. 

“There’s no reason why something that already exists should cost $50,000,” he said.ô

City Council to Ponder Arts and Culture Plan

Tuesday July 13, 2004

Five years in the making, the proposed Arts and Culture Plan arrives at the City Council tonight (Tuesday, July 13), with members of the Civic Arts Commission (CAC) presenting their work at the 5 p.m. council working session. 

But some artists aren’t entirely happy with the effort, and—supported by at least one councilmember and arts commissioner—they plan to let the council know.  

The plan, which includes guidelines for the dispersal of grants from the city’s General Fund and from the Public Art Fund—a 1.5 percent levy on capital improvement projects—comes at a crucial time for the Berkeley arts community, said CAC Chair David Snippen. 

“The California Arts Council grants have all but disappeared,” Snippen said. “They’ve been cut back by 95 percent.” Berkeley artists received a half-million dollars in grants in fiscal year 2002-2003, “and now it’s practically zero. We’re trying to augment public funds through private foundations and grants,” he said. 

In an analysis of the plan prepared for the council, city Acting Manager of Economic Development Thomas A. Myers said the proposed city budget for the new fiscal year includes $212,139 in arts grants from the general fund. Also included is $78,502 for the public art fund, in addition to the $500,012 already in the Public Art Fund. 

Creation of the arts plan was mandated by city General Plan Policy ED-11, and the city took the first step in formulating the plan in 1999 when they hired ArtsMarket, a Montana-based consulting firm, to survey the city arts community and its needs. 

Armed with the report, the CAC conducted more than 35 meetings to gather input, culminating in a final session in April. 

Others are less satisfied, including Bob Brockl of the Nexus Collective and Gallery, who would like to see more specific findings and recommendations—including the creation of a new city arts district in West Berkeley.  

“If you look at the city in terms of existing work spaces and studios for artists, you’ll find a lot of them in here,” Brockl said, “and a number of them are in danger” from rising rents and other developmental pressures. 

Brockl’s own collective is housed in a vintage brick structure in need of earthquake retrofitting and in danger of demolition to make room for a new animal shelter. 

Also endangered, Brockl said, is the Potters’ Studio. “It’s an uphill battle to protect the existing arts community, and we think the plan should be more specific.” 

Brockl said City Councilmember Kriss Worthington and Arts Commissioner Bonnie Hughes have been urging artists and other organizations to turn out for Tuesday’s work session. 

The 36-page commission plan to be presented to the council tonight encompasses policies formulated around six major objectives: 

• Enhance Berkeley as a community and place of culture and the arts in all areas and distinct neighborhoods. 

• Promote artistic and cultural engagement and public awareness of the arts, including quality youth programming and education in the arts. 

• Support arts in education in all city schools. 

• Enhance and support diversity of participants and public awareness in the arts and promote city-wide incorporation of arts and culture. 

• Assure consistent, adequate and ongoing funding for arts activities and programs. 

• Ensure access to programs and facilities for all ages, ethnicities and physical abilities. 

Among the specific proposals raised are the creation of a community art center; provision of affordable housing, workspace and performance venues; support for existing city arts districts and the addition of more such spaces; creation of an arts and cultural marketing program with the Berkeley Convention and Visitors Bureau; promotion of cultural tourism; creation of mentorship opportunities; and support for an arts in education program in all city schools. 

The plan also calls for providing greater youth attendance at performances and cultural activities in cooperation with public schools; increasing integration of culture and arts in city economic development policies; creation of a fund for the arts using both public and private sources; and increasing general fund arts and culture support to at least $25 per capita annually. 

Besides calling for transit access to performance and cultural venues, the plan calls for providing ample parking—a somewhat thorny issue, considering the recent reduction of parking opportunities in the downtown area. 

“We’re pretty satisfied with the plan,” Snippen said, “and we’ve had good reviews from arts and various committees. The plan is essentially a guide for future policy decisions. Those aspects that require land use changes and have financial impacts will have to be presented separately with suggestions and recommendations as to potential revenue sources.” 

Arts commissioners will submit an annual plan with specific policies, along with their implications and budget recommendations, Snippen said. 

“Land use policies to support live/work spaces and performance spaces will need to be examined by the Housing Advisory Commission, the Zoning Adjustment Board and the Planning Commission and other bodies. We can only recommend changes,” Snippen added.

Debt to HUD Puts Jobs Program in Danger

Tuesday July 13, 2004

Berkeley’s primary provider of job training and placement for homeless residents shut its doors without warning last week after a federal review determined the nonprofit owed the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) $1.2 million in back payments. 

The future of the Jobs Consortium—which has served between 700 and 800 Oakland and Berkeley residents per year since 1988—remains uncertain as city, county and HUD officials discuss a possible bailout. The Berkeley City Council is expected to consider an emergency funding plan for the nonprofit at its July 20 meeting. 

Claude Everett, the senior assistant manager at the Job Consortium’s Berkeley center, said the organization’s roughly 50 employees at its three locations have been given time off while it searches for a solution to its monetary woes. 

Should the Jobs Consortium fold, Cisco De Vries, an aide to Mayor Tom Bates, said Berkeley would be losing one of its most vital services. 

“It would be a massive hole in our funding for providing job services for homeless people,” De Vries said. 

Through its federal grant, the Jobs Consortium leveraged $1 million to train Berkeley homeless residents in a job trade, prepare resumes, and help find them stable jobs. Berkeley has given the nonprofit in the neighborhood of $19,000 a year. De Vries said the city was prepared to fund the program this year from its Mental Health Department budget. 

To pay for services, the Jobs Consortium relied on a $2.2 million grant from HUD, of which $1 million was earmarked for Berkeley. But to qualify for the HUD money, it had to raise 20 percent of the grant ($550,000) from local sources. 

Unable to garner enough money from city, county and private donations, the nonprofit counted job training services it received from local unions and assigned it a monetary value to make up the difference.  

For years, HUD accepted such in-kind services towards its grant match, but in 2000 the department changed its rules. The upshot, said Councilmember Dona Spring, is that for the past three years the Jobs Consortium has been short about $350,000 and HUD wants its money back. 

Recently, HUD has become increasingly stringent about holding nonprofits to its changing guidelines. Last year, the department dinged Berkeley-based Building Opportunities for Self Sufficiency (BOSS) approximately $600,000 for filing reimbursement requests for services HUD determined no longer qualified for federal aid. 

It’s believed that the Jobs Consortium, with a smaller operation than BOSS and twice the debt to HUD, will require a more vigorous bailout. 

HUD spokesman Larry Bush said HUD was “open to taking steps to make sure services are continued. How that happens remains to be seen.” 

Councilmember Kriss Worthington is counting on quick delivery of $1.5 million he said Oakland plans to pay the Jobs Consortium as part of the closure of the Oakland Naval Yard. Worthington hopes that government officials can convince bankers to advance the money to the nonprofit so it can pay its debt and meet its match for this year.  



Creek Ordinance Goes Back Before Council

Richard Brenneman
Tuesday July 13, 2004

Another hearing on Berkeley’s creek ordinance—directly affecting more than 2,000 homeowners—comes before the City Council this evening (Tuesday, July 13) during its 5 p.m. working session. 

The 1989 city statute, one of the nation’s first, has resulted in tensions between developers, residents, and groups calling for restoration and “daylighting” of the city’s creeks—many now shunted through underground culverts. 

City Planning Director Dan Marks is asking the city to give his staff direction for a workshop on the ordinance, with the aim of revising the statute. 

The current ordinance bars development within 30 feet of the centerline of Berkeley creeks.  


—Richard Brenneman

U.S.-Laos Trade Splits Hmong Communities

By PHA LO Pacific News Service
Tuesday July 13, 2004

A series of violent attacks against Hmong leaders in Minnesota is drawing out of cultural and political isolation insular Hmong communities across America.  

Several arson attacks against Hmong homes and businesses and a drive-by shooting rocked the tight-knit Minnesota Hmong community in April. A Hmong police officer was arrested on May 10 in connection with the drive-by (no one was injured in the incident). Members of Lao Veterans, a St. Paul-based nonprofit run by and for former Hmong soldiers from Laos, believe the violence was triggered by the dispute over granting Normal Trade Relations (NTR) to Laos. Other Hmong leaders, such as Minnesota State Senator Mee Moua, are reluctant to make that link.  

Whatever the motivation for the crimes, Hmong leaders agree that creating dialogue between their communities and U.S. authorities can help prevent violence in the future. Moua says that even if the Hmong remain a subgroup, “we need to live very transparently and become part of America.”  

Bo Thao, executive director of Hmong National Development and a neutralist on the NTR issue, says she hopes this “isn’t the result of one group working to silence another.”  

A majority of Hmong does not know about or take a position on the NTR debate. But among those who follow the issue there are two sharply divided groups, according to SuabHmong Radio Host Victor Vaj of Milwaukee.  

Granting NTR to Laos would introduce handicraft products such as clothing, wicker baskets, and food to the United States and create jobs in Laos, according to Edward Gresser, an international trade researcher with the Progressive Policy Institute.  

But for Hmong in America, the debate has reopened longstanding emotional wounds. Opponents of NTR allege that human rights abuses will continue against family members in Laos if trade is normalized.  

“This is a passionate issue,” says Thao, who has not taken an official stand on the trade-status debate. “We have loved ones overseas, and this is our link to the past.”  

Hmong are a minority ethnic group that emigrated from Laos after the 1970s. During the Vietnam War, they were recruited and trained by the CIA to fight North Vietnamese and Lao-Communist forces. After the Communist party took over in Laos, a government-sponsored ethnic cleansing campaign drove Hmong out of their homes.  

Many came to the United States as refugees, leaving family behind in Laos. There are approximately 300,000 Hmong living in the United States today. Approximately 70,000 live in California, with a large concentration in the agricultural region around Fresno. A group of 15,000 more is set to resettle in America from a refugee camp in Thailand.  

Zong Khang Yang, who calls himself the “strongest opponent of NTR in the Twin Cities,” believes that granting normalized trade status would sanction continued human rights violations against Hmong in Laos. He is organizing a two-month long march from St. Paul, Minn., to Washington, D.C., to present the case that Hmong are still being persecuted. He says he will not “support the Communist Government in killing (his) people.”  

Gresser, who is not involved in the Hmong debate, says that although few Americans were in Laos to witness alleged human rights violations, “denying NTR to Laos would not reflect the reality that war is over.”  

Nara Sihavong, a member of a national coalition in support of granting trade status to Laos, says that what happens in the Hmong community has nothing to do with NTR. “It is internal struggles (over leadership),” he says. “What happens in that community stays there.”  

The Hmong community in America has historically maintained a tradition of clan leadership in which disputes are resolved internally. But that community is now working with cultural outsiders, including police. Hmong leaders say the level of violence is unprecedented. “We cannot fix this alone,” says Ying Vang, executive director of Lao Family Community of St. Paul, a nonprofit organization that was set on fire April 20.  

Bee Lor, who hosts a Hmong-language radio news program in Fresno, Calif., says that Hmong need to stop looking at their community as “us versus them.” Continuing internal divides will only “make Americans mock us,” Lor says.  

To uncover the motivations behind the attacks and find the perpetrators, the FBI and the St. Paul Police department are studying the history of an immigrant group little known to many Americans. “It’s difficult,” says Paul Schnell, a spokesman for the St. Paul Police Department. “I am learning as I go.”  

Police say that they are placing Hmong officers on the case to try and break down some of the cultural barriers. But with the arrest of Officer Tou Cha, Bee Lor of Fresno fears that a bad image of the Hmong people has already been created.  

Hmong leaders say the co-operation with authorities is encouraging, but not without risks. “It’s up to investigators to put effort into this,” Vang says. “But if they start to blame just one faction, it might create more (internal) tensions.”  


Pha Lo, 22, traveled to Asia in 2003 to research Hmong refugees.

Kenyan Youth Culture Takes Off as Censorship Weakens

By ANDREW STRICKLER Pacific News Service
Tuesday July 13, 2004

NAIROBI, Kenya—From her studio on the 20th floor of an office building in downtown Nairobi, 25-year-old radio disc jockey Eve D’Souza has a good perspective on the tastes of young Kenyans. As she spins CDs for the evening show “Hits Not Homework” on Nairobi’s Capital FM, D’Souza juggles the phones and keeps an eye on the dozens of instant messages on her computer screen from her young listeners.  

From the requests, it is clear that young Kenyans have wholeheartedly embraced American pop culture. Among the hundreds of messages D’Souza receives nightly is a call from Larry in Baru, who requests a track from Naz. Joey in Nairobi writes, “I’d luv any tight trick by Dead Prez going out to my cuz Willy wherever he at.” 

D’Souza says that until a few years ago, her show was filled exclusively with Tupac, Dr. Dre, and other U.S. artists. But Kenya’s music scene has exploded in recent years. These days, D’Souza’s Top 10 countdown includes tracks from Nameless, Prezzo, Necessary Noize, and others from a growing list of homegrown talent.  

D’Souza welcomes the change.  

“We’re finally becoming serious about local music, and being proud of being Kenyan,” she says. 

DJ Adrian, a Nairobi native and a fixture on the city’s club scene, agrees that the last three years have seen a major shift in the tastes of young Kenyans. “You can’t do a party any more without local music,” he says.  

The surge in popularity of Kenyan musicians and the new visibility of youth culture can be linked directly to the recent liberalization of the media scene, which for decades was under the strict control of the government.  

For most of Kenya’s 41-year history, Daniel arap Moi, a giant of African politics, ruled as a virtual dictator. Although Moi was applauded by many as a stabilizing presence in the often-volatile region, his regime was riddled with corruption, and his critics were often arrested and tortured. Many others simply disappeared.  

The news and entertainment media were similarly restricted during Moi’s rule. Through the 1970s and ‘80s, Kenyans had only one choice on the radio, the government-controlled Kenyan Broadcasting Company, which broadcast religious programming and pro-government news. Young voices rarely made the airwaves. Ken Obura, a 23-year-old college student from Nairobi, recalls as a child, “It was all politics, always the same old characters.”  

Moi began to loosen the reins in his final years in office. A few new stations appeared, although political criticism remained risky. But the real change began with the 2002 election of current Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, who appears to be fulfilling his campaign promise to liberalize the media.  

Today, Kenya radio is experiencing a boom. Government officials say Nairobi now has 24 licensed FM operators, most of them less than four years old. Many are eager to capture the attention of young people, and not just through music.  

Among the reggae and Kenyan rap tracks, many of which are sung in the Swahili/English slang known as “sheng,” are frank discussions on topics such as interracial relationships, inequalities among Kenya’s many cultural groups, and AIDS. 

Not all topics are open for discussion, however. 

“There is no mention of lesbianism and homosexuality,” says Luiza Safari, 20, an anthropology student from Mombasa. “People think these things are not happening, but they are, so they should talk about it.”  

And despite Kibaki’s promise to support a free press, government interference remains a threat. In March, after a DJ at a Nairobi radio station mocked a government minister on air, the station’s signal was temporarily blocked by a rival station. Although it was never officially acknowledged, many in Nairobi say the action happened under orders from Kenya’s first lady, Lucy Kibaki.  

Several magazines for young Kenyans, many of whom are raised in conservative Christian and Muslim households, have appeared in recent years and are pushing the limits of customary propriety. The latest entry is The Entertainer, which focuses on East African hip-hop music. Among the magazine’s offerings of celebrity gossip and CD reviews are articles extolling the virtues of late-night clubbing and thong underwear. 

“Sure, some people are disgusted,” says Entertainer Editor Joseph Ngunjiri. “But the culture is here, you can’t just wish it away,”  

Change is also being felt in the offices of the independent student magazine The Comrade at Nairobi University, which was frequently shut down during the Moi regime. Editor Kennedy Mbara, 25, says students overwhelmingly supported President Kibaki’s campaign because he promised to support a free press and create jobs for young Kenyans. “When the regime changed, everyone here was happy, everyone was hopeful,” Mbara says.  

However, Mbara says he is troubled by Kibaki’s recent refusal to sign the new constitution, which would decentralize presidential power, as well as recent warnings from the government-controlled administration that the magazine’s involvement in student protests will not be tolerated. “So far they have not banned us, but we can only pray,” he says.  

But despite the threat of a reversal of recent gains, Mbara says that young Kenyans’ willingness to speak out is here to stay. “One thing about our students, we will always talk,” he says.  


Andrew Strickler is a freelance journalist and a student at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.›

Candidate Kerry’s Non-Southern Strategy

By KENNETH S. BAER Featurewell
Tuesday July 13, 2004

To hear Democratic strategists and political commentators tell it, the selection of John Edwards as John Kerry’s running mate heralds the dawn of a new Democratic day in the South, with the Carolinas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Virginia suddenly in play this November.  

After all, as the Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne, Jr. points out, since 1960 the three Democratic tickets that didn’t feature at least one Southerner all lost, while the five that included a son of the South all won. By that logic, Edwards is the perfect pick: He was born in South Carolina, lives in North Carolina, and has a drawl as thick as molasses.  

Yet Edwards won’t help Kerry win one Southern state—although he will help Kerry win the presidency.  

The brilliance of the Edwards selection is not that he will enable Kerry to win states in the South (short of a landslide, they are still completely out of reach), but that he will help Kerry remain competitive in “Southern” areas of non-Southern states. While huge turnouts in Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee are critical, Kerry can’t win their respective states without also racking up votes in downstate Illinois, western and central Ohio, central Pennsylvania, and non-urban Wisconsin. It’s in these areas that a Southerner’s drawl, humble roots, and regular church attendance can make a difference.  

To understand why a Southerner plays well in parts of the North and Midwest, one has to stop thinking in terms of “red” and “blue” America and visualize the electoral map colored in shades of purple. The American electorate is not as polarized as the red-blue dichotomy would lead one to believe. As Philip Klinkner of Hamilton College pointed out in a recent paper, only about 36 percent of voters in the 2000 election lived in a county that either George W. Bush or Al Gore won by more than 60 percent. That means that two-thirds of the electorate lives in counties that are competitive. To put it another way: The same voters in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, Hawaii, Connecticut, and Maryland who provided Al Gore’s biggest margins of victory also voted Republican governors into office.  

Not only are states more politically diverse internally, but political affiliations and the ethnic, cultural, and economic backgrounds in which they are rooted do not end at the state line. Recognizing this, the Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth (MassInc) conducted an extensive analysis last year of the electorate and re-divided the nation into 10 regions, each with its own distinct political character. In some cases, these regions cross the country; in many cases, states were divided among two or even three different regions. Winning a state, then, often means winning voters who fall into several disparate regions.  

Take Pennsylvania. Al Gore won it by four points in 2000; not wanting to lose the state again, President Bush has visited 30 times since taking office. According to the MassInc framework, eastern Pennsylvania—Philadelphia, its suburbs, and the Lehigh Valley to the north—lie in the “Northeast Corridor” region, the highly affluent, best-educated, and most Democratic region in the country. The vast middle of the Keystone State lies in “Appalachia,” the oldest, poorest, least-educated, and most rural region. Historically drawn to Democrats for economic issues, social conservatism and national defense turned this region into Bush’s second-strongest in 2000. Finally, the western edge of Pennsylvania—from Erie to Pittsburgh—sits in the “Great Lakes” region, which encompasses the big industrial cities that line the lakes, from Milwaukee to Cleveland to Rochester, along with their suburbs. This was Gore’s third-best region, propelling him to victory in every Great Lakes state except Ohio.  

Any Democrat who wants to win Pennsylvania, then, must appeal to cosmopolitan, educated, and diverse voters from the Northeast Corridor; garner enough small-town and rural voters from Appalachia; and win white ethnic, Midwestern voters from the Great Lakes.  

Pennsylvania illustrates the balancing act that a winning presidential candidate must perform. Each battleground state this year includes voters from at least two different regions. Democrats have little problem in the more urban, cosmopolitan regions: the Great Lakes, the Northeast Corridor, and the “Upper Coasts” (sections of New England, the Bay Area, and the Pacific Northwest). But they have a tough time winning the rough-hewn regions such as Appalachia and “Big River,” which touches parts of states that line the Mississippi River from Duluth to Memphis.  

To win enough electoral votes to take the White House, a Democrat must bridge the cultural gap between the regions in key states. A candidate must appeal to those who wear trucker hats because they are fashionable, as well as those who are actually truckers; those whose Sunday morning ritual includes brunch and The New York Times, and those whose Sunday rituals take place in church; those who believe a bass is an integral part of a jazz combo, and those who believe it’s something to catch and release with buddies over a beer.  

Edwards helps the Democratic ticket appeal to both the cosmopolitan and the provincial. He moves seamlessly from small-town meetings to the salons of Georgetown and the Upper East Side. He can help Kerry win second cities, small towns, and rural areas that dot the presidential battleground in Ohio, Wisconsin, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington, and Iowa.  

In other words, Edwards doesn’t deliver any single state but nevertheless brings geographic balance. The small-town roots and sensibilities so apparent every time he opens his mouth will help Kerry lock down the battleground states throughout the North and the Midwest. And when the votes are counted on Election Day, a Democratic South may not rise again but a Democratic Southerner surely will.  


Kenneth S. Baer, former senior speechwriter for Vice President Al Gore, runs Baer Communications, a Democratic consulting firm. This article first appeared on Americanprospect.com.›

Police Blotter

Tuesday July 13, 2004

Gunman Surrenders, Ends Albany Standoff 

An Albany man in his 20s held police and sheriff’s deputies at bay for more than 11 hours Monday after threatening to kill himself with a rifle. 

Assistant City Administrator Judy Lieberman said police were called to the 1100 block of Key Route Boulevard after the man called the Crisis Emergency Service’s 24-hour emergency suicide prevention hotline around 1 a.m. 

Neighborhood residents were evacuated for several hours while officers from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Crisis Intervention Unit negotiated. 

The man surrendered about 1:15 p.m., Lieberman said. 

Deputies booked the man on one count each of brandishing a firearm and making a criminal threat. He was being held Thursday evening in lieu of $23,000 bail, Lieberman said. 


Band-Aid Bank Robbery Strike Again 

The man Northern California law enforcement agencies have dubbed the Band-Aid Bandit struck Berkeley for a second time Monday morning, said police spokesperson Officer Joe Okies. 

Nicknamed for the bandage the felon sticks across the bridge of his nose before his capers, the robber walked into the Mechanics Bank branch in the 1800 block of Solano and offered a note demanding cash. 

He’s used the same M.O. at a dozen or so banks between Tracy and Oakland in the last few months, including once before in Berkeley three weeks ago. 

This time the ploy didn’t work, and the furtive felon fled, cashless. 

Okies said the robber is an African American male in his 20s, standing about 5’6” to 5’7” and weighing between 160 and 170 pounds. For his Monday appearance he donned a dark golf cap, glasses, a gray jacket with vertical stripes, and gray jeans. 

Topping out the outfit is a display of scruffy facial hair, Okies said. 


Burglar Nabbed in the Act 

A passerby called Berkeley police shortly before 3 a.m. Friday morning to report suspicious activity in the office of the Standard Parking Garage at 2061 Allston Way. 

Arriving at the scene, officers found a 22-year-old man scooping up cash in the manager’s office. 

Relieved of his loot, he was escorted to new accommodations in the nearby municipal pokey. 


Strongarm Bandit Busted 

Police arrested a 39-year-old man on felony robbery charges early Thursday afternoon after he forced a man to surrender his wallet outside a fast food restaurant in the 2100 block of San Pablo Avenue. 



Fiddlesticks Hit by Armed Robber  

A gunman walked into Fiddlesticks Furnishings at 2524 San Pablo Ave. a few minutes after 1 p.m. Friday and demanded cash. 

The suspect escaped with the loot. 


Wells Fargo Andronico’s Branch Robbed Again 

For the second time in recent weeks, a robber has struck the Wells Fargo branch bank in the Andronico’s Market at University Avenue and Acton Street. The felon entered the facility at 2:28 p.m. Friday and produced a note demanding cash. 

Once he had the dough, the unbandaged bandit boogied. 


Resident Discovers Bullet Hole in Window 

A resident heard what he thought was a gunshot Saturday night near his abode on Channing Way near College Avenue, but retired without further concern. 

After awakening Sunday morning, he discovered that the shooter had fired into his dwelling, drilling through a window. He promptly called police, but the shooter was long gone. 


Fashionistas Dis Plastic Pistol 

Clerks at Sunshine Fashion at 2529 Telegraph Ave. declined a would-be robber’s orders to tap the till when they spotted his alleged firearm as a plastic fake, whereupon he fled. 

Store personnel also identified his shirt as an Old Navy original. 


Gunman Grabs Cash 

The handgun a robber showed a San Pablo Avenue pedestrian at 12:52 p.m. Sunday afternoon looked all too real, so the victim parted with his cash and the robber took off on foot. 


Flashes ‘Sword,’ Then Bikes Away 

A dispute between two gentleman near the corner of Adeline and Harmon streets was abruptly terminated when one fellow flashed a 10-inch bladed instrument described as a Japanese sword at the other before fleeing on his bike. 

No one was injured. 


FromSusan Parker: More World Views From the Scrabblettes

Susan Parker
Tuesday July 13, 2004

I was in West Berkeley playing Scrabble with Louise, Rose, and Pearl. I hadn’t seen the Scrabblettes in over four weeks so we had a lot of catching up to do. 

“I saw the remake of Around the World in Eighty Days,” said Rose. “I don’t recommend it.” 

“I s aw Troy,” said Pearl. “I don’t recommend that, either.” 

“I saw The Saddest Song in the World,” I said. “I hated it.” 

“I saw Bill Clinton at Cody’s and got his autograph,” said Louise. This, of course, got our attention. 

“He’s very handsome,” she continued. “And so warm and friendly. He gave me a big hug. I can understand Monica Lewinsky’s attraction to him.” 

“Have you read his book yet?” asked Pearl. 

“No,” said Louise, carefully studying the board in order to make the first move. “It’s so big, I can barely lift it.” 

“He was an overweight child,” said Rose, rearranging her letters on the plastic holder. “I read it in the paper.” 

“I didn’t notice his weight,” said Louise, finally spelling “kea,” (a large green New Zealand parrot that kills sheep), for 14 points. 

“What about July 4th,” I said. “Did you do anything interesting?” 

“I watched the Jack London Square and Berkeley Marina fireworks from the 12th floor of a west-facing building,” said Pearl. “They were spectacular.” 

Louise picked three new letters from the bag. “I don’t like fireworks. You see one and you’ve seen them all.” 

“Really?” asked Rose. “When I was a kid, we were too poor to have fireworks. We each got one measly sparkler.” 

“We didn’t get sparklers,” said Pearl. 

“We didn’t celebrate the 4th of July,” said Louise. “That’s 14 points,” she added, pointing at the scorecard that Pearl was keeping. “Don’t cheat me.” 

“You didn’t celebrate the 4th of July?” asked Pearl, writing the number 14 in big numerals so that Louise could see it. 

“No, I don’t think so,” answered Louise. “And we only had sparklers at Christmas.” 

“Christmas?” asked Rose. 

“Yes,” said Louise firmly. “It’s your turn, by the way.” 

“How odd,” said Pearl. “I rode a horse in the Crescent City 4th of July parade once. It belonged to my grandfather. It must have been around 1946 or so.” 

“Did you celebrate 4th of July in the camps?” I asked Rose. Her family had spent the duration of World War II in an Arkansas camp for Japanese Americans. 

“Quiet,” she said. “I’m concentrating.” 

Pearl turned to Louise. “Why didn’t you celebrate Independence Day?” 

“I’m not sure, but I think we celebrated Juneteenth instead. Don’t forget, I left Louisiana when I was 12. That was almost 60 years ago, so I don’t remember all the details.” 

“Did you have sparklers on Juneteenth?” asked Pearl. It was obvious she wasn’t going to leave this sparkler thing alone. 

“No,” said Louise patiently. “I’m quite certain we only had sparklers at Christmas.” 

Rose sighed. “I’m going to turn in all my le tters and pass,” she said. “Enough with the sparklers, Pearl. It’s your turn.” 

“Rose, did you celebrate any American or Japanese holidays in the camps?” asked Louise. 

“Yep,” said Rose. “Christmas, New Years, Girls and Boys Days.” 

“Did you have access t o Japanese food while you were interned?” I asked. 

“Some. But you know what we did have?” 

“What?” we all asked in unison. 

“Velveeta cheese. Can you believe that? My older brother was sent to Montana to dig beets because all the regular farmhands were i n the service. He sent us Velveeta cheese and comic books. My friends thought we were rich.” 

“I can’t stand Velveeta cheese,” said Louise. “I ate too much of it when I was a child.” 

“I think Bill Clinton may have eaten a whole lot of Velveeta when he was a kid,” I said. 

“Well,” said Louise with a bit of mischief in her eyes. “It didn’t hurt him one bit, I’ll tell you that.” 

“Do you think Bill had sparklers at Christmas or 4th of July?” asked Pearl, looking up from the board. 

“Fireworks,” said Louise with conviction. “I could feel it at Cody’s last week. 

That man has always given off plenty of heat.”¿

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday July 13, 2004


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you Osha Neumann for the cathartic release of grief your column on Fahrenheit 9/11 delivered to me (“Michael and Me: Finding Light Amidst the Gloom,” Daily Planet, July 9-12). I’ve been feeling weighted with melancholy as well at the actions of the present administration (on our collective dime) and am indebted to Michael Moore for helping me see hope on the other side of the grief and rage. He is a national treasure. And your soul-lifting words reminded me we have such treasure all around us. 

Pamela Satterwhite 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Water has been in the news. On Sunday, the San Francisco Chronicle ran two large articles, including one about 10 proposed desalinization plants on California coasts. KQED is showing a special called “Water Wars” Tuesday at 10 p.m. Several letters to this newspapers raised concerns about BUSD planting new lawns. 

If BUSD must have lawns, then BUSD needs to ensure that lawns are watered through environmentally sustainable methods, such as with grey water systems, or catching and storing rainwater during the wet season for use during the dry season. Otherwise, BUSD should stop planting lawns. 

This summer, BUSD is planning to build at Willard, the fourth concrete amphitheater at a Berkeley school. These concrete amphitheaters contribute to rainwater run-off and erosion during our wet season, and cost upwards of $50,000. During the two great floods at Malcolm X this past winter, their amphitheater had four feet of standing water. Do kids even use them? Do teachers really hold classes in them? Thinking about this, I wondered if anyone at BUSD has even evaluated the three existing amphitheaters. Do these amphitheaters improve education at these schools or could that $50,000 be put to better use? 

So, BUSD builds structures that in the winter creates rainwater runoff and erosion, and in the summer, are black holes for water. BUSD’s mission statement and goals posted on its website, says that it wants to be a role model for students to achieve high standards. With the current president of the BUSD board, a member of the Green Party, one would hope that high standards would include basic environmental consciousness about a precious resource, water. 

Yolanda Huang 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

David Nasatir’s letter (Daily Planet, July 9-12) implies that though he can bicycle between his home and Berkeley Marina, he prefers to drive. He writes that this is quicker for him. 

There are many activists and silent contributors dedicated to making Berkeley safer for bicycling. Berkeley streets are often congested beyond capacity from too many people overly reliant on cars. Congested roads are inherently unsafe: even safe drivers are at risk. Many drivers are escalating into SUVs and mini-hummer-tanks to improve their survival odds in the inevitable crashes. Some UC Berkeley students’ concerned parents are buying SUVs to protect their children, and congestion worsens as UC’s enrollment increases. 

People are not trying to force septuagenarians like Mr. Nasatir to forfeit their cars. On the contrary, we are trying to enable and entice more people into healthy, enjoyable alternative transit, which will relieve road congestion and free up more parking spots for those folks who drive. All car drivers benefit when a small percentage of drivers shift to alternative transit modes! 

Safe alternative transit can also stave off the trend towards SUVs. While being in a SUV might improve its occupants’ survival odds, it obscures the view for everyone else, decreasing their accident-escaping odds as those well as nearby pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers trying to get into cars parked on the street. 

When Mr. Nasatir isn’t in too much of a hurry for his Marina outings, perhaps he can enjoy coasting his bicycle down to and around the marina, and simply strap his bike onto one of the hill-climbing buses, such as the 65, for the trip home, while leisurely reading his Berkeley Daily Planet on the uphill ride. 

Mitch Cohen 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am usually too busy to keep up with everything in town, although I have lived here for a while, and after reading the Daily Planet, which I hold in high esteem, I have to admit it seems Berkeley is being run without any testicles. This is so bad that heaven forbid anybody would want to build a masculine-looking building without an army of whimperers complaining. Everything from what I have been able to see since I have been here is as John Cougar Mellencamp would say in his song: “Little pink houses for you and me.” 

And then this guy in your article last issue (“Octogenarian Activist Makes Birthday Jump as Political Statement,” Daily Planet, July 9-12) pulls a stunt jumping from a plane because he doesn’t like war or something, and the Daily Planet contrasts him to President Bush the elder, who was the youngest pilot in the Navy in World War II and whose presidential library is at my alma mater, Texas A&M. And although I wasn’t there when he did it, I saw on him jump on a replay on TV, solo from a jump plane rather than tethered to someone else, and if it wasn’t for the fact at the time President Bush joined up at an earlier age, he could boast that he was older too. Some people verge on petty and never give up.  

I always enjoy reading your fine publication and keep up the good work. 

Steve Pardee 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Jill Sonnenberg’s letter (Daily Planet, July 9-12) regarding the importance of school library personnel is welcome. Her reference is to a library program meeting the needs of all students. 

In evaluating new high school educational and recreational programs, there are often oohs and ahhs of praise for the tangible—physical facilities. Of course adequate and appropriate space in which to teach and learn is essential for both staff and students. 

School library programs are too often victims of “off the top” evaluation in terms of physical facilities and staff. But they merit particular consideration in terms of collections and staffing as well. How many of the “This is just gorgeous” (Daily Planet, April 27-29) celebrators considered the BHS library in both qualitative and quantitative terms? (Notably, the State of California does not issue school library standards and guidelines, as do numerous other states.) A school of 2,750 students needs a minimum of 20 books per student. Ideally, this count should be in terms of titles rather than volumes. 

Helen Rippier Wheeler 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you for the informative article about Livable Berkeley. As a Livable Berkeley member and Berkeley resident, I appreciate that Livable Berkeley is speaking for me in supporting smart growth and sustainable development throughout the city. A willingness to create livable urban places is essential for addressing the social equity, transportation, and environmental challenges that our region faces. Infill development, affordable housing, and walkable districts can only occur if all of Berkeley works together to make them a reality. 

Matt Taecker 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As grassroots members of Livable Berkeley, we wanted to elaborate on your profile of our “well-connected” group (Daily Planet, July 6-8). We’re a couple with two young kids, and we’re not “connected” to any city staff, developers, or UC executives.  

We’re members of Livable Berkeley because we believe our lives, and the life of the city as a whole, will be improved by more good development - especially affordable housing and local shops—along University and other major streets and transit corridors. We live on one major street (Sacramento) and only two blocks from another (University Avenue). 

Good, well-designed development will mean more eyes on the street and more foot traffic to solidify local businesses. And that, in turn, would mean that we could get more errands done on foot or bicycle, instead of having to drive. We intend to raise our kids here, and we look forward to having more neighbors. 

Jeff Hobson, 

Kim Seashore  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

With all due respect to the candidate Barbara Gilbert’s run for City Council, I have often heard current councilmembers, or candidates, state they want more concessions from City of Berkeley employee unions when all the employee unions have made significant concessions to save the city budget and jobs. I know for a fact as a city employee, the city unions spent significant amounts of time and effort providing a detailed argument to city management based on equity gap research comparing city managers office to middle management, to field labor negotiating the last contract in order to present a fair deal to swallow. A good example of the difference is that the City of Berkeley department heads to city management gross approximately $106,000 to $174,000 per year while middle managers directly responsible for city management make a median salary of $65,000. Field labor across the board makes a median salary of $30,000 to $45,000 per year. City employees suffer lower wages in order to keep better benefits for their families and pray for a restful retirement when the time comes. All this last year, the City of Berkeley employee unions made significant contributions and suggestions to the city management to ease the burden of the General Fund deficit and not one idea that was presented short of depleting union labor salaries, or one day lay offs, or take away two percent retirement all from the pocket and sweat of the employees was acknowledged or accepted. There are truly many ways to make up the deficit short of hurting the employee’s current costs of living. The equity differences are extreme in comparison to the daily duties and responsibilities expected of employees who are in contact with all Berkeley residents and customers of the city. It is consistently insulting that pontificating politicians who do not know the truth of employees plight for survival make statements such as this Barbara Gilbert has. It is further insulting that many people think city employees have it easy. We do not. Most people who make judgments of city employees have no idea that they are also required emergency operational personnel and in any disaster are required to be near the city to assist in any or all emergencies. Basic home ownership is impossible with current labor salaries. Try and get a mortgage for a $500,000 fixer upper with a $45,000 per year salary. Concessions Ms. Gilbert? How about subsidies for taking good care of Berkeley by having a decent roof over your head and maintaining the freedom to feed your family without having to apply for food stamps? The day I see politicians standing in line to subsidize their own salaries in order to survive, I’ll make more concessions. 

Norm David 

City of Berkeley employee 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a candidate for Berkeley’s District 5 City Council race, I certainly appreciated the lively news story and editorial in the July 9 edition of the Berkeley Voice, as well as the extensive recent news story in the Berkeley Daily Planet.  

I do want to make it clear that while I do have many personal anecdotes in the “good guys/bad guys” category, and I do enjoy juicy political gossip as much as anyone, my campaign is not about personalities but about the big substantive issues facing our community. These include the following: Homeowners, taxpayers, and long-term committed residents have no one representing their legitimate interests on the City Council, including and especially their interest in not being unfairly taxed relative to other segments of our population.  

We in Berkeley need but do not have on council strong enough advocates for fiscal responsibility and better city management in a time of shrinking revenues, including advocates for a meaningful reduction in the cost and size of city government.  

We have a need to establish proper spending and program priorities, including top priority for safety net services, necessary capital improvements, public safety, and sensible creek regulations. We cannot continue to fritter away public money on frivolities and nonessentials, such as almost $300,000 on YMCA membership for city employees, land giveaways to developers, or staff time devoted to symbolic far away issues such as Instant Runoff Voting, to give just a few examples.  

We need leadership that will seriously look at ways to restore and revitalize our quality of life, including, for example, curtailing University and institutional expansion into downtown and our neighborhoods, expanding middle income home ownership opportunities along our commercial corridors, establishing human-scale standards for development, providing parking and shuttle service to support our merchants, retail uses, and much-needed retail development, and implementing a professional-quality economic development program. With respect to good government, someone City Council must speak out against the very unfortunate trends that have been occurring, including nonpublic decisionmaking and uninformed decisionmaking due to incomplete and/or untimely production of information. We also need to carefully study and consider ways to improve our democracy, and I would propose that we establish a community task force to do just that rather than our recent practice of rushing headlong and thoughtlessly into expensive innovations. This task force should assess such potential improvements as, for example, instant runoff voting, public financing of campaigns, an expanded City Council, higher council salaries, and charter revision.  

These are the major issues we face in Berkeley, and I am running for the District 5 City Council seat to bring focus to the issues and provide our city with informed and independent leadership.  

Barbara Gilbert  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It’s nice to see that the city is continuing to build “islands” at intersections in various Berkeley neighborhoods (although I don’t see any being constructed in “poorer” parts of town). These little landscapes are a great improvement over the horrendous concrete barriers that still blight our streets. However, before anymore are completed, I would like to suggest that the city stop putting up those ugly and unnecessary directional signs (four are posted on every island). They detract and obscure the beauty of the landscapes and are often targets for graffiti. Instead of signs, couldn’t arrows be painted on the pavement to tell drivers to go around?  

Nick Mastick 


Affordable Housing Protest Has Been Artificially Promoted

Tuesday July 13, 2004


Local senior activists are being manipulated to participate in a protest at 2517 Sacramento St., supposedly to encourage the city to move ahead with construction of the Outback Senior housing project. Since a divided City Council already approved the project last year, the real reason for the protest can only be to artificially generate press coverage hoping to influence a pending Court of Appeal oral argument in the environmental lawsuit regarding the project. The appellate hearing is set for July 20 in San Francisco. 

An e-mail being circulated to senior citizens claims that “NIMBYs” are delaying construction of the project and that seniors should rally in protest to the City Council. 

In fact, the pending lawsuit is a good faith environmental challenge and is in no way an attempt to bar affordable housing from the site. The Neighbors for Sensible Development support affordable housing for the site but believe the city acted unlawfully in contravention of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in approving the project, a 40-unit, four-story structure on a parcel that should not exceed eight units according to Berkeley’s Master Plan.  

“Everyone agrees this site can be used for an affordable senior housing project,” said Berkeley Housing Commissioner Marie Bowman of Neighbors for Sensible Development. “However, a badly-planned project that lowers our quality of life without regard for the health of its residents is not the kind of development that Berkeley can be proud of. Everyone has the right to a healthy environment.”  

The project is planned adjacent to the site of a former gas station that contained leaking underground tanks. No environmental cleanup has been completed at the 2517 Sacramento site, and MTBE and other chemicals remain that must be properly cleaned up to protect the health and well being of potential residents. The project is also out of scale with surrounding one-story residences in a well-loved neighborhood. The lawsuit simply seeks preparation of an environmental impact report to assess impacts and feasible alternatives to allow the affordable housing project to proceed in an environmentally sensitive manner. Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association supports the neighbors’ efforts. 

The cynical and contrived manipulation of the Gray Panthers and other senior citizens who believe they are attending a rally to promote affordable housing should be recognized. 


Marie Bowman is a founder of Neighbors for Sensible Development.

Committee Responds to Criticism Of Utility Undergrounding Project

Tuesday July 13, 2004

Erna Smith’s commentary (“District Would Raise Neighbors’ Property Taxes,” Daily Planet, July 9-12) makes accusations and assertions that simply are not true. This response will try to correct the most important issues. Above all we would like to emphasize the considerable amount of support this project has. 

First of all, the process of utility undergrounding is neither the “brainchild of a handful of neighbors” nor something arbitrarily created by the city. Rather it is established by state law and is regulated in Rule 20B as set forth by PG&E. This rule establishes a process whereby property owners who are not covered by Rule 20A (in which the cost of undergrounding is mostly funded by the utility companies as is required by law) are offered the possibility of funding their own district. This rule applies to all PG&E customers—not just Berkeley residents. And, as Ms. Smith points out, this rule only requires a simple majority to create a district, in accordance with Proposition 218. 

Beyond these state level regulations the city has the right to set its own guidelines for establishing a district. Berkeley’s guidelines impose a much stricter framework for districts. The process involves three steps.  

1) Seventy percent of the property owners in a proposed district must express interest in receiving formal information from the city regarding how to establish the district.  

2) Seventy percent must sign a formal petition and fully fund the design costs of the project.  

3) A final mail balloting is conducted by the city during a 45-day period, which ends with a public hearing. Then the ballots are tallied and the City Council decides whether or not to form the district. The city guidelines required a 70 percent majority for this final ballot at the time we began the project. However, on June 1, prior to mailing out the district ballots, the City Council voted unanimously to change the requirement to 60 percent. On June 2, the district committee circulated an update to the district property owners informing them of this rule change. On June 4, the ballots were mailed. 

Here is the history of the undergrounding initiative. Several years ago, a large number of neighbors on our two block street of Kentucky Avenue expressed keen interest in forming a disaster plan for our neighborhood. City officials held two meetings with us that were attended by approximately 50 people. We then formed three committees for light search and rescue, first aid and fire suppression. A few of us even attended classes offered by the fire department. Out of this disaster planning grew an interest in utility undergrounding. A committee of about 30 people was formed in an area that originally included 283 houses. Seventy percent of the property owners in the area signed a petition expressing interest in undergrounding. Thus we achieved step one of the process. 

Step two represented a more formidable hurdle. Many people shied away from supplying the $2,519 per owner that was required for the design costs. Nonetheless, there was still a contiguous group of 104 houses at the core of the area whose owners felt strongly enough to take this next step. Of those 104 property owners, 79 contributed to the design costs. We delivered a total of $186,000 to the city in August of 2002. In addition, there were four more owners who stated to us that they supported the forming of a district and would most likely vote in its favor, although they did not have the cash to contribute at that time. This means that we had 83 out of 104 owners who supported undergrounding. This is more than 80 percent and thus beyond what the city required, not to mention the simple majority required by Proposition 218. No matter how you view the issue, this was an amazing accomplishment. 

Of the remaining owners, five were absentee landlords, two were on the fence, four were neutral, two gave no feedback, three have sold their houses in the meantime, and two were definitely opposed but indicated they would respect the majority vote. This leaves only three owners out of 104 who told us they were adamantly opposed to forming a district. Not surprisingly, Erna Smith is the partner of one of these owners. Interestingly, two out of three of these opponents live on the “view” side of the street and would enjoy all the anticipated benefits of this project in full.  

These statistics should make it clear that the district has had overwhelming neighborhood support. Now we are nearing the completion of step three (the balloting). Unfortunately, there were significant delays in the design process and estimated costs escalated. This led to some erosion of support. The good news is that the final cost estimates, which will be available July 12 at our district wide meeting, will reflect substantial decreases in the cost from the figures shown on the mailed ballots. This should help property owners as they make their own decision on how to vote. 

Some additional issues as stated in Ms. Smith’s commentary need to be specifically addressed.  

It is not true that “everyone’s tax dollars” paid city staff time. The time that city staff has devoted to this project over the past three years is fully covered in the project budget as reflected by the upfront design costs already provided to the city. Should the district be established, the interest on the bonds will be paid to the investors who purchase the bonds. To our knowledge, the city has no intention of purchasing the bonds. Recognizing that this project will be of benefit to the city as well as property owners in the district, the city has supported our undergrounding initiative from the beginning. Mayor Bates has repeatedly expressed the hope that eventually the entire city’s utilities could be undergrounded. The organizing committee feels uncomfortable with Ms. Smith’s quoting of city officials and staff out of context.  

We welcome input from anyone in the city. However, we hope this clarification will counteract the misinformation and inflammatory language presented by Ms. Smith in her commentary. In light of all of the factors we have mentioned here, the organizing committee still feels strongly that this project is a valuable and wise investment in terms of safety, aesthetics and property values. 


The Organizing Committee :Everett and Cathy Moran, David and Ursula Partch, Carol Bledsoe, Marilyn Couch, Don and Gloria Price, Eileen McDavid, David and Debby Keefe, Richard Ruggieri, Edith Lavin, Andy and Cindy Neureuther, Anthony Eredia, Diana Bermudez. 





Defending Marriage: What it Really Takes

Tuesday July 13, 2004

As a strong supporter of marriage, I’m dismayed to see matrimony’s self-proclaimed defenders—President Bush and Congress’ Republican leadership—trying to legitimize a highly unnatural form of union that would actually weaken the institution. 

The “Federal Marriage Amendment,” which Congress is debating this week, would alter the U.S. Constitution to read: 

“Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman.” 

That definition mirrors language that California (like many other states) wrote into law in recent years. But there’s been no measurable change in California’s marriage or divorce rate since we enacted our so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” in 2000. That law failed to even stop its own author’s son from marrying his male partner in San Francisco last winter, along with some 3,000 other same-sex couples.  

Just a quick look at the flawed definition above shows why such language makes bad law. 

Do you see what’s missing?  

Where’s the dog?  

I was raised in a traditional marriage, and my family always had a dog. So did almost every family in our neighborhood. There were a few exceptions: Some had a cat, a goldfish, or no pet at all. We kids thought of these households as “weird.”  

Years later, when I was old enough to learn the horrible truth, my parents confided in me just how correct our childhood intuition had been. The marriages on both sides of our house, both dogless, were destroyed by adultery. On one side, the wife eventually ran off with her lover—shockingly, a former Olympic sports celebrity and role model to youth. And that was the fortunate family. In the other dogless house, after the husband refused to give up his mistress, the wife literally drank herself to death. 

Across town, in another outwardly prim split-level house, some relatives of ours divorced over similar infidelities. They didn’t have a dog either. (Although luckily, no one died.) 

Was this link between dogless marriages and destructive infidelity mere coincidence? I doubt it. In our Norman Rockwell suburb, such things were never heard of in families that included a dog. And today, as an adult, I see the same pattern: Among the married and long-term committed couples I know—whether heterosexual or gay—the most stable partnerships are triads that include a furry, wet-nosed member.  

The idea that a dog should be a formal participant in marriage is hardly new. The Gond people of rural Bastar, in central India, have long held that if a woman’s husband is killed by a wild beast, the woman must ceremonially marry a dog before marrying another man. Psychologist Stanley Coren explains (in his book What Do Dogs Know?) the Gond’s belief that the dead husband’s spirit now inhabits his killer—and will jealously seek to slay the widow’s next husband. Her interim marriage to a dog transfers this risk to the four-footed one.  

Perhaps in their native wisdom, the Gond clarify the sacrificial and stabilizing effect that a dog brings to any marriage. Offering lifelong, unconditional love, a dog absorbs the stresses and “bad spirits” that are inevitable in any long-term partnership between willful, brainy higher primates—and dissolves them with a goofy lick on the face.  

But if the perverse Federal Marriage Amendment prevails, such traditional marriages will be undermined. Can you imagine the effect on our already high divorce rate? Picture thousands of unstable, dogless couples walking down the aisle each year—then promptly walking back through divorce court. Not even Britney Spears, the scandalous Jackson siblings, or the most depraved reality TV producer would touch this sick scenario for a show called Who Wants to Briefly Marry a Non-Millionaire with No Dog?  

The Federal Marriage Amendment has already divided the nation’s Second Family. Vice President Dick Cheney supports it, but his wife Lynne now opposes it. (Mrs. Cheney, who once penned a lesbian-themed potboiler novel, presumably sides with the Cheneys’ gay daughter, Mary.) Do you think this family has a dog? I doubt it. 

To stop this threat to traditional marriage, Congress clearly must reject the Federal Marriage Amendment. Perhaps someday, marriage’s real defenders will sponsor a truly pro-family federal law that reads:  

“Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of two consulting adults and at least one dog.” 

Some might object that government has no business telling grownups whom to marry. That’s a legitimate viewpoint, and reason enough to oppose all electoral stunts in which mainstream legislators (dog owners, heterosexuals, or what have you) seek to arbitrarily restrict the definition of marriage for everyone else. 

And indeed, perhaps Americans will just grow up and accept same-sex marriage, as citizens of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Canada have. The nation can handle this: we’ve already had an apparently gay president (James Buchanan, look it up); a cross-dressing vice president (William King, served with Franklin Pierce); and a cross-dressing FBI director (J. Edgar Hoover). 

But if we do choose to let government put us on short leashes and dictate with whom we may breed—that is, treat us like dogs—let’s at least demand laws that demonstrably promote (rather than diminish) stable relationships and human happiness. By that criterion, the Federal Marriage Amendment that President Bush advocates is one sick puppy. 


Michael Katz is an unmarried Berkeley resident.  

Legendary Heath Brothers to Appear in Kensington

By IRA STEINGROOT Special to the Planet
Tuesday July 13, 2004

The most intriguing jazz event this summer is, without a doubt, the July 23 appearance by the Heath Brothers—bassist Percy, saxophonist Jimmy and drummer Albert “Tootie”—as this year’s featured performers for Jazz at Coventry Grove II. This second annual benefit for Berkeley’s renowned Jazzschool will again be held in the jewel-like setting of a small outdoor amphitheater on a private estate in Kensington. Although the ticket price may seem steep at $150, it is actually a bargain when you consider the intimate nature of the event, the complementary food and beverages provided by some of the most esteemed names in Bay Area gourmandaise, the prospect of some fascinating conversation with four legends of jazz, and—finally—a performance by the three remarkable brothers along with their pianist of the last six years, Jeb Patton.  

Like so many other North Carolina African-Americans, the Heath family migrated to Philadelphia in the 1920s in search of work in the urban North. 81-year-old Percy Heath was born in Wilmington, but all three brothers grew up in Philadelphia, where their early friends included fellow bop players John Coltrane (also a N.C. native) and Benny Golson.  

During World War II, Percy was one of the pioneering Tuskegee airmen. When he got out of the Air Force in 1946, he used his separation pay to buy his first string bass. By the following year, he and brother Jimmy (born in 1926) moved to New York to join the nascent bop movement. The benjamin of the family, Tootie (born in 1935) made the move to the Big Apple in the late ‘50s. 

All the brothers have had more than successful careers with credits among the three of them on more than 900 albums alongside such jazz legends as Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Dexter Gordon, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, and Ornette Coleman. Jimmy is a highly esteemed reed player and flutist, arranger, teacher, and composer. Among his many compositions, two recorded by Miles Davis have become jazz standards: “CTA” from the 1953 Bluenote album Young Man with a Horn, and “Gingerbread Boy” from the 1966 Columbia album Miles Smiles. Tootie is a master drummer whose services have been in constant demand ever since his debut recording with John Coltrane on Trane’s eponymous first album as a leader for Prestige in 1957. He is among the most sensitive, responsive and swinging of drummers with a subtle touch and tone that are always musical, even lyrical.  

Percy has been the most prominent of the three. He joined the Milt Jackson Quartet in 1951 when bassist Ray Brown left that group and stayed with them when they became the Modern Jazz Quartet. Today, he is the only surviving member of the MJQ, among the greatest performing and recording aggregations in jazz history. What made this such an incredible combo was not just their formidable solo abilities, but their constant emphasis on group improvisation. There is a demanding yet noble commitment to mutual freedom since each player is actually soloing all the time. No one just keeps time and no two performances of the same song are identical. That is why Percy had no trouble playing with a post-bop player like Ornette Coleman. Jazz for such players is not a technique, style or vocabulary, but a spiritual path, one which all three of the Heath Brothers have followed. 

In spite of the fact that they had been recording for years, the three brothers had never all recorded together until Really Big in 1960, a Riverside album produced by Orrin Keepnews. Keepnews, one of the most important record producers in the history of jazz and a legend in his own right, will be joining them in interview and conversation at this event. They first performed as the Heath Brothers in 1975 when the MJQ temporarily disbanded. That was when I first saw them at the now defunct Keystone Korner in San Francisco. Although they appeared at the Monterey Jazz Festival a few years ago, it has been a long time since they have performed in the Bay Area. When they get together they truly play music. It is obvious that they enjoy the creating of music and they are remarkably playful, free and inventive about it in the deepest sense. The fact that they are family just makes it that much more fun.  




Transition Program Gives Hope to Inmates

Tuesday July 13, 2004

Robert Powell has been in prison for five separate stretches in his life, with a total of 24 felony convictions. When he is paroled on Sept. 24 he plans to stay out for good. But the only way he can do it, he says, is with a little help. 

It isn’t because Powell hasn’t tried. While taking full responsibility for the crimes he has committed, Powell says the cards have been stacked against him ever since his first offense. During one of his paroles, he says he hit the streets for 30 days straight looking for jobs, with no luck. The problem is, it always came down to that one question: Have you ever been convicted of a felony? 

Powell has been advised not to lie in answer to the question and so, time and time again, he found himself turned away from potential jobs. Although the multiple offender doesn’t say it, it was obvious what his only choice was. In order to survive on the streets outside of prison, he had to turn to something that eventually landed him back in prison. 

Fast forward to the present. It’s Saturday, July 10. Powell is standing outside the mosque at San Quentin prison, inquiring about what kinds of skills he needs to get a job when he gets out. He’s well built, easily 250 pounds, with several tattoos and a shaved head, but talks so softly people have to lean in to hear him. He’s shy when he approaches people, noticeably trying to be as courteous as possible. 

Powell, along with more than 70 other inmates at San Quentin, is outside in the sunny prison courtyard during a break in an inmate-developed program called No More Tears (NMT). For several hours, he and the others listen to counselors, union representatives, and job placement representatives talk about possible job and living opportunities for them when their sentences are finished. Powell and others create a sea of blue sitting in their prison-issued blue button down shirts and blue denim pants. The room is filled to capacity, with some having to stand. Interest in the program is so great that many inmates have to be turned away. 

“I’ve been doing installment programs and I’m tired,” says Powell. “I’m looking to come out and be an asset and not a problem.” 

This meeting with NMT is the second in what inmates and program coordinators hope is a whole series. The theme last Saturday is job placement and how to survive parole. 

Run by Center Force, a nonprofit based out of San Francisco, NMT was originally created by inmates. About a year ago, Center Force and inmates at San Quentin filmed a video about violence in the community, focusing on Alameda county. They received such a broad response that inmates decided to form a steering committee and thus NMT was born. 

With continued help from Center Force, inmates devised a mission statement and a set list of goals. Their aim is to help stem violence and stop recidivism among inmates by creatively using the resources they have.  

According to Powell and others, NMT immediately caught the interest of inmates because it’s one of the few programs that try to bridge the gap between the community and the inmates. 

“NMT is different from all the other groups because it makes that connection between the inside and the outside,” said an inmate self-identified only as “Black.” One of the inmates on the steering committee, he asks specifically to be identified only by that name because that’s how other inmates refer to him. 

Unlike other programs that only focus on inmates while they’re in jail, NMT hopes to ease the transition back into the community. Helping the community understand that the inmates have changed and genuinely want to be a part of the community is part of it. Giving the inmates options when they get out and helping them prevent violence is the second half. 

“Who better to be a part of the problem-solving than those who were once the problem?” asked Black. 

The first NMT meeting brought in victims of violence and the families of victims. Run as a confrontation of sorts, inmates received first-hand accounts of the results of their own actions while they were on the outside. 

“That affected guys in here,” said Black. “There is a face to the people who are the victims.” 

But the initial meeting also allowed community members to put a face on inmates who, for the most part, they had only previously identified as faceless violence. “[The meeting] built a bridge between the inside and the outside,” Black said. “Victims want to throw away the key, but they are able to see that us on the inside are people, and that with change we can be a good community member.” 

At Saturday’s installment, inmates had the opportunity to meet with people concerned about helping inmates by providing them good jobs and career opportunities. Along with general job placement counselors and representatives from Peralta Community College was Alameda county Supervisor Keith Carson and his staff member, Rodney Brooks. Carson and Brooks, while limited by the county budget, have been into San Quentin with No More Tears several times and pledged to do everything they can to facilitate transition and curb violence. 

There were also a number of union representatives from the building trades unions. Iron, sheet metal and electrical workers’ unions from around the East Bay came to tell inmates that as long as they work hard and produce, the unions aren’t concerned that they’ve been convicted of a felony.  

“I’m often told apologetically, ‘I have a record,’ but it’s not any of my business,” said Don Zampa, the business manager for the iron workers’ union in the East Bay. “My concern is that you have a good work ethic and that you’re a productive worker.” 

Besides overlooking their records, the union representatives told inmates that union jobs will help them overcome the cycle of recidivism because they pay a living wage and provide important benefits that will let them get back on their feet. Nor do inmates need prior experience, since each union provides training programs that pay and lead to jobs. 

And while most listened and asked questions with a real sense of urgency, another group sat back, acting more like facilitators than like participants. Among them was Black, who, like a handful of others, does not have a set parole date. Currently he is in his ninth year of a 25-to-life term.  

Two inmates in particular, Lonnie Hairston and Lafayette Nelson, acted as the primary facilitators, taking roll and introducing speakers. Both wore glasses and had gray in their beards. In August, Hairston will have spent 27 years in jail. Nelson is serving a life sentence under the three strikes law. He’ll be 53 in a couple of weeks. They know they might not get out but want to participate because they see NMT as a productive was to create change.  

“There is an attitude, ‘who are you guys to teach anyone,’ but who better than us?” asked Nelson. Along with Hairston, he commands an unspoken respect from other prisoners. “The only benefit I get is that I know I’ve tried to change the life of someone who just becomes another statistic by coming back to prison or dying on the streets.” 

It was Nelson who lectured inmates as the program ended. Even though it was time to go, the inmates were confined to the building until the prison finished an official inmate count. Inmates used the time to rattle off last minute questions to presenters who assured them they would be back. Powell was at the front, gathering brochures that the union reps and job counselors had left. 

Black stood by the doorway, listening to Nelson talk. “A lot of us feel like we’ve been sitting on our hands,” he said. “That’s the biggest joy, knowing that we’re making a difference and letting the community know that we care.” 


Arts Calendar

Tuesday July 13, 2004



Time’s Shadow: “The Murderers Are Among Us” at 7 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $4-$8. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

Hip Hop Film Festival Youth Night from 7 to 10 p.m. at Oakland Box Theater, 1928 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. Tickets are $5-$10 available from www.ticketweb.com 


Naomi Hirahara introduces “Summer of the Big Bachi” at 7 p.m. at Eastwind Books, 2066 University Ave. 548-2350. www.ewbb.com 

Marcia Millman examines sisterhood in “The Perfect Sister: What Draws Us Together, What Drives Us Apart” at 7:30 p.m. at Black Oak Books. 486-0698. www.blackoakbooks.com 

Tom Hayden describes “Street Wars: Gangs and the Future of Violence” at 7:30 p.m. at Cody’s Books. 845-7852. www.codysbooks.com  


Binghi Ghost, reggae from St. Croix, at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $6-$9. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Jazzschool Tuesdays, a weekly showcase of ensembles from Berkeley Jazzschool at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 

Eric Bibb, contemporary blues troubadour, at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $16.50 in advance, $17.50 at the door. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Jazzschool Faculty at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810. 

Jazz House Jam hosted by Darrell Green and Geechy Taylor at 8 p.m. at The Jazz House. Donation $5. www.thejazz- 


Sonny Fortune Quartet at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Also on Wed. Cost is $10-$18. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



Exploit-O-Scope: “Rollercoaster” at 7 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $4-$8. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

Hip Hop Film Festival from 7 to 10 p.m. at Oakland Box Theater, 1928 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. Tickets are $5-$10 available from www.ticketweb.com 


Andrew Sean Greer reads from his new novel “The Confessions of Max Tivoli” at 7:30 p.m. at Black Oak Books. 486-0698. www.blackoakbooks.com 

Café Poetry hosted by Kira Allen at 7:30 p.m. at La Peña. Donation $2. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Berkeley Poetry Slam with host Charles Ellik, featuring Three Blind Mice, at 8:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $5-7. 841-2082. www.starryplough.com 

Neal Bascomb describes “The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less than Four Minutes to Achieve It” at 7:30 p.m. at Cody’s Books. Wes Santee, one of the runners, will also be present. 845-7852. www.codysbooks.com  

William Turner discusses his latest book, “Mission Not Accomplished: How George Bush Lost the War on Terrorism” at 7:30 p.m. at Barnes and Noble. 644-0861. 


Pure Ecstasy, sings Motown and gospel at noon at Oakland City Center at the 12th St. BART. www.oaklandcitycenter.com 

Anthony Paul and Mz. Dee at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Swing dance lesson with Nick and Shanna at 8 p.m. Cost is $9. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Jules Broussard, Ned Boynton and Bing Nathan at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

Pierre Bensusan, world music guitar, at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50 in advance, $19.50 at the door. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Patricio’s Tri-Angulo, Afro-Cuban jazz, at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 

Fleeting Trance, Secret Synthi, The Wildlife at 9:30 p.m. at Blakes on Telegraph. Cost is $5. 848-0886. www.blakesontelegraph.com 

Harmonica Man at 8 p.m. at The Jazz House. Donations of $8-$15 suggested. www.thejazzhouse.org 



“Pieces of Cloth, Pieces of Culture” An exhibition of Tapa from Tonga and the Pacific Islands. Reception from 5 to 8 p.m. with music by Otufelenite Musicians. Exhibition runs through Sept. 7 at the Craft and Cultural Art Gallery, State of California Office Building, 1515 Clay St., Oakland. 


Latino Film Festival “Neruda Presente” archival footage and poetic sequences to mark Neruda’s 100th birthday at 7:30 p.m. at La Peña. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Time’s Shadow: “And Life Goes On” at 8:50 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $4-$8. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 


Roger Burbach and Jim Tarbell describe “Imperial Overstretch: George W. Bush and the Hubris of Empire” at 7:30 p.m. at Black Oak Books. 486-0698. www.blackoakbooks.com  

Ted Botha introduces us to “Mongo: Adventures in Trash” at 7:30 p.m. at Cody’s Books. attendees are invited to bring their own mongo for Ted’s evaluation. 845-7852. www.codysbooks.com 

James Dalessandro introduces “1906” a visual and literary history of the San Francisco earthquake at 7:30 p.m. at Easy Going Travel Shop & Bookstore, 1385 Shattuck Ave. 843-3533. 

Word Beat Reading Series at 7 p.m. with an Allen Cohen Caretaker Memorial reading featuring Ann Cohen, Jamie Erfurdt, Maria Mango, Ray Lang, Jeff Lohman, Gerry Nicosia, Bruce Latimer and others, at Mediterraneum Caffe, 2475 Telegraph Ave., near Dwight Way. 526-5985.  


Summer Noon Concert with los Soneros de la Bahia at the Berkeley BART. Sponsored by the Downtown Berkeley Association. 

Keni El Lebrijano, flamenco guitar, at 9 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

Steve Polz at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $12. 841-2082. www.starryplough.com 

Martin Carthy, British folk music, at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage Coffee House. Cost is $20.50 in advance, $21.50 at the door. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Mimi Fox at 9 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810. 

Harmonica Man with Donald “Duck” Bailey at 8 p.m. at The Jazz House. Donations of $8-$15 suggested. www.thejazz- 


Pete Escovedo and His Orchestra at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square, through Sun. Cost is $15-$24. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

Vanessa Lowe & Bug Eyed Sprite at the 1923 Teahouse at 8 p.m. Suggested donation of $7-$15, no one turned away for lack of funds. 644-2204. www.epicarts.org 



Tales and Yarns Storytime with a reading of “Sylverter and the Magic Pebble” by William Steig at Barnes and Noble at 10:30 a.m. 644-3635. 


Actors Ensemble of Berkeley “A Delicate Balance” by Edward Albee. Fr. and Sat. at 8 p.m. at Live Oak Theatre, 1301 Shattuck at Berryman, through Aug 14. Tickets are $10, available from 649-5999. www.aeofberkeley.org 

Alameda Civic Light Opera “Fiddler on the Roof” directed by Jeff Teague. Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Sun. at 2 p.m. to July 25, at Kofman Auditorium, 2220 Central Ave., Alameda. Tickets are $23-$25 available from 864-2256. www.aclo.com 

Aurora Theatre “Betrayal,” by Harold Pinter, directed by Tom Ross, at 8 p.m. and runs through July 25. Tickets are $34-$36. 843-4822. www.auroratheatre.org  

Berkeley Opera “Bat Out of Hell,” a new adaptation of “Die Fledermaus” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, Tickets are $15-$40. 925-798-1300. www.juliamorgan.org 

Berkeley Rep, “21 Dog Years: Doing Time @ Amazon.com” Sun. at 7:30 p.m. and Fri. and Sat. at 8:30 p.m. through July 24. Tickets are $25-$35. 647-2949. www.berkeleyrep.org 

Berkeley Rep “Master Class” with Rita Moreno at The Roda Theater. Runs through July 25. 647-2949. www.berkeleyrep.org 

California Shakespeare Theater, “Henry IV” Tues.-Fri. at 7:30 p.m., Sat at 8 p.m., Sun. at 4 p.m. at the Bruns Memorial Amphitheater, through August 1. Tickets are $13-$32. 548-9666. www.calshakes.org 

Contra Costa Civic Theatre “My Fair Lady,” directed by Michael Manley, through Aug. 14, Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m., selected Sun. at 2 p.m. Contra Costa Civic Theatre, 951 Pomona Ave, El Cerrito. Tickets are $12-$20 available from 524-9132. www.ccct.org  

Woodminster Summer Musicals “Annie” at Woodminster Amphitheater in Joaquin Miller Park 3300 Joaquin Miller Rd., Oakland. July 9-11, 16-18, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $19-$31 available from 531-9597. www.woodminster.com 


“Sacred Spaces,” an exhibition of installation works by Seyed Alavi, Taraneh Hemami, Dee Hibbert-Jones and Nomi Talisman, Rhoda London, and Rene Yung. Performance of “Take a Letter” at 7:30 p.m. Exhibition runs through August 7 at the Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut Street in Live Oak Park Gallery hours are Wed. - Sun. noon to 5 pm. www.berkeleyartcenter.org 


The Invention of the Western Film: “Forty Guns” at 7:30 p.m. and “3:10 to Yuma” at 9:20 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $4-$8. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

Old Oakland Outdoor Cinema on Washington St., between 9th and 10th Sts. Music at 5 p.m., and film, “Field of Dreams” at 8 p.m. Bring your own chairs and blankets. sponsored by the City of Oakland and the Old Oakland Historic District. 238-4734. www.filmoakland.com 


Flavia Bujor, a 15-year old writer from Romania, reads from her new novel “The Prophecy of the Stones” at 7 p.m. at Cody’s Books on Fourth St. 559-9500. www.codysbooks.com 


Alexis Harte Band with Four Year Bender and Beggar’s Jamboree at 8 p.m. at Oakland Metro, 201 Broadway, Oakland. Cost is $8. 763-1146. www.oaklandmetro.org  

Christie McCarthy, acoustic benefit concert, at 7:30 p.m. at 5951 College Ave., College Ave. Presbyterian Church. Donation taken for community meal. 658-3665. www.christiemccarthy.com  

Due West, contemporary folk music, at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage Coffee House. Cost is $15.50 in advance, $16.50 at the door. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

“Poemas y Canciones” La Pena Community Chorus sings songs from Neruda’s works at 8 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $8-$10. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Les Yeux Noirs, at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenez. Lecture and demonstration on Jewish and Greek music with Prof. Martin Schwartz at 8 p.m. Cost is $15, $5 lecture only. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

Most Chill Slack Mob, hip hop, at 9:30 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $7, $5 with student i.d. 548-1159. www.shattuckdownlow.com 

The Dead Hensons, Poisin Jett Gunz, Unicorn Sticklers at 9:30 p.m. at Blakes on Telegraph. Cost is $7. 848-0886. www.blakesontelegraph.com 

Will Bernard, guitar, with Ches Smith and Devin Hoff, at 8 p.m. at The Jazz House. Cost is $8-$15 sliding scale. www.thejazzhouse.com 

All Ages Show with Let’s Go Bowling, Mass Hysteria and The Ted Dancin’ Machine at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082.  


Satoru Oda, tenor sax, with Vince Lateano Trio, at 9 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810. 

Jake Wolf solo electric bass, at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

O-Maya, Afro-Cuban Hip-Hop at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 

The Katie Jay Band at 9:30 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Plan 9, The Reactionary 3, Ghost Mice, Pirx the Pilot at 8 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $5. 525-9926. 

Pete Escovedo and His Orchestra at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square, through Sun. Cost is $15-$24. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

Lisa Fay, Val Esway, & Dandeline at the 1923 Teahouse at 9 p.m. Suggested donation of $7-$15, no one turned away for lack of funds. 644-2204. www.epicarts.org 

Green and Root at 8 p.m. at Changemakers Books, 6536 Telegraph. Cost is $10-$15. 655-2405. www.changemakersforwomen.com 



“Wild About Books” storytime at 10:30 a.m. at the Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St. 981-6223. 

Kids on the Block Puppet Show, promoting acceptance and understanding of physical and cultural differences at 2 p.m. at the Hall of Health, 2230 Shattuck Ave., lower level. Sug- 

gested donation $3. Children under 3 free. 549-1564. 


Rosalyne Blumenstein “Gender & Sexuality” Shed the Shame, See the Truth at 6:30 p.m. at Oakland Box Theater, 1928 Telegraph Ave. 633-0923. 

Henry Navarro, “Subjective Walls” contemporary Cuban artist, reception from 5 to 7 p.m. at La Peña. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Misha Ferguson and Adrien Miller, paintings, photos and sculptures. Reception for the artists from 2 to 5 p.m. at The Art of Living Center, 2905 Shattuck Ave. 848-3736. 


Shotgun Players “The Caucasian Chalk Circle” Sat. and Sun. at 4 p.m. in John Hinkel Park, Southampton Ave., until Aug 29. 841-6500. wwwshotgunplayers.org 

Woman’s Will “As You Like It” Shakespeare set in 1960s London, at 1 p.m. at Live Oak Park. 420-0813. www.womanswill.org 


Bergman on a Summer Night: “Cries and Whispers” at 5 and 9 p.m., “Autumn Sonata” at 7 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $4-$8. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 


West Coast Live with author Jack Germond at 10 a.m. at the Freight and Salvage. Cost is $15 in advance, $18 at the door, available from 415-664-9500 or www.ticketweb.com 

Roger Burbach and Jim Tarbell will discuss their new book, “Imperial Overstretch, George W. Bush and the Hubris of Empire” from 5 to 7 p.m. at Redwood Gardens, Community Center, 2951 Derby St. www.globalalternatives.org 


Rafael Manriquez Canto al Poeta will sing songs with verses of Pablo Neruda at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $8-$10. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Mofo Party Band plays West Coast Jump at 2 p.m. at Down Home Music, 10341 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. 525-2129. 

Palenque, Cuban Son, at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Dance lesson with Wendy Ellen at 8:30 p.m. Cost is $12. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Michelle Amador, funky jazz influenced vocals, at 8 p.m. at The Jazz House. Donations of $8-$15 suggested.  


Long Beach Short Bus, Lavish Green, Fed Up at 9 p.m. at Blakes on Telegraph. Cost is $20. 848-0886. www.blakesontelegraph.com 

Meat Purveyors, The Boot Cuts, Pickin’ Trix at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $7. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

John Schott’s Typical Orchestra at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $12-$15. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Oak, Ash & Thorn, a capella, at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage Coffee House. Cost is $17.50 in advance, $18.50 at the door. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Bill Stewart, alto sax, at 9 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810. 

Jerry Kennedy at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

No Hope for the Kids, Death Token, Short Eyes at 8 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $5. 525-9926. 

Times 4, jazz and funk quartet, at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 

Tim Barsky at the 1923 Teahouse at 8 p.m. Suggested donation of $7-$10, no one turned away for lack of funds. 644-2204. www.epicarts.org?

Squirrels Survive by Learning the Language of Snakes

By JOE EATON Special to the Planet
Tuesday July 13, 2004

That adage about old dogs and new tricks is not always true. I used to know a dog named Louise, a golden retriever mix, who learned a second language late in life under the tutelage of Bernie the cat. Louise, introduced to a three-cat household, tried to relate to the cats as she would have to other dogs, by sniffing their butts. This offended the cats, of course, and Louise got her nose shredded a couple of times. Then Bernie, the senior cat, took her in hand, demonstrating the proper greeting protocol, the nose-touch. Louise picked it up readily, and peace was restored. 

I remembered Louise and Bernie the other day when I was reading about a presentation UC Davis researcher Alan Rundus made to the Animal Behavior Society’s annual meeting in Oaxaca. Rundus believes California ground squirrels have evolved a way to communicate with their ancient adversary, the northern Pacific rattlesnake, in a way that only the rattlers—not other squirrels—can perceive. Although it’s not quite clear what is being communicated, something definitely seems to be going on. 

California ground squirrels are common, adaptable rodents, found all around the Bay Area in a variety of habitats, from waterfront parks to Coast Range scrub. You can see them hanging out at the Berkeley Marina and the Albany Bulb. They’ve shared a large portion of their range with rattlesnakes for at least 10 million years, time enough for the relationship between predator and prey to develop some interesting complications. 

Adult squirrels are too big a mouthful for a typical rattler. But squirrel pups are another story. The snakes are able to cue in on adult’s behavior to locate burrows that might contain vulnerable young squirrels. If an adult squirrel stands its ground when approached, the snake uses that squirrel as the hub of its search pattern until it locates the pups. 

The adults, in turn, have developed ways to assess how dangerous an individual snake is likely to be, and to react accordingly. Ground squirrel populations that coexist with rattlesnakes have evolved an immunity to the snakes’ venom. So they’re able to engage in what seems to be foolhardy behavior, charging the rattlers, even kicking sand in their faces. They may go farther: Squirrels have been known to kill rattlesnakes in one-on-one combat. 

Even if they can’t actually see a snake, California ground squirrels can gauge its threat potential by the sound of its rattle. Snakes are solar-powered; a cold, torpid snake is less dangerous than a warm snake. UC Davis biologists have found that warmer snakes produce higher-amplitude sounds with a faster rate of vibration. Sound is also a cue to size; larger snakes produce higher-amplitude and lower-frequency noises. When recorded rattles were played back from a concealed speaker near the burrows of free-range squirrels, the squirrels reacted with more caution and alarm to the sounds of big warm snakes than to those of small cold snakes. 

Sound means nothing to a rattlesnake. It hunts by smell, tasting scent molecules with its flickering forked tongue, and by another sense alien to squirrels and other mammals. Heat-sensing organs have evolved at least twice in snakes: In rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, copperheads, and their tropical relatives, collectively known as the pitvipers, and in the more primitive boas and pythons. Herpetologist Harry Greene says a blinded pitviper can detect a mouse that’s only 10 degrees C warmer than its surroundings, and suggests that the pits “are probably infrared imaging devices rather than simply thermal receptors.” 

The Davis researchers had noticed that ground squirrels confronting a rattlesnake seemed to be brandishing their tails. Rundus was the first to discover that this wasn’t just a visual gesture: The squirrels are sending heat signals to the rattlers. Infrared cameras recorded their tails growing warmer as they faced down the snakes. They seem to produce this effect by making their tail fur stand on end to expose more skin, and possibly by dilating the tails’ blood vessels. The squirrels may be sending the snakes a keep-away message, or trying to distract the predators from their offspring. 

Rundus also found that the tail-warming display was specific to rattlesnakes. It didn’t occur when the squirrels faced gopher snakes, which lack pit organs. He tried to run other variations to see how rattlers responded to warm-tailed versus cool-tailed squirrels. “I tried everything: insulation, even injections,” Rundus told a Nature reporter. “But it’s hard not to affect the behavior as well.” 

However, in the best tradition of Davis squirrel-snake studies (prior research involved a squirrel puppet, heated to a lifelike temperature and rolled in squirrel droppings to give it the right odor), Rundus has risen to the challenge. His next round of experiments will feature a stuffed squirrel with a heating element in its tail. Science marches on.  


Berkeley This Week

Tuesday July 13, 2004


Mini-Rangers An afternoon of nature study for ages 8 to 12. Dress to get dirty, bring a healthy snack to share. At Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. Fee is $6 for residents, $8 for non-residents. Registration required. 525-2233. 

Family Camping 101 An overview of all the ways to make family camping enjoyable at 7 p.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. 527-4140. 

Preparing for Your Remodeling Project A two evening class to demystify the design and construction process. Offered by Imagine General Contractors, Inc. July 13 and 20 at 6:30 p.m. at the Albany Community Center, 1249 Marin Ave. Cost is $57-$67. To register call 524-9283. 

Organic Produce at low prices sold at the corner of Sacramento and Oregon Sts from 3 to 7 p.m. This is a project of Spiral Gardens. 843-1307. 

Writer’s Workshop on Book Marketing with David Cole at 7:30 p.m. at Barnes and Noble. 644-0861. 

Phone Banking to ReDefeat Bush on Tuesdays from 6 to 9 p.m. at Cafe de la Paz, 1600 Shattuck Ave. Bring your cell phones. Please RSVP if you can join us. 415-336 8736. dan@redefeatbush.com 

“The Cycle, the Rhythm and the Fabric of the Jewish Calendar” at 7:30 p.m. at the Berkeley Richmond Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. Cost is $12-$15. To register call 848-0237, ext. 112. 

St. John’s Prime Timers meets at 9:30 a.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. Blood pressure checks at 10:30 a.m. We offer ongoing classes in exercise and creative arts, and always welcome new members over 50. 845-6830. 

Berkeley Camera Clu b meets at 7:30 p.m., at the Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. Share your slides and prints and learn what other photographers are doing. 548-3991. www.berkeleycameraclub.org 

Tuesday Tilden Walkers We are a few slowpoke seniors who walk between a mile or two each Tuesday, meeting at 9:30 a.m. in the Little Farm parking lot. To join us, call 215-7672.  

East Bay Repetitive Strain Injury Support Group will meet at 7 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center. The speaker this month is psychologist Jim Jacobs. He will discuss mental exercises for well-being and dealing with chronic pain.  


Bastille Day Celebration, with a film showing of the 1955 “Rendevous at the Docks,” music by Moh Alileche and others, at 7 p.m. at La Peña, 3105 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $7. www.laborfest.net 

“Storm from the Mountains” a film documenting the March of Indigenous Dignity in 2001 from Chiapas to Mexico City, at 7:30 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St. in downtown Oakland. 654-9587. 

Twilight Tour: Conif ers in our Collection Meet the most illustrious members of the conifer group, which includes the largest and longest-lived of organisms on our planet today. From 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Drive. Cost is $12-$17. To register call 643-2755. http://botanicalgarden. 


Best Backpacking Trips in Northern California, a slide show with Ari Derfel, at 7 p.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. 527-4140. 

Walk Berkeley for Seniors meets every Wednesday, rain or shine, at 9:30 a.m. at the Sea Breeze market, just west of the I-80 overpass. Everyone is welcome, wear comfortable shoes, sunscreen and a hat. 548-9840. 

Walking Tour of Old Oakland uptown to the Lake to discover Art Deco landmarks. Meet at 10 a.m. in front of the Paramount The ater at 2025 Broadway. Tour lasts 90 minutes. Reservations can be made by calling 238-3234. 

Poetry Writing Workshop with Alison Seevak at the Albany Public Library at 7 p.m. at the Albany Public Library, 1247 Marin Ave. 526-3720, ext. 20. 

Berkeley Peace W alk and Vigil at the Berkeley BART Station, corner of Shattuck and Center. Vigil at 6:30 p.m. Peace Walk at 7 p.m. www.geocities.com/ 


Fun with Acting Class every Wednesday at 11 a.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center. Free, all are wel come, no experience necessary. 

Berkeley CopWatch open office hours 7 to 9 p.m. Drop in to file complaints, assistance available. For information call 548-0425. 

Free Feldenkrais ATM Classes for adults 55 and older at 10:30 and 11:45 a.m. at the Jewish Comm unity Center, 1414 Walnut at Rose. For information call 848-0237.  


Twilight Tour: Trees of the Garden From 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Drive. Cost is $12-$17. To register call 643-2755. http://botanicalgarden.b erkeley.edu 

LeConte Neighborhood Association meets at 7:30 in the cafeteria at the LeConte School, Ellsworth at Russell. Use Russell St. entrance. 843-2602. www.neighborhoodlink.com 

Speak Out For Education and Immigrants’ Rights at 6 p.m. at the Greek Ort hodox Cathedral of the Ascension, 4700 Lincoln Ave, Oakland. Sponsored by the Oakland Coalition of Congregations. 625-9490. 

Lavender Seniors of the East Bay, a group for gays, lesbians, bi-sexuals and transgenders over the age of 55, catered lunch at 12:3 0 p.m. at Lakeside Park Garden Center, 666 Bellevue, Oakland. 667-9655. 

Breath and Transformation at 7 p.m. at Belladonna, 2436 Sacramento St. Cost is $25-$30. 883-0600. www.belladonna.ws 


Berkeley Chess Club meets Fridays at 7:15 p.m. at t he Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave. Players at all levels are welcome. 652-5324. 

Women in Black Vigil, from noon to 1 p.m. at UC Berkeley, Bancroft at Telegraph. wibberkeley@yahoo.com 548-6310, 845-1143. 

Meditation, Peace Vigil and Dialogue, gather a t noon on the grass close to the West Entrance to UC Berkeley, on Oxford St. near University Ave. People of all traditions are welcome to join us. Sponsored by the Buddhist Peace Fellowship. 655-6169. www.bpf.org 

Overeaters Anonymous meets every Friday at 1:30 p.m. at the Northbrae Church at Solano and The Alameda. Parking is free and is handicapped accessible. For information call Katherine, 525-5231. 

Hayehwatha: A New Understanding of Peace on Earth at Belladonna, 2436 Sacramento from 7 to 10 p.m. Cost is $5-$10. 415-435-2255. www.HayehwathaInstitute.org  


Berkeley Alliance of Neighborhood Associations meets at 9:15 a.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, Sproul Conference Room, 1st Floor, 2727 College Ave. www.berkeleycna.com 

Peach Tas ting and Cooking Demonstration at 11 a.m. at the Saturday Berkeley Farmers’ Market, Center St. at MLK, Jr. Way. 548-3333.  

Designing with Ornamental Grasses with Mike Weston at 10 a.m. at Magic Gardens Nursery, 729 Heinz Ave. 644-2351. www.magicgardens.com 

Educators Academy Project Learning Tree A workshop for educators of grades K through 12 on forest ecology. From 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at tilden Nature Area. Fee is $45-51, registration required. 636-1684. 

Oakland Heritage Alliance Walking Tour of F.M “Borax” Smith Estate from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Meet at the redwood tree, corner of McKinley Ave. and Home Place East, one block off Park Boulevard. Tour is limited to 20 persons. Cost is $5 for OHA members, $10 for nonmembers. For reservations call 763-92 18. www.oaklandheritage.org 

Walking Tour of Oakland City Center Meet at 10 a.m. in front Oakland City Hall at Frank Ogawa Plaza. Tour lasts 90 minutes. Reservations can be made by calling 238-3234. 

Eco-Makeover for Your Urban Home This one-day workshop will teach you how to conserve energy, water, and resources in ways you may never have considered, from the very simple to the more advanced. From 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Ecology Center, 2530 San Pablo Ave. Sponsored by California Youth Energy Services, Rising Sun Energy Center, Berkeley EcoHouse, and the Ecology Center. Cost is $20-$40 sliding scale. Registration required. 548-2220, ext. 233. 

“Revolution” a film of a talk by Bob Avakian at 1 p.m. the Starry Plough, 3101 Shattuck Ave. 848-1196. 

Chocolate Chip Cookie Tasting from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Edith Stone Room of the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. If you are interesting in competing, entry forms are available at the Library refernce desk. Suggested donation is $5 per person, $7 per family. Funds wil l help buy books for children for the Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corps. 526-3720. 

Dance Jammies, a multi-generational dance event from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Motivity Center, 2525 8th St. Cost is $9. 832-3835. 

Improv Workshop The Oakland Playhouse Improv T roupe is teaching an introduction to improv workshop from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at The Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby at MLK. Also on Sun. 595-5597. 

Vocal Jazz Workshop with Richard Kalman from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. followed by jam session, at the Albany Community Cent er. 1249 Marin Ave. 524-9283.  

Yoga for Seniors at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant St., on Saturdays from 10 to 11 a.m. The class is taught by Rosie Linsky, who at age 72, has practiced yoga for over 40 years. Open to non-members of the club for $8 pe r class. For further information and to register, call Karen Ray at 848-7800. 

Car Wash Benefit for Options Recovery Services of Berkeley, held every Sat. from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Lutheran Church, 1744 University Ave. 666-9552. 

Liberating Mother Mary w orkshop to learn what Mary says about herself in her famous apparitions in Mexico, Lourdes, Fatima, and Medjugorje. From noon to 4 p.m. at Belladonna, 2436 Sacramento St. Donations requested. 707-874-3397. 

Dream Workshop on Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to noon at 2199 Bancroft Way. Cost is $10. www.practicaldreamwork.com 


Out Front for Kerry! LGBT Community and Friends Gala featuring Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Singer/Songwriter Margie Adam, Clinton adviser David Mixner, Assemblyman Mark Leno and more. Reception from 2 to 4 p.m. at the DoubleTree Hotel at the Berkeley Marina, 200 Marina Blvd. Tickets $250; lower price option available to volunteers. For information call 644-0172. www.lgbt4kerry.com/july.htm. 

“Boot Bush in the Bushes” Cookout/Fu ndraiser in Roberts Park from 1 to 4 p.m. Sponsored by the Metropolitan Greater Oakland Democratic Club. In addition to the barbecue, there will be entertainment, kids activities, and encouragement by local Democratic leaders, plus special guest appearan ces by George Bush and John Kerry (or unreasonable facsimiles). Cost is $25 per person, children under 12 free. Roberts Park is north of Skyline Boulevard and Joaquin Miller Road. There is a $4 per car charge for parking. For more information 531-3077. 

“I ndependent Media in a TIme of War” a film featuring Amy Goodman at 3 p.m. at the Parkway Theatre, 1834 Park Blvd., Oakland. Free admission Followed by Oakland Indy video producer Jay Finneburg with his own guerilla videos. Community discussion will follow film screening. 

The Liquid of Life A workshop for youth and their families on water and water quality, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center. 525-2233. 

“What You and I Must Do for Peace” a presentation by the Peace Committee of UUCB, at 9:30 a.m. at Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Road, Kensington. 525-0302.  

Labyrinth Peace Walk at 3 p.m. at the Willard Community Peace Labyrinth, on blacktop next to the gardens at Willard Middle School, Telegraph Ave. between Derby and Stuart. Eenter by the dirt road on Derby. Free. Wheelchair accessible. Sponsored by the East Bay Labyrinth Project. 526-7377. 

Goat Fest Meet the goats that chew the Berkeley hillsides to help prevent fires. There will be music, goats to pet, and goat-related, hands-on activities. From 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at Lawrence Hall of Science. 643-5961. www.lawrencehallofscience.org  

Campfire and Sing-A-Long at 5:30 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center. Bring your hot dogs, buns, marshmallows, long sticks and dress for possible f og. We’ll walk uphill to the campfire circle. Call for disabled assistance. 525-2233. 

Bike Trip to Explore Historic Oakland on the third Sunday of the month through October. Tours leave the Oakland Museum of California, 10th and Fallon Sts., at 10 a.m. fo r a leisurely 5-mile tour on flat land. Bring bike, helmet, water and snacks. Free, but reservations required. 238-3524. 

Oakland Heritage Alliance Walking Tour of Middle Elmhurst from 1 to 4 p.m. Meet at Arroyo Viejo Recreation Center, 7701 Krause Ave., a t 77th St. Tour is limited to 20 persons. Cost is $5 for OHA members, $10 for nonmembers. For reservations call 763-9218. www.oaklandheritage.org 

Free Sailboat Rides between 1 and 4 p.m. at the Cal Sailing Club in the Berkeley Marina. Bring warm waterproo f clothes. www.cal-sailing.org 

Introduction to TaKeTiNa Learn a new way understand music, rhythm and yourself, from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Ashkenaz Back Dance Studio, 1217 San Pablo Ave. Cos tis $35. to register call 650-493-8046. www.villageheartbeat.com  

Golden State Model Railroad Museum open from noon to 5 p.m. Also open on Saturdays and Friday evenings from 7 to 10 p.m. Located in the Miller-Knox Regional Shoreline Park at 900-A Dornan Drive in Pt. Richmond. Admission is $2-$3. 234-4884 or www.gsmrm.org 

Tibetan Buddhism with Lama Palzang and Pema Gellek on “The Perfection of Patience” at 6 p.m. at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. 843-6812. www.nyingmainstitute.com 

“Eckhart Tolle Talks on Video,” gatherings at 6:30 p.m. to hear the words o f the author of “The Power of Now” at the Feldenkrais Ctr., 830 Bancroft Way. Donation $3. 526-9117. 


The Coalition for a democratic Pacifica meeting with speakers from Pushing Limits Disability Collective at 7 p.m. at the Berkeley Fellowship, corner of Cedar and Bonita.  

Fitness for 55+ A total body workout including aerobics, stretching and strengthening at 1:15 p.m. every Monday at the South Berkeley Senior Center. 981-5170. 

Iyengar Yoga on Mondays from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave. Cost is $12. 528-9909. 

Berkeley CopWatch organizational meeting at 8 p.m. at 2022 Blake St. Join us to work on current issues around police misconduct. Volunteers needed. For information call 548-0425. 


Berkeley Youth Al ternative Boys Basketball Tournament will be held from July 21 through Aug. 8 at Emery High School in Emeryville. Divisions are 17 and under, 15 and under, and 12 and under. Entry fee is $200 per team with a three game guarantee. For more information call 845-9066. sports@byaonline.org 

Free Summer Lunch Programs are offered to youth age 18 and under at various sites in Berkeley, including James Kenny Rec. Center, Frances Albrier Center, Strawberry Creek, Longfellow School, MLK Youth Services Center, Rosa Parks School and Washington School, Mon. - Fri. 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. until Aug. 20. Sponsored by the City of Berkeley Health Dept. 981-5351. 

Radio Summer Camp, four day sessions from June 4 through Sept. 6. Learn how to build and operate a community r adio station. Sponsored by Radio Free Berkeley. 625-0314. www.freeradio.org  


City Council meets Tues., July 13, at 7 p.m in City Council Chambers, Sherry M. Kelly, city clerk, 981-6900. www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/citycouncil 

Commission on Disabil ity meets Wed., July 14, at 6:30 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center. Paul Church, 981-6342. www.ci.berkeley. 


Four by Four Joint Task Force on Housing Members of City Council and the Rent Board meet Mon. June 14, at 5:30 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center. Stephen Barton, 981-5400. www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ 


Homeless Commission meets Wed., July 14, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. Jane Micallef, 981-5426. www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/commissions/homeless 

Library Board of Trustees meets Wed., July 14, at 7 p.m. at 1901 Russell St. Jackie Y. Griffin, 981-6195. www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/commissions/library 

Planning Commission meets Wed., July 14, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Cent er. Ruth Grimes, 981-7481. www.ci.berkeley. ca.us/commissions/planning 

Police Review Commission meets Wed. July 14, at 7:30 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center, Barbara Attard, 981-4950. www.ci.berkeley. 


Waterfront Comm ission meets Wed., July 14, at 7 p.m., at 201 University Ave. Cliff Marchetti. 644-6376 ext. 224. www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/commissions/waterfront 

Design Review Committee meets Thurs., July 15, at 7:30 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. Anne Burns, 981-7415. www.ci.berkeley. 


Fair Campaign Practices Commission meets Thurs., July 15, at 7:30 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. Prasanna Rasaih, 981-6950. www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/commissions/faircampaign 

Transportation Commission meets Thurs., July 15, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. Peter Hillier, 981-7000. www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/commissions/transportation 

Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board meets Mon. July 19, at 7 p.m. in City Council Chambers, Pam Wyche 644-6128 ext. 113. www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/rent›/

Elderly Woman Dies In Berkeley House Fire

Friday July 09, 2004

Larnice Holliman, an 87-year-old Berkeley woman, died Thursday afternoon in a fire that swept through her one-story wood-frame house in the 1500 block of Allston Way.  

Holliman was identified to the Daily Planet by neighbor Gary Gunn. A spokesperson for the Berkeley Fire Department said that the department was not allowed, by law, to release the names of victims, and the Berkeley Police Department did not answer telephone inquiries by press time. 

Gunn, a tenant who lived in an apartment/work space in the rear of the building, said he and an assistant were making electronic guitar sound pickup units when they smelled smoke. 

“I said ‘This is not barbecue smoke,’” Gunn said. 

After breaking down the connecting door between the two units, Gunn said he was overpowered by the dense black smoke pouring out of his landlord’s apartment. Unable to enter, he called 911, then began hosing down the rear of the building to prevent the flames from spreading. 

“I knew she was in there but I knew she was already dead,” Gunn said. 

By the time firefighters arrived five minutes later, five and six-foot flames were pouring out the windows, Gunn said. “They had it extinguished within 15 or 20 minutes,” he added. 

Gunn said Holliman was a smoker and disabled. He heard she had a history of strokes and was suffering from arthritis, bad feet and bad eye site. “But she was still lucid,” said Gunn. 

Holliman’s grandson also lived on the property, but was at work at the time of the fire, Gunn said. By Thursday evening, Holliman’s next of kin had been notified of her death, and her body had been released to the Alameda County Coroners Office.›

Landlord Leader Says Section 8 in Trouble

Friday July 09, 2004

The former head of a local African American landlords association has charged that the Berkeley Housing Authority’s new Section 8 rules will result in a severe reduction in available Section 8 housing and a drop in minority renters using the program. 

Jim Smith, a Section 8 landlord and current vice president of the Berkeley Property Owners Association (BPOA), warned that the new rules could push landlords out of the Section 8 program just as the city is about to exhaust its limit of allotted 1841 Section 8 vouchers.  

“Believe me, when landlords learn that they won’t have the guarantee of a market rate they are going to leave the program,” he said.  

The Berkeley Housing Authority, facing federal cutbacks and a scathing audit report that found some landlords were receiving higher than market rate rents, is tightening its rules for overseeing the city’s Section 8 housing stock. 

In a July 1 memo, the housing authority warned that requests for rent increases would be denied unless the landlord could “clearly” show that the unit in question was below market and that it would slash rents for Section 8 units found to rent for above comparable market rate apartment units within the same apartment building. 

But an outflow of landlords from the Section 8 program, as predicted by Smith, like the one which happened after the repeal of rent control on vacant apartment units sent rent prices surging, would cost the housing authority precious federal funds. 

Smith, who until recently had headed the Black Property Owners Association, said he met with eight Section 8 landlords Saturday to discuss the new rules and begin planning a response that could include a legal challenge. 

Through Section 8—the federal government’s most popular low income housing program—tenants pay 30 percent of their income towards rent while the housing authority uses federal funds to pay the remainder. 

Berkeley Housing Director Steve Barton said the move is in response to a Bush administration policy capping the average housing assistance payment the housing authority can pay to landlords.  

Already the housing authority pays on average $10 more per one-bedroom unit than the $1,039 set by the Department of Housing and Urban Development HUD, Barton said. The differential is estimated to cost the housing authority $200,000 this year as it struggles to remain solvent. 

Barton said the memo doesn’t change Section 8 rules guaranteeing landlords a market rent; it simply warns them that rules long ignored will now be enforced.  

By law the housing authority is required to make annual market rent determinations for all of their units. However, a report from an independent auditor, released last spring found that among other shortcomings, the housing authority failed to calculate market rents and opted not to reduce rent subsidies even in the declining rental market. 

After years of receiving below market rents, Section 8 landlords have enjoyed years of rising federal subsidies to catch up with the market. But when Section 8 rents attained parity in 2002, local rents started dropping, while the housing authority kept Section 8 rents stable. 

The upshot, Barton said, is that some Section 8 landlords now receive higher than market rent. He insisted the new policies would still guarantee landlords the high end of market rent. 

But Smith countered that Section 8 landlords, who, he said are disproportionately older minorities with few apartment units and many long-term tenants, need the higher rents from Section 8 to offset below market returns they receive from rent controlled units. 

“A lot of minorities are stuck with people paying 50 percent of market,” he said. “There is an injustice when the rules for above market units all of a sudden change, but the rules for below market units stay the same,” he said. 

Smith also fears that with the Bush Administration calling for millions in Section 8 cutbacks, once Berkeley rents start rising again, Section 8 units won’t be able to keep up.  

“When rents start going up, nobody is going to make sure Section 8 goes up too,” he said. “The government doesn’t work that way.” 



Oakland Detectives Seek Sorenson’s Killer

Friday July 09, 2004

Oakland Police are continuing to seek the gunman who murdered Nyima Sorenson, a young Berkeley man, outside a tavern in Rockridge shortly minutes before 2 a.m. on June 25, said Homicide Lt. Jim Emery said Thursday. 

“We’re still working on it and following leads,” Emery said, “but we don’t have any information we’re able to release at this time.” 

Sorenson was celebrating his 26th birthday with friends and family when the gunman confronted him shortly after the group left The Hut, a bar in the 5500 block of College Avenue. 

The gunman fired one shot from close range when Sorenson refused his demand for cash. Though several of the young man’s friends gave chase, the shooter escaped.  

Sorenson died four hours later at Highland Hospital, according to the Alameda County Coroner’s office, age 26 years and six hours. 

Sorenson was a familiar figure at Berkeley High School where his mother, Madeleine Scott, serves as a counselor. While working toward his undergraduate degree at Cal, Sorenson tutored students at Berkeley High. 

Terri Goodman, a BHS counselor and friend of the family, said “all of the counselors have been devastated. We were going to be doing some work this summer, but we’ve all been too busy dealing with the grief. 

“He was the sweetest, sweetest young man. I can’t even envision him without a smile—he was always smiling, always helping people. 

“I saw him the day before, and he was out in the yard doing all the heavy gardening work for his mom. He was always helping his mom and helping others. We were at their house for Thanksgiving, and he was all dressed up in a suit because he was serving. He wanted to make it seem like a really special occasion.” 

Sorenson wanted to teach, and was scheduled to attended California State University, Hayward, to work on his teaching credential. 

“He would’ve been an awesome teacher,” Goodman said, “because the kids loved him. It’s one of those totally illogical, incomprehensible things that we lost him. He was someone so alive that it’s almost impossible to imagine he’s not there any more.” 

Friends created a small shrine near College and Lawton avenues at the site where he was fatally wounded. 

Sorenson’s parents, Madeleine Scott and Michael Sorenson, held a private memorial service earlier this week in their Berkeley home.?

Berkeley Plays Host to Middle East Students

Friday July 09, 2004

Dana Rassas has done her fair share of traveling, but when the 24-year-old Jordanian decided her latest adventure would take her to Israel for a masters program in environmental studies, she was hesitant to spread the news. 

“There are still a lot of people I haven’t told,” she said. Those she has confided in have offered mixed views. “Some people said ‘How can you do that?’, but after I explained it to them they said ‘OK.’” 

Rassas says her rationale is simple. Because her field of study—the dire water shortage in the Middle East—ignores political and cultural boundaries, she needs to do so as well. 

The school Rassas selected, the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies located in rural southern Israel, sees as its mission not only to teach ecology, but to expose students from the Middle East and across the world to differing cultures, religions, and political perspectives. 

This summer, Rassas is among six Arava students—two Jordanian Muslims and four Israeli Jews—living with host families in Berkeley and interning with Bay Area environmental organizations as part of the school’s Environmental Leadership Exchange funded by a State Department grant.  

Last week they, along with 18 classmates interning elsewhere in the U.S., visited Capitol Hill to explain their exchange program to government officials and lobby for continued funding. They were to be joined by three Palestinian Arava alumni from Gaza, but an Israeli military blocade kept the students from attending their scheduled visa interview at the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv. 

The Arava institute is located on Kibbutz Ketura, a communal farm in the southern part of Israel’s Negev Desert, near the Jordanian border. The school, founded in 1986 to introduce students from across the Middle East to the region’s ecology as well as to each other, strives for a diverse student body, with students coming from the Middle East, the U.S. and the rest of the world. 

Michael Cohen, Arava’s North American Coordinator, said the marriage of environment and politics allows students the latitude to share perspectives.  

“Their concern for the environment acts as the glue and gives them a playing field to let them deal with the political issues,” he said.  

Wednesday night, five of the six students staying in Berkeley seemed like old relaxed chums as they discussed their experiences before about 40 guests at the Berkeley Richmond Jewish Community Center. They admitted that in contrast, upon their first arrival at the kibbutz they were a bundle of nerves. 

“We didn’t sleep at the beginning,” said Ilana Malleam, a 26-year-old British-born Israeli working to provide sewage and other services to Israel’s desert tent dwellers, known as Beduins. “We were so interested to learn about each other’s cultures and what life was like on the other side.” 

Their initial conversations focused on culture and the environment, and nobody was particularly eager to throw politics into the mix. 

“I was afraid it would destroy the friendship we had made through our daily lives,” said Noa Milman, a 25-year-old Israeli. 

But avoiding politics is not an option at Arava. The program includes a mandatory weekly peace building seminar, which the students said was valuable, though not always a highlight. 

“They had to drag me to it,” Rassas said. “It was emotionally draining. Not only do you have to talk about your views, but you have to try to understand other people and keep an open mind. That is too much for me.” 

Rassas said her biggest shock was to learn that her Israeli classmates had little religious faith. “I thought, well at least we have one belief in common, but they were like, ‘God? What’s that?’” 

Mohammed Taher, a Jordanian studying sustainable agriculture, said the students, both Arabs and Israelis, still disagreed on much, but that despite their struggles the dialogue was necessary. 

“We have to talk because we are environmentalists. The air and the water don’t know borders,” he said. “A good environment needs a stable political situation and turning our backs on what is happening will not change anything.” 

Now nearly half a world away, the three students from Gaza provide a constant reminder of the turmoil and violence that continues to plague their homes. 

“They honestly believe in co-existence and the environment and the only problem they had is that they were from Gaza,” Taher said. “They are with us emotionally.” 

Had his classmates been able to enter the U.S., they likely would have had to go through the same grueling airport interrogation that Taher faced upon arrival in New York City. 

“It was a very horrible experience,” he said. During a four-hour internment, customs officers ordered him to empty his suitcase and reload it and register with federal authorities. In addition, he was asked a series of questions including “Are you a terrorist?” and “Have you dealt with terrorist organizations?” 

Taher has to alert federal authorities of all the addresses he plans to stay at, a tough chore considering next week he and Malleam are set to drive from Seattle to San Diego in a hybrid car as part of a Sierra Club program to promote fuel-efficient vehicles. 

The students hope to work for international environmental organizations when they graduate. Rassas said that perhaps one day she would like to work for the Jordanian Ministry of Municipal, Rural and Environmental Affairs, but at the moment she’s been told she’s “too [environmentally minded] for them to feel comfortable hiring me”. 

For now, however, the students are happy to take their friendships to Berkeley. When Wednesday’s event wound down the five students began their latest round of negotiations: Where to hit the town. The Israelis wanted beer and the Jordanians don’t drink. It’s not an uncommon dilemma, Rassas said. “I’m going to have to make sure we go someplace where they have dinner.”?

Homebound Rely on Tele-Care Calls for Contact

Friday July 09, 2004

Sometimes all it takes is a phone call.  

That’s the premise a group of Berkeley-based volunteers works from as part of an organization called Tele-Care, which places daily calls to people living in convalescent homes, the homebound, and those living in isolation. 

Operating in three counties, Alameda, San Francisco, and Contra Costa, the program is housed at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center’s Herrick campus in Berkeley. 

A five-day-a-week operation, the program is set up to check in on people but has also developed into a social scene of sorts. Many call recipients, say organizers, wait for the phone calls because they sometimes represent the client’s only contact with the outside world. Others have developed lasting relationships with the volunteer callers. 

“[The calls] keep the wind to my back so I can walk up the hill, the hills of mistrials, the hills of loneliness,” said Freddy (program directors would not release last names). Freddy, who has been on her own since 1978 and is now 83, said she relies on Tele-Care as part of her daily routine, that “God willing,” has allowed her to stay positive and healthy. “Tele-Care is very close to my heart, they are very warm people,” she said. “If only I could speak like Martin Luther King, Jr., I would tell them how much I appreciate them.” 

According to Sabra Learned, the program director, Tele-Care was launched in 1970 when a group of nurses from the Herrick campus started calling their discharged patients to check in. Even though the patients were well enough to go home, Learned said the nurses knew they still needed care while transitioning back to their lives and often times one call a day was enough to get them through. 

“We really try to acknowledge them as people and viable members of the community,” Learned said. “Socially these people feel cared for and connected.”  

Since then, however, the program has grown exponentially and includes an extensive group of volunteers, several of whom have been with the program for 20 plus years, and at least a couple who have been there since the beginning. The program is funded through grants, direct donations as well as matching funds from Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, which provides them free office space and covers their phone bill. 

In addition to social care, the program provides preventative health care. Besides calling to say hello, volunteers check in and see how the clients are feeling and are often able to intervene if medical attention is needed. 

One client, said Learned, once was unable to pick up the phone but instead knocked it off the ringer, tipping callers off that something was wrong. Tele-Care called 911, and an ambulance rushed the woman to the hospital just in time to save her life. 

Program volunteers also correspond with clients, always making sure to send cards on birthdays and holidays. 

“Each day I look forward to the different person who calls me,” said Reva, 82. Instead of just one caller to one client, each client is assigned to several different callers, depending on how many days a week the clients request to be called. “I’d be lost without it,” Reva added. 

Reva said that even though she lives in a senior housing facility of over 250 people, she’s only made two close friends since moving there, and relies on Tele-Care for a large chunk of her social interaction. The added benefit, she said, is that she’s developed lasting relationships with several of the callers. 

“I’m very particular about the company I keep and you don’t make friends fast as an old person,” said Reva. “But these people who call me, they are truly concerned about me in a deeper way. I feel someone truly cares about my social welfare.” 


Tele-Care is always expanding, according to Sabra Learned, and the program is currently looking for clients. The service is free, and all people need to do to get involved is call the program office at 204-4487. Volunteers are at phones from 8:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Monday-Friday but callers can leave a message at any time. 

Grand Jury Report Criticizes Medical Center Operation

Friday July 09, 2004

The Alameda County Medical Center—the only option in specialized medicine for Berkeley’s roughly 10,000 uninsured residents—has been driven to the brink of financial collapse by poor management and lax county oversight, according to a report released Tuesday by the Alameda County Civil Grand Jury. 

“The [Alameda County] Board of Supervisors and later the [medical center] board of trustees allowed top managers over the years to ignore efficiency and responsibility,” wrote members of the civil grand jury, a 19-person board nominated by Superior Court judges to investigate public institutions in Alameda County.  

The medical center comprises Oakland’s Highland Hospital—which serves the majority of Berkeley trauma and emergency patients—as well as San Leandro’s Fairmont Hospital, John George Psychiatric Pavilion, and three county outpatient clinics.  

Mike Brown, a medical center spokesperson, said the report was on the mark and that new management was making progress at addressing critical problems. 

After years of poor financial returns, the medical center, which as a public hospital facility is required to care for the uninsured, hit bottom last year. With the ranks of uninsured patients swelling and employee benefits and drugs costs rising, the center’s budget deficit soared above $70 million.  

In response, under heavy pressure from the Alameda County Board of Supervisors that appoints it, the 11-member board of trustees cut $23 million from its budget, closed two of its five clinics, and fired the center’s CEO last summer. Immediately after the vote, five trustees quit in protest.  

In February a new board of trustees installed Tennessee-based turnaround specialist Cambio Health Solutions to analyze the center’s finances at a cost of $3.2 million over 18 months.  

Earlier this year Cambio released a report finding that among other failings the center has lost roughly $10 million by failing to bill 36 percent of its accounts receivable. Cambio has calculated the center’s current fiscal year budget shortfall at $62 million.  

Cambio has since come under union attack for its plan to cut an estimated 340 jobs as part of a $23 million budget reduction.  

In May, the board of trustees agreed to expand Cambio’s duties and payout after the consultant group dismissed the interim management team hired shortly before its arrival. Cambio was granted slightly more than $1 million to hire four new interim managers. 

The grand jury cautioned the board against recklessly agreeing to any fee increases for Cambio or approving recommendations that could hinder patient care, but said neither of the center’s last two CEOs was “competent to deal with the financial crisis of the medical center.” 

In all the medical center has had nine CEOs in the past 11 years, including three in one week last May. According to the report, “as a result of turnover in the CEO position, the administration is in shambles. ... Entire departments of employees have not received sufficient training or supervision to be able to adequately perform their duties.” 

Without strong management, the grand jury concluded that the center, while improving patient care, developed a culture of wastefulness.  

When computers broke down, for instance, instead of repairing them, the medical center replaced them with the high-end models while running outdated software. 

In November, Alameda County voters approved Measure A, a half-penny sales tax increase to generate $70 for the medical center. Although the measure should assure the center a stable revenue base, the grand jury warned that if the medical center did not improve its business practices, it would squander the new money and “rapidly deteriorate into a far worse crisis.” 

Brad Cleveland of the Service Employees International Union Local 616 charged that by seeking so many staff cuts, consultant group Cambio was risking patient care and violating the spirit of Measure A. 

“The people of Alameda county clearly want to preserve access to medical care,” he said. “Why Cambio and the board have all chosen to ignore that is baffling.”m

Berkeley Job Consortium Closes Doors for Good

Friday July 09, 2004

The roughly 12 employees of the Berkeley Jobs Consortium—who have devoted their time to helping some of the area’s most at-risk residents find work—might now find themselves in the unemployment line. 

This week, the consortium closed its doors after serving thousands of clients since it opened in 1988.  

A sign in the nonprofit’s window at 2801 Telegraph Ave., read “Attention all clients: Due to a lack of funding, Jobs Consortium cannot provide services until further notice.” 

The nonprofit organization provided job counseling and arranged interviews, mostly for homeless residents and recovering addicts. According to its website, 54 percent of its clients were long-term homeless and 52 percent suffered from disabilities. Founding Director Michael Daniels said it served 700 and 800 clients a year on a $1 million budget. 

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development had provided 80 percent of the jobs consortium’s funding on the condition that the nonprofit raise the remaining $200,000 from local sources. 

This year that funding didn’t materialize. The city, as part of its plan to shift homeless dollars to programs that actually provide housing, opted not to fund the program. 

Councilmember Dona Spring, who had lobbied during budget negotiations to provide the program $19,000, lamented its demise.  

“Other organizations got a three percent to 10 percent cut, it didn’t seem fair for them not to get anything,” she said. Still, she didn’t think $19,000 would have been enough to save it.›

Berkeley Commemorates Famed Poet’s 100th Birthday

Friday July 09, 2004

I am weary of the strong sea 

and of the mysterious earth 


I am weary of chickens: 

no one knows what they’re thinking, 

and they look at us with dry eyes 

and consider us unimportant 


These and many other verses written by the world renowned poet and novelist Pablo Neruda will be heard ‘round Berkeley as the city commemorates the great poet’s 100th birthday with a full week of events starting Sunday with a Nerudathon at the La Peña Cultural center. Beginning at noon, readers are invited to help La Peña fill 12 straight hours with the poems of Neruda to celebrate the Chilean poet’s birthday. 

“We wanted to be part of the celebration,” said Fernando Torres of La Peña. “We all love Neruda. We believe that it’s not the voice of poetry, it’s the voice of something else. He was always in touch with the reality of all Latin America.” 

The event is sponsored by a group called the Colectivo de Amigos de Neruda, or the Friends of Neruda Collective, which gathers regularly at each other’s houses to eat and read Neruda’s poetry. 

At the event, Neruda’s poetry will be read in various translations including English, German, French and Arabic. On Thursday, La Peña will sponsor a film and then two more musical performances next Friday and Saturday. For more information contact La Peña at 849-2568 or www.lapena.org. 

Neruda died in 1973, two years after winning the Nobel Prize for literature. During his lifetime he served as an elected member of the Chilean Senate as well as a member of the Chilean Communist Party. 

Other commemorative events throughout the week include a performance by guitarist Rafael Manriquez, who will sing Neruda’s poetry set to original music that he composed. Alisa Peres will recite the selections in English. The event is from 12:15 p.m. until 1 p.m. this Monday at the Central Berkeley Public Library and is sponsored by the Friends of the Berkeley Library. For more information call 981-6100. 

This Monday at 8 p.m., Ignacio Chapela will read Neruda’s poetry at the Lothlorien co-op at 2405 Prospect St. 



Collision Coming Over Farmworker Legalization

By DAVID BACON Pacific News Service
Friday July 09, 2004

SOLEDAD, Calif.—Farm worker unions and the Bush administration are heading rapidly towards confrontation over immigration. 

After three years of arm-twisting, unions like the United Farm Workers, Oregon’s Union de Pineros, and the Ohio-based Farm Labor Organizing Committee finally have a bill in Congress—called AgJOBS—that would legalize over 1 million agricultural workers living without visas in the United States. But immigrant advocates say the administration, despite a proclaimed interest in Latino votes, has instead played to its right-wing Republican base by launching a national wave of immigration raids. 

The unions have even agreed to expansion of already-existing guest worker programs, widely condemned for the extensive rights violations of immigrants imported as temporary workers. But they face the administration’s “guest worker-only” proposal, and Bush’s declaration that he will not sign any bill granting legal status to the country’s 12 million undocumented residents.  

Some immigration activists even believe that the raids are intended to send a dual message—placating anti-immigrant voters while threatening mass deportations if immigrant communities resist a huge expansion of guest worker programs.  

Since the wave of raids began in June, the number of deportations has mushroomed. They started in Ontario, Calif., on June 5, when 79 immigrants were arrested and deported. The following day in nearby Corona, another 77 people were picked up. The next raid, netting 15 in Escondido, near San Diego, escalated into the deportation of 268 more by mid-June. Reports of raids spread to urban areas in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago, traditionally avoided by the Border Patrol because of their long history of organized resistance. 

In upstate New York, agents seized eight workers in a big General Electric research facility in Niskayuna, where they were removing asbestos without adequate protection. The fibers cause a virulent form of cancer, mesothelioma, and the contractor employing the workers, LVI Environmental Services, is under federal investigation for using illegal removal procedures.  

The Border Patrol announced that the deportations were part of an ongoing investigation into the asbestos abatement industry in upstate and central New York. The Laborers Union has been organizing immigrant asbestos workers throughout New York and New Jersey in one of the labor movement’s most successful unionizing drives. The raids will slow that movement by increasing the fear of deportation among workers already risking their jobs by protesting dangerous conditions.  

That fear is spreading in California’s farm worker towns as well. “It’s no secret that a very high percentage of farm workers are undocumented,” says Efren Barajas, a UFW leader. “When people are afraid of being deported, they don’t fight about bad working conditions and miserable wages.”  

In the week before July 4, the UFW organized six simultaneous marches through California valley towns, including a five-day peregrination up the Salinas Valley. They combined protest over the raids with a call for passage of the farm worker AgJOBS legalization bill.  

Unions have become some of the strongest supporters of legalization because fear of deportation undermines the organizing efforts of immigrant workers. Two decades ago, most unions saw undocumented workers as job competition and even strikebreakers.  

But in the 1990s that attitude changed, as immigrants became a large part of the workforce in many industries and unions began organizing them. The UFW was a leading voice at the AFL-CIO’s Los Angeles convention in 1998, which adopted a new pro-immigrant position, including a call for amnesty.  

“The way we see it, they come to this country to make life better for their families,” Barajas says. “They’re hard-working people, who pay taxes like anyone else. They’re not going away, and making people legal is the right thing to do.”  

But legalization for farm workers has a price. In three years of hard negotiations with growers, farm worker unions got agreement to a broad amnesty, but had to agree to relax restrictions on growers’ ability to import temporary contract workers.  

East Coast growers have been accused of massive abuse of guest workers under the existing H2-A program. The North Carolina Growers Association is being sued by North Carolina Legal Aid for maintaining a blacklist of workers who protest bad conditions.  

Farm worker advocates say they’ve negotiated labor protections into the compromise, giving guest workers the right to go to court, but doubt remains that this will enable them to challenge their employers. And unions hope the program won’t expand out of the Southeast, where most guest workers are currently employed.  

“Our interest is legalizing people,” Barajas says. “We had to swallow some things in the bill to get that... If we legalize millions of farm workers, it will be much better than what we have now, and we don’t see any other way to get that.”  

And there lies the coming confrontation with Bush. The administration proposes vast new guest worker programs, and says it will not agree to any amnesty. Unions say they’ve already lined up a veto-proof majority in the Senate, but Congress’ Republican leadership will undoubtedly protect the president in an election year, and prevent a vote that might force his veto.  

But because it is an election year, Latino votes count for legislators, even if they’ve lost their importance to Bush. “If Bush doesn’t see that,” Barajas laughs, “perhaps we should have a new president.” 


David Bacon is a freelance writer and photographer who writes regularly on labor and immigration issues.

UnderCurrents: Fireworks Exploding Over Oakland Neighborhoods

Friday July 09, 2004

Something happened in Oakland this week that will have significant impact on the direction of the city, but it’s probably going to take some time to understand how much impact, and in what direction. 

To talk about it at all, in fact, we’ve got to take a step back and get a longer perspective. 

A friend of mine, who lives near Jingletown, had been complaining to me for years about the problem of Fourth of July fireworks in her neighborhood. It was driving her dog into neurotic fits, she said, and making it impossible to stay in the area over the holiday. Calls to authorities got no response. I heard her, and nodded my understanding, but without much sympathy. She seemed oversensitive, at the very least. It was, after all, only one night of noise in a city beset by robberies and murders. How bad, after all, could an evening of firecrackers and bottlerockets be? 

But a couple of years ago I ended up in the 29th Avenue area after dark on the Fourth, by accident, and decided to hang around to see for myself. I got a bit of a shock. After blocking off the neighborhood entrances with barriers, a crowd of several hundred gathered in the middle of the streets to set off what can only be described as semi-professional grade, industrial-strength fireworks. Some we re propelled from multiple metal tubes that resembled miniature artillery launchers, the concussive explosions so heavy that you could feel the physical pressure on your eardrums, the initial lightbursts so bright that they momentarily blacked out the str eetlights, fooling them into believing that day had come. A moment hardly passed when the sky was not filled with explosions of color. Participants and observers alike seemed to be from the neighborhood itself, from the very young to the very elderly, whole families watching from seats on porch steps while sipping beverages or munching on snacks, as at a picnic, some mothers standing on the curb and holding up little children to get a better view. The festivities went on for several hours, a blaring live professional mariachi band providing musical accompaniment for most of the time (no, I’m not making this up). Who paid for the band, I never found out. 

About 10 o’clock, someone opened up one of the street barriers to let a police patrol car come through. The crowd parted to allow the police car to cruise by, and the fireworks momentarily halted. Well, that’s the end of that, I thought. But instead the officer turned a corner, disappeared into the dark and, as far as I can determine, never stopped or returned. The fireworks display immediately resumed. Clearly, either on its own or upon direction from a higher source, the Oakland Police Department had decided to turn a blind eye to this event. 

I was ambivalent then about the experience, and I remain so to this day. It was clearly awful for my friend, who had to huddle in her house and comfort her frantic dog all night, windows rattling to the booming concussions—it must have been equally horrible for many of her neighbors. But for others it was just as clearly a festive, community celebration—a chance for many to gather outdoors after dark in safety and reclaim their neighborhood in what is too often a dangerous and frightening city. 

Can these two competing community interests be reconciled—residents w ho want peace in their neighborhoods and residents who see such noisy, nighttime, outdoor festivities as a measure of community? It’s hard to say. It would be a tough issue to decide under any circumstances, but especially so during these last months of the administration of Jerry Brown, where official Oakland is focused on downtown development and violent crime, the upcoming mayoral race and cementing Jerry Brown’s legacy so that he can run to higher ground. In such an atmosphere, neighborhood relations takes a back seat. 

In any event, Oakland City Council finally took a stab this year at addressing the fireworks issue from a law enforcement perspective, passing an ordinance that upped the penalties for shooting them off, and adding a provision to make it illegal to even possess the devices. The results—depending upon your perspective—were less than satisfactory. 

By all accounts, neighborhood fireworks displays literally exploded all over Oakland on the Fourth this year—pardon the pun. I noticed it fir st in my own neighborhood—as soon as dusk slipped into dark, the skies lit up with sustained bursts. Usually we can just see the Coliseum displays over the trees from our back porch, but this year I didn’t even bother. Instead I walked out to the corner a nd watched the rockets rush skyward from multiple sites from all the blocks surrounding. These were not being set off by roving bands, but by families gathered on the sidewalks and streets in front of their own front doors. Unlike in years past, there wer e very few firecrackers out where I live—it was mostly aerial works, far more sophisticated than the usual fare. Later newspaper reports and conversations with friends confirmed that the same thing was happening all across the city. 

The flouting of the n ew, highly-touted anti-fireworks law was so apparent and so widespread that the Oakland Police Department was forced to offer a sheepish explanation. 

“None of us suspected there would be great results over Fourth of July, maybe before, but on July 4 it’s a free-for-all,” Lt. Lawrence Green told our friends at the Tribune. Green said it was “overly ambitious” to expect that the new anti-fireworks law would actually put a dent in fireworks shot off on the Fourth. Which is a little like buying a boat that i s guaranteed not to leak, except when you put it in the water. When else would the city need an anti-fireworks ordinance, except on holidays like the Fourth of July? 

Residents were also more than a little disturbed that a hotline set up for citizens to r eport fireworks abuse was not operated over the weekend, and therefore not available on the actual day that fireworks were being used, the Fourth having fallen on a Sunday. 

I’m not sure what the answer to this is. I’m not even sure, right now, what the q uestion is. Is this a trend towards people opening up their own neighborhoods to nighttime celebrations—a taking back of our mean streets—or is this callous, thuggish intolerant behavior, people who could care less about the effect of their actions on mor e peaceful neighbors? Maybe it’s both, simultaneous. Perhaps only time—and further observation—will reveal what direction we’re going.›

Police Blotter

Friday July 09, 2004

Police Seek Couple in Home Invasion 

An armed couple forced their way into a Berkeley woman’s home Tuesday morning, tying her up before they ransacked the house and fled with a large assortment of valuables, leaving her bound. 

The woman, who lives near the intersection of Hill Road and Grizzly Peak Boulevard, managed to free herself and call police. 

“We are very concerned about the brazen nature of this crime and are seeking the public’s assistance in identifying the suspects,” said Berkeley Police Detective Chris Stines. 

The first suspect is described as a thinly built black man in his 30s, approximately 6’1” tall. He was wearing a black watch cap. The second suspect is a black woman in her 30s, about 5’3” tall with a medium build. She was wearing a dark leather jacket and beige pants and hid her face behind a scarf. 

Police said the crime appears to be an isolated incident. 

Anyone with information should call the Berkeley Police Robbery Detail at 981-5742 or send tips by e-mail to police@ci.berkeley.ca.us. 


Assailant Uses Scooter to Bash Juvenile 

A 21-year-old Berkeley man was arrested on charges of assault, assault with a deadly weapon, making a threat, and vandalism after he battered a teenager with a foot-powered scooter near the corner of Harrison and Fifth streets shortly before 1 p.m. last Thursday. 


Purse Snatcher Uses Stolen Card  

A strongarm robber grabbed the purse of a woman walking along Prince Street near the Fulton Street intersection about 4 p.m. last Thursday, then proceeded to use one of her credit cards to make a purchase, 


Knife-Wielder Earns Cellular Domicile  

A 48-year-old Berkeley man found himself with a new and tightly confined residence after police busted him for flashing a knife at a fellow citizen near the corner of Center Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way at 9:37 a.m. Friday. 

The felon seems to have overlooked that building on the corner and all those blue-clad badge-wearing folks who pass through its portals en route to their black-and-white cars. 


Robbery Sought for Assault With Deadly Car  

Police are seeking a blue meanie robber who attempted to run down a pedestrian near the market at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Derby Street about 7 p.m. Friday. 

The suspect is described as a tall, thin African American man in his mid-30s who was wearing a blue baseball cap, blue jacket, and blue jeans as he sat behind the wheel of a light blue car, according to Berkeley Police spokesperson Officer Joe Okies. 


Man Jailed in Spousal Battery Case 

A 41-year-old Berkeley man was arrested just after 4 p.m. Friday on charges of violating a protective order issued after an earlier assault in which his spouse suffered significant injury. Other charges include witness intimidation and probation violation. 


Robbers Hit San Pablo Avenue Popeye’s  

Berkeley Police are looking for two men, one armed with a handgun, who robbed the till of a San Pablo Avenue Popeye’s Chicken at 10:50 p.m. Friday. 


Teenagers Busted for Assault, Booze Burglary  

Two 18-year-old men were arrested late Saturday night for assault with a deadly weapon, possession of an illegal weapon, and the theft of alcohol from the 1440 Shattuck Ave. Safeway, according to Police spokesperson Officer Joe Okies. 

One of the assailants swiped two bottles of liquor, which he then used to batter one of the store employees, and his compatriot was charged with using their car to try to run down a store employee who tried to prevent their escape. 

The weapons charge resulted from the brass knuckles found in the pocket of one of the suspects after their arrest. 


Victim Delays Reporting Robbery  

A Berkeley man relieved of his cash by an armed gunman Saturday didn’t report the crime until Tuesday. 


Alleged South Berkeley Pusher Busted 

Police arrested a 38-year-old man on Martin Luther King Jr. Way near the corner of Russell Street at 9:45 p.m. Monday on charges of possession of drugs for sale, using a minor to peddle his drugs, and attempted flight from arresting officers. 


Woman Arrested for Drugs, Conspiracy 

Armed with a warrant, police arrested a 22-year-old Berkeley woman Tuesday afternoon on charges of conspiracy and possession for sale of marijuana and rock cocaine. 


Bike-Mounted Robbers Busted on Telegraph 

A young man and four juveniles found their bicycles slower than police cars Tuesday night after they flashed a handgun to relieve a pedestrian of his cash. The 19-year old was taken to a cell at city jail and the minors were dispatched to Juvenile Hall, all sans their wheels. 


Strongarm Pair Makes off with Wallet 

Police are seeking two men, described as in their late teens or early 20s, who relieved a pedestrian of his wallet near Chestnut and Virginia Streets about 8:30 Wednesday evening.

Letters to the Editor

Friday July 09, 2004


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s editorial “In Support of Kamala Harris” (Daily Planet, July 6-8): There are no words that go close enough to describe the marrow when faced with the bare bones of truth. And there are some politicians who make me feel glad I voted. Thank you for giving her space in your newspaper.  

Dea Robertson-Gutierrez 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Yeah, right after I vacation at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, I’ll rush right down to see Bonfante Gardens (“Gilroy’s Bonfante Gardens is a Varied Delight,” Daily Planet, July 6-8). I don’t know how I ever got limited to appreciating plants in their ugly, normal forms—rather than as peasant-art media—but I seem to have. Every time some newsy shows those trees down there, I have to take a hike in Tilden or some place to get those contorted images out of my brain. 

Ray Chamberlin 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have read Shirley Barker’s articles on gardening with great pleasure. She is a superb writer and her articles are full of practical information and interesting background material. The recipes she offers are inviting and appear quite easy to follow. 

Thank you so much for these delightful “Specials to the Planet.” 

Gloria Bloom 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

This year, this week, is the right time for Berkeley to start getting serious about campus transportation. The campus was designed for streetcars, which can move more people faster in less space, than any amount of freeways, parking garages and traffic jams. Now, modern rail technology is even more efficient. Ongoing local debate has not answered how many voters actually want rail here.  

We should be asking transit agencies NOW to start planning a direct rail link for campus, conference center, Amtrak, ferries, BART and presumably future expansion throughout the East Bay. Building a local rapid transit link to campus is a legal use of Measure 2 funds, for example. Waiting longer for a solution risks overwhelming traffic necessitating a freeway to campus or downtown.  

A simple “rail referendum” will highlight Berkeley’s growing transportation dilemma since the “Key System” was paved over and show the level of support here for a modern traffic solution. Success of a voter referendum will encourage UC and MTC to seriously consider rail as an economical option here, an option that will entice thousands of commuters out of their gridlocked SUVs. 

This is the last chance for the City Council to address transportation on the November ballot. Kriss Worthington has asked the council to consider a November “rail referendum” for the July 20 agenda, so Berkeley voters can weigh in on the future of local transportation. Please ask your councilmember and mayor to let the voters speak. 

Sennet Williams 

Trains Not Freeways 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I enjoyed Albert Sukoff’s (apparently controversial) opinion piece in the June 29 issue of the Daily Planet (“40 — Okay, 20 — Observations from 40 Years in Berkeley”) and would like to address two issues which he brought up. 

Mr. Sukoff states that Berkeley lost 15-20 percent of its population over the last few decades. Actually the population drop occurred in one fell swoop between the election in November 1978 and UC’s Fall semester of 1979. 

According to the census records of 1950-1970, the population of Berkeley varied between 111,268 and 114,091 during those decades. The number was believed to be growing during the 1970s, and estimates of 116,000 people were reported during that decade. 

In November 1978, a rent freeze (actually a rent roll-back and freeze) was approved by the voters, and went into effect in January, 1979. Rental housing was removed from the market in a variety of ways by owners who wanted to avoid this form of regulation, and Berkeley was inexorably altered. The next fall semester, returning UC students encountered a dramatic, unprecedented housing shortage which was well documented in the local newspapers. 

Although I was a tenant, I voted against rent control. It seemed obvious to me that a law which was really mean to small landlords could only have a negative impact on the abundance of inexpensive housing choices which had been available to tenants of all incomes. 

Not surprisingly, the 1980 census revealed a loss of some 11,000 in population, and the official census figure has hovered around 103,000 ever since. 

I feel compelled to clarify this issue because the “Smart Growth” machine (which has infiltrated every city board and commission involved with development decisions) has used the population decline to argue for ever larger projects. Their logic escapes me: We lost population, not buildings. So they advocate cramming in a bunch of enormous new buildings. (Hello?). 

Mr. Sukoff goes on to say that “Berkeley has plenty of crappy buildings which could and should be replaced.” Here, I agree completely. The 1960s “soft story” apartment houses are considered to be earthquake hazards. Unfortunately, it is not these which have been lost to new development.  

Among many unfortunate losses, a brick livery stable from 1900 was demolished to make way for the Gaia building, an edifice which seems to be perpetually adorned with scaffolding in an ongoing attempt to correct water intrusion problems (i.e. it leaks). 

The Edy’s building, which housed a beloved small business, was destroyed (without a demolition permit) to make way for the corporate preferences of Eddie Bauer, supposedly to “revitalize” the downtown. Obviously it didn’t work.  

Eliminating historic buildings and local businesses for deals made by people who think they know better (planners, mayors), while shutting out the public—and absolutely refusing to assess the cumulative impact of multiple huge projects—is a short-sighted way to run a town. 

Gale Garcia 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

John Kerry made a good, presidential-level decision in selecting a strong, mainstream Democrat for his vice president candidate. Compare Bush’s non-decision of four years ago when his organization tasked Dick Cheney to find a VP candidate and Cheney chose himself. It turns out that Cheney chose himself to actually run the government. 

Bruce Joffe 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding your July 2 article on the suit challenging Sutter Health’s non-profit status: There are other issues that need questioning. Our understanding is that the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center offers no reproductive services. Supposedly Alta Bates once did but their recent detailed brochure made no mention of any. 

Nancy Ward 

Co-Chair, Oakland/East Bay National Organization for Women 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thanks for your fine article “Fine Arts Cinema is Officially Dead” (Daily Planet, July 2-5). For me, it’s been dead since 1970, when a young cashier was shot in the face and killed by a 14-year-old robber who took her life for $35. I was going to graduate school at UC, and lived around the corner at the time. After that, they moved the ticket window closer to the theater and put in bulletproof glass; prior to that, there was an old-fashioned stand-alone ticket booth. 

Ultimately I think that crime is what killed the theater. I never felt comfortable going there again, and perhaps that’s true for others as well. It was no karmic surprise when the porn theater went in after that. 

As long as you have taken the time to write an obituary for the theater, I thought it would be fitting to take a moment to remember that poor cashier who died there 34 years ago as well. Sad. 

Ken Stein 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Every time I think about expansion of the campus at UC Berkeley I wonder why the expansion has to occur here. Does planning for Berkeley nest within some larger statewide framework or plan? What happened to the 27,500-student limit in the statewide plan of the ‘60s? Has it been updated since? Newer UC locations could use the new facilities. Is it vital that it happen here? 

Robert C. Chioino 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Dan Peven’s comments about Berkeley Unified’s wastefulness was alarming. 

For the brand new building at the high school to use more electricity than the rest of the campus combined is unbelievable. Why did Berkeley Unified build such a building? I support public schools but not energy gluttony. 

This information does not bode well for the other construction that has occurred throughout the district. Have we, in supporting this new construction, supported wanton energy consumption? 

I ask BUSD to post the energy consumption of each school and non-school site on its website for the 18 months from September, 2002 to June, 2004, and let us know what steps you will take to reduce your energy consumption. 

Tim Gordon 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Ten years ago, when my daughter was at Willard, I and many other volunteers planted the existing roses and other plants in front of that school. Therefore, I am relieved to have just learned that the school district has agreed to rework its plans to leave in the existing roses. 

I hope the school district will also reconsider the proposed ornamental lawns. Lawns are appropriate if there is a real functional need for a lawn, such as for a ball field. However, lawns that are just for display should be avoided. My recent newsletter from Berkeley Hort states: “The planting of a summer-thirsty lawn in our climate is analogous to buying a gas guzzling truck during a fuel shortage.” Lawns not only take up water, but Berkeley Unified maintains them with gas powered machines, which not only use gas, but spew greenhouse gases. There’s a move to adopt the purple needle grass as our state grass. That would be a lovely substitute for a lawn. 

Donna Mickleson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am ashamed at how much the San Francisco Public Library loves the Patriot Act. How can Susan Hundredth, the city librarian, say that placing microchips (radio frequency identification chips, or RFIDs) in every book will not erode privacy rights? Why not just let the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security have agents on the payroll? The agents can go up and down the isles or better yet, act like library patrons and collect information on legitimate patrons. After all, terrorists are clever enough to browse books and not check them out if they knew every book can be traced to an individual. Justified as a cost saving measure, this cowardly embracing and enabling of the Patriot Act makes me sick. Is the City Council going to support this? Once a system is in place then modifying it is just another small step. People can already be traced by their cell phones and their FasTrak transponders. Safeway cards collect demographic information every time we shop. Do we really want to trade privacy in every place we go for convenience? Don't people realize how hard people fought to get privacy rights in the first place?  

Chris Cobb 

U.C. Berkeley Graduate Student 

Department of Art Practice 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was recently enjoying a visit in Berkeley when I came across a copy of your June 8-10 paper and noticed with great interest that there was an article about a school “librarian” on the front page (“Latino Students Rally to Save Job of BHS Librarian”). As I have just finished my own school library credential, I am interested in all things school library-related, so I immediately picked it up. I quickly read the first page of story, which featured a photo of a “librarian” helping a student on the computer. 

After reading a few more sentences, I realized that the woman in question was not actually the school’s librarian at all, as the headline read, but the library media technician, a much different position altogether.  

A library media technician is considered support staff for the school’s librarian, (think of the relationship between an aide and a teacher). The demands on a school librarian are much different and complex than they were even twenty years ago, due to the advent of the Internet and the quickening of our society in general. Young adult literature has been launched into a brand new dimension, and school library media professionals are in a unique position to bridge the angst that adolescents sometimes feel with the recommendation of great books. A complete school library education enables school librarians to work with students on research projects in entirely new and meaningful ways. School librarians work closely (and on equal ground) with other teachers and school administrators to ensure that the library program is meeting the needs of all students. 

I want to stress that I don’t doubt that Ms. Troutman’s presence in the BHS library is important for many reasons, and I am always disheartened to read about any layoff of important people in students’ lives. But as a recent graduate of a library credential program, I do want to clarify that it is not a simple transition between working as a library technician and becoming a school librarian. 

Jill Sonnenberg 





Dear City Council: 

So the Fine Arts Cinema is dead. 

Aren’t you getting tired of being taken for suckers by Patrick Kennedy again and again? 

And the building itself is an overbearing eye-sore. Do you really want a dozen such buildings 

running the length of Tenement (formerly University) Avenue? 

F. Greenspan

A Few More Observations On Rent Control

Friday July 09, 2004

As a Berkeley landlord for some 37 years I offer some hopefully relevant observations.  


1. Today the Berkeley Rent Control Ordinance is now both unnecessary and a total waste of precious funds. I have a vacancy that I have priced in line with comparable units. People arrive armed with a long list of vacancies and make a decision here as they would on deciding what computer or gasoline or food product to buy. There is no scarcity of available units and no need for government regulation. 

2. I believe that the elected Rent Board consists of a group who mostly believe any rent increase is not appropriate for those “greedy” owners. 

3. I think that the elected Rent Board has a mission to preserve their domain regardless of need or expense. 

4. On checking the Internet I find that an overwhelming majority of economists oppose rent control. 

5. There is a distinction between rent control and Berkeley rent control. When current commissioners of the board defending their domain cite cities having rent control, this distinction is not made clear. 

6. There has been a close connection between the so-called progressives on the City Council and the elected Rent Board.  

7. I find the term “progressive” that the City Council majority is characterized by is a total misuse of the word. It suggests a group deserving of support whether such support is warranted or not. I think that a more accurate designation is “leftist” as a group favoring government regulation and control over markets. 

8. I am quoting from part of the first paragraph of Rent Board Chair Max Anderson’s May 25 opinion piece in the Berkeley Daily Planet. Anderson has announced his candidacy for the City Council. “The season of political sophistry is well underway in Berkeley as it is across the nation. Evidence of this can be seen in John Koenigshofer’s less than rational, less than honest anti-rent control rant.” Other terms used by Anderson are “tirade,” “Ashcroftesque invasion,” “economic greed,” “disregard of the facts,” “real estate ideologues,” and “distorted attack on rent control.” Does this appear to represent a reasonable and thoughtful individual who is qualified to serve on the City Council? 

9. I am in agreement with most of Allbert Sukoff’s 20 points in your June 29-July 2 issue. Undoubtedly the leftists will want verbally to crucify Sukoff but his points need to be discussed. We need more people, preferably non-landlords and non-tenants voicing opinions. 


Sig Cohn is a Berkeley resident and landlord. 


Michael and Me: Finding Light Amidst the Gloom

Friday July 09, 2004

Two weeks ago I had a bone scan. I was injected with radioactive barium. It migrated to my bones (“Don’t worry,” said the nurse, “it’s gone in a few hours, less radiation than an x-ray.”) I lay on a platform while a camera positioned a few inches above my nose slowly moved along a beam from my head to my feet, recording the emanations from my bones on a film. “The doctor is in the next room interpreting the film,” said the nurse as she helped me up and I threaded my belt through the loops of my pants and returned the keys to my pocket, relieved to be in charge of my life again.  

I peeked into the room and there was the doctor, recording his notes, while clipped to the viewing screen in front of him, the white light shining through the negative, was the eerie image of my skeleton, strangely shrunk to about eight inches, looking like one of those skeletons unearthed by archeologists in the excavation of tombs. It was a tiny perfect skeleton doll up there on the screen, and somehow the fact that I could be so reduced in scale seemed inconsistent with the fact that I was still alive. “No metastasis visible,” said the doctor (I had suspected as much; my prostate cancer is still in an early stage). “There’s a slight deterioration of the vertebrae in the lower back,” he said, showing me where the spine appeared to darken. He did not seem to think much of it, but that was it—a new obsession born. Ah ha, I thought, now the slight stiffness I have in the morning is explained. I had prided myself on the strength of my back. But now with age, all pride was being stripped away from me.  

“Why am I still alive?” I thought. 

I should have died upon some barricade. I should have been Rachel Corrie squished beneath a bulldozer. Or perhaps, like Abbie Hoffman and Phil Ochs, I should have committed suicide as the heroic days of hope in revolution faded. Instead I watch as all our revolutionary hopes wither on the vine and my body fails me. What will go next? My mind? No please, not the mind. Take whatever body part you want, but leave the mind. 

As the body goes so goes the world, I thought as I slipped deeper into depression. Darkness spreads across the planet. Reason is eclipsed. The empire at its apogee, drunk with power and trembling with fear, lashes out against unseen foes. Its enemies multiply. For them, life is no better than death. The rivers are polluted with corpses. The aquifers are contaminated with a constant drizzle of poisons. The winds stink. The genome is unwound.  

Thus sunk in gloom, I seriously needed to glimpse a light on the horizon. Well last night I saw Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 at the Grand Lake Cinema, and there it was—the bright and brazen light. It’s manipulative as all get out and why shouldn’t it be? This is what Fox news would look like if the rebels took over, and the staff went wild. No pretense of being fair and balanced. Its techniques are so blatant, they mock themselves (for example: The blinking arrows pointing at the unread memo describing the threat of an attack by al Qaeda in the United States.) Exposing the big boys is no kid’s game. Unfair to catch them in unguarded moments? Who’s playing fair? We’re in a full out brawl. Bring it on: They lick their combs! They lie through their comb’s teeth. My Pet Goat! Seven minutes of blankness! The pompous cant and the golf swing! We love it! 

So vast is the disconnect between the pretenses of power and the reality it attempts to conceal that the comic mode, which feasts on such disjunctions, is the right one. There’s a difference between truth and lie, between real and unreal, between real pain and crocodile tears, between real poverty, real loss—a child’s arm blown open so the bones are exposed—and the photo op, the sound bite, the faked emotion, the feigned empathy. We can tell the difference if given half a chance. There is a limit to the powers of deception. Truth has its vehicles. It will come out. What a bracing message! No power on earth can obliterate the truth, no matter how awesome its control of the creation of meanings, how complete command of the portals through which information flows. The faces, voices, looks, breathing gestures of the protagonists in this conflict—which is all of us—reveal which side we are on. The polished images of our leaders reflect no light. The face of a grieving mother reading the last letter of her soldier son, reflects a universe. 

“‘Tis the final conflict... let each stand in his place...” Who knows if there will ever be a final conflict. But when the empire has vanquished all its enemies, it has already begun its descent. The struggle against the empire, the struggle of the poor against the rich, of community against corporation is the struggle between false and real, between truth and lie. “We like nonfiction and we live in fictitious times,” shouted Michael Moore from the stage at the academy award ceremonies. Exactly. There are those who are fronting and those who are “for real.” For real. Linger over those words. Are we for the real or for the lie, for the “fiction” (and we’re not talking Toni Morrison here) or nonfiction? Ultimately that is the question. And because this movie shows the continuing power of the real in the face of the omnipresent lie, it is a source of hope, an instructional comedy with tears and laughter.  


Osha Neumann is a Berkeley artist and attorney.›

District Would Raise Neighbors’ Property Taxes

Friday July 09, 2004

What if your neighbors could organize, with the city’s blessing, to force you to pay an additional $2,000 a year in property taxes to improve their views of the bay and increase property values? 

That’s exactly what could happen if homeowners in my Berkeley Hills neighborhood vote to create the Thousand Oaks Heights Applicant Funded Utility Undergrounding District No. 1. 

The district is the brainchild of a handful of neighbors and includes 105 homes located on Kentucky and Colorado avenues and parts of Michigan, Boynton, Maryland and Vassar avenues. Originally the district was supposed to be larger but grew smaller after organizers failed to convince enough residents that the project was worth its then-estimated $2 million price tag.  

The story began in December, 2000, when the city endorsed policies and procedures for creation of privately financed utility undergrounding districts. Key among the procedures was 70 percent neighborhood approval and the means to pay up-front design costs. More than 70 percent of my neighbors chipped in $2,000-$2,500 each to pay for a feasibility and design study, which cost more than $186,000. At the same time the council approved the utility undergrounding procedures, it voted down a proposal to allocate city funds to pay for design studies for low-income neighborhoods, on the grounds it could not afford it. Although, the move made sense, given the city’s budget woes, everyone’s tax dollars paid for the considerable time city staff have devoted over the last three and one-half years to the Thousand Oaks Heights project.  

After the project estimate rose to $2.6 million, the City Council decided on June 1 to revise its own rules and lowered from 70 to 60 the percentage of homeowners needed to approve creation of the district. A few days later, ballots were mailed to residents with the revised assessment figures. Bids for the project will be opened on July 12 and on July 20 the council will hold a public hearing and afterward tally the votes.  

If the vote is yes, the city will issue bonds to pay for the project and residents will have to either pony up between $21,000 and $22,000, or be assessed an additional $2,000 a year for 30 years to retire the bonds, or a total of $60,000. Should every homeowner opt for the 30-year installation plan, the city could pocket tens of thousands of dollars in interest each year. Not a bad windfall for city with a $10 million deficit. 

The pro-undergrounding arguments range from safety to greater property values to neighborhood beautification. The safety claim is, at best, dubious, because virtually all the streets surrounding the tiny district have overhead utility lines as does Spruce Avenue, the only major street into the neighborhood. In the event of an earthquake or firestorm underground utilities will be of little use if all roads into the neighborhood are littered with downed utility poles. So what’s left is greed and better views Bay for some residents but not all. 

What elevates the story beyond a petty squabble between the haves and have-mores is the role of city government in supporting my neighbors in proposing a tax increase that it won’t dare put on a citywide election ballot. For my partner and me , the assessment would increase our annual property taxes by 25 percent. For others, in particular retired, longtime residents living on fixed income, taxes would double. 

The city says it was the district organizers’ idea to lower the voter approval percentage and the district organizers say it was the city’s idea, or more specifically Mayor Tom Bates. Either way, few except the organizers knew about the deal until a neighbor read about it in the Berkeley Daily Planet. When asked to explain themselves, district organizers and city officials cite Proposition 218, which stipulates only simple majority approval is needed for “special benefit” assessments compared with a two-thirds majority for citywide tax increases to fund general services. In other words, to paraphrase former President Bill Clinton, they did it because they could.  

In some countries, the practice of paying for what ought-to-be basic services is called bribery. In America, it’s called checkbook democracy. The difference here is that, unlike fat cats who use their money to legally buy favorable legislation, my neighbors have been empowered by the city to dig deep into my pocket to buy something me and others don’t want.  

Instead of acting in the best interests of all the district’s residents, city officials are acting as cheerleaders. Council Member Hawley even links to the private web site for the Thousand Oaks Heights project from her page on the city’s website. City Engineer Loren Jensen suggested to my partner that given her concern about costs she could sell her home before the assessment was levied. After seeing his words printed in a flyer, he fired off via e-mail a terse non-denial denial. When asked what might become of retired people on a fixed incomes should the district pass, Council Member Hawley opined they might be able to take out a lien against their property. She also loudly complained that her remarks were taken out of context. 

But the only things out of context are the priorities of a city that would empower your neighbors to jack up property taxes so they can have a better view. So, neighbors beware and come to the July 20 public hearing on the Thousand Oaks Heights district at 7 p.m. at City Hall. Tell the council, no to taxation-by-neighbor for frivolous, costly neighborhood improvements. Tell the council, no to using your tax dollars to enable the haves to have more. 


Erna Smith is a Berkeley resident and a professor of journalism at San Francisco State University..

College Admission Cuts Jeopardize the California Dream

Friday July 09, 2004

One of the things long separating California from other states has been the quality of its higher-education system. Forty years ago, Californians embraced the Higher Education Master Plan, which set aside spaces for California’s high-school graduates in the University of California, California State University and community-college systems.  

But for the first time since that plan was developed, qualified students—11,000 of them—will be turned away from UC and CSU this fall. I believe this is a bad investment decision and an unwise and unnecessary diminishing of the California dream that has made our state unique.  

That quality education has also made a big difference in my own family. My father was the first in his family to get past eighth grade. His success with higher education made a big difference not just in his life, but in the lives of my mother, brothers and myself, who have had similar levels of achievement. The investment taxpayers made in us has been more than paid back with our ability to pay taxes, support the economy and contribute to our communities.  

Forty years ago, Gov. Pat Brown’s California economic-development strategy included new roads and water projects, and good health care and education systems. He believed that where public and social infrastructure was lacking, the economy would not develop. His vision, supported by the Legislature and the people, helped boost California’s economy to fifth-largest in the world.  

Today, just as before, we need a visionary economic development strategy. Unfortunately, the governor’s higher-education budget proposals include:  

• Denying access to 11,000 qualified high-school graduates this fall.  

• Raising undergraduate fees for UC and CSU, increased 40 percent over the past two years, by another 14 percent.  

• Reducing “outreach” programs that help at-risk students succeed in higher education.  

• Increasing Cal Grant income eligibility levels.  

• Cutting basic support for higher-education operations on top of major reductions last year, requiring cuts that directly affect the ability of the institutions to function.  

• Raising graduate fees by 20 percent on top of similar increases last year, jeopardizing California’s ability to produce teachers, physicians, nurses and others in critical professions experiencing shortages.  

In addition to turning away qualified students for the first time, these actions would make it harder for lower- and middle-income families to afford to send their children to UC and CSU in the future. These proposals would further hold back our struggling economy by reducing the number of qualified graduates entering the work force.  

Community colleges are funded differently (within the Proposition 98 funding guarantees), yet face similar financial constraints on their ability to operate and be accessible. I am working with a coalition of education groups to give community colleges a fair share of guaranteed funding in a manner that does not jeopardize K-12 education.  

The governor has proposed his cuts to higher education after closed-door negotiations with the leadership of UC and CSU. While it is good to work with university leadership to close the record budget gap, parents, students, staff members and the Legislature were not included. It is time to publicly review those agreements with respect to what is best for the future of everyone in California.  

In the next few weeks, final decisions will be made as the Legislature votes on the governor’s proposals. The cost of preserving California’s historic commitment to qualified student access at CSU and UC would be $46 million. The governor has suggested making this cut, while at the same time proposing to establish a $900 million reserve.  

Blocking access to California’s higher-education systems, along with the governor’s other proposed cuts in higher education, must not be part of the final budget solution. We are in a fiscal crisis. But we should not make short-sighted and destructive decisions as if we have no alternative.  

I believe we should invest in opportunity, an investment that pays dividends to our state, both financially to the state economy and budget, and also in happier and more successful citizens. It is part of California’s dream—and it is a cornerstone to economic competitiveness. To preserve the promise of California, we must restore these cuts.  


John Laird represents Santa Cruz in the State Assembly.  

Daily Planet Readers Sound Off On Livable Berkeley Article

Friday July 09, 2004


Editors, Daily Planet: 

David Early of Livable Berkeley is quoted as saying “...Right now I can get anywhere in Berkeley faster on a bike than you can in a car.” Perhaps he can—but I can’t! 

I’m 70 years old. I enjoy an occasional outing to the Berkeley Marina. While getting to my home from the Marina involves a relatively short distance, it also involves an altitude gain of about 1,100 feet. I can do it on a bicycle, but not as quickly as in a car. I presume Mr. Early is both younger and much fitter than I am. 

I hope that in planning for a livable Berkeley Mr. Early does more than generalize from his own experience. As any septuagenarian will tell him “while in theory there is no difference between theory and practice...in practice there is. 

David Nasatir 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Livable Berkeley— such a pleasant name, such an interesting cast of characters.  

If this unholy mix of “professionals,” acolytes, and family members of decision makers were an advocacy group promoting new highways or clear-cutting of forests the public would be outraged. The rhetoric of Livable Berkeley and the “highway” and “timber” lobbies is strikingly similar—that we can build (or cut) our way out of a crisis if we sacrifice just a few select areas for the benefit of all. The unmentionable is that this well-paid professional elite is totally dependent for their livelihood on the continual “creative destruction” of the existing environment in the name of a “regional solution.” But who could possibly be against housing; especially housing that is “affordable”?  

A full presentation of such tactics authored by developer Patrick Kennedy can be found at: www.fundersnetwork.org/usr_doc/Patrick_Kennedy_Presentation.pdf. 

Note Kennedy’s “seventh commandment” for “infill developers,” which should make all neighborhoods wary of planners’ promises that mega-projects will only happen on Berkeley’s Avenues: “To avoid unnecessary controversy, begin by designating only one or two areas for high-density housing and locate it close to mass transit, in whatever form that may be.” 

PlanBerkeley is involved at many levels in empowering the residents of Berkeley, present and future, in the development process. We support smart growth that is sensitive to the existing neighborhoods we have chosen to live in. We support the implementation of the University Avenue Strategic Plan that calls for three, four, and yes, even two-story buildings along University Avenue.  

Stephen Wollmer 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The article about Livable Berkeley in your July 6 edition was interesting (“Well-Connected Livable Berkeley Pushes Smart Growth,” Daily Planet, July 6-8). I have been very involved in the Planning Commission’s effort to do the zoning overlay for the University Avenue Strategic Plan. The contrast between David Early’s comments about what Livable Berkeley stands for and their involvement in the overlay process is startling. Mr. Early states Livable Berkeley’s concern about open space and the need for more trees and plazas along major streetscapes. Yet their organization has sat on the sidelines as we have struggled to include these in the overlay. 

Mr. Early also states that new developments along the city’s major thoroughfares would provide a much-needed economic stimulus to the city’s ailing retail sector. I hope this will happen. Smart Growth models also recognize the importance of retail around housing. The proposed zoning changes will allow the option of residential only development on over two thirds of the overlay area. In theory, this will work because the UASP also calls for several retail nodes where retail will be concentrated. Unfortunately, the current development model, with three or four stories of residential over one floor for residential parking and retail will not produce the quality and quantity of retail needed and will produce zero customer parking. We will lose retail in the non-nodes as current retail gets redeveloped into residential only projects. In the “retail nodes” we will see, in some cases, large retail replaced by smaller retail spaces. Yet last week at a Planning Commission sub committee meeting, Todd Harvey and Jim Orjala, both members of the Livable Berkeley Board of Directors, argued that the pitifully low amount of required retail in the retail nodes was still too much. 

A year or so ago my wife and I joined Livable Berkeley because we are concerned about the planet and because we believe that infill can produce a dense and dynamic urbanism that we want to be a part of. Sadly, I have come to the conclusion if this organization prevails it will not be very Livable. 

Richard Graham  

Contributor, PlanBerkeley.org

Octogenarian Activist Makes Birthday Jump As Political Statement

Friday July 09, 2004

Parachuting out of an airplane isn’t usually considered a political statement. Not unless you’re Berkeley resident Ken Norwood and you try to make it one. 

A World War II veteran, a well-known architect/planner, and a longtime Berkeley activist, Norwood used the jump this Thursday to celebrate his 80th birthday and to mock George Bush, Sr., who did the same thing to celebrate his birthday just a couple weeks back. 

Norwood also used the jump to promote his new memoir, which chronicles a life dedicated to creating social change and equity.  

A frequent contributor to the commentary pages of the Berkeley Daily Planet, Norwood says his memoir has a special meaning since the attacks of 9/11, and he’s doing everything he can to get it into the public eye. For four years he’s been working hard on the book, and what better way to promote it and hopefully secure a publisher, he thought, than to jump out of an airplane. 

He has rushed to finish the book, Norwood said, since the World Trade Center towers and Pentagon walls came crumbling down in 2001, because he believes his memoir will help people understand the true meaning behind war and revenge. It is something Norwood has been privy too as a veteran, but something he thinks that not many others understood until recently.  

The parachute jump also had extra meaning because it’s also about the same place where the book starts: bailing out of an airplane.  

In 1944, Norwood was forced to jump out of a burning B-24 bomber over occupied Belgium after his plane was hit by enemy fire. He doesn’t remember the jump, however, and was only able to piece the story together from others who jumped with him while they were recovering in a Nazi POW hospital in Brussels.  

The whole experience was the start of a revelation of sorts for Norwood, who, while recovering in the hospital, started hearing stories from incoming POWs about the havoc and destruction created by allied forces. A bomber himself, Norwood said his illusions of war started to melt away and were eventually solidly destroyed when American bombers began dropping bombs on civilian areas near the hospital. With the war almost over, Norwood said the bombings were part of a campaign to create unnecessary revenge and violence. 

As he left the camp by rail, Norwood said he peered through cracks in the train cars and watched families pull bodies from the rubble and push wheelbarrows full of dead children. On the boat ride home, down in the hull of the SS Ayecock while it traversed the Atlantic for a month, he said he also came upon a dispute between two soldiers, one from Detroit and the other from Texas. The two were arguing about the war, with the man from Detroit, a former union organizer, warning the soldier about the American corporations such as Ford and General Motors that profited from the war by helping the Nazis. It was the alliance that President Dwight Eisenhower later famously labeled the “military-industrial complex.” Unimpressed by the argument, the soldier from Texas retaliated by calling the Detroit soldier a commie. 

These two memories, said Norwood, stuck with him and helped change him permanently.  

“All of those knee-jerk patriotic terminologies [such as valor, loyalty] were the ones that were important to us in WWII,” he said, “but by the end of the war I began to see flaw in this whole issue of valor and honor. The Air Force bombing German cities unmercifully in the last several months of the war when the war was virtually through, when there was no opposition….. I could not communicate, I got to such revelations and such momentous re-awakenings that it took quite a while before I began to meet people and sought out people who had some similar realizations.” He said he felt alienated from a world that tried to immediately romanticize the war. 

What Norwood eventually figured out was that the only way he could cope with his transformation was to try to right as many wrongs of the recent war as he could. He enrolled in architecture school, graduated and began working for progressive architecture firms in L.A. But even that wasn’t enough. 

“I came to the realization that in private business it’s very hard to do good work. Competitive pressure requires you to cater to businesses that don’t care [such as] builders and developers who only want the bottom line,” he said. 

So Norwood changed his focus and started working on sustainable development projects. That eventually led him to Berkeley and several cooperative housing projects. For years he lived in and designed similar co-ops and eventually opened a non-profit dedicated to designing them. 

Then came George W. Bush.  

“When the Bush administration came along I could see the handwriting on the wall,” said Norwood. “To me it was obvious and to a lot of other people it was obvious, people like Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky. We had an inkling these weren’t government people, these were corporate industrial tycoons.” 

It was an immediate flashback to the conversation in the hull of the SS Ayecock. For Norwood, it was the military industrial complex in full form.  

“That is what fuels the military industrial complex, corporate tycoons who have no cultural political experience,” said Norwood. “[Their experience] is a bottom line experience so they don’t have really deep foreign policy know-how.” 

Then came 9/11 and the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Norwood had immediate proof of what he had been claiming all along. 

Norwood knew his work would help people understand the whole scenario, from Bush to 9/11, to Iraq. More people were beginning to grasp the idea of the military industrial complex and he wanted to make sure his book helped them firmly solidify their understanding.  

At 14 chapters, the book is still in the works but soon to be completed. Last Tuesday, he said, he was in a bookstore, perusing the WWII section and realizing again why an ] account of the war is now more important than ever. 

Regardless of what happens, said Norwood, he was thrilled to have been able to take the jump. And most important, he felt especially proud that he was able to keep Bush the elder “from getting one up on me.”  

‘Showdown’ Unfolds at Cedar Rose Park

Friday July 09, 2004

The venerable San Francisco Mime Troupe brings its newest offering to Berkeley this weekend, with two free performances of its (George W.) Bush League Spaghetti Western, Showdown at Crawford Gulch. 

The performances at Cedar Rose Park, 1330 Rose St., begin with live music at 1:30 both afternoons, with the main Showdown starting at 2 o’clock. 

Mime Troupe performer and playwright Michael T. Sullivan says “Showdown at Crawford Gulch takes a look at the not-too-distant past to see how xenophobia, greed and images of bloodthirsty terror were used to ‘tame’ another desert land—and how those tools are just as powerful today.” 

Set in 1886, the drama unfolds in the mythical Crawford Gulch, Texas, in a county where only the town and the nearby domain of the Comanche lie outside the grasp of Eastern robber baron Cyrus T. Bogspavin. 

Armed with an agenda of his own, Bogspavin whips the townsfolk into a frenzy of fear, evoking images of bloodthirsty savages armed with AMD (Arrows of Mass Destruction). 

“What in tarnation could it be about this out-of-the-way piece of land that caught the eye of a wealthy man like Bogspavin?” muses Sullivan. “What could be on it? Or is it something under it?” 

For security, the fearful townsfolk turn to Mayor Canem, a man who came to office through a dubious election. But all doubts vanish in fear of the Comanche, and the fight which the Mayor and his heroic Sheriff vow to lead, helped in part by their Home Range Security program. 

But still, some of the townsfolk are wondering if they’re being given a little too much security—and thereby hangs a tale. 

Accompanying Sullivan’s scripts are the troupe’s trademark vocals, featuring tunes by musical director Jason Sherbundy and lyrics by Bruce Barthol. 

Directed by Keiki Shimosato, the show stars Velina Brown, Michael Carreiro, Amos Glick, Ed Holmes, Lisa Hori-Garcia, and Victor Toman. 

The Mime Troupe plans two more Showdown weekends in Berkeley: Aug. 14 and 15 at Live Oak Park and Aug. 28 and 29 at Willard Park, though the troupe also refers to Willard by the name it bore a few decades back, Ho Chi Minh Park. 

The San Francisco Mime Troupe and its sharp-edged satires have been a staple of the Bay Area since the group’s inception 45 years ago. 

Banned in 1963 from performing in San Francisco parks, founder R.G. Davis pressed ahead, earning himself both an arrest and the backing of the American Civil Liberties Union. 

A victory in the courts led to an unbroken four-decade tradition of free public performances. 

In 1970, the troupe became an artist-run collective and began premiering at least one new and wholly original offering every year. 

Along the way they have been honored with Obies, starting with a 1968 award for “uniting theater and grooving in the parks,” a Tony for excellence in regional theater, and numerous local honors. 

While Showdown premiered last weekend in San Francisco’s Dolores Park and will play in parks throughout the Bay Area, the troupe will tour throughout Central and Northern California, wrapping up with a final performance at the Progressives Fair in Petaluma’s Walnut Park on Sept. 26. 

Their wide-ranging travels have been funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, the City of San Francisco Grants for the Arts, by the Zellerbach Family Fund, the San Francisco Foundation, and the James Irvine, Bernard Osher, William and Flora Hewitt and W.A. Gerbode foundations. 

For more information, see the Mime Troupe’s website at www.sfmt.org.

Heed the Call of the Wild at Jack London Park

By MARTA YAMAMOTO Special to the Planet
Friday July 09, 2004

“All I wanted was a quiet place in the country to write and loaf in and get out of nature that something we all need, only most of us don’t know it.”  


Spoken by Jack London over 100 years ago, this still rings true today. Take a day to explore the life of this complex icon of popular adventure novels, and retrace his steps through groves of madrone, oak and redwoods, nestled below the Sonoma Mountains, in the Valley of the Moon. 

The 800 acres of Jack London State Historic Park are a tribute to the man and what he loved. A melodrama in nature combining a collection of memorabilia, the ruins of a grand mansion, the cottage where he wrote many of his later novels, his innovative farm, a hilltop lake, and the grave where he lies—all in a magnificent natural setting seemingly untouched by time. Over 10 miles of beautiful nature trails along creeks, fern grottos, and meadows of wildflowers and native grasses. Many scenic picnic areas, visitor friendly benches, and accessible pathways ensure that a day spent here will transport you back to when time moved more slowly. 

When you arrive, purchase the $1 park brochure. Inside you’ll find a map of the entire park as well as a self guided Beauty Ranch Trail Map. Park at the upper parking lot to begin your tour. 

A short, paved path beneath a canopy of oaks with lichen clad branches leads you to the House of Happy Walls, built by Charmian London to commemorate her husband’s life and work. Within this large craftsman-style lodge with Spanish roof tiles and field stone walls you’ll find a myriad collection: first editions and original illustrations from London’s books, his desk and typewriter, artifacts from the Londons’ sailing expeditions to the South Pacific, Hawaii and Australia, his collection of photographs, and varied exhibits illustrating his life and beliefs. All this will help put you in London’s shoes as you continue your day. 

From the museum, another trail will lead you to London’s gravesite and the infamous Wolf House. Past a mixed forest of Douglas fir and California buckeye, whose long blossom clusters scent the air, listening to the rustle of leaves and the call of the jays, it isn’t hard to imagine how these peaceful surroundings soothed the soul of this man of extremes. 

Set among towering redwoods are the remains of the 15,000 square-foot mansion designed by London. Its grandeur is still evident in the massive stone walls with openings for windows and doors and tall chimneys, all that remain. 26 rooms, nine fireplaces and a dining room to seat 50, a home fit for a king. Built from bark-covered redwood logs, volcanic rock and concrete, this dream house mysteriously burned to the ground days before the Londons were to move in. “My house will be standing, act of God permitting, for a 1,000 years.” Though London vowed to rebuild, he never did; three years later, at the age of 40, he was dead. 

Wolf House represents not only the tragedy of a magnificent creation destroyed, but also of a life ended too soon. Retracing your steps a short distance, you come to London’s simple grave on a lovely hillside, shaded by trees and simply marked by a large boulder. 

“I have no countryside home, I am a farmer.” Re-park your car at the upper parking lot to walk around Beauty Ranch where you will see evidence of London’s methods of scientific agriculture, experimental ranching and conservation. From here you’ll be set for a visit to the hilltop lake and an afternoon picnic. 

The Beauty Ranch Trail, described in the park brochure, is a half-mile loop through the center of 1,400 acres of London’s property. Here, from 1905 to 1916, London planted fruit and grain and raised horses, cattle and pigs. His cottage, open for tours on weekend afternoons, sits surrounded by vineyards, with a backdrop of the Sonoma Mountains. Your walk takes you past the Sherry and Stallion Barns, where English Shire horses were raised, and the innovative Pig Palace, designed and built by London in 1915. Seventeen individual courtyard stalls surround an energy saving central feed house, below oaks and madrones. A concrete pig heaven. 

Another short, but more strenuous trail, leads you just over half a mile to the least visited, but not to be missed, spot. Past sepia colored waves of grass contrasting with the greens of oaks and grape leaves, huge blackberry bushes heavy with fruit, redwoods towering above the sun dappled trail, pine needles and bay leaves underfoot, you soon emerge at London’s lakeside retreat. Formed by a stone dam, today home to black bass, reeds, damselflies, and visiting birdlife, it’s a lovely spot to watch the wind on the water and listen for the sound of hoof-beats that brought the Londons’ guests up to the lake and redwood bath- house to swim, fish, and enjoy a barbecue. 

Reserve time for your own repast at the Beauty Ranch picnic area where numerous tables and barbecue pits are available in the shade of oaks and eucalyptus trees. 

“I liked those hills up there. They were beautiful, as you see, and I wanted beauty.” The beauty remains. Spend a day at Jack London State Historic Park and discover it for yourself. 

Berkeley This Week

Friday July 09, 2004


“So How’d You Become an Activist?” with Dave Lippman, aka George Shrub, the singing CIA agent, and Kiilu Nyasha, Black Panther veteran, at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, 1924 Cedar St., at Bonita. Suggested donation $5. 528-5403. 

Berkeley Critical Mass Bike Ride meets at the Berkeley BART the second Friday of every month at 5:30 p.m. 

Berkeley Chess Club meets Fridays at 7:15 p.m. at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave. Players at all levels are welcome. 652-5324. 

Women in Black Vigil, from noon to 1 p.m. at UC Berkeley, Bancroft at Telegraph. wibberkeley@yahoo.com 548-6310, 845-1143. 

Meditation, Peace Vigil and Dialogue, gather at noon on the grass close to the West Entrance to UC Berkeley, on Oxford St. near University Ave. People of all traditions are welcome to join us. Sponsored by the Buddhist Peace Fellowship. 655-6169. www.bpf.org 

Overeaters Anonymous meets every Friday at 1:30 p.m. at the Northbrae Church at Solano and The Alameda. Parking is free and is handicapped accessible. For information call Katherine, 525-5231. 


World Food Festival: Cuisine of India Cooking demonstration by Kasuma Sheth of Shakti Foods, at 11 a.m. A presentation on the Greening of Ethnic Restaurants project at 11:30 a.m. at the Saturday Berkeley Farmers’ Market, Center St. at MLK, Jr. Way. 548-3333.  

San Francisco Mime Troupe “Showdown at Crawford Gulch” at 2 p.m. at Cedar Rose Park, 1300 Rose St. Also on Sun. at 2 p.m. www.sfmt.org 

Walking Tour of Old Oakland “New Era/New Politics” highlights African-American leaders who have made their mark on Oakland. Meet at 10 a.m. at the African American Museum and Library at 659 14th St. 238-3234. www.oaklandnet.com/ 


Oakland Heritage Alliance Walking Tour of Oakland’s Walkways and Streetcar Heritage from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tour is limited to 20 persons. Cost is $5 for OHA members, $10 for nonmembers. For reservations call 763-9218. www.oaklandheritage.org 

Shotgun Players Annual Silent Auction and Supperganza, from 7 to 10:30 p.m. at The Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. at the corner of MLK. Tickets are sliding scale $12-$112. www.shotgunplayers.org 

Gardening for Wildlife Attract birds, butterflies and beneficial insects. Learn to diversify your garden by including California native plants that provide food, shelter, and nesting places for wildlife. Follow-up meeting with landscape designers on July 31. From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Malcolm X Elementary School, 1731 Prince St. Free. 444-7645.  


“Liquid Gold: How to Use Urine to Grow Plants (Safely!)” a talk and workshop at 10:30 a.m. at 1120 Bancroft Way, near San Pablo Ave. $15 donation, proceeds help fund City Slicker Farm’s urban farming demonstration programs. Registration required.  


Snakes Alive Come learn about our fascinating snakes, touch their scales, and learn to recognize the only poisonous snake in the park, from 2 to 4 p.m. at Tilden Nature Area, Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

Butterflies in the Garden Learn how to attract these beautiful creatures into your yard by providing the caterpillars with food plants and the adult butterflies with nectar plants, at 10 a.m. at Magic Gardens Nursery, 729 Heinz Ave. 644-2351. www.magicgardens.com 

A Cool Evening Hike Meet the mosquitoes, bats and woodrats; we’ll be in the dark together listening to wildlife, at 7 p.m. at Tilden Nature Area, in Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

All Together for Chiapas Benefit for Emergency Relief An evening of video, dance, spoken word and music from 7:30 p.m. to midnight at the Capoeira Angola Center, 2513 Magnolia St., West Oakland. Donation $7-$15, sliding scale, all proceeds to emergency relief. Sponsored by the Chiapas Support Committee. 654-9587. 

Campaign Finance Reform with Berkeley Fair Elections Coalition and Adona Foyle of Democracy Matters at 8 p.m. at Studio Rasa, 933 Parker St. 693-5779. 

Get Ready for the Breast Cancer 3-Day Learn about what gear is essential, packing and hydration at 10 a.m., with an optional training walk at 11 a.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. 527-4140. 

Lavender Seniors of the East Bay, a group for gays, lesbians, bi-sexuals and transgenders over the age of 55, holds their monthly potluck at noon at San Leandro Community Church, 1395 Bancroft Ave., San Leandro. 667-9655. 

Yoga for Seniors at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant St., from 10 to 11 a.m. The class is taught by Rosie Linsky, who at age 72, has practiced yoga for over 40 years. Open to non-members of the club for $8 per class. For further information and to register, call Karen Ray at 848-7800. 


Bay to Barkers Dog Walk from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Cesar Chavez Park, Berkeley Marina. Fundraiser for East Bay Humane Society. 845-7735. 

Women of Africa Resource Center for African Immigrant Women and Children will host a Family and Friends Bar-B-Queand Picnic from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Berkeley Marina near the children’s Adventure Playground. www.WAFRICA.org 

Green Sunday, a report back from the Green Party’s National Presidential Convention, at 5 p.m. at Niebyl-Proctor Library, 6501 Telegraph Ave. at 65th in North Oakland. 

“Iraq: The Untold Story” A panel discussion with Clarence Thomas, Central Labor Council fo Alameda County, Barbara Lubin, founder of Middle East Children’s Alliance, and Emanuel Ashoo, Iraqi-American, all who have recently returned from visits to Iraq, at 2:30 p.m. at St. John the Baptist Community Center, 6500 Gladys Ave., El Cerrito.  

“Significant Roles of the United Nations” with Rita Maran of the United Nations Association, at 9:30 a.m. at Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Road, Kensington. 525-0302.  

2004 Socialist Organizing Conference, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Park Plaza Hotel, 150 Hegenberger Rd., Oakland. Sessions on anti-militarism and domestic alternatives, civil rights and civil liberties, and key-note speaker Fraouk Abdel-Muhti. Registration is $5 and up. www.sp-usa.org/orgconf/ 

Oakland Heritage Alliance Walking Tour of Mountain View Cemetary from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Meet at Chapel of the Chimes, 4499 Piedmont Ave. Tour is limited to 20 persons. Cost is $5 for OHA members, $10 for nonmembers. For reservations call 763-9218. www.oaklandheritage.org 

Butterfly Habitat Learn the plants and butterflies and take plants home for your own habitat. From 10 to 11:30 a.m. in Tilden Nature Area, in Tilden Park. To register call 525-2233. 

The Nature of Chocolate and Coffee Learn about the wonderful things that grow on trees and how they relate to songbirds. From 2 to 4 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. Cost is $8 for residents, $10 non-residents. Registration required. 525-2233. 

Hands On Bike Maintenance Class from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. Fee is $85-$100, advance registration required. 527-4140. 

Introduction to Drip and Sprinkler Irrigation A survey of innovative irrigation solutions that save water and money. A full range of irrigation products will be explained. The class will serve as an introduction to both sprinklers and drip systems. At 11 a.m. at Urban Farmer Store, 2121C San Joaqin St., half mile from Central Ave, Richmond. For reservations call 524-1604. 

Golden State Model Railroad Museum open from noon to 5 p.m. Also open on Saturdays and Friday evenings from 7 to 10 p.m. Located in the Miller-Knox Regional Shoreline Park at 900-A Dornan Drive in Pt. Richmond. Admission is $2-$3. 234-4884 or www.gsmrm.org 

Tibetan Buddhism with Erika Rosenberg on “Eastern Wisdom Meets Western Science” at 6 p.m. at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. 843-6812.  



Women’s Cancer Resource Center, volunteer training, every second Monday of the month, from 6 to 8 p.m. at 5741 Telegraph Ave. To sign up call 601-4040, ext. 109. www.wcrc.org 

Berkeley Community Gardening Collaborative meets at 6 p.m. at Berkeley Youth Alternatives, 1255 Allston Way. 883-9096. 

Great Popular Fiction Bookgroup meets to discuss “The Rule of Four” by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason at 7 p.m. at Barnes and Noble, 2352 Shattuck Ave. 644-0861. 

Fitness for 55+ A total body workout including aerobics, stretching and strengthening at 1:15 p.m. at the South Berkeley Senior Center. 981-5170. 

Berkeley CopWatch organizational meeting at 8 p.m. at 2022 Blake St. Join us to work on current issues around police misconduct. 548-0425. 


Mini-Rangers An afternoon of nature study for ages 8 to 12. Dress to get dirty, bring a healthy snack to share. At Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. Fee is $6 for residents, $8 for non-residents. Registration required. 525-2233. 

Family Camping 101 An overview of all the ways to make family camping enjoyable at 7 p.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. 527-4140. 

Preparing for Your Remodeling Project A two evening class to demystify the design and construction process. Offered by Imagine General Contractors, Inc. July 13 and 20 at 6:30 p.m. at the Albany Community Center, 1249 Marin Ave. Cost is $57-$67. To register call 524-9283. 

Organic Produce at low prices sold at the corner of Sacramento and Oregon Sts from 3 to 7 p.m. This is a project of Spiral Gardens. 843-1307. 

Writer’s Workshop on Book Marketing with David Cole at 7:30 p.m. at Barnes and Noble. 644-0861. 

Phone Banking to ReDefeat Bush on Tuesdays from 6 to 9 p.m. at Cafe de la Paz, 1600 Shattuck Ave. Bring your cell phones. Please RSVP if you can join us. 415-336 8736. dan@redefeatbush.com 

“The Cycle, the Rhythm and the Fabric of the Jewish Calendar” at 7:30 p.m. at the Berkeley Richmond Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. Cost is $12-$15. To register call 848-0237, ext. 112. 

St. John’s Prime Timers meets at 9:30 a.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. Blood pressure checks at 10:30 a.m. We offer ongoing classes in exercise and creative arts, and always welcome new members over 50. 845-6830. 

Berkeley Camera Club meets at 7:30 p.m., at the Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. Share your slides and prints and learn what other photographers are doing. 548-3991. www.berkeleycameraclub.org 

Tuesday Tilden Walkers We are a few slowpoke seniors who walk between a mile or two each Tuesday, meeting at 9:30 a.m. in the Little Farm parking lot. To join us, call 215-7672.  

East Bay Repetitive Strain Injury Support Group will meet at 7 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center. The speaker this month is psychologist Jim Jacobs. He will discuss mental exercises for well-being and dealing with chronic pain.  


Bastille Day Celebration, with a film showing of the 1955 “Rendevous at the Docks,” music by Moh Alileche and others, at 7 p.m. at La Peña, 3105 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $7. www.laborfest.net 

“Storm from the Mountains” a film documenting the March of Indigenous Dignity in 2001 from Chiapas to Mexico City, at 7:30 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St. in downtown Oakland. 654-9587. 

Twilight Tour: Conifers in our Collection Meet the most illustrious members of the conifer group, which includes the largest and longest-lived of organisms on our planet today. From 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Drive. Cost is $12-$17. To register call 643-2755. http://botanicalgarden. 


Best Backpacking Trips in northern California, a slide show with Ari Derfel, at 7 p.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. 527-4140. 

Walk Berkeley for Seniors meets every Wednesday, rain or shine, at 9:30 a.m. at the Sea Breeze market, just west of the I-80 overpass. Everyone is welcome, wear comfortable shoes, sunscreen and a hat. 548-9840. 

Walking Tour of Old Oakland uptown to the Lake to discover Art Deco landmarks. Meet at 10 a.m. in front of the Paramount Theater at 2025 Broadway. Tour lasts 90 minutes. Reservations can be made by calling 238-3234. 

Poetry Writing Workshop with Alison Seevak at the Albany Public Library at 7 p.m. at the Albany Public Library, 1247 Marin Ave. 526-3720, ext. 20. 

Berkeley Peace Walk and Vigil at the Berkeley BART Station, corner of Shattuck and Center. Vigil at 6:30 p.m. Peace Walk at 7 p.m. www.geocities.com/ 


Fun with Acting Class every Wednesday at 11 a.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center. Free, all are welcome, no experience necessary. 

Berkeley CopWatch open office hours 7 to 9 p.m. Drop in to file complaints, assistance available. For information call 548-0425. 

Free Feldenkrais ATM Classes for adults 55 and older at 10:30 and 11:45 a.m. at the Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut at Rose. For information call 848-0237.  


Twilight Tour: Trees of the Garden From 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Drive. Cost is $12-$17. To register call 643-2755. http://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu 

LeConte Neighborhood Association meets at 7:30 in the Cafeteria at the LeConte School, Ellsworth at Russell. Use Russell St. entrance. 843-2602. www.neighborhoodlink.com 

Speak Out For Education and Immigrants’ Rights at 6 p.m. at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Ascension, 4700 Lincoln Ave, Oakland. Sponsored by the Oakland Coalition of Congregations. 625-9490. 

Lavender Seniors of the East Bay, a group for gays, lesbians, bi-sexuals and transgenders over the age of 55, catered lunch at 12:30 p.m. at Lakeside Park Garden Center, 666 Bellevue, Oakland. 667-9655. 

Breath and Transformation at 7 p.m. at Belladonna, 2436 Sacramento St. Cost is $25-$30. 883-0600. www.belladonna.ws 


Berkeley Youth Alternative Boys Basketball Tournament will be held from July 21 through Aug. 8 at Emery High School in Emeryville. Divisions are 17 and under, 15 and under, and 12 and under. Entry fee is $200 per team with a three game guarantee. For more information call 845-9066. sports@byaonline.org 

Free Summer Lunch Programs are offered to youth age 18 and under at various sites in Berkeley, including James Kenny Rec. Center, Frances Albrier Center, Strawberry Creek, Longfellow School, MLK Youth Services Center, Rosa Parks School and Washington School, Mon. - Fri. 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. until Aug. 20. Sponsored by the City of Berkeley Health Dept. For location information call 1-800-870-3663. 

Radio Summer Camp, four day sessions from June 4 through Sept. 6. Learn how to build and operate a community radio station. Sponsored by Radio Free Berkeley. 625-0314. www.freeradio.org  


Council Agenda Committee meets Mon., July 12, at 2:30 p.m., at 2180 Milvia St., Sherry M. Kelly, city clerk, 981-6900. www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/citycouncil/agenda-committee 

Landmarks Preservation Commission meets Mon. July 12, at 7:30 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. Gisele Sorensen, 981-7419. www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/commissions/landmarks 

Peace and Justice Commission meets Mon., July 12, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. Manuel Hector, 981-5510. www.ci.berkeley. 


Public Housing Resident Advisory Board meets Mon., July 12, at 4 p.m. at Berkeley Housing Authority, 1901 Fairview St. Angellique DeCoud. 981-5475. www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ 


City Council meets Tues., July 13, at 7 p.m in City Council Chambers, Sherry M. Kelly, city clerk, 981-6900. www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/citycouncil 

Commission on Disability meets Wed., July 14, at 6:30 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center. Paul Church, 981-6342. www.ci.berkeley. 


Four by Four Joint Task Force on Housing Members of City Council and the Rent Board meet Mon. June 14, at 5:30 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center. Stephen Barton, 981-5400. www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ 


Homeless Commission meets Wed., July 14, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. Jane Micallef, 981-5426. www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/commissions/homeless 

Library Board of Trustees meets Wed., July 14, at 7 p.m. at 1901 Russell St. Jackie Y. Griffin, 981-6195. www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/commissions/library 

Planning Commission meets Wed., July 14, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. Ruth Grimes, 981-7481. www.ci.berkeley. ca.us/commissions/planning 

Police Review Commission meets Wed. July 14, at 7:30 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center, Barbara Attard, 981-4950. www.ci.berkeley. 


Waterfront Commission meets Wed., July 14, at 7 p.m., at 201 University Ave. Cliff Marchetti. 644-6376 ext. 224. www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/commissions/waterfront 

Design Review Committee meets Thurs., July 15, at 7:30 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. Anne Burns, 981-7415. www.ci.berkeley. 


Fair Campaign Practices Commission meets Thurs., July 15, at 7:30 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. Prasanna Rasaih, 981-6950. www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/commissions/faircampaign 

Transportation Commission meets Thurs., July 15, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. Peter Hillier, 981-7000. www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/commissions/transportation?



Editorial: California Should Adopt A Fire-Safe Cigarette Law Like New York State’s

Becky O’Malley
Tuesday July 13, 2004

Last week a Berkeley woman died in a fire which started in her bedroom. Neighbors said she was a cigarette smoker. Fire Marshal David Orth has not yet definitively reported on what caused the fire, but he thinks a dropped cigarette was the most probable cause. Statistically speaking, there’s a very good chance it was the cigarette, because many, many fires are started by dropped cigarettes.  

Exactly 25 years ago this month, Mother Jones magazine published an article which I wrote, “Cigarettes and Sofas,” documenting the relationship between cigarettes and fires. It reported on “self-extinguishing” cigarettes, designed to go out if not actively puffed on by the smoker, and on how the tobacco industry had successfully suppressed information about them.  

The article was based on preliminary research by Andrew McGuire of San Francisco’s Trauma Foundation, and my own research was funded by $3,500 from the Oakland Firefighter’s Union, spearheaded by the enthusiasm of member Ray Gatchalian (who died too young in an auto accident last year.) At the time it was published, it got a lot of attention, leading to several television adaptations and receiving an award from Project Censored, which at the time (and perhaps still) spotlighted stories which were ignored by the mainstream press. It was reprinted from time to time over the years—Mother Jones offered me a $12 royalty check for reprints not too long ago. There were lawsuits by victims of cigarette fires, and bills in Congress and in state legislatures to require cigarettes to be self-extinguishing. As long as big tobacco was powerful and well-funded, nothing happened. 

It took more than 25 years and a lot of work by a lot of people to begin to solve this relatively straightforward safety problem. That’s somewhat of a cautionary tale for those who believe in the power of the press. Just finding out the truth is not enough, as Andrew McGuire, who first pulled the statistics together, can tell you. Without the sponsorship of the firefighters, Andrew’s research might never have seen the light of day in print. Even after the facts were before the public, both in print and on television, it took court cases and lobbying legislatures to get anything accomplished.  

Just this June, 25 years later, with the tobacco industry now on the defensive, New York’s state law mandating fire-safe cigarettes finally came on line. It’s about time. New York has a big percentage of the smoking market, so this law will save many lives. Canada’s Parliament also passed such a law in April of this year. California should be next. With both California and New York on the books, it’s likely the American tobacco industry would find it practical to give in and make all cigarettes sold nationwide self-extinguishing. Sponsoring such a bill would be a good project for Berkeley Assemblywoman Loni Hancock or for Oakland’s peppy Wilma Chan. 

And all you Berkeley puritans, don’t write in and say self-righteously that smokers get what they deserve, that they should just stop smoking. Of course that’s true, but cigarette fires also claim many innocent victims along with smokers. If you’re able to get a bill passed banning smoking altogether, that might work to stop cigarette fires, but based on the length of time it’s taken to get the first fire-safe cigarette bill passed, don’t hold your breath. 

—Becky O’Malley  








Editorial: Two and a Half Cheers for the Rule of Law

Becky O’Malley
Friday July 09, 2004

No phrase is more firmly enshrined in democratic iconography than “the rule of law.” The concept is frequently invoked both to criticize and to justify government actions. In the United States, respect for the rule of law has deep roots. In the Anglo-American legal tradition, it goes all the way back to 1215, to the Magna Carta. The Declaration of Independence, whose birthday we just finished celebrating, is all about law and the lack of respect signers thought the English crown was showing for it in 1776. 

There’s even a website named for it: the-rule-of-law.com. Unfortunately, most of the material on the site, created by professors at Stanford’s law school, is counter-examples, cases where the rule of law has not been followed. There’s a passionate warning against the invasion of Iraq signed by law professors around the country and a scathing denunciation of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bush v. Gore. Both were ignored. In the past few years, the rule of law has taken a bad beating. 

Recently, however, there have been a few bright spots on the legal horizon. Against all odds and defying many predictions, the unfortunately politicized U.S. Supreme Court has finally found something up with which it will not put. Even for fundamentally undemocratic justices like Antonin Scalia (who recently made news by summarily confiscating a journalist’s tape of one of his speeches) the idea of habeas corpus still resonates. This principle, enacted in England soon after the Magna Carta, says that prisoners cannot languish in jail without charges, but must be brought before the court to determine if there’s any reason they’re being held. Eight of the nine justices, in a group of somewhat murky decisions, upheld the concept. (Only Clarence Thomas still doesn’t get it.) The court clearly said that the Bush administration’s contention that prisoners with alleged terrorism connections could be held indefinitely goes too far. How much too far is still to be determined. 

Another faint bright spot on the rule-of-law horizon appeared in Israel. Israel is the beneficiary of an even lengthier tradition of adherence to law, going back much further than the Magna Carta. There, the Supreme Court also came out against the notion that anything goes, saying that building a “security” fence in the occupied territories between Israelis and Palestinians was okay in principle, but in detail must have a genuine demonstrable connection to security. Friends of Israel who are not afraid of occasional constructive criticism have been much heartened by this decision. 

Liberal commentators have also pointed to whatever is going on to investigate the Abu Ghraib torturers as somewhat of a bright spot. Here, the jury is still out. We’ll have to wait and see if the officers and Defense Department officials are allotted their share of blame, or if enlisted personnel take most of the hit. The televised arraignment of Saddam Hussein in what seemed to be a conventional courtroom setting in Iraq was praised in some quarters, though an Arabic-speaking Berkeley commentator who watched the proceedings on television told us that the judge sounded like a scared kid, deferential and unsure. The fact that the U.S. conquerors have not asked for a prestigious international tribunal like the Nuremburg trials is not a plus for the rule of law. 

A sidebar to a discussion of the rule of law might be entitled The Rules for Lawyers. A petition condemning the use of torture by the U.S. in Iraq has been signed by many well-respected law school professors, including Harvard’s Larry Tribe and Alan Dershowitz, who don’t always agree on such questions. Many of them were already on record criticizing the shoddy legal work represented by the memo which the Justice Department produced to justify the practice.  

Students at UC’s Boalt Hall School of Law have called for the ouster of Boalt professor John Yoo, one of the authors of the questionable memo, as well as of another justifying the treatment of Guatanamo prisoners which was rejected by the Supreme Court. His role in those cases, when he was working for Ashworth’s Justice Department, has been defended by some under the hired gun theory of legal representation: those who hire the lawyers get to call the shots. This theory is often invoked by criminal defense lawyers who defend rapists or mob figures. Few would deny that all defendants, no matter how vile, are entitled to some sort of representation.  

But when the criminal element is the U.S. government, and when the defense attorney is subsequently hired to teach law students the tricks of his trade, there seems to be something wrong somewhere. Academic freedom is of course very important, but when a law school hires a teacher who does not seem to have fundamental respect for the rule of law, it appears that a mistake has been made. As consumers of legal education, the students have a right to question what their tuition dollars are buying. On the other hand, very similar arguments were used to justify attacks on professors suspected of being “Communist sympathizers,” on the theory that Soviet communism did not respect the rule of law. Even those who have called for Yoo to be fired will probably agree that witch hunts like those were bad policy.  

The line for lawyers should probably be drawn somewhere between ethics and sophistry. The ethical considerations embodied in the concept of the rule of law suggest that government decisions should be consistent and based on established laws and legal principles. Lawyers, and those who teach lawyers, should believe in the rule of law. 

Sophistry, on the other hand, says that whatever works is good. In a May 30 Wall Street Journal op-ed, published before the Supreme Court decision on Guantanamo, Yoo said that “The reasons to deny Geneva status to terrorists extend beyond pure legal obligation. The primary enforcer of the laws of war has been reciprocal treatment: We obey the Geneva Conventions because our opponent does the same with American POWs.” Well, yes, but what if he doesn’t? Is the U.S. then free to disregard the law? As California taxpayers, we might be entitled to hope that our future lawyers are being taught that respect for international law “trumps” (in the ugly gamesmanship metaphor that has lately become fashionable) the barter system as a guide for action by our government.  


—Becky O’Malley