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An unlicenced 16-year-old Berkeley High student took his mother’s SUV for a drive without permission Wednesday morning, hit a parked car and tried to flee the scene, but flipped the vehicle over and smashed into the school building. See story, page five.
Mark Coplan
An unlicenced 16-year-old Berkeley High student took his mother’s SUV for a drive without permission Wednesday morning, hit a parked car and tried to flee the scene, but flipped the vehicle over and smashed into the school building. See story, page five.
 

News

Oakland School Disputes with State Show Rocky Road Back to Local Control

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Friday February 29, 2008

Posted Sun., March 2—In December 2007, State Superintendent Jack O'Connell came to Oakland to announce that he was turning over two more areas of control to the state-operated Oakland Unified School District: personnel and facilities management.  

The Planet reported that during his December visit, "O'Connell also announced that once a Memorandum of Understanding is signed between his office and local district officials concerning the power transfer, the OUSD board can begin the selection and hiring of a new school superintendent." 

Three months later, the MOUs have not been signed, the district has not moved forward with the superintendent hiring process, and the OUSD Board President is now throwing cold water on the superintendent hiring plan in the near future. In addition, during O'Connell's visit to Oakland this month to highlight the superintendent's disagreement with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's education budget cuts, local board members and teachers union officials were reportedly left out of the visit planning and not notified until the last minute. 

All of this points out the rocky road Oakland Unified is facing coming back from full state seizure in 2002. 

OUSD Board President David Kakishiba, who appeared eager to move forward with the hiring of a new superintendent when announcing the personnel and facilities management turnovers three months ago, now says he is having second thoughts, and believes that the hiring should take place only after all five areas of authority have been returned by the state to the board, including finances and pupil achievement. 

"I've had second thoughts since then, and I'm concerned with our ability to attract the best candidates to Oakland given the present uncertainties," Kakishiba said. "With only three of the five operational areas under local control, there is quite a bit of unknown territory involved in what is to be controlled by the local district and what is to be controlled by the state. We could easily get mired down in disagreement. I think it's better to wait and have a clean transition." 

Meanwhile, last Friday O'Connell held a press conference at Prescott Elementary in West Oakland, part of a three-city tour that day to denounce Schwarzenegger's budget plans. Calling the education budget cuts a "hostile act," O'Connell said that "This was supposed to be the year of education. I fear this will be the year of education evisceration." 

But the night before, the events surrounding the O'Connell Oakland visit were themselves being denounced. 

In an email sent to OUSD state administrator Vincent Matthews, OUSD board member Greg Hodge, who represents the district in which the O'Connell visit took place, said that he had only been informed about the press conference the night before, adding, "I am writing this note to express my view about the lack of meaningful notice to myself and other OUSD Board members on this important issue. Superintendent O'Connell seems to believe that Oakland schools can serve as a convenient backdrop for press conferences inasmuch as he has used our facilities in the past to make various announcements, most notably, the return of local control in at least 3 content areas, one being public relations. It seems clear from the content of the release that OUSD board members are not invited or included as participants though the event is happening in Oakland. There is a utter lack of respect for our schedules when this type of event is planned. We are not given any real opportunity to participate nor are our constituents - parents, teachers, local union officials and others. I would hope that in the future that the Board would actually be included in authorizing the planning and implementation of significant press events which are held on our school campuses, that we would be included as the hosts and that the State Superintendent would respect the role that, by state law, we are responsible for discharging." 

In his response, Matthews formally apologized, telling Hodge that he was "correct." "You should have received prior notice regarding a press conference being held at a school in your district," Matthews wrote, adding that "we are continually attempting to get better at informing board members of events that are occurring in your districts or incidents that have occurred... However we still make mistakes and this was one." 

In a telephone interview, Kakishiba agreed with Hodge's complaint, saying that "it is completely appropriate to have the board president or board members notified early on to be a participant" in such press events. "Now, more than ever, the Superintendent should be giving the message that he's giving transitioning authority to the local district. This could have been an oversight. Or it could be construed as sending out a different message." 

The Hodge notification oversight was apparently not the only one made during O'Connell's visit, however. Oakland Education Association teacher’ union president Betty Olson-Jones said in a telephone interview that her organization was not informed of the press conference until Thursday night as well. In his email to Matthews, Hodge also noted that "it is peculiar that we have not finalized the Memorandum of Understanding for the return of local authority over personnel and facilities, the substance of the last press conference the State Superintendent had on one of our campuses." 

Kakishiba confirmed that the MOUs were still under negotiation, and he had met with a representative of O'Connell's staff as late as last Wednesday. Kakishiba could give no details on the negotiations themselves or what might be holding up the agreements. A spokesperson in State Superintendent O'Connell's office would only say that the MOUs were "still being negotiated." 

 


Council Postpones Several Items, Approves Blood House Move

By Judith Scherr
Friday February 29, 2008

Posted Sat., March 1—Tuesday’s Berkeley City Council meeting, which was mainly devoted to a discussion of the light brown apple moth, ended in a surprise finale, with an 11:30 p.m. vote to extend the meeting until midnight falling short of the needed two-thirds approval. The council had been meeting since 5 p.m.  

That meant that the Condominium Conversion Ordinance discussion and vote, which 10 or so people had been waiting to discuss until that time, would not take place until the council’s March 11 meeting. Public comment speakers, waiting since 7 p.m. to address the council on items not on the agenda, were also unable to speak to the council. 

The council also delayed discussion on retroactive houseboat billing. 

The appellant did not appear at council to argue against adopting the zoning board decision to allow the move of the Blood House from 2526 Durant Ave. to another location, pending appropriate approvals. 

A five-story building with 44 apartments including seven affordable units is to be constructed on the site. The vote to affirm the zoning board approval was 8-1, with Councilmember Kriss Worthington in opposition. 

Councilmember Gordon Wozniak withdrew an item which would have mandated two votes by the City Council on measures brought to it by the Peace and Justice Commission. In its place, Wozniak is proposing an item that will be on the March 11 agenda, asking that all commissions post not only their agendas, but, when they do, also post on the city’s website, the background information on the items.  

On an item condemning the construction of a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, the council gave a 7-0-2 approval, with councilmembers Laurie Capitelli and Gordon Wozniak abstaining. 


Student Crashes SUV into Berkeley High

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday February 29, 2008
An unlicenced 16-year-old Berkeley High student took his mother’s SUV for a drive without permission Wednesday morning, hit a parked car and tried to flee the scene, but flipped the vehicle over and smashed into the school building. See story, page five.
Mark Coplan
An unlicenced 16-year-old Berkeley High student took his mother’s SUV for a drive without permission Wednesday morning, hit a parked car and tried to flee the scene, but flipped the vehicle over and smashed into the school building. See story, page five.

A 16-year-old Berkeley High School student lost control of a KIA sports utility vehicle around 8 a.m. Wednesday and rammed into a cement planter located alongside the school’s H Building. 

The unlicensed driver was fleeing from a hit and run accident that occurred in the 1700 block of Russell Street, according to Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Sgt. Mary Kusmiss. 

“A woman called to report that a black KIA Sportage had just hit her white Subaru Outback which had been parked in the block,” Kusmiss said. “The SUV was last seen headed eastbound on Russell Street. A moment later we received a report of a car turned over along Berkeley High School on Allston Way. We discovered that the incident was related. Apparently the 16-year-old boy had taken his mother’s car without permission from the 1700 block.” 

The driver injured his hand but was otherwise able to walk away unharmed from the “pretty dramatic collision,” Kusmiss said. 

“He was driving northbound on Martin Luther King Jr. Way and tried to make a quick eastbound turn on Allston Way when he lost control of the KIA. It flipped onto the driver’s side and slid across the sidewalk along the concrete barrier and stopped momentarily.” 

The young man was trapped inside the car until Berkeley police and fire department officials rescued him.  

Traffic on Allston Way was backed up until the car was flipped back and towed away. 

Although school had started at 8:30 a.m., a few students lingered around capturing the image on their cell phones. 

“The car grazed some of the vegetation and scratched the side of the wall, but the retrofitting paid off,” said district spokesperson Mark Coplan. 

Kusmiss said that the boy was taken in for questioning and then released. 

“His mother was understandably very upset,” she said. “He was technically arrested for the hit and run. Our youth services will do the follow up. It’s likely that he will not face any charges with the Juvenile D.A. Since juvenile crime is based on rehabilitation he will either be referred to verbal counseling or to the youth court.”


Allegations Mount Against Willard Administrator

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday February 29, 2008

Since the Planet reported last week that the Berkeley school board is investigating Willard Middle School Vice Principal Margaret Lowry for improper conduct involving two students, several more Willard parents have come forward with complaints against Lowry involving their children, complaints that they say were lodged with the school district months ago and about which they have never heard any resolution. 

Parents of the two Willard special education students in the first reported incident have told the Planet that Lowry gave money to one of them to buy marijuana from the other, in what some district officials said might have been an attempt to set up a sting. Lowry, who has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the investigation, has not been available to be reached for comment on the matter. 

Since those allegations ap-peared in the Planet last week, additional charges have surfaced, detailing other possible abuses by Lowry and shining light on the district’s complaint process, which has left families frustrated by the lack of response, follow-up or resolution for their concerns. Complaints allege that Lowry has repeatedly mistreated students, forced them to write false statements by threatening to expel them and asked them to inform on students to provide her with information. 

 

The complaints 

One mother of a African American student formerly at Willard filed a complaint with the school district last year after she heard that Lowry had allegedly bullied other students into signing false statements that her son was stealing money from other students. 

“Ms. Lowry filed a complaint with the Berkeley Police Department in January 2007 which charged my son with taking money from little girls in school,” the mother said. “She also recommended his expulsion to the school board. I filed a complaint against her to the school district.” 

The charges, according to the mother and other parents involved in the case, were dismissed when students told the judge that they had been forced by Lowry to make false statements against the boy. The mother said she talked to Felton Owens, the district’s director of student support services, and then-superintendent Michele Lawrence, but she never heard back. 

“They all said they would investigate, but my son was expelled based on what Ms. Lowry said,” the mother said. “The kids all went to juvenile court and denied that my son stole money from them. The case was dismissed due to lack of evidence.” 

The student’s mother enrolled him at a private school in Oakland last September. Her lawyer told her not to disclose her name for this story since she was preparing a lawsuit against Lowry. 

Sgt. Jennifer Louis, of the Berkeley police youth services detail, told the Planet that she could not comment on the case since juvenile cases are highly protected. She said that the Berkeley Police Department did not have a way to search for, tabulate or identify juvenile cases referred to the police department from Willard. 

“The vice principal doesn’t expel students, the board does,” said district spokesperson Mark Coplan. “The vice principal might take the first step but the board ultimately makes the final decision. It’s not a simple process. All complaints are investigated thoroughly ... In fact expulsions are kept to a minimum.” 

Cecile Eugene, a mother of an African American student at Willard, supported the allegations by the mother of the accused student. She claimed that her own child was forced to write a false statement in the case. 

Eugene said she filed a complaint with the school district on May 16, 2007, charging Lowry with forcing her 12-year-old daughter to write a statement against the male student on April 7 without her own consent or knowledge. 

“I would have never allowed it,” she told the Planet. “I feel my rights were violated and my child’s rights were also violated. She is a special-needs student.” 

The Planet has obtained a copy of the statement which Eugene alleged Lowry forced her child to write. The statement reads in part, “[the accused student] punched me in the head and said ‘bitch I better have my money tomorrow’.” 

Eugene’s daughter submitted another statement to the school district with her mother’s complaint. This one alleged that Lowry (known then as Margaret Klatt before she married last year) had threatened the girl with expulsion and jail if she did not write the original statement. 

“The statement that Ms. Klatt wanted me to write was false,” her second statement read. “I didn’t even know what I was writing. Ms. Klatt told me to copy the statement that she write herself ... [the accused student] never robbed me.” 

Eugene said that her daughter had read her second statement at a school board hearing for the charges against the student for the alleged theft on May 16, 2007, and at the juvenile court criminal investigation hearing last summer. 

Eugene said that she also never heard back from the district about the outcome of her complaint against Lowry. 

Pastor Tom Bardwell, a former Willard parent, said that he had also filed a complaint with the school district charging Lowry with falsely accusing his son of gun possession and forcing his son to write a false statement stating that he had witnessed the other student stealing money from girls on campus. 

“She found a gun on another student and tried to get my son to say that it was his gun,” Bardwell said. “Then she wrote a letter and told my son that if he didn’t sign it she would suspend him ... We went to juvenile court for [the accused student’s] hearing and the case was dismissed. I went to the board hearing and told the board that Ms. Klatt forced my son to write a letter and that she was doing investigations against kids, which is against the law.” 

Bardwell said that he turned in his first complaint to Willard Principal Robert Ithurburn.  

“It never went to the school district,” he said. “So I turned in another complaint to the school district almost a year ago.” 

Pastor Bardwell said he never heard back from the school district. 

“After all this happened, I told Mr. Ithurburn not to let Ms. Klatt come near my son,” he said. “She left him alone then ... Any black kid she doesn’t like, she was going to do something to hurt him.” 

Pastor Bardwell enrolled his son in Tracy High School after he graduated from Willard last fall. 

Donna Babbitt, parent of a former Willard special education student, told the Planet that she had also filed a complaint with the school district on May 10, 2007, addressing continuous suspensions of her daughter by Lowry (then Klatt) but had never heard back. 

The Planet obtained a copy of the complaint, which states: “An agreement was made by Willard Middle School that [Babbitt’s daughter] would be given the opportunity to cool off and go to a safe place where she can sort out her thoughts and think about her action. Mrs. Klatt was informed of the plan that was made at the Individualized Education Program meeting. Mrs. Klatt continued to suspend my daughter over any and everything.” 

Individualized Education Programs address the needs of special education students in the district. 

“No Child Left Behind Act, what’s that?” Babbitt said in an interview with the Planet. “It appears that my daughter has been left behind ... Ms. Lowry has labeled my child to be a uncontrollable 13-year-old African American female. Her discipline record looks worse than a rap sheet. My daughter had a lot of mental issues that Ms. Lowry was not able to handle. It appears that Ms. Lowry knows nothing about children who have special needs. It appears that she doesn’t give a damn about our children.” 

Babbitt’s daughter’s left Willard in December. Babbitt said the district placed her at the Learning Center in Alameda. 

 

Superintendent responds 

District superintendent Bill Huyett, who took over from Michele Lawrence on Feb. 4, said that the district took all complaints seriously. 

“Since I wasn’t here when these complaints were made, I don’t know too much,” he told the Planet Thursday. “But since these involve personnel matters, we can’t divulge the outcome.” 

A Willard parent who is active in the PTA and asked not to be identified said that he was surprised to hear about the allegations against Lowry. 

“In my experience, she had always seemed supportive and encouraging to all students,” he said. “Given that part of her job involves discipline, she has done it even-handedly.” 

Terry Francke, general counsel for the California First Amendment Coalition and an expert on the California Public Records Act, said that if the school district was indeed withholding information from the families concerning misconduct against their children by an administrator, it would be a violation of their rights. 

“If these complaints check out, not just the parents but everyone has the right to know what happened,” he told the Planet. 

But Francke said that the school district was not legally required to get back to the parents about the outcome of the investigation if a disciplinary action was not taken against a public employee. 

“As a matter of decency, I think, yes,” he said. “But I'm not aware of any law that requires it. One option the parents have as an alternative to waiting for a response that may never come is going to the school board, in an open meeting, and asking whatever they would like to know.” 

 

Resigning in protest 

La Donna Higgins, school secretary at Willard for four years, told the Planet that she resigned at the end of the last school year because she objected to “the repeated mistreatment of students by Ms. Lowry.” 

Higgins, part of the hiring committee at Willard when Lowry interviewed for the position of vice principal, said that Lowry had come across as a strong candidate. 

“She told us that she was responsible for training and enrollment as the vice principal for Skyline,” she said. “Since Willard was going from two vice principals to one, we were looking for someone who could handle a lot of responsibilities.” 

Higgins said that after Lowry was hired as Willard’s vice principal in the summer of 2006, she gradually became judgmental toward the school staff and students. 

“She said inappropriate things about the staff ... I also had problems with the way she was treating kids,” Higgins said. “There was heavy suspensions and expulsions of African American and Latino kids without proper evidence. Lots of students were called out of class and slowly my office was filled with students facing suspension. It became very chaotic. Parents would meet with Ms. Lowry and request that their kid never interact with her again.” 

Higgins said that she remembered that at least 10 different parents had lodged official complaints with the principal against Lowry.  

She said that she had testified at the expulsion hearing on behalf of the student whom Ms. Lowry said was stealing money from other students. 

“This was false,” Higgins said. “Ms. Lowry also filed criminal charges against the student for stealing money from younger students, which he was found not guilty of. She also made students write false statements against the student and threatened that if they did not she would make sure they did not attend Willard the following year.” 

In her farewell letter to the Willard staff on her last day at school Higgins explained her reason for leaving: 

“This last year at Willard has been a turning point in my life,” she wrote. “I have watched an administrator tear down every kid she has come in contact with. I have watched an administrator spend countless number of hours contacting the District Attorney to have a kid’s future destroyed ... I have watched an administrator disrespect and belittle parents of students at Willard. As I have seen the destruction of all the hard work that teachers, staff, and parents put in to create a positive image of Willard and give their all to making all students and parents feel welcome at school, I no longer feel welcomed here ... Berkeley Unified School District prides itself on following the direction of No Child Left Behind, [but] we have people in education who will do almost anything that ensure that certain kids are not only left behind but not even seen.” 

 

A trail of allegations 

A source at Oakland’s Skyline High School who did not want to be identified told the Planet that the array of allegations against Lowry at Willard aren’t a surprise. The source said that at Skyline, where Lowry was assistant principal before joining Willard in 2006, she also had a history of complaints about inappropriate conduct and racism against students. 

The source said that parents at the high school had also filed complaints against Lowry (known then as Margaret Klatt) for allegedly mistreating students and wrongfully suspending them. 

“I am not at all surprised,” the source said, after hearing that Berkeley Unified was investigating the allegations against Lowry. “The same things were done at Skyline.” 

An official at the Oakland Unified School District’s (OUSD) Human Resources Department declined to disclose information about Lowry’s employment history or any disciplinary action taken against her by the OUSD. But Francke said this information should be open to the public. 

“Any resume-type information or employment history is a matter of public record and must be disclosed,” Francke told the Planet. “Complaints about the performance of public employees other than peace officers are public if they lead to disciplinary action, or even, discipline or not, if they are ‘well-founded’ or reasonably reliable in terms, for instance, of their substance, frequency and/or sources.” 

The Planet filed a Public Records Act Request with both Berkeley and Oakland Unified on Feb. 20 to obtain public records for Lowry. 

“The district carries out background checks on all its employees,” Superintendent Huyett said. “I don’t think the district was aware of any of the complaints made by parents at Skyline.” 

Huyett said he hoped that the matter concerning the alleged instance of Lowry asking one student to buy drugs from another would be resolved soon, but that it was unclear what the district would tell the public about its decision. 

“We are doing an internal inquiry on the allegation,” he said. “We will come to a resolution by early next week. We will not be making an announcement about it since it’s a personnel issue. But the school community will be informed whether she has been reassigned or not.” 

Willard Principal Ithurburn sent out a memo to Willard staff and support personnel and the district’s assistant superintendent Neil Smith on Feb. 11 asking them not to discuss the incident outside the school, saying “We all want to ensure we represent the Willard community in a positive light.” 

He sent another e-mail to Willard staff last week, saying: “There is a strong possibility that an article about Willard may appear in the Daily Planet tomorrow or in the next issue. This is just a reminder that no employees should be discussing school issues out in the community.” 

Francke said that while these entreaties were legal, the administration could not penalize either faculty or students for speaking to others, including the press, concerning what they know or have heard. 

Lacisha Atckins, the mother of the African American eighth-grade special education student who was involved in the alleged drug sting currently under investigation, told the Planet on Wednesday that she had filed an official complaint with the district against Lowry on Feb. 14 but had not heard back yet.  

“The white kid to whom Miss Lowry gave the money to buy drugs from my son came up to him sometime in early January and asked him if he could buy weed,” she said. “My son did not have it. When his teacher heard about it she was concerned. A week or two later I talked to the principal, Mr. Ithurburn, and asked what was going on. He said he knew about it.” 

She said that she believed that the principal had initially met with the white child’s parents after the incident, but not with her. 

Atckins told the Planet that her son had been singled out for the alleged sting because of the way he dressed. 

“The white kid thinks [my son] is a drug dealer because he wears a black hoodie and baggy pants,” she said. “Ms. Lowry has been trying to set my son up for a while ... She doesn’t like him. She doesn’t like half of the African American children in the school. I am upset that she’s trying to implicate that my son’s a drug dealer.” 

Anna de Leon, a Berkeley-based criminal lawyer and a former school board president, said if the allegations were true, Lowry should be removed from the school district and prosecuted. 

“If she did this, if she furnished money to a student to buy drugs from another student, then she instigated and facilitated a criminal act,” De Leon said. “To encourage kids to do illegal conduct is shocking ... It shows extremely poor judgment.” 


Council May Face State in Court to Stop Moth Spray

By Judith Scherr
Friday February 29, 2008

The state secretary of agriculture failed to convince the Berkeley City Council Tuesday night that aerial spraying of a pesticide to eradicate the Light Brown Apple Moth (LBAM) is either necessary or benign.  

With the support of some five dozen anti-spray constituents packing the meeting room, the council voted not only to join neighboring cities in statements of opposition to the spray, but also to consider going to court to prevent the state from moving forward with plans to spray Bay Area counties in August. 

The vote on the measure was  

8-1, with Councilmember Kriss Worthington in opposition. Both Worthington and Councilmem-ber Dona Spring—Spring voted for the item—said they thought the statement wasn’t strong enough. Speaking to the Planet on Thursday, Spring said the council should have formalized its intent to sue the state at the the Tuesday meeting. “There’s no real commitment to it,” she said. 

The council will meet in closed session March 17 to discuss the range of legal options that could include a multi-city lawsuit against the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to halt the spraying planned for Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, Marin, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. 

At the Tuesday meeting, Spring took on CDFA Secretary A. G. Kawamura, who had come to the session to promote the CDFA spray plan. “I suggest, sir, that you don’t protect public health by ramming [the spray] down the throat of the population,” she said. 

Accompanied by two highway patrol officers posted at the back of the Council Chambers, Kawamura addressed the council, speaking of what he said was an urgent need to confront the threat of the Light Brown Apple Moth. 

“This moth is voracious,” he said, arguing that because the LBAM is known to feed on some 250 different food crops, it is a major concern for the state’s agribusiness. 

The moth has multiplied rapidly over a brief period of time, which is why no actual crop damage has been reported in California, he told the council. “People say, ‘let us see the damage.’ But we’re trying to prevent the damage,” he said.  

Councilmembers wanted to know why the spraying would begin before an environmental impact report has been completed. 

Kawamura explained that stopping the moth is “time-sensitive. The LBAM is spreading as we speak,” he said. 

If the state sprays before the infestation grows, total eradication is possible; if not, it could spread all over California, the U.S. and beyond, he argued. 

After Kawamura’s presentation, in a brief interview with the secretary, the Planet asked for specifics on who had advocated for the spray. Kawamura responded that officials in 48 states feared an infestation from California. Pressed for documentation, he said he was contacted personally by the officials. “There are no letters,” he said. “I see them at meetings.”  

Similarly, he said there are no written requests from the various county officials who had approached him. He also said that citrus growers had not made a request.  

“The public obligation to our department is to protect human health … and the food supply,” he told the Planet. 

At issue is the spraying of CheckMate, a pesticide made by Suterra LLC, a product that consists of a synthetic pheromone that causes mating disruption in the LBAM. When sprayed by air, the pheromone is contained in microcapsules with inert ingredients. 

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has told the Planet through spokespeople that he has faith in the decision of the CDFA to spray. He said that the $144,000 contribution to him by the owner of Suterra, Stewart Resnick, did not influence his opinion. 

The aerial spray was used for the first time in an urban area in September when sprayed for four days in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties.  

After Kawamura and a colleague spoke to the council in favor of the spray, a panel of opponents was given time to respond. Nan Wishner, chair of the integrated pest management task force in Albany, spoke of the 600 Monterey-Santa Cruz area residents who reported health problems after the September spray. Albany went on record in January opposing the spray. 

While the state representatives said the microcapsules would not cause harm if ingested, Wishner noted, “There were severe respiratory effects” in Monterey and Santa Cruz after the spraying.  

Panelist Dr. Elisa Song, pediatrician and environmental medicine specialist, added that there have been no long-term studies on the effects of CheckMate. She further explained that the effects would be different for different people: Some people can’t eliminate toxins from their bodies, while others can, she said.  

“There can be major health consequences,” she said. 

Tom Kelly, former member of the city’s Health Commission, spoke as the third member of the panel, urging the council not to allow the CDFA to “drown out our voices.”  

He pointed to the possible contamination of Berkeley creeks and reminded the council that the city is committed to the principles of integrated pest management and the precautionary principle, in which nontoxic or the least toxic substances are used for pest management when deemed necessary at all. 

Kelly urged the council to oppose the spray, “confronting the power of the state.” 

Some 40 speakers followed, each urging the council to oppose the spray.  

Only state representatives supported the spray. The city’s health officer Dr. Linda Rudolph declined to weigh in on the question, when asked at the meeting, saying she would speak publicly only after the City Council made its decision known. The staff report was limited to information from the state. 

Among those who spoke at the council meeting were residents with environmental illnesses. Pauline Bondonno said she is disabled by multiple chemical sensitivities. If there are repeated sprayings she said she would have to leave Berkeley and her job with the Berkeley Unified School District. 

“This is chemical warfare on us,” she said. “It’s an inside job.” 

Others pointed to more subtle fallout—the damage that monthly spraying could do to the city’s tourist industry and to home values when the owner must disclose spraying to the buyer.  

At around the same time Tuesday evening, the Oakland Public Safety Committee heard from a room full of spray opponents and voted to oppose the spray. The committee will ask the full council to do the same in two weeks. 

Several Public Safety Committee members criticized CDFA representatives who were present, pointing out, among other things, that the spraying might have a particularly devastating effect in Oakland's flatlands, where 25 percent of the children suffer from asthma. 

“The problem of the moths should be resolved,” said Oakland Councilmember Jane Brunner, who introduced the resolution along with Councilmember Larry Reid. “It should be the solution that’s least invasive to our cities.” 

Responding to an assertion from a state representative that the spraying would have no effect on Oakland residents, Reid said, “As a young man I served in Vietnam where Agent Orange was sprayed, and we were told that it would not have any effect on us. But of course, it did. I am concerned about the lack of research on this subject.” 

Meanwhile, nearby, at the downtown Oakland Elihu Harris State Building, the CDFA was holding a hearing as part of the environmental impact report process. About 100 people were there. 

None of the speakers, except CDFA representatives, supported the spray. A number expressed frustration that, while their input was being noted and would be included in the EIR, the spray was already scheduled. 

Some speakers pointed to the high cost of the project—more than $75 million is allocated to the eradication efforts. 

Oakland resident Pamela Drake was among them: “We’re spending public monies to do this to ourselves—we need to stop,” she said. 

For more information, see the CDFA website at: www.cdfa.ca.gov/phpps/pdep/ lbam/ or www.stopthespray.org/ 

 

Staff writer J. Douglas Allen-Taylor contributed to this story.


Police Review Commission to Investigate Death of Anita Gay

By Judith Scherr
Friday February 29, 2008

Patricia Johnson wants to know what happened the day a Berkeley police officer shot her sister.  

“The truth—that’s all we’re looking for,” said Johnson, whose sister Anita Gay was killed Feb. 16 by Officer Rashawn Cummings. Johnson was speaking to the Planet Wednesday evening as she stood outside the South Berkeley Senior Center, where a Police Review Commission meeting focusing on the Gay homicide was to begin shortly.  

Johnson carried a sign: “Justice for Anita Gay.” 

Inside the meeting room, where the audience grew to more than 50 individuals, a number of people carried signs and banners calling for justice for the 51-year-old South Berkeley grandmother. At least one sign called for justice for Gary King, the young man killed by an Oakland police officer Sept. 20 at the corner of 54th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way. 

Stories differ on the Gay killing. Some witnesses have told reporters that she was intoxicated or on prescription medication, and some said that she was armed with a knife and threatening others when she was shot by Cummings, who had responded to a domestic violence call at Gay’s home on the 1700 block of Ward Street. Other witnesses told reporters that Gay had dropped the knife before she was shot. 

After hearing from some 25 speakers and deliberating among themselves, the commission voted unanimously to conduct two separate investigations: one will be a police misconduct investigation and a second will address policy issues, with respect to how officers respond to calls of domestic violence. 

While a few public speakers, such as Greg Getty of Liberation Radio, spoke angrily of “police who shoot grandmothers in the back,” most of the public comments were directed to the commission, asking for a swift and comprehensive citizen investigation. 

Nick Chambers addressed the need for a full and transparent inquiry. He said the killing should not be seen as an isolated incident, but, referring to the case of former police Sgt. Cary Kent who stole drugs from the evidence locker he was charged to guard, should be looked at in the context of known police misconduct. 

Another speaker called for “full officer cooperation,” and pointed to the Berkeley Police Association role in forcing the PRC complaint process behind closed doors. Complaints against the police are no longer heard in public, due to a combination of a Berkeley Police Association suit against the city—an appeal is pending—and a California Supreme Court case. 

Andrea Prichett of Copwatch echoed the sentiment. “I want Officer Cummings to go on the record with you guys. Even though it’s the new bizarre [closed door] system,” she told the commission. 

“We need you guys to restore faith in oversight,” Prichett said, asking the commission not to allow the BPD to withhold documents or otherwise stall the procedure. 

Calling for a “thorough investigation,” Gay’s neighbor Rosemary Carpendale asked why one officer responded to the domestic violence by himself.  

Carpendale said she was particularly concerned that there had been children in the building who witnessed the shooting. “The children kept looking out the window,” she said. “This will impact the children for the rest of their lives.” 

(On Thursday, the Planet called Fred Medrano, director of the city’s Health and Hunan Services department, to ask if the children were receiving counseling. He said he would not be able to disclose that, due to privacy concerns. However, he said his department has such expertise.) 

The question of how police officers treat suspects armed with knives was on the minds of a number of citizens.  

Ken Nelson, a Richmond resident who heads the NAACP California Criminal Justice Committee, did not speak publicly but observed the meeting. He told the Planet that recently there had been three killings by police of people armed only with knives: A mentally ill man with a knife was killed by Santa Rosa police Jan. 4 and a 57-year-old woman with a knife was killed by San Pablo police on Christmas Day.  

“What we have here is not an isolated incident,” Nelson said, adding that the investigation “should open the door to how law officers use force.” 

Idella Melton, a resident of Berkeley for more than 50 years, introduced herself as one of the people who had originally organized the Police Review Commission more than 20 years ago. She pointed out that, at least in the movies, people shoot suspects in the arm or in the foot and wondered if the Berkeley police could not do the same, when necessary. 

She further pointed to the issue of class, asking whether the situation would have been handled differently “if this had been a person who lived in the hills.” 

Flanked by her sister and niece, Patricia Johnson took a turn to address the commission: “We’re here to ask you sitting there to help us through this nightmare,” she said. “We’re hoping that you’re going to investigate this like it was someone in your family. What happened to [Anita Gay] should never happen to anybody’s mother or brother. We’re asking for justice for us all – black, white, Hispanic, Asian…” 

Johnson ended on a bitter note, reflecting on the police officers as people “everybody is supposed to trust to have honor and integrity. If this is any indication of how they are serving the community, we’re all in trouble,” she said. 

When it came time for commissioners to respond, they echoed many of the sentiments of the speakers, promising a fair, impartial investigation. 

“There needs to be justice in this case,” said Commissioner Michael Sherman, adding his sympathy for the family, friends and neighbors “and for the police officer involved.” 

Sherman commented on the absurdity of new rules imposed by the BPA lawsuit, including the fact that the commissioners were not permitted to name the officer in public, even though the name has been public knowledge since the shooting. 

“The only way to have justice is through and open and transparent investigation,” he said. 

Commission Chair Bill White, however, pointed out that the misconduct investigation will not be “transparent”—that is, open to the public—given the courts’ rulings. The policy investigation, however, can be open to the public, he said. Two different subcommittees, each focusing on one of the investigations, will be appointed at the commission’s next meeting. 

After hearing the public and the commissioners speak, Police Chief Hambleton, present throughout the meeting, added his thoughts. “Without any question, this is a tragic situation. We all wish these events had not unfolded,” he said, promising, “We will cooperate with the commission.” 

Responding to concerns about getting police documents in a timely way for the investigations, he explained that while a criminal investigation was ongoing, he could not release documents, but he promised that once investigations are complete the documents will be released. The BPD Internal Affairs Bureau and the Alameda County District Attorney are both conducting investigations. 

“We will do everything in our power to get the facts out in the open,” he said. 

Officer Henry Wellington, Berkeley Police Association president, along with others from the BPA, listened to the public speakers and commissioners but did not comment publicly. 

On Thursday, in an interview with the Daily Planet, Wellington said it was important for the officers to be present at the meeting and hear the public feedback. It was also important for the public to have a place to air their thoughts, he said. 

And Wellington said it was important for the community to see police officers there, “so that the community can understand that we are people, not just a blur in the car.” 

He added that he thought some of the public remarks were unnecessarily accusatory, as no one in reports of the incident had accused the officer of an intent to kill Gay. 

“The events of that night are tragic for the family of Ms. Gay and have had a profound impact on the officer involved and all officers in the BPD,” he told the Planet. “I understand the family’s motive in having the incident undergo as much scrutiny as possible. Our hope is that whatever scrutiny is directed toward the incident is done in a fair and impartial manner.” 

Asked if the officers will appear before the investigating committees, Wellington responded, “We’re always ordered to do that.” 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Dellums’ Oakland Police Plan Gaining Momentum

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Friday February 29, 2008

With much less rancor than was widely anticipated, the Oakland City Council’s four-member Public Safety Committee unanimously approved Mayor Ron Dellums’ Augmented Police Recruitment Program Tuesday night with few alterations.  

If the plan passes the full council next week, as it is now favored to do, it would give the mayor one of the biggest political victories of his year-long term, ranking with the settlement of the Waste Man-agement workers lockout, the selection of Margaret Gordon for the Port Commission, and the arbitrator’s decision in the police 12-hour day negotiations. 

But what the ultimate cost is to be—both politically to the mayor and financially to the city’s general fund—has yet to be determined. 

“I applaud the actions taken last night. We are happy to enhance our plan based on the amendments proposed from Committee members and move it forward to the full Council,” Dellums said in a prepared statement today. “We are committed to working together to get this done.” 

To meet his State of the City pledge of having the Oakland Police Department reach full strength by the end of the year, Dellums and Oakland Police Chief Wayne Tucker propose using $7.7 million in carryover Measure Y violence prevention bond money to fund an ambitious, four-point police recruitment and retention program.  

The proposal asks for $3.3 million to run four police academies this year, twice the currently allocated number, with two of them operated for the first time by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department rather than the Oakland Police Department itself. Some $1.5 million would go to advertising and marketing to attract recruits, and $1.2 million to administrative support for expediting the police recruit application and selection process.. 

In the 2004 vote on Measure Y, Oakland voters authorized an increase of police force strength to 803, to include 63 officers assigned specifically to community policing objectives. But since that time, in large part because of high retirement rates, the department has never been able to fully staff either its regular patrol staff or its community policing component. With concern over crime and violence rising sharply in Oakland in recent months, “more police” has become a potent political issue in the city, particularly in a year when five of the eight City Council seats are up for re-election. 

On Tuesday, Councilmember Jean Quan, chair of Council’s Finance Committee, one of the principal co-authors of Measure Y and not a candidate for re-election herself, proposed passage of the mayor’s plan with three amendments: pare down the advertising budget, put some of the plan’s money into bonuses to attract new police recruits, and divide the cost in some yet-to-be-determined way between Measure Y and the city’s general fund. 

“I believe having a full-staffed police force is a top priority,” Quan said. “I don’t think we can wait.” 

 

Committee members passed  

Quan’s motion by consensus 

The Public Safety Committee’s decision came a day after the Measure Y Oversight Committee voted overwhelmingly, 8-1, to reject using Measure Y funds for the entire recruitment proposal and to send the proposal back to the mayor and his staff for a more appropriate funding breakdown between Measure Y and the general fund. 

Controversy over the mayor’s police augmentation plan began immediately after it was introduced directly to the full Council last week on an expedited basis, bypassing both the Council Public Safety and Measure Y Oversight committees.  

At last week’s council meeting, Councilmember Nancy Nadel, who is in a tough re-election campaign in the third district in which crime, violence, and police issues are expected to play a major role, said, “I’m in a mode to try to solve the problem, to try to take the politics out of it. But it seems like the mayor wants to place himself separate from the council and say that this is his proposal. I resent that type of politics coming out of this.”  

The council voted to send the proposal back to the two committees for vetting, setting up this week’s back-to-back discussions. 

At Monday’s Measure Y Oversight Committee meeting, committee members generally agreed that the police augmentation plan was necessary, but differed sharply over whether some or all of the money should come from Measure Y funds. 

Questioning of city staff members over the plan by committee members was so sharp that at one point, City Administrator Deborah Edgerly told members, “I’m not going to try to convince you. We’re going to have to agree to disagree on this.” 

After committee chair Maya Dillard Smith failed to get a commitment from Chief Tucker that the first officers hired in the recruitment blitz would fully fill the Measure Y-mandated community policing slots and got staff to admit that only Measure Y funds—not city general funds—were planned for the media blitz to hire both Measure Y and non-Measure Y officers, the committee voted to reject the proposal’s funding mechanism and send it back to the mayor’s office for further refinement. Only mayoral appointee Ron Owens voted in favor of the proposal.  

Two other mayoral appointees, Nicole Lee and Donald Blevins, voted with the majority to send the proposal back. The eleven-member oversight committee consists of three mayoral appointees and one apiece chosen by City Council’s eight members. 

While the police augmentation proposal did considerably better at the following day’s Council Public Safety Committee, the political problems surrounding the proposal were just under the surface. 

During public comment period, when former Oakland School Board member Sylvester Hodges told committee members that he hoped “the mayor and the council can get together on something you both support,” committee chair Reid told him pointedly “communication is a two-way street.”  

In case that was subject to misunderstanding, Reid later said, “I hate that this is being rushed and that we’re being backed into a corner to have to act as if we are reacting.” And referring back to his comments to Hodges about the mayor and the council working together, he added, “this needs to be seen as a partnership.”  

Reid then said he was going to stop talking “before I put my foot in my mouth.” 

At the Public Safety Committee meeting, Measure Y Chair Dillard Smith presented a PowerPoint presentation that noted, in part, that “the [oversight] Committee voted 8-1 not to approve the proposed request for $7.7 million of Measure Y funding associated with the PRP because the current proposal using Measure Y money is illegal and fiscally irresponsible.”  

The “illegal and fiscally irresponsible” portion did not appear in a reporter’s notes of the oversight committee action, and echo almost exactly the criticisms Dillard Smith herself made of the plan when it first came before the City Council a week before, but official minutes of the meeting have not yet been released to confirm whether that was the language of the motion. 

But Reid’s comments, and Dillard Smith’s continued opposition, point out the potential political cost of the impending augmentation plan victory. Dellums has been successful in his long political career in large part by sharing victories with friends and opponents and not unnecessarily embarrassing or antagonizing political enemies. That is, in fact, the hallmark of his political style. But the campaign for the police augmentation plan was carried out in a decidedly un-Dellums way, taking the credit for himself and initially bypassing (and, therefore, embarrassing) key committees.  

The 8-1 vote to reject the plan’s funding mechanism at the Measure Y Oversight Committee means the mayor has some political fences to mend on that committee, particularly as he indicated he may have designs in the future to try to revamp the way the committee apportions its money out to violence prevention groups. 

There are other indications that the mayor—who has been enduring withering criticism from the center-right since his election, a group that largely did not vote for him a year and a half ago—may have opened himself up to problems from community policing supporters. Two prominent members of the mayor’s Citizen Task Force on Public Safety and the Community Policing Advisory Board, Colleen Brown and Don Link, criticized the funding of the plan by Measure Y, with Link providing a detailed written critique that called the $1.5 million advertising campaign “probably a waste of money” and the use of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Academy “overly expensive and problematic.” 

And the mayor has left himself something of a political and budget minefield to travel through in the Council as well. 

In supporting Quan’s motion to approve the augmentation plan, Nadel noted that funding the proposal from the general fund will mean budget cuts during a year when a deficit is already going to force such cuts, adding pointedly that “the mayor needs to come back to us with his ideas on what we will have to cut to make up for the expense to the general fund” made necessary by the augmentation plan.


BUSD Reaches Settlement in Old Gym Demolition Lawsuit

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday February 29, 2008

The Berkeley Unified School District reached a settlement with Friends Protecting Berkeley’s Resources Wednesday over the California Environment Quality Act (CEQA) lawsuit filed by the group a year ago. 

The group sued the district for an inadequate environmental impact report on the demolition of the gymnasium and warm-water pool within its Berkeley High School (BHS) South of Bancroft Master Plan.  

Both sides agreed on a charrette to discuss the adaptive reuse of the Berkeley High Old Gym and the warm-water pool, school district officials said Thursday. 

“We have reached a settlement agreement to go ahead and have a process with architects to gather input on the plan,” said Superintendent Bill Huyett. “I thought it was a fair settlement.” 

The lawsuit charged that the district had failed to consider feasible alternatives to demolition that could be developed to meet all or most of the district’s objectives and that the EIR “did not justify its findings.” 

“This lawsuit was hanging out there, and until that was determined we were probably not going to do anything about the Old Gym,” School Board President John Selawsky told the Planet Thursday. 

He added that he didn’t agree with what the lawsuit contended. “It’s not factually true,” he said. 

Marie Bowman, spokesperson for Friends Protecting Berkeley’s Resources, confirmed the group had agreed to dismiss the lawsuit in exchange for a charrette. 

“This would look at rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of the Old Gym while considering the needs of Berkeley High as identified in the BHS South of Bancroft Master Plan,” she said. 

Bowman said she hoped the charrette would generate problem-solving ideas developed by preservation architects, designers and other professionals.  

“A successful charrette promotes joint ownership of solutions as well as diffusing confrontational attitudes between developers and the community,” she said. “The results will be presented to the BUSD Board, during a public hearing, which will allow for written and oral public comment.” 

Selawsky said the charrette would help to present information from both sides. 

“My understanding is that we are bound legally to hold the charrette and take into account their considerations,” he said. “I understand that we are not bound legally to any outcome of that charrette ... The district is still the final decision maker.” 

He added that the demolition of the Old Gym was not scheduled till 2010. 

“We still have two years to discuss all the different possibilities,” he said. “Plans for demolition are still premature.” 

The school district recently hired ELS Architects to redesign the bleachers outside the track on Martin Luther King Jr. Way this summer and create a timeline for the demolition of the Old Gym. 

“At this time we only have enough funding to design the bleachers,” Selawsky said. 

The district’s South of Bancroft Master Plan calls for the demolition of the landmarked Old Gym to make room for new classroom facilities, with the option of relocating the warm-water pool to Milvia Street.  

Berkeley High is facing a severe space crunch, with teachers holding classes in portables at Washington Elementary School and on the steps of the Community Theatre. 

The city is currently looking at ways to develop the tennis courts on Milvia Street into a warm pool but has yet to come to an agreement with the school district about its use. 

The Berkeley High School campus, including the Old Gym, was named a City of Berkeley landmark last year and a national landmark in January. 

Designed by renowned Bay Area architects William C. Hays and Walter H. Ratcliff Jr., the warm-water pool and the gymnasium represent early seismic engineering work and are rare examples of an early 20th-century high school gymnasium.


BUSD Fails to Meet No Child Left Behind Goals

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday February 29, 2008

Berkeley Unified School District did not meet the 95 percent participation criterion for local education agencies in their third year of Program Improvement for 2007, according to a state Department of Education release Wednesday. 

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger along with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell announced his recommended course of action as required by the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act for 97 school districts (local education agencies or LEAs) which have not met student achievement targets for five years. 

According to the state’s education department website, the 97 LEAs—including Berkeley, Oakland and San Lorenzo—have advanced to the federal Title I Program Improvement Year 3 status, based on “failure to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for at least five years and are now subject to corrective action and targeted technical assistance as specified by federal law.” 

District superintendent Bill Huyett told the Planet that the district suffered from low participation rates when it came to taking the California Standardized Tests. 

“Under No Child Left Behind, students are required to take the standardized tests. But some parents have a problem with No Child Left Behind. There’s a conflict there.” 

According to district spokesperson Mark Coplan, the low participation rate was predominant among special education and Berkeley High School students. 

“It’s unfortunate that we have a low participation rate at the high school,” said School Board President John Selawsky. 

“I am not sure what we can do to increase it. We have been having the same problem for the last couple of years. The state allows parents to opt out of the tests but we face problems at the federal level. Berkeley High has 3,200 students, that’s one third of the district’s population.” 

The governor’s proposed improvement plans were broken into four tiers. Berkeley Unified was included in the least restricted tier, which says that the district would have to amend its current education plan. 

School board vice president Nancy Riddle described this as “good news” at the school board meeting Wednesday. 

“The sanctions aren’t anything surprising,” said Selawsky. “It’s not anything we wouldn’t be doing. We renew and update our LEA plan regularly.” 

Huyett told the Planet that Lodi Unified School District—where he was superintendent for 6 years before joining Berkeley Unified—had met every standard in PI 3 except for special education students testing in English. 

Lagunitas Elementary, Tracy Joint Unified, Fallbrook Union High and Nevada Joint Union High also missed the PI 3 participation status. 

“In all cases we embrace a singular goal —to make sure that all districts and schools are working effectively to improve student achievement,” O’Connell said in a statement Wednesday. 

“The state has an obligation to not only implement federal law but to assist our school districts to close their achievement gaps and help all students succeed in school,” he said. 

O’Connell recommended to the State Board of Education that the 97 LEAs enforce a curriculum based on state academic content and achievement standards. 

“I have joined forces with Superintendent O’Connell to craft individualized reform plans to make sure the solution fits the district,” Gov. Schwarzenegger said in a statement. “By working together, I know we can make great strides for the children of our state. California's standards are internationally acclaimed, and when successfully implemented they lead students to academic success.” 

O’Connell acknowledged that implementing a standards-based curriculum would require training and skill.  

“Where achievement lags, it’s appropriate that districts look more deeply at how they are delivering a standards-based education to every student,” O'Connell said.  

“I firmly believe that in most cases achievement gains will be more effectively achieved by assisting districts to improve rather than by imposing some of the more severe sanctions allowed under NCLB, such as deferring programmatic funds, removing staff, or closing the district or schools.” 

School districts state wide are currently protesting the governor’s proposal to slash almost $5 billion in funding from K-12 education to close an estimated $14.5 billion state budget shortfall. 

 

 


Planners Make First Move to Challenge Downtown Plan

By Richard Brenneman
Friday February 29, 2008

The ongoing battles over building heights and economics in downtown Berkeley heated up Wednesday night when the Planning Commission took its formal position on the Downtown Area Plan.  

Contrary to the position adopted by the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee (DAPAC), which created the proposed plan in the course of two years of deliberations, commissioners voted to ask the City Council to fund a study to see if the plan would be economically feasible. 

Each of the three votes against calling for the study came from planning commissioners who had served on DAPAC and voted with the majority there, with only one DAPAC veteran—Commission Chair James Samuels—voting in favor of it. 

Gene Poschman, Jesse Arreguin and Helen Burke lost on a vote that called for an economic study that would include the 16-story point towers rejected by the DAPAC majority. 

Making the motion to approve it was Commissioner David Stoloff, himself a developer, who called for the evaluation to include 10-, 12-, 14- and 16-story buildings in considering what level of development would be needed to make the plan’s extensive collection of proposed amenities financially viable. 

That decision directly contrasts with the stated position of the DAPAC majority that height trumped other considerations in their decision to adopt the plan. 

City Planning and Development Director Dan Marks estimated that the study would cost $25,000, “maybe a little more,” and would probably include a real-estate economist, an expert in building codes and a cost estimator. 

“I think this is a waste of time and a smokescreen to try to undo the plan DAPAC adopted,” said Arreguin. 

Samuels said the so-called “minority report” that recommended the study was presented to the City Council along with the DAPAC plan, and was backed by 10 of the 21 DAPAC members, “which was just about half.” 

While the DAPAC plan will go to the city council, so will recommendations from the Planning Commission and city staff, leaving councilmembers to pick and choose the elements included in the version they finally approve. 

The proposed new downtown plan resulted from the settlement of a city lawsuit challenging impacts of the growth projections embodied in UC Berkeley’s Long Range Development Plan 2020. 

In the settlement, the city agreed to devise a new plan that would accommodate the university’s announced intention to add 800,000 square feet of new off-campus construction to the city center. 

The settlement imposed a deadline of May 2009, for city approval and university acceptance of the plan, which is partly funded by university money. 

One unusual feature of the planning process is the requirement that the plan’s state-mandated environmental impact report (EIR) be completed before a draft plan has been adopted—a necessary step because of the imposed deadline. 

The Planning Commission will begin its chapter-by-chapter plan review starting toward the end of March, the same time when development parameters for the EIR must be finalized, with the draft EIR to be completed by September and the final version approved three months later at the same time the commission hands the plan on to the City Council. 

Those parameters will include 3,100 new units of downtown housing, Marks said, though the actual number built will probably be much lower. 

Marks has asked the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) for $300,000 to help fund the planning process, simultaneously asking the regional government agency to reduce the 2,431 new units it says the city must be prepared to accommodate through 2014. 

Siting the units downtown would be the path of least resistance, given strong neighborhood opposition to many major projects, Marks told DAPAC members. 

The planning director said he was doubtful ABAG would reduce the quota—which is the number of permits the city must be willing to allow, not necessarily what will actually be built. 

 

Public voices 

Commissioners heard conflicting pleas from members of the disbanded DAPAC during public comment, with Will Travis, the committee’s ex-chair, urging members to seek the feasibility analysis. “You really need to have an economic analysis before you forward it to the city council.” 

Travis didn’t mention what another former DAPAC commissioner, Arreguin, soon pointed out, that the committee specifically rejected doing such an analysis.  

Dorothy Walker, ex-DAPACer and a retired UC Berkeley development official, also urged the analysis. 

The minority contended that DAPAC’s restrictions on floor-area ratio and heights would limit development and thus reduce fees collected for parks, streetscape improvements and other amenities included in the plan. 

Juliet Lamont, the environmental consultant who was a leading figure in the DAPAC majority, echoed a plea first voiced by John English, a retired planner who attended most DAPAC meetings, urging the commission to use the committee’s plan as the preferred alternative in preparing the EIR. 

“I was part of a group of people that really worked to come to a compromise,” Lamont said, adding that many members were now feeling that the process was being abused. 

The most radical proposal from the audience came from Barry Elbansani, a Berkeley resident and a widely known architect and urban designer. 

“I don’t think 2,500 units is enough,” he said. “Let’s try 5,000. Let’s try 10,000.” 

In response to public concerns that the commission or staff would rewrite the DAPAC plan before it reached the council, both Marks and Stoloff offered assurances that the community effort would go as written to the ultimate deciders, along with staff and commission recommendations.


Planners Side With Staff in Debate over Density Bonus

By Richard Brenneman
Friday February 29, 2008

A Planning Commission majority agreed Wednesday night not to challenge acting City Attorney Zach Cowan’s contention that key sections of a proposed density bonus ordinance are illegal. 

“The City Attorney has no clothes!” declared a disgruntled but smiling Gene Poschman after he lost a show of hands. 

Poschman earlier had handed out a hefty stack of paperwork that included ordinances from other California cities doing precisely the same things Cowan has declared legally verboten. 

While state law mandates that cities have a density bonus law, the drafting of specific regulations is left up to each local government, and therein lies the nexus of a three-way contest shaping up between the Planning Commission, the Zoning Adjustments Board and the City Attorney’s office. 

The density bonus is designed to create housing for lower-income tenants and buyers by giving developers additional building size to offset their costs for including extra affordable housing in their projects. 

ZAB triggered the fracas after members decided to form a subcommittee to examine problems they encountered with their perceived lack of control over specific development projects. 

The struggle was kicked off by the board’s frustration with the so-called Trader Joe’s project—the five-story building at University Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Way—and the city staff’s insistence that developers get a major boost in size for providing parking spaces for their commercial tenant. 

Members said they didn’t have problems with a bonus for creating cheap living space, but they did with one that created parking spaces for grocery stores. 

After ZAB set up a subcommittee, the City Council intervened, adding members from the Housing Advisory and Planning Commissions. 

After two years of deliberations, the combined panel came up with a set of recommendations and an ongoing dispute with the city’s legal and planning staffs. 

Planning Commissioner David Stoloff was the only subcommittee member who opposed the recommendations, which he again dismissed Wednesday night “because it seemed to me to be an effort by the committee to bring the staff under control” the panel felt that staff was “in cahoots” with developers.  

“It’s just a way of reining in staff,” Stoloff said. 

Commission Chair James Samuels formally raised the issue of whether commissioners were willing to “send something to the City Council against the advice of the city attorney.” 

Susan Wengraf, another commissioner who sat on the subcommittee, said she too wanted to get a commission decision on moving forward, given Cowan’s opposition. 

“We should defer in this situation,” said Harry Pollack, who said he wasn’t opposed in principle to acting against legal advice, but not in the case of the density bonus proposals. 

“I do not think so,” said Poschman. 

Jesse Arreguin, filling in for Patti Dacey, agreed with Poschman, while Stoloff said he was opposed to the proposals regardless of what the attorney thought. 

In the end, five Planning Commission members (Samuels, Stoloff, Larry Gurley, Wengraf and Pollack) said they would not oppose the decision of legal counsel, while Poschman, Arreguin and Helen Burke were for forging ahead with the subcommittee proposal. Roia Ferrazares ab-stained. 

Land Use Manager Debra Sanderson said she considered the subcommittee guidelines muddled, and she agreed with Cowan that the proposals would limit the discretion of ZAB members. 

Poschman laughed, noting that five ZAB members—a board majority—felt the proposals would give them more discretion. 

Arreguin, a ZAB member himself, agreed. 

Of the subcommittee’s nine specific recommendations, city staff agreed with three, wanted “minor” changes in two others, major changes in three more and the elimination of the ninth. 

Staff wants to eliminate the proposal’s “two-menu” approach, which allowed for waivers and modifications for projects that requested relatively minor variances from code requirements, while proof of financial justification would be required for projects that required more significant variances and waivers. 

Cowan, who wasn’t present Wednesday night, has provided a written opinion claiming that the two-menu concept violates state law by restricting ZAB discretion. 

With the Planning Commission majority typically including the five members who said they wanted to defer to the staff’s advice, the subcommittee proposals face a tough road ahead as the commission considers them further in meetings to come. 

 

Tour of West Berkeley 

Commissioners reelected Chair James Samuels and Vice Chair Larry Gurley to second one-year terms. The vote for Gurley was unanimous, but Samuels was opposed by Burke, with Arreguin and Poschman abstaining.  

Members have two formal meetings in the next five days. The first comes starting at 8:30 Saturday morning, when members will tour West Berkeley sites picked as examples for the “increased flexibility” the City Council wants written into zoning codes for the area. 

More than 100 members of the public signed up for the tour. 

The proposals have raised concerns that changes would ease the way for major developers but might make it harder for smaller artisans and industrial companies by forcing up land costs and spurring landlords to sell and seek changes of use.


Kennedy/Teece Buildings Priced at $147 Million

By Richard Brenneman
Friday February 29, 2008

Berkeley’s newest and biggest landlord paid $147,397,171 for his seven apartment buildings, making Patrick Kennedy and David Teece richer than ever. 

Included in the figures are more than $66 million in loans which the landlord’s company assumed on the property. 

The sale price paid by Equity Residential, the Chicago-based corporation run by Sam Zell, will bring a hefty profit to the Berkeley developers. 

Teece, a New Zealand native who runs a range of business ranging from investment funds to athletic clothing, can probably use Equity’s cash in light of actions now pending against him in U.S. Tax Court. 

The Internal Revenue Service contends he cheated Uncle Sam out of millions by using illegal tax dodges. 

The figures were reported in Equity’s annual report, which was released Wednesday. The exact figures look like this: 

For Acton Courtyard and its 71 apartments at 1392 University Ave., Equity paid $21.3 million, including liens of more than $9.9 million. 

For the 21-unit Artech Building at 2002 Addison St., the price was $10.8 million, including $3.2 million in loans. 

The Bachenheimer Building with its 44 units at 2119 University cost $17.3 million, including $8.6 million in loans. 

The Berkeleyan, the oldest of the seven properties with 56 rentals at 1910 Oxford St., sold for $20.4 million, including loans of $8.56 million. 

The costliest edifice was the 100-apartment Fine Arts Building at Shattuck Avenue and Haste Street, which sold for $34.3 million, including $16.2 million in liens, followed by Berkeley’s tallest and possibly most controversial new building, the 91-unit Gaia at 2116 Allston Way, at $32.7 million with $14.6 million in loans. 

The final property included in the sale was the Touriel Building at 2004 University, at $10.6 million with a $5 million loan for 25 units. 

All of the Berkeley buildings include ground floor commercial space. 

Kennedy and his silent partner, UC Berkeley business professor Teece, received much of the funding for the buildings from the Association of Bay Area Governments, the same regional entity that sets mandatory housing permit quotas for local cities and counties. 

Zell is also the publisher of California’s largest and most influential newspaper, the Los Angeles Times. The outspoken Chicagoan bought the Tribune Company, which publishes Chicago’s dominant daily as well as the Times and nine other newspapers, 23 television stations, a cable channel (Superstation WGN) and WGN-AM radio, and he’s the owner of the Chicago Cubs. 

His sometimes obscene remarks as a newly minted media baron have repeatedly landed him in the media gossip columns, along with his announced intent to downplay the Times’ traditional commitment to foreign news coverage and investigative reporting. 

According to the company’s annual report, as of the end of 2007, Equity Residential owned 507 rental properties outright, with a total of 133,189 individual units. The company was part owner of an additional 71 properties with 15,901 units and managed 3,731 units of military housing. 

In California, the company owned 43 properties totaling 12,216 units, with Berkeley counting for 418 units. 

At the end of the year, the company owned $15.7 billion in assets, which generated a net income of $990 million for investors for 2007. 

According to a story just published in Capitol Weekly, Zell could be a major beneficiary if California voters pass Proposition 98 in the June election. The measure, billed as an effort to halt eminent domain for commercial developments, also includes a provision that would end rent control throughout the state.  

Called the “California Property Owners and Farmland Protection Act,” the measure has been overwhelmingly funded by landlords. 

As reported by UC Berkeley policy analysts Frank Lester and Nick Robinson, the measure “if enacted would provide that any rent control ordinance in effect prior to January 2007 become essentially invalid.” 

But rather than end rent controls outright, the measure ends controls only as units are vacated, a step sometimes called vacancy decontrol. 

Another Zell company, Equity Lifestyle, which specializes in renting trailer parks and recreational vehicle resorts, reported in its 2006 annual report that rent controls on its California properties were costing the company $15 million a year in mandated subsidies. 

No similar figure is available for Equity Residential, but Zell has been an outspoken opponent of rent control, and according to a Thursday Capitol Weekly story, Zell has contributed $50,000 to the campaign for Prop. 98.


Council Calls for Full Court Press to Stop Spray

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday February 26, 2008

Posted Wed., Feb. 27—The state secretary of agriculture failed to convince the Berkeley City Council Tuesday night that aerial spraying of a pesticide to eradicate the Light Brown Apple Moth (LBAM) is either necessary or benign.  

With the support of some five dozen anti-spray constituents packing the meeting room, the council voted not only to join neighboring cities in statements of opposition to the spray, but said it is likely to take its opposition to court to prevent the state from moving forward with its plans. 

The council will meet in closed session March 17 to discuss a range of legal options that could include a multi-city lawsuit against the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to halt the spraying planned for August in Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, Marin, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. 

Councilmember Dona Spring took on CDFA Secretary A.G. Kawamura, who had come to the meeting to tout the spray plan.  

“I suggest, sir, that you don’t protect public health by ramming [the spray] down the throat of the population,” she said, further asking why an environmental impact report was being written after the spraying was to be have begun. The EIR, being written by the CDFA, is expected to be completed in the fall. 

Kawamura, accompanied by two highway patrol officers posted at the back of the Council Chambers, spoke to what he said was an urgent need to confront the threat of the Light Brown Apple Moth. 

“This moth is voracious,” he said, arguing that because the moth is known to feed on some 250 different food crops it is a major concern for the state’s agribusiness. 

The moth has multiplied rapidly over a brief period of time, which is why no actual crop damage has been reported in California, he told the council. “People say, ‘let us see the damage.’ But we’re trying to prevent the damage,” he said.  

If the state sprays before the infestation grows, total eradication is possible; if not, it could spread all over California, the U.S. and beyond, he argued. 

After Kawamura’s presentation, in a brief interview with the secretary, the Planet asked for specifics on who had advocated for the spray. Kawamura responded that officials in 48 states feared an infestation from California. Pressed for documentation, he said he was contacted personally by the officials.  

“There are no letters,” he said. “I see them at meetings.”  

Similarly, Kawamura said there are no written requests from the various county officials who had approached him. He also said that citrus growers had not made the request.  

“The public obligation to our department is to protect human health … and the food supply,” he told the Planet. 

At issue is the spraying of CheckMate, a pesticide made by Suterra LLC, that consists of a synthetic pheromone which causes mating disruption in the LBAM. When sprayed by air, the pheromone is contained in a microcapsule with inert ingredients. 

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has told the Planet through spokespeople that he has faith in the decision of the CDFA to spray. He said that the $144,000 contribution to him by the owner of Suterra, Stewart Resnick, did not influence his view of spray plans. 

The aerial spray was used for the first time in an urban area in September when sprayed over four days in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties.  

After Kawamura and a colleague spoke to the Berkeley council in favor of the spray, opponents were given time to respond. Nan Wishner, chair of the integrated pest management task force in Albany, spoke of the 600 Monterey-Santa Cruz area residents who experienced health problems after the September spray. Albany went on record in January opposing the spray.  

While the state representatives said the microcapsule would not cause harm if ingested, Wishner noted, “There were severe respiratory effects” in Monterey and Santa Cruz after the spraying.  

Panelist Dr. Elisa Song, pediatrician and environmental medicine specialist, added that there have been no long-term studies on the effects of CheckMate. She further explained the effects would be different for different people: Some people can’t eliminate toxins from their bodies, while others can, she said.  

“There can be major health consequences,” she said. 

Tom Kelly, former member of the city’s Health Commission, spoke as the third member of the panel, urging the council not to allow the CDFA to “drown out our voices.”  

He pointed to the possible contamination of Berkeley creeks and reminded the council that the city is bound by the principles of Integrated Pest Management and the precautionary principle, where nontoxic or the least toxic substances are used for pest management when deemed necessary at all. 

Kelly urged the council to oppose the spray, “confronting the power of the state.” 

Some 40 speakers followed, each urging the council to oppose the spray.  

Only state representatives supported the spray. The city’s health officer Dr. Linda Rudolph declined to weigh in on the question when asked at the meeting, saying she would speak publicly only after the City Council made its decision known. The staff report was limited to information from the state. 

Among those who spoke at the council meeting were residents with environmental sensitivities. Pauline Bondonno said she is disabled by multiple chemical sensitivities. If there is repeated spraying she said she would have to leave Berkeley and her job with the Berkeley Unified School District. 

“This is chemical warfare on us,” she said. “It’s an inside job.” 

Also Tuesday evening the Oakland Public Safety Committee voted to oppose the spray and will ask the full council to do the same in two weeks.


Councilmember Promises Probe Of Anita Gay Shooting

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday February 26, 2008
Mourners lit candles at the end of Thursday night’s memorial service for Anita Gay, who was fatally shot outside her South Berkeley apartment by a police officer Feb. 16.
By Richard Brenneman
Mourners lit candles at the end of Thursday night’s memorial service for Anita Gay, who was fatally shot outside her South Berkeley apartment by a police officer Feb. 16.

Tears, sobs, angry words, whispered remembrances and promises of action punctuated Thursday night’s gathering in a South Berkeley church to honor the memory of a grandmother fatally shot by police on the night of Feb. 16. 

“I don’t think it should have happened,” said Max Anderson, who represents the area on the Berkeley City Council. 

“It is very difficult to understand why a 51-year-old woman was shot this way, and I need answers,” he said, adding that talks with community members “have given me a different version” than the official police account. 

The councilmember spoke after listening to friends and family describe Gay as a woman who cared for friends and young people in the community. 

“Those of us who grew up in the black community know we have people in the community” who care for others, he said. “In the neighborhood I grew up in, there was a woman we called Big Mama. We didn’t need foster care. She raised scores of children,” he said. 

The stories he heard about Gay Thursday evening reminded him of that figure from his youth. 

Anderson said that after meeting with City Manager Phil Kamlarz, he would make certain that another community meeting would be held addressing concerns raised by the shootings. 

He also directed a dig at Berkeley police, who “recently had a problem with narcotics missing” from the department’s evidence locker. In that case, he said, “it seems like the police are sometimes reluctant to snitch,” though they encourage community members to inform on each other. 

Police need to operate within the law, said the councilmember, because only then will the community have confidence in law enforcement and the needed services they provide. 

Other speakers included Andrea Prichett, a B-Tech Academy teacher who is also an activist with Copwatch, a representative of Uhuru House, a speaker from the ANSWER Coalition and Melvin Dixon of the Commemoration Committee of the Black Panther Party. 

Another speaker, Gary King Sr., had a more personal connection with Gay’s family. His son, Gary Jr., was also shot in the back by a police officer five months earlier a few blocks to the south. 

Gary King Jr. was killed on Sept. 20 near the corner of 54th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way by a Oakland police sergeant who had been involved in at least two prior shootings, one fatal. 

As with the killing of Gay, police and neighborhood accounts offered contrasting versions of the shooting, and in both cases the people shot were alleged to be in possession of deadly weapons—a knife in Gay’s case, a pistol in the case of the younger King. 

“My son Jerry was also murdered by the police,” said King, who said of Gay, “another queen of the neighborhood has fallen.” 

King’s family has sued the Oakland Police Department, and the young man’s death has sparked demonstrations at the Alameda County District Attorney’s office. 

The DA’s office, Berkeley police homicide detectives and the department’s internal affairs division are all investigating the shooting of Gay. Officer Rashawn Cummings, who fired the fatal shots, is currently on paid administrative leave. 

Berkeley police spokesperson Sgt. Mary Kusmiss said that statements from witnesses, family members and the officer had all indicated that Gay was carrying a knife at the time she was shot. 

Family members and some witnesses have since stated she had put the knife down before the shooting. 

 

Controversy 

While many of the mourners Thursday night portrayed Berkeley police as violent and the death of Gay as an act of murder, two Berkeley police organizations have challenged one of the most outspoken critics of the shooting. 

Though he didn’t speak at the memorial Thursday night, Allan Jackson, president of the Berkeley chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, has called the shooting “a cowardly act of murder of an African American female by the Berkeley Police Department.” 

In a letter published Friday in the Daily Planet and quoted elsewhere, Jackson said, “It is apparent that the only thing in the mind of a Berkeley Police Officer is to kill any African American that they can.” 

In a joint statement, Henry Wellington, president of the Berkeley Police Association, and Shira Warren, president of the Berkeley Black Police Officers Association, denounced Jackson’s charges. 

The two officers, both African American, said his allegation that Berkeley police target blacks for shooting “has absolutely no basis in fact and is without any credibility whatsoever.” 

In their statement, the officers said Jackson’s remarks are “needlessly inflammatory, and serve no constructive purpose.”


Assembly Resolutions Attack Moth Spraying Plan

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday February 26, 2008

Five assemblymembers introduced a swarm of resolutions Friday aimed at changing state rules that give the agriculture department secretary the authority to order aerial pesticide spraying after declaring an emergency due to the invasion of a pest. 

The pest at issue is the Light Brown Apple Moth, which the state agriculture secretary says has the potential to cause severe damage to California’s agribusiness, although no such damage has been reported. 

State Sen. Carole Migden plans to introduce a resolution in the Senate this week, calling for a moratorium on the spray. 

Resolutions approved by the state Legislature are advisory and do not carry the force of law. 

The California Department of Food and Agriculture plans to spray CheckMate, a pesticide produced by Suterra LLC in Bend, Ore., from planes over Santa Cruz and Monterey counties in June and Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin and San Mateo counties in August. (Specifically, in Alameda County the CDFA says it will spray the cities of Berkeley, Alameda Albany, Emeryville, Oakland and Piedmont, and in Contra Costa, it plans to spray El Cerrito, El Sobrante, Hercules, Kensington, Pinole Richmond and San Pablo.) 

Santa Cruz and Monterey counties were sprayed during four days in September, after which more than 600 persons reported health problems such as difficulty breathing, diarrhea, itchy skin and more.  

Tonight (Tuesday) at the Berkeley City Council meeting, the state will present its rationale for wanting to use the spray; spray opponents will have equal time to speak. Other citizens will have one minute each to weigh in. And Councilmember Dona Spring is asking the council to sign on to a resolution joining the Albany City Council in opposing the spray. 

The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the Maudelle Shirek Building, 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, is televised on Channel 33 and broadcast on KPFB-FM 89.3. 

The five bills introduced in the Assembly on Friday are: 

• AB 2764, by Assemblymember Loni Hancock, D-Oakland/Berkeley, would prohibit the CDFA secretary from approving the application of a pesticide in an urban area, unless the governor has proclaimed a state of emergency. The secretary currently declares the emergency, which carries the ability to mandate how and where the eradication will take place. 

“We are trying to bring some transparency to a process that seems to favor economic interest over public health,” Hancock said in a prepared statement. “The fact that the Department is now doing an EIR that won't be complete until some time after the spraying has commenced brings into question the openness of this process. We believe that there are significant questions that remain unanswered and we are trying to get answers for our constituents before the spraying occurs.”  

• AB 2763, the Invasive Pest Planning Act of 2008, by Assemblymember John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, would require the CDFA to create a list of invasive animals, plants, and insects likely to enter California, for which an eradication program might be appropriate. The department would be required to prepare an assessment of the most appropriate eradication method for each that would include the chemistry of the pesticide and its impact on public health and the environment. It would coordinate with the Public Health, and Fish and Game departments. 

• AB 2765, by Assemblymember Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, sets new limits on the CDFA’s emergency powers, requiring a public hearing to receive testimony and examine alternatives to aerial spraying prior to any decision to spray. Aerial spraying of urban areas in emergency situations would be prohibited without full disclosure of all elements in any pesticide product and a certification of its safety by state health officials.  

• AB 2760, by Assemblyman Leno, D-San Francisco, would require that an environmental impact report be completed before the CDFA can apply pesticide in an urban area for the eradication of the light brown apple moth. The current emergency rules permit completion of an EIR after the spraying has taken place. 

“The report will arm us with the information we need to help the state and communities make an informed decision. Too much is at stake to enter into the discussion without all of the facts,” Leno said in a statement. 

• AB 2892 is a bill introduced Friday by Assemblymember Sandré Swanson that will become law if passed by both houses of the legislature. It would require the CDFA secretary to obtain the consent of two-thirds of the registered voters of the affected cities and counties before applying a pesticide from the air in a proclaimed pest eradication zone that includes an urban area. The state would bear the cost of the election. 

• Laird will also be introducing this week a joint resolution—one that goes through the Assembly then to the Senate—about how the LBAM eradication effort should be conducted. It will say that it is the responsibility of the government to demonstrate that its actions are necessary, appropriate, and do not compromise health or the environment, and that the various state departments and agencies involved in the LBAM eradication effort need to address the unresolved health, scientific, and efficacy issues concerning the 2007 eradication effort.  

There will be a hearing on the use of the aerial spray as part of the Environmental Impact Report at the Elihu Harris State Building, 1515 Clay St., Oakland, 6-8:30 p.m. The public can give input at that time. The hearing will be re-broadcast on KPFA-FM 94.1 at 10 a.m. Wednesday. 


South Berkeley Man Killed; Police Reveal Few Details

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday February 26, 2008

Callers flooded the police switchboard moments before midnight Sunday with reports of shots fired in the 1500 block of Harmon Street. 

When police arrived three minutes later, they found a young man lying on the sidewalk, bleeding from multiple gunshot wounds, said Berkeley Police Lt. Andrew Greenwood. 

Rushed to Highland Hospital’s emergency room, he was pronounced dead minutes later. 

The victim has been identified as Brandon Terrell Jones, 29, a South Berkeley resident.  

Greenwood declined to release more details of the shooting late Monday afternoon. 

“Homicide investigators are continuing to work the case, but if more time goes by and we don’t develop any leads, we may release additional information,” he said. 

Jones is the city’s third violent death for the year, all in South Berkeley.  

Kent Evans, 44, died Jan. 3 from stab wounds incurred in a dispute outside an Adeline Street bar 12 days earlier. A suspect has been charged in that case, which apparently began when the suspect made disparaging remarks about Evans’ companion. 

The second death was that of Anita Gay, who was fatally shot by a Berkeley police officer Jan. 16 following a disturbance outside her apartment on Ward Street. That shooting is currently under investigation by Berkeley police and the Alameda County district attorney’s office.


Wozniak Wants Two Readings For Peace and Justice Items

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday February 26, 2008

After Move America Forward took aim at a Berkeley City Council item approved Jan. 29 asking the city manager to write the Marines saying their recruiters were “unwelcome intruders” in Berkeley—and council supporters took to the streets to face off with MAF and to ask the council not to back down—the council softened its language, agreeing not to write the letter. Instead, on Feb. 12, it publicly reiterated support for the troops and opposition to the war. 

The original Jan. 29 council item in question was written by the city’s Peace and Justice Commission. Councilmembers Laurie Capitelli and Linda Maio both said they hadn’t thoroughly read the item when they voted to support it. 

To prevent councilmembers from voting on Peace and Justice issues they haven’t read, Councilmember Gordon Wozniak is introducing a change in council rules that would mandate a second reading of all items from the Peace and Justice Commission. “It’s an opportunity to catch problems,” Wozniak said. 

“The council agenda gets posted Thursday night,” Wozniak said, arguing that the council doesn’t have time to review the issues. “It gives little opportunity for the council to hear from the community.” 

Wozniak’s council item will face opposition.  

“It’s a great way to make City Council meetings longer,” quipped Councilmember Laurie Capitelli, arguing that controversial items can originate from various commissions or departments—“even from Public Works,” he said. 

Both Capitelli and Maio told the Planet they would be paying better attention to the wording of council items in the future. 

Capitelli suggested that the Agenda Committee could do a better job of placing controversial items on the action calendar rather than on the consent calendar. Consent items are approved without discussion. 

Asked what she thought of Wozniak’s suggestion, Councilmember Dona Spring said, “It makes no sense. It’s an insult to the commission and the community. Any councilmember can ask for items to be held over.” 

Referring to the original council item, which Wozniak opposed and the replacement item, which he also opposed, Councilmember Max Anderson said he thought Wozniak’s idea to require two readings of Peace and Justice items, was a response to “being on the losing side of two votes.”  

Councilmember Kriss Worthington said it is unfair to single out one commission. “I think this is a drastic overreaction,” he said. 

But Wozniak said the Peace and Justice Commission should be viewed differently because “the scope of the mandate is different.” Much of what the commissioners deal with is primarily outside Berkeley, he said. 

“Many elected officials do not read the thousands of pages they are provided with,” he added. 

Tonight’s council packet is just 571 pages; on Jan. 29 it was 856 pages, with last-minute additions coming in the night of the meeting. 

One solution to the council not reading all the material would be to hold more frequent City Council meetings with fewer items to discuss, Worthington suggested, noting that there are lengthy documents to read, especially on land-use issues.  

“It’s logical to give more time to read these hundreds of pages,” he said.  

(On tonight’s agenda, for example, an appeal on moving the Blood House on Durant Avenue consists of 156 pages in the council packet, with additional material available on the city clerk website.) 

Asked if people who don’t read the items should recuse themselves, Spring said people often abstain when they haven’t read the material.  

Laughing, Worthington said, “It would force people to lie.” 

Wozniak said recusal would be difficult to regulate. “We may have to recuse ourselves a lot,” given the size of the council packet, he said. 

 

Move America Forward on TV 

Coming from Move America Forward to a small screen near you will be a TV commercial featuring clips from the Berkeley City Council’s stand regarding the Marine Recruiting Center controversy. 

The clips include Mayor Tom Bates standing up for the city’s anti-recruiting stance, saying: “They don’t belong here; they shouldn’t have come here; they should leave,” and others, including Spring and Anderson, saying that they will not apologize for their anti-military-recruiting stands. 

“The purpose is that we want everybody to know what the Berkeley City Council has refused to do—to apologize,” Catherine Moy, executive director of MAF, told the Daily Planet on Monday.  

The ads will run on local TV stations in the Bay Area and Sacramento, where MAF is based, and throughout the country on cable TV, Moy said. 

She said the nonprofit organization is spending $10,000 in the Bay Area alone to run the ads, which direct the public to their website, where they can sign a petition and contribute funds. “People are giving from $25 to $1,500,” Moy said.  

Asked what she thought of the video, Mary Kay Clunies-Ross, the city’s public information officer, said she thought it was a money-making scheme, with a PayPal button right next to the ad on the MAF website. 

“Some people are legitimately concerned about what the council did,” Clunies-Ross said. “However, media consumers have to ask how the ads are being paid for. I see a fund-raising campaign.”  

Clunies-Ross added that while “other communities are losing their uniqueness, we are an amazing community, maintaining our identify.”  

Moy, however, said they were using the funds to push back against what she called “Berkeley’s Anti-American” attitude. “We’re spending every penny on ads,” she said. 

Capitelli’s response to the ad, of which he’d seen clips on a news show, was, “The six of us [depicted in the clip] look like we’re just getting out of Guantanamo.”  

Capitelli said he’s posted his own response on YouTube, a four-minute clip from the Feb. 12 City Council meeting so that people can see councilmembers making “their own statements about who did what.” It can be seen at http://youtube.com/watch?v=nB0wgs8tcPc. 

 

 


Dellums’ Police Proposal to Get Further Vetting

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Tuesday February 26, 2008

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums has run into a City Council delay in fast-tracking an Oakland Police Department enhanced recruitment plan, but it remains to be seen how much that delay is due to political, policy, or fiscal concerns, and how long that delay will last. 

With Oakland police strength consistently hovering at some 75 officers below the authorized 803 strength and with crime and violence a rising concern in Oakland, the mayor and Oakland Police Chief Wayne Tucker two weeks ago unveiled a plan to step up recruitment and retention of police officers with $7.7 million in Measure Y violence prevention money. 

The proposal went directly to the full Oakland City Council last Tuesday, bypassing the Measure Y Oversight Committee and the council's Public Safety Committee. But despite Chief Tucker’s concerns that “each week we delay makes it more difficult” for the proposed May starting date of a regional training class, a key component of the proposal, the council delayed action until both the Measure Y and Public Safety committees could take a closer look at the proposals this week. 

If passed by Public Safety, as expected, the issue would come back before the full council next week. 

The Measure Y Oversight Committee was scheduled to review the police recruitment on Monday night (February 25) after the Daily Planet's deadline for this story, while the council’s Public Safety Committee will take up the issue tonight (Tuesday, February 26) at 7:30 p.m. in Hearing Room One at City Hall. 

“I know the mayor is putting forward a plan that he feels needs to be done today,” Council President Ignacio De La Fuente said, shortly before the council took its vote. “But I know some of my colleagues feel some of these proposals need some refinement.” 

In supporting sending the proposal back to the Public Safety Committee, District 6 Councilmember Desley Brooks added that the plan had “a lot of generalities but not a lot of specifics.” 

In their proposal, Dellums and Tucker are asking for $3.3 million in Measure Y money to run four police academies this year, twice the currently allocated number, with two of them operated for the first time by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department rather than the Oakland Police Department itself. One and a half million dollars would go to advertising and marketing to attract new recruits, with $1.2 million in administrative support to expedite the police recruit application and selection process. 

The money would be taken from the $17 million Measure Y fund balance that has been accumulating during the years the city has failed to fully staff the violence prevention officer slots authorized by the measure.  

Despite an Oakland aity attorney’s opinion that the use of the Measure Y money was proper for the goals stated in the proposal, the use of that money was severely criticized by Measure Y Oversight Committee Chair Maya Dillard-Smith. 

“The use of Measure Y funds for this purpose is legally impermissible and fiscally irresponsible,” Dillard-Smith told councilmembers at last Tuesday's delibeations. "It feeds into the biggest fear some citizens had about Measure Y: that it would turn into a slush fund for [the Oakland Police Department].” 

And District 3 Councilmember Nancy Nadel had harsh words for Dellums, saying that “I’m in a mode to try to solve the problem, to try to take the politics out of it. But it seems like the mayor wants to place himself separate from the Council and say that this is his proposal. I resent that type of politics coming out of this.” 

None of the other councilmembers went that far in criticizing Dellums or questioning the use of Measure Y funds for the entire police recruitment proposal, but several said that its use was questionable for some of the items. 

Saying that “an overwhelming number of citizens have told us that we need to get to [the authorized police strength of] 803," District 2 Councilmember Pat Kernighan said that the city’s general fund should continue to support the two regular police academies, while Measure Y should pick up the tab for the two additional ones. She also said that because OPD was able to keep new hires even with retirements using two academies a year, the two extra academies should only be supported until the department gets up to fully authorized strength. 

District 4 Councilmember Jean Quan, on the other hand, said that she was “comfortable with the $3 million going to the double academies, but I'm not comfortable with the $1.5 million for advertising” from Measure Y. “We’ll have to find ways from the general fund to pay for some it.” 

And even District 1 Councilmember Jane Brunner, who said she supported voting on the proposal last Tuesday (“I think we're in a crisis; I’m ready to move”) had doubts that seemed to require further discussion. "I have a question about whether some recruited officers will go into non-Measure Y positions or categories," she said. “I don't want to come back in six months and learn we have to repay Measure Y from the general fund.” 

The proposal was originally intended by the mayor’s office to be brought before the Measure Y Oversight Committee before it went to the council, but problems with legal public notice requirements caused the committee to cancel two meetings in which the proposal was to be discussed. There is a dispute over why the proposal was not first discussed in the council's Public Safety Committee, with committee chair Larry Reid saying he recommended passing it on to the full council without discussion because he thought it was an informational item only and he did not know it included the $7.7 million funding request. A Dellums spokesperson said it was clear that the request was an action item.


Kavanagh Pleads Guilty to One Charge

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday February 26, 2008

In a plea agreement Friday, former Rent Stabilization Boardmember Chris Kavanagh pleaded no contest to one felony count of improperly registering to vote in Berkeley, when he actually lived in Oakland.  

In exchange for the plea, District Attorney Trevor White dropped five other felony counts related to serving on Berkeley’s rent board while living in Oakland, lying about it, and collecting a stipend and health benefits from the post. 

Kavanagh will be sentenced April 24, and could receive up to six months at Santa Rita jail. He will be on probation for five years and cannot run for office during that time. He must pay a fine of $10,835 to the city of Berkeley. 

Prosecutors dropped charges of voter fraud, filing false candidacy papers, perjury, fraudulent voting in Berkeley and grand theft for accepting a monthly stipend and health insurance benefits while serving on the rent board.  

In a statement e-mailed to the Daily Planet on Friday, Kavanagh said, “As I indicated in a previous statement, like many Berkeley homeowners who own (or rent) two homes, I rented two living spaces over the last several years: one in Berkeley and another in Oakland. I kept possession of my Oakland space because I did not want to give up its local amenities and rare outdoor garden space. There is nothing unusual about possessing two living spaces.” 

Kavanagh contends that he had a Berkeley residence “with the exception of a period of time during parts of 2006 and 2007 when I involuntarily lost my Berkeley home.” 

Kavanagh, a Green Party member, was first elected to the rent board in 2002. In 2003 questions arose over his residency, and the city attorney asked the district attorney’s office to look at the case, but the district attorney did not pursue the issue. 

Questions about his residency arose again last year when Kavanagh fought an eviction from his Oakland residence, a cottage on 63rd Street. The city attorney again asked the district attorney to intervene, which he did this time. 

At its meeting on Thursday, the Rent Board members discussed how they will choose Kavanagh’s replacement. Candidates should submit a resume and statement to the Rent Board by March 10, according to Jesse Arreguin, Rent Board chair.  

The board will choose a new director at its March 17 meeting. That director will serve until an elected member takes that person’s place. 

Applications should be sent to Jay Kelekian, executive director, 2125 Milvia St., Berkeley, 94704. Applicants must be Berkeley residents. 

An elected director will serve in the place of the appointed director after the November elections. 

“I am grateful to my family, friends and colleagues for their confidence and support. It has been a sincere honor and privilege to have served on Berkeley's Rent Stabilization Board. I also apologize to my constituents for the period of time I was unable to live in Berkeley,” Kavanagh’s statement says. For the full text of the statement, see Page Fourteen. 

 

Bay City News contributed to this report.


Child-Caused Blaze Burns Lincoln St. House

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday February 26, 2008

Three Berkeley youths, the youngest a 6-year-old, have been criminally charged with setting the blaze that nearly destroyed a vacant home at 2050 Lincoln St. on Feb. 17. 

Berkeley police spokesperson Sgt. Mary Kusmiss said the fire was reported by a 911 call at 2:25 p.m. that day. When police and firefighters arrived, they found flames and smoke pouring from the small dwelling. 

A bystander told a police officer about hearing two boys and a girl talking about starting the fire, and the trio was quick detained and taken to the Public Safety Building for questioning. 

The 6-year-old said she was a student at Rosa Parks Elementary School. The 11-year-old attended sixth grade at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School and the third, age 12, was a seventh-grader at Willard Middle School. 

“All three openly spoke with officers,” said Kusmiss, and the following story emerged: 

The three said they had been using the vacant house as “our little clubhouse,” and had played there three times before. The youngsters said they had found cigarette lighters and matches there, which they used to light three candles which they said they had also found in the dwelling. 

“One of the boys said he was holding a candle, and it dropped on a piece of cardboard on the floor, which caught fire,” said Sgt. Kusmiss. “They said it was the first time they had lit anything.” 

As the flames grew, the children said they added to the flames by tossing on what they called “creepy faces that someone drew.” 

One of the boys said he tried to put out the fire, but failed. 

The trio was held on suspicion of violating section 452 of the California Penal Code, “wrongfully or recklessly starting a fire,” said Sgt. Kusmiss. The charge is a lesser offense than arson. 

“The fire chief explained to the Berkeley police officers that, based on the circumstances, the fire department planned to have the children attend a safety course about the dangers of playing with matches,” she said. 

Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong said the three won’t be formally charged with the crime. “They will go through our juvenile fire-setter program, where they will be shown films about what can happen when they start a fire, and they’ll be evaluated to make sure there are no social or psychological problems. 

“The parents were advised there would be a mandatory meeting with the department,” he said. 

The three were then released to the custody of their parents. 

Deputy Chief Dong said the fire caused an estimated $25,000 in damage. The costs don’t include the value of the structure itself, which had already been targeted for demolition. The value was based on the cost of a demolition permit and for the paint damage to the adjacent row of apartments over commercial buildings on Shattuck Avenue.


Council to Discuss Crime, Blood House

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday February 26, 2008

In addition to the discussion of the Light Brown Apple Moth and Councilmember Gordon Wozniak’s item to hear resolutions from the Peace and Justice Commission twice (see page one), the council will be looking at a number of other critical issues at its meeting tonight. 

A 5 p.m. workshop will look at the police chief’s quarterly crime report, which covers October through December 2007. The report indicates that an increase in robbery is of particular concern. The report also shows an increase in traffic fatalities for 2007. At the same workshop, the city manager will discuss new taxes for police, fire and youth services. 

At 7 p.m., the council will look at an appeal for the move of the Blood House from its location on Durant Avenue, the Condominium Conversion Ordinance, a proposal to condemn construction of a border wall between the United States and Mexico, a letter to the Canadian prime minister to ask for sanctuary for U.S. military resisters and support for the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to continue its downtown shuttle. 

 

Blood House move 

The Zoning Adjustments Board voted to certify the final environmental impact report on the relocation of the Blood House, a city of Berkeley Structure of Merit, currently at 2526 Durant Ave. 

Developers Ruegg & Ellsworth plan to build a five-story development at that location. The approval is being appealed by the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, which argues, among other concerns, that the EIR did not take into consideration the “significant cumulative effects upon the historic resources affected in the Durant Avenue area” and that the removal of the Blood House would significantly diminish the historic context of the area.  

 

Condo conversion 

After hearing from the council, the staff has prepared changes to the condominium conversion ordinance, aimed at facilitating conversion. The changes include: 

• Processing applications on a first-come, first–served basis. 

• Reducing requirements that the unit be brought up to code, requiring only that life safety standards be adhered to. Other violations of code would be disclosed but there would be no mandatory correction. 

• Extending tenant protections to Section 8 voucher holders. 


Pixar Awaits Approval for West Berkeley Day Care Center

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday February 26, 2008

West Berkeley could soon be home to a child care center for Disney Pixar employees if the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) approves a variance for the proposed project Thursday. 

San Rafael-based Wareham Development proposes to convert 9,961 square feet of existing ground floor space at the Saul Zaentz Media Center—formally known as the Fantasy Records Building—at 2600 Tenth St. to serve the needs of up to 100 children whose parents work on-site or at Pixar. 

Wareham needs a variance for the proposed project since the city’s zoning ordinance specifically prohibits child care centers in the Mixed Use /Light Industrial (MULI) district.  

According to a report submitted to the board by zoning staff at the Feb. 14 ZAB meeting, the MULI district’s prohibition of child care centers conflicts with the West Berkeley Plan, which allows day care centers as a conditional use in the Mixed Use/Light Industrial area, and the General Plan, which encourages improvement of the quality of life and private service availability for residents and workers. 

The applicant could have converted office space to a child care center through an administrative use permit but chose not to. 

Zoning staff was not able to explain the discrepancy between the city’s zoning ordinance and the West Berkeley Plan to the board at the last meeting and said they would try to correct this error through zoning amendments the Planning Commission was working on for West Berkeley. 

Drafted in 1999, almost six years after the West Berkeley Plan was written by the city, MULI prohibits movie theaters, medical practitioners, non-art/craft studios and child care centers. 

Wareham recently received a permit from zoning and the City Council to demolish a building at 1050 Parker St., which is located directly across from the proposed project. 

The Tenth Street site currently consists of two structures built in 1974—a two-story building housing recording studios and a seven-story designed for multi-media uses, including screening rooms and mixing studios—which is spread across a total floor area of 117,316 square feet. 

More than 40 businesses and organizations work in the two buildings. 

Around 30 parking spaces in the northwest corner of the property’s parking lot will be converted to 7,500 square feet of outdoor play area in order to comply with state standards, according to the plan. 

Based in Emeryville, Pixar is an Academy Award-winning computer animation studio best known for animated films such as Toy Story, Cars, and Ratatouille.  

“If West Berkeley is to be a center for media and positive economy, then this project will help it,” said Chris Barlow, spokesperson for Wareham Development. “The Saul Zaentz Media Center is a unique building and a unique space. No new buildings will be created. The child care center is a private facility and will not create competition to existing child care facilities.” 

Since the proposed space was formerly used for storage, structural changes would be limited to the interior, with the exception of a door swing change, he said. 

Arlyce Currie from Bananas Child Care, located in West Berkeley, expressed enthusiasm for the project at the meeting. 

“It’s a very rare thing for employees to have child care,” she said. “Pixar employees are having one and a half babies on average a week. There is a lack of infant care and a significant loss of child care centers in Berkeley.” 

Board member Terry Doran commended Pixar for its efforts. 

“It’s a shame that they have to go through a variance process,” he said, and added that the Planning Commission should take a look at the contradictions between the zoning ordinance and the West Berkeley Plan. 

“Forcing Pixar to wait until this is approved by zoning will delay the project.” 

Board chair Rick Judd called the proposed project the “poster child for something that should not need a variance.” 

Zoning staff is scheduled to present the findings for the variance on Thursday.  

In the past, Wareham has developed a part of the former headquarters of Durkee Famous Foods at 800 and 830 Heinz Ave. to a day care center.


Restaurant Proposed for Act 1&2 Theatre Site

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday February 26, 2008

Developer Patrick Kennedy will ask Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board for a blanket use permit Thursday to establish a 13,974-square-foot full-service upscale restaurant and bar at the former location of the Act 1&2 Theatre. 

No tenant has yet been named for the proposed Center Street project, which proposes to remain open from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. Kennedy had earlier wanted the restaurant to stay open till 2 a.m. but decreased it by an hour after discussions with the Berkeley Police Department (BPD). 

The project proposal does not state clearly whether the establishment plans to serve alcohol independent of purchasing food. 

In the past, ZAB has approved alcohol permits only if alcohol is served with food.  

According to the Berkeley police, the restaurant should serve food throughout its operating hours so that the venue does not develop into a “de facto nightclub or bar rather than a full service restaurant.” 

In a letter to Jeanne Levine, the project planner, Doug Hambleton, Berkeley police chief, expressed concern about the project. 

“The applicant statement provides only a general description of the business that may occupy the space and does not provide any details of a proposed floor plan or space utilization,” he wrote. “There is also a mention of live entertainment and the possibility of serving ‘corporate gatherings, birthdays, and graduations’ without any details of how those events factor into the overall business plan, or where they will take place inside the establishment.” 

Hambleton also addressed noise and supervision issues.  

Located at 2130 Center St., the landmarked building formerly housed Ennor’s Restaurant in the 1920s. It is currently vacant and is going through interior renovations. 

Offices have been proposed for the second and third floors, while the full-service restaurant has been planned for the basement, ground floor and mezzanine level. The restaurant will also have sidewalk seating.  

According to a ZAB staff report, Kennedy prefers a single large, full-service restaurant as the building’s occupant, but is also open to having smaller food establishments, or food and retail at the same time. 

The project site is located close to the Downtown Berkeley BART station and UC Berkeley. 

Kennedy has also requested an administrative use permit for live entertainment at the venue, which would involve “live cultural performances to enhance the experience of users in the downtown Arts District.” 

The staff report states that noise levels would comply with the city’s noise ordinance. ZAB had not received any objections for the project from neighbors at the time the staff report was written.


Reader Report: Grandmothers Provide Supplies to Tree-Sitters

By Matthew Taylor
Tuesday February 26, 2008

UC police tried to physically prevent food, water, and supplies from reaching treesitters on Feb. 19, but failed in the face of determined efforts by grandmothers, students, and community members. Officers pushed, shoved, and used pain compliance techniques before giving up, as supporters sent supplies to the treesitters and sang “We shall not be moved.”  

On Feb. 18, UC Police raided the grove and cut down food, water, tarps, sleeping platforms, and climbing ropes, nearly causing one treesitter to fall to his death because two of the traverse lines that had been cut still appeared to be securely attached. In response, the Berkeley Grandmothers for the Oaks organized an “emergency resupply” on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. to replace the lost supplies. When the grandmothers and their friends arrived, UC police were ready with a long metal barricade on the sidewalk in front of the grove (on city property). Despite UC’s claim that it has no intention to deny food and water to the treesitters, the approximately 15 police on the scene made every effort to physically intimidate community members and stop them from sending up the goods.  

Chanting “We love the oaks,” community members circled up in a tight hug, linked arms, and sent food and water up on supply ropes. The UC police shoved, pushed, and grabbed citizens, but were unable to break up the circle. They gave up in frustration, and the treesitters received their gifts with smiles on their faces.  

I was standing right in the middle of the circle, with my tape recorder rolling, observing the police’s aggressive behavior. I wondered out loud: is there something else the police could do on behalf of “public safety” than try to deny food and water to protesters, and endanger their lives by cutting their ropes?  

As of Thursday morning, the barricade was gone from the sidewalk. The grandmothers vowed to continue supplying the treesitters every Sunday at 2 p.m. 

Berkeley Citizen’s video of the festivities can be viewed at www.youtube.com/ 

watch?v=lz0aVtraT2E.  


BUSD Heads to Sacramento to Protest Education Cuts

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday February 26, 2008

Berkeley Unified School District officials and parents will be in Sacramento Wednesday to protest Gov. Arnold Schwarzenneger’s proposal to slash school funding by $4.8 billion over the next 18 months. 

The group of 20 from Berkeley will be joined by other districts at the state capital, and will try to meet with the governor. 

“We put in a request to Sacramento to meet with Gov. Schwarzenneger for a few minutes,” said Berkeley district spokesperson Mark Coplan. “We are hoping to get a few minutes with one of his staff members that day.” 

The proposed budget cuts have dominated discussions at Berkeley school board and PTA meetings over the last two months and pose a big question mark on the future of programs, school staff and classroom sizes statewide. 

The Berkeley public schools could lose up to $3 million, which district officials said would prove damaging for the district. 

The proposed K-12 funding would slash $400 million from the state education funds this year and take away $4.4 billion in the next fiscal year, which means $700 less for each of the approximately 6.3 million public school students in the state.  

District Superintendent Bill Huyett told the Berkeley High School Parent Teacher and Student Association (PTSA) last week that Wednesday’s visit would be the first of many trips to Sacramento.  

He repeatedly emphasized the importance of saving Prop. 98—a voter-approved statute that establishes a minimum level of funding for California schools—which the governor proposes to suspend. 

“It takes a two-thirds vote of the legislature to say we will not support public education,” he told PTSA members. “We only need to secure over one-third to stop him. In California we have highly qualified teachers and great programs, and what we find ourselves in is a state that won’t support public education ... I am very discouraged that Republicans and Democrats are not supporting public education like they should.” 

Huyett said he would be putting together an advisory committee made up of district employees and union members which would advise the school board on the proposed cuts. 

“I really want to go ahead with the achievement gap, but that’s not the work that’s been handed to me at the outset,” said the superintendent, who is in his first month on the job. “We are required to line up our budget with what the governor proposes. The community needs to understand that the superintendent is only human ... We have to go through some tough times.” 

The group will spend Wednesday afternoon meeting with the California School Board Association to get updates on the proposed cuts and statewide action by education coalitions. 

Discussions with the Association of California School Administrators, state Assemblymember Loni Hancock and officials from Senator Don Perata’s office have also been scheduled. 

Hancock, along with Assemblymember Sandré Swanson, was one of the five to vote against the proposed cuts. “It’s simply untenable to cut K-12 funding,” she told the Planet Monday. 

“We cannot make across-the-board 10 percent cuts and expect our schools to provide the quality of programs we want and expect for our students.” 

County Superintendent Sheila Jordan, also a Berkeley High parent, told the Planet that she would lobby legislators to adopt alternatives to the cuts. 

“The governor’s statement that this is not a revenue problem but a spending problem is just rhetorical nonsense,” she said. “In order to run a state of this size you need to spend money on educating our citizens. We don’t need new taxes, we should reinstate existing taxes ... Close some of the loopholes that is letting the wealthy become wealthier and the poor even more poor.” 

Jordan said that if the cuts occur, 15 out of 18 school districts in Alameda County will face negative certification. 

“We are focusing on issues of race and class right now,” she said. “All those strategies and training that help to create a strong curriculum will be jeopardized.” 

Education Week recently gave California a D+ for public school funding efforts. According to county officials, the state—which currently spends $2,000 less per student than the national average and ranks 46th nationally in school funding—ranks behind less prosperous states such as Louisiana and Mississippi.  

“We should be in the top five funded states in education in the country,” said Berkeley High PTSA president Mark van Krieken. “Instead we are languishing in the bottom five. I want to personally sit down with Arnold and tell him to put down something on the ballot that will make us average ... We need a Reach for Mediocrity Campaign. If the state doesn’t do anything to improve public education funding then it’s up to Berkeley to use city taxes to fund our children’s education.” 

District officials said they were also hoping to head to Sacramento for a statewide rally in May.


Hamill Announces Candidacy for Oakland City Council

J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Tuesday February 26, 2008

What a difference a weekend makes in politics. 

On Friday, February 15, the Daily Planet was reporting that retiring Oakland Unified School District Board member Kerry Hamill was denying rumors that he would be a candidate for Henry Chang’s At-Large Oakland City Council race in the June 3 election. “I’m not considering it,” Hamill told the Planet by telephone. 

By the following Monday, Hamill was sending out an e-mail to potential supporters announcing her candidacy for the At-Large Oakland City Council seat, and asking the e-mail’s recipients to join her at a March 6 fundraiser sponsored by State Senator Don Perata. 

In an e-mailed explanation to the Planet, Hamill apologized for not saying in the interview that she was running, adding that she had not talked with her boss at the time and was “just not prepared to talk freely with you about these things.” 

Unless Oakland City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente breaks ranks with Perata, Hamill’s decision to run, with Perata’s support, would appear to leave incumbent Henry Chang out of Oakland’s established political fold in the June election for the first time since he was appointed by the council in 1994 to fill the unexpired term of Councilmember Henry Ogawa. In March of 2000 against four challengers, he was endorsed by then-Oakland mayor Jerry Brown, and by Brown and De La Fuente in his November runoff against Rebecca Kaplan. Four years later, against challenger Melanie Shelby, Chang won the endorsement of the triumvirate of Oakland’s political powers: Brown, De La Fuente, and Perata. 

But that was then. This is now. 

The Oakland at-large council race now has five announced candidates, the best indication that challengers sense a political weakness in Chang. Besides Chang and Hamill, Oakland Residents for Peaceful Neighborhoods co-founder Charles Pine, AC Transit at-large board member Rebecca Kaplan, and former AC Transit Board member and former Oakland Planning Commissioner Clinton Killian have all taken out filing papers with the Oakland City Clerk’s office for the June 3 election. 

Meanwhile, Berkeley and Oakland will see two more hotly contested races in the June election. 

In the 14th State Assembly District, where incumbent Assemblymember Loni Hancock is termed out and cannot run for re-election, four candidates have now taken out filing papers with the Alameda County Registrar of Voters: Richmond City Councilmember Tony Thurmond, former Berkeley City Councilmember and East Bay Regional Parks District Board member Nancy Skinner, Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington, and Berkeley resident Dr. Phil Polakoff. 

But as powerful as the candidates appear to be in 14th Assembly race, that will probably be overshadowed by the expected barn-burner in the State Senate District 9 race, where current District 14 Assemblymember Loni Hancock will be running against former District 16 Assemblymember Wilma Chan.


East Bay Climate Great for Cultivating Herbs

By Shirley Barker, Special to the Planet
Tuesday February 26, 2008

Surely the healthiest diet in the world is vegetarian, the one which balances the complementary proteins found in whole grains and legumes, which features a wide variety of brightly colored fruits and vegetables, and which is augmented by judicious amounts of dairy products.  

Gastro-intestinal ailments are rife among carnivores. Vegans are constantly at risk for nutritional deficiencies, often looking less healthy than their household pets. In contrast, this vegetarian cuisine is full of natural, not processed, life. 

We are fortunate in Berkeley to live where Indian, Arabic and Mexican groceries provide all kinds of lentils and beans as well as the chilis and spices to enliven them. Take for instance lentil soup, prosaic standby of many a wintry eve. Add to the brown or green or red lentils a dried reconstituted poblano chili, some tomato paste, chopped onion and parsnip, and lemon zest. Simmer for the time required to soften the lentils and one will enjoy a rich, savory soup that can not be bought in any form. 

Let us not forget to garnish the top with finely chopped parsley, for herbs contribute to the interest and value of vegetarian food. Fresh herbs are best used fresh, as they tend to be overwhelmed by other flavors when cooked. Dried, their pungency increases significantly. 

The following herbs grow readily in the East Bay. But first, a word on their cultivation. 

Culinary herbs are annual, perennial and biennial. Most herbs need their own space separate from the vegetable garden. Most need sharp drainage and lean soil. Many do well in pots, a good solution where space is limited. Provide drainage by placing pebbles in the base of pots to a depth of one inch. For heat and drought lovers, very fine gravel can be mixed with the potting soil and also used as a mulch. 

Although such herbs like a full day of sunlight, a surprising number tolerate some shade, and a few do better in it. 

The following have woody stems: 

Rosemary: Many varieties, from upright to prostrate. Take softwood cuttings after three years to perpetuate a favorite. 

Thyme: Similar to rosemary. Both do best with no fertilizer, little water. 

Origanum: Small flowers attract native bees, important pollinators, so shear after flowers are spent. Completely drought-tolerant here, once established. 

Sage: Similar to above. Many varieties, some quite large and fragrant. Salvia officinalis is garden sage. S. elegans, pineapple sage, is a large rangy shrub with scarlet flowers beloved by hummingbirds. 

All the above need their own space and are easy to dry. 

The following are herbaceous umbels: 

Parsley: The seed has to go to the devil and back before it germinates, so buy plants. A biennial, it sends up a flower stalk in its second year. Cut this off to prolong harvest. Fits in well with the vegetable rotation plan. Best used fresh—and cooked. 

Fennel: Some varieties have a bulbous edible stalk. Leaves and seeds taste of anise. An important food plant for caterpillars of swallowtail butterfly. Take care not to confuse fennel with poison hemlock. 

Cilantro: Small delicate plants quickly flower and set seed, almost before one has time to harvest leaves. Seeds however are valuable in the kitchen, as coriander. 

Dill: Similar to fennel in appearance but not in taste. 

The following are tender-leaved: 

Basil: Sow frequently in a hot spot throughout the summer, in the vegetable bed. Or grow in pots (think Keats). 

Mint: Prefers a shady spot with a little sun and plenty of moisture. Spreads by underground stolons, so can be invasive. 

Borage: Sow seeds in a permanent place. It dislikes being moved. Self-sows readily. 

Nasturtium: Easy to grow from seed, self sows, does not transplant well. Leaves, flowers and young green seeds are edible.  

 

Herby flowers 

Chamolie: Two kinds, one a ground cover that takes light foot traffic, the other an upright plant grown for its tea leaves. 

Pelargonium: Incorrectly called Geranium. Best in sun. Variously scented leaves perfume desserts and cakes. Easy to propagate from cuttings. Remove a side shoot, let the end dry for a day. Dust with hormone-rooting powder and pot up. Cut back mature leggy plants. If grown in a pot, it likes to be slightly crowded—choose a pot that seems just a little too small for it. 

My parsley will soon send up a flower stalk. At the moment it is going strong. I chose an Italian flat-leaved variety, although I can taste no difference between it and the curly-leaf kind. 

It’s delicious in breakfast patties. Simply cook those lentils again, just the brown or the green ones this time, with as little water as possible. Blend or puree them and if necessary, thicken over heat. Add finely chopped red onion and home-grown parsley. Form into little patties and fry until golden brown on both sides. Sprinkle salt over them if you must. Eaten after the usual cereal or with toast, they nicely contribute to a nutritionally balanced, protein-rich and, above all, easily-digested start to the day. 


Opinion

Editorials

Editorial: Tell It To The Marines

By Becky O'Malley
Friday February 29, 2008

OK, I admit it, I finally cracked. What put me over the edge Thursday morning was this letter, similar in vocabulary, grammar and spelling to many we’ve gotten in the past few weeks: 

 

Thank you for running the letter from the Marine Captain to “CODE STINK.”I really feel sorry for you and all the decent people in Berkeley that must suffer with such poor representation as your mayor and city council. 

My family and I have visited Berkeley on a number occasions [sic], but we shall never spend another penny in Berkeley. 

I hope all Federal funds are withdrawn from your city. 

Mack B______ 

ex-military officer 

Tulsa, Oklahoma 

 

I just couldn’t resist answering this one, something I’ve so far managed to avoid doing most of the time: “THANKS FOR NOT COMING BACK. Too many tourists here already, crowding our streets with their ugly SUVs.” 

I know, I know, editorial page editors are supposed to forego the snappy rebuttals, and that one wasn’t even very snappy, but enough is enough. How many times do folks in places like Tulsa really come to Berkeley and spend big bucks? Not many, I’d be willing to bet a good amount. 

We’ve printed all the local letters on this topic, even extending the definition of local to Marin, which is really another country. The ones from the Tulsaites (Tulsaoides? Tulsans?) and their ilk have been posted on the web, since we think the writers are pretty unlikely to pick up a printed Planet from a box.  

The BANG-papers which now surround The City had a pool story yesterday which took the temperature of the downtown merchants and reported that they’re still a bit feverish over all the excitement. According to the story, “ ‘The downtown is like a full-time circus right now. There isn’t a day when we’re not hearing the drums and the noise (from the various groups). I think it’s off putting,’ said Susie Medak, managing director of the Berkeley Repertory Theatre.” 

Well maybe, but this week we finally made it over to the next-door Aurora Theater to see a lively production starring an old friend, Michael Gene Sullivan, a stalwart member of the San Francisco Mime Troupe, which has never been afraid of controversy. We almost didn’t get in, on a Wednesday yet. The show sold out, so we had to settle for the “obstructed view” seats that normally don’t get offered.  

No one there seemed to be off-put. There was the usual sprinkling of elderly parties with walkers, plenty of middle-aged ladies with the kind of careful coiffures produced by Walnut Creek hairdressers, and even some young people.  

I got there early to make sure we snagged the last seats, so I had time to browse in the Half-Price Books store on the corner. It was full of cheery shoppers. And the Center Street garage was well-filled, though it’s seldom been sold out even pre-protests. 

I haven’t been able to get downtown in the daytime much lately, but I have no doubt that the commotion around the Marines’ recruiting center has been difficult for the lunch businesses on the same block. That’s not a political boycott, however, it’s just a congestion management problem which needs a creative solution from city government. It seems now that what the protesters were allocated was not “a parking space,” but that the council was trying to create a “no-parking space” in front of the Marines’ office to get protesters off the sidewalk. That’s a step in the right direction, but it needs to be better supervised.  

A councilmember told me that he’d gotten an e-mail from someone, not connected with any organization, who’d been told by a police officer that he couldn’t hand out anti-recruiting flyers on the block in question—that he should take them over to the BART station. No, no, no. Definitely unclear on the concept.  

If there was ever a constitutionally protected activity, that’s it. Recent court decisions have even limited the power of private mall owners to ban leafleting on their premises, and city streets have always been OK. 

In what might have been a first, a press release yesterday from the city’s Police Information Officer included a link to a call on Indybay (an Internet independent news page, for all you old folks) for a big-time gathering of protesters in downtown Berkeley starting at noon today (Friday). PIO Sgt. Kussmiss told us that “BPD has issued a call out to our Crowd Management Team (CMT). This is a specialized team who does regular ongoing training in principles of crowd management and community safety.” Well, that will add more police overtime to the $100K bill already run up, and it might even work, but there are better options. 

What’s needed now is a city-blessed “free speech zone” open to all well-behaved comers, whatever their point of view. Tables and chairs for intelligent sit-down discussions should not only be allowed but encouraged, perhaps even supplied by the city. Bullhorns, however, (Code Pink is reported to have tried one on Wednesday) should be banned, as should any other form of amplification which would disturb the neighbors. There’s nothing in the Constitution about a right to Very Loud Speech. 

The particular dogleg of Shattuck where the Marines have already rented a space is as good a place as any for this endeavor. Transportation mavens have frequently suggested that one problem with downtown traffic flow and pedestrian safety is the confusing way Shattuck splits at that location, and that one branch should be closed. Be that as it may, taking away one or more car spaces for a free speech zone won’t do any harm.  

It could even become a tourist attraction like the Hyde Park Speakers’ Corner in London. The Tulsa-type tourists might be put off, but I bet those from the European Community, the ones with the real money these days, would love the idea. And downtown Berkeley is notably short of tourist magnets at the moment. 

As we used to say in the software industry, you can always turn a bug into a feature, and it’s the smart thing to do. Yes, yes, I’ve said this all before, but let’s just do it.  

 


Editorial: Stuck With Bill’s Bills

By Becky O'Malley
Tuesday February 26, 2008

“I am never forget the day I first meet the great Lobachevsky. 

In one word he told me secret of success in mathematics: Plagiarize!” 

 

Plagiarize, 

Let no one else’s work evade your eyes, 

Remember why the good Lord made your eyes, 

So don’t shade your eyes, 

But plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize... 

Only be sure always to call it please, “research.” 

 

Let’s just say right here up top, to avoid any issues, that these words were first penned (or sung with a heavy Slavic accent) by that brilliant incisive social critic Tom Lehrer, as transcribed for the Internet audience by one Graeme Cree (thank you, Graeme, whoever you are.) 

For anyone too young or socially isolated to be unfamiliar with the oeuvre, Cree’s site includes this thumbnail bio: “Tom Lehrer is a schoolteacher who enjoyed a career during the 1950s and 1960s as a satirical songwriter. If you’ve never heard him, he’s very similar to Mark Russell, except that he’s funny.”  

The unsubstantiated rumor is that Lehrer gave up satire when Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace prize. He actually is (or was) a working mathematician, whatever that might mean, and he’s also taught musical theater courses at Santa Cruz from time to time.  

And never forget: He, like Barack Obama, can claim to be “Harvard-trained.” Perhaps this could explain why Hillary went off so oddly on Obama last week: a lingering suspicion on the part of Mrs. Clinton, who trained at a rival institution, that those Harvard guys like Lehrer and Obama don’t take plagiarism seriously enough. But sadly, people just laughed at her, especially after that attempt at a quip in the last debate about “change you can xerox.” 

But seriously: plagiarism. Experts of all stripes have been having a field day making fun of the Clinton campaign’s misuse of a serious word that means taking someone else’s work and passing it off as your own. This is definitely this week’s winner of the “What Were They Thinking” award.  

Plagiarism is a big deal in the academic context, where the basic work product is ideas and the expression of them. Everywhere else, even in intellectual property law, the concept gets vaguer and vaguer. You can’t copyright ideas, and there are strict legal limits on copyrighting particular expressions of ideas.  

In the pop music world it’s called “covering” or “sampling” someone else’s work, and it’s done all the time, with and without permission, and without a second thought. In tonier arts circles, it’s “hommage.” Classical composers often reprise tunes from their own work or the work of predecessors in new pieces—they call it “quoting.” Even (or especially) Shakespeare did it, all the time with no evident embarrassment. 

Words still have meaning, even in politics, and “plagiarism” is the wrong word in the wrong place at the wrong time. The next thing you know, Clinton’s overpaid consultants will be scripting her to say that Obama stole “It’s time for a change” from long-forgotten ’50s Republican candidate Thomas Dewey and the legions who used the slogan after Dewey made it popular, or perhaps that he lifted “let’s look at the record” from 1920s Democrat Al Smith.  

It’s hard to believe, as the financial reports indicate, that she paid these lame consultants something in the neighborhood of $5 million at a point when she would have to drop a similar amount of her own money into her own campaign. (And parenthetically, where exactly did the Clintons get that kind of money to throw around? Why won’t they release their tax returns?) 

It’s getting to be much too easy to dump on Hillary Clinton, a bright woman who would probably be an achiever in any job she tried. But it was her own voice on the tape shrilly castigating the Obama campaign for sending out mailers linking her to support for NAFTA. Yes, yes, I know that only women are accused of being shrill: I’ve faced that problem myself on more than one occasion. Perhaps it was not her tone of voice but her choice of words: “Shame on you, Barack Obama!” Whatever her intention, the whole speech evoked an annoying pharmaceutical commercial of a decade ago: “What’s a mother to do?” 

And the fact is, as many many commentators have pointed out, Bill did push NAFTA through, whether or not Hillary might privately have told him it was a bad idea. She can’t have it both ways, taking credit for experience when she participated in his successes, but trying to duck responsibility for his many long-lasting mistakes. As for her “shocked shocked” characterization of Obama’s healthcare position and his characterization of her position, we’ve all seen the debates. Most of what the two candidates don’t exactly agree on amounts to distinction without difference.  

More and more, this primary campaign is turning into a referendum on the Clinton years, whether that’s good or bad. On my favorite radio program, Left, Right and Center (KALW, Fridays at 5 or whenever you want online) there’s a center guy sandwiched in among Tony Blankley (Right), Bob Scheer (Left) and Arianna Huffington (somewhere out in left field). He’s such a mild-mannered centrist I can never remember his name or who he is. He politely raised the point that a problem with Obama might be that he doesn’t seem to be acknowledging the achievements of Bill Clinton and the New Democrats, like “welfare reform.”  

Well, yes. Guess what, that’s what a lot of real Democrats, the regular old-fashioned kind, like about Obama. He seems to be prepared to jettison the worst failures of the Clinton era, like a welfare reform program that’s left a lot of working families in poverty with—still—no one to look after the kids. That’s a column for another day, but many old-school liberals are openly cheering the sunset of the Democratic Leadership Council’s domination of presidential politics. 

It’s not quite too late for Hillary Clinton to distinguish herself and her own record from that of Bill Clinton, whose place in history is hard to escape at this point. He seems to have stepped out of the spotlight in the last week or so, but she’s still in his shadow. If she could bring herself to offer flat-out criticisms of some of his policy mistakes, it might, just might, salvage what’s left of her chances. 


Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday February 29, 2008

 

 

 

GIVE COMPOSTING A CHANCE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

According to a recent East Bay Express article on city-sponsored composting, some people find the new kitchen debris collecting simply “too icky” to do. 

But fortunately, this can be made quite “un-icky” by using bio-degradable cellulose pail liners that remain leak-proof or up to 10 days. 

Liners are available at local hardware stores and at least one supermarket. Here is a sampling: “Bio-Bags,” three gallons; “Bag to Nature Bags,” about three gallons; “Glad Recycling Green Bags,” about two gallons. These bags, incidentally, could come to replace the plastic bags currently used in produce departments, once those are banned for double duty, in stores, and at home. Any pioneers? 

And also remember that empty milk cartons will do double duty beautifully. 

With the use of liner bags, kitchen debris collecting becomes quite “un-icky” and achieves its stated purpose, namely relieving our landfills. 

Moreover, with kitchen composting, we would hardly run our disposals, a problematic convenience which the good citizens of Geneva actually banned, to protect their lake. We would then use a little less water, produce less of a load for waste water treatment, and help save the bay. 

Let’s do it, all of us, please. 

Senta Pugh Chamberlain 

 

• 

ADOPT A BUNNY 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’d like to call your attention to the fact that February was Adopt a Rescued Rabbit Month. 

Please encourage your readers to adopt from shelters instead of buying from pet stores. 

I know I love my rescued bunnies! 

Karen Veitch 

 

• 

QUESTION 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Why would the eco-friendly City Council of Berkeley allow Code Pink to hassle the marine mammals on Shattuck Avenue? 

Robert Gable 

 

• 

SUPPORTING THE PROTESTERS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Being born, and raised, in the so-called long-hair, pot-smoking City of Berkeley, I wish to express my support to the protesters. 

I was a big time protester for the other useless war in Vietnam. 

This war will never be won, it will only continue to kill our young people while the little turtle (Mr. Bush) who has the knowledge of a simple clown, continues to wave, and smirk, at his country. 

Suit him up in his Air Force uniform and send him to Iraq with our troops. Enough is enough. 

Alice Noriega 

 

• 

FROM THE HALLS OF  

MONTEZUMA 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Gordon Wozniak’s and Kriss Worthington’s grandstanding against the Berkeley City Council’s original stand against the Marine recruiters should end their political carreers—both of them, and especially the “progressive” guy who wants to move his opportunist ass up to Sacramento on the public dole. If Max Anderson wasn’t such a decent man—and an intellectual who believes in reason as well—he might take them both behind the woodshed for the level of disrespect they have shown for his own experience in Vietnam with the Marines and his effort to unite the council. Max tried valiantly to maneuver us out of this particular jungle without betraying the intent to stop military recruiting in our city (is this swift-boating against a native son here before eyes in this “progressive” city by the bay?). Let these self evident truths about a Marine career reverberate from an early high ranking Marine officer: 

“The trouble with America is that when the dollar only earns 6 percent over here, then it gets restless and goes overseas to get 100 percent. Then the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag….I spent 33 years and four months in active military service as a member of this country’s most agile military force, the Marine Corps…In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism….I helped make Mexico safe for American oil interests…Haiti and Cuba…for the national City Bank boys. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wallstreet. ..I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests…In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.” (brief excerpts from a 1933 speech by Major General Smedly Butler, USMC ret.) (Google Smedley Butler.)  

Berkeley should press on with concrete efforts to mitigate and reduce all military recruitment—such as Joanne Kowalski’s suggestion of a Veterans for Peace coffee shop across from the Marine Recruiters. You have to believe that for every Marine—rightist or not—who pokes his finger in the air, there is someone like Smedley Butler, or Daniel Ellsberg, or Max Anderson out there too. Like those three, we all have to take a stand. On recruitment we simply can’t allow our kids to be fooled into believing that they are “defending democracy”—our rights—when they join the military. Max knows the outcome of that lie—and we do too. If people don’t stand up against the deception of children to make them warriors then the entire idea of American freedom itself becomes but a counterfeit. The assertion that U.S. militarism is in the service of “democracy” is an even more dangerous lie (being systematic, expansive and timeless) than the lie that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.  

Marc Sapir 

 

• 

ONE-LINER 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Berkeley is so....Berkeley! 

Richard List 

 

• 

A FEW QUESTIONS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Here are a few questions in my mind; I don’t know who can answer them: 

• If the plane spray was actually meant to kill off the moth in apple trees, why is it done over urban centers? 

• How many people have an apple orchard in their back yard? 

• How does this so-called agricultural spray, performed over urban centers, resemble the bombing of European cities during World War II? 

• Does this spray affect/damage the expression of our DNA? 

• Does it cause undesirable genetic mutations? 

• Does the government want us to be chronically ill and behaving like zombies? 

Beatrice Reusch 

 

• 

MARINES 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Michael Savage and Melanie Morgan wannabees drooling to bash Berkeley liberal degenerates will find little raw meat to feed upon nowadays here in our fair city. Berkeleyites, themselves, are falling all over each other to prove their loyalty to the homeland by bashing the protesters. 

If the military really were here to defend us, they’d be stopping us from getting sprayed with pesticide instead of sulking because middle-aged ladies in pink T-shirts and schoolchildren are saying mean things to them. 

Of course, that ain’t gonna happen, any more than letters from city councils decide where the federal government plants a recruiting station. We all must redeem ourselves by pledging our love and loyalty to our brave recruiters. After all, as we’re reminded ad nauseum, we wouldn’t have the liberty to stand out here making asses of ourselves protesting if it weren’t for the Marines. 

Now, I’m not quite sure how that makes any sense. Anybody who would turn off their boob tube and turn on their brains for a minute should have realized long ago that the military doesn’t work for us anymore—if it ever did. 

Marine Major General Smedley Butler, who served 35 years and earned the most medals for heroism of his day, pointed out that war is a racket, run for the protection of the corporate elite, not us poor slobs. Only if you are one of Bush’s base, The Haves or the Have-Mores, with stocks up the wazzoo in Lockheed or its ilk, have you correctly surmised that the military fights for your interests. 

If you are part of the other 99.5 percent of us, the propaganda machine requires you suspend your power of reasoning, and serve up your children as necessary cannon fodder, and the fodder collection depot is conveniently located in close proximity to the local high school. Just a co-incidence, nothing to worry about folks. The kids know what’s in store for them, and they’re not happy to be shoveled into the infernal machine. They raised some noise last week, and I honor and respect them. Enter the police, who “put their lives on the line” (aren’t people just like parrots?) by shooting grandmas and clubbing noisy children. Who is it again, that they protect and serve? See above. 

Barbara Henninger 

 

• 

PESTICIDE SPRAYING 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Please read the following paragraphs about how the Bush regime plans to do aerial pesticide spraying on cities in the San Francisco Bay Area this summer. Then decide if the Bush regime is (a) Insane, (b) Stupid, (c) Evil, or (d) All of the above. 

(E)-11-Tetradecen-1-yl acetate, (E,E)-9,11-Tetradecadien-1-yl-acetate, cross-linked polyurea polymer, butylated hydroxyltoluene, polyvinyl alcohol, tricaprylyl methyl ammonium chloride, sodium phosphate, ammonium phosphate, 1,2-benzisothiozolin-3-one, 2-hydroxyl-4—n-octtyloxy-benzophenone.* These are some of the ingredients in CheckMate LBAM-F, which the U. S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) and the California Dept. of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) are planning to use in a massive aerial pesticide spraying over San Francisco Bay Area cities this summer to sexually harass a small moth, specifically, the Light Brown Apple Moth (LBAM) (Epiphyas postvittana). 

This proposed aerial pesticide spraying of whole cities in the San Francisco Bay Area is a hysterical over-reaction by the incompetent Bush regime to a hypothetical problem. The Light Brown Apple Moth (LBAM), a native of Australia, has been present in New Zealand, New Caledonia, Hawai’i and England for many years. The residents and the farmers of these regions have been able to co-exist with this moth without having to resort to massive aerial pesticide spraying of whole cities and towns. 

So far, not a single apple growing in commercial orchards in Northern California has been found to be visited by this moth. Over six hundred residents of the Santa Cruz and Monterey areas have reported new health problems after the aerial spraying of the Checkmate brand pesticide over their towns last year. 

Just say no to proposed aerial pesticide spraying over cities in the San Francisco Bay Area against this small moth scheduled for this summer. We need to work on low-key biological controls for the Light Brown Apple Moth. There is no legitimate reason for the government to put the health of millions of people at risk with pesticide spraying of the air we breathe. 

Visit web sites such as www.lbamspray.com, www.stopthespray.org and www.hopefortruth.com for more detailed information and suggestion on how to protest this absurd plan. 

(* Listed in the San Francisco Chronicle’s Ask the Bugman column in the Feb. 23 Home and Garden section.) 

James K. Sayre 

Oakland 

 

• 

POLICE VIOLENCE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Recent developments in the East Bay doubtless will not have escaped the attention of your very alert readers: 

Item: Oakland Police Department uses taser against a juvenile. 

Item: Berkeley Police Department kills 51-year-old grandmother. 

On Sunday evening, Feb. 24 at 6 p.m. at the intersection of Hillegass and Haste, this is the scene I witnessed: four Berkeley Police Department officers having arrested a man in people’s park, said man, cuffed hands behind his back and on his knees (trying lamely, it is true, to defend himself verbally). 

Right out of the Abu Ghraib playbook, the picture with the prisoner on his knees qualifies for the Abu Ghraib family scrapbook. What does this say about the dignity of man? Both that of the prisoner and of the four cops, one talking on his cell phone, standing around in carefully studied indifference? 

Cecile Leneman 

• 

SLAUGHTERHOUSE ATROCITIES 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

In response to the recent atrocities at the Chino, Calif. at a Hallmark slaughterhouse: 

The Senate Select Committee on Food-borne Illness held a special hearing in Sacramento on Feb. 25. Inexcusably, only the chairman of the five-member committee, Senator Dean Florez (D-Bakersfield), deemed this matter important enough to appear. And he did a great job. 

The others need to hear from us: Senators Carole Migden (D-San Francisco); Edward Vincent (D-Inglewood); Jeff Denham (R-Modesto); and Abel Maldonado (R-San Luis Obispo). Excuses given ranged from “s/he’s in the district office,” to “he’s getting physical therapy,” to “he missed his plane.” Not acceptable for a problem of this magnitude. 

It should also be noted that the USDA did not testify, nor did either the State Dairy or Cattlemen’s Associations, or the PRCA, though their representatives were present. Shame on them all! Nor should anyone think that the Chino horrors are an anomaly. Such abuses are routine at slaughterhouses, meatpacking facilities and “factory farms” across the country, as has been well documented for decades. No one has a right to be surprised. And all in the name of profit, of course.  

And consider this: the current meatpacking workforce is made up largely of immigrants, many illegal, many illiterate, from Mexico, Central America, and Southeast Asia. They are a short-term, often migrant workforce (the average worker quits or is fired after three months), and they are performing the most dangerous job in the United States, with a rate of injury and job-related illness three times greater than that of the average factory worker. 

Recommended reading: Upton Sinclair’s 1906 novel, The Jungle; Gail Eisnitz’s 1997 expose, Slaughterhouse; and Eric Schlosser’s 2001 Fast Food Nation. 

Bon appetit. 

Eric Mills 

Action for Animals 

 

• 

35 YEARS OF EXPERIENCE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Senator Clinton is running in large part on her record and experience after 35 years in politics, which includes seven years in elected office. The most significant part of her other experience is her eight years as first lady of the United States (1993-2001). 

She states, with some reason, that her influence on policies and decisions while first lady amounted to her having an equal importance in the running of this country to the president and describes herself as having been our co-president. 

The Obama campaign does not question her influence as first lady but does propose that she is being somewhat selective in which things she chooses to include in her resume as first lady. They suggest there are things she does not wish to be associated with that might reasonably be a part of that record. 

One of these things is the North American Free-Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which was ratified in November 1993, late in First Lady Clinton’s initial year as co-president. 

Although NAFTA was signed by President George Bush in late 1992, it could not become law unless it was also ratified by the Congress. President Bill Clinton made ratifying NAFTA a major priority. After intense negotiation and much pressure from the White House, Congress ratified the highly controversial NAFTA treaty on Nov. 20, 1993, the last day of the legislative session. 

Now, 14 years later, there is a significant segment of public opinion, which believes NAFTA has been responsible for the loss of substantial numbers of American jobs. 

The Obama campaign seeks to hold Co-President Clinton to account for the passage of NAFTA but she replies that it had already been signed by the previous president before she became first lady. 

This seems a somewhat incomplete response since NAFTA would never have become law without the months of very hard work by the Clinton administration to have NAFTA ratified by Congress. 

NAFTA was one of the major issues during Co-President Clinton’s first year. It would be interesting to know if during that time she enthusiastically supported NAFTA, was neutral and on the sidelines, or strongly opposed it in a quiet way. 

Knowing what she did as co-president could help voters understand the kind of president we might expect her to be. 

Brad Belden 

• 

SUGGESTIONS FOR BERKELEY’S CLIMATE ACTION PLAN 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Berkeley’s city attorney has determined that city commissioners are not allowed to participate in Berkeley’s online Climate Action Plan discussion group. Therefore I am submitting my comments to the Daily Planet letters to the editor in the hope of public comment. 

1. A net-zero energy plan for new construction: Increasing Title 24 energy conservation requirements for building permits could have the result of simply shifting construction to other cities where the enhanced standards are not required, resulting in no real reduction in GHG emissions. We should consider requiring that a plan be submitted for every building permit adding over 1,000 square feet of useable space that details how the building will be retrofitted to become a net-zero energy consuming building. The building construction plans would be required to be consistent with the proposed energy plan. Example: A new apartment building is built with a dedicated space for solar hot water panels on the roof, a shaft for water lines, and a hot water storage tank on the ground making for easy future installation. By planning in advance, considerable resources could be saved.  

2. Facilitate a new design style: We are in the midst of an architectural revolution. Design standards are in flux and new ways of building are being explored to reduce GHG emission. Yet, with few exceptions, what we put in our buildings has not been addressed. Articles that can not be refurbished or recycled at the same level fill the home furnishing stores. History has shown that following architectural revolutions there will be a design style revolution. The new design style probably will emerge not from major manufacturers but rather from individual craftspeople and artists. Given our region’s concern with GHG emissions, the concern for the environment, and the strong community of talented craftspeople, it is probable that a new design style will emerge from the Bay Area. We should consider facilitating the emerging design style by hosting design competitions and exhibitions, and by publicizing important works.  

3. Pairing meters: Many homes and buildings are not suitable for solar voltaic installations. By allowing individuals to aggregate two meters at different locations, off site solar installations could be facilitated and many buildings could meet a net-zero energy goal. 

4. Establish a maximum carbon/square foot ratio: Cities are continually being rebuilt. Some construction materials are much more energy intensive than others. Some materials, like lumber, can be sustainably grown and actually store carbon. We should establish a carbon/square foot ratio that is not to be exceeded for construction that greatly favors non-GHG intensive materials. The carbon associated with new construction should be added on a yearly basis to Berkeley’s footprint.  

5. Solar energy resources as a right: If a new building would block the solar access of an existing building at 75 percent of the maximum height allowed by zoning at the time the existing building was built, then the new building must acquire the rights from the owner of the existing building for the solar energy blocked.  

Tim Hansen 

 

• 

BERKELEY NAACP 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Wow! Just when you thought it was safe to assume the NAACP had backslid into irrelevancy, here they come again, charging seemingly out of nowhere to remove any doubt whatsoever that indeed they are irrelevant, if not downright retrogressive. 

How embarrassing! The Berkeley branch of the NAACP, apparently having entered a federal witness protection program decades ago (no one has seen or heard from them in that time) recently condemned its own chapter president, Allen Jackson, for responding to the fatal shooting of a knife wielding 51-year-old black woman by saying that Berkeley Police Department’s intent, “is to kill any African American that they can.” 

Clearly that is not the kind statement that is going to get anyone elected mayor. 

On the other hand if anyone reads the Bay Area newspapers, to suggest that Berkeley’s Police Department or any other police department’s mission is to kill any black person they can, should not strike anyone as all that much over the top. In my mind it is a totally understandable comment to make (or issue on letter-headed stationary which Jackson did) given the current stage of urban warfare that exists in many population centers today. 

The national NAACP organization has set the standard for irrelevancy by recently firing CEO Bruce Gordon after he brutalized the sensibilities of the corporate NAACP sponsors by attempting to mobilize black youth in support of Tookie Williams, a reformed Los Angeles gang leader who had been convicted and ultimately executed for murder. 

In the 1990’s the NAACP had earlier successfully fought off relevancy when they were able to fire Ben Chavis for sexual misconduct after he outraged the corporate interests by opening dialog with L.A.. gang members. 

(Warning to any future NAACP leaders-don’t try to engage the L.A. gangs in dialog!) 

As for the statement from the Berkeley Black Police Officer’s Association, as a Berkeley citizen in my mind they have no credibility. I’ve seen black police officers profile black youth in South Berkeley where I live, the same way white officers profile them. Often, in fact, black police officers are worse when it comes to profiling issues. 

Furthermore, when it comes to issues that impact Berkeley’s black communities the Berkeley Black Police Officers Association is even more invisible than the NAACP. 

If visibility and positive impact on the black communities of Berkeley are any criteria, both these organizations need to throw a going out of business party. 

Now that would be relevant. 

Jean Damu 

 

• 

TRULY CRUELTY-FREE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have many friends who have peculiar West Coast eating habits, due to the fact that a gastronomical fetish is currently in vogue here in California. Among the most stylish of all the food fetishists are the vegans who claim to be the most ethical of all for promoting a cruelty-free lifestyle. Unfortunately for the vegans, plants have a decentralized nervous system, which can process information such as damage and pain according to the First Symposium on Plant Neurobiology (“Root apices as plant command centres: the unique brain-like status of the root apex transition zone,” Dr. Frantisek Bluska, Department of Molecular and Cellular Botany, University of Bonn).  

This new information shows us that the produce department at Berkeley Bowl is really a vegetable slaughterhouse and torture chamber. I shudder to think how the folks at the Berkeley Farmers Market are following in the genocidal footsteps of the Nazi concentration camps. I propose a truly cruelty- and drug-free diet, called elementalism. The basic premise is that no life should be injured nor should any drugs or chemicals be ingested while following this diet. All followers of elementalism will base their diet solely on the elements contained in the periodic table, as these elements have not yet combined to form dangerous drugs and chemicals.  

Most of the currently discovered 112 elements making up the periodic table are available for purchase from Cole Parmer. As an example, rather than eating the potentially fatal drug salt, followers of elementalism ingest a small amount of pure sodium followed by a few deep inhalations of a bag of chlorine. In addition a few lifestyle changes are necessary to ensure that no life forms are killed or abused. The swallowing of sperm during oral sex is not allowed since every sperm is sacred as well as alive, and all bodily parasites, such as lice, spinal meningitis and mosquitoes must be cared for rather than brutally murdered. I encourage all vegans to take the next ethical step in overturning our forefathers speciesist and human-centered dietary habits, and enjoy a tasty plate of arsenic with a little radium on the side, washed down with a tall glass of bromine. 

Michael S. Bakeman 

 

• 

BUS PASSES 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is sad that the Alameda-Contra Costa Transportation District still has the price of the bus pass of $20 for both seniors and the disabled. Both seniors and the disabled neither own cars nor drive. They use the bus as their only transportation to buy food, go to school, or go see a doctor. Because they are using the bus instead of cars, both seniors and the disabled are helping to combat global warming in both Alameda and Contra Costa counties. 

Lately, I have been reading in some local newspapers that AC Transit is thinking of raising the price of a bus pass from $20 to $28. This is madness. They should lobby the politicians in both Sacramento and Washington D.C. for more funding for the bus services so they can lower the price of the bus pass for both seniors and the disabled. 

Billy Trice, Jr. 

Oakland 

 

• 

ROUNDABOUT SIGNAGE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Berkeley and Albany have the wrong signs for entering their roundabouts. The use of yield signs is done by all the other cities that have roundabouts. 

The stop signs of Berkeley and Albany are an unnecessary bother for motorists who should just pause briefly. The police departments may be issuing more citations as well. 

Part of this use of stop signs has resulted from Berkeley letting nearby residents decide what they want, which is a funny way to decide what is right and proper. 

A full discussion of roundabouts is contained in the Tech Transfer newsletter number 58, published by the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California. You can contact them at 665-3632. 

Charles Smith 

 

• 

BUDGET CUTS THREATEN  

JUVENILE JUSTICE REFORM 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

At a time when state and local agencies are facing massive budget cuts, the Schwarzenegger administration and the Legislature must consider the consequences of slashing funds which flow directly to programs that protect public safety and save taxpayers money. For that reason, I encourage you to editorialize on the threat that state budget cuts pose to California’s recent juvenile justice system reform. 

Last year, the state enacted landmark juvenile justice reform that will cut the number of juveniles in state custody in half, while providing new “realignment” funding to counties. The reform’s success will depend on whether counties provide effective services to the increased number of young offenders under their supervision. 

However, while the Schwarzenegger administration says its proposed budget protects juvenile justice spending, it actually calls for over $30 million in reductions to important juvenile justice interventions with a strong track record of preventing crime, including: 

• The Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act (JJCPA) would lose $11.9 million. 

• The Juvenile Mentally Ill Offender Crime Reduction (MIOCR) program would sustain a $2.25 million cut. 

• Juvenile Probation and Camps funds would decrease by $20.1 million. 

Juvenile justice could be subject to even deeper cuts if the controversial proposed early release of adult offenders is defeated or scaled back. 

Especially in this tight budget year, the state should prioritize investments that are cost-effective. Protecting existing juvenile justice funding—and freeing up new realignment funds for greater investment in proven interventions—will help save taxpayer dollars this year and in the years ahead.  

For further information about juvenile justice reform and the impact of the proposed budget cuts, see www.fightcrime.org/ca/jjfactsheet. 

For details about local programs that could suffer as a result of the proposed cuts, see www.fightcrime.org/ca/jj/countysheets/bayarea.pdf.  

Fight Crime: Invest in Kids California is a bipartisan, nonprofit, anti-crime organization led by more than 350 sheriffs, police chiefs, district attorneys and violence survivors. We evaluate crime-prevention strategies to determine what really works to keep kids from becoming criminals. If you are interested, we would welcome the opportunity to organize some of our law enforcement members to participate in an editorial board meeting with your paper. 

Jennifer Ortega 

Communications Director  

Fight Crime: Invest in Kids California 

Oakland 

 

• 

BIGOTRY 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

There goes another bogus claim of the anti-immigration crowd. A report just released says that immigrants are far less likely to commit crimes than are native born citizens. People born in the United States are 10 times more likely than immigrants to be incarcerated. 

Go to any cosmopolitan city, New York, Miami, San Francisco, and you will hear a wide diversity of languages from around the world being spoken. So much for the “speak English” only spiel of talk radio hosts. 

As far as the assimilation argument goes, I see multitudes of Mexicans and Latinos and their children and they’re working, speaking English and assimilating quite well, thank you. 

Every day the bigotry, intolerance and prejudice that drives the anti-immigration movement becomes more apparent. 

Ron Lowe 

Grass Valley 

 

if they spray us in august, 

spray us in earnest, too; 

what they got in that bug juice 

make me don’t know what to do. 

just pray we all don’t vote republican 

before the fall is through. 

Arnie Passman 

 

 

Letter From a Connecticut Yankee 

 

TO: Disgraceful Mayor, 

To the UN- American Mayor of Berkeley and the city council. You folks are about as true a form of knucklehead as I have ever seen in my life. You have the nerve to let the communist Code Pink jerks dupe you into rising up against the U.S. Marines and belittle yourselves, your city, state and Nation. 

What is even worse than that, is the fact that the UN-honorable Mayor is a former Veteran and he has the nerve to stand up against the Veterans who are fighting to keep his no good butt Free. If there are any more Veterans on the City Council, you disgust me as well. You are not Veterans as far as I am concerned, your useless and void in matter and content. What did all of you do anyway, buy your way into office. Sure didn't get there on your intelligence. 

As far as I am concerned, from this point on, after learning what I have learned from the news media and paying attention to this fiasco in Berkeley, the Mayor of Berkeley is a no good for nothing useless ex-veteran.  

It (IS NOT THE VETERAN) who dictates war, God Damn it, you bunch of jerks, it is stupid politicians in Washington, just like you that have no frigging brains at all. For the life of me, I cannot understand how you folks got elected to office. 

California and the city of Berkeley have been controversial for as long as I can remember and that speaks volumes as to how many jerks there were in the last 50 years that have children that live in your state and city and act as foolish as you do. 

You folks need a wake-up call and (GOD FORBID) the next time there is a terrorist attack on this country, It should be in California and Berkeley and let you see what it fel like to hurt like all that lost their lives on 9-11-2001. You all need a 9-11-2001 to happen to you, so you can grasp the reality of what the Veteran is up against to keep it from happening again. 

You all need a wake-up call and especially that useless form of life Mayor that you have. I am totally ashamed to call him a Veteran and every time someone ever mentions his name to me from now on, I will be able to say that useless Mayor in Berkeley, right. 

I just cannot believe that I am living in a country that has people as stupid as you and the ones involved in Code Pink. The Code Pink Organization are people who cannot accept life for what it is and cannot look beyond the ends of their noses and see what is happening in the rest of the world. WHY, because they are all the off-spring of the generation of pot heads and draft dodgers and unpatriotic Americans that opposed the Vietnam War. I lived it in the 1960's and I had no use for them, at that time, I have no use for them today and I have absolutely no use for their children. 

I believe in my heart that every useless form of life in this country like the Code Pink participants need to be forced to go to war and to see how other people live in oppression and fear and death and hunger and sickness. You people are all so used to living in this world we have of not wanting for anything and having a golden spoon in your useless mouth and it would really make me smile from ear to ear to see yo all squirm for a change. 

You all need to go without and see what it is like and then maybe, just maybe you could see that the U.S. Marine is just one of the few that would help to bring you back up and save your useless butt. All you people in California need to drop off the face of the earth because you are not what America is and what America stands for. You would all rather support the terrorist than to support your country and the Veteran who gives you the right to act like a useless jerk all the time. 

I shouldn't be using fowl words here, I should be using the word jackass, You are all like a jackass, you know, (The Democratic Symbol)The Donkey no frigging brains and no frigging direction. It's as though you are all lost in the wilderness and have no direction and no leadership to help you find your way. And you all certainly have (NO BRAINS). 

If you all want to find your way, TRUST THE U.S. MARINE, HE/SHE WILL BE THERE FOR YOU EVERYDAY, 24/7 AND PULL YOU UP AND TRY TO MAKE MORE OUT OF YOU THAN THE JACKASS THAT YOU ARE ALL BEING NOW. 

You people, and especially the Mayor need to have guts enough to step up to the plate and admit that you are all wrong here and apologize to these U.S. Marines who have written a blank check on their lives to protect your useless ass. 

I just cannot believe that there are so many unpatriotic Americans living in California and Berkeley. You are all an abomination against what is good and great in this Country and you all disgust me to the point of barfing. 

With Absolutely (NO) Respect for The Mayor and City Council of Berkeley & Code Pink, 

Jeffrey B. McBreairty 

New Milford, Connecticut 

 

A Big (PS): 

If any Marines get this message and you will, God Bless each and everyone of you. I love you all from the bottom of my heart and I pray for all of you every day and for every Veteran who is out there today fighting for my Freedom and the security of this Country. Without you, we would not be Free and that would be a travesty. I would be extremely proud, as an ex-Veteran to stand beside you any day and fight the terrorist and I would go into battle with you and I would support you in the quest that you would be fighting for and I would die beside you because I believe in you. (America Is You). 

Keep up the great work and do not let the brain dead matter in Berkeley dislodge your from your mission, stay the course and stand tall and proud because you are UNITED STATES MARINES. America Will Always Need Brave Men And Women Like You Even If Berkeley, California Does Not. 

Oh yea, lets see if the berkeley daily planet will have the guts to print this. 


Commentary: Spraying Provides More Questions Than Answers

By Helen Kozoriz
Friday February 29, 2008

Thank you for printing the article “Assembly Resolutions Attack Moth Spraying” by Judith Scherr. Shocked and outraged at the proposed plan by the California Department of Food and Agriculture to conduct aerial spraying of the pesticide CheckMate on Bay Area communities beginning Aug. 1, I felt compelled to attend the Berkeley City Council meeting last night to find out for myself what is really going on. 

I must admit, after hearing from the various representatives from the CDFA, Department of Environmental Hazards and Public Health, I was left with more questions than answers. Sitting in an audience of like-minded individuals, it was obvious I was not the only one who was baffled by the arguments put forth in favor of eradicating the Light Brown Apple Moth by dousing our community with a pesticide that has not been tested for long-term effects on humans, animals or the environment. 

When asked by a council member to explain why 600 people became ill after the spraying of Santa Cruz and Monterey counties last year, the official from the CDFA attributed it to possible allergies or flu and dismissed the notion that it could be a direct result of exposure to pesticide. And what about all those dead cats, birds and bees? 

Also troubling is the response from the fellow who works for the Department of Public Health. When asked by Mayor Tom Bates if he would approve of aerial spraying on his own family, the man would not give a simple “yes or no” response until pressed. Nor would he guarantee that the product is 100 percent safe for the human population which includes those most vulnerable; the young, old, infirm, asthmatic and chemically sensitive. 

I also noted the claim put forth by the CDFA that they have consulted with various scientists and agencies around the world which includes New Zealand where the LBAM was inadvertently imported from, who conducted their own eradication efforts. What the gentleman doesn’t tell you is this: on the website www.stopthespray.org you will find The People’s Inquiry, a group formed in New Zealand after their own Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry conducted spraying to eradicate three moths—the white spotted tussock moth, the painted apple moth and the asian gypsy moth claiming the pesticide (in this case Foray 48B) was safe. Communities there felt their health concerns were not appropriately addressed and thus the group was formed. The spraying that took place over a period from 1996 to 2004 resulted in numerous reports of ill health. A Brief History of the People’s Inquiry explains that in spite of evidence resulting from the spray and several university based studies identifying adverse health effects “all requests for an official inquiry or review into the impacts and effects of the spraying programs were denied. It was decided the only avenue left was for the community to hold its own Inquiry.” 

Last night, the fellow from the Department of Environmental Hazards claimed CheckMate is safe. Why should I trust this man with my health who took the advice of New Zealand officials involved in a program which failed to protect it’s own citizenry? And there are other parallels to be drawn. For example, a decision was made by the CDFA to declare an “emergency” thereby allowing spraying without the involvement of the community at all. An environment impact report will be completed after the decision has already been made. 

What is plainly obvious to me after attending last night’s meeting and listening to the hearing on KPFA this morning from the meeting in Oakland on the same evening, is the citizens of the Bay Area are uniformly united in their opposition to this reckless, irresponsible plan put forth by the CDFA who are apparently more closely aligned with protecting the economic interests of agribusiness over public health and our environment. I think many people would much rather choose to live with this tiny moth than suffer the indignities being forced upon us by the powers that be, if given a choice in the first place! 

Finally, I applaud all people involved with trying to stop the aerial spraying in the Bay Area, which includes the Berkeley City Council. Special thanks to Dona Spring who drafted the initial resolution against it which was approved last night.  

 

Helen M. Kozoriz is an Oakland resident.


Commentary: The Anschluss

By Alan Feng
Friday February 29, 2008

The United States can be compared to a powerful, but immature and egotistic child, imposing its will without discretion on the world. Consider what lengths the child may go to in order to obtain a delicious cookie: case one, if the cookie was rightfully earned, then he shall taut the “fairness” and “justice” of obtaining the cookie. Otherwise, seeing that there is no logical explanation for legal acquisition of said cookie, he may throw a tantrum, saying things like “but I want it!” Finally, when it is agreed that someone else should get the cookie, the child may just walk in and take it anyways. In the end, the child gets the cookie whether or not it was due. 

Although this seems like a rather ludicrous comparison, think, if you will, of one single conflict in the world that the United States has not imposed its will on, and resolved in any way except by military might or threat of such a strike. The United States reaching each of its goals reminds me so much of the tantrumatic toddler; in cases of supposed liberty and justice, we march in, horns blazing, to places such as Korea, Kuwait, Taiwan and Israel. In other cases, we go uninvited and pretend to be right, to places like Iraq and Afghanistan. 

What this all leads up to is the signing of some papers two midnights ago in Pristina, which led to some happy men drinking and dancing in the streets, and some very angry hoary old men in Moscow and Belgrade. Serbia has publicly announced that it is very displeased with the separation and it will seek every method to nullify the declaration. However, their cries fall on deaf ears because the only face anyone sees any more is the smiling, nodding, and agreeing face of the world answering to the United States. 

If the United States and the U.N. (same thing, really) had not “sanctioned” the separation, and given the history of bloodshed in the area, I have no doubt that Serbia would have marched its divisions right into Pristina and had themselves an emergency national vote, at which time, miraculously, the legislature would vote to give up autonomy to Serbia. However, all that Belgrade can do now is pout as the lonely child who got pushed off the swing set at school. Mommy Russia might be on their side, but the bully has the principle of the school in his pocket. 

I wonder if the ruling people high in the government, no not Bush and Cheney, but the people above them, the ones pulling the strings, I wonder if they ever consider the consequences of their actions, or if they simply just recount their money and discover that their taut wallets have just become tighter. Why bother in Kuwait instead of Sudan? Why put up such a fight for Taiwan and only a peep for Tibet? To me, the answer is glaring at me from the gas we pump, the electronics we use, and the cheap toys we buy. But for every Made in China Barbie we buy, Madison rots a little more in his grave; I doubt the Monroe doctrine covers monks, but it sure covers cheap electronics. 

Am I saying stopping the genocide of ethnic Albanians is wrong? Am I saying that we should have let Vietcong march into Hanoi? ... I am at a loss for words. Such are questions that keep me up at night. On the one hand, wielding an iron fist over the entire world is not our place. But stopping the deaths of an innocent people seems pretty high on my list of priorities too. Can the right actions for the wrong reasons be good in the end? This bothers me as to whether or not to effect the United States’ influence over any particular part of the world; if there is no oil, do we save the threated village? 

So the world keeps turning into Austrias. Of course the United States doesn’t dictate the every move of the “liberated” countries (how else could they be called liberated?), but somehow, as in the case of so many countries we’ve dealt with, I get the sense that we always make them offers they can’t refuse. 

I thus leave my paper hanging; do we involve ourselves in foreign conflicts or not? I don’t pretend to know; the world is too complicated for that. But perhaps, just perhaps, the world can solve its problems without our blood-stained and oily fingers digging someone’s grave. 

Alan Feng is an Oakland resident.


Commentary: Absence of Evidence is Not Evidence of Absence

By Gale Garcia
Friday February 29, 2008

In the Jan. 11 issue of the Daily Planet, Fred Massell disparaged Berkeley’s Luddites, and claimed, “While I too wanted to believe the worst about cell phone radiation, it appears that there is no real evidence to show that it causes any actual harm.” 

The same claim has frequently been made about products or technologies that later proved to be very harmful indeed. In many cases, the companies knew that their products were damaging or lethal, and simply lied about it. Two examples that leap to mind are cigarettes and asbestos. 

 

Cigarette advertising and other lies 

Beneficial health claims and pictures of kindly physicians were used in cigarette advertising during the 1930s through the early 1950s to counter concerns that cigarette smoking might cause health problems. For example, Brown and Williamson claimed that Kools kept the head clear and provided extra protection against colds, and “Doctors agree that Kools are soothing to your throat.” R.J. Reynolds advertised, “more doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette” in magazines from 1946 to 1952. 

In 1950 the first major study that causally linked smoking to lung cancer was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. In 1952 an influential article, “Cancer by the Carton,” was published in Reader’s Digest, at the time the most widely read US magazine. The next year cigarette sales fell for the first time in over two decades.  

U.S. tobacco companies formed the Tobacco Industry Research Committee (TIRC) in 1954, supposedly to sponsor “independent” scientific research, and to keep the debate alive about whether cigarettes were harmful. 

The formation of the TIRC was announced in an advertisement in the New York Times and hundreds of other newspapers entitled “A Frank Statement to Cigarette Smokers.” It read in part: “For more than 300 years tobacco has given solace, relaxation, and enjoyment to mankind. At one time or another during those years critics have held it responsible for practically every disease of the human body. One by one these charges have been abandoned for lack of evidence.” 

 

Asbestos, a cornucopia of corporate deceit 

The largest asbestos manufacturer, Johns Manville, knew by the early 1930s of the potential lethality of exposure to asbestos, yet withheld the information for decades. In 1948, the corporation adopted the policy of not informing employees when their medical exams revealed the lung disease, asbestosis. 

In the 1940s the Raysbestos corporation paid for a study of the effects of asbestos exposure. When it demonstrated the connection between asbestos and respiratory disease, the CEO of Raysbestos, Sumner Simpson, and the management of Johns Manville agreed to keep the information secret. Correspondence between the two companies, the “Sumner Simpson Papers” were discovered at the Raysbestos headquarters in 1977, opening the floodgates to litigation that has taken place since. 

W.R. Grace & Co. owned a mine in Libby, Montana which produced vermiculite which was laced with tremolite, a particularly dangerous form of asbestos. This information was concealed for decades, while the mine dispersed about 5,000 pounds of asbestos fibers over the town per day of operation. Approximately 1200 people, in a town of 8000, were sickened by asbestos related illness. 

So egregious were the practices and the cover-up conducted by W.R. Grace that seven of its executives were indicted in 2005 for conspiracy, clean air act violations, wire fraud and obstruction of justice. Due to aggressive pre-trial litigation, the trial has still not taken place. 

 

Telecommunications industry: a fresh form of corporate deceit — preemption 

The Telecommunications Act of 1996, written largely by lobbyists for the telecommunications industry, was passed by the US Congress with the help of millions of dollars in political contributions from corporations.  

Section 704 of this Act prohibits local governments from rejecting the placement of cell phone towers based upon health concerns as long as the towers conform to Federal Communications Commission standards, even if the placement would be in a residential neighborhood. 

While one clause in Section 704 squelches discussion of health concerns, another clause specifies that cities must support decisions to deny cell phone towers with “substantial evidence contained in a written record.” So cities are required to provide evidence to deny a cell tower application—but some evidence is forbidden. 

When municipalities fail to approve cell towers, the corporations sue, and usually win. Verizon threatened to sue the City of Berkeley because our Zoning Adjustments Board voted against locating 11 cell towers at 2721 Shattuck Ave., a short distance from family homes. Verizon has unlimited funds to spend on litigation; our City Council therefore caved and reversed the ZAB decision. Eleven towers are scheduled to go up in this South Berkeley neighborhood sometime this spring. 

Corporations deceive the public and suppress evidence of harm for as long as they can get away with it. Believe them at your peril. Better yet, don’t believe them at all. 

 

Gale Garcia is a South Berkeley resident.


Commentary: Doing Good Without Doing Harm

By Sharon Hudson
Friday February 29, 2008

These days, a lot of usually “progressive” people seem to be just saying no to a lot of traditionally progressive ideas. 

Nationally, there has been a backlash against a controversial Supreme Court decision that upheld the right of governments to transfer property from one private party to another through eminent domain, a power originally meant to increase the commons. The ballot “solutions” to this problem have so far been worse than the problem, but eventually we may see a good one. 

Back in 2004, Berkeley had its very own “tax rebellion,” which is normally a right-wing form of protest, and we will likely have another one this year. Why? Even die-hard Democrats have become disgusted with their own government and its overbearing unions. Likewise, many progressives have been voting against state and county bond measures for their traditional causes.  

Most Berkeleyans support higher education, yet opposition to the university’s 2020 Long Range Development Plan was vehement, and not limited to the university’s immediate victims. A band of idealistic arboreal demonstrators, and their many progressive supporters, continue to show that they prefer staid old oak trees to the university’s idea of “progress.”  

Meanwhile, almost every significant property development in Berkeley engenders angry opposition, as did the proposed 12-story expansion of Children’s Hospital just south of us. Berkeleyans’ opposition to another supposedly “progressive” proposal, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), is intense and almost universal among those who know much about it. More ambiguous are the divisions among progressives over People’s Park and the Public Commons for Everyone Initiative: Is it progressive and commons-sensical to maintain the commons in civil order, or is it reactionary and repressive to keep people from making their homes in the commons?  

Progressivism seems to be having an identity crisis. But even more important, Progress itself is having an identity crisis. And not a moment too soon.  

During the 19th and 20th centuries, “progress” meant doing things that people then and now mostly think of as “good,” but at enormous cost. Entire races were abused, enslaved, and eliminated; millions of people were crowded into unhealthy and unhappy cities; sustainable ways of life were replaced with unsustainable ones; the earth, her beauty, her wildlife, and her resources were brutally raped and pillaged. The ultimate consequence of all this technological “progress” may be the destruction of a planet many of us are rather fond of. Meanwhile, economic “progress” in America has meant the metastasis of capitalism into a cancer that has devoured almost all our non-economic values, including our democracy. 

And what has been the benefit? Scholars have verified repeatedly that, above a minimal standard of living, further “progress” as we have come to know it has not, and does not, make people any happier. But thousands of happy communities and sustainable ways of life have been destroyed by progress.  

Over the past two centuries, some people got somewhat happier, but only because the baseline typically employed for comparison is the abject human misery created by the Industrial Revolution—ironically, misery that was originally created by progress. Granted, 21st-century Westerners are probably happier than people forced off their farms into crowded urban tenements, slaving long hours in unhealthy factories.  

But Americans today are, according to research, no more happy than many people living in pre-industrial societies. The most important determinants of individual happiness are not material gains, but human relationships, physical health, and expectations that approximate reality. The most important correlates with societal happiness are economic equality and job security. All these things are components of many pre-industrial, pre-urban societies, but few of them are prominent in American culture, and all are on the downswing today.  

Therefore, if human happiness, environmental sustainability, and global survival are our goals, we must relinquish our past models of progress. We cannot cling to the idea that what we have been calling “progress” ipso facto increases human well-being, or is so good that its “collateral damage” can be discounted or even ignored. Those benefiting from the harm argue that because most people and some animals can adapt to unpleasant changes (“they’ll get used to it”), everything will be fine. But recent history discredits this argument: dysfunctional social, economic, and environmental systems are not fine.  

Everyone now realizes that we cannot have another century of blind ambition. We can no longer let bankers and engineers and developers—or even scientists—decide what “progress” is. We can no longer afford to ignore the harmful consequences of change. If we are to have progress at all, what we must find—fast—is a model for doing good without doing harm. And evidently that model will have to come from the bottom up. 

I propose that the recent backlash against various kinds of change and “progress” constitutes the first widespread expression of this new model (narrow manifestations include the “simple living” and organic eating movements). What looks like a purely defensive response can be seen as a proactive and positive one, though still inchoate. What the voters and neighborhood activists (a.k.a. NIMBYs) are really saying to our elected officials (I can’t bring myself to call them “leaders”), developers, the university, and other mindless “progress”-mongers is this: “We are tired of your laziness, your lack of imagination, and your lack of will to fashion projects that do not harm people. We believe it is possible for society to achieve its goals without damaging people or their environment, and we demand that you do so.”  

Our city council has obviously not yet decoded the message, or they would not, for example, be thinking up yet more tax increases while continuing to harm Berkeley residents. They would not be chasing from West Berkeley local artisans and manufacturers, which are important components of cultural well-being and environmental sustainability. They would be very skeptical of BRT, a dubious form of top-down “progress” that would create an experimental urban form designed to benefit not people, but transit companies; to do so, BRT would disrupt stable (sustainable) neighborhoods that currently enjoy a good quality of life (level of human happiness).  

And of course, they would not be approving abysmal development projects. These projects harm future residents with their poor interior designs; they often harm the community with their size and unattractive exterior designs; and most of all, they harm neighborhoods by destroying their access to sun, views, parking, greenery, quiet, community, and so forth. It’s quite a stretch to call this mediocrity of expectation “progressive.” 

Progressives agree that eminent domain, taxes, unions, universities, hospitals, some developments, most public transit, and compassion for the unfortunate are all good things, when employed correctly. What alert Berkeleyans rightly oppose is the unnecessary harm that habitually accompanies, and sometimes even surpasses, the good.  

If good must always be accompanied by harm, then our costly and debilitating battles over who gets the good and who gets the harm are both inevitable and very well advised. We should expect to commit huge amounts of our resources to fighting those battles, just as we have been. Obviously, the “little guys” should fight doggedly for their right not to be harmed. By so doing, they advance everyone else’s right not to be harmed, too. So thank you, NIMBYs. Much less clear, however, is why taxpayers’ money should be spent to cause harm to average folks.  

The voters and the NIMBYs are correct to “just say no” to mindless and harmful projects. Insisting on doing good without doing harm is exactly what the environmental movement, and the sustainability movement, are all about. So progressives who want to “think globally, act locally” might focus less on changing the cityscape, and more on changing our thinking patterns, based on two hundred years of experience. I think we’ll all like the results a lot better.  

 

Sharon Hudson is a Southside tenant. 


Commentary: Car, Bike and Pedestrian Citizenship

By H. Scott Prosterman
Friday February 29, 2008

Pedestrians have the right of way. That’s a good thing since the law protects us from large, dangerous machinery, operated by caffeine-fueled drivers with nasty dispositions.  

But the road rage ogres have their walking counterparts on sidewalks and street corners. They boldly walk into oncoming traffic without so much as looking at the answer to their death wish. In the crosswalk they slow their gait as if to say, “I have the right of way, and I’m walking as slowly as I can to punish you for driving a car.” 

Enough already! Everybody has a turn as a pedestrian in life. We park the car and walk to the meeting, store, lunch, gym or park. We lock the bike and do the same, so we have to change the mindset many times in the course of a day. 

We drive, we park, we walk; it’s a vicious cycle. We drive, we honk, we flip the bird, we scream, we stew, we calm down; and the painted ponies go up and down. We’re captured on a carousel. 

A lot of drivers are brazen in their disregard of this important law that protects the wandering masses. This is criminal and should be punished. Hitting a pedestrian with a car when the driver is at fault should result in jail time—no exceptions, no matter how old, addled or mis-medicated. As the survivor of two car-bike collisions, including one in Berkeley last year, I feel strongly about it. 

At the same time, some pedestrians should be drawn and quartered from the nearest lamppost, when they manifest their death wish by walking in to moving traffic. In Berkeley, I have seen: 

1.) Schoolchildren walking into oncoming traffic on Sacramento Street, causing screeching brakes and much panic, because they’re being raised to believe that all traffic will stop for them—not just in the street. 

2.) A pre-school teacher leading children (8 years old or younger) single file through a crosswalk, against the light for two cycles. The police call that disrupting traffic, and award “special” citations for that. Teaching children that traffic will always stop for them sends the wrong message. 

3.) People leaving City Hall walking into heavy traffic on Martin Luther King Way, engrossed in conversation, and looking indignant when people honk at them. 

4.) Skateboarders frequently abusing the rights of being a “pedestrian,” and acting like they’re driving a car, terrorizing bicyclist and REAL pedestrians. 

Let’s all just get along, and get with some basic rules for . . . pedestrian etiquette. I say that with a straight face. Here are the “8 Simple Rules for Surviving Pedestrian Wars”: 

1.) Never walk into oncoming traffic. Don’t be like Blanche Dubois in the middle of an intersection. Don’t depend on the kindness of strangers.  

2.) Look and watch where you are going. Even if traffic is stopped all 4 ways, make eye-contact with the nearest driver before stepping off the curb. This is a courtesy and also re-assures the driver that the person walking in front of them is a lucid human being who is cognizant of his/her surroundings. One less uncertainty can be a real comfort in bad traffic. 

3.) When in the crosswalk, walk a straight line. When not in the crosswalk, walk a straight line. This minimizes the time that you are vulnerable and exposed to traffic. 

4.) Don’t slow down in the crosswalk, just because you can. This might prompt an impatient driver to blast his horn in your ear, just because he can! Or, he might scream at you, “Hey motherfucker, don’t depend on the kindness of strangers.”  

5.) Don’t taunt drivers waiting for you by a.) Slowing your pace; b.) Slowing down and looking away; c.) Slowing down and stopping to make a point in a conversation, as if no one is waiting for you to move out of their way. 

6.) Do not make a sudden turn of bow into a street, assuming that everyone will slam on their brakes for you, especially if you’re on a skateboard. Never be overconfident about any stranger’s sense of humanity. 

7.) Don’t play chicken with cars or display body language that says, “Come on and hit me—see what happens.” Remember, cars win every time, and I’ve never known a re-match to occur. (I can hear it now, “As soon as my broken ribs and clavicle heal, I want to see that guy in Vegas; and this time I’m going to train better and come out strong from the beginning.”) 

8.) Focus—it’s a dangerous world out there; Bush Jr. and Fox News are telling everyone to be afraid. FDR said not to be afraid, so that makes fear a partisan issue. But pedestrian etiquette has no partisan boundaries—at least it shouldn’t. 

Berkeley continues to create new and potentially grave hazards to pedestrians and cyclists with what they euphemistically call “traffic calming circles.” Oh, please! Linda Maio has championed further constructions of these things that actually force traffic into crosswalks, placing pedestrians and cyclists at greater risk. I’ve seen cars bump curbs and seen cyclists knocked down trying to avoid them. (Me and others.) Amazingly, the East Bay Bicycle Coalition has endorsed them, even though the president of that group acknowledged to me in a phone call that they present new hazards. Maybe after Tom Bates is recalled, all these issues can be re-visited. 

The City of Berkeley could do a lot more to protect bicyclists—like posting signs on all streets that say, “Look in the door mirror before opening the door on a bicyclist!” There’s plenty of room for them on the “Parking” signposts. The mayor, as well as every member of the Berkeley City Council has ignored this request, which I have made repeatedly. I argued this and sent e-mails about it for years before I got doored. Getting doored did not improve my standing with Mayor Bates, Maio, Kriss Worthington or any other city officials who can’t respond to phone calls or e-mails. 

Pedestrians have the right of way and that’s a good thing. Having the right of way also carries responsibilities for thoughtful, non-provocative behavior. Just follow the rules, and we can all remain friends whether driving, riding a bike, walking or riding a skateboard. All together now, “ . . . and the painted ponies go up and down . . .” 

 

H. Scott Prosterman is a Berkeley resident.


Letters to the Editor

Tuesday February 26, 2008

 

 

 

 

 

WHO IS THE LANDLORD? 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Please let your interested readers know which landlord demanded the extraordinary rent increase which effectively ended Cody’s store on Fourth Street in Berkeley. This piece of information is often left out of the stories of businesses’ untimely exits, and would seem crucial to the success of a business district.  

If anchor stores can be booted to the curb without apology, undermining the district’s commercial viability, it would be important to know who is responsible for such a decision and why, especially so that the usual tradition of blaming panhandlers can finally be avoided. 

Carol Denney 

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Peter O’Hara is principal of Pacific Property Assets of San Francisco, which owns the Fourth Street building soon to be vacated by Cody’s Books. 

 

 

• 

COSTLY PUBLICITY 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

The San Francisco Chronicle reported on Feb. 17 that Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates was comfortable with the $93,000 bill for policing the recent demonstrations because “we got publicity all over the world against the war in Iraq.” What our less-than-brilliant mayor does not grasp is the fact that the rest of the world is not the least bit interested in how Berkeley feels about the war. Further, much of Berkeley does not share the mayor’s antipathy toward the USMC. Of course, the $93,000 is not the mayor’s money, anyway. It belongs (belonged) to the poor downtrodden Berkeley taxpayers!  

Steve Schneider 

 

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SUPPORT OUR VETERANS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

After reading Kriss Worthington’s comments about the brouhaha surrounding the Marine action/reaction, I thought his idea about turning the phrase “we support our veterans” into action had merit. Letting the vets use the Berkeley Veteran’s Building certainly would help. Perhaps the city could take it a step further and partner with community groups and non-profits on projects which would show our support of the troops while making our objections to the war and the effects of the war clear. For example, the city could help a group like Veterans for Peace open up a coffee shop/bookstore/music club downtown that would give potential recruits the opportunity to hear another point of view and provide entrepreneurial opportunities for veterans. (Could this be considered a cultural use?) Or how about a low income housing project specifically designed for homeless vets? A job training program for those who areunemployed? Since post traumatic stress disorder is common in returning combat vets and suicide in all military branches has risen following the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan (suicide rates in Marines doubled in 2007) some special mental heath programs would also be in order. Or maybe we could do something more academic, like put together a symposium on torture along with some of the folks at UC. I am sure there are a lot more ideas out there we could try. 

After all, it shouldn’t just be about being polite but about doing something real. 

Joanne Kowalski 

 

• 

MISGUIDED BULLIES 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Those ridiculing the Berkeley City Council’s stance opposing the Marine recruiting Station in downtown Berkeley are not only misguided; they are part of a chorus of scorn that amounts to bullying. I for one applaud those in the City Council that had the revolutionary courage and integrity to stand up to those who would recruit the young and naive into a preemptive war based on lies and greed. In bending over backwards to avoid disrespecting those who defend our rights and freedoms abroad, patriotic dissidents must reemphasize they are opposed to a standing army, not soldiers. These patriots echo a long-gone revolutionary forefather, who declared, 200 years ago: “The Greeks and Romans had no standing armies, yet they defended themselves. The Greeks by their laws, and the Romans by the spirit of their people, took care to put into the hands of their rulers no such engine of oppression as a standing army.” The author of this passage happens to be the patriot who penned the Declaration of Independence, and something tells me he would recognize today the erosion of our laws and the spirit of the people that has given rise to the contemporary protests against this engine of oppression in downtown Berkeley. 

Robert Epstein 

El Cerrito 

 

• 

PROTECTION FOR WHOM? 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Just as Iraq had no connection to 9-11, the Marines are not protecting my right to free speech or to be as Berkeley as I wish to be. They are protecting the profits of KBR and the manufacturers of WMDs as they have always done. 

However, much as I oppose this war, I’d like to see the recruiting station stay in Berkeley so we can support our dupes before they commit their young lives as possible suicides for the fat cats of empire. 

Our safety would be better protected if we were seen as a peaceful nation, one among many helping humanity and nature. Nobody loves a bully. 

Come to think of it, what right do they have to be in the halls of Montezuma or on the shores of Tripoli or in the town of Faluja? 

Ruth Bird  

 

• 

THE BERKELEY BASH 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’m very tired of the Berkeley bashing. To the chap who had a sign saying “.....Berkeley is the laughing stock of the nation” .....How about “Berkeley bashers and their ilk are themselves the laughing stock of the world.” 

Stephen Williams 

 

• 

ONE-MAN BOYCOTT 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I shall boycott all businesses in your city and will actively support and campaign for others to do the same for as long as the majority of Berkeley residents and its representatives continue to support their despicable approach toward the Marine recruiters. The city has lost the privilege of federal funding. Those of you who hold such radical views have gone too far and do not deserve to benefit from the freedoms that our military has fought to preserve. This includes the freedom of the public to extract a high price from Berkeley’s business community and thereby reduce the city’s coffers. If you do not support their view, I strongly suggest you join like-minded forces to voice opposition and effect change in Berkeley among the radical liberal disorder which seems to run amuck your city. 

Tom Hartje 

Marin County 

 

• 

RESPONSE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I must apologize for my slow response to a letter recently published in the Daily Planet, but I rarely write such missives. 

The letter in question was written about the recent protest at the Marine’s recruitment center. This writer, a woman as I recall, believed unalterably that we must support the troops and called for the withdrawal (not of the troops but) of federal funding from related Berkeley-based social and cultural programs. 

The paradox is immediately apparent: In a country that prizes, above most things, the right to speech, to an opinion, this person wants to punish those whose opinions differ and by doing so squelch speech. If this were a fairy tale, her own mouth would vanish in the moment of her wishing someone else’s would. 

But this is a different kind of fairy tale. 

What seems to lie beneath this wish to suppress speech is the mistaken notion that the writer’s own opinion is somehow neutral, not an opinion at all, but more an organic truth. How else could the banishment of someone else’s right to share an opinion not threaten your own right unless your opinion is not an opinion at all. You might call this taking the higher ground, the sanctimonious position, or you might call it an unthinking mimicry of power. In other words, if your opinion simply repeats the ideological status quo its not speech because power in its purest form doesn’t offer itself up for discussion. There’s no two ways about it—power that is. 

In a democracy, speech assumes a process of critical, individualized, and even unpopular thinking. It is the personalized form of speech that promotes change through discourse and rejuvenates our social contract. 

If the writer of the letter succeeds in canceling federal funds and thus suppressing speech what would she accomplish but the lessening of her own freedom and the establishment of a system in which your “opinion” is just an official reflection of authority? Then perhaps she too would be wordless before power. 

As for the Marine recruitment center: I say let them stay, but never for a moment stop questioning the policies that deploy them. 

Steve Seid 

 

• 

BERKELEY POLICE ASSOCIATION RESPONDS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I write on behalf of nearly 200 police officers comprising the Berkeley Police Association. The men and women of the Berkeley Police Department are proud to work in this vibrant and diverse community. We applaud the courage of the city’s civic leaders who, as a matter of public policy, routinely illuminate and denounce bigotry wherever it resides. 

Likewise, the Berkeley Police Association denounces the views expressed by Allen Jackson, who claims to represent the Berkeley NAACP. In a letter published in the Feb. 22 edition of the Berkeley Daily Planet, Mr. Jackson is quoted as saying “It is apparent that the only thing in the mind of a Berkeley police officer is to kill any African American that they can.” 

While we respect his rights to an opinion, his statement has absolutely no basis in fact and is without any credibility whatsoever. During this difficult time for the community these remarks are needlessly inflammatory, and serve no constructive purpose.  

We are particularly offended by his use of the NAACP as a platform for his personal attacks. The NAACP has been and continues to be a source of inspiration for generations of Americans of all backgrounds. Mr. Allen’s invectives reflect an indefensible point of view inconsistent with the philosophy of the organization he claims to represent. 

Despite the obvious obstacles of ignorance and prejudice that still exist within some quarters of our community, the members of the Berkeley Police Association are unwavering in our commitment to provide quality police service. 

The Berkeley Police Association calls upon the leaders of our community to join us now in publicly rejecting the divisive views expressed by Mr. Allen Jackson. 

Henry Wellington 

President, Berkeley Police Association 

Shira Warren 

President, Berkeley Black Police Officers Association  

 

• 

OAKLAND VIOLENCE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

J. Douglas Allen-Taylor reports that it is felt by many, that new mayor Ron Dellums is soft on crime—that he is “too philosophically addicted to violence prevention to take the tough-on-criminals stance” that Oakland needs. 

It has been reported that Oakland’s criminal families are on their third and fourth generations; that many of these absent fathers are in jail on drug-related charges. Do we really need yet more police enforcement for this endless waste of municipal funds? I was shocked to hear former presidential candidate Ron Paul actually mention the critically-needed change in our “drug war.” Obviously too unmentionable for a response from any of the other candidates, it remains the enormous “invisible elephant.” I suspect that prison and law-enforcement careers are dependent, after all, on keeping some of the billions we spend on this “war,” in the pockets of the “punishers.” 

Drug-related-crime is enforced by our drug-laws, as well as by the mystery of continuous blinders on the majority of our legislators. Will Mayor Dellums consider in his violence-prevention-program that decriminalization of drugs can be the beginning of healing? It would not only allow fathers to be “at home” for these hopeless young persons, but it could transfer these tainted-billions to the much needed education, jobs, and mental and physical health of these families. 

Gerta Farber 

 

 

• 

BRONSTEIN AND KIRP 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Fascists are mobilizing on the streets of Berkeley and David Kirp tried in his Feb. 18 Chronicle article, “Semper fi Berkeley,” to lower the tensions by outlining Berkeley’s years of achievements in various social areas. Zelda Bronstein replied in the Feb. 22 Planet with a rebuttal that detailed failure after failure of Berkeley officials on a wide array of problems. 

After a careful read of Bronstein’s piece I have to say that every failure of “government” that she lists appears to have been true. And Kirp’s list of pioneering work in school integration, ecology, disabled rights, housing for poor families and much more is also true. 

Wavy Gravy has written, “In my heart of hearts I know we are all assholes, and we are all Buddhas, yet even Buddha has to take a dump occasionally.” And when he does, Zelda Bronstein will be there to describe it in vivid detail. 

Ted Vincent 

 

• 

GROUNDED IN UNREALITY 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

The perspective of columnist J. Douglas Allen-Taylor is grounded in unreality (Undercurrents, Feb. 22). The bottom line for Allen-Taylor is that African Americans are being forced out of Oakland by in migration of Latinos and European Americans. He says Oakland should stop this out migration of African Americans. But even if locals could agree on the meaning of the term “affordable housing,” and on plans for providing “affordable housing,” the government could never make it work. Because as the foreclosure crisis begins to affect local government revenues, more and more cities are going to have to tighten their belts (nearby Vallejo is close to bankruptcy). There will be no money to build public housing or to subsidize housing construction. Even up to now, Oakland has done a wretched job maintaining existing stocks of public housing. No, Allen-Taylor should review Oakland history. Since the arrival of the Spanish colonists in the 1700s, Oakland has seen migration after migration as ethnic groups from around the world came and usually moved on. This process obviously continues despite the efforts of idealists who impractically fight the inevitable. 

Nate Hardin 

El Cerrito 

 

• 

A LAYMAN’S VIEW OF  

POLICE PRACTICES 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Walking home late Friday afternoon, I witnessed the strangest display of force by the Berkeley police in riot gear to clear the sidewalk on Shattuck. It seemed very unnecessary and I could only assume that they wanted to assert their power, like an angry bully. 

As reported by the Daily Planet, other agencies may have been called to handle the situations that occurred this week. The police chief, in his message on the city’s website, writes “We pride ourselves in treating people with dignity and respect.” Perhaps there was miscommunication, somewhere? Otherwise, this city has ample resources within its borders to train the force and its management in non-violent behavior and communication. 

The best thing we can show the rest of the country is how we can live peacefully without resorting to violence. Then perhaps, one day, they will start questioning their wars. 

Guy Tiphane 

 

• 

A NEW GI BILL 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

This week, a delegation of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) visited Washington to tell lawmakers one thing: our newest generation of veterans deserves real educational benefits that make college tuition affordable. 

Now is the time for our Congress to take action on this, and pass a 21st-century GI Bill. 

After World War II, attending college gave veterans time to readjust to civilian life, and prepared them for careers as innovators and leaders. For every dollar spent on the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, seven went back into the economy in the form of increased productivity, consumer spending, and tax revenue. 

Today’s GI Bill only covers part of the costs of college. Tuition costs have increased faster than inflation, and many veterans must take out student loans or forego education altogether. 

In a time when we are asking so much of our Armed Forces, paying for college is one of the best ways to show our gratitude as a nation. Congress needs to pass a new GI Bill this year. 

Koreyan Calloway 

Union City 

 

• 

HOMELESS IN SAN FRANCISCO 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Things aren’t going good. I mean, do you realize how many people are left in this nation’s mental hospitals without any or little contact with their friends and family? Let alone the prison system. There are stories of rape and violence inside our institutions that are widely accepted and people are locking away their own wives and kids without even thinking about the consequences. It’s just not right to leave people in a bad situation because our system doesn’t compensate for its own injustices. People fail in life, but when they’re kids they’re told there isn’t any such thing as failure, that we’re all playing on the same team and that success is the same as failure as long as you play by the rules and nobody gets hurt.  

But this isn’t realistic. When everybody’s in a mad dash trying to get famous or make a fortune too many people get tripped. And of course it’s always the same excuse that the winner wasn’t trying to trample on the loser and that that’s just the way it turned out but if you really think about it isn’t that just a dirty lie? If 14,000 homeless don’t have beds and are dying on the streets in San Francisco, doesn’t that make us all murderers? Albeit there are programs like 150 Otis, Providence, Glide Church, and such youth shelters as the Lark Inn for rehabilitation and housing, these places just aren’t enough.  

There are a ton of homeless out there, and if you’re walking down the main boulevards in San Francisco or Berkeley you cannot go two blocks without meeting ten to twenty homeless people without a job or sick or in need of a helping hand. And who is going to do it? The government is often on the side of the cops and that these are all just a bunch of dirty vagrants and criminals that need to be swept up and swept out of the way for the good citizens of our country. But if you talk to any number of these men you’d find out that there’s a lot more to the story of homelessness and what gets people kicked out of their pads and onto the streets. A lot of it has to do with family problems or even mental illness. And everybody can understand that. 

In short, give your brother a helping hand when he needs one. I know it may sound like only so much ranting and raving in this article. But if you’d just slow down for a second and talk to these people you’d find out that there’s a lot of ranting and raving to be done. And sickness and death just plain never make a difference, especially in what is supposed to be a Christian nation. 

David Wood 

Oakland 

 

• 

ALCOHOL REGULATION 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is unfortunate that in her commentary “Does Berkeley Need Better Alcohol Regulation?” Ms. Lott fails to answer her posed question. We are informed that there are neighborhood nuisance issues in South and West Berkeley, and an “out-of-control party scene” in frat row at Cal. This is followed with some scary statistics from the current Surgeon General’s report on underage drinking. But none of this addresses the question, and lumping it all together confuses BAPAC’s goals. 

It seems like BAPAC is trying to cover three issues: nuisance liquor stores, college-age drinking, and underage drinking. 

I lived within two blocks of a North Berkeley liquor store for over five years without issue or complaint—thus I don’t believe a one-size-fits-all approach is reasonable. Positive action has been taken on many nuisance liquor stores: Grove, Black & White, Dwight Way, Brothers. If this is a burden to the complainants, I suggest their councilmember is not effectively serving their needs. 

I was at UC Santa Cruz in the late 1980s when the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act (DFSCA) went into effect. My anecdotal evidence of the effects on college-age drinking are as follows: The level of drinking remained unchanged but because kegs were banned, we increasingly turned to hard liquor; because all alcohol was banned in public places, we drank before going out; because you could get in trouble, we became furtive; and it fostered an adversarial relationship between students, residential assistants, and the administration. I would argue that the regulations of 1986 set the stage for increased binge drinking—which is after all a (dimly) economically rational reaction to scarcity. 

BAPAC says their goals are about prevention, not prohibition, but with regards to underage drinkers their true goal is abstinence. I am unclear why, when sexual abstinence programs have been widely discredited, alcohol abstinence programs are not similarly questioned. 

At the risk of sounding like Timothy Leary, human beings have been altering their consciousness for the entirety of evolution. Cats jump on catnip, dogs and children run in circles, and humans have been brewing since long before Christ. Will a call for abstinence and increased regulation subvert this urge? Should Berkeley shoppers pick up the tab via increased prices from our local groceries, pubs and restaurants? Do we need “better” alcohol regulation? Will a single city employee charged with policing 309 sales points “reduce the harm and destruction to quality of life that will otherwise occur?” 

I remain unconvinced. 

John Vinopal 

 

• 

BRT AND VAN HOOL BUSES 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

A few letters and articles have claimed that the Van Hool buses used for AC Transit’s RapidBus service on Telegraph Avenue are an essential part of its planned Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service on this street. This is not true. 

AC Transit began discussing BRT in the year 2000, before it purchased a single Van Hool bus. The BRT system has not been designed around the Van Hool buses in any way: BRT could use any low-floor articulated bus with three doors. 

Buses typically have a life span of 12 years. The Van Hools that AC Transit now uses for RapidBus will probably continue to be used on that route for the rest of their life span, whether or not BRT is implemented on that route. When these Van Hools reach the end of their lives, AC Transit will have to decide what type of bus to replace them with, and I am sure the debate over the replacement buses will be very similar, whether or not BRT is implemented. 

Bus technology is changing rapidly. Several cities are now using hybrid buses, and I expect that hybrids will soon be used by transit providers all over the country—including AC Transit. I also expect that there will only be one generation of hybrids before they are replaced by some new technology, such as hydrogen fuel cells. The infrastructure for Bus Rapid Transit will last for a long time, and during most of that time, it will undoubtedly use buses powered by hydrogen fuel cells or by some other advanced technology. 

When we decide to build BRT, we are not deciding what buses will be used on it. We are deciding to whether to build an infrastructure that will allow many generations of different buses to provide faster, more convenient, and more reliable service. 

Charles Siegel 

 

• 

WARM POOL BOND MEASURE AND BHS CLASSROOMS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

There is a critical classroom and parking shortage at the Berkeley High campus. With up to 3,400 students and over 200 staff on only two city blocks of land, Berkeley High is bursting at the seams. As reported by the facilities director to the BUSD Board (Jan. 9), Berkeley High is lacking at least 15 classrooms to accommodate current and future enrollment. 

How does this affect the daily life at the high school? The teachers union (BFT) reports that over half of the teachers at Berkeley High must share classrooms or move from classroom to classroom. This makes it impossible for students to find teachers easily and disrupts instructional flow. Furthermore, the dearth of staff parking on or near a congested downtown high school campus is a constant issue—Berkeley High does not have adequate parking now, much less if BHS loses the Milvia site.  

Currently Berkeley High students attend classes in substandard classrooms on campus, and the high school has been forced to appropriate four portable classrooms from nearby Washington Elementary School on MLK Way. As a further stopgap measure to the classroom shortage, BUSD will be placing six portable classrooms on the BHS softball field at the corner of Channing and Milvia. Students will lose a field that’s in high demand year-round. 

Supporters of a warm pool to be located on the Milvia Street parking lot/tennis courts appear to be demanding that BUSD declare the site “surplus” or “excess school facilities.” This is a technical designation required before a school district can dispose of unwanted property. If BUSD has made any representations to the City that the Milvia site is “surplus,” such representations are inaccurate, misinformed and illegal. The Milvia site is far from “surplus.”  

The Berkeley City Council should not even begin to consider a $15 million bond measure for a warm pool (“Council Begins Discussions of November Tax Measure,” Feb. 19) until the city has secured a site that does not adversely affect the education of Berkeley High students. The Milvia Street parking lot/tennis courts are owned by BUSD and must be retained by the District to help remedy the desperate classroom and parking shortage at the high school. 

Priscilla Myrick 

 

• 

CUBA 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

The news of Fidel Castro’s resignation brought back memories of my November 2003 trip to Cuba. The following January, the United States placed further restrictions on travel to Cuba. I have mixed feelings about Castro. Many Cubans would probably agree, albeit covertly, that Castro was a welcome guest for dinner, but overstayed his welcome. The revolutionary became a dictator for life. 

What will happen after Castro dies? Will the United States take advantage of the uncertainty after his death to intervene again in Cuba? (Read Haiti.) I understand the United States is already planning for after-Fidel and Raul interventions. 

It might have been different. In April 1959, shortly after taking power, Castro traveled to the United States. The Eisenhower administration could have embraced Castro, offering him economic assistance. But remember this was during the Cold War and Castro smacked of socialism/communism. Eisenhower snubbed him. He met instead with Vice President Nixon for a few hours. No economic assistance was offered. The next year, Castro turned to Russia for economic assistance and the rest is history. 

Ralph E. Stone 

San Francisco 

 

 

• 

DAVID ROCHE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

For its many diverse and stimulating programs (i.e., lectures, history of jazz, classical guitar, etc., etc.), the Berkeley Public Library is deserving of the highest praise. It outdid itself last Tuesday by featuring an extraordinary speaker—David Roche, a well-known humorist, motivational speaker and performer. 

Because of his severe facial deformity, described as a venous malformation, David’s left cheek is tuberous and misshapen, his bluish purple tongue is twice normal size. As an infant, his lower lip was removed as it resembled a bunch of Concord grapes. He was subsequently treated with extensive radiation, causing the lower part of his face to stop growing. It isn’t surprising, therefore, that seeing this man for the first time, one is tempted to look away. But that temptation passes quickly once you’ve heard him speak, never in self-pity, but with disarming candor and humor. 

As people entered the third floor conference room that afternoon, David greeted each one warmly, asked their names and engaged them in a lively dialogue. He asked to be called by his first name. Then, reading passages from his book, The Church of 80 Percent Sincerity, he gave an account of his early childhood in Indiana, his years as a seminarian at St. Lawrence Seminary in Wisconsin where he contemplated becoming a Catholic priest, and a brief period in the 1970s when he was a Communist, doing political organizing with San Francisco’s Grass Roots Alliance. On a more personal level, he discussed his two marriages, the last of which has brought him continuing happiness in the form of Marlena, of whom he spoke adoringly, and with whom he lives in Mill Valley. 

Throughout the talk, while referring to 60 years of rude stares, insensitive taunts and random acts of cruelty (and the belief that his disfigurement might be contagious!), David contended that what seemed to be his flaw has been revealed as a wonderful source of strength. “My face is unique, but my experiences are universal,” he claims. Because of his wonderful stage presence and the message he imparts, his one-man show, The Church of 80 Percent Sincerity has been seen in the White House, across the United States and in Canada, England, New Zealand, Australia and Russia. As a motivational speaker, it’s not surprising that he’s in demand at universities, organizations and corporations, such as Hewlett Packard and Lockheed Martin. 

In her foreword to his book, writer Anne Lamott sums up David Roche’s appeal far more eloquently than I could: “He lost the great big outward thing, the good-looking packaging, and still the real parts endured. They shine through like crazy, the brilliant mind and humor, the depth of generosity, the intense blue eyes, those beautiful ballet hands.” 

My hope is that the Berkeley Public Library will schedule another appearance by this wonderful man. 

Dorothy Snodgrass 

 

• 

PESTICIDE SPRAYING 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have lived in Berkeley with my family for over 18 years and one of the things that attracted me to Berkeley to begin with was the very positive and environmentally healthy attitudes Berkeley showed to the rest of the country. From the Ecology Center to the recycling to the various healthy limits like the no pesticide spraying in Berkeley parks, Berkeley has stood out over and over again as a beacon to the rest of the country who need to learn to treat the Earth we all live on better.  

The proposed pesticide spraying, aerial or any other kind of pesticide applications, is unacceptable and doesn’t follow with any of the previously stated environmental policies or events that Berkeley has sponsored. Our family has serious health problems from painful neurological/migraine problems, fibromyalgia, sleep apnea to asthma, and pesticides could cause severe harmful effects on the health and well being of all of us, much less some of our elderly neighbors. We live near Gilman and Sixth Street and have had to deal with years of problems with some of the local factories as production schedules increased at some places with consequent increases in pollution be it air pollution or unpleasant smells, but have been reassured by the Berkeley government responding to complaints and trying to help get problems resolved.  

But add in pesticide and our day to day struggles to deal with severe pain and trouble breathing and sleeping will only get much worse. Our oldest son has gone through a dozen prescription medicines over the years to help cope with his migraines and nervous system problems which started when he was an infant. His health is fragile and has caused him to have severe learning problems so we have to homeschool him as we deal with operations and many doctor appointments. His younger brother has worsening asthma that interferes at times with him being able to perform in his Aikido classes. Where are we supposed to move to if the pesticide spraying isn’t stopped? My children were born here; they go to a local Berkeley park to meet with a homeschool group which meets in Berkeley specifically because we don’t use pesticide in our parks; my son volunteers at a local game store teaching people to play games; we ran a poetry reading in Berkeley for four years; we shop at local bookstores and other places trying to buy locally first; we helped put on the Berkeley Poetry Festival and have gone to event after event here in Berkeley.  

We need our representatives to stand up for all that Berkeley means to us and all the rest of the citizens who live here, especially for the children who can’t speak for themselves. Say no to any pesticide use of any kind in or above Berkeley. 

Debra Grace Khattab 

 

• 

McCAIN? WAKE UP! 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

When will media wake up? John McCain has already sold his soul pandering to the social conservatives, and yet, McCain is still heralded as the next coming of moderation. 

Is America going to give another conservative the keys to the White House? Look at the division and polarization Bush has wrought upon the nation with his autocratic rule. 

There is no difference between Republicans’ John McCain and George Bush and the sooner media informs America of this fact the better. 

McCain has so flip-flopped on every major issue that he now looks the part of the religious right of the Republican Party. 

If you are expecting a cessation of war under John “Bush” McCain as president come out from undr your rock. McCain has already declared that Americans should be prepared for another 100 years of war. 

Tha McCain is a further incarnation of the George Bush is as clear as the bright blue sky. Much of the media seems no to have noticed. 

Ron Lowe 

Grass Valley 

 

BARACK 

You found it was worthy to quote it, 

So then credit the person who wrote it. 

Remember Joe Biden 

Who sank the Poseidon. 

He steered it but just couldn’t float it. 

 

HILLARY  

A slip can sure dunk what you’re seeking. 

A ship can be sunk just by speaking. 

We share the same boat 

And for now, we’re afloat, 

But I think maybe your side is leaking. 

 

—O.V. Michaelsen 

 


Commentary: Hospital Plans Cause Stress for Neighbors

By Bob Schenker
Tuesday February 26, 2008

I awoke this morning feeling hung over from another evening of verbal mayhem. The venue: another meeting of the public with officials of Children’s Hospital Oakland. I dread these events because they are stressful and worse, seemingly completely unproductive: residents of the neighborhood voices sharp, hands gesticulating, hospital officials trying to look concerned and sincere, nodding and taking notes. 

The back story, for those who have somehow missed it, is that in September of last year the hospital announced it had decided to stay in Oakland. Politicians cheered. It made the newspapers and TV. Soon we in the neighborhood adjacent to the hospital received a letter inviting us to a public meeting to join the hospital in planning its future in Oakland. 

Local residents arrived at the meeting place to find a table and an easel. Seated in front of us were the current president and vice president (Frank Tiedemann and Mary Dean). On the easel was a blow up of a Google map of our neighborhood with a big red polygon straddling the block between 52nd Street, the address of the current hospital, and 53rd Street, and completely covering the cross street (Dover). Also covered: our house. Wow. 

The vice president got up and said that we would have a frank discussion. The hospital would be “completely honest.” As those words faded into the room we all looked around at each other. We knew—statements like that sound an alarm bell. Reality: the opposite of what you hear. And so it proceeded. 

The hospital needed to make earthquake safety deadlines and had made a decision, after long and painstaking deliberation, that they needed to build a new building whose footprint was visible on the Google map before us. It would be a 12-story building (about 200 feet high, as it turned out). To finance this, an initiative had been placed on the ballot to raise $300 million, almost half the total needed. We sat in shock. Curiously, a meeting for public input seemed something else altogether. 

Months later, we’ve organized and fought. The ballot measure failed, not by a bit, but resoundingly, nearly two to one against, when it needed the opposite figures to win. Maybe I’m a bit jaded, but afterwards I felt not elation but mild depression. I knew, correctly it turned out, that they would just come back and proceed as if nothing much had changed. They did. And that’s how we got to last night’s festivities, the first meeting since the election. 

This hospital is well known for its outstanding work, including taking care of a large number of uninsured kids from low income families. It’s a feel-good place. So why are we fighting so hard to thwart their plans? Why did we all move here? We knew there was a hospital at the edge of our neighborhood. What in the world did we expect? If we don’t want a big building next door, we should move, right? Why are we standing in the way of an institution dedicated to helping often extremely sick children? 

I think this is something those who don’t live here have a hard time understanding. The reason is that we are in a sense cornered; for us it’s a life and death struggle. 

There are several different types of people living here. There are those who’ve been here for a very long time. Some moved here in the very early 1950s, some even earlier. Some grew up here, having lived in their houses their entire lives. Extended families live close by, a cousin a block away, a sister next door. This neighborhood represents their entire lives. To move is to lose that and a lot more. Then there are those who represent the gentrification that’s been happening all over the Bay Area. Both house prices and rents have been doubling every few years for decades now. For those who make lots of money, this is no big deal. But for the rest of us life is lived with an underlying tension. You can never be sure you’ve gotten ahead because you can’t depend on any predictable future. If you don’t make enough to buy a house, you rent, and you will never be secure. Yes, incomes go up, but so do rents and you’re never sure which will come first. Industries fade, you lose a job, sometimes you can’t get reestablished at the same level—you know this could happen to you any time, now or in the future. You very well may survive by living with ever more roommates or family members in ever shrinking surroundings. Nothing is guaranteed. But if you could buy… 

If you suddenly find that you can just afford to buy a house, you will quickly discover that your experience is very different from that of people with just slightly more resources. That house is going to consume a scary amount of your income. If you have kids, you will find yourself with another dilemma. Most affordable neighborhoods in this town are pretty rough. Most of the rest are too expensive. Very few areas provide a middle ground. Never mind the schools, or the hospital up the street. And it will take tenacious work to get a house that isn’t falling down or so tiny your arms can span a bedroom. When you shop it quickly hits you—you will be lucky to find anything. You’ll find lots of others competing to get it. If you succeed, an enormous chunk of your personal financial stake in life will be in that house. It is a very exhausting, stressful experience. So, when that hospital down the street invites you to a meeting to get your input on the tower they then tell you they are building next to your house (or on it, in our case), it quickly strikes you that your very life is in danger. The minute the news gets out, you won’t be selling your house for enough to come out whole. If you move, it will be to less of a house, less of a neighborhood, or probably both. And it’s not just the sale and moving that will cost you. Because of the ever ascending home prices, you will likely find yourself paying property taxes double or even more what you were before. Here, that could mean ten thousand extra a year. If you’ve been here for decades, you may live on limited income; you may not make enough to cover you’re your new tax amount. It’s true certain people are exempt, but many others will not be. 

If you don’t move, you will find your really great neighborhood dying. Many who can get out will move, and those who move in will not be happy families with laughing kids. Some houses won’t sell and will sit empty. The area will be in the shadow of a huge towering building that casts an unending shadow day in and day out. Its windows will be lit all night. Helicopters will land and take off at all hours above you. Ambulances will rush up with sirens blazing. When you look up you will see a wall of windows looking down into your home. 

When we sit in the meetings, we look at the hospital officials and we know they are thinking “These selfish people, if they just accept things we could avoid all this turmoil and get on with our project. They could just move if they don’t like being near a tall building.” Hopefully you can understand why we don’t see it that way. 

 

Bob Schenker is a North Oakland resident.


Commentary: The Plentitude of Substantially Diluted Media

By Rizwan A. Rahmani
Tuesday February 26, 2008

Every four years we are subjected to a barrage of visual and aural assaults by the mainstream media—abuzz with news about the presidential campaign and the candidates. This time around the primaries have been particularly irritating, considering it started about a year ago, and the actual election is still nine months away! As far as a year or so ago, you started to hear such mundane questions as, if Hillary will run for the office or how Giuliani will fare against Hillary? This at a time, when much more important national issues were at hand regarding war and constitutional dalliances by the current administration? The amount of watered downed, insipid, corporate agenda-laced, shallow coverage of our political process has only been exacerbated by cable news and the new corporate owners. We have only Ted Turner to thank for it. The cable news media’s self professed, expert political talking heads (usually qualified by a caption), spout their biased, non-independent, political drivel as infallible commandments that we are to accept like believers. The worst part of all this is that there isn’t any other single authoritative source available to us as an alternative. 

When Headline News was the only show on cable, it was a good place for low fat news appetizers; afterwards, you could get your main course—although not as substantial as BBC—on any of the major network evening news, and finally you could top off your main course with dessert on Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Now there are just too many venues for news, and it is easier than ever for any Tom, Dick, and Harry to get a spot on the television to dump their spade full of quasi journalistic rubbish without much scrutiny. 

Prior to cable news, ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS were the networks for international news, the quality of journalism was held to a much higher standard. You couldn’t just get out of college, do a few minor stints, and then get a national audience. Dan Rather was a CBS news correspondent for nineteen years before he was given the anchor position. Peter Jennings was a foreign correspondent for numerous years before he took the anchor position on ABC. In stark contrast, this current crowd of journalists on cable news is as unseasoned as tapioca at the infirmary. What’s more, the absence of wrinkles and specks of grey in their hair only raise questions about their credentials. There is no sign of weathering on these faces from years of reporting from God forsaken locations. Wearing the latest haute couture from Armani and Prada, this crowd looks more ready—with its salon produced coiffure—to walk the red carpet than report any substantive news. And we are to trust these pseudo-journalists for comments on our national politics, economy, healthcare, and on subject as arcane as geopolitics? It is no surprise we have selected highly incompetent leaders to represent us lately. There should be a minimum years (several) of residency required before giving this crowd its own megaphone. 

This is the same crowd who started to call Paul Bremer a viceroy without ever looking up the word’s real meaning. They stopped uttering that term quickly. This geographically challenged group wouldn’t be able to point out Karkuk from Timbuktu, Sea of Galilee from Sea of Tranquility or locate Kabul on the map within the margin of error of a country next to it. Journalists aside, even the current administration was quite clueless about Iraq’s population composition: certainly this administration is geopolitically just as challenged! This explains why it keeps getting carte blanche by the media on its egregiousness: this media skipped its homework on the U.S. Constitution. This crowd should only be seen (maybe), but not heard. As it is, I have to cross-reference many news organizations, and sift through the morass of mostly dross news to get an iota of information that I consider pure. 

I think the current American news media is harmful, shallow, and it is misinforming its citizens. It should come with a mandatory warning as follows: consume at your own risk, may cause drowsiness, do not consume while driving or using heavy machinery, mix with other news sources to get a marginal effect; overconsumption may cause a loss of political judgment.  

Without the disclaimer above, in the interim, we should avoid this skim milk news before it further thickens our brains. 

 

Rizwan A. Rahmani is an Oakland resident.


Commentary: Hey, CARB! More Recycling, Please

By Arthur Boone
Tuesday February 26, 2008

On Feb. 28, the Economic and Technology Advancement Advisory Committee (ETAAC) will make its final report to the California Air Resources Board (CARB), giving its ideas on how California can reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. As a 21-person committee comprised primarily of academic and business interests, the ETAAC has been charged to be the “big-picture” think tank on what California people, governments, and businesses need to do to stop the threat of global warming. (Climate change is now no longer au courant; GW is straight up; CC is a weasel word.) 

What’s most apparent is that no one has an exact picture of what the future will look like; alternative technologies are gradually coming on-line with little public resistance. Those who have profited from the existing systems (like motor car companies, landfill owners, and investor-owned utilities) are scrambling at least to paint themselves green if they can’t figure out exactly what the consumer wants and how, in fact, to bring innovation on-line. 

A bright spot in the elaborate dance to keep your own ox from getting gored has been recycling. Since the United States became a bigger importer than producer of oil in the mid-1990s, the federal government has softly extolled the benefits of recycling materials and products rather than allowing them to flow into landfills and incinerators. Unfortunately, Washington put an embargo on calculating what the energy costs and now GHG costs of our current wasting practices are and it’s only been in the last few years that, as often happens, a few industrious, number-crunching, mavericks have seen that the 42 million tons of materials now flowing into landfills in California (year 2005 data) including a billion aluminum cans, etc. would, if those materials had been recycled, have saved 16.6 million tons of CO2 emissions, an amount equal to one third of all industrial-claimed emissions for California (42 million tons of CO2 air emissions in the base year of 1990) or, expressed differently, just a little less than taking all the diesel trucks off the road in California. Since a lot of these emissions occur out of state, (California imports most of the paper, metals and plastics it “consumes” and is self-sufficient only probably with glass), in truth, nobody seems to know the figures. When it enacted our AB 32, the Legislature wasn’t looking too closely at any of this; they knew that a lot of California’s electrical power comes from coal-fired power plants in Arizona and New Mexico and wanted them in the calculation but conveniently forgot all that paper rolling in by truck and train from Oregon and Canada, the metals from off-shore or the Midwest, and the plastics from Texas and Louisiana petrochemical plants. In truth, California’s pretty much a suburb except for agriculture, some hi-tech, and the ports. 

But now, with a little dash at the end, the ETAAC has recycling prominently featured as an old but trustworthy technology for reducing GHGs in CA. Whether the Air Board will find the courage to admit that its sister agency, the so-called Integrated Waste Management Board, that so far has done little to stem the tide of wasting-as-usual in California (44 millions tons of garbage in 1990, declining to 34 million tons in 1994 but gradually creeping back up to 42 million tons in 2005; 50 percent recycling be damned) can be in charge remains to be seen. The Waste Board recently adopted a string of “strategic initiatives” to make the future different from the past but appears to lack the leadership to get in the face of the garbage companies and their compliant minions who prefer wasting to looking at wastes as resources. Since the City of Oakland gets 40 percent of what you pay for garbage services to pay for a public bureaucracy and litter pick-up, illegal dumping elimination programs, etc., the city is compromised in wanting less garbage. Unlike the Public Utilities Code which protects PG&E from losing profit if energy conservation works, nobody’s going to do that for the garbage companies which have become our de facto big recycling firms although the independents in the Bay Area actually move a lot more materials than the curbside programs. 

We live in interesting times. Hats off to ETAAC for making a bold statement for recycling; let’s hope CARB doesn’t drop the ball in the face of probable Waste Board pleas to stay out of its turf. 

 

Arthur R. Boone is the education chair of the Northern California Recycling Association, a 25-year veteran of the recycling industry, and an Oakland resident. 


Commentary: Climate Action Plan is Far-Sighted, But Needs to Be Boldly Nearsighted, Too

By Alan Tobey
Tuesday February 26, 2008

There is much to praise in Berkeley’s new draft Climate Action Plan. The goal of reducing our climate-warming greenhouse gases by 80 percent before 2050 is a bold and needed one, as 81 percent of voting Berkeleyans agreed via Measure G in 2006. The vision presented is attractive and inspiring: Berkeley as a greener city with a more sustainable economy. A Berkeley less dependent on the private gasoline-powered automobile and more supportive of walkable full-service neighborhoods, housing more of our own workers. A Berkeley using more regionally-produced food and more locally-produced renewable energy, and no longer sending our waste to landfills. And a Berkeley more lively and prosperous as an inspiring urban place. 

Even some of the means proposed are bold and innovative—most notably mayoral aide Cisco DeVries’s plan to accelerate the installation of residential solar power using individual property tax increments rather than ordinary loans. Other more conventional means involve upgrading energy efficiency standards already established by ordinance, “identifying opportunities” for other renewable energy projects, and taking practical steps toward eliminating unrecycled waste. Overall, the plan makes it sound feasible that much of what it proposes can—with an aggressive effort and a cooperative citizenry—be achieved. 

However, there is still one way the Climate Action Plan falls short of what we need. While it’s visionary and bold about the long-term future and crisp about needed revisions to existing ordinances and programs, the CAP seems to lose its courage when addressing policy-level decisions we will make in the next year or two. Instead of strong recommendations based on the principles espoused in the CAP, many upcoming items are expressed only as things to “consider” if they are “appropriate”—even when the items have already been considered to death.  

The CAP that we need should take the opposite tone: It should be most confident and specific on policy and program commitments we know we can make right away, and more tentative on what we can’t yet define in programmatic terms. If the CAP won’t drive our ready-to-go decisions now, why should we have any confidence it will actually help over the next 40 years? 

That failure of political focus makes the key chapter on transportation and land use the weakest in the document. The chapter takes the right direction by generally advocating alternative transportation and more intensive urban in-fill as the most effective reducers of greenhouse gases, but it is unconnected to our current decision agenda and fails to make any actual recommendations on that list. The best in-process policy example is the excellent draft of our new Downtown Plan, crafted by a dedicated citizens’ panel over nearly two years. This DAPAC process has already considered key desirables mentioned in the CAP chapter—such as Bus Rapid Transit and increased density of housing near transportation lines—and made strong recommendations in favor of both. Why would the CAP not support and reinforce the Downtown Plan as a crucial means for implementing its advocated climate actions? Alas, it says we should make important land use and transportation changes only “if appropriate.” Instead of leading as it should, the CAP even fails to follow; the draft Downtown Area Plan is already much more decisive on transportation and land use changes in several important ways. 

Another example will reinforce the same point. Though the CAP generally favors more in-fill housing near transportation, it is silent on the current open issue of the density bonus for new construction. If its goals are to be achieved, I’d expect the CAP to boldly recommend that we not go too far in reducing the density bonuses that have helped create what little affordable housing Berkeley has built in the past few years. 

I’ve confirmed in three private conversations that the draft submitted by Climate Action Plan staff did not demonstrate this deficiency of political courage. Its original language, for example, “flat-out stated” (as a senior Planning Department staffer put it) that “smart growth is the only way we will be able to reach our climate goals.” But senior political minds in the city manager’s office seem to have concluded that ignoring all pending issues with any controversy is the path to success, along with “considering” things till the cows come home. 

The cure for the shortfall is a simple one: eliminate from the CAP almost all the equivocal “consider” and “if appropriate” language and in most cases clearly state what “the City should enact” in the next year or two. If we are as clear on the principles as the plan itself asserts, the CAP should have no trouble recommending how to decide most well-defined upcoming policy and program questions. 

Thus our new Climate Action Plan is inspiringly farsighted, but far from nearsighted enough. It’s crystal-clear on the long-term future, but timid and unfocused about our near-term policy agenda. But if the CAP is to mean anything, it should have the courage to connect its laudable principles and 40-year vision to our specific pending decisions in clear and unambiguous language. It’s now up to the Council to insist we do so. 

 

Alan Tobey has lived in Berkeley since 1970.


Statement from Chris Kavanagh

By Chris Kavanagh
Tuesday February 26, 2008

The Feb. 22 plea agreement reached between myself and the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office reflects the reality that since my 2002 election, I complied with the City of Berkeley’s residency requirement to hold public office as a Rent Stabilization Board commissioner—with the exception of a period of time during parts of 2006 and 2007 when I involuntarily lost my Berkeley home. The original and potentially very serious counts and allegations filed against me have been dismissed, and a single, technical violation of the California election code was agreed to. 

I appreciate the District Attorney Office’s sense of fairness and professionalism toward my case. I also appreciate that after one year, my case may be revisited and the count reduced upon completion of the court’s probation conditions. 

As I indicated in a previous statement, like many Berkeley homeowners who own (or rent) two homes, I rented two living spaces over the last several years: one in Berkeley and another in Oakland. I kept possession of my Oakland space because I did not want to give up its local amenities and rare outdoor garden space. There is nothing unusual about possessing two living spaces. 

I am greatful to my family, friends and colleagues for their confidence and support. It has been a sincere honor and privelege to have served on Berkeley’s Rent Stabilization Board. I also apologize to my constituents for the period of time I was unable to live in Berkeley. 

I urge my Rent Board colleagues to continue the critical work of the Rent Stabilization Agency and Ordinance given the Bay Area’s—and Berkeley’s—increasing affordable housing crisis, and the threat to local rent control laws posed by the Howard Jarvis organization-sponsored state Proposition 98 on the June, 2008 ballot. 


Columns

Column: Dispatches From the Edge: Notes from the Southern Cone

By Conn Hallinan
Friday February 29, 2008

Getting it right is what the government of Brazilian Lula da Silva seems to be doing these days. The country’s National Survey of Sample Households has just pulled together the results of his government’s economic policies, which indicate that women and the poor are doing considerably better than they did under previous governments. 

Some 8.7 million jobs were created in his first term, with wages rising 7.2 percent. More important, workers at the low end of the scale did the best. The median minimum wage jumped 13.3 percent over its 2005 level, a rise that affected 26 million workers and raised pensions for 16 million others. 

Da Silva’s government has also in-creased income through the Family Assistance Program, resulting in a 7.6 percent rise nationally in family income in 2006, a rise that was steeper in the economically depressed northeast than in the wealthier southeast: 11.7 percent and 7 percent respectively. 

Despite those gains, however, regional inequality continues to haunt Brazil. While household income in the northeast did rise, it is still only 57.8 percent of that in the southeast. And while the disparity in wages between men and women saw improvement—with women’s pay increasing from 58.7 percent of the men’s rate in 1996 to 65.6 percent in 2006—discrimination on the basis of gender continues to be a problem. Given that almost one third of Brazil’s families are headed by single women, it is one the de Silva government clearly must tackle. The survey also found that while women make up 43 million of the 90 million national work force, they spend twice as much time on weekly house chores as men. 

Brazil has seen huge increases in education, particularly for women, who have now passed men in high school completion. If one counts teachers and administrative support systems, almost one third of the country’s population is involved in education. However, almost 10 percent of the population is still illiterate, and 23.6 percent are functionally illiterate. In the northeast that figure rises to 35.5 percent. 

The approach the da Silva government has taken to stimulating the economy is almost exactly the opposite of that taken by countries like the U.S., India and, to a certain extent, China, where resources have generally flowed to the wealthier sectors of the society. “From the point of view of the economy, to maximize the usefulness of the country’s resources involves raising the income of the poorest of the poor,” says Ladislau Dowbor of the Pontifical Catholic University of Sao Paulo. “The poor do not engage in financial speculation; they buy goods and services. To lift people from poverty is not charity; it is good sense, socially and economically.” 

“Lula” has come under fire from some sections of the Left for not doing enough for the poor, but the recent survey suggests that Brazil is moving toward narrowing the country’s enormous class and regional disparities. “There is the immense organized labor of millions of people that are changing programs, literally ‘milking the rock’ of a governmental machine that historically was set up to administer privileges, not to render services,” says Dowbor. 

A recent poll gives “Lula” a 66.8 percent approval rating and 52.7 percent for his government, its highest rating since January 2003 when da Silva was first elected. 

No good is what the Bush Administration has been up to in Bolivia, according to Benjamin Dangl, author of “The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia.” 

Recently declassified documents show that the White House is using the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to undermine the leftist government of Evo Morales by encouraging and underwriting right-wing separatist movements in Bolivia’s eastern provinces. 

USAID has funneled over $4.4 million into the oil- and gas-rich eastern provinces, which are currently pushing for more autonomy from the Morales government. The eastern provinces are largely populated by light-skinned descendants of the Spanish, while Morales’s base in the highlands is dominated by indigenous people. 

While the U.S. denies it is interfering in Bolivia’s internal affairs, USAID is financing advisors to the right-wing, openly secessionist Civic Committee. The U.S. not only has hydrocarbon interests in the region, but also has a significant military presence in neighboring Paraguay, where the huge Mariscasl Estigarriba airbase hosts U.S. Special Forces. 

Besides USAID, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED)—both organizations were involved in the 1973 overthrow of the Socialist Allende government in Chile—has also been active. The NED, through the Center for International Private Enterprise, a front for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, has financed forums and panels critical of the Morales government’s nationalization of resources. 

Another NED program brought young right-wing leaders to Washington for training. Morales’s party—Movement Toward Socialism (MAS)—and other left parties were not invited. 

Dangl interviewed a Fulbright Scholar who said that U. S. Embassy officials asked him to give the embassy reports on any Cubans or Venezuelans he encountered. Venezuela and Cuba give aid and provide expertise for the Morales government. According to the student, such reports would violate Fulbright guidelines, which prohibit interfering in the politics of a host country. 

But MAS appears to be increasing its support, particularly among the poor, who make up the overwhelming bulk of Bolivia, the poorest country in South America. In late November, the Constituent Assembly approved a pension plan called the Dignity Salary, which will give $26 a month to all Bolivians over 60 years of age. The money will come from gas tax funds, which currently go to provincial governors. The widely popular move has drawn the anger of the eastern provinces, where the oil and gas reserves lie. 

The economy also grew at a healthy 4.2 percent clip, and MAS managed to get a new constitution passed in the Congress, which gives the state more control over resources and the economy, guarantees indigenous rights, and provides for an elected Supreme Court. 

Regionally, Brazilian President “Lula” da Silva and Chilean President Michelle Bachelet declared their support for the new constitution and the Morales government, and announced plans to build a $600 million highway from Brazil through Bolivia to Chile. 

Bolivia is also cutting deals to develop the country’s gas and oil resources with Russia and Brazil, and South Korea is investing in the Bolivian-state-owned COMIBOL to jointly develop a copper mine. 

Bush administration subversion in eastern Bolivia, however, could pose a serious danger to the Morales government. 

 

Dragon vs. the Monroe Doctrine? According to April Howard of Upside Down World, when the 10-year agreement between Ecuador and the U.S. that allows Southern Command to use the Manta port and air base in Colombia runs out in 2009, it appears that the Chinese are going to move in. 

The Manta base, which hosts 475 U.S. military personnel and hundreds of private mercenaries, has come under fire for violating its original agreement to interdict drugs. Critics charge that the base is also used to monitor—and on occasion attack—anti-government insurgents in Colombia. 

During his election campaign, Ecuador’s leftist President Rafael Correa said he would agree to allow the U.S. to use the base only if the U.S. reciprocated by giving Ecuador a base in Florida. When his request was turned down, Correa offered the base to Terminals del Ecuador, which is owned by Hong Kong-based Hutchison Port Holdings. 

The South America Regional Infrastructure Initiative plans to build either a highway or a rail line from Manta to the city of Manaus in Brazil. The link would create a direct line for China with Ecuador and Brazil. 

Manta is the closest port to Asia on South America’s west coast. 

As Sanho Tree of the Institute for Policy Study points out, there is considerable historical irony in the Chinese move. Back in 1900, the U.S. pushed an “Open Door Policy” in order to get access to China’s markets. It appears turnabout is fair play, the Monroe Doctrine be damned.


Column: Undercurrents: The Oakland Police Department’s Mixed Message

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Friday February 29, 2008

In one of the more hilarious scenes from Tim Burton’s 1996 parody film Mars Attacks, a group of invading Martians send a decidedly mixed message on an American street, broadcasting a recorded message shouting, “Don’t run; we are your friends” while simultaneously disintegrating with ray-gun blasts all humans within range. 

This is not an accusation that Oakland police officers have been shooting down citizens with such gleeful abandon, because they haven’t. But still, the Mars Attacks scene in many ways echoes the decidedly mixed message given these days by Oakland’s public safety establishment in some of Oakland’s more abandoned neighborhoods. 

Part of Mayor Ron Dellums’ and Chief Wayne Tucker’s new police recruitment plan is a strategy they call “grow our own,” heavily recruiting officers from within Oakland. In their official Feb. 19 report on the plan, the mayor and the chief describe this aspect, in part, by saying that “the Mayor, City Council members, and Oakland residents call for an increase in the number of Oakland police officers from Oakland. Officers who have personal familiarity with Oakland’s numerous and diverse neighborhoods are in a much better position to build positive community relationships, understand neighborhood dynamics, and identify creative problem solving strategies that may not be obvious to those who are not  

Oaklanders.” 

In part, this is a response to longstanding charges that far too many Oakland police officers come from and live far outside the city, making the department’s actions in some parts of the city sometimes resemble an international peacekeeping force in a Third World nation more than a domestic police agency looking out for the welfare and safety of its own citizens. 

To back up this drive for a new image of the Oakland police, department officials showed a PowerPoint slideshow at a recent City Council meeting with one OPD recruitment poster of a smiling little Black kid with an oversized police helmet on his head. “Don’t run from us, kid,” the poster seems to say. “Join us. We are your friends.” 

The problem with this message is that in the current reorganization and drive against Oakland’s crime and violence wave, the department is continuing to promote and practice many of the activities that estranged it from large sections of the community in the first place. 

At a recent community advisory meeting held in North Oakland by District 1 Councilmember Jane Brunner, OPD Captain Anthony Toribio, who is heading up one of Oakland’s three new geographical divisions, announced that one of his law enforcement strategies would be to conduct “traffic ticketing sweeps” in his North Oakland-West Oakland command district. Given at the end of a long list of public safety strategies to a room full of citizens who were mostly looking for law enforcement solutions to soaring crime and violence, that particular innocuous-sounding strategy got no attention at all. 

It should have, however. 

I’ve written about Oakland PD’s “traffic ticketing sweeps” extensively in the past. I’ll try to summarize. 

The sweeps are not aimed at such serious violations as speeding or DUI. Instead, they are designed to stop vehicles for minor, non-moving violations—an expired plate, or no plate on the front of the vehicle, or a tail light out, or something like that. The car driver is then asked for the regular information—license, registration, and insurance—and passengers are also often asked for their drivers licenses or other identification, as well. The idea is not to give out tickets for non-moving violations—that just seems to be an added financial benefit to the city—but is aimed at running across individuals with warrants, or chance observations of more serious illegalities going on, such as drugs in the car or a weapon in sight. 

I am not sure how long the sweeps have been around, but they gained popularity during the “Operation Impact” police saturation project that began in 2003. “Operation Impact” and the accompanying traffic ticketing sweeps—many of them along International Boulevard from High Street to 105th—were initially supposed to be aimed at curbing that year’s spike in Oakland murders. When the murder rate subsided, “Operation Impact” and the traffic ticket sweeps were continued as a way to target the city’s illegal street sideshow problem. 

That should have been the clue right there to any discerning observer that something was wrong, since a program aimed specifically at stopping violent predators would hardly seem appropriate to go after youthful joy-riders, no matter how annoying those joy-riders may have been. And, in fact, the only thing that appeared to be in common between the two targets is that they were largely made up of dark-skinned youth—Latinos and African-Americans. 

How successful have the traffic ticketing sweeps been in ferreting out serious crime? In early 2004, the Oakland Tribune reported that in the first three months of the Operation Impact sweeps, which were conducted at that time by the California Highway Patrol, “the CHP arrested almost 600 people for various crimes [during the patrols], issued 1,564 traffic citations, towed 908 vehicles and seized six guns and 12 stolen cars.” The 600 arrest total is difficult to evaluate, but for a program initially designed to stop violent crime in Oakland, the seizure of only six guns out of that many arrests and 1,500 traffic citations appears to be the most telling statistic. 

The 908 towed vehicles is another key. Towing vehicles, in fact, seemed to be one of the predictable outcomes of the traffic ticketing sweeps—so predictable, in fact, that on some of the more ambitious operations, police stationed squads of tow trucks at convenient locations up and down International for more efficiency. 

From the point of view of the Oakland Police Department, this is clearly a legitimate law enforcement tool, one they continue to use. 

But for the young African-American and Latino drivers who are the primary targets of the sweeps—does anybody seriously deny that?—the view is entirely different. For them, this appears to be petty harassment, designed to single them out in the hope of finding some violation that can justify taking the car, the drivers, and the passengers off the street. 

Whether or not the traffic sweeps amount to illegal racial profiling is a matter of opinion that has yet to be litigated. But there can be no doubt that they operate at distinct cross-purposes to the very population that the mayor and OPD now say they are interested in attracting into law enforcement. To loudly proclaim “we are your friends” and “we want you to join us” to the same people you are running off the streets seems to be, at the very least, counterproductive. 

Meanwhile, since I’m on the public safety topic, there are a couple of smaller matters to comment on and clear up. 

In a Feb. 26 column entitled “At Last, Community Policing Comes to Oakland,” my good friend Chronicle East Bay columnist Chip Johnson has praise for some of Oakland’s recent law enforcement efforts. 

Describing Oakland’s new geographic-based police realignment, Mr. Johnson writes, “the new program, which allows patrol officers to work in cooperation with the city’s cadre of problem-solving officers and civilian aides, is long overdue. And after years of debate, city officials have concluded that it makes sense for officers to be assigned to districts they come to know like the back of their hand.” Mr. Johnson speaks glowingly of the efforts of Captain Anthony Toribio, who runs the Area 1 command (North Oakland-West Oakland) in the new configuration.  

Well, who, exactly, are these anonymous “city officials” that Mr. Johnson keeps referring to in his praise of the new Oakland police actions? 

Mayor Ron Dellums, although Mr. Johnson never tells us so. 

The geographical realignment plan was the brainchild of Oakland Police Chief Wayne Tucker, but it was given the go-ahead by Mr. Dellums. It was fought tooth and nail, you remember, by the Oakland Police Officers Association police union, which objected to the plan’s change from 10-hour to 12-hour shifts. Mr. Dellums stuck with the plan as it went through the negotiation and arbitration process, the first Oakland mayor in memory to openly buck the powerful OPOA, and the city won the arbitrator’s ruling that allowed the geographical alignment to be put in place, Captain Toribio to get his new assignment, and the neighborhood-based patrols to be established that won Mr. Johnson’s praise. 

Fair is fair. Mr. Johnson spent many past columns denouncing Mr. Dellums’ law enforcement actions. When he finds an Oakland law enforcement action he approves, Mr. Johnson ought to give credit where it belongs. 

And, finally, my own error to report. In a Feb. 15 UnderCurrents column on Oakland’s attempt to close the “blue gap” between the city’s authorized police strength and its actual police strength, I wrote that “Councilmember Nancy Nadel’s 2004 Measure R parcel tax [would have] raise[d] money for violence prevention exclusively.” “Exclusively” is the offending and inappropriate word here about the measure that lost by a little less than a percentage point. Saying that Measure R concentrated solely on violence prevention strategies contradicted my own earlier reporting on the measure, and it was flat-out wrong. The Oakland City Attorney’s impartial analysis of Ms. Nadel’s 2004 volence prevention Measure R concluded that 40 percent of the collected revenue for the measure was set aside for police enforcement, including “expanding programs to increase the number of police assigned to walking patrol, expanding specialized undercover police sting operations to target crime hot-spots and target drug dealing and gang activities, expanding the Oakland Police Department’s Drug Taskforce to combat drug dealing and violence associated with the drug trade, and establishing community-based specialist teams within the Oakland Police Department trained to deal with mental health, domestic violence, and conflict resolution.” 

Don’t mind disagreements with my conclusions, but I hate it like hell when I make a factual error. My apologies to Ms. Nadel, particularly, for misreporting on her measure.


About the House: What to Look For When Looking Under the House

By Matt Cantor
Friday February 29, 2008

I spend a lot of time under houses. This isn't glamorous but it's what I have to do in order to do my job. Actually I don't mind it much. 

I can't tell you how often I’ve been suiting up (yes, I wear a funny suit) to “get down” as it were, and had a client say to me “Well I guess this is why you get the big bucks.” Actually, I’m still waiting for the big bucks (any time now) but I think I get paid for observations, ideas and salient comments. Crawling is just something one has to do to see all parts of the patient. Same with climbing ladders. I’m more than a little acrophobic but if I don’t see it, I can’t figure out what’s wrong (turn your head to the right and cough). 

So it’s very frustrating, as it was yesterday, to get into a narrow crawlspace and find that I’m surrounded by ducting that’s about the size of a torso, sinuating through this narrow confine and disabling my ability to move about, see and discover. 

One thing that I saw yesterday and often do see is crushed sections of ducting (thus decreasing their performance) as a result of former visitors having done what it took to move about, work and see. These may have been the Wild Amoral Cableman or the Pacific Clueless Beer-Bellied Termite Inspector. You have to be very patient to actually catch one of these in the act.  

I try to move over and around ducting as I do my job but it’s really hard. Sometimes. I have to go an extra twenty-five feet just to get around a section of ducting and sometimes it can’t be done.  

Ducting isn’t the only building element that obstructs access. The way that foundation sections are poured can do that same. Also plumbing, wiring, furnaces, seismic bracing panels and abandoned equipment (Amazingly, people leave furnaces, water heaters and all sort of garbage under houses). 

While this isn’t much of a problem for the homeowner most days, it become one when they want to have almost anything done in the crawlspace including wiring, telephone repair, cable TV installation, alarm system work, plumbing. The list goes on. It also matters for inspections. It’s very hard to learn important things when you can’t move around or see. 

Also, ducting, when it’s the obstructive element, gets damaged and not just mashed in the manner I’ve described already. I see disconnected or loosely connected ducting in crawlspaces all the time. This makes it very hard to get the house warm and also increases global warming, as well as crawlspace warming and wallet de-greening. There’s little doubt that I see this more often in tight obstructed crawlspaces than in houses where the ducting is neatly hung up and out of the way where no one need climb over it. 

I should say at this point that, while nobody like a good gripe session more than me, that is not actually my intent.  

First, let me say to all the builders and architects out there that crawlspaces are just that, for crawling, not for packing full of ducting or other equipment as an unplanned afterthought. If you’ve ever been in a crawlspace looking at all this stuff, that’s what it looks like … an afterthought or better, no thought. 

If a crawlspace is three feet high (this would be a Fairmont Hotel of crawlspaces), I think that tubular flexible ducting, such as we commonly see, would be fine. There would still be at least twenty inches of space below everything to move about and see. Even two feet of height would be better than most so the message to the builder or designer is, add more crawlspace height. Current regulations require eighteen inches of height crawlspaces with certain exceptions for periodic beams intruding into that height. If small ducts are well placed in a system like this, you can still see and work but it requires some thinking to install a system that work and frankly, it’s not much height if you have large ducts. 

By the way, when ducting ends up laying on the ground, as is often the case in tight crawlspaces, it’s common to see it having been torn open and turned into a night club for Ratatouille. When their well secured to framing a foot above the ground, it’s less common simply because it’s harder to breech. 

One solution to this problem is to use shallow metal ducting attached to the bottom of the floor framing. A metal duct that is a foot wide and four inches deep is about the same volume as an eight inch flexible duct (a common size). This gains four inches of head room and also decreases the likelihood of warm air leaks and rodent raves. 

If you’re upgrading the heating in your house and your crawlspace is a little tight this is well worth thinking about. 

The same is true of water piping, waste lines and all those other things that fill these tight crawlspaces. When redoing any system, see if you can route and place these so that the space is left largely clear. You and your varied minions are more likely to catch problems in the future and any work that has to be done down under can be completed more swiftly and at lower cost. 

A seismic retrofitting job may be a protracted and costly trial if the space is filled with huge ducts and far quicker and likely cheaper if the ducting has first been upgraded and moved. 

By the way, ducted heating systems aren’t the only option for heating and a tight crawlspace might be just the added incentive to push you into a more expensive but utterly delightful radiant-floor heating system. 

This logic should be extended to other systems as well. It’s wise to be sure that all equipment gets installed in such a way as to allow for repair, replacement and inspection over the life of the system. It usually takes a little more energy to make sure that an attic, crawlspace or electrical panel is accessible but it sure can decrease excess stomach acid when you have to find or fix something. 

When building or doing a major remodeling job, one of the smartest things one can do is to involve the subcontractor at the design phase. The heating contractor is likely to point out the tight crawlspace or the lack of an adequate space for a cold air return duct to the attic (if that’s where it’s going) and can influence small changes that might be cost neutral and aesthetically insignificant at this early stage. 

Every remodel, no matter how small is a chance to look at many aspects and to ease the way for the next set of changes. While doing all these things, keep access in mind. Remember that everything you install will eventually break down and need repair and that somebody is going to have to crawl over there to get to it. I’m happy to say that new codes are better in demanding space leading to equipment like furnaces but cities are slow to apply these in older homes. 

If nothing else, this is a way of being nice to the many people who have to work in the space below your home over the years and who knows, in your next life, you may come back as a home inspector. 


Wild Neighbors: Globetrotting Rodents: The Odyssey of the Black Rat

By Joe Eaton
Tuesday February 26, 2008

It’s the Year of the Rat again‚—but which rat? For most of us “rat” signifies Rattus norwegicus, the Norway, brown, sewer, or wharf rat, progenitor of all those rats in all those labs, whose original homeland was northern China. But a case could be made for a less-well-known relative with roots in Asia: Rattus rattus, the black, roof, house, or ship rat.  

I once interviewed Garland Buckner, an East Bay exterminator (doing business as Rat Patrol), for an article in another venue. He said 80 percent of his clients had roof rats: “They’re more of a problem in newer neighborhoods. Norway rats are more in older neighborhoods, up in the hills or in inner city areas.” 

That makes Berkeley sound like Norway rat territory, but I suspect we have black rats as well. Once, traveling down Haste Street in mid-afternoon, I saw a rodent shape scurrying along a telephone line overhead. Squirrel, was the first reaction, then: no, the tail’s wrong. Black rats are more adept climbers than brown rats, more prone to occur in trees and upper stories of buildings. Conversely, they avoid sewers and other damp places. 

Behavior is not an infallible clue, though. “A sewer rat will climb trees and a roof rat will go underneath houses,” Buckner told me. “A rat is a rat.” Be that as it may, there are ways to distinguish black rats from brown. Many black rats are in fact black-furred, with or without lighter bellies, although white, gray, and agouti variants exist. The clinching detail seems to be the shape of the upper first molar, if you’re that close.  

When the two species meet, brown rats dominate black rats and have been known to kill them. Although they’re not really from Norway, brown rats are also more cold-tolerant than their relatives. 

Socially, black rats live in hierarchical groups with a semi-dominant male. Home range is typically about 120 square yards. Females are said to be more aggressive than males. The species is omnivorous, but prefers vegetable matter if available.  

Despite competition from the brown rat, the black rat has done well for itself. It started out in South Asia. Archeological evidence indicates that it had reached the Middle East by 3000 years ago, and the western Mediterranean in another 600 years. Ships have been the black rat’s second home, taking it to remote oceanic islands (where it has raised havoc with nesting birds), even the Antarctic. 

Australian geneticists recently used mitochondrial DNA—the stuff we all inherit from our mothers—to trace the black rat’s travels. Ken Aplin of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization says six different lineages have been identified, originating in India, East Asia, the Himalayas, Thailand, the Mekong Delta, and Indonesia. According to Aplin, it’s the Indian stock that reached the Americas, as well as Africa and Australia, during the Age of Sail. East Asian black rats island-hopped from Taiwan to Japan and the Philippines, then moved out into the South Pacific. The other four lineages haven’t traveled as far. 

The black rat, as a vector of plague and other diseases, has a lot to answer for. But it’s a third species, the Polynesian rat (R. exulans), that’s being blamed for major environmental destruction on some Pacific islands. Among many other things, Polynesian rats eat palm fruit. Excavations on Easter Island found thousands of rat bones and rat-gnawed seeds of the Jubaea palm. Archeologist Terry L. Hunt says fruit-eating rats, not improvident islanders, were responsible for deforesting the island. Ironically, the Polynesian rats of Easter Island were driven to extinction by late-arriving ship rats. 

As for our local rats, black or brown, it’s understandable that no one wants them underfoot, or in the attic, or in the fan palm in the front yard. But—and yes, it’s soapbox time—there are better ways of controlling them than heavy-duty rodenticides. Buckner, the exterminator, doesn’t use poison: “When they eat poison they go out somewhere else to die.” Last summer two juvenile Cooper’s hawks found dead in West Berkeley tested positive for brodifacoum, the lethal ingredient in D-Con, Talon, and Havoc rodent baits. The raptors had likely eaten poisoned rodents.  

Brodifacoum, a second-generation anticoagulant, may take several days to kill a rat. This widens the window of vulnerability for wild rodent-eating predators, as well as household pets. The American Bird Conservancy has compiled hundreds of records of birds of prey—including red-tailed hawks, great horned owls, and golden eagles—poisoned by brodifacoum. Many of these birds are dedicated rodent-eaters, our best natural allies. 

The consensus among environmental agencies, bird advocates, and many pest-control professionals is that rodent problems are best handled preventively, through exclusion and sanitation. Trapping may be necessary if rats breach the barriers. And no, they don’t get a break because it’s their year. 

 

Joe Eaton’s “Wild Neighbors” column appears every other Tuesday in the Berkeley Daily Planet, alternating with Ron Sullivan’s “Green Neighbors” column on East Bay trees.


Arts & Events

Arts Calendar

Friday February 29, 2008

FRIDAY, FEB. 29 

THEATER 

Aurora Theatre “Satellites” at 8 p.m. at 2081 Addison St. through March 2. Tickets are $40-$42. 843-4822. www.auroratheatre.org 

Berkeley Rep ”Wishful Drinking” with Carrie Fisher, at the Roda Theater, 2015 Addison St., through March 30. Tickets are $33-$69. 647-2949. 

Central Works “Wakefield; or Hello Sophia” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave., through March 23.Tickets are $14-$25. 558-1381. 

Contra Costa Civic Theatre “The Cocoanuts” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., some Sun. matinees at 2 p.m., at 951 Pomona Ave., at Moeser, El Cerrito, through March 2. Tickets are $15-$24. 524-9132. www.ccct.org 

Contra Costa College Drama Dept “Rivets” A musical based on Rosie the Riveter and Richmond’s Kaiser Shipyards, Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 3 p.m. at John and Jean Knox Center for Performing Arts, Contra Costa College Campus, San Pablo. Tickets are $10-$15. 235-7800, ext. 4274. 

Impact Theatre “Jukebox Stories: The Case of the Creamy Foam” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m. at La Val’s Subterranean, 1834 Euclid Ave., through March 22. Tickets are $10-$15. 464-4468. http://impacttheatre.com 

UC Dept. of Theater “The Bacchae” at Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m., through March 9 at Zellerbach Playhouse, UC Campus. Tickets are $8-$14. theater.berkeley.edu 

Virago Theatre Company “Candide” the comic opera at 8 p.m. Fri and Sat., 7 p.m. Sun. at Rhythmix Cultural Works, 2513 Blanding Ave., Alameda, through Mar. 9. Tickets are $15-$25. 865-6237. www.viragotheatre.org 

Wilde Irish Productions A Centennial Celebration of Ireland’s National Theatre Fri. and Sat. at 7:30 p.m., Sun. at 3 p.m. at The Gaia Arts Center, 2116 Allston Way. Tickets are $12-$15. 644-9940. www.wikdeirish.org 

FILM 

Jean-Pierre Léaud “La vie de Boheme” at 7 p.m. “Irma Vep” at 9 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

History and Harmony Black History Concert Series with Derrick Hall & Company, Allen Temple Liturgical Dancers, and others at 7:30 p.m. at Allen Temple Baptist Church, 8501 International Blvd., Oakland. Tickets are $5-$10. 544-8924. 

In Honor of Pete Escovedo A fiesta featuring Paul Rodriguez, one of the Original Latin Kings of Comedy, and The Pete Escovedo Latin Jazz Orchestra, at 6:30 p.m. at The Oakland Scottish Rite Center, 1547 Lakeside Dr., Oakland. Tickets are $37.50-$77.50. 261-7839. www.ticketweb.com  

Sarah Cahill “Piano Works of Leo Ornstein” at 8 p.m. at Berkeley Arts Festival, 2213 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $5-$10. www.berkeleyartsfestival.com 

Opera Piccola “Mirrors of Mumbai” at 8 p.m. at the Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. Tickets are $10-$15. 658-0967. www.opera-piccola.org 

Bay Area Classical Harmonies “An Evening with Saul Kaye” at 7:30 p.m. at The Pro Arts Gallery, 550 Second St., Oakland. Tickets are $12-$18. 868-0695. www.bayareabach.org 

María Volonté “Íntima,” Argentine vocalist at 8 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $16-$18. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

University Symphony Orchestra at 8 p.m. at Hertz Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $4-$12. 642-9988.  

Rova Saxophone Quartet at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15. 845-5373.  

Angela Wellman Roots Sextet at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Albino, The Flux, afrobeat, revolutionary rock, at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10-$12. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Houston Jones at 8 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

Jim Kweskin at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Dave Matthews Trio at 9 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

Greg Lamboy, Tim Jenkins, guitar, at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Workingman’s Ed at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $10. 841-2082.  

Isul Kim at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790.  

Sandy Griffith, Netta Brielle, R&B, at 9 p.m. at Maxwell’s Lounge, 341 13th St., Oakland. Cost is $10-$15. 839-6169. 

Wil Blades Quartet at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

SATURDAY, MARCH 1 

CHILDREN  

Los Amiguitos de La Peña with Los Mapeches at 10:30 a.m. at La Peña. Cost is $5 for adults, $4 for children. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Andy Z, music concert, at 11 a.m. at Studio Grow, 1235 Tenth St. Cost is $7. 526-9888. 

FILM 

“Colossal Youth” with filmmaker Pedro Costa in person at 6:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Bay Area Poets Coalition open reading, 3 to 5 p.m., at Strawberry Creek Lodge, 1320 Addison St. Park on the street, not in Lodge parking lot. Free. 527-9905. poetalk@aol.com  

Poetry Flash with Chad Sweeney and Rick Campbell at 7 p.m. at Cody’s on Fourth St. 559-9500. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

American Bach Soloists “Vocal Visionaries” at 8 p.m. at First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way. Tickets are $16-$42. 415-621-7900. www.americanabch.org  

Volti “Adventures in Earth, Wind and Fire” a cappella, at 8 P.m. at St. Mark’s Epsicopal Church, 2300 Bancroft Way. Tickets are $8-$20. 415-771-3352. www.voltisf.org 

Jerry Kuderna, piano concert, at 8 p.m. at 2213 Shattuck Ave. Sponsored by the Berkeley Arts Festival. 

Howard Kadis, guitar works of Scarlatti, Ponce, Villa-Lobos and others at 8 p.m. at Trinity Chapel, 2320 Dana St. Tickets are $8-$12. 549-3864. www.trinitychamberconcerts.com 

Kensington Symphony “Soundscapes” with Lisa Houston, mezzo-soprano at 8 p.m. at Northminster Presbyterian Church, 545 Ashbury Ave., El Cerrito. Suggested donation $12-$15, children free. 524-9912. 

Opera Piccola “Mirrors of Mumbai” at 8 p.m. at the Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. Tickets are $10-$15. 658-0967. www.opera-piccola.org 

University Symphony Orchestra at 8 p.m. at Hertz Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $4-$12. 642-9988. http://music.berkeley.edu 

Dawn Upshaw, soprano and Orquestra Los Pelegrinos at 8 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $36-$68. 642-9988.  

A Rude Awakening, reggae, funk and hip hop with Ancient Mystic, Winstrong, Absoluther at 9:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $12. 849-2568.  

Zoe & Dave Ellis with Eddie Marshall at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ.  

Armenian Shoghaken Ensemble at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $tba. 525-5054.  

Sotaque Baiano, Brazilian, at 8 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $10. 548-1159.  

Land of the Blind, Chris Ahlman at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344.  

Blame Sally, Ashleigh Flynn at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $19.50-$20.50. 548-1761.  

Steve Erquiaga & Paul Hanson, new and old world jazz duo, at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15-$18. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Woman at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790.  

Goapele at 8 and 10 p.m., through Sun. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $20-$26. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

SUNDAY, MARCH 2 

CHILDREN 

Storytelling: Dr. Suess Knows Best from 2 to 3:30 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Color/Rhythms” Sculptures by Kati Casida, paintings by Celia Jackson and Harold Zegart. Opening reception at 2 p.m. at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center Community Art Gallery, 2450 Ashby Ave. 204-1667. 

Enrique Chagoya: Borderlandia Guided tour at 2 p.m. at Berkeley Art Museum. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

FILM 

“The Blood” with filmmaker Pedro Costa in person at 3 p.m., “Bones” at 5:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz reads from “The Colors of Jews” at 7 p.m. at Kehilla Community Synagogue, 1300 Grand Ave., Piedmont. Donation $5-$25. 547-2424, ext. 100. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Juan del Gastor, Flamenco guitarist, at 2 p.m. at Down Home Music 1809b Fourth St. 204-9595. www.flamencofestvalsf.com 

Pacific Boychoir and Organist William Ludtke in a benefit concert for the preservation of Maybeck’s First Church at 3 p.m. at First Church of Christ Scientist, 2619 Dwight Way. Tickets are $25-$30. 925-376-3908. www.FriendsOfFirstChurch.org 

Remo, Imerald Bay, hip hop, at 9 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $8. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Albany Big Band at 3 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ.  

Harvey Wainapel Trio at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Vibrafolk at 11 a.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Flamenco Open Stage with Sara Ayala at 7:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Gary Johnson Quintet at 4:30 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $12. 845-5373.  

Dead Prez at 7 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low. Tickets are $20-$25. 548-1159. 

MONDAY, MARCH 3 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Capturing Landscapes through Changing Technology” Photographs by Alasdair McCondochie opens at The LightRoom, 2263 Fifth St. 649-8111. www.lightroom.com 

THEATER 

Woman’s Will 10th Annual 24-Hour Playfest Playwrights, directors and actors write, rehearse and perform seven brand-new plays within 24 hours. Final performance at at 8 p.m. at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave. Tickets are $10-$25 sliding scale. 420-0813. www.womanswill.org 

Dr. Demento Music and comedy for mature audiences at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Rep. Tickets are $25. https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/28310 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Charlotte Grossman, television director, producer and editor at the Brown Bag Speakers Forum at 12:30 p.m. at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. 526-3720. 

Cara Black reads from her eighth Soho Crime mystery, “Murder in Rue de Paradis” at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. 

Poetry Express with Lucille Lang Day at 7 p.m. at Priya Restaurant, 2072 San Pablo Ave. 644-3977. 

Deepak Chopra describes “The Third Jesus: The Christ we Cannot Ignore” at 7:30 p.m. at First Congregational church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way. Tickets are $30. 559-9500. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Nikolay Kolev, Bulgarian, at 7 p.m. at Le Bateau Ivre, 2629 Telegraph Ave. 849-1100. www.lebateauivre.net 

Trovatore, traditional Italian music, at 7 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

Steffen Kuehn at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $10. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

Myra Melford.Ben Goldberg Quartet at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761.  

TUESDAY, MARCH 4 

EXHIBITIONS 

“The RISD Northern California Alumni Biennial 2008” Design work featuring local alumni from Rhode Island School of Design. Opening reception with RISD President Roger Mandle from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Oakland Art GAllery, 199 Kahn’s Alley, Oakland. www.oaklandartgallery.org 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Dan Ariely describes “Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions” at 7 p.m. at Cody’s Books on Fourth St. 559-9500. 

Peggy Levitt discusses “God Needs No Passport: Immigrants and the Changing American Religious Landscape” at 7:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way. Suggested donation $10. 559-9500. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Motordude Zydeco at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Singers’ Open Mic with Ellen Hoffman at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $5. 841-JAZZ.  

Jenny Ellis & Laura Klein, jazz, at 7 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave. 548-5198.  

Foggy Gulch Band, bluegrass, folk, country at 10 p.m. at the Uptown Nightclub, 1928 Telegraph, Oakland. 451-8100.  

Vusi Mahlasela at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $12-$20. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 5 

FILM 

“Yolanda and the Thief” with a lecture by Prof. Marilyn Fabe, at 3 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808.  

READINGS AND LECTURES 

“Casual Labor” New work in sculpture and photography by Alex Clausen, Zachery Royer Scholz and Kirk Stoller. Gallery conversation with the artists at 7 p.m. at Kala Art Institute, 1060 Heinz Ave. 549-2977. 

Lou Rowan and David Meltzer read at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. 

François Luong, Jennifer Karmin and Michael Slosek read in celebration of the new anthology “A Sing Economy: An Anthology of Experimental Poetry” at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. 

Diana Raab reads from “Regina’s Closet: Finding My Grandmother’s Secret Journal” at 7 p.m. at Laurel Bookstore, 4100 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland. 531-2073. 

Cara Black introduces her new novel “Murder on the Rue de Paradis: An Aimée Leduc Investigation” at 7 p.m. at Cody’s Books on Fourth St. 559-9500. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Wednesday Noon Concert, with Rebakah Ahrendt, viola de gamba, Annette Bauer, recorder, Jonathan Rhodes Lee, harpsichord, and Jennifer Paulino, soprano, at Hertz Hall, UC Campus. Free. 642-4864. http://music.berkeley.edu 

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at 8 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $34-$60. 642-9988.  

Jazz Fourtet featuring Brendan Buss at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $8. 841-JAZZ.  

Whiskey Brothers at 9 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. 843-2473.  

Nikolev Kolev, Balkan, Bulgarian, at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $12. 525-5054.  

Orquestra America at 9:30 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low. Cost is $5-$10. 548-1159.  

Battlefield Band at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761.  

Booker T. Jones at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $12-$18. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

THURSDAY, MARCH 6 

EXHIBITIONS 

Enrique Chagoya: Borderlandia Guided tour at 2 p.m. at Berkeley Art Museum. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

FILM 

Where Does Your Hidden Smile Lie?” with filmmmaker Perdo Costa in person at 6 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. 642-0808.  

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Lunch Poems with Diane Di Prima at 12:10 p.m. at the Morrison Library, inside the Doe Library, UC Campus. 642-0137. 

Speaking Fierce: Celebrate International Women’s Day with Bushra Rehman, Climbing Poetree, and Jennifer Johns at 7 p.m. at First Congregational Church, 2501 Harrison St. at 27th, Oakland. Tickets are $10-$25, no one turned away. 444-2700, ext. 305. www.coloredgirls.org 

“Revenge of the Illegal Alien” Poetry in celebration of César A. Cruz’s book, at 7:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $5-$15. 849-2568.  

William Wong, author of “Angel Island (Images of America)” will give a slide talk on the island and its role in Chinese American history as an immigration station, at 7 p.m. at El Cerrito Library, 6510 Stockton Ave., El Cerrito. 526-7512. 

Joshua Carver, poet, followed by open mic, at 7 p.m. at Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave., Albany. 526-3720, ext. 17. 

Dee Dee Myers explains “Why Women Should Rule the World” at 7 p.m. at Cody’s Books on Fourth St. 559-9500. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

The Dance, Sean Hodge with High Heat, Wagon, Last Legal Music with guest Buzzy Linhart at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $5. 525-5054.  

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at 8 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $34-$60. 642-9988.  

Ditty Bops, Jesca Hoop at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $19.50-$20.50. 548-1761.  

Tin Cup Serenade at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ.  

Claudia Russell at 7 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave. 548-5198.  

Akosua Mireku, Ghanian-American, at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790.  

Lizz Wright at 8 and 10 p.m., through Sat. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $20-$24. 238-9200.  

 


Albany Jazz Band Plays Anna’s

By Ken Bullock, Special to The Planet
Friday February 29, 2008

The Albany Jazz Band, a big band of more than 20 pieces from an Albany Unified School District adult education class, meeting and practicing Wednesday nights over the past decade in the band room at Albany High School, will make its Berkeley debut, playing two sets of swing and featuring a vocal harmony quartet, 3 p.m. Sunday at Anna’s Jazz Island. 

“It’s an amateur and semi-professional group,” said vocal director Rich Kalman of Berkeley, whose quartet, Conalma, will perform with the band Sunday afternoon, and who’s one of “a triad” taking over the responsibilities of Frank Jensen, the course’s instructor and band director on leave. “We have several really good soloists. Mostly, the members have day jobs, then come together once a week to turn out quality big band music.” 

The course and the band’s popularity is borne witness by the website, albanyjazzband.org, which announces: “All chairs currently filled except third and fourth trombones.” 

Susan Archuletta, a Berkeley school-teacher who plays alto sax “and a little clarinet and flute” with the group, emphasizes the diversity of the band: “The people are interesting. I’d like to know everybody’s story. We have public defenders, ophthomologists, retired Rabbi Stuart Kelman playing the Benny Goodman part on ‘Down South Camp Meeting’—and filling in for our director is Dr. Robert Levenson of the UC Psychology Department, head of the Psychophysiology Research Lab there, who’s a great conductor and a phenomenal tenor saxophonist.” 

Multi-instrumentalist Archuletta, whose musical career began in the ’60s with Berkeley’s Floating Lotus Magic Opera Co. and The New Age (with Pat Kilroy), has played in community orchestras of all types for years, joining the Albany Jazz Band when she met Frank Jensen photocopying flyers for the group. “I knew him as ‘Weights & Measures’—the county office he presides over!’” 

“We’ve played the Solano Stroll a couple of times,” Archuletta said, “and we perform holiday swing music every year on Solano Avenue. But we’ve never had a show in Berkeley before.” 

Sunday’s show will feature two sets “of ’30s swing, a few vocal harmony numbers, including the Andrew Sisters hit, ‘Stolen Moments’ by Oliver Nelson with Mark Murphy lyrics, ‘Vei Mir Bist Du Schoen,’ and ending on a great Dizzy Gillespie Latin-style number, ‘Manteca,’” said Kalman.  

Besides standards and showtunes, the band will play the monkeys’ song from The Lion King and a number from Porgy and Bess.  

“I’ve been singing with the band for the past year,” Kalman said. “We’ve been working the band more into a mainstream jazz mode and started featuring vocal harmony groups, which I teach, last semester. It adds a lot to the overall band sound. And Conalma is my own group. I’ve worked nightclubs, including Anna’s. It’s a positive growth experience for the musicians. Anna’s onto the idea—and she booked us!” 

 

THE ALBANY JAZZ BAND 

3 p.m. Sunday at Anna’s Jazz Island,  

2120 Allston Way. $10. 841-JAZZ.


Woman’s Will Stages 10th Annual ‘24-Hour Playfest’

By Ken Bullock, Special to The Planet
Friday February 29, 2008

Woman’s Will, Oakland’s all-female Shakespeare specialists, will stage their 10th annual 24-Hour Playfest on Monday, March 3, 8 p.m. at Julia Morgan Theater on College Ave. The night before the performance seven women playwrights, seven women directors and some 35 actors “of various persuasions” will gather at the theater to develop an overall theme, after which the playwrights write all night in an intensive creative session that results in seven new plays. The new plays are rehearsed the next morning, with tech rehearsals in the afternoon. A video highlighting the process from a past show is on the troupe’s website, www.womanswill.org 

“The results are a seat-of-the-pants performance you won’t want to miss,” said Woman’s Will founder and artistic director Erin Merritt. “There’s suspense of course—will this one go down in flames?—but the ongoing surprise over the past 10 years is how good the plays and performances really are. It’s almost like improv, but the scripts are memorized.” 

The show’s a fundraiser for the troupe, “but we’re keeping ticket prices low. There’ll also be a small silent auction.” 

The costumes and props are spare, given out the night before along with the theme. “One year, it was Prizes and Awards,” said Merritt, “like the Nobel and Pulitzer. It’s to feature how many good female playwrights, directors and actors are around. I don’t think people realize what a vast range there is. And they often don’t expect a good show, but the energy in the room from the actors is great. They work together so well—they need each other! They make big choices, what you go to the theater for. They’re contagious, high energy performances.”


The Theater: Virago Stages Voltaire’s ‘Candide’ in Alameda

By Ken Bullock, Special to The Planet
Friday February 29, 2008

Candide, Voltaire’s long, comically hair-rending parable of optimism amidst the evil in the world, occupied composer Leonard Bernstein for decades, resulting in many revisions of his intended masterwork of musical theater. Feisty Virago Theatre Company, which has taken on various theatrical challenges (including a creatively site-specific Threepenny Opera in the Alameda Oddfellows Hall), turn their greatest challenge to date into a paradox: a sprawling, three-hour show, with a six-piece chamber orchestra and cast of 13 playing over 40 roles, that is somehow intimate and refreshing, even breezy. 

Voltaire’s tale spins out a very long end to innocence, as innocuous love-child Candide, raised with the children of the gentry on a German estate that is the perfect Leibnizian monad, falls terrifically in love with Cunegunde, the daughter of the estate-holder, when the two encounter their enthusiast teacher, Dr. Pangloss, in the embrace of a buxom servant girl. When he asks for Cunegunde’s hand, Candide is summarily ousted from the domain, with nowhere to go and the wide world in front of him. 

(In his polemic against the Church and its post-Counter-Reformation apologists, as well as other creeds, Voltaire makes a perfect transposition of Genesis and the expulsion from the Garden, with Dr. Pangloss as the unwitting Tree of Knowledge in what he does, not says. It’s a Fall that the Age of Sensibility could endorse.) 

Candide, snatched up by a military recruiting party and taken to war (a real local angle for Berkeley spectators), deserts. He roams Europe and then the world, or at least South America, hoping to find his love again amidst the horrors of earthquake in Lisbon, intolerance everywhere (except the utopian El Dorado), cunning and treachery ... and he does, in fact, find everyone, including Cunegunde, over and over, even after he hears or even witnesses their diverse and terrible ends.  

Just like Candide’s hard-to-die innocence and optimism, his old friends keep popping up, telling of horrors, seemingly untouched by their ongoing prejudices and questionable actions. 

But our hero finally takes the bull by the horns after a final disillusionment in Venice, leading the rest to a valley in the Alps (which reminds him of El Dorado), where they may all live in cooperation and tend their garden. 

Bernstein’s music is as wayward as Candide himself, a panoply of styles, quotes and echoes. The half dozen musicians under David Manley keep it lively through its many and various swings in mood. John Brown makes a fine Candide, a strapping lad who approaches the blows of reality (and his role) with wide open eyes and straight-forward manner and voice. Eileen Meredith (Polly in Virago’s Threepenny) is an operatic Cunegunde, fine in her solos (like “Glitter and Be Gay”) and especially her duet with “The Old Woman,” a charming and witty Lisa Pan, assessing their chances in Uruguay, “We Are Women” (“Little women; little, little women!”). Pan herself produces a show stopper with her “Spanish” production number, “I Am Easily Assimilated,” trumping her young lovers-in-tow (as they escape post-quake Portugal and the Inquisition) with her greater tales of woe that have left her with just one buttock to sit on, though she still manages to turn the other cheek ... and live it up. 

Dale Murphy (familiar to those who follow Bay Area composer Brian Holmes’ comic operas), as narrator Voltaire and the eternal optimist Pangloss, strikes just the right genial note. Michelle Pava Mills (who played Jenny in Threepenny Opera) strikes other chords indeed (including Pangloss’s) as the pulchritudinous Paquette, met later on the Rialto as a hooker. And Abraham Aviles-Scott, an operatic tenor, does an adroit pas de deux with his moustachio as Governor in Montevideo, with an eye for Candide’s lady love. Alex Goldenberg and Anthony Shaw Abate are spirited as Candide’s friends, sympathetic comrade-in-arms Cacambo and cynical Martin, as is Sandra Rubay as the Baroness.  

Such brief mentions short-change both those mentioned and the others, onstage and off, directed with both flexibility and assuredness by Virago cofounder Laura Lundy-Paine and choreographed by Lisa Bush Finn.  

It’s a happy event, despite the worldwide attrition (all in the past, anyway), with the three hours whizzing by, all looking and sounding good against the brick walls and under the curved ceilings of Alameda’s Rhythmix Cultural Works. The edition of what many (including the composer) regard as Bernstein’s magnum opus is that of the Royal National Theatre, book by Hugh Wheeler, with Richard Wilbur’s lyrics—as well as lyrics by Lillian Hellman, Dorothy Parker, John LaTouche, Bernstein himself and Stephen Sondheim. 

 

CANDIDE 

Presented by Virago Theatre Company 

at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 7 p.m. Sunday at Rhythmix Cultural Works, 2513 Blanding Ave., Alameda. $15-$25. 865-6237. www.viragotheatre.org.


Opera Piccola Presents ‘Mirrors of Mumbai’

By Ken Bullock, Special to The Planet
Friday February 29, 2008

Opera Piccola will present Mirrors of Mumbai, an original piece of musical theater about the changing life and attitudes of a family in India with connections to Silicon Valley. Written by playwright Sonal Acharya and well-known jazz artist George Brooks, who is in-residence with the troupe, with direction by Susannah Woods, it premieres tonight and tomorrow night at 8 p.m. at the Ashby Stage, and a week from Saturday night at downtown Oakland’s Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts on Alice Street. 

The piece uses traditional, classical and contemporary styles of music, dance and theater from both India and America. Interwoven stories of the characters show their struggle during a time of globalization and rapid change, challenging traditions of religion and family loyalty with newer ideas of freedom, material gain and individual identity.  

“The story takes place during the course of one day, during the Indian New Year’s celebration,” said Shruti Tewari, who plays the grandmother of the family. “These linked stories are presented by a maidservant, who goes in and out as an observer. The grandmother is 76, there’s an 18-year-old girl and her middle-aged parents. Their son’s in Silicon Valley, and a friend of the mother is visiting.” 

Tewari emphasized the different assumptions of the characters that are challenged: “My character has to decide whether to go on living or not. She’s used to writing off new concepts, ideas, but believes in letting the others have their own life. The parents feel the lust for money, but try to keep propriety. Their emotions are suppressed. Each character, despite strong family ties, has given up the love of who they really are. And that sense of loneliness is reflected in the music.” 

The moods shift, however, as the characters express different things, and there is humor to balance the melancholy. 

“George has very innovatively blended his jazz roots with his study of Indian classical music,” said Tewari. “There’s tabla and flute, intertwined with very Western piano. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever heard before.” 

The cast is also diverse, mostly Indian-American, but with a Filipina-American as the maid and a Latino-American as the son in Silicon Valley. 


About the House: What to Look For When Looking Under the House

By Matt Cantor
Friday February 29, 2008

I spend a lot of time under houses. This isn't glamorous but it's what I have to do in order to do my job. Actually I don't mind it much. 

I can't tell you how often I’ve been suiting up (yes, I wear a funny suit) to “get down” as it were, and had a client say to me “Well I guess this is why you get the big bucks.” Actually, I’m still waiting for the big bucks (any time now) but I think I get paid for observations, ideas and salient comments. Crawling is just something one has to do to see all parts of the patient. Same with climbing ladders. I’m more than a little acrophobic but if I don’t see it, I can’t figure out what’s wrong (turn your head to the right and cough). 

So it’s very frustrating, as it was yesterday, to get into a narrow crawlspace and find that I’m surrounded by ducting that’s about the size of a torso, sinuating through this narrow confine and disabling my ability to move about, see and discover. 

One thing that I saw yesterday and often do see is crushed sections of ducting (thus decreasing their performance) as a result of former visitors having done what it took to move about, work and see. These may have been the Wild Amoral Cableman or the Pacific Clueless Beer-Bellied Termite Inspector. You have to be very patient to actually catch one of these in the act.  

I try to move over and around ducting as I do my job but it’s really hard. Sometimes. I have to go an extra twenty-five feet just to get around a section of ducting and sometimes it can’t be done.  

Ducting isn’t the only building element that obstructs access. The way that foundation sections are poured can do that same. Also plumbing, wiring, furnaces, seismic bracing panels and abandoned equipment (Amazingly, people leave furnaces, water heaters and all sort of garbage under houses). 

While this isn’t much of a problem for the homeowner most days, it become one when they want to have almost anything done in the crawlspace including wiring, telephone repair, cable TV installation, alarm system work, plumbing. The list goes on. It also matters for inspections. It’s very hard to learn important things when you can’t move around or see. 

Also, ducting, when it’s the obstructive element, gets damaged and not just mashed in the manner I’ve described already. I see disconnected or loosely connected ducting in crawlspaces all the time. This makes it very hard to get the house warm and also increases global warming, as well as crawlspace warming and wallet de-greening. There’s little doubt that I see this more often in tight obstructed crawlspaces than in houses where the ducting is neatly hung up and out of the way where no one need climb over it. 

I should say at this point that, while nobody like a good gripe session more than me, that is not actually my intent.  

First, let me say to all the builders and architects out there that crawlspaces are just that, for crawling, not for packing full of ducting or other equipment as an unplanned afterthought. If you’ve ever been in a crawlspace looking at all this stuff, that’s what it looks like … an afterthought or better, no thought. 

If a crawlspace is three feet high (this would be a Fairmont Hotel of crawlspaces), I think that tubular flexible ducting, such as we commonly see, would be fine. There would still be at least twenty inches of space below everything to move about and see. Even two feet of height would be better than most so the message to the builder or designer is, add more crawlspace height. Current regulations require eighteen inches of height crawlspaces with certain exceptions for periodic beams intruding into that height. If small ducts are well placed in a system like this, you can still see and work but it requires some thinking to install a system that work and frankly, it’s not much height if you have large ducts. 

By the way, when ducting ends up laying on the ground, as is often the case in tight crawlspaces, it’s common to see it having been torn open and turned into a night club for Ratatouille. When their well secured to framing a foot above the ground, it’s less common simply because it’s harder to breech. 

One solution to this problem is to use shallow metal ducting attached to the bottom of the floor framing. A metal duct that is a foot wide and four inches deep is about the same volume as an eight inch flexible duct (a common size). This gains four inches of head room and also decreases the likelihood of warm air leaks and rodent raves. 

If you’re upgrading the heating in your house and your crawlspace is a little tight this is well worth thinking about. 

The same is true of water piping, waste lines and all those other things that fill these tight crawlspaces. When redoing any system, see if you can route and place these so that the space is left largely clear. You and your varied minions are more likely to catch problems in the future and any work that has to be done down under can be completed more swiftly and at lower cost. 

A seismic retrofitting job may be a protracted and costly trial if the space is filled with huge ducts and far quicker and likely cheaper if the ducting has first been upgraded and moved. 

By the way, ducted heating systems aren’t the only option for heating and a tight crawlspace might be just the added incentive to push you into a more expensive but utterly delightful radiant-floor heating system. 

This logic should be extended to other systems as well. It’s wise to be sure that all equipment gets installed in such a way as to allow for repair, replacement and inspection over the life of the system. It usually takes a little more energy to make sure that an attic, crawlspace or electrical panel is accessible but it sure can decrease excess stomach acid when you have to find or fix something. 

When building or doing a major remodeling job, one of the smartest things one can do is to involve the subcontractor at the design phase. The heating contractor is likely to point out the tight crawlspace or the lack of an adequate space for a cold air return duct to the attic (if that’s where it’s going) and can influence small changes that might be cost neutral and aesthetically insignificant at this early stage. 

Every remodel, no matter how small is a chance to look at many aspects and to ease the way for the next set of changes. While doing all these things, keep access in mind. Remember that everything you install will eventually break down and need repair and that somebody is going to have to crawl over there to get to it. I’m happy to say that new codes are better in demanding space leading to equipment like furnaces but cities are slow to apply these in older homes. 

If nothing else, this is a way of being nice to the many people who have to work in the space below your home over the years and who knows, in your next life, you may come back as a home inspector. 


Berkeley This Week

Friday February 29, 2008

FRIDAY, FEB. 29 

Golden Gate Audubon Society Trip “Aquatic Park” Meet at 9 a.m. at Seabreeze Market, corner of Frontage Rd. and University Ave. to look for ducks, grebes, egrets and passerines. Bring a scope if you have one. Heavy rain cancels. 843-2222. 

City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with Claudine Torfs, PhD., Epidemiology, on “Abortion Around the World.” Luncheon at 11:45 a.m. for $14.50, speech at 12:30 p.m., at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant St. 526-2925. 

“The Insurrectionary Jesus” Rev. George Baldwin, United Methodist clergyman and seminary professor, who lived in Nicaragua from 1984 to 1996 in voluntary poverty, discusses his book “A Political Reading of the Life of Jesus” at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, 1924 Cedar St., at Bonita. Donation requested. 

International Day in Solidarity with the Haitian People Protest against the Marines in Haiti at 7:30 a.m. at the Marine Recruiting Center, 64 Shattuck Sq. 847-8657. www.haitisolidarity.net 

“Citizen King, Part II” An in depth look into Martin Luther King’s peace movement during the Vietnam War, at 7:30 p.m. at Berkeley Friends Church, Sacramento and Cedar.  

Rudramandir Open House Embodied Arts Program at 7:30 p.m. at 830 Bancroft Way, at 6th. 486-8700. 

SATURDAY, MARCH 1 

Democracy for America Electoral Campaign Training Sat. and Sun. at Berkeley High. All welcome. To register see www.dfalink.com/east_bay_training 

Nature Walk for the whole family at 10 a.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. “Park Art” dance program at 11 a.m., noon and 1 p.m. 525-2233. 

Gardening for Butterflies and Birds Find out what native plants attract winged creatures. Bring water, and wear clothes that can get wet and dirty. For ages 8 and up, at 2:30 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

Let Worms Eat Your Garbage A free workshop presented by staff from the Bay-Friendly Gardening program of Alameda County from 10 a.m. to noon at Berkeley Ecology Center, 2530 San Pablo Ave. www.BayFriendly.org 

White Elephant Sale, benefitting the Oakland Museum of California, Sat. and Sun. from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 333 Lancaster St., at Glascock, Oakland. Free shuttle bus from the Fruitvale BART. www.museumca.org 

Oakland’s Roses Need You! Volunteers are needed from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Morcom Rose Garden, 700 Jean St. to assist city gardeners in readying the flower beds for the spring bloom. Wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts, gloves and sturdy boots. For more information or to sign up as a volunteer, please leave a message on the Rose Garden’s voicemail at 597-5039.  

Association for Women in Science Annual Winter Workshop “The Importance of Precision Questioning for Career Development” with Monica Worline of Vervago, from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals, B58 auditorium, 800 Dwight Way. Cost is $25-$50, includes breakfast and lunch. RSVP at www.acteva.com/go/sfawis/ 

“The World in a Teacup” Tracing the global journey of tea, presented by the Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology from 1 to 5 p.m. at The Bancroft Hotel, 2680 Bancroft Way at College. Tickets are $18-$20. 643-7649. 

“Successful Trade Show Planning Techniques” A workshop from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Mar. 1 and 8, at Berkeley City College, 2050 Center St. Cost is $20. To resgister call 981-2931. www.peralta.edu 

Rudramandir Open House Embodied Arts Program from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 830 Bancroft Way, at 6th. 486-8700. 

The Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club provides free instruction every Wed. and Sat. at 10 a.m. at 2270 Acton St. 841-2174.  

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden Sat. and Sun. at 2 pm. Regional Parks Botanic Garden, Tilden Park. Call to confirm. 841-8732. www.nativeplants.org 

Oakland Artisans Marketplace Sat. from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sun. from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Jack London Square. 238-4948. 

SUNDAY, MARCH 2 

EcoHouse Tour Learn about a number of improvements that can be made to an urban home including graywater systems, solar panels, on demand water heater, natural and recycled building materials, drought tolerant plants and much more. Tours at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. in Berkeley. Cost is $10, no one turned away. Registration required. 548-2220, ext. 242. 

Spring Gardening and Planting Help move the sprouted vegetable seedlings out of the greenhouse and into the garden from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

Benefit for Ugandan AIDS Orphanage at 5, 7 and 9 p.m. at Unicorn Restaurant, 2533 Telegraph Ave. Reservations recommended. 841-8098.  

Berkeley Rep’s Family Series A monthly theater workshop for the entire family from 11. a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Berkeley Rep School of Theatre, Nevo Education Center, 2071 Addison St. Free, but bring a book to donate to the library at John Muir Elementary School. 647-2973. 

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Tilden Park Sat. and Sun. at 2 p.m. Call to confirm. 841-8732.  

Lake Merritt Neighbors Organized for Peace Peace walk around the lake every Sun. Meet at 3 p.m. at the colonnade at the NE end of the lake. 763-8712. lmno4p.org 

Berkeley Chess Club meets every Sun. at 7 p.m. at the Hillside School, 1581 Le Roy Ave. 843-0150. 

Tibetan Buddhism with Donna Morton on “Opening the Senses through Tibetan Yoga” at 6 p.m. at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. 809-1000 www.nyingmainstitute.com 

Sew Your Own Open Studio Come learn to use our industrial and domestic machines, or work on your own projects, from 4 to 8 p.m. at 84 Bolivar Dr., Aquatic Park. Cost is $5 per hour. 644-2577. www.watersideworkshops.org 

MONDAY, MARCH 3  

“Caring for the Dying: the Art of Being Present” A film by Dr. Michelle Peticolas at 7 p.m. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Avenue, Kensington. Free. 524-3043. 

Free Boatbuilding Classes for Youth Mon.-Wed. from 3 to 7 p.m. at Berkeley Boathouse, 84 Bolivar Dr., Aquatic Park. Classes cover woodworking, boatbuilding, and boat repair. 644-2577.  

Berkeley CopWatch organizational meeting at 8 p.m. at 2022 Blake St. 548-0425. 

Dragonboating Year round classes at the Berkeley Marina, Dock M. Meets Mon, Wed., Thurs. at 6 p.m. Sat. at 10:30 a.m. For details see www.dragonmax.org 

TUESDAY, MARCH 4 

Adoption Information Workshop Adopt A Special Kid will be hosting their monthly Information Workshop from 7 to 9 p.m. at 8201 Edgewater Dr. Suite 103, Oakland. Free, but RSVP to 553-1748, ext. 12. www.aask.org 

“King Corn” A documentary on raising corn at 6:30 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, 10th and Oak St. Panel discussion follows. Free. 238-2022.  

Docent Training for Tilden Nature Area Learn to assist the naturalists in providing interpretive programs at the Little Farm and narture area gardens, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Fee is $35. Application required. For information call 544-3260. 

Writer Coach Connection Volunteers needed to help Berkeley students improve their writing and critical thinking skills from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. To register call 524-2319.  

End the Occupation Vigil every Tues. at noon at Oakland Federal Bldg., 1301 Clay St. www.epicalc.org 

Tuesday Tilden Walkers Join a few slowpoke seniors at 9:30 a.m. in the parking lot near the Little Farm for an hour or two walk. 215-7672, 524-9992. 

Teen Playreaders meets to read and discuss Hamlet and related plays at 4:30 p.m. at Claremont Branch Library, 2940 Benvenue. 981-6121. 

Family Storytime at 7 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043.  

Fresh Produce Stand at San Pablo Park from 3 to 6 p.m. in the Frances Albrier Community Center. Sponsored by the Ecology Center’s Farm Fresh Choice. 848-1704.  

Street Level Cycles Community Bike Program Come use our tools as well as receive help with performing repairs free of charge. Youth classes available. Tues., Thurs., and Sat. from 2 to 6 p.m. at at 84 Bolivar Dr., Aquatic Park. 644-2577.  

Berkeley Camera Club meets at 7:30 p.m., at the Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. 548-3991.  

St. John’s Prime Timers meets at 9:30 a.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. 845-6830. 

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 5 

Berkeley’s Draft Climate Action Plan will be presented at the Planning Commission at 7 p.m. at the North berkeley Senior Center. www.BerkeleyClimateAction.org 

Berkeley Libraries Community Discussion on improving buildings and services at 6 p.m. at South Branch Library, 1901 Russell St. at MLK. 981-6195. 

“Islam in the West” with Munir Jiwa, founding director of the Graduate Theological Union’s Center for Islamic Studies, at 7:30 p.m. at Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. Spaghetti dinner at 6:30 for $6. 526-3805. 

“Problems in Life and the Buddhist Way of Dealing with Them” Lecture and discusstion with Bhante Sellawimala, a Theravada Buddhist monk at 7 p.m. at Jodo Shinshu Center, 2140 Durant Ave. Free. 809-1460. 

Cycling Lecture with Gary Erikson, founder of Clif Bar, at 7 p.m. at Velo Sport Bicycles, 1615 University Ave., enter at 1989 California St. RSVP to 849-0437. 

“Learn How to Use Your GPS with Map Software” with Jeff Caulfield of National Geographic at 7 p.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. 527-4140. 

Teen Chess Club from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the North Branch Library, 1170 The Alameda at Hopkins. 981-6133. 

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

Berkeley Peace Walk and Vigil at the Berkeley BART Station, corner of Shattuck and Center. Sing for Peace at 6:30 p.m. followed by Peace Walk at 7 p.m. www 

.geocities.com/vigil4peace/vigil 

Theraputic Recreation at the Berkeley Warm Pool, Wed. at 3:30 p.m. and Sat. at 10 a.m. at the Berkeley Warm Pool, 2245 Milvia St. Cost is $4-$5. Bring a towel. 632-9369. 

Morning Meditation Every Mon., Wed., and Fri. at 7:45 a.m. at Rudramandir, 830 Bancroft Way at 6th. 486-8700. 

After-School Program Homework help, drama and music for children ages 8 to 18, every Wed. from 4 to 7:15 p.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. Cost is $5 per week. 845-6830. 

Stitch ‘n Bitch at 6:30 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

THURSDAY, MARCH 6 

Seniors Exploring Albany Bulb Walkers age 50+ will explore the wild, weedy Albany “Bulb,” where art and nature have made a strange wonderland from debris. Meet at the big heron sculpture at the foot of Buchanan St. at 9 a.m. for a two-hour walk. Wear shoes with good traction; bring water and walking sticks if you use them. Free but registration required. 524-9122, 524-9283. 

Berkeley Libraries Community Discussion on improving buildings and services at 6 p.m. at West Branch Library, 1125 University Ave. at San Pablo. 981-6195. 

Berkeley School Volunteers Orientation from 4 to 5 p.m. at 1835 Allston Way. Come learn about volunteer opportunities. 644-8833. 

Babies & Toddlers Storytime at 10:15 and 11:15 a.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043.  

Teen Book Club meets to discuss short stories at 4 p.m. at Claremont Branch Library, 2940 Benvenue. 981-6121. 

Fitness Class for 55+ at 9:15 a.m. at Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. 848-0237. 

CITY MEETINGS 

Peace and Justice Commission meets Mon., Mar. 3, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. Manuel Hector, 981-5510.  

Community Environmental Advisory Commission meets Thurs., Mar. 6, at 7 p.m., at 2118 Milvia St. Nabil Al-Hadithy, 981-7461.  

Housing Advisory Commission meets Thurs., Mar. 6, at 7 p.m., at the South Berkeley Senior Center. Oscar Sung, 981-5400.  

Landmarks Preservation Commission meets Thurs., Mar. 6, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7419.  

Public Works Commission meets Thurs., Mar. 6, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-6406.  

ONGOING 

E-Waste Recycling St. Vincent de Paul of Alameda County accepts electronic waste including computers, dvd players, cell phones, fax machines and many other ewaste products for disposal free of charge at many of its locations throughout Alameda County. Free bulk pick-up available. 638-7600.  

Free Tax Help If your 2007 household income was less than $42,000, you are eligible for free tax preparation from United Way's Earn it! Keep It! Save It! Sites are open now through April 15 in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. To find a site near you, call 800-358-8832. www.EarnItKeepItSaveIt.org 

Donate the Excess Fruit from Your Fruit Trees I’ll gladly pick and deliver your fruit to community programs that feed school kids, the elderly, and the hungry. The fruit trees should be located in Berkeley and organic (no pesticides). This is a free volunteer/ 

grassroots thing so join in!! To scehdule and appointment call or email 812-3369. northberkeleyharvest@gmail.com


Arts Calendar

Tuesday February 26, 2008

TUESDAY, FEB. 26 

FILM 

Experimental Documentaries “casting a glance” at 7:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808.  

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Garrett Caples, Susan Gevertz at 7:30 p.m. at Moe's Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. 

Samantha Power on “Chasing the Flame: Sergio Viera de Mello and the Fight to Save the World” at 7:30 p.m. at the First Congregational Church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way. Suggested donation $10. 559-9500. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Sauce Piquante at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Singers’ Open Mic with Kelly Park at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island,. Cost is $5. 841-JAZZ.  

Randy Craig Trio at 7:30 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

CSU East Bay Jazz Ensembles at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $10-25. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

WEDNESDAY, FEB. 27 

FILM 

History of Cinema “The Woman in the Window” at 3 p.m. and Terence Davies “The House of Mirth” at 7:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808.  

READINGS AND LECTURES 

“Scott’s Shadow: The Novel in Romantic Edinburgh” with author Ian Duncan, in coversation with Catherine Gallagher at 5:30 p.m. at University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft Way. 548-0585.  

Jewish Writers in the Bay Area: Readings from Persimmon Tree with Chana Bloch, Martha Boesing, Sandy Boucher, and others at 7 p.m. at JCC of the East Bay, 1414 Walnut St. 655-8530. 

Writing Teachers Write at 5 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344.  

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

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Wednesday Noon Concert at Hertz Hall, UC Campus. Free. 642-4864.  

Music for the Spirit Celebrating Black History Month with music by William B. Cooper and Fela Sowande at 12:15 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church of Oakland, 2619 Broadway. 444-3555. 

Samite at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761.  

UC Jazz & Dave Brubeck Institute Collaboration at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island. Cost is $8. 841-JAZZ.  

“Paul Robeson: Words Like Freedom” Freedom Archives CD Release Party at 7 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $10-$20. 849-2568.  

Fishtank Ensemble, 3 Leg Torso, Bohemian Chamber music, at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $15. 525-5054.  

Annie and Elizabeth’s Gruaranteed to Satisfy SingAlong at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790.  

Tres Mojo at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Jonathan Poretz at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $10. 238-9200.  

THURSDAY, FEB. 28 

THEATER 

Contra Costa College Drama Dept “Rivets” A musical based on Rosie the Riveter and Richmond’s Kaiser Shipyards, Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 3 p.m. at John and Jean Knox Center for Performing Arts, Contra Costa College Campus, San Pablo. Tickets are $10-$15. 235-7800, ext. 4274. 

FILM 

African Film Festival “Juju Factory” at 7:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808.  

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Paul Hawkin in conversation with Kevin Danaher on “The Green Movement: Hope for the Future of the Earth” at 7:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way. Tickets are $10-$13. 559-9500. 

Michael Dumanis, Tracy K. Smith, and Rick Barot, poets, read at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. 

Erín Moure with Trang Cao read as part of The Holloway Series in Poetry, at 6:30 p.m. at 315 Wheeler Hall, The Maude Fife Room, UC Campus. 642-3467. http://holloway. 

english.berkeley.edu 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Kitka “Sanctuary” at 8 pm at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 114 Montecito Ave., Oakland. Tickets are $18-$25. 444-0323. www.kitka.org 

Joshua Redman Trio at 8 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $26-$48. 642-9988. www.calperformances.net 

The Karan Casey Band at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $19.50-$20.50. 548-1761.  

The Very Hot Club of Berkeley at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Karen Mullally at 7 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

High Country, Dark Hollow Band, bluegrass, at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $6. 841-2082. 

Speak the Music, beatboxing, at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $8. 849-2568.  

Chris Waltz at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. 

Goapele at 8 and 10 p.m., through Sun. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $20-$26. 238-9200. 

FRIDAY, FEB. 29 

THEATER 

Aurora Theatre “Satellites” at 8 p.m. at 2081 Addison St. through March 2. Tickets are $40-$42. 843-4822. www.auroratheatre.org 

Berkeley Rep “”Wishful Drinking” with Carrie Fisher, at the Roda Theater, 2015 Addison St., through March 30. Tickets are $33-$69. 647-2949. 

Central Works “Wakefield; or Hello Sophia” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave., through March 23.Tickets are $14-$25. 558-1381. 

Contra Costa Civic Theatre “The Cocoanuts” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., some Sun. matinees at 2 p.m., at 951 Pomona Ave., at Moeser, El Cerrito, through March 2. Tickets are $15-$24. 524-9132. www.ccct.org 

Contra Costa College Drama Dept “Rivets” A musical based on Rosie the Riveter and Richmond’s Kaiser Shipyards, Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 3 p.m. at John and Jean Knox Center for Performing Arts, Contra Costa College Campus, San Pablo. Tickets are $10-$15. 235-7800, ext. 4274. 

Impact Theatre “Jukebox Stories: The Case of the Creamy Foam” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m. at La Val’s Subterranean, 1834 Euclid Ave., through March 22. Tickets are $10-$15. 464-4468. http://impacttheatre.com 

UC Dept. of Theater “The Bacchae” at Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m., through March 9 at Zellerbach Playhouse, UC Campus. Tickets are $8-$14. theater.berkeley.edu 

Virago Theatre Company “Candide” the comic opera at 8 p.m. Fri and Sat., 7 p.m. Sun. at Rhythmix Cultural Works, 2513 Blanding Ave., Alameda, through Mar. 9. Tickets are $15-$25. 865-6237. www.viragotheatre.org 

Wilde Irish Productions A Centennial Celebration of Ireland’s National Theatre Fri. and Sat. at 7:30 p.m., Sun. at 3 p.m. at The Gaia Arts Center, 2116 Allston Way. Tickets are $12-$15. 644-9940. www.wikdeirish.org 

FILM 

Jean-Pierre Léaud “La vie de Boheme” at 7 p.m. “Irma Vep” at 9 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

History and Harmony Black History Concert Series with Derrick Hall & Company, Allen Temple Liturgical Dancers, and others at 7:30 p.m. at Allen Temple Baptist Church, 8501 International Blvd., Oakland. Tickets are $5-$10. 544-8924.at 9 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $12. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

In Honor of Pete Escovedo A fiesta featuring Paul Rodriguez, one of the Original Latin Kings of Comedy, and The Pete Escovedo Latin Jazz Orchestra, at 6:30 p.m. at The Oakland Scottish Rite Center, 1547 Lakeside Dr., Oakland. Tickets are $37.50-$77.50. 261-7839. www.ticketweb.com  

Sarah Cahill “Piano Works of Leo Ornstein” at 8 p.m. at Berkeley Arts Festival, 2213 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $5-$10. www.berkeleyartsfestival.com 

Opera Piccola “Mirrors of Mumbai” at 8 p.m. at the Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. Tickets are $10-$15. 658-0967. www.opera-piccola.org 

Bay Area Classical Harmonies “An Evening with Saul Kaye” at 7:30 p.m. at The Pro Arts Gallery, 550 Second St., Oakland. Tickets are $12-$18. 868-0695. www.bayareabach.org 

María Volonté “Íntima,” Argentine vocalist at 8 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $16-$18. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

University Symphony Orchestra at 8 p.m. at Hertz Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $4-$12. 642-9988.  

Rova Saxophone Quartet at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Angela Wellman Roots Sextet at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Albino, The Flux, afrobeat, revolutionary rock, at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10-$12. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Houston Jones at 8 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

Jim Kweskin at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Dave Matthews Trio at 9 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

Greg Lamboy, Tim Jenkins, guitar, at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Workingman’s Ed at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $10. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Isul Kim at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Sandy Griffith, Netta Brielle, R&B, at 9 p.m. at Maxwell’s Lounge, 341 13th St., Oakland. Cost is $10-$15. 839-6169. 

Wil Blades Quartet at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

SATURDAY, MARCH 1 

CHILDREN  

Los Amiguitos de La Peña with Los Mapeches at 10:30 a.m. at La Peña. Cost is $5 for adults, $4 for children. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Andy Z, music concert, at 11 a.m. at Studio Grow, 1235 Tenth St. Cost is $7. 526-9888. 

FILM 

“Colossal Youth” with filmmaker Pedro Costa in person at 6:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Bay Area Poets Coalition open reading, 3 to 5 p.m., at Strawberry Creek Lodge, 1320 Addison St. Park on the street, not in Lodge parking lot. Free. 527-9905. poetalk@aol.com  

Poetry Flash with Chad Sweeney and Rick Campbell at 7 p.m. at Cody’s on Fourth St. 559-9500. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

American Bach Soloists “Vocal Visionaries” at 8 p.m. at First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way. Tickets are $16-$42. 415-621-7900. www.americanabch.org  

Volti “Adventures in Earth, WInd and Fire” a cappella, at 8 P.m. at St. Mark’s Epsicopal Church, 2300 Bancroft Way. Tickets are $8-$20. 415-771-3352. www.voltisf.org 

Jerry Kuderna, piano concert, at 8 p.m. at 2213 Shattuck Ave. Sponsored by the Berkeley Arts Festival. 

Howard Kadis, guitar works of Scarlatti, Ponce, Villa-Lobos and others at 8 p.m. at Trinity Chapel, 2320 Dana St. Tickets are $8-$12. 549-3864. www.trinitychamberconcerts.com 

Kensington Symphony “Soundscapes” with Lisa Houston, mezzo-soprano at 8 p.m. at Northminster Presbyterian Church, 545 Ashbury Ave., El Cerrito. Suggested donation $12-$15, children free. 524-9912. 

Opera Piccola “Mirrors of Mumbai” at 8 p.m. at the Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. Tickets are $10-$15. 658-0967. www.opera-piccola.org 

University Symphony Orchestra at 8 p.m. at Hertz Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $4-$12. 642-9988. http://music.berkeley.edu 

Dawn Upshaw, soprano and Orquestra Los Pelegrinos at 8 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $36-$68. 642-9988.  

A Rude Awakening, reggae, funk and hip hop with Ancient Mystic, Winstrong, Absoluther at 9:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $12. 849-2568.  

Zoe & Dave Ellis with Eddie Marshall at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Armenian Shoghaken Ensemble at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $tba. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

Sotaque Baiano, Brazilian, at 8 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $10. 548-1159. www.shattuckdownlow.com 

Land of the Blind, Chris Ahlman at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Blame Sally, Ashleigh Flynn at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $19.50-$20.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Steve Erquiaga & Paul Hanson, new and old world jazz duo, at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15-$18. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Woman at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Goapele at 8 and 10 p.m., through Sun. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $20-$26. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

SUNDAY, MARCH 2 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Color/Rhythms” Sculptures by Kati Casida, paintings by Celia Jackson and Harold Zegart. Opening reception at 2 p.m. at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center Community Art Gallery, 2450 Ashby Ave. 

Enrique Chagoya: Borderlandia Guided tour at 2 p.m. at Berkeley Art Museum. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

FILM 

“The Blood” with filmmaker Pedro Costa in person at 3 p.m., “Bones” at 5:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz reads from “The Colors of Jews” at 7 p.m. at Kehilla Community Synagogue, 1300 Grand Ave., Piedmont. Donation $5-$25. 547-2424, ext. 100. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Juan del Gastor, Flamenco guitarist, at 2 p.m. at Down Home Music 1809b Fourth St. 204-9595. www.flamencofestvalsf.com 

Pacific Boychoir and Organist William Ludtke in a benefit concert for the preservation of Maybeck’s First Church at 3 p.m. at First Church of Christ Scientist, 2619 Dwight Way. Tickets are $25-$30. 925-376-3908. www.FriendsOfFirstChurch.org 

Remo, Imerald Bay, hip hop, at 9 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $8. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Albany Big Band at 3 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Harvey Wainapel Trio at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Vibrafolk at 11 a.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Flamenco Open Stage with Sara Ayala at 7:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Gary Johnson Quintet at 4:30 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $12. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Dead Prez at 7 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low. Tickets are $20-$25. 548-1159. 

MONDAY, MARCH 3 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Capturing Landscapes through Changing Technology” Photographs by Alasdair McCondochie opens at The LightRoom, 2263 Fifth St. 649-8111. www.lightroom.com 

THEATER 

Woman’s Will 10th Annual 24-Hour Playfest Playwrights, directors and actors write, rehearse and perform seven brand-new plays within 24 hours. Final performance at at 8 p.m. at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave. Tickets are $10-$25 sliding scale. 420-0813. www.womanswill.org 

Dr. Demento Music and comedy for mature audiences at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Rep. Tickets are $25. https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/28310 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Charlotte Grossman, television director, producer and editor at the Brown Bag Speakers Forum at 12:30 p.m. at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. 526-3720. 

Cara Black reads from her eighth Soho Crime mystery, “Murder in Rue de Paradis” at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. 

Poetry Express with Lucille Lang Day at 7 p.m. at Priya Restaurant, 2072 San Pablo Ave. 644-3977. 

Deepak Chopra describes “ The Third Jesus: The Christ we Cannot Ignore” at 7:30 p.m. at First Congregational church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way. Tickets are $30. 559-9500. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Nikolay Kolev, Bulgarian, at 7 p.m. at Le Bateau Ivre, 2629 Telegraph Ave. 849-1100. www.lebateauivre.net 

Trovatore, traditional Italian music, at 7 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

Steffen Kuehn at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $10. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

Myra Melford.Ben Goldberg Quartet at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 


Books: Eastwind Books Provides Literary Hub for Asian Community

By Anna Mindess, Special to the Planet
Tuesday February 26, 2008
Eastwind Books on University Avenue specializes in books from various Asian cultures, including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, 
              Vietnamese, Thai, Cambodian, Hmong, Hawaiian, Indian, Tibetan, Pakistani, Malaysian, Filipino, and Indonesian.
By Michael Howerton
Eastwind Books on University Avenue specializes in books from various Asian cultures, including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, Cambodian, Hmong, Hawaiian, Indian, Tibetan, Pakistani, Malaysian, Filipino, and Indonesian.

In order to keep his favorite bookstore from being turned into a beauty shop, Harvey Dong transformed himself from customer to owner of Eastwind Books in 1996.  

A graduate student in Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley in the 1990s, he was a frequent visitor to the Asian bookstore, which was then located on Shattuck Avenue next to McDonalds.  

“The store was founded in 1982 by UC Berkeley academics and community people as an Asian resource center,” he explains. “It carried 80 percent Chinese language titles.”  

It changed hands several times, and in 1996 was slated to close and become a beauty shop. As a last ditch effort, the previous owner appealed to Dong and his wife to save Eastwind. Dong recalls, “I was working in construction at the time, so it was an easy transition from wood to paper.” 

In the past 12 years, the Dongs have kept the store going, broadened its scope and made it a cherished part of the local Asian American community, despite bumps along the way: competition from Internet giants, dwindling numbers of independent bookstores and the eternal lack of parking. In 1998, Eastwind moved to its present location on University Avenue. It would be hard to imagine a more perfect spot for an Asian Bookstore than being next to [Japanese] Ramen House, down the block from Plearn Thai and across the street from Anh Hong Vietnamese and Taiwan Chinese restaurants. 

Eastwind occupies a comfortable, well-used storefront and sports a pastiche of posters on the walls: action shots of martial arts moves, a diagram of acupressure points, the Chinese phonetic system and a chart entitled Ken Hom’s Asian vegetables.  

This unique shop also houses a wide-ranging inventory: cookbooks, foreign language instruction, alternative medicine, martial arts, history, philosophy, culture, religion, poetry, classical and contemporary fiction. Most titles are now in English with only 10 percent in Chinese. The cultures represented include: Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, Cambodian, Hmong, Hawaiian, Indian, Tibetan, Pakistani, Malaysian, Filipino, and Indonesian. With his interest in ethnic studies, Dong also carries books with American Indian, Cuban, Latino and African American themes. Eastwind supplies textbooks for many classes in the Asian American Studies, Ethnic Studies and English departments at UC Berkeley, Berkeley City College, and Laney as well as a local acupuncture school.  

Dong grew up in the Sacramento valley. His father served in the U.S. military; his mother was a war bride from China. As a former student activist at UC Berkeley in the ’60s who humbly admits he helped to establish its Asian Studies department, Dong says he likes to read about the early history of the Asian American community as well as current social issues, race and politics.  

He cites two recent favorites: Little Sister Left Behind by Samantha Le, “an amazing book about the personal struggle of a Vietnamese girl who comes here with her family, goes through conflict and is able to become her own person”; and To Save China, To Save Ourselves: The Chinese Hand Laundry Alliance of New York by Renqui Yu, “which details the fight for civil rights in the 1930s and ’40s when there was a push to close down Chinese laundries in New York City. It had a big impact on me,” Dong said, “as it counters the stereotype that Chinese workers are perpetual foreigners and unorganizable,” 

Dong reports that his customers represent three major groups: students, community members and recent monolingual Chinese immigrants, many of whom work in nearby restaurants. “I am really aware of aging when I see former Chinese-speaking immigrant restaurant workers bringing their children to the store and kids from Berkeley High who came in here when they didn’t know any English and who are now attending college.” 

Dong acknowledges that “those of us who run independent bookstores are not doing it for the money.” Why does he do it? “For a little craziness and to provide literature and information about Asian American countries and peoples” with a strong emphasis on “the second generation, their struggles to deal with the pressure to assimilate and how they eventually redefine themselves.”  

Eastwind also carries an extensive selection of children’s books. 

Frequent book launchings lend support to small independent presses. To celebrate the Lunar New Year earlier this week, Ed Lin read from This Is a Bust, his gritty tale of a Chinese-American cop in New York City, and Lisa Chen read from her debut collection of poetry, Mouth, both by Kaya Publications. On Saturday, April 12, at 4 p.m. Moazzam Sheikh will read from his new book The Idol Lover, about Pakistani American life. Sheikh, a Pakistani writer who is a librarian at the San Francisco Public Library, has written several books and translated works from Urdu, Hindi and Punjabi. 

Dong sees the potential “for bookstores in general to be a resource center and a community focal point. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to have an independent bookstore in every neighborhood,” he says, then pauses. “Maybe that’s too much of a pipe dream.” 

 

EASTWIND BOOKS 

2066 University Ave. 548-2350. 

www.asiabookcenter.com


‘Wakefield, or Hello Sophia’ at Central Works

By Ken Bullock, Special to The Planet
Tuesday February 26, 2008

Dying embers of a fire on a blustery night; a pensive woman, alone in a room ... when the door opens and a rainsoaked man steps in, greets her by name, and just stands there while she gawks. It’s her husband, who left on a two-day business trip 20 years before. 

Central Works is staging Brian Thorstenson’s adaptation of Hawthorne’s tale, Wakefield, updating it to the present, set in San Francisco, not London.  

And it’s a perfect fit for this unique company and the house it’s resident in, the Julia Morgan-designed Berkeley City Club—an intimate chamber play for two fine actors, Julian Lopez-Morillas and Central Works co-founder Jan Zvaifler, as they worry over their separate memories of a long, unexpected hiatus, with the missing man remaining nearby, vigilant, his eye on his abandoned house and wife, watching the life he left—from outside. 

Wakefield, or Hello Sophia takes Hawthorne’s brief chronicle—a mere 13 paragraphs—and begins where Hawthorne leaves off: “We will not follow our friend across the threshold. He has left us much food for thought ...” 

Much food for thought, indeed. From the lights coming up, following the blackout after Lopez-Morillas enters and speaks his off-the-cuff greeting, the script uses virtually every little detail in Hawthorne’s narrated account, reassembling (and assessing) Wakefield’s strange hiatus within the neighborhood from both perspectives, the deserter and the abandoned. 

But each question, each accusation, every answer and excuse opens up a deeper ambiguity. Wakefield can describe the shifting patterns of feeling, his vague thoughts, but no real motivations or plans—a joke? A test? Joke on, test for whom?  

Thorstenson’s lines of dialogue, so much exposition (like all of Hawthorne’s original), are jagged with interruption, fitting together like pieces of an incomplete jigsaw puzzle, evoking a little bit the irony of stichomythia, the broken, back-and-forth dialogue of Greek tragedy, where the message lurks in what’s not said, in the echo of the banal.  

To provide a little contrast—and humor—there are quick blackout inserts, soap opera scenes that burlesque the moral standoff between husband and wife, exaggerating the most obvious emotions the audience might project the characters as feeling, flaring up into melodrama or dissipating into silliness, both taking the edge off and underlining the tension of a most improbable confrontation and awkward conversation which follows. “Picking up the pieces”? “Comparing notes”? Somehow, in Wakefield’s mind, he was both present and absent, a great change taking place as soon as he saw everything from the outside. And he doesn’t want to go back to his solitude: “Out there, it’s changed.” 

Central Works has a long history of producing plays at the City Club, and of using the space and atmosphere of that lovely room creatively. With Wakefield, co-founder Gary Graves directs a show that’s spare and taut even by his company’s usual standards. The simplicity of set (not credited), costume (Tammy Berlin), light (the director) and sound (Greg Scharpen) design belies the complex and suggestive way the different elements all work together.  

The same is true of the acting. The mood would seem to be a blanket one, but through subtle contrasts and variations—and by working together with sensitive timing—the two performers together open up a world of memories, questions and choices from what seems at first mutual “shock and confusion” over a reappearance more surprising than the original disappearance. Lopez-Morillas is resilient and resourceful; Zvaifler’s performance recalls and distills her very finest of the past. 

Wakefield has been adapted before, but mostly for film. It was used to great comic effect in Three Lives and Only One Death, one of Marcello Mastriani’s last films, written and directed by Raul Ruiz. Thorstenson, the director and the performers are adroit in mostly avoiding too much psychology, too much melodrama—too much explanation. Hawthorne presents his tale as the upbeat moral monologue of a narrator recalling an offbeat incident of melancholy. As Walter Benjamin noted in his essay, “The Storyteller,” the essence of a tale is an absence of explanation. The audience is left with much to ponder.  

“Thought has always its efficacy, and every striking incident its moral,” says Hawthorne, only sketching in the minimum of incident or moral for us. Central Works, too, has left us much food for thought, and the imagination. 

 

WAKEFIELD, OR HELLO SOPHIA 

Presented by Central Works at 8 p.m.  

Thursday-Saturday and 5 p.m. Sundays through March 23 at Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave. $14-25. 558-1381.


La Peña Celebrates Words and Life of Paul Robeson

By Deb Schneider, Special to the Planet
Tuesday February 26, 2008
Paul Robeson leads Moore Shipyard Workers in singing “The Star Spangled Banner” in Oakland in September 1942.
Paul Robeson leads Moore Shipyard Workers in singing “The Star Spangled Banner” in Oakland in September 1942.

Paul Robeson was something of a Renaissance man. A singer, actor, lawyer, writer, civil rights advocate, all-American athlete and political activist, Robeson was a powerful and eloquent spokesman for racial justice well before Martin Luther King, Jr., or Malcolm X, yet these successors have eclipsed him in the annals of history. 

Robeson put his fame on the line for the revolutionary causes he believed in—the elimination of international fascism and the eradication of racism at home in the United States. With immense talent and determination, he developed his skills and earned his fame and influence in the institutions of white America, fighting racism all along the way. He proved that a black man could meet any challenge, could pass any test, and then, at the peak of his powers, he set out to tear down once and for all the oppressive system he had conquered. With conservative America and the federal government discrediting his name and his work every step of the way, Robeson entertained, educated, and inspired people to think differently about cultural differences in the United States. 

Twenty-six of Robeson’s inspiring speeches have been collected on a CD, Paul Robeson: Words Like Freedom, the release of which will be celebrated at 6 p.m. Wednesday at La Peña Cultural Center. The CD was produced by the Freedom Archives, a San Francisco-based organization specializing in the preservation of audio and video recordings documenting social justice movements from the 1960s to the present.  

Born in 1898 to an escaped slave, who later became a minister, and a mother who came from one of the oldest African families in the United States, Robeson committed himself to agitating a white supremacist system from early in life. He was one of only two black students at his high school. At 17, he earned an academic scholarship to Rutgers after graduating from high school with honors at a time when lynchings were still common. While his brothers chose all-black colleges, Robeson was the only black student in his class, suffering beatings while trying out for the Rutgers football team, beatings he endured in order to prove his mettle before going on to lead the team as a two-time All-American. 

As Robeson continued to excel in academics (he attended law school first at NYU then later at Columbia) and theater performance (he was offered lead acting roles starting in the 1920s, while performing regularly at the Cotton Club), he also became intimately familiar with the effects of racism, social injustice and oppression. His own experience and family history inspired him to take political action.  

Throughout Words like Freedom, Robeson’s deep, almost throbbing voice commands attention. Its unwavering firmness reflects his grounded stance for justice for African peoples, here and abroad, and his belief that oppressed people should unite. In “Harlem,” a speech given in 1949, Robeson asserts that oppression must be named for what it is, in the name of American responsibility and history. “To fulfill our responsibilities as Americans, we must unite, especially we Negro people. We must know our strengths. We happen to be the decisive force. That’s why they terrorize us, that’s why they fear us! And we must have the courage to shout at the top of our voices, above the injustices and we must lay the blame where it belongs and where it has belonged for over 300 years of slavery and continuous misery—right here on our own doorstep.”  

As the CD progresses, we hear Robeson’s speeches increase in defiance and power under the restrictions imposed upon him by the U.S. government. His passport was revoked in 1950, and a few years later he would be forced to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee. But this harassment only increased his political activity. “Freedom for the People of Africa” reads almost as a resumé of his activities in support of the liberation of African peoples and leads to an address entitled “To My Friends in the Bay Area,” where he declares, with the kind of hope not always associated with radical activists, “we shall overcome.” 

The 12-minute testimony Robeson gave before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1956 is the most dynamic track in the collection. He solidly declares, “My name is Paul Robeson and anything I have to say, I have said in public all over the world, and that is why I am here today. The other reason why I am here is that when I am abroad, I speak out against injustices against the Negro in this land...I am being tried for fighting for the rights of my people.”  

In a brilliant performance, Robeson, much to the audible frustration of the committee, employs his formidable rhetorical and locutionary skills to dramatically call attention to the absurdity of the allegations against him. When asked to speak to his relationship with anti-fascist movements and the Communist Party, he launches into a forceful diatribe about his deep roots in the United States, tracing his family’s lineage to the slaves of George Washington. At one point Robeson is questioned about his sympathy toward the Soviet Union, with the committee suggesting that he move there if that nation is truly free from racial prejudice, and Robeson responds by summoning that history: “Because my father was a slave, and my people died to build this country, I’m going to stay here and have a part of it just like you. And no fascist-minded people are going to drive me from it. Is that clear?” 

“You are here because you are promoting the Communist cause!” a committee member says. 

“I am here because I am opposing the neo-fascist cause,” Robeson responds, “which I see arising in these committees. Jefferson could be sitting here!” he says, pounding his spot at the table for emphasis. “And Frederick Douglass could be sitting here! Eugene Debs could be sitting here!” 

A committee member goes on to say that Robeson could not possibly claim to be a victim of racial prejudice, as he graduated from Rutgers, from the University of Pennsylvania, and was a football star.  

“Just a moment,” Robeson interrupts. “This is something I challenge very deeply: that the success of a few Negroes can make up for $700 a year for thousands of Negro families in the South. My father was a slave, and I have cousins who are sharecroppers. I do not see success in terms of myself.” 

Robeson knowingly and willingly paid a price for his activism. His music and films were pulled from distribution, contributing greatly to his eclipse today. Words Like Freedom is an attempt to bring the power of Robeson’s life’s work back into the public consciousness in the hope that it can serve as an inspiration for modern-day resistance movements. 

 

PAUL ROBESON:  

WORDS LIKE FREEDOM 

CD release party, 7 p.m. Wednesday at La Peña Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck Ave. 

 

Deb Schneider is a volunteer and board member at Freedom Archives, a San Francisco-based organization that seeks to help people reconnect with the foundations of social justice work by documenting radical activism and social movements that have been minimized and misconstrued by mainstream history. For more information, see www.freedomarchives.org. 


Wilde Irish Stages Centennial Bash for Irish National Theatre

By Ken Bullock, Special to The Planet
Tuesday February 26, 2008

Wilde Irish, Berkeley’s resident Irish theater company, will stage a centennial celebration for Ireland’s National Theatre this Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m., with two original Abbey Theatre short comedies: Lady Gregory’s The Workhouse Ward and John Synge’s In the Shadow of the Glen. 

The staged readings will feature live harp music at the Gaia Arts Center, 2116 Allston Way near Shattuck Avenue. 

“One impetus for the celebration was in looking at the centennial books put out by the Abbey Theatre,” said Wilde Irish executive director Breda Courtney. “They actually celebrated in 2004, but the first production of The Workhouse Ward was in April of 2008. Both plays are comedies, and everybody keeps saying we do all the heavy stuff! 

“We try to pick pieces not done by anyone else,” Courtney continued, “and not even the Abbey did a Lady Gregory play for their centennial. [She’s] one of their founders, and she’s been undervalued. What I think these two little one acts do through comedic laughter is give us a glimpse of Irish life at the beginning of the 20th century.” 

Lady Gregory, who founded the Abbey and the Irish National Theatre movement with poet W. B. Yeats and patron of the arts Edward Martyn, chose material for her comedy that could have been heavy going, indeed. 

“Ireland was still smarting from the potato famine,” said Courtney, “and of course were still under English rule. The workhouses was the result of the Poor Laws, what we’re familiar with through Dickens’ depiction of their effects in England. The Workhouse Ward is about two old codgers who are in the workhouse, having nothing, no place to go, though they each once had a little land. They’ve talked the nuns into believing that they’re sick, so they don’t have to work, when the newly widowed sister of one comes to take him home. But, as it turns out, not to rescue him, but to do the work! He finally won’t go, but it’s uncertain whether that’s because his sister looks down on him—‘the penny looking down on the ha’penny,’ as we say—or out of loyalty to his friend, who just argues with him anyway. They spend their time bouncing off each other.” 

About Synge’s early play, Courtney said, “Usually, his more famous play, Riders to the Sea, is staged with The Workhouse Ward, but that’s more of the heavy stuff! I believe it was influenced by Ibsen—there’s another Nora in it, and she leaves, too, but really has nowhere to go. What’s striking about it is how much of the language in it is the same as the type he’ll eventually use in The Playboy of the Western World. I spent a lot of time trying to find ghostly images of a frozen glen in winter—most pictures are all green, bright and sunny—to show, as a projection behind the actors, why they’re scared to go out there.” 

The Irish National Theatre Movement began as an extension of the Irish Literary Renaissance, reputedly the first national theater supported by its government. The staging of plays by the Fay Brothers was influential around the world in its use of amateurs, influencing other national movements (possibly even neo-realist film, from the Italian Resistance) and community theaters. 

Wilde Irish is planning a theater tour of Ireland for next year, after their annual Bloomsday celebration, for James Joyce’s Ulysses, on June 16. This year “Bloomsday is on a Monday,” said Courtney, “not usually the best night for a show.”  

But she has a bit of sleight-of-hand (and time) in mind. “Maybe we’ll do a trick—have Bloomsday Sunday evening, the 15th—and say it’s the 16th, in Irish time, that is!” 

 

100 YEARS OF THE  

IRISH NATIONAL THEATRE 

7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at the Gaia Arts Center, 2116 Allston Way.


Wild Neighbors: Globetrotting Rodents: The Odyssey of the Black Rat

By Joe Eaton
Tuesday February 26, 2008

It’s the Year of the Rat again‚—but which rat? For most of us “rat” signifies Rattus norwegicus, the Norway, brown, sewer, or wharf rat, progenitor of all those rats in all those labs, whose original homeland was northern China. But a case could be made for a less-well-known relative with roots in Asia: Rattus rattus, the black, roof, house, or ship rat.  

I once interviewed Garland Buckner, an East Bay exterminator (doing business as Rat Patrol), for an article in another venue. He said 80 percent of his clients had roof rats: “They’re more of a problem in newer neighborhoods. Norway rats are more in older neighborhoods, up in the hills or in inner city areas.” 

That makes Berkeley sound like Norway rat territory, but I suspect we have black rats as well. Once, traveling down Haste Street in mid-afternoon, I saw a rodent shape scurrying along a telephone line overhead. Squirrel, was the first reaction, then: no, the tail’s wrong. Black rats are more adept climbers than brown rats, more prone to occur in trees and upper stories of buildings. Conversely, they avoid sewers and other damp places. 

Behavior is not an infallible clue, though. “A sewer rat will climb trees and a roof rat will go underneath houses,” Buckner told me. “A rat is a rat.” Be that as it may, there are ways to distinguish black rats from brown. Many black rats are in fact black-furred, with or without lighter bellies, although white, gray, and agouti variants exist. The clinching detail seems to be the shape of the upper first molar, if you’re that close.  

When the two species meet, brown rats dominate black rats and have been known to kill them. Although they’re not really from Norway, brown rats are also more cold-tolerant than their relatives. 

Socially, black rats live in hierarchical groups with a semi-dominant male. Home range is typically about 120 square yards. Females are said to be more aggressive than males. The species is omnivorous, but prefers vegetable matter if available.  

Despite competition from the brown rat, the black rat has done well for itself. It started out in South Asia. Archeological evidence indicates that it had reached the Middle East by 3000 years ago, and the western Mediterranean in another 600 years. Ships have been the black rat’s second home, taking it to remote oceanic islands (where it has raised havoc with nesting birds), even the Antarctic. 

Australian geneticists recently used mitochondrial DNA—the stuff we all inherit from our mothers—to trace the black rat’s travels. Ken Aplin of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization says six different lineages have been identified, originating in India, East Asia, the Himalayas, Thailand, the Mekong Delta, and Indonesia. According to Aplin, it’s the Indian stock that reached the Americas, as well as Africa and Australia, during the Age of Sail. East Asian black rats island-hopped from Taiwan to Japan and the Philippines, then moved out into the South Pacific. The other four lineages haven’t traveled as far. 

The black rat, as a vector of plague and other diseases, has a lot to answer for. But it’s a third species, the Polynesian rat (R. exulans), that’s being blamed for major environmental destruction on some Pacific islands. Among many other things, Polynesian rats eat palm fruit. Excavations on Easter Island found thousands of rat bones and rat-gnawed seeds of the Jubaea palm. Archeologist Terry L. Hunt says fruit-eating rats, not improvident islanders, were responsible for deforesting the island. Ironically, the Polynesian rats of Easter Island were driven to extinction by late-arriving ship rats. 

As for our local rats, black or brown, it’s understandable that no one wants them underfoot, or in the attic, or in the fan palm in the front yard. But—and yes, it’s soapbox time—there are better ways of controlling them than heavy-duty rodenticides. Buckner, the exterminator, doesn’t use poison: “When they eat poison they go out somewhere else to die.” Last summer two juvenile Cooper’s hawks found dead in West Berkeley tested positive for brodifacoum, the lethal ingredient in D-Con, Talon, and Havoc rodent baits. The raptors had likely eaten poisoned rodents.  

Brodifacoum, a second-generation anticoagulant, may take several days to kill a rat. This widens the window of vulnerability for wild rodent-eating predators, as well as household pets. The American Bird Conservancy has compiled hundreds of records of birds of prey—including red-tailed hawks, great horned owls, and golden eagles—poisoned by brodifacoum. Many of these birds are dedicated rodent-eaters, our best natural allies. 

The consensus among environmental agencies, bird advocates, and many pest-control professionals is that rodent problems are best handled preventively, through exclusion and sanitation. Trapping may be necessary if rats breach the barriers. And no, they don’t get a break because it’s their year. 

 

Joe Eaton’s “Wild Neighbors” column appears every other Tuesday in the Berkeley Daily Planet, alternating with Ron Sullivan’s “Green Neighbors” column on East Bay trees.


Berkeley This Week

Tuesday February 26, 2008

TUESDAY, FEB. 26 

Tuesdays for the Birds Tranquil bird walks in local parklands, led by Bethany Facendini, from 7 to 9:30 a.m. Today we will visitMartin Luther King Regional Shoreline. Call for meeting place and if you need to borrow binoculars. 525-2233. 

Docent Training for Tilden Nature Area Learn to assist the naturalists in providing interpretive programs at the Little Farm and nature area gardens, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Fee is $35. Application required. For information call 544-3260. 

“The (in)Accessible Wilderness: Mountain Adventures in Patagonia, Utah and British Columbia” with Topher Donahue at 7 p.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. 527-4140. 

Community Appreciation Day with Code Pink from noon to 4 p.m. at the Marine Recruiting Station, 64 Shattuck Square. www.codepinkalert.org/ 

berkeleyrecruiting 

History and Future of Berkeley’s Downtown A discussion with Austene Hall and Carrie Olsen at 8 p.m. at Berkeley Arts Festival, 2213 Shattuck Ave. 

Davey D, KPFA Radio personality and news journalist at 7:30 p.m. at Berkeley, Public Library, 3rd floor Community Meeting Room, 2090 Kittredge St. 981-6107. www.berkeleypubliclibrary.org 

“Israel: the worst thing to happen to the Jewish People since the Holocaust” Discussion with Larry Everest at 7 p.m. at Revolution Books 2425 Channing Way, Berkeley. 484-1196. 

Berkeley School Volunteers Orientation from 10 to 11 a.m. at 1835 Allston Way. Come learn about volunteer opportunities. 644-8833. 

Writer Coach Connection Volunteers needed to help Berkeley students improve their writing and critical thinking skills from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. To register call 524-2319. www.writercoachconnection.org  

Nutrition for a Healthy Heart at 3:30 p.m. at Elephant Pharmacy, 1607 Shattuck Ave. 549-9200. 

Tuesday Tilden Walkers Join a few slowpoke seniors at 9:30 a.m. in the parking lot near the Little Farm for an hour or two walk. 215-7672, 524-9992. 

Parents’ Book Discussion Group meets to discuss “Each Little Bird That Sings” by Deborah Wiles, at 6 p.m. at University Village, 435 Goodling Way, Building 123, Apt. 456, Albany. Sponsored by the Albany Library. 526-3720. 

Teen Playreaders meets to read and discuss Hamlet and related plays at 4:30 p.m. at Claremont Branch Library, 2940 Benvenue. 981-6121. 

End the Occupation Vigil every Tues. at noon at Oakland Federal Bldg., 1301 Clay St. www.epicalc.org 

Family Storytime at 7 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043.  

Berkeley Camera Club meets at 7:30 p.m., at the Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. 548-3991. www.berkeleycameraclub.org 

St. John’s Prime Timers meets at 9:30 a.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. We always welcome new members over 50. 845-6830. 

WEDNESDAY, FEB. 27 

“The Rebirth of the University of California: From Imperial University to People’s University” A teach-in and forum featuring Gray Brechin, author, “Imperial San Francisco” plus speakers from Tuition Relief Now, Berkeley Stop the War, Berkeley NOW, Fiat Pax, Stop BP-Berkeley, and many others at 7 p.m. at 145 Dwinelle, UC Campus. www.freetheuc.org 

Berkeley Libraries Community Discussion on improving buildings and services at 6 p.m. at North Branch Library, 1170 The Alameda at Hopkins. 981-6195. 

Golden Gate Audubon Society Field Trip “Lake Merritt and Lakeside Park” with Hilary Powers. Meet at 9:30 a.m. at the large spherical cage near Nature Center at Perkins and Bellevue to look at wintering birds. 843-2222. 

“Immigration: Facts, Fiction and Action” with Rolando Rodriguez of the East Bay Sanctuary Coalition at the Gray Panther General Meeting, at 1:30 p.m. at North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst, corner of MLK. All welcome.  

“Why Can’t We Be Good?” An interfaith lecture with Prof. Jacob Needleman at 7 p.m. at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 114 Montecito Ave., Oakland. Suggested donation $5. 655-8936. 

Radical Movie Night: “Medium Cool” filmed during the 1968 political conventions, at 8:30 p.m. at the Long Haul, 3124 Shattuck Ave.  

“Empowering Consumers and Transforming Business” at 6:30 p.m. at Green Moters, 1500 San Pablo Ave. www.econowusa.org 

“Natural Selection” A discussion of the book “The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism” at 7 p.m. at Revolution Books, 2425 Channing Way. 848-1196. 

“The Lion’s Roar” a documentary on Rangjung Rigpe Dorje Tibetan Buddhist master, at 7:30 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. Donation $5. www.Humanist Hall.org 

Cycling Lecture with Joe Breeze on “Why more of us should ride bicycles” at 7 p.m. at Velo Sport Bicycles, 1615 University Ave., enter at 1989 California St. RSVP to 849-0437. 

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

Theraputic Recreation at the Berkeley Warm Pool, Wed. at 3:30 p.m. and Sat. at 10 a.m. at the Berkeley Warm Pool, 2245 Milvia St. Cost is $4-$5. Bring a towel. 632-9369. 

Berkeley Peace Walk and Vigil at the Berkeley BART Station, corner of Shattuck and Center. Sing for Peace at 6:30 p.m. followed by Peace Walk at 7 p.m. www. 

geocities.com/vigil4peace/vigil 

Teen Chess Club from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the North Branch Library, 1170 The Alameda at Hopkins. 981-6133. 

Morning Meditation Every Mon., Wed., and Fri. at 7:45 a.m. at Rudramandir, 830 Bancroft Way at 6th. 486-8700. 

After-School Program Homework help, drama and music for children ages 8 to 18, every Wed. from 4 to 7:15 p.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. Cost is $5 per week. 845-6830. 

Stitch ‘n Bitch at 6:30 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

THURSDAY, FEB. 28 

“Does TV Persuade Us That Torture is OK?” with Richard Walter, UCLA School of Film, Television, and Digital Media, Spc. (Ret.) Tony Lagouranis, U.S. Army Interrogator, Margaret Stock, Dept of Law, U.S. Military Academy (West Point), David Danzig, Primetime Torture Project Director, Human Rights First at 5 p.m. at Room 110, Boalt Hall School of Law, UC Campus. www.hrcberkeley.org 

“Green Movement: Hope for the Future of the Earth” Paul Hawken in conversation with Kevin Danaher at 7:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way. Tickets are $10-$13, at independent bookstores. www.globalexchange.org 

“The Color of Fear” A film about the struggle of individuals learning about racism. Screening and panel discussion at 7 p.m. at First Congregational Church, 2501 Harrison St., Oakland. Tickets are $5-$10, available from 1-800-838-3006. 

Teen Book Club meets to discuss urban fantasy titles at 4 p.m. at Claremont Branch Library, 2940 Benvenue. 981-6121. 

Babies & Toddlers Storytime at 10:15 and 11:15 a.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043.  

Fitness Class for 55+ at 9:15 a.m. at Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. 848-0237. 

World of Plants Tours Thurs., Sat. and Sun. at 1:30 p.m. at the UC Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Drive. Cost is $5. 643-2755.  

FRIDAY, FEB. 29 

Golden Gate Audubon Society Trip “Aquatic Park” Meet at 9 a.m. at Seabreeze Market, corner of Frontage Rd. and University Ave. to look for ducks, grebes, egrets and passerines. Bring a scope if you have one. Heavy rain cancels. 843-2222. 

City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with Claudine Torfs, PhD., Epidemiology, on “Abortion Around the World.” Luncheon at 11:45 a.m. for $14.50, speech at 12:30 p.m., at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant St. 526-2925. 

“The Insurrectionary Jesus” Rev. George Baldwin, United Methodist clergyman and seminary professor, who lived in Nicaragua from 1984 to 1996 in voluntary poverty, discusses his book “A Political Reading of the Life of Jesus” at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, 1924 Cedar St., at Bonita. Donation requested. 

International Day in Solidarity with the Haitian People Protest against the Marines in Haiti at 7:30 a.m. at the Marine Recruiting Center, 64 Shattuck Sq. 847-8657. www.haitisolidarity.net 

“Citizen King, Part II” An in depth look into Martin Luther King’s peace movement during the Vietnam War, at 7:30 p.m. at Berkeley Friends Church, Sacramento and Cedar.  

Rudramandi Open House Embodied Arts Program from 9 am. to 3 p.m. at 830 Bancroft Way, at 6th. 486-8700. 

SATURDAY, MARCH 1 

Democracy for America Electoral Campaign Training Sat. and Sun. at Berkeley High. All welcome. To register see www.dfalink.com/east_bay_training 

Let Worms Eat Your Garbage A free workshop presented by staff from the Bay-Friendly Gardening program of Alameda County from 10 a.m. to noon at Berkeley Ecology Center, 2530 San Pablo Ave. www.BayFriendly.org 

Oakland’s Roses Need You! Volunteers are needed from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Morcom Rose Garden, 700 Jean St. to assist city gardeners in readying the flower beds for the spring bloom. Wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts, gloves and sturdy boots. For more information or to sign up as a volunteer, please leave a message on the Rose Garden’s voicemail at 597-5039.  

White Elephant Sale, benefitting the Oakland Museum of California, Sat. and Sun. from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 333 Lancaster St., at Glascock, Oakland. Free shuttle bus from the Fruitvale BART. www.museumca.org 

Association for Women in Science Annual Winter Workshop “The Importance of Precision Questioning for Career Development” with Monica Worline of Vervago, from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals, B58 auditorium, 800 Dwight Way. Cost is $25-$50, includes breakfast and lunch. RSVP at www.acteva.com/go/sfawis/ 

“The World in a Teacup” Tracing the global journey of tea, presented by the Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology from 1 to 5 p.m. at The Bancroft Hotel, 2680 Bancroft Way at College. Tickets are $18-$20. 643-7649. 

“Successful Trade Show Planning Techniques” A workshop from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Mar. 1 and 8, at Berkeley City College, 2050 Center St. Cost is $20. To resgister call 981-2931. www.peralta.edu 

The Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club provides free instruction every Wed. and Sat. at 10 a.m. at 2270 Acton St. 841-2174.  

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden Sat. and Sun. at 2 pm. Regional Parks Botanic Garden, Tilden Park. Call to confirm. 841-8732. www.nativeplants.org 

Around the World Tour of Plants at 1:30 p.m., Thurs., Sat. and Sun. at UC Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Drive. 643-2755. http://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu 

Oakland Artisans Marketplace Sat. from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sun. from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Jack London Square. 238-4948. 

SUNDAY, MARCH 2 

EcoHouse Tour Learn about a number of improvements that can be made to an urban home including graywater systems, solar panels, on demand water heater, natural and recycled building materials, drought tolerant plants and much more. Tours at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. in Berkeley. Cost is $10, no one turned away. Registration required. 548-2220, ext. 242. 

Berkeley Rep’s Family Series A monthly theater workshop for the entire family from 11. a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Berkeley Rep School of Theatre, Nevo Education Center, 2071 Addison St. Free, but bring a book to donate to the library at John Muir Elementary School. 647-2973. 

Benefit for Ungandan AIDS Orphanage at 5, 7 and 9 p.m. at Unicorn Restaurant, 2533 Telegraph Ave. Reservations recommended. 841-8098.  

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Tilden Park Sat. and Sun. at 2 p.m. Call to confirm. 841-8732. www.nativeplants.org 

Lake Merritt Neighbors Organized for Peace Peace walk around the lake every Sun. Meet at 3 p.m. at the colonnade at the NE end of the lake. 763-8712. lmno4p.org 

Berkeley Chess Club meets every Sun. at 7 p.m. at the Hillside School, 1581 Le Roy Ave. 843-0150. 

Tibetan Buddhism with Donna Morton on “opening the Senses through Tibetan Yoga” at 6 p.m. at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. 809-1000 www.nyingmainstitute.com 

Sew Your Own Open Studio Come learn to use our industrial and domestic machines, or work on your own projects, from 4 to 8 p.m. at 84 Bolivar Dr., Aquatic Park. Cost is $5 per hour. 644-2577. www.watersideworkshops.org 

MONDAY, MARCH 3  

“Caring for the Dying: the Art of Being Present” A film by Dr. Michelle Peticolas at 7 p.m. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Avenue, Kensington. Free. 524-3043.