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Berkeley High Students Fight to Block Education Cuts
                                          More than 600 students from Berkeley High joined their peers from across the state in Sacramento last week to protest Gov. Arnold Schwarzenneger’s proposed education cuts.
Mark Coplan
Berkeley High Students Fight to Block Education Cuts More than 600 students from Berkeley High joined their peers from across the state in Sacramento last week to protest Gov. Arnold Schwarzenneger’s proposed education cuts.


Candidates Face Immigration, Education, Healthcare Questions

By Judith Scherr
Wednesday May 28, 2008 - 06:40:00 PM

The questions posed to Senate and Assembly candidates at Tuesday evening’s forum presented by the Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Action came from real life.  

Tania Marin has lived with an asthmatic child and no health insurance and asked the candidates how they would solve the health problems of the poor and undocumented immigrants.  

The fear of immigration raids has pierced the community, said Procesa Gorristieta, who wanted to know what the candidates would do to bring justice to immigrants. Nancy Williams asked candidates for solutions to education cuts and violence among youth. 

Some 50 people attended the forum put on by the 18-congregation multi-racial, multi-issue organization. All candidates for the June 3 election for the 14th Assembly District attended—physician Dr. Phil Polakoff, East Bay Regional Parks Board member Nancy Skinner, Richmond City Councilmember Tony Thurmond and Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington. 

Vying for a seat in the state Senate, former Assemblymember Wilma Chan attended; Assemblymember Loni Hancock was represented by her campaign manager Terri Waller. 

All the candidates said they support a universal single-payer health care system that does not deny health care to undocumented immigrants, though Polakoff said it is unrealistic to hold out for such a system.  

Single-payer “is not going to happen today or tomorrow,” he said, arguing that he wants a system that would help children right away. He said he would “take on the insurance companies,” by stopping their practice of dumping patients with costly conditions and refusing to cover those with existing illnesses. 

“My number one priority is healthcare for all children, regardless of immigration status,” he said. Polakoff said he has treated poor patients pro bono and has served as advisor on medical issues in the state legislature and in Liberia.  

Worthington said he has worked for single-payer healthcare, organizing rallies in Sacramento and testifying before the legislature. As a councilmember, Worthington said, he helped identify funds for the Berkeley Health Department disparity study, which showed the large gap in health outcomes between wealthier Caucasians living in the hills and African Americans living in the flatlands. 

He said immigrants with or without documentation deserve services: “Most immigrants in California are paying taxes. They are paying for education and healthcare,” Worthington said, arguing that the governor needs a better understanding of immigrant contributions. 

Thurmond said he understands the importance of universal health care—he works with youth in foster care who lose health insurance the day they turn 18.  

He said he led the support for single-payer healthcare on the Richmond City Council. Support for single-payer is economical, Thurmond said, pointing to the 3 percent administrative costs for Medicare. It is “immoral” to predicate seeing a doctor on immigrant status, he said.  

Skinner touted her support from state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, author of the single-payer bill the governor refused to sign. She pointed out the economics of the situation, where families without health insurance take children to the more-costly emergency room, rather than getting less expensive preventative healthcare.  

“The governor is stupid economically—in the end this refusal is going to cost us more,” she said. Skinner noted she helped establish the teen health center at Berkeley High, as a city councilmember in the 1980s. 

Waller said Hancock supports single-payer and was one of two Democrats to oppose cuts in the governor’s health and human services budget. Hancock supports AB 32 and SB 1, legislation that provides healthcare for all children, Waller said, adding, “High quality affordable health care should be a right.”  

Chan said she had authored AB772 in 2005, under which all children, regardless of immigration status, would have access to health insurance. She said, if elected, she would reintroduce the bill and if the governor vetoed it again she would put it on the ballot as an initiative. 

Healthcare should not be pitted against education, Chan said. “All of us know if our children are sick, they can’t learn—we don’t need more prisons; we need health care and we need education.” Worthington, who supports Chan, had pointed out earlier in the evening that Hancock voted to build new prisons. 


Immigration rights 

All the candidates said they support for justice for immigrants. 

People have a right to come to the U.S. for political and economic reasons, Thurmond said, noting that he’s participated in rallies against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids and supports Richmond’s position which affirms city officials will not help ICE officials in their raids. 

Education for all is key to creating a more equitable society, he said. “Because of my education I am standing before you,” he said.  

Worthington ticked off a number of pieces of legislation he sponsored in the Berkeley City Council, while admitting that it is easier to get items passed there than through the legislature: support for drivers’ licenses for people without documentation; support for legislation to allow people without documentation to get financial aid for college; support for funding to end immigration backlogs; opposition to English-only efforts; support for city sanctuary policies, and support to end deportation of people with misdomeaners. 

To get these policies through the legislature, Worthington said he’ll go beyond fighting the governor, “I’ll fight with the Democrats to get them to actually have a backbone and to stand up for us and all the people of the state of California,” he said. 

Skinner decried the raids: “Immigrants are the backbone of our community; the ICE raids are terrorizing our school children,” she said, arguing that immigrants are used as a smokescreen so that the real issues of education and healthcare are not addressed. 

She said she supported the sanctuary movement in the churches as a councilmember and supports California as a sanctuary state. She also supports drivers’ licenses for people without documentation. 

Skinner said to fund education it is necessary to tax corporations. She said that she would also work with the business community to get measures through the legislature. 

Noting that he is a child of immigrants, Polakoff said the ICE raids have caused post traumatic stress. He spoke about his travels that include Siberia and said the repression of immigrants is a world-wide issue. 

Waller noted that Hancock was arrested for civil disobedience at the Emeryville Woodfin Suites Hotel in solidarity with cleaning staff under fire from immigration officials and hotel management. 

Having a drivers’ license is important in a practical way—for safety on the road, Waller said, adding that Hancock supports access for immigrants to financial aid for college. 

Chan said she supports undocumented persons getting drivers’ licenses and said she fought against the English-only movement. She said she supports fair immigration reform that allows people to become citizens. 

She opposes the ICE raids and asked, “Why don’t they go after the employers? Why go after workers?” 



Skinner talked about the need to keep youth in school as part of the answer to address youth violence. To do that, there needs to be good vocational education as well as art, music and sports in schools, she said. 

“People feel desperate, without hope,” she said, arguing that there’s too much focus on college. “Not everyone wants to go to college,” she said. “The vast majority of people in prisons are high school dropouts.” 

Skinner pointed out that, as a Berkeley councilmember, she supported the East Bay Safety Corridor, a regional approach to fighting crime from Richmond to Oakland.  

Skinner said she supports new taxes. In Sacramento, there’s an “irrational refusal to raise revenue,” she said. 

It costs money to provide programs for education and to stop violence, Worthington said, noting that when he was on the City Council, he combed the budget and found funding for youth programs, affordable housing and more.  

In Sacramento, “I want to tax the rich, with a corporate real estate tax,” he said. If all else failed, he would reinstate the vehicle license tax that affects the middle class.  

Like Skinner, Thurmond said vocational education is important. He said he has supported jobs programs in Richmond, including a training program for solar panel installation. 

Thurmond said taxing the wealthy is important. He wants the vehicle license tax restored and wants to the state to subsidize teachers who live in the cities where they teach. 

Polakoff said society is in decline: “We’ve lived so long on greed.” As for funding education programs, Polakoff said the state should go after uncollected taxes as well as getting corporations to pay their fair share. 

Waller said Hancock was alone in the Assembly to stand up to the cuts in education and pointed to her work with PTAs in the district. Like Skinner, Hancock takes credit for the East Bay public safety corridor, implemented when she was Berkeley mayor and Skinner was a councilmember in the 1980s.  

Hancock wants to tax the rich and to support a tax on the production of oil. 

Chan said she supports universal preschool and while she was unable to accomplish that, she was able to increase slots available for low-income children in preschool. “You have to start when the kids are young,” she said. 

Today the governor and legislature are wringing their hands around budget issues, but they knew the problems that lie ahead, she said. They could have put a tax measure on the ballot in February to alleviate this, she said.  

“Teachers are leaving the state because of the budget,” she said. “We need high quality teachers.”

Lone Gunman Strikes Again

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday May 27, 2008 - 04:34:00 PM

The masked takeover bandit dubbed “the Lone Gunman” has pulled off at least two more armed robberies in Berkeley, police announced. 

Though Berkeley Police officer Andrew Frankel had announced on May 7 the arrest by Oakland Police of a “person of interest” in the crime spree, the suspect has pulled off at least four heists in the weeks since, according to a May 22 department crime alert. 

“Takeover bandits” are so named because they invade a business, typically late in the day when cash registers are full, then proceed to rob not only the cash register but any unfortunate customers or clients who happen to be on hand. 

The Lone Gunman’s first known Berkeley robbery happened April 15, when he hit Famous Foam Factory at 2397 San Pablo Ave. The next day came a stickup at Eco Home Improvement, 2619 San Pablo. 

When he struck at Berkeley’s Good Vibrations on the 18th, 30 folks were attending a seminar in the 2504 San Pablo Ave. store. 

Police believe he’s the same masked man who later expanded his operations to strike the Subway sandwich shop at 1105 University Ave., just east of San Pablo, on the 29th and to hit two days later the New Economy Laundry at 3200 Sacramento St. 

Frankel said on May 7 that he is also suspected of at least three similar crimes in Oakland, two at adult bookstores and one at a bicycle shop. 

His latest victims have included the Radio Shack at 1652 University Ave. on the May 12, followed by the robbery of one restaurant—Deafghan Kabob at 1160 University on the 14th—and two cell phone providers, Wave Wireless at 1475 San Pablo on the 16th and Berkeley Wireless at 1955 Ashby on May 20. 

Because of the mask, the police description is vague: “An African-American male, late teens to late 20s, tall, thin build, wearing dark clothing, baseball or other cap, a mask, and armed with a handgun.” 

In the crime alert, police ask anyone spotting the suspect to call 911 immediately—981-5911 from cell phones—and if robbed, to provide the police dispatcher with a suspect description, the direction he took after the robbery and a description of any vehicle he may be using. 

Police also advise business owners to tell employees not to resist, and to consider making cash deposits earlier in the day to lessen potential loses. 

Anyone with information on the crimes should call the department’s Robbery Detail at 981-5742.

Massive Manhunt Closes Highway 13

By Richard Brenneman
Friday May 23, 2008 - 02:16:00 PM

A massive manhunt in the Berkeley hills Friday afternoon closed Highway 13 along Tunnel Road as officers searched for two men who carjacked a San Ramon man in Oakland. 

The case began in Oakland Friday morning, when the San Ramon man was accosted by a pair of gunman, then forced to take them to his home, where the bandits fled in his car after robbing him. 

Berkeley Police Officer Andrew Frankel said California Highway Patrol officers spotted the car as it headed back toward Oakland on Highway 24 and started in pursuit. The car chase ended with a wreck near the Highway 13 exit to Berkeley, and the two gunmen fled on foot up Tunnel Road. 

“We received word from Berkeley citizens that two suspects were attempting to get into a residence,” said Officer Frankel. Those calls, which came in about 12:30 p.m., sent Berkeley officers to the area, located near the intersection of Tunnel Road and The Uplands. 

About the same time as the Berkeley residents called, Berkeley Police received word of the pursuit, ”and we realized that these were probably the two outstanding suspects,” Frankel said. 

Within moments, a CHP airplane and an Oakland Police helicopter were hovering over the scene, as officers from Berkeley and several other jurisdictions flooded the area. 

“Now it’s a joint operation with Berkeley Police, the CHP, the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s, the San Ramon Police Department and Oakland Police,” Frankel said. 

After checking the site of the original call and finding no sign of the two men, officers began an area search. 

“There’s no indication of a hostage situation,” said the Berkeley police spokesperson. 

One resident said police told her “that there was a kidnapping with somebody shot, and two men are on the run in the hills armed with shotguns.” 

No independent confirmation of a shooting was available, and the San Ramon Police spokesperson was unavailable at the time of this posting. 

The manhunt triggered a traffic jam on Tunnel Road, with traffic closed by a police roadblock at Claremont Avenue, and it left Berkeley streets short of officers, with one report that only two units were available for other service soon after the search began.  

Oakland police spokesman Roland Holmgren said a housekeeper at a house on the 100 block of Tunnel Road called police and said the suspects tried to get inside, but were unable to and fled the area.  

The housekeeper told police there were three or four suspects and it appeared they were armed, Holmgren said. No one on Tunnel Road was hurt, according to Holmgren.  

He said it would be easy to escape in the area of Tunnel Road because it is hilly with thick vegetation and is relatively uncrowded. 


Bay City News contributed to this report.  

Big BANG Labor Boom: Union Vote Set for Bay Area Papers

By Richard Brenneman
Friday May 23, 2008 - 05:07:00 PM

Media mogul Dean Singleton’s union-busting moves at his Bay Area newspapers have hit a major roadblock—a regional unionization vote scheduled for next month. 

And with two-thirds of potential members signing cards declaring their intent to go union, “we have a clear majority,” said Carl Hall, the San Francisco Chronicle science reporter who has taken leave from his job to head the campaign for the Media Workers Guild. 

The June 13 vote will come 11 months after MediaNews Group [http://www.medianewsgroup.com/] withdrew recognition from union contracts at the Oakland Tribune, and four other East Bay newspapers. 

Guild organizers and potential members will gather at Live Oak Park in Berkeley May 31 for a barbecue and to rally in support of the campaign in the run-up to the election. 

Singleton, a Texas-born journalist turned media magnate, has cornered the market in suburban papers in the state’s two major media markets, the Bay Area News Group in the north and the Los Angeles News Group to the south—BANG and LANG. 

Holdings of Singleton’s MediaNews Group reach across the country, stretching from Vermont to California, with his newspapers claiming a combined daily circulation of 2.6 million, with 2.9 million for Sundays. 

His Bay Area papers include the Alameda Times-Star, Fremont Argus, Hayward Daily Review, the Contra Costa Times, the Marin Independent Journal, the Milpitas Post, the Oakland Tribune, the San Jose Mercury News, the Vallejo Times-Herald and the Pleasanton Tri-Valley Herald. 

Singleton acquired his Bay Area holdings from different owners, starting in 1986, with the purchase of the chain that owned the Hayward, Fremont and Pleasanton papers.  

He bought the Oakland Tribune in 1992, and he bought his largest local papers—the Contra Costa Times and San Jose Mercury News—on Aug. 2, 2006 from Sacramento-based McClatchy Co., which had needed to sell them off to cover the cost of other papers it had purchased when buying out the assets of the previous owner, Knight-Ridder. 

His latest regional acquisition was the Santa Cruz Sentinel on Feb. 2, 2007. Five months later, the Sentinel’s editorial offices left Santa Cruz for Scotts Valley, the end of a 150-year presence in the city center. Three months later the company closed its Santa Cruz pressroom and began printing at the Mercury-News. 

A similar move on May 20, 2007, took the Oakland Tribune newsroom from its landmark downtown tower to Airport Corporate Center on Oakport Street near the sports edifice formerly known as the Oakland Coliseum.  

MediaNews runs BANG, LANG and its other California companies as a division called the California Newspaper Partnership. Former Knight-Ridder executive Steven Rossi was name group CEO earlier this year. Rossi had been president of Knight-Ridder’s newspaper division prior to the company’s sale.  

Unlike most media conglomerates, MediaNews isn’t a publicly traded company, and on April 9 corporate Chief Financial Officer Ronald A. Mayo filed notice with the Securities and Exchange Commission that the company would no longer make public financial filings with the agency. 

Singleton has acquired the reputation of being a ruthless manager, and he pink-slipped workers at his earlier regional buys, rehiring some of the workers but invariably reducing his workforce in the process and eliminating seniority. 

According to the Sacramento Business Journal, MediaNews outsourced customer service operations to Philippine call centers earlier this month for the Oakland Tribune, San Jose Mercury News and Contra Costa Times. 

The Contra Costa Times, unlike the Mercury-News, wasn’t a union shop, and on July 26, 2007, the newly purchased papers were combined with Singleton’s other holdings to form BANG-EB (for East Bay). 

The five Alameda County papers had all been part of the ANG papers, and workers were covered under a union contract. But with the addition of the Contra Costa Times and its affiliated papers, suddenly the new group had a non-union workforce majority. 

“He didn’t include the Mercury News, which has a union contract and would have given the group a union majority,” Hall said. 

The other shoe dropped three weeks later, when, on Aug. 13, MediaNews Group announced it was withdrawing recognition of the Northern California Media Workers Guild [http://mediaworkers.org/] at the five BANG-EB papers where it had contracts: the Tribune, the Argus, the Daily Review, the San Mateo County Times and the Tri-Valley Herald. 

That same week, the union filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, charging that the withdrawal of recognition violated federal labor law, and one week after the withdrawal, the national union announced it was funding an organizing campaign targeting all the BANG-EB papers. They call it One Big BANG. [see http://onebigbang.org/] 

The national Media Workers Guild is bankrolling the campaign with $500,000, which Hall is coordinating with the help of two paid staffers and three organizers who report for Singleton’s East Bay papers.  

Together with the Contra Costa Times, the BANG-EB group has a combined circulation of 334,274 on weekdays and 349,758 on Sunday, according to the MediaNews web site, which uses figures as of March 31, 2007. 

Adding in the Mercury-News, Independent Journal, Vallejo Times-Herald and Santa Cruz Sentinel, the combined circulations of Singleton’s Bay Area papers total 647,761 on weekdays and 678,948 on weekends. 

Declining circulation figures have devastated Bay Area newsrooms, and news holes—the amount of print space devoted to stories and photo coverage of events—have steadily dwindled as readers turn away from print in the hand to pixels on the screen. 

Incumbents Lead Fund-Raising in Oakland Council Races

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Friday May 23, 2008 - 05:07:00 PM

In the tightly contested June 3 races for the Oakland City Council, incumbent councilmembers are predictably winning the important fund-raising battles, with 5th District Councilmember and Council President Ignacio De La Fuente leading the way.  

De La Fuente raised $66,380 in the two months March 18 and May 17, the most recent campaign finance reporting period, and has raised $147,480 in campaign contributions since the first of the year. 

By contrast, the council president’s main District 5 opponent, realtor Mario Juarez, raised $32,569 in the last two months and $50,401 since the beginning of the year. Juarez’ fund-raising totals would put him near or at the top in campaign contributions in any of the other four contested Oakland City Council races this year, including the At-Large position, but places him a distant second to the powerful incumbent. 

De La Fuente’s two other challengers, former Councilmember Wilson Riles’ staff member David Wofford, and small business owner Beverly Blythe, did not report contributions, and are not expected to be competitive in the race. 

In Oakland’s third district, longtime incumbent Nancy Nadel was also ahead of her challengers in fund-raising, reporting $46,124 raised in the last two months, $65,780 since the beginning of the year. Covenant House Development Director and political newcomer Sean Sullivan is second in fund-raising with $29,180 in contributions in the last two months, $48,073 since the beginning of the year.  

District 3 Oakland School Board Member Greg Hodge, who was expected to provide the stiffest challenge to Nadel in the June 3 election, is trailing badly in fund-raising, reporting $5,932 in contributions in the last two months, $7,232 since the beginning of the year. 

The results were similar in the council District 7, where incumbent Councilmember Larry Reid started fund-raising late, but quickly took the lead. Reid raised $34,509 in the last two months after raising less than $1,000 between January and mid-March. His opponent, East Oakland neighborhood activist Clifford Gilmore, raised $8,960 in the last two months, $13,145 since the beginning of the year. 

In District 1, incumbent Jane Brunner reported $42,535 in contributions in the last two months, and $7,000 more in the first two and a half months of the year. North Oakland neighborhood activist Patrick McCullough, her opponent, has not yet filed a campaign finance report for the current period. 

With at-large council incumbent Henry Chang choosing not to run for re-election, incumbents from two other East Bay political seats are running close together in fund-raising in the five-way race to succeed him. AC Transit At-Large Director Rebecca Kaplan raised $40,460 in the last two months, $61,182 since the first of the year. District One Oakland School Board Member Kerry Hamill raised slightly more than Kaplan in the last two months, $40,711, and $48,708 total since the beginning of the year. 

Former AC Transit Director and Oakland Planning Commission member Clinton Killian reported $24,708 in contributions in the last two months, $33,189 since the beginning of the year. Oakland Residents for Peaceful Neighborhoods co-founder Charles Pine reported $4,569 received in the last two months, $8,304 since the first of the year. Senior citizen activist and former Community Police Advisory Board member and retired U.S. postal worker Frank Rose has not yet turned in a campaign finance report for this period. 

Riders Speak Out Against Possible AC Transit Fare Hike

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Friday May 23, 2008 - 05:04:00 PM

AC Transit bus district directors took their first steps this week towards a possible fare increase this fall, holding a public hearing on the issue Wednesday at Oakland City Hall. 

The City Council Chambers were packed with bus riders for the three-hour hearing and, predictably, most spoke out either against any fare increase at all or against fare increases for the riders who might be most adversely affected—the elderly, the disabled, and the youth.  

AC Transit officials say the fare hikes are needed because of rising employee health care and fuel costs, among other expenses. 

Typical of the two-minute statements from more than 50 citizens was one from Eugene Johnson, a retired Oakland homeowner, who said that “AC Transit is becoming more user unfriendly. The rates go up and the service goes down.”  

Complaining that AC Transit had earlier dropped a half-hour off the time in which a bus transfer can be used, Johnson said that the proposed fare increases would cause people to stop taking the bus, adding that “decreasing ridership is no solution.” 

Several citizens accused AC Transit of “mismanagement” in the handling of its finances—citing recent newspaper articles, for example, about the district’s controversial purchase contracts with Van Hool bus manufacturers of Belgium—and said that the district should clean up its finances before asking the public for more money. 

After the citizen testimony, what they said brought a response from Ward 1 Director Joe Wallace of Richmond, who said that he was disappointed to hear the district accused of mishandling its money, saying that “people who accuse us of mismanagement must realize we’re struggling, too. They’re accusing us of mismanagement, but the buses are showing up every day.” 

But for the most part, board members listened quietly to the testimony and made no comment. The board is not scheduled to take any action on a possible fare increase until its June 11 regular meeting, and Board President Chris Peeples said that decision may be pushed back to the June 25 meeting. 

The hearing took only one unexpected turn when, an hour and a half into the public testimony, with citizens still lining up to the microphone to speak, board members took a 30-minute meal break. When one woman complained that she had been at City Hall since 4 p.m., waiting to speak, and “it doesn’t seem fair” for directors to make her wait while they ate, Peeples told her that “if we keep going like this, we’ll never get the chance to take a break, and that’s not an efficient way to listen.” 

The hearing adjourned at 5:50 p.m. and reconvened at 6:20 p.m. 

AC Transit is considering four separate fare increase proposals, with directors having the option of accepting none of them, accepting one, or mixing elements between some of the proposals.  

All four proposals would raise adult fares 25 cents from $1.75 to $2 and youth and senior/disabled fares 15 cents from 85 cents to $1 and adult monthly passes from $70 to $80.  

Proposal one, recommended by staff, also raises youth and senior/disabled passes. Proposal two raises youth and senior/disabled passes by a lesser amount, while proposals three and four would keep those passes at their current rates. Proposal three would provide free transfers, while proposal four would keep the current 25 cent charge for transfers. 

The difference in the yearly amounts projected to be raised from the four proposals are significant, ranging from $9.3 million for proposal one to $6.5 million for proposal two, $4.5 million for proposal three, and $3.9 million for proposal four. 



Berkeley High Students Take Stand Against Immigration Raids

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday May 23, 2008 - 05:02:00 PM

What seemed like typical lunch-time ruckus to visitors at Berkeley High School Thursday was in fact an act of solidarity with immigrants across the nation. 

More than 3000 Berkeley High students trooped out of their classrooms at a prompt from their principal Jim Slemp and surrounded the 17-acre Milvia Street campus to protest the recent arrest of a Berkeley family by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. 

In less than 10 minutes, members of Fighting for Immigrants Rights and Equality (FIRE)—a group formed by Berkeley High staff and students—helped students form a human chain, dotted with posters and placards decrying what they said were violations to immigration rights. 

The May 6 arrest of a Latino family who lived near the Berkeley High campus sparked protest among local immigrant groups and advocates and prompted the Berkeley Unified School District to send out a telephone message advising parents not to panic after rumors started circulating that ICE agents were rounding up students in Berkeley and Oakland schools.  

“If you had seen our children’s faces when ICE officers took the family in Berkeley you could see the kids really cared,” said Slemp. “People were fearful. It’s important that we treat people equally and make Berkeley High a safe place for everyone. This is a statement about who we are. Kids could have gone out to lunch if they wanted to but they chose to stay back for this.” 

Berkeley High sophomore Giovanni Guzman waved a red and blue “Fire Melts Ice” poster next to a 6-feet-long “Power to the People” banner. 

“I am here trying to show where we stand,” said Guzman, who was born in Mexico. “Many of my family members are undocumented and I was afraid for them when ICE was in the city.” 

“Immigrants Are People,” chanted the crowd, as cars and buses stopped for a second to honk and absorb all the action. 

Beatrice Leyva Cutler of United in Action cheered the students on. 

“This really shows the unity we have in Berkeley,” Cutler, the mother of a Berkeley High sophomore said. “It shows the support of the school for immigrants. The voice of students and teachers is extremely powerful for our community.” 

Although ICE agents did not enter any school campuses in Berkeley, the Berkeley Board of Education is drafting a policy which limits access to the district’s schools from outside agencies, including Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) officials. 

The district currently has no policy outlining whether or not it should cooperate with ICE agents. 

“While we are not asking our employees and students to break the law, we will not volunteer or cooperate with immigration officials,” said board member Karen Hemphill. “We have a legal responsibility to educate all Berkeley residents, regardless of their citizenship status or national origin, and we cannot do it unless our schools provide a safe and secure environment. We want to make it clear to immigrant families that they and their children are safe on our campuses. We also want them to know that we will not share student information with the INS.” 

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1982 in Plyler v. Doe that public schools were prohibited from denying immigrant students access to elementary and secondary public education. 

“The reaction within the community [regarding the arrests] was fear and anxiety and part of [ICE’s] intent was intimidation,” said school board president John Selawsky. “Our kids have to be comfortable coming to school everyday. We don’t want them to be afraid of outside agencies and worry about being questioned and detained and taken away in vans.” 

Hemphill said the district’s new policy will be modeled on the City of Berkeley’s 1971 resolution, which declares Berkeley as a “City of Refuge” and directs the Berkeley Police Department not to participate or collaborate with ICE. 

Hemphill said the panic around the May 6 incident had prompted board members to establish a new policy. 

“Even though ICE agents did not set foot on any school campus, they can do so with permission from higher authorities,” Hemphill said. “That’s not a warm and fuzzy feeling for me.” 

The district is researching several school district policies opposing ICE raids, including the one adopted by the San Francisco Unified School District in 2007, which was drafted after reports of ICE raids caused immigrant families to stop sending their children to school , afraid for them to leave their homes. 


UC System Workers Vote to Strike

By Bay City News
Friday May 23, 2008 - 04:40:00 PM

Thousands of patient care and service workers for the University of California system announced today (Friday) they plan to strike as soon as June 2 because they feel their wages just don’t cut it.  

Workers who perform tasks such as driving buses, cleaning medical instruments, and serving dorm food, voted between Saturday and Thursday this week on whether to strike.  

UCLA nurse Lakesha Harrison said she could not confirm how many of the 20,000 employees voted, but among those who did, 96.6 percent of patient care workers voted yes to a strike and same with 97.5 percent of service workers.  

Harrison said the UC hospitals made $371 million in profits last year but workers have not seen the perks.  

She said workers at other hospitals, such as Kaiser Permanente, make an average of 25 percent more in wages than campus workers.  

However UC Office of the President spokeswoman Nicole Savickas said she was not sure how they came up with that percentage and that the UC proposed market-competitive rates to the patient care workers Thursday night, which would range from a 4 to 15 percent wage increase depending on the job.  

The patient care workers did not present a counter offer, Savickas said. “We don’t believe anything is going to be accomplished by a strike,’’ she said. “In order to reach agreement we’re going to have to continue to sit down together.’’  

Harrison said the proposals were not enough to compete with peers that work out of the UC system.  

“We didn’t get into our professions to become rich,’’ she said. “What we want is from the universities is to bring our workers out of poverty.’’  

UC San Diego service worker Angela Velazquez said she had to get a second job to support her four children because without it, her income is about $1,800 a month.  

Velazquez said she misses her children and wants to be able to provide for her family with one job.  

“I know what I do is not glamorous but I feel proud to work at a UC and provide services for the students,’’ she said. “It is not fair that people doing the same jobs are making more.’’  

The UC system also proposed an increase in wages for service workers Thursday night, but Savickas said since their wages were state funded and there is a shortfall, the UC system could not offer market-competitive wages. She said they offered about $6 million in wage increases and a step-based salary structure.  

But again, no counteroffer was made and Harrison said the strike could begin as early as 10 days and last at least 24 hours.

Downtown Plan Hits Rough Waters in Planning Commission Discussions

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday May 22, 2008 - 04:27:00 PM

The curtain went up on the Downtown Area Plan’s second act Wednesday night, with a sharply divided Planning Commission headed for a rewrite. 

Planning Commissioner Dan Marks stood center stage, with the author of his department’s staff rewrite taking notes and offering the occasional comment. 

Commissioners have until early January to prepare their own recommendations, said Principal Planner Matt Taecker, who was hired to guide the planning process. 

Sitting on the commission Wednesday night were five members of the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee (DAPAC), which was appointed by the City Council to draft a plan for an expanded downtown area that will house a projected 800,000 square feet of off-campus construction by UC Berkeley. 

After the initial formalities, the meeting opened with a comment by former DAPAC Chair Will Travis endorsing Taecker’s proposed rewrite. “I support both the substance and the approach of the staff recommendations,” he said. 

While Travis was outvoted by his fellow DAPAC members on key votes in the committee, his critique of the plan seems destined to find friendlier ears on the commission, which is chaired by another member of the DAPAC minority, architect James Samuels. 

Samuels and colleagues Harry Pollack, David Stoloff, Susan Wengraf and Victoria Eisen—filling in for an absent Helen Burke—all expressed support for the staff’s approach, Gene Poschman and Patti Dacey were strongly critical, while Roia Ferrazares was more moderate in her critique. The latter three members plus Eisen all served on DAPAC as well. 

While another DAPAC member—Housing Advisory Commission Chair Jesse Arreguin—challenged the staff’s ability to rewrite the plan under the council’s directive to the committee, Marks said the changes fell within the Planning and Development Department’s mandated functions. 

“These are very substantial changes and they change the intent of what DAPAC had adopted,” Arreguin said. “It’s important to maintain that intent, and to try to maintain the consensus.” 

“The details are very important,” said John English, who said “some of the wordsmithing was very good, but some of it is problematic.”  

English, a retired planner, had worked closely with the joint subcommittee formed of DAPAC and Landmarks Preservation Commission members which hammered out the chapter on historic preservation and urban design. 

“I am really disturbed about some of the perceived conflicts between the two chapters” on preservation, said Wendy Alfsen, a DAPAC member who helped draft the committee’s preservation chapter. 

Marks told commissioners that staff wanted their comments without any formal action so his department could prepare revised drafts that would come back to commissioners in the fall. 

He said the revisions presented by staff to the commission “tried to maintain the integrity of what DAPAC intended.” But the commission is obligated by city statute to take its own recommendations to the City Council, which must adopt a plan by May that meets with the university’s requirements. 

The plan was part of the settlement of a lawsuit filed by the city challenging the university’s Long Range Development Plan 2020. The city contended the university failed to adequately consider impacts of its planned projects on the city, and the settlement spelled out mitigation payments for some of these impacts and mandated that a new plan be created for adoption by May 2009. 

Marks said DAPAC’s creation will be before the City Council along with the Planning Commission’s recommended version and the staff’s rewrite—which he said was needed because the DAPAC plan was inconsistent in places and didn’t include needed measures to implement its policies. 

“I find myself in a classic double-bind,” said Poschman, who said that while he didn’t think the staff’s revisionary efforts were legitimate and he felt inclined to walk out on the process, “I will participate in an effort to make it as good as I can.” 

It was Dacey who dropped the R-word. 

Should the revisions compromise DAPAC’s intent, she said, then citizens will take the DAPAC plan to the voters in a referendum—increasingly a tool of last resort for critics of local government. 

A referendum on another measure is scheduled for the November general election, when Berkeley voters will decide if they want the city to continue using the existing Landmarks Preservation Ordinance and to reject a substitute [or passed by the City Council. Other Berkeley advocates have promised a November ballot measure that would challenge AC Transit’s plans to eliminate some traffic lanes on Telegraph Avenue to make way for a Bus Rapid Transit lane that Avenue merchants and neighbors fear will result in lost business and congested residential streets. 

While commissioners had been slated to work their way through two chapters of the staff's Downtown Plan draft, by the end of the meeting they’d only made their way halfway through one, the economic development section. 

And it was clear at the end of the day that the process would be neither quick nor painless. 

For more on the DAPAC plan, see www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=832 

Hancock Leads Chan in Large Contributions

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday May 22, 2008 - 09:31:00 AM

With 14th District Assembly-member Loni Hancock pulling away in last-minute large campaign contributors over her rival for the Democratic nomination for the State Senate District 9 seat, former 16th District Assem-blymember Wilma Chan, and a controversy brewing over an anti-Hancock campaign mailer sent out by urban casino interests, the two campaigns traded charges last week over hypocrisy in their fund-raising strategies.  

The main controversy was over more than $40,000 in contributions being funneled to the Hancock campaign through the California Democratic Party. 

In the campaign fund-raising race, key to getting out last-minute literature and funding election day get-out-the-vote activities, the Daily Planet reported three weeks ago that Hancock and Chan were virtually dead even in large campaign contributions in the two and a half months since March 15, with Hancock pulling in $60,050 in large contributions in the that period to $50,340 for Chan. 

Since then, Hancock’s large donor fund-raising efforts have been blowing Chan out of the water, with Hancock raising $133,270 to Chan’s $26,400. And the gap is rising, with Hancock outraising Chan $41,770 to $6,000 in large donations in the last week alone. 

The figures come from a Daily Planet analysis of large contributions in the Senate 9 races posted daily on the California Secretary of State’s website. The postings show contributions of $1,000 or more since that time, and the totals do not reflect the total amount of contributions made to each campaign. Complete donation reports including all contributions and cash on hand are due in the secretary of state’s office this week. 

Leaving out donations coming to Hancock directly from the California Democratic Party, which has endorsed her, top contributions for Hancock during the last three weeks include $7,200 apiece from the California Federation of Teachers COPE and the California Teachers Association for Better Citizenship, $6,200 from the State Building & Construction Trades Council of California PAC, and $3,600 from the California Applicants’ Attorney Association Small Contribution Committee, CBS Outdoor, Vik’s (East Indian Market) Distributors of Berkeley, and the Professional Engineers in California Government PAC. 

Chan received $3,600 apiece from the Asian Americans for Good Government PAC, the Cooperative of American Physicians State PAC, SEIU Local 1000 PAC, and the Carol Liu for Senate Committee of Pasadena. 

But donations through the California Democratic Party alone have been one of the keys in Hancock’s recent fund-raising domination in the Senate 9 race. 

As a result of her endorsement by the party organization, Hancock has received $41,670 in the last three weeks in large donations through the state party, $15,270 more than Chan’s entire large contribution total for the same period. 

And that has caused the Chan campaign to cry foul. 

In a telephone interview, Chan campaign spokesperson Dave Chilenski said that the Democratic Party contributions to the Hancock campaign are a “loophole” that allows Hancock to circumvent state campaign finance law and hide the names of donors to her campaign, as well as allowing individual donors to make donations to Hancock’s campaign larger than the $3,600 limit. 

“We asked Loni Hancock to pledge to reject any money that came through this loophole,” Chilenski said. “But she wouldn’t take the pledge.” 

In a letter sent to her Senate campaign rival last February, Chan cited specific concerns about the California Democratic Party contributions, saying that “there is no way to determine which donations to the Democratic Party were used to directly benefit a particular candidate...Therefore, a party endorsement provides the opportunity for the most blatant form of a dirty money loophole and insider money games.” 

The accompanying “Clean Money Pledge,” signed by Chan, says that she will “direct my supporters and campaign staff to honor this pledge and I will not accept contributions of cash or in-kind services via this loophole.” 

In response, Hancock campaign manager Terry Waller called the issue “absolute bullshit” and said the pledge was “cheap publicity.”  

“Anyone can come up with their own pledge,” Waller said. “[Chan] knew she wasn’t going to get the Democratic Party endorsement, so she made up a pledge out of whole cloth.” 

In addition, Waller accused Chan of “hypocracy” in her stand on clean campaign finance. 

“Loni has agreed to the legitimate state pledge to stay within the $724,000 campaign spending limit,” Waller said. “Chan first agreed to accept that pledge, but when she refiled in February, she withdrew her commitment to the spending limit. That’s circumventing the desires of the citizens of California to limit the amount of money spent on political campaigns.” 

Waller also accused the Chan campaign of accepting “huge sums of money” from independent expenditure committees, which allow campaigns to hide the true source and amount of individual contributions, which Waller said was the same complaint Chan was making about the Democratic Party contributions to Hancock. 

Waller said that in recent weeks, the Chan campaign has sent out “at least five expensive mailers” paid for by the Partners for Wilma Chan independent campaign committee, or paid for in large part by the California Medical Association Small Contribution Committee. She said that there is no way to identify the individual donations to these groups that eventually went to benefit the Chan campaign. “If [Chan] was concerned about hidden campaign contributions, she’d stop these independent expenditures,” she said. 

Waller added that Hancock’s goal is to get private money out of California political campaigns completely, “and that’s why Loni continues to be in the forefront in calling for public financing of campaigns.” 

Jump in Willard Suspensions, State Questions Discipline Data

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday May 22, 2008 - 09:35:00 AM

According to recent published reports about violence and suspension rates in California public schools, Berkeley’s Willard Middle School reported one of the highest violent-suspension rates in the Bay Area last year. 

Although officials from the California Department of Edu-cation did not dispute the data published in the San Francisco Chronicle this week, they told the Planet the data was based on faulty methodology and unverified data due to a lack of funds. 

Every public school in Califor-nia is required to report student expulsion, suspension and truancy information to the state education department in June to satisfy No Child Left Behind (NCLB) re-quirements. 

“But we know this data is incorrect,” said state education department information officer Tina Jung. “We need better data but that requires adequate funding. We know schools are required to report to the state the raw data, but there are often data entry errors that leads to discrepancy. To go back and check up on this data costs millions of dollars. The state and federal government don’t give us any funds to enforce it.” 

Stephanie Papas of the state’s Safe & Healthy Kids program, which is responsible for violence prevention funds, said suspension data are self-reported. 

“We post the data we receive from the schools on our website,” Papas said. “We have never analyzed the correlation.” 


Spike in suspensions at Willard 

Information from the state department website shows Willard Middle School reported 140 suspensions for violence and drugs in 2005, which dropped to 65 in 2006 and then went up to 256 in 2007, an increase of almost four-fold. 

Jung said it was important to remember that these numbers showed suspensions, not students, and that a single student could have been suspended multiple times. Papas said there were a number of logical explanations behind the spike in suspensions. “Maybe in 2006 they had an administrator who believed in rigorous suspensions,” she said. 

Berkeley Unified Director of Student Services Felton Owens attributed the spike in the number of suspensions at Willard to a shift in the school’s administration. 

The school’s Vice Principal Thomas Orput was reassigned to the Berkeley Adult School in 2006 and replaced by Margaret Lowry. 

“There was a shift in discipline as a result of a shift in the administrator in charge of discipline,” Owens said. “Suspensions are subjective to who is handling them...We received a number of concerns about Willard in particular, but we haven’t had a chance to analyze it yet.” 

The Planet reported in February that the Berkeley Board of Education was investigating Willard Vice Principal Margaret Lowry for improper conduct involving two students. Since those allegations appeared, additional complaints surfaced alleging Lowry had 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. 

Some parents complained that Lowry had suspended their children multiple times and that the district’s complaint process had left families frustrated by the lack of response, follow-up or resolution to their concerns. Lowry, removed from Willard in March and reassigned to a district administrative post, resigned from Berkeley Unified later that month. 

Orput was reassigned to Willard to take over her position in March. 

“Now that Tom is back, hopefully the number of suspensions will go down as well,” Owens said. 

Calls to Willard principal Robert Ithuburn were not returned. 

School Board President John Selawsky told the Planet he had asked the district for an explanation about the spike in suspensions at Willard last year. 

“We will have some explanation on the increase at the next board meeting on May 28,” Selawsky said. “It could be different staff, different student population. Suspensions are not necessarily a bad thing. It sets the bar higher.”  

Berkeley Unified Administrative Coordinator for Student Services Cathi Hackbarth told the Planet discrepancies in reporting the data was one of the reasons behind faulty data. 

“Sometimes the schools themselves may not forward the suspension form, which includes the education code violations, the suspension occurrence date and time, to the office,” she said. “We work with the coordinator of the school-wide computer system to get it reconciled. We are hoping to have it reconciled before the next school year, but that is not in the horizon right now.” 

The Planet has requested a copy of the district’s suspension data by school site which the Office of Student Services sent to the state education department last year. 

School board member Karen Hemp-hill said a compliance agreement from a class action lawsuit against the district mandates that the district track suspensions by race. 

“We do get a report every quarter on suspensions broken down by ethnicity and gender, which makes me believe maybe we are monitoring things more closely,” Hemphill said. “The report I saw in January shows suspension rates for African Americans were off the charts compared to other students.” 

Hemphill said the goal was to create consistency among schools for conflict resolution. 

“We need to do more outreach to families,” she said. “Staff need to know what the law is and be aware of due process.” 

Berkeley Unified expulsion and suspension information for 2006-2007 is available on the California Department of Education website. The data is reported to the state department by each school and district. 


Clarification from the California Department of Education 

Thursday May 29, 2008 

The California Department of Education (CDE) has retracted its statement that state school suspension data, which revealed that Berkeley’s Willard Middle School had one of the highest violent-suspension rates in the Bay Area last year, was inaccurate. In an article in the May 22 Planet, CDE information officer Tina Jung told the Planet the suspension data published in the San Francisco Chronicle on May 19 was “incorrect.” Jung said in an e-mail, “We should not have attested that the data used by the [Chronicle] reporter was inaccurate, only that CDE cannot verify its accuracy.”  



Berkeley Teen Arrested in Durant Avenue Murder Case

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday May 22, 2008 - 09:36:00 AM

Berkeley resident Nathaniel Freeman, 19, was arraigned last week for the murder of Oakland Parks and Recreation employee Maceo Smith, who was shot to death in broad daylight one block south of the UC Berkeley campus earlier that week. 

Freeman, who turned himself in to police, was charged with one count of murder and assault with a deadly weapon in the attack which left Smith dead and wounded another man who was later identified as Marcus Mosley. 

Tensions ran high at the May 16 court session. Smith’s father thought Alameda County Sheriff’s deputies in the courtroom of Judge Beverly Daniels-Greenberg were being disrespectful to people who were sitting in the courtroom and asked to talk to a supervisor.  

Moments later prosecutor Mark McCannon talked to Smith’s father and a group of Smith’s relatives and friends in an effort to calm them down, telling them that court officials didn’t want to kick them out of court, but that they had to refrain from being disruptive. 

Right before McCannon met with the group, a couple of Smith’s friends approached two reporters in the hallway outside the courtroom and told them they were displeased with the way Smith’s death had been reported.  

They asked the reporters to leave the courthouse. The two men didn’t elaborate on what their objections were to the news coverage. 

Daniels-Greenberg ordered that Freeman be held without bail, and added that he (Freeman) should not contact Mosley, either directly or indirectly through third parties or through phone calls, e-mails or text messages.  

Several of Smith’s family members cried when the judge read out Freeman’s charges, alleging he had murdered Smith. Freeman is scheduled to return to court on May 30 to finalize his legal representation and possibly enter a plea.  

According to police reports, Smith and Mosley were arguing with Freeman around 3:49 p.m. on May 13 about a previous encounter.  

“From what we have been able to piece together, the second victim (Mosley) was in the area of Durant and Telegraph alone when he spotted Freeman and recognized him from a prior recent encounter,” said Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, Berkeley police spokesperson. 

“He followed Freeman and according to witnesses, the second victim started what is often termed on the street as ‘chipping at him,’” Kusmiss said. “The two of them walked east of Telegraph up on Durant arguing, and the second victim (Mosley) called Smith and asked him to join him on Durant.” 

After Smith arrived, the three of them continued to argue for about 20 minutes, Kusmiss said, and then continued eastbound on Durant to the area near the old Pacific Film Archive. 

Freeman changed his direction and walked westbound, with the two older men following him while they continued to argue. 

“The three crossed Durant at Bowditch Street and on the Southwest corner of Bowditch and Durant, Freeman pulled out a semi-automatic pistol and fired at the two men, striking both multiple times,” Kusmiss said. 

The two victims fled westbound to the Douglas parking lot, where Smith collapsed and Mosley took off in his silver Cadillac. 

Mosley drove himself to Highland Hospital where he was treated for non-life-threatening gunshot wounds to his shoulder and arm and released later that evening. 

Smith, shot in the throat a couple of times, was pronounced dead at the scene when Berkeley paramedics arrived. 

The search for Freeman took nearly 24 hours, including a search of Freeman’s home, interviews, lineups with witnesses and multiple surveillance of several Berkeley and Oakland locations, according to police.  

Kusmiss said Freeman was aware Berkeley police were searching for him. 

“During the overnight hours after the murder, detectives learned he was the shooter in the crime,” Kusmiss said. “He was positively identified by a number of eyewitnesses, and detectives were able to develop probable cause to secure a warrant to search his house for any evidence of the crime. Detectives met with several family members at his house who had been communicating with Freeman. That likely was the catalyst for him coming to us.” 

At 4 p.m. on May 14, Freeman turned himself in to Berkeley Police Department homicide detectives at the Ron Tsukamoto Public Safety Building. He was accompanied by an attorney and declined to be interviewed regarding the crime.  

Kusmiss said, “We wish to stress how grateful we are to the community members that cooperated with the scary and challenging investigation by providing witness statements, viewed line-ups...without them, this swift arrest may not have been possible.”  

Smith’s body lay at the Douglas parking lot for almost three hours after he collapsed there Tuesday, police said, since the Alameda County Coroner’s office was unable to show up at the scene earlier. 

His family—most of whom live in Berkeley, Richmond and Oakland—were alerted about the shooting by the second victim when he was driving to Highland Hospital, Kusmiss said. 

“We recognize it was a very very devastating experience for the family to be held at bay and endure those hours while officers were investigating the incident,” she said. “But it’s important to remember our goal is to catch the killer.” 

Kusmiss said both Freeman and Smith have a criminal history and were arrested by Berkeley police in the past for a number of offenses. 

Court records indicate Smith was arrested on gun and drug charges, but was never convicted of a felony.  

District Superintendent Bill Huyett expressed shock at the incident at the Berkeley school board meeting last week. Smith, a Berkeley High alumnus, was the parent of three children in the public schools, one in middle school and two in elementary school.  

“One of our parents was shot and murdered yesterday,” Huyett said. “His children are at Willard and Emerson schools. I have spoken to the principals and my condolences are with the family.”  

Berkeley’s mental health department offered counseling services to students and staff at Willard, where three of Smith’s family members either work or are enrolled.  

Another Berkeley resident, who did not want to be identified, told the Planet that he played basketball frequently with Smith at the Downtown YMCA for the past four years.  

“[Smith was] a big-hearted guy who was always the first to help up a fallen teammate. He was a regular at our pick- up games,” he said. “He cared a lot about his children. You could just tell the way he spoke about them and behaved with them. I remember he had a great smile. 

The young man said inside Smith’s tough exterior lay a gentleman.  

“When you knew him, he was very kind,” he said. “Basketball is a very physical game and he was quick to include children in his games. He was strong without being rough... He was one of us at the Y.” 


Bay City News contributed to this report.

Casino Tribes Target Hancock in Mailer

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday May 22, 2008 - 09:37:00 AM

A political hit piece targeting state Senate hopeful Loni Hancock, ostensibly from a band of educators, was bankrolled by casino-owning bands of Native Americans attacking an outspoken foe of Bay Area tribal casinos. 

The bill it attacks her for sponsoring was also supported by her chief rival for the nomination, Wilma Chan, who has denounced the mailer.  

“Loni Hancock Is Lowering Expectations” declares the headline in the four-page mailer from the “Education Leaders for High Standards Independent Expendi-ture Committee,” which targets the lawmaker for spearheading “legislation to weaken academic standards in public schools.” But the law in question, Assembly Bill 2975, was passed in 2006 with Chan’s support. 

That measure, which was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwar-zenegger, would have changed state student English and math proficiency standards required under the controversial federal No Child Left Behind Act. Hancock sponsored the bill, which was supported by the California Teachers Association and the California School Boards Association but opposed by the state Chamber of Commerce. 

Hancock had called the existing standards unrealistic, faulting them for penalizing schools that steadily improve scores but fail to meet the requirements. 

Flanked by Oakland City Councilmembers Jean Quan and Jane Brunner, Contra Costa County Superintendent John Goia, and representatives of the Sierra Club and the East Bay Coalition Against Urban Casinos, Hancock held an Oakland City Hall Plaza press conference Tues-day to denounce both the urban casino interests and the attacks against her. 

Hancock said that “the hit piece was put out by a committee formed in the dead of night and paid for by Indian gaming interests” because she has been an “outstanding opponent of urban casinos in the East Bay, most particularly against putting a massive, Las Vegas-style casino in Richmond.”  

A representative of the campaign of Wilma Chan, the former District 16 Assemblymember who is Hancock’s opponent in the June 3 Senate District 9 Democratic primary, passed out a prepared statement from Chan at the Hancock press conference referring to the mailer and AB 2975.  

“Like Ms. Hancock, I voted for this legislation,” Chan said in the prepared statement. “My campaign has no knowledge of the organization that sent out the mailer. I am opposed to this attack on Ms. Hancock.” 

The mailer offers no endorsement of any candidate and urges recipients only to “Tell Loni Hancock that Sacramento politicians should have higher standards and higher expectations for our kids.” It features an address that traces back to River City Business Services, a Sacramento accounting firm that specializes in political campaigns. 

And a look at state campaign finance records reveals that the committee, which was just formed on May 14, is funded entirely by the California Tribal Business Alliance (CTBA) political action committee (PAC). The alliance is a consortium of six casino tribes which disperses funds allocated under gambling compacts with the state, and their PAC is duly registered with the state and federal election commissions as a political action committee. 

The committee received a $50,000 contribution from the CTBA Monday. Its initial organizational filing four days earlier listed only one purpose for its existence: opposing Loni Hancock. 

The CTBA was founded in 2004 and includes six tribes: the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians, the Pala Band of Mission Indians, the Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians, the Pauma Band of Luiseno Indians, the United Auburn Indian Community and the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians.  

The reason the ersatz committee bankrolled a campaign mailer targeting Hancock becomes clearer with a look at the source of its funding for the last year. 

While five tribes kicked in $75,000 each last year, the sixth, the Lytton Band of Pomos, contributed $164,000. The alliance PAC reported taking in $7,500 in the 2006 election cycle, of which it spent $6,6568. According to the group’s latest filings, it had taken in $50,000 for the 2008 races and had spent only $1,863 as of May 13, the day before the “education leaders” committee was formed. 

CTBA Executive Director Alison Harvey declined comment on the donation. “Let me get you to our spokesperson,” she said, transferring the call to the line of Sacramento public relations consultant and former lobbyist Douglas Elmets, who also represents the Lytton, Pala and United Auburn tribal groups. 

Elmets said the contributions represented the support of progressive tribes for Hancock’s opponent, Chan. When told Chan had supported the same bill, Elmets said that Chan’s record on education is good, while Hancock’s was “lousy.” 

Pressed on the casino connection, Elmets cited Hancock’s “shameful” acceptance of support from card clubs and her failure to take action “against the 250 illegal bingo machines” in her district, machines used by charities and similar to those at the Lytton casino. 

He would not name any educators connected with the committee. 

The Lyttons are the same tribe Hancock battled after they signed a tentative pact with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to win a Bay Area casino monopoly in exchange for giving the state a quarter of its profits.  

The tribe and the governor had signed a compact that would have allowed the Lyttons to build a 2,500-slot-machine Las Vegas-style gambling spa at the site of Casino San Pablo, then a card room the landless tribe had purchased in hopes of pursuing the gambling dollar. 

In exchange, the tribe would have given the state a guaranteed, independent auditor-certified quarterly payment of one in every four dollars the operators won. The pact also gave the tribe exclusive gambling rights—beyond existing card rooms and race tracks—within a 35-mile radius, effectively freezing out any potential competitors and ensuring a Bay Area monopoly. 

Assemblymember Hancock took a leading role in opposing the San Pablo accord, which was shelved after Democrats in the state legislature made clear they would torpedo the pact when it came time for a vote. 

Opposition to the lawmaker, who is now seeking a seat in the state Senate after hitting the term limit for the Assembly, is even more logical for the PAC, given that one of its five directors is Marjie Mejia, chair of the Lytton Band, which had to settle for Class II gambling machines after the casino pact died. The key difference between the two classes of machines is that with Class II you play against other players, while with Class III machines, you play against the house.  

Class II games, which mimic bingo games, don’t require the same rigorous special state approval process as the more restrictive traditional slots and poker machines. Ironically, the casino’s revenues soared with the machines—which critics contend play so fast that they virtually amount to slots. San Pablo city councilmembers have credited the casino with saving essential government services and keeping the city from being forced to disincorporate. 

Hancock has made her opposition to urban casinos a major issue, and her position has placed her at odds with the city councils of Richmond and San Pablo, where majorities support casinos. Contra Costa County’s Board of Supervisor and other regional political agencies have opposed Class I casinos, and the California Tribal Business Alliance has opposed the use of Class II machines by non-tribal charities. 

The California Tribal Business Alliance IE PAC reported giving $100,000 in donations to the California Democratic Party (which has endorsed Hancock and contributed to her campaign) in the spring of 2007, as well as $30,000 to the California Republican Party. 

Tribes are playing an increased role in California politics, with the Sacramento Business Journal reporting March 14 that tribes have emerged as major money sources in that region, including $120,000 in funds from CTBA PAC member United Auburn for Placer County Supervisor Robert Weygandt’s campaign two years ago. The journal also reports that the tribe has a $150,000-a-year lobbyist in Washington. United Auburn also spent $9 million to defeat four casino-related measures on the February state primary ballot.  


Dead project 

Two other East Bay tribal casino projects are still in the works, one at Point Molate in the City of Richmond and the other in unicorporated North Richmond. While Hancock has opposed both proposals, she took $3,000 on Dec. 18 from Upstream Point Molate LLC, the company created by Berkeley developer James D. Levine to build a casino/resort/hotel/ shopping complex at Point Molate casino in partnership with the Guidiville Rancheria Band of Pomos. 

Levine has stated that should the casino plans fall through, housing might rise at the site instead. 

Long-stalled plans for a fourth casino, planned for undeveloped land near the Oakland airport, were given a death notice in the Federal Register Monday. Wilma Chan was one of its opponents. 

The Bureau of Indian Affairs, which must approve all tribal casino applications, issued a Notice of Cancellation for the Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed casino-hotel project of the Lower Lake Rancheria Koi Nation, another Pomo band, on the grounds that the tribe “has not submitted a complete land acquisition application ... and has ceased pursuing activity” on the required environmental impact statement. 

In that project, the tribe had partnered with the same developer who is partnering with the Scotts Valley Pomos on the North Richmond casino, and which also claimed to have had an earlier agreement with the Guidivilles. 

Noram LLC is part of the multi-corporate empire which has evolved from North American Sports Management, which began as a sports talent management company. Noram’s interlocked corporations are creations of Alan H. Ginsburg of Maitland, Fla., a major if little-known player in the Native American gambling boom with casino ventures spanning the nation from the extreme Southeast to the far Northwest. 

In seeking an endorsement from the Oakland City Council, Noram and the tribe promised city officials nearly $11 million to compensate for lost taxes and to cover city services as well as fund a police administration and youth sports and gambling addiction programs. But that wasn’t enough to win a council majority, and the project fell into development limbo, with Monday’s announcement apparently the last word on the project. 



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

Lawsuit Seeks Halt in Planned Cuts To Medi-Cal

By Angela Rowen, Special to the Planet
Thursday May 22, 2008 - 09:38:00 AM

More than 6.5 million elderly, disabled and low-income people statewide—about 774,000 in the Bay Area—will soon have an even tougher time finding doctors, dentists and pharmacists who will provide care for them, unless a coalition of healthcare pro-viders and recipients are successful in a motion filed last week in Los Angeles Superior Court to block the state’s planned 10 percent cut in Medi-Cal payments.  

The lawsuit seeks to halt the $1.3 million in reductions that were approved by the legislature and signed into law by the governor in February. The legislation, slated to go into effect July 1, will reduce the amount of money pharmacists and doctors get for treating Medi-Cal patients, who already struggle to obtain adequate health care because state reimbursements to providers do not cover the costs of medical care. 

“The number of doctors who accept Medi-Cal has been declining over the years,” said Michael Lyons of the Gray Panthers of San Francisco. “With these cuts, it will be even more difficult for people to find general practitioners and specialists.” 

Lyons added that California’s reimbursement rate is among the lowest in the country. “A very bad situation is about to get worse,” he said. 

The lawsuit also seeks to block the state’s plan to delay by four months the monthly cost-of-living adjustments to recipients of Social Security Income (SSI). 

Mark Beckwith, 50, is a Berkeley resident who has a form of muscular dystrophy that requires him to be in a wheelchair. He can only use a total of three fingers on his hands, and requires around-the-clock medical attendance. He said any further cuts to his SSI checks would be devastating. “It’s hard enough to live on $870 a month,” he said. 

Beckwith added that the state’s cuts will be more costly in the long run. “People who don’t receive the proper care will end up in the emergency room … or in institutions, which cause five times as much. They don’t care about it this year, but what about next year? The chickens will come home to roost.” 

In the lawsuit, plaintiff attorney Lynn Carman argues that the SSI cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) reductions and the slashes in funds to Medi-Cal providers constitute a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which compels the state to integrate disabled people into the general community by helping them live independently, a mandate that was upheld by the Supreme Court in the 1999 Olmstead decision.  

Carman argues that without adequate healthcare or SSI benefits thousands of disabled people will be forced into institutions. 

Carman said The Independent Living Center of Southern California, the largest such facility in the state, might be forced to close, possibly driving hundreds of people into nursing homes. 

The lawsuit also argues that the cuts would cause the closure of hundreds of pharmacies, including Uptown Pharmacy in Los Angeles, which delivers drugs to thousands of elderly home-bound Medi-Cal recipients. 

The lawsuit says pharmacies already earn less than 10 percent net profit. The state itself acknowledges the crisis, finding in a recent report on drug costs that pharmacies would not be able to make enough money to dispense drugs to all who need it if a 10 percent cut were put into effect. Carman called the contradiction “insanity.”  

Lisa Page, spokesperson for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said the governor recognizes the “devastating impact” of the cuts: “That’s why he’s pushing for comprehensive health care reform and structural budget reform.” 

Page told the Planet that the governor’s structural budget reform proposal calls for the establishment of a savings account—a so-called rainy day fund—to cover programs that are threatened when the economy slows. The governor has also proposed bringing in $4 million in new matching federal money to expand coverage and boost Medi-Cal reimbursement rates. 

“These reforms will bring stability to Medi-Cal budgeting and ensure the state never has to make such drastic cuts again,” Page said. 

Tony Cava, spokesman for the Department of Healthcare services, said, “We understand the impact of these cuts but given the state’s fiscal crisis, and Medi-Cal being the second largest program, cuts had to be made.”  

He told the Planet that the state chose the least painful alternative. “It was either reduce eligibility or reimbursements. We chose to cut reimbursements. Everyone who is covered now will continue to get benefits.” 

The court is scheduled to consider the motion for injunction on June 5.

UC Student Fall Likely Accidental Death

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday May 22, 2008 - 09:42:00 AM

Autopsy results from the Alameda County Coroner’s Office show that UC Berkeley anthropology student Alan Kaname Hamai, who fell from the third-story roof of his apartment building a day after he graduated, died as a result of unforced trauma from a fall, authorities said Tuesday. 

Berkeley Police Department (BPD) spokesperson Andrew Frankel said the results did not indicate any foul play. 

“Which means it was either a tragic accident or suicide, but there’s nothing to indicate it was a suicide,” Frankel said. 

Police are still waiting for the toxicology texts to determine whether alcohol was involved. Frankel said it might be two months to 18 weeks before the tests were released. 

Hamai, 22, was found at 6:22 a.m. Saturday outside his apartment building by a passer-by. Police said he had been with his friends until 2 a.m. after which nobody had been in contact with him. 

“It’s not uncommon for the residents to hang out on the roof of the building,” Frankel said. “It appears to be a very tragic accident.” 

A statement released by university officials Sunday said Berkeley police were taking the help of the UC Police Department to investigate the incident. 

The statement confirms that Hamai was a graduating senior majoring in anthropology. His parents attended his graduation ceremony at the campus Friday, and were on their way back home to Southern California when they heard about their son’s death. 

University officials expressed their condolences at the loss to Hamai’s family and friends in a statement. 

Hamai, who was from Redondo Beach, is the second UC Berkeley student who died this month. UC Berkeley engineering senior Chris Wootton was stabbed to death outside his fraternity on May 3. 

Berkeley police arrested Berkeley City College student Andrew Hoeft-Edenfield for killing Wootton within 12 hours of the incident. The District Attorney’s office has charged Hoeft-Edenfield with murder. 

On May 6, 33-year-old Maceo Smith was shot in broad daylight at the Douglas parking lot on Durant Ave. Police arrested 19-year-old Nathaniel Freeman in connection with the murder.  

Although neither Smith nor Freeman was affiliated with the University of California, the incident occurred a block from its campus in full view of some students, a few of whom had celebrated their senior year graduation ceremony earlier that day. 

UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau expressed grief at the recent events affecting the campus community. 

“In all my years in higher education, this has been among the saddest and most tragic times for a university community that I have known,” he said in a statement. “Alan Hamai’s death and the terrible loss of others in the Cal family this year has been deeply felt by a great many of us. As we mourn for our latest loss, I urge each of you to look after yourself and to reach out to support and care for your friends, classmates, and coworkers.” 

Counselors from University Health Services met with Hamai’s apartment mates to provide assistance. 

“There are no words that can adequately express the sorrow all of us feel about the death of Alan Hamai, one of our own,”  

Anthropology Department Chair Rosemary Joyce said in a statement, “This loss, which would be tragic no matter what the timing, is doubly difficult when he was facing the beginning of the next phase of his life.” 

Hamai’s friends expressed shock at the incident. UC Berkeley junior Nick Ashbury described Alan as “an extremely intelligent guy, a great friend and a loving soul.” 

UC Berkeley Molecular and Cell Biology student Timothy Liu had known Hamai since a junior at La Canada High School and the two had become good friends over the last four years at the university. 

“He is a special friend, one that I really can’t expect to make again, considering how long we have known each other,” Liu said. “The kind of friend who will go that extra mile to help you out. The kind of friend that I would have been comfortable asking to be the best man at my wedding in the future. The kind of person who is really insightful and intelligent, but whom you could totally kick back and have a pint of beer with. His loss has affected everyone that knew him in ways that I cannot even begin to explain.” 

Liu said he had talked to Hamai Friday and made plans to meet him later that weekend. 

“Then I got an email from a friend explaining what had happened,” he said. “I am completely in the dark about what might have happened, whether it was a murder or suicide or just an accident. I heard somewhere alcohol might be involved, but I am not sure.” 

Liu said he will be attending Hamai’s memorial in Los Angeles Saturday. 

In his note “In Memory of Alan Hamai” sent to his friends, Liu reminisced about the way Hamai challenged him to think about medical anthropology and medical ethics. 

“As I graduate from UC Berkeley Thursday (today) and pursue my career in the medical profession, I promise you that when I am a doctor, I will not only treat people’s diseases, but will also attentively address their illness experiences as well,” his note said. “By implementing the concepts that you helped me understand (when we were cramming for our Anthropology 115 final, remember that?) into my medical practice, I want you to know that I will try my very best to have your legacy and memory live on forever.”

Berkeley Students Lead State Students at Capitol Rally

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday May 22, 2008 - 09:59:00 AM
Berkeley High Students Fight to Block Education Cuts
                                              More than 600 students from Berkeley High joined their peers from across the state in Sacramento last week to protest Gov. Arnold Schwarzenneger’s proposed education cuts.
Mark Coplan
Berkeley High Students Fight to Block Education Cuts More than 600 students from Berkeley High joined their peers from across the state in Sacramento last week to protest Gov. Arnold Schwarzenneger’s proposed education cuts.

More than 600 students from Berkeley High School joined their peers from across California at the student rally in Sacramento last week to protest Gov. Arnold Schwarzenneger’s proposed education cuts. 

The Berkeley contingent turned out to be the largest group on the steps of the Capitol, Berkeley Unified School District spokesperson Mark Coplan said. 

Around 3,000 students—some from as far away as Los Angeles—drove up to Sacramento May 15 to speak to legislators and learn about how the state funds public education. 

State Superintendent Jack O’Connell spoke at the rally, along with hip-hop artists Ise Lyfe and Random, who also rapped about budget cuts. 

“It was definitely an issue that had to be protested by any school district in California,” said Berkeley High senior Ignacio Palmieri, who was the event emcee on behalf of the organization Youth Together. “I am glad we were able to protest the cuts physically since we are the ones most affected by it.” 

Berkeley High alum Lily Dorman-Colby, who is taking a year off from Yale University to work as an AmeriCorp intern at Community Partnerships Academy (one of the small schools within Berkeley High), accompanied more than 300 students from the small school to Sacramento. 

“We even went to the office of a Republican legislator to discuss cuts,” she said excitedly. “It was very positive. The students felt like their voice was being heard and it was a great field trip for the government classes.” 

The governor released his 2008-2009 May budget revision, which contains significant changes to his January proposal, a day before the rally . The May revision proposes a combination of spending reductions, revenue solutions, and several creative financing mechanisms to address the persistent budget gap.  

While the May revision restores or increases funding for some programs, the original January proposal to make across- the-board cuts is still in place for almost all categorical programs, which amounts to a loss of $1 billion. 

According to an analysis by the Association of California School Administrators, the cuts, combined with the lack of cost-of-living adjustments, take approximately $4 billion from education funding.  

District Superintendent Bill Huyett presented his recommendations for cuts to the Berkeley Board of Education on the same day the governor released his May Revise. 

“While at first blush the new proposal is likely to reduce the cuts to district funds for next year, it is important to remember that this is only a proposal, and will no doubt undergo changes before the state budget is approved by the Legislature,” Huyett said in a statement on May 14. 

The district has been able to bring back all but two of its teachers and counselors from the layoff list. Thirty-four classified employees were sent pink slips earlier this month. 

“As we move toward approving a budget in June, it is possible that some of these positions will be removed from the layoff list,” Hyett’s statement said. “Layoffs are a very difficult process for our employees to go through ... The governor’s revised proposal still hurts education and has serious implications for the health of our communities.” 

The superintendent’s staff will present the implications of the governor’s May Revise at the school board meeting on June 11. The board is scheduled to take action on the final budget at the June 25 meeting. 





B-Tech Senior Surrenders to Police Two Days After Shooting

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday May 22, 2008 - 09:44:00 AM

A Berkeley Tech senior turned himself in to the Berkeley Police Department (BPD) Saturday and is being held at the Alameda County Juvenile Hall for shooting a fellow student, authorities said. 

BPD spokesperson Andrew Frankel said the student would be arraigned in Juvenile Court after homicide detectives reviewed his case. 

Police could not give a specific time when the B-Tech senior turned himself in to police or if he had been interviewed regarding the crime. 

BPD spokesperson Sgt. Mary Kusmiss said a 911 call to the Berkeley police around 3:12 p.m. Thursday reported a young man with a gun at the corner of Martin Luther King and Dwight Way. 

Minutes later another caller reported a young man in the same area firing a gun into the ground, Kusmiss said. 

When officers rushed to MLK and Dwight, they did not find trace of any victims, suspects or evidence of a crime scene. 

“Moments later, a woman driving a car flagged down a BPD officer on Channing Way just west of Shattuck Ave.,” Kusmiss said. 

The woman, who identified herself as a teacher at Berkeley Technology Academy (B-Tech), pointed to a 17-year-old boy in the passenger seat who had several gunshot wounds in his abdomen. 

“The woman said the young man had flagged her down,” Kusmiss said. 

“Apparently, after the young man was shot, he recognized her as one of his B-Tech teachers. He got into her car and said he needed help.” 

The B-Tech teacher was driving the student to the hospital when she came across the police officers, Kusmiss said. 

“The young man was in a state of shock and was not able to offer too many details to the police officers,” she said. 

Kusmiss said she could not disclose the name of the B-Tech teacher since she was involved in a violent crime. She said the student, a junior, underwent surgery and his injuries appear to be non-life-threatening. 

Meanwhile, community members and police officers had carried out a neighborhood canvas and search for the suspect moments after the shooting, police said. 

“Area residents told officers that they saw a young man fleeing over some fences in the 1800 block of Dwight Way,” Kusmiss said. 

The B-Tech community is still under shock from the incident, which happened right after school let out. B-Tech principal Victor Diaz said the fight might have occurred over a three-week-old dispute between the students. 

“I know that there had been some words exchanged outside the school between the two about three weeks ago,” Diaz said. “School staff was trying to talk with them about it and engage in some mediation. The sense was that even though we were talking and working to bring the families together, there was tension between them. On Thursday they both walked right by my office and we made eye contact. Ten to 20 minutes later I got a call from one of my teachers that one of them had been shot.” 

Diaz said he ran out to find the students when he got another call informing him that the junior had flagged down a teacher who was driving him to Highland Hospital. 

“This kid [the senior] just passed the exit exam,” he said. “He has a really good job and is very responsible. He is also a mentor for a couple of different organizations.” 

Diaz said the junior who was shot was a newcomer to the B-Tech community and had just started to open up to school staff.  

“We have to assume that the senior brought the gun into school and hid it somewhere,” he said. 

The B-Tech community held a meeting Friday morning to discuss the incident. 

District Superintendent Bill Huyett sent a school safety officer to the school. The City of Berkeley's health department also sent counselors to B-Tech Friday to support staff and students. 

“We know that the kid who shot the junior is not involved with any gang or drug-related activity,” Diaz said. “We are all very sad and disappointed it happened. At the meeting, a number of kids expressed their encounters with violence. Sadly, it was a very high number of students.”

Reader Report: Planting Community

By JoAnn Conrad and the BCC Urban Anthropology Class
Thursday May 22, 2008 - 09:46:00 AM
Urban Anthropology class members work on a streetscape project.
Urban Anthropology class members work on a streetscape project.

All winter, every Saturday morning, our Urban Anthropology class at BCC has studied the historical and cultural development of the social space we inhabit—Urban Space. We’ve studied the ways in which we are shaped by the nature of place: the political, economic, social, environmental, cultural aspects of urban life. The City of Berkeley itself was one of the main focuses of the course. 

One of the most striking impressions that began to form during the course was that modern cities, and Berkeley is among them, are functionally zoned, age and occupation segregated, and very lacking in public space and community endeavors. The class began to examine the processes by which individuals attempt to “take back” some of the community, to reestablish and reassert both an individual and community presence in the institutionalized and regulated space of the city. 

We spent a morning talking with vendors and shoppers at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market, we talked to Community Gardeners, and then, we decided upon a plan to take back a bit of the community, and, in fact give back to the community. We were going to take over an abandoned section of parking strip or median and “guerrilla garden.” 

Saturday, May 3. We’re all meeting at Peet’s on Fourth Street. We’ve got plants, bags of soil amendment, water, tools but no plot! For weeks we’ve been trying to find a spot that is available from the city, and we’ve come up empty. Surely there are spots that need care! A class member mentions she walks her dog along West, and that it looks like it could use help. So, we take off. 

First stop, a weed-ridden median. A previous weed abatement program has topped it with a thin concrete layer. Not good enough to deter the weeds, but plenty hard enough to deter would-be gardeners. 

Finally, we find the perfect spot. A crosswalk intersection on Hearst and West. Four small quarter rounds that are barren and forsaken. 



Perfect! Immediately I sense hesitation from some of the class: “Oh, this is a lot. Maybe we can just do one?” We begin to dig. It is compacted decomposed granite. It is deadly hard, and we’re picking and shoveling for hours just to remove a few inches of the miserable topsoil. 

Neighbors begin to come out. “What are you doing?” “Do you have permission?” We begin to tell them about our project, and a miracle begins to unfold. We not only establish a spot of random beauty, but we prompt a spontaneous outburst of community. Neighbors adjacent to the crosswalk come out and talk to us, bring us tools, water and cookies, and offer their homes and bathrooms to use. 

Soon, the plantings are filling out: Yuccas, jade, California natives look as if they’ve been there for some time, and the street is transformed. The neighbors are pleased, we’ve all made new friends and feel the satisfaction of hard work and enjoy seeing the results of that labor. 



But there is more to this story than gardening. Each of us took away a renewed sense of community, and possibility. Various class members shared their thoughts later: 

• “The research I did about Berkeley has shown me that neighbors can come together and organize around a certain idea and work towards implementing those ideas.” 

• “This whole project has encouraged me to become more active in the community.” 

• “The idea of making a change can seem like a daunting task, so going out and doing it on a Saturday afternoon is really empowering.” 

We’ve begun to rethink what it means to live and engage in an urban area, to take responsibility for mitigating community exposure to toxic chemicals and other environmental hazards, and to think more of giving back to and reengaging with the community. This is a community college class that is living up to its name! 





Council Delays Choosing Ballot Measures

By Judith Scherr
Thursday May 22, 2008 - 09:45:00 AM

The Berkeley City Council paid some $16,000 for advice it considered Tuesday night, but—at least for now—ignored. 

A David Binder Research consultant who oversaw two voter surveys advised the council to place only the most popular bond measure on the ballot, the one that is supposed to enhance disaster preparedness. 

Faced with the public lobbying for library branch improvements and the therapeutic and neighborhood swimming pools, councilmembers refused to choose among the three proposed tax measures to place any of them before the voters in November. 

In a 8-1 vote, with Councilmember Gordon Wozniak in opposition, the council asked staff to format all three proposals as ballot measures. Councilmembers will decide in June which to put on the ballot—or they could decide to let the voters choose among all three. 

Shanon Alper of David Binder Research presented results to the council of a survey the company had done of 600 likely Berkeley voters, honing in on three of the most popular measures, as determined by an earlier survey. (The first survey cost $24,000.) 

The measure most likely to gain voter approval, according to the latest survey, was related to emergency services: it would ensure that there would be no rotating fire station closures and that there would be one paramedic at every fire station. Disaster preparedness would be enhanced and the city would purchase new police radios compatible with those of outside agencies. 

This would cost $90 per year to the average homeowner (whose home is 1,900 square feet and has an assessed value of $350,000). 

The survey found that at first 62 percent of the voters favored the measure, but when given supplementary information on the need for the services, such as the number of non-fire related calls received by the Berkeley Fire Department, 66 percent of those surveyed said they would vote for the measure. Bond measures must pass by two-thirds of those voting. 

“Given the climate and our second survey here, the recommendation would be to go with the fire and disaster preparedness tax that is at the threshold,” Alper told the council. “I don’t see the other measures as currently passing. I would stick with that measure and put the energy behind passing that measure.” 

While warm-pool users lined up to ask the council to support the therapeutic pool and library trustees and staff spoke passionately in favor of a library bond, no one spoke in favor of the emergency services measure. Some disabled people needed to leave the meeting so that their attendants could help them go to bed before the late-evening agenda items came up. 

One public speaker, 2006 mayoral candidate Zelda Bronstein, asked how the city could propose taxing citizens for emergency services when it pays large salaries for public safety workers. The measure shouldn’t be called a Fire and Disaster Preparedness Tax, she said, “It ought to be called ‘a further capitulation to greed tax.’” 

Bronstein said the council wrongly acted as if the bond measures were necessary because the city had insufficient revenues due to Proposition 13 and because of the downturn in the real estate market. She said the city could enhance revenue by making the university pay more for its use of city police, fire and sewer services, and by not agreeing to the hefty 13-14 percent raises over four years recently given to firefighters and police.  

“The police were already averaging $98,000 in salaries and $55,000 in annual benefits,” she said, “The firefighters were already averaging over $101,000 in salaries and over $47,000 in benefits.” 

Gloria Trahan, 82, was among those asking the council to put the therapeutic warm pool on the ballot. The pool is slated to be demolished by the school district on whose property it sits. 

“I’m unable to exercise on solid ground,” said Trahan, leaning on a walker as she addressed the council.  

The pools measure, which includes rehabilitation of the three outdoor city pools, was less popular than the disaster preparedness tax among those surveyed, with 46 percent saying they would vote for the measure when first asked. Approval grew to 50 percent after the survey participants heard an explanation about who uses the pool and how the funds would be spent.  

And some 18 percent of those opposing the measure changed to approving it when they were asked if they would vote for a bond measure to include only the therapeutic pool—the therapeutic pool alone would cost the average homeowner about $20 per year. Adding the rehabilitation of the outdoor pools to the mix would cost the average homeowner $28 per year. 

Library trustees and staff spoke in favor of the library bond that would pay for expanded space at the Claremont and North branch libraries, seismic upgrades to the south branch and repairs to structural damage at the West branch library. The bond would cost the average homeowner $33 per year. 

“I am happy and honored to pay these taxes,” Alan Bern, Berkeley resident and communications manager for the library, told the council, arguing that the North branch library needs more space, including space to be fully accessible to disabled people.  

“We feel that we can run this campaign that needs to bring the numbers up—I think we can do it,” Bern said. 

Alper said the survey found that while 57 percent of the voters would approve the library bond, the percentage did not grow with a greater explanation of where the funds would be spent, as was the case in the fire and pool bond questions. The increase in approval rate after an explanation indicates the possible success of campaigns to support the ballot measures. 

Councilmembers were generally sympathetic toward all three measures, but cautious at the same time. “The more things on the ballot, the worse they may do,” said Councilmember Laurie Capitelli. 

And Councilmember Gordon Wozniak said: “If you put three [tax measures] on the ballot, they’ll all fail.” 


Barbara Lee Asks USDA to Oppose Apple Moth Spray Plan

By Judith Scherr
Thursday May 22, 2008 - 09:48:00 AM

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Berkeley-Oakland, has added her voice to those calling for a halt to plans to spray for the light brown apple moth (LBAM) until health and environmental studies are done. 

In a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture released May 15, Lee asked the department’s support to “encourage the [California Department of Food and Agriculture] to freeze plans for the aerial spraying in California pending the completion of an environmental impact report, a rigorous scientific study of alternative solutions for addressing the LBAM population, and comprehensive toxicity tests that account for both the short and long-term impacts of the entire pheromone-pesticide compound.  

Lee is the third Bay Area representative to publicly question the LBAM eradication plan, according to Sacramento-based Pesticide Watch.  

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, wrote Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, requesting he answer concerns about the safety and efficacy of the LBAM spray program, and in late April Sen. Dianne Feinstein wrote to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer expressing similar concerns.  

“It is imperative that the people of California are not subjected to unknown risks of aerial pheromone treatments without proper scientific review and consideration of public participation and comment,” Lee wrote in her letter. 

Meanwhile, says Pesticide Watch, more than 26,000 citizens have signed an on-line petition opposing the spray and 25 city and county governments in California have officially opposed the plan along with more than 70 organizations, including, most recently, the California Nurses Association, the Oakland Zoo, the East Bay Municipal Utilities District Board, the East Bay Regional Park District Board and the Alameda Country Conference of Mayors. 

The California Department of Food and Agriculture continues to say that the LBAM is a dangerous pest that could destroy California’s agriculture business and must be eradicated without thorough investigation into the eradication procedures because the moth presents an emergency.

Alta Bates Nurses Get City Support

By Judith Scherr
Thursday May 22, 2008 - 09:46:00 AM

Tuesday evening some two dozen Alta Bates-Summit Medical Center nurses rallied at Civic Center Park before walking across the street to the City Council meeting, where the council voted unanimously to support them in their contract fight with Sutter Health, Alta Bates-Summit’s parent corporation. 

The nurses have gone on brief strikes three times during the year they’ve been working without a contract.  

Susan Wittstock has been a Sutter nurse for 20 years. She works with premature newborns, who need continuous monitoring. That means she needs a replacement nurse when she goes on breaks, she told the Planet on Tuesday. 

“I work through breaks,” she said. In the neo-natal care unit, if a baby stops breathing, a nurse must be there to intervene, she said. 

The nurses are asking for help lifting patients. 

They are also fighting for a better pension plan. If she retired today, Wittstock said she would get $1,213 per month in retirement benefits. 

Warren J. Kirk, Alta Bates-Summit president and CEO wrote the mayor and council, saying, in part, “The medical center stands firmly committed to getting our nurses a fair and generous contract … Our goal always is to provide a contract for our nurses including wages and benefits that support nursing excellence.”  

The nurses’ demand for a “lift team” just transfers injuries from the nurses to others, while the hospital has a “get a lift” program, through which nurses get help lifting patients, he wrote. 

According to Kirk, there are “more RNs at the bedside than any time in the past, plus scheduled staff support for meal and break relief.”

AC Transit Delays Decision on Purchase Of Controversial Van Hool Buses

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday May 22, 2008 - 09:50:00 AM

In what may be a sign of growing political sensitivity over AC Transit’s controversial relationship with the Belgian-based bus manufacturing company Van Hool, transit directors last week failed to approve a request by AC Transit General Manager Rick Fernandez for a no-bid contract to purchase 19 60-foot, articulated Van Hool buses. 

The vote was 3-3 at the May 14 meeting. Directors Elsa Ortiz (Ward 3-Alameda and portions of Oakland and San Leandro), Greg Harper (Ward 2-Emeryville, Piedmont, and portions of Oakland and Berkeley), and Rocky Fernandez (Ward 4-Castro Valley, San Lorenzo, Ashland, and portions of San Leandro and Hayward) voted no; board president Chris Peeples (At Large) and directors Joe Wallace (Ward 1-El Sobrante, San Pablo, Richmond, El Cerrito, Albany, and Kensington and a portion of Berkeley) and Jeff Davis (Ward 5-Fremont, Newark, and a portion of Hayward) voted yes.  

Board Vice President Rebecca Kaplan (At Large), a candidate in the June 3 election for the Oakland City Council At Large seat, left the board meeting early and did not vote.  

Board members asked that the purchase request be placed on the May 28 board meeting agenda so that it could be considered again with the full board present. 

The decision came a little more than a week before AC Transit’s May 21 hearing on a proposed new across-the-board fare increase, held at 4 p.m. at Oakland City Hall. 

AC Transit’s policy of replacing a large percentage of its current bus fleet—made by a variety of manufacturers—with Van Hools has come under criticism from a coalition of drivers and riders, many of whom complain that the ride on the Van Hools does not compare favorably with buses manufactured by other companies. 

At Wednesday’s meeting, General Manager Fernandez said that in order to meet the board’s Fleet Compensation Plan goal of 101 60-foot, articulated buses (two section buses joined by an accordion-style mid-section), he was requesting that the district retire 30 12-year-old buses manufactured by the New Flyer corporation and in their place purchase the 19 Van Hools.  

“As a result of this recommended procurement,” Fernandez wrote in his memo advising the board, “the district’s entire articulated fleet will be from one bus manufacturer,” meaning Van Hool. 

The 60-foot, articulated buses are expected to be the backbone of AC Transit’s proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line, which the district wants to run in set-aside middle-of-the-road bus lanes down East 14th Street, International Boulevard, and Telegraph Avenue between either Hayward or San Leandro and the southern edge of the UC Berkeley campus. 

The 60-foot, articulated bus swap was a separate proposal from the district’s earlier approved purchase of 60 modified 40-foot Van Hool buses, swapping them for buses made by the North American Bus Institute (NABI) that the district is retiring five years early. The prototype for the modified 40-footers is expected to be delivered to the district next month.

Fleeing Motorcyclist Strikes Bus, Bicyclist

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday May 22, 2008 - 09:51:00 AM

The California Highway Patrol (CHP) is investigating a hit-and-run incident in which a motorcyclist collided with an AC Transit Bus and a woman bicyclist on Ashby Avenue Sunday night. 

CHP spokesperson Sam Morgan said that around 11:20 p.m. Sunday, CHP officers were pursuing a motorcyclist for speeding on westbound Interstate 80 near Carlson Boulevard in Richmond who failed to yield to lights and sirens from the police car. He took the Ashby exit and collided with an AC Transit bus and a 51-year-old woman riding a bicycle at Acton Street, according to Morgan.  

The motorcyclist fled, and the injured woman was taken to Highland Hospital. The woman, a Berkeley resident, was listed in stable condition Monday, according to the hospital. 

Morgan said CHP canceled the pursuit when the motorcyclist entered Berkeley streets for safety reasons. CHP Officers are still looking for the motorcyclist. 


Bus Rapid Transit May Be Headed For November Vote

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday May 22, 2008 - 09:52:00 AM

Berkeley voters could be the ultimate decision-makers when it comes to the shape of an upgraded bus service for the city. 

Foes of a plan to narrow Telegraph Avenue down to two lanes to create room for a bus-only center lane say they have enough signatures to place a measure on the November ballot, which, if passed, would require public votes on any lane conversions on city streets. 

Bruce Kaplan, general manager of Looking Glass Photo’s Telegraph Avenue store, is co-sponsoring the measure with Claremont Elmwood Neighborhood Association president Dean Metzger. 

“Support for the measure has been overwhelming,” Kaplan said. “I think this shows that the residents of Berkeley feel that the city has not worked with AC Transit effectively to design the next generation of transit services. Voters want a system that is green, reduces congestion, and moves people where they need to go at an affordable cost.” 

Merchants have complained that the plan’s proposal to eliminate parking along Telegraph would result in lost business for local merchants, and neighborhood residents have complained that the reduction of traffic would send more cars onto neighborhood streets. 

The initiative proposal comes from Berkeleyans for Better Transit Options (BBTop), which has also floated an alternative proposal for a service they call Rapid Bus Plus (http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2008-05-15/article/30011). 

Organizers said Tuesday that they have collected more than the 2,037 signatures required to place the measure on the November ballot, and will continue gathering names for another week both to demonstrate popular support and to ensure a safe margin in case some signers are ruled ineligible. 

Once the petitions are handed over to the city clerk, the Alameda County Registrar of Voters will then verify the signatures. The Berkeley City Council then must either enact the measure or place it on the ballot for Berkeley voters to approve or reject. 

“Either way,” says Kaplan, “we have succeeded in drawing attention to BRT. The city will have to do a better job in getting input from the public and making sure that AC Transit is responsive to the real needs of Berkeley residents.”

Reader Report: Requiem for a Berkeley Strip Mall

By Rob Browning, Special to the Planet
Thursday May 22, 2008 - 09:54:00 AM
Robert Bechtle’s “’60 Chevies” depicting the parking lot of U-Save on University and old Grove, the sight of proposed development that promises to bring back a grocery store to the corner in the form of Trader Joe’s.
Robert Bechtle’s “’60 Chevies” depicting the parking lot of U-Save on University and old Grove, the sight of proposed development that promises to bring back a grocery store to the corner in the form of Trader Joe’s.

Twelve or 14 years before I moved to central Berkeley, Allen Ginsberg was in the neighborhood one rainy night “shopping for images” at the U-Save Market when he came upon Walt Whitman “poking among the meats” and Federico Garcia Lorca “down by the watermelons.”  

In my day Ginsberg had long since departed Berkeley and was riding a trajectory of celebrity ignited by his publication in 1955 of Howl and Other Poems. One of those others was “A Supermarket in California,” whose setting was the U-Save Market. The strip mall that stretches the length of the block on the west side of Martin Luther King, Jr., Way between University Avenue and Berkeley Way didn’t start out as a strip mall. It was the U-Save. And it wasn’t on MLK. It was on Grove Street. 

Like a high school beauty in incremental decline, the mall later tried other roles, other strategies, sometimes several at a time. Car parts. Day-old bread. Pet food. Electronics. There was an elegance about the U-Save, in the sense that the space was an unadorned reflection of its function. Otherwise it was aggressively ordinary, sordid even. It was a rectangle nearly a block wide, which you entered through double glass doors at the center of its long eastern wall.  

Grocery shelves stretched north and south along that wall. Above the shelves the wall was all glass, windows reaching from shelf-tops to ceiling. In the daytime the windows and a similar row running along the top of the south wall filled the room with natural light. Turning right upon entering, you were in the produce section. “What peaches and what penumbras!” Turning left you were in everything else. “Who killed the pork chops?” The produce department was managed deftly and deliciously by Teruo Nobori, whose nephew now runs the Monterey Market. The U-Save’s front yard was of course a parking lot. That lot is the property’s one feature that remains securely intact. 

When Robert Bechtle painted his affectionate portrait of two “’60 Chevies” parked there in 1971, it looked essentially as it does today. Except that the snappy white mortar and attenuated red bricks of that long wall, laid à la mode around 1950 in clean vertical stacks rather than in the conventional overlapping step pattern, have in recent time been brutishly hidden beneath a dull cloak of gray paint.  

Bechtle’s sharp picture memorializes that bold, bright curtain of brick, sleek and vulgar as a satin “I Like Ike” sash stretched across some proud Berkeley matron’s ample bosom back in the days when Republican Berkeley had its share of such regalia (yes, Berkeley reportedly “Liked Ike”). The signs in Bechtle’s 1971 windows nostalgically offer “Prell Shampoo 88¢” and “Ice Cube Tray 23¢.” It was in front of the U-Save parking lot one politically charged day in the late sixties that a righteous citizen mistook me for Jerry Rubin, who had recently lost his race for Berkeley mayor on the “Yippie!” ticket. “What are you running for now?” he fumed when I offered him one of my antiwar fliers. My hair—and my opinions—may have been fluffy, but neither approached the explosive grandeur of Rubin’s, who was to become one of the Chicago Seven protesters arrested at the 1968 Democratic Convention and thus one of the epic “counter-culture” heroes of the era. 

Modernist design, like that of the U-Save, has been subjected to a lavish outpouring of derision in recent decades. In its rationalism, its puritanism, it came in the minds of many to represent a willful theft of such lovable qualities as warmth, complexity, and coziness. The building that is now planned to replace the U-Save offers an unapologetic resurrection of certain old-timey, not to say classical, features. Some walls are shingled (architectural Mom-and-apple-pie in Berkeley) and some assemble cornices, architraves, and spandrels in a tasteful ensemble that would look at home in Beaux-Arts Paris. No one is likely to object to the fact that the shingles are fiber-cement and the cornices reinforced polymer.  

The planned building has the capital virtue of placing residences (148 of them) near the heart of town. It is also proposing to include a Trader Joe’s supermarket. Trader Joe’s: there’s a moniker in the spirit of those shingles and cornices, dressing a multinational corporation owned by a German billionaire in the folksy getup of our pal the corner grocer. U-Save to TJ’s: ah, the enchanting permutations of flim-flam! 

Today, peering forlornly out across its emptied parking lot through a chain-link fence, gray, like the aged inmate of some mid-town concentration camp, the U-Save Market building is not a treasure that warrants the ministrations of preservationists. It is good there will be housing there. It is good there will be vigorous retail there.  

The proposed new building is too large for its site and is virtually certain to be the vortex of traffic nightmares. But the design—the building’s demeanor—is thoughtful and in many respects attractive. The process leading to that design has been long, screwball, and agonizing for everyone who has been part of it. This protracted, wasteful, unsatisfactory experience and the sadly flawed project likely to result from it should persuade us as a community how badly we need to reform that process.  

“Ah, dear father,” asks Ginsberg, addressing Whitman at the end of “A Supermarket in California,” “graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher, what America did you have when Charon quit poling his ferry and you got out on a smoking bank and stood watching the boat disappear on the black waters of Lethe?”  

Forgetfulness, the chief characteristic of Lethe, has its uses. But memory, bright, retentive companion to us at our sharpest—like that bold, bright mortar grid in Bechtle’s U-Save picture—flawed and partial memory, even when activated by something as inconsequential as a doomed commercial strip, has I think the superior charm.  


Rob Browning has lived in central Berkeley since 1967.

Same-Sex Marriage Decision Greeted with Cheers

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday May 22, 2008 - 09:56:00 AM

As news of the California Supreme Court’s 4-3 decision affirming same-sex marriage broke last week, gay and lesbian couples in Berkeley declared victory. 

Several hundred people gathered at San Francisco City Hall around 10 a.m. May 15 to hear the court’s ruling, that California is the second state in the country, after Massachusetts, where gay couples have been judged to have a constitutional right to marry. 

Berkeley resident and executive director of Bay Area-based gay and lesbian family support group Our Family Coalition Judy Appel went to the steps of San Francisco City Hall to hear the decision. 

“It’s a really amazing day,” said Appel, the mother of two Oxford Elementary School students, whom she is raising with her partner. 

Our Family Coalition was one of the plaintiffs in the court case, Appel said. 

“It’s a victory for all in California,” she said. “It really affirms California as a state that recognizes gays and lesbians as equals. It has awarded us the same rights. This is just the beginning of a sea change throughout the country.” 

As organization plaintiffs, Our Family Coalition highlighted the importance of the case for children belonging to same-sex parents. 

“It’s a historic day to have the Supreme Court declare that everybody has equal rights to partake in civic institutions, particularly marriage. We were so thrilled that the courts courageously declared that gay and lesbian couples can also raise families when they get married, if they decide to do so,” she said. 

“It’s important our children know parents are equal to other parents and have the right to marry. My kids have been really worried about this.” 

Like thousands of other same-sex couples, Appel and her partner got married at San Francisco City Hall in 2004, only to see the union later nullified by the courts. 

“We can get married all over again, and we will,” said a jubilant Appel. 

Hundreds of gay and lesbian couples turned up at the Charles M. Holmes Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) Center on Market Street in San Francisco Thursday evening for a “Celebration of Love and Family,” and thousands celebrated on the street in the Castro. 

Moments after the news was announced, the youth group from the Pacific Center for Human Growth—an LGBT organization based in Berkeley—took the rainbow flag hoisted in front of their building on Telegraph Aveune and ran across the street to Willard Park to celebrate. 

“It’s tremendous news for everybody,” said Pacific Center Board President Scott Vachon, who has been with the organization for six years. “The Supreme Court made the right decision. This is much more than gay and lesbian rights. It’s about human and civil rights. It’s about treating everybody fairly and equally with respect.” 

The Pacific Center has several hundred LGBT members, Vachon said. 

“I was 10 years old when being gay was declassified as a mental illness. Now I am 45 years old and people in the LGBT community have opportunities to marry,” he said. “In 35 years, a lot has happened.” 

Vachon said that until last week, people at the center were bracing themselves for disappointment about the court decision. 

“But the Supreme Court really took a firm stand on human rights,” he said. “Gay couples and gay families deserve the same rights and respect and dignity as anybody else in the state of California.” 

The court’s decision, which becomes effective in 30 days, faces a threat from conservative groups who are proposing a new initiative to ban same-sex marriage. 

Right after the decision was announced, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom told a roaring crowd: “It’s about human dignity. It’s about human rights. It’s about time in California. 

“I am married again,” said Berkeley resident Ed Valenzuela, who adopted Malcolm X first-grader Kiki with his partner Gary Walker seven years ago. “We got married four years ago at City Hall, and it’s exciting to have a valid marriage license again. I hung on to it in the hope that it would become valid one day. There are some complications ... Some people are trying to put up an amendment to change the constitution and we have to fight that through the election season.” 

Valenzuela and his partner decided to get married primarily for their daughter Kiki. “We did it so that she could see us get married and know that we were just like any other family,” he said. “It’s time for another celebration, time for another victory.”

First Person: The Meaning of Marriage for Everyone

By Pamela Brown
Thursday May 22, 2008 - 09:58:00 AM

What if you couldn’t marry the person you love? Can you remember your wedding day? I can… 

We didn’t have time to invite our family and friends, so we had to rely on strangers to be our witnesses. There was no cake or champagne or flowers. We were dressed for work and we used rings we were wearing for our ceremony. We weren’t given the luxury of time to plan the wedding of our dreams but we were given a window of opportunity to get married and we took it. And when we walked out of San Francisco City Hall with a marriage license, that feeling is something we will never forget, and I carry that license with me wherever I go. 

When you are told you can’t have something because you are different, you pretend it doesn’t matter or that you don’t care. At least that’s what I did. 

After five years together, Shauna and I wanted people to know that we were in love. We wanted our relationship to be understood, and we wanted our families and friends to come together to recognize and celebrate our commitment to one another. We wanted to marry, but we were told we couldn’t so we had a commitment ceremony instead. 

We picked a location close to our home. I went to reserve the space and they asked what kind of function we were to have. I said “a commitment ceremony” and she looked back with a blank stare. As she went through the paperwork, she got to the piece about how to apply for a marriage license. She said “you won’t need this one” and threw it in the garbage can. I didn’t know how to respond. As we sent out invitations, worked with caterers, picked out our rings, we constantly had to explain what we were doing. If only we could marry, everyone would understand. 

When we had our commitment ceremony, it was a wonderful day. We had cake, champagne and flowers. My mother wrote a wonderful piece that she read, Shauna’s dad read a poem we had selected. In place of a marriage license, we had a witness document pledging our commitment to one another that everyone signed. Many said it reminded them of a wedding … but it wasn’t. 

To protect our relationship, we registered as domestic partners and continued our role of having to explain what that meant to insurance companies, employers, car rental agencies … the list goes on and on and on. Our relationship means nothing to the federal government and when we leave California, no explanations are necessary. Our relationship doesn’t matter because it is no longer recognized. Every vacation is tempered by evaluating our concerns of going to a place where we will be legal strangers. Is it worth that risk … what if one of us gets sick? 

So when Mayor Newsom said gay and lesbian couples should have the right to marry the person they love and he opened the doors at City Hall, Shauna and I got up at 5:30 a.m. the next day to finally get married. And we weren’t the only ones. We stood in line with hundreds and eventually thousands of other couples who wanted to marry the person they loved. When they said “by the powers granted to me by the City and County of San Francisco, we now pronounce you spouses for life,” we cried. It really mattered, no matter how much I had pretended it didn’t… 

When we returned to work, our co-workers congratulated us. We received calls from our friends and family. Our neighbors even brought by gifts. Though I don’t mind being different, there was a great deal of comfort when our relationship was finally understood and being married brought that home. 

Since that moment, it has been an emotional roller coaster. Six months after being married, our licenses were taken away. Our families were blamed for election results, including numerous state constitutions being changed to ban marriage equality. We’ve told our stories to legislators across the state and twice celebrated passage of a bill that would allow our families the right to marry, only to have our governor veto it both times. We celebrated when a trial court judge ruled it was unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples the right to marry and then were stunned when that ruling was overturned. We even stood for hours in a Target parking lot trying to encourage fellow Californians to decline to sign an initiative that would change our Constitution and forever deny gay and lesbian couples the right to marry. Despite that effort, we will likely face such an initiative in November. 

But on Thursday, May 15, the California Supreme Court ruled that marriage is a constitutional right that no one should be denied. It is a day we will never forget and now Shauna and I can sit down to plan the wedding of our dreams for a marriage we hope no one will ever take away. 

In California, we value our diversity and recognize that despite our differences, our lives are interwoven, and we share common hopes and dreams for our future. This Supreme Court decision recognizes that the time has come for lesbian and gay couples to be woven into the fabric of California families and to have the freedom to enter into the civil institution of marriage. We, as lesbian and gay people, are your neighbors, co-workers, friends and family members. This decision means the world to Shauna and me and couples like us. We hope that all Californians stand together to support this decision and recognize our society is stronger when we are all treated fairly.



Editorial: Time to Get Ready to Vote: Endorsements

By Becky O'Malley
Thursday May 22, 2008 - 09:38:00 AM

We’re down to the wire on the June election. June election? What election, you might be saying right about now. Wasn’t the primary in February?  

Well, yes, the California presidential primary was held in February, and Hillary Clinton won. If it were held today, the outcome might be different, but it’s come and gone. 

The election we’re talking about now is on June 3, a week from next Tuesday. Political commentators predict an “extraordinarily low turnout” (Dan Walters in the Sacramento Bee). Absentee ballots have been sent out, and some nervous nellies have already voted by mail. 

What’s on the ballot? Let’s get the easy one out of the way first. There are two separated-at-birth twin measures purporting to correct the problem created by a decision of the U.S. Supreme Court that it was okay to take homes in Connecticut to give to private developers who wanted to build a shopping center. Some dishonest and greedy people are pitching one of them, Proposition 98, which adds a boatload of undesirable extras, including doing away with rent control. Vote no on that one, for sure.  

The other one, Proposition 99, is carefully drawn to do exactly what’s needed and no more. Vote yes on that one. The one with the most votes wins. A big turnout in the urban East Bay would be a big help statewide in a low turnout election. 

Which leaves us with the political primaries. Because of the peculiar way California’s legislative districts are traditionally gerrymandered, in most districts it’s only the party primaries that really count. The professional pols have arranged things so that the vast majority of districts are only Democratic or only Republican.  

How fair is that? Not very, because that means, especially in an election year like this one, that only a sliver of the electorate actually chooses the legislators. 

Even worse, in many districts even the primary candidates within parties are anointed by their predecessors, so newcomers are locked out of the process altogether. In the worst case, which has happened often at the national level, the successors are actually related to the predecessors, which is a recipe for creeping feudalism. 

In the urban East Bay, specifically in the districts which include Berkeley and surrounding cities, the June primary is the crucial one, and yet not many voters participate in the decision. In the last 14th District Assembly race, when Loni Hancock was nominated for eventual election, only sixty or seventy thousand votes were cast. This year’s turnout, with the national primary gone from the mix, is sure to be much less. With four plausible candidates splitting the vote and no runoff, that means that one of them could win with as few as 20,000 votes. (For comparison purposes, we estimate that at least 40,000 people read the Planet in print every week, and more online.) 

The state Senate races aren’t much different. This year’s 9th District Senate contest has only two candidates, and covers a larger area than the assembly districts, but it’s still a pretty small number of votes which will determine who our next state senator will be. 

Both candidates in this race are also plausible. Both Wilma Chan and Loni Hancock are Assembly veterans, and both are backed by an impressive assortment of officials and interest groups of all types. And regrettably, a quick look at their big dollar campaign contributors shows that both have taken money from some less-than-appealing sources, and are backed by people many of us don’t much like.  

It’s a tricky analysis for the progressive voter. One of Hancock’s oldest friends posted a letter supporting her on the Wellstone Democratic Club list-serv, which someone else passed on to me. Among other things, he said, “Wilma Chan, though she has been a good, solid liberal vote, comes out of the Perata machine.”  

Yes, that’s true, but there’s more. As of this week, Don Perata, the District 9 incumbent, who is definitely not a Berkeley kinda guy, is listed on Hancock’s website as endorsing her, while Chan has dropped Perata’s name from her own endorsement list in order to distance herself from his questionable record. 

Then there’s this week’s tempest in a teapot over a nasty flier sent out under the name of “Education Leaders for High Standards Independent Expenditure Committee.” A bit of sleuthing by environmental lawyer Stu Flashman uncovered the real sponsor: “California Tribal Business Alliance.” The full story is in this issue of the Planet, but the bottom line is that Chan and Hancock voted the same way on the bill the flier atacks.  

The funding group turns out to be yet another face of those promoting urban casinos, which both candidates oppose, and Chan had nothing to do with the mailer.  

Like Barack Obama with Rev. Wright, she’s “both repudiated and denounced” the mailer and its senders. With friends like this she doesn’t need enemies. One could even imagine that it was some kind of tricky Swift-Boat-in-reverse maneuver to make Chan look bad, but that’s far-fetched, and it didn’t work if it was. A leaky bucket, not a Swift Boat, in the end. 

Another flap, also reported in this issue, is over the decision by “the California Democratic Party", whoever they are, to endorse Hancock, and to back up their endorsement with major money for her to spend on the primary. This kind of cash comes with no contribution limit, which Chan calls a big loophole in the campaign spending laws. And that very same “California Tribal Business Alliance” gave the California Democratic Party $100,000 to spend wherever they want.  

I’m a registered Democrat, but they didn’t ask me about this. If the candidate has already been chosen by some faceless guys in Sacramento, it seems unfair. That’s what primaries are supposed to be all about, isn’t it?  

Which puts us back where we started: who should we vote for in this race? Long time readers of the Planet know that “The Planet” doesn’t endorse, but the executive editor sometimes does, and the publisher usually agrees with her. We have two respectable progressives here, and we’ll have to choose one.  

At a weekend party another of Hancock’s oldest and truest friends from the good old BCA days spent a long time trying to convince us not to oppose Loni just because her husband, Mayor Tom Bates, has been a bitter disappointment for Berkeley. It was somewhat like those who tried to convince us not to hold Bill against Hillary—hard to do, and harder as the campaign went on. 

Both couples are more than just spouses, they’re political allies on substantive matters. In the local arena what links Loni to Tom is their joint support for the urban building boom. Her website boasts that she “authored legislation that expanded opportunities for cities with transit-oriented development to take advantage of transit village incentives.”  

Translated, that means that if your neighborhood is unlucky enough to be near a BART or Bus Rapid Transit station, local zoning might be trumped by these laws. An ugly condo complex might be on the way to a corner near you. It’s often a field day for speculators who have bought up building sites in strategic locations near transit, and a nightmare for residents who already live there.  

Bates, as Berkeleyans have discovered, has never met a developer he didn’t like. His friends in the building industry have contributed generously to his wife’s campaign, and they’re not stupid. They’ve got to expect some return on their investment. 

And there’s the whole dynasty thing. Ever since we’ve lived in Berkeley, now coming up on 35 years, Democratic nominations—equivalent to legislative seats—have been passed along like family heirlooms among a small group of close cronies from the olden days. The results aren’t always bad—Barbara Lee got her job that way, and she’s great. But all in all, it’s a fundamentally undemocratic (the small “d” is important) way to choose our leaders.  

The fact that Wilma Chan seems to have broken her original ties to Perata makes her look better to us. But Hancock can hardly break her ties to Bates, and she’s still close to Dion Aroner, who started out running his Sacramento operation, succeeded him in that seat, and is now a big-time lobbyist for corporations like Pacific Steel Casting and Safeway.  

It’s the same factor that caused us to endorse Kriss Worthington for the Assembly even before the Bates organization anointed Nancy Skinner for Hancock’s successor. Skinner too has courted developer cash. 

Now, even though both Loni Hancock and Wilma Chan have performed respectably in the Assembly, we think Chan is the better choice for the Senate seat. On most matters, her record and Hancock’s are almost identical, but Chan has less unattractive baggage and owes less money to fewer people. As Barack keeps telling us, it’s Time for a Change at all levels. 

So if you want to vote like me, here’s your very short cheat sheet to take to the polls: California Senate District 9: Wilma Chan. Assembly District 14: Kriss Worthington. Proposition 98: no, no, no. Proposition 99: yes. (If you vote in the Oakland City Council races, you’re on your own.) 


—Becky O’Malley

The Editor's Back Fence

The Editor's Back Fence

By Becky O'Malley
Tuesday May 27, 2008 - 12:06:00 PM

In today's experiment, the executive editor will answer a couple of letters. We've been longing to try this ever since the paper was started. For years letters to the editor and the editor's often sarcastic replies were the centerpiece of the much-enjoyed Anderson Valley Advertiser. The Greater Berkeley Area takes itself more seriously than the Anderson Valley, so what he did there might not work here. But occasionally we get letters that deserve an answer, serious and not-so-serious.  

Here's a serious one: 

I am sick and tired reading about how bad Willard is. Riya has never had anything good to say about us. Instead of investigating the reality here at Willard, she just rehashes old news about our ex-vice principal and reports on faulty data. Had she spoken with our Principal like any reporter worth their weight would do, she would have a more balanced report. But as with the other articles she has written about us, Riya again just publishes inaccuracies.  

I have been teaching here for 9 years and have seen Willard go from a rough school to a diamond in the rough. Report on our increased API scores last year (biggest gain of all middle schools), report on the fact that in a school survey completed by students and parents, 92% felt that Willard is a safe place, report about the fact that we were the only middle school to reach our participation percentages on the standardized testing last year, report on the fact that we don't hide any data about our school - we are an open book and we have nothing to hide. We know we are good, I just wish those who report about us do their job better and stop bashing Willard.  

Sharon Arthur
6th grade teacher.

I emailed back to Ms. Arthur: The principal refuses to return phone calls. Perhaps you could discuss this with him. The data we published was also in the Chronicle. If the data was faulty, he or anyone is welcome to provide correct data, to us and to the Chronicle.  

But there's much more to say. This case is a good illustration of why Berkeley needs a sunshine ordinance, preferably one which applies to the public schools as well as to the city. Actually, we'd settle for compliance with the California Public Records Act, which is already the law. Riya Bhattacharjee, our education reporter, has gone to great lengths trying unsuccessfully to get accurate data about suspensions at Willard, including a string of CPRA requests which were largely ignored plus many letters and phone calls to all sorts of BUSD officials, also ignored.  

The Chronicle's respected and very experienced education reporter Nanette Asimov had similar problems getting accurate information about what's happening at Willard.. In case you no longer read the Chronicle, here's what she said: 

With 254 incidents, Willard reported one of the highest violent-suspension rates in the Bay Area last year: 1 for every two students, or 54 percent.  

Principal Robert Ithurburn said Willard actually had 177 violence suspensions, a rate of 38 percent. The discrepancy could not be readily explained.  

Either way, Willard's rate far exceeds 5 percent, and Ithurburn said he is working to change a culture of lax supervision.  

It's important to keep good track of what you're doing to know what effect it has. It looks like Willard is suspending lots of kids, but how many and to what effect can't be assessed with no data. 

As regards the departed ex-vice principal, whatever she did or didn't do about suspensions, it's safe to bet that without Bhattacharjee's investigative pieces she'd still be working at Willard. We still don't know exactly why she left so suddenly.  

What's wrong with lots of suspensions? you might ask. As an experienced parent whose three daughters went through Willard, and a grandparent of a current junior high school student in another city, I view suspensions as failures. Whether you're kicking half your kids out of school or only two-fifths of them, when they're not in school they're not learning. And if the parents are working as most are (or are absent, as is the case for all too many students these days) the student is out in the street looking for trouble. 

"Changing a culture of lax supervision" at school, if that's a problem, might be fine, but suspension doesn't solve that one—supervision is not done by students, but by teachers and administrators. And the school my granddaughter attends has almost identical test scores to Willard's when broken down by ethnicity, with a much lower suspension rate. Why is that? 

I answered the question of educators' eternal desire to have only the good news reported in the press long ago, in 2003. Through the magic of the Internet, you can find what I wrote then here. 

Not much seems to have changed. 

And now the less serious answer:  

Dear Editor, 

You comment on the front page of your website, in an article "The Editor's Soapbox," dated May 13, defending your frequency of publication of news, "Friends, there’s new stuff posted on this web site almost every single day: news, opinions both letters and commentary, columnists, you name it, something new every time you turn around..." Today is May 24, and there is not a single article less than ten days old on the front page. There is a "Flash News Update: Man Shot to Death on Durant Avenue" dated May 14. It is embarrassing to call ten day old events "flash news," and even more so to then harass your readers for calling for more frequent updates.  

Scott Fay
Berkeley Resident

My answer to Mr. Fay: 

You don't seem to be looking at the current issue--perhaps you haven't refreshed your browser?  

I make the same mistake myself sometimes—it's easy to do. You can also hit the "current issue" button near the top left of the online Planet's home page to get the latest articles.  


Constitutional Amendments

By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday May 29, 2008 - 03:19:00 PM

Begging for Oil

By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday May 22, 2008 - 05:15:00 PM

Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday May 27, 2008 - 02:05:00 PM




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I found David Blake’s recent articles in the Planet on the performance of Berkeley’s mayor profoundly disturbing. Mr. Blake’s commentary presents a sad, but apparently true, tale of co-option and betrayal of progressive principles which have been the hallmark of Berkeley politics for decades. 

As evidence, Mr. Blake points to the mayor’s role in sabotaging the right of workers to form a union at the new Berkeley Bowl; his support for neighborhood-busting zoning changes; his futile attempt to oust the two most progressive members of the Berkeley City Council; his hijacking of a desirable sunshine ordinance; and generally selling out the city to well-financed developers. 

These are serious charges, but Mr. Blake could have easily added the fact that Mayor Bates has now chosen to oppose the progressive candidacy of Kriss Worthington for the state Assembly in the 14th District by supporting another candidate. Kriss Worthington is easily the most progressive candidate in that race and has ably represented Berkeley’s progressive community as a member of the City Council. (Worthington’s impressive credentials are aptly described in the excellent article by Ruth Michaels and Sydney Vilen which appeared in the May 22-28 edition of the Planet.) 

Nearly 40 years ago, I was fortunate to be elected to the same Assembly seat now being sought by Kriss Worthington. With immense help from Berkeley’s progressive community, we were able to defeat a 16-year Republican incumbent, take control of the district from the conservatives, and deliver it into progressive hands, Tom Bates, whom I have known for more than 50 years, was my personal friend and campaign manager, then became my administrative assistant, and ultimately succeeded me in that office. 

It therefore pains me personally to publicly challenge the mayor’s progressive integrity, but I have seen enough. By opposing Kriss Worthington’s candidacy, Mayor Bates has not only confirmed Dave Blake’s opinions of him, but has frustrated the hopes and desires of thousands of Berkeley progressives who have supported the mayor in the past, but who now want and need Kriss Worthington’s progressive leadership in the state Legislature. One can only assume that the motivation behind the mayor’s support of an opposition candidate is the fact that Kriss Worthington has consistently opposed the Mayor when the latter has attempted to betray the progressive movement in Berkeley. 

As one who played a small part in the formation of that movement and desires to see it succeed, I enthusiastically support Kriss Worthington’s candidacy for the 14th Assembly district position and urge all Berkeley and district progressives to do the same. 

Ken Meade 

Addendum 1: The term “progressive” as used extensively throughout this article is intended by the author to mean one who supports or defends the greater public interest against the ambitions of those who comprise the concentrations of wealth and power in our community. 

Addendum 2: No one associated with the Kriss Worthington campaign has urged me to write this article, nor have I been an active participant in that campaign. The ideas expressed herein are entirely my own for which I am entirely responsible. 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am disturbed by the claim which has been made repeatedly by Friends of BRT that the proposed Rapid Bus Plus alternative is a smokescreen. There is no “smoke” in this proposal which is attempting to obscure the fact that this is a plan which attempts to create a workable alternative to lane removal on Telegraph, and welcomes collaboration from local planners. The contention, rather, is that whereas BRT may be appropriate for large metropolitan corridors with six-plus throughlanes and redundant parallel arteries nearby, that it is not appropriate for Telegraph which has only four throughlanes and which lacks nearby parallel redundancies. Furthermore, it is a plan which proposes that the same mode shift and emission reduction targets can be realistically achieved or exceeded with an alternate that does not create the significant congestion impacts that lane removal threatens in Berkeley and in the Oakland Telegraph area, impacts that many many Berkeley and Oakland residents reasonably believe are essentially non-mitigatable. 

Joseph Stubbs 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Nice letter (“Bike Safety: Liberal Hot Button Issue,” by H. Scott Prosterman, May 15), but may I add a safety tip? Bicyclists need to heed stop signs just as autos are supposed to. How many times have cyclists sailed through intersections and looked at you with the look like they are in the right. Also, just because you are on a “Bicycle Boulevard” doesn’t mean that cyclists can disobey the laws. Some days I feel like I will have a daredevil cyclist on the hood of my car and I will be the bad guy because I am the driver. 

My son bicycles and I share the road. I get it. That is somebody’s loved one out there, but when they don’t obey traffic laws, they are taking their lives in their hands. I get angry when they put my safety and their own at risk. 

Helmets are nice, but when you are flying down Spruce Street and don’t stop at a stop sign, I don’t know what good they will do you. 

Don’t just enforce helmet laws, enforce all traffic laws as they apply to bicyclists and autos. 

Just another point (or question), will the “hands free” cell phone laws apply to bicyclists? 

Julie Dempster 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

This is to thank Joyce Roy for her letter to the editor on May 15 regarding AC Transit. I couldn’t agree more. San Francisco recently purchased Hybrid Electric buses made by Daimler-Chrysler. The buses are 40-foot, not 60-foot. 

Here is some information about those buses, which can also be found on the Muni website: 

The Muni hybrid buses are essentially electric buses just like Muni’s electric trolley buses. Rather than get their electricity from overhead wires, they use a small diesel engine (5.9 liter Cummins ISB found in pick-up trucks) to turn a generator that, together with traction batteries, supply the necessary electrical energy to move the bus through the streets of San Francisco. Muni’s hybrid buses are “series hybrids” meaning there is no mechanical connection between the engine and wheels: The engine turns a generator that produces electricity to power drive motors that propel the electric bus (note that “parallel” hybrid bus, more similar to a Toyota Prius, uses a blend of mechanical and electrical power to accelerate, rather than just electricity). The drive control system on Muni’s series hybrids operates the diesel engine at its optimum emission and fuel economy settings. Traction batteries supply energy for acceleration, hill climbing, and other peak load conditions. This reduces the diesel engine speed (rpm) fluctuations and helps minimize engine emissions and increasing fuel economy. A hybrid bus can also recover and store braking energy. During vehicle deceleration, the control system changes the traction motor into a generator. The traction motor/generator is then used to help slow the vehicle as the traction motor/generator stores braking energy in the traction batteries. This increases the vehicle’s fuel economy and brake life. Other major transit agencies including New York City, Boston, Washington D.C., Toronto, and Seattle have adopted hybrid bus technology within their respective public transportation systems. 

The Muni hybrid buses, made by Daimler-Chrysler, cost roughly $500,000 (approximately $150,000 more than a conventional diesel bus). This Hybrid bus also gets 30 percent better fuel economy than a standard diesel bus. 

To quote Joyce in her article: There is a used bus market. And it should be easy to sell them for a good price because the board president, Chris Peeples, has declared them “the best buses in the world.” 

Chris Peeples apparently doesn’t spend a lot of time riding buses. In my opinion, the rattletrap, uncomfortable, badly designed, cheaply designed Van Hool buses are the worst buses of any age I have ridden on. 

Ian Griffith 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I must be one of a select few to have been asked to participate in two of Berkeley’s City Council’s marketing surveys about “what’s the most popular way to market” tax increases. And “which are the most dire consequences we can use the scare the voters.” 

Am I the only one in this city who finds these surveys offensive? As well as the fact that my tax dollars were used to pay for them? 

Am I the only who expects my City Council to determine what the dollar needs of the city are and then stand up before the voters, without artifice, and explain to me why the dollars are necessary?  

As a 30-year citizen of Berkeley, am I the only one who remembers all of the claims of the dire results that will occur if this next tax increase is not passed? How many library initiatives, firehouse initiatives, schools initiatives, etc. will there be to save Berkeley from these horrible consequences? 

I for one am one of the Berkeley taxpayers who demands to see a plan put before the voters about how Berkeley government can be streamlined, made efficient, and about how off-the-chart labor and benefit expenses can be brought under control. 

This is my prerequisite before I will consider any tax increase. 

David Sudikoff 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In response to the article by Angela Rowen on May 22 “Lawsuit Seeks Halt in Planned Cuts to Medi-Cal,” I am very pleased to learn of this lawsuit protesting the 10 percent cuts in Medi-Cal, and I hope it is successful. 

My daughter is severely handicapped and depends on SSI and Medi-Cal. Already the reimbursement rate to doctors who take Medi-Cal is extremely low, and I fear decreasing it even more will mean that my daughter won’t be able to find a doctor generous enough to treat her for such a low fee. 

What I don’t understand is why the governor and legislators are so loathe to increase taxes. It seems the obvious solution to me. I would be happy to pay more taxes so that my daughter and others could get proper medical care. I also want school children to have music and art teachers and after-school recreation programs; I want our libraries, fire and police departments to be fully staffed; I want more and safer bicycle lanes; I would like more public transportation. And I’m willing to help pay for them through taxes! Isn’t this part of what being a good citizen is all about? 

Kathleen Whitney 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am sick and tired reading about how bad Willard is. Riya Bhattacharjee has never had anything good to say about us. Instead of investigating the reality here at Willard, she just rehashes old news about our ex-vice principal and reports on faulty data. Had she spoken with our principal like any reporter worth their weight would do, she would have a more balanced report. But as with the other articles she has written about us, Riya again just publishes inaccuracies. 

I have been teaching here for nine years and have seen Willard go from a rough school to a diamond in the rough. Report on our increased API scores last year (biggest gain of all middle schools), report on the fact that in a school survey completed by students and parents, 92 percent felt that Willard is a safe place, report about the fact that we were the only middle school to reach our participation percentages on the standardized testing last year, report on the fact that we don’t hide any data about our school—we are an open book and we have nothing to hide. We know we are good, I just wish those who report about us do their job better and stop bashing Willard. 

Sharon Arthur 

6th grade teacher 


EDITOR’S NOTE: This letter is answered by the Executive Editor online in the “Editor’s Back Fence” column at berkeleydailyplanet.com. 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On April 24, two busloads of Berkeley parents went on a road trip to Sacramento. Our destination: a rally at the Capitol Building, where we joined parents and students from all over California: Riverside, San Diego, San Mateo, Fremont, Davis, Alameda... we all joined together to call our legislators to “flunk the budget, not our kids.” It was here that we learned that, in the midst of our huge budget deficit, all of the Senate and Assembly Republicans but one (Roger Niello) have signed a pledge that they would never, Never, never agree to raise any taxes. Well, we have a Pledge of Our Own —to invest in our kids and our future.  

As you know, our governor has proposed a budget which lops $4.8 billion dollars off of the public education budget. Since our state (which, by the way, is the seventh richest entity in the entire world) already allots $2,000 less per pupil per year for public education than the national average, and ranks 46th in educational spending nationwide, this is a very low blow indeed. (Please pause here and remind yourself that there are only 50 states in our nation.) This will mean a loss of $700 per pupil. Last time I checked, we were already struggling pretty hard to make do with what little we have.  

By now, most of us have received an “economic stimulus” payment from the federal government, and it is substantial. President Bush thinks we should spend it all on consumer goods to stimulate the economy. What kind of long-term gain will a flat screen television (made abroad) bring us, do you think? If we really want to invest in our future, what do you think would be the wisest investment? I am banking on our kids. After you have addressed any pressing financial needs, won’t you please join me in pledging to give as much of the rest as possible to your school’s PTA so that they can fill the funding gaps our schools face everyday? With $700 less per pupil, the PTA will be picking up more of the tab than ever for the essentials which battle the achievement gap and make kids want to go to school; classroom aides, supplies, teacher training, library books, art, music, sports, and field trips. Since it’s run by volunteers, the PTA doesn’t waste any money on administrative salaries or overhead. And, by the way - it’s tax deductible! 

Christine Staples 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Oh, the irony! In his letter to the Planet (May 22-28 issue) Steve Geller cites BRT opponents as the source of “Berkeley silliness” stories. I have never read anything sillier than the draft EIR for this boondoggle of a project. AC Transit proposes to spend $400 million and 17 years on a project that is projected to increase transit use by 4,600 riders per day. Think of what the national press could do with this if BRT were to be built. Do the “bridge to nowhere” and the “$400 toilet seat” ring a bell? 

It appears to me that BRT proponents never read past the title page of the draft EIR. They saw the word “bus” and immediately some sort of “green” light went on in their brains and they didn’t look further. All they have to do is turn the page and read the one-page abstract of the DEIR to understand the magnitude of this folly. 

Jim Bullock 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

For the sake of the future I make effort to not drive anymore. And for the most part, my life has improved a lot. But I want to know that you are trying too. For instance, do you know which bus lines run near your home? Before you jump in your car, do you think; Do I have to drive today? Can I take the bus? Carpool? Ride a bike? walk? Can a friend pick something up for me? Do I really need to go? Changing our lifestyle patterns can be interesting and helpful. Maybe you have time to read on the BART. People-watching can replace your CD player for entertainment. Leaving your car at home is probably the most relevant act you can do today to help the earth. And any money you give to the public transit system is a real contribution to the environment. Try it! 

Douglas Foster 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

EBMUD wants us to curtail our wasteful water practices. OK, I have no problem with our low-flow shower nozzle, our low-volume toilet or our front-loading washing machine. There is absolutely no point in needlessly wasting water. However, I wish the same water use reductions could be imposed on the real water wasters in California. 

The wasteful ways of EBMUD customers are just “a drop in the bucket” compared to the state’s major water gluttons. Agri-business uses 80 percent of all water in the state. These giant agricultural enterprises waste water on a monumental scale. If they were required to make the same percentage cuts in their water use as EBMUD customers, the amount saved would be equivalent to all the water used by every household in the state. Now that would be saving water! 

Why aren’t stiff water restrictions imposed on these giant corporate water wasters? As usual, it’s all about money, power and politics. Only 10 percent the very largest corporate farmers in the Central Valley use about 70 percent of the water. These powerful corporate farmers, like Southern Pacific, receive outrageous government water subsidies that keep their water so cheap and plentiful they think nothing of wasting it. 

These wealthy agro-estates pay about 2 percent of what EMUD customers pay for water. In 2002, an Environmental Working Group study found that just twenty-seven corporate farms received water subsidies worth $1 million or more. Year after year, the total value of these water subsidies has hovered at around $400 million. Citizens can’t help feeling cynical and angry when government subsidizes corporate farmers to waste gallons of water for every drop we save. 

Craig Collins 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The College Internship Program here in Berkeley will be wrapping up its first school year. For those who don’t know, CIP is a social skills training program for young adults with Asperger’s Syndrome; as well the organization helps put people in college or job settings. The catch is its only open to those who can afford over $37,000 a semester.  

There are youth on the street who have Asperger’s, and the syndrome is the only thing keeping them on the street. Imagine the social impact that would occur if organizations with deep pockets, and their friends with deep pockets, reached out to the less fortunate young men and women who have the drive to work, or study, but are just blocked by Asperger’s or other such relatively simple hindrances. 

Treating poverty has to be done in a modern way, rather than just enacting anti-loitering, anti-smoking, anti-this-and-that ordinances to sweep young people away, and hide the problem of impoverished youth. Many young adults want to achieve a college degree, or get a job. Helping to make those goals a reality is far better than issuing out citation after citation after citation. 

Instead of looking down upon the young men and women who sit on the street or in the park, look down at us (with a smile). Look at the talented artists, musicians, writers, story tellers and et cetera. Take to the time to talk to us, ask us what are dreams are. Then those with means have to make the decision if they want to make more ordinances or actually help us accomplish those dreams. 

Also on the same subject: The state of California does not require ASD training, but it is imperative that the Berkeley Police and UC Berkeley Police work with experts in the field of Asperger’s (and autism in general) to ensure that police do not engage people on the spectrum in an abusive manner. It is imperative that the police modernize their tactics and behaviors to meet modern psychology. Concerned citizens should write or call both respective police agencies to ask they the city police and the UC police self-impose ASD training. 

Nate Pitts 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thanks to Dave Blake for exposing Nancy Skinner’s anti-union stance before the Berkeley City Council. In his support of Kriss Worthington, however, he failed to mention Tony Thurmond, also running for the 14th state Assembly seat vacated by Loni Hancock. Tony is a Richmond resident and community organizer, with a particular focus on at-risk youth. He currently sits on the Richmond City Council, and is endorsed by Representative George Miller. As an African-American and Richmond resident he would add needed diversity to the State Assembly. 

Tony is committed to the usual progressive causes: single payer health care (Sheila Kuehl’s SB 840), a healthy environment, jobs and education. He also has a depth of character and a cheerful but unintimidated attitude towards the powers that makes you want to pitch in and help. I hope the readers of the Daily Planet check out his campaign at TonyThurmond.com. 

Debbie Bayer 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

You may think you are safe from being sprayed by crop dusters because your city has passed a resolution opposing the spray. Don’t kid yourself. 

Regarding the plans of the California Department of Agriculture (CDFA) to spray your homes, schools, businesses, and yards with pesticides, your message to your city and/or county needs to be this: sue or we will be sprayed. 

Your city has passed a resolution opposing spraying until an environmental impact report (EIR) has been completed. Don’t expect the CDFA to pay any attention to that resolution. 

In Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, the CDFA paid no attention to resolutions, spraying in the fall. Finally, when court decisions in both counties ordered the CDFA to complete the EIR before spraying again, CDFA paid attention for those counties. 

Will the CDFA pay any attention to resolutions in the San Francisco Bay Area? No. Expect planes to start spraying you Aug. 17. And there is no reason to spray because the judges in both Santa Cruz and Monterey said there is no emergency and therefore no reason to exempt the CDFA from the EIR. 

Will a lawsuit actually stop the CDFA this August? It may be too late. However, if you want a chance to avoid being sprayed, you must urge your public officials to--as soon as possible—sue or we will be sprayed. 

Dick André 

California Alliance to Stop the Spray 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Albany City Council is considering a major project which, if approved, will affect residents and city finances for years to come, and which will forever change the habitability and financial viability of the city. This is a unique opportunity to enhance city revenues and provide ongoing financial support for city services as well as a steady funding source for Albany schools. The project in question is the so-called Whole Foods development on San Pablo Avenue at Monroe Street. 

The proposed project is on land owned by the University of California. It is the intent of the university to lease this property to a grocery store operator on one portion of the development and to build what is described as assisted living units on the north side of Monroe Street and lease this to a separate entity. Whether this is the best use for this property or not is open to debate, what is certain is that the property will still be owned by the state of California and as such, will be exempt from paying property taxes. There will be little sales tax generated, since food is not taxed. There will be no transfer tax revenue generated by the residential portion either. Other than increased traffic congestion, noise and pollution, there is little, if any, benefit for Albany or its over-taxed citizens. There is no property tax benefit for our struggling schools. 

The family housing at Albany Village provides our schools with gifted students who live in dwellings that do not pay property taxes. The new development would be more beneficial to Albany if the land upon which it stands is sold as surplus property by the university and put on the county tax rolls. It would then contribute directly to vital city services and provide much needed revenue to support and improve our schools 

The prudent course for the city of Albany to take would be to change the zoning for this parcel to allow development, but only after this land is converted to private property. In a different approach to eminent domain we seem to be allowing private development on public property. In a democratic society, this should be put to the vote of the community. 

Dennis Foster 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Our “Rapid Bus Plus” proposal invited constructive comments from everyone who seeks better bus service. But apologists for AC Transit’s rival Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) plan instead attacked our plan in their May 22 letters, using arguments that don’t hold up. 

Alan Tobey asked whether Rapid Bus Plus is as well-established as BRT. Actually, its components are much more broadly implemented than BRT’s. 

In Los Angeles County alone, there are some 21 Rapid Bus lines—eight rolled out in just the last year. But there is only one BRT line, which has been popular but collision-prone. 

Alan asked whether Rapid Bus Plus would be better for mobility-impaired or elderly passengers. Absolutely: unlike AC Transit, we would maintain “local” bus service on this corridor—meaning shorter walks to the nearest stop. 

We would also replace AC Transit’s notoriously inaccessible, and rough-riding, Van Hool buses with state-of-the-art Orion hybrids. These genuinely “low-floor” buses have floor-mounted seats for easy access. And their hybrid powertrains offer smooth acceleration, with much less diesel pollution. 

Alan also asked where bus-only lanes have harmed businesses. In the extreme form of a “transit mall,” they nearly destroyed Chicago’s State Street, Philadelphia’s Chestnut Street, and main commercial streets in other cities. People won’t shop where they can’t park. 

Finally, Jacob Berman and April Mitchell (relying on a second-hand account) criticize San Francisco’s N-Judah streetcar line, which we’d described as approximating “Rapid Bus Plus on rails.” Ironically, not long ago, “Friends of BRT” were touting the N-Judah as a model for BRT. 

As a former Sunset District resident and daily N-Judah commuter, I can tell you this: It runs through the Sunset at a nice clip, in a shared lane that is also available to cars. Its real bottlenecks are UCSF (lots of people on- and off-boarding), turns (delays for signals, pedestrians, and cross-traffic), and extended stalls while queueing to enter the “Muni Metro” tunnel. 

Rapid Bus Plus gathers worldwide transit “best practices” into what may be a new overall package. But we make no apologies for thinking outside the bus for this proposal. Had the city of Curitiba, Brazil, not looked beyond existing transit models in the 1970s, it would never have invented BRT. 

We challenge everyone to move beyond passively defending AC Transit’s BRT tunnel vision. On the Telegraph/BART corridor, BRT threatens more detriments than benefits. There is a place for everything, and this is the wrong place for BRT. 

Michael Katz 

Member, Berkeleyans for Better Transit Options (BBTOP) 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Like many individuals, my focus had been on the national primaries. Thank goodness I turned my focus back on the local June 3 primary or I would have missed the opportunity to meet and support Richmond City Councilmember Tony Thurmond for state Assembly. 

To put it simply, Tony is a breath of fresh air. Candidates talk about what they want to do or what they hope to do, how refreshing to meet one who is already doing something to make real change in the community he lives and works in every day. This experience in real world, on the ground problem solving is what makes him unique among all of the other candidates. I could go on and on about his work with gang violence, creation of green jobs, battles with Chevron, education training programs, and his 15 years of social work, but I won’t because words cannot convey my admiration for this young man. 

His Berkeley opponents may be fine people, but having been a resident of Berkeley for 28 years, I’ve grown increasingly frustrated with the musical chairs our council people have played with the local elected seats. Their self-indulgent governing has been a disservice to Berkeley residents and the surrounding communities. It’s time for Berkeley to let go of this Assembly seat for the good of the entire Assembly district. 

Tony Thurmond is the only candidate who can effectively represent the entire 14th Assembly District. His dedication, energy and intelligence will make him a formidable advocate in Sacramento. I am proud and honored to know and support Tony Thurmond. 

Mary Nicely 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As I sat watching a movie on TV with subtitles for the “hearing impaired,” it occurred to me that there are no accompanying narrations for the “visually impaired.” If I were blind , and I’m not, it still seems grossly unfair to me. And, if narration were programmed in, it might put unemployed English majors like me to work. We would give anything to be able to be paid to translate the visual into the narrative! For once, English majors might have, finally, a legitimate place in society other than reproducing English majors.  

Robert Blau 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Uh-oh. It’s been eight years, and no one has fixed the Electoral College problem with our presidential elections. Naturally, the Republican Congress didn’t try to fix the problem for six years, but now we have a Democratic-majority Congress that hasn’t bothered to fix the problem either.  

The problem, of course, is that the Electoral College system enables the candidate with fewer votes than his opponent to take office. Under the current system, a million and one more California citizens could vote for the Democratic candidate than the Republican and it wouldn’t affect the outcome any more than if the Democrat won by just one vote. One million votes would be discounted. In Wyoming, voters’ ballots count four times as much as California’s.  

During the last eight years, this problem has cost us $3 trillion dollars, nearly 5,000 lives, and over 40,000 severe injuries, plus the loss of our country’s reputation as the best in the world.  

It’s a disgrace that our country, self-proclaimed beacon of democracy, does not elect its president on a one-person-one-vote basis.  

The Electoral College should be fixed or removed. We need to turn the United States of America into a democratic republic.  

Bruce Joffe 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The continuing immoral, illegal occupation of Iraq by the United States is too costly in lives and quality of life in Iraq and here. With more and more returning vets left uncared for by the government that sends them out to kill and be killed, war spending draining federal money so that social needs go unaddressed, and the many enemies it makes for us around the world, it is time to defund the Iraq occupation now. 

Frances Hillyard 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Fixing intelligence to start a war is treason, pure and simple. That is what Dick Cheney did. 

Richard B. Cheney knew there was no evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but he wanted a war in Iraq anyway, perhaps in part to benefit his company Haliburton and its subsidiary, Brown and Root. And he got his war. 

But that war, in addition to costing the lives of over 4,000 good American military men and women, has totally destroyed the Iraqi infrastructure, has resulted in the deaths of over 1,000,000 Iraqi people, and according the scholarly analysis of Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes, will almost certainly cost this nation over $3 trillion in the long run. The United States will be paying for this war for decades. 

Dick Cheney ordered gross violations of human rights, including illegal detentions of alleged enemy combatants without due process of any kind. He ordered that prisoners be abused with methods of torture (including water boarding) universally acknowledged to be in violation of the Geneva Conventions to which we are a signatory. 

And he and President Bush have completely ruined the good name of the United States of America around the world. 

I just want this man to be brought to account, and removed from power. 

Guruprem Singh Khalsa 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

“The government’s highest level of protection” is not enough! That is grizzly habitat. Grizzlies can smell humans from five miles away, and hear them from a mile away, according to biologist Ed Grumbine. It’s unfortunate that people consider wilderness to be primarily recreation areas for humans. 

Have we already forgotten that natural areas are, first and foremost, wildlife habitat? The very fact that they are wildlife habitat is what makes them attractive to people! Can you imagine wilderness without wildlife? Have you ever visited a quarry? Did you have fun? Wildlife protection should be given top priority. 

It’s unfortunate that many compromises had to be made to please such groups as Boy Scouts and snowmobilers. Hopefully, in the future, these compromises can be eliminated, and most of the Wilderness can be designated off-limits to humans, so that the wildlife can live as nature (or, if you prefer, God) intended. 

Mike Vandeman 

San Ramon 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A few radicals on the street protesting the war in Iraq is one thing. Elected officials drafting a letter telling Marines they’re unwanted intruders in their city is something else entirely. These are people elected by the voting public to represent them. As such, they represent the city of Berkeley. What makes it worse is this isn’t the first time something like this has happened in your city. I just have to ask, why does the city of Berkeley hate the United States of America and it’s military? All I can say is since the United States military is not welcomed in your city then this veteran doesn’t go where he’s not welcomed. Including myself, there are 10 family members who proudly served this country in the Army and Navy including time in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and the current war. In our eyes, Berkeley will always be the city that hates America and the U.S. Military. 

David Bordelon 

Lafayette, LA  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

We must stop the killing in Iraq. It amounts to murder everyday, of innocent civilians everyday, and of our young men and women everyday. Our nation has become a country of shame because of the inhumanity of the Bush administration. 

Dan Turner 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

As true today as it was then! Henry David Thoreau regarded the war with Mexico (then in progress) as an expedition to seize land, and in protest he refused to pay his poll-tax. For this he was jailed. Ralph Waldo Emerson asked his young friend: “What are you doing in there?” Thoreau’s famous reply: “What are you doing out there?” 

President Bush has two wars going and another one online. Seventy percent of Americans say they are against these unprovoked wars; so where’s the protest? 

Ron Lowe  

Grass Valley

Letters to the Editor

Thursday May 22, 2008 - 09:41:00 AM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’ve noticed that the city of Berkeley and the University of California, Berkeley have continued aggressively watering lawns, median strips, and the like. This activity results in a great deal of runoff onto sidewalks and into gutters, even though Berkeley is under mandatory water rationing, and even though private citizens have been asked to avoid wasteful watering. Whether or not this activity on the part of the city is legal, it is certainly disheartening. I believe citizens would be more willing to conserve if they noticed public agencies doing the same, and not being profligate with our essential water resources. 

Ari Rabkin 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It’s time to pay for the free lunch, again. When will we learn that California cannot sustain a population growth of approximately 500,000 people per year? Most of the growth comes from immigration, legal and illegal, and the higher-than-average fertility rate among Hispanic immigrants. Population growth fuels an economy temporarily while the long-term costs remain mostly hidden...until it is time to pay the bill for health care, education, transportation infrastructure, environmental protection, and so forth. Gov. Schwarzenegger is gambling on the lottery to bail us out of a $17.2 billion hole. Do I have a solution? Not really. My extended family has been able to maintain a net zero population growth yet include two legal immigrants (from China and from the Dominican Republic). Now my hope is that the Pope issues an encyclical encouraging condom use. But the chance of this is about the same as the lottery solving the state’s budget deficit. 

Robert Gable 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I got a call recently from one of Loni Hancock’s volunteer fundraisers. As soon as the young man on the line finished reading his telephone script, I told him in no uncertain terms just how disappointed I am with Loni Hancock now. I lamented how she has entirely abandoned the neighborhood causes that had been her springboard into politics in the first place, and declared my utter disgust that she now happily accepts huge contributions from the irresponsible developers and unaccountable corporations that she had railed against in her past political life. 

I went on to criticize her focus on doing everything she can to further entrench the Bates-Hancock political machine that has such a stranglehold on Berkeley politics. It seems that all Bates and Hancock want to do is support people who can help them and their cronies get re-elected to office. Power is the be all and end all. Progressive ideals? Ha! For Loni and Tom, they went out the window years ago—all that remains is the green window dressing. I ended my speech by telling the young man that I thought he should quit working for Hancock’s campaign. 

His response, and I am not kidding, was, “I’m thinking about it.” 

Loni Hancock is indeed fortunate to have such a perceptive and forthright young man working for her campaign. We can all hope he sets an example for her other supporters. 

Doug Buckwald 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

An Arkansas couple is being sought by police in several states after they allegedly took a young child’s pet miniature donkey for a walk and then did not return. The child, Faith Goodheart, said the couple was white, middle-aged, and seemed very nice. They promised to return her pet donkey to her as soon as they reached their goal.  

This just in: the couple and the pet donkey were sighted by police but made their escape in a hot-air balloon. The police are giving chase in their vehicles and are in contact with the couple by radio. 

The couple is threatening to harm the pet donkey if their demands are not met and a hostage negotiating team has been called in. Late developments: the hostage negotiators have been engaged in a running dialogue with the couple, trying to get them to land the balloon safely. The process seems to work but then the couple begins to describe the rightness of their cause and list their demands for releasing the donkey. Then the hot-air balloon starts to rise higher and higher and goes out of radio range. Sources close to the negotiation say the problem is compounded by the couple’s support staff on the ground who keep yelling encouragement to the couple during the negotiations, keeping the couple from hearing what the negotiators are saying. Negotiators hope that as the sun sets and the day ends, the hot air balloon will naturally come to earth and the pet donkey will be safely returned to her rightful owner.  

Brad Belden  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Becky O’Malley’s editorial “Fraternity Row Brawl Has Predictable Outcome” blames the dead stabbing victim for the crime. My understanding is that this killing happened on private property, where the killer had no right to be. How is this the victim’s fault, that someone went onto private property uninvited, pulled a deadly weapon, and killed him with it? Maybe Ms. O’Malley can explain this for us. The fact that someone saw students buying beer in the victim’s neighborhood has nothing to do with this killing. I have seen what appear to be drug dealers and prostitutes down on Ashby and San Pablo, in the killer’s neighborhood. Does that mean that he was on crack, meth, or heroin when he committed the crime? Not necessarily. Ms. O’Malley’s hatred for fraternities is clear in her editorial. But I guess that spewing hatred toward a group of predominantly white, male college students is acceptable in our society. It is a wonderful example of a double standard.  

Russ Tilleman  





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Although proponents of “Rapid Bus Plus” present their views in the form of a carefully-considered package, quite a few questions about it remain—especially when it is compared with the full Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project that AC Transit has propounded. Here are just a few: 1. Who has decided what the definition of ”Rapid Bus Plus” is? Is this a recognized configuration used by transit-planning professionals, or is it just a catch-all marketing term invented by opponents of BRT in Berkeley to help stop the project? 

2. More than 30 cities in North America have implemented, or are now implementing, BRT projects. Has “Rapid Bus Plus” (or an equivalent set of features) ever been selected anywhere in the world after a dedicated-lane BRT project was proposed by transit professionals? 

3. Disabled people and the elderly are disproportionately heavy users of bus transit. Since BRT stations would provide level boarding (like BART) for wheelchair users and people with mobility impairments, why would the disabled and elderly communities ever think that “Rapid Bus Plus” is better? 

4. In its Long-Range Development Plan, the university commits to building 500 fewer new parking spaces on campus if a BRT project is begun by 2011. How will “Rapid Bus Plus” help reduce the number of new parking spaces on campus? 

5. Excessive through traffic has been an ongoing problem in Southside neighborhoods for many years, and effective solutions are needed today. BRT will have to mitigate any increase in spillover traffic it would generate. Couldn’t the mitigations that AC Transit is required to provide be designed to make neighborhood streets less impacted by traffic than they are today? How would “Rapid Bus Plus” help meet that need? 

6. AC Transit has promised to replace parking lost to a BRT implementation in Berkeley. Given no net loss of parking, can you present any evidence from any community in the United States or Canada that the implementation of BRT with dedicated lanes has ever been bad for local business? 

The truth is that “Rapid Bus Plus” is being used as a smokescreen to cover the real agenda: fear of dedicating a lane of automobile traffic on much of the BRT route to public transit, in consonance with the city’s firmly established “Transit First” policy. So when you hear the phrase “Rapid Bus Plus,” be sure to listen to the mantra in the background: it’s the lane, stupid.  

Alan Tobey 

Friends of BRT  





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Mayor Tom Bates and Councilmember Linda Maio talk big about bike safety and other green things. But like every member of Bates administrative staff, the entire City Council has ignored many thoughtful proposals for actually making Berkeley safer for bikers. I speak from the standpoint of having been “doored” last year, and managing to avoid the bike for a year. In the two weeks I’ve been back in the saddle, I’ve had three near misses with car doors and another with a moving vehicle running a red light.  

Bates and Maio have ignored the following suggestions for the past three years: 

1. Place signs at all parallel parking locations that say: “Look in the door mirror–don’t hit a biker.” 

2. Pave and re-pave the so-called bike thoroughfares. They have some of the roughest pavement of all streets. 

3. Create a helmet availability program for those who can’t afford it. 

4. Stop constructing the so-called “traffic calming circles,” which present grave hazards to cyclists and pedestrians. Remove them from narrow streets so traffic can flow in a straight line again. 

5.) Start enforcing the helmet law. 

A casual survey reveals that more than half of Berkeley bike riders do not wear helmets. I sometimes get sanctimonious and yell out, “Hey I had a helmet on when the car door hit me in the head.” The responses vary from “Yea, you’re right–to fuck you asshole.” 

Liberals are just as stupid and vulnerable to hot button issues as are conservatives. In Berkeley, if a politician crows “green,” voters buy it without the most casual challenge or assessment. So, let’s start looking into these grandiose proclamations by the mayor and his minions and challenge them to make good. Bates and Maio talk green, but their actions are very brown. 

Three years ago I started e-mailing the mayor, city manager and all councilmembers about the need to create smoke-free zones in the commercial districts, where doors are less than 20 feet apart. I never got a reply from anyone–ever. But it’s gratifying to see that they acted on my proposal even if they made the effort to avoid communicating with me about it. Every occupant of City Hall needs instruction as to where to find the “reply” button on their computers. You’re welcome.  

H. Scott Prosterman 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The anti-bus rapid transit activists don’t actually seem to use public transit except for BART. In their proposal, they suggest emulating Muni’s N-Judah or Los Angeles’ Metro Rapid buses. Their proposals, comparing “Rapid Bus Plus” to the N-Judah, make it clear that they’ve never ridden the N-Judah at rush hour or L.A.’s Metro Rapid. I’ve ridden both. Metro Rapid and the N-Judah do provide better service than your ordinary bus, I’ll freely admit, but compared to the L.A.’s Orange Line BRT, there’s no comparison. The Orange line runs reliably, runs on time, and never gets stuck in traffic. There’s simply no comparison. 

Jacob Berman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Richard Brenneman opens his May 15 article with “The safest place to be in Berkeley on Wednesday night last week was ... in the community center at San Pablo Park.” Gee, I thought the safest place to be in Berkeley on Wednesdays is in front the Marine Recruiting Center in downtown Berkeley where no fewer than five Berkeley police officers were sighted this week watching over that raggedy bunch of nutcase misfists, Code Pink. Could I suggest that, since Code Pink’s offices are in Albany, the city of Albany volunteer their own police department to come up to Shattuck avenue to keep them from burning bogus magik (sic) potions while the BPD carry on with their real job, that of keeping our neighborhoods safe from crime? Better yet, why doesn’t’ the Berkeley City Council stop by each week to baby-sit these cartoon clowns they so fervently support? 

Heather Wood 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Berkeleyans for Better Transportation Options claim that their proposal for Rapid Bus Plus has been tried, and they give exactly one example: “San Francisco’s venerable N-Judah streetcar line is basically Rapid Bus Plus on rails. It runs in shared lanes, and uses simple POP....” 

A member of Friends of Bus Rapid Transit who lives in San Francisco read this claim, and he commented: 

“I take the N Judah at least twice a day, at least five days a week. It only runs in traffic for very limited portions of the route (Irving Street and Ninth Street between Irving and Judah) and those portions act as bottlenecks for the system. For the rest of the route, the N Judah gets its own ‘lane’’ (tracks on a slightly elevated/mountable platform). This is the case in the tunnels, and all along Judah St. and Duboce. 

“Actually, the few places where mixing of the N with traffic occurs cause serious headaches for Muni riders, and for residents who live along the mixed portion of the route, who must listen to the trains honking their horns to get oblivious double-parked car drivers out of their way. Along this slow portion of the route, passengers (like me) have time to hop off the train, jog ahead of the creeping train, do an ATM transaction, and then hop back on the same train again at the next stop. 

“It is not an example of successful Rapid Bus Plus, and instead is a lesson in the value of dedicated lanes in keeping transit running smoothly.” 

I would only add that San Francisco is currently planning to implement Bus Rapid Transit with dedicated lanes on three routes—which shows that, based on their experience, they have concluded that dedicated lanes are valuable. 

I hope BBTO keeps using the N-Judah as its one and only example of existing Rapid Bus Plus, then everyone will have the opportunity to see the benefit of designated lanes, just like Bus Rapid Transit will offer. 

April Mitchell 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am dismayed and disheartened to learn that Berkeley City Councilmember Darryl Moore called and held a meeting at the San Pablo Park Community Center Wednesday night to discuss the recent shootings in South Berkeley. 

I am dismayed and disheartened because how can a community meeting be held without informing the community? I live just half a block from where the Sacramento shooting took place, I know most of the facts surrounding the shooting and I know personally both youths who were targeted as well as the man who was shot on San Pablo Avenue the same evening. So I have some interest in what goes on here. 

To the best of my knowledge no one informed black South Berkeleyans that a meeting was scheduled. Otherwise how do you account for the fact that mostly white people showed up? From reading some of the comments made at the meeting it sounds as if an element of vigilantism surfaced. Why wouldn’t the mother of the two targeted youths, apparently around whom much of the discussion focused, be informed of the meeting? Is it Berkeley public policy to talk about people behind their backs?  

For instance, why was it necessary so mention the names of the youths involved in the Bob’s Liquors shootings? It was a targeted shooting. Don’t people think there is an element of security involved? 

This is the second time a meeting has been held around this shooting where the black community has been held in the dark. When the Berkeley police announced they had photographs of the shooters they held a press conference in the neighborhood to make the announcement—but they held it without doing any outreach. Same with Wednesday night’s meeting. 

When folks in Berkeley want to have a garage sale they plaster the neighborhood with leaflets, everyone knows about it. When a black kid gets shot, it gets swept under the rug, apparently. By the way, have the police interviewed the man who was standing outside Bob’s Liquors while the shooting was taking place? Why are there no leaflets in the neighborhood with the photographs of the shooters? 

The next time I have a garage sale I’m certainly not going to ask Darryl Moore or the Berkeley Police Department to organize it. And I’ll try to find someone else to vote for in the next election. 

Jean Damu 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

To answer June Brott’s rhetorical question, if I had gotten my property by forcibly ousting the previous occupants, I would expect them to try to avenge the situation. The fact that some distant ancestors may have occupied the area for brief periods thousands of years ago is both morally and legally irrelevant. 

Nor am I impressed with Israel’s industrial progress. Since 1967 alone the United States has given tens of billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars to Israel. 

We know it’s at least $150 billion but it could be much higher. Maybe a quarter trillion by some estimates. In any case it’s one hell of a lot of money, much more than we give to any other country, and unlike most foreign aid, it is unsupervised. 

If Brott had lived for 41 years under military occupation she might resort to drastic action herself. 

Eighty percent of the American people believe in angels, “god” and other fairy tales. Many still think Saddam Hussein was behind 9-11! 

All the “70 percent” figure Brott cites proves is that we have many misinformed folks here in the U.S.A. But we knew that anyway. 

How proud Israel’s supporters must to be see our moron president as the most pro-Israeli state chief executive ever! 

I call on both Christian and Jewish Zionists to stop the mindless agit-prop for not so little Israel before we get in a nuclear war on Iran. 

Michael P. Hardesty 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On May 15 the House of Representatives recognized American suffragist Alice Stokes Paul (1885-1977) for her role in winning women’s suffrage by passing legislation to award her the Congressional Gold Medal. Along with close friend Lucy Burns and others, she led a campaign that resulted in the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920, giving women the right to vote, and penned the early version of the Equal Rights Amendment. This long overdue honor recognizes Dr. Paul as one of the great women in history for her work to promote women’s rights, freedom and equality. 

Representative Joe Baca (D-Calif.) gathered 412 bipartisan sponsors for H.R. 406. The House passage of the bill is the first step toward honoring Paul with a Congressional Gold Medal. Work is underway towards with the bill’s counterpart in the Senate, sponsored by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), with the goal of having the Gold Medal awarded posthumously to feminist hero Alice Paul. 

It was only 89 years ago that women had no voting rights and little Power; married women had no separate legal status. With the help of tenacious Paul’s working to do what was right, women now can not only vote, but own homes, run businesses, play sports, become U.S. senators, and aspire to become the first women president. 

To honor Paul is to honor her life and work. She was the author of the Equal Rights Amendment, founder of the National Women’s Party, and a lifelong activist for women’s equality. Until her death at the age of 92, she fought tirelessly to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, and though the ERA is still not part of the Constitution, Paul’s legacy continues today. 

Helen Rippier Wheeler 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was surprised to see Nancy Carleton’s May 15 endorsement of Kriss Worthington include a reference to being a strong supporter of small businesses. Quite the contrary—Worthington has gone out of his way to make Berkeley an unfriendly place for small businesses. 

During the dispute last year between Metro Lighting and disgruntled workers, Worthington took the reprehensible step of putting forward an item on the consent calendar condemning the owners of Metro Lighting for a variety of offenses without making any effort to verify that they were true. The accusations were false and Worthington was forced to withdraw the item. As Worthington stated during the Nov. 27, 2007 council meeting “...somebody just asked me to put this on and I didn’t actually research it. I think it needs a lot more study and is very poorly written and doesn’t reflect the realities of the situation.” 

The crux of the issue is Worthington’s approach to this dispute. You see, he never even bothered to contact Metro Lighting to get their side of the story. Metro Lighting’s owners found out about this consent item only because a friend stumbled across it and called them. 

Metro Lighting is a long-time member of the Berkeley business community and it would have been very easy and sensible for Worthington to contact them to hear their side first. Perhaps if he was really interested in solving problems, he could have offered to help mediate, as did councilmember Darryl Moore. Worthington tried none of that. His approach was simply to put forth a flawed consent item without so much as fact checking it and choose to oppose a locally-owned and well established business. 

After withdrawing the consent item, Worthington promised the owners a letter of apology, but he has never delivered on this promise. That withdrawn consent item is still being referenced by the people who wrote it for him. Worthington’s words continue to do damage and he has taken no further interest in making amends. 

Perhaps Mrs. Carleton should not take Worthington’s approach and instead she should do a little more due diligence on just how much Worthington truly supports small businesses. 

David Weisz 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

BRT sure has been providing plenty of “Berkeley silliness” stories. 

We introduced our Climate Action Plan with great fanfare, but did not include BRT in it, knowing well that reducing automotive traffic is the best way to reduce greenhouse gas. 

In the Farmer’s Market, signatures are collected to “let the voters decide” how to deploy the BRT. We don’t need no steenking commissions or council—right? Perhaps we should let the voters should decide on other stuff—like the Climate Action Plan, downtown parking fees or even the city budget itself? 

A neighborhood group is pushing “Rapid Transit Plus,” which is BRT minus the dedicated bus lane. I’d call this “BRT designed for failure.” We are not going to get any big number of car drivers to become born-again bus riders unless the buses are allowed to go faster than car traffic. All BRTs elsewhere in the country have bus-only lanes in some places. It’s the only way to beat the cars. 

Good old Berkeley—nutty as ever. 

Steve Geller 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Here I am, the third time since I have been in the greater Bay Area, presented with water rationing. I recall very clearly having to send our precious water to Marin County via a pipeline placed on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. I recall the kind of saline taste that resulted from that time. This was during the 1970s. Then I remember the great 1980s and further rationing. This was interesting since I had just reroofed our house that had suffered from water damage from earlier rainy years. Six years of rationing really hurt. 

Well, here we are again. I am not very pleased with the decision to curtail everybody’s water usage by 19 percent. Why not just establish a baseline for an average family and then clamp on a surcharge for any excess? I feel like a fool for not putting in a pool or elaborate garden during the good times so my sacrifice will not be so harsh.  

Now I come to the good part. When will the East Bay Municipal Utilities District stop allowing new hookups to make the playing field fair? When will they and the people in the greater Bay Area know when to stop building and creating new shortages? This might be a good time to rethink all this so-called urban infill and its purported advantages to the Bay Area. Water has always and will always be in short supply in California. You only need to check the weather records from say the last century for validation. 

I don’t seem to see our great civic leaders in the forefront canceling large projects like, maybe the Trader Joe’s fiasco until the water emergency subsides. This is just my opinion.  

Mary Sawatzki 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

According to the insect pundits, plus my intensive Google research, the light brown apple moth, or LBAM, is, or is not, a threat to us all. The best solution for those who seem least cruel for the eradication of these hungry, winged fliers, is to use “sticky traps,” which would be full of mothy sex-pheromones. Thus, the hapless male moth, overpowered by synthetic sexual lust, would, without thought or independent sense of purpose, dive bomb himself into a sticky-death. Even the tiniest bit of empathy would seem to beg the question: “Isn’t there a more humane way to ward off this questionable invasion?” I put it to the corporate orchardists: “Have you no pity, have you no shame? Are you thinking of nothing but the bottom line at the expense of a beautiful, light brown, winged miracle of several million years of evolution? I, for one, am gripped by a feeling of insect brotherhood. It’s a guy thing.  

Robert Blau 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

This year marks the 149th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. Darwin’s theory of evolution set forth in this publication is considered the foundation of biology. However, even after 149 years, his theory, which has been tested again and again over time, is still anathema to many Americans. The Bible (Genesis) tells us that God created heaven and earth and all contained therein in six days. Genesis is treated by most scholars as an allegory, not literally true. Remarkably about one-third of Americans do believe the Bible is literally true. While most Americans probably agree that God was responsible for the creation of life on earth, many disagree on what happened next. About 49 percent of Americans believe that humans and other living things evolved over time (Darwin) while 48 percent believe that humans and other living things have stayed the same since creation (creationists). (“Intelligent design” is repackaged “creationism.”) Only 48 percent of American adults accept evolution (even if guided by God) and only 26 percent are convinced of the validity of Darwin’s theory of evolution by means of natural selection.  

The courts have ruled that the teaching of creationism and intelligent design in our public schools is unconstitutional and should be taught, if at all, in Sunday school, not in our public schools. 

What is most troublesome about creationism and intelligent design is that it espouses pseudo-science and anti-rationalism and discourages critical reasoning, contributing to a dumbing down of Americans. For example, 38 percent favor replacing evolution with creationism in public schools. How are we going to keep up with the rest of the world in innovation and scientific discovery when adherents of pseudo-science wield so much influence in our society? Even more troublesome, there are creationists teaching science in our colleges and universities and in our high schools. Junk in, junk out. 

Ralph E. Stone 

San Francisco 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Is everybody ready for the 2008 presidential season? President Bush gets things started by intimating that Barack Obama would appease terrorists like politicians of the past who appeased Hitler. Is this another Bushism? Obama would open lines of nuanced dialogue and diplomacy, something totally alien to the Bush administration. 

Bush’s alter-ego, John McCain, says Hamas would prefer Barack Obama as president. How does he know; has he got an inside line to Hamas? Actually, John McCain is borrowing from the Bush playbook of 2004 when George and Republicans used the same soundbite against John Kerry. 

And then there are the twisted conservative and right-wing pundits using Barack “Hussein” Obama to stoke the fears of their “red state” constituency. 

Republicans, McCain and Bush are taking the low road while Barack Obama stays above the fray. 

Ron Lowe 

Grass Valley

Commentary: Proposition 98 Would Deeply Subvert California’s Future

By John English
Tuesday May 27, 2008 - 04:09:00 PM

Our state and our cities and counties are again in grave peril. At the November 2006 general election hugely harmful Proposition 90 failed by just a slim margin. Now the same greedy special interests are back with something even worse: Proposition 98.  

And they’ve cleverly timed it for the June 3 primary when (because the presidential-preference contest got moved earlier) voter turnout may be woefully low. 

Cunningly crafted and deeply deceptive, Prop. 98 is a multi-pronged assault on California’s ability to properly shape its future. 

It would mandate that (with very few exceptions most of which would apply very rarely) “Private property may not be taken or damaged for private use”—and would define some of those words in drastically and bizarrely sweeping terms. 

So-called “private use” would be defined to include, among other things, “regulation of the ownership, occupancy or use of privately owned real property or associated property rights in order to transfer an economic benefit to one or more private persons at the expense of the property owner.” But a great range of traditional and vital zoning, environmental, and other regulations that promote public health, safety, and/or general welfare necessarily have some effects that could be called a transfer of benefits. (Statutes and case law now give public agencies wide discretion in this regard.) To quote from a sober analysis done for the California Coastal Commission, “Many land use regulations can be construed to transfer an economic benefit from one property owner to another. For instance, regulations that limit the height of buildings confer a benefit on neighboring properties, at the expense of an owner who wants to build a taller building....Because taking or damaging property [for ‘private use’] is prohibited by the initiative, this broad definition [of ‘private use’] could prohibit outright many...types of government actions, rather than simply requiring [monetary compensation]....” 

And as the same analysis points out, “Unlike Proposition 90, Proposition 98 does not include a general ‘grandfather’ clause that would limit its provisions only to regulations and public agency actions taken after the enactment of the initiative....Public agencies could...be sued by individuals trying to invalidate existing land use ordinances and regulations....” 

Homeowners, the real threat here isn’t eminent domain but, instead, 98’s potential gutting of public agencies’ ability—through zoning and otherwise—to safeguard your property values and quality of life. 

Prop. 98’s banned “private use” would also include any “transfer of ownership, occupancy or use of private property or associated property rights to a public agency for the consumption of natural resources or for the same or a substantially similar use as that made by the private owner.” The “...for the same or a substantially similar use...” part of that evidently would ban actions such as public acquisition of a utility company’s electricity distribution system. As another example, it would prohibit conserving open space through a beneficial arrangement whereby a public agency acquires either fee title or an open-space easement but lets the former grazing or farming use continue. The “...for the consumption of natural resources” wording apparently would bar public agencies from even doing things like acquiring water rights, or land for reservoirs, to help ensure a stable future water supply.  

Prop. 98 would cripple governments’ ability to conserve and promote affordable housing. Though making an exception for sitting tenants for as long as they stayed in their present units, it would otherwise totally prohibit rent control. It apparently would ban inclusionary ordinances that require providing some affordable units within a project. It could also ban some kinds of requirements on condo conversions. 

It could severely impair agencies’ ability to provide needed public facilities and services. It could bar agencies from requiring subdividers or other developers to contribute sites or pay impact fees for school, recreation, or other purposes. It would even inhibit agencies’ ability, as needs change over time, to efficiently reuse land they’ve already acquired through eminent domain. Prop. 98 would say that where the new use would be “substantially different” from the originally stated one, the public agency must first offer to sell the property to the specific owner it was acquired from. 

In some cases where a property is bought, Prop. 98 would likely result in an agency—and ultimately taxpayers—shelling out more for it. To avoid the increased hassle with eminent domain, agencies might pay an inflated price that owners would be emboldened to hold out for. 

Prop. 98 would significantly change the rules for pertinent lawsuits. It would require that “the court shall consider all relevant evidence and exercise its independent judgment, not limited to the administrative record [as is now typical in eminent domain cases] and without [the currently usual] deference to the findings of the public agency.” It would also say that whenever the court found the agency didn’t comply with 98’s rules, the owner could stick the agency for costs and attorney fees. 

Much of Prop. 98 is vaguely worded and this would surely invite numerous and diverse lawsuits. Till the wording eventually got interpreted through the court system, there’d be prolonged and paralyzing uncertainty. 

Don’t let the greedy fat cats hijack California’s future. If you want a sound and sustainable economy, a clean and healthy environment, and a humane and equitable society, then vote no on 98. 

And while you’re at it, vote yes on Proposition 99: a simple and straightforward measure without destructive hidden agendas. 

Finally, a special plea to Cal students and other young people, too many of whom often don’t bother to vote. June 3 is a biggie. It’s especially your future that’s at stake. 


John English is a longtime Berkeley resident who cares strongly about planning issues. 




Commentary: NoCoho at the 'Kingfish': Anatomy of a Deception

By Bob Brokl
Tuesday May 27, 2008 - 04:08:00 PM

A group of well-intentioned individuals (North Oakland Cohousing) with a laudatory goal—creation of a cohousing community in the heart of Oakland’s Temescal District—partners with local entrepreneurs of several controversial projects.  

They enter a marriage of convenience with a high-density/multistory advocacy group. 

After turning out in force to support their developers on other projects, their own building doesn’t “pencil out.” They pretend the dream is still on the table when their project comes to City Council. Councilperson Jane Brunner enthusiastically promotes the development and her conviction that a deal will be struck. 

The sad saga of “Project Kingfish”—cold-hearted developer ambition in an ebbing housing boom leaves cohousers and neighborhood activists alike licking wounds. 

The backstory: “Project Kingfish”—a generic pseudo-Craftsman five-story block—would level the funky pub (and steal its name), two historic Victorian cottages, and another residential building—seven units of housing under rent control. The unwieldy, chevron-shaped parcel at the gore of Claremont and Telegraph that resulted when the garage at the tip of the gore wouldn’t sell was perhaps why the developers attempted to slough off the parcel. 

I had my own narrative of what came down as a member of Standing Together for Accountable Neighborhood Development (STAND), writing the nonrefundable $918 appeal to the City Council of the Planning Commission’s approval and meeting with cohousers looking for common ground. STAND had battled the same developers (Ron Kriss, Roy Alper, Patrick Zimski) over their projects at 4700 Telegraph Ave. and 4801 Shattuck Ave., the latter sparking a lawsuit. Their Civiq project (“coming soon”) is a lot opposite the eponymous Bakesale Betty’s. 

A glimpse into the workings of the “other side” was provided by a member of the North Oakland Cohousers’ yahoo group who shared internal e-mail communication. The co-housers were enlisted as foot soldiers in the development/density wars, prodded by the developers and Urbanists for Livable Rockridge Temescal Area (ULTRA)—a pro-development advocacy group. They saw STAND as their problem. We had made the logical argument before the Planning Commission and City Council that the project being touted as Cohousing was a massive, out-of-scale market rate condo project, but neither body would require the development ultimately be cohousing. 

Key leaders of the cohousing group were also stalwart ULTRAists. One urged the members to turn up in support of zoning changes, exhorting: ”If the master plan isn’t upheld, any building higher than four stories may be denied a building permit....Higher-density development will help renew the neighborhood, and make affordability possible. ” 

Greater height and more units were linked to affordability of the cohousing project publicly. Privately, the same spokesperson divulged: “At my request, and for the sake of argument at the City Council, Chris has prepared an alternative pro forma with 20 units to show how much less affordable the units will be if we can’t build five stories. One of the...complaints of the people who don’t want five stories is that these condos aren’t affordable. So I want to show that their opposition to five stories will have the opposite effect; lowering the density will limit the possibility of building affordably)...I have to stress that we purposely made it quite dire. (For example, we’ve included only 20 units when, in reality, with only four stories we are likely to have more than 20 units. Also, in the agreement with Project Kingfish...we would pay them less if we weren’t able to build five stories as planned).” 

The co-housers with their “heart-tugging coho stories” were especially useful as other condo projects and Temescal rezoning made their way through the approval process, since cohousing “has a ‘warmer, fuzzier’ feel” than “evil, congenitally rapacious developers.” 

One especially rousing appeal from Kriss to the co-housers: “Help!! The NIMBYs are massing and planning a full scale attack on Tuesday night at the City Council meeting. Various infill development projects are now on the boards for North Oakland, including my project at 48th and Telegraph...and things are getting hot... If the silent majority does not show up on Tuesday and speak it will be difficult for the politicians to hold their ground and do the right thing for N. Oakland, Oakland, the Bay Area, and the Earth. The politicians will kowtow to the NIMBYs....” Developer Kriss, wearing his other hat as principal of Lawton Associates Realty, purveyor of tony Rockridge houses, presumably parks his overheated anti-nimby rhetoric at the door. 

Co-ho fuzziness had a calculating side: “..the developers need us as much as we need them. If there is opposition to another 5 story building going up in the neighborhood, we can all go to the meeting...—with North Oakland Cohousing t-shirts and signs—and say that we are partnering with the developers and that we all expect to be living there...The developers are aware of this, too, which gives us some bargaining power. Moreover, they have gone so far down this road that it will be much more expensive for them to drop our project and change plans midcourse—especially with an unpredictable housing market.” Little lambies, whistling in the dark...That’s just what happened. Before the hearing on Oct. 16, the development had already gone south. 

Denouement: An internal feasibility study showed “the reality is that—even if the land was FREE, the project...would be totally unfeasible...Short of getting them to contractually agree to guarantee to personally build and sell units at the old pro forma unit prices, the project at that site is basically dead.” Prospective buyers wouldn’t even qualify for Oakland first-time homebuyers’ subsidies. 

The purchase price of the property from the developers by NoCoHo was $2.6 million. Some $150,000 in payments, perhaps nonrefundable, had already been turned over. Thousands was also spent by cohousers on consultants. 

There were a flurry of anxious e-mails about “misleading the City Council”: “...all of the people being encouraged to come down on the basis of supporting the project AS cohousing (should) not be confused or feel misled in the way they were rallied to attend the hearing...one of STAND’s major arguments has been ‘what if we support this project at a larger scale because it is cohousing and then it later doesn’t turn out to be Cohousing?’ ...then they will say ‘I told you so’...” 

Coho members were already looking at alternate sites. Eerily silent at the hearing, they left the talking to the ULTRA diehards and the developer’s attorney, David Preiss, who made the de-coupling explicit: “The cohousing element of the project is not a basis of the city’s approval...The ownership configuration...is a purely private social and financial arrangement that has no legal nexus with any legitimate requirements for the Project.” 

All that was left was for Brunner to spin her upbeat scenario. Whether anyone had bothered to tell her the truth beforehand, who knows? As a recipient of $6,000 in campaign contributions from these developers, perhaps she didn’t find it necessary to care. 


Robert Brokl is an artist and activist and has lived in North Oakland (aka Dodge) for 37 years. This letter reflects his opinions, not necessarily those of any organization to which he belongs. 

KPFA: The Alternative Home Shopping Network?

By Richard Phelps
Thursday May 22, 2008 - 10:04:00 AM

Recently Michael Eric Dyson spoke in Oakland about the Jeremiah Wright controversy. He is a dynamic and entertaining speaker. KPFA recorded his speech. Has KPFA played it on the air for our listeners? No! KPFA management has played a portion of it to promote it for sale! 

Each of us may have our own interpretation of Pacifica’s mission. I do think we would all agree that getting public affairs, news and culture, that the corporate media won’t broadcast, out to the people, is the essence of Pacifica’s mission. Educate and activate. 

Pacific Bylaws, Article One, Section 2, in part: 

“In radio broadcasting operations to promote the full distribution of public information…” (Emphasis added.) 

In March 2007 KPFA recorded another Dyson speech. Was it played for the KPFA listening audience? No! It too was sold on multiple occasions and never played entirely on the air! This is also true of a Howard Zinn speech, the “God is Great” debate, and a Bill Moyer’s speech recorded and sold last year with others. This year we have “Rachel Corrie Speaks,” the Left Forum and the recent Dyson speech among others not broadcast except for a tease portion. KPFA management holds them back, creates scarcity, and sells them, like any other corporate operation.  

I have no problem with selling the speeches and programs as long as they play them for all to hear. The corporate media has a political wall to stop progressive speeches, programs and culture from getting to the people. KPFA has a glass sound barrier, stopping those that don’t have the money from hearing these important speeches and programs. Unlike the corporate media, KPFA lets us know of them so they can sell them. How do you think this makes our low-income listeners feel? Excluded, not good enough, not deserving? This is one of the hidden injuries of class. Does KPFA’s management think this creates loyal listeners? Do they care? This has been raised many times and they don’t seem to give a damn about our low-income listeners or our mission. Instead of playing these speeches for tens of thousands of KPFA listeners, they sell them to a small number of people. Is this what Pacifica is about? 

Last year I made a motion at the Local Station Board to require that the station play the speeches that they sell so everyone could possibly hear them. It was voted down by the “Concerned Listener” majority, the group that is in bed with management on issues like this. They have together fought against transparency, unpaid staff representation, fair elections and Democracy Now! in prime time, etc. 

What slippery slope does this commodification of public affairs lead to? Here are a couple of the many examples I could give. Dr. Stephen Bezruchka gave a speech called “Is America Driving You Crazy?” His thesis is that there are more mental health problems in America given our great disparity in wealth. How ironic that KPFA replicates this class divide by making the entire program available only to those that can afford to buy it! 

It gets worse. During the winter fund drive the Morning Show folks proudly proclaimed three times during the pitching that “The Great and Mighty Walk was not available anywhere else.” I easily found it on the Internet and purchased a copy for a third of KPFA’s price. The entire program has never been played on the air! Shouldn’t honesty be a fundamental principle at Pacifica?  

When my motion was debated on an LSB show last year, Brian Edwards-Tiekert, of “dismantle the LSB” fame, argued that it would be difficult to play many of these speeches since they are longer than most program times. This raises a fundamental question: does the airtime belong to the current holder of a time slot or does it belong to all of us as a commons? When a good speech comes along the station should find room for it to be promptly played and programmers should be willing to share their time to make it happen. In the words of Robbie Osman, from his 2004 paper on the DN! time change struggle (www.peoplesradio.net): “We will have to choose whether to defend the station’s mission or defend our own turf.”  

Unlike the KPFA of old, where programmers produced specials for the fund drives, now most fund drive programs are recorded speeches, or DVDs or CDs that are bought and resold and never completely played on the air. If these speeches and programs are as great as they promote them to be when asking for your money, why aren’t they played on the air? 

I yearn for the days before the August 1995 purges, when more than 100 community activist programmers were fired, including many from communities of color, and the beginning of the Healthy Station format with strip programming, etc. The station was more spontaneous back then. When a prominent person gave a speech, we heard it live or shortly thereafter, we didn’t have to pay for it and I donated much more than I do now! 

KPFA’s management is afraid that if speeches are played on the air no one will buy them or donate. If there was more excitement on the air, live or current speeches, and the news wasn’t straight off the AP wire, and more like the Knight Report, and the listeners felt that their concerns mattered, I know I would donate much more and I believe lots of others would also. KPFA could be so much better with progressive management that puts the mission first! This management group has run the station since 2003 and has lost 5,000 subscribers during the Bush regime, while increasing the paid staff 50 percent. 


Richard Phelps is a former chair of the KPFA Local Station Board.

BRT: It’s Big, It’s Boondogglicious — Let the Voters Decide!

By Gale Garcia
Thursday May 22, 2008 - 10:05:00 AM

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is AC Transit’s plan for a massive project including Telegraph Avenue and parts of Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley. Two traffic lanes would be allocated to AC Transit buses, forcing all other vehicles (cars, bikes, trucks, motorcycles) to share just one lane each way. Most of the parking on Telegraph would disappear, to the chagrin of the local merchants. 

A group of citizens has drafted a clear, concise initiative requiring voter approval before portions of Berkeley streets could be given over to exclusive transit use. Volunteers from all over town are circulating the petitions. Anyone who would like to help should contact: savelanes@gmail.com. 

Of people I have approached in the neighborhoods near Telegraph Avenue, about 90 percent have never heard of BRT with dedicated bus lanes, and are shocked to learn that it’s in the works. A frequent response is, “Oooh, that doesn’t sound like a good idea.” The vast majority of people sign the petition readily and with enthusiasm. 

Many scratch their heads about this improbable proposal and ask what’s behind it. They wonder who could think that giving over two lanes of Telegraph to a flawed agency like AC Transit would be a good idea. (Well, AC Transit for one).  

AC Transit stands to acquire somewhere between $250 million and $400 million in federal funds if the cities of Berkeley, Oakland and San Leandro are willing to go along with the “build alternative” for BRT (where we let AC Transit build something on our streets). 

In fact, AC Transit has been cutting service for over two years—apparently with complete disregard for their riders. AC Transit needs to return to its mission: providing bus service. It does not need to build things on land it does not own just because money is available to do so.  

The East Bay Express recently ran a series of articles by Robert Gammon about AC Transit’s purchase of VanHool diesel buses from Belgium, and other unusual budgetary decisions. The series reports outrageous expenditures by the agency, such as an Oakland bus inspector living near Antwerp (all expenses paid, including a housekeeper and a car), and stopovers in Paris by AC Transit employees on their way to Belgium.  

The complete series of articles, including rebuttals from AC Transit officials, and Gammon’s pithy replies, can be found at: www.eastbayexpress.com, in the archives for issues published between January and March of this year. 

Few people realize that part of the BRT package involves elimination of the local bus service on Telegraph, the 1 line. AC Transit is calling it “combined” local service and BRT. But the local bus stops would be—just plain gone. And the stops that would remain appear to be exactly the same ones that have always been planned for BRT.  

AC Transit is not informing its riders of the threatened loss of local bus stops; I only learned about it only after e-mailing an AC representative, who replied with a list of the stops that would be in the “combined” service. Further inquiries about what element, if any, of the local service remains in the “combined” service plan have not been answered. 

Thus, a fringe benefit for AC Transit, if it succeeds in implementing BRT, is the opportunity to cut service under the ruse of “combining” service. Without dedicated bus lanes, there would be no reason to cut the local service. As currently planned, BRT would be a win-win for AC Transit, and a lose-lose, lose-lose for the rest of us. 

Mayor Bates also seems to think this plan is a great idea. A couple of neighbors who met with him about this matter reported that he claimed that if BRT didn’t work out, it could just be torn out. Hmmm. Something that costs hundreds of millions to build would probably cost a bundle to rip out—wasting our tax dollars to destroy something that should never have been built in the first place. 

Ordinary citizens, who just want to live in Berkeley rather than transform it with “transit oriented development” (which would be encouraged along the route if BRT happens), immediately grasp that this proposal for illogical transit modifications chasing federal money is a dumb idea, or as one of our volunteers aptly describes it, “a pork barrel painted green.” 

As it now stands, our City Council can just give away the use of our streets. Because we have a mayor who never met a massive project he didn’t love, and a compliant City Council, this ridiculous project really is in danger of happening.  

We can say no, by putting the citizen’s “Voter Approval” initiative on the ballot. Then we’d see just how many people, after looking at the details, would actually vote to go along with AC Transit’s boondogglicious plan. 


Gale Garcia is a Berkeley resident who loves buses—small buses, local buses, shuttle buses . . . and is circulating a petition to put the BRT question on the November ballot.  



In Support of Kriss Worthington

By Ruth Michaels and Sydney Vilen
Thursday May 22, 2008 - 10:06:00 AM


We write in support of Kriss Worthington for the state Assembly seat in the 14th District. We’d like to tell you some of our reasons. Kriss is a strong, progressive, people-oriented, 11 year Berkeley City Councilmember who has worked tirelessly to secure higher pay for teachers, protect our kids’ education from Schwarzenegger’s cuts, achieve affordable housing and access to affordable public transportation, protect funding to health and social services for women, seniors and veterans, support labor and workers’ rights, and build an ecologically sound environment. 

We have a grand opportunity on June 3 to elect someone who will truly be on our side. Kriss has gone out of his way time and again to help people even if they are not in his council district. Here at Strawberry Creek Lodge, a senior apartment complex in Berkeley for about 160 people, not in Kriss’ district, we were having difficulty getting a “City Car Share” parking place. Kriss came to our aid, and we now have a “City Car Share” vehicle in our parking lot. It’s better for the environment and more economical for seniors who could then sell their cars and use the car share program. 

Strongly committed to single payer, Kriss will carry on the important work of termed-out State Senator Sheila Kuehl to enact universal healthcare. He will never cave in to Schwarzenegger by voting for tens of thousands of additional prison beds at the expense of funding for education, jobs, and basic economic justice, as too many Democrats have done. Kriss has opposed Schwarzenegger’s budget priorities and will continue to do so in Sacramento. 

Two environmental programs spearheaded by Kriss, the Eco-Pass program and the Zero Waste Ordinance, have become models for city programs nationally. He lives what he preaches; Kriss is a familiar sight as he bicycles around Berkeley to meeting after meeting. 

Kriss has stood up repeatedly for issues of human rights and dignity and is the only candidate to have served on the boards of the NAACP, the LGBT Democratic Club, NOW, and the Sierra Club. 

May 2, was the City of Berkeley’s sixth annual Holocaust Remembrance Day to honor the Jews murdered during the Nazi reign of terror. This memorial was initiated and coordinated by Councilmember Kriss Worthington. He had gotten to know so many Holocaust survivors who had chosen Berkeley as home that he felt the city should commemorate their past. 

Holocaust survivor Ruth Michaels recalls all these memorials: 

“The first year, we were six people sitting in the hallway of city hall. We read some holocaust poetry. The second year, we were twelve; we told our own Holocaust stories to each other. The third year, Old City Hall was filled to overflowing; and we have continued there ever since. We sing and listen to music, read poetry, and listen to survivors’ stories, as well as stories of the children and grandchildren of survivors. 

“Kriss talked about other groups murdered in concentration camps: gypsies, gays, communists, the disabled and dissenters. We also talked about other genocides such as Armenia, Rwanda, Darfur. Towards the end of the Memorial every year, the Holocaust survivors present step forward; each lights a candle to remember the dead and to celebrate the sanctity of life. 

“This Memorial means a lot to us, and we are grateful to Kriss Worthington for founding and continuing the Memorial every year.” 

Kriss has stood for peace and justice, in opposition to Bush’s wars on Iraq, civil liberties, and the middle class. He will stand with us and fight for us. 

He is a very gentle, caring soul. You can only wonder where he gets all his tireless energy. I think it comes from his quiet, solid strength. A friend, who saw his gentle side, asked me if I thought he was strong enough. I could only respond, “Yes! Absolutely!” Kriss embodies the steady, quiet, solid strength of always being there, of always being present, of steadfastly hanging in until the job is done. He’s as constant as they go. The phrase that comes to mind is one we frequently hear used an as essential quality for judicial nominees: he has Judicial Temperament. 

Please join us in voting for Kriss Worthington for the 14th District on June 3rd. 

For more information on his positions, issues, and information in general, see www.krissworthington.com. 


Ruth Michaels and Sydney Vilen are Berkeley residents.

Celebrating Objectors and Resisters

By Bob Meola
Thursday May 22, 2008 - 10:12:00 AM

What if they gave a war and nobody came? What if they gave a war and nobody paid for it? What if civil resistance was used for the good of our community? 

Secular humanists and religious traditions around the world teach that killing is wrong. Jesus, Buddha, and Hillel all spouted very similar versions of The Golden Rule. Do unto others what you would have them do unto you. What is hateful to thee, do not do unto others. That is the message we should all be teaching all children. 

I am glad to live in Berkeley, a city that last year passed a resolution and issued a proclamation that stated “that the Council of the City of Berkeley declares that May 15 of each year be publicly designated and recognized as the day on which Berkeley acknowledges, honors, and celebrates conscientious objectors (CO) and war resisters, civilian and military, past, present, and future.” 

COs and resisters have, due to conscience and principle, often sacrificed their time and freedom in prison or in exile or underground. Their resistance to militarism sets a noble example and outstanding model for our youth and our whole community. Many COs and resisters have contributed greatly to life in Berkeley. 

I am also glad that later last year, the Berkeley City Council passed another resolution which updated its Sanctuary City status for conscientious objectors. That resolution made Berkeley a Sanctuary City, not only for traditional COs, but also “extends Berkeley as a City of Sanctuary for those otherwise seeking to avoid participation in the occupation of Iraq or in combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan or other targets of United States wars for moral ethical or religious reasons or out of respect for international laws, including the Nuremberg Principles, even if these military personnel have been classified as AWOL or as deserters.” It also “declares the City of Berkeley a City of Sanctuary for Draft Registration Resisters and in the event of a new draft, a City of Sanctuary for Draft Resisters.” Berkeley welcomes war resisters! 

For the second year in a row, Berkeley raised a peace flag on Berkeley CO and War Resisters Day and International Conscientious Objectors Day. This year the celebration featured speakers and music and a puppet show in Civic Center Park on Saturday. 

During the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848, Henry David Thoreau wrote, “If a thousand [people] were not to pay their tax bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them and enable the state to commit violence and shed blood.” 

We can all be conscientious objectors. War tax resistance is conscientious objection. When 70 percent of the population is against the war in Iraq and they are made to pay for it, we have taxation without representation. It seems that it is way past the time to throw the tea into the harbor. Throwing tea into the harbor is as American as apple pie. We need a nonviolent revolution as much as the founders needed a revolution in 1776. Our revolution can also be an evolution. Every day we can evolve into the next steps of constructive program and civil resistance and noncooperation with immoral, illegitimate, and unconstitutional authority which wages wars, removes rights, and spreads oppression at home and abroad through its empire. 

Using our imagination, being creative, and conspiring together for the good of the community, we can conscientiously object and act locally and constructively to stop corporations from mounting cell phone towers in our neighborhoods for profit in place of health. We can stop the state from poisoning us with spray it threatens us with while it claims it does so to protect us from the light brown apple moth. We must remember that pacifists are not passive. It will take active resistance to protect our loved ones, our neighborhoods, our environment, and our planet from governments and corporations. It will take active resistance to protect people from ICE raids. 

Thank you, citizens and residents of Berkeley for standing up so often for peace and justice in so many ways. Berkeley must remain a Sanctuary City for peace and justice. Peace and Justice have been under attack everywhere. Calm reflection, conscientious objection, and peaceful and cooperative mutual aid, resistance, and direct action are the assets we have. 


Bob Meola is a veteran of the anti-war movement since 1967 and has worked as a counselor for military veterans.

Berkeley Needs Fiscal Responsibility

By Barbara Gilbert
Thursday May 22, 2008 - 10:08:00 AM

At a time when Berkeley residents are economically very insecure, and homeowners are extremely worried about the impact of declining home values and retirement assets, the city of Berkeley is proposing to increase local real property taxation. It will also be asking voters to re-authorize several special taxes previously approved. 

Revenue generated by local taxes and any increases thereto essentially funds city employee compensation. Almost all of the city’s $143 million General Fund is allocated to employee compensation as is approximately 80 percent of the city’s Total Funds annual budget of $315 million. In 2004 the city had the highest ratio of employees to residents in the State of California and this has likely not changed for the better. There are approximately 1,700 budgeted city employees. As Berkeleyans probably know by now, city employees have almost complete job security, excellent working conditions, a guaranteed retirement benefit of almost 100 percent of last salary, and heavily subsidized health insurance during employment and retirement. 

The city of Berkeley recently signed new labor contracts increasing employee compensation by about 15 percent over three to four years.  

Did you know that on top of salary, the city spends on average almost 55 percent additional on the employee’s benefits? 

The standard justification in the past for the superb benefit system enjoyed by public employees has been that they are paid less than others. However, recent disclosures required under “sunshine” regulations reveal the shockingly high number of Berkeley public employees making substantially more than $100,000 in salary alone, and this was in 2007 prior to the new contracts.  

A Google search for “City of Berkeley top earners” will take readers to this data. 

About 25 percent (371) city employees were in this high-earner category for 2007. Most of these high earners (75 percent or 282 employees) are in the police or fire departments. Considering that these two departments combined have about 450 employees, this means that almost 65 percent of public safety employees are in the top earner category. They keep company there mainly with the city manager, department heads, city attorneys, and a few other positions requiring special skills and/or managerial responsibility. The extremely high gross pay for public safety employees is largely attributable to overtime. Despite substantial effort every year, the city has been unable to curb expensive overtime costs. The city’s top 2007 earner in gross pay was a police sergeant earning $217,800. With $63,659 in benefits (55 percent of base salary of $115,744), this sergeant’s total compensation was about $282,000. In all, 55 public safety employees grossed at least $150,000 in pay along with about $60,000 in additional nonsalary compensation. 

Please also note that in addition to the top earners (over $100,000 in gross pay), there are many additional city employees just under the $100,000 salary mark, and not included in this top earner list, whose total compensation (with benefits) is about $150,000.  

Even though the proposed new Berkeley taxes will be appealingly framed to support worthy services (police, fire, library), you need to know that it all goes into one big kitty to fund all city employees. And while I consider myself a strong supporter of quality public safety services, I do feel that the compensation levels for these services are veering out of control. We do not want to end up like Vallejo and declare municipal bankruptcy. Berkeley needs to cut back on nonessential services and employees and to take a much stronger managerial role with respect to essential police and fire services. 

Consider voting no on all new taxes and even consider a NO vote on the re-authorization of previously-approved new taxes. This is the only way to force fiscal responsibility on our city government and preserve Berkeley as a livable community for middle income families. 


Barbara Gilbert lives in Berkeley’s District 5.

Berkeley, Land of the Anti-Union Progressive

By Dave Blake
Thursday May 22, 2008 - 10:15:00 AM

Last week I began outlining why our progressive local power structure isn’t really progressive anymore. The hardest pill for me, as a long-time progressive, to swallow was the betrayal of the Berkeley Bowl workers. 

The Bowl is my favorite place to shop. I don’t believe, however, this means that the Bowl workers should be denied basic employment rights. Glen Yasuda, the Bowl’s owner, is a big-time anti-union employer. The Bowl endured a three-year struggle six years ago to establish union representation. That ended only when the National Labor Relations Board staff declared Yasuda’s inimidating and retaliatory behavior so outrageous that they recommended that the anti-union vote not only be invalidated but overturned—and the union immediately recognized without any further voting. (That’s from a Bush-headed NLRB!) 

When Yasuda applied three years ago to open his new West Berkeley near San Pablo Avenue, the workers naturally assumed that their progressive City Council would make sure that they didn’t have to refight that struggle. But Mayor Tom Bates is a funny kind of progressive who doesn’t seem to consider a worker’s right to join a union a fundamental principle. 

Yasuda’s land was zoned for industrial, not retail use. He needed the zoning changed to allow a grocery store on the site. That change would raise the rental value of the land from 75 cents a month per square foot to $2.75, and was worth $7 million to him. The workers asked Mayor Bates not to support the rezoning until Yasuda agreed to allow his workers to join the Bowl union. Bates refused. The workers then asked Bates to support a one-week delay, to allow them to negotiate a promise to allow the workers to vote on representation, which is known as a card-check election. On the morning of the council vote, a Yasuda supporter circulated a rumor that Yasuda would abandon his project if the council didn’t pass it that very night. 

It was in this context that Nancy Skinner, newly appointed to the East Bay Parks Board in preparation to run as Bates’ designated successor for Loni Hancock’s Assembly seat, stepped forward to give Bates progressive cover for his vote against the workers. Here's what she said, in its entirety: 


Hi. Nancy Skinner, West Berkeley resident, I live on Bancroft west of Sacramento. I urge you to support the Berkeley Bowl tonight. I really feel for you as a former Councilmember, these are difficult decisions that you are weighing. As a very strong supporter of labor, I feel that it’s unfortunate that the ownership of the Berkeley Bowl was very unfair to the employees' efforts to unionize at the current store, and I would like them to be more supportive right now, but as a shopper at the Berkeley Bowl I endorsed the workers petitions and their rights to unionize, I supported them 100 percent and they won and I think that they will win again when the new store opens and if we say no to the store then we don't even have the opportunity for any workers to form a union and get represented and unionize the store and we potentially would have no market for the area either. So I urge you to support it so that we can back the workers and get a union in there. Thank You. 

That is, screw the workers now when you have the leverage to help them, then later support them when they have to fight again for the right to join a union—a costly battle that may once again take years and is by no means guaranteed to succeed. That night, the motion to back the workers failed by one vote, with Bates the only progressive voting against it. 

Every anti-union employer claims he’ll go under if his workers are represented by a union; if you can’t call that bluff, there’ll never be any unions. The absurdity, of course, is that the Shattuck Bowl does just fine, union and all. 

When asked why she opposed the workers, Skinner has said that the council didn’t have the power to deny Yasuda’s permit. That is cynical misdirection: there were two independent issues before them: the permit and the zoning-map change. Though they couldn’t write a condition for a permit to operate a grocery store that would require a union election, nothing stood in the way of simply refusing to give Yasuda his $7 million industrial-to-retail change while they had the crucial leverage. 

As Skinner suggested, the progressive community will certainly line up behind the workers when they again try to organize the Bowl. (And Bates and Skinner will undoubtedly try to head up the parade endorsing the very unionization effort they thwarted two years ago). Should that organizing effort fail (and Yasuda is a lot savvier now than when he lost the NLRB decision), that will likely spell the end of their union representation completely. Yasuda will be able to threaten his workers with closing the less-profitable unionized Shattuck site. 

Meanwhile, when Skinner was asked at the Democracy for America (DFA) endorsement meeting to state her position on labor, she spent all her time explaining how important it is to support the right of workers to have card-check elections. In the age of anti-union progressive politicians, you have to watch politicians’ hands and their lips. As often as not, they’re speaking power to truth, instead of the other way around. 

Those of us who saw our progressive political movement as an opportunity to do good in the world, who got up before dawn to spread the progressive word to every corner of Berkeley on election day, needn’t surrender to despair because the apparatus of that movement has been taken over by cynical operatives. Both Hancock and Skinner face potent progressive opponents in the Democratic primary battles for East Bay Senate and Assembly seats. 

Hancock’s progressive challenger is Wilma Chan. Chan’s California Labor Federation Progressive Scorecard lifetime rating is higher than Hancock’s. Chan used her six-year Assembly career to actively pass progressive legislation, and was the first woman—and the first Asian-American—to be elected majority leader of the Assembly; Skinner must prove her progressive credentials against Kriss Worthington, the long-time progressive Berkeley councilmember who voted to support the Bowl workers at the crucial moment. 

The election 12 days from now will lock up the major positions of power in the East Bay for at least the next eight years, Many of us will be rising before dawn, just like in the old days, to deliver flyers and slatecards that will help elect these trustworthy, effective progressives. We’re seeking what you might call change you can believe in. Join us at WilmaChan.org and KrissWorthington.com. 

War and Race

By Marvin Chachere
Thursday May 22, 2008 - 10:14:00 AM

The older I get the angrier I become when word merchants—politicians, newscasters, advertisers, pundits of all sorts—twist words to hide reality and manipulate perceptions. Two words in particular, like grains of sand in my shoe, hurt ever more acutely these days. They are “war” and “race.”  

“Race” has been an irritant for scores of years, whereas “war” acquired its current harmful effects after May 1, 2003, the day President Bush declared the military mission in Iraq accomplished. These words are twisted into insidious instruments—“race” is poisonous and “war” is a bludgeon. They are common and ubiquitous on TV and print media where their distorting effects are almost never acknowledged. 

If the sole use of these two words was to name things, “war” an activity and “race” a condition, then I’d have no reason to be angry. Remember, Shakespeare’s Juliet famously asked “What’s in a name?” and used “rose” to illustrate what she imagined was the empty content of names. Unfortunately for her, she found out at the end of the play that “Capulet” and “Montague” far from being mere labels were harbingers of death. 

In the New York Times (April 23) Christine Kenneally published a article that surveyed a variety of studies linking language with perception and concluded that “For the most part (language) enhances thinking. But it can trip us up, too.” Indeed it can. 

Language is the basic means of communication and words (names) are building blocks of language. Language affects perception and perception affects action. Therefore, those for whom language is the sole means of contributing to the public good, abuse the trust of their audiences when they use “race” and “war” the way they do. 

War as metaphor—war on drugs, war on poverty, war on crime—does not arouse my ire. Also, I’ve learned, with effort, to keep my cool when word merchants, lock step with Bush, talk about a war on terror; terror is extreme fear and we need to control fear; fear is the only thing we need to fear. OK, it’s weird syntax but where’s the harm, I ask myself, in propagating a war on fear? 

The harm is not in propagating a war on fear but in wielding “war on terror” as a club to silence dissent (the Patriot Act), to justify sweeping presidential powers, to legalize torture, etc. In short, the war on terror does not defeat terror but it does push this nation farther from the lofty ideals envisioned by its founders. 

To my mind, however, the most egregious misuse of “war” is its callous use in talking about the brutal, barbaric, horrific, purposeless and costly killing that has gone on for five long years in Iraq. Bush and word merchants who follow him tell us he is a wartime president. “The nation is at war” they say. I’d laugh if the consequences of this twisted use of “war” as a name for the mess in Iraq were not so stupendously tragic.  

To be sure, there is massive, mindless killing, some perpetrated by our occupying military, some by Iraqi insurgents. No one denies that we have enemies in Iraq who will kill us any way they can; after all, our military runs and over-runs their country. But whatever you want to name it, it is not war. The enemy does not wear uniforms or carry a flag, which means our soldiers have targets only when they are targeted. Our occupying force is equipped with the most advanced and destructive weaponry the world has ever seen—helicopter gunships, drones, tanks, rockets, fighter planes, bombers, etc. Our enemies, on the other hand, have only the weapons they can carry or make at home. “Insurgency” may not be the exotic name that “war” is, but it is certainly more accurate. 

Finally, consider the fact that although the Commander-in-chief is the principal swinger of the “war” hammer he tries to keep from view the coffins in which his soldiers’ dead bodies are returned home. A week ago the highest ranking casualty in Iraq was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. The family of Marine Lt. Colonel Billy Hall invited the press to cover the ceremony, yet the Corps arranged that “…no sound and few images would make it into the public domain”(Washington Post, April 23). Journalists were not allowed closer than two hundred yards of the burial cite. Evidently, the commander-in-chief can have his cake and eat it too. 

What about that other irritant, “race”? 

Well, ever since the end of slavery we’ve been tripped up by “race.” It figures prominently in the presidential campaign marathon now in play. Word merchants, ignoring the long established fact that race has no objective referent outside the minds of those who use it, propagate general questions, irrelevant and idiotic, such as whether Barack Obama is black enough, whether he can bridge the nation’s racial divide, and whether America is ready for a black president, in short: keep race alive!  

I do not doubt that a majority of voters eschew belief in racial inferiority but I seriously doubt whether voters who accept Obama as a candidate outnumber those guardians of the racial divide who insist on seeing him as an African-American candidate. Centuries of historical precedent cannot so easily be swept away. 

The template for race as an instrument for maintaining power is, for me, aptly illustrated by a story told of Frederick Douglass, freed slave and darling of the abolitionist movement in the first half of the nineteenth century. Douglass was, for the righteous movers and shakers of New England, a man of parts, a powerful orator, writer and tireless advocate for equal rights not only for blacks but for all men, including women. He toured New England, Ireland and other European cities. He addressed standing room only crowds and at the height of his fame he was called aside by his agent/promoter/handler and delicately urged to incorporate in his speeches more of the deferential manner of an ex-slave and forego the eloquence he, Douglass, had taught himself. The agent/promoter/handler seemed to fear that Douglass would lose his appeal unless he feigned inferiority, why else would he be urged to deny his own powers?  

Generalizing this anecdote and putting the case more bluntly: persons of African descent are pushed into a fabricated “race” corral where, if they do not accept inferiority, they are obliged to kill or otherwise deny their unique personal identity. Blacks are expected to be proud of being African Americans; each African-American is a stand-in for all African-Americans; the “race” category carries a subtle insistence that persons so designated commit identity suicide. You must not be all you can be, you can be only what the ruling majority allow you to be! 

To my mind Rudyard Kipling was the first international figure to fully appreciate and take pride in the controlling powers of the racial category. His writings are iconic among literature’s racial markers and chief among them is a poem he wrote and published in 1899. The first line in each of seven stanzas begins with the title, “Take up the White Man’s Burden.” Kipling exhorts America, on the verge of war in the Philippines, to step boldly on the road to empire: “Go bind your sons to exile / To serve your captives’ need, / Your new caught sullen peoples, / Half-devil and half-child.” 

Classifying humans by race is demeaning, denigrating and superficial. A half century ago. John Howard Griffin, a journalist, rubbed black die onto his face, neck and hands and then wandered about Negro neighborhoods in the segregated south. If you can’t imagine the humiliations he suffered, read his book Black Like Me. No further proof is needed for the fact that race is cosmetic but that it nevertheless exposes one to unpleasant and sometimes harmful treatment.  

Carl N. Dengler compared slavery and race relations in this country and in Brazil. He got the Pulitzer Prize in 1971 for his book, Neither Black Nor White. The Portuguese colonists sought to enrich themselves and their homeland whereas the English colonists sought new homes. When slavery was outlawed the English colonists replaced it with segregation, Brazil did nothing. In both countries race is a socio-economic category; in Brazil it is a matter of class, not based on skin color, but here it is a matter of caste based on skin color. 

As Clinton and Obama vie to be the Democratic Party’s nominee for president the USA will find out how unbridgeable and nurtured the racial divide remains.  

I think Carl N. Dengler would agree that in Brazil, history would stamp Barack Obama first a Brazilian then an African, but USA history makes him first an African (Remember the “one drop”rule.) then an African-American. Candidate Obama is working hard to turn that around.  


Marvin Chachere is a San Pablo resident. 


State Senate District 9 Candidate Statement: Loni Hancock

Thursday May 22, 2008 - 10:45:00 AM

As your state senator, I will use my experience in local, state and national government to continue to fight for universal healthcare, strong environmental protections, campaign finance reform and better schools. I have spent many years working with people in Berkeley and the Bay Area for responsive government and social justice—serving as one of President Clinton’s top education officials, two terms as the first woman elected as mayor of Berkeley, eight years on the Berkeley City Council and three terms in the state Assembly.  

As chair of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee, I co-authored landmark legislation to create an enforceable cap on greenhouse gases, and am helping make California a leader in the fight against global warming. I led the fight to stop a housing development on a former toxic waste site and passed landmark legislation that will prevent similar situations in the future. 

Legislation that I authored increased recycling rates by historic levels in 2007. I am leading the fight to secure funds to enhance East Shore State Park.  

I am proud to be the only candidate endorsed by both the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters and to have been named Legislator of the Year by Californians Against Waste.  

I am the co-author of legislation to establish universal healthcare in California and am fighting to ensure that all Californians have affordable, quality healthcare. I am proud to be endorsed by the California Nurses Association.  

As mayor of Berkeley, I helped establish Berkeley High School’s health clinic. As a member of the Budget Committee, I restored $29 million in health care funding for children with developmental disabilities that Gov. Schwarzenegger tried to cut. I was one of only two Democrats to oppose Governor Schwarzenegger’s $544 million cut to health care in 2008. I am co-authoring legislation that will expand health care to 300,000 uninsured children.  

Improving our educational systems has always been one of my highest priorities. In the 1990s, I led the Clinton administration’s efforts in four western states to launch after-school, college preparation and early reading programs. On the Assembly Education Committee, I passed California’s exciting new law to improve hands-on learning in small learning communities in high schools and reduce California’s unacceptable high school dropout rate.  

As a legislator, I have fought to protect funding for schools. Over the years, I have organized opposition to cuts to education funding, whether it be for K-12 or community colleges, CSU or UC. This year, I was the only Democratic legislator to vote against Governor Schwarzenegger’s $506 million cut to our public schools. Because of my commitment to public schools, I have been endorsed by the Berkeley Federation of Teachers, the California Federation of Teachers and the California Teachers Association. 

I am the lead legislator working on campaign finance reform in California. As author of the California Clean Money and Fair Elections Act, I am pushing to get special interest money out of state elections through a publicly financed system based on successful models in Arizona and Maine. Currently, I am co-authoring legislation that will prevent high-paid lobbyists from giving gifts to state legislators. 

I am fighting on behalf of seniors. I helped pass a law requiring employees of financial institutions to report suspected financial elder abuse. As a member of the budget committee, I fought for a $2 million increase in Alzheimer’s research. I supported increased funding for prostate cancer care for low-income men and fought cuts to the Senior Nutrition and Foster Grandparent Programs. I recently authored legislation that expands day health care centers to provide services to frail older adults and have held workshops throughout my District to help seniors negotiate through the confusing choices of Medicare Part D and to protect themselves against identity theft. 

I have fought for working families and am proud to be endorsed by many other labor organizations including: 


• Berkeley Fire Fighters Association, Local 1227. 

• California Conference of Machinists.  

• California Labor Federation. 

• Communication Workers of America, Northern California and Nevada. 

• Central Labor Council of Alameda • County. 

• Central Labor Council of Contra Costa County. 

• Contra Costa Building and Construction Trades Council. 

• International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. 

• International Longshore and Warehouse Union. 

• International Union of Painters & Allied Trades District Council 16. 

• Northern California Carpenters Regional Council. 

• Public Employees Union, Local One.  

• Teamsters’ Joint Council No. 7 . 

• United Auto Workers Region 5. 

• United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 5. 

I am the official candidate of the California Democratic Party, and have received the endorsement of the Cal Berkeley Democrats, the East Bay Lesbian/Gay Democratic Club, Berkeley Citizens Action and the Alameda County Democratic Lawyers. 

My other endorsers include: Members of Congress Barbara Lee and George Miller, Assemblymember Sandré Swanson, Supervisor Keith Carson, Mayors Ron Dellums and Tom Bates and seven other East Bay mayors, Berkeley City Councilmembers Max Anderson, Laurie Capitelli, Linda Maio, Darryl Moore, Betty Olds, Gordon Wozniak and Berkeley School Boardmembers Karen Hemphill, Shirley Issel, and Nancy Riddle, East Bay Regional Park District Director Nancy Skinner, AC Transit Directors Chris Peeples, Joe Wallace and Greg Harper, BART Director Robert Franklin and East Bay MUD Director Andy Katz. 

I would be honored to have your vote on June 3. 

For more information visit www.hancockforsenate.com. 


State Senate District 9 Candidate Statement: Wilma Chan

Thursday May 22, 2008 - 10:44:00 AM

I am running for the state Senate seat being vacated by current Senator Don Perata. My priorities are education, environmental justice, access to healthcare and good jobs.  

Since leaving the Assembly two years ago, I’ve been teaching at Cal as well as working to expand access to healthcare for students at Berkeley City College and the other Peralta community colleges and serving on the state commission that sets reimbursement rates for hospitals serving low income Californians. 

Let me tell you a little about myself and the work I’ve done.  

I represented Oakland, Alameda and Piedmont in the state Assembly until the end of 2006. In the Assembly, I was the Assembly majority whip in my first year, going on to become the first woman in California history to serve as the Assembly majority leader, a top leadership position second only to the Assembly Speaker.  

During my tenure in the Assembly, I won passage of more than 55 new laws, including some of the toughest consumer-oriented healthcare and environmental bills in the nation. The prestigious California Journal named me “top of the class.”  

For two years I chaired the Assembly Health Committee and served on the Assembly Budget Committee, Subcommittee on Education Finance for five.  

The bulk of my legislative accomplishments are in education and healthcare, where I won approval of 35 laws.  

I am proud to have passed a law stopping hospitals from price gouging moderate and middle income families simply because they lack health coverage and a measure to hold health insurers accountable for denying policies to individuals. I passed new laws to help older adults by requiring the licensing of the dozens of complex prescription drug plans under Medicare. I won approval of a law that gives the most vulnerable—children, older adults and those with chronic illnesses the first priority when flu serum runs short.  

I introduced the first bill to provide health coverage to California’s 800,000 uninsured children and was a principal coauthor of Senator Sheila Kuehl’s legislation for universal healthcare—a bill I hope to carry forward in the Senate. 

In education, I secured $100 million to expand pre-school for young children to help them get a head start on their education. When the governor proposed cutting financial aid and turning away 10,000 qualified students who had already received acceptance letters to UC schools, I led the successful fight against it.  

My work on the environment has been recognized by the California League of Conservation Voters, the political arm of the environmental movement, and written up in The Nation magazine. I don’t back away from tough fights with the special interests when the cause is right. I battled chemical companies, passing the first law in the nation to ban toxic PBDEs in furniture. In another fight, I won legislation that protects children and pregnant women from lead in faucets and water pipes, again making California the first in the nation.  

Three years ago, long before the public was aware of the danger of BPA chemicals used in plastic products, I proposed a ban on its use in baby products. I’d like to reintroduce it if elected to the Senate. 

People talk about breaking the cycle of residents moving in and out of the criminal justice system, but I actually did something; enacting a pilot program in Alameda County to help non-violent offenders integrate back into the community and get the help they need to lead productive lives. If the pilot is successful, and early indications are that it is, I’d like to propose it statewide in the Senate. 

Before being elected to the California Assembly, I was elected to six years on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors and four years on the Oakland School Board. I have a BA from Wellesley and a Masters Degree in Education Policy from Stanford.  

As you know, Loni Hancock and I are both running in the June 3 Democratic Primary. Some say that Ms. Hancock and I are alike. We’re both progressive Democrats, both women, hold similar voting records and each of us has six years in the Legislature. We co-authored many of the same bills like Single Payer Healthcare and the Greenhouse Gas bill. One difference is that I was an early endorser of Senator Barack Obama and campaigned actively for him. My opponent endorsed Senator Hillary Clinton. 

The real choice comes down to who can effectively represent this area. I have consistently and successfully taken on tough issues, passing important legislation while Loni Hancock’s record is much weaker.  

While Ms. Hancock often highlights her role in passing the landmark 2006 bill to reduce greenhouse gas, in truth all she actually did was to sign on to the Nunez/Pavley bill as a supporter just as I and more than 50 other legislators did. Although Ms. Hancock has chaired the Natural Resources Committee for over three years, she hasn’t passed a single law on greenhouse gas emissions or any breakthrough laws on the environment.  

In the next few weeks, there will be a lot of talk about who is progressive and who can best represent the residents of this district. In being progressive, I believe you have to fight for education, the environment, consumer protection, accessible and affordable healthcare and equal rights for all. You have to do it at all times, and in all contexts. But you have to do more than propose a bill or co-author someone else’s bill. We won’t win all the time, but it is imperative that the next senator be willing to have a vision of where we should be going and be willing to take on and win some of the big battles. When it comes to being progressive and effective, Ms. Hancock’s record comes up short. 

You can count on me to fight for a state budget that protects the poor and working families. I will be responsive to Berkeley and the needs of its neighborhoods and residents.  

My endorsements show my ability to bridge political differences. Among my local supporters are the East Bay Young Democrats, the Berkeley Democratic Club, Berkeley City Council members Betty Olds, Kriss Worthington and Dona Spring as well as former Councilwoman Maudelle Shirek. In addition, I have won the support of former Berkeley mayors Gus Newport and Shirley Dean. 

In backing my candidacy, the Oakland Tribune said, “she possesses the tenaciousness to battle the bureaucracy and get important bills passed.” 

I hope you will agree.  

For more information, please visit www.wilmachan.org. 




Oakland City Council District 1 Candidate Statement: Patrick McCullough

Thursday May 22, 2008 - 10:43:00 AM

I’m seeking election because the needs of Oakland residents, particularly in North Oakland, haven’t been met by the incumbent and I’m sure my presence on the City Council will lead to improvement. 

Oakland voters need to replace city officials who have not performed well in solving our problems and the issues facing us. The issues that most affect our lives, particularly crime and the budget deficit, are out of control after Jane Brunner’s eleven and a half years in office.  

While Brunner sat in office, Oakland, instead of fulfilling its potential to be a great city, became the fourth most dangerous city in the country. Innocent children and adults were injured. Armed robberies, assaults and sexual crimes, burglaries, and strong-arm robberies terrorized residents of North Oakland and beyond. Now, murders are 50 percent higher than at the same time last year. 

Brunner’s approach to the crime crisis—one she helped create by leading the 2002 decision to freeze police hiring—has been to ignore it until it reached her own neighborhood, to wait for the police chief to write his latest plans, and, at election time, to make disingenuous statements claiming she has been working on it. 

Under Brunner, the budget deficit has grown due to poor planning, inefficiency, and unwise spending. The same causes that threatened Vallejo with bankruptcy loom over Oakland, too, like a dark cloud.  

Brunner’s response has been to vote for more pay increases, ignoring her responsibility to stop waste and provide solutions.  

After years of talk about their importance and of throwing money at them, anti-violence programs have mostly floundered. Some are duplicative, poorly focused, top heavy with administration, and not reaching the target groups or producing the changed lives they were supposed to. As a result, our children are left to lives of despair and crime. 

Although Brunner trumpets her responsiveness to constituents, many residents know her mostly by her disinclination to take a stand on their behalf. With scant meaningful accomplishments, her record in office has consisted of neglecting residents from the flatlands to the hilltops. One of her proudest accomplishments has been the planting of trees, some of which have caused sidewalk and sewer damage. 

After 12 years of this, we deserve a change. 

This race has had some deplorable aspects, including the Uhuru/African Solidarity Alliance campaign’s use of libel in its attempt to defeat me, and Brunner’s failure to distance herself from that organization, going so far as to set up her campaign table within feet of theirs at the Temescal Farmers Market. 

But I have no personal grudge against Brunner. It is her record—or lack of one—that I object to.  

Evidently, others agree. While Brunner touts her many endorsements, some organizations and individuals who have endorsed her in the past refuse to do so in this election. 

As a progressive who actually makes progress, I will handle things differently. I am independent and not controlled by power brokers. Having grown up Black, poor and often surrounded by true ghetto conditions, and having overcome that by self-responsibility and receiving help from others, I, better than the incumbent, know the importance of providing opportunity, guidance, and rehabilitation.  

But I also believe that we must also aspire to higher standards. I don’t accept that lack of productive circumstances is a license to hurt and victimize residents of Oakland.  

And residents cannot afford to idly wait for long-range programs to have an effect. While working to help people find alternatives to the criminal life, in the short-term I will work with my council colleagues and with county, state and federal officials to increase the number of law enforcement officers on our streets and the judges in our courts. 

As it stands now, many generous people are too afraid to mentor or donate time and funds because they fear being victimized by the very people they would otherwise help. The willingness to help is available, and you can be sure I will work to obtain this help for Oakland. 

I will personally visit and monitor anti-crime, training, and education programs to make sure they are effective and meet our needs. 

Often crime victims are left to fend for themselves and heal their wounds without as much as a phone call from city officials. I will visit crime scenes and contact the victims of crime to make sure that appropriate steps are being taken and that they know Oakland officials care. 

I’ve studied economics and business. I will be honest with the taxpayers and frugal with the money they entrust to our government. A lawyer for 14 years, I’ve also been a blue-collar tech worker and union member for 25 years and a union steward for 10. I’ve been classified “surplus” and unemployed. Once oppressed, underappreciated, and virtually powerless against economic forces, I know how the working person feels. 

But while revenues are declining and funding of vital services threatened, leaders and employees in government should personally share the burden of the taxpayers who pay their salaries. It’s time for Oakland government leaders to lead the change from what sometimes looks like public pimping back to public service. I’ll work with my colleagues to end waste in government and reverse the growth of exorbitant salaries for administrators.  

When push comes to shove, as in the hard economic times we now face, if workers see waste trimmed and high management salaries cut they would rather keep their jobs and forego raises rather than face being laid off.  

Collaborating with city workers and their union representatives to guarantee no layoff or reduction in benefits, freezing workers’ wages for two years, and cutting waste and exorbitant salaries of management will help balance Oakland’s budget. 

Crime reduction will encourage the growth of business, revenue, opportunity, and hope in Oakland.  

I will set a new standard for caring, cooperation, and responsibility that will result in the improvements Oakland residents need and deserve. 


Patrick McCullough’s website is www.pat4oakland.com. His phone number is (510) 655-7284.

Assembly District 14 Candidate Statement: Phil Polakoff

Thursday May 22, 2008 - 10:40:00 AM

I am running for Assembly to help build a healthier California… to reform our healthcare system, clean up our environment, support our schools, make our communities safer, and build a strong local economy.  

As the only potential doctor in the Legislature, I will use my 35 years of experience—in healthcare delivery, occupational safety, environmental protection, community activism and business—to help make our state the very best that it can be. 


Health Care in Critical Condition 

Our country and our community faces a healthcare crisis that impacts many local families and threatens the next generation.  

In Contra Costa and Alameda Counties there are 56,000 children without health insurance. Families cannot get coverage, and those who have coverage worry they are just one severe illness away from bankruptcy.  

Real progress on health care in our state capitol has been deadlocked for years, despite general agreement that the state must move forward with some form of universal coverage and a broad set of reforms.  


The Only Family Physician in the Legislature 

One of the roadblocks to meaningful healthcare reform is a lack of direct experience in this complex field. If elected, I would be the only family physician serving in the State Assembly.  

I also have the unique perspective of having served for nearly a decade as a health policy consultant to the State Legislature. I have also worked with former Majority Leader Sen. Tom Daschle and State Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi on some of the most complex health and insurance issues affecting consumers, patients and workers.  

Based on my experience serving families and working with policy makers at all levels, I have developed an agenda to bring meaningful reform in California:  

• Provide health care coverage for uninsured children.  

• Prevent insurance companies from dropping patients with costly medical conditions or refusing to cover people with pre-existing conditions.  

• Increase health and safety inspections of imported foreign food and products.  

• Emphasize prevention to reduce chronic illnesses like diabetes, asthma and heart disease.  


A Focus on Real Results 

While I have always been committed to my Democratic ideals, I know that they must be backed up with real results in people’s lives. I don’t want ours to be the first generation to leave our children worse off than the opportunities we inherited.  

That’s why I have never been afraid to be on the front lines of making health care more affordable and accessible to patients and consumers. When I saw a need, I started a non-profit health clinic and pioneered treatment options for shipyard workers exposed to asbestos and other toxics that were affecting East Bay communities. I also led a consulting firm that helped local governments here in the East Bay improve health care for patients while controlling costs.  

In addition to taking my medical oath to protect patients first, I have always made sure patients and consumers were well informed. I authored several books on health care, wrote dozens of journal and newspaper articles and reached out to patients by hosting a radio show on KPFA focused on health issues for consumers.  

Based on my years of experience fighting for health care reform, I know that results don’t always come easily. But I know that through focus and determination—and by working together—we can turn around California’s ailing health care system.  


A Passion for the Environment 

I am also running for Assembly because I know we can do more to improve the health of our environment. I am a lifelong Sierra Club member, and I sit on the Board of Directors of the League to Save Lake Tahoe. In the State Assembly I will: 

• Fight global warming and crack down on polluters. 

• Work for better energy efficiency and green building standards. 

• Work for cleaner air and water standards. 

• Protect our parks, open spaces and ancient forests.  

• Protect endangered species. 

Protecting our environment and our way of life also hinges on promoting alternative transportation so that we get more cars off the roads. As your Assemblyman, I will fight for state funding for BART, carpool lanes, buses and ferries.  

We have a responsibility to future generations to never shy away from the most important battles that must be waged to protect the future health of our planet.  


Local Support 

I am proud to have a number of well regarded individuals supporting my candidacy, including six current or former members of the Berkeley City Council as well as the following prominent environmental leaders: 

• Sylvia McLaughlin, founder of Save the Bay. 

• Greg Haegle, national conservation director of a leading national environmental group. 

• David Roe, former senior legal counsel, Environmental Defense Fund. 

• Phil Berry, vice president and former president of a leading national environmental group. 

I would be honored to have your vote. By working together, we can bring about real health care reform, improve education for all California’s children, and retain California’s status as a leader in environmental reform. 





Oakland City Council District 1 Candidate Statement: Jane Brunner

Thursday May 22, 2008 - 10:40:00 AM

I am proud of what I have accomplished as the Councilmember representing North Oakland, but there’s much still to be done. That’s the reason I am running for re-election June 3.  

I appreciate this opportunity to share with you some of the things I’ve accomplished and what my plans are for the future. 


Reducing Crime 

Reducing crime is my top priority. I led the Council in adopting first $2 million and then an additional $7.7 million to implement an intensive recruitment strategy to bring the force up to 803 officers by December of 2008. I persuaded the police department to re-establish the Juvenile Desk to track crimes by juveniles and provide them with options to help turn their lives around.  

`I have researched best practices for crime prevention and I strongly supported the reorganization of the police department into geographic districts. Now I’m working closely the North Oakland captain who is implementing many new approaches to reduce crime in North Oakland including:  

• Setting up Mobile Command Posts in target areas.  

• Expanding truancy sweeps.  

• Referring at-risk individuals to Measure Y prevention programs.  

• Assigning police officers to walk the neighborhoods.  

Recently, the Chief of Police delivered a plan for the next steps to address crime through out Oakland. The plan had hundreds of good ideas, but it didn’t: 

1. Provide a clear roadmap for reducing crime. 

2. Formulate clear priorities based on best practices. 

3. Establish a timeline for implementation. 

4. Lay out how the priorities will be measured. 

Now I’m demanding that the Chief return to Council and present his road map for reducing crime in Oakland. 


Business and Jobs 

When Jerry Brown was Mayor, his 10K Program focused on bringing 10,000 new residents to downtown Oakland. That has been successful and now Mayor Dellums has shifted to a different 10K Program, to bring 10,000 new jobs to Oakland. I strongly support this objective.  

I have been the leader on the City Council in relation to job training. When I first got on the Council, no one knew how much money the City was spending on job training and there was no objective evaluation of the effectiveness of job training programs. I led the successful effort to get a report card to evaluate job training programs and to provide funding based on the report card. Additionally, I led the effort to obtain a local apprenticeship program for construction jobs at the Port of Oakland.  

Now I am working to implement three initiatives to encourage businesses that offer quality jobs to locate and grow in Oakland:  

1. Establishment of a Geographic Information System to track all opportunity sites to assist in attracting businesses to Oakland.  

2. Creation of a one stop center in the City that is business-friendly and is one place that assists businesses to obtain business licenses, information on tax credits and other incentives, and permits.  

3. Constitution of a network of consultants with expertise in each business sector the city is focusing on so that businesses have a high-level person working with the CEO and the city.  


Affordable Housing and Infill Development 

There is not enough affordable housing in Oakland. I’ve taken the lead on affordable housing, obtaining a $40 million bond and a change in the redevelopment set aside for housing from 20 percent to 25 percent for affordable housing. I spearheaded an exciting new initiative called Office Linkage, where each new office development pays $4 per square foot into a fund that is used to produce more affordable housing.  

I strongly support infill development and smart growth, provided that it is balanced with neighborhood preservation. I’ve been a major backer for the MacArthur BART Transit Village and for placing a priority on development at transit hubs and along transit corridors. I am very aware and work to ensure that higher density developments on transit corridors need to be in scale and character with the surrounding neighborhoods. 


The Greening of Oakland  

I’ve worked hard on the Greening of Oakland by: 

• Co-chairing Oakland’s Sustainable Community Development Initiative, which has led to Oakland installing more solar per capita than any other City in the country.  

• Introducing the legislation that made Oakland the second city in the country to join the Chicago Climate Exchange and measure its carbon footprint each year. 

• Initiating a campaign that has planted more than 3,000 trees in Oakland.  

• Co-chairing the campaign for Measure DD that led to over $190 million for Lake Merritt and the Estuary Trail from downtown to the airport.  

• Partnering with the community to launch the Temescal Farmer’s Market. 

• Providing funding for the Frog Park and other parks at school sites in North Oakland.  

• Recently introducing the measure that the City Council passed to oppose the dangerous aerial spraying that the State wants to undertake. 

As a result of our efforts, our city is ranked in the top five cities in the country for sustainability. 


Serving Our Neighborhoods  

I pride myself on providing responsive, and effective constituent services. I carefully track every constituent case that comes to my office. My policy is to ask residents to call the relevant city department once and then, if they don’t get the service they need, to call my office and I will go to bat for them.  

Finding solutions for my constituents is my highest priority. I have helped North Oakland residents in relation to fixing pot holes, vegetation management, garbage collection problems, speed bump installation, median strips, cameras for businesses, sidewalk repair, along with many other issues. 


Moving Forward 

As Oakland confronts its many challenges and opportunities, the city needs seasoned leadership that residents can count on. That’s why I’ve been endorsed by:  

• Attorney General and Former Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown; Assemblymember Sandre Swanson; County Supervisor Keith Carson; Alameda County School Superintendent Sheila Jordan; Alameda Central Labor Council; Sierra Club; National Women’s Political Caucus; ACORN; Alameda County Democratic Party and many Democratic Clubs; and hundreds of residents throughout North Oakland. 

I hope you’ll join with me in working to make Oakland a great place to live, work, go to school, and raise a family. 


Assembly District 14 Candidate Statement: Kriss Worthington

Thursday May 22, 2008 - 10:38:00 AM

Acknowledging my 40 years of progressive activism, when Jerry Brown was running for Attorney General he was asked “Would you say you have been a progressive Mayor of Oakland?” His answer: “We can’t all be Kriss Worthington.” 

As the most progressive candidate, I expect to have the least money for this campaign. I have the most elected experience, and am endorsed by the most democratic clubs and the most small newspapers, which may be why big corporate interests are funneling their money elsewhere. I have won prior elections thanks to wonderful volunteers and small contributions, despite opponents spending two and a half times as much money. I am especially delighted to be the only candidate to have the endorsements of the San Francisco Bay Guardian and the Berkeley Daily Planet. 

As a teen activist, I volunteered with the peace movement, civil rights movement, and the United Farm Workers boycott, where I had the joy of working with Dolores Huerta, who has endorsed my Assembly campaign. I have walked hundreds of picket lines and done labor solidarity work for decades, including supporting the current boycott of the Woodfin Hotel. 

As a teacher for eight years, I know that education will be my number one priority, followed closely by saving the safety net of social services for seniors, low income and disabled residents. 

In 11 years of elected service promoting progressive policy, 98 percent of the progressive legislation I proposed was successfully adopted. These included hundreds of bills on a wide range of issues including but not limited to: labor, environment, seniors, racial diversity, disability, education, health care, peace, and justice, transportation, pro-choice, anti-death penalty, precautionary principle ordinance, zero waste ordinance, equal benefits ordinance, living wage ordinance, and making Berkeley the first City Council to endorse marriage equality. Currently I am still working to get a strong sunshine ordinance and sweat-free Berkeley ordinance. 

I have hired and appointed the most Asians and Latinos of any City Council member, and the most African Americans of any white City Council member. I have also fought for diversity in City staff and management hiring as well as in contracting. I have helped to organize strong community response to hate crimes and to other manifestations of racism, sexism, ageism, anti-Semitism, and anti-immigrant prejudice and discrimination. I am the first man in history ever honored by the Commission On The Status of Women for outstanding service in getting women hired, elected and appointed. 

In addition to policy victories I have helped move millions of dollars into progressive budget priorities, and helped do community organizing to save the safety net, by defeating numerous proposed cuts to human services. I helped win millions of local dollars for affordable housing, health care, youth and senior services. Along with extensive progressive experience on the local level, I also have significant involvement in Sacramento over the years. I testified at state Assembly and state Senate hearings against Arnold’s cuts to education and transportation. I helped organize rallies and trips to Sacramento. I support stop the spraying and have advocated for a strong response at the local and state levels. 

I am the only candidate to actively oppose Arnold’s 50,000 more prison beds, which will divert money from education and important human needs for the rest of our lives. While I do no think they will admit it was a mistake and reverse the decision, I am proposing a five year delay to give us time to show that alternatives like education and job training and drug rehab are both more moral, and more cost effective. 

My endorsements include Sierra Club; California State Labor Federation, AFL-CIO; Equality California; SEIU; Progressive Democrats of the East Bay, John George Democratic Club; East Bay LGBT Democrats; Cal Berkeley Democrats; Stonewall Democratic Club; San Francisco Bay Guardian; Berkeley Daily Planet; Bay Area Reporter; Victory Fund; East Bay Small Business Council; Unite HERE; UAW; AFSCME State Council, and Local 3299; International Association of Machinists, Local 1546; CUE; Engineers and Scientists of California, Local 20; Teamsters, Joint Council 7, and the most important endorsement of all, my partner Marty Spence! 

I am the only candidate to serve in a divided government with a “moderate” executive and have proven that progressives can win repeatedly when we stand up and fight back. When we have stood up and fought back against Arnold, we have often defeated his bad proposals or forced him to compromise. 

Who do you think Arnold would least like to have win this race?! 

If you want a truly grassroots activist State Assembly member who will use the office to do community organizing and coalition building, please support us at www.krissworthington.com or come by our volunteer headquarters near University Avenue at 2047 San Pablo Ave. in Berkeley. (510) 604-2776. 

Thank you for reading this!  

Assembly District 14 Candidate Statement: Nancy Skinner

Thursday May 22, 2008 - 10:37:00 AM

California is in crisis. We need courageous and effective leadership to fight for a California that: 

• Educates, not incarcerates 

• Stops cuts to those least able 

• Achieves affordable, accessible health care.  

With professional experience on the local, state and national levels, a track record of effective public service, and demonstrated ability to build coalitions, I am ready to be that leader.  

I take inspiration from Deborah Bowen, Sheila Kuehl, Fran Pavely, and my own mentor Loni Hancock. As women and progressives, they stood strong and produced results. 

• On the budget, I will work to restore needed revenues, making corporations pay their fair share.  

• On health care I will reintroduce single-payer. 

• On campaign finance reform, I will continue to champion ‘Clean Money’ public financing. 

• On growing the green economy, I will ensure that implementing AB 32 provides economic incentives to grow in-state green jobs. 

• On education, I will uphold our state constitutional mandate giving public schools first right to our state dollars. 

I’ve demonstrated the ability to take on such challenges. Before global warming was a household word I launched Cities for Climate Protection getting mayors of every stripe to work to stop global warming. I organized Fortune 500 CEOs to meet with the Governor to ensure the passage of California’s global warming act, AB 32. As a city official and on the park board I’ve balanced budgets, kept health benefits from being cut and protected public services. As your Assemblymember I will continue AD 14’s strong and progressive tradition. 


An Impressive Record 

With California facing its worst budget crisis in decades, we need proven effective leadership in the state Assembly. 

I am proud to be recognized as a nationally known environmental leader, a long time community leader and an East Bay elected official with an impressive record of service and accomplishment. Currently serving on the East Bay Regional Parks Board, I represent Richmond, El Cerrito, San Pablo, Kensington, Emeryville, El Sobrante, Albany, Berkeley, parts of Oakland and Pinole. A Berkeley city councilmember from 1984 to 1992, I served on Alameda County’s Job Training and Employment Board and the Source Reduction & Recycling Board and currently serve on the State Climate Change Advisory Committee. 


National Leader in the Fight Against Global Warming 

In 1993, well before many of us knew what global warming was, I launched Cities for Climate Protection, the US movement of mayors and cities working to stop global warming leading a group of local officials to the convention that established the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. Most recently I worked with Fortune 500 companies and clean tech industries to pass A.B. 32, California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, organizing the July 2006 Climate and Energy Roundtable that brought together Governor Schwarzenegger, Prime Minister Tony Blair, Assembly Speaker Nunez & 15 CEOs. I know what it takes to create 21st Century jobs in clean energy, like the advanced solar company I helped bring to the old Ford plant in Richmond.  


Commitment to Public Education and Our Schools 

With a Masters in Education from UC Berkeley, my longstanding commitment to education and our schools includes eight years as Executive Director of the Graduate Assembly, UC Berkeley’s independent graduate student government. Mother to a graduate of Berkeley’s public schools, I was active in the PTA from kindergarten through Berkeley High. To counteract state funding cuts, I was actively involved in the campaign to pass BSEP, the parcel tax that lowered class sizes and funded school enrichment programs.  


Community Leader and Champion for Women’s Rights 

A lifelong Democrat, I have worked as a precinct captain or GOTV organizer for local United Democratic Campaigns for over 20 years. On the eExecutive board of the Alameda chapter of the National Women’s Political Caucus I am a longtime champion of women’s issues and actively help elect pro-choice women candidates. I am also a member of the California State Democratic Party Women’s Caucus and the National Organization of Women (NOW).  


Legacy of Environmental Achievements 

I have been responsible for groundbreaking environmental policies, such as Berkeley’s energy efficiency retrofit ordinances and waterfront protections that led to the establishment of Eastshore State Park, and was a founder of ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability, an organization dedicated to helping cities become environmental leaders. An early green economy advocate I initiated ‘green jobs’ training at Berkeley’s Youth Employment Services and established the Community Energy Services Corporation that provides energy services to small businesses and homes. At the Park District, I protect open space, adding acres to our beloved parks and expanding District environmental education and recreational programs for young people and schools. 


Outstanding Endorsements 

I am honored to be endorsed by current Assemblymember Loni Hancock, both former A.D. 14 Assemblymembers Dion Aroner and Tom Bates, Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Sally Lieber, former Assembly member Fran Pavely, Alameda County School Superintendent Sheila Jordan, BART President Gail Murray, all of my colleagues on the East Bay Regional Park District Board, the Contra Costa Central Labor Council, AFSCME 2428 and a host of elected officials and community leaders throughout the District. 



Assembly District 14 Candidate Statement: Tony Thurmond

Thursday May 22, 2008 - 10:33:00 AM

Our communities and our state need help. California is off track, and we simply can’t wait or hope for someone else to fix the problems.  

Our failure to provide a clean environment, quality education, safe housing and adequate health care for all Californians is devastating on its own. But last month, the Alameda County Public Health Department released a study that actually quantifies the effects of these failures on many of our children: 

A child born into poverty today in the flats of our East Bay community can expect to die 15 years before a child born to wealthier parents.  

The child born in the flats is seven times more likely to be born into poverty, and 5.6 times more likely to drop out of school. As an adult, he or she will be five times more likely to be hospitalized for diabetes, twice as likely to die of heart disease, three times more likely to die of stroke, and twice as likely to die of cancer. 

This data is appalling to say the least—but sadly, it shouldn’t be surprising.  

I have lived and worked in this community for more than 15 years. In my position as the executive director of a local non-profit, Beyond Emancipation, I work with youth emancipated from foster care, helping them transition into safe and healthy adulthoods. Every day, I see what happens when kids fail out of school because our public education system failed them. I oversee our organization’s health center, and I see young, healthy people get sick because they lose their health insurance after they turn 18. I work with children every day who could turn to guns, gangs and drugs because they don’t see a path to college or a way out of poverty—and then lose their lives because of it.  

I sit on the Richmond City Council, and every time someone in Richmond is killed by gun violence, I get a phone call at my home—I received more than 40 such calls last year.  

Four years ago, I lost my brother Terry. When he lost his job and the insurance that came with it, he stopped going to the doctor and his health deteriorated. He was diagnosed with liver disease and taken from our family at the premature age of 35.  

That’s why this report is more than a set of numbers on a page. It’s 15 years off the lives of the kids I work with, and the lives of my neighbors and friends and family. To me, it’s very real and very personal.  

And that’s why we can’t wait for others to make the critical changes we need to improve our communities. I’m already making change in my position at Beyond Emancipation and on the Richmond City Council. And now, I’m running for the Assembly so that I can make even more of a difference for our neighborhoods.  


Improving Our Schools 

I know we can’t afford cuts to education. We need to close tax loopholes—not close off opportunities to youth by cutting public school funds. I led after-school and college preparation efforts for 300 West Oakland students and developed a paid internship program to help keep Richmond High School students in school. I’ll fight every day in Sacramento to improve our public schools and guarantee access to college or a technical school for every child in our district. 


Protecting Our Youth 

I raised more than $1 million and developed two transitional houses to support emancipated foster youth in Alameda County. I worked to allocate nearly $1 million in funding to support child abuse prevention efforts in Contra Costa County. And I developed a campaign that connected over a thousand at-risk youth in San Francisco to mentors and recreation services.  


Creating High-Wage Jobs 

I know that a good, high-paying job is much more than a paycheck—it’s the key to solving so many problems in our community. That’s why I’m working for greater access to internships, community college and other job training opportunities. I established a technical assistance training program to aid minority and women business contractors, and a construction job-training program for low skilled adults in Richmond. I supported establishing Richmond as a "Green Zone" for economic development, to bring new, green-tech jobs to our city.  


Ending the Violence  

I helped create a gang intervention task force in Richmond to find solutions for dealing with guns and drugs, and developed a volunteer-led graffiti abatement program that included a youth diversion program. I supported the development of the Richmond Office of Violence Prevention/Neighborhood Safety to protect our residents and I helped restore a program to keep 300 youth out of trouble by providing them with summer jobs.  


Protecting Our Environment 

I led efforts in Richmond to promote sustainability and lower greenhouse gases. As a City Councilman, I supported the Richmond ban on Styrofoam and worked to preserve our coastline and wetlands. And most of all, I’m not afraid to stand up to the refinery owners and others who pollute our air and water. I’m advocating for higher fees on those who emit the most pollution and using those fees to make our communities healthier.  


Universal Healthcare 

In the Assembly, I’ll fight every day until every Californian has access to quality, affordable healthcare through an efficient single payer system. 

Every day, people from every corner of our district are rolling up their sleeves and making the changes we need to ensure that all of our children have the chance to live long, healthy and productive lives.  


I hope you will join Congressman George Miller, Assemblymember Sandré Swanson, community leaders, local police and firefighters and a growing coalition of supporters in our campaign for change. Please visit www.TonyThurmond.com to learn more.  

I would be honored to earn your vote for Assembly on June 3. Thank you. 

Ask the Auditor, Tell the Auditor

By Ann-Marie Hogan
Thursday May 22, 2008 - 10:11:00 AM

Does the city manage your tax dollars well? What performance audits should the Berkeley city auditor’s office conduct next year? Should the auditors set up a confidential ethics line or whistleblower hotline for employees? These are some questions I’d like you to help me answer. 


Resident survey results 

A recent poll of Berkeley residents revealed that, although 75 percent of respondents thought Berkeley was doing a good or excellent job of providing city services, only 41 percent thought the city was doing a good or excellent job at managing taxpayer dollars. The polling firm reported that this kind of difference was fairly typical in other cities, but that Berkeley was actually rated slightly higher than most on the fiscal side.  

Why was Berkeley’s fiscal management rated comparatively highly? Was this because of recent good press about the city’s bond rating (in the top 5 percent of cities nationally)? Was it because of the negative press about other local governments, such as one city’s possible bankruptcy, another’s payroll problems, and a neighboring county’s pension crisis?  


Compliments, complaints, and audit ideas 

If you believe the city is doing a good job, I’d like to hear from you and about anything specific you have seen that confirms it. If your opinion is that there is waste and inefficiency, I’d like to hear specifics about what you have seen that can be improved. In particular, I’d like your ideas about what we should be auditing in the new fiscal year that will begin July 1. 


Employee fraud prevention hotline 

The City of Berkeley does not currently have a formal whistleblower hotline, though the city policy on fraud prevention does lay out employees’ responsibility to report suspected fraud and abuse. Oakland City Auditor Courtney Ruby has authored local government whistleblower hotline legislation. Assembly Bill 2001, put forward by Assemblymember Sandre Swanson, authorizes local government auditors to conduct whistleblower hot lines for employees, and imposes requirements for ensuring confidentiality of the information.  

In my experience over the past 14 years, I’ve found that whistleblowers have been particularly helpful in identifying problems with contractors doing business with the city. I joined Auditor Ruby and Long Beach City Auditor Laura Doud in speaking in support of the bill at the Assembly Committee on Local Government on April 23, where it passed unanimously, and was referred for future action to the full Assembly.  

I’d like to hear from you about whether you think the Berkeley city auditor’s office should establish a hotline for employees who have questions or information about possible misuse of city resources.  

Please contact me by e-mail, by phone, or by letter to let me know what kinds of questions you’d like answers to, and what kinds of priorities you see for our independent evaluation of city services and programs next year. To find out more about what the city auditor’s office does, visit our website www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/auditor. The site now has a link for making requests for audits. You can also weigh in on establishing an employee whistleblower hotline. 


Berkeley City Auditor Ann-Marie Hogan can be reached at ahogan@ci.berkeley.ca.us or at 981-6750.


Dispatches From The Edge: Bullets and Ballots from Beirut to Bolivia

By Conn Hallinan
Thursday May 22, 2008 - 10:00:00 AM

May has been a month of upheaval, from the streets of Beirut, where the Bush Administration appears to have miscalculated disastrously, to Santa Cruz Province in Eastern Bolivia, where a continent’s new political realignment is trying to checkmate a slow motion rightwing coup.  

The Lebanon explosion was touched off by people who forgot the first rule of warfare: don’t pick a fight with people who can kick your butts. One should also add, don’t listen to White House neoconservatives. 

According to Nicholas Noe of The Guardian (UK), this particular debacle was the work of neocon prince, Elliot Abrams, Deputy National Security Advisor for Middle East Affairs, one of the architects of the disastrous invasion of Iraq.  

Abrams is a big fan of civil wars. He helped design one in Nicaragua during the Reagan Administration (and was found guilty of lying to Congress about it). He worked diligently to set one in motion among the Palestinians last year by trying to pull off what he called a “hard coup” against Hamas. According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, Abrams arranged for guns and ammunition to flow to anti-Hamas militias through Egypt and Jordan. But Hamas beat their opponents to the punch and now control Gaza, as well as expanding its influence on the West Bank. 

After the Iraq and Hamas debacles, why didn’t the White House rein in the Prince of Chaos? Because chaos is part of the Bush Administration’s designs for the Middle East. It is easier to dominate amid disorder, and the messier the better. 

Iraq disintegrating. Check. 

Palestinians at war with one another. Check. 

So, on to Lebanon. 

Abrams is a strong supporter of the current Lebanese government, an alliance of Sunnis, Christians, and some Druze that dominates the politics and economics of Lebanon. Left out in the cold are the Shiites who, though they make up a plurality of Lebanon’s complex ethnic landscape, have endured more than a hundred years of poverty and political marginalization. 

That all changed when, after 22 years of occupation, Hezbollah drove Israel out of Southern Lebanon in 2000, letting the government in Beirut know that they would no longer accept third class citizenship.  

The May 7 fighting was set off when the current government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora fired a Shiite general who commanded the country’s international airport and demanded that Hezbollah dismantle its private underground communication system. But it was Hezbollah’s secure phone system that allowed the Shiite organization to keep the Israelis off balance during their 2006 invasion of Lebanon. Israel tapped into the government’s wireless system with ease. 

According to Noe, Siniora’s demands followed a series of meetings between the governing March 14 coalition and “U.S. officials.” 

The government certainly knew the latter demand would start a fight and, in anticipation, brought in U.S.-trained Sunni militia from the northern city of Tripoli. Hezbollah and its Shiite ally Amal (which some reports say did most the fighting), wiped the floor with them, eventually talking over the Sunni stronghold of West Beirut before turning it over to the Lebanese Army. 

Fighting is still going on in the country’s north and the east. 

Did Abrams and Siniora really think they could push around an organization like Hezbollah that fought the Israelis to a standstill in 2006? Did they think the Lebanese Army would intervene in spite of the fact that the Army’s rank and file is mostly Shiite? Was there some kind of promise of U.S. support for the anti-Hezbollah coalition? 

Was the Prince of Chaos sowing death and destruction in order to blame the turmoil on Hezbollah’s allies, Syria and Iran, thus creating a casus belli for going after the two regimes?  

President Bush told the BBC that Iran and Syria were behind the whole matter, and according to Andrew Cockburn in Counterpunch, the President has authorized a $300 million program to undermine Iran, including “operations against Iran’s Hezbollah allies in Lebanon,” as well as “efforts to destabilize the Syrian regime.” 

Or was is the recent fighting just a classic example of one of Karl von Clausewitz’s dictums about war: “Against stupidity, no amount of planning will prevail.” 

Maybe Congress should get some answers. 



Separatism hiding behind a veil of “autonomy” is what the Bush Administration is supporting in Bolivia, where a May 4 referendum to take local control of gas, water, and land in the eastern province of Santa Cruz, Bolivia passed by 82 percent. 

Well not quite. While 82 percent of those who voted went for autonomy, 40 percent of the electorate rejected the proposal by heeding the central government’s call for a boycott, or just voting “no.”  

Bolivia, the poorest nation in Latin America, is divided between the resource-poor highlands where most of the population is indigenous, and the east, where wealthy elites and landowners dominate the economy. Some of the landowners are Croatians who came after World War II, where many of them were associated with a pro-Nazi regime allied to Hitler’s Germany. 

The country’s current leftist government, led by Aymara Indian Evo Morales, has partially nationalized the nation’s energy industry, greatly increasing the government’s income. Earnings from national gas jumped from $180 million to $2 billion a year.  

Jim Schultz, Executive Director of the Democracy Center in Cochabamba, Bolivia, told Democracy Now that the referendum “is the latest move by an elite in Santa Cruz to try to separate itself from what the national government under Morales has been trying to do.”  

That program includes alleviating poverty and instituting land reform. 

According to Benjamin Dangl of Upside Down World, recently declassified documents show that the Bush Administration has used the U.S. Agency for International Development and the National Endowment for Democracy to encourage separatist groups in Santa Cruz, including the openly secessionist Civic Committee. 

The Bolivian Electoral Court, the Organization of American States, the European Union, and the Morales government all say the referendum was illegal. 

Similar autonomy referendums are being held in Beni, Pando, and Tarija provinces in the coming weeks. Tarija Province contains 80 percent of Bolivia’s gas reserves. 

The Santa Cruz referendum would give the province the right to negotiate separate agreements with private energy companies and to resist land reform. 

Countries in the region have reacted sharply to the Santa Cruz referendum. 

“Nobody is going to recognize this illegal referendum,” said Rafael Correa, president of Ecuador. “It’s a strategy to destabilize progressive governments in the region.” 

Brazil’s Foreign Affairs Minister Celso Amorim said that South America would never accept “separatism in Bolivia.” The Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas said that it rejected “the destabilization plans that aim to attack the peace and unity of Bolivia,” and that none of its member nations would recognize any “juridical figure that aims to break away from the Bolivian national state and violate the territorial integrity of Bolivia.” 

The group includes Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, Bolivia, Dominica, Antigua, and St. Vincent. Ecuador is in the process of joining. 

Argentina has also condemned the vote. 

One immediate impact of the vote may be to slow down or even halt land reform efforts in Santa Cruz. 

Energy is a different matter. Since most Bolivia’s gas and oil currently goes to Brazil and Argentina, and as long as those countries refuse to do business with the separatist provinces, there is virtually no way that Santa Cruz and Tarija can get their oil and gas out.  

On the other hand, the U.S. has a base in neighboring Paraguay, and it is beefing up its military throughout the region. On April 24, the U.S. Navy announced that it was re-forming the Fourth Fleet to give it “a naval presence” in the Caribbean and Latin America. 

The original Fourth Fleet was dismantled in the 1950s. 

The fleet, based in Mayport, Florida, will include an aircraft carrier and support ships, giving the U.S. a military arm that will be independent of land bases. 

“The message is clear,” says Alejandro Sanchez of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs. “Whether local governments like it or not, the U.S. is back after the war in Iraq.” 

The ramping up of the U.S. military in Latin America and Washington’s support for the “autonomy” movement in Bolivia might be a coincidence. So might the U.S.’s stepped up rhetoric about Syria and Iran and support for the Siniora government’s against Hezbollah. 






Undercurrents: Confusion Over Dellums’ Proposed Police Increase Tax

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday May 22, 2008 - 10:02:00 AM

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums working on a ballot initiative to increase city taxes to support a 50-officer increase in the Oakland Police Department over and above the currently authorized 803? 

Damned if I know, and I’ve been trying to track it down for the last couple of days. 

There was considerable confusion over the issue this week with both the Oakland Tribune and San Francisco Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson reporting that Mr. Dellums was, the mayor himself pointedly insisting at a Tuesday afternoon press conference that he wasn’t, and the mayor’s press office saying that he was “considering” such a ballot initiative, including making plans to work with the City Council on “financing and timeline options.” 

The issue comes during a period when Dellums administration officials are becoming increasingly optimistic that the city will meet the mayor’s ambitious goal to meet Oakland’s authorized 803 police strength by the end of the year, and while a local citizens group is circulating a petition for an Oakland ballot measure calling for an increase in police staffing to 1,075. 

It is a test of whether Mr. Dellums can deliver on his assertion that fully staffing the Oakland Police at its authorized 803 would take the issue of police staffing “off the table” and allow him to concentrate in the direction of attacking the social causes of the city’s crime and violence problem, or if the “more police” demands will dominate the public discussion through the middle of the mayor’s term. 

The roots of this are somewhat complicated. 

While making his commitment to fully staff the 803 authorized police positions—something which has not happened since that number was set in the 2004 vote on Oakland’s violence prevention Measure Y—Mr. Dellums said that once the full-staffing goal was reached, the community should participate in a dialogue on how many police we actually need in Oakland, including how any possible increase over 803 would be financed. Mr. Dellums himself, in his earlier discussions, did not commit to supporting any increase in the authorized 803 police strength. 

In a transcript of his speech given on Monday to 94 new recruits at the Oakland Police Academy and sent to Kelly Rayburn of the Oakland Tribune, Mr. Dellums did not appear to be changing that position, saying that “Now that we have enough recruits to get us to our goal (of 803 hired police), we have to look at whether or not the residents of Oakland want to go beyond 803. There is a proposal out there right now that says that we should hire 300 police officers at once without raising taxes. A $75 million hit to our general fund (it costs about $250,000 per officer), during a time when we are facing a possible $20 million deficit, is irresponsible. At the end of the day, what gets cut are the city services that many Oakland residents rely upon. We have to look at other alternatives that give our residents an opportunity that is obtainable and sustainable, such as putting forth a ballot measure that could hire 50 officers a year over the next few years by raising property taxes.”  

That sounded like the mayor was still suggesting a dialogue on police strength increase, including some ways such an increase might be financed, but not necessarily making his own commitment to such an increase. 

And in an article posted to the Tribune website on Monday evening (“Dellums Talks of Tax Increase for More Police”), that’s what Rayburn appeared to believe was happening, leading off the story by saying that “Mayor Ron Dellums on Monday floated the possibility of a new property-tax increase to pay for additional police officers, as police staffing remains a hot-button issue in Oakland.” Floated the possibility. Not committed. 

But by the following morning, San Francisco Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson had moved Mr. Dellums position from “possibility” to “sponsorship.” In a column entitled “Dellums Wants Property Tax Hike for More Cops,” Mr. Johnson wrote that “Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums dropped a bombshell on Monday, an-nouncing a plan to sponsor a November ballot measure to boost the police force by an additional 150 officers over the next three years by raising property taxes.” The discrepancy between the 50 officers in the Dellums statement to Mr. Rayburn and the 150 officers in the Johnson column was not explained, but Mr. Johnson said that the announcement was made at the same venue mentioned in the Dellums statement and the Kelly Rayburn article, the Monday speech to recruits at the Oakland Police Academy. 

It was perhaps to the Chip Johnson column that Mr. Dellums was referring in his remarks about “irresponsible journalism” when, at a news conference on Tuesday afternoon, he answered a Channel 4 reporter’s question about the proposed tax increase ballot measure by saying, “First of all, let’s all get beyond urban legend. I did not suggest a new property tax. That is fallacious. It is not factual. It is editorial comment that in my opinion is wrong-headed journalism. So, let’s be straight about that. What I did say was that there is a proposal being floated that calls for approximately 300 police officers that will cost approximately $75 million. Their proposal says let’s do it without raising taxes. My response was: if you understand how the Oakland budget is organized, that $75 million will have to be cut out of a very narrow range of general funds. That would decimate many services in Oakland. … But, if people in Oakland want to go beyond the authorized strength of 803, which I am confident that we will achieve by the end of the year, then in a democratic community, that is an honest conversation that needs to go forward. What I said was then let’s put a proposal out there that is a responsible proposal, so that if people want to increase the Police Department, then people need to pay for it.” (Transcript provided by the Dellums press office; I was at another press conference at the same time and was unable to attend and take notes myself.) 

So did Chip Johnson get it wrong in his column when he wrote that Mr. Dellums was going to sponsor a police increase ballot measure rather than the mayor merely suggesting that if citizens wanted to increase police strength, this was the way to do it? If Mr. Johnson got his information from either the Kelly Rayburn Tribune article or the transcript of Mr. Dellums’ police academy speech, it would seem so. 

However, Mr. Johnson cites another source: Dellums Chief of Staff David Chai. In the column, Mr. Johnson writes that “Dellums wanted a tax measure to fund additional police officers because it would be fiscally irresponsible—particularly in the aftermath of the nearby city of Vallejo’s insolvency—to burden Oakland’s general fund with the extra spending, said David Chai, the mayor’s chief of staff.” 

Dellums Director of Communications Paul Rose confirmed that Mr. Chai spoke with Mr. Johnson in connection with the Tuesday column, but could not confirm whether or not Mr. Chai gave the impression that Mr. Dellums “wanted a tax measure” rather than merely offering this as a fiscally responsible alternative if citizens decided they want an increase in police strength above 803. Mr. Chai was on an airplane at the time I spoke with Mr. Rose, and unavailable for comment. 

Mr. Rose said that the Monday police recruit speech was “definitely not an official announcement” of a police increase ballot measure, adding that “the mayor wanted to get out that the city was considering such a measure.” Fine, but when I asked Mr. Rose if the consideration was for a measure on the November ballot, he said that the mayor was working with the City Council on financing and timeline options. That sounded a little more than “considering.” That’s getting into the area of “planning.” 

It’s entirely possible that this is a pre-emptive strike to take the steam out of the citizens’ petition. Named the “Safe Streets and Neighborhoods Act of 2008,” the measure, if put on the ballot and passed by Oakland voters, would put Oakland’s police strength at 1,075, an increase of 272 officers, which the measure’s language explains “more closely approximates the appropriate staffing level for a city with the population and serious crime problems of Oakland.” 

The measure is silent on how this increase would be funded, saying only that “the City Council is empowered to adopt ordinances necessary to effectuate the purpose of this section.” 

But a clue to what the measure’s sponsors are thinking in the area of funding—and why Mr. Dellums is calling the measure “irresponsible”—comes in a statement made by one of the measure’s backers, Prescott-Oakland Point neighborhood leader Marcus Johnson, in the Kelly Rayburn article. 

“Johnson … was skeptical that voters would support a new tax increase,” Mr. Rayburn wrote. “I think unless people start feeling that what they voted for in Measure Y is delivered, no one’s going to vote for another tax increase,’ he said. Asked if he’d support a measure like the one Dellums described, he said, ‘I would have to see that initiative first.’” 

Still, even if the Dellums tax initiative suggestion is merely a way to head off the Safe Streets petition, there are many reasons why it’s not a good idea at this time for the mayor himself to be floating such an idea. Oakland is in the midst of a major restructuring of our police resources, including the division of the city into three geographical patrol units, the move to the 12-hour day, the signing of a new police contract, and, of course, the projected increase to 803 full strength. Beyond that, Oakland has committed itself to a community policing model, the full details and implementation of which we have yet to see. We have no idea what effect—if any—these reforms will have on crime and violence and other law enforcement issues in the city. It may be, in six months or a year’s time, we find that the reforms have not been enough, and community sentiment swings towards taxing ourselves to increase the numbers of Oakland police. On the other hand, we may find in six months or a year that the crime and violence situation is getting better, and possible extra tax money can be put to better uses. 

In addition, the episode reveals confusion within the Dellums Administration at a time when decisiveness is needed. The 803 full-strength project appears to be working because the mayor made a decisive commitment and the entire administration—from the city administrator’s office to the mayor’s staff to the chief of police—came together to develop and push through the program to implement the promise. There were some hitches, but those were worked out. The proposed police increase tax initiative shows none of that level of certainty and organization. At this moment, the public is not sure exactly what’s going on, and that’s not good. 

About the House: Using Wooden Retaining Walls in Your Home

By Matt Cantor
Thursday May 22, 2008 - 10:28:00 AM

Ours is an fluid landscape and all its houses, merely mobile homes. For those of us who live in the hills, it seems as though we live upon soils that have long been bored with their current circumstances and long to see the world. They just won’t stay put.  

Also, the steeper the soils, the more active they are. This is a source of great frustration for those of us who deal with the manifestations of this effect on an annual basis in the form of cracked houses and driveways that keep trying to change address. 

Additionally, there is the problem of soils that continually erode downward into our yards.  

There’s a manageable solution to spilling soils as well as the less dramatic conundrum of needing a bit of flat ground on which to set a table and chairs: A retaining wall. 

I see a lot of failed retaining walls and I also see a lot of very expensive concrete replacement. In fact, there’s a relationship between these two. Because many of the recommended repair are so expensive, we all live with a lot more ancient failed retaining walls that never get replaced. 

A wood retaining wall can fix this problem but it must be done properly or it can soon fail from rot or lack of strength. 

If you choose to build (or conscript for) a wooden retaining wall, here are a few of the things you can consider to make this job work out well. 


First: Plant those roots deep.  

One of the most common failings I find in retaining walls is the simple overturning of the entire wall system due to lack of depth. 

Have you ever noticed an entire hillside of trees that all angled from the base of the trunk upward to one side. This is due to earth movement. When surface soils slip or “creep” (this is an actual soils engineering term), the lower layers often move at a slower rate making the entire soil body rotate like the arm on a clock. This literally takes a tree and turns it toward the ground. Retaining walls do the same thing. Top layers often move more rapidly while lower layers stay relatively more stable. If you go deep enough (and the wall is strong enough) you can greatly slow this process. My rule of thumb is to make sure that my posts are as deep below ground as they will be above ground. A three foot high retaining wall will, then, have posts recessed below ground three feet. This is pretty rough logic but its a place to start. 

On flat ground, a retaining wall need not be so deeply footed but, if you want that wall to last, its not that much more work to bury those posts nice and deep. Also, you’re not paying for all the parts of the wall to be added below grade, just the post. 


Second: There’s strength in numbers.  

More post per length is one of the easiest ways to make a stronger retaining wall. One of the most common failings I see in the building of retaining walls is that the builders seem to fall into the trap of building all of them pretty much the same way with posts at about four foot spacing (or six), when the loads may vary from very light to extremely heavy.  

If you’re building a four foot high retaining wall that had a “surcharge” or slope heading uphill from the wall, you’re dealing with a lot of weight and may want to bring your posts as close as two feet apart (although this will vary with the size of posts and the type of board that will run between posts). The point is that a great wooden retaining wall (and keep in mind you’re saving a great deal of money over a typical concrete one) has adequately sized posts and plenty of them. 


Third: Put Your Shoulder Into It. 

When installing posts, its best to orient the post so that the thinner dimension faces into the wall. Some posts for retaining walls are square in cross-section, such a four by four (or better, a six by six) but it is a better use of wood and money to use an uneven dimension such as a four by six or a six by ten. You can then employ the strength of the wider part by letting it extend back from the wall. Again, you are going to face the smaller dimension against the wall. When you face the wall, you’ll be seeing the smaller dimension. This is analogous to the two by eights or tens (typical) below your floor. We press on the narrow face and try to stretch the long face, which is much harder than the other way. A great small retaining wall can be built using four-by-sixes or four-by-eights in this way. 


Fourth: Relieve The Tension.  

When building a wooden retaining wall, its best to cut the soil back behind the wall prior to construction so that you can install the wooden planks across the back side of the posts, between the posts and the soil. This will force the planks against the post making the nails or bolts virtually superfluous. Once you’ve attached the planks, its good to backfill the area between the soil and the wall with a large sharp-edged gravel that will work to distribute the force of earth against more of the wall and will also help to maintain drainage of moisture behind the wall. When soils get a chance to drain out behind a wall, the weight stays lower, there’s less movement and the wall last years longer. Of course, one of the things we love about wooden retaining walls is that they possess inherent drainage in that their inevitable gaps allow water to leak out. Nevertheless, drainage rock at the back of such a wall makes things work even better. It also lessens the fungal growth that eventually destroys all wood retaining walls that don’t fail from lack of strength. This brings us to my last item. 


Fifth and last: Species Matters. 

I’m a redwood guy. It might be because I just love the look of redwood but I there it is. Also, contrary to much eco-thinking, redwood can be quite eco-friendly, as long as you leave anyone older than the first Roosevelt presidency to itself. Redwood is a fast growing tree and can be forested without clear cutting to the joys of both Spotted Owl and human interloper. If you buy redwood, go for tighter more uniform grain and look out for pithy soft woods that will rot more quickly. If you inquire, you can find out where the wood was grown and how it was harvested. For the true tree-hugger, there’s also recycled redwood. 

If you choose to use pressure-treated wood and don’t mind the green roller-marked appearance, be sure to use suitable metal hardware since this PT wood contains a great deal of copper (much more than in the past since the removal of the arsenic) and is highly corrosive to ferrous metals such as steel and iron. 

If you’re considering one of the loose or pinned-block retaining wall system, keep in mind that these are not much stronger than graded soil itself and I’ve seen many that are buckling or tipping over as a result of being used where real resistance is needed. Concrete has roughly the same mass as consolidated soil, so the only real advantage that these systems provide is in erosion resistance. The don’t really hold a hillside together. 

Lastly, for those of you weekend warriors who want to take a shot at constructing a retaining wall, wood will be a more manageable project. It can be done without elaborate form-work, pumped or wheel-barrowed loads of heavy and impatient concrete and without bending rebar until you’re cross-eyed. The concrete retaining wall is definitely in the Master class, while a wooden one can actually be a beginner’s project.  

A brief paid visit from an engineer or talented general contractor might not cost as much as you think and can provide you with the specs you’ll need to do it right. If you hire out your wooden retaining wall, you can also talk about making it pretty. I’ve used large “malleable” washers for mine as both practical bonding and as motif (think of the Cannery in San Francisco where they used large star-emblazoned malleables all over to tie brick to framework). A retaining wall can actually be attractive if done well and can also ascend into fencing if you wish. 

It’s an unfortunately reality that many of us will be forced at some point to buy a retaining wall but, at least, with a wooden one, you won’t end up also suffering a financial landslide. 

Arts & Events

Arts Calendar

Thursday May 22, 2008 - 10:16:00 AM



Musica ha Disconnesso at 7 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Open dance floor. Cost is $10-$14. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



“The New Deal and the Berkeley Parks” An exhibition at the Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St., through June 9. 981-6107. 


“Craft Kills: New Directions in Craft Practices in the 21st Century” with Jennifer Scanlan, associate curator at the Museum of Arts and Design in NY at 7 p.m. at the Oakland Museum of California, 1000 Oak St., Oakland. www.museumca.org 

Jennifer Firestone and Gloria Frym, poets, at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. 

Dave Newhouse on “Old Bears” at 7:30 p.m. at the JCC of the East Bay, 1414 Walnut St. 848-0237. 


Courtableu at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $9. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Singers’ Open Mic with Kelly Park at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $5. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Randy Craig Tio at 7 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

Lulo Reinhardt Latin Swing Quartet at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $12. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

Jazzschool Tuesdays, a weekly showcase of up-and-coming ensembles from Berkeley Jazzschool at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 



Madeline Kunin reads from Pearls, Politics and Power: How Women Can Win and Lead” at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 

Adam Leith Gollner describes “The Fruit Hunters: A Story of Nature, Adventure, Commerce, and Obsession” at 7 p.m. at Cody’s Books, 2201 Shattuck Ave. 559-9500. 


Wilde Irish Concert to Save the Hill of Tara with Michael Balck, Melanie O’Reilly, Sean O Muallain and others at 7:30 p.m. at Gaia Arts Center, 2116 Allston Way. Tickets are $15-$20. 644-9940. 

Sheldon Brown Group at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Eliyahu & Qadim Middle Eastern music at 8 p.m. at Strings, 6320 San Pablo Ave., Emeryville. 653-5700. 

The Heptones, Johnny Clarke, Samy Dread, reggae at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $18-$20. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Flutopia at 7 p.m. at Le Bateau Ivre, 2629 Telegraph Ave. www.lebateauivre.net 

Conjunto Rovira at 9:30 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Salsa dance lessons at 8:30 p.m. Cost is $5-$10. 548-1159.  

Supertaster at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Santa Cruz River Band at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Taylor Eigsti at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $16. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



Karen Volkman and Paul Hoover, poets, at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. 

Kala Artists in Residence Talk with Lisa Levine, Mary Shisler, and Susan Wolf at 7 p.m. at Kala Art Institute, 1060 Heinz Ave. http://kala.org 


Big Jazz Band Bash fundraiser with the Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School Jazz Band and the Berkeley Jzz School Middle School Project Band at 7:30 p.m. at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School Auditorium, 1871 Rose St. at Grant. Free, but bring your checkbook!  

From the Top, classical music showcasing young musicians, at 8 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $20-$40. 642-9988. www.calperformances.net 

Project Greenfield, world jam, at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $8. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Big Cheese & Jive Rats! at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $8. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Country Joe McDonald Open Mic Night at 7 p.m. at Cafe de la Paz, 1600 Shattuck Ave. 843-0662. www.cafedelapaz.net 

Scoop Nisker at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

The Courtney Janes at 7 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

Speak the Music Beat boxing with Butterscotch, Soulati, Syzygy, Eachbox and many others, at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $8. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Charles Wheal at 9:30 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Otis Taylor: Recapturing the Banjo at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $18-$22. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



Berkeley Rep “”No Child...” Wed.-Sun. at 2025 Addison St., through June 8. Tickets are $33-$69. 647-2949. 

Altarena Playhouse “On Golden Pond” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at Altarena Playhouse, 1409 High St., Alameda, through June 21. Tickets are $17-$20. 523-1553. www.altarena.org 

Brookside Rep “Franz Kafka’s Love Life, Letters and Hallucinations” Thurs.- Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant St., through June 29. Tickets are $16-$34. 800-838-3006. www.brooksiderep.org  

Impact Theatre “‘Tis Pity She’s A Whore” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m. at La Val’s Subterranean, 1834 Euclid. Tickets are $10-$15, through June 7. 464-4468. 

Masquers Playhouse “The Full Monty” Fri. and Sat. at 8, selected Sun. matinees at 2:30 p.m. at 105 Park Place, Point Richmond through July 5. Tickets are $20. 232-4031. www.masquers.org 

Shotgun Players “Beowulf: A Thousand Years of Baggage” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at The Asby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave., through June 22. Tickets are $17-$25. 841-6500. www.shotgunplayers.org 

Theatre de la Jeune Lune “Figaro” through June 8 at Berkeley Rep’s Roda Theatre, 2015 Addison St. Tickets are $13.50-$69. 647-2949. 


Steven Saylor reads from “The Triumph of Caesar: A Novel of Ancient Rome” at 7 p.m. at Cody’s Books, 2201 Shattuck Ave. 559-9500. www.codysbooks.com  

Volt War Issue Anti-war poetry reading with Dennis Philips, Donna de la Perriere, Leslie Scalapino, Maxine Chernoff and many others at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. 


San Francisco Girls Chorus “Dance On, My Heart!” ar 8 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way. Tickets are $12-$24. 415-863-1752. 

Marvin Sanders, flute, selections from Telemann “Twelve Fantasias ”at 8 p.m. at Giorgi Gallery, 2911 Claremont Ave. Tickets are $10. 848-1228. 

Bay Area Classical Harmonies with The Kymata Band at 7:30 p.m. at The Pro Arts Gallery, 550 Second St., Oakland. Tickets are $12-$18. 868-0695. www.bayareabach.org 

Venezuelan Music Project “Canto, Fulia y Tambor” at 8:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $14-$16. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Audra McDonald, soprano, at 8 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $36-$68. 642-9988. www.calperformances.net 

Michael Smolens’ Kriya Jazz Octet at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Baguette Quartette, Parisian café music, at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $10-$13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Adrianne at 8 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  







Scoop Nisker at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

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

What it Is at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Otis Taylor: Recapturing the Banjo at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square,. Cost is $18-$22. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



“Portraits of Palestinians from the Nablus and Jenin Regions” by Berkeley resident Larisa Shaterian. Opening reception at 6 p.m. at Photolab Gallery, 2235 Fifth St. Exhibit runs to July 12. 644-1400. www.photolaboratory.com 

“Art Saves Lives” 2008 Oakland Youth Arts Festival with exhibits, art making, and performances from noon to 9 p.m. at the Oakland Musuem of California, 1000 Oak St., Oakland. www.museumca.org 

“Reflections of Me and My World 2008” The ArtEsteem annual exhibition. Opening reception at 3 p.m. at ASA Academy & Community Science Center, 2811 Adeline St., at 28th, Oakland. 652-5530. 

“Art of the Cotton Mill Studios” Paintings, sculpture, photography and mixed media by Keiko Nelson, Bill Stoneham, Elizabeth Tennant and Susan Tuttle at 1091 Calcot Place, Unit # 116. 535-1702. www.thefloatcenter.com 


“Field of Mirrors, An Anthology of Filipino American Writers” with editor Edwin Lozada and several authors at 3:30 p.m. at Eastwind Books of Berkeley, 2066 University Ave. 548-2350. www.ewbb.com 

Larissa Brown on “Knitalong” on knitting together for a common goal, at 4 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 


Nuccia Focile, sporano, Paul Charles Clarke, tenor with the Berkeley Symphony Orhestra at 8 p.m. at Hertz Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $48. 642-9988. www.calperformances.net 

La Peña Community Chorus at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $15-$17. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Jules Broussard Quartet at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Sambo Ngo, African, at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $12-$15. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

The Refugees: Cindy Bullens, Deborah Holland & Wendy Waldman at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Annual Middle School Invitational, a showcase of middle school jazz bands, at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Rivka Amando at 9 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

George Cotsirilos Jazz Trio at 9:30 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. Cost is $5. 843-2473. www.albatrosspub.com 

Jinx Jones Trio at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Tom Scott; Cannon Re-Loaded at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square, through Sun. Cost is $24. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



Charity Kahn and the Jamband, rockin’ music, at Ashkenaz at 3 p.m. Cost is $4-$6. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 


Video Works by Lynn Hershman Leeson from noon on, with the artist in a virtual conversation. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 


Trevor Paglen “The Other Night Sky” Artist talk at 3 p.m. at Berkeley Art Museum, 2626 Bancroft. 642-0808. 


Danny Quynh and Danny Dancers at 3 p.m. at Expression Gallery, 2035 Ashby Ave. www.expressionsgallery.org 

Cascada at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Soul Sanctuary in a benefit for Ashkenaz at 10:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is tba. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Howard Wiley: A Tribute to Dexter Gordon at 4:30 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Tom Rush at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $30.50-$31.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Tom Scott; Cannon Re-Loaded at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square, through Sun. Cost is $24. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com

Wilde Irish Hosts Benefit to 'Save Tara'

By Ken Bullock, Special to The Planet
Friday May 23, 2008 - 03:30:00 PM

Berkeley’s Wilde Irish Productions is banding together this Wednesday with the Irish arts community in a benefit to ‘Save Tara,’ the legendary hill in Ireland, “one of the most culturally and archaeologically significant sites in Northern Europe,” threatened by a new motorway.  

Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney has declared the destruction of Tara “ruthless desecration.” Musician and singer Michael Black, of the Irish Black Family, Celtic jazz singer and songwriter Melanie O’Reilly and Irish dancers, singers, guitarists and harpers join members of Wilde Irish’s theater company at the Gaia Arts Center, Allston near Shattuck, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. $15-20. 

For more info, 644-9940 or wildeirish.org 

Solo Show ‘No Child ...’ at the Berkeley Rep

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Thursday May 22, 2008 - 10:19:00 AM

Singing “Trouble in Mind,” an old janitor with a pushbroom introduces himself and the school he’s sweeping up, Malcolm X Vocational High in the Bronx, and a cast of characters who range from a broker-turned-new teacher (“she saw an ad in the IRT, offering a lifetime of glorious purpose”) to various “at-risk” African-American and Latino students, their driven principal and the visiting teaching artist for a drama project, Nilaja Sun. 

But all the characters—janitor, kids, principal and visiting artist—are Nilaja Sun herself, who wrote and now performs her solo piece, No Child ... on the Berkeley Rep Thrust Stage. 

There’s nothing new about representations of teachers working with “education-proof” students. There have been commercial successes like Up the Down Staircase (both book and movie) or Dead Poets Society, and the realer (and wryer) pages of James Herndon, a UC alumnus, detailing such classrooms in the Bay Area of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Starting with The Way It Spozed to Be, teacher-student encounters have made bestsellers and good box office at least since Goodbye, Mr. Chipps.  

And solo acts are even more familiar fare these days, especially autobiographical material with a dose of contemporary social relevance. 

What makes Sun’s No Child ... stand out is the slightly laconic framing device of the narrative, which gives her high energy performance a crisper, less sentimentally personal edge, emphasizing the remarkable tempo and articulation of her delivery, as she whirls through the poses and physical routines of her subjects, seeming always to pirouette gracefully back into character as herself, dispensing with the need for her own exposition. 

That’s handily filled in by the old janitor, folksy and canny, who’s seen it all since the ’50s, when it was Robert Moses High, mostly Italian kids, no other Negro janitor (and he later looks ahead, averring it will be “St. Tupac Shakur Prep” someday, in the tongue-in-cheek wish-fulfillment denouement of the show), watching them all come and go: “In the ’60s it was the Panthers with their breakfast program ... asking me, ‘How’re you going to fight the Man today?’ and I’d say, ‘With my broom and ammonia,’ and they laughed—they all gone now.” 

Sun comes to the class after a funny, one-way scene with her landlord, promising the rent after the class is through, wading through his nostalgia for the discipline of the days of Pope Pius XII with “after going to Catholic schools for 13 years, I didn’t even know I was black until I was in college,” wishing him “a happy Lent ...” 

The cowed “new teacher,” the ex-broker, welcomes her to the classroom with demoralized and demoralizing platitudes, skittering nervously around the room, apologizing for asking the kids to knock off the verbal abuse. 

Sun explains to them they have six weeks to “analyse, memorize and perform” a play, Our Country’s Good, “a play-within-a-play-within-a-play” (as the evening spills out before us) about Australian convicts two centuries ago. “No, it’s not Raisin in the Sun.” 

“We gotta read? Oh hell no!” the students protest. Not only read, Sun asserts, but create community. “The last time I created a community,” one student blurts out, “a cop came.” 

But she succeeds in getting them to think of themselves as stageworthy, somehow, despite the fact none has ever even seen a play, much less been up on stage. Public speaking is everybody’s greatest fear, Sun declares, even greater than death. “They never lived in the ‘hood,” avers a student. 

The terminology’s a bit thick for them, too: “Thespian? I ain’t no Rosie O’Donnell!” 

Somehow it all works, at least a little, until the “new teacher” quits, is replaced by a Russian teacher who can only bark at them—and the students act out, once again seeming proud they’re so recalcitrant, “the worst class in the school.”  

Sun tries to quit, saying she just needs a break to be an actor, get health insurance, pay the IRS ... but the kids end up drawing her back, and the hysterical one-woman sketch of the show they put on, despite a Latino kid (whose mother Sun explains the project to as “uno spectacolo”) not showing up to rehearsals because his brother’s been killed, and the lead missing the curtain because he has to babysit, is a polyphonic “spectacolo” indeed.  

The story and even the insouciant, whirlwind performance of No Child ... place it firmly in the category of inspirational and exemplary experiences. But the real stakes involved, the real dangers to these young lives are always shown to be present, albeit sketched in quickly without much pathos, never overwrought, the humor both playing off of and free from stereotype. 

Sun herself is as quick as her hip-hopper charges—she has to perform them, after all, not just valorize them—but she also sees them with a smiling, slightly jaundiced eye, as when she introduces a runthrough with: “First the tableau.” Tableau? “Yeah, I thought first you might want to see them in a frozen, nonspeaking state for awhile.” 



Through June 1 at Berkeley Repertory  

Theatre, 2025 Addison St. $33-$69.  

647-2949. www.berkeleyrep.org.

Green Neighbors: Cottonwood: A Roadsign Back East in the West

By Ron Sullivan
Thursday May 22, 2008 - 10:31:00 AM

I trust most of us aren’t fool enough to go hiking the range in the hot spell we’re enduring as I write this. It’s the stuff of the grimmest neo-Old West movies: merciless sun, tantalizing shimmer of mirage (“Don’t you listen to him, Dan/He’s a devil, not a man/And he paints the desert sand/With wa-ater…”), hot wind blowing dust from the east; wait, haven’t we done that rather recently?  

Oh yeah, and water rationing. There’s a mere faint hollow slosh in the ol’ canteen, Dan. It ain’t lookin’ so good on the back forty. 

A row of willows and/or alders in the distance promises a creek. More prominent, and more classically Western, is a row of cottonwoods. You might even get a hint of its presence from a greater distance, the way sailors got a promise of land when they saw gulls. (Saw seagulls? Really, they’re land gulls, bound, unlike albatrosses and similar pelagics, to land masses where they can find fresh water.) On a breezy day, cottonwoods earn their name by casting masses of fluff afloat on the air and water, sailing for miles if the wind’s strong enough. 

It’s not obvious when you see the fluff that it’s anything more than Mother Nature’s little dustbunnies. No surprise though, really: like a lot of strange devices they’re seed transport.  

I was amused a week or so ago to watch mallards, including ducklings, noshing on the little fluffbergs that had sailed down to Putah Creek from the cottonwoods in the UC Davis Arboretum. The ducks must have some way to extract the seed from the conveyance, because they kept at the ones they nabbed and worked them over from one end to the other with their bills, rendering the piles flat and damp, though still floating. They had the damp listless look of used chewing gum, but they were still buoyant enough to float. 

Cottonwoods are members of the genus Populus, sisters to the Lombardy poplars planted in cities and parks and to Populus tremuloides, the quaking aspen of the mountains.  

The pre-European people in California used the cottonwood, of course. It would be among the woods burned as fuel, but it doesn’t make good lumber and I guess would be a bit too soft and absorbent to make good tools. They’re on record as having used mostly the inner layer of the cambium ring to make skirts—it comes apart into tissue—thin strips if you work it right. You’d have to do that carefully if you didn’t want to kill the tree, but then a tradition of conservation would help keep the tree stock in good numbers. So would a relatively low population, compared to how many humans live here now, that is; California is supposed to have been one of the most heavily populated paces in North America before Columbus. 

Young cottonwood shoots were split and twisted into cordage. This is the sort of “low”-tech elegance we tend to be mystified by, as our string is made in a string factory; our ropes, in a rope factory; our houses and boats are held together by nails made in a nail factory and by welds, well, they must come from a weldwell, right? Unless you’re a cradle gourmet, you might remember the moment when you realized that you could make ketchup or mayonnaise, that it wasn’t extruded by some mysterious condiment synthesizer into those bottles.  

Those elegant Ohlone tule boats were bundled and held together by tree fibers, and so were floors, walls, and roofs—“mats”—and ladders, the sort of thing you might find now as art objects in a Japanese or “tribal” antique shop. Building your house of straw and sticks might sound like poor strategy to Europeans, but anyone caught in a house of bricks during an earthquake would have a different take on that. 

That cambium layer makes nutritious stock fodder, too, as European-descended travelers learned from the people they met in western North America. When the grass was under a few feet of snow, deer and elk could be seen stripping the trees, so when the nations east of us on the plains and in the mountains got horses, they knew this strategy already.  

Maybe it’s my advanced age, or my fortune in living on the cusp of centuries and technologies. Looking at such mysterious “folk” know-how on one hand and electronics-geek tech on the other, I’ve come to appreciate that what we tend to call “primitive” is just an artifact of our angle of view.  

The fact that I use Google more than I use what little I’ve learned about how the landscape writes signs and invitations—what trees live by water; what grows in saltmarshes and what in freshwater—is pure happenstance. Who knows? It might even be temporary. 



Comedian Roche Preforms Disabled Film Fest Benefit at Redwood Gardens

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Thursday May 22, 2008 - 10:21:00 AM

I never talked about my appearance until I got on stage. Pretending I was normal, it took a long time faking to make it,” said David Roche, the facially disfigured inspirational comedian, who will perform a benefit show, The Best of David Roche, Thursday May 22 at 7 p.m. in the Redwood Gardens Community Room on Derby for the upcoming SuperFest International Disability Film Festival. “I found out disfigurement, and carrying around feelings of inadequacy, are fairly normal experiences.” 

Roche has performed at the Clinton White House and the Olympic Arts Festival in Sydney. He’ll appear at the Kennedy Center in June. He’s appeared twice on Paula Zahn’s CNN program, been featured in four films (including a documentary about him, The Perfect Flaw) and in a chapter of Anne Lamott’s bestselling book, Plan B. His own book, The Church of 80 Percent Sincerity, titled after his best-known routine, just released by Penguin, will be available at the benefit. He’ll perform bits from The Church of 80 Percent Sincerity and Catholic Erotica. 

Roche was born in Indiana with a benign tumor on one side of his face. During infancy and childhood, he was subjected to surgeries and radiation therapy. “The face is considered the locus of human personality,” Roche said, “and it’s not. Young black males, attractive women—a lot of people are judged by their appearance alone. All that’s filtered through religious or cultural experiences. It’s one reason why all ages, people from all kinds of places respond to me.” 

Roche settled in the Bay Area in 1971. “I always wanted to be a performer,” he said, “It was a deeply hidden thing; I thought, ‘I don’t have the right to.’ Then I quit drinking, and my creativity opened up. I took a class from Lee Glickstein, who said, ‘Don’t tell jokes, just tell the truth about your life—that’s what’s funny.’ It took about five years to do my one-man show.”  

He quit his day job in 1997 to focus on his stage career. 

“I can’t recall ever having a heckler,” Roche said. “But especially in the early years, I’d get what I considered an unusual reaction, to the point of being bizarre: ‘David, you’re so brave, you changed my life’—and I’d think, Get a life! I’d internally block the compliment. Then I started to get it. I’m a symbolic persona. People need inspiration. I started to believe them.” 

Roche spoke about his particular feeling for Berkeley and what he would bring to the benefit show. “I love it that they’re selling my book at Cody’s. Berkeley’s the home of the disability movement and culture. These are my people. I didn’t know I was disabled until Cheryl Marie Wade, the doyen of Culture! Disability! Talent! told me I found my home. Redwood Gardens is at the original location of the California School for the Blind. There’s lots of meaning to my being there.”  

“At this show I’ll go full tilt,” Roche said. “I feel the permission to ‘go there’ a bit more, even though I expect an audience not all disabled.” Talking about that special type of humor often noted as particular to the disabled, Roche said “It comes from our life experience. It helps that culturally I’m an Irish American. There’s that darkness to Irish humor, ironic shadowy stuff—‚bitterness, even. But there’s that style ... Someone just said to me, ‘You have the gift’—such an Irish way of councilment! Dark experiences cast a shadow over humor, but that enriches it.” 



7 p.m. today (Thursday) at Redwood  

Gardens 2951 Derby St. Fully accessible and ASL interpreted. $10-25 sliding scale, no one turned away for lack of funds. 

Moving Pictures: Indiana Jones Loses His Footing

By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday May 22, 2008 - 10:22:00 AM

If the Indiana Jones films were never exactly realistic, they were at least grounded; they were rooted in archaeology, in the earth—in the discovery of things ancient and mysterious, yes, but always terrestrial. Jones himself was grounded too, an unlikely hero by turns deft and incompetent, benefiting from equal doses of intelligence and dumb luck. And that made him all the more charming and his adventures all the more appealing. For the wide-eyed child in the audience, there was no need to conjure images of outer space, of aliens or monsters or supernatural powers; all you needed was a hat, a jacket and a rope. The fantasy was all the more effective for containing the illusion that it was within reach.  

Throughout the first three films, producer George Lucas and director Steven Spielberg kept the series fairly close to that essential premise. As much as possible, they kept Indiana Jones’ feet on the ground, or at least somewhere beneath—in tunnels, in caverns, in crypts and caves. And that’s precisely where the latest installment loses its footing. 

As entertainment, it’s good enough. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is pleasant viewing for two hours, with all the ingredients you expect from the series: ultra-villianous villians who, despite all their diabolical powers, simply can’t shoot straight; mysterious rites and riddles encoded on crumbling parchment; plenty of self-effacing humor, even if it isn’t always all that humorous; and that familiar, charming self-awareness, an attitude that shamelessly embraces the inherent absurdity of the whole enterprise. 

The series began as a throwback to the old serials that accompanied the feature each week at movie theaters across America. It was both an homage and a modern update of those cliffhangers of yesteryear, a wild, silly ride through unlikely scenarios, with thrilling action and an utter lack of pretentiousness. It’s hard to expect series to retain its allure through one sequel much less three, but with nearly 20 years passing since the last film, expectations run abnormally high. So while there’s really not all that much to complain about—it’s still better than much of what passes for action entertainment these days, and takes itself far less seriously—Crystal Skull still manages to lose sight of one of the franchise’s essential charms. 

Almost from the start, there’s something not quite right. There are hints of the supernatural waiting at the heart of the mystery, and the plot always seems poised for a plunge into Erich Von Daniken territory. But there’s always the hope that the inherent pragmatism of the character and his creators will reign in the excesses and that the solution will ultimately prove to be terrestrial in origin.  

And yet, after two hours of chases that are three minutes longer than you’d like and four minutes longer than necessary, fight scenes with so many punches thrown that it seems there’s a quota in place, and three—count ‘em, three—waterfalls through which John Hurt never loses his grip on the prize, we come to an absurdly un-Indy-like ending that almost renders the hero obsolete during a spectacularly unspectacular special effects sequence. As a swirling paranormal maelstrom of destruction swirls overhead, Jones stands small and silhouetted in the immediate foreground, a mere observer of digital effects that are meaningless, emotionless and, despite all their fury, dramaless. Cast in shadow and virtually inanimate, Indiana looks, for all intents and purposes, like one of us, like a member of the audience just a few rows ahead—and just as irrelevant to the action on screen. 

Despite the whirlwind of gimmickry that has been added to the formula, it is the old standbys that still deliver—the snakes, scorpions, quicksand, and, in one of the film’s most effective sequences, a swarming colony of man-eating ants. Lucas and Spielberg could have saved themselves a great deal of trouble had they stuck with the creepy-crawlies and stayed clear of the close encounters. 

Books: Pat Cody’s Adventure

By Dorothy Bryant, Special to the Planet
Thursday May 22, 2008 - 10:25:00 AM

Sick and tired of bad news? Longing to read something uplifting? Not feel-good sentimentality or fantasy but the story of a crisis faced with integrity, resourcefulness, and unity by victims who win, not a fairy tale “victory” but understanding and progress and influence beyond what anyone expected? That’s the story I just finished reading in DES Voices: From Anger to Action by Pat Cody. 

If you’ve lived in and out and around Berkeley for more than 30 years, you knew Pat Cody as the virtually invisible co-founder and partner in Cody’s Books on Telegraph—usually in the back office managing the business, or writing articles for the business division of the Economist to help make up the chronic deficit typical of independent bookstores. Or you might have gone to school with one or more of her four children: Martha, Anthony, Nora and Celia. Some of you medical folks would have worked with her in the Berkeley Free Clinic, which she co-founded in the late sixties. We all ran into her at anti-war demonstrations. 

Fewer of us knew her as co-founder of a 30-year-old international movement that started with a personal tragedy. 

In 1971, on a back page of the San Francisco Chronicle, Pat read a short item titled “Drug Passes Cancer to Daughters.” Pat’s heart sank as she recognized the name “Stilbestrol,” the drug she had been prescribed in 1956 to—supposedly—prevent miscarriage when she was carrying Martha. Further articles brought more bad news about the effects of DES (diethylstilbestrol). In addition to abnormal vaginal tissue, some DES daughters had uterine, ovarian or tubal malformations, rendering them incapable of bearing children. They were at higher risk for life-threatening ectopic pregnancies. At the time, few doctors knew anything about DES, let alone the special exam needed to recognize signs of trouble. Unlike the foreshortened limbs of thalidomide children, this damage was hidden until it manifested itself in some health crisis. 

From 1938 to 1971, an estimated 4.5 million women in the United States had been given DES, resulting in births of over 2 million DES daughters at risk for reproductive malfunction, cancer, and a number of other health problems. Yet the first warnings about DES dangers, and doubts about its effectiveness, were published back in 1939, only a year after this synthetic estrogen was created. In 1953, before Martha was even conceived, a definitive landmark study had concluded that DES was ineffective in preventing miscarriage.  

Nevertheless, its use continued to spread to Europe and Australia. In South America it was sold over-the-counter! In 1971, even after articles in medical journals confirmed its harmful effect, some doctors were still prescribing it. Uses of DES went beyond the discredited claim that it prevented miscarriage: DES became an additive in livestock feed. In Australia, well into the eighties, it was given to girls who showed signs of growing too tall to “find boyfriends.” (Surprise! Many of the prescribing doctors in Australia owned shares in the company that imported DES from the U.S.)  

In 1974 Pat gave Martha the frightening news, then found an informed doctor who confirmed that Martha had pre-cancerous genital tissue. Pat and Martha wept, paralyzed with grief and fear. 

But not for long. Pat called a meeting—where else? on the mezzanine of Cody’s Books on Telegraph. About a dozen people came, some of them health professionals Pat knew from her work at the Free Clinic and on the Berkeley Health Advisory Board. The meeting ended with the group naming themselves DES Information Group. They soon learned that similar groups were forming in other parts of the country. They joined to form DES ACTION, soon an international network of affected women. 

During the thirty years of DES Action, more bad news kept coming out: DES mothers suffer higher rates of breast cancer; some DES sons manifest genital abnormalities; there are some signs that effects of DES may persist to the next generation—grandchildren. 

The good news is the 30-year struggle pursued by DES Action. Pat’s book gives details of incessant, effective work that stands as a model to be studied by anyone wanting to organize grass-roots action. This work breaks down into overlapping categories: research, education, fund-raising, legal action, legislative action. 

“We all had to learn to read medical journals,” Pat writes, and keep up on the latest findings. It was like learning a new language, but it wasn’t as hard as historical research that included prying information out of medical records withheld by doctors from the very women affected. “There seem to have been an unprecedented number of fires destroying records in medical offices during the sixties and seventies,” writes Pat, with a sarcastic tone unusual for her. 

Thus, education began with self-education in order to spread information to other women. But it went far beyond the women affected, to education of doctors (many of them still in denial, through fear of liability suits), to lawyers, supplying them with legal packets on which to base suits against pharmaceutical companies like Eli Lilly, major manufacturer and promoter of DES. (Many of these cases have been settled out of court, with confidentiality gag rules. “That’s why,” Pat writes, “DES remains a ‘silent epidemic.’”) 

Many stories in the book illustrate the coming together of research, education, and informed action. Here’s a favorite of mine. 

In 1996 the Eli Lilly company (still making DES at the time) co-sponsored a dinner to honor professionals in women’s health, among them three prominent members of Congress. Pat writes, “DES Action members wrote to all the prospective honorees asking them not to accept or attend.” All three legislators—Schroeder, Waxman and Snowe—declined the honor and issued statements to the press backing DES Action. They stayed home, but DES Action members showed up in an informational picket in front of the hotel where the banquet was held. They passed out leaflets to the attendees, urging them not to let Eli Lilly use their presence to “white-wash their image.” Pat writes, “We heard later from a Washington insider that the story of our picket was ‘all over D.C.’” 

DES Action, wisely, has never gotten hung up on fund raising—grantsmanship is an activity that can swallow up time and much of the money it wins. Nevertheless, DES has been awarded modest grants based on clearly stated purpose and need. Mostly it depends on private contributions and many hours of volunteer work. With its slim budget DES has progressed from attending conferences to convening conferences, from advising legislators to creating legislation mandating funding for DES education and research—passed by the House of Representatives in 1992. 

I asked Pat the secret of the DES Action record of results and respect from agencies like the Center for Disease Control and the National Cancer Institute. She gave me a one-word answer, “tenacity.” Example: in 1978, when a small delegation from DES Action went to see the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, they were told his appointment calendar was full. “They said, ‘We will sit here until the Secretary can see us.’ By the end of the day the Secretary had agreed to set up a federal DES Task Force.” 

It’s tempting to quote more such anecdotes, or to reproduce the superb bibliography of books and articles referenced to back up every assertion, or the long lists of people Pat insists on crediting for their help, or quotations from articles about DES. But by far the most moving voices in this book, quoted anonymously, in italics, are excerpts of letters from DES daughters, mothers, sons, fathers, husbands, doctors. These letters tell not only of fear and pain, guilt and frustration, but of learning to talk back to doctors, to question, to take charge of their own health care. (They created echoes in my mind of the abuse, threats, and insults from bullying doctors I endured throughout my menopausal decade for my refusal of Hormone Replacement Therapy—now discredited as useless and harmful.) 

Big media is always telling Pat that DES is “old news,” obsolete for the next generation. We can’t be sure of that. We can be sure that medical hubris, pharmaceutical companies’ greed, and bio-technology tampering with the wider environment continue to pose risks in the name of “progress.” This book not only provides an impressive model for effective grassroots action, it’s also a great story. Pat calls it “my adventure story, an adventure in opening doors to understanding research and then using that knowledge to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, as the saying goes.” 


DES Voices (232 pages, $9.95) is  

available on line from www.lulu.com. 

Don’t forget to check out www.desaction.org.

Chora Nova Presents Brahms at First Congregational Church

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Thursday May 22, 2008 - 10:27:00 AM

Chora Nova, under the artistic direction of Paul Flight, will present Brahms’ German Requiem in a rarely performed chamber setting, along with the composer’s “Four Serious Songs” and his short choral piece, “Begraebnissgesang,” 8 p.m., Saturday, May 24, at the First Congregational Church, Dana and Durant streets. Tickets are $10-18, available at the door or at www.choranova.org. 

Director Paul Flight will sing the “Four Serious Songs,” accompanied by Nalini Ghuman on piano. Pianist Lino Rivera and Bay Area soloists Rita Lilly, soprano, and Jeffrey Fields, baritone, will also join in the concert.  

Paul Flight commented on the chamber version of Brahms’ famous Requiem: “It’s a wonderful thing that Brahms took the time, and a lot of care, crafting this originally four-hand piano version—we do it with two pianos. It’s not just a reduction; it stands on its own. Sometimes composers of symphonic music would have a student or assistant rearrange a piece for piano. This is a true chamber experience, with a lot of intimacy. Brahms rescored the ac-companiment to better balance the voices, revealing their interplay with the accompaniment. The counterpoint is precise and clear. 

“This was special in a day when there were no radios or TV,” Flight continued. “Back then, piano versions were the only way the middle class had to get to know great musical works. And it’s a pragmatic gesture. Choral groups couldn’t—and can’t—always afford a big orchestra, which would drown out the choir anyway!” 

The three pieces on the program are all “reflections on death from different parts of Brahms’ life. “Begraebnissgesang” is one of his first choral works, with an interesting setting, showing his interest in early Lutheran tunes. The “Four Serious Songs” are among the last works published in Brahms’ lifetime. He knew he was sick, and Clara Schumann had just been diagnosed as very ill, and would soon pass away. All the texts are biblical. And all the pieces are very closely related, some of the same musical gestures as in the Requiem found in the others. 

“It’s amazing, too,” noted Flight, “to hear Brahms’ high regard for music from the past, the German composers of the early and later Baroque, especially in the Requiem.” 

“Four Serious Songs” is usually performed by a bass-baritone, but—as Flight put it—the surprise of the program will be him singing it as a counter-tenor.  

“We chose the version scored for low bass and came up an octave,” he said. “It works extremely well, suits my voice and my personality. Counter-tenors have grown from being a vocal curiosity, a special voice in old operas, to more mainstream. We’re always looking for ways to expand our repertoire. I just did John Adams’ ‘El Nino’ a few nights ago in Washington, DC. It has a chorus of three counter-tenors, beautifully written.” 

When Flight sings the “Four Serious Songs,” Nalini Ghuman, who has taught music at Mills, will accompany on piano in a reunion for the two of them, as well as for the group she was originally intended for as accompanist, before a still-unexplained order of exclusion kept her out of the U.S. for two years, living in her hometown in Wales. 

“It’s sweet to be performing the ‘Serious Songs’ together,” said Flight. “We’re excited.”

About the House: Using Wooden Retaining Walls in Your Home

By Matt Cantor
Thursday May 22, 2008 - 10:28:00 AM

Ours is an fluid landscape and all its houses, merely mobile homes. For those of us who live in the hills, it seems as though we live upon soils that have long been bored with their current circumstances and long to see the world. They just won’t stay put.  

Also, the steeper the soils, the more active they are. This is a source of great frustration for those of us who deal with the manifestations of this effect on an annual basis in the form of cracked houses and driveways that keep trying to change address. 

Additionally, there is the problem of soils that continually erode downward into our yards.  

There’s a manageable solution to spilling soils as well as the less dramatic conundrum of needing a bit of flat ground on which to set a table and chairs: A retaining wall. 

I see a lot of failed retaining walls and I also see a lot of very expensive concrete replacement. In fact, there’s a relationship between these two. Because many of the recommended repair are so expensive, we all live with a lot more ancient failed retaining walls that never get replaced. 

A wood retaining wall can fix this problem but it must be done properly or it can soon fail from rot or lack of strength. 

If you choose to build (or conscript for) a wooden retaining wall, here are a few of the things you can consider to make this job work out well. 


First: Plant those roots deep.  

One of the most common failings I find in retaining walls is the simple overturning of the entire wall system due to lack of depth. 

Have you ever noticed an entire hillside of trees that all angled from the base of the trunk upward to one side. This is due to earth movement. When surface soils slip or “creep” (this is an actual soils engineering term), the lower layers often move at a slower rate making the entire soil body rotate like the arm on a clock. This literally takes a tree and turns it toward the ground. Retaining walls do the same thing. Top layers often move more rapidly while lower layers stay relatively more stable. If you go deep enough (and the wall is strong enough) you can greatly slow this process. My rule of thumb is to make sure that my posts are as deep below ground as they will be above ground. A three foot high retaining wall will, then, have posts recessed below ground three feet. This is pretty rough logic but its a place to start. 

On flat ground, a retaining wall need not be so deeply footed but, if you want that wall to last, its not that much more work to bury those posts nice and deep. Also, you’re not paying for all the parts of the wall to be added below grade, just the post. 


Second: There’s strength in numbers.  

More post per length is one of the easiest ways to make a stronger retaining wall. One of the most common failings I see in the building of retaining walls is that the builders seem to fall into the trap of building all of them pretty much the same way with posts at about four foot spacing (or six), when the loads may vary from very light to extremely heavy.  

If you’re building a four foot high retaining wall that had a “surcharge” or slope heading uphill from the wall, you’re dealing with a lot of weight and may want to bring your posts as close as two feet apart (although this will vary with the size of posts and the type of board that will run between posts). The point is that a great wooden retaining wall (and keep in mind you’re saving a great deal of money over a typical concrete one) has adequately sized posts and plenty of them. 


Third: Put Your Shoulder Into It. 

When installing posts, its best to orient the post so that the thinner dimension faces into the wall. Some posts for retaining walls are square in cross-section, such a four by four (or better, a six by six) but it is a better use of wood and money to use an uneven dimension such as a four by six or a six by ten. You can then employ the strength of the wider part by letting it extend back from the wall. Again, you are going to face the smaller dimension against the wall. When you face the wall, you’ll be seeing the smaller dimension. This is analogous to the two by eights or tens (typical) below your floor. We press on the narrow face and try to stretch the long face, which is much harder than the other way. A great small retaining wall can be built using four-by-sixes or four-by-eights in this way. 


Fourth: Relieve The Tension.  

When building a wooden retaining wall, its best to cut the soil back behind the wall prior to construction so that you can install the wooden planks across the back side of the posts, between the posts and the soil. This will force the planks against the post making the nails or bolts virtually superfluous. Once you’ve attached the planks, its good to backfill the area between the soil and the wall with a large sharp-edged gravel that will work to distribute the force of earth against more of the wall and will also help to maintain drainage of moisture behind the wall. When soils get a chance to drain out behind a wall, the weight stays lower, there’s less movement and the wall last years longer. Of course, one of the things we love about wooden retaining walls is that they possess inherent drainage in that their inevitable gaps allow water to leak out. Nevertheless, drainage rock at the back of such a wall makes things work even better. It also lessens the fungal growth that eventually destroys all wood retaining walls that don’t fail from lack of strength. This brings us to my last item. 


Fifth and last: Species Matters. 

I’m a redwood guy. It might be because I just love the look of redwood but I there it is. Also, contrary to much eco-thinking, redwood can be quite eco-friendly, as long as you leave anyone older than the first Roosevelt presidency to itself. Redwood is a fast growing tree and can be forested without clear cutting to the joys of both Spotted Owl and human interloper. If you buy redwood, go for tighter more uniform grain and look out for pithy soft woods that will rot more quickly. If you inquire, you can find out where the wood was grown and how it was harvested. For the true tree-hugger, there’s also recycled redwood. 

If you choose to use pressure-treated wood and don’t mind the green roller-marked appearance, be sure to use suitable metal hardware since this PT wood contains a great deal of copper (much more than in the past since the removal of the arsenic) and is highly corrosive to ferrous metals such as steel and iron. 

If you’re considering one of the loose or pinned-block retaining wall system, keep in mind that these are not much stronger than graded soil itself and I’ve seen many that are buckling or tipping over as a result of being used where real resistance is needed. Concrete has roughly the same mass as consolidated soil, so the only real advantage that these systems provide is in erosion resistance. The don’t really hold a hillside together. 

Lastly, for those of you weekend warriors who want to take a shot at constructing a retaining wall, wood will be a more manageable project. It can be done without elaborate form-work, pumped or wheel-barrowed loads of heavy and impatient concrete and without bending rebar until you’re cross-eyed. The concrete retaining wall is definitely in the Master class, while a wooden one can actually be a beginner’s project.  

A brief paid visit from an engineer or talented general contractor might not cost as much as you think and can provide you with the specs you’ll need to do it right. If you hire out your wooden retaining wall, you can also talk about making it pretty. I’ve used large “malleable” washers for mine as both practical bonding and as motif (think of the Cannery in San Francisco where they used large star-emblazoned malleables all over to tie brick to framework). A retaining wall can actually be attractive if done well and can also ascend into fencing if you wish. 

It’s an unfortunately reality that many of us will be forced at some point to buy a retaining wall but, at least, with a wooden one, you won’t end up also suffering a financial landslide. 

Community Calendar

Thursday May 22, 2008 - 09:53:00 AM


Tilden Nature Center Open House A day of critters, crafts and fun for the whole family. Nature stroll at 11 a.m., visit with a snake at noon, nature games at 1 p.m., and songs and crafts at the farm at 2 p.m. 525-2233. 

A Day at the Races Fundraiser for Friends of El Cerrito Music at 11:15 a.m. at Golden Gate Fields. Cost is $35, $17 for children. Includes valet parking, reserved seating, food, and activities. For information call 237-2836. 

World Affairs/Politics Discussion Group, for people 60 years and over, meets at 9:45 a.m. at Albany Senior Center, 846 Masonic Ave, Albany. Cost is $3.  

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

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 

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. www.watersideworkshops.org 


State Assembly Candidate Forum on health care, education, housing, immigration, safety and youth, at 7 p.m. at The Way Christian Center, 1305 Univesity Ave. Open to all. Sponsored by Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Action. 665-5821. 

“California’s Water Problem” and why global warming will only make the problem worse with Kristina Ortiz, of the Natural Resources Defense Council, at 7:30 p.m. at the El Cerrito Democratic Club, at El Cerrito United Methodist Church, 6830 Stockton St., near Richmond Ave. To reserve childcare call 375-5647. 

Tuesdays for the Birds Tranquil bird walks in local parklands, led by Bethany Facendini, from 7 to 9:30 a.m. Today we will visit Sibley Volcanic Preserve. Call for meeting place and if you need to borrow binoculars. 525-2233. 

“On Safari in East Africa” A slide show by photographer Mary Ann Bisowkarma at 7 p.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. 527-4140. 

“Green Your Career” Workshop at 6 p.m. at Language Studies International, 2015 Center St. Cost is $45. 415-824-5718. 

Masquers Playhouse Auditions for “The Petrified Forest” by appointment Tues. and Wed. at 7:30 p.m. at Masquers Playhouse, 105 Park Place, Point Richmond. For detailed character descriptions, see the Masquers website at www.masquers.org. For an audition appointment or more information, contact Marti Baer,mareta7210@gmail.com; 415-385-7210.  

Berkeley PC Users Group meets at 7 p.m. at 1145 Walnut St. MelDancing@aol.com 

Family Storytime at 7 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043.  

CopWatch Training on”Know Your Rights” at 3:30 p.m. at People’s Park. 548-0425. 

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. 

End the Occupation Vigil every Tues. at noon at Oakland Federal Bldg., 1301 Clay St. www.epicalc.org 

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.  

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. www.ecologycenter.org 

Berkeley Camera Club meets at 7:30 p.m., at the Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. Share your digital images, slides and prints and learn what other photographers are doing. Monthly field trips. 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 offer ongoing classes in exercise and creative arts, and always welcome new members over 50. 845-6830. 

Sing-A-Long Group from 2 to 3 p.m. at the Albany Senior Center, 846 Masonic Ave., Albany. 524-9122. 


Golden Gate Audubon Society Walk in Lakeside Park Meet at 9:30 p.m. at the large spherical cage near the Nature Center at Perkins and Bellevue, Oakland, for a birding walk around the lake.  

Walking Tour of Old Oakland “New Era/New Politics” highlights African-American leaders who have made their mark on Oakland. Meet at 10 a.m. and the African American Museum and Library at 659 14th St. 238-3234. www.oaklandnet.com/walkingtours 

“Can We Fix California’s Cut-Everything Budget?” with Keith Carson, Alameda County Supervisor at 1:30 p.m. at Berkeley-East Bay Gray Panthers meeting at the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst, corner of MLK. All welcome. 548-9696, 486-8010. 

“Women Philosophers” with H.D. Moe on the insights & Weltanschaunng of Babette E. Babich at 1 p.m. at Humanist Hall 390 27th St., Oakland. 528-8713. 

“The Mind is a Liar and a Whore” A film by Antero Alli at 7:30 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. Donation $5. www.Humanist Hall.org 

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. 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.  


“Global Unions: Innovative Strategies from Cross-Border Labor Campaigns” A panel discussion on how unions can confront and address the implications of globalization at noon at UC Berkeley Labor Center, 2521 Channing Way, near Telegraph Ave. 642-6371. http://laborcenter.berkeley.edu 

“Teaching Race in Biblical Studies” A panel discussion at 3 p.m. at Bade Museum, Pacific School of Religion, 1798 Scenic Ave. Lecture on “Job’s Wife: A Minority Report” with Choon-Leong Seow of Princeton Theological Seminary at 6 p.m. For information call 849-8239. 

CopWatch Training on ”Know Your Rights” at 6 p.m. at the Grassroots House, 2022 Blake St. 548-0425. 

Baby & Toddler 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. 


City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with Eric Klinenberg on “Fighting for Air: The Battle to Control America’s Media” Luncheon at 11:45 a.m. for $14.50, speech at 12:30 p.m., at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant St. For information and reservations call 524-7468.  

Burma Update with Nyunt Than, president of Burmese American Democratic Alliance at 7 p.m. at Newman Hall/Holy Spirit Parish, 2700 Dwight Way at College. Donations accepted for the victims of the cyclone. 649-8772. 

Berkeley Women in Black weekly vigil from noon to 1 p.m. at Bancroft and Telegraph. Our focus is human rights in Palestine. 548-6310. 


Mini-Farmers in Tilden A farm exploration program, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. for ages 4-6 years, accompanied by an adult. We will explore the Little Farm, care for animals, do crafts and farm chores. Wear boots and dress to get dirty! Fee is $6-$8. Registration required. 1-888-EB-PARKS. 

Berkeley Historical Society Walking Tour “McGee Tract” led by Paul Grunland and exploring three historic neighborhood tracts, from 10 a.m. to noon. Cost is $8-$10. For reservations call 848-0181. 

Berkeley Garden Club Plant Sale featuring perennials, succulents and some veggies, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 547 Grizzly Peak, at Euclid. 845-4482. www.berkeleygardenclub.org 

Celebrate Schoolhouse Creek and learn about restoration plans and progress at the creek mouth in Eastshore State Park, Berkeley, with Friends of Five Creeks, with a bug hunt led by Cal Bug People at 10 a.m., a short interpretive walk at 11:30 a.m. followed by bring-your-own picnic, make art with natural materials with environmental artist Zach Pine in the afternoon. Free, but numbers limited. Register for one or all events at 848-9358. f5creeks@aol.com  




Walking Tour of Oakland Chinatown Meet at 10 a.m. at the courtyard fountain in the Pacific Renaissance Plaza at 388 Ninth St. Tour lasts 90 minutes. Reservations can be made by calling 238-3234. www.oaklandnet.com/walkingtours 

“Remembering 1948” Personal narratives, poetry, and music by Jews and Palestinians about the events surrounding the founding of the State of Israel at 7:30 p.m. at Kehilla Community Synagogue, 1300 Grand Ave., Piedmont. Suggested donation $10. 547-2424. www.kehillasynagogue.org 

“Art Saves Lives” 2008 Oakland Youth Arts Festival with exhibits, art making, and performances from noon to 9 p.m. at the Oakland Musuem of California, 1000 Oak St., Oakland. www.museumca.org 

Workshop on Arts and Crafts Embroidery with Ann Chaves of Ingelnook Textiles. All day in Oakland. For information and to register email itextiles@earthlink.net 

Self-Defense Workshop for women and girls from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Rockridge Library. To reserve a space call 251-0559. 

Party for Socialism and Liberation with speakers and workshops, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Intertribal Friendship House, 523 International Blvd., Oakland. Near Lake Merrit BART/AC Transit 82, 82L, 801. Suggested donation $10-$20, no one turned away. 415-821-6171. www.pslweb.org 

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 

The Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club provides free instruction every Wed. and Sat. at 10:30 a.m. at 2270 Acton St. 841-2174.  

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. 

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


Nature Sleuthing for the Whole Family Learn how to recognize the evidence animals leave behind with Meg Platt, naturalist, from 10:30 a.m. to noon at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

Farm Tales and Songs for the whole family at 1:30 p.m. at the Tilden Little Farm, Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

Home Greywater Systems Slideshow & Tour Learn about the permitted greywater system at the Ecohouse, at 10 a.m. or 1 p.m. Cost is $15. Registration required. 548-2220 ext. 242. http://ecologycenter.org 

Build It Green Home Tour from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. around Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. Tour guidebook, which serves as admission ticket, is $30. 845-0472. www.builditgreen.org 

Women’s Daytime Drop-In Center 20th Anniversary Celebration with music and live and silent auctions, at 7 p.m. at The Berkeley Yacht Club, 1 Seawall Drive. Tickets are $25-430. 548-2284. www.womensdropin.org 

Soul Sanctuary Dance Community dance benefit for Ashkenaz, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Ashkenaz, 1317 San Pablo Ave. Donation $5-$20. www.soulsanctuarydance.com  

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. 

Bringing City Children to the Redwoods Fundraising dinner and silent auction at 6 p.m. at Hs Lordships Restaurant, 199 Seawall Drive, Berkeley Marina. 232-3032. www.yesfamilies.org 

Blood Drive from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Congregation Netivot Shalom, 1316 University Ave. To sign up go to www.bloodheroes.com  

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 Tom Morse on “Mind and the Origin of Appearance” 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 

Ecstatic Dance East Bay A sacred freeform journey of dance and movement, every Sun. morning at 10:30 a.m. at Historic Sweets Ballroom, 1933 Broadway, Oakland. Cost is $15. www.ecstaticdanceeastbay.com 


Mental Health Commission meets Thurs., May 22, at 6:30 p.m. at 2640 MLK Jr. Way, at Derby. 981-5213.  

Zoning Adjustments Board meets Thurs., May 22, at 7 p.m., in City Council Chambers. 981-7410.  

Council Agenda Committee meets Tues. May 27, at 2:30 p.m., at 2180 Milvia St. 981-6900. 

Civic Arts Commission meets Wed., May 28, at 6:30 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7533.  

Disaster and Fire Safety Commission meets Wed., May 28, at 7 p.m., at the Emergency Operations Center, 997 Cedar St. 981-5502.  

Energy Commission meets Wed., May 28, at 6:30 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-5434.  

Planning Commission meets Wed., May 28, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7484. 

Police Review Commission meets Wed., May 28, at the South Berkeley Senior Center. 981-4950.