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Nancy Skinner celebrates her solid win with supporters at the Downtown on Shattuck Avenue Tuesday night.
By Judith Scherr
Nancy Skinner celebrates her solid win with supporters at the Downtown on Shattuck Avenue Tuesday night.


Pools Won’t Be on Berkeley’s November Ballot

By Judith Scherr
Wednesday June 11, 2008 - 06:56:00 PM

A ballot measure to fund a new warm pool and rehab neighborhood pools was taken off the table at the Berkeley City Council’s Tuesday night meeting.  

More than 30 people showed up to support a pools bond. But having seen the results of recent surveys that showed voters unlikely to support the measure, most of them agreed in the end with the council decision. 

At the request of Councilmember Dona Spring, the council voted unanimously (with Councilmember Kriss Worthington absent) for the concept of placing an advisory measure before voters in November, calling on the Berkeley Unified School District not to demolish the warm pool now located on the Berkeley High School campus—the district has plans to replace it with new classrooms—until a replacement warm pool is built.  

The council vote included creation of a task force to negotiate with the school district on the pools questions. The three outdoor pools and the indoor warm pool are located on school district property, but maintained and operated by the city. 

The council will formally vote on the advisory measure and task force when staff brings back specific language at a future meeting. 

“If we went for the bond and it didn’t pass, then they would have an excuse to wash their hands of us,” JoAnn Cook, One Warm Pool chair told the Planet after the vote. She said the council vote to have the advisory measure on the ballot was “a whole lot better then it could have been. They could have said, ‘forget you,’” she said. 

The council did not make a decision Tuesday whether it will ask citizens in November to pay for increased fire and emergency protection and for library branch rehabilitation. 

The plan as outlined in the council discussion depends on the school district’s becoming a partner in the project, something which BUSD spokesperson Mark Coplan said the school district is likely to reject. 

Mayor Tom Bates, who will head the task force, took the lead in the decision to take the question of bond funding for the pools off the table. Bates told the council he thinks the city can work with the district to get the funds for the project, estimated to cost $22 million.  

The schools lack adequate funding to build the project they’ve designed at Berkeley High, Bates told the council.  

“To do what they want, they’ll have to go to the voters,” he said. When they do, “The warm pool can be part of the mix,” he said.  

Building a stadium with new bleachers is the first phase of the project, with an anticipated finish date of June 2011; demolition of the pool and gym will come in the next phase, ending in October 2011; rebuilding the gym and classrooms will come in a third phase ending in 2013, according to Facilities Manager Lew Jones, who spoke to the Planet on Wednesday.  

Jones confirmed that at present only the first two phases are funded. 

“That moves the issue to 2010” to go out for funding, Bates told the council. 

When the Planet asked schools spokesperson Mark Coplan on Wednesday if he thought the district would include the warm pool in an eventual school district bond, Coplan laughed. 

“It will never happen,” he said, explaining that the school district couldn’t include in its bond measure something like the warm pool that is not destined for students. 

But Robert Collier of the Berkeley Pools Alliance—the neighborhood pool-user group that partnered with One Warm Pool advocating for the ballot measure—said in a phone interview with the Planet on Wednesday, that he thought Coplan’s response was as a school district negotiator. 

He said Bates has been able to “pull rabbits out of a hat” to find funds for the Tom Bates Fields (otherwise known as the Gillman Sports Fields) and the Ed Roberts Campus and should be able to get funding for this project. 

Collier pointed to a 1991 agreement between the school district and the city that says the district may want to develop properties where existing pools are located. 

If so, the agreement says, “The district has the option of relocating any and all of the existing pools on the existing site or to another site, said location to be done at the cost of the district to a site mutually agreed to between the city and district.” 

Collier said he thinks the agreement—on which district and city lawyers are likely to disagree—is likely to give the city leverage in negotiations. 

“Both sides need to be forced into a locked room,” Collier said, adding in an e-mail, “The poor polling results showed that going forward with a bond measure could have been like the Charge of the Light Brigade—a glorious, epic gesture doomed to defeat. We don’t care about the glory. We just want to save our pools. If Mayor Bates and the Council truly follow up on this and get results without the bond, we will be perfectly happy.”

Berkeley’s Juneteenth Festival Called Off This Year

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday June 10, 2008 - 01:48:00 PM

It will be a Juneteenthless June for Berkeley residents this year, in the face of what some event organizers said was a myriad of restrictions city officials imposed on the 22-year-old tradition just months before the big weekend. 

City officials said they reached an agreement with event organizers to have the festival on a different day next year after the Berkeley Police Department complained its officers did not want to patrol the city’s streets on Father’s Day—which falls on every third Sunday in June, the same day on which Juneteenth has typically been celebrated. 

Organizers promise that the Berkeley festival, possibly the biggest Juneteenth celebration in the Bay Area, will be back next year. In addition to the conflict with Father’s Day, city officials also cited safety, location and organizational concerns for saying they would not approve a festival permit this year. 

Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States, has its roots in Galveston, Texas, where it was observed as the African American Emancipation Day on June 19, 1865.  

“The Berkeley police wanted to change the date since they didn’t have enough officers for Father’s Day,” said Berkeley Juneteenth Association, Inc. Chair Sam Dyke. 

“Our department has a very large number of family-oriented officers,” said Berkeley police spokesperson Andrew Frankel said. “Our preference was that it be held on a day other than Father’s Day as an event of that magnitude requires a large number of police resources.” 

However, some board members were adamant that the festival should be continued to be held on Father’s Day. 

“I am sympathetic with BPD’s situation, but we shouldn’t do away with a tradition,” said longtime committee member Dolores Edwards. “I think we should raise money for private security officers who will patrol the festival that day.” 

According to the committee’s co-president Gerald Baptiste Jr., city officials also had a problem with the festival’s Adeline Street location, and its popular youth stage, which draws more than 5,000 kids from all over the Bay Area. 

Baptiste said the city had told the Berkeley Juneteenth Association it would not get a permit for the festival this year if they held it on June 15-Father’s Day-at the Adeline Street corridor. 

“We had an agreement with them that the festival would be held on any other day but Father’s Day because of the reason the police department gave,” the city’s former Special Events Coordinator Manuel Hector told the Planet Monday. “The event organizations have not been very good at managing their stage and there have been unauthorized and off-schedule acts. So we told them to hire an experienced stage manager for their stages.” 

Baptiste said city officials had expressed concerns about the festival over the last three years, and the Berkeley Police Department had complained to the board about the youth stage last year. 

“Sometime in April or May last year, the city manager’s office asked us for a schedule of events and a complete list of participants,” he said. “After the event Hector sent us an e-mail saying that the schedule was skewed and that some young people who were not on the program had appeared on stage.” 

Baptiste said although a couple of people had appeared on stage in spite of not being on the program, there hadn’t been any problems. 

“And any event will have things a bit off time,” he said. “I take great pride in saying that the activities were superb. But for the City of Berkeley to tell us to have professionals and to make suggestions was a severe violation of our rights. It’s not in their purview to come and tell us who we need to hire.” 

Edwards said she was disappointed that Berkeley officials were not more enthusiastic about the youth stage. 

“Berkeley police complained to us that kids from other neighborhoods come to the festival and create problems,” she said. “If there is an issue in Berkeley on that day they blame it on the festival. We try to give kids their own music, their own stage and try to keep the stage clean. We allow rap, but we don’t allow rap with cussing. We want to include the whole family and give these kids a platform to showcase their talents.” 

She added youth stage performers had to audition a month in advance to qualify. 

“We select 20 people who have to demonstrate that their acts are family oriented,” she said. “Some of them look a bit intimidating, but since we offer them their own stage and their own production, they behave very well. They are just kids just out on a Sunday to have fun.” 

Juneteenth’s youth stage have included performances by groups such as Youth Uprising and the Kanye Project, hopscotch and basketball tournaments, and talks by young adult counselors. 

“We’ve let the young people run their programs,” Dyke said. “We can’t pick their music, so we give them the freedom to do it. Sometimes it does create a problem with adults, but we have tried to keep it clean.” 

According to Baptiste, the city also sent the board a letter in early January informing them to relocate from Adeline Street and hold the festival on a different date. 

“We were already in the process of addressing a new youth stage, and this letter gave our situation a brand new twist,” he said. “Although a new venue would prove extremely challenging for us, we looked at the different options provided by the city, such as Martin Luther King Jr. Park and Cesar Chavez Park.” 

When both locations seemed unsuitable for holding the festival, the board decided to stick with the Adeline Street location. 

“When we contacted the city manager’s office with this proposal, they refused to issue us a permit,” Baptiste said. “However, at a later meeting, the City of Berkeley said they had never told us they would not issue us a permit, and they would go ahead and issue us a permit for Adeline Street next year.” 

Dyke, the festival chair, said board members thought it would be unfair to move the festival-which has been held at Adeline Street for the last 22 years-to a different place. 

Hector said the city had not imposed relocation on the committee. 

“We suggested that if they could not manage the crowds on Adeline Street, they could relocate to a different venue,” he said. 

“We negotiated with the city,” Dyke said. “But the whole thing took so long that the board decided not to have the festival this year. It’s disappointing, but in view of all the concerns, we agreed that’s the best thing to do.” 

Dyke said 250 vendors who had already registered for the now-canceled festival had been issued refunds. 

“We could have done it last minute, but we couldn’t have done it well,” he said. 


Let People Decide on Bus Lanes, Proposed Ballot Measure Says

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday June 10, 2008 - 01:47:00 PM

Who will decide if buses get their own lanes on Telegraph Avenue? If Bruce Kaplan and Dean Metzger get their way, the people will. On May 28, Kaplan and Metzger submitted a petition to the City Clerk with 3,240 signatures of Berkeley voters in order to place on the Nov. 4 ballot an initiative “to require voter approval before dedicating Berkeley streets or lanes for transit-only or HOV/Bus-only use.”  

They need 2,337 valid signatures.  

Metzger, president of the Claremont-Elmwood Neighborhood Association, and Kaplan, who owns Looking Glass Photo and Camera on Telegraph Avenue, drafted the ballot measure in response to AC Transit’s proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), which would mandate 18 miles of dedicated lanes from San Leandro through Oakland to the heart of Berkeley. BRT would dedicate bus lanes—and remove two automobile traffic lanes—on Telegraph and parts of Shattuck Avenue.  

While supporters of the bus plan say it would be a plus for the environment by taking cars off the road, opponents say reducing automobile traffic lanes would force traffic off Telegraph and into the neighborhoods. Telegraph Avenue merchants say it would be bad for business. Opponents further argue that BART already services the proposed route. Metzger says the decision should be up to the people.  

“We want to make sure that this isn’t railroaded through the commissions and the council,” he told the Planet.  

“The purpose of this measure is to enable the people of the city of Berkeley, by majority vote, to decide whether city streets or portions thereof shall be converted to transit-only or HOV/bus-only lanes ... If the change is significant or potentially harmful, the citizens should have the opportunity to decide their own future directly thought the ballot,” says an explanation accompanying the ballot proposal.  

Metzger said the act of collecting signatures served an educational purpose. He collected 200 signatures himself: “Ninety-five percent of the people I talked to had not heard about it,” he said.  


Berkeley's Planning and Transportation commissions will be looking at the BRT proposal on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Ave. 


Early Candidates Take Out Papers for November Elections

By Judith Scherr
Monday June 09, 2008 - 04:42:00 PM

With hard-fought but largely ignored June primaries behind them, voters will be setting their sights on the Nov. 4 presidential election and, locally, on races for the Berkeley City Council, school board and Rent Stabilization Board.  

While the official date for Berkeley office seekers to begin filing for the November election is not until July 14, candidates began taking out “signature-in-lieu” papers on May 30. These candidates collect voter signatures rather than paying the $150 filing fee. Each valid signature knocks $1 off the fee. 

Council seats for districts 2, 3, 5 and 6 up are for grabs. 

With District 6 Councilmember Betty Olds set to retire after 16 years, Olds' aide Susan Wengraf, a planning commissioner, is hoping to step into her boss's shoes. Wengraf filed May 30 to begin collecting signatures. 

Incumbent councilmembers Darryl Moore, District 2, Laurie Capitelli, District 5, and Max Anderson, District 3, have all taken out signature-in-lieu papers. 

There are no filings yet for mayor. That post is usually a four-year term. However, Mayor Tom Bates was elected to a two-year term in 2006 to comply with a voter-approved initiative to adjust mayoral elections to coincide with the presidential election, when there is greater voter turnout. (With some absentee and provisional votes to be counted, the voter turnout in the June primary in Alameda County was reported at 28.88 percent.) The winner in the mayoral race will be elected to a four-year term. 

Two of the five Berkeley school board seats are up for election. School Board President John Selawsky has filed to collect signatures. School Board Member Joaquin Rivera will also face re-election, if he chooses to run again. 

With five of the nine rent board seats up in November, the only incumbent who has taken out signature-in-lieu papers is Rent Board Chair Jesse Arreguin, an aide to Councilmember Kriss Worthington. 

Nicole Drake, member of the Housing Advisory Commission and aide to Councilmember Linda Maio, has begun collecting signatures for a seat on the rent board. 

Rent Board Vice Chair Jack Harrison and commissioners Jason Overman, Eleanor Walden and Corrine Calfee, who was appointed to former Commissioner Chris Kavanagh's unexpired seat, are up for re-election. (Kavanagh resigned from office and is serving a six-month jail sentence after being convicted of charges related to living in Oakland while serving as an elected official in Berkeley.) 

The lowest vote-getter among the five elected to the rent board will serve a two-year term to fill out Kavanagh's unexpired term The other seats are four-year terms. 

City Council compensation is set at $27,258 plus $30 per Redevelopment Agency meeting and full medical and dental benefits. School Board members get $18,000 per year plus full medical and dental benefits. Rent board members get $6,000 plus benefits. The mayor's salary is set at $34,200 plus benefits. 

For information on who is taking out signature in lieu papers go to www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=4314 

Planning, Transportation Panels To Consider BRT Alternatives

By Richard Brenneman
Monday June 09, 2008 - 04:35:00 PM

Berkeley's planning and transportation commissioners will meet jointly Wednesday night for the first of two sessions devoted to Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). 

Their goal is to give the City Council some alternatives to the Telegraph Avenue-constricting AC Transit proposal to be considered in the project's environmental review. 

The regional bus agency wants to develop a program that would speed bus traffic along an urban street corridor stretching from the downtown Berkeley BART station to the San Leandro BART station. 

The plan calls for cutting Telegraph Avenue down from two lanes to one in each direction and eliminating street parking to make way for a bus-only lane running down the center of the roadway. 

The San Leandro City Council has opted out of the bus lane, and Berkeley foes of the concept—who say it would cut business for Telegraph Avenue and flood parallel neighborhood streets with traffic—are floating an opposition ballot initiative for the November general election. 

According to the agenda for the 7 p.m. session, no action is to be taken. The document notes that city staff received 443 identical postcards in support of the AC Transit proposal, as well as one letter from BRT critic Gale Garcia. 

The session begins at 7 p.m. in the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Ave. 

Once the joint session is over and the transportation commissioners have departed, Planning Commission Chair James Samuels will gavel his own panel to order for the first of their two regular monthly meetings. 

The session will feature an update on staff action on the City Council-mandated project to ease development restrictions in West Berkeley. 


Grand Promises, Fast-Track Approval May Speed Point Molate Casino Resort

By Richard Brenneman
Monday June 09, 2008 - 10:03:00 AM

Reports of its death having been greatly exaggerated, Richmond’s Point Molate casino is not only alive—it’s being fast-tracked by state and federal agencies. 

And the tribal venture is being bankrolled, says developer James D. Levine, with the cash of another tribe, already rich from their own gambling venture.  

While the speed-up specifically involves completing the handover of the former U.S. Navy fueling station—with the help of the Navy and the state Regional Water Quality Control Board—the Bureau of Indian Affairs is also pushing forward on a key document needed to transform the site into a tribal reservation. 

And Levine, the environmental consulting expert turned would-be gambling magnate, says the billion-dollar casino, resort and condo complex constitutes the greenest project ever erected in California. 

The waterfront development had stalled after Levine’s initial financial backer, the Nevada-based Harrah’s Entertainment, pulled out more than a year ago, but the Berkeley developer said he’s ready with plans for a five-star resort on the Richmond shoreline near the foot of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge 

Levine announced the latest news at Wednesday night’s meeting of the Restoration Advisory Board (RAB), a joint Navy/citizen committee which has conducted nearly 100 meetings since it was first formed 12 years ago, said public representative and co-chair Don Gosney. 

While the largest portions of the base—218 acres—were transferred to the City of Richmond in September 2003, four parcels remain under Navy jurisdiction because hazardous waste cleanups weren’t completed. 

Normally, under terms of the federal base closure law, the Navy would have retained ownership till the site was rendered legally safe, but in rare instances, a Finding for Suitability for Early Transfer [a FOSET] allows for early handover. Under terms of the FOSET, cleanup would continue under the supervision of the state water board, which Levine and his partners providing insurance that would guarantee satisfactory completion, the developer said. 

The draft FOSET will be made public Tuesday, when a 30-day public comment period will begin. Also starting in June, the water board will begin preparing its own cleanup order that will accompany the handover. 

If all goes well, the Navy could transfer the remaining land to the city in December, which would then complete the transfer by passing it on to the developer and the ultimate owner, the Guidiville Rancheria Pomos. 

Sometime in December, the whole package—including the FOSET, a water board cleanup order, land use restrictions and a quitclaim deed—will go to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose signature is required before the transfer can occur, said Navy Remedial Project Manager Derek Robinson. 

“We are going to try to get the governor to sign as soon as possible,” Robinson said, adding that Schwarzenegger’s office “has been handling it quicker than they’re used to.” 

When RAB member Arnie Kasindorf asked what would happen if the governor refused to sign, Levine said that objections could be raised with the chief executive’s staff and with the staff of the California Environment Protection Agency (EPA) to resolve potential problems before it the documents hit the Schwarzenegger’s desk. 

Any likely objections, he said, “are all fixable.” 

“You guys are going to get it all ship-shape,” Robinson added. 


New partner 

Levine refused to offer any clues about his new tribal partner, which is veiled behind the corporate shield of Winehaven Partners, a limited liability corporation created Delaware last Dec. 20 and registered to do business in California on April 21 from an address that traces back to Levine’s Emeryville office. 

Levine declined to identify the tribe or even to specify whether it was located in Southern California. The tribe must have deep pockets, because the project’s price tag has doubled since 2005, when Levine cited a $500 million figure. 

“We’re hoping Elton John will open” when the doors of the complex’s entertainment venue is ready for business, Levine told the RAB.  

Construction of the complex will be a gargantuan effort, including the removal of more than 1.5 million cubic yards of hillside to make way for a 5,000-space parking garage. 

Plans call for 1,100 hotel rooms (each with a bay view), a 150,000-square-foot convention center, a business conference center, 300,000 square feet of top-flight retail outlets, outdoor cafes and a host of other entertaining and educational attractions, as well as a condo community crowned with photovoltaic panels and solar water heating. 

“We want to provide the place where people celebrate everything important,” he said. 

Projections call for 15,000 visitors a day to the Las Vegas-style casino [everything but craps and wheels of fortune], and a bounty of cash creating “an economic engine that can fuel community projects on a sale never dreamed of before,” Levine said. 

The nationally designated historic building that was once the nation’s largest winery will be restored in all its crenelated glory as the home of the casino and upscale dining, connected to the entertainment and hotel complex by a clear glass walkway to insure the building is clearly visible to one and all. 

The project will also include buildings for the Guidivilles, including housing for all tribe members and a roundhouse located on the hilltop above the point. 


Greenest yet 

Levine promises the greenest casino ever to environmentalists, and the greenest-ever bounty to the community in the flow of a never-ending river of cash. 

“We have started real planning with public agencies to create the most integrated multi-modal transit hub” in the region, said Levine. 

In addition to its proximity to the bridge, the complex will have shuttle links to the Richmond BART station, a terminal for ferries powered by alternative fuels, tidal turbine energy generation, along with fuel cells and photovoltaics, a rock-based heat storage system and green building materials in all the tribal structures, he said. 

“It’s an extraordinary project that will do extraordinary things for the city,” with the benefits “far outweighing” the social troubles that come with problem gambling, Levine said.  

The meeting was no place for nay-sayers, and Levine’s promise that his resort “will throw off $20 million and maybe more to the community” was met with smiles. 


EIR, EIS, reservation 

On a parallel track, the key document needed before the land can be turned into a Native American reservation is also moving into play, the long-delayed environmental review mandated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). 

Point Molate is seeking both a state-level environment impact review (EIR) and a federal environment impact statement (EIS), though only the latter is required by the BIA. 

The draft documents will be released next month, followed by a public comment period, then preparation of the final documents. 

The final word on reservation status rests with the BIA. 

The Guidivilles had been stripped of legal recognition five decades ago, and creation of a new reservation allows the tribe to seek what could become the state’s first metropolitan casino. 

Any gambling agreement must be approved by the BIA, the National Indian Gaming Commission and the governor. 

Just what sort of political opposition the project will encounter remains a question. 

Both Democratic candidates for state senate seat that represents Richmond have taken contributions from backers of casinos. 

State Assemblymember Loni Hancock, who won the Democratic primary for state senator last week, had been a strong opponent of some urban casinos, but she accepted a $3,000 campaign contribution on Dec. 18 from Levine’s Upstream Point Molate LLC, the company developing the project. 

Hancock was targeted by mailers funded by a coalition of gambling tribes. Her opponent, former Assemblymember Wilma Chan, has taken money from the tribe that operates Casino San Pablo. 

While the Richmond City Council has enthusiastically embraced the project. Contra Costa County officialdom has been hostile. 

B-Tech Grads Look Toward Future

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Saturday June 07, 2008 - 02:10:00 PM

Berkeley Technology Academy Principal Victor Diaz summed up the school year at the 2008 graduation ceremony at UC Berkeley’s Alumni Hall Thursday: “It was a year of extreme highs and extreme lows—a crazy crazy year.” 

The school graduated 42, or twice as many students than last year, a feat Diaz attributed to rise in enrollment coupled with “a high success rate.” It also recently received the statewide After School Education and Safety 21st Century grant, which will award B-Tech $175,000 annually over the next five years. 

With 160 students, enrollment is at an all time high and suspensions are decreasing every day, Diaz said. 

Faculty, staff and students at this alternative school are recovering from the May 15 incident when one of the school’s seniors shot a junior outside school and sent the entire B-Tech community into shock. 

Both students could be expelled, but Diaz said the Berkeley Unified School District will hold off making a decision until the juvenile court rules on the case. 

Students looked on during Thursday’s ceremony as one of the graduating seniors recounted the fateful day four months ago when he became the victim of a drive-by shooting in Oakland. 

“I’d never thought I’d be here today,” the student said. “Thank you for all your visits to the hospital and all the cards you made for me.” 

As families broke down into tears, and exchanged hugs, students and parents spoke about how B-Tech gave them their lives back. 

“B-Tech saved my son,” said Kathy Dean to rounds of applause from the audience. “We were lost before we came to B-Tech. We were lost before we found Vic. These are not the throwaway kids, these are the next Barack Obamas. Let nobody tell you that you cannot be the next president of the United States.” 

Diaz praised the small and dedicated bunch of students who were off to four-year universities, as well as the ones who had already registered for Peralta Community College District for classes in the fall. 

Devenere Dodson, 18, her dark eyes shining with excitement, talked about Texas Southern University—where she’s off to pursue business management in fall. 

“I never thought it would be possible for me to go to a four-year-college,” she said, flashing a smile. “The feeling is unexplainable. I don’t have words. It took so long but I finally got there. I want to become an entrepreneur and own my own business one day.” 

Dodson, one of the class toppers, graduated with a 3.0 GPA and A’s in most classes, including English and math, her favorite subjects. A transfer student from Newark, Dodson lives with her mother, who works two jobs as a secretary and a nurse, and three younger sisters. 

Her friend Okoye Jones jumped up and down next to her wearing dark shades. 

“It feels gooooood,” Jones, who will be studying auto mechanics at Alameda College, said laughing. 

Like Dodson and Jones, most of the students at B-Tech were not afraid to talk about their shortcomings. They proudly pointed out their parents, who took leave from their jobs as AC Transit drivers, Safeway cashiers and nurses at big hospitals to stand by their kids on their big day. 

“Yea, I got kicked out of Berkeley High because of bad grades,” said Markeita Mcmillian, smiling in her yellow robes. “But I am awfully excited and proud of myself today. I graduated with a 3.0 and I am off to Texas Southern University to study health administration. I will remember my teachers and Vic who looked after me, and who were like my parents. They helped me improve, and here I am today.” 

Baby brothers held on tightly to shiny balloons, and mothers jostled for space in the front row, clicking their cameras as the graduates lined up to take centerstage. 

“My mother came almost an hour in advance so that she could see the youngest of her three children graduate,” said Celeste Kelley, a Berkeley High graduate who now owns her own daycare business in Oakland. “I am overjoyed for my little brother. We have been through a lot of ups and downs and I am so proud he made it. When I went to Berkeley High eight years ago, B-Tech used to be a school for troubled kids. Now if a child needs more attention or a smaller classroom he can come to B-Tech.” 

Diaz acknowledged the school still has a long way to go, especially when it comes to improving scores and ranking in standardized testing. 

Since the API score for Berkeley Technology Academy was based on less than 100 valid STAR test results in 2007, the alternative school did not receive a ranking among similar schools.  

“There’s been almost no strategy for increasing participation for standardized tests,” he said. “But the district is working on that now, and hopefully, we should see some improvement. We try to take testing seriously, but our numbers were still low last year.” 

Diaz added that social and economic factors such as a bad economy, along with rising gas and food prices, impacted students coming from poorer communities. 

“We don’t just live in a vacuum that is school,” he said. “During lessons, kids talk about their parents having to choose between food and a health bill, and how they are being evicted from their houses. This impacts learning. And we have been busier than ever this year trying to provide our students with support to deal with all that.” 

U-Haul Berkeley Defies Council and Judge’s Order to Stop Renting Trucks, City Attorney Says

By Judith Scherr
Friday June 06, 2008 - 04:18:00 PM

U-Haul Berkeley was doing a brisk business late Thursday afternoon, with customers maneuvering trucks in and out of the lot at Addison Street and San Pablo Avenue, workers cleaning up the vehicles and people queuing up five deep at the indoor customer service counter. 

Observing the scene, one would not know that Berkeley code enforcement backed by an October 2007 City Council order had closed down the truck rental business and that a superior court judge had upheld the council decision. 

In a complaint filed May 21, the city alleges that U-Haul has violated the council’s October 2007 use permit revocation order and asks the court to issue an order “prohibiting U-Haul from causing a public nuisance by continuing its illegal use at 2100 San Pablo Avenue.” 

A decade ago, the city began documenting problems with the business, established in Berkeley in 1975. Neighbors complained that U-Haul blocked their streets and driveways and created noise by allowing customers to drop off trucks at the site at night. Neighbors also complained that U-Haul customers deposited trash and furniture on their streets. 

This led to a series of hearings and decisions, ending with the council vote to revoke the permit that allowed the business to rent out trucks and equipment. 

Acting City Attorney Zach Cowan told the Planet Friday that he had never seen an instance like this, where a business would ignore both a city and a judge’s confirmation of the city's order. 

“It’s kind of astonishing,” Cowan said.  

The court turned down the city’s request for a temporary restraining order, but will hear the city’s motion for a preliminary injunction at 3 p.m. June 23 in Department 16 of the Alameda County Superior Court, 1221 Oak. The city’s aim is to stop U-Haul from renting trucks and equipment at the Berkeley location.  

If the judge finds in Berkeley’s favor, and U-Haul continued to operate their business, “They would be in contempt of court,” Cowan said, noting that could lead to fines or even jail time. 

Thursday afternoon, after observing 15 trucks, four vans and ten hitches parked in the lot—and customers actively driving in and out—a reporter asked a U-Haul employee if the company continued to rent trucks.  

She said they do not rent. “It is shared equipment,” she said. The employee had numerous customers lined up and said she did not have time to elaborate. 

Observing a young man leaving the customer service desk with papers, the reporter asked if he had rented a truck. He said, “Yes.” Having overheard the response, the employee called out, “It is shared, not rented.” 

Eric Crocker, president of U-Haul Company of West Sacramento, did not return Planet calls and U-Haul’s attorney Jon York said it is his firm’s policy not to talk to reporters about ongoing cases.  

Asked if “sharing” the trucks was a viable alternative to renting them, Cowan hesitated and said, “There’s no polite way to respond.” 

Then he continued: “If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck.”  

“Sharing” is just like renting, Cowan said. People reserve trucks and pay for them using credit cards—it’s not free. “They’re not a member of U-Haul,” he said. 

A separate case in which U-Haul is suing Berkeley will be heard in federal court in August, Cowan said. In that suit, U-Haul claims the business should be allowed to operate on environmental and civil rights grounds. 

“Consistent with the local green philosophy and the city’s purported policy, U-Haul has dedicated itself to protecting and preserving the surrounding environment by maintaining an environmentally friendly truck-sharing business model limiting harmful carbon dioxide emissions and removing polluting vehicles from the streets,” the U-Haul complaint says.  

(For more on this issue, see http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2008-05-15/article/29996?headline=U-Haul-Takes-City-to-Court-Again-Over-San-Pablo-Site.) 


Registrar Responds: Peace and Freedom Party Members Get Non Partisan Ballots

By Judith Scherr
Friday June 06, 2008 - 04:19:00 PM

A number of Peace and Freedom Party members were given “non partisan” rather than Peace and Freedom Party ballots on Tuesday in Alameda County, registrar Dave Macdonald acknowledged Thursday in an interview with the Daily Planet. 

He explained that there are two lists that poll workers use, a “roster index”—a master list—and a street-level list. Peace and Freedom Party members were identified on the street-level list as “non partisan,” which means they would be given general ballots, allowing them to vote only on state-wide propositions. 

Macdonald said the problem was due to “our printer that made a mistake.” 

Similar problems were noted in San Francisco and Los Angeles counties. 

Macdonald said that if voters challenged their status, poll workers were trained to give them a provisional ballot on which they could vote as Peace and Freedom Party members. 

“If there’s any concern at all, people are allowed to vote provisionally,” he said, adding, “I feel confident that our poll workers did it right.” 

Moreover, Macdonald said that as soon as the county office was alerted to the problem “we notified the coordinators to make sure [poll workers] were not using the street index” to determine which ballot a voter should receive. 

In an interview with the Planet on Wednesday, however, Debra Reiger, chair of the Peace and Freedom Party, said that only “some people knew to persist” and got the proper ballots. An unknown number mistakenly voted non partisan. That was particularly significant because voting for the party’s central committee was on the ballot—and the central committee determines delegates to the convention in August where the party will nominate a presidential candidate. 

Supervisor Keith Carson, who said had no knowledge of the specific problem, told the Planet Thursday that the supervisors had been “outspoken on everybody’s right to exercise their constitutional right to vote.”  

He added that there is a committee of citizens who looks into such matters, called the Election Advisory Committee. The committee is staffed by Guy Ashley of the registrar’s office. Ashley can be reached at 510-272-6961. 

There are just under 3,000 persons in Alameda County registered as Peace and Freedom members, according to Macdonald. 

Council to Discuss Cell Phone Moratorium Tuesday

By Judith Scherr
Friday June 06, 2008 - 04:20:00 PM

Wireless companies and opponents of wireless telecommunications antennas are likely to be out in force at Tuesday’s Berkeley City Council meeting, taking opposite sides on the question of whether the city should adopt a moratorium on wireless communications. 

The council will meet at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, before their regular meeting as the Redevelopment Agency, to adopt the agency budget. The council meeting begins at 7 p.m., and in addition to the moratorium on cell phone antennas will include discussion of which ballot measures to present to voters in November and of authorizing bond financing for the YMCA. For a detailed look at the council agenda, see www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=21362. 

The idea behind instituting a moratorium on cell phone antennas is to allow the city time to adopt a revised ordinance on wireless telecommunications facilities. The Planning Commission is currently holding hearings on a draft ordinance.  

In the city’s staff report on the question, Acting City Attorney Zach Cowan points out that the moratorium would require a “supermajority,” eight of the nine council votes. And findings must be made to show that the moratorium is necessary to preserve health and safety. 

The council is being asked by the city manager to make a decision about which new taxes to put before the voters in November. The three which councilmembers have already decided to look more closely at are a tax to rebuild a therapeutic warm pool used by seniors and disabled people coupled with a tax to refurbish existing outdoor pools; a library tax to enlarge some branches and make the south branch library earthquake safe; and a fire/disaster preparedness tax measure. 

In addition, the Parks and Recreation Commission is asking the council to look at a tax to improve storm drains and the Youth Commission is asking the council to look at a Youth Success and Violence Prevention bond measure.  

The council will also discuss issuing revenue bonds for about $16 million on behalf of the Berkley-Albany YMCA for remodeling costs. 

Also on the agenda is an item of support for the people of Burma.  


Special Olympics Returns to Berkeley

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday June 06, 2008 - 09:39:00 AM

It’s time for bocce ball once again. And some volleyball, swimming and tennis as well. 

UC Berkeley is all set to host the 2008 Special Olympics Summer Games this weekend, which are expected to draw more than 900 athletes, 300 coaches and 1,300 volunteers from all over Northern California. 

Special Olympics Northern California is a free year-round sports training and competition program for children and adults with developmental disabilities. The events, presented by AT&T, are free to the public.  

UC Berkeley hosted the first Special Olympics Summer Games in Northern California in 1995.  

They were relocated to Stockton two years later while the aquatic sports complex and Haas Pavilion underwent renovation.  

Special Olympics started in the early 1960s when Eunice Kennedy Shriver started a day camp for people with developmental disabilities at her home in Rockville, Md.  

The first International Special Olympics Games were held in 1968 at Soldier Field, Chicago with 1,000 athletes with developmental disabilities from 26 states and Canada.  

Today, Special Olympics has chapters all over the nation and in more than 140 countries, serving more than one million Special Olympics athletes. 

This weekend’s event will kick off with country vocalist Collin Raye and world-renowned performance artist David Garibaldi performing at Haas Pavilion Friday during the opening ceremonies, which will be followed by a two-day competition where athletes will vie for gold in aquatics, track and field, bocce, tennis and volleyball. 

Sacramento native Garibaldi will raise money for the event by creating his signature six-foot tall paintings of pop icons. 

“Special Olympics has really become one of my favorite causes,” said Garibaldi. “You might say I have become quite a fan, which is easy to do when you experience the determination, hope and passion of Special Olympic athletes. It is personally rewarding for me to donate my time and paintings on behalf of individuals with developmental disabilities.”  

Friday night’s celebrations will also include the traditional athletes’ parade, appearances by new UC Berkeley men’s basketball coach Mike Montgomery, and the lighting of the Special Olympics Cauldron, which signals the beginning of the games. 

More than 500 law enforcement officials from federal, military, state, county and local agencies have been carrying the “Flame of Hope” on a Special Olympics torch run through different cities in Northern California since May 30, and the journey will end at the Olympic Village in Haas Pavilion Friday. 

Competition is scheduled to continue from 9 a.m.- 4 p.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. on Sunday 

For more information visit: www.SONC.org/summergames  



Friday, June 8  

2:30-6:30 p.m. Final leg of the Law Enforcement Torch Run (Emeryville to Berkeley) 


7:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. Opening Ceremonies, presented by AT&T, at UC Berkeley (Haas Pavilion) 


Saturday, June 9 

9 a.m.-5 p.m. Track & Field at UC Berkeley (Edwards Stadium) 


9 a.m.-3p.m. Bocce at Martinez Waterfront Park - Bocce Courts 


9 a.m.-4 p.m. Tennis at UC Berkeley (Hellman Courts) 


9 a.m.-4 p.m. Aquatics at UC Berkeley (Spieker Aquatics Center) 


9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Volleyball at UC Berkeley (Field House in RSF) 


noon-9 p.m. Olympic Village at UC Berkeley (Haas Pavilion) 


Sunday, June 10 

8 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Track & Field at UC Berkeley (Edwards Stadium) 


9 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Tennis at UC Berkeley (Hellman Courts) 


9 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Bocce at Martinez Waterfront Park—Bocce Courts 


9 a.m.-2 p.m. Volleyball at UC Berkeley (Field House in RSF) 


9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Aquatics at UC Berkeley (Spieker Aquatics Center) 


10 a.m.-1 p.m. Olympic Village at UC Berkeley (Haas Pavilion) 


2:30 p.m. Summer Games Conclude 



Bill Gates Dumps His Stock in Berkeley Biofuel Partner

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 03:49:00 PM

Bill Gates, the money man behind the company that has formed the first corporate/ UC Berkeley ethanol partnership, is dumping his shares. 

According to filings placed with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission, Gates has been steadily dumping his shares in Pacific Ethanol, which has teamed with the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) to build a cellulosic ethanol plant. 

JBEI, based in new quarters in Emeryville, is a joint partnership of UC Berkeley with three affiliated national labs (Lawrence Berkeley, Lawrence Livermore and Sandia) and the Carnegie Institute. 

While Gates had announced he might sell his 10,501,000 shares last November—a 20 percent share of the company—it’s only in the last five weeks that he has been dumping the stock in earnest. 

Gates owns the shares through Cascade Investment, a Kirkland, Wash., limited liability company of which he is the sole owner, and Cascade’s SEC filings show the stock’s steady erosion in value. 

While the stock was selling at $11.24 a share last Sept. 21, it had dropped to $5.37 by March 13, and the reported latest sales by Gates on Monday reveals a low of $3.36. 

The stock last traded Wednesday at $3.16. 

In one 11-day period, between May 5 and May 16, Gates sold 727,300 shares, and by Monday, his total holdings had dropped to 1,475,224 shares. 

JBEI was funded by a $135 million grant from the federal Department of Energy, and the federal agency has put up $24.3 million for a Pacific Ethanol plant in Oregon that would transform plant fibers—rather than sugars—into ethanol. See: http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2008-03-14/article/29460 

Corn ethanol, which is derived from the easier-to-refine plant sugars, has sparked intense protest in Mexico and other lands because the poor blame the demand for corn by ethanol refiners for sending the prices of tortillas soaring. 

But cellulosic fuels are much more difficult to refine, and the two Berkeley projects are aimed at finding new processes through patented genetically modified crops and microbes to produce fuel from the tough, fibrous parts of plants. 

The programs are aimed at finding fuels to keep Americas cars and trucks on the road and airplanes in the air. 

So-called cellulosic fuels are also being explored by another and richer UC Berkeley project, the Energy Biosciences Institute, which is funded with $500 million from British oil giant BP.

Big Wins for Skinner, Hancock in State Elections

By Judith Scherr
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 09:46:00 AM
Nancy Skinner celebrates her solid win with supporters at the Downtown on Shattuck Avenue Tuesday night.
By Judith Scherr
Nancy Skinner celebrates her solid win with supporters at the Downtown on Shattuck Avenue Tuesday night.
Kriss Worthington address supporters after failing in his bid to take Loni Hancock’s seat in the state Assembly.
By Judith Scherr
Kriss Worthington address supporters after failing in his bid to take Loni Hancock’s seat in the state Assembly.

The champagne was flowing last night at victory parties for Nancy Skinner, who won the Democratic primary for the State Assembly with 46.8 percent of the vote and Assemblymember Loni Hancock, who won the Democratic primary for State Senate with 56.5 percent of the vote.  

Seen as Democratic Party insiders, both overcame the challenges of strong competition and a passive electorate. 

The mood was grim among the three dozen or so volunteers at Councilmember Kriss Worthing-ton’s modest campaign office at University and San Pablo ave-nues. Around 9:15 p.m., with only a fraction of the absentee ballots reported, Worthington, outspent he said by some competitors 3-to-1, stood on a chair to thank his supporters and concede victory to Skinner. 

Early Wednesday morning, with all precincts counted (absentee ballots which were turned in on election day and provisional ballots won’t be counted for another 30 days), Worthington had picked up 16.4 percent or 7,820 votes, falling behind Richmond City Councilmember Tony Thurmond, who garnered 24.5 percent or 11,623 votes. Phil Polakoff got 12.3 percent or 5,857 votes. Skinner’s 46.8 percent translated to 22,234 votes. 

In stark contrast, the mood was celebratory at Skinner’s victory party where some 50 supporters crowded into the back room at the Downtown restaurant on Shattuck Avenue to applaud the apparent winner, who made her appearance at around 10 p.m. and spoke more formally an hour later. 

“People in this state deserve better—California used to be top in education,” said the former city councilmember with long-time personal and political ties to Mayor Tom Bates and Hancock, calling the governor’s antipathy to restoration of taxes “irrational.”  

Skinner promised not to wait until she takes office in December to start her assembly work.  

“I’m going to start building a statewide coalition now,” she said. 

In his concession speech, Worthington called on his supporters to move Skinner to the progressive positions she espoused as a city councilmember in the 1980s.  

“We need to all reach out to Nancy—work with her—pull her, so she’ll be the Nancy of years ago,” Worthington said. 

Before her victory speech, the Planet asked Skinner whether she’d be pressured for votes against progressive values, such as Hancock’s vote for 50,000 more prison beds. 

Skinner said that while she had support from labor and other “special interests,” no one group got her elected. “The money I raised was in over 800 individual contributions—that gives me more room” to vote independently, she said. 

Back down on San Pablo Avenue, Hancock and supporters—many of them having driven across town from the Skinner office—were celebrating victory at the Sierra Club office. Flanked by Assemblymember Sandré Swanson and Oakland City Councilmember Jean Quan, Hancock delivered her second victory speech of the evening toward midnight. With all precincts reporting, Hancock won the race soundly with 56.5 percent to Chan’s 43.5 percent. Hancock got 46,694 votes and Chan picked up 36,037 votes. 

She said her victory shows that “it is possible to run a positive campaign, even when being outspent two-to-one.” Hancock was talking about the last-minute barrage of hit pieces against her put out by Indian gaming interests in support of former Assemblymember Wilma Chan. 

While Worthington and Skinner both talked about vacations they planned to take soon, Hancock will be going back up to the Assembly to try to get the state budget passed. She has introduced legislation aimed at taxing people who earn more than $250,000 annually, a levy that Gov. Ronald Reagan had instituted.  

“We don’t need new taxes—give us our old taxes back again,” she said. 

On Wednesday, Chan sent an e-mail to the Planet congratulating Hancock on her victory and called on her supporters to “roll up our sleeves, put on our walking shoes and get to work to make that hope a reality and to elect Barack Obama as our President.”  

The Polakoff and Thurmond campaigns did not return calls for comment on Wednesday. 

For more election results, see: http://vote.sos.ca.gov.

Challenges to Oakland Council Incumbents Fizzle

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 09:47:00 AM

A campaign season that began with the possibility of a major overhaul of the Oakland City Council’s old guard ended quietly in the status quo early Wednesday morning, as two incumbent councilmembers avoided run-offs against what had been expected to be stiff opposition, and two others easily swamped their opponents.  

Overall, as in Tuesday balloting all over the state, voter turnout in Alameda County was low. Of 725,098 registered voters in the county, 14.63 percent (106,093) cast absentee ballots and 9.6 percent (69,642) voted on election day, for a total turnout of 24.2 percent (175,735). 

In Oakland’s wide-open at-large City Council race, where incumbent Henry Chang had decided against running for re-election after numerous challengers had indicated their intention to run against him, At-Large AC Transit Board member Rebecca Kaplan and District 1 Oakland School Board member Kerry Hamill face a November runoff, with Kaplan comfortably ahead of Hamill in the first round of voting, 39.3 percent (17,086) to 21.6 percent (9,415), a margin of 7,671.  

With 19.63 percent of the vote (8,531), former Oakland Planning Commissioner and AC Transit Director Clinton Killian missed making the runoff by 884 votes. Senior volunteer Frank Rose and Oakland Residents for Peaceful Neighborhoods co-founder Charles Pine came in a distant fourth and fifth. 

A visibly pleased Kaplan said early Wednesday morning that while she had expected to be in the lead after Tuesday’s voting, she had not expected to come ahead by as large a margin. She attributed her victory in the first round of voting in part to a large cadre of campaign volunteers—including representatives from labor—and the fact that she said she was the only at-large candidate to open her own campaign headquarters. 

Killian, for example, ran his campaign out of his 8th floor downtown law office. A visit to his office while voting was still going on early Tuesday afternoon revealed no campaign literature, no signs, no volunteers, nor any other sign that a political campaign was in progress. 

Kaplan also said that what she called Hamill’s “scare tactics” may have backfired against the school board member. Citing campaign literature in which Hamill backed a controversial pending ballot measure to increase Oakland’s police force by 300 officers, Kaplan said that while “you can legitimately be for law and order, this seemed to be a way to frighten people over the issue of crime and violence, and I think people resent being frightened.” 

Council President Ignacio De La Fuente beat off a scrappy challenge by Fruitvale businessperson Mario Juarez, 53.8 percent (2,332 votes) to 33 percent (1,431 votes), with two other minor challengers making up the remaining 13 percent, and 3rd District Councilmember Nancy Nadel pounded political newcomer Sean Sullivan 51.7 percent (3,576 votes) to 27 percent (1,873 votes). Education consultant Greg Hodge, who represents the same West Oakland-downtown geographical area on the Oakland School Board as he was trying to do on the council, came in a weak third at 20.7 percent (1,435 votes), leaving his political future in some doubt. 

With returns from Alameda County coming in unexpectedly late, De La Fuente’s victory was not announced until 1:20 in the morning. 

For the triumphant De La Fuente, however, it was a night of mixed emotions. The veteran council president missed the election day campaigning and electoral triumph altogether, flying out to Mexico Monday night to be at the bedside of a gravely ill uncle. Family members said that the uncle, 85-year-old Hiel Morales, had raised De La Fuente after the councilmember’s father died. 

In North Oakland, District 1 Councilmember Jane Brunner won easily over neighborhood activist Patrick McCullough, as expected, with 73 percent of the vote (7,835 to 2,933), and in the city’s farthest East Oakland area, District 7, Councilmember Larry Reid did the same, beating out neighborhood activist Clifford Gilmore 62.7 percent (3,122) to 36.8 percent (1,833). 

Despite the failure of challengers to oust any council incumbents, Oakland City Attorney John Russo, who ran unopposed for re-election, said that he believed Tuesday’s races signaled a changing of the guard in Oakland. 

“For a long time, we’ve had a political alignment in Oakland dominated by the old Dellums-Barbara Lee faction on one side and the Perata-De La Fuente faction on the other,” Russo said. “But as the baby boomer generation is being replaced by the new generation, we’re beginning to see political newcomers who are not necessarily members of either faction, but are making their own alliances that cross many of these factional lines.”  

Russo said he expected that future elections would see a continuing shifting of Oakland’s political alignments. 

In other Oakland election news, parent activist Jody London easily defeated education philanthropist Brian Rogers 55.8 percent (5,707 votes) to 35.1 percent (3,592 votes) in what had been expected to be a closely contested North Oakland race to replace Kerry Hamill on the Oakland School Board (Tennessee Reed, daughter of Oakland author Ishmael Reed, came in a distant third at 8.7 percent with 885 votes).  

And despite Greg Hodge’s decision to give up his school board seat to run for City Council, the board will continue its uninterrupted string of having a Hodge among its members. Greg Hodge’s wife, West Oakland educational activist Jumoke Hinton-Hodge, will replace her husband on the board after beating program manager Olugbemiga Oluwole, Sr., 52.1 percent (3,011 votes) to 46.8 percent (2,703 votes).  

Sylvester Hodges was the longtime Oakland School Board member from the 7th District, replaced several years ago by Jason Hodge, no relation to Gregory Hodge. Jason Hodge, in turn, was replaced by Alice Spearman in the 7th District seat after Jason Hodge opted not to run for re-election after the 2003 state takeover.  

In Tuesday’s election, Spearman missed avoiding a runoff by 0.07 percentage points, beating out former Acts Full Gospel Christian School principal Doris Limbrick 49.54 percent (2,299 votes) to 32.45 percent (1,506 votes). Administrative assistant Beverly Williams placed a distant third at 17.35 percent (805 votes). Spearman and Limbrick will square off again in the November voting. 

District 5 School Board member Noel Gallo was unopposed for re-election. 

Veteran incumbent 4th District Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley easily beat retired business owner Steve White 74.3 percent (20,775 votes) to 25.1 percent (7,026). Fifth District Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson ran unopposed. 

In the races to succeed two retiring Alameda County School Board members, Gay Plair Cobb and Dennis Chaconas, business manager Conchita Tucker beat public affairs consultant Ernest L. Hardmon III to 54.6 percent (10,831 votes) to 44.3 percent (7,728 votes) in Area 2, and children’s nonprofit director Ken Berrick faces a November runoff in Area 3 against school superintendent John Bernard after beating Bernard 43.5 percent (8,862 votes) to 35.4 percent (6,484 votes) in Tuesday’s voting. Mentoring Center Executive Director Celsa Snead came in a distant third at 20 percent (2,334 votes). 


Plea Delayed in Durant Avenue Shooting

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 09:48:00 AM

Berkeley resident Nathaniel Curtis Freeman, 19, who was charged with murdering Maceo Smith on Durant Avenue on May 13, did not enter a plea at the Alameda County Superior Court Monday. 

Freeman did not enter a plea on May 30 as he was scheduled to do because he hadn’t been assigned a lawyer, so he was asked to appear again on June 2. 

The court appointed Spencer Strellis as Freeman’s lawyer on Monday and re-scheduled his plea date for 10 a.m. on June 27. 

District Attorney Chris Infante, who has been assigned to the case, said Freeman could not enter a plea because he (Infante) had not yet retrieved evidence from the Berkeley Police Department and turned it over to Strellis. 

Infante declined to comment on the specifics of the case. 

“It’s still very early,” he said. “We still have a long way to go.” 

The 15 or so family members and friends who gathered outside the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse in Oakland around 2 p.m. on May 30 criticized recent media reports that indicated Smith was a good father, but that he coached kids in basketball and football and then made them sell drugs or recruited them as gang members. 

“They demonized him [Maceo] again today,” Smith’s mother Rita MacIntyre, a food service worker at Willard Middle School in Berkeley, told friends. “Why are they demonizing the victim? He went up there without anything. He went there with his wife,” she said. 

“What gangs are they talking about? There are no gangs in Berkeley,” said another family member. 

McIntyre also told friends that Smith and Anthony “Tony” Beamon, the 29-year-old African-American man who was shot Wednesday at the intersection of California and Tyler streets in South Berkeley, knew each other. 

A couple of Smith’s friends and relatives wore “R.I.P. Mace” T-shirts with the words “Berkeley will never be the same without you again” on them. 

Smith was a regular at the basketball games at the Downtown Berkeley YMCA and was quick to include children in his games, friends close to him told the Planet in an earlier interview. 

Freeman was also charged with assault with a firearm for allegedly shooting a second man, Marcus Mosley, who was Smith’s former brother-in-law, in the incident on Durant Avenue. 

According to authorities, Freeman fired at Smith and Mosley following a dispute, killing Smith and injuring Mosley. 

Court records indicate Smith was convicted for the sale of a narcotics controlled substance in June 2006. He was charged with the illegal possession of an assault weapon in 2004, but the charges were dismissed. Court records also show a conviction for petty theft dating back to 2000. 

Freeman, who is currently being held at Santa Rita Jail, lived in Berkeley with his mother. 

Court records indicate Freeman was convicted for disturbing the peace, a misdemeanor, on July 27, 2007. 

According to police reports, Freeman had been in a fight with Leigh Hunt, Jonathan Lamky and Mike Langston around July 25, for which he was arrested for battery on Hunt and Lamky, but the charges were lowered to disturbing the peace.

South Berkeley Homicide City’s 8th of the Year

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 09:48:00 AM

Berkeley Police are offering a $15,000 reward for information that leads to conviction of the shooter who gunned down a 29-year-old Berkeley man on May 28. 

Late that night, officers rushed to the corner of California and Tyler streets. When police arrived, they found the mortally wounded Anthony Beamon lying on the sidewalk, where he had been shot moments before.  

Rushed to Highland Hospital, he later died of his injuries, reports Berkeley police spokes-person Officer Andrew Frankel. 

Police received calls about shots fired at 11:32 p.m. and rushed to the scene. One neighbor said as many as a dozen shots had been fired. 

Sgt. Mary Kusmiss said police had to control a small crowd of neighbors, members of Beamon’s family and others who had gatheered moments after the shooting. 

The homicide was the city’s eighth for the year, including the shooting by a Berkeley police officer of a South Berkeley mother who police said had been wielding a knife outside her home and threatening family members. 

For all of last year, Berkeley reported a total of five killings. The city has logged three homicides within the last four weeks. 

Frankel originally declined to confirm the victim’s identity, which was provided by neighbors and reported in several newspapers. 

“Detectives are still interviewing his family members and witnesses,” he said. 

Frankel said he knew of no evidence to indicate that Beamon was armed at the time of the shooting, and when asked how many times the 29-year-old father had been shot, he said only “more than once.” 

Sgt. Kusmiss said a search of the area revealed that the killer’s bullets had also struck a home at 1536 Tyler as well as a car parked in front of the residence. No one in the home was injured. 

The $15,000 reward was announced Tuesday in a statement from Frankel, who reported that investigators are pursuing “several leads” in the case, but haven’t made any arrests. 

The officer asked anyone with information about the shooting to call the BPD Homicide Detail at 981-5741or the department’s non-emergency dispatch line at 981-5900.

Oakland Port Rail Proposal’s Impacts May Hit Berkeley Landscape, Traffic

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 09:49:00 AM

Is Berkeley being railroaded? That’s the question that was raised at the last Planning Commission meeting by both supporters and potential foes of a plan to upgrade and increase rail service through West Berkeley. 

Some Richmond residents are also feeling that they’re on the other side of the tracks because of proposed routing of more mile-long trains through their city, disrupting access to neighborhoods like Marina Bay. 

Concerns in Berkeley were raised by an April 10 decision by the California Transportation Commission awarding the Port of Oakland $74 million to begin the process of upgrading a 37-mile stretch of Union Pacific Rail lines between Oakland and Martinez. 

That sum was part of a larger $456 million allocation—requested backing for rail upgrades reaching from the Tehachapi Mountains in the south to Donner Summit in the east—all designed to speed the move of goods through Northern California’s premier seaport. 

The immediate focus of the port’s $74 million grant is the improvement of a 6.6-mile stretch of the line running from the port to the Stege Marsh area in South Richmond, where the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) line joins with the Union Pacific. 

At the time the application was filed last year, the rails between those two points were carrying 66 trains daily, with 44 Amtrak passenger runs and the rest consisting of freight trains from the two railroads. 

If funded, the improvements would boost freight traffic from its current handling of 30 percent of the port’s container traffic to 50 percent “without bringing gridlock to the corridor,” according to the funding application. 

As the nation’s fourth busiest port, Oakland handles 99 percent of Northern California’s waterborne goods, and while Oakland handles the lion’s share of agricultural exports from the Central Valley, its volume of imports jumped more than 80 percent in the five years ending in 2006, a rate of growth eight times that of exports. 

The proposal by Oakland officials calls for doubling the number of main line rail tracks along the 6.6-mile corridor to four, anticipating an increase in size and frequency of freight trains. 

“This could have very significant impact on the community, and I want to be sure we’re all aware of it,” said Berkeley Planning Commissioner Harry Pollack, commenting on a letter on the plan submitted to the panel by Berkeley Design Advocates. 

Land Use Planning Manager Debra Sanderson said city staff had met with officials from the port a week earlier “trying to understand what’s actually being proposed.” 

“The conclusion I came away with is that nobody really knows.” she said. “Where the railroad is on this is a mystery ... but it will have a big effect on what happens in West Berkeley and how well we can protect the environment in West Berkeley.” 

Not only would all overcrossings from the bay to the High Sierra have to be rebuilt to accommodate the expanded lines, but accomplishing the project’s goal would mean coordinating actions of a number of agencies, “including the railroad, which has a habit of acting somewhat independently,” she said. 

In addition to rebuilding the overcrossings at University and Ashby avenues, the project will impact the roads in West Berkeley that cross the tracks at grade level: Gilman, Camellia, Cedar, Virginia and Addison streets and Bancroft Way and Hearst Avenue. 

“They’re also talking about closing some streets,” said Chair James Samuels. 

Funds come from the Highway Safety, Traffic Reduction, Air Quality, and Port Security Bond Act of 2006, which California voters approved on Nov. 7, 2006, when they endorsed Proposition 1B. The specific program involved is the Trade Corridor Improvement Fund.  

Just where the city would get funding for upgrading the overcrossings and grade crossings remains an open question, with the railroads unlikely to provide any of the cash, said Commissioner David Stoloff, though federal funds to supplement state funding were possible within the next three years. 

“The message is that we need to be involved in the planning process,” he said. 

Sanderson said there has been talk of reinvigorating a multi-jurisdictional planning group that had been involved early in the planning process “and becoming more proactive,” joined by all the impacted communities. 

Merilee Mitchell, a former city council candidate who often speaks during the commission’s public comment sessions, said that unlike Berkeley Design Advocates, she doesn’t want to see a joint powers group created because “they all involve the seven key groups,” agencies that include the Air Quality Management District, the Association of Bay Area Government, and the Congestion Management Agency. 

With a potential change in West Berkeley zoning regulations already under discussion by the commission, a major change in rail traffic, which could involve the railroad taking more land for right-of-way and reduced traffic access, adds yet another wrinkle to the complex policies of a part of the city under increasing development pressure. 

For more on the issue, see the Port of Oakland’s web pages at: www.portofoakland.com/maritime/tcif.asp. 

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s section on Proposition 1B projects is here: www.mtc.ca.gov/funding/infrastructure. 

The California Transportation Commission’s pages are here: www.catc.ca.gov/programs/tcif.htm. 


Richmond woes 

Meanwhile, some Richmond residents and City Councilmember Tom Butt are sounding alarms about BNSF's plans to up the number of mile-long supertrains running along its line through that city. 

The railroad has filed a request for expedited action with the Department of Transportation in Washington to allow the company to expand the number of so-called “intermodal” trains through the city—freights carrying containers plucked from ships and trucked to rail cars atop when they are shipped across the country. 

A decision by the board means that, effective Monday, the rail line has been forced to redirect from one to two of the lengthy intermodal trains through Richmond rather than along the main Union Pacific Line. 

That in turns means that people who need to cross the grade crossing in neighborhoods like Marina Bay may be forced to wait until the long, slow trains have passed—already a subject of much irritation from existing traffic. 

Unless Washington approves the BNSF request, Richmond residents can expect even longer delays. 

Code Pink Organizer Accused of Police Officer Battery

By Judith Scherr
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 09:51:00 AM

Code Pink organizer Zanne Joi was arrested May 29 on charges of trespassing, battery on an officer and resisting arrest at the downtown Marine Recruiting Station. 

Joi has been arrested there before, but that was in the course of committing civil disobedience—blocking the doorway or entering the recruiting office.  

Speaking to the Planet just after her release from jail on her own recognizance, Joi said the arrest took her by surprise because she was detained while helping a friend get her toddler son out of a stroller.  

As Joi tells it, she was on the sidewalk in front of 64 Shattuck Square a little past noon. Fellow Code Pinker Judy Christopher was taking her 13-month old son out of his stroller and Joi was assisting in getting the straps untangled from around his belly.  

“Then I hear a voice behind me,” Joi said. “Miss Joi, I want to talk to you. Then I get grabbed.”  

Joi said at that point she was facing Officer Melissa Kelly and yelling at her, “Get your hands off me—don’t touch me.”  

A number of officers then appeared—about six.  

Joi was handcuffed and told she was under arrest for spitting at an officer. Joi denies she spat at the officer. 

Police spokesperson Andrew Frankel told the Planet that the Marines called police to have Joi arrested for trespassing. They told police Joi refused to leave the alcove area where the doors to the recruiting station and a hairdresser are located, Frankel said. 

Frankel said Officer Kelly walked up to Joi, who was on the sidewalk “bent over a stroller, fiddling with the straps,” and told her to come over to where she was standing. 

When Joi didn’t answer, “the office grabbed her arm to get her attention,” Frankel said. Responding to a question about whether this kind of physical contact is normal procedure, Frankel told the Planet, “It is not inappropriate of [the officer] to grab her arm” to get her attention. 

Frankel and Joi both say Joi then yelled at the officer, telling her not to touch her. 

The stories then differ: Frankel says that when Kelly grabbed Joi’s arm to detain her, Joi pulled away and spat on the officer. 

“These are trumped-up charges,” Joi said. She will be in court June 30.

Planners Approve Condos

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 09:51:00 AM

Berkeley planning commissioners voted 8-1 Wednesday to approve a key legal document that paves the way for construction of a long-delayed 24-unit condominium building at 2701 Shattuck Ave. 

Then they headed into yet another discussion on a proposed new city density bonus law that rewards developers with increased building size in exchange for including affordable housing units in their apartment and condo projects. 

The condominium building project, originally proposed by one developer, then sold it to a construction company. The property was finally sold to a corporation headed by Gordon Choyce Jr., would rise to five stories, with one living unit, a garage and four commercial spaces on the ground floor. 

Residents of the neighborhood behind the project have criticized the building’s height, as well as the small size of the commercial spaces, which range from 346 to 1,275 square feet. 

But with the building plans already approved by the Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) and sustained by the City Council, the commission’s vote was largely a formality, said Planning Manager Debra Sanderson.  

None of the units will be reserved for sale at affordable rates to low-income people, with the developers opting to pay the city’s new in-lieu fee, which will go to city-sponsored affordable projects. By choosing that option, the developer is still eligible for the city’s density bonus. 

“This project first came up back when  

I was on the zoning board back in the early Pleistocene,” quipped commissioner Gene Poschman, who ultimately voted for approval, subject to some tweaking of the language of the staff report. 

But Patti Dacey, who lives nearby, said she felt that “the city has declared war on this neighborhood,” both by approving the installation of cell phone antennas at Kennedy’s University Storage building adjacent to the condo site and by allowing a “hulking five stories” next to a low-rise neighborhood of single-family homes. 

“I can’t in good conscience vote for anything in connection with this project,” she said, casting the lone dissenting vote. 

The map itself doesn’t affect construction, but sets up the legal framework that allows individual condo units to be sold. 


Density bonus 

The thorny subject of the density bonus raises issues that straddle the normal five-four split on the commission, since Susan Wengraf, who normally votes with the more developer-friendly majority, chaired the council-appointed subcommittee that came up with recommendations that have met with a less-than-welcome reception by her colleagues. 

Alex Amoroso, a principal planner on the city staff, said that the memo prepared for commissioners was intended “to reinvigorate discussion,” which drew a rare show of unanimity from the panel—a robust chorus of laughter. 

The report offered three possible courses of action: 

• First, to simply abandon the work of the task force and leave existing development regulations in place. 

• Second, to concentrate only on development rules as they relate to the interface between high-density avenue development and the surrounding residential neighborhoods,  

• Third, to take up the full range of recommendations developed by the subcommittee over the course of two years of work. 

Commissioner David Stoloff moved to adopt the second course of action, but ultimately withdrew his motion when it became apparent it was doomed to failure. 

The subcommittee, originally started by ZAB and expanded by the City Council to include members of the Planning and Housing Advisory commissions, began as a reaction to planning staff opinions about what size buildings developers were entitled to construct adjacent to residential neighborhoods. 

The final straw was the so-called Trader Joe’s building at the northwest corner of the intersection of University Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Way. City staff interpreted state law to require that the developers be allowed extra size for signing up the grocery store as a ground floor tenant of their five-story project. The zoning board and the City Council accepted staff opinion and granted the requested permits. 

Critics charged that the bonus should only be granted for providing much-needed affordable housing. 

Wengraf said she hoped the city would seek the advice of outside counsel, given the conflicting interpretations of the state density bonus law in other cities. 

Another potential complication is AB 2280, legislation now pending in the state legislature, which would set definitive standards statewide and grant the bonus only for creating affordable housing. The bill has already cleared the Assembly and is now before the state Senate. 

A third complication is Proposition 98, the statewide ballot measure which some critics say could severely restrict the abilities of local governments to limit building size. 


Upcoming events  

Commissioners will take up Bus Rapid Transit again when they meet June 11, with a discussion on what alternative the city wants included in the AC Transit project’s environmental impact report. 

The central issue on the proposed service linking San Leandro and Berkeley is whether or not a dedicated bus line should be created down the center of Telegraph Avenue, which would mean an end to street parking on the avenue and restriction of non-bus traffic to one lane in either direction. 

The same session will also take up the council-driven push for West Berkeley zoning changes to ease rules that property owners and developers say limit their ability to bring in desirable tenants. 

During the June 25 session, commissioners are set to hold public hearings on the Southside Plan and the city’s proposed wireless telecommunications ordinance, to continue discussion on West Berkeley zoning and to talk about plans to update the city General Plan housing element.

University Museum Plans Slash Downtown Parking

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 09:50:00 AM
A model of the planned Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive building as seen from campus, with University Avenue on the right and the proposed high rise hotel, condo tower and conference center to the rear.
A model of the planned Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive building as seen from campus, with University Avenue on the right and the proposed high rise hotel, condo tower and conference center to the rear.

While UC Berkeley’s new downtown museum may attract praise from architecture critics, downward-directed thumbs may come from those already frustrated with the hunt for downtown parking. 

Construction of the sparkling white steel-over-concrete edifice will mean demolition of the university’s parking structure at Oxford Street and Allston Way, with no replacement yet on the drawing boards. 

That was the word from two university officials who gave city planning commissioners an overview of the striking structure slated to rise at the northwest corner of the intersection of Center and Oxford streets. 

Rob Gayle, the university’s associate vice chancellor for Project Management, made the presentation, assisted by Jennifer McDougall, the university planner who is overseeing the project. 

The new facility will house the university’s Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive, which just last month received a new director: Lawrence Robert Rinder, who has been serving as dean of the California College of the Arts in San Francisco and Oakland. Rinder previously served on the Berkeley museum staff between 1988 and 1998. 

Probable costs of $1,000 per square foot—mandated by the demands for a high security, innovative structure—mean the likely construction budget for the three-level museum will run between $100 million and $110 million, Gayle said. 

Commissioner Susan Wengraf raised the issue of parking, noting that the construction will entail demolition of the university’s current parking structure at southwest corner of Oxford and Addison streets. 

“In the early designs we talked about connecting that parking to the museum as well as the hotel, and now we’re losing both,” added commission Chair James Samuels. 

Acknowledging that construction will mean the loss of 250 existing spaces, Gayle said, “the big idea is to look at a much larger capacity structure at the site of University Hall, the high-rise building with the exterior skeleton that stands at the southwest corner of Oxford and University Avenue. 

“Will that parking be in place when the museum is completed?” asked Samuels. 

“We don’t think that’s likely,” said Gayle, who added that between 80 and 100 spaces at the site of the Department of Health Services across University Avenue might be available. The university plans to demolish that structure as well as part of its plan to add 800,000 square feet of new off-campus construction in downtown Berkeley. 

McDougall also noted that the city lot near Berkeley Repertory Theater also has seismic problems and may need replacement, further complicating the downtown parking picture. 

“Where are people going to park when the museum opens?” Samuels asked. 

“We are going to have some more conversations about that,” said Gayle, adding, “The site is very well served by public transportation.” That drew some subdued gasps from the audience. 

Wengraf noted that many museum events would be happening at night, when public transit schedules had tapered off. “People are still going to need to be coming in their cars,” she said. 

Gayle said university fee lots were generally largely vacant at nights and on weekends, “and patrons will have to pay wherever they park.” 

He didn’t mention the plan now being studied by the city manager’s office, to extend parking meter hours at downtown pay-and-display meters until 10 p.m. 


Museum details 

Gayle’s presentation featured an animated walk-through of Toyo Ito’s edifice, a structure dominated by curves and strikingly free of the planes and vertical walls of more mundane designs. 

While some have compared the proposed structure to an egg carton or the interior of a packing crate, the commission’s architects—Samuels and David Stoloff—had high praise for the design, embodied in the scale model the two university officials brought to the meeting. Commissioner Patti Dacey was more skeptical. 

Commissioners noted some changes from ideas university officials had floated earlier, including the possibility of access to the new hotel/ conference center/ condo tower the university has consigned to a Massachusetts hotelier to develop—though Gayle dodged commission questions about the state of that particular project. 

The museum also lacks the broad expanse of an exterior plane that could serve as a projection screen for films, another idea floated by university representatives in meetings with the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee. 

The university has already begun the process of selecting a general contractor, and the closing date for receiving prequalification applications was May. 20. 

The new building will feature: 

• 35,000 square feet of gallery space, 

• a 265-seat theater for film, 

• a second 135-seat venue for both film and lectures, 

• a 2,290-square foot museum shop, 

• 10,030 square feet of academic space and 

• 37,670 square foot of art gallery space. 

According to the university’s call for contractors, construction is currently planned to start April 2010 and continue for 30 months. 

The UC officials didn’t have answers when Poschman asked for an estimate of the number of daily visitors, though he said “there is an incentive to have a public meeting as the project develops, sometime in the fall probably,” to address traffic and other issues. 

Questioned by Commissioner Helen Burke, McDougall said the university has no plans to perform an environmental impact review on the project. “We expect to be able to approve it under the Long Range Development Plan,” the same document that sparked the lawsuit that will result in the new downtown plan. 

The building now at the site, the former UC Press printing plant, produced the first printed copies of the United Nations Charter when that organization was founded in San Francisco in 1945. 

Berkeley’s Landmarks Preservation Commission recognized the structure as an official city landmark in June 2004.  

Gayle didn’t give a definitive response to Samuels’ questions of whether the museum would display some of its sculpture collection in the landscaped crescent on the campus just across Oxford. Conceptual drawings, and the model shown commissioners featured sculptures in the area. 

“It’s definitely something that’s being contemplated” was Gayle’s final response.

UC, Workers Return to Table, Two-Day Strike Called Off

By Judith Scherr
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 09:52:00 AM

University of California service employees, working for 10 months without a contract, have scrapped plans to walk off the job for two days this week and are back at the bargaining table. 

Negotiations started Friday morning, went on Saturday and continued Monday and Tuesday, according to William Schlitz, spokesperson for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299.  

UC Berkeley custodians earn about 25 percent less than comparable workers at nearby Laney College, Schlitz told the Planet. 

What workers want is not limited to better pay and benefits, however, Schlitz said. It’s about creating working conditions such that workers want to stay in their positions, rather than move to other jobs.  

“There’s a lot of value in the consistency of the work force,” he said, “Look at the UC Berkeley police chief.” 

Schlitz was referring to the retirement and rehiring of UC Berkeley Police Chief Victoria Harrison last summer. Harrison retired last summer and got a lump-sum retirement payment of $2.1 million. She was then rehired at her rate of base pay, $175,000 annually (plus a merit increase that was to come in October 2007) and a stipend of $12,700 for “extra responsibilities.” 

Then there’s the cost of the new UC president’s dwellings. Incoming UC President Mark G. Yudof will live in a 6,800 square-foot home in Oakland, which the university will rent, with furnishings, at $11,360 per month, increasing to $11,750 per month in the second year. The university will pick up utilities expected to be about $2,025 per month.  

(It is estimated that it will cost around $9 million to repair the 13,000 square-foot house in Kensington where UC presidents regularly live.) 

The question of the police chief’s pay and the university president’s rent, according to Schlitz, shows “it’s not an issue of resources—it’s an issue of priorities.” 

UC spokesperson Nicole Savickas said funding for different needs comes from different sources, so payment for renting the house would likely come from different funding than paying worker salaries. She added that she did not know with certainty what fund the police chief’s salary and the house are paid from. 

Savickas further pointed out that, even within the AFSCME workers, funding and therefore salary is not the same for hospital workers at university medical centers and the service workers at the campus. 

The hospital workers are being offered a 4 to 15 percent increase the first year, she said, making them competitive with the general market. 

Other university employees such as food service, grounds and security workers are funded through the state and are facing California’s budget shortfall. They’re being offered 2 to 13.5 percent increases “to address the most serious lags,” Savickas said.  

“We have proposed reopening wages once we have the final budget from the governor,” she said.

Governor: Budget Deficit Due to Health, Schools Overspending

By Judith Scherr
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 09:52:00 AM

If education, health and other state services were spent responsibly within their budgets, there would be no budget crisis, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger told a group of local elected officials and community representatives at a meeting in Oakland City Hall Monday morning.  

The meeting was one of a number of meetings the governor has held in the state to talk about the budget crisis and share his solutions. 

The state is running at a $17 billion deficit and legislators are yet to approve the 2008-2009 budget, which must be passed by a two-thirds majority. 

“The responsible thing to do is to bring spending and revenues together,” Schwarzenegger said. “We have to live within our means.” 

The governor was questioned on inadequate school funding by Alameda Mayor Beverly Johnson, Oakland State Trustee Vince Matthews and others. Matthews pointed out that California spending per pupil is 47th in the nation. 

The governor, however, said school districts waste money, spending millions of dollars on consulting fees. “The school system should be more efficient,” he said. 

Schwarzenegger said he was about to launch a website where the budget of each school will be made public, giving all an opportunity to see the spending going on outside the classroom. 

“We’ve got to let people know where the schools are spending their money,” he said. 

Sherry Hirota, chief executive officer of Oakland-based Asian Health Services, told the governor she blames Proposition 13 for the growing budget crisis.  

Schwarzenegger responded that raising taxes isn’t the answer: “You can’t keep going back to the people,” he said. “We have to live within our means.” 

While some “are screaming to raise taxes,” he said that is not the responsible way to move forward, especially given that funds the state borrowed four years ago have yet to be paid back. 

Several community speakers recommended reinstating the Vehicle License Tax, which Schwarzenegger eliminated when he took office.  

“For every dollar you take away from people, they’ll spend less in the economy,” he responded. The money people saved by not paying the vehicle license fee has gone back into the economy, he said. 

Someone suggested an oil severance tax, but the governor said California companies are not to blame. The profits on gasoline “go to the Middle East,” then, wealthy Middle Easterners “come back and buy up our stuff,” he said. 

Assemblymember Sandré Swanson said tax loopholes should be fixed to fund schools, but the governor answered, “What one person calls a tax loophole, another calls a tax incentive.”  

For example, the governor said New Mexico has given the movie industry tax incentives, and companies have left Hollywood for New Mexico. 

Contra Costa County Sheriff Warren Rupf called on the governor to increase funding for law enforcement. Schwar-azenegger told Rupf to get 200 police officers to circle the capital and knock on doors and the funding would get into the budget. 

Encouraging such lobbying, the governor said, “I’ve had a lot of Democrats come to my smoking tent and light up a stogie ... The rule is the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” 

The governor’s solution is to balance the budget by borrowing $15 million against future lottery proceeds and changing the lottery to make it more profitable. Any additional funds needed to balance the budget would come from a temporary sales tax hike. However, the governor said the Republicans don’t want to raise the sales tax. 

If the legislature approves the lottery plan, it would go to the voters in November for approval.

Community Views BCM Studio Conversion to Classroom

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 09:53:00 AM

The future of public-access TV in Berkeley is under threat, according to supporters of Berkeley Community Media (BCM), who have requested city councilmembers to call a public hearing on Berkeley Unified School District’s plans to convert the nonprofit’s studio space into a daytime classroom in June. 

The group, made up of BCM members and local directors and producers, is circulating a petition that asks the Berkeley Board of Education not to reconfigure the studio—the second largest in the East Bay—in a way that would hinder its use. 

At a hastily scheduled meeting Friday, BCM’s new Executive Director David Jolliffe informed community members about Berkeley Unified’s plans to share the studio space with BCM due to a severe space crunch at Berkeley High School. 

George Coates, director and producer of the political satire “Better Bad News” on BETV’s Channel 28, said a public hearing should be held before the district goes ahead with reconfiguring the studio. 

BCM, which has operated out of Berkeley High School since 1996, was established to create and manage a public access center as well as several channels for public, educational and governmental access. 

BCM’s contract with Berkeley Unified, which allowed the organization access to Berkeley High School space in exchange for taping school board meetings and providing media literacy to high school students, expired a few years ago. 

Since then, BCM has been using the location on a month-to-month basis, Jolliffe, who came on board about four weeks ago, said. 

BCM Board of Directors Chair Mark Coplan, who is also the district’s public information officer, said BCM’s contract with the district wasn’t renewed since the district was figuring out the right use of the space. 

“The district doesn’t have a responsibility to guarantee BCM long-term space,” Coplan told the Planet Monday. 

The district also gives BCM $5,000 annually to cover costs for taping and other material. 

Most of BCM’s $300,000 budget is funded by money local cable monopoly Comcast pays to the city. In return, BCM airs City Council, Zoning Adjustments Board and Rent Board meetings on CTV or Channel 33. 

In a letter to BCM’s then-Executive Director Brian Ferris in October 2007, former Berkeley Unified Superintendent Michele Lawrence stated the district’s intention to reclaim its space. Lawrence added that although the district valued BCM’s contribution to the district immensely, students would have to be relocated to the facility due to a severe space crunch. 

However, after touring the facility, Lawrence quickly realized the problems and immense costs that came with relocating a television studio, and reached a compromise which allowed BCM to continue its operations from the school building while sharing its studio space with a classroom. 

“Since then, after I’ve come here and read the letter, I asked my board and the other people what exactly was to happen and when,” Jolliffe told the Planet Friday. “Everybody had a different answer. And the person who had the right answer [the district’s facilities director Lew Jones] was out of the country. Then Lew wrote me a letter, but what this letter didn’t give me was what was going to happen to the studio. Today Lew showed me the plans, where I learned about their plans to share the studio. What has not been established is what will happen to the ceiling portion of the studio. We want to make sure that the light grid remains the same.” 

On Wednesday, The Planet received an e-mail from Jolliffe which stated that Jones had agreed to keep the lighting grid at the studio. 

“Its prime function is going to be a classroom,” Jones said. “They can use it whenever they want when class is over but they have to set it back to a classroom once they are done. We are working with BCM now to accommodate a studio as best as we can.” 

In a letter to Jolliffe on May 28, 2008, Jones said BCM would have access to the studio after 4 p.m., and that it would be responsible for cleaning and reconfiguring the space into a classroom before school started every morning. 

“The school district is not saying it will restore the studio for us,” Coates said. “We already have a very limited amount of paid technical support. To push aside all those lights and cables is a lot of work ... a studio has to have certain things left on the floor. There’s a house technician who maintains everything, but producers don’t have their own maintenance crew.” 

Coates agrees that Berkeley High needs more classrooms, but adds, “It’s not the role of Public Access to solve the problem.” 

“BCM is a three-legged stool serving the needs of the government, education and community access,” he said. “One leg of this stool (education) is attempting to pull resources away from another leg (public access) and it is being done under the radar and without the City Council first conducting an Information and Public hearing as required by law whenever a public facility is proposed for a major physical reconfiguration that would drastically affect Berkeley citizens. None of the local producers has been informed of this situation until after the fact while construction plans were drawn. They need classrooms here, fine, but where do we go?” 

Victoria Fong, who has worked at BCM for a year and a half, said among the challenges BCM faces is the lack of cable TV subscribers. 

“Berkeley has one of the lowest cable subscribers in the nation, only 19,000,” Fong, who calls herself a big supporter of community TV, said.  

Other participants at Friday’s meeting spoke about the space crunch at the high school. 

Local videographer LA Wood, who canceled his membership four years ago, said BCM’s relationship with the school district was in danger. 

“It’s no longer about shared property and equipment; it’s about landlord and tenant,” Wood said. “What happened to education access? The failure of City Council to adequately fund the program and the BUSD contract’s stifling impact on the growth of Berkeley’s public access facility finally caused me to withdraw my membership. Over the last 12 years, I have watched Berkeley’s public access television be reduced to little more than a government broadcast of council meetings and imported programming.” 

Coplan said BCM was grateful for the compromise. 

“The fact is we might have had to look for a new place, but now we can stay on,” he said. “I am familiar with the discussions from both sides of the table, though I have stayed out of this one to avoid any conflict between my two roles.” 

Thirteen people have signed the petition, according to a post on the betv.org website Monday. 

“A little-known demand for using this space by the administration of Berkeley High School threatens to deny your use of the studio,” a message to site visitors says. “Plans to retrofit this valuable space have been confusing and offer no solution on how BCM will continue to offer this resource.” 

Jolliffe said BCM’s members, and not BCM itself, were behind the petition. 

“BCM’s occupation here has been a long-standing agreement,” he told the Planet Monday. “We have been here for a number of years and we have a good relationship with them. We would like to share the space.”

Scams Use Berkeley High Athletics in Oakland, Kensington

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 09:54:00 AM

Berkeley Unified School District officials said they uncovered an athletic fundraising scam on Friday, when a resident of Glenview in Oakland called to report that a young man was going door to door saying he was raising money for the Berkeley High School baseball team to visit Maui. 

The man said he was a Berkeley High student and a member of the baseball team, neither of which is true, according to school officials. 

According to the resident, the man was offering neighbors the chance to receive books on literacy in exchange for $100 to $500, district spokesperson Mark Coplan said. 

Coplan said another caller reported a young man selling magazine subscriptions in Kensington to help fund the Berkeley High swim team’s trip to Hawaii. The man, the caller said, said he was a member of the swim team and the son of a neighbor who lived down the street.  

The caller remembered later her neighbor did not have a son similar in age to the young man and called Berkeley High Athletic Director Kristen Glencher to alert her. 

Coplan said the young man told neighbors he was representing the magazine subscription company Quality Services, Inc. (QSI). 

“The trip to Hawaii and any connection to Berkeley High School is not true, and there is no reason to believe that these youths are actually Berkeley High students,” said Coplan, adding that all team fundraising efforts would seek checks made out to the Berkeley Athletic Fund, the Berkeley High School Development Group or the Berkeley Public Education Foundation. They would never ask for cash, he said. 

“The moment a fundraiser encourages you to give cash instead of checks, saying ‘cash is easier for nonprofits to process,’ it should raise a red flag,” Coplan said. 

The district has warned residents about various scams involving people claiming to be raising money for schools in the past. District officials have continually warned community members against offering donations to a man who goes by the name Marcus Robinson. 

Robinson has reportedly been going around Berkeley neighborhoods for 20 years, asking for donations for a program he calls the Bay Area Scholastic Improvement Center, or BASIC, Coplan said. 

“I haven’t heard from Robinson in three to four months,” he said. “The athletic thing is a regular occurrence during this time of the year, so it’s important to warn the community.” 

Questions about school fundraising efforts should be directed to the Berkeley High Athletic Department at 644-8723 or the Public Information Office at 644-6320.

Superintendent Points Out Discrepancies in District Ranking

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 09:56:00 AM

The Berkeley Board of Education took an in-depth look at Berkeley Unified’s 2007 Academic Performance Index (API) rankings at the school board meeting Wednesday. 

District officials expressed concern at the discrepancy between the statewide ranks and the similar school rankings for Berkeley public schools. 

State Superintendent Jack O’Connell released the 2007 Base API report, growth targets and school rankings, which allow comparisons between California schools on May 21. 

Berkeley Unified Superintendent Bill Huyett said he was concerned that the district was not keeping up with the progress rate in other districts. 

According to a report presented to the school board by district staff, the rankings indicate movement at some schools, with three schools (Arts Magnet, Longfellow and Willard) gaining a level on the statewide rankings and five schools (LeConte, John Muir, Oxford, Rosa Parks and Washington) losing a level compared to the previous year. 

In similar school rankings, three schools (Cragmont, Oxford and Willard) made gains, while six schools (Arts Magnet, Jefferson, Muir, Rosa Parks, Washington and King) dropped. 

“When schools receive a lower ranking in comparison to similar schools statewide, it raises questions about curricular and instructional practices, use of time and academic priorities at sites,” the district’s Assistant Superintendent Neil Smith said in his report to the board. 

Smith added that the issues would be addressed in the updated Local Education Agency Plan, which the board will consider whether to approve in June. 

Berkeley High School did not receive any rankings because it did not meet the benchmark for the 2007 API scores, due to a lack of student participation in the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) tests. 

Berkeley Unified School District’s API for 2006-07 was 747, five points less than the previous year. Ranging from a low of 200 to a high of 1,000, the API reflects a school or district’s performance level based on the results of statewide testing. The statewide API performance level goal for all schools is 800.  

Last year’s performance index was based on scores from 6,017 students, a participation rate of approximately 97 percent for elementary and middle schools and 84 percent for high school students.  

School officials said Berkeley High’s California standardized testing participation rates had decreased in 2006-07 in spite of efforts to increase student participation.  

Since the API score for Berkeley Technology Academy was based on less than 100 valid STAR test results, the alternative school did not receive a similar school ranking. 

The state education department establishes a list of similar schools by calculating a school characteristics index, which includes demographics such as student mobility, student ethnicity, percentage of English learners, percentage of students participating in the free or reduced price lunch program and percentage of teachers fully credentialed, district officials said. 

“We need to look at the data for schools similar to us but achieving higher,” Huyett said. “We are not moving up in achievement at the rate other districts are. Other school districts in California have risen significantly. We need to do a longitudinal study on where we were, where we are and how we are doing. Some schools [in Berkeley Unified] are average or close to average but many schools are trailing behind in similar school ranking. A lot of study and research needs to be done. I am not sure if this has been done before.” 

Huyett went on to say the rankings characterized a mixed set of results. 

“The similar schools ranking is not very optimistic,” he said. “We need an average of at least 6 [out of 10] and aspire for 8. But we are certainly not there yet. We need to look for shining stars within the district and have principals collaborate with each other. It may be true that some of our schools have more similarities with each other than with schools outside the district.” 

The 2007 Base API for the state, which is calculated using the results from spring 2007 testing, shows 36.7 percent of elementary schools are at or above the statewide performance target of 800, up from 34.6 percent in 2006. 

The percentage of state middle schools at or above the statewide performance target of 800 is 24.6 percent, up from 23.9 percent, and high schools is 14.5 percent, up from 13.6 percent. 

According to a statement released by the California Department of Education (CDE) website, Base API reports help the public gauge how schools in their communities are doing in comparison to schools with similar socioeconomic characteristics. 

“This bright light on school performance is an important element in our school accountability efforts." O’Connell said in a statement. “I’m pleased that California schools continue to rise to the challenge of high expectations. Our Academic Performance Index pushes schools to make improvements each year. Since the inception of the API, the median score for each decile ranking has increased each year. This reflects significant gains in student achievement in our schools.” 

For more information about the rankings, visit api.cde.ca.gov.

BUSD to Consider Rehabilitating West Campus

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 09:55:00 AM

If the Berkeley Unified School District was hoping for community support for its new $8.3 million West Campus plan at a public meeting last week, it was looking in the wrong place. 

More than 30 West Berkeley neighbors and activists criticized the district’s plans to build modulars on the abandoned Berkeley Adult School parking lot to relocate administrative staff from the seismically unsafe Old City Hall headquarters at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. 

They also questioned the Berkeley Board of Education’s motives behind proposing that the project be exempt from the city’s zoning process. 

Although the group agreed that Berkeley Unified administrative staff should be moved to a safe location, they emphasized the importance of rehabilitating the Bonar Street red brick building, instead of putting up prefabricated structures. 

According to Rebecca Hayden of Baker Vilar Architects, the firm hired by the district to draw up new plans for the 10-building 6.5-acre West Campus, the three one-story modular buildings would house the district’s business, accounting and human resources offices among other departments, with the possibility of being turned into pre-schools in the future, 

“Modulars are being used all over California now,” Hayden said. “They come in pieces and are then put together. It’s there at Laney College. We are hoping to use stucco and hardy plank and landscape it with a walkway in between.” 

The district’s proposal, however, only covers the modulars’ costs, and does not outline funds for either landscaping or walkway canopies. 

The district’s Director of Facilities Lew Jones said the district would submit plans for the West Campus project to the Division of the State Architect for approval, since designation of a building as a classroom exempts the district from city review. 

Berkeley Councilmember Darryl Moore said he had asked Acting City Attorney Zach Cowan to give his opinion on whether the district could bypass local government on the West Campus plans. 

Cowan told the Planet Wednesday the district hadn’t presented him with a full set of plans yet. 

“So it’s hard to give a formal opinion,” he said. “But state law clearly states that non-classroom facilities are not exempt from the city’s zoning ordinance. They might change uses in the future, but the city is concerned about its current uses.” 

Jones said that plans to use the West Campus gym for storage had been discussed but had not been finalized. 

Neighbors were also concerned that the district proposed only 31 parking spots for more than 100 employees who would work at the campus. 

“One thing that is really disappointing for me is the process,” said Kristin Leimkuhler, a member of the West Campus Neighbors and Merchants Alliance. “Eighty-three people filled out petitions for open space and here we are stuck with dull buildings. The modulars are not very attractive, even with some possible canopy designs to connect and unify them. And even if they become preschools, it is in no sense an ideal arrangement for a pre-school. I am skeptical about the district’s justification for not going through the city.” 

Thomas Towey, CEO of Oakland-based Komorous-Towey Architects and a West Berkeley neighbor, criticized the lack of long-term planning for the West Campus site at the meeting. 

“With $8.3 million you should be able to come up with a plan to remodel the Bonar Street building,” he said. “My experience as an architect tells me you should be able to get everything in the modular buildings into a retrofitted building. All you have to do is pay for the seismic retrofit.” 

District Superintendent Bill Huyett said although retrofitting would be expensive, the district would investigate the possibility. 

Jones said an earlier plan for retrofitting the brick building had included more programs. 

“Which meant more square footage and therefore more costs,” he said. “The new plans are more simple and I think if we review the budget it will be different.” 

Jones is scheduled to present an estimate to the school board on June 16. 

Towey said his firm gutted a 15,000 square-foot building down to its concrete shell in Oakland and rehabilitated it for $3.5 million. 

“Even if the Bonar Street building costs double that, it’s $7 million, and that’s still less than $8.3 million,” he said. “I don’t get it. There’s a radical difference between retrofitting an existing building and putting up modulars. I just hate to see people waste money. This is a bad use of land. They went straight from Neiman Marcus to Wal-Mart before looking for anything in between.” 

The district also plans to sell off the giant strip on University for condos or mixed-use development, although nothing has been finalized yet. 

A group of neighbors said that the abandoned site was becoming a magnet for mischief. 

“My two girls are scared to walk down the Addison pathway,” said Nancy Kalter-Dills, who has lived on Curtis Street for 15 years. “There are homeless people loitering around. I have seen people dealing drugs and defecating there. I have even seen prostitutes. The school district doesn’t maintain it and it’s been an eyesore for the last 10 years.” 

Some residents complained of sporadic lighting around the campus. 

“If you were an absentee landlord, we would be getting together and doing something,” said another neighbor. “But I feel stymied. Where should we go? Who should we talk to?” 

Others criticized the lack of a master plan for the site. 

“The modular buildings seem like a short-term solution,” Leimkuhler said. “There is no plan which takes the entire site into consideration. We understand the risk its employees face in the current building but we are asking for a closer look at rehabilitating the existing structures.” 

City Planning Commissioner David Stoloff described the school district’s proposal as “opportunistic.” 

The West Campus neighborhood alliance have offered volunteer architectural services for the West Campus project, Leimkuhler said. 

“The modulars are right smack up against the 30 feet wide mandatory setback for Strawberry Creek,” she said. “We are anticipating in the future there will be denser housing on San Pablo and University and people really feel strongly about open space. The school district is only looking at their own needs. We need a more complete and creative design.”

City: Derby Street Arsenic Signs On Closed Lot Are Precautionary

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 09:55:00 AM
A sign mounted on the fence enclosing an abandoned stretch of rail line in the 1400 block of Derby Street warns of elevated arsenic levels in the soil.
By Richard Brenneman
A sign mounted on the fence enclosing an abandoned stretch of rail line in the 1400 block of Derby Street warns of elevated arsenic levels in the soil.

The city has closed a lot on the 1400 block of Derby Street, across the street from a day care center, because of potentially dangerous levels of arsenic. 

Berkeley’s hazardous materials coordinator, Nabil Al-Hadithy, said that the contaminated soil poses little danger, but the fence was put up as a precaution. 

“We may have put up signs that are a bit overly worrisome,” Al-Hadithy said, referring to the sign on the fence that declares: “DO NOT ENTER—Unauthorized Entry Prohibited—Elevated Levels of Arsenic.” 

Neighbors who live near the old railroad line that slices through the Derby Street property had been worried about potential toxins in the now-fenced vacant property, so they worked with a city expert and tested six soil samples from the site. 

“The highest result was 140 parts per million,” well above the levels of metal naturally occurring in city soils, Al-Hadithy said. “The normal levels in city soils run from 2 to 3 parts per million to about 40 in the hills near the Lawrence Hall of Science.” 

While the amounts found on the abandoned rail line weren’t likely to cause problems with normal exposure, they could cause problems for youngsters with pica—the compulsion to eat dirt—still, he said, the safest course of action was to fence off the site and post the warning. 

As for the next step, “We’ve put in for funds to evaluate the site with the state toxicologist,” Al-Hadithy said, “so we can figure out how to use the site safely in the future. We believe that if we cover the site with clean soil and plants in above-ground containers, there won’t be a risk. But we need an evaluation.” 

As for the source of the metallic poison, “We believe it may have been applied as a pesticide” back in the days when trains steamed the neighborhood, he said. 

But until funds for the study are released so that a scientist from the state Office of Environmental Health Hazards Assessment can come up with a recommendation, the safest course of action is to fence off the site, he said. 

As for the future of the right-of-way, which runs for several blocks south of Sacramento Street, all ideas are on hold pending the outcome of the study. 

“Until such time as that happens, we are taking the precaution of keeping people out. That’s the precautionary principle,” he said, “and I like that. But there’s no reasons for parents to worry about their children who are attending a day-care center across the street.”

Reedley Says OK to Aerial Spray Plan for Bay Area

By Judith Scherr
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 10:01:00 AM

With some 30 cities and 80 organizations on record opposing the state agriculture department’s plan to spray coastal cities and the Bay Area to eradicate the light brown apple moth (LBAM), one city is bucking the trend. Reedley, a Fresno County agricultural community of around 24,000, has stepped up to support the state. 

In other LBAM news, a new study claiming to show the ill effects of the Checkmate pheromone spray was unveiled last week. And also last week, the California Assembly passed a bill requiring an environmental impact report on the LBAM eradication program before spraying. 

On May 13, the five-member Reedley City Council voted unanimously to “support the Department of Food and Agriculture and the USDA’s efforts for using organic pheromones to eradicate the LBAM.” 

“We’re concerned with the health of everyone in California,” Reedley Councilmember Scott Brockett told the Planet Thursday. “I don’t want it to be us against them. We need to be able to protect one another’s interests.” 

It is not clear why Reedley was the first central valley community to support spraying the Bay Area. No LBAMs have been found in the Central Valley. (Reedley City Manager Rocky Rogers, in a phone interview with the Planet on Monday, underscored that the council resolution talks only about supporting eradication of the pest and does not explicitly support the pheromone spray.)  

According to the 2000 census, Reedley is a relatively poor community with 23 percent of the population living below the poverty line. Unemployment is also about 23 percent. About 68 percent of the population is Hispanic. Slightly more than half of the voters voted for Bush and Cheney in 2004. 

CDFA Spokesperson Steve Lyle said his department was reaching out “to provide information” to various communities in and outside the Bay Area and Santa Cruz area targeted for spraying. 

Brockett works as a paramedic and says he has high regard for the health and safety of all Californians. “We’re in support of them spraying an organic pheromone,” he said, underscoring that it was important to use the pheromone now, rather than having to resort to a more dangerous pesticide later. 

Those who oppose the state’s planned aerial spraying, however, say it is both dangerous and ineffectual. 

The California Department of Food and Agriculture sprayed Checkmate on Monterey and Santa Cruz counties in the fall, asserting it was not required to do environmental studies before it sprayed because the spread of the moth was an emergency that could devastate California’s billion dollar agricultural business. Judges in the Santa Cruz and Monterey area have since said that the state must do environmental impact reports before spraying those counties again. The CDFA said it will appeal the rulings but has yet to do so. 

After the fall spraying, some 600 people fell ill. The public outcry that arose has been transformed into an effort to fight the state and stop the spraying. (See stopthespray.org.) 

While Brockett said he was satisfied that the state agriculture department was giving the city good advice, numerous scientists, including a group of entomologists from UC Davis, have said that the light brown apple moth is a pest the state can live with and that the product claimed to eradicate it—some entomologists say eradication is impossible—is untested and dangerous. 

On Thursday Dr. Ann Haiden, an osteopath, unveiled a new paper in a teleconference with reporters that honed in on adverse health effects that could have resulted from the September spray. 

Among Haiden’s concerns are the size of the microcapsules in which the synthetic pheromone and other chemical ingredients of the spray are contained in order to be sprayed. 

“The smallest can reach the deepest part of the lung,” she said, noting that the particles can damage nasal passages as well. 

Among the ingredients in the product that was sprayed is BHT, or butylated hydroxytoluene. “It is used in lab studies to induce cancer,” Haiden said. 

“The effects of inhaled BHT in humans have not been studied,” says Haiden’s paper, which can be read at http://drhaiden.com/moth. 

She said it was important to understand that the reaction to the spray could be different among different individuals. “The portion of the population with higher susceptibility needs to be studied,” she said. “Up to 50 percent of the population can be at risk.”  

Haiden condemned the CDFA for not studying the health effects of the product, including the long-term effects of repeated applications, which could include hormone disruption, developmental defects, lung disease or cancer.  

“Reliance on short-term symptoms, or lack thereof, as the major determinants of safety is misguided given our current, and growing, knowledge base,” the paper says. 

“The acute symptoms after the spray are the tip of the iceberg,” Haiden said. 

CDFA spokesperson Steve Lyle reacted to the report Thursday with a press statement downplaying the paper. 

“If a product other than Checkmate is chosen, this study would be obsolete as a forward-looking document of value to Bay Area residents,” he wrote. The state is testing four other products to eradicate the moth. The tests are being conducted in New Zealand.  

The statement further said that “aerial treatment will not resume until a thorough battery of toxicology tests is completed on the four products currently being considered.” Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called for the tests in April. They are expected to completed by mid-August. 

Several individuals living in the Santa Cruz-Monterey area participated in the phone press conference to talk about the ill health effects they suffered as a result of the spraying last September. 

Several individuals who participated in the phone press conference said they and their children had suffered ill health as a result of the September spray. Participants included naval officer Tim Wilcox, whose son, with no previous respiratory problems, was hospitalized twice with breathing problems after the spray. 

The state downplays testimony about nausea, skin rash, asthma and other ailments that were reported by persons living in the coastal spray area.  

“Reports found no link between the illness claims and the Checkmate product,” Lyle wrote. 

On May 29, the Assembly narrowly passed AB2760 41 to 32, authored by Mark Leno (Dem., San Francisco) requiring that the state conduct an environmental review before spraying to eradicate the LBAM. The bill now goes to the Senate.  

If approved there and signed by the governor, who has told the Planet through his spokespeople that he supports the spray program, the bill would not take effect until January, some four months after the state plans to begin to spray. The legislation would, however, affect later spraying.

Union Vote Set for Bay Area Newspapers

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 10:02:00 AM

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. 

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 (www.medianewsgroup.com) withdrew recognition from union contracts at the Oakland Tribune and four other East Bay newspapers. 

Guild organizers and potential members gathered May 31 at Live Oak Park in Berkeley for a barbecue and to rally in support of the campaign in the run-up to the election. Members of the Teamsters were on hand to offer both support and donuts. 

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 on 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, the Pleasanton Tri-Valley Herald and the former Hills chain of community weeklies, the Albany-El Cerrito Journal, the Montclarion and the Berkeley Voice. 

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 last month for the Oakland Tribune, San Jose Mercury News and Contra Costa Times. 

Singleton’s market corner is weakest in the Bay Area’s two major university towns, Palo Alto and Berkeley, where rival papers continue to be published and a new one is being launched. 

His East Bay Daily News, which covered Berkeley for a while, has folded, and its counterpart across the bay, the Palo Alto Daily News (PADN), is facing new competition. 

According to a blogger and former newsman-turned-corporate executive and investor, a new paper is being launched there this week, the Palo Alto Daily Post, by Jim Pavelich and Dave Price. [See http://newsosaur.blogspot.com/2008/05/newspaper-war-in-silicon-valley.html] 

Pavelich and Price are no strangers to the region’s media wars. The duo founded the Palo Alto Daily News, which they sold three years ago to Knight-Ridder along with four companion publications. That chain then added the East Bay Daily News, and their creations were sold to Singleton when he bought out the area Knight-Ridder papers from McClatchy. 

In addition to the new daily, which a Sunday PADN posting called the “brazenly named Palo Alto Daily Post,” the community is home to a third paper, the Palo Alto Weekly. 

A look at www.paloaltodailypost.com website Wednesday carried this message: “This domain was recently registered at namecheap.com. The domain owner may currently be creating a great site for this domain. Please check again later!” 

The former Hills Newspapers, acquired by the Contra Costa Times chain and re-sold to Media News, are community weeklies distributed free on the west side of the East Bay hills. They reprint many stories from the other Singleton papers, although they have different names and there’s a page or so of local coverage in each paper. 

The Planet is now the only independently-owned newspaper covering Berkeley on a regular basis. Two alternative weeklies, the San Francisco Bay Guardian and the East Bay Express, also offer occasional Berkeley news. 

Busting labor 

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. 

The April 4 edition of Editor & Publisher, the industry’s leading trade publication, reports that the region’s other major publication, Hearst’s San Francisco Chronicle, has an audited weekday circulation of 370,345 and 424,603 on Sundays—though the newspaper’s own website feature “About the San Francisco Chronicle” still reports the figures for September 2002, when average daily circulation was 512,129 and 539,563 on Sundays. [www.sfchron.com/about/index.php] 

The same Chronicle web page that reports the six-year-old circulation figures also declares that the paper has “an editorial staff of over 500 reporters,” though a series of buyouts and unfilled positions has brought the numbers down to about 300. One downsizing last year cut 100 newsroom jobs. 

Total readership nationally hit the lowest level since the 1946. 

Another take on the union struggle at Singleton’s papers is here: 


And for more on media layoffs nationally, see Papercuts, a blog that tracks downsizings [http://graphicdesignr.net/papercuts/] 


Bread, wed 

On other local media newsfronts, one paper is a lot richer and gay times are ahead for another. 

The San Francisco Bay Guardian may be getting more than twice the cash a jury awarded in the paper’s lawsuit against SF Weekly and Village Voice Media. 

Finding that SF Weekly display advertising rates had been priced below cost to cripple the Guardian, jurors had awarded the paper $6.3 million. The higher figure set by San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Maria J. Miller adds interest costs to the award. 

She also barred the Village Voice Media paper from selling ads below cost unless it could prove the rates were not aimed at undercutting the Guardian. 

Another alternative weekly that once belong to VVM has found a unique way to celebrate the state Supreme Court ruling that overturned a voter-passed ban on gay marriages. 

The East Bay Express, now an independent, will be hosting a pair of “Wedding Wednesdays” June 25 and July 2 that will feature a dozen matrimonials each for same-sex couples—and they’re even throwing in the support of a wedding planner. 

“The twelve couples selected will receive a wedding ceremony, catered reception, honeymoon prize packages, professional photos, a published wedding announcement, and local media publicity,” declared a press release from publisher Jody Colley. “This is a fun, unique marriage alternative to City Hall, and is our newspaper’s way of sharing in this historic celebration.”

Dellums Proposes 12-Day City Shutdown to Help Close Budget Gap

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 10:03:00 AM

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums proposed $14.4 million in cuts to the City of Oakland budget last week to offset a projected $15 million deficit in the next fiscal year, including calling for the closing down of non-essential city services for 12 days each year. 

Savings from the 12-day city holiday increase, in which most city offices would be closed and city staff would not be paid, is expected to be more than $4 million. 

The projected deficit is being fueled in large part by a $25.7 million drop in Oakland’s real estate transfer tax caused by the slowdown in the national, regional, and local housing market. The real estate transfer tax drop overwhelmed increases in some city revenues, including a $7.5 million increase in property tax proceeds and a $4.62 million increase in business license tax proceeds. 

The Oakland City Council, which has authority over the passage of the budget and any modifications, took the mayor’s proposal under advisement, asking detailed questions at a Thursday evening budget session but reserving final comment on the mayor’s reduction proposals themselves.  

The largest actual proposed budget reductions are in the Oakland Police Department, with a $3.7 million reduction, and the Oakland Fire Department, with a $3.2 million reduction, the proposed cuts being absorbed by the two largest line items in the city’s budget. But in line with city concerns over public safety, the mayor has proposed that the reductions in the two public safety departments come largely from accounting gimmicks and not from actual personnel reductions. City Administrator Deborah Edgerly said Thursday night that Head Start services would not be affected by the proposed 12-day city shutdown as well. 

The council is scheduled to take up the mid-year budget discussions again on Wednesday, June 11, at 5 p.m. in the council chambers, with a final deliberation and decision scheduled for Tuesday, June 17 at 6 p.m. 

The City of Berkeley currently operates five “reduced service days” as a budget-cutting measure, during which time services at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Civic Center Building, Finance Customer Service Center (1947 Center), and the Permit Service Center are not available. Other city services in Berkeley, including police and fire services, main and branch libraries, and the animal shelter remain in operation during Berkeley’s “reduced service days.” 

Oakland put in place a similar 12-day reduced schedule in 2003 during the administration of former Mayor Jerry Brown in order to close a similar budget gap. Members of Service Employee International Union Local 790 filed an arbitration grievance over the mandatory work furloughs, but an arbitrator sided with the city, saying that the mandatory days without pay were legal.  

Vice President Jeffrey Levin of Local 21 of the Professional & Technical Engineers union (IFPTE), which cooperated in voluntary budget cuts during the 2003 budget shortfall, told councilmembers on Thursday that his union may have problems with this round of proposed mandatory layoffs. 

“Our members voluntarily helped out in ’02-’03 with the promise that all employee groups would be treated equally,” Levin said. “Instead, we found that money that was saved from cutbacks to some union members went into the budget to finance police overruns.” 

Levin said that instead of looking at cutbacks on unionized city employees, “before we cut services and force employees to what is close to a 5 percent paycut,” the city should be looking at cuts in contracts with outside employees, as well as at reducing the city’s reserves. 

Levin did not give any indication what action his union might take if the suggestions were not followed. 

Meanwhile, in a prepared press release this week, Mayor Dellums called the mid-cycle budget cuts, including the proposed targeted city service shutdown, “a very difficult process,” but that faced with the $15 million deficit “it was our responsibility to make specific personnel adjustments to help ease the fiscal burden and to avoid widespread layoffs. At the end of the day we had to strike a balance between fiscal responsibility and sustaining Oakland jobs. Working with city staff, we concluded that shutting down non-essential services for one day a month around holidays when employees would welcome an extra day off was the most responsible way to proceed.”  

Departments proposed to be hit with the largest percentage cuts of their budget are the City Attorney’s Office ($8.47 percent of a $9.5 million budget), the Information and Technology Department (7.63 percent of an $11.5 million budget), and Library Services (7.33 percent of a $13.2 million budget). 

Breakdown of the Mayor’s Budget Cut Proposals 

Mayor’s Office: Current budget $3.2 million. $102,000 in cuts (3.19 percent reduction), including $97,000 saved in the proposed 12-day shutdown. 

City Council: Current budget $3.8 million. $108,000 in cuts (2.84 percent reduction). $126,000 saved in the proposed 12-day shutdown is offset by increases in the retirement rate and council salary increases. 

City Administrator’s Office: Current budget $9.4 million. $510,000 in cuts (5.43 percent reduction), including $271,000 saved in the proposed 12-day shutdown as well as position eliminations, reclassifications, and transfers. 

City Attorney’s Office: Current budget $9.5 million (8.47 percent reduction). $805,000 in cuts, including $346,000 saved in the proposed 12-day shutdown as well as the small staff cutbacks and program eliminations. 

C ity Auditor’s Office: Current budget $1.4 million (2.64 percent reduction). $37,000 in cuts, including $41,000 saved in the proposed 12-day shutdown, offset by retirement rate increases. 

City Clerk: $2.5 million current budget. $104,000 in cuts (4.16 percent reduction), including $48,000 in the proposed 12-day shutdown as well as position downgrades. 

Finance & Management Agency: $32.1 million current budget. $1.4 million in cuts, (4.36 percent reduction) including $1.2 million saved in the proposed 12-day shutdown as well as reductions in operations and maintenance and personnel reclassifications and transfers. 

Contracting & Purchasing: $2.4 million current budget. $22,000 in cuts (0.92 percent reduction), including $86,000 saved in the proposed 12-day shutdown, offset by the addition of two new positions mandated by the city’s new Prompt Payment Policy 

Information Technology: $11.5 million current budget. $877,000 in cuts (7.63 percent reduction), including $561,000 saved in the proposed 12-day shutdown and personnel transfers and position eliminations 

Police Services: $196 million current budget. $3.7 million in cuts (2.8 percent reduction), including $1.6 million saved in the proposed 12-day shutdown as well as transfer of 14 positions to be paid out of Oakland Redevelopment Funds and other assorted savings 

Fire Services: $111.4 million current budget. $3.2 million in cuts (2.8 percent reduction), including $350,000 saved in the proposed 12-day shutdown as well as personnel reductions. 

Museum: $6.8 million current budget. $437,000 in cuts (6.43 percent reduction), including $269,000 saved in the proposed 12-day shutdown as well as small personnel reductions. 

Library Services: $13.2 million current budget. $968,000 in cuts (7.33 percent reduction), including $618,000 saved in the proposed 12-day shutdown as well as the reduction of 4 positions and reductions in website budget. 

Parks & Recreation: $15.2 million current budget. $433,000 in cuts (2.85 percent reduction), including $40,000 saved in the proposed 12-day shutdown offset by increases due to personnel additions. 

Department of Human Services: $7 million current budget. $295,000 in cuts (4.21 percent reduction), including $185,000 saved in the proposed 12-day shutdown as well as outside contract reductions. 

Public Works Agency: $2.4 million current budget. $135,000 in cuts (5.63 percent reduction), including $103,000 saved in the proposed 12-day shutdown as well as positions eliminations. 

Ccommunity & Economic Development Agency: $2.4 million current budget. $142,000 in increases (5.92 percent increase), including $74,000 saved in the proposed 12-day shutdown and $140,000 in the reduction of operations and maintenance, offset by rent arbitration program increases. 

Non-Departmental: $59.9 million current budget. $1.4 million in cuts (2.34 percent reduction), the bulk coming from $1 million savings in the elmination of the seismic retrofit program and $500,000 in the reduction of the city’s contingency reserve.

Ten Questions for Oakland Councilmember Patricia Kernighan

By Jonathan Wafer Special to the Planet
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 10:03:00 AM
Patricia Kernighan
Patricia Kernighan


Oakland City Councilmember, District 2. 

First elected 2005. 


1. Where were you born and where did you grow up, and how does that affect how you regard the issues in Oakland and in your district? 

I was born and grew up in Washington state, on the rural side. A place like the California Valley: Modesto or Sacramento. The town I grew up in was a lower-middle class almost all white town where everybody thought the same, looked the same; very boring. By the time I was 14 years old I couldn’t wait to get out of there. So, having grown up in a place where there is no diversity of thought or anything else, Oakland was a very appealing place to me. 


2. What is your educational background, and how did that help prepare you for being a councilmember? 

I have a college degree in social sciences from the University of Washington and a law degree. I practiced poverty law as a legal aid lawyer for several years after law school. Being a lawyer is always helpful in any kind of legislative position. 


3. What are the top three most pressing issues facing your district (District 2)? 

Well, right now I’d have to say public safety, public safety and public safety. Normally, I would have answered public safety and economic development, which encompasses a lot of things, including jobs and affordable housing. So there are lots of issues facing Oakland. But until we solve our public safety problems we’re not going to make any headway. 


4. Do you agree with the direction and vision Mayor Dellums has for Oakland. Why or why not? 

I agree with his vision. I think we all have a vision of where we want to end up which is with a city that does not have poverty. A city where all young people have access to education and a safe and nurturing environment in which to grow up and have real opportunities for success. I’m not sure that I agree with how Mayor Dellums proposes to get there but that’s where we all want to end up. 


5. Mayor Dellums has proposed that the city put together its own development plan for the Oakland Army Base, and then solicit bids from developers. What would you propose as the overall development plan for the base? 

Well, the City Council has already approved a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the Oakland Army Base which is something of a hybrid of these two approaches. The RFP states what our goals are and some of our key priorities such as creating high-quality good paying jobs. And it also outlines a number of modern industries the we would look favorably upon. But it also leaves enough flexibility for the developer. It’s not completely restrictive. I think it’s a good balance of showing the direction of what we want but leaving enough flexibility for the developer to make a proposal that will be successful given marketing positions. 


6. What plans, if any, do you want to implement in terms of the youth in your district? 

What I would like to do and what I have the money to do are two different things. I would like to have teen centers, recreational programs, health centers at every school, enough counselors at every school for kids who need it, safe places to play, internship programs so that kids can become exposed to work places. So I’d love to do a million things, but what we have the money for is much smaller and as a council we are trying to tackle a number of those things but it’s on a smaller scale. 


7. It has been suggested that Oakland’s police strength be immediately increased above the currently authorized 803 to combat the city’s current crime situation. Do you support such an increase and, if so, how would you propose financing it? What other specific steps would you propose taking to combat Oakland’s crime problem, including funding source? 

Yes, I do support the increase. And we passed a plan to fund it which will be a mixture of General Fund and Measure Y. But that’s not going to solve the problem by itself and we are also funding a lot of new violence prevention programs through Measure Y. I believe that it has to be a balance of effective law enforcement and both violence prevention programs and programs that give young people who live in our poorest neighborhoods opportunities. 


8. Former Mayor Jerry Brown’s economic development program for Oakland was his 10K Plan. Mayor Dellums has said he wants to put one together in collaboration with the leaders and citizens of Oakland. What do you think Mayor Dellums’ economic development program should be? 

Well, he actually kicked off an initiative last spring called The Oakland Partnership, which brought in heads of corporations and other leaders. And they have been engaged in a process toward coming up with an economic development plan which is almost finished and was actually previewed before the City Council. It looks like a very good plan which identifies about four different industries of the future which Oakland should be trying to attract and provide space for. So, I’m very supportive of the concepts that have come out of The Oakland Partnership so far. Mayor Dellums did articulate early on that his focus is on creating jobs. So this economic development plan will do not only that but have other economic benefits for Oakland as well. 


9. What is your favorite thing about Oakland? 

My favorite thing about Oakland is that there are so many people of different backgrounds and different styles, different ways of thinking, and we’re all living pretty harmoniously. That, and the weather. 


10. What is your least favorite thing about Oakland? 

The fact that people cannot walk on our streets at night and, sometimes even in the day, without worrying about their personal safety.  



On Election Day, It All Adds Up

By Becky O’Malley
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 10:06:00 AM

It’s all about the numbers today. Barack Obama—perhaps the first Democratic candidate in recent memory who can count—has finally put together the magic number of delegates, both elected and super, and he’s The Man of the Hour.  

The Woman of the electoral year, Hillary Clinton, as of this writing is still rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, trying to come up with a life raft for her sinking ship, but it’s not going to work. She—or her advisers—went for the big money and forgot about the small change. Take care of the pennies, and the pounds will take care of themselves, says the old English nursery homily which she forgot. It’s not just money, it’s votes, but in this United States at this point in time, money talks, and what money can say loud and clear is “vote for me.”  

Raising money from the rank-and-file has two advantages. One is the money itself, but the other is giving voters a chance to participate in the process. With the magic of the Internet, participation can be very easy and at any level the computer-using household can afford. Every major milestone in the impressive Obama trek to victory was followed up by an appeal for funds in our e-mail. From time to time, like everyone else, we pressed the magic little red “DONATE” buttons in the messages, and it adds up.  

Even more important, there’s at least the illusion that big donors aren’t able to call the shots quite as much as they usually do when a campaign is run this way. We haven’t checked the local fundraising statistics—we’ll leave that to the reporters. Anecdotally we did note a few straws in the wind, however. The recent push for Clinton by Esprit founder Susie Tompkins Buell, which funded some big ads with female emphasis, was a last gasp effort by a big-time Clinton organization donor about to lose a privileged insider’s position.  

The attempt by the Clinton group to fudge the primary vote numbers ended up being embarrassing, even pathetic. Old friends in Michigan, one of the two poster states for the revisionist attempt to ignore the agreed-upon rules, have told me that “nobody,” that is to say nobody who usually follows politics and cares about outcomes, voted in the illegal Michigan primary. The Clintons’ effort to have the votes of whoever happened to show up counted in her column was magic thinking at best, dishonest and disingenuous at worst.  

As this went to press, reports from Clinton’s D.C. campaign headquarters were that she was about to address her staff, and her mood was described by one observer as “maniacal.” Campaigns are an adrenaline high, hard to come down from, but it’s time now for her to sober up and get on with the important job of being a U.S. senator. Clinton could take as a role model Teddy Kennedy, whose attempt to get his party’s nomination was a failure, but whose ultimate senatorial career has been a triumph. Hillary Clinton has the opportunity to create the same kind of legacy for herself, if she chooses to accept it. 

What’s going to happen to the “white working class voters,” those phantasmagorical creatures beloved of the press corps sometimes called the Villagers (those who work inside the D.C. beltway and see voters outside simply as shadows on the wall)? These voters are believed by this segment of the press, absent much credible data, to be flirting with voting for McCain because—why?  

A bit of lingering racism could be part of the story. The nothing-better-to-do crowd who make the illiterate entries on web chats have started saying that Obama has “a big ego.” Translation, for those of you too young to remember old-school racism: he’s an “uppity n_______.” In other words, a black man who doesn’t “know his place.” Even among the uneducated this kind of stereotypical knee-jerk racism is dying out, thank goodness.  

Leaving arrant racism aside, the press’s amateurish attempt at class-based economic analysis ignores the enormous divisions which the current economy has produced in a once solid group of voters. The stereotypical working-class voter is the Left Behind Guy, the factory worker whose factory has moved away and whose union is now toothless. The percentage of these voters in the overall electorate is shrinking, however, since the decline of the Rust Belt is now an old story and the old guys are leaving the building. Some, though not all, of these voters are aware that part of the genesis of their plight was Bill Clinton’s support for NAFTA. This was big in the primaries, but is irrelevant in the Obama-McCain race. 

The younger left-out generation is very different. This is the group of workers, both men and women, who have never managed to get a job good enough to support a family as the old union jobs did in their parents’ heyday. They’re mainly working at low-paid service jobs, sometimes at more than one of them to make ends meet. With these voters, Obama’s relentless promise of change resonates simply because nothing they’ve seen in their lifetime has really worked for them economically. McCain has nothing special to offer them. 

And how about the older women who are supposedly disappointed that Hillary didn’t make it? Does anyone really think they should find McCain appealing? Why? 

In California, numbers are the story too, and the numbers are embarrassing. A very few insiders and a vanishingly small number of regular voters now control what happens in California primaries. In our gerrymandered districts, very few voters realize that these primaries are their only chance to participate in the decision of who will represent them for the next eight years or so.  

Randy Shaw at beyondchron.org, a Berkeley voter himself, accurately predicted the outcomes locally before anyone even went to the polls, as did many of us. Anyone who knows the cost of printing and mailing was aware even before the absentee ballots were mailed that Hancock and Skinner expected to have bushels of cash on hand, with a recycling-bin-full of new glossies arriving in every day’s mail at every house.  

The Port of Oakland billboard announcing Barbara Lee’s endorsement of Hancock was the cherry on top of a campaign marked by lavish expenditures on both sides. Evidently either Lee or Hancock had money to burn for that one. We should all keep that in mind next time either of them asks us to contribute to their war chests. 

The prize for the silliest use of excessive spare dollars, however, had to go to Dr. Phil Polakoff, who sent us a little plastic tube with a very trivial message on a little card inside. One of our letter writers in this issue skewers this ploy well, so we’ll leave it at that for now.  

The Editor's Back Fence

The Editor's Back Fence

By Becky O'Malley
Monday June 09, 2008 - 12:23:00 PM

June is a month of final acts: graduations, performances, recitals. We’ve gone to several recitals in the last two weeks and enjoyed every one. Nothing beats the sight of a bunch of fresh-faced kids polished until they shine and on their best behavior, enjoying themselves—albeit with a bit of tension—making music or dancing. And if the music sounds good, or if the dancing delights, that’s a plus, but it isn’t really about the product, it’s about the process. 

Music teachers are miraculous. Most of them operate on a shoestring, often out of home. They’ve voluntarily taken on the burden of transmitting the common culture from their own generation to the next, and they take their job seriously. For the latest recital over the weekend one of the young musicians drew a charming program cover and the teacher added a few words of comment on the back.  

She pointed out that studies show that on average music students get higher SAT scores than their peers. That’s probably true, but is it the consequence of having studied music, or does being a better student (or at least a better test taker) also help you concentrate on learning music? 

Impossible to tell, because in the average group of recital performers and their families we’re firmly in the world of Lake Wobegon, where “all the children are above average.” How could they not be, when the parents work so hard to pay for lessons, and struggle to make sure the kids get there and constantly encourage them to practice? The kids at the recitals we went to are a fortunate group. They clearly benefit from all that attention, and it’s good for them whether or not they turn out to have musical talent in the end.  

Time was, not long ago, when most children had at least some exposure to music at school. Not now, or at least not in California. You can bet that Governor Schwarzenegger, whose sizeable fortune comes from the entertainment industry, makes sure that his four kids have their music lessons, or if he doesn’t Maria surely does. They go to private schools, of course. But what about the vast majority of California kids? As budgets get cut, school music is an easy target—any time you turn your back some eager budget balancer has axed a part of the music program, even in Berkeley, and it’s worse elsewhere.  

It’s sometimes believed that studying music, particularly European-American classical music or African-American classic jazz, is an elite pursuit. But the bouquet of faces at the recitals we went to, all shapes and colors and sizes, and the assortment of nations represented in the names on the program, many improbably hyphenated to reflect national origins separated by whole oceans and continents, indicate otherwise. It’s clear that studying music doesn’t divide people, it brings them together.  

These students all seemed to be having fun, which was not always the case for music students in the past. Even after the formal program was over on Sunday, they noodled around on the instruments just for pleasure while the adults enjoyed punch and cookies. That’s a lifetime benefit of learning to play an instrument: it’s something you can always enjoy doing, even if you never get to be a virtuoso. It beats video games hands down. 

But the final product of each year’s process, the recital performance, has a special value that’s different from just enjoying making a little music from time to time. Even if it’s not ultimately perfect, there’s nothing which quite matches the experience of working toward a goal and getting the adrenaline rush that comes with standing up in front of an audience to show how well you’ve succeeded.  

Several, perhaps most, of the students in Sunday’s recital made small missteps in their pieces, lost their place in the score perhaps, but all without exception made a gracious and almost imperceptible recovery before the end. That’s a lesson in itself.  

We don’t know whether little Hillary Rodham took music lessons when she was a girl in the Chicago suburbs. Chances are that she did, because most girls like her did in those days, and she probably participated in her share of recitals. If so, it was good preparation for the final performance she was called upon to produce on Saturday. 

When the Democratic primary race was getting off the ground, a girl of my acquaintance, a beginning music student, was asked whom she was supporting. This is a child who said “dumb Bush” when she saw him on television at 2 and a half, and had a Kerry sticker on her bedroom wall by the time she was 3. At the ripe old age of 6 she is looking forward to the next election.  

“I’m for Hillary, because I’m a girl and she’s a girl”, she said at first. But as the race progressed she was swept up in the general excitement and moved by other considerations to a more sophisticated set of criteria which eventually brought her to Obama. 

Many of us, especially those of us blessed with a predominance of daughters and granddaughters, were similarly inclined to go for “the girl” first. Even though we eventually decided that another choice was better, we wanted to see Hillary finish her run with style and grace. That’s why we were pained to see that she appeared to have lost her place in the score in the last couple of months.  

Being the first seriously credible woman candidate for president isn’t just about winning, just as playing in a recital isn’t just about becoming a professional musician. And as of Saturday’s very well-reviewed speech, it looks like Hillary’s recovered her chops just in time, not a moment too soon. Being a role model for future generations of women means showing them how to recover from the occasional mistake or even loss, not just how to win, which is much easier.  

We knew she could do that, though, didn’t we? As faithful Lake Wobegon fans, we know that not only are all of our men good-looking and all of our children above average, but all of our women are strong. Including, as we thought all along, Hillary Rodham Clinton.  


May 30, 2008 


What? You still don't know who to vote for? Even with the editor's endorsements? 

Here are a few tidbits of new information which might help you finally decide. 

Hancock v. Chan (state senate)  

Ignore all the icky mudslinging , theoretically from third parties commonly known as IEs (Independent Expenditures). Both candidates have benefited from these nasty mailers (or suffered from them.) The next reform to the election process should be to regulate this kind of activity, within constitutional limits of course. 

For one last chance to compare the contenders, check out their joint interview on KQED's Forum with Michael Krasny

I caught a couple of questionable Hancock statements in my distracted listening to it while doing other things.  

Asked about the possible fourth tube proposed for the Caldecott Tunnel (Orinda is pro, Berkeley mostly con), she waffled. She said she's been meeting with "neighbors", and that there's no money for it anyhow. But, she said, she thought a good "mitigation" would be to build more housing on this side of the hills.  

That's screwy, especially when coupled with the longstanding Hancock/Bates effort to gentrify West Berkeley for the benefit of land speculators. In the discussions she pointed with pride to her effort to spruce up San Pablo from Richmond to Oakland, but said nothing about where service and light manufacturing jobs all along the route would have to go once San Pablo's lined with big-box condos. Auto repair, salvage, upholstery, bakeries—we need them all. Some of them are messy, noisy or smelly, but building more condos with small, ugly and empty retail pods on the first floor isn't the answer. The condo-dwellers will have to work somewhere, and it’s probably going to be an office park in Dublin, through the tunnel. 

Worthington v. Skinner v. Thurmond v. Polakoff (assembly)  

A fragment of a poll was leaked to this space by a not-terribly-reliable source. It's a week or so old. At that time Skinner was ahead by about 7%, with Worthington next and gaining. Thurmond and Polakoff were far behind.  

Since then, however, Thurmond has been endorsed by the corporate press: Dean Singleton's Media News Group megaconglomerate, also known here as the Bay Area News Group ( including the Contra Costa Times, Oakland Trib, San Jose Mercury and the Hills papers, including the Voice, the Montclarion and the Journal) and the Hearst Corporation's San Francisco Chronicle.  

Worthington has been endorsed by the lonely outposts of the independent press, the San Francisco Bay Guardian and the Berkeley Daily Planet. Skinner and Polakoff haven't been endorsed by the press, but she's the designated successor in the Bates/Aroner/Hancock line.  

Will any of this matter? Who knows? Vote Early and Often, as they used to say in Chicago. 


May 27, 2008 

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.  


May 20, 2008 

Every week a new experiment...this week, we're trying out a Web-only column of short items. People send us things that are not serious enough or big enough or current enough for a full-fledged news story or a full-dress editorial essay, but are too good to pass up. And increasingly they send us links to good stuff in other Internet locations which Planet readers would like to see.  

This spot (at least this week) will be where to find short takes on interesting or amusing topics between the Thursday print papers. Of course, we expect our readers to contribute most of the items, just as neighbors in the fabled small towns of yore shared gossip over the back fences. Hence the name. 

At first, we thought we should post these on Mondays, but Monday came and went this week. And why not just post them as they arrive? So that's the plan for this week.  

Our goal is to get our on-line readers to check out the Planet Website each and every day, maybe more than once a day, so that they don't miss anything. And it's not just this column....we have something new online—news and columns too—almost every day now.  

Here's just one juicy little item to get the ball rolling. A reader forwarded this invitation: 

From www.nancyskinnerforassembly.com:  

Wednesday, May 7th from 5:30 to 7pm
Don Yost & John Norheim
along with co-hosts: ... Mark & Erin Rhoades, Ali
Kashani & Ed Church
Invite you to meet and support Nancy Skinner
At the offices of Norheim & Yost
2332 5th St, Berkeley

Just in case your program doesn't list the names and numbers of all the players: 

Yost and Norheim are the commercial real estate brokers who control most of the listings in beleaguered West Berkeley.  

Mark Rhoades is the former City of Berkeley Director of Current Planning (planning czar), who went through the Planning Department's revolving door to become the business partner of  

Ali Kashani, who was formerly with the non-profit Affordable Housing Associates, but has crossed over to the Dark Side to become an emphatically for-profit developer. 

Mark is also the marital partner of Erin Rhoades, who is also the president of the thinly-camouflaged developers' lobbying group Livable Berkeley. Until Mark left the planning department Erin used her maiden name of Erin Banks in her job with the DCE consulting firm, founded by David Early, which has had a number of lucrative contracts with the City of Berkeley and UC Berkeley. Early was also her predecessor at Livable Berkeley. Presumably Erin used her birth name in an attempt to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest with her husband's job. Caesar's wife, after all, must at least appear to be above suspicion. 

Ed Church is the man behind the attempt to turn the Ashby BART station into a condo-complex, an endeavor which is now on hold because of the huge public outcry which greeted it. No stake has been driven through its heart, or his, however. 

And Nancy Skinner ? She's the anointed candidate of the Bates/Aroner/Hancock organization (never call it a machine, unless you want to get angry letters from old friends) for their successor to the family seat in the California Assembly, and judging from this invitation she also seems to have inherited their developer campaign contributors. Not bad for a beginner. And she's already raised a bundle of money, with more TBD right before the June primary, too late to be reported by the media.  

(Full disclosure: I endorsed Kriss Worthington for the job, long before the B/A/H mantle dropped on Skinner's shoulders.) 


Here's a half hour of comedy viewing for the city council junkies among you. The Acting City Attorney and several of the councilmembers skate right up to the precipice of contempt of court as they fool around with ignoring Judge Frank Roesch's order to rescind an earlier bit of foolishness (he called it "abuse of discretion"), granting extra perks to developer Patrick Kennedy for the notorious Gaia building, now owned by equally notorious rent control foe Sam Zell. The CA wanted to tack on a whole bunch of extra stuff that the Judge had not asked for, but plaintiff Patricia Dacey and her attorney Anna DeLeon finally managed to convince the unwilling members that they might go to jail if they carried on as they were. But you do have to watch the whole episode to get the full nuanced comic flavor. Jump the video to item 11 on the agenda. 


Randy Shaw of Beyond Chron has an excellent analysis of who those "angry working class white voters" who say they won't vote for Obama AREN'T. He says he media are afraid to call a racist a racist. 

---Becky O'Malley 


May 13, 2008 

As our Internet experiment ("daily online, weekly in print") moves forward, we’ve encountered a certain amount of guilt-tripping from our friends and neighbors for “deserting” them on Tuesdays. Everyone seems to like getting their weekend paper earlier, on Thursdays, but they whine that they’ve been accustomed to having another little news fix earlier in the week, and they hate to give it up. 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, check out the surprise announcement of the Mayor's State of the City Address, something we didn't know about when we put the print paper to bed last week.  

Look for the red datelines to alert you to what's new  

The great thing about the Internet, something you just can't do with print, is that we can also direct you to interesting material that there would never be room for in print, or that we would never have time to organize into print even if we had the room. Case in point: the opinion submission from the people who aren't too happy with AC Transit's Bus Rapid Transit proposal. Technically sophisticated, they turned in their thoughts as a nicely formatted .pdf (image) file, complete with all those clever indentations and bullets that are a newspaper formatting nightmare. After a little online negotiation, we persuaded them to add an executive summary suitable for print, but we were also able to put their full arguments online in all their organized glory. Online readers can experience this product in our Reader Commentary section today. 

And other media today are full of horror stories of the multiple disasters around the world, leaving our readers wondering what, if anything, they can do to help. With our online presence, we can pass along to you a message we received from a soprano friend now living in Japan, who sent us an appeal she received from a fellow musician who is working at a music school in Yangon (Rangoon) in Myanmar (Burma).  

The teachers and students there are organizing a relief effort to help the hundreds of thousands of people in lowland rural areas affected by the recent cyclone. Their web page www.gitameit.com/wp has been turned into an information site to let people in the outside world know what's going on, and to make it possible for them to donate to worthwhile organizations already operating inside Myanmar.  

The soprano writes from Japan: "As you can see from her website, she is practically ground zero for the recent typhoon and tsunami that hit Burma...I am trying to raise funds through concerts here in Japan; would it be possible for you all to consider a fund-raising concert project to help assist the disaster survivors? You can get information on the foundation (no money-grabbing; I vouch for Kit 110%) from her web-site; all money would go directly to the people of Burma, no ear-marking or deletions." 

The site is well worth a look. It has lots of current news and photos, with a number of buttons that can be used for one-click donations to a variety of responsible groups already doing what they can for the relief effort. You don't even have to organize a concert; just send money. 

Incidentally, the music school itself sounds pretty terrific too. Here's a description from its "about" page: "In Pali and Burmese, 'gita' means music, and 'meit' means friendship. Gitameit Music Center was started in 2003 by pianist Kit Young and colleagues from Myanmar in order to build a supportive community of musicians and audiences locally, and to encourage sustained, meaningful contact with international institutions, teachers and performers. Gitameit Music Center is a non-profit community center and music school in downtown Yangon devoted to music teaching & nurturing, performing, offering exchange possibilities for Burmese students to study abroad, and inviting international artists & teachers for performances and workshops in Yangon."  

Music is one of the best ways of crossing formidable borders. While you have your credit card or checkbook out to donate for cyclone victims, you might give some thought to what the future will be like in Myanmar, and give a bit to encourage Kit's musicians while you're at it. 

And now we come to the audience participation part of this program. On the right side of the page you'll find a simple survey, designed to let us know if anyone's actually reading the new and improved Berkeley Daily Planet on the Web. It won't take a minute, and it will help us understand how we can best serve our readers. 


Scott McClellan Finally Gets Back to Us

By Justin DeFreitas,
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 10:38:00 PM

Hillary's Loss

By Justin DeFreitas,
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 10:29:00 PM

Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Monday June 09, 2008 - 04:00:00 PM



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Pretty good election results. 

Mal Burnstein 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In the District 4 Assembly races, Nancy Skinner received 10,904 votes; between Jan. 1 and May 17, her campaign spent $206,484, for a total of $18.94 per vote. For Kriss Worthington, the numbers are 5,559 votes, $98,907 spent, for a total of $17.79 per vote. Tony Thurman: 4,345 votes, $138,500 spent, for a total of $31.88 per vote. Phil Polakoff: 2,997 votes, $223,463 spent, for a total of $79.56 per vote.  

Make of it what you will. 

Jack Sawyer 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

On Saturday Hillary Clinton endorsed Barack Obama by delivering a well-composed civics lecture—somewhat cold, instructive, rigid. It said what she was required to say, but without spontaneity or heart. What might she have said? When the first boos were heard, she should have shouted, “Stop! I hear some of you booing—just stop it—those boos will elect John McCain. If you believe in me, if you share my hopes and dreams, then you will work as fervently and tirelessly for Barack Obama as you have for me, because he shares those hopes and dreams as deeply as anyone in this hall.” And later, when a lone woman’s voice called out “I love you” she could have said, “Thank you, I love you all—and so does Barack.” Despite her admonition not to look back, her constant iteration of “18 million votes” seemed calculated to do just that. I was troubled by her inability to rise to that crucial moment of concession and give more freely of herself—and I think that shows again the difference between them. 

Jerry Landis 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing this letter to express my sincere thanks and appreciation for Berkeley Technology Academy Principal Victor Diaz and the staff at B-Tech. 

Victor has managed to assemble a through, professional, caring group of teachers, counselors and support staff who in my opinion have no equals in the Berkeley Unified School District.  

My son has been enrolled in the BUSD since pre-school. It has been a very frustrating and difficult journey for us. I was asked to leave his fourth grade class for questioning the teacher about why there were so many students in her class that were “out of control.” All of the “out of control” students were African American males. We have gone from school to school, classroom to classroom constantly having to endure teachers who treated African American children like they were from another world, males in particular. We have endured the frustration of not having teachers who look like us, or could even begin to relate to our children. We have endured being constantly told about the problems of the achievement gap by persons who either helped to create it or benefited from it. 

I have endured being talked to by teachers about my son as if I were another child, or as if I was stupid and really didn’t understand what was going on around me. Little did they know there were times when I was calculating in my head how much jail time I may get if I just decided to beat this person down right here in the school. This is the frustration of an African American parent in the Berkeley Unified School District. 

That was all before coming to B-Tech. 

The first time I saw Victor, I thought. “That’s the principal, he looks like one of the kids!” Looks are very deceiving, Victor and the staff have in my opinion worked wonders with this school, the teachers are a constant reminder to our children of what they can achieve in life. Victor and the staff really care about our kids and it is apparent every time I walk through the door. The Staff are always happy to see parents and treat us like family. Even my son, who has hated school since the fourth grade and has presented the B-Tech staff with lots of challenges, wants to go to College! Thanks to Mr. Rashad’s classes, he wants to run his own business. Thanks to the tough love from Pastor Mike, he understands what responsibility really is. Thanks to Nancy for being the hardest working woman in the BUSD. Thanks to Ms. Martinez and her ‘Dailys’ for teaching my son how to write a paragraph that makes sense (he hates to write.) 

Thank you to the entire staff for believing in the greatness of our children. 

Before I met Victor, my motto was “I’ve never met a principal that I didn’t want to punch in the face.” 

Kathy Dean 

B-Tech parent 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Jeff Ogar (“Torturing the Facts,” Letters, June 5) ends his rebuttal of Doug Buchwald’s defense of the Memorial Stadium oaks against the proposed athletic training center with a jumbled paraphrase of a well-known Ronald Reagan quote, “Mr. Buckwald, cut down those trees!” A less fault-ridden rendering would be, “When you’ve seen one wall, you’ve seen them all.” 

Dave Blake 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The threat of global warming is finally taking its place among the many concerns and challenges facing our world today. However, the measures being taken to limit global warming pollution through means such as cap and trade are faced with surprising opposition. It’s important that we look to strong senators like Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein to lead the way as we fight global warming. 

We need to cut carbon emissions by 80 percent before 2050 and the only way we can make that happen is with public support and commitment to our goal. We can bring about change through direct, resolute action, and for this we need everyone’s support. 

Ruby Salvatore 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding Conn Hallinan’s piece (June 5-11) on the probability of the Bush/Cheney combine starting another war, this time with Iran, I think there is no doubt that something will happen either in the hope that the White House can remain in Republican (read Criminal) hands or toward suspension of the fall election and, at the same time, the Constitution. I have firmly believed, ever since May of last year, when the White House promulgated National Security Directive 51, that something will happen when the time was ripe. If we haven’t learned it yet, we should understand that these people will stop at nothing. NSD 51 is something we should all pay some attention to. I recommend looking it up on your favorite search engine, if only to be prepared for an event in the nature of a putsch by the Bush-Cheney crowd in September or October. If it is not a new war, it will be a staged catastrophe. In either case, our democracy will be at the most serious risk yet. 

Allen Harrison 

Point Richmond 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I watched the leader of a dance troupe teach a simple dance with sticks to a mixed group of kids and adults at the Chocolate and Chalk Festival last weekend. After about 10 minutes of enthusiastic practice they were ready for a run-through. Then a tall gentleman appeared and abruptly yanked two boys out of the set, with complete disrespect for their time and the leader’s effort invested. But—Dad Wants to Move On. 

Dick Bagwell 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I agree that Berkeley and Richmond residents should keep abreast of changes to the shared Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Union Pacific mainline right-of-way. (The former Santa Fe main between Novartis and Orchard Hardware is finally becoming a trail.)  

It isn’t clear what work is proposed. For example, all the grade crossings mentioned in the article—Gilman, Camellia, Cedar, Hearst, Virginia, Addison and Bancroft—are already four tracks wide and have been recently rebuilt. The underpass at Ashby is five tracks wide and University, 40th, and Buchanan clear four tracks wide. It is mostly now a two track mainline on a four track wide right-of-way. Much of the third and fourth tracks are missing or in disrepair but that’s between intersections—not at the at-grade crossings or separated grade crossings. (65th is the only exception I see in person or on Google Maps, satellite view—it is three tracks wide.)  

In Richmond, I think public officials and voters who are helping fund the proposed improvements should keep pushing for a more logical connection between BNSF and UP near Hensley not down at Regatta. 

National issues—such as “buy local,” “Buy American,” and the trade imbalance with China are the root cause of the local traffic.  

Wayne B. Wood  






Editors, Daily Planet: 

Concerning Justin DeFreitas’s cartoon depicting Hillary Clinton’s “loss” in your June 5 edition: You and your cartoonist have a First Amendment right to be rude, sexist, and offensive, so I won’t object to this obnoxious work on these grounds—however, it seems to me the bottom line for cartoons is that they are suppose to be funny or witty—this one is neither. It is sophomoric and mean spirited and not funny. I question your judgment for running such trash.  

David Bunnell 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The debilitating effects of old age are said to be off set by an increase of wisdom. Actually, what passes for wisdom is demonstrably simple: No matter what happens, old folks have seen or experienced something like it before. In other words, the wisdom of old age consists of ignoring the singularity of events while soaring aloft to see every thing connected with everything. Thus, the Iraq quagmire is like Vietnam, the White House under Bush resembles the Nixon White House and, most alarmingly, the multitude of domestic and foreign problems the USA encounters today was prefigured in the deterioration that led to the disintegration of the USSR, so says yours truly, octogenarian. 

The USSR bankrupted itself struggling desperately to match the U.S.A.—nuclear sub for nuclear sub, ICBM for ICBM—in the arms race. Many credit President Reagan’s Star Wars program, although conceived in scientific fantasyland, with winning the race by hastening the USSR’s fiscal disabling. They simply spent more than they had on military technology. Now, we’re doing exactly what our erstwhile superpower nemesis did: squandering our national treasure in profligate and wasteful military spending.  

Next year’s federal budget calls for $1.449 billion in military spending, a staggering 54 percent of the total (War Recourses League). Meanwhile, extravagance and thievery abound. Senator Carl Levin recently warned of a crisis in Pentagon cost overruns: “…major programs…ballooned $295 billion over initial budget estimates…” (New York Times, June 4).  

The arms race ended almost two decades ago leaving us the world’s lone superpower, militarily without peer. And yet we spend nearly as much on our military as the rest of the world combined.  

My octogenarian wisdom tells me that we’re in a period that mixes features of Watergate’s “Follow the money!” with Toynbee’s (1889-1975) notion of history’s cyclical nature. The difference between Them and Us is that we stupidly continue to equipped ourselves to fight an enemy that no longer exists. 

Thus, the road we’re on, similar but not the same as the one the USSR followed, will take us to the same place, bankruptcy.  

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As members of North Oakland Cohousing, who are steadily working to build a cooperative, multigenerational, environmentally sound and sustainable community, we were surprised to see our name and private e-mails published in the Berkeley Daily Planet. We remain committed to our vision of creating a way of housing people that is about being good neighbors. Included in our vision is working to decrease our carbon footprint by sharing resources, reducing waste and conserving energy. Just as important, we are committed to strengthening the social bonds that make for a community that is child and family friendly, where people can age in place, and where all kinds of households can flourish. Trying to put our ideals into practice, navigating real estate development in a highly politicized climate and dealing with a rapidly changing market has been a steep and challenging learning curve for us. We have faced some complex and difficult situations and we care deeply about working on our project in a socially responsible way. We want to be part of solutions to challenges faced by urban neighborhoods. 

After closing our membership for several months to do internal work, we are planning to reopen and start holding orientations. We invite households of all kinds who want to join us in creating cooperative, safe and friendly housing that balances community and privacy. If you believe that we are working on something that interests you and you want to find out more about our goal of building an urban, green and neighborly community, check out our website http://northoaklandcohousing.org and come to an information session. We’ll look forward to seeing you. 

Penny Scott 

North Oakland Cohousing 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

As 35-year Berkeley residents and homeowners, my wife and I started using the neighborhood pools two years ago to regularly attend Senior Water Aerobics classes. These classes have meant so much to both of us as they enable us to exercise in a supportive environment with other seniors and truly give a good workout to our aging bodies whose joints cannot take the impact of exercising otherwise. We urge our City Council to support a November bond measure to repair our aging neighborhood pools. The health and well being of our adult citizenry deserves it. The youth of our enlightened city deserves to enjoy these pools and learn water safety and life-saving skills.  

We understand there are competing needs in tight economic times. However, the health and well-being of your citizens need to take an important place in your decision making process. Again, we urge you to support this bond measure.  

Howard and Cindi Goldberg 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am a concerned 50-year Berkeley resident, homeowner and user of Berkeley city pools.  

Myself and many other seniors make all year round use of the pools for our mental and physical well being we support the bond measure that we hope will be on the ballot in the fall to repair our city pools. 

R. Hansen 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I recently came to the knowledge that your city government passed a resolution disinviting the U.S. Marines from their location and condemning them for their work recruiting new Marines to serve America.  

I believe that you might wish to have the local water tested for pollutants or the air for toxins, because no honest human being living in America could possibly think that the U.S. Marines are a bad thing for this country. Or perhaps you wanted attention for your “fine” city?  

If they voted seriously for this resolution as a matter of communal principle, perhaps you’ll also be so coherent as to return all the federal funding you receive to which I and my fellow veterans have so generously contributed. No? Well, then, your hypocrisy is only outshone by your demonstration of utter ignorance. You would be speaking Japanese or German if not for the U.S. Marines and their generous, courageous behavior on your behalf. Shame on you!  

I would recommend that you urge your city government to pass another resolution, after repealing that ignoble one, to urge you and your fellow citizens to study U.S. history. You all could then apologize to the fine men and women who guarantee your right to act like the utter idiots you are.  

Outrageous behavior is not a valid method of political dissent. Nor is ungratefulness to those who serve you and guarantee your freedom. I know plenty of citizens of Iraq and Afghanistan who would gladly change places with you and who would have no problem sharing anything they owned with any American service member. They know what we do and why we do it, and I truly believe they would bring more to this country than people like you who appreciate so little of what we have here. 

SFC Stacy Spadework 

Washington, DC 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I find it odd that someone like Michael Yovino-Young would so carefully count the number of people on buses from his office on Telegraph and miss so many totally empty automobiles on the same street. Why, it looks like just about the entire right-hand lane in each direction is devoted to totally empty automobiles! They are just sitting there, blocking traffic all day long. How could he have missed that? 

Even the automobiles that have people in them, and are moving, rarely come anywhere near being full. There are trucks, having dropped off some or all of their load, which are traveling on those streets. Why are they not equally a problem? Even if an individual automobile is full, there is so much distance between every two vehicles that the street is almost empty most of the time. 

My experience has been different than Mr. Yovino-Young’s. I see the buses on Telegraph gaining ridership steadily in the past year, since the service was installed. It may be that I am just seeing what I want to see. But no doubt that is true of Mr. Yovino-Young as well. 

Bruce De Benedictis 






Editors, Daily Planet: 

The article on improving rail service to the Oakland Port suggests problems where none exist. Until a few years ago there were four active railroad tracks through Berkeley. Two of these tracks are now unused. So what is being proposed is simply an upgrade and return to service of existing tracks next to the two now in service. The article implies that a mile long train is something new and unusual. The typical freight train has been a mile long for more than 50 years. We will benefit from rehabilitation of the railroad in several ways. The chances of the Capitol Corridor passenger trains being on time will improve. To the degree that truck traffic is diverted to the railroad, I-80 will be less congested. Trains will not have to wait, sending diesel exhaust into the air, to get through the bottleneck between Richmond and Oakland. 

Joe Magruder 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Planning for public transportation improvements in an urban area should have two goals: One, get those who commute into the urban area out of their cars, and two, improve around-town transit for the people who already live in the urban area. 

BRT does not get Berkeley to either of these two goals. 

BRT will not help get commuters out of their cars, as it parallels an existing and very good mass transportation route, BART, from San Leandro to Berkeley. It does not address the commuters who drive into Berkeley from the north, or east, where there are no good public transportation options. 

BRT does not help those of us who live here get around town. In fact, by lengthening the distance between stops on Telegraph, it will make public transportation worse for those who want to travel that local route. 

Real solutions would be to work regionally to provide real mass transit solutions to the commuter cars that flow into Berkeley, such as a BRT from Orinda/Lafayette and San Rafael to the UC Campus, and provide a network of smaller local buses (such as the Emery-Go-Round) that get the locals out of their cars. 

I realize that the money offered to AC Transit is hard to turn down, but unfortunately BRT will not do anything to address Berkeley's significant car problems. 

Anne Wagley 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Code Pink members are a bunch of ignorant, naïve, loonies that only believe in free speech for themselves and not for the Marines or anyone that disagrees with them. They even admit this on a video that I have seen. The City Council of Berkley is just as ignorant and stupid for supporting these traitorous bimbos. I am a retired Marine Major (1949-1972) and a helicopter and fixed wing pilot in Vietnam. I spent more than 20 years of my life defending the right for these Pinko Communist sympathizers to get up on their soapbox and make fools of themselves. But as far as I am concerned, not one of them (Code Pink) or the Berkley City council is worth the sweat off of one good Marine’s testicles! If I had my way I would turn the City of Berkley into a glass parking lot so hot it would not support life for at least 1,000 years. 

Semper Fi! 

Lew Zeigler 

Half Moon Bay 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

President Bush, John McCain and Republicans are set in their ways. Are women, Hillary-women and disgruntled Democrats who say they will vote for McCain instead of fellow Democrat Barack Obama following suit? 

Be absolutely clear about what a vote for John McCain means. McCain as president will automatically load the Supreme Court with more social conservatives and anti-abortionists. Roe v. Wade will be history and McCain and Republican hardliners of a religious persuasion will be free to do as they want. 

A vote for John McCain is a vote against Roe v. Wade and a vote against a woman’s right to choose. 

Ron Lowe 

Grass Valley 


Letters to the Editor

Thursday June 05, 2008 - 10:06:00 AM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I read with interest the Berkeley High athletic scams reported in Oakland and Kensington. I have noticed several young teenagers milling along Shattuck Avenue near the Berkeley Bowl soliciting donations for the Berkeley YMCA. Suspecting that a scam was in play, I asked one young man where the Berkeley YMCA was located. He promptly replied that it was at 56th Street and Shattuck. Being a resident of North Oakland and a member of the Berkeley YMCA, I immediately realized that the address was in North Oakland and that I was in fact being scammed. I asked the young man why on earth would the Berkeley YMCA be in Oakland, but was met with grim silence. Upon looking down on his wrinkled paperwork, I noticed his solicitation forms had been copied so many times that they were quite blurry—evidence that the tools of this scam have been passed on from person to person. Several weeks later while in Rockridge, I noticed the same group of teenagers perpetuating their scam on more innocent victims. Yet a week later, I noticed them again at the Berkeley Bowl. Fed up with their shenanigans, I gave them the option of immediately leaving or speaking with a Berkeley police officer. They left in quite a mood and promptly began cursing at me as they pedaled into South Berkeley. If you see these varmints roving around Berkeley or Oakland, remember that the vast majority of legitimate organizations do not send children/young teenagers out to collect donations unless they are accompanied by an adult and have registered with the city. Don’t let yourself be victimized. This scam is just another form of panhandling. 

Jeffrey Jensen 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Is it only me? Page 11 or your much-appreciated print edition is a destination reminiscent of the 13th floor of the Hilton: I just can’t get there! Forty inches of J.DA-T, with the inevitable “remains to be seen” hook, stands in stark contrast to your team’s many serious efforts at news and opinion—a figurative barbershop amid a small town mall for the mind. Weekly, I am delighted at the opportunity to cultivate an appreciation for the perpetually underpowered “UnderCurrents” column. Weekly. And not unlike Sisyphus. 

Lured again Thursday, hopeful for a perspective on the local struggle for safe neighborhoods and sane neighbors, albeit tempered by election-year finger-pointing and modest multi-level marketing propositions from a self-serving city hall, I was neither prepared for a treatise on the number “803” nor an encore of the previous week’s hit “50.” Fine vehicles they may be, but surely now better served by a graphic or a few choice bullet points, no? And, hmm, when will Allen-Taylor cease tagging the weaker artistry of Chip and Phil? Inquiring minds want to know. 

But imagine my frustration, teased mid-column by references to Measure Y street-level intervention, community-based re-entry, youthful diversion, and mayhem prevention programs—“solid, and defensible” he smoothly opined—to find the pathetic escape, “needs some time to jell.” This, after a full week of local headlines about one of Mayor Dellums’ test cases: a recent homicide long employed City-side and oft-diverted from criminal prosecution? Oh, Jesse, you leave me so unsatisfied! 

Jay Tharp 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

In “South Berkeley Cell Antenna Dispute” ( May 29) Michael Barglow writes that “In many cities, high wattage antennas which face directly into lower income neighborhoods often serve high income neighborhoods much further away.” This dynamic is playing itself out right now in Kensington, where wealthy and politically connected residents have mobilized dramatically to block an antenna proposed above Colusa Circle. 

I urge city and county planners to step into the role of antenna planning, defining multiple sites based on objective criteria (such as equity, height, aesthetics, coverage, and distance from occupied building floors). These sites then need to become veto-proof, so that politically savvy neighborhoods can’t shift the burden. As Mr. Barglow states, having many smaller tower sites reduces the peak radio power needed to provide vitally beneficial cellular services. Excellent antenna sites, like the unoccupied top floors of a storage building, mausoleum, or utility building should be identified and cataloged. 

Every cell phone user should be willing to accept some of the burden providing cell service requires. Antennas must be close to cell phone users. And only governments can effectively ensure the burden is shared. 

Bryce Nesbitt 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’m tired of spotty cell phone service in Berkeley. I understand people are complaining that cell phone towers are disproportionately placed in poor areas. I live in North Berkeley, in the hills. If any major cell provider would like to erect a tower on my house, please let me know. 

Russ Mitchell  





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am sending this letter to let the people in North Berkeley know that there are plans to install so many cell phone antennas in Gourmet Ghetto and vicinity. There are already three antennas on the roof of Barney’s Restaurant at 1600 Shattuck disguised as chimneys. They are operating for more than three years. Four antennas were installed recently on the roof of the building at 2095 Rose St. (at Shattuck). They are across from the Jewish Community Center. 

There are plans to put 12 antennas on the French Hotel and eight with seven pieces of related equipment on the roof of the building at 1625 Shattuck, next to the parking lot of Elephant Pharmacy. So, within three to four blocks in North Berkeley, there will be a concentration of 27 seven antennas and many corresponding equipments. This is too many for such a small area. As many in Berkeley argue now: (a) there should be a moratorium on the installation of wireless facilities till a workable ordinance is put together; (b) antennas should be spread evenly in all neighborhoods. 

Mina Davenport 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

This Tuesday, the first item on the City Council agenda will be a discussion of a cell phone antenna moratorium for the city. Last year the council, contradicting the position of its zoning board, voted to allow five typical low wattage (200 watts) and six very high wattage (1,200 and 1,400 watts) antennas to face homes close to South Shattuck’s UC Storage. In total, the antennas on three sides of the building will emit 9,000 watts of radio frequency radiation directly into neighborhood homes. Of this total, 3,600 watts of this radiation will solely be used for data transmission and have nothing to do with cell antennas conversations and nothing to do with emergencies. 

Until this last month, after the city had hired an independent radiation measurement specialist, no one on the council, nor any other citizen, had been informed of the magnitude nor the exact purpose of these antennas. 

The unpleasant RF radiation burden of cell antennas should be shared more equally and wisely by all our citizens. Cell antennas can be much lower in wattage if they are dispersed more evenly. 

You can help our cause greatly by attending the next City Council meeting, Tuesday, June 10, 7 p.m. at 2134 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way. To support our political and legal fight, please call 526-5075, 849-4014 or e-mail jonel@berkeley.edu 

Michael Barglow 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Nobody should be fooled by Doug Buckwald’s latest attempt attempt to torture the facts. Mr. Buckwald thinks the tree-spassers are “a visible example of the concern that many in our community feel about the fate of this special natural place.” This ignores two undeniable facts. First, a handful of noisy hippies does not comprise “many” in our community. Second, the oak grove is an artificial creation of the university—not nature—as the trees were planted when Memorial Stadium was built. 

Next, Mr. Buckwald claims that the judge issued a preliminary injunction because she believed that the leftist Armada (including the turncoat mayor) was “likely to prevail in a hearing.” Not true. The standard is a “likelihood”—not “likely.” Given the fact that the “harm” sought to be prevented could not be undone absent the issuance of an injunction, I was not surprised to see Judge Miller issue the injunction. I would, however, be quite surprised to see her rule in the extortionists’ favor. 

Mr. Buckwald further exposes his ignorance of the law by arguing that “it is long past time for the university to agree to obey our city laws.” Why? A city is, by definition, subordinate to the state. Under Mr. Buckwald’s view of the law, the City of Topeka’s policy of separate but equal would have trumped federal law. Of course, zealots usually ignore the hypocrisy of their positions so I can’t say I’m surprised. The City of Berkeley has no authority to regulate the State of California. Case closed. 

Finally, Mr. Buckwald calls the trees a “special urban woodland.” Once again I have to wonder whether this self-proclaimed Cal fan has ever been to Memorial Stadium. This isn’t Muir Woods—we’re talking about a handful of trees lining a street. As for it being an “irreplaceable natural resource for the entire city,” I suspect the university’s plan to plant three trees for every one that is removed will create a better and equally natural make-believe “forest” for people to ignore in the future. And as for the “good of our children,” I guess that “our” doesn’t include the parents of our athletes who are forced to use seismically unsafe facilities because curmudgeons like Doug Buckwald and Tom Bates continue to use the courts in their dastardly attempt to thwart progress at Cal. To paraphrase one of Berkeley’s favorite presidents: Mr. Buckwald, cut down those trees! 

Jeff Ogar 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

I found Dr. Phil Polakoff an interesting candidate for the state Assembly. He seemed to stand for many ideas I supported. That was until I received a five-inch long, 1.5-inch diameter tube of clear plastic in my mail box. Inside was a 5 x 4 inch card asking me to vote for Dr. Phil Polakoff. The card also asked me to recycle this matter. 

First of all the plastic has no symbol for recycling on it. Also, even if it did most plastics of this type are not recyclable. Second and most important, how could any person who issued a statement to better the environment send something so environmentally unfriendly? 

After this Dr. Phil Polakoff will not receive my support. I don’t believe his statements about supporting the environment. Even if he didn’t send them personally, he needs to take responisiblity for what gets sent out with his name on it. I was shocked that any candidate would send out anything like this in this day and age and in the bay area. 

I personally do my best to reuse, recycle and reduce my foot print. I work hard to make sure that I use the resources available such as e-waste drop-offs, hazardous materials disposal places, thrift stores, prescription drug drop-off sites, freecycle networks, etc., to get rid of items I can no longer use. I feel it is part of being a responsible part of this planet. 

I think it is time that candidates not only talk the talk they walk the walk. That they think about what they are doing and not just what they think people want to hear. 

Maybe the candidate could give some ideas of how to responsibly deal with these tubes. 

Martha Scheer 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

You’ve got to hand it to the governor: Just as the public began calling for raising personal and corporate income taxes to close the budget gap, Schwarzenegger came up with a truly madcap scheme instead. If he has his way, Wall Street will loan us $15 billion to expand the state lottery. The increased profits, if they materialize, will go into the general fund and into the pockets of our Wall Street saviors. As usual, the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer with every lottery ticket they buy.  

There are dozens of fair and sensible ways of closing the $17 billion budget shortfall. Here are three: First, impose an oil severance tax on the production of crude oil. We’re the only oil-producing state that doesn’t do so and, at the modest rate of 6 percent (compared to 12 percent in Alaska and Louisiana), such a tax would generate a billion dollars in new revenue. As crude oil prices continue to soar in the years ahead, the state will reap even an even bigger windfall.  

ExxonMobil posted the highest profits in industry history last year to the tune of $40.6 billion, roughly the same as the gross domestic product for Serbia. I think this company and its peers can spare a bit of their loot without suffering too terribly. 

Next, legislators should raise the current 9.3 percent tax rate on the richest one percent of taxpayers (couples with joint incomes above $544,460 a year) to 11 percent and increase the rate on joint filers earning more than $272,230 to 10 percent. This adjustment would generate $5.3 billion in new revenue the first year and $4 billion in subsequent years, according to the California Tax Reform Association. Assemblywoman Loni Hancock has introduced a bill (AB 2987) that would do just that, generating in one fell swoop three times the revenue of the state lottery. 

Finally, if we really want to free up some cash, we can cancel the $15 billion prison expansion bill passed last year. On the other hand, if we keep cutting social services and education programs, we’ll need those 53,000 new prison beds to warehouse all the poorly educated, unemployed folks who resort to crime and substance abuse to cope with their position on the margins of society.  

There are plenty of ways to shore up the budget. If only we had a governor with the courage to make the rich and powerful pay their share instead of pretending that California can gamble its way to fiscal security. 

Erica Etelson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I want to commend the teenagers and two teachers on the 88 bus today, May 30. They were going from a school on Alcatraz Avenue to St. Joseph the Worker to do community service and help clean it up. I’m writing this because there are so many negative things said and thought about that age of young adults. To my and other passengers delight they were respectful and relatively quiet on the bus. There were 35-40 kids and two teachers. I thought, oh no, when I first saw them get on, but by the end of the trip my spirits were lifted up. One boy helped an elderly woman when she got off! 

Please print this so they might see it. I had a happy day because of them and their teachers. 

Ellen Levin 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I cannot possibly be the only one to observe, day after day, the extent to which AC Transit has flooded some routes with numbers of buses, increasingly the massive articulated buses, often traveling in tandem, sometimes side-by-side on our major thoroughfares. I see these buses daily from my office on Telegraph Avenue and frequently try to count the number of passengers and often see totally empty buses following other totally empty buses. Comparatively few buses are even moderately full, even during so-called commute hours, and often empty or nearly so at mid-day, when demand is at its lowest level. Often these buses are traveling at higher speeds than necessary and have become an increased danger to bicyclists and pedestrians crossing the wider thoroughfares. 

Is there some conspiracy by AC Transit to make Berkeley residents so accustomed to this greatly increased bus traffic that the creation of special bus lanes will seem to be a relief? Why is it necessary to have such large buses? And where are the statistics to show that they are needed now, let alone in the future, even if there were reduced automobile lanes of traffic?  

It seems to me the entire BRT plan and the purchase of large numbers of super-sized buses is simply a case of needing to find a way to spend the grant monies being offered for mass transit programs. There must be better alternatives. 

I always thought AC Transit was a well-managed public transportation system. I am no longer convinced this is the case. 

Michael Yovino-Young 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

President Bush, at the Alpine height of hypocrisy, has abjured playing golf out of consideration for our dying and dead men and women in Iraq. This is Bush’s claim to empathy. Rumor hath it that Bush’s golf scores have been embarrassingly high lately. Need we say more? He kills two birdies with one stone. The record needs “putting” straight.  

Robert Blau 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In reading Judith Scherr’s article (“LaRouchites Try for a Foothold in County,” May 30), I couldn’t help but be puzzled by the apparent inability of “local Democratic Party activists” to understand my own and fellow LaRouche organizers’ “attempted entry into the local party structure.” As the name of our Franklin Roosevelt Legacy campaign slate clearly indicates, and as we have repeatedly stated in campaign leaflets and at public events, we are seeking to restore the policies of FDR within the Democratic Party. This includes a revival of the historic grassroots coalition of “forgotten men” and women, farm and industrial labor, minorities—and youth. Each of us running have demonstrated this political commitment, through our campaign to stop the Recall of Gov. Davis; our persistent organizing from 2003-2007 for the impeachment of Dick Cheney; our successful mobilization to stop the privatization of Social Security; our role in organizing campus youth to deliver a Democratic landslide in the 2006 midterm elections; and our recent efforts to organize grassroots support for a proposed Homeowners and Bank Protection Act, to freeze foreclosures and reorganize the chartered banking system. 

Because these are national issues, we have been accused of not doing “the nuts and bolts work of building the party and supporting the candidates.” But just what exactly constitutes the “nuts and bolts” of the Democratic Party, if not to fight—at all levels—on the issues that define the livelihoods of the majority of our citizens? 

Perhaps more to the point of why this article was even written, is that the very policies named above are opposed by a corrupted Democratic leadership that has acted against the will of its own base, while serving powerful financial interests like investment bankers George Soros and Felix Rohatyn. It is a leadership—under the disastrous Nancy Pelosi—that has squashed the prospect of impeachment, and therefore any serious action to end the war policy of the current administration. It is a leadership responsible for near criminal negligence in failing to address the very economic survival of the population, as we face the worst foreclosure and banking crisis (compounded now by a worldwide food shortage) since the Great Depression. 

The Democratic Party will not survive unless it returns to the basic commitment embodied by FDR’s policies on behalf of the “forgotten man.” Those who see our candidacy as a threat—as “anxiety-provoking”—either fail to comprehend this basic fact, or do not share that commitment. 

Oyang Teng, Candidate, Alameda County Democratic Central Committee, 16th Assembly District,  

along with Ian Overton, Jon Stuart, Ramiro Bravo, John Craig and  

Ben Deniston 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I hope Joann Conrad and the BCC Urban Anthropology Class have followed up their guerilla planting at Hearst and West by notifying Berkeley’s Department of Public Works of the planting, or better yet, asking the helpful neighbors to notify them. A friend of mine worked hard to plant and maintain an area of native plants at her child’s school only to come one day and find that a maintenance crew had mowed them down, thinking they were weeds. 

Otherwise, great story! 

Nancy Schimmel 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Aquatic Park is a lovely albeit noisy place, nestled between freeway and railroad tracks. There are actually three bodies of water. The main body is long and is home to waterfowl, rowers, water-skiers, walkers, runners, and the odd homeless person. The two “upper” ponds are smelly wrecks. What all three ponds need is fresh water and just down the (rail) road is a great source. 

EBMUD’s water treatment plant is situated about a mile south, between the railroad tracks and the southbound Nimitz (is it still called that?). It discharges, according to its website, 80 million gallons of treated wastewater into San Francisco Bay every day.  

Why not use that (waste) water for purposes of clarification and beautification? Why not extend a mile of pipe north to the southernmost pond? The water could be discharged into the pond using whatever pressure the plant can supply. From pond one, solar-powered pumps could discharge the water over or under the highway on-ramp to northbound 80 into pond number two. Another set of pumps could move the water into the large pond.  

I know there will be objections to treated wastewater. However, not too many people, water skiers excepted, expose themselves directly to the water in any of the ponds. If there are other objections, please feel free to state them (nicely, please!). 

Waterfalls don’t have to be expensive or fancy. They can be made of rough cement–the point is to have falling water, both to look at and to hear.  

I haven’t heard too much recently about the “Living Wall.” Maybe a beautification project with waterfalls could jump-start that issue again. Maybe we could also let the state build its version, then we could build our version right behind it. A sound wall for the freeway and a living wall for the lakeside. 

Aquatic Park needs work. We have the water resource to make it better. Maybe a nice financial agreement between EBMUD, the city of Berkeley, and the state of California could provide us with some relief to smelly, murky ponds, livening up an underused area. 

Jack Jackson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am disabled and have been using Paratransit for the past two years. In many ways it has been a God-send. For $3, I’m able to travel to anywhere in Berkeley or Oakland. Most of the drivers do their job well and are friendly and compassionate. 

My complaints are with management. The pay is too low and the scheduling often makes it impossible for drivers to be on time. It’s hard to be in San Leandro at 3 when your previous pick-up is at 2:45. 

Another serious criticism I have is that the best-conditioned and newest vans unfortunately do not go to the late shift drivers. One week, a driver had to bring back three vans because they malfunctioned. On too many occasions, vehicles have broken down at 12, one o’clock in the morning. At that time, everyone has gone home except the dispatchers. They’re not mechanics. They can’t fix transmissions or engines or anything else. So seriously disabled passengers are left in the lurch. One driver told me that all he could depend on when something went wrong was his wife. “Why would you give someone a good bus who’s coming on at 5 p.m. and has all the help in the world, when the person that’s gotta be out there ‘till 2 o’clock, gets a raggedy bus.” 

It seems a “no-brainer” to provide the late night drivers with the newest and best equipment, like such neighboring cities as Richmond and Hayward do. 

The supervisors of Paratransit have known about this serious problem since the beginning of the year. They have talked about getting new buses but so far nothing has been done. Saving money is a sad excuse for endangering the health, possibly lives of disabled passengers. 

It doesn’t make sense. 

Daniel Rudman 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The 2007 calendar for Berkeley City Council meetings, updated July 5, 2007, indicates that the council’s plans were to meet for 23 evenings in that year. It appears that they took 14 weeks of recess or vacation time in 2007. That leaves 18 additional Tuesdays on which they could have met. In the name of sunshining City Council procedures, 18 more meetings would allow for a more respectful integration of public participation in the democratic process. 

Gene Bernardi, Jane Welford, Jim Fisher 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Loni Hancock writes many great-sounding bills—thirty-two—but passes few—six. 

She gets great publicity for good bills she writes, but little follow-up on those that fail, those she pulls (ex: universities and their communities), and those she fumbles (ex: aerial spray). 

Merrilie Mitchell 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The picture of Berkeley High School Principal Jim Slemp cajoling his students to street action (and skip classes) made my jaw drop! This is the job of a principal? No wonder the academic scores are so absolutely miserable! 

We accept UC students demonstrating, as a right of passage to adulthood. But young teens have no judgment, and propagandizing them is despicable. We protect minors. We have laws against pedophilia. But what about “pedo-politicking?” Jim Slemp is unfit to lead children! 

This picture eerily recalls photos of Albert Speer striding to inspect his Hitler Youth, and Stalin his Young Pioneers, except that these two were better dressed! 

Juergen Hahn 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Berkeley High statement protesting raids by the ICE against immigrant children—many of whom are enrolled at Berkeley High—took place a few minutes before lunch. Students were not required to attend though the vast majority chose to. This is an emotional issue for our students. A few weeks ago government agents arrested a Berkeley family—a former Berkeley High school family. Many of our immigrant students were terrified, many hiding in their classrooms fearful that agents would come on campus to take them away. 

The “ring around the school” was as much a statement to our own students as it was to the community at large. No government agents are allowed on campus. Learning is sacred at Berkeley High. In school our students are safe to study and flourish, and flourishing they are.  

Two weeks ago Newsweek Magazine published its annual list of the top 1,300 public high schools in the United States. The schools on the list represent the top 5 percent of U.S. schools. Berkeley was listed at number 278. They were ranked according to a ratio of the number of Advanced Placement, Intl. Baccalaureate and/or Cambridge tests taken by all students at a school in 2007 divided by the number of graduating seniors. (To see the complete list go to www.newsweek.com/id/39380.) 

Berkeley High’s ranking is a significant achievement and credit goes to our students—across all ethnic lines—who pushed themselves to take hard classes, to our teachers who taught them, to the administration under the steadfast leadership of Jim Slemp that encourages higher level classes and, in no small part, to the community that generously supports our school.  

Janet Huseby 

Berkeley High Volunteer Coordinator 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’m confused with Juergen Hahn’s letter to the editor regarding the BHS protests. Perhaps we read different articles because the story I saw implied the students “could have gone out to lunch if they wanted to, but they chose to stay back for this (protest)” and were not being cajoled to “skip classes” as Juergen Hahn suggests. While I think it’s safe to say there’s a general consensus that protecting minors is a desirable goal, to propose that they have “no judgment” only serves to infantilize them and characterize their moral reasoning ability as ineffectual. Do teenagers often make poor judgment calls? Absolutely. Does this then mean that they should abdicate their moral reasoning ability and be unable to voice their opinions; Absolutely not. We do protect high school students, and these protections extend to the protection of their first amendment rights. In any case, I could think of much worse things high school students could be doing than becoming involved in the issues of the day. 

Michael Moniz 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Berkeley’s aging neighborhood pools are now nearing the half-century mark, and the wrinkles are showing. The necessary major repairs and the improvements in energy use and purification systems require an infusion of funds over and above what is currently in the budget. The warm water pool is soon to be demolished. Its absence will be devastating to the disabled who need water therapy, the injured who require rehabilitation, the seniors whose arthritis is debilitating, and the infants and toddlers who need to learn a relationship with water that is safe. 

Berkeley’s swimming pools are maintained by the city’s dedicated and diligent Aquatics Staff. Because of their efforts, many of us maintain our health with lap swimming, masters’ classes and senior water aerobics. Middle school kids learn to swim in P. E. classes. Children of all ages learn to swim and play safely in the water. Some of them move on to join the Berkeley High swim team. 

A city with a shoreline needs facilities (pools) where kids (of all ages) can learn to swim and understand how to survive in water. We can prevent drownings. 

I urge the citizens of Berkeley and the City Council to place a bond measure on the November ballot, and to vote for that measure. The City of Berkeley needs to continue to provide pools for swimming and water therapy, as well as for water recreation. Even in economically troubled times, we all need to maintain our health, and kids need to learn to swim. Let’s provide funding for our pools. 

Sally Nelson 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Two recent incidents of police violence against peaceful war protesters—one to a mother in front of the Berkeley Marine Recruitment Center and another injuring Code Pink founder Medea Benjamin at the Commonwealth Club—need to be addressed. Neither incident occurred after the protester had “crossed the line” so as to interfere with the rights of others: one was bending over a baby carriage, and Ms. Benjamin was yanked out of her chair and thrown out by an off duty police officer simply because he recognized her. Except for Code Pink and those families directly affected by the war, Americans are largely in a state of numbed silence, but let us not be so numb that we allow violence against those few who refuse to give up. 

Tom Miller 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The entire staff at Herrick Hospital is deeply concerned at the possibility that Kathleen Van Sandt, our full-time classroom teacher, may be moved. We are devastated by the letter of reassignment Kathleen has received from the Berkeley Unified School District. We wish for the school district to find an alternative solution. 

We are asking the Berkeley community to support us to this end. We are sending the Berkeley Unified School District a signed petition to urge a reversal of any decision to move Kathleen Van Sandt.  

We have listed a number of crucial points:  

• Kathleen has developed a comprehensive and engaging curriculum to support the hospitalized students served at Herrick. 

• Kathleen averages between 17 to 20 students daily. Students in day treatment and hospitalized students are able to continue their education. Independent study is offered as well. 

• A typical primary teacher in Berkeley has a top class size of 20 students.  

• Kathleen generates the same ADA (average daily attendance) monies that a K-3 teacher would generate.  

• The hospital census on the adolescent unit continues to fluctuate. However, our excellent physicians are actively seeking to increase the number of adolescent patients needing treatment.  

• Her personality and teaching style mesh remarkably well with the students and staff at Herrick. The students adore her. She brings multicultural awareness, scientific inquiry and Shakespearian language to our classroom. 

• The classroom has a long history of teachers with varying degrees of success. Kathleen has been the most successful. The classroom environment is enriched with technology, art and literature. 

• Herrick’s classroom has enjoyed a delightful renaissance since Kathleen’s arrival in 2005.  

Alta Bates-Summit is a major donor to the Berkeley Public Education Foundation. Herrick Hospital is a major community entity in Berkeley and supports the Berkeley Schools. We are asking for their support in return.  

We insist that Kathleen be permitted to remain in her present position at Herrick, until the hospital moves to Oakland in 2012. She is, in essence, irreplaceable. 

Please voice your opposition by contacting Bill Hyatt, the new Berkeley Unified School District superintendent at 644-6147 and/or Associate Superintendent of Educational Services Neil Smith at 644-6257. 

Contact Information for the BUSD Board of Directors: boardofed@berkeley.k12.ca.us will send your message to all of the board. 

Voicemail: 644-6550. 

Bart Foley 

Mental Health Specialist 

Herrick Hospital 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thanks for the nice commemoration of the old U-Save Market. Another thing to mention, of interest to curious students who know there’s no source of all-night groceries within the city of Berkeley, is that the U-Save was 24 hours. Circa 1967, a co-owner and I had one of the first lunch carts at Sather Gate (brown rice and vegetables, another whole story) and we did all our shopping at Tay’s Produce, a concession inside the store. The late “Uncle Tay” was a fine and friendly greengrocer who sold us everything we needed in the way of reasonably-priced vegetables for our cooking in the early morning hours to be ready for lunch at 11 a.m. While it’ll be good to have a TJ’s in Berkeley (perhaps ideally not in that location), much of the chain’s produce is wrapped and packaged; Tay’s legacy of fresh fruits and vegetables is carried forward by his relatives at the long-lived Monterey Market, Berkeley’s friendliest and most reasonable produce shop. 

Sandy Rothman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It was a little startling to read Matthew Lasar’s rant against the Daily Planet in last week’s edition. I always thought Berkeley was a place that valued dissent, not one that implored newspapers to censor criticism. I am a member of KPFA’s board and hopefully not one of those described as “wanting power and pandering,” but regardless, his point is not well-taken. 

KPFA’s premiums are pretty darned expensive, ranging from $60-$120. I understand why, costs are always going up, and financial times are tough. For those who can afford to subsidize a voice for the voiceless at that rate, four times a year, that’s wonderful. God bless you and keep it up. You’re making an important contribution. But we all know not everybody can afford it. Nor does everybody have a fast, powerful computer that can handle fat audio streams. So if you’re really trying to get voices out to places that don’t have a lot of resources, the FM band is important, as are CDs you can toss into any $25 boom box. 

So Phelp’s point about making timely (not three-year-old) material accessible via the radio band is reasonable. It deserves consideration. There’s nothing distorted or incendiary about it. 

Fundraising is always a challenge. How do you do it so it blends with your mission and doesn’t detract from it? It’s a tough question. No easy answers. 

But its very dispiriting to see genuine questions about how money is gotten, the digital divide and class in American society greeted with such defensiveness. And such begging the question. 

It contributes to an atmosphere of slinging op-eds when we need to do better than that in order to meet the challenges. I don’t want to see KPFA staff “forced” to author combative op-eds. I don’t think that’s their job. I think its their job to acknowledge fair criticism, and try to work out solutions. I think it’s the job of the Planet to provide a forum for points of view to be aired and rationally discussed. And its the job of the stations community to engage with hard questions and try to figure how we want our local, listener-sponsored media to interact with us: those of us with the resources and those of us without. So we can get the maximum bang for the buck out of the progressive media we have left. 

Tracy Rosenberg 

Managing Director, Media Alliance 

KPFA Local Board Member 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

In response to those who are holding up the N Judah light rail line in San Francisco as a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) style model for Telegraph, I have something to say. I grew up right next to the N Judah line in the Sunset District where it uses dedicated lanes on a slightly raised track bed. But it is not necessary to be as intimately familiar with the N Judah as I am to understand why it works there. Along it’s dedicated section (from Ninth Avenue to 48th Avenue), Judah is mirrored two blocks away by Lincoln Avenue, which is a four-lane major artery and an excellent example of a close parallel redundancy. When they made the N Judah tracks bed dedicated lanes, the majority of Judah traffic merely switched to nearby Lincoln Avenue. Today, a relative minority of cars use Judah here because it is so slow. The point is that Telegraph does not have a close parallel redundancy like Judah. There is nowhere else for the cars to go. This makes it clear to me that AC Transit does not appear to understand or is plain out not telling the truth about how traffic works in Berkeley when they predict that traffic congestion increases would be “not that bad” if BRT went in. As 

for the notion that people will switch from driving to buses because of the speed of the bus, can’t we please start thinking about the real reasons that people don’t take buses? I am on my knees begging. 

Joseph Stubbs 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As the contest for the Democratic party’s nominee for the next president seems more and more likely to go to Senator Obama, the issue of whether Senator Clinton should seek the vice presidency becomes increasingly interesting. 

No one doubts Senator Clinton’s sincere desire to be our president. Would becoming vice president help her chances?  

Historically, a number of vice presidents have, of course, become our president or made a strong run for the presidency. 

Most recently, the first President Bush was VP under President Reagan. President Reagan was shot by a would-be assassin in 1981 and survived. GHW Bush was later elected in his own right and became President in 1989 after Reagan had served two full terms in office.  

Gerald Ford was President Nixon’s VP and became president in 1974 when Nixon resigned after Watergate. 

Hubert Humphrey was President Johnson’s VP and made a strong but losing run for the presidency in 1968. (Johnson had declined to run for a second term because of the Vietnam War.) Humphrey was only .7 percent behind the winner in the popular vote count. 

Richard Nixon had been VP under President Eisenhower but lost when he ran for president himself in 1960. He ran again and won the presidency in 1968. 

President Johnson had been VP under President Kennedy and became president in 1963 when President Kennedy was assassinated. 

In the last 45 years, four prior vice presidents have become president: two were elected in their own right, one succeeded a resigning president, and one after an assassination. And one VP (Humphrey) came quite close to being elected. 

In the same time period, no senator who ran for president was elected. But four governors became president (GW Bush, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, and Jimmy Carter). 

While none of the above predicts the future, such considerations might have some weight in the thinking of a senator who seeks the presidency but who may be denied the nomination for president. 

Senator Clinton would only be 61 in 2009 and would still be young enough to be a serious contender after either four or eight years of an Obama presidency.  

On the Obama side, what qualities do presidents tend to look for in a vice president? Two such qualities may be loyalty and competence. If Senator Clinton can demonstrate those qualities in her dealings with Senator Obama, her chances of reaching the presidency through becoming vice president may increase. 

Brad Belden 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Have you seen the bumper stickers “Stop the Aerial Spraying,” placed mere inches away from the cars’ toxic exhaust? We don’t know if the synthetic pheromones from aerial spraying are harmful, but we definitely know that the carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, particulates, and nitric oxides spewed by automobile drivers kill tens of thousands every year. I trust that spraying opponents Robert Lieber and Dick Andre, writing in the Planet, will tell us how many years ago they gave up emitting aerial toxins from their personal transportation choices. 

Then there are the locals protesting the impact of immigration raids on Berkeley High, even though the agents never set foot on school property. Wait a minute. Aren’t these the same folks who want to spend more and more money on education while they ignore that the flood of immigration has overwhelmed California’s schools, destroyed the fine educational system we once had, and created the problems they want to spend money to fix? 

Berkeley hypocrites. Don’t you love them? 

Mark Johnson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On May 27 a special teleconferenced public meeting of the UC Regents’ Committee on Grounds and Buildings was held in Oakland, to receive public comment and to vote on two big building development projects proposed to be constructed up on the steep hillsides of the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL) and on the north side of Strawberry Canyon. The regents’ committee received considerable public comment, all requesting that these two projects be built elsewhere nearby, where there would be far less environmental damage, earthquake safety hazards and traffic congestion problems. However, after very little discussion among the regents themselves, they voted unanimously for the immediate approval of both projects. 

Edward Denton, the UC campus vice chancellor for planning, design and construction, stated on May 27 something to the effect that the proposed building sites are more than a half-mile away from the Hayward Fault. If he’s doing his job, then he had to know that assertion is false. Back in 1975, when I was the principal engineer in the campus Office of Architects and Engineers, we retained Civil Engineer B. J. Lennert, working conjunction with geology Professor Garniss Curtis, to trace the Hayward Fault. He traced it right through UC property, between LBNL and the campus. Dr. Curtis recently wrote the following admonition: “No! Major buildings of any kind should not be built in either of these canyons (Strawberry or Blackberry Canyons) bordering this huge block of unstable rock.” 

Many of the regents appear to be influential people, whose concern seems primarily biased in favor of private financial interests, with little concern for environmental problems and public safety. The Helios project, proposed to be located on the edge of Strawberry Canyon, is primarily funded by foreign oil money, BP (formerly British Petroleum), at an estimated half billion dollars, to do yet poorly defined research. As public support for university sponsored research dries up, the trend is to shift to corporate support. This clearly compromises the integrity of the research and the scholarship of the university. 

In my opinion the Tuesday meeting of the regents committee was a sham. I suspect the approval of these two big projects was privately discussed and decided well before the public meeting. Nonetheless they had to conduct a public meeting, to be in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The regents’ action is now on a 30-day hold pending their publication of the May 27 meeting minutes. Now is the time to pursue legal opposition to the proposed LBNL locations for these projects. 

John R. Shively 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

An initiative defining marriage as “between a man and a woman” qualified for the November election, which will bring national attention back to California, and might just skew the election in favor of the Republicans. The initiative is no different than defining patriotism as wearing a flag lapel pin. 

The marriage measure is a Republican thing. The GOP feels that if it can get independents and moderates to vote for this measure they will go right along and vote for John McCain and other anti-tax Republicans. 

This is a narrow-minded and misguided piece of legislation tailored to the Republican agenda. 

Ron Lowe 

Grass Valley 

What Total Compensation Is and What It Is Not

By Tim Donnelly
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 10:07:00 AM

There was a time in the misty, not-too-distant past, when Sacramento’s Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA ) was passed along directly to their Teachers and Classified Staff. No More. 

In the Berkeley Unified School District, our Human Resources newsletter annually features a condescending little paragraph about how the COLA is not really for the living: “...but must also meet the increased prices of bus fuel, textbooks, light bulbs, etc....” Perhaps they are confusing the Cost of Doing Business Adjustment (CODOBA)? Among management prerogatives is not the power to bestow life upon light bulbs, textbooks, gasoline. 

We are the Berkeley Council of Classified Employees, representing 450 employees of the Berkeley Unified School district, the Office/Technical and Classroom Support units. To break it down further, we are: secretaries, accountants, instructional assistants, instructional technicians, program specialists, parent liaisons, interpreters for the deaf, library media technicians, computer specialists, and a dozen other jobs which may be harder to describe. We are essential, living components of this district. And we are negotiating a new contract. 

We believe our objectives are reasonable: 


Paycheck integrity 

Our (expired) contract stipulates that: 

A payroll overpayment shall be repaid to the district over the same period of time the error occurred unless other arrangements are made with the director of classified personnel or designee. (CBA 9.10.3) 

This passage wreaks havoc with our members, who may take on extra duties, change health plans, or make other changes, only to find later that they’ve been overpaid for months. We believe this passage to be in violation of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. 

Our sister classified union, IUOE Local 39, has contract language that requires the district negotiate repayment on an individual basis. This has the desirable side effect of requiring the district to explain and prove the error(s). 


Orientation for new hires 

Classifieds speak with one voice here: the Berkeley district is a complex, not to say labyrinthine, work environment. Why aren’t we educated about these complexities for an hour or two before we’re plopped into position? 


More training 

This district relies a great deal on classified staff, yet our inservice training days have typically consisted of pep talks from motivational speakers who have no idea what we do, and brainstorming sessions that render great ideas which are never implemented. For example: “We could include our paraprofessionals in team meetings!” 



Among the “reforms” to Worker’s Compensation pushed through by Gov. Schwarzenegger, only one was of benefit to workers—the ability to predesignate one’s personal physician in the event of a work injury. The district is insisting that predesignation forms will only be accepted during the annual six-week open enrollment period; and that these forms must be re-submitted every year. We believe this burdensome policy violates the spirit, if not the letter, of the law. 

We have not had a salary offer yet from the district for the 2007-2008 school year. This is distressing. 


Further, the district want us to agree to a definition of total compensation that burdens the union with obligations that properly belong to the district. These are, specifically; retiree benefits, step movement, and new costs under the old caps. 


Retiree benefits 

BCCE does not represent retirees. We do not bargain for retirees. The district is responsible for the cost of retiree benefits. 


Step movement 

In the first five years of employment, we are compensated for our growing expertise by “steps” up in salary. This is mandated by the district’s Merit Rules. By this nefarious logic, we are charged for those members in their first five years of employment, as well as those in promotional positions. To take the cost of this from BCCE’s annual salary adjustment is to make us responsible for the district’s poor retention of employees. 


New costs under old caps 

When we negotiated a cap of $880 for the 2006-2007 school year, we paid for it out of our total compensation. If my premium this year increases from $600 a month to $700 a month, I still pay nothing. The district pays $100 more. That’s already been agreed to. That’s already been bargained. 

We understand that these are legitimate costs that the district must meet. But we can not agree that they’re part of our compensation. These are prior agreements for which the district is liable. 

BCCE refused, in May of 2007, to sign an agreement that called these district costs part of our increase. The board agenda claimed and the Daily Planet reported “an increase of 4.7 percent in salary and benefits.” 

Our salary increase was 4 percent. The .7 percent consisted of these costs which were the proper responsibility of the district. These costs remain the proper responsibility of the district and we will never agree otherwise. 

We know that this year’s salary increase, like last year’s and next year’s, will be subsumed by increases in health and dental premiums. Such is the fate of the disappearing middle class. In this light, we feel deeply that the district should be making non-financial concessions, particularly those that make us more valuable and valued employees. We are confident that the Berkeley community will see the reasonableness of our position. 


Tim Donnelly is president of the Berkeley Council of Classified Employees. For more information or to read BCCE’s contract, go to BCCE6192.org. 

An All-Out War on ‘War’

By Marvin Chachere
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 10:08:00 AM

I grow increasingly irritated, like a grain of sand in my shoe, when people who make a living talking misuse ordinary words. I am especially enraged when these word merchants—politicians, journalists, newscasters, pundits of all sorts—without exception refer to over 60 months of horror killing in Iraq as war.  

It breaks my heart that more than four thousand young Americans have been killed and over 20,000 severely wounded in Iraq but my grief turns into rage when I hear “war” used again and again no matter the context to refer to our military occupation of that God-forsaken country. 

Words not only name, they also classify and so, when word merchants unanimously misclassify the quagmire in Iraq as a war they are slovenly, mischievous, careless or worse. To talk war where there is no war is a suicidal cognitive act; it kills the ability to distinguish between murder and justified killing. 

I am not agitated by metaphoric usage— war on drugs, war on poverty, war on crime. Also, I’ve learned, with effort, to keep my cool when word merchants in lock step with Bush talk about a war on terror. Terror is extreme fear and we need to control fear; fear, FDR cautioned, is the only thing we need to fear. Okay, it’s weird syntax but where’s the harm, I ask myself, in making war on fear? 

Language is a dynamic thing; it changes with time. Some words die out and some acquire new meaning. For instance, political bashing has caused a reversal of meaning for certain words—“liberal” and “elite” were once complimentary but are now pejorative. Furthermore, I don’t think I’m nit-picking—as when I object to being called Marv—and even if I am, then the nit I pick here and now has both historical precedent and deadly consequences. 

In an essay that has grown in influence during the five decades since he wrote it George Orwell noted that language is connected to thought and that the words we use become “… ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish…” (“Politics and the English Language”). Surely Orwell, no stranger to war, would deem “war” in reference to Iraq as ugly and inaccurate. 

To some extent Christine Kenneally recently updated Orwell. After surveying a variety of studies linking naming, a linguistic act, with thinking, a cognitive act, she concluded that “For the most part naming enhances thinking. But it can trip us up, too” (The New York Times, April 22). Indeed it can. 

The “war on terror” not only trips us up, it’s used as a bludgeon, to silence dissent (the Patriot Act), to justify excessive executive powers, to legalize torture (enhanced interrogation techniques), to advance personal ambition, and to enrich the rich, for example, by spending more to defeat “a ragtag band of terrorists than (was spent)…in the Korean and Vietnam wars” (“Indefensible Spending,” Robert Scheer, L.A. Times, June 1).  

To my mind, however, the most egregious misuse of “war” is in talking about the brutal, barbaric, horrific, purposeless and costly killing that has gone on for far too long in Iraq. Bush and word merchants who follow him tell us he is a wartime president. “The nation is at war.” (Bush gave up golf but most of us gave up nothing). “The president has wartime powers.” (He can wiretap whomever he wants). “Iraq is a war zone” (It’s ruled by officials protected by our military). These twisted usages of “war” would be comical were they not so stupendously tragic.  

To be sure, there is mass killing: Iraqis kill our soldiers; our soldiers kill Iraqis; Iraqis kill Iraqis. Iraq is a dangerous place for everyone.  

No one denies that we have enemies who will kill us any way they can even if doing so means killing themselves; after all, Iraqis see our military running and over-running their homeland. Furthermore, the logic is clear: war means killing soldiers but killing soldiers does not necessarily mean war.  

Words matter; “quagmire” is not as exotic as “war,” but it is certainly more accurate. “War” does not name an object that, like “a rose,” remains the same even if renamed. “War,” properly used, names the activity of two military forces mortally engaged against one another.  

The enemy in Iraq 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 weaponry the world has ever seen. Our enemies, on the other hand, have only the weapons they can carry or make at home. This is the sense in which the mess in Iraq is not war, the sense in which misusing “war” sets me ballistic; 

Finally, consider the fact that although the commander-in-chief is the principal swinger of the bludgeon of “war” he wants to keep from view those tragic but inevitable consequences of our military actions in another’s country, the coffins in which his soldiers’ dead bodies are returned home. 

A few weeks 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. Thus, the commander-in-chief wants to have his cake and eats it too. 

There is a straight line connecting “war” to mendacity and—given the lies offered to justify the Iraq invasion—the line traces back, from mendacity to “war.”  


Marvin Chachere is a San Pablo resident.

The True State of City-University Relations

By Doug Buckwald
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 10:08:00 AM

There is one obvious reason that Mayor Bates turned his annual State of the City address into an invitation-only private affair this year. It is just so much easier to twist and distort the truth if knowledgeable citizens are kept out of the audience. I will focus on one small part of the speech, to give you some idea of this approach in action: How did Mayor Bates characterize relations between the city and the university? 

“On balance, excellent,” Mayor Bates crowed. He was able to say this, first of all, because to him the “city” means elected officials and city staff, not the residents of Berkeley. For many residents, unfortunately, relations with UC Berkeley simply could not be any worse. But Mayor Bates doesn’t know the details about this because he does not talk to these residents; their substantially-deteriorated quality of life is not important to him. After all, he lives far enough away from the university’s noise, traffic, pollution, litter, and huge high-rise construction projects to be unaffected by these impacts. 

Bates acknowledges that the city is suing the university over its massive expansion plans for the Southeast Campus area, near Memorial Stadium. But then he quickly suggests that a compromise settlement is in the offing. “We’ve talked to the university about various things we’d like them to do, like reduce the number of cars in that parking garage. They say they’ll do that. They’ve now said they would repair the stadium at the same time as they would build the high performance facility. They’re working with the neighbors. If we could have gotten this kind of negotiations going a year and a half ago…a lot of these problems could have been put behind us.”  

I’ll start with Mayor Bates’ outright lie: Contrary to what he says, the university is not working with the neighbors. Chancellor Birgeneau has repeatedly refused, and still refuses, to talk with neighbors at all. Worse yet, he does not even acknowledge—let alone respond to—letters addressed to him on this subject by neighborhood associations, community groups, neighborhood leaders, or student groups. It is true that Nathan Brostrom, the vice chancellor for administration at Cal, has held a handful of meetings with small groups of students and neighbors—but the clear purpose of these meetings was simply to reiterate the university’s hard-line position: In short, they plan to build whatever they want, whenever they want, wherever they want—period. That’s not negotiating—that’s issuing orders like a feudalistic lord. Excuse me, but aren’t we out of the Middle Ages yet? 

Another interesting point in the above comment is how the city’s previously-expressed position about the proposed parking garage on Piedmont Avenue—a preference that it be moved closer to downtown—has been replaced with a much more conciliatory request to “reduce” the number of parking spaces it would hold. How silly. This does not change the fact that this is an utterly ridiculous location for a new multilevel parking garage—on a traffic-choked two-lane road in the most inaccessible part of Berkeley, just a few feet away from the Hayward Fault! Not only that, it is entirely possible for the university to take more effective steps to get faculty, staff, and employees out of their cars so that they won’t need another parking lot there. Here is a perfect opportunity for the university to show some true environmental leadership. The proposed parking lot is an irresponsible, unsustainable, and unsafe idea; it should be taken off the table for those reasons alone. 

And, it’s funny that Mayor Bates would say, “If we could have gotten this kind of negotiations going a year and a half ago…” The fact is that many neighbors tried to get negotiations going with the university over two years ago on this matter, and they were completely stonewalled. Not only that, residents have been trying diligently for the past four decades to negotiate in good faith with the university about its construction and expansion plans, and university officials have consistently turned a deaf ear towards them—if not outright lied to them. It is a dismal and disrespectful record. In fact, I do not know of a single university in this entire country—either public or private—that treats the residents of its host community as bad as the University of California treats Berkeley citizens. 

Mayor Bates winds up his comments about the university in a very telling fashion: “I’m dedicated to still reaching out and working with the chancellor and the university. Tonight was a good example when the chancellor felt free to call, and said let’s figure out what we can do. In that spirit, I want to continue working with him.” This may sound positive on the surface to some, but this attitude is really the heart and soul of the problem. As long as Mayor Bates thinks that the resolution of this issue is to be found in one-on-one talks in private between him and the chancellor, we are doomed. The chancellor has made it abundantly clear that he has no concern about the harm done to the quality of life of Berkeley residents; and, lip service to the contrary, Mayor Bates has shown by his actions that he is prepared to be equally dismissive. 

The only way this will change is for neighborhood representatives to be at the table during the negotiations, and for all interested citizens to be invited to participate before any agreement is reached. That is the modern, democratic, and socially responsible way to resolve problems like these. Welcome to the 21st century, Mayor Bates and Chancellor Birgeneau? 


Doug Buckwald is a UC Berkeley graduate and a 28-year resident living in the Southside. He was a presenter at a national conference on best practices in city-university relations two years ago. To view the entire State of the City address by Mayor Bates, go to www.kpfa.org/berkeley and click in the center of the screen where it says “click to listen.”

Correcting the Record on NoCoHo and the ‘Kingfish’

By Karen Hester and Joan Lichterman
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 10:09:00 AM

The May 29 commentary, “NoCoHo at the ‘Kingfish’: Anatomy of a Deception,” is a vintage Bob Brokl hit piece, venomously twisting and misrepresenting whatever fragments of information he had. For what purpose? We can think of a few reasons for his piece and the timing: Use the co-housing group to attack his traditional opponents—incumbent City Councilmember Jane Brunner, who is running for re-election, and creative local developers of mixed-use projects in the Temescal District that meet Oakland General Plan guidelines for transit-corridor housing. Another may be to hide the court’s dismissal of his group’s lawsuits against these and similar developers. 

Brokl’s made-up narrative contains too many errors to respond to point-by-point, but several corrections are needed. 

North Oakland Co-Housing (NoCoHo) did not “enter a marriage of convenience with a high-density/multistory advocacy group” to develop a community on the Kingfish site on Claremont Avenue. Only one of the co-housing group’s members (Joan Lichterman) is a member of the urban planning group Urbanists for a Livable Temescal-Rockridge Area (ULTRA) because of common goals: the desire to develop mixed-income housing along transit corridors to increase neighborhood diversity and minimize our carbon footprint. 

As neighborhood and co-housing activists, the two of us and another member of the nascent co-housing group discussed approaching these developers more than two-and-a-half years ago, when the market was very different than it is now, because we thought they would be sympathetic to the goals of co-housing. (Briefly, co-housing is a collaborative community in which each household has its own complete unit but also shares extensive common space, which enables people to live in smaller quarters. Co-housing communities share leadership and decision-making as well, which is done by consensus—a gratifying but sometimes painfully slow and frustrating process.) 

Despite the tremendous desire for co-housing in the Bay Area, development of co-housing presents a number of challenging obstacles, including land costs and the time-consuming process of creating community and reaching consensus on all decisions. Temescal’s two thriving co-housing communities are very small, and North Oakland Co-Housing’s founders had larger ambitions: to create a multigenerational, multiethnic community in a walkable urban area, thinking that 25 or more households would help the group achieve affordability and diversity. 

Few developers are open to the challenge of working with a group at all, and especially a group of people who know nothing about development—let alone one that uses consensus decision-making. We worked long and hard to persuade these developers (Roy Alper, Ron Kriss, and Patrick Zimski) to even consider working with a co-housing group. One of the originators of co-housing in the United States, Chuck Durrett, thought it was very smart to approach local developers who already had land—which would help overcome a major hurdle for a group attempting to develop housing in one of the nation’s most expensive markets. 

Among other hurdles to overcome was opposition to multistory development by people like Bob Brokl, whose group’s lawsuits have contributed to delays and increased development costs. No deception was involved in making the argument that higher density would reduce the per-unit cost of development. It’s a fact! This is particularly true in a building that has large shared common space and facilities—the heart of a co-housing community. 

There was no attempt to deceive City Council. Oakland city planners said there was no way legally to guarantee that the site would only be co-housing because co-housing is an informal, not a codified, living arrangement (which uses a condominium financial structure). The negative feasibility study which the group received shortly before the City Council hearing threw the group into disarray, from which it is slowly recovering. At City Council, those who spoke in favor of the project said everyone was working hard to develop co-housing at the site, but it can’t be guaranteed—there are too many uncertainties. 

Until recently, the group had not seen details about how the budget was derived. The Kingfish developers seriously questioned the feasibility study and later presented an alternative proposal that had a much lower cost. However, because of the doubts cast on the project by the feasibility study and market changes since the group entered into an agreement with the developers, there weren’t enough people in the group who felt they could go forward on that site. 

Although the group is now looking at other sites—which Brokl incorrectly claimed was being done before the City Council approved the Kingfish site—not everyone agrees with the figures used in the feasibility study. The two of us and the developers believe it is still possible to create co-housing at the Kingfish site. The story hasn’t ended yet for the Kingfish, nor has it ended for North Oakland Co-housing. 


Karen Hester and Joan Lichterman are both community and co-housing activists and members of the steering committee of Urbanists for a Livable Temescal-Rockridge Area (ULTRA). Karen is one of the founders of Temescal Creek Co-Housing; and Joan is one of the founders of North Oakland Co-Housing, and speaks here only for herself, not for the group (in keeping with the group’s ground rules). For more information about ULTRA, North Oakland Co-Housing, and co-housing in general, see www.ultraoakland.org, www.northoaklandcohousing.org, and www.cohousing.org. 

Cuba: If Change Is in the Air, Does Prosperity Lie Ahead?

By Jean Damu
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 10:10:00 AM

While aging anti-Castroistas in Florida and New Jersey continue to terrorize gullible U.S. politicians into supporting their quixotic dreams of returning Cuba to the ranks of U.S. gangster economics, this island nation has defied all rational odds against its socialist survival. 

Today while it not only remains the planet’s inspirational outpost of humanitarianism and social justice, in fact Cuba appears to be thriving. 

How is it possible? Just a decade and half ago Cuba faced economic ruin as 30 percent of its economy vanished overnight with the dismantlement of the Soviet Union. People were hungry and it was not unusual to have to wait all night for a bus to get home. 

Unbelievably, today it’s actually easier to get fresh fruits and vegetables in the various municipalities of Havana than it is in many neighborhoods of the America’s largest cities. 

Here vegetables and fruits straight from the ground and the trees are available at prices most Cubans can afford. 

Sleek new buses maintain regular routes, the vintage U.S. cars, for which Cuba has long been famous, while not extinct are becoming rare, the stores are well stocked and the people are generally well dressed. 

Life definitely seems to be on the upswing here and change seems evident everywhere. 

Relaxing in the shade of a private home in this seaside resort village, just 25 kilometers east of Havana, a foreigner who has seen Cuba in the best of times and worst of times can be forgiven for concluding that Cuba’s new found prosperity is based on three things: China, Venezuela and tourism. 

And while China, Venezuela and tourism have impacted Cuba with many much needed benefits, including oil, busses and tourist industry jobs, it would be selling Cubans and their socialist vision short to say that others are primarily responsible for their recent successes. 

The truth of the matter is that as early as 1996 the Cuban economy began to grow at the very healthy rate of eight per cent per year. 

During that period, euphemistically referred to as the “special period,” Cuba began to radically diversify its economy by recruiting foreign investment and turning toward tourism as a source of badly needed currency. 

More recently, in 2006 specifically, with the emergence of Venezuela and China as major players in the global marketplace, Cuba’s foreign exchange earnings jumped by 30 percent thanks largely to income derived from the export of medical services to Venezuela and several Caribbean islands. 

Cuba used a portion of its foreign earnings to purchase 7,000 buses from China’s Yutong Corp. 

It is these new Chinese buses that now ply the streets of many of Cuba’s cities and have made the old tractor-driven camellos, the old tanker-looking buses that resembled camels, on to which several hundred people at a time would jam themselves, invisible throughout major portions of the island. 

Plans to refurbish the Cuban railway with Chinese rail cars and locomotives built especially for Cuba apparently still have not happened, as Cubans openly disparage the rail system. 

But other changes, some more deep-seated but less visible, are now becoming apparent. 

For instance the supposed crisis of leadership that most of the world assumed existed when it was announced Fidel Castro, due to his diagnosis of cancer, would temporarily step down as head of state, it turns out was never a crisis at all. 

The national media in the United States, taking its cue from the Bush occupied White House ground out stories designed to embolden the anti-Castro communities, telling the world that either the Cuban people would rise up in the wake of the rudderless Cuban ship of state and re-impose democracy (read capitalism), or alternatively the people would be distraught with grief at the impending demise of their great leader and social turmoil would result. 

Neither scenario was anywhere close to accurate. 

Cubans interviewed in the street on their way to work, after it was announced Fidel was seriously ill with just limited chances of survival, took time out to chastise the Cuban leader for working too hard and not taking better care of himself. 

In fact the Cuban people’s confidence in the Cuban system, with or without Fidel, was reinforced during the general elections held earlier this year. 

In a move that took no one by surprise the ailing Castro announced he would not run for re-election. 

And while no one was surprised that Raul, Fidel’s 76-year-old brother, was elected to replace the elder Castro as president of the Council of State, what was somewhat surprising were indications of the ever increasing role of blacks and women in the Cuban political process.  

In the wake of the January elections 35 percent of the National Assembly members are black, up from 33 percent in 2003 and 28 percent in 1998. Forty-three percent of the National Assembly members are women, making Cuba one of the world’s leaders in the percentage of women in representative government. The U.S. Congress is made up of just 16.8 percent of women by comparison. 

Despite all these positive indicators it would be a mistake to give the impression life is easy in Cuba. It is not and it never has been. 

So questions remain. Especially, how will the younger post-revolution generation respond to the challenges confronted by Cuba in her constant struggles with her great imperialist neighbor to the North? 

Indications are the youth may not be so patient. 

In what is now a famous incident in Cuba, in February, a student at the University of Computer Science, Eliecir Avila, stood at a microphone in a meeting with National Assembly president Ricardo Alarcon and asked pointed questions about the Cuban economy. When, he asked, could Cubans expect to be allowed certain rights and privileges citizens of other countries took for granted? 

All his questions were good questions; questions many Cubans, not just the youths, were asking themselves. 

What was equally interesting about the Alarcon-Avila exchange was that an enterprising computer science student recorded the question-answer exchange on a cell phone video, downloaded it to a computer and put it on the Internet. 

It thus became an item of island-wide, even international discussion. 

While it was reported in some quarters of the United States that Avila was later arrested by Cuban authorities, the truth is that he was taken to Havana, put on a television round table forum and the discussion on Cuban economics and conditions of life continued. 

Some answers to the student’s questions were not long in coming. 

Late in April, the Council of State, the elected representative body of the National Assembly that carries out policy between sessions of the Assembly announced new economic and social reforms that would allow Cubans access to services and consumer products heretofore denied them. 

It was an impressive, if token, response to Cuban’s desires to “look like everyone else.” 

It was a token response because allowing Cuban access to tourist hotels, and lifting restrictions on the sale of cell phones, microwave ovens, dvd players, items that were formerly restricted to conserve energy, is only meaningful if people have the economic capacity to purchase such things. Most still do not. 

But the willingness of the Cuban government to listen to the people and to respond in some measure is a clear signal Cubans think Cuba is well on the road to recovery. 

Of course given the free market nature of the global economic system that exists now, likely Cuba will never return to the days when the socialist world gave fair and equal sustenance to the Cuban economy. 

But change is in the air and you have to like Cuba’s chances of flourishing once again. 


Jean Damu can be reached at jdamu2@yahoo.com. This article first appeared in the San Francisco Bayview. 


School District Poised at a Time of Opportunity

By John Selawsky
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 10:10:00 AM

Berkeley Unified School District has renewed its efforts to address the achievement gap in our public schools. With City of Berkeley, community, and Alliance (a partnership of UC, the City of Berkeley, and BUSD) support, the district is in the early stages of drafting a proposal that will go to the school board before our summer break, and pending the result at the school board go to the City Council for their feedback and consideration. 

There are many aspects of our achievement gap that have been vexing and frustrating for many in our community, much of our staff, and the board. We have put structures and systems in place that have attempted to address many of the issues that are factors in the achievement gap, such as reading recovery and more focused language/arts instruction in our elementary schools, universal breakfast, a realignment of resources and energies in our special education program, bringing small learning communities (small schools) and the International Baccalaureate program to Berkeley High School, mentoring/tutoring opportunities for our middle and high school students, improving attendance and truancy systems in our schools, developing school safety plans, the Y Scholars, improving data gathering and assessment, strengthening our school library program, and discussions about focusing our professional development, for both teachers and principals, around best practices and successful instructional practices. These are only some of the many programs we have put in place to address the needs of all our students, at all levels, in our Berkeley public schools. There are many areas where improvement is needed, or we have only begun to scratch the surface, and I would be the first to admit and acknowledge these areas. However, much work and collective energy has gone into this issue, and every Boardmember has placed it high on our list of priorities. 

We are actually poised at a time of opportunity. The budget and systems problems of my first few years on the board are largely (knock on wood) behind us. The board hired William Huyett as the district’s Superintendent, with the explicit goal of addressing the achievement gap, of picking up where recently retired Superintendent Lawrence left off. Superintendent Huyett comes to Berkeley with a track record of success in his former districts. We have a new data assessment department, admittedly new and still “under construction,” that is a key to instructional and curricula improvements. We have a board and a community committed to tackling the achievement of all our students in a concerted, long-term effort, and partners that will support us. We are galvanizing the will that will get us the results we want. I believe we will see improvements in many areas. 

None of this will be easy, or come about in a short period of time. We will have to constantly evaluate and re-evaluate our programs and practices, we will have to align curriculum and instructional practices and staff development, the board will consider aligning the district’s Mission Statement and goals and objectives with this refocused initiative. At the 2 x 2 meeting last week (the Mayor and Councilmembers with two School boardmembers, Nancy Riddle and myself), there was general consensus and positive energy about moving forward, together, to build capacity, systems, and structures that will help us address the achievement gap. I pledge my support of that effort, and my continued involvement. 

Please contact me at jwebsky@earthlink.net if you have comments or suggestions. Please support your school boardmembers and your city government in this unified endeavor. Also please consider making a donation (part or your entire “economic stimulus” check from the IRS?) to the Berkeley Public Education Foundation, another essential partner with the district. You can call the BPEF at 644-6244 or go to their website at www.bpef-online.org for information about tax-deductible donations. 


John Selawsky is president of the school board. 




Public Eye: Hillary’s Judgment

By Bob Burnett
Tuesday June 10, 2008 - 04:03:00 PM


On June 3, at the end of an epic contest, Democrats nominated Barack Obama as their presidential candidate rather than Hillary Clinton. Sixteen months ago, few would have predicted that a relatively unknown African-American Senator would defeat the famous wife of the 42nd U.S. President. While many factors contributed to the outcome, the grueling campaign highlighted a critical difference between the candidates: Obama demonstrated better judgment than did Clinton. 

Given Senator Clinton’s lengthy experience in the public eye, it’s surprising that her decision-making was less astute than that of Obama. But this difference between them was obvious from the onset of the competition. Senator Clinton ran as someone who had voted to give President Bush authority to invade Iraq, while Obama had opposed the war from the onset. Curiously, Clinton never apologized for her critical lapse in judgment. 

Clinton’s campaign had three fatal strategic flaws. Because she was the heavy favorite, HRC ran as the inevitable candidate rather than offer a compelling single reason why voters should choose her. When Obama became the proponent of change, this cast Clinton as an advocate of the status quo. The second flaw was that Clinton relied upon conventional fundraising, a relatively small number of large donors who would max out to her campaign; Obama used the Internet and developed a huge number of small donors who would contribute periodically. As a result, Obama raised more money than did Clinton. The third flaw was that Clinton assumed the election would be over by Super Tuesday, February 5th, and therefore her campaign did not pay proper attention to states such as Virginia whose primaries came later and she did not take caucus states seriously. Although experienced men and women surrounded HRC, ultimately these flaws were the product of her faulty decision-making. 

When Clinton got behind in the delegate battle, she adapted and reeled off victories in states such as Pennsylvania and her political persona changed into “Hillary the fighter.” While this transformation energized her campaign—and proved effective with blue-collar voters—it also produced a string of nasty attacks on Obama: Clinton slammed him for the statements of Reverend Wright, condemned his tangential association with former Weatherman Bill Ayers, and argued he was fatally inexperienced, that even Republican John McCain would do a better job as President. These tactics showed questionable judgment. 

As it became obvious that Obama had an insurmountable delegate lead, HRC’s campaign launched a two-pronged response. First, they suggested selection of the eventual Democratic nominee should not be based upon the number of delegates won, but rather on the total popular vote cast in the caucuses and primaries. There were three crucial problems with this line of reasoning: it ran counter to party rules; it included the flawed Michigan primary where Obama and other candidates honored an agreement to take their names off the ballot, whereas Clinton did not; and, it did not count certain caucus states. 

The second response of the Clinton campaign to Obama’s impending win was to play the race card: Senator Clinton and her surrogates suggested Obama was not electable because in the general election he would lose the votes of blue-collar workers, because he was black. 

As the competition entered the final few weeks, Clinton lost a critical primary in North Carolina and it became apparent she had no chance of winning the nomination. When asked why she continued, HRC responded she still hoped to convince Democratic super delegates to rally to her cause and quipped there were only a few weeks to go and “We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June." Many interpreted this as a suggestion she remained in the race because of the likelihood Obama might be killed. While this outrageous comment was widely condemned, Clinton never apologized to Obama. 

In the last days of the campaign, the Clinton campaign searched for reasons for their loss and chose to blame it on sexism. They condemned the media, Democratic Party officials, the Obama campaign, and even Senator Obama. But an independent study indicated the media coverage was remarkably even-handed.  

On the evening of June 3, after it was clear that Obama had garnered the Democratic nomination, Clinton spoke to her supporters and refused to concede. In defiant tones she said, “In the coming days, I'll be consulting with supporters and party leaders to determine how to move forward with the best interests of our party and our country guiding the way.” As partisans chanted, “Denver, Denver”—an apparent suggestion she should appeal the outcome in the August Democratic convention—HRC asked them to e-mail her suggestions for her next course of action. Her speech lacked graciousness. 

Some have criticized the 17-month-long Democratic nomination competition as taking too long and costing too much money. However one feels about this grueling process, it subjected both Clinton and Obama to a pressure-cooker environment that revealed their true character. Hillary Clinton had three serious flaws: an unwillingness to recognize mistakes; a refusal to apologize for errors; and a lack of civility. Ultimately, all of these derived from a fatal lack of judgment. 


Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. He can be reached at bobburnett@comcast.net

Dispatches From The Edge: Iran—Rumors of War

By Conn Hallinan
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 10:04:00 AM

The May 8 letter from U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-MI), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, to George W. Bush, received virtually no media coverage, in spite of the fact that it warned the President that an attack on Iran without Congressional approval would be grounds for impeachment. Rumor has it several senators have been briefed about the possibility of war with Iran.  

Something is afoot. 

Just what is not clear, but over the past several months, a number of moves by the White House strongly suggest that the Bush administration will attack Iran sometime in the near future. According to the Asia Times, “a former assistant secretary of state still active in the foreign affairs community” said an air attack will target the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Quds Force garrisons. Not even the White House is bonkers enough to put troops on the ground amid 65 million Iranians. 

There is a certain disconnect to all this, particularly given last December’s National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) concluding that Iran had abandoned its program to build a nuclear weapon. The NIE is the consensus view of all 16 U.S. intelligence services. At the time, the report seemed to shelve any possibility of war with Iran. 

However, shortly after the intelligence estimate on Iran was released, the old “into Iraq gang” went to work undermining it. 

According to Newsweek, during his Middle East tour in January, President Bush “all but disowned the document” to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. A “senior administration official” told the magazine, “He [Bush] told the Israelis that he can’t control what the intelligence community says but that [the NIE’s] conclusions don’t reflect his own views.” 

Neither do they reflect the views of Vice President Dick Cheney or Defense Secretary Robert Gates.  

In an interview with ABC during his recent 10-day visit to the region, Cheney downplayed the NIE: “We don’t know whether or not they’ve [the Iranians have] restarted.” Cheney also said Iran was seeking to build missiles capable of reaching the United States sometime in the next decade. 

On April 21, Gates said that Iran was “hell bent” on acquiring nuclear weapons, and, while he was not advocating war with Iran, the military option should be kept on the table. 

A month before Gates’ comment, the White House quietly extended an executive order stating that Iran represented an “ongoing threat” to U.S. national security. The Bush administration claims that the 2002 resolution that led to the war in Iraq gives it the right to strike at “terrorists” wherever they are. Last September, the Kyl-Lieberman Sense of the Senate resolution designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a “terrorist organization.” 

The administration has sharply increased its rhetorical attacks on Iran in a way that is disquietingly similar to the campaign that led to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Take the current charge that the Quds Force is arming anti-American groups in Iraq and providing them with high tech roadside bombs and sophisticated rockets. 

General David Petraeus, the new head of Central Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that “special groups” are “funded, trained, armed and directed by Iran’s Quds Force… It was these groups that launched Iranian rockets and mortar rounds at Iraq’s seat of government” in the Green Zone. 

Patraeus replaced Admiral William “Fox” Fallon, who had openly opposed a military confrontation with Iran. 

But the United States has never presented any evidence to back up those charges. U.S. officials say the rockets pounding the Green Zone have Iranian markings on them, but they have yet to show any evidence to that effect. And, as for the special roadside bombs, or explosively formed penetrators (EFP), the evidence is entirely deductive. 

The U.S. argues that the copper core used in these bombs requires using a heavy machine press and that Iraq has no such presses. But before the invasion, Iraq was the most industrialized Arab country, with a sophisticated machine tool industry, and a study by Time magazine says the cities of Basra, Karbala and Najaf “may indeed have such presses.” 

The Time article, “Doubting the Evidence Against Iran,” concludes, “No concrete evidence has emerged in public that Iran was behind the weapons [EFPs]. U.S. officials have revealed no captured shipments of such devices and offered no other proof.” 

The lack of evidence has hardly cooled down the rhetoric. President Bush said in a speech at the White House that “two of the greatest threats to America” were Iran and al-Qaeda.  

U.S. preparations for war, however, have been more than rhetorical. According to the Israeli website, DEBKAfile, Cheney’s trip to the Middle East in March was seen in the region as a possible harbinger of war. “The vice-president’s choice of capitals for his tour is a pointer to the fact that the military option, off since December, may be on again,” DEBKA concluded. “America will need the cooperation of all four [countries he visited]—Oman, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Turkey.”  

There has also been a steady build-up of naval and air power in the region. A new aircraft carrier battle group has been assigned to the area, Patriot anti-missile missiles have been deployed, and U.S. naval forces in the Eastern Mediterranean have been beefed up. 

What would likely happen if the United States did elect to attack? Militarily there is little Teheran could do in response.  

Iran’s army is smaller than it was during the Iran-Iraq war, and in a recent “show of force” its air force mustered a total of 140 out-of-date fighters. Its navy is mostly small craft, and while it has anti-ship missiles, Teheran would probably think twice about trying to shut down the Gulf. The current regime depends on the sale of oil and gas to shore up its fragile economy. 

While the White House portrays the militias in Iraq and Hezbollah as Teheran’s cats’ paws, that is nonsense. The militias in both countries will act on the basis of what is in their interests, not Iran’s. 

There is talk that Iran might target Israel, but the Israelis have made it clear that any such attack would be met with a massive retaliation, probably nuclear. “An Iranian attack will prompt a severe reaction from Israel,” National Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Elizer warned, “which would destroy the Iranian nation.” 

In any case, it is far more likely that Israel would attack Iran than vice versa.  

Any American attack would further isolate the United States in the Middle East. Ethan Chorin, of the conservative Center for Strategic and International Studies, says U.S. threats against Iran are running cross current to efforts by other nations in the Gulf region to establish a détente with Teheran. “The U.S. seeks to defend the Arabs from Iran, but they are increasingly trying to defend themselves from the U.S. efforts to defend them against Iran,” he wrote in a recent commentary in the Financial Times. 

All the war talk, says Chorin, “is translating into increasing open sympathy on the part of many Gulf Arabs for Iran and increasing skepticism about U.S. efforts to isolate the country.” 

A U.S. war would deeply divide Europe as well, and might lead to a German withdrawal from Afghanistan. What Russia’s, China’s and India’s response would be is not clear. China and India are major clients for Iranian natural gas. 

Domestically, the Bush administration may see this as its only opportunity to hold on to the White House. The Republicans know they are going to lose seats in the House and the Senate, but at this point the race for the presidency is still tight. Might a new war against the demonized Iranians make voters stick with “war hero” John McCain? It’s a long shot, but this administration has always had a major streak of riverboat gambler about it. 

All this talk of war, of course, could be sound and fury signifying nothing. But it might also be the run up to a limited conflict, maybe one set off by a manufactured incident.  

Once unleashed, however, no one controls the dogs of war. As hard as it is to imagine, war with Iran might top the Iraq War as a foreign policy disaster.

Undercurrents: Confusion Over Perata Endorsement in State Senate 9 Race

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 10:05:00 AM

OK, I’ll bite. Who did termed-out State Senator Don Perata end up endorsing as his successor in this week’s Democratic primary for the 9th Senate District? (A race won easily by 14th District Assemblymember Loni Hancock over former 16th District Assemblymember Wilma Chan.) 

If you can figure it out, please drop me an e-mail. Myself, I’m thoroughly confused. 

Throughout the spring, Ms. Hancock and Ms. Chan both included Mr. Perata’s name on endorsement lists on their respective websites, indicating that Mr. Perata was doing a dual endorsement. That was an indication that Mr. Perata either didn’t want to—or couldn’t—pick sides in one of the most important political decisions in our region. That’s okay, if he didn’t want to choose between Ms. Hancock or Ms. Chan, although not quite the demonstration of leadership that Mr. Perata’s supporters keep reminding us that we’re getting from him. 

But then it got worse. 

In a May 12 Political Blotter blog published online by the Oakland Tribune and the Contra Costa Times entitled “Don Perata Un-Endorses Wilma Chan?” political writer Josh Richman wrote that Mr. Perata’s name and picture had pointedly disappeared from Ms. Chan’s online endorsement list. “Two Chan campaign staffers haven’t yet returned phone calls and e-mails about this,” Mr. Richman wrote, “watch for updates if and when they do.” 

I watched. Didn’t see any updates. So a few days after the Richman piece was published, I decided to check on this myself. 

I called Mr. Perata’s Sacramento office and was told someone would call me back. They didn’t. 

The folks in Ms. Hancock’s campaign headquarters said they had no idea what was happening with the Perata-Chan endorsement; for their part, they knew that Ms. Hancock had Mr. Perata’s endorsement, and were happy to send me a recent letter to that effect, if I wanted. 

The folks in Ms. Chan’s campaign headquarters said they would have no comment on why Mr. Perata’s endorsement had been taken off their campaign website or on whether or not Mr. Perata had withdrawn his endorsement, and suggested I should call Mr. Perata’s office (see paragraph, above, about my call to Mr. Perata’s office). That sounded like a confirmation from the Chan campaign that they’d lost the endorsement, for whatever reason, and I thought that settled the matter. 

A few days later, however, I saw one of Ms. Chan’s campaign staffers at a press conference and was talking about the situation, and was told something different. There had been some “confusion” about the Perata endorsement, they said, whatever that meant, and they had pulled Mr. Perata’s name from their endorsement list while they were “checking” with the senator’s office to “straighten it out.” 

In other words, the Perata-Chan endorsement might still be in play. 

And sure enough, last Friday, the weekend before the election, comes a mailer in my box entitled “Don Perata Sets The Record Straight About the Senate Race” containing an undated “personal message” from Mr. Perata to Oakland neighbors saying that “I am writing personally to ask your vote for Wilma Chan to represent Oakland in the state senate, on Tuesday, June 3.” 

To which the Hancock camp cried foul. 

On Saturday comes an e-mail blast from Hancock campaign manager Terri Waller, saying that “the Chan campaign [just] sent out a blatantly dishonest last-minute letter purportedly signed by Senator Don Perata stating that he supports Wilma Chan for state senate. In fact, Senator Perata supports Loni Hancock. Senator Perata called Loni on Friday afternoon to let her know he was furious that Ms. Chan had sent out this bogus letter.” 

One would think that Mr. Perata, who is able to get on television pretty much when he wants to, would use this opportunity to set the record straight that Ms. Hancock’s campaign said was made crooked by the Perata-Chan endorsement letter mailer. 

He didn’t use the media. Instead, on Monday, comes one of those robo-calls on my voicemail message, recorded by Mr. Perata, saying that he was “calling to set things straight for Tuesday’s election. Please join me in supporting Loni Hancock for Senate.” 

Except, because there never had been any question whether Mr. Perata was supporting Ms. Hancock, that didn’t actually set things straight at all. What was at issue was whether Mr. Perata was still supporting Ms. Chan as well. About that, the state senator was silent in his call. Was the endorsement letter sent out by Ms. Chan’s campaign “bogus,” as Ms. Hancock’s campaign was charging? At least before the election was over, the voters of Senate District 9 never got it straight. 

If this were merely the last act of a soon-to-be retiring politician trying to get his final bit of time in the media spotlight before bowing out of the public scene, this would qualify as an amusing story, and nothing else. But there is a bit more at stake here. If you believe the talk, Mr. Perata continues to have his eyes on the position of mayor of Oakland, with plans to run as early as 2010, when Mayor Ron Dellums first term is being completed. San Francisco Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson—who seems to have an inside track in the Perata camp—wrote last February that the Oakland mayoral seat might be a “good fit” for Mr. Perata. 

If the public is having a hard time figuring out such a simple thing as whether or not Mr. Perata is endorsing Ms. Chan or Ms. Hancock or both as his successor in the 9th District Senate seat—something which could easily be cleared up by a single, unambiguous statement from Mr. Perata—can you imagine how much confusion Oakland would be in for if the State Senator were to be elected as mayor? 

If Mr. Perata were to be elected as Oakland mayor—either in 2010 or beyond—he would find, as have other legislators who have transitioned over to local mayoral seats, that it’s a difficult transition, largely because of the heightened level of public scrutiny that is met on the local level. Mr. Dellums (U.S. Congress), Mayor Tom Bates of Berkeley (state legislature), and former Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris (state legislature) all had to make the adjustment. 

On the surface, it would seem as if the higher the office, the higher the scrutiny, and so members of Congress and the California legislature would have a greater public spotlight on them than a mayor or City Councilmember. But that’s not true, at least not on day-to-day issues. On the big ticket items—war votes or restructuring of health care, for example—Congressmembers and State Senators and State Assemblymembers get an intense spotlight shown on them, what positions they take, and how they ultimately vote. But on most issues, even controversial issues, legislators are able to avoid the public eye of back home constituents. 

An example. 

On Monday of this week, the Sacramento Bee published a story about the introduction of new California legislation on bacteria testing on raw milk in the state. “A Central Valley lawmaker plans to introduce a bill that would overturn new state health regulations that a Kerman dairy has been fighting for months,” the Bee reported. “The proposal by state Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, comes just a week after a Superior Court judge upheld the new standard, designed to promote cleanliness at the state’s two raw milk dairies. The legislation, to be co-authored by Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland [emphasis added], would eliminate bacteria limits that treat raw milk like pasteurized milk. Instead, labs would test more for disease-causing pathogens such as E. coli. The bill is supported by the dairies but is likely to face resistance from farm regulators? Regulators say the [raw milk bacteria] limit [imposed by the new state regulations] ensures cleanliness and that dirty dairies are more likely to breed pathogens.” 

I don’t know whether the new state raw milk bacteria standards are needed, or whether the bill sponsored by Mr. Florez and Mr. Perata would make raw milk unsafe. But knowing how much dust was stirred up recently in local city councils in the East Bay by local citizens over the state’s proposed moth spray program, one would guess that if the local public knew that there was a move in the legislature to change the inspection standards for bacteria in California milk, folks would want to have a bit of a say in it, and would want to ask Mr. Perata to explain himself and his position on the issue. 

If the local public knew. 

As far as I can see, however, the story was not covered in the San Francisco Chronicle or the Oakland Tribune or the Tribune’s affiliate East Bay papers, a normal practice. The Chronicle and the Tribune’s parent company don’t maintain a Sacramento bureau, and so little of what our elected representatives do in the state legislature gets reported back to us. 

There is another distinct difference between the scrutiny officeholders get in the state legislature and what they get in City Hall. 

Unless it is political junkies who turn on the California Channel to watch legislative deliberations, or special interest groups (I say this without using this as a pejorative, but only as a description) who travel to Sacramento to lobby for or against particular legislation or budget items, the day-to-day operations of the California State Legislature are rarely, if ever, witnessed by the public. That is far different from what happens in City Council. In Oakland, Berkeley, Emeryville, San Leandro, Richmond, and all points in between and beyond, a core of citizens regularly attends and monitors both the general City Council meetings, as well as the meetings of most Council committees. In addition, local citizens keep up with the weekly or bi-weekly Council agendas, including downloading many of the online backup materials and actually reading them, with some local bloggers reviewing and dissecting the mix.  

(Unfortunately, while the Berkeley Daily Planet covers week-to-week activities in Berkeley City government, including the mayor’s office and City Council, neither the Chronicle nor the Tribune nor any other media outlet—with the sole exception of the East Bay News Service’s Sanjiv Handa—covers such activities in Oakland City government, but that’s another issue.) 

Would Mr. Perata be a “good fit” in the Oakland mayor’s office, as my good friend, Mr. Johnson, submits? Perhaps Oakland voters will get a chance, soon, to weigh in on that issue, as there is every indication that Mr. Perata is making plans to run for that office in 2010, whether or not Mr. Dellums stands to run for re-election. But then again, there was every indication that Mr. Perata endorsed Ms. Chan to be his successor in the District 9 Senate seat in Tuesday’s election. Or didn’t endorse Ms. Chan. Or endorsed Ms. Chan and Ms. Hancock, simultaneously. 


Wild Neighbors: The Liminal Life of the Sea Roach

By Joe Eaton
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 10:18:00 AM
A western sea roach on the beach.
By Ron Sullivan
A western sea roach on the beach.

Last week I wrote about an encounter with migrant phalaropes at Hayward Regional Shoreline. On that same day, we wound up having lunch at the edge of the Bay, on a narrow beach littered with driftwood and miscellaneous flotsam and jetsam, including an abandoned doll.  

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something small-maybe an inch long—and dark scurry across the sand and under a driftlog. It could have passed for a cockroach except for my impression that it had too many legs. 

The birding was slow at that point, and I was curious enough to keep watching for more activity. Pretty soon I was seeing these odd creatures everywhere. I had been right about the legs: they had to be some kind of crustacean, not an insect. They had long antennae and some kind of forked apparatus on their rear ends. In the course of scuttling from shelter to shelter, a smaller individual bumped into a larger one and grappled it briefly before moving on.  

Then we discovered Slab City. The concrete slabs at the edge of the water were teeming with these things, whatever they were. We noticed not only size differences but color differences: some were decidedly darker.  

Back home, I tracked the creatures down in J. Duane Sept’s Beachcomber’s Guide to Seashore Life of California. They were western sea roaches (Ligia occidentalis), AKA rock lice or sea slaters. Classified as crustaceans-relatives of the crabs and shrimp-they were more specifically isopods, which seems to mean “equal feet.” I’m not sure what the size differences signify, but the color variation had to do with exposure to sunlight. Mostly active at night, sea roaches become darker by day.  

Ed Ricketts wrote about them in Between Pacific Tides, noting that a Japanese relative demonstrates “the beginnings of social order”: “The animals move back and forth, in a more or less orderly procession, along apparently established routes from shelter among upper boulders at high tide down to the lower beach to feed. The procession is led by the older members of the tribe. The casual impression gained from watching our own Ligia is that of an aimless, disorganized rabble, dispersing in various directions.” 

We talk about the invasion of the land by aquatic animals-marine scorpions venturing out of the shallows, fishlike amphibians waddling onto an ancient shore—as if it were something that happened once and for all millions of years ago. But in fact it’s still going on, species by species. In their own way, fiddler crabs, mudskipper fish, and other littoral creatures are making their own accommodation to the land. And so is the sea roach. 

Although it spends most of its time on the beach, the sea roach still breathes with gills. Since those gills require moisture, the creature is still tied to the sea—at least to the shallows and tidepools. On a regular basis, it has to return to the water and wet down its rear end, where the gills are located.  

Many isopods have gone whole hog for the terrestrial lifestyle. The garden-variety sowbug has evolved pseudotracheae like those of insects and arachnids that allow it to breathe air. But about half the members of the ten-thousand strong Order Isopoda have not yet made it onto the beach. Some, in fact, thrive in the most extreme of marine environments.  

On the floor of the deep ocean, in total darkness and at chilling temperatures and enormous pressures, the isopod Bathynomus grows over a foot long. It’s a scavenger, relying on food—including the occasional whale carcass—that drifts down from surface waters. Bathynomus is an example of abyssal gigantism, the tendency for unusually large species to evolve at great depths, where predators are rare and food resources are stable. 

Other marine isopods live nearshore, like the Harford’s greedy isopod (Cirolana harfordi), the dermestid beetle of the sea: marine biologists use it to clean up fish skeletons for study. Still others, slender reef dwellers, cling to seaweed and snag passing morsels of food with long forelegs. 

The most bizarre of the lot is a parasitic isopod, Cymothoa exigua of the Gulf of California. There’s a photograph of one in Carl Zimmer’s splendid book Parasite Rex. This isopod invades the mouth of a fish and eats its tongue. Then, in a grotesque kind of partnership, it actually replaces the tongue: the fish uses the isopod to grip and swallow prey, of which the isopod presumably takes its cut. I don’t know how this works out for the fish in the long run.  

In comparison, the sea roach is pretty much benign. It has found a comfortable niche on our rocky (or rocky-equivalent) shorelines, and as long as it’s able to dip its butt in the water, it will do fine.  





About the House: On Getting Caught

By Matt Cantor
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 10:17:00 AM

There’s an old aphorism that says that it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. Bad phrasing, I’d say. What this old saw attempts to convey is that you are more likely to get what you want when you go ahead and do something and face have to ask for forgiveness than if you were to ask for permission in advance, facing the possibility that your desire may be withheld. 

Construction projects are fraught with this schism of logic and nowhere more so than when dealing with the giver of permits and conductor of inspections, your local building authority. 

I was at a house the other day and discovered to my moderate surprise (I’m pretty hard to shock) that an entire two-car garage had been built without any permit whatsoever. From my perspective this is SUCH a bad idea. Not that I was particularly worried about the construction or those things that the city inspector might have observed to improve the final product. The thing that made me smack my already rosy face was that, in the absence of any city approval, the finished product could end up being torn down by edict of the municipality if they can show that this structure would not, for some reason, have been allowed in the first place. 

I, for one, would want to know such a thing in advance of putting hundreds of hours into a project. Now, don’t get me wrong. I do not consider the permit process concomitant with fine construction. One reason is that municipal inspectors miss plenty, not because they’re inattentive, but simply because the circumstances of city inspections are so tightly constrained. Also, good construction is not a function of following the codes. The codes are useful but they do not even begin to guarantee high quality construction. 

Notwithstanding, taking on a large project without a permit is simply foolhardy because you may end up having to redo or remove some or all of your efforts. That said, I see a great deal of work where this never happens. 

I know that many, if not most of the kitchen and bath remodels I see were done without permits. Some are not much more than a change of cabinetry along with a few fixtures in the same locations as their predecessors. These don’t make me blanche, although I am often curious as to what may have ended up hidden behind cabinet or drywall. Knowing that these recesses had been viewed, if only briefly, by a trained eye will give me a little more confidence in the workmanship, although I know that, by the law of similars, I can make a damned good guess as to what’s hidden.  

That law, you all know, even if you don’t know that you know it (got that) is that people tend to do what they tend to do most of the time. If I find loose tile, a miswired outlet, a poorly secured cabinet and linoleum flopping up along the edge of the wall, there’s a good bet that there will more of these misfeasances hidden behind the wall.  

Conversely, when each T is crossed and each I is dotted, it’s pretty unlikely that I’m going to find hidden errors. I can’t tell you that this works 100 percent of the time but it’s surprisingly reliable in my experience. 

But I digress. If you get caught having remodeled a kitchen or bath without a permit, it is not likely that you will be forced to tear all of it out. You will likely be forced to pay a double permit fee (a common practice in building departments) which is not a huge sum and you may be asked to remove enough finish material (drywall, etc.) for the inspector to see if you’ve done things right most of the time (they use THE LAW too). But this is not the serious scenario. Building a building, pouring a foundation or adding an apartment can result in a very bad day for you when the neighbor calls (it’s always a neighbor) and the city inspector ambles in the door as you put the finishing touches on the garage conversion. 

I could stand on ceremony and hawk some bilious philosophy of rectitude about how you should always follow the rules but I won’t waste your time (or mine). People do a lot of work without permits and much of the time, I couldn’t care less, but a large job and particularly one that the city would not be fairly certain to approve is such a bad idea that I cannot account for the mentality that produces it.  

A client called me the other day about her fear that when getting a permit for an upcoming job (a seismic retrofit in her case) that the city official would stray from the inspection of this particular job and take note of several other upgrades that she had overseen in her long tenure at this property. While I could not tell her precisely what would happen, I told her the following. 

Building inspectors do not have the time in the course of their work to do a lot of extra-mandatory investigation. I’m not saying that it does not happen, but it’s far less than you might think. City inspectors are so tightly booked that most have little beyond five to ten minutes at a site, which also accounts for the many items that they never get a chance to catch, even when those items specifically apply to your project. This means that they simply do not have the luxury to explore your property in search of past sins. 

These inspectors are often on the lookout for signs of additional living spaces (apartments) that are not in the city record and they’re also looking for a few things that have to do with basic safety. Two of the things they are often looking for are the presence of smoke detectors in all the necessary places (mainly bedrooms and hallways). Inside keyed locks (aka double cylinder locks) that require a key to escape are also dangerous enough to take a muni inspector off their path. These should be replaced by single cylinder locks if identified since they can prevent escape during a fire. 

There are times when the obtaining of a permit seems a nuisance and it’s hard to tell that the city will bring much to the party for all the trouble. Small repairs are typically done without permits and a range of small exterior improvements have always been allowed without permits (e.g. decks below 30 inches, fences of 6 feet or less). It’s the big project that becomes a serious problem. Regardless of the quality of construction, a large project should never be done without a permit. Even if you do it safely and conscientiously, you could end up having to tear it down and nobody want to try to console you while you sob over a garage. Lost love, yes but not a garage. 

Pondering the Pillar

By Jane Powell
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 10:16:00 AM
Like the Wicked Witch of the West, the humongous clinker brick pillars of this bungalow appear to be melting onto the lawn, as does the chimney. This bungalow is still extant in Seattle.
Like the Wicked Witch of the West, the humongous clinker brick pillars of this bungalow appear to be melting onto the lawn, as does the chimney. This bungalow is still extant in Seattle.

In my 20-odd years of studying and writing about bungalows, there are a few questions that have not been answered to my satisfaction. One of those questions is “What’s up with the big honkin’ pillars?” When the bungalow was exported from Britain to America to become an architectural symbol of the American Arts and Crafts Movement (and how that came to be is another question, which will not be answered here), gigantic pillars didn’t seem to be part of the deal.  

And yet enormously oversize columns or pillars (henceforth to be known as BHP’s) are a prominent feature on many bungalows. They’re so big, one would think they originated in Texas. What’s up with that? Well, I have a theory. Not a well-researched theory, but a theory nonetheless. 

The pillar or column has been holding things up since antiquity, and the archetype for every type of column is the tree trunk. Even the most decorative, fluted, carved, painted, gilded and generally tarted-up column is still based on the size and proportion of a tree trunk. This is right in line with the Arts and Crafts Movement belief that design inspiration should come from Nature. 

The bungalow, of course, originated in India. The original bangala, altered by the British for their needs, was built all over India and eventually the rest of the British Empire. These Anglo-Indian bungalows generally were built on a raised platform, with a hipped pyramidal roof, and a deep veranda on three or four sides. Obviously the outer edge of the veranda roof was held up by columns or supports of some sort, but a quick perusal of various reference material, as well as the internet, shows only a few with supports as large as the elephantine columns found on many bungalows.  

As bungalows started to be built in Britain in the 19th century, most lost their verandahs, probably due to the British climate. In any case, bungalows were not really a part of the British Arts and Crafts Movement, which looked to medieval prototypes. But bungalows were adopted as the major architectural expression of the American Arts and Crafts Movement. 

Bungalows in America, of course, have many influences besides the Anglo-Indian house upon which they are based, and their early use as informal vacation homes often gave rise to detailing which was either rustic, exotic, or both. Lacking medieval tradition, we turned to the use of natural and local materials as a major part of the architectural philosophy associated with the bungalow.  

Unlike all previous architectural periods in the United States, where architectural styles began on the East Coast and worked their way west, bungalows as we know them first appeared in California and were then exported to the rest of the country. 

So if one was to build a bungalow in California using natural and/or local materials, what would those be? Well, first of all, wood. But not just any wood—California (and the rest of the Pacific coast) had vast forests of ancient old growth timber—redwoods, sequoias, firs, and pines. The first giant sequoia to be discovered by white men in 1852 was, unsurprisingly, cut down almost immediately and its 25 foot diameter stump leveled for use as a dance floor. 

All over California and the Pacific Northwest there are still tourist attractions featuring trees or stumps that have been hollowed out so you can drive your car through them. It was common practice to use actual tree trunks with the bark still attached as porch columns on bungalows, and some pretty large tree trunks were obviously available. The influence of log building, as well as the vernacular architecture from countries with wood building traditions, including Switzerland, Germany, Scandinavia, Russia, and Japan, also played a part in bungalow design.  

The large beams, purlins, and other structural members and joinery of timber-framed buildings worked its way into bungalows as part of the “expressed structure,” even though most bungalows were framed with two-by-fours and much of the expressed structure was actually fake. 

Another locally available material was rock—known as arroyo stone in southern California, river rock elsewhere, though there’s not much difference, since arroyos are riverbeds, merely ones that are dry for much of the year. If one is going to pile up rocks as a pillar, the laws of physics pretty much dictate big rocks at the bottom, smaller rocks as you move up. It’s also easier if the whole thing is wider at the bottom and tapers towards the top—keeps the smaller rocks from rolling off the edges. It’s hard to make a delicate, slender column out of rocks.  

Then there were clinker bricks, the bricks that got too close to the fire, becoming burnt and misshapen. Typical of Californians, we not only accepted these misfits, we embraced them. Sometimes we combined them with rocks, inventing the masonry style now known as “peanut brittle.” The fact that clinker bricks were cheap had nothing to do with it, I’m sure. 

But what of the parts of the building these large pillars were supporting? Surely they needed to be large because they were carrying a lot of weight? Well, not really. A column two or three feet in diameter is not necessary to hold up a porch roof, which is what most large pillars were employed to do. Even a second floor doesn’t weigh that much, and of course, if it had a second floor, it wouldn’t be a bungalow, would it? 

Structurally, a couple of four-by-fours are adequate to support a porch roof. Which leads to one of the weirder aspects of bungalow architecture: the BHP which stops short of the beam or roof it is supporting, the remaining space occupied by a small piece of wood which appears by contrast to be totally insufficient to the task.  

Architects often succumb to novelty, but if enough buildings start being built using a particular feature, pretty soon everyone is copying it, riffing on it, and coming up with a better version of it. It becomes part of the zeitgeist. Just look around at the current crop of contemporary buildings sporting upside-down wedges, which I suspect will be one of the defining architectural characteristics for turn-of-the-21st-century buildings, should any of them last long enough to be historic. In the same way, a few BHP’s led to more of the same, eventually rendered in other materials like stucco, brick, or cast concrete. As bungalows spread to other parts of the country, giant pillars went with them as part of the design. 

Surprisingly, given how out of scale these huge columns were compared to the generally small size of a bungalow, they nonetheless look just right. The proof of that is how very wrong a bungalow looks when its elephantine columns have been removed and replaced with skinny four-by-fours, steel posts, or uprights of lacy wrought iron. (One wonders if that many people are homesick for New Orleans…)  

So there you have it: big trees+big rocks+zeitgeist=big pillars. I’m sure an architectural historian could poke a million holes in this theory, but no one can deny the incredible amusement value of the big honkin’ pillar. 


Jane Powell is the author of several bungalow books and is available for consulting on historic homes, whether or not they have big honkin’ pillars. She can be reached at hsedressng@aol.com. 


Arts & Events

Arts Calendar

Thursday June 05, 2008 - 10:13:00 AM



Farhad Manjoo describes “True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society” at 7 p.m. at Cody’s Books 2201 Shattuck Ave. 559-9500. 

Poetry Express with Paula Farkas at 7 p.m. at Priya Restaurant, 2072 San Pablo Ave. 644-3977. 


Mitch Marcus Quintet at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $6-$12. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 







First Stage Children’s Theater “Indoor/Outdoor Blues” at 6:30 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington. Free. Appropriate for ages 5 and up. 524-3043. 


“The Discovery of Art God” Collaborative art and living experiments opens at the Richmond Art Center, 2450 Barrett Ave., Richmond. Tues.-Sat., noon to 5 p.m., through July 26. 621-1252. www.therac.org 


Freight and Salvage Open Mic at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $4.50-$5.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Laurel Ann Hill reads from “Heroes Arise” at 7 p.m. at Laurel Bookstore, 4100 MacArthur Blvd. Oakland. 531-2073. 

David Price describes “The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company” at 7 p.m. at Cody’s Books 2201 Shattuck Ave. 559-9500. 


The Seventh Berkeley Carillon and the sixty-sixth congress of The Guild of Carillonneurs in North America noon and 5:15 p.m., Tues., Wed, and Fri. at Sather Tower, UC Campus. http://music.berkeley.edu/FestivalCongress2008.html. 

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 

Keiko Matsui at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $24. 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. 



Oakland Public Theater “Richard Wright Centennial Project” at 6:30 p.m. at the Oakland Public Library, 125 14th St. Free. 534-9529. 


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

David Sirota describes “The Uprising: An Unauthorized Tour of the Populist Revolt Scaring Wall Street & Washington” at 12:30 p.m. at Cody’s Books 2201 Shattuck Ave. 559-9500. 

Neal Rosenthal reads from “Reflections of a Wine Merchant” at 6:30 p.m. at Cody’s Books 2201 Shattuck Ave. 559-9500. 

Amelia Marshall on “Oakland’s Equestrian Heritage” at 7 p.m. at Laurel Bookstore, 4100 MacArthur Blvd. Oakland. 531-2073. 


Jazz Mechanics at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Nada Lewis at 7 p.m. at Le Bateau Ivre, 2629 Telegraph Ave. www.lebateauivre.net 

Henry Clement & The Gumbo Band at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Avance 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.  

CV Dub at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Crooked Still at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $17.50-$18.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Keiko Matsui at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $24. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



Artist Support Group Speaker Series with Lisa Dent, owner, Lisa Dent Gallery, SF, at 7 p.m. at the Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut St. in Live Oak Park. Cost is $8-$10. 644-6893. 

Rodna Taylor presents “Riding the Rails with Rodna” on her 1950s experiences as a Zephyrette on the California Zephyr, at 7:30 p.m. at Chapel of the Chimes, 4499 Piedmont Ave., Oakland. Cost is $8-$10. 763-9218. info@oaklandheritage.org 

Daniel Marcus reads from his collection of stories “Binding Energy” at 7 p.m. at Cody’s Books 2201 Shattuck Ave. 559-9500. 

Jincy Willett reads from her new novel “The Writing Class” at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 


Wagon/Antioquia at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $5. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Jenna Mammina & Andre Bush at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Bob Kenmotsu Quartet at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Tyler Jakes and The Bootlegggers at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $5. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

B.A.R.S. Break.Ar.Rap.Scratch with Company of Prophets at 7:30 p.m., poetry at 9 p.m., at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $7-$10. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Fleeting Trance at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Esperanza Spalding at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $10-$16. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

Selector with Subtext & Delon at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 



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 

Aurora Theatre “The Busy World is Hushed” Wed.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 and 7 p.m. at 2081 Addison St., through July 20. Tickets are $40-$42. 843-4822. www.auroratheatre.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.  

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 


Joan Blondell: The Fizz on the Soda “Blonde Crazy” at 7 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 


Meg Withers, Truong Tran, and Dustin Heron, poets, read at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. 

Ellen Sussman introduces “Dirty Words: A Literary Encyclopedia of Sex” at 7 p.m. at Cody’s Books 2201 Shattuck Ave. 559-9500. www.codysbooks.com  

Carla Kandinsky, Marek Breiger, and Steve Arntson will read at 7 p.m. at Nefeli Caffe, 1854 Euclid Ave. 841-6374. 

Richard Knight, photographer, shows slides and discusses his book “Saarinen’s Quest: A Memoir” at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 


Point Richmond Summer Music with The Dave Workman Band at 5:30 p.m. and Richie Barron at 6:45 p.m. outdoors at Park Place in downtown Point Richmond. www.pointrichmond.com 

The Berkeley Baroque and Beyond Experience New pieces for violin, piano, guitar and flute at 8 p.m. at Giorgi Gallery, 2911 Claremont Ave. Cost is $25-$35. 848-1228. www.giorgigallery.com 

Jai Uttal at 8 p.m. at Rudramandir, 830 Bancroft Way. 486-8700. www.rudramandir.com 

Las Bomberas de la Bahía at 9 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $12. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Dick Conte Trio at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $18. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Dave Matthews Quartet with Tony Lindsay at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Pabobo Jobarteh with Stephen Kent and Val Serrant at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $12-$15. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

House Jacks at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $20.50-$21.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Planet Loop and Goh Kurosawa at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Ultralash, 20 Minute Loop at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Planets, O’Lucky Man at 8 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $5. 525-9926. 

Kevin Beadles at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Shotgun Wedding Quintet, Joe Bogale at 9:30 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $12. 548-1159.  

Matt Morrish & Trinket Lover at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Kurt Elling at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square, through Sun. Cost is $16-$22. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



“Summertime Jazz” Group art show. Opening reception at 6 p.m. at Expressions Gallery, 2035 Ashby Ave. 644-4930. 

“The Earth: by Wind, by Water, by Fire” Photography by James Scheihing. Reception at 3 p.m. at The Light Room, 2263 Fifth St. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sat. 649-8111. 

Laila Espinoza: Paintings and Textiles Reception at 2 p.m. at Berkeley Public Library's Central Catalog Lobby, 2090 Kittredge at Shattuck. 981-6100. 

“973 Possibilities and How to Make Sense of it?” An exhibition of contemporary conceptual art. Opening reception at 7 p.m. at The Richmond Art Center, 2540 Bartlett Ave., Richmond. 620-6772. www.therac.org 


Playback Theatre Personal stories shared by audience members will be instantly transformed by the ensemble into improvised theater pieces at 8 p.m. at Live Oak Theater,1301 Shattuck Ave. Tickets are $8-$15. 595-5500, ext. 25. 


George Lakoff describes “The Political Mind: Why You Can’t Understand 21st-Century American Politics with an 18th-Century Brain” at 7 p.m. at Cody’s Books 2201 Shattuck Ave. 559-9500. 

Jeremy Scahill on “Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army” at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. 

Judith Adamson describes “Rogue Beekeepers of Kensington: Hillside, Orchard, Garden, Hive” with a honey tasting and samples of products made from beeswax, at 2 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington. 524-3043.  

“Bali & Java: Myth, Ritual and Traditional Art” A discussion by Indonesia scholar and educator, Joseph Fischer, at 3 p.m. at Désa Arts, 4810 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. 595-1669. www.desaarts.com 


“La Peña - Ayer, Hoy y P’alante” a musical suite on the history of La Peña at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $12-$14. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Freight 40th Anniversary Revue with Phil Marsh at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $14.50-$15.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Hali Hammer & Friends, Khadejha, Ramana Viera Ensemble in a benefit for Voices for Nicaragua, from noon to 8 .m. On Edith St. (look for the balloons) between Cedar and Lincoln. Cost is $10 plus pot luck donation. 472-3170. adlerphotos@yahoo.com 

Ellen Robinson & her Quartet at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $15. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Benefit for Edwin with Zydeco dance music at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $15-$25 sliding scale. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

Cristina Orbé, Meklit Hadero and akosua at 8 p.m. at Epic Arts Studios, 1923 Ashby Ave. Cost is $7-10.  

Gaucho Gypsy Band at 9:30 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. Cost is $3. 843-2473. www.albatrosspub.com 

Carla Zilbersmith Group at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $20. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Mario DeSio at 8 p.m. at Spuds Pizza, 3290 Adeline St. Cost is $7. 558-0881. 

Trevor Justice and Brook Schoenfield at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Pockit, Sol Horizon, Sun House at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $9. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

DJ fflood at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Rum Rebellion, The Hobogobbelins, New Earth Creeps at 8 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $5. 525-9926. 



Gary Lapow at Ashkenaz at 3 p.m. Cost is $10-$20. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 


“Color and Line” Paintings by Julie Ross. Reception at 3 p.m. at Au Coquelet, 2000 University Ave. www.JulieRossArt.com 


Joan Blondell: The Fizz on the Soda “Footlight Parade” at 6:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 


The Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir Juneteenth Freedom Mass at 10 a.m. at St. Cuthbert's Episcopal Church, 7932 Mountain Blvd., at Keller Ave., Oakland. 635-4949. 

Young People’s Symphony Orchestra “Pops for Pops” at 2 p.m. at Greek Orthodox Church of the Ascension, 4700 Lincoln Ave., Oakland. Cost is $10-$15. 849-9776. www.ypsomusic.net 

A Tribute to Hal Stein led by saxophonist Pete Yellin at 2 p.m. at Chapel of the Chimes, 4499 Piedmont Ave., Oakland. Cost is $10-$15 for concert and reception, children under 12 free. 228-3218. 

Larry Gallagher & Friends at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Alex Calatayud’s Brasil at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Calaveras Benefit concert for HIV/Aids prevention in South Africa at 7 p.m. at First Congregatonal Church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way. Cost is $20. 981-1268. www.fccb.org  

Arian Shafiee at 11 a.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Americana Unplugged with Crowsong at 5 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

DJ Edwin, reggae at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

‘Birth of the Cool’ at Oakland Museum

By Peter Selz Special to the Planet
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 10:11:00 AM
Frederick Hammersley, Up Within, 1957–58, oil on linen, 48 x 36 in.
Frederick Hammersley, Up Within, 1957–58, oil on linen, 48 x 36 in.
Julius Shulman, photograph of Case Study House #21 (Pierre Koenig, architect, Los Angeles, 1958), 1958.
Julius Shulman, photograph of Case Study House #21 (Pierre Koenig, architect, Los Angeles, 1958), 1958.

Marshal McLuhan in his seminal book, Understanding Media (1967), differentiated between “hot” and “cool” media, the former requiring the viewer’s emotional involvement, while the latter is more abstract and detached.  

The leading art movements in the Bay Area—Abstract Expressionism, followed by Bay Area Figuration—were certainly “hot” by McLuhan’s definition. In the same period “Cool Jazz” was introduced in Los Angeles, where Miles Davis recorded his Birth of the Cool, which accounts for the title of this show which includes the sharp photographs of jazz musicians and album covers of Davis, Ray Charles, Gerry Mulligan, Dinah Washington, Charlie Parker, and the Dave Brubeck Quartet. Their music is piped into the exhibition. 

The show stresses the visual arts, painting, architecture, furniture, design and photography. Its originator, Elizabeth Armstrong, writes about the the “rationality and purity of modernist design ... a cool aesthetic with hard edges, minimal forms and industrial sensibility.” 

It was the functional chair by Charles and Ray Eames, with its clean curves fabricated industrially in molded plywood, mass-produced inexpensively, that became the icon of the style. Eames had travelled to Europe, became familiar with the architecture of Le Corbusier, Gropius and the Bauhaus and practiced architecture before deisgning the chair.  

Birth of the Cool displays the sharp focus photographs by Julius Shulman, who took black and white pictures of Richard Neutra’s modernist houses and their fashionable inhabitants—the essence of Cool. 

The core of the show are the paintings which were originally called “Abstract Classicist” (by me) when they first showed as a group in 1959, and became better known as “Hard Edge” painters. Unlike their European predecessors in geometric abstraction, such as Malevich or Mondrian, the Los Angeles artists working after World War II no longer contained utopian aspirations. Their work is clear, at times delicate and graceful, at times austere and stark.  

Unlike the spontaneity characteristic of Abstract Expressionism, it is carefully planned, although Fred Hammersley says that he follows his hunches. In the Oakland exhibition we see his beautifully balanced color fields, John McLaughlin’s silent canvases influenced by his long study of Zen, Lorser Feitelson’s careful compositions of forms in space, Helen Lundeberg’s enigmatic paintings suggesting architectural spaces and Karl Benjamin’s jazzy color bands. 

Frequently exhibitions are best displayed by their curators in their venues of origin. This is certainly true in this case. The show looked right in the Orange County Museum, where it had the requisite space. In Oakland, the works are crowded and mixed together. More space could have been available, but the museum decided to add another exhibition, Cool Remixed, which is loud rather then cool. There are graffitis, skateboards, pictures scribbled on car hoods, all made by very young individuals—whereas the artists of the 1950s were mature, experienced, sophisticated. It was a pleasure to see so many young visitors in this show, but the pairing of the two exhibitions is unfortunate.  

The Birth of the Cool, however, gives the viewer insight into a specific California aesthetic, which had a strong belief that architecture, painting and design could communicate rational order and logical reason. 




Through Aug. 17 at the Oakland Museum of California, 1000 Oak St., Oakland. 

238-2200. www.museumca.org .

Fifth Annual World Music Festival On Telegraph Ave.

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 10:12:00 AM

I think the Berkeley World Music Festival has come of age,” said Gianna Ranuzzi, founder of the fifth annual free festivities along Telegraph Avenue, indoors and out, as well as at People’s Park. This Saturday’s day-long, overlapping series of performances of music, song and dance will both build on the previous festivals and reveal new ideas, new collaborations which promise to enrich future events. 

The schedule’s available at berkeleyworldmusicfestival.com, Amoeba Music and information stands on Telegraph during the festival. 

From Cambodian pop-psychedelic rock (Dengue Fever) to Tango (Hombres of Tango), African funk (Sila & the Afrofunk Experience) or Sufi qawwali song and trance music with didjeridu (Sukhawat Ali Khan with Stephen Kent) to Cajun two-step numbers (Andrew Carriere and the Creole Belles), the festival sprawls over a lot more territory than The Avenue between Bancroft and Parker, from noon until 9 p.m., with music and dancing in People’s Park, 1-5:30 p.m. A post-festival party is offered at Ashkenaz, featuring Jamaican Reggae by Prestige, plus Ras Kidus. 

This year there will be a multicultural marketplace, about 20 booths in People’s Park, including handicrafts, ethnic musical instruments and community information—a first for the park itself as well as the festival. “UC has decided to allow vendors in People’s Park on a trial basis,” said Rannuzzi, “and the festival is the first event to feature that.” 

Partnering to co-sponsor the festival are “nonprofits from KPFA to Ashkenaz to La Pena,” Ranuzzi enumerated, continuing with a list of agencies and businesses, including Amoeba Records, the Daily Planet, the Pagan Alliance, the City of Berkeley and the Telegraph Ave. Business Improvement District.  

“These iconic community groups are supporting a still-young festival,” Ranuzzi commented, “which features free music in both open and intimate settings, cafes and businesses, along Telegraph Avenue—an excellent example of community working together. Anna De Leon of Anna’s Jazz Island called it a prodigy.” 

The newly “grown-up” festival has “become its own agency,” according to Ranuzzi, receiving seed money from the Telegraph BID as well as the city. “The Pagan Alliance has been really heroic in their help, and Ashkenaz, with roots in People’s Park, wanted to contribute. And we’re networking with other groups, launching on new horizons.” 

The “star class luminaries and local celebrities” include: Diana Rowan and Lily Storm (two Kitka singers with harp and harmonium, singing Old World lullabies), Barvinok Ensemble (Ukrainian/Eastern European), Nazir Latouf (Arabic), Laurie Chastain (Celtic Rad-Trad fiddle), Eva Scow Ensemble (Brazilian Choro & Jazz, led by an incomparable mandolinist, who’s played with David Grisham and in Carnegie Hall), KPFA DJ Larry Kelp with World Sounds and the Disciples of Markos (Rebetika—”Greek blues”) in venues like Amoeba Records, Raleigh’s Cafe, The Village, Rasputin’s Records, Moe’s Books, and The Musical Offering on Bancroft.  

In addition, there’ll be music on the street, with Michael Masley on bow-hammer cymbalom all day, outside the former location of Cody’s at Haste Street.  

In addition, Mario’s will open up their banquet room for dancing with the Hombres of Tango at 3 p.m. “It’s normally just for catered events,” said Ranuzzi, “But, like last year, it’ll be open, free to the public.” 

In People’s Park, Andrew Carriere will lead off with the Creole Belles at 1 p.m., followed by Sukawat Ali Khan and Stephen Kent, SambaDa (Afro-Brazilian Samba Funk), then Sila and the Afro-Funk Experience. 

“It’s the biggest day we’ve ever had,” said Ranuzzi. “I’m really thrilled with its new direction, a further step in showcasing the Bay Area world music scene, itself a world center of musical culture.” 

MOVING PICTURES:‘Death of a Cyclist’ Appropriates Hollywood Sheen

By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 10:13:00 AM

It starts with a cold and cold-hearted opening scene. On a fog-shrouded road amid a desolate, Godot-like landscape, a cyclist appears in the foreground and heads toward the horizon where the road bends and vanishes. We hear a car swerve and a quick cut presents us with a close-up of the bicycle, twisted and broken with one wheel spinning. A couple steps from the car and the man kneels over the unseen cyclist as his lover stands at a remove, urging him to get back in the car. He does and the car pulls away. 

Juan Antonio Bardem knew how to get an audience on the hook. At a time when the younger generation of European directors—in France, in Italy and in his native Spain—were breaking away from the American influence, Bardem embraced it. The filmmakers of France’s nouvelle vague and Spain’s neo-realist movement were establishing a more intimate, more auteurist style, forsaking light commercial fare for a more topical approach, delving into social and political commentary. While he shared their inclination to make more substantive films, Bardem used different methods, employing all the conventions and devices of conventional Hollywood storytelling in pursuit of a more engaged cinema. 

In Death of a Cyclist (1955), newly released on DVD by Criterion, Bardem starts with a perfect Hollywood plot device: a stark, dramatic event which leads to a dramatic shift in fortune for his two lead characters. Only gradually will we piece together an understanding of these two, of their social milieu, their relationship, of their origins, motives and desires. There is a bit of Hitchcock here, a bit of noir, and plenty of A-movie Hollywood, with the luminous Lucia Bosé as a sort of self-absorbed femme fatale version of Ingrid Bergman, and Alberto Closas portraying a coddled ne’er-do-well with a bit of the droll, world-weary nobility of Humphrey Bogart. It’s Casablanca turned on its head, stripped of its romance and pervaded instead with cold calculation and bourgeois disillusionment.  

Out of this tale of adultery, manslaughter, nepotism and blackmail, Bardem spins a story more meaningful and complex, as Closas finds himself on “a journey back to myself,” a long, difficult climb out of the morass of privileged narcissism toward absolution. Though the censors demanded an amended conclusion for Death of a Cyclist, the compromise is handled with great aplomb, coming full circle with a final flourish in which a cyclist must decide whether to report a fatal accident or simply keep pedaling. And in the end the film packs as much punch as any of the more overtly topical films of Bardem’s contemporaries, but with a style that retains all the gloss and sheen of the slick entertainment those films rejected.  

There is one curious moment, however, that I have yet to see explained or even mentioned in discussions of the film. Toward the end, in a shot from the back of a car looking over Lucia Bosé’s shoulder, a mysterious gloved hand appears briefly in the corner of the frame. It’s more than likely an accident, the director or cameraman briefly intruding on the image—though how it could have gone unnoticed in the editing process is anyone’s guess. But could it have been intentional? Could it have meaning? Nowhere else is it suggested that there is someone else in the car, not before and not after, but the subtle suggestion of collusion, of an unseen partner, could greatly alter one’s interpretation of the film’s closing sequence. 



Directed by Juan Antonio Bardem. Starring Lucia Bosé, Alberto Closas. 88 minutes. In Spanish with English subtitles.  


Altarena Stages Ernest Thompson’s ‘On Golden Pond’

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 10:15:00 AM

At a reunion, after years, between father and grown daughter on his 80th birthday in the family cabin on a Maine lake: “Look at our little fat girl!” exclaims Dad, and his daughter bristles. He later tells her divorced dentist beau, “Ethel is her Mommy. I’m not her Daddy. I’m ... Norman.” 

So the old curmudgeon reveals his feelings by mordantly concealing them, as he’s deadpanned his way through the growing disorientation of age as well, acting out his diffidence with a show of being a bit too forthcoming, in On Golden Pond, as performed at Altarena Playhouse in Alameda, directed by Richard Robert Bunker. 

Many who know this chestnut of a generation ago are familiar with it through the adaptation playwright Ernest Thompson made for the Mark Rydell movie version (1981). Jane Fonda had optioned the play explicitly to costar with her father in what would be his final film appearance, paired also with Katherine Hepburn in their only collaboration as well. Such an occasion resulted in the themes of mortality and a rapprochement to the confrontations of the “Generation Gap” being brought to the fore, with the major reservoir of humor tapped in Dabney Coleman’s brilliantly over-the-top rendition of Bill Ray, the West Coast dentist, trying to parse niceties (and not-so-niceties) with his girlfriend’s crusty father. 

That’s all there onstage, but the Altarena production brings it back closer, though with the perspective of a quarter century, to the well-wrought commercial play that runs on tight comic rhythms, letting the pathos leak through the cracks to make the comedy bittersweet, while downplaying any heaviness. The story and character development progress quickly, though seem to go along leisurely enough. There are several jumps in time, and the potential heartwringer of a confrontation is deflected by a couple of dialogues, neither between estranged father and daughter. 

Tom Flynn plays Norman Thayer, retired English prof, as a deadpan put-on artist, deliberately misunderstanding what others say and exaggerating what he says, including “the usual prejudices”; a white collar curmudgeon after a decade of Archie Bunker. His colloquy with his daughter’s beau is his center ring performance. David Roberts’ Bill the dentist proves awkward but sympathetic, unwilling to play the fool, wanting to announce his existence and his intentions. And Julie Helms’ Ethel Thayer, “straight man” to her husband, shows a brief moment of salutary anger, followed by firm yet sympathetic admonition to her tense, wistful—but still game—daughter Chelsea, as portrayed by Naomi Didion Davis. 

Billy—Bill Ray, Jr.—is shown by Jose Montes to be a genial wiseguy, already friends with Chelsea and responsive to the Weisenheimer in Norman, enjoying his interlude with the doting old folks. 

But maybe the nicest vignette is the reunion between Chelsea and eccentric, chortling Down-East’er postman Charlie Martin (delivered perfectly by Jamie Olson), with Ethel as a gentle third wheel—their ongoing teenage summer romances long behind them, but not forgotten, they endeavor to reach out across the gap between them, where life’s taken each of them at middle age, just for a moment. Again, wistful, bittersweet, yet humorous. 

Summer ends, and the play with it, as further reunions are talked about by telephone—and more intimations of mortality are voiced. The old couple leaves the cabin, watching the loons they’ve seen on the lake depart too, their young ones fledged. Another summer gone, but this one has maybe crystalized all the rest. 



8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through June 21 at Altarena Playhouse, 1409 High St., Alameda. $17-$20. 

523-1553. www.alterena.org.

‘Full Monty’ at Masquers Playhouse

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 10:16:00 AM

Back in the late ’60s, a rather buff hardhat was introduced on a variety show on TV to sing a song. Expecting an amateur rendition, the audience ended up gaping at a cocky, tossed off “I Gotta Be Me,” rapidly escalating into a full-scale production number of a striptease, hardhat coming off to reveal a cascade of hair, jumpsuit coyly shed to expose the thorax of a workout instructor ... 

It was comedian Bob Einstein on The Smothers Brothers Show, a satiric specialist of in-character put-ons (Highway Patrol Officer Judy singing “People” for another Smothers Brothers date, and quite a few screwy stealth routines with Steve Allen)—and that memory flashed back as a harbinger of a similar kind of suggestively sideways fun to be had at the Masquers’ production of The Full Monty at their Playhouse in Point Richmond. 

In this musical stage version of the Brit movie set in Sheffield, playwright Terrence McNally (who wrote the book; music and lyrics by David Yazbek) resets the scene pretty seamlessly in Buffalo—on the streets, in a union hall, a ballroom dance studio, backstage (and onstage) in a nightclub, as a half-dozen laid-off working stiffs decide to doff it all for friends, family and the world. They want to show a little spirit besides a lot of flesh and to come up with a nest egg, both to offset the ravages—psychic and pecuniary—of their unemployment. 

The impetus is actually two-fold: out-of-work buddies Jerry and Dave (Todd Carver and Tucker Matthews) end up crashing the backstage of the local club where wives and girlfriends of the laid-off, abandoned by their in-the-dumps mates, are flocking to cheer on Chippendales-type male strippers, paying a pretty penny for the view. The guys can’t figure what they get out of it. 

“What have they got that we don’t?” the blue collar boys complain at the box office. “Just about everything,” the women enthuse. “Out of our way!” 

Once in the mostly-gay (yet tough, as our would-be he-men find out) male dancers’ dressing room, the guys are surprised by an onslaught of the local females, led by Dave’s wife Georgie (lusty Sara Breindel), into “the inner sanctum of the America Male—this is a hostile takeover!” Flushed out of the men’s room, the men run into a standoff. Later, Jerry, whose divorced wife Pam (Steph Peek) is pressuring him for son Nathan’s (Lucas Masch) back child support, brainstorms the semi-therapeutic striptease mission, in great part to come up with his nut and keep his son. 

Jerry and Dave link up with a few other unlikely exhibitionists—suicidal mama’s boy Malcolm (Kyle Johnson), knee-capped older black man “Horse” Simmonds (a very funny Wendell Wilson) and a specially endowed Ethan (Greg Milholland). 

“Lord,” intones Horse, “I want to thank you for taking this burden from me and giving it to the poor white boy!” 

Dragooning former foreman Harold (Chaz Simonds) away from his wife Vicki (a marvelously multi-talented Lisa Lindsley), from whose seemingly consumeristic mind he’s kept the fact of his layoff hidden, as their dance instructor, the former steel workers, newly-dubbed ‘Hot Metal,’ try to get their act together, with the help of an old trouper at the keyboards (and with the reefer), bawdy Jeanette (hilarious Anna Albanese), only beginning to cut it as a chorus line when they loosen up, imitating their sports heroes on the court (“Michael Jordan’s Ball”).  

“Take a deep breath, smell the fear—nothing like the first day of rehearsal!”—from Jeanette’s opening pitch right up to the barest of endings, it’s a journey of self (or, in Malcolm and Ethan’s case, mutual) discovery, a composite burlesque (or burlesk)-buddy adventure-male bonding epic-rejuvenated love story-father and son tale, with clever lyrics to catchy tunes, leading up to the climax, “Let It Go,” when the men of ‘Hot Metal’ shed their cop drag, followed by their white skivvies, down to flaming red thongs—and then ... 



8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays through July 5 at Masquers Playhouse, 105 Park Place, Point Richmond. $20. 232-4031. www.masquers.org.

About the House: On Getting Caught

By Matt Cantor
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 10:17:00 AM

There’s an old aphorism that says that it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. Bad phrasing, I’d say. What this old saw attempts to convey is that you are more likely to get what you want when you go ahead and do something and face have to ask for forgiveness than if you were to ask for permission in advance, facing the possibility that your desire may be withheld. 

Construction projects are fraught with this schism of logic and nowhere more so than when dealing with the giver of permits and conductor of inspections, your local building authority. 

I was at a house the other day and discovered to my moderate surprise (I’m pretty hard to shock) that an entire two-car garage had been built without any permit whatsoever. From my perspective this is SUCH a bad idea. Not that I was particularly worried about the construction or those things that the city inspector might have observed to improve the final product. The thing that made me smack my already rosy face was that, in the absence of any city approval, the finished product could end up being torn down by edict of the municipality if they can show that this structure would not, for some reason, have been allowed in the first place. 

I, for one, would want to know such a thing in advance of putting hundreds of hours into a project. Now, don’t get me wrong. I do not consider the permit process concomitant with fine construction. One reason is that municipal inspectors miss plenty, not because they’re inattentive, but simply because the circumstances of city inspections are so tightly constrained. Also, good construction is not a function of following the codes. The codes are useful but they do not even begin to guarantee high quality construction. 

Notwithstanding, taking on a large project without a permit is simply foolhardy because you may end up having to redo or remove some or all of your efforts. That said, I see a great deal of work where this never happens. 

I know that many, if not most of the kitchen and bath remodels I see were done without permits. Some are not much more than a change of cabinetry along with a few fixtures in the same locations as their predecessors. These don’t make me blanche, although I am often curious as to what may have ended up hidden behind cabinet or drywall. Knowing that these recesses had been viewed, if only briefly, by a trained eye will give me a little more confidence in the workmanship, although I know that, by the law of similars, I can make a damned good guess as to what’s hidden.  

That law, you all know, even if you don’t know that you know it (got that) is that people tend to do what they tend to do most of the time. If I find loose tile, a miswired outlet, a poorly secured cabinet and linoleum flopping up along the edge of the wall, there’s a good bet that there will more of these misfeasances hidden behind the wall.  

Conversely, when each T is crossed and each I is dotted, it’s pretty unlikely that I’m going to find hidden errors. I can’t tell you that this works 100 percent of the time but it’s surprisingly reliable in my experience. 

But I digress. If you get caught having remodeled a kitchen or bath without a permit, it is not likely that you will be forced to tear all of it out. You will likely be forced to pay a double permit fee (a common practice in building departments) which is not a huge sum and you may be asked to remove enough finish material (drywall, etc.) for the inspector to see if you’ve done things right most of the time (they use THE LAW too). But this is not the serious scenario. Building a building, pouring a foundation or adding an apartment can result in a very bad day for you when the neighbor calls (it’s always a neighbor) and the city inspector ambles in the door as you put the finishing touches on the garage conversion. 

I could stand on ceremony and hawk some bilious philosophy of rectitude about how you should always follow the rules but I won’t waste your time (or mine). People do a lot of work without permits and much of the time, I couldn’t care less, but a large job and particularly one that the city would not be fairly certain to approve is such a bad idea that I cannot account for the mentality that produces it.  

A client called me the other day about her fear that when getting a permit for an upcoming job (a seismic retrofit in her case) that the city official would stray from the inspection of this particular job and take note of several other upgrades that she had overseen in her long tenure at this property. While I could not tell her precisely what would happen, I told her the following. 

Building inspectors do not have the time in the course of their work to do a lot of extra-mandatory investigation. I’m not saying that it does not happen, but it’s far less than you might think. City inspectors are so tightly booked that most have little beyond five to ten minutes at a site, which also accounts for the many items that they never get a chance to catch, even when those items specifically apply to your project. This means that they simply do not have the luxury to explore your property in search of past sins. 

These inspectors are often on the lookout for signs of additional living spaces (apartments) that are not in the city record and they’re also looking for a few things that have to do with basic safety. Two of the things they are often looking for are the presence of smoke detectors in all the necessary places (mainly bedrooms and hallways). Inside keyed locks (aka double cylinder locks) that require a key to escape are also dangerous enough to take a muni inspector off their path. These should be replaced by single cylinder locks if identified since they can prevent escape during a fire. 

There are times when the obtaining of a permit seems a nuisance and it’s hard to tell that the city will bring much to the party for all the trouble. Small repairs are typically done without permits and a range of small exterior improvements have always been allowed without permits (e.g. decks below 30 inches, fences of 6 feet or less). It’s the big project that becomes a serious problem. Regardless of the quality of construction, a large project should never be done without a permit. Even if you do it safely and conscientiously, you could end up having to tear it down and nobody want to try to console you while you sob over a garage. Lost love, yes but not a garage. 

Pondering the Pillar

By Jane Powell
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 10:16:00 AM
Like the Wicked Witch of the West, the humongous clinker brick pillars of this bungalow appear to be melting onto the lawn, as does the chimney. This bungalow is still extant in Seattle.
Like the Wicked Witch of the West, the humongous clinker brick pillars of this bungalow appear to be melting onto the lawn, as does the chimney. This bungalow is still extant in Seattle.

In my 20-odd years of studying and writing about bungalows, there are a few questions that have not been answered to my satisfaction. One of those questions is “What’s up with the big honkin’ pillars?” When the bungalow was exported from Britain to America to become an architectural symbol of the American Arts and Crafts Movement (and how that came to be is another question, which will not be answered here), gigantic pillars didn’t seem to be part of the deal.  

And yet enormously oversize columns or pillars (henceforth to be known as BHP’s) are a prominent feature on many bungalows. They’re so big, one would think they originated in Texas. What’s up with that? Well, I have a theory. Not a well-researched theory, but a theory nonetheless. 

The pillar or column has been holding things up since antiquity, and the archetype for every type of column is the tree trunk. Even the most decorative, fluted, carved, painted, gilded and generally tarted-up column is still based on the size and proportion of a tree trunk. This is right in line with the Arts and Crafts Movement belief that design inspiration should come from Nature. 

The bungalow, of course, originated in India. The original bangala, altered by the British for their needs, was built all over India and eventually the rest of the British Empire. These Anglo-Indian bungalows generally were built on a raised platform, with a hipped pyramidal roof, and a deep veranda on three or four sides. Obviously the outer edge of the veranda roof was held up by columns or supports of some sort, but a quick perusal of various reference material, as well as the internet, shows only a few with supports as large as the elephantine columns found on many bungalows.  

As bungalows started to be built in Britain in the 19th century, most lost their verandahs, probably due to the British climate. In any case, bungalows were not really a part of the British Arts and Crafts Movement, which looked to medieval prototypes. But bungalows were adopted as the major architectural expression of the American Arts and Crafts Movement. 

Bungalows in America, of course, have many influences besides the Anglo-Indian house upon which they are based, and their early use as informal vacation homes often gave rise to detailing which was either rustic, exotic, or both. Lacking medieval tradition, we turned to the use of natural and local materials as a major part of the architectural philosophy associated with the bungalow.  

Unlike all previous architectural periods in the United States, where architectural styles began on the East Coast and worked their way west, bungalows as we know them first appeared in California and were then exported to the rest of the country. 

So if one was to build a bungalow in California using natural and/or local materials, what would those be? Well, first of all, wood. But not just any wood—California (and the rest of the Pacific coast) had vast forests of ancient old growth timber—redwoods, sequoias, firs, and pines. The first giant sequoia to be discovered by white men in 1852 was, unsurprisingly, cut down almost immediately and its 25 foot diameter stump leveled for use as a dance floor. 

All over California and the Pacific Northwest there are still tourist attractions featuring trees or stumps that have been hollowed out so you can drive your car through them. It was common practice to use actual tree trunks with the bark still attached as porch columns on bungalows, and some pretty large tree trunks were obviously available. The influence of log building, as well as the vernacular architecture from countries with wood building traditions, including Switzerland, Germany, Scandinavia, Russia, and Japan, also played a part in bungalow design.  

The large beams, purlins, and other structural members and joinery of timber-framed buildings worked its way into bungalows as part of the “expressed structure,” even though most bungalows were framed with two-by-fours and much of the expressed structure was actually fake. 

Another locally available material was rock—known as arroyo stone in southern California, river rock elsewhere, though there’s not much difference, since arroyos are riverbeds, merely ones that are dry for much of the year. If one is going to pile up rocks as a pillar, the laws of physics pretty much dictate big rocks at the bottom, smaller rocks as you move up. It’s also easier if the whole thing is wider at the bottom and tapers towards the top—keeps the smaller rocks from rolling off the edges. It’s hard to make a delicate, slender column out of rocks.  

Then there were clinker bricks, the bricks that got too close to the fire, becoming burnt and misshapen. Typical of Californians, we not only accepted these misfits, we embraced them. Sometimes we combined them with rocks, inventing the masonry style now known as “peanut brittle.” The fact that clinker bricks were cheap had nothing to do with it, I’m sure. 

But what of the parts of the building these large pillars were supporting? Surely they needed to be large because they were carrying a lot of weight? Well, not really. A column two or three feet in diameter is not necessary to hold up a porch roof, which is what most large pillars were employed to do. Even a second floor doesn’t weigh that much, and of course, if it had a second floor, it wouldn’t be a bungalow, would it? 

Structurally, a couple of four-by-fours are adequate to support a porch roof. Which leads to one of the weirder aspects of bungalow architecture: the BHP which stops short of the beam or roof it is supporting, the remaining space occupied by a small piece of wood which appears by contrast to be totally insufficient to the task.  

Architects often succumb to novelty, but if enough buildings start being built using a particular feature, pretty soon everyone is copying it, riffing on it, and coming up with a better version of it. It becomes part of the zeitgeist. Just look around at the current crop of contemporary buildings sporting upside-down wedges, which I suspect will be one of the defining architectural characteristics for turn-of-the-21st-century buildings, should any of them last long enough to be historic. In the same way, a few BHP’s led to more of the same, eventually rendered in other materials like stucco, brick, or cast concrete. As bungalows spread to other parts of the country, giant pillars went with them as part of the design. 

Surprisingly, given how out of scale these huge columns were compared to the generally small size of a bungalow, they nonetheless look just right. The proof of that is how very wrong a bungalow looks when its elephantine columns have been removed and replaced with skinny four-by-fours, steel posts, or uprights of lacy wrought iron. (One wonders if that many people are homesick for New Orleans…)  

So there you have it: big trees+big rocks+zeitgeist=big pillars. I’m sure an architectural historian could poke a million holes in this theory, but no one can deny the incredible amusement value of the big honkin’ pillar. 


Jane Powell is the author of several bungalow books and is available for consulting on historic homes, whether or not they have big honkin’ pillars. She can be reached at hsedressng@aol.com. 


Community Calendar

Thursday June 05, 2008 - 10:00:00 AM


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 


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 the EBMUD Lafayette Reservior. Call for meeting place and if you need to borrow binoculars. 525-2233. 

“In the Company of Wild Butterflies” Walk at 5:30 p.m. and film screening at 6:30 p.m. at UC Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Drive. Cost is $10-$12. 643-2755. http://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu 

“Hiking the John Muir Trail” A slide presentation by Elizabeth Wenk at 7 p.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. 527-4140. 

“The Nature of Presence” with Pamela Wilson at 7 p.m. at 2286 Cedar St. Donations accepted. 495-7511. www.eastbayopencircle.org 

Natural Approaches to Treating Allergies at 5:30 p.m. at Alta Bates Cardiac Rehabilitation Center, 3030 Telegraph Ave. 849-1176. www.berkeleyacupuncture.com 

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. www.watersideworkshops.org 

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. 


Walking Tour of Jack London Waterfront Meet at 10 a.m. at the corner of Broadway and Embarcadero. Tour lasts 90 minutes. Reservations can be made by calling 238-3234. www.oaklandnet.com/walkingtours 

Sudden Oak Death Preventative Treament Training Session Meet at 1 p.m. at the Tolman Hall portico, Hearst Ave. and Arch/LeConte, UC Campus for a two-hour field session, rain or shine. Pre-registration required. SODtreatment@ 


“Growing up in the Universe” a film by Richard Dawkins 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. 

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/ 


Teen Chess Club from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the North Branch Library, 1170 The Alameda at Hopkins. 981-6133. 

Theraputic Recreation at the Berkeley Warm Pool, Wed. at 3:30 p.m. and Sat. at 10 a.m. at the Berkeley Warm Pool, 2245 Milvia St. Cost is $4-$5. Bring a towel. 632-9369. 

Morning Meditation Every Mon., Wed., and Fri. at 7:45 a.m. at Rudramandir, 830 Bancroft Way at 6th. 486-8700. 

After-School Program Homework help, drama and music for children ages 8 to 18, every Wed. from 4 to 7:15 p.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. Cost is $5 per week. 845-6830. 

Stitch ‘n Bitch at 6:30 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  


Improv Acting Classes Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. at the YWCA, 2600 Bancroft Way. No experience required. Cost is $10. BerkeleyImprov.com 

19th Century Dancing Thursdays at 8:15 p.m. at the YWCA, 2600 Bancroft Way. No experience required. Cost is $10. BerkeleyDancing.com 

Temescal Street Cinema “Life of the Mind” at 8:30 p.m. outdoors at 49th and Telegraph. Bring a chair. www.temescalstreetcolletive.org 

East Bay Mac Users Group with Oliver Breidenbach, CEO of Boinx Software on iStopMotion and BoinxTV at 7 p.m. at Expression College for Digital Arts, 6601 Shellmound St., Emeryville. http://ebmug.org 

Faith and Sexuality; “Trembling Before G-d” A film series about LGBT individuals and religious doctrines, at 7:30 p.m. at JCC of the East Bay, 1414 Walnut St. 848-0237. 

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 Mel Lavine, author and former TV journalist on his new book “A Strange Breed of Folks” 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. www.citycommonsclub.org 





Womansong Circle An evening of participatory singing for women at 7:15 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Berkeley, Small Assembly Room, 2345 Channing St. at Dana. Cost is $15-$20, no one turned away. 525-7082. betsy@betsyrosemusic.org 

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. 


Live Oak Park Fair Contemporary art and handcrafts from over 100 vendors from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Live Oak Park, 1301 Shattuck Ave. at Berryman. Free shuttles from North Berkeley BART. 227-7110. www.liveoakparkfair.com 

Trails Challenge Join a seven mile hike over varied terrain with Bethany Facendini, naturalist, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.. Bring a sack lunch, water and sunscreen. For meeting place call 525-2233. 

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-EBPARKS. 

The Soil Food Web: Sustainable Green Revolution A class with Caleb Summers on how you can use the soil food web from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Ecology Center, 2530 San Pablo Ave. Cost is $10-$15. 548-2220, ext. 233. 

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

City of Oakland Housing Fair with community booths and workshops for renters, first-time homebuyers, landlords and homeowners, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Frank Ogawa Plaza, 14th St. at Broadway. Free. 238-3909. www.oaklandnet.com/housingfair 

NAACP Berkeley meets at 1 p.m. at 2108 Russell St. All are welcome. 845-7416. 

Aloha Festival at Peralta Hacienda with the traditions and culture, including music, dance, arts and crafts of Hawaii and Polynesia from to to 4 p.m. at Peralta Hacienda Historical Park, 2465 34th Ave., Oakland. Free. 532-9142. 

“Ecotopia’ Revisited” with Ernest Callenbach at 7:30 p.m. at the Alameda Free Library, Conference Room A, 1550 Oak St. at Lincoln, Alameda. www.alamedaforum.org  

“Got a problem in the garden?” Visit the master gardener booth at the Berkeley Famers’ Market, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Center Street between ML King and Milvia. 639-1275. 

“Making an ‘Underseas’ Succulent Garden” with landscape designer Gail Yelland at 10 a.m. at Magic Gardens, 729 Heinz Ave. 644-2351. 

Memorial for Roselynd Largman at 2 p.m. at at Friends Meeting House, 2151 Vine St. Child care will be provided. A reception will follow. 

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 

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. 


Live Oak Park Fair Contemporary art and handcrafts from over 100 vendors from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Live Oak Park, 1301 Shattuck Ave. at Berryman. Free shuttles from North Berkeley BART. 227-7110. www.liveoakparkfair.com 

Fathers’ Day Open House at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. Nature stroll at 11 a.m., meet a snake at noon, games at 1 p.m., and songs and crafts at the Little Farm at 2 p.m. 525-2233. 

Return of the Terns to Crab Cove Join the Golden Gate Audubon Society to celebrate the return of the California Least Tern to the Alameda Wildlife Refuge after its 2,000 mile migration from Latin America. Meet at the Crab Cove Visitors Center at 10 a.m. Tours with a wildlife biologist at 11 a.m., noon, and 1 p.m. Cost is $4. Registration required. www.ebparks.org 

Community Labyrinth Peace Walk at 3 p.m. at Willard Middle School, Telegraph Ave. between Derby and Stuart. Everyone welcome. Wheelchair accessible. 526-7377. info@eastbaylabyrinthproject.org  

Bike Tour of Oakland Meet at 10 a.m. Oakland Museum of California, 10th St. entrance, Oakland. Reservations recommended. 238-3514. www.museumca.org 

Cool Daddy-O Hip cars and cool bikes, and a chance to customize your own bike from noon to 5 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, 1000 Oak at 10th St., Oakland. Cost is $5-$8. 238-2022. www.museumca.org 

Fathers’ Day Aboard the USS Hornet Museum Family activities and ship tours will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Cost is $6-$14. Flashlight tour for $35. Reservations required. 521-8448, ext. 282.  

Free Hands-on Bicycle Clinic Learn how to do a safety inspection, from 10 to 11 a.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. Bring your bike and tools. 527-4140. 

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 Betty Cook on “Tibetan Yoga for the West” 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. Also on Fri. from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Cost is $5 per hour. 644-2577. www.watersideworkshops.org 


Community Environmental Advisory Commission meets Thurs., June 5, at 7 p.m., at 2118 Milvia St. Nabil Al-Hadithy, 981-7461.  

Housing Advisory Commission meets Thurs., June 5, at 7 p.m., at the South Berkeley Senior Center. Oscar Sung, 981-5400.  

Landmarks Preservation Commission meets Thurs., June 5, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7419.  

Public Works Commission meets Thurs., June 5, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-6406.  

Council Agenda Committee meets Mon., June 9, at 2:30 p.m., at 2180 Milvia St. 981-6900. www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/citycouncil/agenda-committee 

Youth Commission meets Mon., June 9, at 6:30 p.m., at City Council Chambers, Old City Hall. 981-6670. 

City Council meets Tues., June 10, at 7 p.m in City Council Chambers. 981-6900. www.ci. 


Commission on Disability meets Wed., June 11, at 6:30 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-6346. TDD: 981-6345.  

Homeless Commission meets Wed., June 11, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-5426.  

Planning Commission meets Wed., June 11, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7484.  

Police Review Commission meets Wed., June 11 , at the South Berkeley Senior Center, 981-4950. 

Waterfront Commission meets Wed., June 11, at 7 p.m., at 201 University Ave. 981-6740.